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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  October 9, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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♪ >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." >> matt olsen is here. he was the director of the national counterterrorism center
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until he stepped down last month. the agency has been tasked with collecting and analyzing data gathered across the u.s. intelligence apparatus. announcing his resignation obama -- president obama said of him most americans may not know his name but every american is safer because of his service. his career in government includes nsa general counsel and the director of the guantanamo review task force. he was a federal prosecutor in washington. he held various positions at the department of justice. he has aspired to be a reporter and started that after graduating from college. he worked as a copy agent. i am pleased to have you here. for the first time in his career since leaving government. thank you for coming. what was wrong with being a reporter? >> it was a difficult road. i went to the post and work with a lot of reporters there, answering phones. i learned you cannot just walk in and be a reporter. you needed to go somewhere else
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and then somewhere else area and i decided to apply to law school. >> tell me about the national counterterrorism center. >> i just stepped down as director. i was there for three years starting in august of 2011. nctc celebrated its 10th anniversary. it is a post- 9/11 creation. part of the proper form of the government, the intelligence community after 9/11. , the main role is to be the indispensable source for the synthesis and analysis of terrorist information. it was founded on this bold idea that every bit of terrorism information regardless of where it was collected, overseas or inside the united states should come together in one place.
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in that you have analysts, intelligence officers around the community working on it. >> was this in response to the fact that some people looked that there was not enough sufficient communication between fbi and cia that might have somehow impeded or stopped 9/11. >> it was that observation. the 9/11 commission made that observation, congress as well. we just didn't do enough of a job sharing. we were going to do something to solve that. that was what led to the creation of nctc. it is one thing to say that it has this role in law. as written in 2004. it has been a ten-year effort to achieve that mission. thisand -- these stovepipes working with partners , like the cia, fbi, nsa. >> do believe we are safer today than we were pre-9/11 because of
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what is happening since 9/11 in terms of developing safeguards? >> absolutely. we are safer today because of the way we changed our approach to counterterrorism. the way the government has changed. >> they have new tools. >> the threat has not gone away. in some ways it is more complicated than it was before 9/11 or even five years ago. the threat is persistent and complicated. it is dynamic. we see groups adapt to our efforts. we see them watching us, learning from us. seeking to evade our defenses. >> they are quite adaptive. that is a hallmark of the nature of the terrorism threat. >> president obama has said we must define the nature and the scope of the threat of terrorism or it will define us. >> i was there for that speech.
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he said that at the national defense university last year. he was speaking to all of the american people, but also to us in the community, to the national counterterrorism center. that is our job. to be precise and analytical about how we see the thread so we can prioritize, what are the different groups that pose a threat to us? what is the scope of that threat? so we can align our resources in a way that makes sense. that was in 2013 post benghazi when there wasn't a lot of talk -- there was a lot of talk about is this al qaeda or not al qaeda? you were the first to say it was a terrorist attack, publicly. >> i had a hearing. i did not have time to think too much about it. right off the bat the chairman
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of the committee asked was this a terrorist attack? and the answer was absolutely it , was. that is how we have been treating it from the beginning. not all terrorist attacks are the same. >> let me see where we are in terms of defining the threat today. >> it is much more complicated than five years ago. even three or four years ago, when it was more centralized, focused on the core of al qaeda. the al qaeda senior leaders hunkered down, and limited areas in afghanistan. it is now involving a number of different actors. those include groups that are formerly affiliated with al qaeda. al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, based in yemen. al-shabaab in somalia. groups that are officially affiliated with al qaeda. have sworn allegiance. beyond that, other groups that are allies of al qaeda like bo boko haram.
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vicious extremely violent groups like ansar sharia in benghazi in libya. they have more local, regional agendas. >> al nusra. >> they are based in syria. they are officially affiliated with al qaeda. they have set up shop in syria. they are a formal affiliate of al qaeda. even beyond the diversity of the actors -- >> do they speak to each other? >> they do. they share resources like fighters, weapons. they share tactics. they take advantage of porous andthey take advantage of porous borders like in north africa to move people and resources and materiel. there is a degree of collaboration and cooperation.
