Ex-CIA Chief: Europe Needs To Get Better At Sharing Intelligence : Parallels The Europeans have not been particularly good at sharing information, according to Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA.
NPR logo

Ex-CIA Chief: Europe Needs To Get Better At Sharing Intelligence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/471685011/471685012" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ex-CIA Chief: Europe Needs To Get Better At Sharing Intelligence

Ex-CIA Chief: Europe Needs To Get Better At Sharing Intelligence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/471685011/471685012" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama set a goal yesterday as he responded to the latest attack by ISIS against Europe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The world has to be united against terrorism. And we can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security, not only of our own people, but of people all around the world.

INSKEEP: The world has to be united, the president said. Easy to say, hard to do. In the past day, we've been told that one of the Brussels attackers was in custody last year. Turkey says it deported the man to the Netherlands along with a warning that he was dangerous, but he was released and ended up in Brussels. Let's talk with an American whose past jobs called on him to work with many European security agencies. General Michael Hayden ran the National Security Agency and also directed the CIA. General Hayden, welcome back to the program.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thanks very much, Steve.

INSKEEP: What vulnerabilities have been revealed here?

HAYDEN: Well, unfortunately, you're using the correct word - not what vulnerabilities have been created here, but have been revealed. These are long-standing conditions. Look, we traveled a lot to Europe. We met with good European partners, but it was an uneven group. Good services in France; certainly in Great Britain; German's good, but perhaps stymied by the overhead of history in how aggressive their services could be. Scandinavian's quite good. The rest of the continent - not so much.

But Steve, the point is each one of those nations were more willing to talk to us than they were to one another. Even, like, NATO where intelligence remains a national, as opposed to an alliance responsibility, and certainly not out of the EU. So your incident with regard to what happened on the Turkish border - they are not surprising. It was predictable.

INSKEEP: It sounds like this is something that is in the structure, that perhaps you had experience with when you were at the NSA or the CIA.

HAYDEN: I inherited, Steve, a group at NSA called SIGINT Seniors, Signal Intelligence Seniors. And we got together, not all the NATO nations, but it was a good chunk once a year to just talk about things that were common concerns. Good guys, good efforts. All of them remain good friends, but our progress in that group was glacial. And Steve, the head of NSA is always the one in charge.

INSKEEP: Oh, meaning that they would leave it to you, essentially, to arrange communication between Belgium and France or Turkey and the Netherlands or whatever.

HAYDEN: (Laughter) Very often. The quickest path to get information around Europe was to tell the Americans.

INSKEEP: General Hayden, here's a question that has to be on a lot of people's minds. We've been watching these attacks in Paris and now in Brussels. Could something like this happen in the United States?

HAYDEN: The answer is of course it could. But I think the odds are much lower, Steve. A variety of things - number one, we actually do have a unitary intelligence structure on this continent. We're frankly just better at this. We're more distant from Iraq and Mosul and the threat zones. Culturally, I mean, this is a big deal. It's just not a national value. It helps national defense.

Culturally, we may have radicalized individuals, but we do, at least not yet, have radicalized communities. An attack like that is less likely, less likely to succeed if they try and less lethal, even if they do succeed. But all that said, it's not zero.

INSKEEP: Does your confidence come from the fact that we hear stories here of second generation immigrants, even third generation immigrants in Europe who are still isolated, and it's not so easy to see that happening in quite the same way in the United States?

HAYDEN: We have a culture of assimilation. Look, we're imperfect. We've had our own issues here, but nothing like they're currently having in Western Europe. And you point out something very important Steve. It's that second generation - no longer connected to the old culture, not quite assimilated to the new - that historically has proven the most volatile.

Even here in the successive wave of American immigrants, including my own family as Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, people reach out to some sort of identity, something bigger than self. In Europe right now, a lot of these isolated young men are reaching out for Islam. It's the same reason, Steve, that they join the Crips and the Bloods. The dynamic that drives them is universal, but it doesn't matter what gang you join. But in this case, this gang is a really, really dangerous one for Western society.

INSKEEP: General, I want to ask you about something that a couple of the presidential candidates have said in this circumstance - a couple of Republic candidates. Ted Cruz has talked about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. Donald Trump has urged the United States loosen its rules on torture. Hillary Clinton has also spoken out in this situation.

Would any of these techniques that have been mentioned help in your view?

HAYDEN: Look, some of the rhetoric that we're seeing in the campaign not only does not help, it actually is destructive right now, not destructive if and when somebody becomes president, Steve. The jihadi narrative is a work of undying enmity between Islam and what you and I call the modern world. For us to actually talk like we believe that narrative to be true - they can't stand it. These people hate us. We can't let these people inside the United States. These people deserve special police patrols. That's playing into the enemy's narrative and actually makes the enemy stronger, able to recruit more and thereby more threatened.

INSKEEP: General, thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Retired General Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, also author of the book "Playing To The Edge: American Intelligence In The Age Of Terror."

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.