Examining 10 years of US counterterrorism

The Takeaway

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In their new book, "Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against al-Qaeda," New York Times reporters Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker provide an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes of U.S. counter-intelligence, and how national security efforts against terrorism have evolved in the almost ten years since 9/11.

"Shortly after 9/11, there was very little known about al-Qaeda and terrorist networks in general within the United States government," said Eric Schmitt to the Takeaway. "The instinctive reaction after the 9/11 attacks was to kill and capture terrorist, where ever they might be."

Schmitt explains that once the war in Afghanistan progressed, this tactic was quickly revised by pentagon leaders. Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is quoted in a memo questioning the tactic with, "Are we actually creating more militants, more fighters, than we're killing?"

Schmitt called the realization "an epiphany for Rumsfeld."

From there, the government tried to adapt cold war deterrent tactics to the modern counterterrorism fight. The new tactic focused on going after the terrorist networks' financiers and the recruiting systems happening in mosques and the internet.


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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