tv Chris Wallace Countdown Bin Laden CSPAN October 4, 2021 4:02am-5:11am EDT
they need to be ready for anything. ♪ ♪ >> comcast along these television companies support cspan2 as a public service. >> book tv continues now television for serious readers. cooks my name is kirk hansen senior fellow at the center for applied ethics at santa clara university. a member of the commonwealth club silicon valley advisory board and your moderator for today. has a club continues to host virtual events we are grateful for the continued support of our members and donors. visit commonwealth club.org to learn more about membership or to support the club. right now, we are i text deductible gift by checking the blue donate button on your screen. it is my pleasure to introduce
chris wallace fox news sunday anchor and author of the book count down bin laden. the untold story of the 247 day hunt to bring the mastermind of 911 to justice. chris joined fox news in 2003 and became the first journalist from the network to moderate a general election presidential debate in 2016. through his 50 plus years in broadcasting, chris has won every prominent news award including three mas, the peabody award, and the national press foundations award for broadcast journalism. just a reminder that if you have a question for corso wallace, please submit those in the chat. chris, welcome and let me invite you to take a few minutes to make some opening comments so we can get into a
discussion about the book. i will then asked some questions and then i will ask on behalf of our viewers questions that they raise. so please pray. >> thank you and thank all of you for watching. this is my second time speaking to the commonwealth club. while i'm delighted to speak to you with my second time speaking to virtually since i did last year with my first book. i was trying to think today whether that means you owe me two trips to san francisco or i know you two trips to san francisco. in any case i hope that someday we can do this face to face bernard always wanted to attend let alone to participate in a commonwealth club meeting. i am delighted to be here today. i thought i would talk to you briefly about countdown bin laden, set the stage and then kirk and i will talk for better part of an hour. when i wrote my first book
"countdown 1945" and spoke to the club last year, i have a better sense and now because of the reaction to it, of what it is i wanted to accomplish. i kind of came organically. that is i wanted to write a history thriller. one of the things that had struck me about history, it sounds a little pretentious it's written wrong it's written in the rearview mirror. we know what happened now let's analyze why it happened or how it happened. but to me the real thrill of history is when people are going through they did not know what was going to happen. i was telling the story of 1945 and the countdown format where i begin in that case when truman becomes president and is told that day for the
first time about the existence of the manhattan project until he made the fateful decision and early august of 45 to drop the bomb on hiroshima there were all kinds of questions and unknowns and tension because they did not know as they were living this history in the present time, and real-time what was going to happen. it did seem to work, it was a bestseller and folks seem to very much like it. i thought i wanted to do it again. my one frustration there are so many times is i was trying to take them into the countdown of 1945 that i wanted to know more about what the key players, on what they were thinking, feeling and discussing in the moment. and of course i couldn't do it i had histories, i had diaries
and memoirs and letters. but i could ask them because they were all gone. so when i decided to write a second book and this may in some degree define the tension of being a historian and a reporter, i thought i want to do a history but i want to do a history where i can ask people exactly those kinds of questions. obviously that medic i had to be a much more contemporary history. i came up with the idea of countdown bin laden and time yet to the anniversary of 911 it never occurred to me the taliban who is in charge of afghanistan on 9,112,001 would be in charge of afghanistan on 112021. but i did have an opportunity, i knew most of the players and those i didn't i was able to
get to talk too. i talked to almost everybody who was a key player. and as a result i think it really helped the countdown formats, people were able to put me in real time what they were saying, what they were thinking and the little anecdotes that adds such texture and excitement to history. once out my story begins august 27 of 2010 when three members of the counterterrorism center came into see see the director of the cia and tell him they have the best lead on bin laden and nine years since he disappeared and bore bore in december of 2001. what was so interesting about it and i have talked for hours, is they described this compound. they call it a fortress in pakistan. what was so interesting was
everybody at the cia had been interviewed a few weeks before, whereas bin laden had said and thought he was in that remote tribal area between afghanistan and pakistan, mountains, caves, tremendously remote. tribes there, very difficult to penetrate. that's where he had been hiding for these past years. this was an upscale retirement community who is home of the pakistani west point nestled in the homeland mountains. a retirement community they are describing this to him. he's thinking to himself, if that is true they did not know at all everything the cia
thought about the whereabouts of bin laden was completely wrong he was hiding in a very public community not hiding secrets should away in a very remote and hard-to-reach area. the story just goes on from there. the cia trying to build a case, trying to get intelligence and struggling even with this compound to find out who is living inside of it. then it ends up the white house. and fascinatingly on september the tenth of 2010, one day shy of the ninth anniversary of 911 when his group at the cia come into brief president obama and his top national security advisers like john brennan in the oval office,
