tv Washington Institute Discussion on Counterterrorism CSPAN November 8, 2019 12:33pm-2:08pm EST
[inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon, everybody. welcome to the washington institute for near east policy. i have the pleasure of directing the institutes reinhardt program on counterterrorism and intelligence and i'm very, very please to be joined here today by the acting director of the national counterterrorism center, russell travers. today's conversation is part of the institutes ongoing counterterrorism lecture series. russell took office at nctc as acting director in august, but it's not his first, second or third time in the building. he felt many other leadership positions within nctc including deputy director counsel to the director, acting director to the
office of datacomm strategy and innovation, chief data officer, among others picky suppositions at the office of the director of national intelligence, the defense intelligence agency, the nationals could counsel, the u.s. army, joint chiefs of staff so we're really very thrilled that he has been able to carve time out of his busy schedule and spend some time with us today to talk about counterterrorism in an era of competing priorities. russell will deliver some opening remarks from the podium and then we will sit down for a little fireside chat. i'll take the moderator's prerogative and ask the first few questions and then opened up to all of you for your independence to ask questions, and we welcome all of you who are watching via live stream or via c-span. take you for joining us today. russell, the podium is yours. >> so thanks much, matt. it's a great pleasure to be here
amongst a number of old friends to talk about counterterrorism in error of computing resources. i happen to test my earlier this week that the leadership at the fbi and dhs and was talkative friend of mine yesterday from dhs and she said a colleague of ours said come had seen the testimony and that he characterized my performance of that as a thoughtful nerd. so i'm hoping to aspire to something more than nerd them here this afternoon. kidding aside, the issue of competing priorities is extraordinarily important. we are now almost two decades past 9/11, and if we continue to succeed in protect against large-scale tax installment i think this notion of competing priorities will do nothing but get more challenging as it should. ever since homer secretary mattis issued the national defense strategy last year there's been an ongoing at least implicit discussion about risk. how does the threat of terrorism
stack up relative to threats posed by great powers? north korea, iran or syria or lots of other threats. the testimony earlier this week was with fbi and teaches leadership as a midget and along with terrorism they went out a dizzying array of different kinds of threats, counterintelligence, intellectual property theft, transnational organized crime which frankly kills for more americans than terrorism ever will. as i said at the hearing, it is completely understandable that terrorism may no longer be viewed as the number one threat to the country but i don't know what that means. it begs a a host of questions. i offered three. what does the national risk equation look like as the country confronts a very complex international security environment secondly, how to optimize ct resources the best interests interest of the country went departments and agencies may have somewhat differing priorities? and if we're going to reduce
efforts against terrorism, how do we do so in a manner that doesn't inadvertently reversed some of the gains of the past 18 years? what i would like to do for the next 35 minutes or so is walk you through a of a roadmap for the issues that if they need to be considered as we address those questions. i'm going to develop ten themes. i'm going to start the geostrategic and work down to the electron level and then back up again. so the number one. good news. let me say at the outset, terrorism is not and never has been an existential threat to the country unless it changes who we are. it does, however, hold up the potential for killing a very large number of people. as history has shown it can occupy the country's attention for a very long time and prevent other important things from getting done. fortunately, we've made a lot of progress on the terrace in front. the last significant al-qaeda directed attack on the west was "charlie hebdo," five years ago.
the last isis attack was the turkish nightclub for you to go before that paris and brussels. all men violent extremist attacks are down. the u.s. has had one this past year and roughly half-dozen in europe, both number substantially lower than previous years. capabilities have been flippant with wheezing isis travel to sustain success. for instance, in libya with a franchise is not doing very well. none of the successes is by accident. there is been tremendous military and intelligence efforts in iraq and syria to eliminate the so-called caliphate. many skilled operatives have been captured and killed and that has had many second order effects. there's less sophisticated messaging, their squabbling, there are morale issues. it's not just iraq and syria. we have reviewed leadership from around the clue. dhs can fbi and state have pushed borders out and made the homeland much less hospitable to terrorists. we've also seen global efforts
to prove border security, particularly in the eu after paris and brussels. we've seen a growing partnership with the private sector to make cyberspace less hospitable. services around the globe are working together against terrorism unlike the efforts against any other national security discipline. u.s. can to pass on lessons learned to interested foreign parties with a robust exercise program that addresses information sharing and cooperation. we are seeing capacity building in other countries. improvements in interservice cooperation, enhancements and information sharing, can mitigate the impact of terrorist attacks. you compare the kenyan response of the shabbat attacks against the westgate mall in 2013 and the hotel earlier this year. it was dealt with our faster with far fewer casualties. so we will never eliminate terrorism but secretary mattis amount of good work has been done and that allows for this conversation about comparative
risks. that brings me to theme number two which is a concern for the potential for complacency. we do need to be careful. when i started working characters and after 9/11 we were overwhelmingly focused on al-qaeda and a centrally directed threat emanating from one piece of real estate. 18 years later we see a diverse diffuse threat that spans the globe. the primary islamist threat has been homegrown violent extremism. despite the elimination of so-called caliphate, we have an active islet entrance isis insurgency in iraq and syria in a sufficient command structure that maintains collusion over 20 branches of isis. some are small, others have thousands of people. nine of them have pledged allegiance to the new isis lead over the past week. we have al-qaeda that has received rather less attention the past two years but it retains command structure and half a dozen affiliates.
we see growing connections and coronation between and among its affiliates. there are also a full range of related threats, hezbollah and giving quds force, also a growing concern for the shia militant groups and iraq. if the various strands of islamist extremism were not competent enough, we're seeing a roving global threat of particularly extreme right wing with her terrorism. more on that later. terrorist around the globe are proving very capable exploiting technology. they are good at it, their innovative. the use of encrypted communications for operational planning, social media to spread propaganda and transfer knowledge between and amongst individuals and networks. drones for swarm attacks, and even assassination attempts. high quality fraudulent travel documents that undermine watch listing system and threatened border security.
