Terrell (Terry) E. Arnold was the number 2
counter-terrorism official at the U.S. State Department, and is one of the world's leading
experts on terror.
Arnold served as the Deputy Director,
Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Planning, at the U.S. State Department. He is
also the former Chairman of the Department of International Studies at the National War
Arnold has worked as a crisis management consultant for several Federal agencies,
including The State Department, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Customs Service and
the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is the author of numerous books on terror*.
Arnold is a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean war.
I spoke with Arnold by phone.
GW: Your essay It is Vital to Move Beyond 9/11 is
insightful and hard-hitting, and I agree with virtually everything you say. I have
previously written on many of the topics you touch on, such as false
pretenses for war, torture
and illegal spying.
Initially, you write:
"As an alleged post 9/11 defense, the War on Terrorism is a gigantic fraud."
I agree with you completely, and have written several essays arguing that the War on
Terror is a hoax (see this,
As a leading counter-terrorism expert, I am curious to hear why you believe this.
Terry Arnold: The military approach doesn't cover all of the elements of the problem. We
need to capture and confine the individuals who are up to doing mischief. That's a law
Also, using only a military approach does nothing to recognize the grievances around the
world. People are unhappy, and are so willing to commit acts of terrorism, or are willing
to support terrorism.
Any approach to terrorism which lacks a mechanism for dealing with "outgroups"
will not be successful. Each society has to engage the "outgroups" by itself. No
international organization can do that.
For example, the Kurds could be given their own state - Kurdistan. The surrounding states
have to recognize that they are part of the problem. Dealing with the Kurds is therefore a
GW: Do you think that starting "elective" or "preemptive" wars
against states which do not pose an imminent threat
to America's national security decreases or increases the threat of terrorism?
Terry Arnold: It increases the threat because it injures more people. One of the principal
causes of terrorism is injuries to people and families.
What we're watching in the Middle East is Israel committing suicide [Arnold explained
that, by killing and injuring so many people in Gaza, Israel is destroying its own
security, and creating a huge group of people who wish Israel harm. Through the Gaza war,
Israel is sewing the seeds of its own destruction]. You will make enemies you will not
even know about until it is too late.
GW: While there are certainly some bad guys in the world who are out to kill Americans
and hurt our country, I believe that the whole Al Qaeda threat has been blown
out of proportion to justify certain ulterior motives. Do you agree or disagree?
Terry Arnold: They overstated the danger ... did it from a view that justified the
"war on terror". Mostly terrorists the world over are not interested in doing
harm to the United States. [They are only interested in harming the U.S.] to the extent we
support people who harm them.
We can defeat Al Qaeda or any other group by depriving them of their cause and by engaging
them [rather than solely using a policy of blunt force].
GW: What would you tell people working at the CIA, NSA, other intelligence services,
military services, special operations, etc. who sincerely believe what they've been told .
. . that the war on terror is an all-out, all-or-nothing war between the good guys and the
bad guys and that we have to go "kick their butt"?
Terry Arnold: We're wasting our time and money. And not doing anything useful for our
GW: Do you believe that torture decreases or increases the risk of terrorism?
Terry Arnold: It increases the risk. There is a school of thought that it is deterrence.
But I do not believe that. If people's grievances multiply, you will have more terrorism.
For example, military attacks in Iraq increase terrorism. If you ameliorate people's
grievances, you will decrease terrorism.
GW: A high-level Special Ops interrogator said
that torture by Americans of innocent Iraqis is the main
reason that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the
first place. Do you agree?
Terry Arnold: I agree with that. What went on at Abu Gharaib was on the street before it
was in the [American] media.
GW: You write:
"Washington leadership [has] brought us no closer than we were on September 12,
2001 to resolving how [9/11] was executed and by what enemy.
Let's focus on the how question first.
What facts or observations make you doubt that the official government story does not
fully explain how 9/11 was carried out?
Terry Arnold: The nature of events in New York. The buildings falling down. I'm not
satisfied by the notion that planes hitting buildings would have caused them to collapse.
The last building to fall was not even attacked.
GW: Now let's address the question of who carried
out the attacks. You write:
"They tell us repeatedly that it [9/11] was the work of al Qaida, but they have
yet to show us the proofs."
As a counter-terrorism expert, what sort of proofs would you expect the government to
show if al Qaeda had carried out the 9/11 attacks - at least without the help of any
Terry Arnold: The case has not been fully made. The official story is not too persuasive.
GW: You also say:
"They told us the official version of what happened that day, but their story is
laced with contradictions, and the facts visible on the ground at the time belie much of
the official account."
What contradictions do you see with the official version of 9/11? And what facts belie
the official account?
Terry Arnold: The sheer mechanics of the event.
GW: Are you familiar with the term "false
flag terror"? Do you believe that governments ever carry out false flag terror?
Terry Arnold: I know that there is such a thing as false flag terrorism.
GW: How do you know that?
Terry Arnold: From history.
GW: Do you believe that spying on American citizens is necessary to prevent terrorist
attacks on U.S. soil?