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>> explain to us where isis came from. >> isis is not new. they have been around since 2004 when it was al qaeda in iraq. that is the origin of the group. zarkawi was the leader. vicious guy, swear allegiance to focusedn at the time, on carrying out attacks in iraq. >> a lot to do with the sectarian conflict that erupted there. >> and fomented more of that conflict. that led to the sunni awakening of 2007, the backlash. it was aided by our presence there. and iraqi counterterrorism. that put al qaeda on the run. what we saw, 2011 week withdrew. the iraqi government became less effective. as a counterterrorism force. >> why? they didn't want anything to do
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with the sunnis? >> they allowed for a disaffection of the sunni population. they did not take care of trying to create an inclusive government. so you had the reemergence of the sunni extremists group in 2011. we have seen this for the last few years going from baghdad alone, five or so suicide bombings a month, to upwards of 40 suicide bombings a month in 2013. something we have seen grow in terms of the violence over the past few years. it has been very concerning. >> why are most of them sunni rather than shia? even though you have shia milit ias? >> we have shia militias and shia terrorist groups. i don't know the answer to that question, why it is more associated with sunni islam.
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w is it because of ahabism? >> i don't know what it is that makes them. all of the groups i mentioned in terms of al qaeda, al qaeda is the sunni extremism movement that has centered in pakistan outward to all these different countries. what we have seen as its bread, -- spread it has gone from afghanistan and pakistan across south asia and the middle east and north africa all the way west. >> one of his lower-level lieutenants is the guy who now leads isis. he was once in iraq, a lower-level guy. >> and quite capable. figure. >> >> when did we know that? >> we have known that the last
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few years. we have had some insight. i think the general point is that our insights in iraq is -- and particularly syria are limited. we not have the intelligence collection in syria that allows us to have fidelity on the specific intentions. >> obviously we have surveillance. because they use cell phones and things like that. but we don't have human intelligence? >> it is partly that. we don't have the human source network. that just follows common sense. the other thing, i would not overstate the degree to which we have surveillance. these individuals are quite savvy. they understand the general proposition that we seek to intercept communications of bad guys. they take steps to avoid that. >> how attentive are we to people who have the potential to be what he is?
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>> he is known by another name, he is a shadowy figure. he has been very careful. we have limited insight into his exact role and whereabouts. the broader point of the question, should we have seen this coming, we saw his role. but al qaeda in iraq, isil set up shop in syria. and they had a cover group. al nusra. that was in we were focused on 2011. them. they knew this was a cover organization for them. these groups split in 2013. and are actually fighting each other. so part of the point there is fluid situation, very
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dynamic. the question of whether we saw this coming, we absolutely saw the rise of the group in iraq, the rise of violence. the role of the sunni extremists in perpetrating the violence. and director clapper talked about this. one of the challenges we had, and where we denied, and the -- did not anticipate, the lack of will with the iraqi forces. i think that is fair. we see a lot of violence, but we felt the iraqi security forces would be in a position to stem the movement of isil. >> talk to me about what you think of and know about isis today. why have they grown? why do they have the size? >> there are a number of reasons why they rose to the prominence they have in that part of the world. the first and most significant reason is the safe havens in syria.
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three years of conflict in syria has created a security vacuum that allowed isil to amass people, arms, gain money and territory. on the other side of the border, on the iraq side it was the lack of inclusiveness that led to the disaffection in some of these communities. that is one major reason. the large safe haven. in both syria and iraq. they are an effective fighting force. they go back to 2004. they have a lot of resources. upwards of $1 million a day they make from illicit oil sales. >> hostages. >> and kidnap for ransom. the third point is the propaganda machine that they have been proven to be. >> are they just smarter than the rest of them? >> they are focused. they have some individuals who are quite adept at social media.