cryptocurrencies to fund operations. and the potential terrorist use of chemical and biological weapons has moved from a low probability eventuality to something that is considered much more likely. in many cases terrorist exploitation of technology has outpaced the associate a legal and policy framework to deal with the threat. looking out five years we are particularly concerned with the growing adverse impact encryption will have on our counterterrorism efforts. this is a key point back. we can't freezer thinking in 2019. we always need to be looking to the future. finally both a kind and i said shown themselves to be successful at radicalizing vulnerable populations around the globe. sometimes they deploy emissaries to establish and organize a group. sometimes an industry is deployed to support an existing group. sometimes an emissary is already present with the store ties personal connections.
sometimes it's done remotely via social media or letters, and sometimes a group deployed to an emissary to an isis core. they are innovative and bolstering their ranks. that brings me to team three, which is the main focus on prevention. -- theme three. by any objective standard there are far more radical as people now than the were at 9/11. some think tanks have suggested we're looking at four times the number of radicalized individuals and her own database of known and suspected terrorists has grown by a factor of almost 20. so unless you believe this fervor will burn itself out, we will be faced with a growing radicalization of problem around the globe. no single factor captures the complexity of the radicalization process among disaffected sunni youth worldwide. we believe a mix of personal, group, community, social political and ideological factors contribute to the radicalization of sunni youth. the recruitment extremist sunni
organizations and their mobilization to violence. we are gradually as a world accumulating more empirical data. for instance, the united nations of the program regional bureau for africa the government 718 active performer african extremists. mostly from all shabbat or boko haram to identify the reasons individuals are radicalized and recruited into extremist organizations at the personal level. the most important factor cited was human rights violations by the government security forces. also poverty, the nature of religious education, stable families and government corruption. but it's just not about poverty and being downtrodden. as we saw in sri lanka, the individuals were well educated and relatively well off but radicalize by hate. there's a great deal of fertile ground in countries and we're facing growing militarization and presence and even amongst young children who are being
targeted by propaganda. there are various initiatives associate with messaging, d radicalization, defection programs, reintegration, operating, as well as broader programs focus on good governance, economic development and human rights. available resources remain a significant global problem. if the numbers of radicalized people around the globe keeps growing, i just do not like the odds of identifying the right people to capture, kill, keep out of the country. and they are second and third order effects. as the situation gets worse in africa and climate change takes its toll we're seeing greater force migration. the movement of migrants to europe in turn is exacerbating tensions, giving for the rights to right-wing filers to protest this migration. it is a vicious cycle. brings me to theme number four company to focus on identities, people of concern. terrorist threats revolve around people and networks.
and while tracking identities is pretty arcane stuff, that is interesting to talk about the future of isis or the latest strike here it is incredibly important. our terrorist identities work underpins much of use coverage screening and bedding architecture that evaluates 3.2 million people a day. this is this is what we fail the country as 9/11. two of the hijackers were allowed to get visas, live in the country and eventually get on airplanes because we were insufficiently stitched together. an enormous amount of effort has been expanded over the past 18 years. we have effectively pushed borders out, creating a multilayered defense to identify individual with terrorist connections at the earliest possible point. and we've continually improved building richer dossiers, making better use of technology, performing near real-time classified screening to support unclassified watchlist, and
where possible, making use of i/o metrics. this will never be a risk-free proposition but the system has over all perform extraordinarily well. nctc working with our partners is responsible for compiling the u.s. government database of known or suspected terrorist. the data is used to support screening partners. there's been some confusion on this point and when we talk about kst, precision is very important. each day proximally three individuals that meet the definition of a kst seek into her permission to come to the country. this is not to say that thinking to conduct an attack. simply that there is sufficient derogatory information that warrant scrutiny. upwards of another seven watchlist of individuals per day may have connections to ksts but we lack individual derogatory information required of them to consider the known or suspected terrorist. as you might imagine when 39
people per day are screened, drawing conclusions that any one particular individual can be fraught with challenges. over the course of 16 years the system has stood the test of time. in some cases refugees extra levels of scrutiny are provided. we have no indication that foreign terrorist groups have attempted to exploit the refugee admissions program and robust screening and bedding limit their ability to do so. over the past two decades, the past decade the bulletin to the individuals who arrived as refugees and what ought to conduct attacks in the homeland both radicalize after traveling to the united states. our track record is pretty good. however, as effective as we are, we can't rest on our laurels. there are some warning signs. as is often the case of the paris and brussels attacks many of the individuals were known to security services but they have
high quality fake and national id cards. biographical baseless or on the wrong side of history. we saw this in northern syria were captured foreign fighters routinely gave fake names, , hence, fbi and the defense department focus on a biometric -- as many people as he could. we've also got ever increasing amounts of information. how do we process the volume of information to ensure high-quality databases? all get into that in a few minutes. in my opinion we should be treating this much like we did after 9/11. what are we trying to accomplish and how are we going to get there? we have a lot of peace parts are ready to they are properly stitched together. the patient should be a a near real-time biographic and biometric screening and all available u.s. government information to determine if an individual is a note or suspected terrorist. this would involve greater focus on collection, integration, and
sherry biometrics as well as business process and information technology improvements. the benefits would extend well beyond counterterrorism and support screening against other categories and threats. that brings me to theme five company for robust intelligence. none of this happens unless we maintain a robust, integrated intelligence capability. there is no question that the characters in enterprise is the best integrated part of the intelligence community. we've been doing this for a long time but as good as we are, as one resource there would be significant challenges going forward. a globally dispersed and diffuse terrorism threat that evolves individuals and networks, places great pressure on our intelligence services. we need to buy what the terrorist threat at multiple levels and a sufficient insight to determine if and when they pose a growing threat. the first level is typified by the sri lanka problem. this is simply not a high
priority before us, before last easter. the most hard-line islamist group, slt jake had announced isis in 2016 and that spot a much smaller entity, in tj is apparent responsible. at the vent a bit of the fringe of it primarily known for attacks on buddha statues. not unless he associate with isis and we didn't recognize the threat. one step up from that with the local indigenous islamic insurgencies around the globe who seek to affiliate themselves with isis. with that comes greater interest in attacking western interest. consider the long-standing insurgency in northern mozambique more recent they have been fully with isis at a focus on attacks on u.s. energy interest. extrapolate that to the 20 odd current and buddy isis affiliates around the world. you get some sense of intelligence challenge. and then one level-we need to have sufficient insight into
these indigenous insurgencies to assess if and when they may be expanding beyond a country local threat to one that may threaten the homeland. this has been a challenge in the past. in 2009 without a aqap, al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula, as a regional threat. in christmas day 2009, they attempted to blow up a flight over detroit. in 2010 reviewed the pakistani taliban as a regionally based south asia threat, and yet they train faisal shahzad the winter temp obama in new york city's times square. think about the broader array of people and networks and their ability to exploit technology, and with more than a few challenges. at the macro level as we just took pointers to other threats there is no question that intelligence resources, collection and analytics will be shifted away from terrorism to other priorities.
