Skip to comments.Flashback: "Intelligence Analyst" Larry C. Johnson: "The Declining Terrorist Threat (July 10, 2001)
Posted on 07/20/2005 7:12:47 PM PDT by Sam Hill
The Declining Terrorist Threat
By LARRY C. JOHNSON
WASHINGTON -- Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.
None of these beliefs are based in fact. While many crimes are committed against Americans abroad (as at home), politically inspired terrorism, as opposed to more ordinary criminality motivated by simple greed, is not as common as most people may think.
At first glance, things do seem to be getting worse. International terrorist incidents, as reported by the State Department, increased to 423 in 2000 from 392 in 1999. Recently, Americans were shaken by Filipino rebels' kidnapping of Americans and the possible beheading of one hostage. But the overall terrorist trend is down. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, deaths from international terrorism fell to 2,527 in the decade of the 1990's, from 4,833 in the 80's.
Nor are the United States and its policies the primary target. Terrorist activity in 2000 was heavily concentrated in just two countries Colombia, which had 186 incidents, and India, with 63. The cause was these countries' own political conflicts.
While 82 percent of the attacks in Colombia were on oil pipelines managed by American and British companies, these attacks were less about terrorism than about guerrillas' goal of disrupting oil production to undermine the Colombian economy. Generally, the guerrillas shy away from causing casualties in these attacks. No American oil workers in Colombia were killed or injured last year.
Other terrorism against American interests is rare. There were three attacks on American diplomatic buildings in 2000, compared with 42 in 1988. No Americans were killed in these incidents, nor have there been any deaths in this sort of attack this year.
Of the 423 international terrorist incidents documented in the State Department's report "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000," released in April, only 153 were judged by the department and the C.I.A. to be "significant." And only 17 of these involved American citizens or businesses.
Eleven incidents involved kidnappings of one or more American citizens, all of whom were eventually released. Seven of those kidnapped worked for American companies in the energy business or providing services to it Halliburton, Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Noble Drilling and Erickson Air-Crane.
Five bombings were on the list. The best known killed 17 American sailors on the destroyer Cole, as it was anchored in a Yemeni port, and wounded 39. A bomb at a McDonald's in France killed a local citizen there. The other explosions outside the United States embassy in the Philippines, at a Citibank office in Greece, and in the offices of Newmont Mining in Indonesia caused mostly property damage and no loss of life. In the 17th incident, vandals trashed a McDonald's in South Africa.
The greatest risk is clear: if you are drilling for oil in Colombia or in nations like Ecuador, Nigeria or Indonesia you should take appropriate precautions; otherwise Americans have little to fear.
Although high-profile incidents have fostered the perception that terrorism is becoming more lethal, the numbers say otherwise, and early signs suggest that the decade beginning in 2000 will continue the downward trend. A major reason for the decline is the current reluctance of countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya, which once eagerly backed terrorist groups, to provide safe havens, funding and training.
The most violent and least reported source of international terrorism is the undeclared war between Islamists and Hindus over the disputed Kashmir region of India, bordering Pakistan. Although India came in second in terms of the number of terrorist incidents in 2000, with 63, it accounted for almost 50 percent of all resulting deaths, with 187 killed, and injuries, with 337 hurt. Most of the blame lies with radical groups trained in Afghanistan and operating from Pakistan.
I am not soft on terrorism; I believe strongly in remaining prepared to confront it. However, when the threat of terrorism is used to justify everything from building a missile defense to violating constitutional rights (as in the case of some Arab-Americans imprisoned without charge), it is time to take a deep breath and reflect on why we are so fearful.
Part of the blame can be assigned to 24-hour broadcast news operations too eager to find a dramatic story line in the events of the day and to pundits who repeat myths while ignoring clear empirical data. Politicians of both parties are also guilty. They warn constituents of dire threats and then appropriate money for redundant military installations and new government investigators and agents.
Finally, there are bureaucracies in the military and in intelligence agencies that are desperate to find an enemy to justify budget growth. In the 1980's, when international terrorism was at its zenith, NATO and the United States European Command pooh-poohed the notion of preparing to fight terrorists. They were too busy preparing to fight the Soviets. With the evil empire gone, they "discovered" terrorism as an important priority.