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they have taken advantage of the internet as a way to recruit. in particular foreign fighters. if you look at the numbers, they are daunting. in terms of isil overall, 20,000 to 30,000 members in the group. that is the latest. >> just on the ground. >> you add on top of that 15,000 foreign fighters. on top of the individuals in isil. 15,000 people from other countries to fight with isil. so the number is there. that is significant. >> they could get up to 50,000. >> that is the prospect. those of the numbers we're talking about. >> what does that mean in terms of their ability to take and hold land unless there is a significant and equally counterbalancing ground force? >> that is why the strategy the president has talked a while
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airstrikess.-led build capacity of partners, the , iraqis in particular, the kurds, to have an effective ground force. >> and the syrian opposition. >> right. >> they say you can't do that overnight. that is going to take time to train these free syrian army. they are the principal court -- core of that in syria. and they are on the march. in the meantime they are ready to take the city. >> that is an important city. their goal is to establish a caliphate, and that is why they are moving to gather and hold this territory. our sense is there are some vulnerabilities. one of the things, this group is not invincible.
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we have seen airstrikes put them on the defensive and stop their momentum. they have been effective in stopping momentum. they are going to find it more difficult to govern territory than to just take territory. >> can you shut down the financing? >> we can take on the financing. we can get airstrikes on some of their infrastructure. the ways that will erode their capability. beyond that we have seen over time their message is one of such hopelessness and violence that it bears their own demise. >> it seems to me that for these young men and women joining isis, it is a romantic crusade for them. they have bought into whatever the ideology is. this is a crusade. we are on the march. we represent a religious passion.
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>> my own sense on that, i understand that. >> that has appeal to some people. >> i understand that has appeal to some people. to counterbalance that takes time but is there is the vast majority, the rejection of that by sunni leaders. clerics. some of them are not pro-u.s. but are nonetheless totally against the isil message. >> some of them hate each other but they are one when it comes to isil. >> that is why i think they are not invincible. it is going to take time. for that message to be an effective counterbalance to the initial appeal that they perhaps have had. >> not the government, but private citizens in saudi arabia or the emirates or other countries, going against the about purpose of their country's
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government to support isil? for whatever reason? >> i don't want to talk specifically. i think we have seen over the years there have been individuals who have supported extremist groups. in some cases it has been a significant amount of money. >> it still is. >> i don't know if it still is. we do an effective job in stemming the flow and working with partners in the region to put a stop to that. >> coming back to nearly question about intelligence and what the president said. steve crofton said the point that clapper had made, that we did not recognize how bad the iraqi army was, how fast isis was going. >> i think there were limitations about what we understood. >> aren't you the guy?
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>> we pull all that together. we always are looking inward to see whether we did everything we could. did we see this coming? believe me, that is a constant , trying to learn lessons. have we made mistakes? here on the question of the growth of isil, i do not think that is the case. we saw the rise of that group. we saw them take falluja. that was well understood throughout the government, including the white house. i don't think there was any doubt. >> people like flynn went to congress and testified. >> there is a danger with the intelligence community. i think this is important for analysts. do not always feel that the pressure to say that every threat is a 10. not every threat is the very worst existential threat. it is important they have the
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ability to really define carefully the scope and nature of a threat so we can make wise policy decisions. there is a danger in too much second-guessing. the pressure would be on an analyst to say and do every threat is the most significant we have seen. >> the question then arises, what is our overall strategy? are we going against them wherever we see them? whether it is yemen or syria or iraq? or are we saying right now we have to totally focus on isis? >> that is an important point. understandably we are focused on isis. that is the right answer. we need to be giving the threat it poses to us in the region, and it is a regional iraq-based threat, but with the potential of posing a threat to us. the threat to us, i would look
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at it focused first in iraq. certainly there is an acute threat to us in terms of our embassy, consulate. there we are threatened by isil directly. >> in the region, they pose a threat to lebanon, other places in the region where we have interest. the other area is europe. they have put operatives in europe. and those operatives could strike european targets for u.s. -- or u.s. targets as well. in the united states we don't see an operational presence. we do know earlier this year the head of isil said that conflict with the united states was inevitable and saw us as a strategic enemy. that was a public statement they made. so they see that as a longer-term threat. it is a potential threat to us. that is why i say i need to say that the one issue is foreign
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fighters. we know there are americans who have traveled to syria. some have thought alongside. >> how many? >> our estimate is over 100 americans have traveled to syria tosoft to travel -- sought travel to syria. >> do we know who they are? >> we do know who they are. some have come back. we keep an eye on them. >> they must know we watch them. >> the fbi director talked about that. the issue is, those guys who come back pose a threat. small-scale attacks. i think. the other is the homegrown extremist person never traveled. who sit in their basement on the computer reading this propaganda and decide i can blow something up. >> is if the boston marathon? >> a little bit of that.