actions have consequences. what do we stop focusing on? what is the associate a risk? as we draw done military forces we will have less human and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance assets capable in theater. there will be less liaison with on the ground partners. those are simply fax. with those facts, degree of risk and we need to determine how great that risk is whether it can be compensated for, and so forth. and then at the national level, we need to ensure we have the right constellation of organizations and authorities. this is a very large enterprise. it is duplication. there will need to be rationalization going forward to ensure we're using resources wisely. and that brings me to theme seven company to get the elektra right. if are going to get intelligence right we need to get the electron threat. data is everything. when were looking for strategic friends or conducting tactical
level analysis of slate with individuals and networks, data is the lifeblood of the counterterrorism community. the data challenges we face are extraordinarily complex, particularly when dealing with information that is incomplete, generally ambiguous and often wrong. ten years ago this month a nigerian father walked into the embassy and said his son maybe associate with extremist in yemen. that cable was available to every catechism analyst in the government yet got no attention. a month later he tried to blow up flight 253 253 over detroit. other data existed but the relationships were not obvious and we did not connect the dots. i spent my entire career looking at these issues and will say unequivocally that characters and has a worse signal -- of which have been associate with if i put you in the shoes of an nctc analyst has been working counterterrorism since 9/11, he or she has seen a quarter of a
million threats. overwhelmingly they were bogus, but when they come into how exactly do you know? to give you more concrete, we averaged 300 threats to embassies and consulates every year. almost one day. to get even more concrete, my op center receive something in excess of 10,000 terrorism related reports a day which they need to shift and those 10,000 reports contain 16,000 names, daily. all our services are challenged by the need to process ever-expanding amounts of data and work were to cover, uncover potential terrorist threats. with the growth of captured media on the battlefield or the explosion of social media, the magnitude of the problem only grows. terrorist have to communicate. they have to move money. they have to travel, but strictly speaking these data sets are not terrorism information. they can quickly implicate legal
policy privacy and operational equities that limit the sharing and processing such data. determining which information is relevant and addressing the competing equities associate with processing the data remains a work in progress. i will never have enough and others to process the available information so artificial intelligence and machine learning are not nice to affect their absolute imperatives. as such i noted with interest with the national interest committee issued an interim report. here's a quote, with respect to data, the government is well-positioned to collect useful information from its worldwide network of sensors but much of that data is unlabeled,, hidden in various silos across disparate networks, or inaccessible to the government. even more data is simply expelled as quote exhaust because it is not deemed to be immediately relevant. and the infrastructure is
woefully inadequate to process this information. with a very long ways to go to realize the benefits of ai. in the case of terrorism, the problem is particularly difficult because estimate of our data is unstructured and it's all unstructured in different ways. that makes it very difficult for machines to help our analysts. harken back to what i said about the evolving nature of the threat. it's all about individual and networks. and as we've seen with homegrown violent extremist they can be extraordinarily difficult to uncover these individuals. the haystack is continuing to grow and the needles are increasingly subtle. we are seeing this problem across the western world for partners may be dealing with thousands or tens of thousands of radicalized individuals and subjects of interest. that brings me to theme seven, kind of a rhetorical question. i'll take you on a bit of the side road. what does america want us to do in the realm of discovery in uncovering individuals?
