The CIA In Afghanistan, In The Aftermath Of Attack A suicide bomber killed seven CIA officers at an American base in Afghanistan on Thursday. The attack has raised questions about security and the Agency's role there. Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent for the The New York Times, and Charles Faddis, a former CIA operations officer, explain how the CIA operates today, and how the agency has changed.
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The CIA In Afghanistan, In The Aftermath Of Attack

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The CIA In Afghanistan, In The Aftermath Of Attack

The CIA In Afghanistan, In The Aftermath Of Attack

The CIA In Afghanistan, In The Aftermath Of Attack

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A suicide bomber killed seven CIA officers at an American base in Afghanistan on Thursday. The attack has raised questions about security and the Agency's role there. Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent for the The New York Times, and Charles Faddis, a former CIA operations officer, explain how the CIA operates today, and how the agency has changed.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Last week, in an incident somewhat obscured by the bomb attempt on an airliner on Christmas Day, a double agent killed seven CIA officers in an attack on an American base in eastern Afghanistan.

Like the failure to stop a terrorist before he boarded a plane, the suicide-vest attack in Afghanistan represents a breakdown in intelligence. It also tells us a great deal about the CIA, its role along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and about al-Qaida.

We also need to note that just this week, the country's top military intelligence officer, Major General Michael Flynn, issued a report that raises important questions about the quality and focus of U.S. intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan.

Today, what happened at Forward Operating Base Chapman and the CIA's war on al-Qaida. Later in the program: "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," a never-before-produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams. Ellen Burstyn will join us. But first, the CIA. We want to hear from those of you who have served in Afghanistan. Is the intelligence you've received relevant? Do you see the results of CIA efforts on the ground? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And we begin with Mark Mazzetti, who's been covering this story for The New York Times, and he joins us here in Studio 3A. Mark, thanks very much for coming in.

Mr. MARK MAZZETTI (National Security Correspondent, The New York Times): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And we've learned that this double agent was a Jordanian doctor. You reported yesterday that the reason all these CIA officers gathered in one spot was because they thought he could lead them to the senior leadership of al-Qaida.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. This Jordanian doctor, who had quite a well-known persona on the Web, in jihadi forums, writing a lot of fiery essays about jihad and against the West, had been in and out of a Jordanian prison. And during that time in prison, the Jordanian intelligence service, as they say, they had thought turned him to work for their service and start spying on jihadis and, they hoped, al-Qaida members.

CONAN: And they introduced him to the Central Intelligence Agency?

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. He had spent some time in Afghanistan late last year, and then the first meeting between the Jordanian doctor and the CIA happened on December 30th, and we know the result. He blew himself up at this remote base on the border, and seven CIA employees were killed.

CONAN: And others were injured, as well. Now, it is said to have been, on the most tactical level, a breakdown in tradecraft that this man was not searched on his way into this forward operating base.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. It's still a little unclear exactly the timeline of what happened or, indeed, even whether he was brought on the base - we presume he was brought on the base without being searched, and then what happened? Was he about to be searched, and he blew himself up? It appears that maybe it was not, as early reports indicated, they were all at a meeting when he blew himself up. It may have been earlier than that. And from what I've been told, it was a very, very large detonation, and the blast spread to, you know, further reaches of the base. So it was quite an impact.

And I think what one of the things this incident shows is just how - I mean, you could say desperate, but certainly eager - the CIA is for this kind of intelligence. He was promising kind of the big haul. He was going to give the location or at least give good intelligence about perhaps the number two operative in al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri. So the CIA brought its number two official from Kabul all the way to Khost for the meeting.

CONAN: And so he had provided intelligence in the past, not directly, obviously, to the CIA but through his Jordanian contact, that had played out.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. They said that this was not just a sort of a coming-out-of-the-blue meeting. He had been feeding some information to his Jordanian handler, which then got relayed to the CIA, and they started checking it out. This would have been information about maybe the location of al-Qaida members in the Pakistani tribal regions, even maybe the locations of some of the people who got hit by the CIA so the CIA could corroborate this information. And so they obviously felt comfortable enough with what he had been presented to sort of arrange this big meeting.