I hope for a world where facts, not fiction, determine our policy. While terrorism is not vanquished, in a world where thousands of nuclear warheads are still aimed across the continents, terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way.
Larry C. Johnson is a former State Department counterterrorism specialist.
Another one of that crow is Ray McGovern, who could give Phillip Agee a run for him money in the turncoat Olympics.
Lest we forget.
A jewel! Great find!
"Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism."
July 10, 2001.
...and welcome to FR too!
Once, after I contacted him following an ABC Nightline appearance of his with Jennings, I asked him why he was supporting the 5th Column while we were at war. I asked him why he thought that he should go out of his way to appear on TV to side with Wilson and those attacking and shamelessly smearing the president and Commander in Chief, if all he was telling me was that he wanted to find out who leaked Plame's name.
Was he concerned about the unprofessionalism and unreliability of Wilson and Plame in the story that they were all too happy to create and how that related to the war or was he concerned that a counter-proliferation specialist had concluded that Saddam was innocent before even sending her mendacious husband to go and ask his friends whether Saddam had approached them to purchase uranium from them? His evasive answer was NO.
Thanks. For those who might not know, this is what it I am referencing:
AN OPEN STATEMENT TO THE LEADERS OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE SENATE.
The Honorable Dennis Hastert, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
The Honorable Dr. William Frist, Majority Leader of the Senate
The Honorable Harry Reid, Minority Leader of the Senate
We, the undersigned former U.S. intelligence officers are concerned with the tone and substance of the public debate over the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other members of the media, which exposed her status as an undercover CIA officer. The disclosure of Ms. Plame?s name was a shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, may have damaged U.S. national security and poses a threat to the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering using human sources. Any breach of the code of confidentiality and cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence workers and their sources.
The Republican National Committee has circulated talking points to supporters to use as part of a coordinated strategy to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. As part of this campaign a common theme is the idea that Ambassador Wilson?s wife, Valerie Plame was not undercover and deserved no protection. The following are four recent examples of this ?talking point?:
Michael Medved stated on Larry King Live on July 12, 2005, ?And let's be honest about this. Mrs. Plame, Mrs. Wilson, had a desk job at Langley. She went back and forth every single day.?
Victoria Toensing stated on a Fox News program with John Gibson on July 12, 2005 that, ?Well, they weren't taking affirmative measures to protect that identity. They gave her a desk job in Langley. You don't really have somebody deep undercover going back and forth to Langley, where people can see them.?
Ed Rodgers, Washington Lobbyist and former Republican official, said on July 13, 2005 on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, ?And also I think it is now a matter of established fact that Mrs. Plame was not a protected covert agent, and I don't think there's any meaningful investigation about that.?
House majority whip Roy Blunt (R, Mo), on Face the Nation, July 17, 2005, ?It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the CIA might have been overzealous in sort of maintaining the kind of top-secret definition on things longer than they needed to. You know, this was a job that the ambassador's wife had that she went to every day. It was a desk job. I think many people in Washington understood that her employment was at the CIA, and she went to that office every day.?
These comments reveal an astonishing ignorance of the intelligence community and the role of cover. The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who ?work at a desk? in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected.
While we are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation and that the U.S. Attorney General has recused himself, we believe that the partisan attacks against Valerie Plame are sending a deeply discouraging message to the men and women who have agreed to work undercover for their nation?s security.
We are not lawyers and are not qualified to determine whether the leakers technically violated the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. However, we are confident that Valerie Plame was working in a cover status and that our nation?s leaders, regardless of political party, have a duty to protect all intelligence officers. We believe it is appropriate for the President to move proactively to dismiss from office or administratively punish any official who participated in any way in revealing Valerie Plame's status. Such an act by the President would send an unambiguous message that leaks of this nature will not be tolerated and would be consistent with his duties as the Commander-in-Chief.