one of the thing i want this to say stay among us. he realized very quickly that if in fact it was true here in this place any whiff of a lead that literally meant hillary clinton was not read into this until march of 2011 about a month before the raid it took place. secretary of defense gates was not read into it until the summer of 2010, three months after obama learned of it. the security of this whole case was extraordinary. we go into great detail and again i'm talking to people who were in the room about their impressions at various points to the decision making process in the situation
room. and finally the military is brought in the guy in afghanistan who organized and oversaw these missions inside afghanistan to take out terrorists and finally the seals are brought in an april just really the final month and train on it. and so countdown bin laden takes you inside the cia, inside the helicopters the two stealth blackhawk helicopters in eastern afghanistan to about about a and central app having a scan. into the compound and up the stairs to the third floor. the biggest compliment i have gotten about the book, this is very much what i was hoping to achieve as i know how the story turns out but i was on the edge of my seat for the
last hundred pages i couldn't wait to find out what happens next. that is what i wanted 45 to be a now bin laden to be as a history thriller. with all of that kirk i'm happy to talk with you and answer any questions break works great i'm sorry we do not have a band here's part of our ceremony like you had on steven colbert the other night. we will do our best. we have a very thoughtful audience of the commonwealth club that's interested in the message and the material. we have motivations for why you wrote this. let me start there. why would a journalist who is probably at the busiest moment on the height of your career take time to write these two countdown books whom i have different impacts on your
life. >> is not that i am not busy. particulate when a root countdown 45 which is the laughter of the trump administration we all used to say covering donald trump was like drinking water out of a firehose. i was plenty busy. i've been doing fox news i'm not to say am not still excited and motivated i've been doing this for 18 years. i've kind of got the hang of it. the other thing i guess is a sunday show can some excitement and make some news but is gone with the wind. one hopes these books last a little longer and appeal to an audience and engage an audience in a different way. i am delighted to have done it. i've got to say one of my daughters is in publishing.
at one point on answering the first book i said writing books is complicated, it is hard. she kind of rolled her eyes like yeah dad, it is. and i have to say, like a lot of things in life there are great highs. sometimes you get a great anecdote in something you know has never been reported before by one of the people i interviewed and great low's when it seems really tough and arduous. but i'm really happy i have done it. i'm really happy with the response i've gotten from people have been engaged by these books. i'm very satisfied. >> for the bin laden book, what you hope happens in your readers minds as they read this thriller about day by day with the preparations were over those days? >> i would say three things. part of this, frankly change
because of the circumstances of the last month. i fully expect it was time to come out on the 20th anniversary but i expect to be just getting out of afghanistan and the afghan government and security forces still to be in control fighting the taliban but certainly to be in control of kabul. course that is not at all what happened. first of all what people get out of it is it is a hell of a good story. everybody i know that has read countdown bin laden said that really engaged me and i was not sure it was going too. a lot of people say i thought i knew all about it. there is so much stuff in here i think even people who think they know about it are going to be surprised by it, engaged by i think they will enjoy it. secondly that's what i always wanted to accomplish think
it's a good history and interesting history. to meet the book has more residents because of what's happened and it last month. that is two things. first of all a lot of people are watching of how the disengagement from pullout, withdrawal, retreat, whatever you want to call it of afghanistan happened. even if you agree with the decision we needed to pull out it was not done well. and i think a lot of people think americans about 100 according to secretary state blank and are still there. thousands of afghan allies who were drivers, translators and cooks for the u.s. effort for the last 20 years are still stuck there. that's tough for a lot of us to consider. i hope one of the things people do regardless of how
long our longest war ended we did accomplish the main goals. we went into afghanistan in the first place for 20 years regardless of what happens next. the other thing and again this has relevance because of the last month, if the last month and to me it is a case study a lot of stuff that went wrong in terms of the intel about how fast it would take over in terms of the political decisions that were being made inside the white house in terms of the military operation drawing down to 700
and going back to five or 6000, the chaos at the kabul airport that is a case study in how it's done wrong countdown bin laden made quite remarkably meticulous and tight decision-making. the decision to launch the raid and then the execution by the navy seals is a case study of how the branches when they work together in perfect cohesion can do something right. >> am interested in why the subjects you interviewed were willing to be so forthcoming? leon is a good friend he may very well have the record for the most number of trips to california to appear at the commonwealth club events but he does that so he can go back to carmel valley, his home.
