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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Beyond the Manhunts: How To Stop Terror
Aired May 12, 2013 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special edition of GPS, "Beyond the Manhunts: How to Stop Terror." I'm Fareed Zakaria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): It was just two years ago that Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan, spoke the words, "Geronimo EKIA." That meant Osama bin Laden was finally dead.
Today the fight continues. As we saw on Boylston Street in Boston. But stepping back from the moment's crisis, we also need to ask larger questions about the state of our security.
What is the threat out there and are we prepared for it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He intended to use the remaining explosives that he had and detonate them in Times Square.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): The fight today is at home and abroad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen that threat become geographically dispersed.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Against Al Qaeda's core, its affiliates and lone adherents, known and unknown, in all corners of the globe.
During this hour, we will explore some of the toughest challenges facing our intelligence community and our country. We will talk to people who have spent decades in the shadows and on the front lines surveying and tackling some of the nation's gravest threats and anticipating the next ones.
We will examine the state of Al Qaeda today. How big of a threat is it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My experience was whenever you declare them dead, you could be wrong.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): We look at the CIA's not-so-secret assassination program.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're in a war. And war is hell.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): And enhanced interrogations: did they lead to Osama bin Laden? Are our current interrogation tactics working?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The black site that I visited was probably the grimmest place I have ever been.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Then, tracking terror. How do intelligence officials target a lone wolf?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole bunch of things, to me are certainly technically possible but do you really want your government doing that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).
ZAKARIA (voice-over): And it's not just a movie. Two of the actual women in the hunt for bin Laden take us inside the CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you think of 007, you know, you don't think of Jane Bond, you think of James Bond.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): And, last, I add my own thoughts on confronting terror today.
ZAKARIA: Defining the enemy and understanding the threat. What does Al Qaeda look like today?
It's been called Al Qaeda 2.0, a more decentralized organization than the one that attacked us on September 11th, 2001, loosely made up of affiliates and hangers-on like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Shabaab, Al-Nusra.
But who are these smaller organizations? Should we be concerned about them here at home? And what about the lone terrorist living in the West, quietly plotting another Boston bombing?
CNN's national CNN analyst, Peter Bergen, oversaw the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997. His book "Manhunt" is the subject of a new HBO documentary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: What do you think is the state of Al Qaeda today?
PETER BERGEN, "THE OSAMA BIN LADEN I KNOW", "THE LONGEST WAR": The best answer to that question is what Osama bin Laden's own assessment of what it was. Before he died, he wrote a letter basically outlining how much the drones had impacted his group. He was very aware that the Al Qaeda brand was in deep trouble. He was advising other groups not to adopt the Al Qaeda brand because it would be bad for fund-raising, would attract a lot of negative attention. So that's Osama bin Laden's assessment and I think that's a pretty accurate one.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Former Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta oversaw the United States' campaigns against Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas known as the Fatah.
PANETTA: I honestly believe that we are safer since 9/11, largely because of what we've been able to do going after their core leadership in the Fatah.
When I first came into government, there were four key people that were largely running Al Qaeda. Today, three of them are dead and one's in deep hiding; not to mention a number of other members of what we were -- often call the top 20 leadership. Many of them have been -- have been hit as well.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Former CIA analyst Cindy Storer, who spent a career tracking terror, says despite the virtual decapitation of Al Qaeda's leadership, don't count the group out.
CINDY STORER, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I get a little nervous when people say it's over; we don't have to worry about that anymore because Al Qaeda always has several tracks going at the same time. My experience was whenever you declare them dead, they prove you wrong. So, I don't want to say they're not hurt, they're not in trouble. But it's too early to let our guard down.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Panetta agrees. He's worried about two aspects of Al Qaeda 2.0. First --
PANETTA: I think what we do have to worry about is what I call kind of a metastasized Al Qaeda that has moved into other areas, Yemen and in Somalia and Mali. We have to continue to worry about Al Qaeda being able to establish a foothold in one of these countries and, therefore, establishing a base from which to attack the United States or Europe.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Former CIA counterterrorism Chief Robert Grenier says North Africa isn't an immediate concern.
ZAKARIA: When you look at North Africa, do you think this is the next place to worry about, or do you think that's a largely a local struggle?
ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I think it's largely a local struggle. I think that we do need to be somewhat concerned about it. But I think we have to be very, very careful less we internationalize what is fundamentally a local security concern.
ZAKARIA: How dangerous are those franchise operations -- we think of Mali; we think of Somalia? GRENIER: I think we have to be very careful because in all of these geographies that you mentioned, yes, there are a small number of international terrorists -- properly so-called -- people that we do have to worry about. But for the most part, the people who occupy this ungoverned space are local people and have their own local concerns.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): But if the Al Qaeda affiliates in those areas aren't yet grand threats, Peter Bergen says there's an offshoot we do need to keep close tabs on -- in a surprising place.
BERGEN: In Syria, you know, Fareed, we're saying, you know, a very interesting phenomenon where the most effective fighting force against Assad is an Al Qaeda front organization called the Al-Nusra Front.
They are doing -- they're doing something that Al Qaeda-like groups have never done before, which is they're providing services to populations; large amounts of a bread to a very desperate population.
I think this is really a new phenomenon, where you have a Hezbollah-like militia taking large chunks of territory, operating in a kind of political manner, unlike most Al Qaeda affiliates. How that will play out, we'll see.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): What has already begun to play out, as we saw in Boston, is the more immediate, bigger threat to the homeland. Leon Panetta explains what keeps him up at night.
PANETTA: What we've seen and what concerns us, I think, in the last few years, is other approaches to creating terror. One of those came from al-Awlaki.
ZAKARIA: That's Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Al Qaeda operative known to many as the bin Laden of the Internet. He is believed to have started "Inspire" magazine, Al Qaeda's online propaganda outfit filled with articles like, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
PANETTA: He was basically urging people anywhere, anyhow, do what you can to be able to go into the United States and attack the country. I think that kind of inspiration of trying to get people to -- motivated in some way to either self-radicalize or do something that -- similar to what we saw in Boston. I think that remains a serious concern.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Michael Hayden is the former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA.
ZAKARIA: When you look at Boston, does that look to you like the new face of terror?
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FMR. DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I really do think that is the case.
I mean, there's a real sense that, doctrinally, Al Qaeda wants the mass casualty attack against the iconic target, but they can't do that. And now, what you've got are these one-offs, very likely self- radicalized individuals coming at us.
I'm fond of saying that, because of our success -- and this is a measure of success -- I'm fond of now saying that future attacks against our homeland will be less well organized, less likely to succeed, less lethal if they do succeed. They're just going to be more numerous and, unfortunately, that's been borne out.
ZAKARIA: Later in our hour, we will ask our experts to stop the next Boston.
But, first up, hitting Al Qaeda overseas. Are we on target with killing terrorists with drones?
ZAKARIA: It has been called the shadow war, a war waged not with boots on the ground, but with eyes in the skies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, have flown stealth missions in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, some armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles.
The CIA and the Defense Department each runs its own drone program with its own set of rules. The CIA's program is so highly classified that it is barely acknowledged by the White House.
Between 2004 and 2013, the New America Foundation puts the total estimated number of strikes in Pakistan and Yemen at 428, with 49 under President Bush and 379 under President Obama. That's almost eight times as many strikes under the Obama administration.
They estimate the number of militants killed to be between 1,982 and 3,251, the number of civilians between 276 and 368 and unknown casualties between 200 and 330. "The New York Times" national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti says to understand the program today, you have to start at the beginning.
ZAKARIA: After 9/11, you see a big change that takes place at the CIA.
MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": After 9/11, about a week, a week after 9/11, President Bush gives the CIA authority to basically go around the world and capture or kill Al Qaeda operatives. And this is the lethal authority that the CIA hadn't had for decades.
ZAKARIA: What is the legality of the drone program? We have President Ford's executive order that tells the CIA not to do this kind of thing. We have President Carter's executive order against assassination and, yet, we have a drone program that seems to assassinate people.
MAZZETTI: So, the legal authorities given to the CIA and by the Justice Department under, you know, still classified memos are that the CIA can carry out these drone strikes because they're not, quote, "assassination;" they're military operations on a global battlefield, going after military targets. So, you assassinate political leaders, but you kill soldiers on a battlefield.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): The problem is, how do you make sure you only kill soldiers on the battlefield?
