The American intelligence guru spoke exclusively to RT on awhole variety of issues, including the recent developments inVenezuela following President Hugo Chavez’s death, weird and deadlydrone attacks in Pakistan and the recent Stuxnet computer virusattacks on Iran.He also explained why Guantanamo Bay is so important for the USand why he thinks China is now posing the biggest cyber threat tothe world.RT: Hugo Chavez was known for his hardline stancetowards the US. He even accused the CIA of plotting to kill him.Will relations with Venezuela be troubled if Vice-President NicolasMaduro succeeds Chavez as president?MH: You know one fears that they might, one also hopesthat they might not. I think Chavez was a strong populist, clearlypopular in some segments of the Venezuelan society. He took thissupport and identity simply by being in opposition to the US.Whether or not we were causing him problems it was convenient forhim to accuse us of causing the problems. Although he enjoyed highpopular support among the poor classes he didn’t do much toreinvest in the infrastructure, reinvest in the oil industry, onwhich state resources depend. And I think the new president isgoing to take a very realistic look. What he needs to do in orderto carry out and even to continue some of the policies or hispredecessor, which had had some elements of strong social justice.But you can’t cheer things that you don’t have – you have tocreate. And that requires greater cooperation with the privatesector and other segments of the Venezuelan society, and franklygreater cooperation with the US.RT: The US drones have reportedly killed 1,300 peoplein Pakistan since Obama came into office. Many of these people werejust terrorists but there were a lot of civilians too. This hasoutraged Pakistan, an ally of the US. Do you believe that dronesare the right weapon in the war on terror and are they being usedin the right way?MH: This is a complex question and it doesn’t allow thesimple answer. Richard Haass, president of the Council on ForeignRelations, said something really interesting in an interview, whichI was a participant. Richard said the when it comes to targetedkillings and the use of drones he is looking not for a switch butfor a dial. I think that’s actually very profound and insightful.Look, we believe that we are a nation at war – we are at war withAl Qaeda and its affiliates. This war is global in scope, and wehave both the right and the duty to take this fight to this enemywhoever they might be. And in some cases that requires targetedkilling in some of the ungoverned spaces that remain on the planet.Now, for the longest time the immediate effect of the targetedkilling – as we say we have taken off the battlefield and fightagainst someone already convinced, trained and prepared to do harmto the US – that immediate effect trumped everything else. Thateffect was overwhelming in terms of the calculation one had to makeas whether we should do this or not. But even then, three-fouryears ago, we realized that wasn’t the only effect, there were alsosecond and third order effects – effects on our allies, effects onthe willingness of other to cooperate, effects on Al Qaedarecruitment, effects on the global image of the US. No I think it’sfair to say that those second and third order effects are becomingmore prominent in terms of the overall effect of the individualaction, which you have got to turn it down, you’ve got to take intoconsideration the second and third order effects before you makethe decision to take this kind of action.RT: You say that the US is a nation at war. Whendoes this war end? When is it deemed a success? What needs to beaccomplished for the US not to be a nation at war anylonger?MH: That’s a great question and it’s been asked by mycountrymen: ‘We are at war, tell me when I’m finished. Let me knowhow I’ve won.’ And I know they will come a point. The folks like mewith my background and my experience need to go to our politicalleaders and say: ‘You know, folks, the war paradigm served us very,very well. It was not without its own cost, it was not without itsown effects. And now I think we have pushed this threat down tosuch a level that the war paradigm is no longer that useful to us,and we need to move to a law enforcement, to an internationalcooperation.’ Now, to round this out I think that will come somedaybut that day is not today.RT: You served as director of the CIA for nearly threeyears and you were still in that position when the US presidentBarack Obama took office. There were reports that he was uneasyabout using drones successively and you persuaded him. Is there anytruth to these reports? MH: It’s very difficult for me to talk about specificoperations and to confirm or deny things that my government hasn’tconfirmed or denied. But I think in general. I can give you thisstatement. With the exception of detention and interrogation, whichof course became a very popular well-known cause of the change ofadministration, President Obama strongly embraced much of thewar-on-terror strategy that President Bush was conducting duringhis second administration. RT: It’s clear. You’ve just said there is no longerwar on terror.MH: It’s very interesting. He used this phrase ‘war on AlQaeda and its affiliated’ internally. That was our operationalexpression of the president’s more public global war on terror. Sofundamentally nothing really changed in terms of what the securitystructures of the US were doing.RT: Two anonymous drone attacks in Pakistan last monthreportedly killed nine people including two Al Qaeda operatives.Islamabad immediately filed a complaint with the American Embassybut the US officials said they were not responsible for thoseattacks. The Pakistani government, in their turn, say it wasn’tthem. So there is no clear way to know who was operating thosedrones. Do you believe that this drone campaign that the US hasbeen leading