2004 Conference Wrap Up
» 2004 Spy Conference: A Student's Notes
Below article courtesy of Metro Magazine Online Archives
Top Experts Outline Strategies at Raleigh Conference
This year, the Raleigh International Spy Conference turned from Cold War intrigue to modern terrorism,
keying on the critical importance of intelligence and its uses. After an overview session Wednesday evening,
September 1, by Dr. James Leutze, military scholar and former chancellor of UNC-Wilmington, retired FBI
special agent Tom Kimmel kicked off the next morning's conference day with "Pearl Harbor and 9-11 Compared."
Former Member of Parliament and noted intelligence expert Nigel West explained in the following session how the
UK dealt with and finally defeated the IRA, drawing startling parallels with the ongoing struggle against Al-Qaeda.
In the afternoon sessions, US State Department threat analyst Dennis Pluchinsky presented a detailed description of
modern terrorist organizations worldwide and the scenarios of another attack in the US. He was followed by Kim
Cragin, a RAND Corporation researcher specialized in the study of suicide bombers, who flew from Israel to Raleigh
to deliver her talk. Cragin presented charts and research data explaining the groups who use suicide bombing,
their level of activity and a profile of the recruits who carry the explosives.
Friday morning, after a concluding panel including all speakers who took questions from the over 200 attendees,
Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Washington, DC, office of the RAND Corporation and one of the founders of the modern
study of terrorism, delivered the keynote address for the conference with an in-depth analysis of Al-Qaeda and what
we can expect from the terrorist organization in the future.
The Raleigh International Spy Conference was founded by Bernie Reeves and is presented annually by Metro Magazine and
the North Carolina Museum of History and its Associates Group. Go to www.raleighspyconference.com for the conference
schedule and updates for the 2005 event. Senior Editor Rick Smith covered the conference for Metro and files this report.
Spy Conference Analyzes Terrorism
by Rick Smith
To understand terrorism and why it has become a global threat today, speakers at the second annual Raleigh International
Spy Conference laid out a history of how the United States and Great Britain have used and misused information in the
past and what the current threat looks like today.
Whether or not ignoring or misdirecting intelligence could have prevented the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, or the
9-11 attack in 2001or choosing to fight a conventional war on an unconventional enemy was a wise choice, experts laid
out in riveting detail just how big (global) and long (decades) the struggle to prevail will be. Offering different spins
and views about terror, the disparate group, ranging from Dr. Bruce Hoffman, perhaps the worlds foremost expert on terrorism,
to Tom Kimmel, a former FBI agent and grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel who was in command of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl
Harbor; and Nigel West, the widely published and respected author of 26 books about espionage and terrorism; to State Department
threat analyst Dennis Pluchinsky; and Kim Craginan expert on the phenomenon of suicide bombers, made one conclusion quite clear:
If the United States is to defeat terror, its leaders and users of intelligence must better understand their resilient and
patient enemies, such as Osama bin Laden, and be willing to use ruthless tactics to succeed. As West put it, the United States
must lose its naivet. Drastic times call for drastic means, he said, as the United Kingdom discovered in its war with the
Irish Republican Army.
Not every speaker agreed that victory could indeed be won. President Bush conceded in a recent interview that terror as an
entity would not be destroyed by victory sealed in a formal surrender ceremony.
The seeds of Pearl Harbor
Tom Kimmel knows firsthand how federal government debates over use of wiretaps, exchanges of data between agencies, the
hoarding of intelligence and the use of grand jury testimony can prevent cohesive responses to terror. He worked for the
FBI in 1995 when the infamous memo was written by Jamie Gorelick of the Clinton Justice Department that created the so-called "wall,"
banning certain cooperation between the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, most notably the CIA.
Kimmel has studied another intelligence and bureaucratic squabble Pearl Harbor, the surprise attack that ruined the career of
his grandfather and catapulted the United States into war with Japan.