Leon Panetta, the CIA director from 2009 to 2011 says that after an Al Qaeda target list had been vetted, the decision was ultimately his to take the shot.
PANETTA: At the time that I was director of the CIA, we made very clear that if there were any women and children in the shot, we were not to take it and that we were to only go after those that we knew were identified as targets and, therefore, enemies of the United States.
Was there some collateral when you're hitting a particular target and you're not sure of all -- you know, the situation, especially when you're going after compounds? Sure. There may have been some collateral. But it was minimal.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Former CIA counterterrorism Chief Robert Grenier says in recent years that target list has expanded.
ZAKARIA: Fair to say that it started and when it was being run by you was more narrow, more surgical and more directed against international terrorists, terrorists of global reach and morphed into something that became a much more frequently used weapon for just all the bad guys in the region?
GRENIER: I think that's a fair way to characterize the evolution over time.
It's very easy when you get out on that slippery slope to say, well, look, here, we shouldn't just be focusing only on the international terrorists, what about the people who are supporting them?
And when we take the next step and we start attacking them as an affiliated group, as though they were international terrorists themselves, we're inviting a lot of trouble.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): And it's trouble that Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation and CNN has seen firsthand on the ground in Pakistan.
BERGEN: Because we have the technology and a tactic that works, the temptation is to use it repeatedly. In 2010 there were 122 drone strikes. It is -- there aren't 122 leaders of Al Qaeda in the world.
You know, if the cost of that just angering deeply 180 million Pakistanis, a country with nuclear weapons that's going to be the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population in 2015, I think that's a pretty large, high cost to pay.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): One recent target in Yemen hit the village where a former U.S. exchange student, Faria al-Muslimi (ph) grew up. Muslimi says the strikes target was a popular and trusted figure in the village. He says they did not know he was connected with Al Qaeda.
FARIA AL-MUSLIMI (PH), FORMER U.S. EXCHANGE STUDENT: It angered people there. You don't come regardless of what is happening in this area, you don't come explode bomb and go away as if nothing happens.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Drone strikes in Yemen, he says, have become recruiting tools for Al Qaeda, which sometimes offers compensation to people whose houses have been hit.
AL-MUSLIMI: Nothing has ever empowered Al Qaeda in Yemen as much as the strike drones.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): General Michael Hayden is a former director of the CIA.
ZAKARIA: Is the drone program out of control?
HAYDEN: No. I don't think so. It comes back to what are the circumstances in which you find yourself.
Targeted killings have enabled us to bring Al Qaeda prime, Al Qaeda main along the Afghan-Pakistan border to the point of destruction. I can think of almost nothing that has contributed more to the safety of the United States than what we've been able to do to take senior Al Qaeda leadership off the battlefield.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Even if Hayden thinks the tactic works, he says the government needs to change the way they deal with it. For the domestic audience, he says the Obama administration needs to do something spies hate to do: talk publicly about what they are up to.
HAYDEN: The issue is political sustainability. My advice is to be as transparent as you can be, even perhaps risking a little bit of operational effectiveness. Otherwise, this program, which if I would describe as being very successful, is going to have an on-off switch. It's going to be affected by American elections rather than being a program that most of America supports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Later in the show, how to defend against the next Boston-like attack. But coming up next, should the United States be in the business of torture? Does it yield useful information? What if there's a ticking time bomb? We'll find out when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Welcome back to our GPS special "Beyond the Manhunts." It's called the ticking time bomb scenario.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA (voice-over): A terrorist is in your custody, he knows about a bomb, it could go off at any minute.
To what lengths would you go to find out where and when?
Shortly after 9/11, that was the question that emerged as we wrestled with the palpable fear of the unknown. Where was bin Laden? Was there another attack coming?
In 2002 the Justice Department quietly approved the use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding and extreme sleep deprivation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 93, the nays are zero.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Three years later, Congress banned enhanced interrogations by the military. The CIA could continue to use the techniques, but it was a subject of much debate and uncertainty.
OBAMA: I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Then on his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order outlawing these coercive techniques.
OBAMA: There we go.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): All future interrogations by anyone in the U.S. government had to follow the strict guidelines of the Army Field Manual.