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they did not make the trip to chechnya. >> it wasn't a serious issue but it is that same mindset. very hard for us to limit that threat altogether. it is too easy to become radicalized on the internet, pick up relatively unsophisticated explosive devices. >> what we think they are learning in syria? >> the concern is the individuals going to syria. 15,000. of that number probably 2000 are from western countries. that is a big number. they go to syria. they become radicalized further. they become battle hardened in the conflict. they get trained on small arms and explosives. especially the westerners, they have western travel documents. it is easy to travel from the u.k., france through turkey into syria.
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that flow of people is a huge concern. we are working closely for that. >> they come back. do we meet them at customs? >> we take different steps depending on what we know. there are opportunities to interview individuals coming back in the united states to learn more about what they have been doing. we have other tools at our disposal and we use those. one of the key points now that we are working on is making sure we are sharing that information with our european partners. they know who we are concerned about. we know who they are concerned about. and we can work together. >> and you share them with the local pd. people like that? >> that is our intelligence collection and synthesis. it goes through the fbi field office. the joint terrorism task force in new york. it includes a significant number of nypd detectives. >> the president use language,
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and some people said we don't want to use that language, that we have to destroy isis. it is more appropriate that we are going to degrade them. what language do you use? >> the president has been clear. the goal is to dismantle or degrade isis in the short and medium term, and overtime to destroy them. that is the ultimate goal. >> all isis and al qaeda affiliated groups. >> absolutely. we are at war with al qaeda. the objective is to destroy them. now the longer answer, the more , serious answer is we are not going to eradicate every individual who has ever sworn allegiance to bin laden. we are not going to eliminate completely the threat posed by isil. what we can do is overtime, that involves a lot of countries, we can reduce to an acceptable level the threat that group poses to us.
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when that threat is no longer one that we see and affect us or our allies, then we can say we have destroyed that group. and we have made a lot of headway against al qaeda. they have been under extraordinary pressure. they are not anything like before. >> this is the original al qaeda. >> the group that brought us 9/11. >> we were able to dissipate their organization. at the same time, look at today. you wonder. look at what happened in somalia. you take out a leader and all of a sudden they have nominated the next. >> one part of that strategy is decimating them from the top. but that is not the whole strategy. that cannot be the whole strategy. that is what it requires action by the united states where appropriate.
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it requires over time, a longer-term effort. it will take a long time in iraq and syria. talking about several years. i wouldn't necessarily put a timeline on it. but it will take more than just a couple of years. >> beyond his presidency. >> for sure. >> what is victory? >> victory, it will be stages of victory. when we take out leaders, when we eliminate or diminish the safe havens, when we build up the capacity of our partners. and we see a political transition not only in iraq, but in syria. these are stages along the path to victory. ultimately the victory that we no longer have extremist ideology moving individuals to join these groups. >> what are we doing in terms of the battle of ideas? if this is an attractive thing for some kids to join, wherever
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they learn it, from friends, how do you combat that? is that your job? >> it is our job. it is a part of our strategy. in fact we were quite involved in that effort. both overseas but also here in the united states. it is an issue as well. focusing overseas, it is understanding the message. analyzing how does that affect people? why does it resonate with some more than others? it also has to do with the root causes. unemployed young people. >> 25% to 50% in certain countries. >> so it is working with moderates and strong leaders. to put out a message of hope. >> is that an issue for you? have the moderate leaders spoken out strongly enough? and do they have all kinds of , limitations on how far they want to go because they have
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other interests. it is said turkey is unwilling to go as far as we want them to go with respect isis because they want us to sign on to overthrowing assad. and we are saying, let's get isis first. >> it is extremely competent it. i think anyone walking into this --, located. i think anyone walking into this arena needs to acknowledge humility about the complexity of these problems. turkey has been focused on overthrowing assad and has therefore been reluctant. ♪ >> your previous role as general
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counsel, how many hours did you think of edward snowden? >> when the leaks occurred last year, i would come out of my office and complain and rant about what was going on. my colleagues would say go back and do your job. you are not at nsa anymore. but it was my job.
