INTERVIEW: Richard Minister - Author of "Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror"

By Ryan Mauro

Richard Miniter is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror." A veteran investigative journalist, he was a member of the award-winning Sunday Times of London investigative team whose four-part series traced the secret war between Clinton and bin Laden.

Miniter has won awards from the National Press Club and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He has also won the Felix Morley Prize, an international journalism award given by the Institute for Humane Studies. In 2001, he was runner-up for "best business journalist of the year."

Formerly, Miniter was an editorial page writer at The Wall Street Journal Europe and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com.

He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor as well as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, National Review, Reason and Reader's Digest.

His first book, entitled The Myth of Market Share (Random House/ Crown Business, 2002), has been translated into Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Hebrew. A Washington Post reviewer wrote that "Every top executive should be required to read the Myth of Market Share."

In 1996, Miniter was executive producer of "Enterprising Women," a weekly radio series distributed on more than 100 public radio stations across America. The program was hosted by award-wining news anchor Christy Brown. The New York Post called Miniter's series "the radio equivalent of a female Forbes magazine" and CNN hailed it as "inspirational."

He graduated from Vassar College with a degree in philosophy. Currently, he divides his time between Brussels, Belgium and Washington, D.C.

RM: I have documented the links between Iraq and Bin Laden extensively. How come the 9-11 Commission and some politicians ignore the links?

I don't think they have ignored the links completely. 911 Commisioner Philip Zelikow told me that he bought dozens of copies of my book Losing Bin Laden--which includes a lengthy appendix on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection. I believe they were also familiar with the work of Stephen Hayes and the many government reports and volumes of congressional testimony--including that of CIA Director George Tenet. For some reason, they did not consider it fully relevant to the investigation of 911. While I am sure that politics played the role it usually does in human affairs, I think there are good, objective reasons for them not to tread down this path.

RM:What do you make of the State Department's role in foreign policy?

The State Dept. is supposed to be the foreign policy agency--but that role has spread to other agencies since World War II, for better or for worse. I don't see much difference between the CIA and State Dept. view of the world or of terrorism, perhaps because these people are drawn from similar class and educational background and perhaps because foreign service officers and CIA case officers spend so much time co-habitating in embassies and consulates around the world.

But perhaps I am dodging the thrust of your question. If you are asking if I generally find myself in the agreement with the State Dept., I'd have to say no on a lot of issues. I don't have much faith in UN and other multi-lateral institutions--they tend to be dumping grounds for failed politicians and bureaucrats. And I have talked to enough Iraqis to know they not only do not consider the UN neutral, but view it as an ally of Saddam--even now. And it is manifestly corrupt, even far beyond the bounds of Oil-for-Food scandal. I also do not like State's view that the borders of nation-states must in all cases be preserved (sometimes succession can be quite good as the Sloevians learned) or that sovreignity of brutal dictatorships must always be protected or alliances must include the biggest critics of US policy or they are worthless and so on.


RM: How much safer do you think the 9-11 Commission's suggestions, such as making a national intelligence director, will make America?

I do not favor the creation of National Intelligence Director--and the former head of Mossad, Ephraim Halevy agrees with me. Group-think and foolish consensus is at the root of many intelligence failues. (Indeed, it is at the root of many media failures as well.) What we need is a riot of competing interpretations--and let the elected and appointed policy makers choosewhat seems best. Exposing ideas and settled opinions to arguement and competition is what produces better ideas, not a kind of politically correct conformity. The point is to understand the world, not make sure all of the bureaucrats agree.

RM: There's lots of evidence being found by the Iraq Survey Group that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. Why is this going unnoticed?

I have no reason to doubt that military intelligene and CIA are taking seriosuly the possibility that Saddam shipped WMDs and other weapons outside Iraq's borders--while Powell pleaded before the UN. The other alternative, which no one seems to mention anymore, is that the weapons are still in Iraq.

RM: Do you personally believe 9-11 specifically, and attacks like it, could have been prevented?

Yes, the 911 attacks could have been prevented--but only before 2000. Most of the principal players entered the US in that year and may have had confederates who arrived much earlier. It would have required a stunning intelligence coup to stop the attacks after Jan. 2001. Remember, the CIA never penetrated the Kremlin in 50 years--it had turncoats who came forward to spill the USSR's secrets, which is not quite the same thing. The 911 plot was small enough that penetrating the cells would have been difficult, even if the CIA or FBI knew they exisited.

As for the "warnings" people talk about, my understanding is that they were general and vague. Not enough to know what kind of attack was coming or by whom.

RM: What do you make of the 9-11 Commission's statements about Iranian assistance to Al-Qaeda and possibly 9-11? Is it possible that two state sponsors (Iraq and Iran) could play roles in a single plot like 9-11?

It is well known that Iran funded Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's no. 2, on and off since 1988. It is very likely, as I discuss in Chapter one of "Shadow War" that Iran is now funding al Qaeda and providing it with safe harbor. I could go on at length here, and am mulling over writing a book about Iran and al Qaeda. Let's just say that al Qaeda has had a number of state sponsors over the years--much like the Abu Nidal Organization--and that those sponsors include Iraq and Iran.

RM: Analysts constantly cite the Russian FSB, British MI6, and Israeli Mossad as intelligence services way ahead of our's. Why is it that the most powerful country in the world falls so behind in the intelligence wars?

Russia and Israel are very good at internal and neighboring threats. British and American intelligence are so closely interlinked that they are essentially one, especially when it comes to signal intelligence. Let's assume the premise of the question is correct, so what? These four share a lot of intel. If the US-UK is better at intercepting phone calls and reading encrypted e-mails and the Israelis and the Russians (and I would add the French) are better at human intelligence, but all of these services share (and they do), does it really matter in practicial terms?

That is not to say that there aren't a million things that US intel could be doing better.

RM: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the fate of Iraq?

I am optimistic about Iraq--partly because I have been there.

The economy is improving markedly. The saddam-era inflation is gone. Iraq has total, unilateral free trade with the world until Jan 2005. That has led to surge in consumer goods and middle-man jobs. The number of cars on the roads has tripled since liberation. And so on. So Iraqis have economic hope where they had none before.

Local and regional elections have gone well. There is a vibrant free press, boasting more than 200 newspapers--none of which existed under Saddam. Non-sunnis and women can now attend universitites and take professional jobs. So people are already enjoying some of the benefits of democratic government and social freedom.

Yes crime and violence remain a problem. But they were problems under Saddam as well. But ordinary Iraqis have reason to hope in a number of areas. They don't need the American television networks to tell them what is going on--they live it everyday. And, on balance, for them it is getting better. That is why I am optimistic.

Also, after Fallujah, Samara and so on, the insurgency is running out of strongholds.

RM: How come we're not seeing more action being taken to assist the freedom fighters of Iran and Syria? It appears as if the US government departments are divided, thus thwarting any effective, unified policy or strategy.

I don't know enough about the freedom fighters (if that is what they are) in Syria to say anything intelligent. As for Iran, I think that covert assistance to the young democrats of Iran is about to increase sharply. That is both a hope and a prediction.

Ryan Mauro is a geopolitical analyst. He began working for Tactical Defense Concepts (www.tdconcepts.com), a maritime-associated security company in 2002. In 2003, Mr. Mauro joined the Northeast Intelligence Network (www.homelandsecurityus.com), which specializes in tracking and assessing terrorist threats. He has appeared on over 20 radio shows and had articles published in over a dozen publications. His book "Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq" is scheduled to be published in the coming months. In addition to writing for the Global Politician, he publishes his own web site called World Threats. He may be reached at tdcanalyst@aol.com