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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Earthquake Hits California; Should U.S. Have Done More in Syria?; Interview with Deputy Spokesperson of State Department; Major Earthquake in Napa, Northern California; Interview with Michael Hayden
Aired August 24, 2014 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Fareed Zakaria and we begin today with some breaking news.
Northern California residents had a rude awakening early this morning. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake hitting six miles south of Napa -- that's just north of San Francisco -- putting 15,000 people at the center of violent tremors.
It is the single largest seismic event in California since that 1989 quake that struck during the World Series 25 years ago. Local rescue officials continue to survey the region for damage.
The early reports so far homes rocked askew, thousands of people without power. Streets buckling, storefronts crumbling. One hospital telling us just a few moments ago that they have treated 70 patients so far. None of those injuries, though, life threatening. And structural fires burning across town dotting the Napa Valley.
With the potential as well for gas leaks local law enforcement officials are rushing to free some people who are trapped at this moment in their homes. So far luckily no casualties, no deaths have been reported. But it will still be a while before we know just how much damage this quake has done.
California's governor, Jerry Brown, just moments ago issued a statement urging residents to stay calm and assuring them, quote, "Public safety officials are doing all they can to help residents and those living in the affected areas should follow their guidance and instruction."
Now geologists say that more than 100,000 people felt very strong shaking, the earth literally moving beneath their feet.
I want to go now to Jennifer Gray in CNN's Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.
Jennifer, the quake, 6.1 on the Richter Scale. Can you tell our viewers exactly where this struck and how far around that epicenter this was felt? JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it was about six miles south
of Napa. And folks felt it anywhere from 25 to 30 miles away. And so we are continuing to feel those shocks as well. Most of those have been very, very minor but we did have one of about 2.5 a couple of hours ago. In just in the past hour or so we had another one of about 3.6. And so in the next 24 hours, that's a crucial time but in the next seven days -- and aftershocks can be felt days, weeks, even months down the road.
But the next seven days is really the most crucial time for these aftershocks and the probability of a magnitude 5.0 or higher is about 54 percent with an earthquake of this size. And then earthquakes larger than the main shock is less than 10 percent and 54 percent of an aftershock of about 5.0 or greater in the next seven days, 54 percent.
And so those aftershocks are of concern as we move forward in time. Of course most of those are going to be very, very small. But just take care and use caution when you're going out in the streets. Now the sun is up, it is still early over on the West Coast. Some of those structures are going to be very, very weak.
And so as you're assessing all of that damage and folks are out moving about, just be careful. Of course those aftershocks still a possibility over the next couple of days and even weeks -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Now, Jennifer, anytime a quake like this strikes close to the ocean, to the coast line concerns of course tsunami warnings. Are there any warnings yet or is that danger past?
GRAY: Yes, the danger is past. There were no tsunami watches or warnings that were issued so that was very, very good news with this particular quake.
SCIUTTO: That is a relief for sure. Thanks very much to Jennifer Gray in Atlanta. We'll be staying in touch with you throughout the day.
We're still piecing together just how bad the damage is in and around Napa. A reminder that's just north of San Francisco but things could very well get worse So about 30 minutes after the initial quake hit an aftershock ripped through the area shaking the Napa region.
Again, I want to bring in CNN producer Augie Martin, he is in San Francisco.
Augie, from the ground what have you seen, what have you heard on the ground there?
AUGIE MARTIN, CNN PRODUCER (via phone): Well, Jim, with daybreak about 30 minutes ago the light ought to help authorities with their efforts to survey the damage and try to rescue those that are trapped. I am actually in San Francisco proper about 25 miles south of the epicenter. But it was a fairly good shake down here that lasted for about 25 or 30 seconds. It was a softer rolling type earthquake. Sometimes we get these very sharp jolts. But this was one of those earthquakes that was more of a rolling type of earthquake.
It was felt over a very wide spread area. Some earthquakes are felt not over a very wide area typically because they are deeper. But this one was felt over a very wide area all the way down to San Jose and even south of there. This was -- it did take place up in Napa on a fault that was not the San Andreas Fault which is the one that typically gets all of the publicity, but in famed wine country so.
SCIUTTO: Augie, just telling your viewers we're playing live pictures from the quake area today. We're seeing a house on fire there. Just a great concern for firefighters because of gas leaks, et cetera.
