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Interview With John Miller

Aired May 12, 2003 - 19:07   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Some people don't think this terrorism drill is worthwhile. It costs a lot, may not accomplish a lot. That's what they say.
We wanted to talk with one man who's going to be observing the action very closely. His name is John Miller. He is the head of the counterterrorism bureau in American's second largest city, Los Angeles.

Mr. Miller, thanks very much for being with us.

Let me ask you, is this thing worthwhile? I mean, it costs a lot of money. Taxpayers are footing the bill. I think it's some $16 million. What are we really going to learn?

JOHN MILLER, LOS ANGELES COUNTERTERRORISM BUREAU: Well, I think it is very worthwhile, and I think it's time that they started spending this kind of money on exercises like this. It's a long, drawnout, multiday exercise that unfolds in multiple cities with a Washington component.

And as you heard, the deputy chief say, they're learning all kinds of things already. And as you heard somebody else say, Well, when things that they plan to go wrong go wrong they react very well. When things they didn't plan to go wrong go wrong, they have a lot of difficulty.

Well, Anderson, that's the best possible thing that could happen is that a lot of stuff goes wrong that they didn't think of ahead of time because when you learn in the training dynamic, God forbid the day comes had this thing happens in real life, you've now been through those mistakes, you've met the challenges, even the ones you didn't think of...

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: ....without real lives on the line.

COOPER: But you talk about real life -- I mean, basically this thing has like a 200-page script written out that tells everyone what is going to be happening more or less in advance. It says that on Tuesday in Chicago, people are going to show up to the hospital and they're going to have the Plague. On Wednesday, more people are going to show up.

So if this is a test, it's like giving the answers in advance. How much of a test really is it?

MILLER: You know, it is like giving the answers and then it's not.

Let me cite two examples. One, here in Los Angeles in late January, we had an operation at the airport where we simulated an active shooter, a gang of men with guns, tossing hand grenades, leaving bombs, shooting people in an airport terminal. And, of course, we had planned out what the bad guys would do and what the good guys would do in response. And a whole lot of things happened that we just didn't plan for. Things went wrong, things went right because people started using ingenuity and along the way we learned and what we picked up on that was a number of things we had to institute and our own procedures here in the LAPD and with the L.A. Fire Department, who participated, and some of the other agencies, that we were able to fix.

So, yes, you plan the whole thing out and you can have the actual participants who have some of the answers, the observers who have a few more of the answers, the actual planners who have a lot more of the answers. But I don't think everybody has the whole picture.

And, of course, the best thing that can happen is a lot of stuff you didn't account for in all your planning, even if you gave everybody all the answers, will come up and you will have to roll with the punches. And that's an awful lot like real life.

COOPER: And will, you know, people out there who are not involved in this drill, will they ever find out the results of it or does it really have to be kept secret because you obviously don't want people who are going, you know, be looking to conduct terrorism in the United States to know where the weaknesses are?

MILLER: I think that the most important part of doing any of these drills and what we did here in Los Angeles is the after action meeting, and that's when you sit down and you say, All right, let's go back over everything that happened. What can we have done better? What do we need to throw away altogether? What do we need to invent that we didn't have this time out that would have been really useful? And that's the way you learn.

And as I said before, you can't stress it enough. It's so much more important to do this in an exercise in a training capacity, when there aren't real lives on the line so that when you're faced with a September 11 type attack -- well, the United States had never faced anything on that scale before. Those were real lives on the line. We learned a lot from that. But you don't want to learn from the real ones. You want to learn from the ones you can control and hopefully learn a lot.

COOPER: All right. It's is going to be going on all week. We'll be watching closely. John Miller, appreciate you joining us. Good to talk to you. Thanks very much.

MILLER: Thanks. Thanks. Good to be here, Anderson.


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