CONAN: And the supposition was it would have been perceived as some sort of insult to both Jordanian intelligence - and one of their officers was killed, too - and to this agent to search him on the way in.

Mr. MAZZETTI: It's possible. It's unknown exactly why he wasn't searched. That's certainly a very plausible scenario for why they may not have done it on the sort of perimeter of the base.

CONAN: And what does this tell us about - well first of all, you did an extraordinary story in this morning's edition of the paper that told us something about those CIA officers, or at least some of them, who were killed. Interesting that the head of the base, the person who ran it, was a woman, and she was killed. And you also told us about one of the officers, a younger woman recruited basically after 9/11.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. I mean, I've covered the CIA for a number of years, and it's very rare that you have a sort of public glimpse of how this sort of secret society works. And unfortunately, sometimes it happens in tragedy that you get this glimpse. So we profiled a number of the victims, and you know, it turns out that a couple of the undercover officers were women. The base chief, whose name we did not put in the story, was a woman, and in fact kind of one of the CIA's top experts on al-Qaida.

She had been in this group at the CIA called Alec Station, which before 9/11 was the sort of al-Qaida unit, the bin Laden hunting unit. And she was sort of one of the people who, before the September 11th attacks, was kind of ringing the alarm bell about the threat of al-Qaida.

CONAN: And so this is a terrible loss of experience, of people who really were key to this operation.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. The - there's decades of experience that was lost by this bombing. I mean, there were some very senior al-Qaida experts, and again it's - you can replace them, but the experience and the knowledge base you really can't replace. And so that is something that - it's another setback for the agency.

CONAN: All right, stay with us, Mark Mazzetti. Also here with us in the studio is Charles Sam Faddis, a former CIA officer in the Middle East and South Asia, who retired as chief of the CIA's WMD Terrorism Unit in 2008 after 20 years with the agency, and thanks very much for being with us here in Studio 3A.

Mr. CHARLES FADDIS (Former Chief, WMD Terrorism Unit, Central Intelligence Agency): Good to be here.

CONAN: And one of the things that Mark's been writing about is how this illustrates how the CIA has changed and developed this paramilitary aspect to run its secret war on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Mr. FADDIS: Right. I mean, that has become a huge portion of - a huge aspect of what the agency does now.

CONAN: How big?

Mr. FADDIS: Well, I mean, if you're talking about operating in places like Iraq, or you talk about Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan, I mean, every place you work is going to have to have some paramilitary character to it.

CONAN: And what are they doing, exactly?

Mr. FADDIS: Well, you're doing what the CIA is doing everywhere, which is collecting information. Obviously, there is some covert action aspect to that work, too, but you're out there running sources, and you're collecting intelligence, but instead of doing that someplace in, you know, Western Europe at the height of the Cold War, now you're doing it in tribal areas where there is - you have all the sort of traditional, if you will, counterintelligence concerns, which were obviously huge in this operation, but now you have a tremendous amount of physical risk. I mean, this is no longer a game where if you screw up, you get thrown out and go home. This is, you know, you die instantly, or you get beheaded or things of that nature.

CONAN: It's been pointed out, it is highly unusual for a double agent, the first time he meets his handlers, to blow himself up.

Mr. FADDIS: Yeah, well fortunately, this is the first time I've heard of that. But you know, you used a term earlier, and I've heard a number of people use this over the last few days, which is trust and that this guy was trusted, and the Jordanians trusted him, and we trusted them. And you know, there is no such concept in intelligence operations. If you're an operations officer, and you work overseas, and you run sources, that's an alien term. You know, there - you don't rely upon trust, and you don't even hand your security over to somebody else.

CONAN: The CIA, from these forward operating bases like Chapman, which is near Khost, near the Pakistani border, among the things they're doing is running these Predator drone attacks that are occurring inside Pakistan, inside the tribal areas of Pakistan, directed against not just the al-Qaida leadership but the Taliban leadership, as well.

Mr. FADDIS: Well, if you're asking me if I can confirm that, the answer is I can't.

CONAN: Well, it's an open secret, Mark Mazzetti, that these are going on, and Sam Faddis may not be able to talk about it, but there's really no controversy...