For our viewers who haven't felt an earthquake before, I wonder, Augie, if you can describe that motion, that sense of the earth rocking in waves. How did it feel when you went through this just a short time ago?
MARTIN: Well, typically as I said there are two sort of types of earthquakes. There is one that gives off a very sharp jarring jolt and then there are other ones that are almost wave like that are softer and have a rolling feeling to them. And some of it will depend upon what type of earth surface you're on whether you're on sand or bedrock.
In Napa a lot of the ground there is sandy based that used to be part of San Francisco Bay, you know, many, many, many millions years ago. In San Francisco where a lot of us are on bedrock, some of us are on sand, but like I said, this was one was a very rolling, if it's possible to call it a gentle earthquake in some regard, it was a strong but gentle earthquake. It was not -- at least where I was it wasn't a super jarring jolt.
Nonetheless it's very startling especially when it happens in the middle of the night. Even to native Californians it's always very jarring when you're awakened by shaking so.
SCIUTTO: No question. It's an unnerving feeling for anyone who's been through it.
Thanks very much to Augie Martin, CNN producer on the ground in San Francisco.
A reminder to our viewers you're seeing live pictures now from the San Francisco area. The aftermath of this 6.1 earthquake which struck in Napa Valley just north of San Francisco.
We want to get some perspective now on the size of this earthquake, its impact. Joining me now on the telephone seismologist as well as director of Global Alliance for Disaster Reduction, that's Walter Hayes.
Walter Hayes, can you put for our viewers this quake into context in terms of size? It's 25 years ago since a 6.9 earthquake caused so much damage in San Francisco. This is 6.1 on the Richter Scale, that means nearly 10 times or so or one-tenth the power?
WALTER HAYES, SEISMOLOGIST: No.
SCIUTTO: Of the one that struck in '89?
HAYES: No. That's the confusion on the (INAUDIBLE) aspect of this. It's nearly 30 times weaker. It's one-thirtieth of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
SCIUTTO: It's -- it's both amplitude and energy. So it's 30th of the energy but it's also then the amplitude which I guess is the wave motion of the quake. Is that right?
SCIUTTO: The shaking? The ground shaking?
HAYES: Yes. They use the waves to determine the magnitude number. But the magnitude number is a measure of energy released. The Loma Prieta released nearly 30 times more energy than this one. It would take 30 of these to equal one Loma Prieta, for example.
SCIUTTO: Now as we look at this, though, this is still caused -- and again we're seeing live pictures, walls that have collapsed. There are homes on fire. That is still even at 6.1, and I believe we're just getting an update now that the estimate has been lowered to 6.0. But this is still a large earthquake. You only have 100 or so some odd 6.0 or higher earthquakes per year.
HAYES: Right. That's right. Around the world. You have one magnitude eight, 10 sevens, 106 is a thousand times and so on down the line. So we 10 million a year all of those different sizes. We don't -- California doesn't always get its share of them, other parts of the world get the share. But this is still -- it would take 30 of these to equal a Loma Prieta earthquake.
SCIUTTO: Again, we're just seeing the power of it now on the air as we look at live pictures. Walls collapsed, some buildings partially collapsed. Fires in the Napa area now.
HAYES: What Augie was talking about was the Rayleigh waves, the long period waves that gives that rolling motion. The jolt is the P-wave. That's the one that causes interior damage, contents to fall all over. The Rayleigh wave would be more destructive to the taller buildings and the weaker buildings. Long periods.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you just very quickly before I let you. There is a lot of talk of the ring of fire. This is the plate that surrounds the Pacific and connects earthquakes and volcanoes in Japan, New Zealand, Chile. We've had very big quakes in recent years in all those places.
Does that increase the chances of a major earthquake, the big one, in the San Francisco area in the near term?
HAYES: Well, it takes time for the strain energy to accumulate. Now California has had plenty of time for it to accumulate. More likely in Southern California than in northern California. But don't ever rule out any place. Northern California -- in 1906 of course was the big one there. 1847 the big one in the Los Angeles area. But you got plenty of faults. You've got literally thousands, several thousand faults in California.
And there's cluster faults is where this earthquake in that region and it is more damaging to a city as large than the San Andreas, even though San Andreas probably get bigger earthquakes. San Andreas is farther away from the bay area. And this one is right there. And that's the reason it's got everybody's attention.