Terry Arnold: No, you can't absolutely prevent terrorism. What you need is an alert law
enforcement system which is aware that there are individuals who are unhappy enough to
You have several options for dealing with terrorism. You can shoot someone if you think
they are a danger. You can use the political process.
It is best to look to where the trouble spots are, and engage people in a dialogue.
Negotiation doesn't always succeed. But its the place to start.
If negotiation doesn't work, you recognize that, and move on to other choices. [But at
least it helps you clearly identify when you've reached an impasse].
GW: How do you think the American media should approach terror issues? Do you think
that the press best serves U.S. interests by "closing ranks" with the President,
and backing the decisions of the Commander-in-Chief without question?
Terry Arnold: I don't think media ever serve their own purposes when they just go along
with whatever groups they support. The media should deal with the threats of terror in a
detached and rational manner, not just parroting what the government says they are.
The media has a problem with veracity . . .
Constitutional Form of Government
GW: Do you believe that an all-powerful Executive Branch helps keep us safe from
terrorists, or that separation of powers, including checks and balances from Congress and
the courts can coexist with an effective counter-terrorism program?
Terry Arnold: An all-powerful executive is an insufficient policy. Government can't
operate without all of those branches of government
GW: During the Bush administration, people said "we live in a "post-9/11
world", and therefore the Constitution was a quaint and outdated document. Do you
Terry Arnold: That's a falsehood. The world is not post-9/11 in any strategic, historic
GW: I believe that we have rapidly been sliding
towards martial law in the U.S. Do you agree?
Terry Arnold: There was some overreaction of the political left of the narrow-minded
approaches of the Bush administration. The Bush administration was pushing a narrow,
militaristic view. The Bush administration made moves that are discomfiting to a lot of
people on the left and the right.
But it is hard to know what they would have done if [people who thought like that]
remained in office for 4 or 8 more years.
GW: Do you think things are improving under the current administration?
Terry Arnold: I'm waiting to see. Its too early to tell.
The remainder of the interview, on continuity of
government plans, challenged my beliefs on the subject. Arnold is apparently an expert in
this area. I sincerely hope that he is right and that my worries were unfounded.
GW: Many people believe that the
suspension of a Constitutional form of government which began by the declaration of a
national emergency on 9/11, and the institution of a government subject to active
"continuity of government plans" has continued up through the end of the
Bush administration and to the present time.
Pursuant to continuity of government procedures, Secretary of Defense Gates
was sent out of town during Obama's inauguration. In addition, Obama's aids said
that in his first 100 hours, Obama would sign "bureaucratic proclamations about
continuity of government".
Do you have any insight or knowledge as to whether or not a continuity of government form
of government is still in effect?
Terry Arnold: I taught on Continuity of Government for a while. [Arnold described how he
taught classes on COG to government employees at the State Department and through the
National War College. While he said he did not have any direct role in drafting COG plans,
he implied that he was an expert in this area.]
The rules for continuity of government are clear and well-practiced. Continuity of
government is about having a government, even when you lose the one you've already got.
Continuity of government is about protecting the established leadership, or making sure
that leadership continues. Continuity of government means that, within the specific
framework, there is a way for any group of characters to run any set of responsibilities.
If continuity of government had been implemented during the Bush administration, Bush and
Cheney would be missing.
After I discussed a Washington Post article from 2002
stating that Cheney went into hiding for months after 9/11 because COG plans were
implemented, Arnold responded as follows.
That's what is supposed to happen in those
In other words, Arnold is saying that COG is all about
making sure someone is around to run the government, and hiding some government employees
is the way to do that, and nothing sinister.
I then argued that the fact that DeFazio and the entire
Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress asked the White House to disclose COG
plans, and the White House refused, showed that something nefarious was being done with
respect to COG.
The White House was overcautious about it. But DeFazio's public request was a political
gesture intended to embarrass leadership . . . that was a mistake. If they had simply
picked up the phone and asked, they would have gotten the information.
The Bush administration leadership tried to usurp power. They went around the FISA court,
and did a lot of other things that went too far. But that had nothing to with COG.
I then stated that many people believed that Bush was not
the real leader, but simply a figurehead, and that a shadow government had actually run
things during the Bush years.
It may be true that there was a shadow government. But that had nothing to do with COG.
Postscript: I believe that Arnold is one of the
"good guys" - someone who spent many years in government, is trying to do the
right thing. There are obviously bad people in government. But there are also many good
current and former government people. See this. You can't
always judge a book by its cover, and you never know where you will find allied in the
struggle for truth, justice and security.
* Arnold is the author, co-author, or editor of the following books: Fighting
Back: Winning the War Against Terrorism (1986), Beyond
the Iran-Contra Crisis : The Shape of U. S. Anti-Terrorism Policy in the Post-Reagan Era
Violence Formula: Why People Lend Sympathy and Support to Terrorism (1990), Think
About Terrorism: The New Warfare (1991), and A
World Less Safe: Essays on Conflict in the 21st Century (2005).
Big hat tip to Alan Miller of Patriots Question 9/11 who discovered
Arnold's essay, summarized Arnold's biographical information, and brought Arnold to my
attention. (2.03.2009) http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2009/02/high-level-counter-terrorism-official.html