August 3, 2004 | Broadcast

The Flipside

Also said he favors setting up a counterterrorism center, to coordinate intelligence analysis. Would this help (INAUDIBLE) or just add another layer of bureaucracy to the government? Joining us now from Washington, Andrew Apostolou, Director of Research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Andrew, welcome to the show.


HAYS: Lets also, just before we get into this whole question of an intelligence czar and if it’s going to hurt or help, I want to get your response to this issue we raised with Ken.

But I’d also like to let our viewers know that the latest news CNN’s Jeanne Meserve is that a U.S. government official has confirmed that the Nasdaq, the Amex and the Bank of America buildings were also mentioned in a recent intelligence. Just adding to the sites like the New York Stock Exchange, the International Monetary Fund in Washington that apparently are being closely surveilled (ph) and maybe planned sites for attacks.

So, if you were listening to our conversation, the question is, intelligence was old, much of this. Democrats and many Americans who are Democrats themselves, wary of Bush, feel that this may be politicized. What do you think of those suspicions?

APOSTOLOU: Well it’s not old intelligence when you just discover it. That’s the whole point. The fact they had been looking at these targets a few years ago just shows that this is how Al Qaeda operates. We know this.

They were looking at the World Trade Center for many, many years. It’s new intelligence because you only just found it out. In fact, the documents and the translations only arrived in Washington on Friday, and your government reacted with a terror alert on Sunday. That’s a pretty fast turn around.

That’s precisely what you need these days. After September 11th, the government has to be very, very careful not to be seen to be behind events. They have to be ahead of the curve, and they have to be very careful. I’m very sorry that people think this is political, but I think that is very silly. Terrorism is apolitical. The terrorists don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you can be assured of that.

CLARKIN: Andrew, interesting point on the time element with the intelligence. It would appear that any intelligence I guess is valuable, because it could show patterns of surveillance, or what exactly they are looking for. What areas of vulnerability.

APOSTOLOU: Absolutely. These people tend to plan many years in advance. What we do not know unfortunately, is whether or not these plans, these operational aspects have been become live. Did this man, Mr. Galani (ph), did this Mr. Conners (ph) he is called. We don’t know if that is his real name, pass these things on to other Al Qaeda people who are now in the process of putting these things into operation?

That we don’t know. Another thing I think that has that has been missed in a lot of this coverage, and this is where the political controversy is so unhelpful. Is the fact that Muhammad Niem (ph) nor (ph) Conners (ph) he is called, he is also called Abutoha (ph) had been in touch with the Al Qaeda leadership through a series of carriers.

This man may be three or four people away from bin Laden. That is an extremely interesting development, and that may start to give us interesting results in coming weeks.

RAMBERG: Andrew, do you think since they found so many more e-mails that we should expect to see more arrests in the coming weeks?

APOSTOLOU: There has been a series of arrests in Pakistan since these two characters were arrested on July the 13th, and July 25th. Indeed I am correct in saying there was an arrest yesterday. I think you should expect to see arrests not just in Pakistan, but possibly in Western Europe, as well.

I’m not sure if you’ll see arrests here. It will be very interesting if that does happen. My impression is the Al Qaeda network in this country is rather weaker than they would like. That is a good thing.

HAYS: Viewers, I know we had a couple of folks on the call when we were speaking to Ken Robinson. Andrew Apostolou, we are continuing this conversation with 1-800-304-3638 for your questions or comments.

Andrew, what about this new intelligence czar. There was an interesting Gallup poll out this morning, CNN Gallup poll, where a lot of Americans, regular people, said hey, slow down. We don’t know enough to know if we need this new position, this new center. What do you think?

APOSTOLOU: I think that’s a very interesting opinion poll result. Because what it shows is the public is not going to allow itself to be told what to do by the September 11 Commission. The fact is, Americans will decide what they want their government to do, and what they want their priorities of their government on November 2nd. It’s called the elections.

It’s not for the unelected commissioners to tell people that they have to take the recommendations as a package. It’s quite wrong for them to try and railroad this through congress and panic people. I think Americans are being very wise.

This, in my view, is a very bad development, the idea of opening an intelligence czar. A drug czar didn’t beat the drug problem. An intelligence czar isn’t going to lick the intelligence problem. What you really need is a culture of intelligence sharing, and intelligence pooling in your intelligence community that you just don’t have. One big person knocking heads together isn’t going to do that.

RAMBERG: Keep talking about that why it wouldn’t do that. Because if there was somebody who was responsible, it’s on their shoulders to make sure that all of this information gets shared. How could that not help?

APOSTOLOU: The way you put it is extremely interesting if I may say so. Because what you are essentially saying is there is someone we can blame, a namable person. The problem in the September 11th Commission reports, as many people pointed out was there is no one to blame. There is a systemic failure. There is no namable individual.

That’s not the way intelligence should work. What you need to do is have an intelligence system that leads to a polled product in which the corporate knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community is brought together, analyzed, and disseminated.

In Britain we have a system called the JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee. That has been doing that since 1936. You all work for the JIC in Britain if you’re in the intelligence services. In this country, you work for your agency, and the Defense Department, which controls most of the budget, sure isn’t going to give it up.

CLARKIN: Andrew, I want to bring a caller into this conversation. We have David in Arkansas standing by.

David, welcome to the show.

CALLER: Thank you for taking my call. I have a question in reference to your guest. He says it is apolitical. Yet, we hear Ridge, seems like he was crying wolf a couple times prior to this. And then these orange warnings had no effect, or he had no intelligence.

The second time, this last time, it seems like he came into it and it seemed like he was setting it up for the Republicans in the New York state and see if they can do it. Seems to me like we are tipping our hands to the terrorists, because we’re showing them how we would take those steps in case something should happen.

And my final quoting (ph) of that is, where does Homeland Security step (ph) up? (ph) Because it seems like he’s the one that is going to be responsible for drawing all this data, and giving it to the President. Who is the final say? Who will knock heads and say, I want the correct answer? Thank you very much.

APOSTOLOU: I think that’s an extremely interesting point that your caller has raised. We had this issue in January when the British Airways flight were canceled because of terrorism chatter. It’s quite possible that there are occasions when the terrorists will give us false information to see how we respond and see if we tip our hand.

But in this case, both Mr. Galoni (ph) and Mr. Conner (ph) were not giving us false information. They were arrested on July 13th and July 25th. They were unwillingly arrested. Mr. Galoni (ph) tried to shoot his way out.

So, in this case, I think it’s legitimate to actually act expeditiously in the way that it happened. But I quite understand the closed concern. And he is quite right. We have to be very careful sometimes how we respond. We don’t want to give the game away.

HAYS: OK. Unfortunately, we used up all our time. So we are going to have to bid you adieu. Andrew Apostolou, thank you very much for joining us. Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is your organization. Thanks.

APOSTOLOU: Thank you. I hope it is au revoir, rather than adieu.

HAYS: There you go. Until we meet again. Hasta la vista, baby.