Mr. MAZZETTI: I will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MAZZETTI: No, I mean, this is a kind of another one of the more extraordinary aspects of what the CIA is doing these days. I mean, it's become, you know, almost passe because we write about them so often, but these drone attacks, I mean, basically the CIA is running a full war in Pakistan right now, where - I mean, since the Khost bombing alone, there's been I think three or four drone attacks on targets in the tribal areas, and yet the CIA doesn't confirm it officially, but it's kind of like the most overt covert operation that's ever taken place just because it's an open secret.

CONAN: And they don't openly acknowledge it, well, because a secret agency is doing it and because it would embarrass the Pakistanis for it to be openly acknowledged?

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. It is a covert action. So it is something that is - you know, they deny. There's a big game that goes on where the Pakistanis say they're shocked that this goes on, and they're angry about it. But at the same time, they're feeding intelligence for the drone attacks because they see it in their own interest to help the United States.

And so - but it's a - I mean, it's nothing short of a war. It's a campaign going on, a military, quasi-military campaign that the CIA is carrying out and which the CIA is quite proud of, actually. They think that this is kind of the most effective thing that the U.S. government has right now to deal with al-Qaida.

CONAN: And Sam Faddis, let me return to you just for a minute. We heard criticism for many, many years, U.S. intelligence relies too much on technical means, on satellites and phone intercepts and that sort of thing, that what we really need is human intelligence, to get agents who can penetrate people like al-Qaida. This demonstrates: A, that's very difficult, and B, that's also very dangerous.

Mr. FADDIS: It demonstrates both of those things, but the fact remains. I mean, we absolutely need human intelligence, and we still don't have enough of it. We need more of it. We need to figure out how to do it securely.

CONAN: Sam Faddis is with us, former CIA ops officer in the Middle East and South Asia. He's the author of "Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the Central Intelligence Agency." Also with us is Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent for the New York Times.

If you've served in Afghanistan, does the intelligence you've received seem relevant? Do you see results of the CIA efforts on the ground? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In recent years, the Central Intelligence Agency has morphed into more of a paramilitary organization, operating on the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a change that brings risks, like the deaths of seven CIA officers attacked in Afghanistan last week.

Our focus today: what that episode tells us about the changing CIA, about al-Qaida and about the war in Afghanistan. We want to hear from those of you who serve there. Is the intelligence you've received relevant? Do you see results of the CIA's efforts on the ground? 800-989-8255. Email, You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests are Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent for the New York Times, and Sam Faddis, who served as the chief of the CIA's WMD Terrorism Unit and wrote the book "Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA."

Let's get a caller on the line. This is Nate(ph), and Nate with us from Spring Valley in Minnesota.

NATE (Caller): Yes, hello. Thanks for having me. I just wanted to say I served in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006, and we brought down the first Afghan National Battalion into Khost Province, and I actually lived on Chapman Air Field. At the time, it was the PRT, and I was just kind of shocked and saddened when I heard this.

And the intelligence that we got for our missions, working with the Afghan army, I thought was good, but this was coming from a retired NCO from the Army, and I'm just sad to see that this happened but that's where I had actually lived, so...

CONAN: And I understand, and of course, it has an extra impact because you've been there. Can you tell us what it looks like, where that base is situated?

NATE: Well, it's in Khost Province. It's near the town of Khost itself. I don't know how much I can say. I don't want to give away secrets or anything like that.

CONAN: And we wouldn't want you to, but we're just trying to get a general idea.

NATE: That's an airfield there, and you know, it's a nice little base. It's not a huge base like Forward Operating Base Solerno, which is nearby, but it is - it had that small-town effect, if you will. You know, there wasn't a lot of people there, so everybody kind of knew everyone, you know. And there were people there working with the Afghans on the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

We were there as embedded trainers with the Afghan army. There were some other folks there from the military, and everybody had their job. And I was just real saddened by the fact that I heard that the place that I actually spent a year of my life had an attack on it.

CONAN: Nate, thanks very much for the call. And we know that there are many people in the audience who share your surprise and your concern and your feelings for those who were killed.

NATE: Thank you, sir.

