tv Chris Wallace Countdown Bin Laden CSPAN October 16, 2021 5:45pm-6:56pm EDT
my name is kirk hansen a 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. as the club continues to host virtual events, we are grateful for the continued support of our members and donors.
or to support the club. right now with a gift by checking the blue donate button on the screen. it's my pleasure to introduce chris wallace, fox news sunday anchor and author of the book countdown bin laden the untold story of the 247 day hunt to bring the mastermind of 9/11 to justice. chris joined fox news in 2003 and became the first journalist from the network to moderate a general presidential debate in 2016. through his 50 plus years in broadcasting, he has won every prominent news award including three emmys, the peabody award and the national press
foundations award for broadcast journalism. just a reminder that if you have a question for chris wallace, please submit those in the chat. chris, welcome and let me invite you to take a few minutes and make some opening comments so we can get into a discussion about the book and i will then ask questions and ask on behalf of the viewers questions that they've raised. so, please. >> thank you and thanks to all of you for watching. this is my second time speaking at the commonwealth club and while i'm delighted it's my second time speaking virtually since i did last year with my first book and i was promising today whether that means you owe me two trips to san francisco or i owe you two trips to san francisco but in any case i hope someday we can do this face to face. i've always wanted to attend and
let alone to participate in a commonwealth club greeting so i am delighted to be here today. i thought i would just talk to you briefly about bin laden, set the stage and then we will talk for the better part of an hour. whether i wrote my first book and spoke to the club last year, i have a better sense now because of the reaction to it on what it is i wanted to accomplish. it kind of came organically and that is that i wanted to write a history thriller. one of the things that it struck me about history it may sound a little pretentious but it's written very much in the mirror we know what happens and now let's analyze why or how but to me the thrill of history is that
when the people were going through it, they didn't know what was going to happen and as i was telling the story in 1945 in this countdown format where i began in that case, that today for the first time the manhattan project until we made the fateful decision in early august to drop the bomb on hiroshima, there were all kinds of questions and unknowns and tensions because they didn't know what was going to happen. it did seem to work and folks seemed to like it so i thought i wanted to do it again. my one frustration was that there were so many times as i was trying to take people into the story of the countdown of
1945 that i wanted to know more about truman and robert oppenheimer what they were thinking and feeling and discussing in the moment. and of course i couldn't do it. i had histories and diaries and memoirs and letters, but i couldn't ask them because they were all gone and so when i decided to write a second book and this made to some degree define the tension between being a historian and a reporter, i thought i wanted to do a history about where i can ask the people exactly those kind of questions. but obviously that would be a much more contemporary history. and i came up with the idea of countdown bin laden and the idea of timing it to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 which never occurred to me that the group the taliban and that was in charge of afghanistan on 9/11,
2001, would be in charge in 2021. but i did have an opportunity. i knew most of the players and i was able to talk to everybody that was a key player. as a result i think it really helped the countdown format because people were able to put me in real time as to what they were saying and thinking and the little anecdotes that have such texture and excitement to history. so my story begins on august 207th of 2010 when three members of the counterterrorism center come in to see leon panetta, the then director of the cia and tell him they have the best lead on bin laden and 90 years since he disappeared in
december of 2001 and what was so interesting about it, and i talked for hours to him, they described this compound for a trust and what was so interesting is they had been interviewed a few weeks before, whereas bin laden had said and thought that he was in the tribal area between afghanistan and pakistan, mountains, caves, and that's where he had been hiding for these nine years. it was an upscaled for the pakistani west point nestled in the himalayan mountains and retirement community.