SCIUTTO: OK. Walter Hayes, seismologist, thanks very much for helping put this into context.
Again, you're seeing live pictures of the aftermath of this earthquake. We're going to hear more on the latest in Napa in just a few moments.
But coming up on GPS the U.S. is weighing military strikes against ISIS in Syria now but can the Obama administration team up with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
We're going to get Fareed's take right after this.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to GPS, I'm Jim Sciutto in New York, and you are watching live pictures here from Napa, California. The aftermath of an earthquake. We're going to bring you the latest on this quake in just a few moments.
But first another looming humanitarian crisis overseas which the United Nations warns could escalate into ethnic cleansing. Just weeks after the Yazidis nearly became victims of a genocide, ruthless ISIS extremists have surrounded a town of Turkmen Shiites, cutting off their access to food and water. Five thousand families subsisting only on what Iraqi helicopters can deliver while dodging fire from militants. Hell bent on slaughtering them, there's been only one food drop over the last 10 days.
Back in Washington the Obama administration continues to wrestle with just how to deal with the ISIS threat. The military has carried out some 94 air strikes since August 8th and while Defense Department officials say targeted air strikes have wounded ISIS Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey has said that ISIS cannot be dealt with without addressing it on both sides of the Iraqi and Syrian border. He's also saying they will not telegraph their punches going forward.
Looking ahead, you have some lawmakers calling for more than just air strikes after ISIS executed American journalist James Foley, and uploaded the grizzly evidence for the entire world to see.
Each week GPS brings you Fareed's take on the week's news. This week Fareed Zakaria is traveling in Bodrum, Turkey and was able to join me earlier.
I asked him about the growing international alarm towards ISIS. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: The level of concern about ISIS, Jim, is very deep, very different from what I heard only a few months ago. There is a sense that ISIS has become what al Qaeda always wanted it to be. Remember the world al Qaeda means base. Since 2001 al Qaeda really has not had a base. It's been running around in mountains and caves.
ISIS is developing a very large, deep and sophisticated base. It has a financial base, by some estimates making $1 million a day. It has the ability to sell oil and wheat at a bargain and of course it has this extraordinary military capacity. That military capacity is morphing in the wake of American air strikes.
It is moving from an open ground strategy, taking towns, to a guerilla strategy, hiding within towns. A kind of Hamas strategy. But all in all if you look at that this is the most significant terrorist organization I think we have really ever faced.
SCIUTTO: It's an alarming thought. You mentioned it has a military base there but it also has a base of support, does it? It represents something for Sunnis.
ZAKARIA: That's the core of it in a sense because they have been able to take so much land and move within the population. You know, Mao always said -- Mao Tse Tung of China -- that gorillas swim like fish in the water, meaning that they have to be people, the locals have to be -- have to friendly otherwise they're not going to be able to stay there.
What has happened is that ISIS has stepped into the Sunni discontent, the Sunni discontent about being ruled in Syria by Alawites, this minority sect that they regard as heretical. In Iraq being ruled by Persians which is how they regard the Shia government of Iraq, even though it isn't actually Persian.
And that reality is in many ways at the heart of it. There is another piece which is some of Saddam Hussein's old Baath Party military machine is back and that is back in the form of ISIS. You see some of these characters like Izzat Ibrahim in Mosul. And that is the old skeleton of Saddam Hussein's army.
SCIUTTO: For many Americans, really the beheading of James Foley brought ISIS into focus, although U.S. officials, as you mentioned, and others have been concerned about this for some time. Now that the U.S. is considering more military action, I mean, is it safe to say that the U.S. is at war with ISIS? And also I would ask in the region do you find that because of the concern there that others are willing to join the U.S. in a real fight against ISIS?
ZAKARIA: I think now I'm beginning to sense that awareness and that willingness. Look at Turkey, for example. In some ways the ISIS problem was fuelled by Turkey. The Turks began their opposition towards the Assad government in Syria saying we don't want Assad. We are going to find a moderate opposition. They tried to stand up a moderate opposition, they essentially created the Syrian Free Army. It didn't really go anywhere. These guys weren't great fighters, they
weren't able to fight. At that point the Turks decide out of frustration just let anyone into Syria. And that strategy of letting anyone in fuelled the worse kinds of people going into Syria and forming and building what is now ISIS.
