Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft

By David T. Cook / March 26, 2002



On what went wrong with US intelligence on Sept. 11:

"One of the principal problems we have is that the borders of the United States are a huge issue for the collection of intelligence. Foreign intelligence collection is the job of the CIA. The CIA may not operate inside the United States. So that when any information, people, what have you, pass the borders of the United States there is a transfer from the CIA responsibility to the FBI. And that is a huge transfer. Because the...FBI agents are trained in law enforcement and the culture of that training is antithetical to that of an intelligence officer. [With] law enforcement you start with an act, something that happened, and you try to find out what has happened and you assemble your evidence and guard your evidence so it is not contaminated. An intelligence officer looks at a bunch of disparate events and tries to put them together to anticipate what they might mean. They approach things from different ends.... Somehow we need to adjust our structure so that we can use domestically acquired foreign intelligence in an intelligence sort of way."

Skip to next paragraph
On US policy concerning Iraq:

"Chances that we will have to have a confrontation with Saddam Hussein are fairly high given his nature. He seems to be implacably bent on recovering his military capability – I assume to threaten the region. Since 1980 he has been on the offensive, first again Iran then against Kuwait and now simply rebuilding by every means he can his military capability. And I see no indication he will change. That is a very serious problem.

He is not a threat to the region right now – still weaker than he was in 1991. The real question is not: Is he a problem that sometime we may have to deal with military force, but it is an issue of timing. We are gradually coming to the end of phase one in the terrorism war with the destruction of the Taliban and the cleaning up of Afghanistan. Phase 2 is going to be much tougher – we are reaching out and starting it in several places like the Philippines.... It is going to be much less military in nature. There are not going to be many countries that want to make the mistake the Afghan government and Taliban did. So it is not that we will have to defeat government forces to get at terrorism. It is going to be primarily long, hard, slow work when we are going to need all of the assets of our own and our friends and allies to uncover these networks. I think an attack now on Iraq would be an enormous diversion..."

On US policy in Iran:

"Iran is a real dilemma – Iran is still run by the conservative mullahs for whom the United States is a great Satan. Iranian policies have been to improve their military capability generally and specifically to...acquire nuclear weapons. This is not new. How much of that is directed at the United States is an open question. That is not a friendly region. Iran is, I think it is fair to say, in a state of transition. Four times now the Iranian people have voted by majorities of up to 70 percent that they want liberalization of the regime. They don't like the present system..... We face a genuine dilemma as to what to do about Iran and who to do it with. Iran is going to be a long time, probably, in making this transition. I believe eventually there will be a liberalized regime because the people seem determined to have one. In the long run, what we need to do is convey to the Iranian people that while our ability to help is limited, that we are with them. And that they will find a warm reception for every step that is taken."

On how US foreign policy has changed since Sept. 11:

"Basically, there has been understanding and a practice of somewhat increased multilateralism and a recognition that we can't do this terrorism job by ourselves. Now there are still lapses in many ways, but I would say that has been the principal change.... I think there has been a shift in our priorities especially in the President's priorities. I think he at least verbally bet his administration on the war on terrorism. This is what he sort of said in some of his early speeches that this is what his mission was. And while it is hard to point to specific change in emphasis on foreign policy, I believe there has been a shift, which has elevated the war on terrorism above some of the other issues..."

On the Middle East situation:

"We have a big problem in the Israeli-Palestinian issue because it is seen in much of the region as a case of the US, if not giving support, than certainly not admonishing Sharon in an issue which deeply effects the Islamic world, the Arab word. And I think that not only reduces support for what we are trying to do, but if you look at polling in the region, leaves people in the region deeply suspect even about the events of Sept. 11 that they were in fact caused by Al Quaeda and not a Jewish plot or even a US plot. Some of the notions are really bizarre."

On when his advisory board's review of US intelligence will be completed:

"The report will be formally submitted any time now. It is a classified report. "

On prospects for change in how intelligence operations are organized:

"...There was a thorough review and (the report) has some significant recommendations. I think they will be useful for the administration to analyze in the light of everything else what it is they want to do."

Permissions