Enterprise vs. Enterprise

Which is better, the starship or the aircraft carrier?

This has been an eventful month for the most famous ship name in the world -- the USS Enterprise. On December 1, the U.S. Navy retired the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) -- the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier -- after a remarkable 51 years of service. At the same time, the Navy announced that the third Ford-class supercarrier (CVN-80), due to be completed around 2025, will be named Enterprise. And, not to be outdone, the producers of Star Trek Into Darkness, the next Star Trek movie, released a trailer previewing the film that is set to hit the big screen in May.

So how will the new supercarrier Enterprise (CVN-80) compare to the starship Enterprise (NCC- 1701)? Foriegn Policy put the question to naval analyst, former U.S. Naval War College professor, and science-fiction fan Chris Weuve:

The Enterprise is the name of the most famous ship in science fiction. And it was also one of the most famous names in U.S. Navy history, even before Star Trek. Why did the Navy name the third Ford-class supercarrier the Enterprise?

Well, as you said, it's one of the most famous names -- the most famous name, really -- in U.S. Navy history. As a naval vessel in American service, the name goes back to a sloop-of-war the Continental Navy captured from the British in 1775 by not-yet-turncoat Benedict Arnold. That vessel was burned to prevent capture, and the name went to another Continental Navy sailing ship. The Continental Navy became the U.S. Navy, which has had an additional six warships named Enterprise, three sailing ships (the last decommissioned for good in the early 1900s), a motor patrol boat which served during the First World War, and two aircraft carriers. Both carriers had distinguished and record-breaking careers, the first (CV-6) in World War II, the second (CVN-65) as the world's first nuclear-powered carrier. So, I think there is ample incentive for the Navy to pick Enterprise as the name for the new CVN-80. Of course, I'm sure the Navy received a few letters from Trek fans, just as NASA did when the space shuttle program was gearing up.

For Starfleet, by the way, the history of the name is obviously a little more dicey. We have seen evidence of at least 13 starships named Enterprise, not including alternate timelines or mirror universes. As Yoda said, "Always in motion is the future" -- in this case because of new shows and movies adding to the mythos.

A 23rd-century starship obviously has far more advanced technology than a 21st-century aircraft carrier. But in what other ways are the vessels dissimilar?

Setting aside the obvious difference of a real surface ship versus a fictional starship, the two vessels are more different than alike in terms of purpose, crew, and operation. The aircraft carrier is a warship; its primary function is to provide offensive and defensive airpower, and to serve as a command-and-control node for a carrier strike group. It does other things, too, but those are the two main functions, and the only ones for which it was designed. Other than its aircraft, a carrier's weapons are short-range and purely defensive, so a carrier does not travel alone, but in a carrier strike group with escorts that provide it with defense against submarines and air attack. This carrier strike group is designed to operate with a heavy logistics tail providing it with fuel for thirsty airplanes, food, and munitions, which are generally delivered twice a week. Plus, the carrier gets support from ashore: intelligence reports from the Office of Naval Intelligence, weather reports, communications capabilities through satellites, Air Force tankers for its air wing, and so on.

The various incarnations of the starship Enterprise are different in many ways, starting with the fact that they are primarily exploration vessels. They have a military mission, yes, but it's not really the primary mission. They are solo performers, designed to operate independently most of the time. They are capable of sustained long-duration operations with only minimal resupply. When they do have to fight, their weapons are guns fired from the ship itself. All in all, while Starfleet's finest ships are highly sophisticated pieces of technology, they operate more like sailing vessels, whereas aircraft carriers are definitely machine-age devices.

As for similarities, Captain Kirk's Enterprise was about the same length as the aircraft carrier, although the crew was less than a tenth as big. The new carrier will be a few tens of feet shorter than CVN-65, but with a greater displacement; the original CVN was designed to be a greyhound, long and lean. CVN-80's crew will be almost exactly 10 times that of Kirk's starship.