"The seeds of 9-11 were planted at Pearl Harbor," said Kimmel, whose grandfather and US Army General Walter Short were made
scapegoats for the failure to anticipate the Japanese surprise attack. "Good intelligence fell on deaf ears then, and in the
case of 9-11, policy failed when the many government agencies tracking terrorists failedor were prevented fromexchanging
data." Ironically, Kimmel noted, Gorelick served on the 9-11 Commission whose report found no one person or agency accountable
for Al-Qaedas attack.
"Jamie Gorelick was my direct boss," said Kimmel, who recently retired from the FBI and is now fighting to get the Bush
Administration to approve legislation clearing his grandfather and Short of blame for Pearl Harbor. "Mary Jo White (a federal
prosecutor and Democrat) fought the memoand lost. This "wall" problem was indeed a problem."
Kimmel is concerned that despite the calls for intelligence reforms, and the naming of an intelligence czar, the seeds for
another failure remain. "If we continue to ignore the lessons of the Pearl Harbor attack," he added, "then we are doomed to
repeat our failures."
The IRA parallel
Terrorism has been beaten before, as Nigel West, a former Member of Parliament, pointed out in his presentation explaining
the United Kingdoms clandestine war against the Irish Republican Army. The British Army, said West, was not succeeding and
the decision was made to use the services of the MI5, the British security service. But many of the tactics used by the civilian
spy agency, such as eavesdropping and running phony storefronts, would not be permissible in the United States. Rather, the
methods would be considered violations of civil rights, according to West.
Regardless of methods, the end result was victory, West said. "That penny dropped when UK defiance, from the government and
the population in general, made them realize that their goals were never going to be achieved." The IRA and related radical
groups sued for peace.
If the United States is to defeat Al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalists, West said, certain barriers such as restrictive
guidelines on who can be recruited as CIA counter-terror agents must be changed. "This is not penetrating Mother Teresa," he
explained. "This is a dirty business.
This is not a time for glib talk but a time for more hidden sources. Agents are difficult to recruit, to maintain, and their
loyalty must constantly be tested. But this requires political willand political support when things go bad on you." In the Q&A
session, West said the US should drop the faade that the CIA does not operate on home turf and use their "commercial cover" units
to engage in espionage to challenge terrorism at home.
West also pointed out that Americans must realize the extent to which Al-Qaeda and others are more than willing to go in order
to kill Americans. "When you face suicide bombers," he said, "all bets are off. America must shake off their naivet."
Dennis Pluchinsky, a threat analyst and professor of international terror studies at four different universities, spends much
of his time reviewing terrorist Web sites. The videos of captives being beheaded, the statements the terrorists make, and the
rhetoric they write tell Pluchinsky that the American people must realize they are engaged in a battle of fanatical attrition.
"They believe they defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and they believe they can defeat the United States," Pluchinsky
said. He talked about one video called "The Will of the Crusaders"a reference to the United States and the West. The United
States is seen as the new pharaoha term of derision used by Islamists for rulers such as the now deceased leader of modern
Egypt, Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated as a traitor for making peace with Israel. "They do not believe either Israel or the
United States has the spiritual base they do. These global jihadists see the United States as the puppeteer controlling the
world, and they are determined to destroy the puppeteer."
Even if the American public holds up under terrorist pressure as it did in the wake of 9-11, Pluchinsky doesnt see victory
over terror in the conventional sense. The best that can be done is to "manage the threat" and to treat the struggle as crime,
not war. "This is a conflict against crime, not a war against terror," he said. If the US were to frame the fight in different
terms, he said, it would win more support around the globe because "the world understands crime."
Pluchinsky presented videos, charts and graphs to demonstrate how difficult it is to track terrorists and to guess their next
moves. He referred to the term "just connect the dots" and then displayed a graphic of the hundreds of dots representing data
on terrorist groups and how improbable it is that threat analysts will succeed. "You cant expect the government to prevent an
attack," he said, "but you can say that a series of organized attacks can be and have been prevented so far."