We also believe it is important that Congress speak with one non-partisan voice on this issue. Intelligence officers should not be used as political footballs. In the case of Valerie Plame, she still works for the CIA and is not in a position to publicly defend her reputation and honor. We stand in her stead and ask that Republicans and Democrats honor her service to her country and stop the campaign of disparagement and innuendo aimed at discrediting Mrs. Wilson and her husband.
Our friends and colleagues have difficult jobs gathering the intelligence, which helps, for example, to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans at home and abroad. They sometimes face great personal risk and must spend long hours away from family and friends.
They serve because they love this country and are committed to protecting it from threats from abroad and to defending the principles of liberty and freedom. They do not expect public acknowledgement for their work, but they do expect and deserve their government?s protection of their covert status.
For the good of our country, we ask you to please stand up for every man and woman who works for the U.S. intelligence community and help protect their ability to live their cover.
Larry Johnson <
Someone please tell me he is not a CIA analyst anymore!
Sounds like a Democrat alright.
I should hope that some unbiased aspiring reporter will nail him to the wall with this stark revelation! Good find!
"Our friends and colleagues have difficult jobs gathering the intelligence, which helps, for example, to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans at home and abroad.
-- Larry Johnson"
Some seem to find the job more difficult than others. Even impossible.
"They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.
None of these beliefs are based in fact."
Why on earth should we want to hear this idiot's thoughts on anything, let alone Plame and Wilson--which is clearly over his head (and paygrade)?
Sam Hill has done great things in a short time!
Think I will e-m the article, and the following, to this Larry, and begin with , "Hey, Stupid!!"
'A former CIA officer, Johnson was deputy director of the U.S. State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993. In this interview, conducted September 12, 2001, he explains why our perception of Osama bin Laden and his organization may be wrong, what we know about bin Laden's involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings and the 2000 USS Cole attack, and the degree of warnings leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the U.S.
Leading up to January 2000, the millennium, everybody's expecting the possibility of a big terrorist attack. Tell me what happens, and how it affects in any way how we think about Osama bin Laden.
We've got to avoid personalizing this too much. Bin Laden is a symbolic head of a movement of religious fanatics who want to purge the world of evil. And the United States is the symbol of that evil. That said, they do not have the global reach of General Motors. And they do not have the political sophistication that you would associate with a major political movement in the world. They tend to be very ideological and very crude.
Consequently, in the face of security measures [on the eve of the millennium] and the cooperation of other governments, their attempts to launch attacks at certain targets were thwarted. What we've seen, looking back [from] the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993] up through yesterday's World Trade Center disaster, we now know things about bin Laden that we didn't two or three years ago.
We now know, for example, bin Laden was meeting with Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah security chief. Mughniyah, until yesterday, had killed more Americans than bin Laden, had wounded more Americans than bin Laden. Mughniyah was involved with the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the takeover of TWA 847, and the murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem, the apprehension of several Americans who were held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon.
So this is an individual who has been aggressive in his attacks against America. And we now know through testimony that came out in the trial in New York City on the bombing of the U.S. embassy, that Mughniyah was the mentor, the ideological inspiration, for Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden saw Mughniyah as one who used violence to force the United States to retreat from Lebanon. And he believed that that same model could be used against the United States to force it out of Saudi Arabia and to punish it.
Let's break that down. How does that lesson get learned? It starts, as you say, earlier, circa the millennium?
In the millennium we still did not know that.
So, at the millennium, what do we know?
Well, at the millennium, we know that [bin Laden is] holed up in Afghanistan. He is working with ideological sympathizers, some who have their roots with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, some who have their roots with the armed Islamic group of Algeria. They've sort of merged together. Because although they come from different countries, they share a common vision of destroying the United States, eradicating the stain of U.S. influence that they view as sinful. And you've got to confront the sin by destroying it. '
too long to paste it all, but it is fascinating.
Boy that CIA was right on top of things in the summer of 2001. Way to spot a trend. Intelligence is their middle name.
Too bad they forgot what their mission was. They seem to think they are paid to play political games.
I never knew there was such a big difference between an 'intelligence analyst' and an 'intelligent analyst'.
What was your last FR SN?
Prescient liberal. What else could be expected from them. They refuse to understand human nature and the nature of islam.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.