Other than the fact that a starship has phasers and an aircraft carrier doesn't, how would you characterize the differences in their combat capabilities?

That's a book-length topic. Give me a year or so! But let's look at some of the things that aren't immediately obvious. We can break this down into two major dichotomies: organic versus inorganic capability, and known versus unknown threats.

Organic versus inorganic capability refers to whether a vessel like the Enterprise provides its own firepower and logistics, or relies on other ships. The U.S. Navy organizes its surface combatants around the carrier strike group, or CSG. A CSG notionally includes a carrier, three or four escorts, and logistics support ships, with perhaps a submarine also assigned. So the carrier's air wing can range over thousands of square miles, the escorts range out from the carrier, keeping threats away from the big ship, and all the ships in the CSG are networked together so that whatever is seen by one can be seen by all. The carrier itself carries not only the air wing, but also functions as a command-and-control node, a fueling station, a shipping depot, a complete medical and dental facility, and a host of other functions as well. In other words, a carrier strike group has a lot of organic capability.

But there're a lot of things that a CSG can't do for itself that must be performed by assets based ashore, including logistics, intelligence, communications, guidance, planning, and other services. The CSG operates in waters that have been sailed for thousands of years, using charts that are the best the U.S. government can buy. All in all, there are perhaps 10,000 people directly involved with the day-to-day operations of a carrier strike group, spread across several time zones, operating in a well-understood environment.

Contrast that situation with that faced by any of the various Starfleet captains we have seen. The various Enterprises we have seen are solo performers. In deep space, on a long-duration mission, it can't count on the support of other Starfleet ships and assets. So it must have its own organic capabilities, such as performing scientific analysis or repairing damage to the ship. I'm sure Starfleet must have other vessels somewhere that are designed to operate in groups, but we haven't really seen them. While we occasionally see Enterprise and her sisters brought together for some event, usually a battle, it's clearly a rare event.

In terms of known versus unknown threats, I can't emphasize enough how almost everything that the U.S. Navy does involves known factors such as geography, international law, and capabilities and intentions of adversaries, while everything Starfleet does involves unknowns. That's really the norm for any science fiction involving new alien threats. The U.S. Navy has the benefit of knowing that the other side flies aircraft with jet engines, and hence we can make infrared-homing missiles that will seek out those engines. And if you are really good, your missiles have all sorts of counter-countermeasure seeker logic that ignores decoys or any other heat source that that doesn't look exactly like a jet engine, which is why that fancy F-22 owns the skies against the Russians and the Chinese.

But if the aliens from Independence Day really came to Earth, our missiles may not be able to lock on to their ships, because the features that make your missile smarter at dealing with decoys make it dumber in dealing with something for which it has not been programmed. The seeker logic just assumes it's a decoy trying to spoof it, and ignores it. So, if your alien would-be target also has that other staple of science fiction, the cloaking device that absorbs radar waves, then you're pretty much left with harsh language. Yes, maybe you can get a shot off with your gun, but the guns are tied into the radar, too, so maybe not.

That's the situation faced by Starfleet. They may be operating in known space, dealing with well-understood adversaries, or they may be encountering a new race with new technological capabilities for the first time, perhaps in an area of space that Starfleet has never visited before. So, Starfleet has to have systems that can deal with new technologies and capabilities from aliens it has never encountered before. That's what strikes me when I put my naval analyst hat on: all of the systems in Starfleet are incredibly flexible. Of course, for dramatic reasons, sometimes they fail.

What about the way that each ship would fight?

A U.S. Navy carrier faces well-documented threats and generally well-understood technology. When it engages those threats, it might do so from hundreds of miles of away. Combat, if it occurs, takes place between ships that can't see each other.

For reasons best explained by the nature of TV shows and movies, the fictional Enterprise fights at engagement ranges more appropriate to sailing ships than a modern warship.

