Originally created 02/27/06

Author gives tips to fight terrorism



Don't think that taking out Osama bin Laden will end the war on terrorism.

Someone will simply take his place, said Gary Berntsen, an ex-CIA field officer, during a recent interview at Fort Gordon.

Mr. Berntsen came through the Augusta area while on a tour promoting his book, Jawbreaker.

The book outlines the United States' fight against Mr. bin Laden and al-Qaida, from the 1990s African embassy bombings through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and on to Afghanistan.

In the book, Mr. Berntsen argues that the U.S. failed to provide the necessary manpower to capture Mr. bin Laden, allowing him to slip away.

Mr. Berntsen came to Fort Gordon to speak with soldiers of the 297th Military Intelligence Battalion. While the briefing he gave was classified, he said he spoke to the soldiers about the intelligence community and the nation's war on terrorism.

Soldiers of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, of which the 297th is a part, have been heavily involved in intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We talked about what worked and what didn't (in the war on terrorism), so that they could use those lessons," he said.

Mr. Berntsen also spoke about the issue of a firm from the United Arab Emirates taking over operations of six American ports from a British company.

Though he's a staunch Republican and supporter of President Bush, he was critical of the administration's initial approval of the deal, which has since been delayed.

"Basic infrastructure in the United States, security infrastructure, should be in the hands of the U.S.," he said.

Mr. Berntsen was engaged in a legal fight with the CIA to publish the book. All former and current CIA employees are subject to a proviso that any manuscripts they write must be reviewed by a CIA publications review board.

The agency took longer than the usual 30 days to do its work, and then, it went to the point of overkill, he said.

Certain redactions, for national security reasons, are understandable, he said. But the agency was redacting information in the book that was "open source" - information such as mileage between two places in Afghanistan and other things that could be easily found on the Internet or in the library.

The book was finally released after Christmas, after a court ruled against the CIA.

Outside Washington's orbit, people from both parties have been receptive to the book, he said.

"Average people need to understand," he said. "There's a lot you can't say, but there's a lot you can say that people need to understand."

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.

Audio Feature

 Hear part Jeremy Craig's interview with former CIA agent Gary Berntsen author of Jawbreaker. (mp3 format)