terrorism like all transnational threats poses unique challenges because it blurs concepts like foreign and domestic. as such our efforts to ensure public safety can quickly bump up against issues of privacy. part of the government response after 9/11 is to provide nctc with very broad authority to receive terrorism information. in my opinion that was an extremely good move with that came extensive oversight and compliance regime and i'm extraordinarily proud of the centers record in this regard and, indeed, my experience has been the entire community is very conscientious about these issues. but looking forward and given the pace of technological change it seems to me the issues are going to become more difficult and the need for an informed transparent public discussion becomes greater. how do we square the circle? keeping the country safe in ina world of transnational threats that straddle the foreign and
domestic divide, yet adequately balance the protection of legitimate privacy rights. there is no consensus in the country about that balance. the notion of discovery quote-unquote is a case in point. at linking not obvious relationships and finding unknown unknowns, some might call it dot connecting. how much can we, should we do? .. they may be u.s. persons with sworn protections or they may travel here, call here or use our financial institutions. they use our openness against us. they can easily hide in the daily noise associated with
millions of people that cross our borders or the trillions of dollars that unimaginable amounts of telecommunication activity. virtually all cases, the data associated with these actors sitting side-by-side and data repositories of information. there are lots of complicated challenges that limit our abilities of discovery. it was a function of dots being lost in the background noise. relationships between two and oculus pieces of information. in other cases, relevant data may exist. for operational, law enforcement or privacy reasons, the information is not broadly available. issues are major limitations when it comes to information. in the case of financial data,
the relevant information resides in an entirely separate repository that preclude. the need to balance privacy and security may sound superficially attractive. it is not not really helpful. which should be accessible to which organizations. should we be willing to tolerate in order to preserve critical freedoms and liberties. perhaps most importantly, how can the national security community structure a dialogue with the community. governing and approaching the internet. particularly at at a time when technology is far outpacing legal and policy rulemaking and
we are able to find information on the internet which is far more rich, valuable and intrusive than other types of collections when the statutory regulation. third period what is the role of the private sector and national security counterterrorism activities. is there a point at which private sector and government are collaborating so closely that there is an intolerable privacy risk to individuals. i suspect these kinds of questions will be increasingly important as we look to the future. let me move away from electrons back to the last three themes. the need for whole government. counterterrorism intelligence integration across all agencies
particularly in an area of constrained resources will be critical and i suspect increasingly difficult. it will also be insufficient. we need whole of government integration. it has has always been a challenge for us. the reality of the way the government is configured, limits interagency effectiveness. we are a government of departmental sovereignty. the way we are designed, the weight is appropriated, the way, the way it works. certainly that is not a new issue. in this studies have been issued. i think the 9/11 commission had it about right. it is hard to break down fights where there are so many that are legally and politically entitled to have cast iron pipes of their own. not impossible, one very good example is a post 9/11 watched listing and screening architecture that brought together the government.
even that has been under stress as they begin to adjust to priorities. the director for strategic planning has a role to develop whole government strategies. arguably, the enterprises more coordinated in part because of those efforts. with that said, information, integration efforts such as these will always struggle and in the absence of sufficient authority for cooperation. in theory, integration happens at the national security council the years after 9/11. a major focus at the most senior levels of the government because of the eminent of the threat. a high threat environment when we are routinely seeing plots, meetings every week. it was tremendous interagency attention voted at all levels.
understandably, as the perceived decline, in addition there has been a degree of downsizing and deemphasizing and that is the integration. decisions could be put back to agencies. partly because of a perception of micromanagement and partly born of a desire to wean agencies often relying. we need to watch this very carefully to determine how well it does or does not work. continuing to handle the highest priority issues. lesser important questions are not recognized as important until they are. remember, it was the very subject that failed the country leading up to 9/11. it was the technical issue of classified network access that gave rise to wikileaks and eventually snowed in.
how do we ensure lower visibility issues that implicate multiple department agency equities get adamantly addressed before they become strategic failures. a decline in the engagement is the potential for inter-agency muscle memory. this could this could be incredibly important in the event or need for rapid response during crisis. terrorism, like any necessitates government response. as we move forward, we will need to ensure their mechanisms that affect this coordination. bringing you to theme nine. the need for for a whole society. as we look to the future, we need to look well beyond whole government. terrorist use of the internet will require a robust partnership to prevent the distribution of propaganda,
communications with supporters and the proliferation of information to support attacks. there has been a market increase in industry willingness to work with one another. u.s. government and foreign partners to counterterrorism. originally created by facebook, microsoft, twitter and youtube, providing a vehicle for discussions and potential information sharing. there has been substantial progress. detect over 90% of terrorist content through through automated technology. much of it is removed immediately after it is uploaded and never reaches a platform for public consumption. this year, you to pass has suspended over 42,000 channels and removed over 163,000 videos for the promotion of terrorism. facebook grew in the first three months of this year and twitter suspended 156,000 accounts in the second half of last year for
promotion of terrorism. the recent move to establish as an independent ngo offers a more formalized opportunity to better leverage the respective strengths of the private sector and the government against this dynamic problem. the new construct looks to sustain and deepen industry collaboration and capacity. while incorporating the advice of key society and government stakeholders. while it remains to be seen what role government entities will play, success against the future, online terrorism threat will likely only be realized through greater transparency and information sharing across the public private divide in near real time. current transparency reports
pertain to content takedown efforts, provide government entities with a snapshot of the scope and scale of the problem, but typically they lack specific detail on methods and the type of material that is being purged. government efforts to support technology companies could be better targeted with greater knowledge of the actual content being removed, the geolocation of its origin and potential attribution. from this information, government entities would be able to more effectively assess trends and terrorist propaganda. identify new new and emerging groups, key radicalized there's an credible potential plots. new insight could be passed back to the companies to enhance their models and algorithms. none of this will be easy. companies willingness to robustly engage governance depends on a host of policy, legal and legal and proprietary concerns. if we can work through the impediments, there is no question that transparency would pay dividends. working on crime at the nsc. i found public partnerships to
be a very useful platform. 5013c brings together government and private sector representatives for the purpose of information sharing in the cybercrime arena. both government and the private sector found that it works well. as the threat eve balls, we need to evolve. that brings me to my last theme. getting our arms around the global dimensions. nothing highlights the evolving nature of the terrorist throat others right wing or white supremacist terrorism and still others racially motivated violent extremism. rem be for short. the fbi clearly has a lead on domestic terrorism. what i want to focus on here are the global dimensions and the potential for seeing a movement. the transnational nature facilitated by social media and
online communications has resulted featuring frequent communication between sympathizers and an open exchange of ideas. a large percentage in recent years have either displayed outreach to like-minded individuals or groups are referenced early attackers as sources of inspiration. for instance -- gaining international reverence and are serving inspiration for many including those looking to plan or conduct attacks. inspired or at least been praised research by at least five attackers since 2014. spanning from the u.s. to the uk, germany and new zealand. inspiring at least to attackers or plotters since his june 2015 attack in charleston south
carolina. himself inspired by braddock and praised ruth and other attackers. inspiring at least three since his march 2019 attack in christ church new zealand. the connections go well beyond inspiration. we oversee travel by white supremacists. communications against racially motivated violent extremists and a provision of funds. some of this involved connections to nonviolent extreme right wing organizations some of this involved connections to act as military groups or those that have been banned or designated as terrorist organizations by other countries. some of this involved connections between like-minded individuals who might or might not someday moved from exploring extreme to radicalization to mobilization to violence. we do not fully understand how attackers are influenced and or
what constitutes meaningful relationships between extremists. unlike islamist led by relatively large organizations like al qaeda and isis, does not feature authoritative or structural organizations or ideology. instead it is loan actors in small cells who use a safe haven. they are inspired by a number of perceived concerns including political, social, economic, legal, demographic, environmental and, demographic, environmental and personal issues. moving forward, we will have to addressed a whole host of issues. fortunately, there are lessons learned that could be applicable in the space. improve information sharing. focus on individuals individuals and facilitation networks. work with the private sector and foreign partners and so forth.