and as he says, they are describing this to him, this compound and he's thinking to himself if that is true and they knew they just had this one that we could talk about if he wants to ask me, then everything the cia thought about the whereabouts of bin laden for the last nine years was completely wrong. he was hiding in plain sight in a very public community, not hide and seek but in a very remote and hard to reach area. and the story just goes on from there in 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 and fascinatingly september 10th 1
day shy of the anniversary when they come in to brief president obama and his top national security advisers, one of the things he makes very clear he says i want this to stay among us because he realized very quickly that if in fact it was true, if bin laden was in this place and this was the best way in nine years that even any width of the league, any would disappear and be gone. so he didn't, hillary clinton wasn't read into this until march of 2011 about a month before, secretary defense wasn't read into it until december of 2010, three months after obama learned of it so the operation
of this whole case was extraordinary. i'm talking to people who were in the room about their impressions at various points through the decision-making process in the situation room and i find that the military is brought in and the then head of special joint operations command that the guy in afghanistan that organized and oversaw all these missions inside of afghanistan and finally they were brought in in april of 2011, just the final month so countdown bin laden takes you inside of the cia and helicopters and into central
pakistan. this is very much what i was hoping to achieve. i know how the story turns out but i was on the edge of my seat for the last hundred pages because i couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next and that is what i wanted to be as a history thriller. so, with all of that background, i am happy to talk with you and answer any questions. >> i'm sorry we don't have a band here as a part of our ceremony. we will do our best. we have a thoughtful audience in the commonwealth club that is interested in the message and the material. why would a journalist who's probably at the busiest moment
in your career and at the height take the time to write these two countdown books and you could be doing many other things that might have different kind of impacts on your life. particularly when i wrote countdown 45, which was right during the last year of the trump administration and we all used to say that covering donald trump was like drinking water out of a fire hose, i've been doing fox news sunday not to say that i'm still excited and motivated i've been doing it for 18 years and i kind of got the hang of it and i found to engage
in the audience in a different way so i feel i'm delighted to have done it. writing books is complicated and hard. she kind of rolled her eyes. i have to say like a lot of things in life, there are great highs and sometimes when you have an anecdote it's something that's never been reported before from one of the people i interviewed and when you are just tough and arduous but i'm happy that i've done it and i'm really happy the response i've gotten from people that have been engaged by these books. so i'm very satisfied. >> for the bin laden book, what do you hope happens in your
reader's mind's as they read this thriller about the day by day with the preparations were over those days? >> i would say three things. it changed because of the circumstances in the last month. i totally expected that it was time to come out on the 20th anniversary but i expected the u.s. still to be with afghanistan and afghan government but certainly to be in control of kabul. of course that is not at all what happened. >> it is a hell of a good story. everybody that i know that has read countdown bin laden it really engaged me and i wasn't sure that it was going to because a lot of people said i
how the longest were ended we did accomplished the main goals and came into afghanistan in the first place to get bin laden to decapitate al qaeda and to make sure no terror attacks starting in afghanistan ever took the u.s. homeland and for 20 years, we did all of those things. and so i think that's important that we do some good and have some successes in afghanistan regardless of what happens next. the other thing, and again if the last month is kind of a page
study of a lot of stuff that went wrong in terms of the intel of how the taliban would take over and some of the political decisions that were being made inside of the white house in terms of the military operations drawing down the 700 having to go back up to five or 6,000, the chaos of the kabul airport that's kind of a case study of how it's done wrong. it is meticulous and tight decision-making the decision to launch the raid and operation execution by the navy seal is a case study of how the branches when they work together formed a cohesion to do something right. >> i'm interested in why the subjects that you interviewed
were willing to be so forthcoming. they had the number of trips to appear in the commonwealth club, but he does that so he can get back to the valley. why did make raven and the others, why were they willing to have the story told in as much detail as you are able to tell it i would like to say that it's because of my natural charm and i'm a little surprised it's not held evident but certainly i know a lot of these people. i've been in washington for four years. i know leon and the admiral and tom donnell and john brennan. i could go on and on.
