Interviews with Daniel Pipes
Impact: Al Qaeda among us
Fox: The O'Reilly Factor
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: In the second "Impact" segment tonight, al Qaeda among us. While the military has been fighting the terrorist network in Afghanistan, the FBI has reportedly been investigating hundreds of suspected sleeper cells in the United States. Is it possible for our government to shut these sleepers down?
Joining us now from Philadelphia, Daniel Pipes, author of the new book, "Militant Islam Reaches America."
So Mr. Pipes, do you have confidence that our government can shut these sleepers down before they receive an order to attack us?
DANIEL PIPES, AUTHOR, "MILITANT ISLAM REACHES AMERICA": I'm not terribly confident, John. The government doesn't have a very good record. But it is learning, I think, on the job.
In the past, it was no good at all. Today, I'm hoping that there's a body of experience that it has been drawing on, looking at sleepers that have been caught, looking at other countries where they've been caught, looking at incidents where they've not been caught, and going backwards. That's what the intelligence community calls "walking back the cat," figuring out what people did and drawing conclusions from that.
GIBSON: All right. Well, what are they looking for? Is the FBI and counterintelligence people that are out there working right now, counterterrorism people, what are they looking for?
PIPES: Well, I think there are a variety of signs that would suggest that someone might be a sleeper. And I stress the word might. None of these are conclusive in and of themselves, but in the aggregate, if you have a bunch of these characteristics, it might suggest that someone is potentially a sleeper.
One indication: connections to countries where there is a lot of militant Islamic activity or there are wars going on, going back and forth, having communications there.
A second would be a lot of irregularities in identity, changing identity, changing names, changing spelling of names, changing passports.
A third indication is preparing for an operation, physical preparation, mental preparation, learning techniques.
A fourth would be a person's activities, who he spends time with, who he avoids, what he's doing with himself.
And the final one would be his attitudes. What does this person think about the United States, about Christians, Hindus, Jews? If you look at these various characteristics together, you have some idea of who might be a sleeper.
GIBSON: Well, just for instance, should Mohamed Atta and his band of hijackers, should they have gotten by authorities? Were they exhibiting signs that said they were sleeper terrorists among us?
PIPES: In retrospect, there are a number of indications that were suggestive. But the problem was at that time, the government had a very simple idea that a sleeper is someone who would spend a lot of time at a mosque and talk overtly about hating America. These fellows are much too clever. They didn't do that.
But they did take a number of steps, for example, in preparing themselves, in going to look at crop-dusters, in taking the lessons for airline control - taking over an airliner. That in retrospect suggests that if we had been more observant we could have caught them. I mean...
GIBSON: Are you saying, for instance, Mr. Pipes, that Americans now, taking the lesson of pre-September 11, should be looking for young Arab men who live together, who don't mix in the community, who speak furtively on the cell phone to each other and don't talk to everybody else, who keep to themselves, who mumble things about America, in other words, sort of profile them ethnically and then report them?
PIPES: I would be reluctant to focus in on young Arab men, although they're more likely than others. I would instead focus in on a person's beliefs and political outlook. And that person need not be Arab, need not be young, need not be male. I think the important thing is a person's ideas, not a person's ethnicity.
GIBSON: Earlier, I think you might have heard Colonel Hackworth say that we do have to worry about attacks from Saddam Hussein's sleeper agents in this country. Would you expect that?
PIPES: Not really. I think the significant sleeper infrastructure belongs to militant Islam. And while militant Islam is angry at the American treatment of Iraq and presumably be even more angry if there was a war, I don't think it's going to go to bat for him.
GIBSON: Mr. Pipes, thanks.
Reader comments (1) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes