OTR Interviews

New fears as tens of thousands of foreign fighters joining ISIS

Intel community claims about 20,000 foreign fighters, including many Americans, are traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside and join terror group


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Joining us is former CIA assistant director of Central Intelligence for Collection, Charles Allen.


VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine Herridge just reported according to the estimates that they are getting 1,000 more ISIS fighters, foreign fighters since July, even though we are doing all these air strikes. What does that tell you?

ALLEN: It tells me it's increasing, it's going to continue to increase before it crests, and we don't know when it's going to crest. It may take a long time. Lack of assimilation in Europe. We have had tremendous people flowing out of Europe and North Africa. Some increase from North America. Obviously, they are flowing in from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia and Russia. We have a real problem on our hand. It's growing and increasing.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you were at the CIA now working, what would keep you up every night about this?

ALLEN: I would be working most all hours, seven days a week, and worrying deeply about an inbound attack against the United States, as well as a homegrown -- I also had Frank Taylor's job as under secretary of Homeland Security for three years. I would be worrying about attacks inside the country, lone wolves.

I think the work we are doing now and sharing information through the director of National Intelligence and through the FBI and the work that Frank Taylor is doing at the Department of Homeland Security is outstanding. But we still have weaknesses. We still have information-sharing gaps that we need to close. State and local government and local police are doing great job. But we also have a federal system of government, and it works a little unwieldy at times, but we are improving it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, that talks about a homegrown terrorists here in this country or perhaps the Western reporting home.


VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine Herridge reported that because of the change of how we fight wars, there's been more drones in the last seven years.


VAN SUSTEREN: There's been less collection of human intelligence, that we are almost blind and deaf down on the ground over there, her description. It that a serious -- I mean, how great a concern is that?

ALLEN: That's a concern. We are not totally blind or deaf --


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think that's a shorthand way to make a point.

ALLEN: -- we are insufficient. We need more intelligence. We need more human source intelligence. We are getting that. We need more technical intelligence. If I were still driving Collection, we really increased our efforts during the years against al Qaeda. But this is a whole absolutely expanding set of problems that we have not faced previously, which U.S. intelligence has not faced since perhaps places like Vietnam, in Southeast Asia. It is growing and we have to deal with it. And it's going to continue to grow. It's not crested. We will have more people flowing particularly from Western Europe.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you get at that crest point? Because as I look at the map, it is expanding, whether you are looking at ISIS in Syria or Iraq or Boko Haram in Africa or what's going on in other parts of the world. It is not cresting and it seems like every day it gets more difficult.

ALLEN: It takes a whole government effort like we did against expanding Soviet Communism. We had a government effort. We dealt with public diplomacy. We also dealt with covert propaganda. We had a whole government approach that I do not see today that we need. We need that total effort, diplomatically, overt public diplomacy and covert action to turn the tide. And we have to deal with violent ideological Islamic extremism. We have to define it, we have to recognize it exists, and we have to deal with it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, thank you very much for joining us.

ALLEN: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.