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my job is to pull that information together the nsa is really some of our best information on counterterrorism from the nsa. >> from the surveillance. >> there are instances where it is the single most important source of information about the capabilities of these groups that we are talking about. it is fundamental to understand what they are doing. >> i know you won't talk specifics, but you don't have to go to some of the more egregious things we have heard about in phones. hacking angela merkel. that is not necessary. do you now today say that the president -- as the president has suggested, that there be reforms on the table, that we went too far? where do you come down on that? >> i don't think we went too far. this is an important debate to have. a key point is the debate we are
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having now about the classic debates, security on one hand on privacy on the other, this is not a new debate. it has been going on many years. and it predated the leaks about the nsa capabilities. and really a lot of lawyers, good faith professional intelligence officials, have been involved in trying to strike the right balance. one of the key points about what snowden revealed was that those programs that got the most attention were not unlawful. they were legal intelligence collection programs approved by congress, by the foreign intelligence surveillance court. overseeing by all three branches of government. >> and taken to the fisa court. >> both. -- bothprograms, one fisaundertaken by the
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court, overseen by the fisa court. we need to regain the trust that has been eroded in the way we do intelligence collection. we need to undertake -- >> do i hear you saying you don't think the nsa didn't do anything we shouldn't have done. everything we did was legal? necessary ing was order to protect the national security. that's what you are saying? >> everything was legal. and approved by congress and the court in terms of these major programs. >> do you think congress understood that? >> i do. >> they understood. they have no right to say we didn't know because they should have known. >> part of the process was to to brief the committees and make these documents available to congress. look -- i do think there is now in this debate, these programs were aggressive.
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they were designed to be aggressive. especially the metadata bulk collection. that has been essentially, the president said we will stop doing that. >> do you agree? >> i agree at this point. >> everything we did was the right. >> to the president said he would stop it? >> he did. >> if they're going to stop it does that mean we shouldn't have been doing it? >> no. the public outcry over this and the need -- >> we thought this was a good idea, and the only reason we are going to stop is because the public is upset. >> i would not be so glib. look, we are always trying to get this right, and that is my main there is always a point. discussion of what is the right thing to do. that program was believed to be necessary by the intelligence community. but once it was revealed and the president made the decision to reform it, and we are going to move forward.
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again the main point is the , president has made, it is going to maintain operational effectiveness. even with reforms the goal is to keep it as effective as it was before. >> did it hurt our relationship with any country we have had a relationship with? >> i don't think that these programs -- >> what about brazil? >> there were other aspects of what was revealed about the way nsa does collection that interfered. it harms those relationships. you mentioned the german chancellor. >> i think the answer to the government was, we are not doing that anymore. >> one of the points there, so much of what was revealed had nothing to do with the privacy of americans. it had to do with nsa intelligence collections overseas.
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not privacy or civil liberties. that is where we have seen erosion in terms of trust and relationships with partners. we have seen a lack of confidence of the american people. that is why we need to go forward. this is not without cause. i have seen from inside a terrorist adversary change how they behave. they were always suspicious that we could collect indications. they were careful. but in the last year they have been increasingly cautious and security conscious about how they communicate. encryption, change e-mails. they change service providers. in some cases they have gone dark. just dropped off altogether. >> if they know what we can do they don't do things that we know yet. >> they watch and read the news. they have changed their behavior based on what they have read.
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>> has anyone lost their life because of the disclosures? >> i'm not aware of anything that direct. that would be an extraordinary sort of example. what i'm concerned about is our -- a drop in our ability to see these terrorist plots unfold. our best chance of stopping in underwear bomb is not at the airport. it is when the plots are being hatched through intelligence collection. it is largely through the collection and interception of their communications. >> there was such an outcry about snowden being called a traitor. all the things, accusations. yet the successor to keith alexander literally downplayed the harm done. >> admiral rogers and his successor, my interpretation is, there has been harm.
