This week on Emphasis, Rich Egger’s guest is journalist and national security expert Peter Bergen. His latest book is Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for bin Laden – From 9/11 to Abbottabad.
Bergen will be in Macomb on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, to speak at Western Illinois University. The presentation begins at 7:00 pm in the University Union Heritage Rooms. It’s free and open to the public.
Bergen said that publicly it seemed the trail had gone cold in the search for bin Laden, but it turned out there was a small group that developed some pretty good leads in the summer 2010.
However, President Obama and his staff still were not 100% certain bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound when the order was given in the spring of 2011 to carry out the raid that resulted in bin Laden’s death.
“There was never a picture that confirmed his presence. There was no piece of intelligence that confirmed his presence. It was always a circumstantial case that he was there,” Bergen said.
He said the debate about it went on for months. Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Gates were among those who advised President Obama to try a different course of action.
Bergen believes the Pakistani government was helpful in the search for bin Laden. He said there is no evidence bin Laden was living in that country with any official complicity.
Regarding torture, Bergen believes it’s difficult to say with certainty what role – if any – it played in finding bin Laden. He said the Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to declassify any or all of a 6,000 page report from its three year investigation into the matter.
“The chairman of that committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California – a very serious individual - as well as Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the armed services committee, have both publicly said that coercive interrogations did not yield the information that led to bin Laden,” Bergen said.
He said some or all of the report could be declassified in the coming months, which should then put to rest the question regarding torture.
Bergen believes al-Qaeda no longer poses the threat it once did.
“The organization that attacked us on 9/11, I think, is going the way of the dodo,” Bergen said. “It’s on life support.”
He believes the US needs to move on from the War on Terror, which he said is the longest conflict in American history. He feels the state of the US economy is currently a much more important national security issue than the state of al-Qaeda.