Tags: 5 | 000 | Terrorists | Rolled | Up: | Hayden

5,000 Terrorists Rolled Up: Hayden

Monday, 25 September 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- At least 5,000 terrorists have been captured or killed since 9/11, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in an interview.

Most of the terrorists have been rolled up by the CIA or with the agency's help. In some cases, the agency has killed terrorists, either with its paramilitary officers or its armed Predator drone aircraft. In other cases, the agency has fed leads to the military, the FBI, and foreign countries leading to capture of terrorists. CIA officers often participate in their capture as well.

"Al-Qaida's core operational leadership has been decimated, and their successors are in hiding or on the run," according to Hayden.

Despite those successes, "The organization remains capable of attacking us, because they're constantly evolving, and they're constantly trying to get back on track," Michael Morell, the CIA's associate deputy director, said in an interview following the meeting with Hayden. "And their command and control, to some extent, remains in place, and their ambition in no way has been diminished. They want nothing more than to have a success here in the homeland. The U.K. plotting is another example of that. So their capabilities, although diminished, remain. And that's why keeping up the pace here is so critically important."

Morell is now the number three CIA official, below Stephen R. Kappes. A former Moscow and Kuwait Station chief, Kappes played a pivotal role in secret talks that led Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya to give up his program to develop weapons of mass destruction. He resigned from the CIA when Patrick Murray, who was chief of staff to then CIA Director Porter Goss, ordered Kappes to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, after Sulick criticized Murray over the nasty way he had treated another CIA officer. By bringing Kappes back to the agency and promoting him to deputy director, Hayden made his own statement.

Mike Morell's seventh floor office at CIA headquarters provides a view of the agency skyline from the inside — all the buildings with their hundreds of green-tinted windows, the water tower, the woods beyond. Displayed on a cabinet is a signed photo of Bush and Morell posing at the Crawford ranch with the president's dogs, Barney and the late Spot.

Morell is preppy and boyish with light brown hair tufted at the part and wearing wire-rimmed glasses. Soft spoken, he speaks the clear, precise language of the briefer, choosing his words well and effortlessly.

Morell's right hand is like another person in the room — tapping fingers, wiggling fingers, his index finger drifting in the air to make a point. When he mentions George Bush, Morell makes a loose fist with the thumb sitting on top. When he refers to protecting the American people, his hand makes a kind of fence on the arm of his chair.

Remembering events of the morning of 9/11, Morell said he gave Bush his intelligence briefing in his suite at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, an 11-mile-long barrier island between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay off the coast of Florida. It was a gorgeous day, the sky crystal clear. The briefing was from 8:00 to 8:30.

"As soon as the briefing was over, I went down and got into my place in the motorcade, which was the van carrying the senior staff, so it was Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett and Ari Fleischer," Morell said. "And it was on the drive from the Colony Resort to the school that Ari Fleischer's phone rang, and he answered his phone. He chatted with somebody for about five seconds, and he turned around and said, ‘Michael, do you know anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center?' And I said, ‘No, I'll make some calls.'"

At that point, everyone thought a small airplane had lost its way. Morell called the CIA operations center and learned that the airplane was a commercial jet.

"It was only a couple minutes later when the second plane hit," Morell said. "Then it was all clear what had happened. The president came into the senior staff area there, made some phone calls, talked to the vice president, talked to Condi Rice, talked to the FBI director, wrote out what he was going to say to the nation when he went back into the classroom. He went back into the classroom, and the Secret Service said to us, ‘As soon as he's done in there, we're going to Air Force One, so if you're not in the motorcade, you're going to be left behind.' So everybody kind of rushed out into the motorcade and went back to Air Force One."

As they were flying from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to Omaha, Bush asked to see him.

"Who do you think did this?" Bush asked.

"There's a couple of countries who have the capability to do this — Iran and Iraq would have the capabilities to do this," Morell said to him. "But they've got nothing to gain, and everything to lose, in doing this. I don't think it's one of those countries. There's no evidence, there's no data, but I would pretty much bet everything that I own that the trail will end with al-Qaida and bin Laden."

"When will we know?" Bush asked.

Morell reviewed the previous al-Qaida attacks and recounted how and when the U.S. determined that the terrorist group was behind them.

"Little did I know," Morell recalled in the interview, "that at that moment, folks at the CIA had already linked three of the hijackers to al-Qaida. They had done name traces on the flight manifests. And when we got to Omaha, and we got to the briefing area, George [Tenet] briefed the president on the fact that we already knew three of these guys were al-Qaida."

After bin Laden's organization detonated two truck bombs that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, Tenet, as DCI, had publicly proclaimed bin Laden the greatest threat to the United States.

"It was during those moments when I was with the president that I saw this determination," Morell said. "And it was in the days after, in the Oval Office every morning, that I saw this determination for not only bringing to justice and finding those folks who did 9/11, but doing everything in his power and authority to make sure that it didn't happen again."

The fact that there has not been a successful attack in the United States since 9/11 "just didn't happen," Morell said. "It's the result of some terrific work by the intelligence community and by the homeland security team. The intelligence community, in large part CIA, but with the support of NSA and others, have done a pretty remarkable job of continuously degrading the senior leadership of al-Qaida — capturing, taking away their Afghan safe haven, capturing and killing a significant number of senior leadership."

The effort has "narrowed their movement in the tribal areas, disrupted their funding streams, made it very difficult for them to communicate securely, and forced them to rely on less experienced operatives in senior leadership," Morell said. Referring to Osama bin Laden and other senior leaders, Morell said, "They quite frankly worry first and foremost about their own security."

In addition, the U.S. now obtains better intelligence, penetrating plots and stopping them before they happen.

"While we've won many battles, this war is going to be a very long one," Morell said. "Because the battles are about taking terrorists off the street and disrupting plots; the war is about winning hearts and minds. The war is about stopping the production of terrorists. That's how you ultimately win this war, and that takes a whole government. We're headed in the right direction on that, I think. But that is not going to be easy."

In a speech last April, Hayden, as deputy director of national intelligence, addressed the effect of Iraq on the war on terror, putting in context some of the conclusions of a National Intelligence Estimate completed that month. A recent New York Times story, followed by others in The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, gave a distorted view of those findings, according to intelligence sources.

"The centrality of Iraq to the jihadists cuts both ways," Hayden said in San Antonio. "Just as the war there seems to currently inspire or at least motivate jihadists, their failure in Iraq would weaken the movement globally. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we believe fewer fighters will step forward to carry on the fight."

Asked about the proposition that going after terrorists and perceived threats creates more terrorists, Morell said, "I don't know how you don't take them on, when they want to kill you."

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WASHINGTON -- At least 5,000 terrorists have been captured or killed since 9/11, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in an interview. Most of the terrorists have been rolled up by the CIA or with the agency's help. In some cases, the...
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