with that said, there are some challenges unique to this problem set. the lack of a statute and support charges. the added complexity of protected free speech and the associated between the united states and our partners. and the fact that perpetrators are often loan actors. complicating the designation used in it. i would also highlight almost two decades, the united states has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme islamic ideology. we are now being seen as the supporters of white supremacists theology. that is a reality which we will have to deal with. secondly, as we grapple with how to deal with a global movement, we need to be very careful. in the case of the international threat, we lost some control of the narrative.
it has succeeded under the pretense of conducting a war against islam. it is false, but it is effective violent white supremacists too broad a brush. right wing political speech. curating the international tool. it can be tricky. not to make the problem worse. let me take you back to a question. >> what does the national registration look like if the country confirms a very complex. how do we optimize the resources for the best in my country. they may have somewhat different priorities. if we are going to reduce, how
do we do so in a manner that does not inadvertently reduce. reasonable people can answer those questions in a very big way. consideration by leaders inside and outside the government. i do believe that the 10 themes i've laid out what involve focusing all aspects of the current terrorist threat. addressing a host of must do's and resolving complicated issues and good government risk assessment. >> thank you very much. [applause] that was really tremendous. it really covered the waterfront asking three questions.
taking us across the ideological spectrum. we will open it up for question and answers. my first question, a military drawdown by definition. doing what we can. the coalition. they have taken some things off the table for the purpose of next week like dealing with whether or not the coalition is too graphic. it should be extended to specifically focus on iraq given the turkish incursion. a partial withdraw. without getting into the big
policy issues. strictly from a counterterrorism perspective. what needs to be done to be able to make sure that the current events on the ground in northeast syria do not lead to tremendous impact and intelligence collection and losing some of the progress that we have made. >> from an intel perspective, we have been very pleased of the president and the secretary defense. the forces that do remain will have a counter mission. i think that is really important. from an intel perspective, the foreign foreign fighter problem and the isis prisoners in that part of syria have been a source of much attention for us over the last couple of years. we had been pushing very hard as
a country to get our partners to repatriate. that has not gone well. there tremendous issues associated with judicial systems and partner countries. as a result, as i mentioned, we have gotten -- concerned that there is a growing likelihood that eventually we can see many of these foreign fighters again. they have been fabulous partners over the years. in the way they are focusing on prisons.
the concern there is retention of those prisoners and not bolstering isis ranks. biometrics. so that the report of the people that might have escaped. we don't know who exactly these people are. there was some movement of prisoners to different prisons. i think it has been proven to be the case. the knowledge of where specific individuals are in sort of the risk keeping associated with that is going to be increasingly
problematic. we are quite confident that we did get while metrics, virtually all of the foreign fighter moments. certainly not as comprehensive. the expectation is those individuals will be more than likely to stay anyway. >> let's move away from extremism for a moment. as you mentioned early on, concerns about iranian militia threats over the past few months we have seen a sharp uptick in iranian activity in the region. we have also seen an uptick in activity abroad including here in the united states justice week we got news that two iranians pled guilty to a plot that involved surveillance of jewish targets in the united states. we have had one individual
convicted in new york city. in other who pled guilty. a third who has been indicted and is awaiting trial. how did the community look at the issue of extreme terrorism in the context of this up tick of activity #. >> the bureau worked this problem really hard in the united states. we do cds. i think, frankly, the uptick of activity in the region is what is greater concern to us. the response to the pressure campaign. the act 70 of the militia groups in iraq and in particular the relationship. that is going to bear really close watching in the years ahead. that is kind of where we are, i think. >> finally before i open it up, i want to kind of mold together your thoughts about the right
wing racially and ethnically motivated extremists. your points on social media. the growth of one is so dependent on the other. do you think that government needs to play a greater role in regulating the social media private sector? or do you think they are doing a good enough job? really doing incredibly good, a very, very forward leaning work. for some platforms, the issue of free speech unveils anything you want anywhere, much more strongly than others.