i think i had if you will some street credit with them, but i think two things most of all i, these are reasons i think the timing of the book worked out well. there were several history books written in the year or two after the bin laden raid but a lot of it was classified at that point. it's also the tenth anniversary of the raid and people think that they can talk more freely. second, i think people are justifiably proud of it. i was able to persuade them that i was serious about the book and wanted to tell the story and i think they thought that they were happy to have this on the record. it's interesting because while a couple of books were written as i say in the immediate aftermath
of the raid, almost all of these people wrote a memoir, hillary clinton, barack obama, and only devoted a chapter which was relatively short and it didn't cover nearly as much detail as i did and countdown bin laden as to how it came down and what the role was and the back and forth about attention, and so i think you get a detail in the fourth interview but you haven't gotten the war one of the things i know people were intrigued by is that when he came back to the cia director.
he ended up asking a friend of his if he could live in his apartment and the cia director, a golden retriever lived in an attic studio in this friend's home that they were able to turn like a studio apartment. he said i didn't really care because i was spending about 12 or 14 hours a day in the cia anyway, so it was just a place for us to crash at night. and the cia was able to turn it into a location to make classified phone calls. it was enough time had passed that they felt they could talk more openly about it and they wanted to get on the record is something they were all very proud of. >> another of your interviews that is fascinating to me is robert o'neill and the man who
actually shot bin laden. i was interested particularly because there was controversy which you addressed a little bit over whether there was too much credit for his role in the raid, but you presented a very factually what happened and i know that there was controversy over whether he was a person who shot and made a definitive statement that he was the sole person and i gather that the admiral last year said indeed she was the one who did. he was quite forthcoming. were you trying deliberately to set the record straight in terms of his role? >> the person that took him out it is a pretty important part of the story so it's not like i
wanted to, i shared a lot of those. i remember when he first came out and did an interview, i want to make it clear he wasn't the first to write a book. there was another one that wrote. they certainly didn't take credit for their mission and he didn't write the first book. he then at a certain point did write a book with his role and i like a lot of people questioned, but bill mcraven came out and said it was o'neill and he said it after of course o'neill had already taken responsibility.
and before i interviewed o'neill i interviewed mcraven and there was no question he was the guy that did it so he obviously becomes the main character in the book as a result and he is a fascinating character from montana who was kind of from a broken home. his father very much encouraged him in sports and a variety of other things and at one point, tom o'neill came back and tom suggested that rob who i think is still in high school, go off on a climb and it was a pretty arduous climb up a mountain in montana and when it was over.
remember when he authorizes the raid he says this is the 5050 proposition. so, there was always a circumstantial case. they didn't have the smoking gun. they didn't know that bin laden was there. when i said to o'neill how dangerous it do you think it was and he said a one-way ticket. he said suicide mission. he said if he is there there is no question in my mind that when our helicopters hit the compound it is going to explode and when that happens and we go into the main house where we think if bin laden is there, that's where he's hiding. they will have bodyguards and throw hand grenades at us and overwhelming force. he said i was perfectly prepared to die if i could get bin laden.
that was a bargain that i was willing to make and he said i was doing it for the one who went to work on 9/11 in the world trade center and the plane hits the tower and at a certain point confronted with a choice between the inferno where it is 2500 degrees fahrenheit and looking out the window to a story drop and decides going out the window is the better alternative. there are strange different breeds but god bless them and am i glad we have them at the tip of the spear. >> let's go to the bottom of the line. what surprised you most about the story when you got into it and were able to get so much of the details and were there things that leapt out at you
like i didn't know that or this is an important fact that people need to know? >> so much of it. i didn't know that the seals were regarded as a suicide mission. o'neill was one of the team leaders, and his team as part of the 20,000, he nicknamed the martyrs brigade. he thought they weren't coming home and another was some meetings on april 208th. thursday, april 208th 2011. this is the final meeting of the situation room, i will tell you two stories that came out of this and these were interesting developments. they are talking about trying to get a sense of how confident are people in the compound. he goes around and some people
