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Interview With Former FBI Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence Specialist David Cid

Aired June 6, 2003 - 20:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Those terror alerts, want to talk about them for a little while. Now while cities and states worry about the expense of terrorism alerts, and we're going to hear about that shortly, other people worry about the alerts' accuracy and reliability. The newspaper "USA Today" Says Tom Ridge, homeland security chief, told it, quote, "terrorists might be gaming the system -- pumping up the chatter picked up by intelligence officials in order to tick the country into tightening security." The newspaper quotes Ridge as saying that that can be part of their deceptive art.
Joining me now from Oklahoma City is David Cid. He's a former FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence specialist. David, thanks for being with us. Do you think this is true, that you know, we've heard so much about this term chatter, intelligence picked up through technical methods, that terrorists could actually be faking chatter to get us concerned?

DAVID CID, SALUS INTERNATIONAL: Well, it's certainly possible. I mean, it's easier to game the system if there's an over reliance on one particular form or source of intelligence. I think as our intelligence process becomes better, more refined and more reliable, we'll see less alerts and we'll see more focused alerts, but it's certainly a possibility.

COOPER: And do you think that's a problem -- do you think there should be more focused alerts? Do you think there's a problem with the current terrorist alert level as it exists now, the red, the green, the yellow, the colors?

CID: I think there's a real benefit from having a general alert system because what it does is it creates an operational environment that makes it very difficult for the terrorists to be effective in.

The problem with the general alert system is it's a tremendous burden on states and municipalities. And the other issue, of course, is alert fatigue. Will people become insensitive to these alerts? So the general alerts are good, but I think they have to be used really sparingly.

In my judgment I think our government has used remarkable restraint because certainly there's a greater penalty for underwarning than overwarning. But so far I think the system has worked fairly well. COOPER: You're an intelligence pro here. So your focus seems to be more on the collection of intelligence and how that is going. I'm interested to hear your assessment. How good are we? What do we need to do better?

CID: Well, we're getting much better. I mean, clearly our intelligence process needs to be improved, and it's an ongoing thing our government is focusing on. I think the human intelligence piece is most critical. And I think that's where we need to do the most work.

COOPER: Isn't that the most difficult though, human intelligence? I mean, a lot of these terrorist cells are allegedly a couple of brothers, some cousins, three or four people, it's hard to infiltrate.

CID: It is. There's a number of ways one can approach this. It is an art, and it takes time. And I think we're going to have to accept the reality that it's going to be a good while before our human intelligence process is back to where it should be. But I still think it's a critical piece we need to focus on.

COOPER: Understood. David Cid, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks a lot.

CID: Thank you.

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Counterintelligence Specialist David Cid>


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