Even though he had no knowledge of the impending tragedy, many of Mudd's's remarks were eerily prophetic:
- "There are groups designed and driven to destroy America."
- "There's a sense of threat. Will it be the next day? Will it be Chicago? Will it be New York again?
- "We're not going to clean up every place."
- "We didn't say we live in the land of the secure, we live in the land of the free."
But if questioned today, Mudd would repeat his message that post 9/11 America is in much better shape to deal with terrorists, whether they be foreign or domestic. "The unknown then was the universal. We were putting in an offense in the middle of chaos. We had to learn how to handle that volume of threat. We now have better ways to find, fix, and finish these folk," Mudd said.
Mudd based much of his engaging, brutally frank talk on his new book Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al-Qaeda.
There are 2 major questions that should guide America's decision on its war against terror, Mudd contends:
1) Who are these people who think of America as a target? Who can get at you? and
2) Where are the places of safe haven that provide the ability to plot in time and space?
Once terrorists targets are identified, there are only 3 options, Mudd said.
- go after them where they are
- stop them before they get to the United States or
- get them while they are here
"This is a brutal business. It's about operational tempo. You need to choose and rate who you go after. If you can take the people out faster than they can replicate, you will win. You're going to arrest them or you are going to kill them," Mudd said.
However, you need to temper decisions made in anger or for revenge, Mudd maintained. "Your key responsibility is to keep cool when it gets hot," he said..
Timing is crucial. "If you get there too late, they are going to kill people. If you get there too early, you may make more enemies - you go from I think they might be adversaries to guaranteeing they will be adversaries. I don't want to be bitten by the dog, but I don't want to bite the dog too early. These implications are profound. Don't make a mistake or it is your ass. We want to separate war from tragedy and that is never going to happen," Mudd said.
Several times during his presentation, Mudd said he was aware that there is no unanimity on handling the question of the ongoing war on terror. He acknowledged that mistakes have been made. "Would we do everything we did then now? Absolutely not," Mudd said. "We need to question. We need to discuss. You should never rejoice in death. But people can have this debate because we succeeded."
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
As you might expect, Mudd was asked about his feelings on the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. "My goal was not killing bin Laden. I always thought our job was to mitigate threat. What we did, was it right? I think it was a good thing. But it wasn't a day of joy. You should never rejoice in death; you do not celebrate death. If you do, you should get out of the business."