think it's 50%, some think it's 80%. he finally turns to the deputy cia director and says explain to me these certain percentages and he says it's not that the person that says 80% has any different facts and the person that says 50%. it's just how they assess the fact that we all know and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we all come to this table today with different life experiences and experiences with intelligence and they said when they were meeting there, history was in the room that today meaning that people came with their history and experience and one of the best examples of that was bob gates, the defense secretary. he had been an executive assistant since 1980 when jimmy
carter ordered operation eagle claw which was the iranian hostage message and that people remember ended up in a sand storm in the middle of the desert in iran and helicopter crashing certainly it contributed to jimmy carter losing the presidency. it came with that background and sense that it can go horrendously wrong and have a huge impact. so back to morel when he's going through this he's coming through different analysis and longer experiences they have seen these things go south and people who
have a better experience in the intel and execution which were frankly the last ten years in the war on terror was later confident and then had in fact frankly the case that saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction was stronger than the case that bin laden has on the compound. how can i say that, that's one of the great intel failures of all time having slam dunked on iran and he's saying that was a greater certainty than this. it is the best that we've got on them in nine years and i have somebody in the room and the compounds that said i had
breakfast with bin laden this morning. i wouldn't give it 100%. one last story in this regard. obama then goes around the room and asks and says i don't think the evidence is strong enough and i'm very worried about the damage that this will do to the relations with pakistan. and at that point, we were major supply lines so it's where they were going to be cut off and then he talks to gates and he is also against it and i describe some of the reasons why. anyway, after the meeting, most everybody else was for it and obama says i will give you my decision in the morning. i don't want to stay up in the morning and think about it at night which was a standard procedure. so after the morning, gates goes back to the pentagon and is in the car with the joint chiefs of
staff michael mullen and if you remember in the memoir after he retired as the secretary defense, joe biden had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for the last 40 years but he had said this when he was sec. defense inside the pentagon and biden was vice president so when they are in the car going back to the pentagon, he kind of tweaks them and says you know how you always tell me he's been wrong about every foreign policy for years and now you just voted with him not to do the raid so it's that kind of stuff that adds so much color and texture and perspective to the kind of decisions. >> let me ask some of the questions that i had on reading the book and, indeed, it is a good read. i was up until 2 a.m. finishing at the other night.
>> one of the questions was why did obama go ahead with what he described as the 5050 chance that this was bin laden but a 50% chance that it wasn't? why would you still go ahead and risk all of that with pakistan the relationship with pakistan? >> because i think that there was certainly a lot of evidence of their. that is an opportunity risk. there's the opportunity risk of invading. it was an invasion. they were going to go 162 miles in pakistan without permission but it's the risk of launching the operation and maybe using it there or he is there and goes south in a terrible way. there's also the risk of not doing it and the best opportunity you've had in nine
years was gone and i think two things, one i think it showed his trust that they had really done their due diligence and they had done everything he could. panetta was very strongly for it and it certainly wasn't a slamdunk if you will, but it was a pretty strong case. there's a lot of reasons we go into. there was this career, there was the fact that they had built this million dollar compound much bigger than any other place in the area. it was 18-foot walls and 12-foot walls. it had a terrace that looked out over the himalayan mountains, but it was shielded by a 7-foot privacy wall so it was built to look at the view and then there was a lot of reason to suspect and the other thing is i think
that he had tremendous confidence they had 17 days to bring in the seals and start rehearsing for a complete scaled model of the replica of the compound in north carolina and another one in nevada. he had seen the videos of that. i think that he was convinced he was there, he could get them and he could get out. one overall question that i had was is this a story of if you like the mantra 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, but they felt this was one of the things that really impressed me in the book is the decision-making that went on in the white house and it wasn't just obama. the whole team. i talked to the national security advisor. at one point he said good policy, good process doesn't guarantee good policy even though this was closely held to the discussions like hillary clinton until march and now when they were, they couldn't have staff at all. they literally had to lie to their assistance about why they were going to the white house.
