Pete Hoekstra discusses how ISIS motivates its followers rather than specifically directing any one attack, how ISIS encourages use of more easily accessible/more difficult to track weapons such as vans when they call them to arms.
ISIS credibility is sufficient to inspire new attacks. The longer-term challenge is how do we diminish and eliminate this threat overall, especially when, even with the excellence of the UK's law enforcement and intelligence community, the ratio of terrorists to intelligence officials in the UK is something like 1:60 --"the numbers are working against you."
Trace Gallagher: I want to bring back in former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra. He is a former member of the, in fact he chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007. And Congressman, we talked earlier about the weapon choice, the van and the knives, and they were wearing these fake suicide bomb vests. What do you make of that?
Pete Hoekstra: Well, clearly this is what ISIS has been encouraging their you know their devotees to use, because in some places these are the only weapons that are available to them or easily available to them, and weapons that are not very easily tracked, yet can do significant damage, as we're seeing tonight.
Gallagher: And I wonder, if you go back to the Manchester attacks a couple of weeks ago, that was a bomb, and you know one of the first things they did, they got on scene, they started picking up the shrapnel, the shrapnel that was in those who were injured, trying to figure out who made the bomb. And we talk about the nexus between that attack and this attack. Does it tell you that they weren't, they didn't have access to this network because they couldn't get explosive devices, or, again, is it just reading too much into the tea leaves?
Hoekstra: Number one, I do think they're connected in terms of inspirationally they're connected. They probably didn't have physical communications, they probably weren't directed by a central organization. One individual had had the opportunity to travel back to Libya, probably to meet with a bomb maker in Libya who was affiliated with ISIS, he came back, he had that capability, he acted on it. These individuals you know they're seeing what we talked about earlier – an election, the benefit concert tomorrow night, the beginning of Ramadan. And you know they're saying – hey, we're going to strike, we, ISIS has encouraged us to strike, this is what's available to us right now, we're going to use it and we're going to go.
Gallagher: I'm kind of fascinated, Congressman, by the fact that you know a couple of days ago we had that, we had what looked like a terror attack in Manila, in the Philippines, and it ended up killing a couple of dozen people because of a fire, and the police there say it wasn't a terror attack, it was just some disgruntled man. But immediately on these you know these terror websites, ISIS took responsibility, and it's my assumption that there will be some claim of responsibility for this. So, is ISIS just kind of willy-nilly taking responsibility? Or are we believing that they are responsible for all these attacks just because of their inspiration?
Hoekstra: I think, number one, they'll take credit where they believe they can get credit and where you know law enforcement may not be able to ascribe the motivation anywhere else. I think in these kinds of cases, ISIS is responsible, but again, it's motivational, it's not that they directed these people to do it, other than through indirect means of social media and their propaganda.
Gallagher: Does it diminish their capacity, though at all, Congressman, when they take credit for something that clearly was not done on behalf of ISIS?
Hoekstra: It diminishes their credibility in terms of saying they can't you know they're spouting propaganda and you know you've got to discern their message, you've got to be very discerning when you read and listen to what they have to say. But you know their credibility clearly is established. You know like I said earlier, the threat from radical Islam, 30,000 people dying per year as of 2015, that number was 3,000 per year from 2001 to 2007, spreading into Europe, spreading into Asia, you know Northern Africa, the Middle East, they have all the credibility that they need right now. They are on the move. They're striking at the heart of the West – in London, in Paris, in Brussels, in Germany. I mean you know they've got all the credibility that they need.
Gallagher: Yeah, it's interesting, because I know you have been in these types of intel meetings, and I know tomorrow Theresa May will meet with her Cobra Team, her you know national security team, to talk about the next steps. What do they talk about? I mean three attacks in three months, what's top of the agenda? Do they raise the threat level? What happens next in the U.K.?
Hoekstra: Well, number one, they're going to be very concerned about what do we know about other, any other impending threats that are out there, who's on our radar screen, what individuals, what groups, what organizations. They want to try, they'll do everything that they can to prevent you know a repeat of this in the next week, two, three weeks, that's their number one focus. The longer-term focus is how do we minimize this threat long-term, what are we going to do with the United States, what are we going to do with NATO, what are we going to do with our friends in the Middle East, how do we eliminate and diminish this threat long-term? And they're going to have to do a very, very hard assessment, because when your people in the U.K. are not going to be satisfied with a government that is putting more police on the street and soldiers on the street to react to these events, and responding in eight minutes, I think is – wow, that I think is pretty impressive. But that's not good enough. The you know the citizens of Europe and the U.K. are going to want to see this threat diminished and these attacks stopped, and it's going to be very, very difficult, just because of the magnitude of the threat environment in the U.K. today.
Gallagher: Yeah, you know that's great analysis right there, Congressman. And I want to take you back, because you know back in, back when they had the aviation threat you know a decade ago in the U.K., and they foiled those threats of blowing up airliners over the Atlantic, and everybody said – man oh man, they've got intel, they are good at this, they've been doing it for a long time. And now you have three attacks in three months, and all of a sudden, the confidence level of the people over there, it really does, it starts to go down a bit.
Hoekstra: It goes down because you, there's no way you can have enough law enforcement. You can't have enough people in MI5, MI6 to deal with this scope of threat. I think someone earlier tonight said you know it takes 60 people to track one potential jihadist attacker. They've got a potential, they've identified something like 23,000 potential jihadists in the U.K. They don't have a million people to watch 23,000 people.
Gallagher: Yeah, they're good, but yeah, you just can't be meticulous in those types of things.
Hoekstra: The, yeah, the numbers are working against you.
Gallagher: Yeah, they are. Former U.S. Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, sir, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Hoekstra: Thank you. Thank you.