So the million-dollar question: did coercive technique lead to Osama bin Laden?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Once again, our intelligence experts weigh in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRENIER: The black site that I visited was probably the grimmest place I have ever been.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Robert Grenier, a 27-year CIA veteran, ran the agency's Counterterrorism Center from 2004 to 2006.
GRENIER: It's a grim business when you are, again, for understandable reasons, sequestering people who you believe have information, actionable information, which, if you're able to acquire it, will save lives.
ZAKARIA: In your experience, looking at all the information you got, does it work? Is the use of coercive interrogation, which some people call torture, a useful way to get information?
GRENIER: For those group of hardened terrorists against whom, you know, the normal sort of measures that you might encounter in a Chicago precinct, for instance, simply did not work, simply were unavailing, we acquired a lot of very important intelligence.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Leon Panetta was in charge the day Osama bin Laden was killed.
PANETTA: I often get criticized for saying this, but it is the fact we got information, even though you may not like the approach that was used. The fact was, it was information.
The team that really carried out this mission.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): But Panetta says the significance of that information is far from cut and dry.
PANETTA: Was it absolutely essential to being able to find bin Laden? I'm not sure. I don't think so. I think, frankly, there were a lot of other bits and pieces of intelligence that we had that we ultimately could have put together the same kind of pattern that we needed in order to track bin Laden. But, you know, was there information that came from those interrogations? Yes, there was.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): One of the people sifting through that intelligence was CIA analyst Cindy Storer.
Do you think the use of torture was important in getting Osama bin Laden?
STORER: Well, I have to say that I chose not to be involved in the program from the beginning. So, I don't have a lot of knowledge about what was done and what came out of it. My only experience --
ZAKARIA: What do you mean chose not to be involved? How could you do that?
STORER: I just said I wasn't going to. That was it. I mean, I saw what was happening after 9/11 and I said I won't go. And they kept trying to get me to go down and talk to detainees and I just wouldn't do it. I did have to use the information that came back, of course.
I think people didn't put in a lot of time in the context of what we knew about the larger organization and they would just say, well, so-and-so said this; it must be true. And that's a danger.
PANETTA: I think it really undermines what the United States is all about. We have said to the enemy what we believe is dear can, in fact, be sacrificed because we are scared to death of them. And I think that's exactly the wrong message one has sent. We're strong, we're proud of what we have, we can make our system work. I think we can balance security and our freedoms. That's what the society is all about.
GRENIER: The interrogation process is a, it's a very human process.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Robert Grenier says debates over enhanced methods largely miss the point. In the end, he believes, the most integral part of the process has nothing to do with physical pain.
GRENIER: The most effective tool you have is knowledge. The fact that if you are a suspected terrorist, perhaps a known terrorist who is detained and you know that you, that in any given instance it's unlikely that you can lie to me with impunity, that is a very, very powerful tool.
ZAKARIA: When the interrogator is able to signal to the prisoner, I know these pieces of information, so if you try to lie to me, I'll know you're lying to me. That's the most powerful.
GRENIER: It is. And so that -- so when the detainee says something and you shake your head and you smile and you say, my friend, do you think I've come all this way; do you think I'm sitting here with you because I know so little? That could be a very, very powerful thing.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Former CIA director Michael Hayden agrees, but says we should also be mindful of the circumstances.
(on camera): Suppose you had a situation like the Boston bombings, except this time you caught one guy and he was, he was able to talk and you thought there was a ticking time bomb somewhere.
ZAKARIA: Would you, would you believe that in those circumstances torture would be appropriate?
HAYDEN: Torture is never appropriate. It's like asking me, do you think murder is appropriate, that's no. I mean by definition torture and murder are wrong. Now, would I attempt to question that individual beyond the normal practices of the Massachusetts state police? Perhaps. Beyond the 19 techniques that are allowed in the Army Field Manual? Perhaps. But no one claims that, for example, the Army Film Manual exhausts the universe of lawful techniques. And so, you need to keep your options available because you can't predict what circumstances you might find yourself in the future. I had a phrase when I was director of the National Security Agencies, is we're going to play inside the foul lines, but there's going to be chalk dust on our cleats.
ZAKARIA: To be able to go right up to the lines.
