In This Together: One Team, One Fight

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", April 30, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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JIM ANGLE, HOST: The nation is still trying to figure out what we might have done differently before the September 11 (search) terrorist attacks, but what have we done since? How are we and the rest of the world doing in the battle against terrorism?

For answers to that and other questions, we turn to one of the stalwarts in the fight against terrorism, Ambassador Cofer Black, former head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, now the coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department.

Ambassador Black, thanks for joining us, sir.

COFER BLACK, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR: Thanks for having me, Jim. Nice to be here.

ANGLE: Let me ask you first, the latest report on global terrorism for all of 2003 is out. Remarkably, it shows the lowest number of terrorist attacks in one year since 1969; some 190 acts of terrorism and less than half as many people killed as were in 2002. What changed in 2003 that pushed those numbers down?

BLACK: Jim, I think you have a key point there. A hundred and ninety attacks during an entire year, it's the lowest we've had in 34 years. I think the reason for this has been the coming together of a community of nations.

You have law enforcement security services, those that do financial operations against terrorists coming together, pulling together. We've got increased communication, greater transparency. You've got the sense we're all in this together, its one team, one fight.

And I think that's reflected in these numbers. And I think as time goes by, those that are charged with protecting innocent men, women and children are getting better and better at what we do.

ANGLE: The writer Samuel Johnson once talked about the amazing concentration that comes to a man who is about to be hanged. Is that what happened here, that the international community finally released the full extent of the threat it faced?

BLACK: I think to a certain extent, Jim, that's absolutely the case. Those practitioners of counterterrorism around the world from many countries were somewhat laboring in isolation out of the public's eye.

Certainly for this country, the United States with 9/11, we had a validation. We had a coming together, where everyone appreciated that this catastrophic loss of life potentially would apply to them too.

We have had subsequent attacks around the world from Indonesia, to Madrid, to Riyadh. And there's been a validation that this is, indeed, a war.

ANGLE: One of the other things you point to in the report is less state sponsorship of terrorism. Talk about that.

BLACK: Well, that is certainly the case. We've had a -- we, as a community of nations, have had great successes. You have Libya really coming out from being a key state sponsor to now renouncing that. They've stopped their contacts and support for international terrorist groups. And we're working with them and we think we're making real progress.

You have the government of Sudan, where I searched there in the early '90s, and say it was a real haven for terrorists. They were everywhere. And now they have come away from that. They have made significant progress. A couple issues left with them, but they've been helping us. They've been identifying terrorists. They've been helping to cut financial links. It's another very good success story. We have a couple things we would like to do with them, so that's going very well.

We have the -- we have a certain number of countries that really it have shown little cooperation whatsoever. Here we're talking about the Iranian government. Talking about the Syrians, who provide safe havens for terrorists; they allow terrorists groups to train, refit, to congregate. Not only that, they supply them with weapons.

You have the Iranian government trans-shipping large amounts of weapons through Syria to Hezbollah, to kill innocent people back and forth.

But I think the good news here is that those opposed to terrorism, those who seek to defend the innocent, are pulling together. And the odds are with us, and we're more than a match for these guys.

ANGLE: You talk very poignantly before the September 11 Commission about the lack support over the 1990s for the intelligence community, and sort of the failure for all of us to understand how big a threat it was.

How difficult was it for the intelligence community in the 90s? And do you now believe that you and the intelligence community, everyone involved in counterterrorism, has what they need to do the job?

BLACK: Well, I certainly should leave questions like that to the Central Intelligence Agency, but as I testified in front of the 9/11 Commission, the 1990s was bad news for the practitioners of counterterrorism in the intelligence community.

I think the experts over there will tell you that from the beginning of the 1990s to the end of the 1990s there are 25 percent less operations personnel that were able to go after the terrorists and hunt them down. The funding was not there, as I testified. But that's the bad news. The good news is that currently support has been provided by the president of the United States in terms of funding.

ANGLE: One last thing for you. Let's look at 2004. There have been some spectacular attacks, particularly in Spain, for instance. And there seems to be, I don't know whether you would call it a new trend. But a discernable trend to try to use terrorism to put political pressure on regimes; in this particular case, in the case of the Italian hostages, to try to get those governments to leave the coalition and not cooperate. Is that a new wrinkle in what al Qaeda is doing?

BLACK: This actually may be the case, and it may be somewhat accidental in that they discovered in practice that they observed the attacks -- the horrific attacks in Madrid. They may have concluded that a terrorist action can, they believe, affect the outcome of an election. I think they're also observing.

They watch television. They have access to the Internet. And they see the great emotional impact it has of people of any country when they lose hostages. So I suspect this is not -- has not been lost on them, and they will try and utilize this as a tactic in the future.

I think it's very important, the United States has a policy on that, we make no concessions to terrorists. And we encourage the other countries of the world to follow this policy because we believe it's the most effective.

ANGLE: Ambassador Cofer Black, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

BLACK: It's always a pleasure. Thank you very much, sir.

ANGLE: Thank you.

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