that is become a running joke. why would you spend so much time with you? why were they willing to have this story told in as much detail as you were able to tell it? >> i would like to say because of my natural charm. i'm a little surprised, kirk, is not self-evident. i think seriously if you things. i know a lot of these people. i've been in washington i note leon i know admiral mcraven, john brennan i think i had if you will some street credit with them. i think two things most of all, these are reasons why i think the timing of the book really worked out well. for several history books written in the year or two after the bin laden raid.
a lot was still pretty classified at that point. that is one. the tenth anniversary of this raid. i think people can talk more freely. i think people are justifiably proud of it. i was able to persuade them i was serious about this book, i wanted to tell the story and all detail. i think they're happy to have this on the record. it is interesting because while a couple of books were written as a say in the immediate aftermath of the raid, they wrote a memoir of barack obama is devoted at a chapter. i did not into nearly as much
detail as to how it came down, what their role was, the back-and-forth, detention. say for the commonwealth. and you get a detail in the fourth interview people were intrigued by is when it came back to the cia director obama he had his time there is a congressman had his time there is a chief of staff. he was a little surprised and up asking a friend of his on the cia director and his dog a golden retriever lived in the
attic they were able to turn a studio apartment, i don't care i spend 12 or 14 hours a day at the cia anywhere. it was a place for bravo and me too crash and at the cia was able to turn it in to make classified phone calls. one it was enough time that passed and it too i think they wanted to get on the record something they were all very proud of. >> another of your interviewees that is fascinating to me is robert o'neill. the man who shocked, actually shot bin laden. i was interested particularly because there is controversy which you addressed a little bit obliquely whether he took too much credit and the raid.
be presented very factually what happened. there was some controversy whether he was the sole person who shot you, you may definitive statement he was the sole person i gather admiral was in deed who did. he was quite forthcoming. really trying to liberty is to set these record straight in terms of his role? >> first of all if you tell the story of the raid and how they got bin laden the person who actually took him out it's a pretty important part of the story. it's not going to set the record straight for i remember when he first came out and did an interview, want to make it clear he was not the first book. there another one who wrote a book first.
there is something broke the seal code for this secret group of warriors they didn't talk about their mission and i certainly did not take credit for their mission. he did not write the first book. he then at a certain point did write a book about his role. a lot of people questioned, with the guy who actually did it have told it? it was o'neill and set it after o'neill had already taken responsibility, i interviewed before i interview nick mcneil i interviewed at length for there's no question he did it it's as simple as that. he obviously becomes a main character in the book as a result. he is a fascinating character. grew up in butte, montana.
his father and sports in a variety of other things. a friend of the father tom o'neill came back to butte and tom who i think is still in high school at that point. maybe he just started college. go off on a climb with this seal. as a pretty arduous climb up a steep mountain and montana. when it was over the seal said, june think about being a seal? i don't think that a bit much and his mindset he kind of spark of something had one problem he obviously there are lakes and places but he had never really learned to swim so went to the local swim club in butte and a guy who'd been
a collegiate swimmer at notre dame took him under his wing or his fin, and ended up being coming a seal and a very experienced seal. he talks at great length. he is a major figure in the book and talks at length about how they are briefed, how they train, how they kept repelling down. he was one of the older guys he was in his 30s which for a seal is on the older side. talked about how physically demanding the training was. but the most interesting thing when i was interview him i said so how dangerous? but remember when i said this a 50/50 proposition he's either there or he's not for there is no certainty there is always a circumstantial case. they did not have the smoking gun. they did not know bin laden
was there. i said to o'neill how dangerous it to think it was? he said one way ticket i said excuse me? he said suicide mission. look he may not be there. but if he is there there is no question and my mind that when our helicopters hit the compound it is going to be booby-trapped in the whole thing is going to explode. if that doesn't happen will be going to the main house where we think, if bin laden is there that's where he's hiding , he will have bodyguards there and throw hand grenades at us with an overwhelming force. he said look, i was perfectly prepared to die if i could get bin laden. that was a bargain i was willing to make. i was doing it for the woman who went to work on 911 in the world trade center and the plane hits the tower and at a
