Retro Report’s Peter Klein: “The Sleeper Cell That Wasn’t”

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 11.41.41 PMFrom secret eavesdropping to surreptitious email gathering, we all have an increased sense of how far the government seems willing to go in the war on terrorism.

But as many of us recall, in those first days and years following 9/11, the fear and wonder of how far terrorists had infiltrated our cities and towns was real – how far had they gone to integrate themselves into our societies, waiting to strike unannounced? The concern was so-called Sleeper Cells, and when the FBI arrested three Arabs in Detroit just 6 days after 9/11 on false document charges, our worries were confirmed.

However, what if it turned out that these alleged terrorists weren’t terrorists at all? That this alleged sleeper cell was, in fact, just a dream? What if, as we debate today government’s reach and the tension between public safety and civil liberties, we had fair warning nearly a decade ago that terrible mistakes are extremely easy to make? What, if anything, have we learned?

Peter Klein is a Reporter and Director at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “The Sleeper Cell That Wasn’t.”


Rana Mitter, University of Oxford: “Forgotten Ally: China’s WWII 1937-45”

When we talk today of the WWII Allies, many of us immediately think US, Britain and Russia. We forget, some of us at least, the fourth Ally: China. In fact, China’s involvement in World War II not only predated the other Allies – they began fighting Japan in 1937, some two years before war in Europe.

But we should forget China’s WWII experience at our own peril. Because much as the war shaped other countries’ futures, today’s China – the Communist takeover, the rise of a global super power, deepening tensions with the US and Japan, among others – can be best understood through the WWII lens. Few have considered – or can explain – the connections between China’s past and its global present better than University of Oxford professor Rana Mitter. He’s author of the new book “Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II 1937-1945.”

Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution

With another round of sequester cuts pending, tensions over military budget cuts continue to grow. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined a stark choice: Maintain a high-tech force that may not have enough troops to deal with major conflicts or keep a larger but less well-equipped force that could leave troops’ lives in danger. Is there a way out? Michael O’Hanlon is Senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and director of research for the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. He’s also author, most recently, of “Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence while Cutting the Defense Budget.”

Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations

Of all the destabilizing threats coming from China today – a slowing economy; military growth; computer hacking; relations with Japan – none may be a greater risk to regional stability than one basic resource: Water. It sounds simple, but controlling water rights – where water flows and how much – has become an issue of international concern. Last week, Elizabeth Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, provided Senate testimony to the Senate about the threat. She joins me now. (July 30, 2013)

Joe Nye, former US Asst. Secretary of Defense

As we consider our incredible range of urgent international and defense affairs – challenges with our deepest Intelligence Gathering secrets revealed, China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Iran – all while coordinating a military exit from Afghanistan, a question: How much does Presidential Leadership matter? Joe Nye is a former US Asst. Secretary of Defense and currently University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His new book is “Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.”

Graham Allison, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

With the death and capture of the of the Tsarnaev brothers, an area unknown to many Americans has now jumped to our front pages: Chechnya. Russia has sought US agreement to classify Chechnya a terrorist state. Is it possible now that this terrorist activity has reached our shores? What else should we know about this region? Few know the area and conflict better than Graham Allison, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Prof. Allison has devoted much of his career to Russian studies, served in the Defense Department under Presidents Reagan and Clinton and twice earned the DOD’s highest civilian award: The Distinguished Public Service Medal. (Originally broadcast 4-21-13 on The John Batchelor Show)

Jagdish Bhagwati, Sr. Fellow for Int’l Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

Of all the issues that stand in the way of a country’s ability to reach its full economic potential — and there are so many — few are more globally pervasive, and harder to solve, than poverty. But how does the path that connects economic potential and personal poverty get not just identified, but solved? What role can a pro-growth policy play? And, as we consider yet again how to address economic growth and poverty in the US, what can and should we learn from international examples.  Few think through the pros and cons of international economic policy more cleverly or deeply than Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, Senior Fellow for International Economics at Council on Foreign Relations, and University Professor at Columbia University. And his book “Why Growth Matters” will be published in the US in April. (Originally broadcast 1-27-13 on The John Batchelor Show)

Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings; Author, “The World America Made”

As President Obama’s second term begins, he — and we — find ourselves yet again at foreign affairs crossroads. A possible nuclear rise in Iran. A so-called Arab Spring that has morphed into crises from Syria to Egypt, Mali, Libya, Algeria and beyond. In Asia, continuing questions about what role China will play regionally — and globally. And now, a change at the top of the US State Department comes while many Americans are turning ever-more inward. How to navigate these challenges, where the stakes cannot be overstated? Dr. Robert Kagan is a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in Foreign Policy at Brookings. He serves as a member of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and his most recent book is “The World America Made.” (Originally broadcast 1-27-13 on The John Batchelor Show)

Juliette Kayyem, Former Asst Sec. Dept. of Homeland Security

It was the military announcement of the week, if not the last 25 years: One of the last barriers in US warfare will come down — Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon would lift the ban on women in combat: A move that should open thousands of new roles to women. What are the impacts — immediate and long term — from such a policy change? What are the risks? Or, looked at from another view, what took so long? Few have thought and written about the potential for women in combat and their role in the military more than Juliette Kayyem, Boston Globe National Security columnist & Former Asst Secy, Dept. of Homeland Security. (Originally broadcast 1-27-13 on The John Batchelor Show)

Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

As the US begins the process to nominate its next Secretary of Defense, there is no shortage of military threats that we face — From a nuclear Iran to a more bellicose Russia to continuing questions about China’s ambitions. But beyond these sponsored states, there is terrorism. Often loosely organized, these threats are continual and growing. And it’s nearly impossible to determine where they’ll hit next. Bill Roggio is Editor of The Long War Journal and Senior Fellow Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Originally broadcast 1-27-13 on The John Batchelor Show)

Ward Wilson, Center for Nonproliferation Studies; Author: Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons

As America faces real threats from an increasing range of enemies — some organized nation states, others rogue loosely-affiliated groups — the calls for weaponized response capability continue. And the debate largely centers around recent developments: Are drone attacks the right way for us to eliminate bad guys? How can we disengage as quickly as possible from Afghanistan? How should the process work to fully integrate women into our frontlines of battle? Seldom do you hear an even more basic question: Why do we have nuclear weapons and are they actually useful? That’s the question and argument from Ward Wilson, Senior Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and author of “Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons.” (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Nicholas Burns, Harvard University & former US Undersecretary of State

If you’re looking for a region that provides a grab bag of major, potentially destabilizing issues, you’d have to look first at the Middle East. Egypt. Syria. Iran. Israel. Gaza. Nearly everywhere, a major issue and major choices. How to engage with Egypt, as President Morsi seems to reach for more power? How to balance quickly changing events in Syria, where the Russians weighed in this week just as President Obama officially recognized the Syrian rebels. How to walk this line? Nicholas Burns has had plenty of expereince. A former Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Burns served in the US governement for 27 years, around the globe. He now is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Sheryl WuDunn, China Expert

Only a month after the first change to the head of China’s Communist Party in a decade, and already, the change is being felt. From a campaign against corruption to a push for greater military strength, the impact of Xi Jinping is already being felt. In March he is expected to take over as Chinese President, running a country that has seen its economic engine slow and internal threats from the environment to privacy to activism continuing to grow. How should we think about China’s changing role in the region? What does it mean for global business and, indeed, our US domestic economy? Sheryl WuDunn is a China expert at advising middle market firms and a former Pulitzer Prize winner at the New York Times. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Dan Perry, AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Acting Middle East Editor

The headlines from the Middle East don’t seem to stop. In Egypt, a vote on a draft constitution that many in the opposition felt would be anything but constitutional. In Israel, just weeks after violent battles in Gaza, continuing worry over instability across the region and upcoming elections where the left and center-left struggles to find a candidate. And we haven’t touched Syria, Iran or Jordan. How to make sense of all the movement? Dan Perry is AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief and interim Middle East Editor, and he joins us now from Israel. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Eric Trager, Washington Institute

