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Clarke's take on terrorism -

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Clarke's take on terrorism


QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Well, a man with intimate knowledge of what is involved in fighting terrorism is
former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke. He's served under four US presidents,
going back to Ronald Reagan, before resigning in 2003. He joins us from our Washington studio.
Richard Clarke, welcome back to Lateline.

RICHARD CLARKE: Good evening, Quentin.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Let's go to the latest insurgency attack in Iraq with the death of those three
officials. Do you have any latest information?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, I think it's part of a pattern of the insurgence, trying now to do targetted
assassinations to kill foreign ambassadors. There have been attacks on the Bahraini and Egyptian
ambassadors, the Jordanian embassy, and on police officials and now on people involved in the
drafting of the Constitution. It's part of the pattern of trying to go after the institutions that
the coalition is attempting to build.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: It sounds, it seems extremely well coordinated.

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it is well coordinated and it suggests that the insurgents have people on the
inside. They know where motorcades are going to be. They know what security is going to be. There's
reason to believe that some of the police and some of the army that the coalition is training are
probably themselves insurgents.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: So, the networks are insoluble, the networks are unbreakable?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, I think there are two kinds of networks. There are the so-called foreign
fighters and intelligence seems to suggest that's about 10 per cent of the insurgents, but about
100 per cent of the suicide bombers. We've now had over 500 suicide bombers in Iraq in the last 18


RICHARD CLARKE: Of course, the others...

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Sorry, go ahead.

RICHARD CLARKE: I was just going to say the other 90 per cent of the insurgents are in fact Sunni
Arabs upset by the US occupation, upset by the fact that the majority Shiia are now going to
dominate the Government.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: So internal politics are playing the greatest role now?

RICHARD CLARKE: I think that's right.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: We'll get to the brutality of the insurgency later in this interview, Richard
Clarke. But let's deal quickly with the Chatham House report published in Britain saying that the
British involvement in Iraq had made Britain, the innocent citizens of Britain, a greater target of
terrorism. Do you agree with that analysis?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, I think it stirred up a lot of emotional response on both sides and people
are talking past each other and not looking at the facts, and there are facts on both sides.
Certainly the British Government is right to say there was terrorism directed against them and the
US and Australia long before the coalition went into Iraq and there would have been terrorism
directed against us even if we were not in Iraq. That's all perfectly true. But it's also true and
demonstrable that the occupation, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has greatly increased the
number of terrorists, given them more motivation and strengthened the Jihadi network. If you look
at the information we have about the foreign fighters and the suicide bombers in Iraq, where we can
do a profile on them we see that prior to the US invasion of Iraq, these people were not active
terrorists in their home countries.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Indeed not. Sorry, go ahead.

RICHARD CLARKE: I think the point is there are lots of people who sit around radical mosques and
complain and spout Jihadi lines, but they don't do anything. Iraq has given them, it's been the
straw that's put them over the top, to mix metaphors. It's given them the motivation to go out and
fight and in many cases to kill themselves.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Well, let's talk about London. What's been the political impact in the US of the
London suicide bombings? Has that changed the dynamic, the thinking?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it's drawn attention finally to the mantra that President Bush keeps chanting
and has chanted now for two or three years, which is, "I would rather fight the terrorists in Iraq
than to fight them here." That is a statement that's illogical on its face because by fighting the
terrorists in Iraq you do nothing to prevent them from coming here and clearly fighting the
terrorists in Iraq did nothing to stop the Spanish or the British from suffering terrorism. So
there's now a focus again on the failure of the Bush administration to improve security here at

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Well, is that true? There's been no further terrorist attacks on US soil since

RICHARD CLARKE: Quite right.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: So it resonates well within the US constituency.

