Ex-Defense Sec. Gates: U.S. should reevaluate intel ops on ISIS

Last Updated Nov 20, 2015 2:52 PM EST

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said the U.S. should evaluate whether its intelligence operations monitoring the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are aggressive enough.

"I think we need to assess whether our intelligence operations there are as aggressive there as they might be - in terms of getting inside ISIS or in terms of sabotage and other covert operations," Gates said on "CBS This Morning."

Following the Paris terrorist attacks last Friday and the killing of the mastermind behind them, Gates laid out options the U.S. should consider in the fight against ISIS.

Special forces should be more active, Gates said, and the U.S. should embed advisers and trainers with Iraqi forces, with Sunni tribes and with the Kurds. The airstrikes should also be more effective and more precise, he added.

"That may require some modest increase in forces, but not a large one I think," said Gates, who served as Defense secretary from 2006 through 2011.

As far as ramping up intelligence operations, Gates said National Security Agency (NSA) Director Adm. Michael Rogers should inform the president and Congress what sort of capabilities the U.S. needs to track terrorists to make it easier to track potential terror plots at home and abroad.

"If he says there are capabilities that can be helpful, we ought to take advantage of that," said Gates, who also spent much of his career at the CIA.

Gates should it's also time for President Obama to engage in a "heart-to-heart talk" with leaders of tech companies so that they help the government access encrypted devices and applications.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a GOP presidential candidate, has said there should be a Sunni ground force, but Gates said the likelihood of that happening "is very remote."

"The odds are low," said Gates, who explained that the U.S. is already working with some Sunni ground forces that are tribes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Asked to react to the debate among GOP presidential candidates who want to deploy U.S. troops to fight ISIS, Gates said he has spent a lot of time listening to politicians who want to send young men and women into conflict.

"The trouble is when the going gets rough, the politicians are nowhere to be seen."

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.