The combat I see in Star Trek really doesn't look like anything the U.S. Navy does today. What it resembles is a cross between World War I surface ship combat and modern submarine combat. It's like submarine combat because the ranges are close and the engagements are generally one ship versus one ship. It's like World War I combat because the target is in plain sight and the trajectories are flat. However, where combat in Star Trek differs from those models is the extreme precision of weapons, so that called shots targeting specific features of an enemy vessel, such as the engines, have become commonplace.

Space carriers that launch fighters don't appear much in Star Trek, except for a few episodes of Deep Space Nine. Carriers and fighters are more of a fixture in Star Wars and Babylon 5. So the carrier Enterprise and the starship Enterprise are designed according to two very different concepts of warfare?

Very much so. In the core Star Trek universe -- that is, what we have seen on TV and in the theaters rather than the novels and games -- fighters don't really make sense. That's because in the core universe, bigger is generally faster, while deflector shields make it difficult or impossible for small ships to have ship-killing weaponry. In the real world, fighters work because they are machines of the air, where they can have tremendous performance, and because they carry a punch disproportionate to their size. Neither of these preconditions exist in Star Trek. Again, the closest model is World War I naval combat. This hasn't stopped some of the ancillary material, like the various war games set in the Star Trek universe, from adding spacecraft carriers that use warp shuttles as fighters.

How would life be different -- or the same -- on a starship versus an aircraft carrier?

There are a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences. Both U.S. Navy and Starfleet ships have dedicated, highly disciplined crews of skilled professionals. There's obviously a hierarchy with a rank structure, and where each crew member has a lot of responsibility. One of the recurring themes I have encountered in working with the U.S. Navy has been the number of Navy personnel who were inspired to join because of science fiction in general, and Star Trek in particular.

However, there are differences as well. Whenever I watch Star Trek, I'm always impressed by the amount of space people had to themselves, and the degree of privacy. On an aircraft carrier most officers have at least one roommate, while enlisted personnel live barracks-style. Communal facilities, such as bathrooms and recreation rooms, are the norm. The U.S. Navy works its people a lot harder than Starfleet does as well; 12-16 hour days are the norm, split between standing watch and other duties. One of the things that always amuses me about Star Trek is the implicit idea that you are always either standing watch or off-duty. Doesn't anybody have to fill out the paperwork to make sure that Jonesy gets sent to the class he needs to qualify for his next promotion? It's not that they don't show it, which admittedly would be boring. There is simply no evidence that paperwork exists at all.

It appears that the most likely opponent of the new supercarrier Enterprise will be China. The most consistent opponents of the starship Enterprise are the Klingons and Romulans. Any similarities between the enemies of the two Enterprises?

Well, in the original series, a lot of people drew parallels between the Klingons and the Russians, and the Chinese and the Romulans. That having been said, I'd hesitate to say that China is the "most likely" opponent of the new supercarrier. The U.S. Navy is concerned about China because it is a stressing case, mostly because our commitments to our allies in the Pacific mean that any conflict with China will be a home game for them and an away game for us. But if you look at how CVNs have historically been used, you'll see that they got a lot of use conducting combat operations without ever having to fight "the big one." Just in the last two decades, you have Iraq (a couple of times), the Balkans, and Afghanistan, plus humanitarian assistance and disaster relief ops in Haiti, Indonesia, Pakistan, and a host of other places. Carriers are just useful things to have whenever you might want to have an airfield nearby but don't happen to have one.

The starship Enterprise has changed from the original 1960s vessel to the ship in the 2009 movie -- just as the U.S. Navy's Enterprise began as an 18th century sailing ship and will now be a nuclear-powered supercarrier. What does this say about the evolution of naval technology in both science fiction and real life?

I think it says a couple of things. For technology in general, Star Trek has always influenced the real world, and in turn has been influenced by it. In the original Star Trek series, we see the precursors of flip phones and wireless earpieces and handheld computers. All devices we had seen in science fiction before, more or less, but Star Trek was in a unique position to influence a generation of engineers who were actually going to build those devices. The real world influenced Star Trek, too. What seemed futuristic in 1965 is at best quaint today, so when Star Trek: Enterprise hit the airwaves in 2001, the producers were faced with the difficult task of making the old Enterprise impressive without overshadowing her distinguished-but-outdated descendent.