certain point she is confronted with a choice between the inferno they're inside words 2500 degrees fahrenheit and looking out the window to a 90 story drop and decides going out the window as the better alternative. i was doing that for her. there are a different breed than seals but god bless them and boy i'm glad we have them at the tip of the spear. >> yes definitely. >> let's just go to the bottom line. what surprised you most about the story when you got into it and were able to get so much of the detail? or the things that leapt out at you is i didn't know that? or this is a really important fact people need to know. >> so much of it, just that but i did not know the seals regarded it as a suicide mission. o'neill was one of the team leaders and his team, as part
of the two dozen seals hate nicknamed the martyrs brigade because he thought they were not coming home. another one was the fact, there's a meeting on april 28 thursday april 28, 2011 for this is the final meeting of the situation room hotel at stories that came out of this. these are the nuggets and interesting developments. we are talking about a sense how likely how confident that obama is there some he says it's 50% somebody says it's 80% he finally turns to michael morell who was a deputy cia director. is not the person who says 80%
has facts and other persons says 50% it's just how they assess the effects we all know. a lot has to do with the fact we have all come to this table today with different life experiences with intelligence. national security advisor said that when they were meeting history is in the room that day means everyone came to the room with their history their experience. one of the best examples of that was bob gates the defense secretary. he had been an exact assistant to the ca director back in 1980 when jimmy carter ordered operation eagle claw which is the iranian hostage rescue mission it ended up in the sandstorm in iran and
helicopter crashed into a transport. i think u.s. soldiers were killed and it doesn't get close to tehran. with that background can go wrong and can go horrendously wrong and have a huge impact. when he goes through this he says look people come to this with different analyses. people have experience i think he was thinking of gaze he saw these things go south and people who had better experience in our intel and in our execution from the last ten years with the war on terror came with greater confidence the case that
saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction in iraq was stronger than the case when he says this everybody in the room gasps because they think how could he say that? he is saying that was a greater certainty than this. and obama says you are saying you wouldn't do it? yes i would do it, because i think it's the best lead we've had on him and 29 years. i have somebody in that room set i have breakfast and informed that i had breakfast with obama this morning i would not give it because informants get things wrong all the time. obama then goes around the room and asks biden. biden said no i'm against that
i don't think the evidence is strong enough, we need more time and i'm very worried the damage this will do with relations with pakistan. that's why the war in afghanistan were major supply lines through pakistan to afghanistan. it's where it's going to be cut off. then the next person he talks to his gates and gates is also against it i describe some of the reasons why. anyway after the meeting and most everyone else was at fort and obama said i'll give you my decision in the morning. after the meeting and gates is back to the pentagon he's in the car the chairman of chief of staff michael mullen. if you remember and gates is memoir, after he retired as secretary of defense he famously said joe biden have been wrong but every major foreign policy decision for the past 40 years. but he apparently said this a
new secretary of defense inside the pentagon and biden was vice president. when they were in the car going back to the pentagon mullen tweaked and said you know how biden's been wrong about every foreign policy decision, not you just voted to do the raid. that adds color and texture and perspective to the kinds of decisions that had to be made and how they made them. >> host: let mass of the questions i had fun reading the book. i was up until 2:00 a.m. finishing at the other night. >> god bless you. one of the questions i had at the end was why did obama go ahead with what he described as a 50/50 chance 50% chance it wasn't, why would you still
go ahead and risk all of that with the relationship. >> i think there is a lot of evidence there. it's an opportunity at risk. there is the opportunity risk of invading, it was an invasion they were going 162 miles into pakistan without permission. the risk of going and launching the operation and maybe he is there. maybe he's there and it goes south in a terrible way. there is also the risk of not doing it. the best opportunity, the best lead you've had in nine years is gone. i would think two things. one i think it showed his trust that they had really done their due diligence they had done everything they could. was very strongly for it.