they couldn't the meetings on and have any staff and take any notes and all that. there really was a meticulous 17 meetings that the deputies, principles and models before obama makes his decision and this is just in march and april of 2011, 17 meetings. but various meetings. like is it worth it to get not just is he there and can we get them but is it worth it and when will we get out of it. what does it say about the larger policy in that region and what is the theme so we took a lot of that into account and i think there are several reasons why i thought it was important. one, just i think they thought one, you could say this is macho but i think there's more to it than that. this is the architect of the worst terrorist attack on the u.s. and in our history if you
can take them out, that is important. number two, it sends a message to the future bin laden's and our friends and enemies. we won't stop. we will go however long it takes, however long we have to travel to bring justice to respond. they also thought what would have a real impact on al qaeda that decapitating al qaeda, they didn't really know to what degree bin laden was still an operational leader. it turned out from the treasure trove it was still running al qaeda but they thought that this would have a body blow to al qaeda and terrorists and this was probably my toughest to get was a fellow called gary the
head of the pakistan and afghan department which was really the lead in terms of hunting down bin laden. but he said they brought them to ground zero and the pentagon and shanksville and we wanted to say to the world our friends and enemies you're going to bring the battlefield back but as it turns out, to pakistan. so, that was a variety of reasons from bringing the mastermind to justice to the message that it would send to the world about america's determination, resolve and confidence and capability. >> did you have a different opinion about obama at the end than you did before you started this project? >> i can't say that it was
180 degrees but yes, it was two things. one is that if you study it and delve into it it was tougher than a lot of people think he was. he became famous for his speech closing the iraq war, but what people don't know or notice is he said i'm not against war and just against stupid wars and if you remember in the 2008 campaign, he talked about if we were able to get a lead on bin laden we would take them out in a debate with john mccain and even talked about pakistan. he said we would take out bin laden even putting pakistan on notice and most interestingly, i
really didn't know, that shortly after he became president in january of 2009. i want bin laden to come to the front of the line. that is your top priority as the cia director is to find and get bin laden when he lights a fire under the director, the director then goes back to langley and lights a fire under the agency. so -- >> did you develop any opinion on whether it had not been a
priority after 2000, or was that a substantial in tora bora. >> there was an argument inside of the pentagon about how many troops to send and wanted to go in relatively lighter. who knows if that's why but he did. when i talked to some people who were there, remember obviously the obama theme comes in in 2009 and when i went to talk about, you know, he really lit a fire under the cia and some people pushed back who was the deputy director and had been there all during this period of time and he kind of took offense to the idea that they had forgotten about bin laden and obviously like anything in history there's
no question whatever the priority was under bush and particularly in the later years, it went back to square one when obama came in. >> and you identified once they had said this is a compound of interest they sought out confirming evidence certainly not overwhelming. they could have kept it 90% certainty. but what do you think was the most important piece of evidence that gave them the confidence at least for the cia and to 60 to 80% probability? >> i think a few things. first of all, the way they ended up in the first place is they had sort of three outages. one was his family. the other was people inside al
qaeda and over the years people like shaikh mohammed, they didn't know where bin laden was because he had separated from them, which brings us to the third avenue and that was the feeling that there was no way wherever bin laden was whether he was in a cave or in the tribal area or someplace else, there's no way he's doing anything that leaves an electronic footprint. he has to have a courier that he can had a message over to that can somehow get it to somebody who's operational in al qaeda. ..
and build a compound and then make it super secret. as i talked about all of the architectural security. but 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 campaign a hepatitis campaign started doing it around town and think came to the compound and said we are giving vaccines. and the nurse was kicked out. there is just an accumulation of stuff. they had the pacer they had seen that the person, 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. it wasn't only how persuasive this was is there just seemed to be no other reason for all 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 pretty. >> if the seal team thought it was a martyr's expedition in way, a suicide expedition, did you develop any sense of why it was not booby-trapped? why there were not guards to protect? >> absolutely. bin laden had gotten really lazy on really sloppy in terms of operational security.