CONAN: Thanks very much. And Mark Mazzetti, you describe FOB Chapman as part of what you said was an archipelago of forward operating bases the CIA runs in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. Over the past year or so, the CIA has built up a kind of, a string of these fire bases, they call them, along the border. I mean, Solerno - I'm sorry - Chapman, that was hit, has been there for quite some time, but they are sort of increasing the number of operatives that they're sending out to the field. And so, you know, the eastern part and the southern part of Afghanistan are kind of the center of the U.S. strategy right now, where the heart of the Taliban and the heart of, you know, the center of militant networks like al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Haqqani network. So they're getting out to the field to collect intelligence, to develop targeting information about these groups.

CONAN: Sam Faddis, why would it be better to be in a relatively dangerous forward operating base near the Pakistani border, as opposed to in a secure office building in Kabul or, for that matter, in a secure office building in Langley?

Mr. FADDIS: Yeah, well, I mean, fundamentally, it comes down to the fact that you've got to go where the potential sources are. I mean, you've got to get on the ground, as close to the targets as you can, and you've got to have that area knowledge, and you've got to recruit people.

So there really isn't any substitute for that. I mean, one of the concerns I have, one of the many concerns I have, is that, you know, reflexively, in the aftermath of an attack like this that what people want to do is withdraw into some kind of shell, become much safer and more secure but in the process, of course, you know, cut yourself off from the information. And the whole point of being there is sort of defeated.

CONAN: Mark Mazzetti, at least according to your reports in the newspaper, in the Times, that's not what they're doing. They seem to be stepping up activity, in fact.

Mr. MAZZETTI: Well, they are certainly talking right now like they will not retrench and that they will - this has sort of emboldened them to get more people out to the field to not do what Sam is describing, although certainly there is going to be a concern going forward about human operations and the safety risks.

So - but they are - they're pledging that they're not going to retreat and that they're going to stay out, as Sam said, where the sources are.

CONAN: Let's go next to Jay(ph), Jay with us from Boston.

JAY (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Jay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

JAY: My comment was more along the lines of the original topic that was mentioned was that the CIA information's not relevant. And what I wanted to get at there was what the military is going for and the CIA are going for are kind of different things, and it's an ideological argument.

The general that made that comment was probably looking at things on a more tactical - I guess what I'm saying is the CIA is more politically involved. They're looking at - these people are the experts on this region. These people are the ones that wrote the books on these regions, where the military is going in with a different goal altogether. They're there for - to secure it. CIA is looking to win it, I guess.

CONAN: And how do you know this, Sam - Jay, rather?

JAY: Well, I served in Special Operations, not in Afghanistan, though. I was just privy to some CIA knowledge in other regions.

CONAN: Okay, and it's a fair point. And Mark Mazzetti, it should be pointed out that, as you noted, Major General Kelly(ph), in his stinging criticism of intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan, most of that was about military intelligence rather than the CIA.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. The report - it was actually General Flynn.

CONAN: Excuse me.

Mr. MAZZETTI: Michael Flynn, who's the top military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, working for General McChrystal. He put out this report, which caused quite a stir because it was public, and it was published by a think-tank in Washington, and it was, as you said, a stinging rebuke of primarily what he called the irrelevance of military intelligence as it's collected on the ground.

But he doesn't really spare anyone in his criticism because he talks about the highest levels of intelligence collection and analysis are not doing their job basically to - as he put it, the mission in Afghanistan, the counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan, what decision-makers have to know about it, they are not able to make good decisions because they don't have the information about.

CONAN: And Sam Faddis, getting back to what Jay was talking about, there's a distinction between military intelligence and what the CIA is after?

Mr. FADDIS: Well, there are going to be all sorts of people that are going to be collecting information, and there's certainly a distinction between agency collection and military collection, and a lot of stuff that the military is going to collect on is going to be what, from an agency perspective, you would consider to be very tactical, low-level stuff that is not really the CIA's province and doesn't begin to have the resources for.

CONAN: Is it on the basis of we think this guy is over the next hill, as opposed to this is where the leadership has gathered at a base?

Mr. FADDIS: That's probably a good, yeah, common-sense way to put it, exactly.

