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Transcript: Chris Costa talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - CHRIS COSTA
CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL
PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, welcome to the show. It is great to have you on Intelligence Matters.
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, thank you for having me.
MICHAEL MORELL:
So, the Spy Museum has some very exciting news to share. You've closed the original museum and you're reopening a new facility in just a few days-- May 12th, I think, right?
CHRIS COSTA:
That's exactly right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Where is the new location?
CHRIS COSTA:
It's in L'Enfant Plaza, which overlooks the wharf area. And on the other side of the museum, we can actually see the Mall, so it's in a terrific spot right at L'Enfant Plaza.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Kinda museum central.
CHRIS COSTA:
That's exactly right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, before we talk about the new museum in detail, perhaps you could give us a quick history of the original museum. When it was first opened? Who was the driving force behind that? And what kind of success did you have?
CHRIS COSTA:
So, the museum opened up 17 years ago, so that would've been in 2002-- is when the museum actually opened. And the founder was an individual by the name of Milton Maltz. And he's our founder for the current museum as well. It was his vision to open to the public what otherwise wouldn't've been open to the public, give them glimpses of a shadowy world. And Mr. Maltz, not only has been a successful businessman, but he also operated in radio. So he had a sense for not only entertainment, but the importance of it informing the public.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Where did he get his interest in intelligence from?
CHRIS COSTA:
That's a great question. A stint in the National Security Agency in the 1950s. And that planted the seed for him. And he's passionate about this business. And he recognized there was a gap. And that gap was, no one else was opening to the public, the stories that we tell at the Spy Museum.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Where do you get your artifacts from?
CHRIS COSTA:
So, we get our artifacts from across the globe. But we have one particular collector. And his name is Keith Melton, H. Keith Melton. He's been a private collector. And he turned over the vast majority of his artifacts to us in the last couple years. So we have in excess of 7,000 artifacts. But it's painstaking work to collect these artifacts from across the globe.
MICHAEL MORELL:
I think actually some of the artifacts at CIA, at the museum there actually, belong to him as well.
CHRIS COSTA:
That's exactly right. That is true.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah. So what does the word "international" mean in International Spy Museum?
CHRIS COSTA:
So, the story goes-- and I can't verify this-- but my understanding is, that was raised by CIA, the importance of telling other stories, not just United States stories. So we wanted to focus on a universal story. And that is espionage that plays out in the shadows across the globe.

And that's so important to our holdings. It's so important to, you know, responsibly engage on stories that relate to other countries, other nations. There's a universal sense-- and you know that-- of intelligence collection and preserving one's nation, preserving one's sovereignty. So we wanted to be bigger than just focus on U.S. intelligence.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Right. I mean, people say it's the world's second oldest profession.
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
And nearly every country in the world has some sort of intelligence collection and analysis operation.
CHRIS COSTA:
That's exactly right. And I think it's important to tell those stories, in fact.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, back to the new museum. The old museum focused almost exclusively on HUMINT, on human intelligence, on human spies. But you've taken a different approach in the new museum where you will have exhibits on many aspects of the intelligence process. What's the thinking behind all of that?
CHRIS COSTA:
So the thinking really relates to the learning that we've done in the last 17 years. And that's an important point. We've studied how people learn. Technologies have changed. And we wanted to be more expansive and tell a broader story, which means we wanted to tell stories of analytical trade craft.

We wanted to have more expansive experiences, more immersive experiences. We have over 75 interactives. We want to not only educate; we want to inform. But we also want to do it in an entertaining way. We want people to have fun while they're learning.

And I think that's exactly what we do at the museum. But the idea is to be more expansive, to talk about areas that we hadn't talked about previously. So, it talks, really, about the entire intelligence cycle. And even though I'm very partial to human intelligence, I think it's terrific that we're giving people access to different stories and different disciplines.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, I think it's terrific, too. Because I think most people, when they think of intelligence, think of human spying 'cause that's--
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--what they see in movies, right? But as you know, intelligence collection is much bigger than just human spies. It involves a lot of different pieces. And then you have the whole analytic piece that sits on top of that. And then you've got covert action and paramilitary operations. So you've got-- it is much more complicated than just human spies, so I really applaud what you've done here.
CHRIS COSTA:
Thank you very much.
MICHAEL MORELL:
You're also focusing heavily on technology and science, right? Not only the small gadgets that humans use, right, to enable espionage, but also large sophisticated tools like satellites doing--
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--overhead reconnaissance, right? Why is that so important?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, I think it's important, again, to be more expansive, to tell the broader stories. And we have to keep up with technology. Even though we're a museum and we have artifacts that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years, we-- at the same time we need to keep up with technology to tell the whole story.

