Ronald Kessler (Author of "The Terrorist Watch: Inside The Desperate Race To Stop The Next Attack") gives expert video advice on: Did the CIA help plan the attacks on 9-11?; Did the CIA help fund training for Al Qaeda?; Was the CIA involved in drug trafficking to raise money for covert opertations? and more...
Did the CIA help plan the attacks on 9-11?
Of course that's absurd. We saw exactly what happened on T.V. and we saw Bin Laden say in a videotape that he planned the attacks. Very few organizations knew about it, but he was in charge.
Did the CIA help fund training for Al Qaeda?
No, the CIA has never helped fund training for Al Qaeda. This is a myth that people spread, and you know with the Internet they are getting worse. But the CIA has always been subject to all these conspiracy theories, partly because of the secrecy requirements, partly because its perceived as been very powerful. So it's a great target and it can't respond, most of the time it has to just sit silently and respond with no comment.
Was the CIA involved in drug trafficking to raise money for covert opertations?
No, the CIA was not involved in drug trafficking to raise money. The CIA had it's own money. It didn't need money from drug trafficking and would not engage in that. These are very patriotic Americans who join the CIA who simply want to protect the country.
Does the CIA live up to its expectations as an all-knowing agency?
The CIA, over the years, has in fact given us information about the more important threats to the country, and has done that very successfully. Of course, there have been screw-ups. There have been things that they didn't know about. However, if you look at the basic shape of what has been going on in the world, such as the build-up of Soviet military strength, and what the Kremlin was thinking, and in many cases what terrorists were doing, the CIA has - with some exceptions, such as the 9/11 plot and whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction - done a good job.
Why are there so many conspiracy theories about the CIA?
There are so many conspiracy theories about the CIA, mainly because it is such a secret organization. It is perceived as being so powerful, and so it's a perfect target for these conspiracy theories. In some ways, it helps the CIA for people to think that it is so powerful and so all-knowing. It burnishes its image when it tries to recruit people to help. That image sometimes helps.
Do you get tired of defending the CIA?
I do get tired of defending the CIA, but I think it's very important because, really, the very few people in the media who try to tell the truth about the CIA or know what the CIA is doing today, the media just loves to, I think, dishonestly report on what the government is doing. Certainly the government in the old days getting engaging abuses we saw that when the chairs' committee held it's hearings into CIA abuse, FBI abuses, but today those agencies are not engaging those abuses. And, if the American public is misinformed about what these agencies do, the tools that they need to protect us will be taken away by congress, the patriot act, NSA interceptions, these are all necessary to stop the next attack and that why I think it's important for me, keep defending these agencies.
Are most conspiracy theories about the CIA lies?
Yes, most conspiracy theories about the CIA are lies. The CIA did engage in abuses in the 60s and the 70s, for example in spying on Americans often for political reasons, almost always at the direction of the presidents like Johnson and Nixon. But despite that, they were abuses, they should have never occurred. The CIA also would break into people's houses without warrants. So, all these things did happen, but today the CIA does follow the law and is simply trying to stop the next attack.
Is it possible that some of the conspiracy theories about the CIA are true?
There's no question that those abuses described in family jewels, which occurred in the 1960's and 1970's were true. It was actually the CIA that catalogued them and revealed them to the President and to the Congress after seeing more times and reporting some of them. But since then, not only have the abuses stopped, but we now have very effective over sight. Congress has intelligence committees that did not exist in those days and that is the body what the CIA's are doing. We now have an Inspector General in CIA. So we have all these methods for uncovering abuses that really have stopped at the CIA.
Did the CIA experiment on people using mind altering drugs?
The CIA, in the 50's and 60's, did experiment with American subjects using mind altering drugs trying to see if they could use them to get secrets out of the Soviets. This was done without their permission. It's shocking and in one case it resulted in a suicide, but these are all things from the past in different days when ethics were quite different from what they are today.
What does the CIA accomplish on a day to day basis?
The CIA warns us of most threats. The CIA, since 9/11, has rolled up, along with the FBI, some 5,000 terrorists. This has often been with the help of other countries. This fact is one reason that we have not been attacked in almost six years, because these terrorists have been taken off the streets.