some platforms will not only d platform you, but sometimes even more forward leaning than government. the fact that it is inconsistent, a problem with what is regulating. do we need to get involved? >> the government has to be really careful about getting involved. the terms of service are the province of the individual. some are far more forward leaning. some are more more willing to engage with the government. we have been a huge fan. the platforms themselves are struggling with once you get outside the realm of an isis association it makes it harder for them to train your algorithms. i hope the growing conversation relating to the space and how do you do that. there are lots of questions
have some legal restrictions and how we can deal with that. doi in doj realm. as you engage with partners, are there authorities that you would like us to have our change domestically so we could deal with the transnational aspect of this? a transnational threat, remedy or otherwise. when we are pursuing that. >> this is a work in progress. the government is kind of feeling its way forward. it is cautious about the way he talked about the nature of those connections and what they mean. there are some that want very much to designate overseas organizations and the way we do
fto. we are going to have to be really careful about that. we've seen some examples here just recently. there are those that would like to designate that entity. parts of that are part of the national guard. the potential for unintended consequences. making the situation worse if we are not careful. we will have to go kind of slowly here to understand the problem. >> great. thank you. i will open it up to questions and answers now. wait to identify yourself. we will start here. >> thank you. you mentioned in one of your answers, confined fighters. you also mentioned iraq ease
detains in northeastern syria as well. my question would be, what is your assessment of the risk regarding the iraqi industry. 2007, 2009 in iraq, going underground. kind of a history of militants. how would you assess these threats? >> six years or so ago, isis would be down to 1000 individuals in iraq and syria. bottom line right now is 14,000.
they recognize a couple of years ago and started moving towards and insurgent orientation. going underground as you suggest our concern is given what they did six years ago, 14,000, potentially another eight or 9000 that are in prison, before his death, doing a radio thing. i think the expectation is that number four do nothing but grow. there are already no go areas that night. we see isis legs in small areas. the whole crop burning thing. everything else.
the insurgency is alive and kicking in north rest iraq for sure. i do not see the forcing function for why that gets better. it will require a combination of both. dealing with the entire sort of demand side of the equation. going far slower than any of us would have liked. the potential for long-term disenfranchisement of those countries is pretty significant. in that regard, i think there is a lot of work to do. i am here as a guest scholar at washington institute. how do you see this happening?
do you think these are terrorist attacks? as a result of security which is not working whole area is 50 ki. the army demobilize eating a lot of troops. the police and also such a close cooperation. how do you see this? is it kind of revenge? who are somehow feeling marginalized? not belonging any more? this is number one. number two. do you believe having those that are in prison.
the member of the groups. especially the youngest. do you believe that this is a real chance for convincing them or changing so that they could refrain from violence and integrated into society. do you think this is a possibility? since the environment outside same social economic problem. human rights abuse. what do you think? thank you. >> there is an isis and al qaeda presence. i think it is a little bit of both. certainly an underlying cause of issue. we have seen this element for the new head of isis.
i think we have an existing terrorist cells that are conducting in the northern part of sinai. on the second question, unfortunately, i think globally we are seeing prisons be incubators for radicalization and terrorism. i do not think anyone has broken the code on how you deal with it getting out of it where it is every bit as radical. our european partners have this problem and because of the length of prison sentences, we are on the cusp of seeing hundreds of thousands of people come out that were very radical eyes when they went in or got radical eyes when they went in. i certainly take your point that we have a lot of work to do. there have been debates about whether you put the prisoners together. whether you try to break them up coming back and forth of this.
they have all demonstrated challenges. not a lot of success stories. if not a radicalized, at least disengaged. >> george mason university. one of the points that you made was the increasing intersection of crime and terrorism. in your strategies, you did not talk about utilizing these analyses or these interactions and do network analysis. from one side it may be more vulnerable to infiltration on the other. >> i mentioned, i did a couple years at the nfc. i actually went there with the
avowed goal of creating empathy for organized crime. it seems to me that good things happen when you bring the government together and you give very broad access to do the kind of identity networking analysis. we are moving a little bit in that direction right now. there is a belief that we want to do similar work of the basing that we do in the case of terrorist identities. that seems to me to be a very good idea. we start cataloguing these people to working at intersections with terrorism as well as knowing the potential bad guys want to come to the country into they are connected with. there are still lots of issues back before 9/11, i think it has
even spread further across the government. we have a long way to go in terms of how you should consolidate those efforts. that is the direction i think. >> thank you. katie from the american enterprise institute. starting the discussion about risk. the risk that we are facing now towards a great power competition. refocusing across the government and americans are feeling quite safe here at home. the challenges that you layout to the efforts that we have include decline in inter- agency, coordination and focus the question of how we have a government approach to counterterrorism.
what i wanted to ask is outside of the counterterrorism realm, can you discuss the risk about relying only on counterterrorism strategy from threats and how the counterterrorism strategy may match up with a country or region wide strategy to counter the local groups themselves. eventually producing the threats you are working against. >> in my opinion, a strategy strategy that came out last year was a very good example. none of the people in this room worked on it back then. it is not just about capturing and killing. a lot of focus in their on the prevention issue. working with locals and this multinational, all of which is exactly the right thing to do.
the question is now follow through. the notion of terrorism prevention has played a significant role in three out of the four terrorist strategy that we have done since 9/11. we have not made a lot of progress and terrorism prevention. for a long time, we did not know what worked. i think it is fair to say there will be a tremendous challenge in the groups in africa and how does that relate to the strategy and what will we do with foreign development and so forth. that will continue to be a significant challenge. >> the voice of america. do you know any more today than you did last week about the new
isis leader and are you surprised at all by the campaign to show how groups are supporting him and secondly, where does the counterterrorism strategy fit into the great power strategy? are you seeing any signs that they are starting to manipulate or try to use terrorist groups as proxies if not to accomplish something for themselves. just to make things more difficult for the u.s. >> i actually think that this is playing out largely as we expected. we saw the announcement and then we saw the new guy get named. we saw the call for retaliatory attacks and we saw some eulogies and we saw the branches and networks start to swear allegiance.