As you surely know, yesterday Egyptians voted on a new draft constitution. At first glance, this would seem like cause for great celebration for lovers of democracy and freedom. First, the people rise up and longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak falls. The free elections bring to office an Islamist who seems to indicate a desire to shed his more radical past and move forward in positive, democratic, institution- and peace-building ways. Now a people’s vote on a new constitution. But, of course, this fairy tale may not be playing out as many would have hoped. Where do we believe Egypt is headed — and what does its progress mean for this highly unstable region? Eric Trager is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations

If all the international challenges our next President will face, perhaps none is as complex, risky and integral to our economic, environmental and security future as China. Friend or foe? Competitor or ally? Human rights supporter or denier? Investor or debt-holder? And these questions come at a time, potentially, of major change in both the US and China. An election here that could see a new President in January. And a transition to new leadership in China, with Xi Jinping, in just the next few weeks. How to make sense of it? Elizabeth Economy is a Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations. She writes a blog called “Asia Unbound” and she joins me now. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Graham Allison, Harvard University

It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that 50 years ago tonight, we sat on the edge of World War III. We were nearing the end game of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a who-blinks-first nuclear stand off between the Soviet Union and the United States. Thankfully, we know how that ended, a masterstroke of diplomacy and brinksmanship by President Kennedy. Now, looking back on the anniversary, what did we really learn? And, on the eve our the Presidential elections, what lessons should be applied to our current international crises? Harvard University’s Graham Allison wrote the seminal analysis on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Essence of Decision. He has served our country in the Defense Departments under Presidents Reagan and Clinton and he has twice earned the DOD’s highest civilian award: The Distinguished Public Service Medal. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Thanassis Cambanis, The Century Foundation

Just a over a year since the famed Arab Spring blossomed in the Middle East — and notably in Cairo’s Tahrir Square — Egypt today swore in Mohamed Morsi as the country’s first democratically-elected and civilian leader. It’s an event that would have been hard to imagine only 18 months ago. Does today mark a hopeful, first step towards true democracy, not only in Egypt, but in the region — or, is the electing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate the first step towards Islamist law in this important country. And all of this, of course, in the shadow of continuing killings in Syria and the potential for all-out war with Turkey. How to make sense of the latest in the Middle East? Joining me to help, Thanassis Cambanis, fellow at The Century Foundation and Ideas columnist at the Boston Globe. (Originally broadcast 6-30-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Joe Nye, Former US Asst. Sec. of Defense

From potential bank runs in Spain to full revolt in Greece. From new leadership in France to new tensions in Germany. From fallout in Ireland to fallout in England, there’s no doubt that Europe and the European Union is unstable at best. The tensions can be felt in economic policy and employment — the questions of austerity vs. investment — and in cross-border relations. They also can be felt here in the US, where much of our own economic uncertainty comes from European fears. What comes next — And might this journey just get worse before things get better? Here to help us understand, Joseph Nye, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs & Chair of the National Intelligence Council on the European Union — now professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His latest book is “The Future of Power.” (Originally broadcast 6-2-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Juliette Kayyem, Former Asst. Sec., Dept. of Homeland Security on the Middle East

It would be hard to find a more troubled part of the world right now than the Middle East. In Syria, terrible massacres, including last week’s killings in Houlu, are leaving scores of children and other civilians dead — the total by some counts has now reached thousands. And while many nations have expelled Syrian diplomats, the collective willingness to take real action just isn’t there — Just yesterday, Russia President Vladimir Putin rejected calls for outside intervention in Syria. Meanwhile, in 14 days, Egypt will choose its first president since Hosni Mubarak left power. The campaign — between a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood and a former Mubarak official — risks violence. Where is this region headed? What can outside countries, including the US, do? Here to help us understand, Juliette Kayyem, Boston Globe National Security columnist & Former Asst Secy, Dept. of Homeland Security. (Originally broadcast 6-2-12 on The John Batchelor Show)