Analyst: 'It's complacency that gets you in trouble'
CNN military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson
New York City
New York Stock Exchange
Newark, New Jersey
International Monetary Fund
-- Department of Homeland Security
NYPD holds counterterrorism drills in high-profile areas.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the United States, the terrorism threat level has been raised to code orange, or high, for potential targets in the financial services sector of New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke to Ken Robinson, CNN's military intelligence analyst, about the threats.
ROBINSON: Wolf, one of the most important things is [regardless of] whether there's an actual threat, or whether it's a perceived threat, it costs the same.
The efforts that now have to be made by commercial business organizations and the federal, state and local police are going to impact over time, it's going to impact surveillance assets, it's going to impact the queuing that's going to occur with people just trying to go about their normal business.
So from a terrorist standpoint, the threat, whether it be real or perceived, is effective.
BLITZER: You know the business about military interrogation, prisoners. As many of our viewers know, only in the past few days, Pakistan arrested a ring of suspected al Qaeda operatives, including the Tanzanian born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and 13 of his cohort. They also found a computer and several disks.
Now, we heard from the secretary of homeland security, the information, the specific, credible information around this particular threat has been received only in the past few days, and we also heard him thank Pakistan for all of [its] cooperation, although he didn't say that this specific threat information came from the arrest of this Tanzanian and these other al Qaeda suspects.
But if I'm adding up two and two, it sounds like that could be the case.
ROBINSON: Right. The first thing that came to my mind was Ghailani's arrest, because they what they do is they try to exploit the computers, the cell phones, the pocket litter, the friends, relatives and acquaintances. When they have 10 or 11 people, that then enables them to find out all the places where those 10 or 11 people communicated, and then from that they go and do raids in other locations. And they typically will make arrests and not announce the arrests, so that they can then exploit for a four-, five-day period whatever they have been able to find to get actionable intelligence to do something else.
BLITZER: Do you think, though, based on past experience, the information that they would get in the immediate days after an arrest like this, assuming this might be the source of this information, is that all that reliable?
ROBINSON: Well, it's not a matter of reliable. It's a matter of it's all they have, and they have got to treat every nugget of information as if it may be the next thing that leads to a link that enables them to exploit and capture a big fish. Remember, that's how [former Iraqi leader] Saddam [Hussein] was captured. Saddam was captured through link analysis of arrests and interrogations which then narrowed down the geographic area, and then finally led them to the fat man, which led them to the hole where he was hiding.
BLITZER: One of the things that Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, was reporting earlier, quoting a U.S. government official as saying the information surrounding all of this intelligence was chilling in the sense that they have specific information about casing these various buildings, monitoring how security works over there, the parking lots, the various entry points, all of which suggests that this could be a plot in the works for who knows, weeks, months, maybe even years.
ROBINSON: Most likely years. Remember, when we [aired] the "Terror on Tape" series with Nic Robertson, we had journals which were found in Afghanistan from terrorist training camps. And in those were specific, laid-out casings of locations, of individuals, when they eat their breakfast, when they travel to and from, high officials in foreign governments. They're very specific, they're very thorough. And when you look at their training manuals, it mirror-images many of the same types of training manuals that are used in the West to conduct surveillance and surveillance detection.
BLITZER: If you're giving advice, and you're a security expert, to these various buildings and the employers, the people who work there, what do you tell them about showing up for work tomorrow?
ROBINSON: I think they should show up to work. But I don't believe that we should be driven by color codes. I think we should be driven by vigilance, because it's complacency that gets you in trouble in terms of your security. Because what they're going to look for is they're going to look for the soft target that's vulnerable and easy to go after. They're not going to go after a hard target. And there are symbolic targets. And we can't treat al Qaeda like it's the boogeyman and stop living. But there has to be vigilance.
BLITZER: Ken Robinson, thanks very much.