tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC January 10, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EST
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> the time for change has come to -- zwhr how many al qaeda members are plotting right now to strike us? how many targets are they casing? how many suicide bombers could they be sending our way? even as we sit here? deadly enemy. al qaeda killed seven of our best in that diabolical strike at the c.i.a. in afghanistan. did bin laden set that attack? if al qaeda's on the run, why do they seem on the attack? and finally, command and control. has barack obama been too much the candidate and not enough the executive? has he shown real control of the government bureaucracy? in fighting this war?
i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. elisabeth bumiller covers the pentagon for "the new york times." joe kleine is a time magazine columnist. andrea mitchell is chief foreign affairs correspondent at nbc news. and david ignatius is a "washington post" columnist. first up, president obama reminded the country this week that enemies of america are still very much a threat. >> we are at war. we are at war against al qaeda. a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9-11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. chris: today we examine that threat with these four reporters who cover national security. we'll look at how al qaeda threatens us abroad as that new year's attack on our c.i.a. headquarters in afghanistan so tragically showe but first let's look at the threat of the next al qaeda attack here at home. david, if you're in charge of intelligence in this country and looking out at the world, what's the threat coming here? >> the threat is that this is a resourceful, adaptable enemy that learns from us. they study us.
so if we start to block one avenue of entry, one kind of weapon, they turn to another. they come a us in different faces from the ones we're expecting. i'll give you an example. the early al qaeda attacks obviously involve people from south asia. afghans, arabs, coming at us. and so we begin to look for them and they were coming from different places. they were lighter skinned north africans from morocco and tunisia. now we've seen an african coming at us. an african from nigeria. one of the things that scarce our intelligence -- scares our intelligence community the most is there are at least 30 german converts to islam who are believed to have moved to the tribal areas of pakistan and may be undergoing training now who will come at us, looking nothing like what we expect. chris: why are they doing these clever mind tricks to get around our thinking? what do they want -- >> they want to hit us. chris: what do they want us to do in the short run? >> because they've seen from 9-11 that attacks on the united states destabilize us. they rock us more than they
might have thought. and look, we're still recovering from the 9-11 attacks. and they want to get in and do it again. our great fear, the fear in the intelligence community is they'll come at us with weapons like a dirty bomb, weapons that raise the level of danger, just take it to a whole new level. that scares the heck out of people. >> i think there are two new sources that are going to be used against us now that people are concerned about. number one is that yemen has become a staging area. it's ather place that we have to worry about. and i guess somalia is going to be the one after that. the second and really scary one is that the u.s. muslim community, for the first time, is producing potential jihadis. they're the five from the washington area who showed up in pakistan. there was hasan who was -- who did the shooting at fort hood. and up until now, we felt that we really -- that we didn't have a problem with our muslim community. but we may. chris: is that what the
president was trying to address when he was talking about really trying to work against this recruitment of people that are just agitated, unhappy in their lives, that al qaeda's working on and grabbing? >> i think he was speaking on two fronts. he was trying to do that. he was also trying to not discount the impact of that extraordinary cairo speech that he gave. he does fundamentally want to reach out to the larger muslim community to the islamic world. in a way that george w. bush did not. so he does not want our response to this terror incident, this threat, and others, to discount the larger foreign policy appeal, the engagement that he is trying to pursue. at the same time, he needs to project domestically and internationally the strength, the firmness about our defenses. the problem that joe and david have outlined here is that al qaeda is outsmarting us. that's the real terror -- chris: we had we have the biggest defense arsenal.