So everybody now has had a kind of wakeup call. There are many, many debates about what you can do and how you can do it because ISIS is strong enough that air strikes alone are not going to defeat it. Fighting it from Iraq alone probably won't defeat it. The real challenge is what do you do in Syria? You do not have powerful, capable moderate forces. The only force that is battling ISIS in Syria of any note is, of course, the army of Assad, the government of Syria.
And the United States and Turkey are both deadly opposed to it. So that's the strategic conundrum. We don't quite know how to get at ISIS in Syria. Iraq is easier but they can always move across the border to Syria and recoup and rebuild.
SCIUTTO: Does this change the strategic calculus for the U.S. and the West when it comes to Assad? Is there an odd alliance that results from this where the U.S., the West are fighting against ISIS together?
ZAKARIA: Jim, you know, there's an old -- there's a pedigree of this kind of thing in international relations. When Churchill was asked why Britain aligned itself with communist Soviet Union. He said if Hitler had invaded hell, I would have joined forces with the devil.
The problem here is it's not going to be that easy to align ourselves with Assad. Assad is the reason you have the insurgency in the first place. Assad is the reason you have this massive discontent. So I don't think in this case -- you know, Richard Haass says in the Middle East the enemy of your enemy is not -- is still your enemy. I think in this case what you have to try to do is get at the roots of ISIS' support and that is the Sunni discontent.
You have to get the Iraqi government to be more inclusive and broaden out and reach out to the Sunnis and frankly start buying or renting the tribes which is what David Petraeus did when he was general there in '07-'08. You've got it -- get into Syria and start finding a way to develop a Sunni base of support that is anti-Assad and also anti- ISIS. It was very hard. People have been trying but I just don't see how we could align ourselves with Assad. That won't work.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned how Turkey inadvertently contributed to the ISIS problem by letting the foreign fighters across the border. I wonder about the U.S. role. President Obama has called it a fantasy, in his words, that U.S. military action before this point would have done anything to stop ISIS's rise.
Do you think that's fair? Do you think that the U.S. inadvertently contributed by not acting in Syria earlier?
ZAKARIA: What I'm hearing on the ground here is that there are a lot of people who wish the United States had been more involved. They definitely feel like it would have helped but they are also very aware of the reality that ISIS is a much more dedicated, much more efficient, much more organized fighting force than any of the other ones around that -- you know, perhaps it was inevitable that the most intense forces are going to survive here.
If you look at the ones that are doing well in Syria and have been doing well for two years now, it's groups like ISIS, al-Nusra, these, you know, very hard lined religiously oriented forces or they have a backing from Hezbollah. The nice liberal democrats or the moderates, they have really have not shown themselves to be able to fight and fight hard anywhere.
Now maybe this could have changed with a modest amount of American support. It seems to me highly unlikely. It seems much more likely that in one of these highly polarized civil war struggles the extremes went out and the center gets crushed.
SCIUTTO: Coming up GPS, Secretary of State John Kerry called ISIS evil in the wake of American James Foley's execution but how far is the Obama administration willing to go to stop them? We'll get insight from State Department spokesperson Marie Harf right after this break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to GPS. The GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.
President Obama shrugged off ISIS as the jayvee team back in January, like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said on Friday that ISIS is in fact the worst terror group the U.S. has ever seen. So, just what will the Obama administration do to deal with that threat? Joining me now Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department Marie Harf. Marie, thanks very much for coming on.
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: Happy to be here, Jim.
SCIUTTO: The president, as you know, resisted taking military action in Syria or, in fact, arming Syrian rebels for years. This week as you know General Dempsey says, in fact, ISIS worse in many ways than al Qaeda. Should the administration have attacked ISIS sooner in Syria months ago to stop its rise before now?
HARF: Well, Jim, we have been watching this group for quite a long time here assessing its strength and working with partners on the ground particularly in Syria, the moderate opposition to help them develop capabilities to go against ISIS. Just today we, the United States military, are taking strikes against ISIL inside Iraq, taking out some of their fighters, taking out some of their capabilities and we are actively looking at what other options we have, what other tools we can use now to try and degrade this terrorist group's capability. That's what we are focused on now. SCIUTTO: But if those military strikes are necessary today inside Iraq and possibly the administration considering inside Syria, if they are necessary today wouldn't they have had more impact months ago?
