Hayden: Boston level attacks probably inevitable
April 29th, 2013
10:06 AM ET

Hayden: Boston level attacks probably inevitable

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and National Security Agency, about tackling terrorism in the wake of the Boston attack.

So is there some system for stopping this in the future?

If you look at any attack, particularly looking into the rearview mirror as opposed to looking through the wind screen, you can judge that it could have been prevented.  This was preventable if…let me also offer you the view that attacks of this nature are inevitable. This is like penalty kicks in soccer. No matter how good the goalie is, sooner or later, this ball is going into the back of the net.  And I don't mean to be so dark for your viewers, but they have to understand that we’re working in a part of the spectrum now that is well below what we experienced more than a decade ago.

I mean, what happened in Boston was a tragedy, truly a tragedy.  But it wasn’t a catastrophe.  And if we force our enemies to work in that band where, from the outside looking in, if it's hard to tell whether this was a high end crime or a low end terrorist event, that's a measure of our success, preventing our enemies from doing that which they want to do – a mass casualty attack against the iconic target.

But suppose you have a few of these people and they get radicalized on the Internet and they learn how to make this stuff, through Inspire magazine or other...


There's lots of information on the Internet outside of al Qaeda sites.


Is there something you could do? You ran the National Security Agency.


You can eavesdrop on conversations.


What could you do?

Look, there are probably things you could do on the margin that reduce the odds of this a bit, but I've taken to describing our efforts out here like this.  And they're good enough now that those things that used to really frighten us – 9/11, World Trade Center I, airliners over the Atlantic – very, very unlikely.

More from CNN: Missed signals

Now what have you got? You've got Boston. You've got Little Rock. You've got Najibullah Zazi trying to come here to New York. And now the question I ask the American public as an intelligence officer is, so what do you want me to do with my arm? I mean I can push it down a bit. I can buy you marginally more safety, but at what cost? At what cost in your privacy? At what cost in your comfort, what cost in your convenience, at what cost in your commerce? I mean these are all very serious questions and the folks inside the American intelligence community will respond to the public. They'll do what you tell them to do. But as a citizen, my judgment is that's about where we want it to be. If you push this down much further, we do what I've said we haven't done to date, which is we begin to change our DNA as a free people.

Now, Fareed, the dark side of that is, as I said before, this is penalty kicks. This is going to happen. It's a level of risk that, I'm very disappointed to say, we're probably going to have to live with.

When you look at the situation of the older brother going to Chechnya or Dagestan, the Russian intelligence tipping us off, was there anything there that should have been done differently?

You know, you look back and even those of us who are sympathetic to how hard a problem this is will say, boy, I wonder if and could we have done that? But let me give you a couple of factors. How many tips do you get in a week? And the answer is, you get an awful lot. And now this one came, apparently, from the FSB, from the Russian service. Now, Fareed, as you well know, the Russians are mad at a bunch of Chechens. Not all of them are terrorists and not many of them are dangerous to the United States.  So you've got that factor. And then the travel to Dagestan probably wasn't the alerting thing to us that it would have been had he gone to Waziristan...


…where threats to the United States have been generated. So, we'll probably change our checklist. We'll probably add a few questions to those FBI interviews. Look, we'll let the facts take us where they will. But I'm a little reluctant to just facilely criticize the Bureau or anyone else on this yet.

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Topics: Terrorism

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. sand

    the irish must die.

    April 29, 2013 at 10:23 am | Reply
    • Captain America

      What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      April 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • tuffyturf

      "Ok, we'll give some land to the chinks and the nyggers.... but we don't want the Irish"

      Blazing Saddles, 1979

      April 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Reply

        ROFL ! ! ! One of the funniest movies ever !

        April 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • pedro bundol

      You could give a million interviews but fail to ask questions. Will Mirandizing the Muslim terrorists affect the investigation and hinder the solution to the problem ? Will political correctness ensure us goodwill from Muslims and end this war early ?

      April 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  2. matslats

    You forgot to ask him about the family ties between the alleged bombers and the CIA.
    Or don't you watch the alternative media.
    Or are you deliberately creating a bubble of lies?

    April 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • Steve

      Every find it funny that the alternative media is always conspiracy related. grow up. Yeah the CIA did this so we can invade where again.. Oh yeah Russia! Morons, just because you want something to feel special about doesnt mean its true.

      April 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
      • OldMo

        False flags have many uses. They could be used as an excuse to invade another country (Reichstag fire, 911) or they could be used to take more rights away. Go do some research on Operation Northwoods for starters. If you're interested, there's plenty more information out there. Don't rely on the MSM or the Comedy Chanel as a source for "news".