it certainly wasn't a slam dunk if you will. it was a pretty strong case for there's a lot of reasons we go into that was this career, there is the fact they built the million dollar compound much bigger the 18-foot walls into in the front that a terrace that looked out over the himalayan mountains but the terrace is shielded by a 7-foot privacy wall. who built the terrace to then botch the ability to look at the view. there's a lot of reason to suspect for the other thing is he had tremendous confidence in the seals. then 17 days when he first gave approval to bring in the fields and start rehearsing.
he had a complete scale model of the replica of the compound in north carolina. another one and nevada. he had seen the videos of that. i think he was convinced if you were there they could get him and get out. sure it was a risk. as he likes to say, obama, if it was an easy decision never gets to my desk in the first place. >> one overall question that i had, is this a story if you like the mock show that has recently been criticized of the early time in afghanistan and iraq or was the pursuit of bin laden really that important strategically to the united states? >> to a certain degree both. i think they felt one of the things that really impressed
me and this book was the decision making that went on in the white house. it wasn't just obama. it was the whole team. i talked to the national security advisor and at one point he said you know, good policy i'm sorry good process does not guarantee good policy. but bad process guarantees bad policy. and even of this was so closely held and people were not allowed into the discussions like hillary clinton until march and then they could not have staff at all. they literally had to lie to their assistance why they're going to the white house. they could not put meeting on they could not have any staff they cannot take any notes and all of that. it really was a meticulous process there are 17 meetings at that level before obama
makes his decision. this is just in march and april of 2011, 17 meetings. various meetings obama would take it bigger and site is it worth it to get him? not just is he there and can we get them is it worth it to get them what are we going to get out of getting him? what is this say about our larger policy in that region? what does that mean for our relationship with pakistan? he took a lot of that into account. there are several reasons they thought it was important, i think they thought one, you could say this is macho but there's more to it than that. this is the architect of the worst terror attack on the u.s. in our history. if you can take him out that is important. two, it sends a message to future bin laden's into our friends into our enemies we won't stop. we will keep going however long it takes, however far we
have to travel to bring justice. and to respond. they also thought it would have a real impact on al qaeda that decapitating al qaeda. they really did not know to what degree bin laden was still an operational leader of al qaeda. it turned out from the treasure trove of information that he was very much an operational leader. very much still running al qaeda. they thought this would have a body blow to al qaeda and terrorists. and as one of the people this is probably my toughest interview to get was a fellow we called gary. he was head of the pakistan afghan department that was really the lead group in terms of hunting down bin laden. he says they brought the battlefield to ground zero, to the pentagon and to
shanksville for everyone to say to the world friends and enemies we are going to bring the battlefield back, they thought to afghanistan but it turns out pakistan. there were a variety of reasons from bringing the mastermind to justice, to the message it would send to the world about america's determination, resolve confidence and capability. >> did you have a different opinion of obama at the end before you started this project? >> i can't say was 180 degrees, but yes. two things, one is that -- i kind of knew this. but as you study it and delve into it, he was tougher than i think a lot of people think he
was. he became famous for his speech opposing the iraq war. but, what people don't know or haven't noticed is and that he said i'm not against war i'm just to get >> wars. and if the 2008 campaign he talked about if we were able to get a lead on bin laden we would take him out. this came out in a debate in 2008 with john mccain. he even talked about pakistan. he said we would take out bin laden even if -- i'm putting pakistan on notice. this most interesting and i did not know was shortly after he became president in january of 2009, and the spring of 2009, he has a meeting in the oval office with a few people and it's not that the cia ever
stopped trying to find bin laden, they didn't. he thought it was not as urgent of an issue as he wanted to be. he brought the men and said look, i want bin laden to come to the front of the line. that is your top priority as the cia director is defined and get bin laden. as people in that room described it to me, when the president lights a fire under the cia director the cia director goes back to langley and light a fire under the agency. >> did you develop any opinion on whether it had not been a priority after 2000? or was that a substantial heir to have missed him in bora bora? >> that was a huge error. there is an argument inside the pentagon about how many troops to send their.
