James Woolsey on what Brussels attacks expose about terror

Attackers may have been looking for radioactive material


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHARLES PAYNE, GUEST HOST:  Well, the Brussels attacks hitting home, as a 19-year-old missionary from Utah recovers.  


MASON WELLS, SURVIVOR:  First blast went over to my right about 10, 15 meters.  I was in the back of the Delta check-in line.  And the blast was really loud.  It even lifted my body a little bit.  

And I remember feeling a lot of -- a lot of really hot and really cold feelings on the whole right side of my body.  I was -- I was covered in a fair amount of blood, and not necessarily mine even.  And I remember seeing fire in front of my face and also kind of fire down by my feet on the ground.  And we were really close.  I feel lucky to have escaped with what I did.  


PAYNE:  Well, Mason Wells credits his faith for getting him through this.  
He was also at the Boston Marathon when that bombing occurred, but he was not injured in the attack.  

The shooting -- the shoot-out in Belgium today, a suspected terrorist shot in the leg carrying a bag of explosives, this after he tried to take a young girl hostage, it follows reports that some of the Brussels bombers were caught filming the home of a nuclear plant director in Belgium.  
Authorities believe they may have been plotting to kidnap the scientist.  

To former CIA Director James Woolsey on if this is our new worry.

Ambassador, the worry here is that they wanted to tap into the scientist`s knowledge of nuclear materials, and this starts getting us in a whole different ball game.  

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Yes.  And we have to expect it, whether it`s chemical weapons or radiological material or whether it`s anything else, bacteriological weapons.

These ISIS terrorists hate us, hate life in a sense, and there`s nothing that we should assume is past them, nothing at all.  It`s really a striking lesson here on a day that is Good Friday for Christians and Purim for Jews to see what this group of ISIS is capable of.  

PAYNE:  They continue to become more and more sophisticated, particularly with things like bomb-making and hiding their bomb-making attempts and things like that.  Do you think Western officials are trying to get ahead of the curve here?  Are we already monitoring, for instance, scientists who may be targets in America and also Europe?  

WOOLSEY:  I`m sure they are.  

But social media make this a very difficult job, and encryption for telephonic communications and other communications make it really difficult to -- much more than it was five, 10 years ago to track individuals and groups.  It`s not impossible.  And they`re doing, I`m sure, the best they can, but it`s a lot harder than it used to be.  

PAYNE:  You and I talked about the -- calling or declaring war against ISIS, an official war, because we haven`t done that.  Would that help in this situation?  Are we being constricted?  

We know, of course, in Belgium, where you can`t even raid these folks after
9:00 at night.  They already have hamstrung their efforts.  

WOOLSEY:  Right.  

PAYNE:  But can we have a more concentrated way of approaching this to finally defeat them once and for all?  

WOOLSEY:  I`m not sure a declaration helps.  We haven`t really declared war formally since the day after Pearl Harbor, since December 8 of 1941.  

We had resolutions passed by the Congress both for Vietnam and for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not a declaration of war.  I think it may be any of a number of reasons, but the main point, I think, is that we have to realize we`re at war with a branch, an evil branch of one of the world`s great religions.

And just as all of the people in Massachusetts and the Puritans in the late 17th century weren`t burning witches, but some were, just as not all Catholics were involved in the Spanish Inquisition, but some were, we have to deal with the offshoot of Islam that is doing this.  

And we have to be candid about it.  We can`t duck behind politically correct language.  

PAYNE:  Let`s talk about this fighting -- fighting them back.  All of the lack of communication is notorious.  But we saw -- what we have seen, rather, in the last 24 hours feels hopeful.  You have an arrest in Paris of someone who was ready to go, in advanced stages of committing a terror attack.  

Then you have arrests in Belgium the next day of people who are connected to this guy in France.  The lack of communications even with those two countries notorious -- do you think maybe now that we have had enough wakeup calls, that the West has had this epiphany, let`s share this information, let`s forget about whatever has stopped us from sharing this information, because that seems to be the only way to successfully stop these attacks?

WOOLSEY:  It`s a perpetual problem.  

Intelligence agencies and law enforcement often don`t share what they need to share until something terrible happens.  We -- before 9/11, for example, we were in a situation where not only did a Justice Department memo keep the Justice Department and the CIA from communicating on some issues.  It prohibited some internal communications within the FBI on those same issues.  

This is all in the same of civil liberties and so forth.  And it -- we never learned these lessons about how to pull your data together and use what you have got, the way the New York City police did after 9/11, for example.  

PAYNE:  Right.  

WOOLSEY:  We tend to not learn those lessons until something terrible happens.  And it`s a shame, but that`s -- it looks like that`s the way we are.  
PAYNE:  Well, terrible things are happening.  And, hopefully, we are learning those lessons.  

Ambassador, have a great weekend.  We appreciate it.  

WOOLSEY:  Thank you.  Good to be with you.  


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