HARF: Well, I am hesitant whenever anyone said that if we'd only done one thing a few months ago everything would be different today. We have been very focused on the spread from ISIL, we have been working with our partners on the ground in Syria to help them fight not just ISIL, but also Nusra, also the Assad regime. And it is a tough challenge there. What we have seen since ISIL really rapidly grew in strength inside Iraq is the Iraqis step up to the plate, the Kurdish forces step up to the plate and we are stepping up to the plate with them to really push them back from where they have taken territory in Iraq. And really try to degrade their capabilities. But Jim, this is a really long-term threat here and we are putting in place long-term strategies to fight them with our partners.
SCIUTTO: How long term, how long should Americans expect to be involved now again in Iraq and possibly in Syria and military action? The president has said months not weeks, but I have spoken to generals who have had experience in Iraq and they say, in fact, this battle will last years. Should the American public be bracing themselves for that?
HARF: Well, we have made very clear that if you come after Americans we will come after you. That you cannot get away with attacking Americans particularly like what we have seen this week in the very gruesome activities of ISIL. So, fighting terrorist groups is a long term challenge. That won't necessarily always be a military challenge. We maintain the capability to strike at the time and place of our choosing. If we think our people are threatened, but it is not just a military piece of the puzzle here. There needs to be training of partners on the ground, particularly the Iraqis and the Kurds, in some of the similar ways we have done with the groups - with the government, quite frankly, in Yemen, Jim, to help get partners on the ground more capable of fighting this on their own. It really is a long term challenge, though, and we will stand by them as they really take this fight on.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about politics. As you know the administration, Secretary Kerry and the president have placed great importance on political settlement in Iraq, an inclusive government as the key, frankly, to pushing back ISIS. You had a horrific attack on a Sunni mosque in northern - in Baghdad just in the last several days. This has led Sunni politicians to pull out of these all crucial political negotiations. The U.S. has said it is not going to do military action without political progress on the ground. With that political progress frozen now, at least for now, is the U.S. prepared to continue military action against ISIS without the political element?
HARF: Well, two points there. First we have said that when there is a new inclusive government fully formed we will look at additional ways of helping. Our resistance will continue during this time period as well. But there's a pass forward here. And what we have seen from the prime minister designate Haider al-Abadi, this has really been his first challenge even though he is not in power yet, but how he responds. He stepped up to the plate, he said the right things. He is talking about moving forward with this inclusive process to form a government.
So we always knew there would be challenges. This was a horrific attack and obviously, something we are very concerned about. But we have a process in place here and the prime minister designate is doing the right things and moving forward. Because he knows and all the other leaders in Iraq know that they need to have a government up and running as soon as possible to really take the fight to ISIL.
SCIUTTO: I want to - if I can just ask just briefly before I let you go about the situation in Ukraine. NATO saying that Russia moved in artillery inside Ukrainian territory with Russian soldier operating it, and firing, shelling inside Ukraine. An act of war. Ukrainians are calling this an invasion. Why isn't the U.S. calling this a Russian invasion of Ukraine?
HARF: Well, you have heard us say, Jim, that this is a gross breach of their sovereignty. We are still getting all the facts on the ground here, but we've been very clear that what the Russians did here was unacceptable. We are looking at additional costs to impose. And the Russians really have a choice to make here. They can continue these kinds of escalatory actions and face additional costs, face additional isolation from the rest of the world, or they can de- escalate. There is still a diplomatic pass forward here for them to do so and they really have a choice for what kind of role they want to play in the world in 2014. If they want to look backwards, it is some sort of, you know, Cold War situation that we've long moved past, or if they want a different future for the Russian people. Choice is really up to them.
SCIUTTO: Marie Harf, thanks very much. Appreciate your comments, as always. Coming up on GPS, a huge earthquake rocks northern California. We will have the latest for you on the damage and injuries. That's right after this.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to GPS. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. Northern California residents still shaken this morning, just hours after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake interrupted the Napa nighttime quiet. Parts of the valley sift in tatters now. Homes falling in on themselves. Building fires stretching safety officials thin as they scrambled to put them out and comb through the damage. Looking for residents possibly trapped in their homes, own homes. At least 70 people have been treated for injuries now. Pictures on social media paint a city struggling with chaos.