For naval technology, I would suggest that both the CVNs and the starships demonstrate the importance of modularity. A lot is made over the various modular warship designs, such as the German MEKO, the Danish StanFlex, and the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), but the first truly modular warship design was the aircraft carrier. An aircraft carrier's entire weapons complement, with the exception of some of the point defense weapons, is its airplanes. Need to upgrade? Fly the old airplanes off, and fly some new airplanes on. The five generations of aircraft that CVN-65 operated is part of the reason why the recently retired Enterprise lasted so long. You can't exactly fly the electronics of an aircraft carrier off the ship, but they get replaced fairly regularly, too. I had a chance to visit the aircraft carriers John C. Stennis in 1999 and 2004, and the Carl Vinson in 2001 and 2003. It was amazing how much changed in the Combat Direction Center and in the Tactical Flag Command Center on each ship between my trips.

In Star Trek, the modularity is less obvious but it's there. Ever wonder why the bridge of the Enterprise kept changing for each movie? We all know the real reason is that they built a new set each time, but the explanation given by the geeks working on the show -- my heroes Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda, Andrew Probert, and the rest -- is that it may be the same ship, but it's a different bridge. The bridge is just a module that plugs into the top of the saucer section. And by the time we get to Star Trek: The Next Generation, the control panels are all user-programmable displays.

The U.S. Navy hasn't quite gotten there with the software, or with command space modules, although they are trying hard to do this with the LCS. But in other ways, a modern aircraft carrier is actually more sophisticated than anything we have seen on Star Trek. As I said above, a CVN isn't just an airport -- it's the hub of a sophisticated command and control network, a place where sensor and intelligence data from a variety of warfare domains is fused into an operational picture covering thousands of square miles, maintaining situational awareness of hundreds of entities that could be friendly, hostile, neutral, or unknown. The real limit in this case is the operators, not the equipment. We never really see anything like that in Star Trek.

Finally, the long history of both sets of Enterprises says something about the importance of tradition. By naming CVN-80 the Enterprise, the Navy is linking its story to the story of all the ships that bore the name previously. And, for the same reason, it means something that NCC-1701-E is the Enterprise as well. In both cases we have a new ship, new technology, new story, but the old story is important, too.

And, for Star Trek fans, that name links the U.S. Navy's story to Starfleet's story as well. In Star Trek IV, when the starship crew needed to visit a nuclear carrier, it meant something to them -- and to us -- that it was the Enterprise.

As you said, the starship Enterprise is primarily an exploration vessel while the aircraft carrier Enterprise is a warship. Does that conflict with Star Trek's optimistic vision of the future of humanity? Would Gene Roddenberry have approved?

Arguably, Roddenberry demonstrated he did approve when he chose to name his starship after the warship. As a World War II vet, I'm sure he knew that CV-6 was the most decorated ship in the history of the Navy, and the then-new nuclear carrier was designed for the front lines of the Cold War. NCC-1701, the starship Enterprise was listed as a heavy cruiser from day one, although later incarnations were dubbed "Explorers."

But it's also clear that Roddenberry didn't view Starfleet as a traditional military. Starfleet is as much about exploration and diplomacy as it is about warfare, all the phasers and naval ranks and whatnot notwithstanding. Now, history is replete with examples of the militaries engaged in exploration and diplomacy, up to and including the diplomatic responsibilities that the commander of a U.S. Combatant Command has. But in Star Trek they send Starfleet in first, to make the initial contact, to survey and the like. I don't recall seeing it in an official source, but I wonder how far down the page of Starfleet's mission statement do you have to read to find "defend the Federation." All in all, Starfleet isn't really like any one U.S. service -- it's a combination of the technical prowess of the Air Force, the mission set of the State Department and the National Geographic Society, and the ethos of the Coast Guard, all within the trappings of the U.S. Navy.