HAYDEN: Exactly. Because if I don't, Fareed, what I'm doing is protecting me and my agency, not America. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAKARIA: When thinking through this issue, remember that the U.S. government has mostly stopped using enhanced interrogations since 2006. And has completely stopped since January 2009. Since then, al Qaeda has been battered, intelligence has been gathered and acted on and several major plots have been thwarted. So, if the question is, can we tackle terrorism without using torture? The answer seems to be, we're doing that right now.
Up next, targeting the radical lone wolf on our shores. Are we on top of this threat?
ZAKARIA: Welcome back to our special. Al Qaeda may be battered, but there's a new threat out there. The lone wolf. One person or a small group self-radicalized and determined to kill. In other words, Boston. The CIA and FBI are, of course, working hard to stop the next would-be bombers. But what exactly are they looking for? How do you track a shadow? Someone harboring extremist tendencies quietly. Someone who might turn violent, but isn't yet. The former director of the CIA General Michael Hayden says the United States is continually calibrating the balance between freedom and security.
HAYDEN: I put my arm out, Fareed, and said, this is what we're doing for you now in terms of security and intelligence community, the defense community and, frankly, we've made those attacks up here, the ones that were very punishing and about which we were very fearful. 9/11, World Trade Center One, the airliner plot over the Atlantic. We've made them very, very unlikely. But now we have got these, these one of kind of attacks. Like Boston, like Najibullah Zazi going to New York, like the drive by shooting in Little Rock. And I ask American audiences, what do you want me to do with my hand? Because I can actually push it down a little bit. I don't know how much more safety I'll buy you, but there will be some more safety. But how much more of your commerce, your privacy or your convenience do you want me to squeeze for a marginal increase in safety? And as a citizen, as an intelligence professional, I'll follow the guidance of the republic. But as a citizen, I'm thinking my hands are about at the right place now. I don't know that we need to do a whole lot more. Now, the secret within that is that sooner or later, some of this stuff is going to happen and we all have to recognize that there is going to be a margin of risk that we're going to have to live with now.
ZAKARIA: So describe what it would mean to push that hand down. I mean you ran the National Security Agency, the super secret spy agency with, you know, what many people believe is the largest budget that has the ability to do, it does all the technical, technological data gathering. Could you eavesdrop on, you know, conversations at a much grander scale than you're doing?
HAYDEN: You know, what technology is available now, of course, you can be more invasive. And, you know, truth in advertising here, Fareed. I was the one who installed the terrorist surveillance program which caused so much controversy during the Bush administration.
ZAKARIA: Which was about eavesdropping on phone conversations.
HAYDEN: It was about international calls, one end of which may have been in the United States that we have reason to believe were affiliated with al Qaeda. Which sounds like a pretty good description for threading about the Boston kind of threat. But even there we recognized that we have to be very careful, very selective. This couldn't be this broad net over all of America's conversations. Even there, it was very, very targeted.
ZAKARIA: I asked Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent.
ZAKARIA: So, you look at something like "Inspire" magazine, al Qaeda - al Qaeda publication of sorts on the Web that contained within it the instructions of how to build these pressure cooker bombs. Should the United States government be trying to shut down these kind of Websites and is it feasible?
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I think it's not the issue of, you know, feasibility. You know, it's very hard to regulate the Internet. We have thousands of thousands of websites that promote Islamic extremism. But I think what we need to do is monitor these sites and monitor the people who basically spent a lot of times on these sites and then monitor their travel pattern and their communications. Let's actually start putting this travel pattern, putting their cyber footprint pattern and put them together. And create kind of a profile. A threat profile about that specific individuals.
ZAKARIA: Law enforcement would need to do the almost impossible, sort out who are the radical Muslims, not prone to violence and those who could turn into terrorists. Robert Grenier is a former CIA counter-terrorism chief.
ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER CIA COUNTER-TERRORISM CHIEF: It's a very difficult thing to detect when an individual, small group of people are self-radicalizing. That key step to go from views that you and I may consider to be radical or unrealistic to then make the decision that now I am going to engage, I'm going to act on this and I'm going to act violently on this. That is very discreet step. It's a very subtle thing and often it is only apparent in hindsight. And I think our greatest ally are the communities in which they live. And I think one of the great challenges for us as a society and particularly for law enforcement, is to have the sort of relationship with immigrant communities, Muslim communities in the U.S., which conveys to them that we are not stigmatizing you as a community. That we want to work with you as partners. We're all in this together.