Fortunately, the likelihood for casualties is low. Still, the quake put hallway sized holes in buildings throughout the area and crews continue to work to restore power to residents stranded in the dark. California highway patrol is also rushing to make sure bridges and crossings have not been compromised by the quake. We have seen some pictures of roads buckling, though. And the valley could still be at risk for even more damage. I want to go now to Jennifer Gray. She's at CNN severe weather center. Jennifer, can you give our viewers a sense of just how widely and how severely this quake was felt around that epicenter in Napa?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, I will try to put some perspective on it. Because we did hear numbers that over 100,000 people felt some very violent shaking. That is a large number of people. And we know that has happened about six miles south of Napa. And this is a graphic that illustrates by color the people that felt the shaking. And we know that people about 20 miles away did feel some of that shaking. And you can see some of these brighter colors of orange. About 15,000 people right around this center felt some of the most violent shaking right around that epicenter.
And then as the colors get lighter out you can see the lighter shades of orange and then on into yellow. 106,000 people had very, very strong to severe shaking. And then as you spread out right around Sonoma we see the strong shaking, what is considered strong with an earthquake 177,000 people. And then as you spread out even more, of course, the shaking gets less and less. But we had some very, very violent shaking along with this. And it looks like most of the - most intense shaking happened right around that epicenter and then right around Napa.
And you can see right there where it looks like tall buildings that's where actually population where it is mostly the most densely populated areas right there, right around Napa, that's where it looks like most of those people had the most intense shaking as we are seeing from those pictures. Downtown Napa, that - we are seeing some of those structures that suffered a complete loss, that's where we are seeing a lot of those injuries right there in downtown Napa. So, definitely, plays hand in hand.
SCIUTTO: So, Jennifer, you always have the quake, then you have quake - and then you have the aftershocks. How severe are those aftershocks expected to be and how long does that period last after the initial quake?
GRAY: Yeah, well, you can have aftershock days, weeks, months, even years after an earthquake, sometimes, of course. We have had several of those aftershocks, more than 20, of course, for today. A lot of those very, very minor. We did have one a couple of hours ago, 2.5, we also had another one in the past hour or two, of 3.6. Of course, the probability of the next 24 hours to even seven days, that's the most crucial time where you really want to be on guard with these aftershocks. The probability, though, for the next seven days of an aftershock with magnitude of 5.0 or greater in this case is 54 percent. And that was issued by USGS. So, that is what we are really going to be looking for, magnitude of 5.0, 54 percent during the next seven days, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So, certainly not over it and they are still measuring the damage there in northern California. Thanks very much to Jennifer Gray in Atlanta.
Coming up, America's top general says ISIS cannot be defeated unless the U.S. brings the fight to them inside Syria. But does the Pentagon have the intelligence it needs to wage war in that country? We are going to ask the former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden right after this.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to JPS. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Fareed Zakaria. President Obama branded ISIS as a cancer that cannot be allowed to spread, but the president's vowed to stamp out and eradicate ISIS could pull the U.S. military beyond Iraq into Syria. United States top general told reporters Thursday that the border between Iraq and Syria is "nonexistent." Would the president reverse three years of hesitance and hedging on Syria and potentially align its interests even with Bashar al Assad to hunt down ISIS? Joining me now former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, now a principal at the Chertoff Group. Very good to have you on, Michael. Thank you for joining us.
When it comes to ISIS I think a principal concern for Americans is what is the direct threat to them? And it is my impression that there is a debate inside the intelligence community as to how imminent that threat is. You have a school of thought that they certainly aspire to attack the American homeland and have a number of Americans among their ranks, perhaps 100. But the FBI put out a report this week saying no credible threats yet. Where do you stand in that debate? Is it more imminent or less imminent? Is this a future threat or clear and present danger?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Jim, you have outlined it perfectly. This is a question of timing, not of inevitability, not of intent. And right now I think it is fair to say that ISIS is a very powerful local terrorist organization and probably a reasonably powerful regional terrorist organization, but it's one that has global ambitions.
And it has the tools, as you suggested. American passport holders, the European passport holders. It's expressed the intent. And so, if it is not Tuesday it's at a time and place of their choosing. And it will come probably sooner rather than later. Look, Jim, they are in a competition now with al Qaeda prime. The folks along the Afghan- Pakistan border. And there is no way more powerful to express their street credentials among the jihadist community than a successful attack against the West.