will eventually open up doors for anonymous dronesbecause last month there were reported 50 countries that are nowusing drones?MH: That’s an interesting question and I know theincidents you are referring to. You have to understand that I’m notin the government now for four years but I’m reading thenewspapers. […] We have been leading the technology here but thetechnology here is not all that daunting. Other countries willfollow in our footsteps. That puts a great deal of pressure on theUS in terms of how it actually conducts itself with these weapons.We are indeed selling precedent that others will almost certainlyfollow.RT: President Obama is no longer running for office.Someone say he is running now for the history books. Do you believehe should deliver on his promise to close GuantanamoBay? MH: I actually think the promise was a mistake. I realizethere is a range of views within my country on that. But I go backto the promise. By the way, President Obama agreed with thatpromise that we are a nation at war. He said that consistently,otherwise he couldn’t do many of the things that he is nowauthorizing us to do. You have to begin with the war paradigm. Oneof the aspects of an armed conflict is the right to detain and holdcombatants. So my debate with President Obama is not that he has toadapt to his promise to close it, but I think the promise to closeit was unwise. By the way, you realize that we reduced the prisonpopulation during the Bush administration far more dramaticallythan during the Obama administration. We understood the brandingissue – that was Guantanamo. We also understood that we were atwar. I mean, look, at the first weekend of September in 2006 Imoved 14 prisoners from CIA detention sites, the so-called BlackSite, to Guantanamo. I needed a place to put them. Guantanamo wasperfectly legal, perfectly acceptable place.RT: Recent polls show that only 15 percent ofselecting Muslim countries approve of President Obama’s foreignpolicy. Is that dangerous and troubling in any way?MH: I go back a long way. I remember something called theCold War. I bet that many of RT viewers remember it as well. Duringthe Cold War we actually talked about the close fight and the deepfight. Here in the Cold War the deep fight was largely ideological.That was about western views towards economics, political democracyand Soviet views. Frankly, that was argued very strongly betweenthe two groups. But when I was arguing Mike Hayden from PittsburghPennsylvania had a legitimate view on communism, because whateverwas communism may or may not have been, it was a westernphilosophy. When we entered that conversation my view has hadlegitimacy because I was speaking for my own cultural tradition. Inthe current war the deep fighting has to do with something going oninside Islam now. It’s very hard for Mike Hayden from Pittsburgh toenter that discussion about Islam. I have no legitimacy. In fact,if I do enter that kind of discussion I will make things worse,because I have no authenticity in making that kind of comment. Whatwe see now, I think, is a struggle within Islam – it’s the strugglethat all the monotheisms have gone through – Christianity, Judaismand now Islam. It’s a struggle with modernity. I’m trying to getyour viewers too far back into history. Christians went throughthis in the 17th century at the end of the 30-years War. They said‘Well, we’ve got plenty of reasons to fight with one another butlet’s not include religion in the list anymore’ and we embraced amore secular approach. We separated the sacred from the secular. Ithink Islam is going through that debate now, but that debate iswithin Islam, and we have to see how it turns out.RT: You’ve spoken about the threat of cyber war, andyou said that it’s coming from China. What about groups likeAnonymous?MH: This distinction is something the Chinese haveearned. They’ve worked for it for many years. The Mandiant reportthat came out about two weeks ago that focused very heavily on oneparticular unit in the People’s Liberation Army that worked for theThird Bureau. I had someone, a colleague of yours, coming up andsay ‘This Mandiant report is big news’ and I said ‘Well, it’s big,but it’s not news’. I mean everybody who has been doing this knowswhat the Chinese have been doing. Now, to be more accurate theChinese have been stealing stuff. They’ve not been using a cyberdomain to create damage, to destroy networks or things like that,but they’ve been stealing stuff on an unprecedented scale. Allright, all nations do this. I was the head of the Americanorganization that did this for the US and frankly we were good atthis. But we and some other nations around the world self-limit. Westeal secrets out there in a cyber domain to keep the Americansfree and safe. We don’t do it to make them rich, we don’t do it forcommercial benefit. Let me rephrase it – it’s espionage andespionage is an accepted international practice.RT: When the Mandiant report came out some were sayingthat the hands of the US are not clean. The US has also played ahuge role in cyber espionage. And some were even saying that the USplayed a major role in the Stuxnet attack that was allegedlycarried out by Washington and Tel Aviv against Iran. So isn’t theUS in some way throwing stones when it lives in a glasshouse?MH: I don’t even speculate, given my background, on whomay or may not have been responsible for that. But I do agree withthe premise of your question. That’s really a big deal. Some justuse the weapon comprised of ones and zeros to take over the controlsystem in the towns. But I can rephrase that sense and saythat someone during the time of peace just uses a cyber weapon todestroy another nation’s critical infrastructure. Wow. That’s animportant development. I fully understand the import of the fact ofStuxnet attack leave alone who may or may not have done it.
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