        April 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  3. Benedict

    I recommend we read "Lone Wolf Terrorism and the Rise of the Leaderess Resistance" to get a insight on the mind of go-alone terrorists.

    April 29, 2013 at 10:51 am | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Mr. Hayden, there's a sense of schadenfreude in the Kremlin, but it wants to cooperate with the US, not to do Washington a favour, but for its own interest: to combat home-grown terrorists in the North Caucasus and secure the Winter Olympic Games in Sotchi in 2014. But the Russian secret services, the FSB had somehow chided the FBI for not taking their warning seriously. They believed, had the FBI kept an eye on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bombings might have been foiled.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  5. Towel Heads

    Towel Heads is what Towel Heads does.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Reply
    • sly

      Yep – gotta watch out for those bad American citizens. You know – the OK bomber, the Wacko from Waco, the Olympic bomber, the uni-bomber, the Connecticut school killer, the Columbine killers, the Sikh killers, the bunker boy kidnapper, the LA cop killer .... yep ... those American's sure are scary.

      April 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  6. Dave

    Close our borders

    April 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  7. Nophah Kingweigh

    As long as there is a CIA, there will be domestic "terrorism". Because they cause it. Kind of like the volunteer fireman who sets fires to keep himself busy...

    April 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • AceGirlsHusband

      I suppose you also extend your theories to say we have crime because we have cops?

      April 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Kanageloa

      Seriously? Are you truly that dull that you believe the CIA is responsible? Do you really understand what the CIA, FBI, DIA and HLS does? Dude, you need to get out more and see what's really happening.

      April 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Reply
      • sunder

        dont think he is saying CIA has planned this attack. He is saying CIA is pumping money into unstable regimes for short term gains risking long term security. I am not supporting his argument but if we chose to do it we better make sure we do not leave it in between. Rite now for example there are reports CIA is pumping millions into Karzai government with very little results... One can only wonder where this unaccounted money is going to. I am not saying we should stop doing this... But when we do it, better make sure we get what we want, in the long term!

        April 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  8. Kanageloa

    The man is right, more are coming. Radical islamists/jihadists hate us. They hate what we in America represent. They hate our Freedom. They are afraid of our freedoms and out civil rights. Their brand of religion falls apart when confronted by the truth of life, liberty and happiness.

    April 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply

    These type of attacks are going to happen because all of the idiots in Washington missed all of the multiple warnings/ signs again. Don't you think it's a red flag when a foreign govt ( Russia ) warns us specifically about a person ! The FBI ignored it's own people about the 9-11 hijackers for god's sake. And they along with other government agencies did the same thing again. This is after spending billions on upgrades to security and creating new agencies and new fusion centers to collect and disseminate intelligence. It's the same totally moronic culture in Washington as usual.

    April 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  10. darko

    Govt threatening more false flags is nothing new!

    April 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  11. BostonBob

    Hey – I have a thought, let's stop the import of about 1.8 MILLION people each year that we don't properly vet. That's the number of legal immigrants and work visas we allow in each year.

    And put up more restrictive evaluation of 'students' coming over for 'school'.

    And halt all immigration, work visas, specialty visas and family reunification visas from countries where the people hate us.

    April 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  12. KEVIN

    He's not supposed to be giving away that information

    April 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  13. No fool

    Boston Bob, as I think you know, your last recommendation would involve lots of countries. That, despite the fact that the American people have done so much to help those countries. One of my favorite authors once wrote this: "To have enemies, all one has to do is exist. And above all, to succeed." Another man once said in my presence: "We are the fattest prey that ever was." We should never forget those two statements.

    April 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  14. wjm

    Their of course are agents of destruction who wish to instill fear in free societies, so that a culture of mistrust is established. If these foreign or native agencies who are set on destabilize the general population into a society of fear, think they can succeed. Should you look just within America's own history there have been those who have tried to use this emotional environment to pass laws that curtail certain freedoms, in the name of prudence. America has survived these and will survive this new threat without descending into those who would hide behind skirts, as they are to afraid to face reality. America is a country that has been formed by the challenges of those who would do her democracy harm, and overcome all who have tried. This is no different, there are people hell bent on this course of action, but to them as to the others who have tried, it will avail them nothing more than a footnote in history. Terrorism has its only strength in fear, education will do more to end this idiotic way of life than any other means.


    April 30, 2013 at 12:56 am | Reply

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