SCIUTTO: So, to be clear you are saying it is just a matter of time.
SCIUTTO: Before ISIS attempts to attack or attacks the U.S. homeland?
HAYDEN: I think so. And certainly, the West in general. Of course, and Americans and American interests in the region right now are at risk.
SCIUTTO: So, it's an alarming thought. You know, one issue with attacks like this is that they may be launched with very little warning. Is this something that the intelligence community is concerned about that it will happen and they won't have credible intelligence first? That they simply won't know? HAYDEN: That is right, Jim. You know, we kind of underestimated our opponents in the past. We certainly did that. We lacked imagination with 9/11. We kind of did that with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We knew they were up to something. We just didn't think it was going to be a Nigerian on an airliner over Detroit. Well, we've got the same dynamic here, but, Jim, there's important point. It is not just about defense. It is not just about keeping the right people off of aircraft. It's about offense. It's about disabling ISIS. It is about making them more worried, more consumed with protecting their own survivability rather than threatening yours or mine.
SCIUTTO: Here's an issue that I've talked to intelligence officials a number of times about. And that is because the U.S. was not more involved on the ground in Syria, better contacts with some of the militants groups there that U.S. intelligence on the ground in Syria if not non-existent, it's seriously hampered. And that presents a problem going forward if, for instance, you decide to take out targets from the air. Is the U.S.'s ability to confront ISIS damaged by the fact that the U.S. did not get involved in Syria earlier?
HAYDEN: Well, I think it may have been damaged. But I would never call it non-existent. I actually think we have got a really, really good intelligence laid out. But Jim, I take your point. It may not be good enough to decide who exactly we are mad at and not mad at in terms of taking lethal action against ISIS leadership.
So, I think the point now is we need to flood the zone using our technical means of imagery communications intercepts, even human penetrations as dangerous as that might be and relying and cooperating with our friends in the region, the Jordanians, the Turks and the Kurds to get ground truth that enables us to conduct targeted operations with the kind of exquisite intelligence that that really requires. I agree with you. We are not up to the level of exquisite over Syria, but we are not bad along the line of confrontation in Iraq right now as you can see by the success of the strikes today.
SCIUTTO: You talk about cooperating with U.S. allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, et cetera. What about cooperating with U.S. enemies? Syria, the government of Bashar al-Assad? We find ourselves in the odd situation of being on the same side as Assad in the fight against ISIS. Do you see any potential for cooperation, intelligence sharing, for instance, on ISIS targets so that the Syrian air force can strike them? Is that a possibility? In fact, is it already happening?
HAYDEN: Whenever I have no indication that it is already happening. And I probably wouldn't put it in the box of not possible. Jim, now, look. Someone may reconsider that at some point in the future, but right now I think that even though it might be convenient, even though it might accelerate some tactical knowledge I think at the strategic level it would be very, very destructive. I wouldn't do it. Now, we did cooperate with Assad's intelligence services during the war in Iraq trying to stop that pipeline of foreign fighters going through Syria into Iraq. It was a very unsatisfying relationship. SCIUTTO: Do U.S. air strikes truly make a difference against ISIS if
they proceed in Syria? The U.S. tried air strikes against al Qaeda pre-9/11, that didn't work. Why would it make a difference now?
HAYDEN: Oh, it depends on the times of air strikes. The pre 9-11 air strikes were - they were demonstrations, Jim, they were statements of resolve, some cruise missiles at tenants (ph) base camp in Afghanistan or a medical factory in the Sudan. What you need is a sustained air campaign. The kind we have conducted in the troubled regions of Pakistan over the past decade with great effect and very positive results.
SCIUTTO: Do you believe that U.S. air strikes in Syria would make a difference?
HAYDEN: Yes, they would. Now, look. They are probably not as effective, they probably would not be as numerous, they probably would not be as advisable as the kind of attacks we now have going on in Iraq where our intelligence is more mature. But we cannot let ISIS and its leadership have a safe haven. Jim, I just referenced the fight in Pakistan. We have experienced safe haven with regard to what we are trying to do in Afghanistan. That is not a winning hand.
SCIUTTO: General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA. Thanks very much for joining us.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: Thank you for watching "GPS." I'm Jim Sciutto in New York in today for Fareed Zakaria. "Reliable Sources" with Brian Stelter starts right now.