CONAN: And also, the CIA, if they're looking for targeting information, they're looking for targeting information for these operations across the border in Pakistan.

Mr. FADDIS: First and foremost, they're looking for leadership targets. They're looking for the guys that are running the show, that are of strategic significance.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Jay, thanks very much for the phone call.

JAY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Mark Mazzetti, one of the interesting things it says, we've heard in recent months that these drone attacks have debilitated the leadership of al-Qaida in the tribal areas of Pakistan to a great degree. There was even a feeling the organization was deeply rocked and was having trouble replacing important mid-level officers and senior-level officers - not the top two but people just below them. There are then - people say wait a minute. If they're running a double-agent operation in Khost, this suggests something else entirely.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. And it's hard for we in the media to really get a good assessment of just how debilitated al-Qaida is and al-Qaida's affiliates are. They - every few years, it seems, we do hear that they're, sort of they're back on their heels, and it's - and they're on the run and that the pace of operations has been so great that we've wiped out their entire middle management.

I think that may be true, but they certainly are replacing these people to a degree where they can still do operations. They can, as you said, seemingly run a double agent. So it's - I think they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. The pace of operations that the CIA and other intelligence agencies are doing is very - is accelerated, and they are - they have killed a lot of people. But at the same time, it shows that al-Qaida and its ilk are very resilient.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and let's go to Matthew(ph), Matthew with us from Flemington in New Jersey.

MATTHEW (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MATTHEW: My question is: What will this do with our relationship with the Jordanian government and Jordan as a country? Because as far as I know, they're supposed to be like a model for, you know, a Middle East country, but this guy was Jordanian. And so I was just wondering if you could comment on that.

CONAN: And I'll ask Mr. Mazzetti to comment on that. I'm not sure we're going to get too much of an answer from Sam Faddis on this. But what we heard is Jordan has been very cooperative with the CIA, working hand in glove after 9/11 and indeed that this is a tremendous embarrassment for the Jordanian intelligence service.

Mr. MAZZETTI: It is. And I sort of raised that idea in a story to sort of - it's unclear what impacts it will have. So it's a good question. What I've heard since, you know, a couple of people I talked to with the agency have said, you know, absolutely not. This is a key partner. We'd be - you know, we'd be nowhere without them in the Middle East. And so -and I think that's, to some extent, true. I mean, the CIA, because it has to operate in the Middle East, in Central Asia, in South Asia - it's such a key part of their mission - they have to rely on the liaison intelligence services, whether it's the Pakistani ISI or the Jordanian GID. I mean, they are the ones with the sources on the ground. And so if you didn't have reliance on these liaison services, then you just have a lot of CIA people walking down the street trying to run sources, and that wouldn't produce very much intelligence.

CONAN: Matthew, thanks very much for the call.

MATTHEW: Thank you.

CONAN: And tell us a little bit more. We know that this man, as it turned out, was from the same town as Mr. Zarkawi, once the head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Mr. MAZZETTI: That's right. He is from the town of Zarqa in Jordan. And he was a doctor who had done a fair amount of work at these Palestinian camps in Jordan. And he had developed, as I said earlier, sort of a persona online in jihadi forums, writing about, you know, about the need for jihad and the crimes that - of the United States and the West against Islam. And he was - he had a big following. He was, you know, terrorism experts have told us that he was like one of the third - the top three or four Web posters or well-known jihadi Web figures. And so, he was a big deal for the Jordanians to think that they had a double agent...

CONAN: We...

Mr. MAZZETTI: ...or an agent, sorry.

CONAN: We read in your story that in the past Jordanian intelligence has been able to turn some people, some jihadis, by threatening their families. Not to put too fine a point on it, do we know if that was the technique they used in this case?

Mr. MAZZETTI: We don't know much, although some members of foreign staff are sort of trying to develop a picture about his time in Jordan and what happened. But it - what happened in prison to get the Jordanians to think that they had him on their side is a little unclear at this point.

CONAN: Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, also with us a former CIA op officer, Sam Faddis, who retired after 20 years at the agency. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's talk with Rob(ph). And Rob is with us from Virginia.

ROB (Caller): Yes. Hello.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air, Rob. Go ahead, please.