this is very similar to what happened back in 2010. there was actually a substantial period of time between the name that came out. back daddy and our recognition figuring out who he actually was. as i mentioned on the hill, our view was that it would be a logical candidate for taking over before. but we are not at a point of having a confirmation of who it is. on the great power thing, this is an added dimension to the problem that i did not mention, but we will have to work our way through. we are certainly examples of the russian state sort of exploiting
issues to play two right wing grievances and how do we deal with that? it is an interesting question in that my remit is counterterrorism. i get access to counterterrorism information. issues associated with the russian state is not something that would fall within my bailiwick. we will have to work on that in terms of how they handle it. >> you would have an opportunity when it comes to counterterrorism. if you could comment, not everybody in that region sees the islamic state as a number one threat like we do. in particular, at a time when the majority forces on the ground maybe have a different prioritization and we do, how
does that affect our ability to work with them or more importantly, work with with other partners? the primary terrorist problems in the islamic state. >> i think that the turks are the clear example here. they will profess interest in counterterrorism. they are concerned about isis. it is far less. isis attacks in turkey. this is why we come back to the issues of prisons. how concerned the turks will be. i do think that they would not be interested in holding a ton of european foreign fighters. they would want to get back to european countries. this sort of focus and emphasis that we have had for a very long time is going to, that will challenge the turkish incursion. >> more on the back. >> hi.
thank you. you kind of touched on turkey a little bit. sending home foreign fighters. what does that mean? we touched a bit on european. what are we doing? >> i don't know the answer to the question. what we have seen from our european partners, some concern here. how this will shake out. >> yes, sir. in the back. >> thank you. concentrating in the middle east
we have massive riots and whatnot. a connection between the iranian affairs. are we doing anything about that seeing any connection there? is that of any interest or we'll just wait and see what happens? >> that is being done much more by the regional bureaus. >> here in the back. >> nick harrington. are you seeing any evidence of outright russian support to some of these groups that you had mentioned that are racially motivated violent extremists? other types of activities? >> not that i have seen. as i mentioned, causing a
greater movement in that direction. sort of of influence issues. >> your mention of finance, one of my georgetown students, combating the threats. i will have some questions for her. can you comment on the continued efficacy of our counter finance tools? there has been a lot, recently. generally about whether sanctions continue to be effective. i'm not asking about sanctions in general. how effective, how important do you see this? >> it has demonstrated success in the past. the history of a lot of terrorist attacks has been that it really does not cost a lot of
money. when new zealand looked at what they found was small amounts of money that was being donated and so forth. that is a challenge. back to the signal noise problem. trillions of trillions of dollars splashing around. identifying particular money going to a particular individual. this implicates additional issues that i talked about which is there are a lot of regulations that go along with co-mingling data sets with money. that makes it difficult for the treasury or bureau to be able to track it. >> talking about other attacks in the al qaeda isis world. the fact that, when i think about the way things were when i
started my career in the 1990s, what we looked at then, when it comes to these loan offenders are largely irrelevant travel, travel, communications and financial transfers. what are the greatest challenges operationally and dealing with the threat given that reality and how do we accommodate? >> i think pretty much every western country services our grappling with that precise problem. i think the uk is one, highlights, given the attacks that they had in 16-17 and at the time they actually did a review. concluding that there was something like 30,000 subjects of interest. on the radar screen at one point.
the conclusion was, at any given time they could do 247 surveillance of a few, may be dozens. open investigations of thousands and there would be a lot more that would have to sit unless something came in that caused them to be higher on the priority. the question is, how do you identify a.and be able to bring it up so that you know you have to allocate for these resources? this gets back to the issue of technology in the case. the approach we are taking right now is the ability to do recurrent search against any particular individual that might be on the screen. in part this has to deal with the problem now. also to deal with it for the
analyst. so many of these people will resurface several years later. the reality is we have a workforce that comes and goes. this issue of knowledge management and effectively downloading a brain, technology can help with that. there will never be enough investigates of resources to be able to look at every individual >> rob. i find this remarkably chilling and scary, your presentation. enormous progress. the amazing achievements that you and your colleagues are doing. but because what i take away as the implied net conclusion which is the situation. i just want to ask you, if there
are 20 times more potential bad guys, are we 20 times better than we were before 9/11 or are we in a net way, even worse off than we were september 10, 2001? >> it is a perfectly fair question. the strategic concern that i have is there are far more radicalized people out there now than there were eight teen years ago. i don't don't think anybody questions that. are those individuals of primary concern in a local region area which should not bother us, but they will not be perceived as threats to the homeland. you certainly do not have, currently, today, the kind of capability that we sought to reach out and touch the homeland again, to my point, we need to
ensure we do not freeze our thinking in 2019. what is this going to look like in some number of years going forward if we start to pull back against the counterterrorism target. we will have to focus on dealing with these organizations and have enough intelligence that we know sort of what the nature either in theater or to the homeland. i think that will be a harder problem for us. trying to stay local. talking about this encryption problem. making it a much harder problem for us.
we need to embrace that. we just just need to recognize that this effort has to continue. there are some trends out there. things were looking a little darker. the prospect of chemical use. helping us dig a little bit deeper on that. say what you have seen so far in terms of any groups embracing or moving towards embracing that kind of technology and what is the possibility. it changed from considered unlikely to more probable. maybe you can give it more granular estimates the map.