rumsfeld wanted to go in relatively lighter. and who knows if that's why he escaped. but he did slip the noose. when i talk to some people who were there, remember obviously the obama team comes in in 2009. when i would talk about he really lit a fire under the cia, i had some people push back like morel who is deputy director had been there all during this period of time. he kind of took offense at the idea that they had forgotten about bin laden. you know, obviously like anything in history it's not either one or the other. but there is no question, whatever the priority was under bush and particularly in the later years, it went back to square one when obama came in. >> you identify once they said this is a compound of interest,
you said they sought out confirming evidence. certainly not overwhelming. they could not get to 90% certainty. what do you think was the most important pieces of evidence that gave them the confidence, at least within the cia to say 60 -- 80% probability obama was there. bin laden was there. >> i think a few things. i think the way they ended up fighting about the compound in the first place as they had three avenues they thought they could track bin laden. one was his family and they never got a lead there. the other was people inside al qaeda. over the years that caught various people. first of all they did not know where bin laden was because he had separated from them. which brings us to the third avenue and that was career.
the feeling was there is nowhere, forever he was whether he was in the cave, the tribal area, or someplace else there's no way he's doing anything that leaves an electronic footprint. he has got to have a career that he can hand a message to who can somehow get it to somebody who's operational and al qaeda. for a long time they have been tracing careers. they came up with a fellow whose name in al qaeda was not his real name, and they were able to find him, trace him and that is how they found the compound. so here is a guy that had been a courier or bin laden. he, his brother, none of them have gainful means of employment, by this piece of land and build a compound. and then make it supersecret.
i talk about all of the architectural security. in addition they would not put the trash out they would always burn it. nobody was ever allowed inside the compound. even the cia started a vaccine the campaign hepatitis b campaign started doing it around town and then came to the compound and knocked and said were giving vaccines. and the nurse was kicked out. it was just an accumulation of stuff. they had the pacer, they'd seen neither of the brothers lived on the third floor. the best quarters and the security fence around the balcony or being occupied by some mystery third family. it just all added up.
and it wasn't only how persuasive this was, there just seemed to be no other reason for all of this. there is no other reasonable explanation for why all of this was the way it was and they were all behaving the way they were. >> if the seal team thought it was a martyr's expedition some way a suicide expedition, did you develop any sense of why it was not booby-trapped? why they were not guards to protect? >> guest: absolutely. bin laden had gotten really lazy and really sloppy in terms of operational security. one of the things that was shock to them when they got into the compound and got the materials, he had been in that compound for five years. terror suspects 101 is you go to a new place every night.
or certainly every second night. you keep moving. and he is in this place for five years. one of the other things they very much expected, not only did a lot of them think when they were looking at the drone video the aerial deal of the raid one of them said i fully expected the compound to explode like the end of a gerry bruckheimer action movie. the other thing is a lot of them thought there would be escape tunnels. that even if they got there, bin laden would've found some way to escape. i think it's very clear, he at a certain point let down his guard. >> in your final two chapters, i'm going to get to the concerns of our viewers, and the final two chapters you tell the story of the aftermath for many of the major figures. some clearly their reputation were hugely they were in the
hands. many including some of the seals, this future was not the greatest. were you surprised their lives sort of went back to normal and some were successful, some weren't and they returned if you like, real life? >> no. because that is life. they were in an extraordinary situation. i think all of these seals are extraordinary. they went back to being seals after this mission. almost all of the masonic the astronauts who landed on the moon and they were going to put any of them out again because they wanted them to be artifacts of american greatness. they all went back into the field he kept fighting. so i am not surprised. they were kind of aware of it themselves.
one of the things, it's interesting, for seal team six they were very uncomfortable being the hero. there is a very much this brute culture that it was the team. that broke down become after they be had become so celebrate after the lawton raid. the same seal team six was involved in the mission to rescue captain phillips, another movie. and remember when he was taken by somali pirates. one of them, a guy who was on this mission, as was o'neill was on the captain phillips mission is the one who took out the final pirates through a porthole window in the lifeboat. and after it was over he kind of obviously had an adrenaline rush but went off by himself. there is a burden in this team
to being singled out. among other things that breaks that. there's a certain amount of professional jealousy. so o'neill, after he takes out bin laden, that day he is still in the compound before he even leaves his thinking to himself is this the best day of my life for the worst day of my life? he knows things are probably not ever going to be the same. he became very aware. i think it's one of the reasons in the end that he wrote the book was because some of the seals he could tell, looking at him differently because he was the man who killed osama bin laden. >> several of the questions have to do with how things are different today. the fight against terrorism, whether for example, when president biden said after the deaths of the marines in kabul, we, the united states, will track you down.
