Syria, a "hall of mirrors"?

After years of giving classified CIA briefings to presidents, Mike Morell finally briefs the rest of us -- in a 60 Minutes interview about Syria

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

On assignment for 60 Minutes this week, John Miller interviews a man he described as "the most important spook you've never heard of."

His subject is Mike Morell, also known as "The Briefer." Morell just retired after 33 years in the CIA, and for many years, it was Morell's job to give daily classified intelligence briefings to the president of the United States. He served as President George W. Bush's personal briefer during 9/11; he briefed President Obama on the situation in Syria. Now, Morell briefs the rest of us.

Two days after his retirement from the CIA, Miller talked the former CIA analyst into the interview chair. When Miller asked him to share the one thing that keeps him up at night, Morell didn't hesitate: Syria.

What worries Morell is the number of rebel fighters associated with al Qaeda. He says that the United States should be providing more support to the opposition to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to come to the negotiating table, but he warns that the U.S. must use extreme caution to avoid putting dangerous weapons in the wrong hands.

"We have to be very, very careful in terms of who we provide that support to," Morell told Miller. "There's the moderate opposition, which the United States is trying to support in any number of ways, and there is a radical opposition that we want to make sure that we don't support."

In a conversation with 60 Minutes Overtime, correspondent Miller said supporting opposition groups in Syria is akin to a "hall of mirrors" for an intelligence analyst like Morell.

"You have to ask yourself, 'Wait a minute, the rebels aren't all one group. How many of them are affiliated with al Qaeda? How do I know once I give those weapons to that group that those weapons won't be traded, handed over, sold, or end up with any of the other groups?' At best, it's a risky situation."

Photos courtesy of Aaron Tomlinson and AP Photo/SITE Intel Group
Editor's Note: This segment was originally published Sept. 15, 2013.