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no doubt. but i do think they have changed how they communicate. and i would say another potentially more far-reaching damage is the relationship with these service providers. and telecommunications companies. >> they are less cooperative. >> that is a paradigm shift from where we are several years ago. where we had, if we went to a company with an order or lawful directive, there was a presumption that, we could get cooperation. >> they pushed back and said unless you can prove you are , forced to do this i'm not doing it. >> that is harmful. >> is that their attitude? >> i don't want to speak to generalizing but you can see an example of that. back to your question about the nsa director. i worked at nsa. it is an extraordinary organization.
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my sense is they will work day and night to overcome these obstacles. they have brilliant people. mathematicians. computer scientists, analysts. they will over time be able to make up the ground lost. but it will take time. >> when you look at the power of cyber warfare, and then you think about government and people in the private sector related to governments and all of that, a powerful threat it seems to me. then you ask yourself, what if it came within the possibility of the kinds of groups that we have talked about? for most of the conversation? >> it is an important question. we spent time with in the community talking about how we see a cyber capability among these groups. they are dead set on coming after us. if they had that tape guilty -- capability they would use it. they would deploy it against us. we know the power of cyberattacks, going after financial institutions like the one you mentioned.
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and how vulnerable we are. how reliant we are on these systems internet-based. but at least right now al qaeda and these groups don't have a capability within their means. that doesn't mean to say they couldn't recruit or pay somebody who does have that capability to act on their behalf. >> that is what is different. when you go in and empty the banks and you can sell oil, what they're doing as well. selling oil. >> they are quite sophisticated. they are selling oil. >> $1 million a day. you can afford a lot of sophisticated equipment. >> even easier to pay a mercenary attacker to carry out an attack. one way to try to figure out how to stop them there. the other important part is to increase our cyber defenses here, particularly in the sectors that are important to our way of life.
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that is another part of what the nsa has been involved in. >> what worries you the most? >> what worries me the most has been the aviation targets. that groups of shown in enduring interest in. one of the things in the news lately -- >> that they have some plot. the active plot. >> this is a group we have been following for a couple of years. they are not isil. they are different. >> their old al qaeda. >> veteran al qaeda guys out of pakistan and the region who have moved to syria because of the permissive environment in syria.
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taking advantagef the usra, buthip with al nsura the issue is they have had an external focus. they are not focused on assad. they are focused on carrying out an external attack. against the united states and the west. the plot we saw progressing was this -- the impetus for the strikes there. when you asked me what worries me the most, in the last several months it has been that group because of their sophistication and focus. >> what do we know? >> we know that they had -- >> a group like that in the sophistication they had, my question went to the idea of are the other people we don't know about? what is on our radar? do we have everything fully in our scope?
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>> the answer is no. one of the things this group has done, like al qaeda and yemen, they knew it was hard to get to yemen. their propaganda is don't travel to yemen. don't communicate with us. wherever you are, carry out an attack. here is the instruction manual. attack.arry out an they have proven to be adaptive to our defenses. that makes it hard to know everything. we go back to the boston marathon bombing last year. very difficult or the police, the fbi to stop a smaller scale attack by one or two individuals using basic devices, a pressure cooker. >> there is this idea of a kill
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list. we have a kill list. who gets on it? who decides? >> what we have is individuals we have identified in places like yemen who meet the threshold or standard after a lengthy process for legal action. -- lethal action. the president has talked a lot about this and described exactly what that process is and what the standard is. the main point is, the president has been clear, this is my experience. where there is a threat to the united states, and we can identify who was responsible, there is no shortage of willingness to take action. that is but we have seen in yemen. that process, the president has
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made an effort through the national security council and all those who participate to institutionalize it and make it so it is based on intelligence and whether our standards can capture a person. no direct action if capture is feasible. the only we would have somebody subject to direct action if they pose a continuing right to the u.s. person. that is an important question. imminence has to be defined based on context. that -- it is not just a time sense, today or tomorrow. it is based on the idea that we are dealing with groups that hide. that don't wear uniforms. that their goal is to kill americans, as many as possible, and do so in the shadows. we look at it as when do we have