you cover at the pentagon. what do they see coming at unanimous >> they see an al qaeda that's developed -- that's decentralized. it's no longer only in pakistan. the leadership is in pakistan, they believe. but it's become a franchise. and the estimate from 200 to -- well, from several hundred to several thousand members of al qaeda. but right now, what they see is that the ideology is spreading. you don't have to be trained in pakistan anymore. you can be a smaller group that latches on to the ideology and be inspired by al qaeda through the internet and through their -- chris: so fort hood, doesn't necessarily have to get equipment or anything from over there. or even money. he just attacks. >> it's the adaptability. the fact that it is a franchise, that it's spread and they're adapting to our defenses. chris: the brainpower against us, not jufnt the occasional guy like nadal hasan who gets angry and starts shooting at people but these brilliant attacks, clever things like over detroit, like 9-11, where
-- how many brains are there? are they mainly in pakistan? is that where they are? in yemen? >> widely dispersed are. chris: the brains, the masterminds. >> their command and control system is the internet and that stretches everywhere. there was a hope among our terrorism analysts, chris, that the second and third generation of al qaeda would not be as formidable and adversarial as the first generation was. the feeling was these people are not going to be the same intellectual quality, they can't meet and plan operations, so there was -- people thought this isn't going to be as tough. what we're seeing now is the second and third generation, abdul mutallab is a classic example of third generation, are going to cause us more problems than we thought. chris: what do you mean by third generation? >> the third generation, the people who are recruited by the internet, the pakistani nationals in britain, american muslims as joe is saying and people have thought that's not as bad of problem. and guess what? it may be. chris: the near-term threat. a guy, at falls church a in
yemen. he was directing nadal hasan and directing the christmas bomber. is there someone in the -- is there someone in the chute right now coming at us receipt now that people think? >> there may well be. he was talking to him. we haven't yet proved that he was directing them. he was inspiring them. >> they think he was operational. >> they do? >> they do. >> not that i've ever -- but i think the bottom line -- chris: does he have a whole bunch of recruits coming at us? >> that's the mystery here. that is what they're trying to understand. they got to go back through all this information and reanalyze it. they didn't get that before. >> you have to go back to the congressional investigation, into 9-11. has him in san diego. him in falls church, virginia. him advising two of the 9-11 hijackers. he was a spiritual advisor to the two hijackers living in san diego. they believe -- intelligence experts tell me that we should have been tracking him very much more closely for 11 years. the other thing i want to say about the homegrown
terrorism and why he's appealing to people in the united states suddenly is that the muslim community in the united states was thought to have been for a long time a very moderate, reasonable community. but now it's increasingly becoming radicalized according to national security experts in part because we've been at war for eight, nine years now in afghanistan and iraq. chris: and probably the result of eight years since 9-11, all this time of us fighting the muslims in the world. >> right. >> i think that we've been deluded by the bottom line good news here. the real good news is that when al qaeda actually tries to control a territory, like anbar province in iraq, average muslims don't like it. they don't like that style of life. they don't like the extremism. >> exactly. >> but it doesn't take very many people to cause a whole lot of trouble. chris: you said a couple thousand al qaeda out there probably. >> right. and the other thing is -- as to what joe said, national security experts estimate there is -- well, there's 28 to 30 known attacks that have been foiled against the united states.
since 9-11. those are the ones we know about. and so a lot of times these haven't been very sophisticated attacks. they've been stopped. but it doesn't take that much for one not very good attack to be lethal. and that's the pblem. chris: let's talk to a lethal attack. that was the devastating strike on the c.i.a. in afghanistan. joe, you wrote in time magazine this week quoting a former intel official, this was extremely sophisticated. it took years to set up and we didn't think al qaeda had that capability. and you also said -- several sources said of it run right out of bin laden's headquarters. >> that's true. it takes a while to run a double agent. as david has shown numerous novels. chris: explain this guy's pattern. etch with the enemy. then he was with us. >> he was arrested in jordan. and apparently turned by the jordanians, although maybe not. and he was giving information that was valuable enough to let us trust him to the extent that he could walk into a highly secure fire base, c.i.a.
headquarters in afghanistan, without even being patted down. there also was some questionable trade craft by the c.i.a. putting 13 officials in a room with in guy. >> it was adom intangible trade craft and the tragedy -- adom intangible trade craft and the tradge -- a veteran c.i.a. guy said he corrected me. i called him a double agent. he said david, you're the expert here on that. he said he's really a triple agent. and it was incredibly sophisticated. six years. >> all the more impressive. one thing that's really troubling about this terrible attack at the post. is that it really was something that could have been and should have been foreseen. i'm told by my sources that last year, there was evidence of double agent penetration operations, trying to use double agents to get inside our defenses. by two of al qaeda's key allies in afghanistan. the hikani network and the makteer network.