what are the things that shocked them is when they got in the compound and got the materials, he had been in that compound for five years. terror suspect 101 as you go to a new place every night. or it certainly every second night. you keep moving. but he is in this place for five years. i'm one of the other things they very much expected, not only did a lot of them think as they were looking up the drone video the aerial video of the raid, one of them said they fully expected the compound to explode like the end of a gerry bruckheimer action movie. but the other thing is a lot of them thought they were going to be escape tunnels. that even if they got there, bin laden would've found some way to escape. so i think it is 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. in the final two chapters you tell the story of the aftermath for many of the major figures. some clearly their reputations work usually enhanced, their lives were enhanced. many of them including some of the seals, this future was not the greatest. for you surprised their lives sort of went back to normal and some were successful in some work? they returned too if you like, real life. >> no. no because that is life. they were in an extraordinary situation i think all of the seals are extraordinary. but they went back to being seals after this mission. and almost all of them i was like the astronauts who landed
on the moon and they were not 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 and kept fighting. so i am not surprised. you know, they were kind of aware of it themselves. one of the things is interesting, for seal team six, they were very uncomfortable being the hero. there is very much the signed of culture that it was the team it. now that broke down a little bit when they became so celebrated after the bin laden raid. for instance 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 is also on this mission as was o neill was on captain phillips mission, was the one who took
out the final pirate through a portal window in the lifeboat. and after it was over he obviously had an adrenaline rush but kind of went off by himself because there is a burden in this team to being singled out. among other things that kind of breaks that and there's a certain amount of perpetual jealousy. so o'neill, after he takes out bin laden, that day before he leaves the compound's thinking to himself as is the best day of my life are 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 he wrote the book was because some of the seals he could tell were looking at him differently because he was the man who killed osama bin laden. >> host: 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, the united states will track you down. it was echoing language that bush had used after 911 in some ways. our things very different in our fight with terrorism today than they were either ten years ago when they were after bin laden for 20 years ago immediately after 911? >> i don't know that they are so different than 20 years ago. but that was bad because we did not have enough people inside afghanistan. we did not have, i don't mean boots on the ground, but i presence on the ground that was very effective and
obviously stopping 911 before it happened and stopping al qaeda before they did what they did. so i worry we are going back to the bad old days. it's certainly different now than it was back in 2010 and 2011. we had tens of thousands of people in afghanistan. we had a big presence there. we had a big presence in pakistan. it was our presence in pakistan we were able to track down the career and get to the compound. president biden talks about this over the horizon capability. with that basically means his afghanistan being a land locked country as we have got to get there from someplace else. his pakistan going to allow us to have a presence if we fly from the persian gulf, that is
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. just take a look i know for instance the first attack after the bombing we took out two isis-k people in eastern afghanistan. i have 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 that were part of the group and it was a kill we could bring down. it wasn't like we got the mastermind of the suicide bombing at kabul airport. the second one the drone strike the day we left there is a lot of reporting far from being a vehicle in fact it was an aid worker with supplies
going to other aid workers. how effective will be in fighting the war on terror of these two brothers who are key players in the taliban and have close ties to al qaeda, isis k and you feel it is going to be terrorism central. but you know on the other hand i've talked to some key sources who say if you are talking about and ability to strike the u.s. homeland, the greatest threat to us now is from al qaeda and the arabian peninsula in yemen. are greater that it is from afghanistan for this part of biden's point is the threat has metastasized.
and afghanistan may become a bad place now and headquarters for the terror network. right now you got it in africa, if got in yemen, and in sierra, and 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 the way you see the fight on terror and our military future that we are moving and that direction more towards drones and electronic means and so on? >> i think drones and also special forces. these very targeted specific grades. i think after afghanistan and
iraq the idea of a big deployment of hundreds of thousands of american troops, can you write the scenario where it can happen, sure? i think that is very much a last resort for any american president. it's interesting one of the things about mick raven, make raven literally wrote the book on these kinds of raids. as you know, kirk, from having read it. but in my book he does postgraduate naval school in monterey and he decides to do his thesis on special operations forces. he does a number of case studies from world war ii, hitler, rescue mission of mussolini and the israelis going into uganda to save israelis who had been hijacked.