>> to a degree, it was normalized in iraq. i think with what isis was able to do. we have seen numerous licensed plots interrupted over the last several years. there is a tremendous amount of concern about the ease of which poison gases could be developed. i think for many of my colleagues, there is a bit of a surprise that we have not already seen that weird just given past history. al qaeda flirted with this stuff 15 years ago. we never saw it operationalized. it looks to us like isis has gone a somewhat easier route in
terms of developing those capabilities. there are instructions that float around. we cannot be at all -- we think about the nature of that threat. >> hi. i am a recent graduate from the university of new haven. you mentioned in your opening remarks about the shifting tactic of continuing to focus on targeting children and bringing that out. i was wondering if you could speak about how terrorist organizations are going about doing that and how we can respond with the efforts of children that have grown up. >> this is getting a tremendous amount of tension from our european partners that have this problem. an awful lot of children were
born in the caliphate. their fathers fathers may well have been killed and europeans are struggling with what did they do there has been some willingness to bring orphans back. some countries are now increasing talking about trying to bring women and children back. but the social services issue associated with how do you do with these kids and just what kind of mental shape will they be in is an area of concern across europe. >> we have learned a lot about the islamic state over the years a classified domain. material we would see or more recently. some of that it sounds like through extremism through the project. it is becoming public and being
used by researchers out there as well. don't you think that what we know about isis can help us be predictive towards where it's going to become next. i ask you that because last month we had one year colleagues for these lectures. he talked about the strategic surprise with the sudden rise of isis. the jv league team. it suddenly became something so much more. we've been giving some thought to the way we think about these movements in between their big mobilizations. when we have kind of dealt with one mobilization we are doing well. moving resources elsewhere. what do you think we can learn from what we have collected and
understood. >> i do think the next couple of years are probably likely to be very interesting. we discuss this amongst ourselves all the time. when the caliphate was declared and they started taking over large swaths of territory, they put a huge huge bull's-eye on their back. isis is a huge learning organization. it is very bureaucrat. i wonder if they would be content with conducting sort of a prolonged insurgency and staying underground to avoid the kind of pressure that they absorb from the coalition over the last couple of years, but nobody knows. the more we draw down, the more we sort of siphon resources off to other very high priority
threats. the greater the likelihood is we will not understand moving forward. that is probably the biggest concern right now. >> okay. one last question. >> what is the impact of the concept of terrorism that we see in different contexts and countries. what is the impact of this on your work? how does it affect the information you process in the working relationship. using the concept according to other national interests. >> it gets into a real wonky answer. things like -- is that a terrorist organization? is it an
an insurgent organization? state support. what we are finding within our community is that the counterterrorism effort was pretty well stitched together for many years. over time, some of these efforts associated in africa, others have moved from the counterterrorism to regional bureaus. that complicates the coordination and effort across our departments and agencies. there is a massive number of people. making sure that you know all the right people so that you can talk to them on a daily basis as the effort is more across the departments and agencies. it does make it harder. it also makes things like information sharing harder. when they beat us up after the 9/11 commission, focus very much on ensuring information got all
to the relevant analysts. .... .... >> i'm very pleased we were able to end with a question that was able to bring out your inner thoughts because that should be embraced. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thinking russell travers for being here with us today. [applause] thank you for all you do. have a great holiday weekend, everybody. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry have released the deposition of two more trump administration officials. lieutenant colonel alexander benjamin the top you create expert on the national security council was on the july 21 phone call between president trump and
the new ukrainian president. also released, committee q&a with president trump's former top russia advisor. you can read those transcripts on c-span .org, also watch the latest breaking of speeches and reactions from congress and the white house. plus, take a look back at previous peach mint proceedings go to c-span .org and click on the impeachment inquiry box at the top of our homepage. >> watched the c-span's network live next week as the house intelligence committee hold the first public impeachment hearing. the committee led by chairman adam schiff will hear from three state farm officials starting wednesday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3, top u.s. deponent from ukraine in deputy assistant of state will testify. on friday at 11:00 a.m. eastern
on c-span2 former u.s. ambassador to ukraine will appear before the committee. ahead of the hearings read witness testimony from that deposition. by the trans- at c-span .org -- impeachment. our c-span campaign 2020 bus team is traveling across the country visiting key battleground states in the 2020 presidential race asking voters what issues they want presidential candidates to address during the campaign. >> issue i want them to focus on in this election cycle has to do with an vendor mild justice and environmental rights. coming from michigan, going appear, seeing the consequences and aftermath of the flint water crisis and currently the detroit water shut off which has not gotten enough attention in my opinion. i want to see that candidates cannot strong policies that will fight environmentally injustice broadly.
>> i think the next election will be pivotal for our nation. we will look forward to hearing about all the things important in the economy. i'm interested in their thoughts on the national debt and health care and i feel both of those items are intertwined. i know here at the state level half of every dollar we spend is on healthcare and i know that we are running massive deficits nationally and probably over 22 billion dollars, trillion dollars at this point and deficit is considerable concern giving the warnings presented by prior other generals and just the public in general. i would like to see the candidates for the u.s. presidency most highlight is climate change. economic developer it is important but we can't do
economic developer and if we don't have an environment within which to do it. i like to have prioritized making certain our world is a better world in which to have economic developer and for our kids in the future. >> voices from that campaign trail, part of space c-span battleground state tour. >> next, highlights from the last australian parliament were prime minister scott morrison and members of his cabinet face questions about syria, climate change, agriculture issues and press freedom. courtesy of sky news australia this review is 40 minutes. >> hello, i'm welcome to another edition of question time rap as we look at what's happening in the australian parliament. u.s. troops have a drawled out of syria across the globe in