If Captain Kirk were to travel in time and somehow take command of the carrier Enterprise, would it be a comfortable fit? How about a U.S. Navy carrier commander in the captain's chair of the starship Enterprise?

Kirk strikes me as a bit impulsive for command of a CVN. As for the other way, one thing I find interesting in talking about Star Trek with naval officers is that when the subject turns to which character from Star Trek would best fit in the USN, the name that always comes up is Edward Jellico, the character played by Ronnie Cox in the Next Generation episodes "Chain of Command, Part I" and "Chain of Command, Part II." Most Star Trek fans say, "What a jerk," and there's some truth to that, but most of it is just reminding the ship's officers to focus on their responsibilities. He's direct and no-nonsense; he's in charge, it's his responsibility, and he wants his officers to remember that. Not the usual method for Starfleet, but you see it a lot in the U.S. Navy.

Winchell Chung


Zero Farce Thirty

The man who nearly stopped 9/11 tells FP why Kathryn Bigelow's movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden gets it wrong.  

If Zero Dark Thirty isn't the best film of the year, it's certainly the most controversial. The cinematic portrayal of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's follow-up to The Hurt Locker, has already been decried as an Obama puff piece, prompted a Pentagon investigation into possible intelligence leaks, and dumped a cloud of controversy on Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, a man rumored to be on the shortlist to replace David Petraeus at the CIA.

But as the bin Laden blockbuster hits the big screen in New York and Los Angeles Wednesday night, partisans are buzzing about something else entirely: the film's portrayal of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs for short). Bigelow and Boal go for the throat with a series of grisly interrogation scenes -- featuring waterboarding and sexual humiliation -- that indirectly yield the intelligence that leads to the al Qaeda leader. The film was supposedly based on extensive field research and has been billed as a faithful reconstruction of the facts. As Bigelow told New York magazine earlier this month, "The goal was to be as accurate as we possibly could without, obviously, having been there."

But for all its journalistic conceits, Zero Dark Thirty runs afoul of a mounting body of evidence -- compiled by the FBI, CIA inspector general, Department of Justice, and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, among others -- that EITs simply don't work. Foreign Policy spoke with Ali Soufan, the lead FBI investigator into the USS Cole bombing and the man who first discovered the identities of the 9/11 hijackers, about this discrepancy and about a wide range of issues related to the war on terror, including drone warfare and Guantánamo Bay.

"The information that was used to get bin Laden did not come as a result of waterboarding or torture," said Soufan, who is the author of The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. "Of all the people that are talking about this, I was the only one that was in the room," he said. "Enhanced interrogation techniques did not work."


FP: What do you make of the way enhanced interrogation techniques are portrayed in Kathryn Bigelow's new film, Zero Dark Thirty? Is it wrong or misleading?

AS: It's fiction. Based on all the information that I know, based on the 6,000-page report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and based on what many of the experts that follow these things have said -- at least one of whom actually served as an advisor on the film -- this is not fact. This is Hollywood. The information that was used to get bin Laden did not come as a result of waterboarding or torture. And the Senate report that has been voted on in the committee -- which included at least one Republican -- made it very clear that enhanced interrogation techniques and waterboarding did not work. And that just confirms what the CIA inspector general said about that program, and what the Department of Justice said about it. The facts are there. I came to my opinion based on experience. I opposed enhanced interrogation techniques not really because of the moral issues. I opposed it from the efficacy perspective.

FP: In the past, you have raised another objection to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques: that it reinforces the so-called Chinese wall between intelligence agencies. Can you explain why that is and why it's dangerous?

