The bombings in London show that the war in Iraq isn’t keeping terrorist attacks from the soils of the United States’ allies, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman said.
“The argument that we can fight them in Iraq and they won’t hurt us here is over,” said Harman, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “They are going to try to hurt us all over the place and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an attack or an attempted attack in America any day.”
Harman was part of a five-person panel of intelligence experts at the inaugural Aspen Ideas Festival, which was organized by the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
The group said the attacks in London were unexpected. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured when three bombs exploded in the city’s subway and one exploded on a bus.
“The intel services around the world — and we’ve been in touch with them — had no warning of this, nowhere,” Harman said. “The Brits are very good at putting surveillance cameras everywhere. They didn’t pick up anything.”
Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey said U.S. intelligence agencies have been slow to adapt to the new threat of Islamic extremism.
“We had a pretty good intelligence system at the end of the Cold War,” he said. “But that system is very, very heavily irrelevant to major parts of this long war of the 21st century that we are now engaged in.”
He added that success in Iraq was vital to the stability of the Middle East.
“Either things are going to go rather well,” Woolsey said, “or if it fails there, it will be a huge incentive for the Islamists and the really bad folks to come after not only Europe but everybody else.”
Ken Adelman, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during President Reagan’s administration, said intelligence agencies needed to take greater risks in sharing information and recruiting support from the Arab world.
“There is a tremendous push to be safe on everything and risk adverse and, boy, that is just very damaging when it comes to intelligence,” he said.
Jim Steinberg, vice president and director of the foreign policy studies program at the Brookings Institution, said America’s struggle against terrorism would last for years to come.
“It is going to be with us for decades, we are going to have future terrorist attacks,” he said. “Hopefully they won’t be catastrophic but they may well be like the ones we had in London.”
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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