it was echoing language had used after 911 in some ways. our things very different than our fight with terrorism today than they were either ten years ago and they after bin laden or 20 years ago immediately after 911? >> i don't know that they are so different than 20 years ago. that was bad because we did not have enough people inside afghanistan. i don't mean boots on the ground but a presence on the ground that was very effective in obviously stopping 911 before it happened and stopping al qaeda before they did what they did. i worry they are going back to the battle days. it certainly different now than it was back in
20,102,011. we had tens of thousands of people in afghanistan. we have a big presence there which is why were able to track down the career and get to the compound. president biden is over the horizon capability and what that basically means is afghanistan being a landlocked country. we have got to get there from somewhere else. if we fly from the persian gulf that's 1000 miles. you just can't do it the same when you don't have boots or at least slippers if you will from spies on the ground. i know for instance the first
attack after the bombing we took out to isis k people in eastern afghanistan. i know from a very good source in the pentagon they were not key players. they had nothing to do they were involved with isis k but they were just guys part of the group. it was a kill we could bring down. it wasn't like we got the mastermind of the suicide bomber kabul airport. the second one, the drone strike the day we left there is a lot of reporting now vehicle loaded with explosive devices. in fact it was an aid worker with the supplies going to other aid workers. in ten civilians were killed it and there may have been no isis people there. it's a very open to question two how effective are going to be in fighting the war on terror. but the taliban back in
charge, despite what they say they have ties to al qaeda. we have these two brothers who are key players in the taliban and very close ties to al qaeda, isis-k and you feel it's going to be terrorism central. but, you know on the other hand i've talked to some keen sources who say if you are talking about an ability to strike the u.s. homeland, the greatest threat to us now is from al qaeda in the arabian peninsula in yemen are greater than afghanistan. as part of biden's point is the threat has metastasized. afghanistan may become a bad place now and headquarters for the terror network. right now you got it in africa and yemen, and sierra, across the middle east and asia. >> one of the observations is
fighting battles for the united states moved in some ways from using standard military to using special forces. special forces took more and more of the most difficult and challenging assignments. and now drones are taking more and more. is that how you see the fight on tear and maybe our military future moving in that direction more towards drones and along the electronic means? >> had also special forces. these kinds of very targeted, specific raids. i think after afghanistan and iraq, the idea of a big deployment of hundreds of thousands of american troops can you write the scenario or it could happen? sure. i think that would very much be a last resort for any
american president. it is interesting, one of the things about mcraven, he literally wrote the book as you know kirk from having read it. but my book he goes to the postgraduate naval school and moderate. he decides to do his thesis on special operation forces. he does a number of case studies from world war ii, hitler, rescue mission of mussolini, and the israelis going into uganda as israelis who had been hijacked. he comes to this conclusion that with surprise, steve, repetition and purpose that a small force that is really well-prepared and the bin
laden rate is a perfect example, can overwhelm, and go into enemy territory. note finds out there's not a big force there but he could've taken out and much bigger force, for a short period of time. this kind of surgical raid. look you are always going to need boots on the ground. you cannot do it all electronically. but and then ask that case it does not like drones did not exist in 2011. when obama makes a decision is got two choices. one is the raid and the other is a drone strike. one of the reasons he did not do a drone strike as they had done a lot of them and missed people. and in addition to it in a case like bin laden were not only getting him but be able to tell the world proof positive is tremendously important. if you take about a drone strike you are never able to
say conclusively we got bin laden. >> there's a number of questions about the facts that the younger generation today has not gone through much of this history of the last 20 years. wondering if the experience of younger professionals, younger voters will evaluate terrorism and the process differently than our generation. i am a little older than you, our generation is thought about terrorism. >> yes and no. i certainly think that pre- 911, that we did not take terror -- terror is something that happened in other places. it happened in the middle east, it happened in europe, it did not happen in the u.s. i mean there had been cases
obviously like the oklahoma city bombing. it was domestic. the edge of foreign terrorism being able to pull off a 911 was unimaginable in this country. i think this younger generation has grown up with it. they are pretty mindful. you look at the people who were in afghanistan, we could have all kinds of reasons why you would not want to sign up to go to war in afghanistan. and yet, you look at the 13 people who lost their lives in the bombing at kabul airport, humbling of them were 20 -- 22 -- 23. they weren't drafted they volunteered. so i think people -- there are a lot of people in this generation. i don't know what you call 20 -year-olds. i don't think their