we didn't do the things that would have stopped them. chris: we had a debate about the 30,000 more troops in afghanistan. a lot of the critics of that monthlycy said the counterinsurgency -- of that policy said the counterinsurgency, only a couple thousand al qaeda, how would you assess the battle? how many al qaeda in afghanistan based on the successful strike? >> i think we're learning that's a false distinction. al qaeda has allies, people in the military speak of a syndicate. there are very few al qaeda core people in afghanistan now. it's probably in the tens. chris: right. >> on any given day. but there are hundreds and hundreds of people who work with them, where -- who are their proxies, from the networks that i mentioned. and they're coming at our people. and they go to school on us. they are running operations against the agency. this is a perfect example. there are other examples i could give you, of sloppiness at c.i.a. bases around afghanistan that were known last year, that raised warning signals, that people didn't do
anything about. chris: wow. >> the other thing is this really affects the afghanistan war plan. iean, a central part of this war plan was to raise -- between a quarter of a million and 400,000 afghan national security forces. now we're not so sure where we're training forces for our side or we're actually training people from omar. chris: speaking of afghanistan our matthews meter, 12 of our regulars whether wars in iraq and afghanistan are a help or a hurt in this regard when it comes to defeating al qaeda? close one here, seven say the wars have helped our cause in defeating al qaeda, five say iraq and afghanistan taken together have hurt the war against al qaeda. two of you here were in that meter poll. and they split. andrea, you think the wars altogether, on all the casualties we lost and all the casualties we inflicted, haven't helped our fight against al qaeda. >> i think they've hurt. and i agree it's a cless call. but i think we have inspired more jihadis against us.
chris: joe, you disagree. >> i think the war in iraq was a bad historic mistake, it also gave us a much better sense of the limits of the possibility of al qaeda, the fact that they don't have that much appeal to the average in us limb. and in the end, we beat them. chris: wow. rumsfeld once said we don't have the metrics on that one. before we break, something a little lighter here. james carville, the self-styled ragin' cajun who maped his bones getting bill clinton elected president once called washington hollywood for ugly people. the nation's capital proved that again this week when budget director peter, hold the excitement orszag engaged an abc news correspondent. orszag, that swashbuckling charmer from government accounting was declared a new father and past examples of geeks who got the white house upgrade in the love department. think of-ry kissinger, henry, he dated the likes or is it the looks of jill st. john and who confessed, bragged, that power
is the greatest aphrodisiac. or take dennis kucinich. who has won the statuesque elizabeth. and geeks, do not despair. you can get the upgrade. just get yourself to washington. when we come back, we're going to ask those four national security reporters to give us the straight scoop. has president obama shown enough of a command presence, meaning real control of the government bureaucracy in fighting this war? plus scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. we'll be right back.
