- (AFP) - A top Central Intelligence Agency official has
warned Americans that a new terrorist attack is unavoidable, despite all
efforts to prevent it and the fact that the CIA is now "stealing more
secrets" than ever.
- "Now for the hard truth. Despite the best efforts
of so much of the world, the next terrorist attack -- it's not a question
of if, it's a question of when," CIA Deputy Director for Operation
James Pavitt told an academic conference earlier this month.
- "With so many possible targets and an enemy more
than willing to die, the perfect defense isn't possible."
- Pavitt said mounting foolproof countermeasures against
terrorism would require sacrificing many civil liberties, which make American
society great, and, as a result, would produce a system that, in his view,
"is not worth defending."
- The warning was contained in an address delivered by
Pavitt, who is in charge of all clandestine operations conducted by the
agency, at an April 11 conference at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
The CIA released its transcript over this weekend.
- US law enforcement agencies are already on heightened
alert after the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued at least two
terrorism warnings over the past 10 days.
- The FBI said it had intelligence about attacks being
planned against financial institutions in northeastern US states and against
- Pavitt dismissed charges the CIA was caught unaware by
September 11 suicide attacks in the United States that killed some 3,000
- The CIA knew the network led by Saudi-born militant Osama
bin Laden was planning a major strike, he said.
- But he argued that because al-Qaeda carefully screened
its recruits and sharply limited the number of people privy to vital operational
details, learning about the coming attacks was next to impossible.
- "Against that degree of control, that kind of compartmentation,
that depth of discipline and fanaticism, I personally doubt ... that anything
short of one of the knowledgeable inner circle personnel or hijackers turning
himself in to us would have given us sufficient foreknowledge to have prevented
the horrendous slaughter that took place on the 11th," Pavitt said.
- But he emphasized the CIA had never left Afghanistan
in the wake in the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from the country and continued
actively collect intelligence there throughout the ensuing civil war, information
that proved vital during Operation Enduring Freedom, launched in the wake
of the terror strikes.
- "How we knew who to approach on the ground, which
operations, which warlord to support, what information to collect?"
the deputy director asked. "Quite simply, we were there well before
the 11th of September."
- Despite the common belief that US military operations
in Afghanistan began October 7, Pavitt said CIA paramilitary teams "trained
not just to observe conditions but if need be to change them" were
on the ground in Afghanistan "within days of that terrible attack."
- And hundreds of CIA operatives remain in the country
hunting down the remnants of the al-Qaeda network and the Taliban regime,
according to the CIA deputy director.
- Without providing any details, Pavitt acknowledged his
agency's intelligence-gathering capabilities had been tremendously boosted
since September 11 and now exceed those it had during the Cold War.
- "Today, the year 2002, I have more spies stealing
more secrets than at any time in the history of the CIA," he said,
adding that the agency was now training more than 10 times as many operatives
than just five or six years ago.
- The number of operational personnel employed by the CIA
as well as the size of the agency's budget remains classified.
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