In an interview, Pluchinsky stressed that Al-Qaeda is the biggest terror threat the world facesnot Hamas or Hezbollah. "Al-Qaeda
is the only one to have children," he said ominously, pointing out the various Al-Qaeda-related groups, such as those who carried
out the train bombings in Spain and other attacks in Indonesia. But he did acknowledge one group could make Al-Qaeda stronger. "If
they were to combine strengths with the Chechens, that would be a great threat," he said.
Chechens have carried out a series of deadly strikes recently. Female suicide bombers known as Black Widows blew two Russian
aircraft out of the sky, and then days later a team of terrorists seized a school. In the resulting battle, more than 300 people
were killed. More than half were children.
Kim Cragin, a graduate of Duke who works for Rand, studies suicide bombers and pointed out that more women are becoming "the ultimate
smart bomb." She is looking for ways to "undermine the trend toward suicide attacks" but noted that an attack in America is appealing.
"It would be a tremendous public relations coup to attack the United States."
The US is seen as the enemy, she added, not Israel where so many attacks have occurred. The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners has only
intensified that view.
However, Cragin and the other speakers concurred that recruitment of suicide bombers and other terrorist operatives have not been
successful in the US and UK. As Nigel West pointed out: "Once Muslims move here they like it and do not support the terror nor believe
the propaganda on Al-Jazeera. In fact, the only people who believe it are Americans."
Resolve required to gain victory
Keynote speaker Bruce Hoffman brought the conference to a chilling close.
Al-Qaeda, he explained, was "scattered to the wind" by the US invasion of Afghanistan, and 75 percent of its top leaders have been
arrested or killed. "There have been 4000 arrests and yet the organization is growing and rapidly evolving our adversary, unbroken
and unbowed, is more adaptable, nimble and resourceful than we thought; they are resilient and flexible and prepared for a long
struggle. They are still able to recruit, to maintain cells, and to attack."
Al-Qaeda today has more than 18,000 operatives in 60 countries around the globe, according to Hoffman, who compared this to the
low numbers of previous terrorists groups in Europe in the 1960s and 70s, such as the Red Brigade in Italy and the Baader-Meinhoff
gang in Germany, who had at most 30 to 40 active members.
Osama Bin Laden is well-educated, said Hoffman, and unlike leaders of most previous terrorist groups who studied philosophy and
history, Bin-Laden "attended the finest universities in Saudi Arabia and studied economics and public relations." He runs Al-Qaeda
as a chief executive officer," added Hoffman, "reviewing business plans for proposed attacks and then granting his financing and
blessing. He manages "top to bottom," he explained, sometimes becoming personally involved in the details of an operation. "He is
patient and resilient. He planned 9-11 for six years. We have to take him at his word."
As smart CEOs do, bin Laden has prepared for a successor. He has "deliberately created a movement that will outlive him with the
same patience, brain power and planning organization. He preaches patience and steadfastness to his followers," he warned. "Killing or
capturing the leader will not end the movement. His magnetism may be greater in death. In fact, he has said quite often that he welcomes
death and that his death will create thousands like him."
The war on terror cannot be separated from the ongoing war in Iraq, Hoffman stressed. "We have to see that through. If we fail, it will
be a field day for our adversaries to use in recruiting." Calling the Iraq war a "test of fire," Hoffman added, "We must keep Iraq
secure. We must succeed and ensure the elections set for January 2005."
Hoffmans agenda for success against Al-Qaeda demonstrates quite clearly the mountain to be climbed if a flag of victory is to be
planted. Like Pluchinsky, he warned that the struggle is one of attrition. America must avoid complacency, win in Iraq, engage in
bi-lateral agreements if need be, overhaul the image of America to the world with effective public relations, resolve the issue of
terrorist detainees, settle the Palestinian-Israeli issue, "repair and replenish" alliances, and enunciate a clear policy about terror
as did President Truman with his policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union when the Cold War began in 1945.
"The 21st century is more complex than the challenges we faced in the 20th. The enemy is not the USSR," Hoffman warned, but he also
ended on a hopeful note. "We have met each of these threats effectively in the past, no matter where they came from."