chris: welcome back. the obama administration is ending its first year under huge pressure on the security front. some from past administrations are on record doubting this team has the right focus. here's former attorney general michael mukasey in "the wall street journal" this week. some in the executive branch are focused more on not
sounding like their predecessors than in finding a neutralizing people who believe it is their religious duty to kill us. andrea, is the president successful so far in becoming a true chief executive and not a campaigner who's going on television and touring the country and doing interviews? >> i think in fact that he's made a very strong leap in this direction. chris: when? >> particular since this christmas day incorporation dent, the threat that was averted -- christmas day incident, the threat that was averted. the timing and the speeches, the content of the speeches have been strong. they've been substantive. i think what he's now trying to do is take the reins. and be the c.e.o. look, chris, he inherited a ridiculous post 9-11 structure. they're trying to rationalize it. we now know from at least the declassified report and what we've learned what's in the rest of the report is it's a mess. chris: jack condition did i learned after -- jack kennedy learned after the bay of pigs not to trust the military high
command or the intelligence community baubs in the end there are no experts and you have to make the big call. how is he doing with the military? has he got the confidence of those guys? >> interesting. there was a lot of mistrust in the beginning. the military did not trust obama and he was very mistrustful of them and also the white house made it very clear they were not going to have more superstar generals. and when there was some -- when general mcchrystal spoke up in london, about how he didn't want to go in small in afghanistan, he was shot down pretty fast. but since the president has decided to send 30,000 extra troops to afghanistan, and came out in a big way, he's -- chris: how about the other way around? >> there is a real problem right now between the white house and the military. and that's this. the military pledged to obama's face to have 95% of the troops in country, in afghanistan, by july. that was what was needed for a true test of obama's plan so that they could evaluate it at
this time next year. now the military are slow walking this. and they're now saying that they won't have all the troops in until december. chris: on purpose? >> the white house -- i don't know whether it's on purpose. the white house is very concerned about this. and really ticked off. chris: because then the president won't be able to test the program. >> right. chris: andrea. >> one problem that he's got to deal with is the intelligence professionals. they needed to be chastised because of the failures here. the failures of analysis really, not the collection or sharing obviously, but of analysis. but there is a resentment, a growing resentment of the white house. chris: by whom? >> by the intelligence pros who feel, yeah, they've been burned. but they don't feel this -- they're not feeling the love. chris: the president, the boss, everyone is loyal to him and he's keeping in touch with people at the middle level. is there that kind of leadership or not? >> i don't think so. there's a difference between taking the reins and getting down in the weeds. sometimes obama is so much the professor, he wants to immerse himself in detail. i heard little of that in this
statement last week about the detroit bombing. and certainly you saw that in the review of afghanistan policy. and went on and on and the white house kept more and more detailed questions. what bothers people at the c.i.a. certainly, is that the president came into office saying we're going to move forward, look ahead, we're not going to look backward. we're not going to dwell on all the mistakes of the bush years. and then the administration basically did the opposite. and that infuriated people. they felt like they just had been absoluty abandoned by the president. he lost a lot of confidence in that moment. chris: when we come back scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. tell me something don't know. we'll be right back.
very large new room for families, very almost luxurious and because of this -- there's so many people coming back. and while this will never of course make up for the loss, they're at least now -- people are up there in some sort of a comfortable -- it was very cramped. chris: joe. >> one of the interesting -- good news. there's an increasing feeling in the administration that the russians and the chinese are going to join us in a new sanction -- targeted sanction regimes against the iranians. and for the most interesng reason. and that is that the iranians, the originators of the bizarre, have been the world's most terrible negotiators, ticking off everybody that they've dealt with. chris: andrea. >> there is real concern now that there could be other triple, double or triple agents embedded in our -- with our intelligence people in afghanistan and the other areas. and now they have to go back and look over everything. chris: david ignatius. >> the economy's coming back.
the recession is probably over. but unemployment remains much higher than the white house expected or wants. and i would look for new stimulus package of up to $50 billion. chris: when we come back, the big question of the week, is the iraq war in our rear-view mirror completely, is it over for us in terms of big actions over there? be right back.
chris: welcome back. our focus today has been on afghanistan and the war against al qaeda. so our big question this week, is the war in iraq in our rear-view mirror? elisabeth. >> maybe. right now, we're supposed to be out by 2011. but there can be agreements renegotiated with the iraqi government. they certainly cannot defend their skies. there will be u.s. air force there for a long time. chris: any chance of a big escalation? >> no. in large part because we need the troops in afghanistan. chris: andrea, any chance of a big buildup there? >> ditto. barring some major attack against us, we are getting out. withdrawing down. we don't have the trooms. chris: david. >> we're getti out but keep your eye on what andrea said. a large casualty attack on a retreating army could really change the picture. chris: a big war again? >> if several hundred americans die in an attack that is deliberately designed to inflict as much damage as possible, we're going foff to