AS: The "Chinese wall" or the lack of cooperation between agencies -- when we don't talk to each other and work together -- caused 9/11. When you have secret jails, and programs that are so highly classified that information is not being shared and people are not working together, that's dangerous. I gave an example, the details of which are still classified, in my Senate statement back in 2009, when these kinds of techniques backfired. We had a situation where some entities refused to believe that terrorist attacks were being planned because the information came through smart interrogations and didn't come through their enhanced interrogation program, and, of course, we found out otherwise.

FP: Right, and Lawrence Wright's profile of you in the New Yorker tells that story -- about how information that was withheld by the CIA prevented you from foiling the 9/11 plot. There's a throwaway line in that article about how after 9/11 you were given orders to identify the hijackers "by any means necessary." Wright notes that that was the first time you had heard such an order, but leaves it at that. What changed after 9/11? Did we essentially abandon the tried and true interrogation techniques that had been developed over decades?

AS: When I heard that line, I never thought in a million years that it meant beating the detainee up, or doing whatever I needed to get the information. You have to put it in the context of what was happening in Yemen at the time. The Yemenis were not giving us access to suspects. For example with Fahd al-Quso, one of the co-conspirators in the USS Cole bombing, they used to say, "He's in Sanaa," so we'd go to Sanaa. Then they'd say, "No, he's in Aden." So I interpreted the directive as "Make sure you get to him and get the information." It wasn't about torture, but now, because of what was done later in the spring and summer of 2002, people have looked at it from a different perspective. They interpreted it as if someone in Washington or in FBI headquarters said that we need to abandon the way we do things. This wasn't the case. As a matter of fact, when I went back and we identified the hijackers -- I talked to Quso, Abu Jandal and many others -- I actually read them their Miranda rights every time that I interrogated them. So that line has been taken out of context.

FP: So let's move forward to 2002. Was there a concerted move away established interrogation tactics? Why the change in 2002?

AS: The people who engineered the enhanced interrogation program were people from outside the government -- they were contractors. So the theory of EITs came from the top down, not from the bottom up. There was fear in Washington of the unknown. People did not understand the enemy. Those who were working the target understood the enemy. We had been dealing with al Qaeda since 1996. I started working on al Qaeda in 1997. We had Bin Laden indicted before the East Africa bombings in a sealed indictment in 1998. So I think there was a lot of fear that led to EITs. When somebody came and said, "Hey, the only way you can get information out of these people is by roughing them up," people jumped the gun and said, "You know what, why not?" So I think there was a sense of confusion. I think there was a sense of ignorance about the reality of the enemy, how the enemy operates, and the ideology that motivates the enemy. And there was a lot of fear of another attack happening. Unfortunately, we adopted a system and a program that I truly believe -- based on my personal experience and the experience of other professionals -- damaged the national security of the United States. It took about 400 people -- the people who had pledged the bay'ah, or oath of loyalty, before 9/11 to Bin Laden -- and we got a war that's lasted longer than World War I and World War II.

FP: Let's stray a little into the broader war on terror. You told the Daily Beast earlier this year that you'd give the Obama administration an A- on its counterterrorism record so far. Do you think drones are a viable long-term option or could they ultimately serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists?

AS: No I don't necessarily think it will be a recruitment tool. I believe it's a good tactic to use, but it shouldn't be a strategy. Our counterterrorism strategy should be a multifaceted. It should include military, intelligence, law enforcement, economic programs, psychological programs, cultural and education issues -- we have to use all the tools that we have in the toolbox in combating the enemy. We have to keep in mind that this is asymmetrical warfare, and an essential component of asymmetrical warfare is winning hearts and minds.

FP: Are we doing enough of that in places like Somalia, northern Mali, and Yemen, where we're losing the ideological battle?

AS: No, I think what we're doing is trying to react tactically to events that are unfolding. But we never had a strategy from the beginning to combat the motivation and counter the narrative of these groups. And countering the narrative is not just a media event; it involves having intelligence programs and operational programs that diminish the ability of terrorist groups to operate, recruit, and win hearts and minds. Unfortunately, throughout the years -- during the Bush administration as well as the Obama administration -- we didn't do enough to combat the radical narrative that was initiated by al Qaeda and promoted by many other groups that came out of al Qaeda, like Ansar Din, Tawhid al-Jihad, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and so forth -- many different names for the same problem. And look what happened in Libya. That's part of not focusing on the narrative.

