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America Under Attack: What Has to Be Done to Prevent Similar Attacks?

Aired September 11, 2001 - 17:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: General Wesley Clark joins us from Little Rock. General Clark has been with us a number of times today.

General, I wonder if you will weigh in for a second on this debate or this discussion that has been going on for most of the afternoon here, which is: Have we misapplied in some ways intelligence resources that we have become so infatuated with what we can do with machines and high-tech, that we have, inappropriately I guess, spent less money, less time, less effort on the down-and-dirty human intelligence?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Well, that is certainly a question that everyone is going to be asking, and it will be asked in official channels. And it will be asked of those who are best in the position to give that answer.

My with experience is has been that I have heard this charge now for some 25 years in the intelligence business, and we have put emphasis into not only technical intelligence but human intelligence. But it is very hard to get the kind of specific intelligence that would prevent something like this.

Many of these people are members of a family, they come from a specific village perhaps. There background is know and vetted. They are carefully controlled. Their movements and communications are monitored. And it's difficult, no doubt for any intelligence organization no matter how well it is resourced and how courageous its members, to penetrate an organization like that and give us information.

Intelligence is always characterized by a failure to know what you don't know. And I'm sure that we will make improvements. There are always more things that could be done in the aftermath of something like this. But if there is one single message that comes through to me here, and I think will come through to many others, it is that it is not enough to simply put up the best defenses against terrorism, but that more active measures are no doubt called for, particularly in this case.

BROWN: When you say more active measures, you are talking about proactive?

CLARK: That's right, preemptive measures. We have known a number of these groups have, for a long time, said they declared war on the United States. And we have dealt with them. We have fenced with them. We have cooperated with other governments against them, we have chased individuals. We have hauled some into court. But I think that not only do we have to ask ourselves, could we have learned more in this specific case, we have to ask ourselves, could we have done more if we had been willing to take greater risks, if we had been willing to take more extraordinary measures earlier to take some of those groups and these individuals at their word, that they had declared war on us and they deserved to be taken seriously and they merited some preemptive action.

BROWN: And just perhaps stating the obvious, Sir, when you talk about preemptive action, first of all, you have to be able to find the people that you are taking action against. Do we know where the right people are, so that if the country is going after these people, they get the right people?

CLARK: Well, I think that's always the problem. And there will always be a certain degree of uncertainty and there will and certain degree of concern about this. The best way to handle any international terrorist organization is to arrest its leaders, present the evidence and have them tried in a court of law. And that certainly is the way anyone would prefer to deal with this. But perhaps, in some cases it's not possible to do that, or it is not possible to do that quick enough. We will have to ask those questions in the aftermath. It is not simply about intelligence, it is also about acting on intelligence.

BROWN: Ultimately, Sir, this is not simply a military or intelligence question. This is a core political question. It really has to do with how we see ourselves in a country, whether we are willing to take the risks that some innocents may parish because of what we as a country do, and that is a political question for the country to deal with.

CLARK: It's a profound political question and I think it is also a question for the international community because an event like this is a real cry for alarm and recognition in the international community. A tragedy like this can happen here, it happen anywhere. And international terrorism is too dangerous and too ambiguous and too difficult for any single nation to handle by itself.

We need strong reliable support from friends and allies around the world, and I'm sure we will be asking for it. And clearly one of things that ought to come from this is not only better U.S. intelligence, it's better sharing of information, pooling of information with our partners in all corners of the globe.

BROWN: General Clark, thanks again for joining us as you have a number of other times today and I suspect will you again before the day is out. General Wesley Clark, Little Rock, Arkansas today, thank you.

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