ZAKARIA: Leon Panetta is a former director of the CIA. LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: We have learned a lot since 9/11 on basically how to try to get ahead of this. What we have seen is that you absolutely have to develop good intelligence. That intelligence is a key here because if you have intelligence, then that's what can really target you towards where those threats are. I think it can be done. I mean, after all, if you look at the last ten or 11 years since 9/11, we have been able to get ahead of potential attacks. We have been able to prevent attacks that where we knew something like this was happening. So, the record is pretty good, but we just cannot let up. We have got to continue to be very vigilant.
ZAKARIA: Coming up next, in putting together the special, I couldn't help but notice how many women were critical in the intelligence hunt for bin Laden. So, next, we ask a somewhat different question. Are women better at this game than men? When we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for something completely different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody makes a move.
ZAKARIA: In the hit series "Homeland" Claire Danes plays a dogged and dauntless CIA agent on the trail of al Qaeda terrorists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: have a clue about what happened ...
ZAKARIA: Sounds a lot like the main character Maya, a CIA operative in the film "Zero Dark 30," right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hold up the information on details on the case (ph) network and publicly --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And in real life, it turns out that many of the officers in the hunt for bin Laden were women. The person who wrote the first complete assessment of Osama bin Laden, a woman. The analyst who first identified al Qaeda in a briefing to the president, a woman. So it got me wondering. Do women make better spies or analysts than men? Are they in some ways more suited to this kind of work? I put the question to the former CIA Director Michael Hayden.
ZAKARIA: Do you think there's any significance to the fact that so many of the people who hunted bin Laden down were women?
HAYDEN: I will confirm, you're right. This was a band of sisters that led this analytical hunt. Two of the sisters were killed at cost. Jennifer Matthews was there and Elizabeth Hanson. Both wonderful officers, both had briefed me about the hunt for bin Laden, they were phenomenal they were obsessed, they were focused.
ZAKARIA: Somebody said to me, you know, there are all these macho guys out there, but you wouldn't want these women after you, because they're relentless
HAYDEN: They were absolutely relentless. And freedom, and this is a decade's long hunt and for these women, longer than a decade, these people were hunting bin Laden before hunting bin Laden was cool and popular. They were back there in the day prior to 9/11. In fact, in the opening line from "Homeland."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I missed something once before ...
HAYDEN: Where Carrie mutters, I missed something that day. I think a lot of people with the agency, including these folks, were animated by the fact that that event had taken place and now they wanted to set things right. They really were focused on this energy beyond description.
ZAKARIA: For the real scoop, who better to ask than former CIA counterterrorism officials Nada Bakos and Cindy Storer. Nada was a targeter of Abu Zarkawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and Cindy was one of the first analysts to focus on bin Laden.
(on camera): Do you think there's something that women bring to this kind of work that is helpful?
CINDY STORER, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I do. Women just tend to do it better. Even when I worked with who were trying really hard to do a good job of it, very few and far between.
ZAKARIA: So, let me make a crude generalization. Women are more patient, they are better at recognizing patterns that are slightly complex. Men are, you know, eager to shoot first and ask questions later. Do all ...
ZAKARIA: Does all that seem, sound a little bit familiar?
NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I think it does. But I also think there is something to women having a protection mechanism. You know you can attribute it to being a maternal instinct, but I think there is something to, you know, sort of rallying the troops to protect, you know, what we know and what we find sacred versus, I think, men do dominate the offensive position where we take up the defensive position.
ZAKARIA: You said something about, you think there are certain advantages women have, also in terms of getting people to talk to you. Right?
BAKOS: I do. I think there's, female case officers do have an advantage because I think they can elicit information in a different way than men. They are less threatening. You know, they can come off as more maternal. So, I think they do have an advantage working, recruiting an asset to give them information. You know, I think part of the fascination is when you think of 007, you know, you don't think of Jane Bond, you think of James Bond. So, I think it's the surprise for a lot of people.
ZAKARIA: You worked at the agency for a long time.
ZAKARIA: Was it difficult being a woman? I mean, you know, all the issues that you hear about, with, you know, the Sheryl Sandbergs and the Anne-Marie Slaughters of the world. What was it like for you working in what we all think of as a very male organization?