RICHARD CLARKE: It does until there's a terrorist attack and there probably ultimately will be. The
administration says it's going to do various things at home to improve what we now call Homeland
Security, but very, very few of these things have actually been done. They have been begun, but the
funding has been cut, they've been stretched out and we find, for example, that we've only spent
$250 million on rail security, even though 18 times as many people use the rails in this country as
fly and we've spent something like $18 billion on aviation security. So, that's one of many, many
shortcomings that the media and the United States have been focussing on since the London attacks.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Mr Clarke, it's physically impossible for security services to search the
citizens of Australia, the US, the United Kingdom or any other country as they move about their
daily business. You're a former head of counter-terrorism. What practically can be done to protect
the citizens of any country?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, there are lots of things that we have learned that work. Having video
cameras, as London does, may not stop attacks, but it may make it possible after attacks to figure
out who did it and to get the others who were involved in the network before they attack again.
Having lots of police on subways and commuter rail systems randomly checking a few bags here or
there does act as a deterrent, and we know on several occasions Al Qaeda has been waived off from
attacking facilities because the security has been too high.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: This is a huge additional level of domestic security.

RICHARD CLARKE: It need not be huge. We think that smart activity and new technology will allow us
to achieve greater deterrents and reduce our vulnerabilities. You're right. I mean, one could spend
the entire gross national product on this thing. No one is really calling for that. But they are
calling for more than has been done.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Mr Clarke, the UK, and one expects Australia to follow suit, is legislating after
the London bombings to outlaw indirect incitement to terrorism acts preparatory to terrorism and
providing or receiving training for terrorism locally or abroad, the deporting of people suspected
of terrorist links, banning Internet websites with bomb-making manuals, tighter restrictions on the
retailing of chemicals which could be used in bomb-making. This is a piecemeal. This is
predictable, isn't it?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it's predictable, but I think also it works. It was striking to me that the
day of the London bombings there was a man here in the US, a man named Ali al-Tamimi, who was
sentenced to life in prison for incitement to terrorism and material support to terrorism. If you
look at the things he actually did, there are many leaders of the radical Muslim community in
London who had done that and had done much more and were and are now still free wandering around
London. One has to wonder if the British had been applying that kind of American approach for the
last 10 years in London, whether the attacks in London would have happened.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Mr Clarke, is Australia a greater risk now, given our close alliance with the
United States and our involvement in Iraq?

RICHARD CLARKE: It's very hard to say definitively that it's more of a target. It always was a

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Is it more of a target?

RICHARD CLARKE: Perhaps, perhaps. But, I think it's a minor issue that politicians tend to grab on
to and security officials ignore. I think security officials say, "Look, all western countries are
potential targets for this sort of thing. It hasn't been restricted to one or two continents. It
hasn't been restricted to one or two ethnic groups." We all have to assume that terrorism could
happen and therefore look at ways to reduce our vulnerabilities while preserving civil liberties
and that, as you suggested in your previous question, that is the dangerous and difficult balance.
How do we do all of this while maintaining our civil liberties?

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Mr Clarke, when last you appeared on Lateline last August you indicated that
notwithstanding your outrage and objection to President Bush's contrived motivation for going into
Iraq, US withdrawal from Iraq now was not an option. It could create a sanctuary for terrorists. Do
you hold to that view?

RICHARD CLARKE: I do, but I think we also have to ask ourselves whether or not the presence of
coalition forces is in itself the major motivation for the insurgency. There's always going to be
some instability in Iraq, probably for the next decade. I think we ought to ask ourselves if
coalition forces leave in 2006 or 2007, compared to their leaving in 2012, what's the difference
going to be in the post-withdrawal situation? How much more unstable is it going to be? Is that
difference between the instability level that might occur with the 2006 pull-out versus 2012, is
the difference worth the cost to us in terms of our relations with the Muslim world?

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: And well, what is your answer to that question?

RICHARD CLARKE: I think we have to look seriously at an accelerated withdrawal at a reasonable
pace, but we do have to have a time line, at least internally, that probably gets us beginning to
withdraw some time next year. It will probably take 18 months to withdraw 90 per cent of the forces
and we probably do need some residual force there as trainers and advisers. But I think we have to
realise that many of the insurgents are motivated to kill largely because of the foreign

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Richard Clarke, thanks very much again for talking to Lateline.