Of course, as a Romanian I was a mere pigmy on the CIA’s horizon, but the CIA nevertheless needs lots of such pigmies — from Russia, China, North Korea — in order to protect the United States against terrorist thugs and nuclear despots. Those little pigmies can see what satellites cannot: what our enemies have on their minds. How can the CIA get such pigmies to talk to them? By earning their trust, by proving it is not like the CIA portrayed to them in the vitriolic anti-American climate where they may live.
Trust is the most valuable asset of any intelligence service, no matter its nationality or political flavor. That is the most important thing I have learned in the 57 years I have spent in the foreign intelligence business. Let’s hope that, next November, the American people will bring to the White House a president who will restore the trust in the CIA and in the rest of our intelligence community.
In 1986, my good friend Michael Ledeen — at that time an anti-terrorism adviser for the Reagan administration — told me that the president was fed up with Qaddafi. President Reagan had proof that Qaddafi was behind the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, a popular hangout for American servicemen, where two American soldiers had been killed and some 200 people injured. Reagan, who called my book Red Horizons his “Bible for dealing with tyrants,” had learned from it that I had met Qaddafi several times in Benghazi and Tripoli. He sent Ledeen to me to obtain a minute description of his tents.
On April 15, 1986, U.S. warplanes attacked the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Tripoli, in the process also destroying the tents of Qaddafi and killing his adopted daughter. According to media reports, Qaddafi had left one of those tents just minutes before the U.S. attack.
That was prevention.
It took over twenty years before Qaddafi again showed his face to the world. In the process, he also gave up his ambitions to build weapons of mass destruction.
Americans are proud people who deeply love their country. Half a million Americans gave their lives to defeat Nazism and to end its lethal Holocaust. Afterward, the Americans defeated one of the most destructive dictatorships the world has ever known, the Soviet empire, which killed 94 million people and waged fifty long years of Cold War against freedom and democracy.
Soon after stepping into this new millennium, the U.S. was faced with another destructive evil: international terrorism. Let’s hope that next November the voters will bring to the White House a president who has the guts to define the problem — it is terrorism that threatens us today. Once America knows its new enemy, it will certainly defeat it.