he comes to this conclusion and looking at all of them with surprise, speed, repetition and purpose that a small force that is really well-prepared and the bin laden raid is a perfect example, can overwhelm -- and go into enemy territory and overwhelmed. it turns out there is not a big force there. turns out it could have taken out a much bigger force. for a short period of time. it was a surgical rated. you are always going to need boots on the ground. you cannot do it all electronically. but in that case look at someone drones did not exist in 2011. in fact when obama makes the decision he's really got two choices. one is the raid the other is a drone strike. one of the reasons he did not do the drone strike is that
done a lot of them and they missed people. and in addition to which a case like bin laden were not only getting them but being able to tell the world proof positive you got it was tremendously important. you take them out they drone strike you're never able to say conclusively we got bin laden. >> there is a number of questions about the fact the current generation, the younger generation today has not gone through much of this history of the last 20 years and wondering if the experience of younger professionals, younger voters will evaluate terrorism and the process differently than our generation? i'm a little older than you met our generation is thought about terrorism. >> well, yes and no. i certainly think that pre-911
we did not take terror, terror is something that happened in other places. it happened in the middle east, and happened in europe, it did not happen in the u.s. there had been cases of us is like the oklahoma city bombing. it was domestic. the idea of foreign terrorism being able to pull off a 911 was 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 and you could have all kinds of reasons why you would not want to sign up to go to war in afghanistan. and yet when you look at the 13 people who lost their lives in the bombing at kabul airport, how many of them were
20, 22, 23. they were not drafted they volunteered. i think there are a lot of people in this generation i don't know what you call 20-year-old. they're not millennial's i don't know what they are. someone help me please help these two old men tell us what they are. i have people like that is still very much feel the commitment to go and defend the united states. >> we said were going to focus on the book in this hour with you and not of your role at fox. there's one element here, is fighting terrorism a political issue? is it a partisan issue? or do you have a sense in your work that people can talk about fighting terrorism without engaging the political instincts?
>> there isn't any subject you can discuss today without it becoming political and polarizing. the most interesting comment about terror that i heard this weekend on 911 was from george w. bush. bush 43 wasn't shanksville. he talks about need terror and the savagery and the antidemocratic feeling that motivated back in 2001. and then he talked about the insurrection at the capitol on january 6 this year. he said the greatest terror attack might be domestically. and unfortunately they're all too many similarities between the motivating forces then and now. we have this rally in support
of the insurrection is 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 i fell that was arrested outside the democratic national committee headquarters with a machete, bayonets, and a knife. when they asked him why he was there he said he was on patrol. you know, i think terror whether it is a foreign generated or homegrown is a real and present danger. you know, most people understand it and see it for the threat it is. to say it is devoid of politics nothing is unfortunately devoid of politics these days. >> let me ask you one final question, chris. the world of journalism that you inhabit not just because
of your particular role at fox news, but also just in general, is very different than your father faced in his illustrious career. he had a 60 minutes and all the other episodes in his career. what are the main differences between the world your father operated in and the information and media world you operate in today? >> i will get to this in a slightly oblique way but i promise i will get there. three covid monies to be in airports and 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 a side. while i like praise as much as the next person i actually find it kind of a depressing comment. when i started and 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 not what you got praise. you got praise for how you reported, how you wrote, how you broadcast. fairness was just a bare minimum requirement. and unfortunately today and the point i'm making is that has become a somewhat rare commodity. i think there is too much and i would say this across the media landscape there is too much opinion. there is too much pushing of agendas, whether it is the front page of the "new york times" or an evening newscast or cnn, mns bc and fox. my feeling has always been and i guess i am some ways more like my father than a lot of
people today. my feeling if you do not push an agenda, you don't pull your punches, you don't pick sides you hold everybody into account you're just as tough on everyone. everybody has personal opinions that is irrelevant to how you report the news. the praise i get 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 is generally practiced today. if people want to call me old-fashioned i would plead probably guilty pre- >> chris a thank you very much for taking this time to be with the commonwealth club audience. our thanks to chris wallace author of countdown bin laden. we encourage you to pick up a copy at your local bookstore. if you would like to watch