ROB: Hi. I just wanted to make one comment. I am in intelligence worker when I was over there in Paktika province and which borders Khost. And I was over there in '08. And generally, what I found was that the CIA didn't so much - the military, at times, had difficulty crossing barriers. The CIA didn't even seem willing to. We evidently had workers in our province, but no one would ever reach out to us like that. And we would find that they'd actually publish reports that were rather damning of the government, which though the facts were wrong the analysis was incredibly off. And it was actually rather difficult at times to then have to do sort of damage control within the military process to make up for this lack of information on their part, and just an unwillingness then to reach out to the military and to say, hey, what do you think of this? Is this accurate? Or, what's your take on this report?

CONAN: Sam, you were smiling as Rob was telling us that.

Mr. FADDIS: Well, you know, it unfortunately is still not uncommon to find that you have these kind of bureaucratic problems where you've got some outfit down range and they're not talking to the other outfit. What I've always found, personally, is that it boils down to a question of personalities. And I've functioned in many places, for instance, when I was in Iraq before the war from summer '02 to summer '03, we had a team that was probably 50 percent DOD at most times, the rest of it agency -under agency direction. And we just - we worked as a single USG element and we didn't tolerate any of that. But you have - if you have different personalities down range, everybody's worried about their rice bowls, and the next thing you know you have this kind of problems. People aren't talking to each other.

CONAN:s Was this when you were at - doing WMD stuff?

Mr. FADDIS: It was before I was chief of running WMD operations. But, obviously, WMD was a big component of what we were looking for...

CONAN: All right.

Mr. FADDIS: ...and did not find, by the way.

CONAN: That part we knew.

Mr. FADDIS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call, Rob. We appreciate it. Sam Faddis, let me ask you. The CIA has transformed itself in this way to become a much bigger, muscle-flexing paramilitary side. Is this wise?

Mr. FADDIS: Well, I think - fortunately or unfortunately, I think it is necessary. To be honest with you, we were talking about al-Qaida a minute ago, and anybody who thinks that we're done with al-Qaida, or al-Qaida is on the run or we're going to stamp it out is not paying attention. And even if things go famously in Afghanistan, which is unlikely, at the end of it we're still going to have a worldwide organization that we're opposed against.

And increasingly, I think, you're going to see that the future is not going to be conventional military operations, we hope, but special operations and intelligence forces who need to go do this. So I don't think we have any choice. I do think we need to get a lot better at it. I don't think we have completed the evolution from a Cold War entity to what we need.

CONAN: And how do you do that?

Mr. FADDIS: Well, I think the first step is you have to recognize that we have those issues, and then, honestly, I think it's going to take a consensus between the Congress and the president to really say we got to make some fundamental changes. It's a little unusual to me that post-9/11 we made a whole bunch of changes in the intelligence community, all of which were essentially directed at the question of why didn't we do a better job with the intelligence we had? And we really didn't do anything to address the issue of why did we have so little intelligence in the first place. And we really have never addressed the problems we have in collection. We're still essentially using the same machine we had on September 10th, 2001.

CONAN: And Mark Mazzetti, we just have a few seconds left. But that's the other side of this you cover too, the Congress and the president. Are they focused on these issues?

Mr. MAZZETTI: They're focused on the issues. Although I have to say that it does usually take an incident, or incidents, of failure to get people really focused. So all of the sudden now, we're back to connecting dots and sharing intelligence and worried about why this stuff didn't happen. Well, this was, I mean, this was not a major focus of the Obama administration in the first year, because obviously they had other things to do. But now, it is, and it's something that, you know, is not going away.

CONAN: The president is scheduled to talk later today about the lessons learned, what went wrong in the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. So stay tuned to NPR News for more on that as that story develops.

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, thanks very much for your time today.

Mr. MAZZETTI: Thank you.

CONAN: And Sam Faddis, we appreciate your coming in as well.

Mr. FADDIS: Thank you.

CONAN: Sam's book is, "Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the Central Intelligence Agency." When we come back, Ellen Burstyn will join us to talk about a new screenplay previously unproduced by Tennessee Williams. This is NPR News.

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