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Deutch Says U.S. Faces More Attacks

By Dinsha Mistree

Institute Professor and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John M. Deutch ’61 painted a dark picture of America’s terrorism preparedness in a recent speech.

During Tuesday’s talk, which filled 26-100, Deutch said that America is vulnerable to all sorts of terrorist activities, from cyber-terror to biological attacks. Determined, well-financed groups are very likely to threaten American security in the future, Deutch said.

Deutch had silenced the audience with his dire assessment, and then offered a prediction: America can expect one or two “catastrophic” attacks each year. However, near the end of the talk, Deutch apologized to the audience for having presented “... a kind of somber picture” of American preparedness.

The lecture, “Combating Catastrophic Terrorism,” began with an explanation of the difference between catastrophic and conventional terrorism. Conventional terrorism occurs when a citizen or group of people attack an important person representing a government in order to make political gains, Deutch said.

America is now dealing with catastrophic terrorism, he said, where the attacks are against perpetrated against a society via weapons of mass destruction. These attacks are carried out by international organizations who have a new array of ways to disrupt society.

However, Deutch said that the combination of analytical efforts, human agents and technical tools “can be quite powerful.” Even if all of these methods are practiced, however, this “will not give us 100 percent protection.”

Deutch outlines goals for MIT

After discussing what America must do to combat terrorism, Deutch gave MIT four goals to focus on. The first three were specifically addressed to MIT’s science departments, calling for greater study of biological technology, development of better protection for information infrastructure, and developing aviation security.

The fourth goal, which Deutch called the most important, involved revitalizing efforts on studying foreign countries. Deutch said that MIT has a great ability to contribute to all four national interests.

Security agencies must cooperate

Deutch explained that combating terror characterizes how our government should work. However, he said that the U.S. government is not organized for this at all.

Deutch proposed a series of ways to make America more effective at combating terrorism, starting by integrating the intelligence agencies. Deutch explained that the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency have a motivation that focuses on defense, whereas the Federal Bureau of Investigation focuses on judicial procedure. He said that these departments must have some overseeing power to unify their respective efforts, but he added that “we’re not well equipped to do it.”

While noting that the Office of Homeland Security had been created for this specific purpose, Deutch explained that money is needed to support this new department. Right now, the Office of Homeland Security is unlikely to make a large difference, Deutch said, since there is no budget authority and thus no staff.

Deutch said that another big problem is that there is no intellectual background or precedence for such an organization. As a result, not only does the Office of Homeland Security not have the means to unify the various intelligence and law enforcement branches, but also the office has no clear goal.

Deutch also addressed the relatively new anti-terrorism bill, also known as the Patriots Act. Outlining certain components such as the ability to get foreign student and faculty information more easily and the ability to get businesses to hand over databases to the government for tracing terrorist activity, Deutch declared that such powerful tools are going to be misused and exploited. However he made it clear that such powers were now required, saying that America “must fight [terrorism] in every way possible.”

U.S. must focus on roots of terror

In order to combat terrorism, Deutch said, the U.S. government has a responsibility to understand the dynamics that drive other communities and groups. He said that the massive poverty and frustration festering in many nations around the world must be understood.