STORER: I never felt any over discrimination except when I touched military issues. And then sometimes the men would have this sort of, I think it's just an instinctive reaction or maybe a programmed reaction and then you could get them past that and usually it was OK. But there would be that moment where you have to say, no, look, I actually do know about this. I realize I am a woman, but this tank, you know ...
ZAKARIA: Let me ask a couple of questions about something that everybody wonders about. Watching the movie "Manhunt," the documentary might have given people the impression that you, Nada, were Maya in "Zero Dark 30." Would that be accurate?
BAKOS: That would not be accurate. I, you know, I would never take that away from the people that worked on finding bin Laden. I had left the agency prior to them catching him.
ZAKARIA: Is there a Maya?
BAKOS: I would say there were targeting officers and analysts involved in the hunt for bin Laden. And I'm very proud of all of them. I think they did do an amazing job. There were a handful of very dedicated people who were part of that. In addition to the people that built the initial intelligence line like Gina Bennett and Barbara (inaudible)
ZAKARIA: But no single person?
STORER: That I can't comment on.
ZAKARIA: It's a very CIA-like response.
STORER: Of course, of course.
ZAKARIA: Up next, I'll give you my own thoughts about how to stop terror.
ZAKARIA: We've taken you on a journey to see the new face of terror. You've heard from the top most officials who have fought this battle. The women who tracked Osama bin Laden and those who actually interrogated suspected terrorists. I hope it's helped you understand the dangers we face and how we should respond to them. I thought I owed you my own conclusions based on what I've seen and heard.
First, al Qaeda. The group that planned and directed the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, then the attack on the American destroyer USS Cole and then the World Trade Center is a shadow of its former self. Second, it has become a franchise operation with groups around the world latching on to its name and cause. But there's a debate. You've heard it here. As to whether these groups in Somalia, Mali, Yemen are local thugs or global terrorists. In my reading of them, local concerns seem paramount. Even the Taliban, after all, does not have global terrorist ambitions, but, instead, has always focused on its desire to control Afghanistan. Americans often forget that though we went to war in Afghanistan, no Afghan was involved in 9/11. Nor in any other major terrorist plot against Americans and Europeans. Turning local thugs into global terrorists could well prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Third, al Qaeda was not crippled by magic, but through the hard work of counterterrorism by many governments across many regions. Now, as we fight terrorism, let's think hard about collateral damage when we target a bad guy with a drone. Fourth, the Boston bombings have reminded us that the war on terror is one that has to be fought at home as well. But how to find the next group of misfits who have no background with terrorists, who might get radicalized over the Internet and who go from talking radicalism one day to plotting terror the next. Well, we cannot identify every one of these perspective terrorists, no matter how well we do. But people in law enforcement agencies across the United States will tell you, the best intelligence about potential terrorists comes from their communities, which often en means in these times, Muslim communities. So we need eyes on the ground. Friendly relations with imams and other leaders. And outreach to all parts of the communities. If that sounds too soft, it's a proven method. Most recently, a few weeks ago a Canadian plot to attack trains was thwarted with just this sort of intelligence, provided by the local Muslim community.
The war on terror began as a grand enterprise involving major war. It seems to have evolved into police work. That is a measure of progress.
A final point. Not a thought, but some facts. The National Counterterrorism Center released its annual report last June. It showed that terrorist attacks worldwide had dropped by 12 percent from 2010 and were down 29 percent from 2007. The global terrorism index also released last year systematically ranks countries by levels of terrorist incidents. Over the ten-year period it analyzed, 2002 to 2011, the region least likely to suffer from a terrorist attack was North America. The most comprehensive studies show that terrorism was declining in the United States, even in 2001. And it dropped even more sharply after 9/11. Here's Peter Bergen, again, putting it in some perspective.
PETER BERGEN: Since 9/11, 17 Americans have been killed by Jihadist terrorists in this country, in the United States. By, you know, 300 Americans die every year accidentally in their bathtubs. We don't have an irrational fear of bathtub drownings, we shouldn't have an irrational fear of terrorism.
ZAKARIA: I hope this special report has helped you think about the future of terrorism more rationally. Thank you for watching. I'm Fareed Zakaria.