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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Interview with Philip Bobbitt, former director of intelligence, National Security Council
Philip Bobbitt, former intelligence director, NSC
Philip Bobbitt, former intelligence director, NSC

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Winston Churchill once said that dangerous times called for dangerous methods and there's no denying we're living in dangerous times today. India and Pakistan teetering on the brink, perhaps a little bit back from the brink, of nuclear conflict. President Bush upping the ante on America's war against terrorism and the United States officially urging Nato this week to get tough with countries who may be developing biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Joining me to discuss the way the, the way forward and how we're going to do it is someone who works at the White House, the Senate, State Department and the former Director of Intelligence at National Security Council, Philip Bobbitt, good morning Philip, as everybody said it's not that Bobbitt, you are Philip Bobbitt.

PHILIP BOBBITT: That's right...

DAVID FROST: Not the other one. And you said that when you were out at the airport, out of Kennedy Airport you heard the twin towers happening and you knew what was going on without being able to see it all and you knew who was responsible, how was that?

PHILIP BOBBITT: I had a guess, Ramsey Utheth you know had attacked the World Trade Centre in 1993.


PHILIP BOBBITT: We were expecting something like another attack some where, I didn't actually hear them but I saw them, I saw each one struck and when a fire ball came through a second one it was obvious what had happened.

DAVID FROST: And it was obvious to you because you were one of the people who was aware that there plans for something like this?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well Osama bin Laden had been saying things about his hopes for some time. The NSC and the CIA were aware of these, they were trying to track him, they tried to catch him, they'd like to have tried him.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of that period, were you shocked, surprised or as an expert professional were you surprised when President Bush talked about the failure of communication between the FBI and the CIA, were you surprised by that and the fact that he came out clearly this week and said it, it hadn't gone right?

PHILIP BOBBITT: No I'm not surprised, it was the right thing to say, it was a catastrophic intelligence failure.

DAVID FROST: Could it have been prevented?



PHILIP BOBBITT: Well for a long time we've been very successful at protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans and that very success has led us to separate operations between prosecutors and investigators, between the CIA and FBI. It, it keeps intelligence and information very narrow channels for very good reasons. In this case I think it thwarted us.

DAVID FROST: And your book, your new book says very clearly that the world has changed or was going to change even before September the 11th but now has anyway. You say wars are inevitable in one part of the book and you say that the whole concept we've got of States has got to change?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well I think the State is changing, I think the kind of state we've had for about a century and a half is undergoing profound change. Borders that were so essential to protecting cultures and societies are of much less significance now, we have a global communications system like the BBC, we have a global finance system that prevents states from controlling their own currencies. We have weapons of mass destruction that mean that for the first time in five centuries it doesn't take a state to destroy another state.

DAVID FROST: That's how dangerous it is, therefore what have we got to do to cope with that, to cope with the new threat, what have we got to do?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well the very first thing is not to kill ourselves, to realise we're about to turn a corner in human history and just to think, just to think about it. I know everyone says there are aware of these changes and yet we go on doing things in pretty much the same way.

DAVID FROST: And what, what can therefore be done?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well I think the...

DAVID FROST: The only thing, as you said, don't act, and we're not going to get anywhere are we?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well I think the reorganisations we've just taken in the States are a good step in the right direction. Cooperating with foreign services like yours is absolutely crucial but I think reading and writing and debating and just thinking is the first essential step.

DAVID FROST: That's the first essential step. And do you think the world is becoming a more dangerous place because of these changes and if so who is the primary enemy, is it Al Queda or is it wider than that?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Oh I think it's much wider than that, I don't know, the enemy is really the right way to think about it. It's probably better to say that we have a number of potential conflicts looming in the new century, conflicts of a...peril we have not had to face in the past. It isn't any particular state, it isn't any particular man, I don't know where bin Laden is today, I'm not sure I even much care because he doesn't seem to be directing operations against, against us. But I do care that we continue to carry on our diplomacy and much of our defence spending as if we were living in the old world with the past.

DAVID FROST: But isn't the situation one though of there are places where you don't care about bin Laden, whether he's alive or dead, but wouldn't you say that the threat from Iraq is a personal threat, actually Saddam as an individual is a threat more than the Iraqi people?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Oh yes I'm sure you're right about that and Saddam Hussein is a, is a very powerful, ruthless, clever psychopath and as long as he's in power none of his neighbours in the region will be safe.

DAVID FROST: Right, and so that really is one of the warnings you would give, that Iraq is a danger as long as Saddam is there, perhaps the biggest danger?

PHILIP BOBBITT: I'm afraid that's probably right.

DAVID FROST: Do you think we will see biological or chemical warfare in our lifetimes, well it might cut short our lifetimes but I mean in, do you think it'll ever, anyone will ever dare to use it knowing the consequences?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well you mentioned Saddam Hussein, he has used chemical weapons and we have seen biological weapons used, the anthrax that killed people in America was obviously a biological agent, a pathogen, so we will see it and we have.

DAVID FROST: We will see it and we have. Well we thank you for being here Philip, and the following on what Philip's been talking about in his new book, highly acclaimed book, The Shield of Achilles, good title as well.


DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed.


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