Former CIA Director James Woolsey says the U.S. is a “bit safer” than it was before 9/11, but it’s still not safe. He says that the Islamic State is “hideous” in its large scale executions, but in terms of international stability, the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon is the bigger threat to the U.S. because it would lead to more nuclear proliferation in the region and escalate terror threats.
Mike German, a former FBI special agent and a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, says terrorism is a persistent threat, but a low-level one. “I think one of the problems we've had in the last 15 years is that we focus overwhelmingly on one threat.” According to a Homeland Security report released last month, the terror threat level in the U.S. is high and is getting “steadily worse.” The “Terror Threat Snapshot” says there are more U.S.-based jihadist terror cases in 2015 so far than in any full year since 9/11.
I think one of the problems we've had in the last 15 years is that we focus overwhelmingly on one threat.
A former FBI special agent
The war on terror
The war on terror has been controversial from the start. Two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, countless drone strikes, enhanced security, NSA surveillance, enhanced interrogations which many consider torture are just some of the tools the U.S. has used in an effort to make America safe. Woolsey says these methods have worked to some extent and argues that waterboarding produced extremely important information that helped find Osama bin Laden. German argues that the real issue isn’t whether waterboarding could ever produce a piece of useful information, but that it produces false information. “You wind up spending more time chasing false leads which is what the Senate Committee found happened.”
The root of terror
Many, including Woolsey argue that Islamic ideology is what drives people to join extremist groups like ISIL and social media has made it easy for radical ideas to be spread. Dr. Saud Anwar, the chairman of American Muslim Peace Initiative, says this is why the U.S. should not marginalize its number one ally in the war on terror, the Muslim community. “When the young boys and girls who are born into this country are told they don’t belong… they become vulnerable to messages from other parts of the world.” Woolsey grants that the majority of Muslims do not support extremism and violence, but “when there is a terrorist motivated by Islam… and you're calling jihad, they should not get their feelings hurt.”
When the young boys and girls who are born into this country are told they don’t belong… they become vulnerable to messages from other parts of the world.
Dr. Saud Anwar
Chair, American Muslim Peace Initiative
Tune in for the debate
Sunday on Third Rail, we ask: 14 years after 9/11, is the U.S. safe from another attack? Former CIA Director James Woolsey, Mike German, a former FBI agent and a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice and Dr. Saud Anwar, the chairman of American Muslim Peace Initiative, join us Sunday for the debate. Tune in at 6PM ET/3PM PT on Al Jazeera America.