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an opportunity? are we approaching the last opportunity to stop a plot from going forward? that plot is in the works. we have seen it moving forward. we know it is a threat. we have a window of opportunity. that is also the context of limited insights and limited intelligence collection. where this may be our last opportunity to stop that going forward. that is how we think and talk about it. >> the president says yes, go. >> ultimately these decisions are brought to the white house. we participate. , we are asked to conduct intelligence assessments of an individual. what is this person's background? what is their involvement? do they meet that policy
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threshold of posing a continuing imminent threat to u.s. citizens? >> finally -- guantanamo. how many people are still there? >> 149. >> how many are considered hard-core? >> a minority. >> so 20? >> it is an that range, fewer than 50, true hard-core terrorists. i was involved in the process in 2009 after the president issued an executive order asking for a review of 250 individuals. most of them with unanimous agreement we approve them for transport. if security measures can be put in place. the biggest problem is yemen. it is the largest country in
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which the individuals came. and yemen, the problem is not the individuals. they fit the pattern of foreign fighters who went to afghanistan. not a hard-core terrorists. still potentially a threat but the problem is security in yemen is not conducive to repatriating. lots of work to improve the transfer of those individuals and achieve the goal the president said to shut it down. >> have we learned a lot from them? from the interrogation? do we understand al qaeda because of those guys? >> initially there were some things we learned. of course most of them were picked up in 2001-2002. the value of that information has diminished. >> in terms of what they know. to other things. one is bergdahl. when we made the exchange, did that bother you?
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>> no. ?> you are worried about people >> i'm always concerned whenever there is a potential for another terrorist being out there. they were transferred under strict controls. we are in a position to maintain that. and it is hard to argue with getting an american back. >> and finally benghazi. , why is it such a controversy? in this administration, did they fail to say clearly and specifically this was a terrorist attack? >> i think you would have to ask other people why it is controversial. it has been something i have wondered myself. within a week after benghazi i
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was in a hearing and said this was a terrorist attack. they shot mortars at a cia annex in benghazi. killed four people. >> from washington. >> the night it happened i was on a secure videoconference the -- led by the white house. all the national security team was on the conference call. we all were treating it as a terrorist attack. there was no sense there was anything other than that. now we had multiple different , reports from the press and from social media and classified sources there had been a demonstration or protest. this was after the release of that video. >> starting in cairo. >> there was a protest in cairo and all over. we all initially thought that was the case. it was not until later that we learned there had not been a protest. >> what does that mean? >> a week or 10 days later.
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>> it was earlier than that? >> we had certain information coming in. >> i am confused. you said we are sitting there the night of the attack and saying this is a terrorist attack. >> we didn't even have to articulate it. it was not something that needed to be spoken. it was the national counterterrorism center and we were working on it. >> why didn't the government say this was a terrorist attack? >> i don't think it was a question that we considered to be an open issue. it struck me as when i was asked that question, of course it was. not all attacks -- >> that was not the language susan rice used. when she appeared. >> again not all terrorist , attacks are the same. there are attacks that take months of planning or are sophisticated. this was not sophisticated. >> but it did not arise from --
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>> apparently there had not been a protest. without their hat was one when there had not been. that was a side issue. you get your initial question, why the controversy? i really don't understand the controversy. >> it is a pleasure to meet you. >> a pleasure to be here. >> good luck in the private sector. you are leaving an exciting life behind. >> i'm going to stay involved in these issues. and one to teach at harvard next semester and find some work that will keep me connected to the issues. >> thank you. ♪ ♪
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>> live from the vanity fair new establishment summit, we are live in san francisco. my name is stephanie ruhle. emily chang is inside, sitting down with more of the influencers like i will be in a moment. for now let's take you to the top news and media headlines. here's pimm fox with more. >> thanks very much. the stock market got hammered today, wiping away gains from yesterday's rally. the dow, nasdaq and s&p 500 falling about 2% as the market was hit with the most volatile stretch since 2011. energy stocks were hit partar


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