FP: But how do you focus on the narrative? There's a new book out about Yemen by Gregory Johnsen, The Last Refuge, in which you play a significant role as the lead investigator of the Cole bombing. According to Johnsen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is stronger -- numbers wise -- than it was on Sept. 11. What's wrong with our strategy there? We're using a record number of drone strikes and sent the government a record aid package, but al Qaeda is actually getting stronger. How should the U.S. be working to change the narrative?

AS: I think we need to merge our policy in Yemen on every level -- political, economic -- with our counterterrorism strategy. We also need to study the incubating factors that promote terrorism. What are the factors in South Yemen that are making people and tribes join al Qaeda? For example, one sheikh, when asked why he was sheltering al Qaeda fighters, responded that the government had promised to send him six teachers. Fahd al-Quso brought 16 teachers. In some areas al Qaeda has also supplied electricity and water. These things don't cost much, and we used to give billions of dollars to the Yemeni government, but most of it went to line pockets. It did not reach ordinary people. So we have to deal with the roots of the problem: What are the incubating factors for terrorism? And there's no cookie-cutter approach to this. What works in South Yemen probably won't work in the north of the country, and what works in Saudi Arabia probably won't work in Libya, because there's a range of incubating factors. Sometimes it's sectarian, sometimes it's tribal, sometimes it's economic, but the roots are never religious or ideological. There is a reason these people are joining. Of all the people I interrogated, I never found one person who joined just because he saw Bin Laden on television or he read al Qaeda's declaration of war. No, there are local reasons that led these people to hear Bin Laden and later join al Qaeda.

FP: What about Guantánamo? President Obama recently informed Congress that there are still approximately 166 detainees there, four years after he promised to close down the facility. Was his promise a mistake? Should he make good in his next four years?

AS: Closing Guantánamo is a noble act. And I don't think anyone wanted Guantánamo to be open forever. That doesn't help us internationally and this is not the way we do things in the United States. However, what do you want to do with these people who are in Guantánamo? What do you want to do with the people that who cannot for various reasons be prosecuted in federal courts in the United States, but who killed many Americans? At the same time, there are individuals -- Yemenis, mostly -- some whom were even Bin Laden's bodyguards. Do you send these people back to Yemen? Who is going to be responsible when one of these people, released from Guantánamo, issues a video tape taking responsibility for blowing up an embassy or downing an airplane? These are some of the questions that we need to think about before closing Guantánamo.

FP: Lastly, you have a book out, The Black Banners, in which you touch on the issue of enhanced interrogation. But the book ended up being heavily redacted by the CIA after being cleared by the FBI. What's the story behind that, and is there a chance we'll see an un-redacted version of your book anytime soon?

AS: I think it was basically because in the book I tell the story of what really happened throughout our war against al Qaeda -- a narrative that in some cases is at odds with what the American people were told at the time. I say, for example, that enhanced interrogation techniques did not work. And yes, there's a possibility that 9/11 could have been stopped. I put the facts out and let the people draw their conclusions, but unfortunately there are people who don't want some of those facts released to the public -- and so parts of the book have been redacted. I do not believe -- nor does the FBI -- that there's any classified information in there, so I'm still hopeful that [the redactions] will be lifted. This is not a book about FBI vs. CIA. It's a book about all these operational people in the field, and all the successes we had, and all the unfortunate failures that we had, including the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Many of the heroes from my book are from the CIA and Department of Defense. When I started talking about the flaws of EITs, I was called every name in the book. But now, every report -- from the CIA-IG to the DOD to the DOJ to the FBI to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- has come to the same conclusion.

Getty Images / John Moore