millennial's i don't know what they are please help these two old men and tell us what they are. [laughter] are plenty people like that who do not feel the commitment to go and to defend the united states. >> we said were going to focus on the book in this hour with you and not on your role at fox. there is one relevance here, is fighting terrorism a political issue? is it a partisan issue? do you have a sense in your work that people can talk about fighting terrorism without engaging the political instincts? >> the subject you can discuss today without becoming political and polarizing. the most interesting comments about terror that i have heard this weekend on 911, was from george w bush. bush 43 was in shanksville. he talked about terror, the
savagery, the antidemocratic feeling that motivated al qaeda back in 2001. and then he talked about the insurrection at the capitol on january 6 of this year. he said in fact the greatest terror threat now may not be from the middle east. it may be domestically. and unfortunately all too many similarities between the motivating forces then and now. and we have this rally in support of the insurrection us this going to take place this saturday in washington. they're going to have to put up the 7-foot fence. i guess it was yesterday morning a fellow was arrested outside the democratic national committee
headquarters with a machete and a bayonet and a knife. when they asked him why he was there he said he was on patrol. i think terror, whether it is foreign generated or homegrown , is a real and clear and present danger. i think most people understand it and see it for the threat it is. but to say it's devoid of politics, nothing is unfortunately devoid of politics these days. we went let me ask you one final question quiz. the world of journalism that you inhabit, not just because of your particular role at fox news, just in general is very different than your father faced in his illustrious career. he had 60 minutes and all the other episodes in his career. one of the main differences in
the world your father operated in, the information and the deal world to operate in today? >> i'm going to get to this and slightly a bleak way but i promise i will get there. pre-covid when i used to be in airports in public places a lot, a lot of people would come up to me and say thank you for being fair. thank you for being straight. thank you for not taking aside. and while i like praise as much as the next person, i actually find it a depressing comments. because when i started in newspapers my first job was at the boston globe in 1969. my lord, 52 years ago. being fair was what kept you from being fired. it was my gut you praised perdue that preys on higher reported, how you wrote, how you broadcast. fairness was a bare minimum requirement.
and unfortunately today and the point i'm making is i think it has because eight somewhat rare commodity. i think there's too much. i would say this across the media landscape there's too much opinion, there is too much pushing of agendas. whether it's the front page of the "new york times", or in evening newscasts, or cnn, msnbc, and fox. you know, my feeling has always been and i guess i am in some ways more like my father than a lot of people today, my feeling if you don't push an agenda, you don't pull your functions, you don't pick sides coming hold everybody to account and you're just as tough on everyone. and everybody has personal opinions but that is irrelevant to how you report the news.
so the praise i get i feel is kind of a sad commentary about the state of the news business today. that would be the biggest difference between how it was practiced in the old days and how i think it's generally practiced today. if people want to call me old-fashioned i would plead probably guilty. >> chris a thank you very much for taking this time to move the commonwealth club audience. our thanks to chris wells author of countdown bin laden. we encourage you to pick up a copy at your local bookstore. if you would like to watch more virtual programs or support the commonwealth club efforts please visit commonwealth club dot org. i am kirk hansen thank you we will see you next time. >> here's a look at publishing industry news supreme court justice is writing a children's picture book time
just help how to build a better world the book will be released on january 25 and according to justice will encourage children to use their power to help one another and begin changing their communities. this will be the justice's fourth book which includes her memoir into prior children's books. also in the news this week the american library association held events for its annual band a book week that highlights the value of free and open access information corn to the library association more than 273 books were challenged or banned in libraries and schools and other news the national book foundation has decided to move it's november 17 award ceremony online the foundation side the prevalence of covid-19 delta variant for its reason to go virtual for the second consecutive year. the national book awards will stream on the foundation's website, facebook and youtube. and according to npd bookscan pre-book sales were down for three and half% for the week.
book tv will continue to bring you new programs and publishing news. and you can also watch all of our past programs any time @booktv.org. you are watching book tv. for complete schedule visit booktv.org. also following behind the scenes on social media @booktv on twitter, instagram and facebook. >> good evening. thank you for tuning in. on behalf of all of us at the locally based, independently owned bookstore, books and books in florida and in partnership with florida international university cuban research institute, and with the support of the university of miami cuban heritage collection, it is my pleasure to welcome you to a virtual evening with ada ferrer and conversation anna menenz