Monitor Breakfast: William Webster

Selected quotations from the Monitor breakfast with William Webster

On US Relations with Iraq:

"I would be trying to force the issue of re-instituting (weapons) inspections."

On a congressional review of intelligence failures concerning Sept. 11:

"I know people on the Hill are already starting to talk about forming a commission. I just hope they will take their time on that because the agencies are all working very well together and they are working all energy out. They are not pointing fingers at each other.

"In my mind it would be very dangerous if we started an exercise of "who shot John or who failed to shoot John." We will learn as we go along. I have reviewed all of (CIA Director) George Tenant's statements to the Hill. And it is clear to me the agency was pointing out in very general terms the nature of an enhancing threat to our security through terrorist activity. (The reports included warnings we) would likely be looking for soft targets, and there would likely be simultaneous events. All of which turned out to be true."

On intelligence failure:

What happened September 11 "is not so much a failure of intelligence but a failure of imagination. We are going to have to think unthinkable things...."

On what September 11 terrorists knew:

"I am still of the view that some of the (terrorists) on the airplanes did not know what the target was." With terrorist groups holding information that tightly, "getting inside one of those (organizations) is extremely difficult."

Who is responsible for anthrax attacks?

"The Al Queda group utilizes associates ... who do some of the dirty work. I think they have other associations with people who can be encouraged to weigh in and do things like this. So I would not be surprised to see people who spent a good deal of time in this country be found to be responsible (for the anthrax attacks). Whether or not they were the ones who created the product or not remains to be seen."

The struggle for the mind of the Muslim world:

"We seem to be losing the public diplomacy struggle at this time. I know people are giving it very serious thought.... Some of (the problem) was an economic decision of shrinking USIA (United States Information Agency) down. (We) have not done a good enough job because we shrank our tools down so much in the past decade. We need to build it up and build it up badly. Otherwise you can expect this to go on forever. "

Tom Ridge's authority as director of homeland security:

"He needs more than being close to the president. The president has a lot on his plate. It is not going to be possible for him (the president) to intervene every time there is a bureaucratic turf problem. I would feel more comfortable if there were at least an executive order that made it clear that he has, in fact, authority to make things happen."

Risk of panic by the American people:

"The remarkable thing to me all over this country was how well Americans were taking this first round of experience -- how helpful they tried to be ...almost zero bitching. I was so proud of that. And I think that is why a lot of us are wearing flags. Up to that point, I was saying if bin Laden and those people were trying to divide us, it had the opposite effect.

"Now we confront the next wave of problems. We are hearing complaints government is not really taking care of us. There is a risk of eroding that sense of unity and purpose and resolve and patience ... I think it is a risk and I think it has to be addressed."

Terrorism of the future:

"Purposeful high level of destruction and if possible maximum loss of life. That seems to be the wave of the future."

The need for international cooperation again terrorism:

"The most important thing I might say all morning -- intelligence cooperation among nations who have a common concern about terrorism may be the real key to making sure we get the information in time to head it off before something happens.

"Today countries like France that used to be a sanctuary, countries like Greece that did not want to get in trouble, Italy, they are all helping now. That sharing of information against a common enemy develops and that is a lesson we learned. When that happens we really can do something."

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