We have to talk about the SR-71s, overhead aircraft that flew throughout the Cold War. And I think that's an important part of what we do now. We make sure that we cover not only technologies related to collection, but we also are focusing on cyber in a very, very innovative way.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, how are you doing that?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, I don't want to give up too much of--
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, yeah, yeah--
CHRIS COSTA:
--our secrets, right? But we're gonna talk about some stories that I was rather surprised that we would tell-- malicious viruses for example, affecting centrifuges. We have some artifacts from cyberattacks. And we'll also have a special room-- and again, I don't want to spill the secrets.
MICHAEL MORELL:
People have to actually--
CHRIS COSTA:
I'll get in trouble.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--come in the museum. (LAUGH)
CHRIS COSTA:
They absolutely will. But I promise that they'll not only enjoy what they see, but then they'll have an opportunity to participate in a role-playing game, for example. So I think that's really exciting. And that's about cyber.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, you also have features on what's called MASINT--
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--which is, for people who don't know, it-- which is Measurement and Signature Intelligence. And most people have never even heard of that term, right? So what role does MASINT play in intelligence collection? And what are some of the exhibits that you have that you can actually talk about at this point, without people coming to visit? (LAUGH)
CHRIS COSTA:
Yeah, so, none of this is rehearsed. And I'm really glad you asked me that question, because MASINT wasn't the top of my list for something that really excites me until I saw a story that we tell. And we tell the story of a laundromat and I won't, again, spoil the whole story.

But in that laundromat, it was really a cover facility so that military intelligence could collect up the laundry in a neighborhood. Why would they be interested in a laundry? Because they wanted to measure something. They wanted to measure explosive trace, explosive residue left on clothing. That was brilliant. And it really-- to tell that story, to find that story to tell under the rubric of MASINT. And I've personally seen a similar facility set up in other places in the world to facilitate operations. So I was very excited about that story. And I didn't know it until I rolled into the Spy Museum in my current role.
MICHAEL MORELL:
When you enter the new museum, is there a logic flow to how you walk through it?
CHRIS COSTA:
You know, first of all, there is an excellent flow. We have more flow-- and you referred to the museum on F Street-- it's an amazing place, but--
MICHAEL MORELL:
To the original museum on F Street.
CHRIS COSTA:
--the original museum on F Street. We have much more greater flow, I think. Based on that learning from the last 17 years, we also learned how to move people, how to let people have some space. And you're going to see more space to pick and choose.

You might be interested in immersives or you might want to step back and spend time watching the films. Or you can do all of that, but there'll be more space. But two important points with the new museum. What we do is focus first, one whole floor, on how you spy.

That's the tactics, the techniques, the products, the tradecraft, the gadgetry of espionage. And that's exciting. But the next floor will be why you spy. And then we get into the-- some of the moral dimensions of espionage, again, reinforced by artifacts and immersive experiences. But why does a nation spy? A totalitarian regime spies to protect its way of life. And a democracy functions to protect our way of life. And we'll juxtapose both of those environments in the museum.
MICHAEL MORELL:
How much more space do you have in the new museum compared to the old one?
CHRIS COSTA:
So the building is about two times bigger than the previous museum. And that gives us plenty of space to house 7,000 artifacts. Plus, we have world-class event space now. We have a full classroom. We have a theatre. So, we have things that we didn't have at F Street because of space constraints.

We have outgrown our former space. And we think that this building, first of all, it was purpose-built. It was purpose-built to execute our education mission. So with all that in mind, Mr. Maltz's vision, that's exactly what we're executing at L'Enfant Plaza.
MICHAEL MORELL:
So you have in the new museum, Chris, an exhibit on enhanced interrogation, what some people call torture, which is obviously a sensitive topic for many people. How did you guys go about thinking about the best way to present that sensitive issue?
CHRIS COSTA:
So we recognized it was a sensitive issue. But what's important to note is we didn't shy away from telling a story that evokes a lot of emotion, right? So, we wanted to tell that story, but we wanted to do it with the ethos of not only museum people-- experts at curation-- but also the way intelligence people operate.

And what do we do? We provide facts and let others make their determination. We don't tell people what to think. So what we wanted to do was offer two viewpoints, a pro and an against. And we lay that out from experts from the intelligence community that were there when the decisions were made for enhanced interrogation. I feel as an intelligence professional, had we not told those stories, then we weren't being true to our ethos.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Absolutely.
CHRIS COSTA:
So --I'm pleased that we're doing that.
MICHAEL MORELL:
How did you think about making something like that accessible to kids?
CHRIS COSTA:
So we have-- first, we have a warning, so parents are going to have to help us make a determination whether their kids should see what's within the exhibit within the gallery. And I will say that I don't think it's terribly troubling. But again, eye's in the beholder. In fact, I think it's done very thoughtfully. In fact, even when we talk about things like terrorism, and we have some artifacts-- I don't know if you've been, for example, at the 9/11 Memorial--
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yes.
CHRIS COSTA:
--Museum in New York. It's so powerful.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yes.
CHRIS COSTA:
And full disclosure, I couldn't stay in the museum for-- for two hours. It was just--
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, my wife couldn't either.
CHRIS COSTA:
Right. I just--

MICHAEL MORELL:
--had to leave, yeah.
CHRIS COSTA:
--I just had to leave. Everyone deals with it very differently. So we thought through the artifacts that we have, so we have some artifacts from 9/11. We have some artifacts from other terrorists' attacks. But we wanted to be thoughtful. And we think we have. We've found, I think, the right balance to tell those stories.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, your website for the new museum, which is terrific by the way, and it--
CHRIS COSTA:
Thank you.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--it's kind of a little bit spy-like and it really makes you want to visit. But on the website, you offer some themes about the new museum. And they're "Discover, Listen, Uncover and Test." And on the Discover it says, "Discover how real intelligence officers have changed history." So what are some of the stories that you tell about how intelligence has changed history? Or just maybe one of your favorites?
CHRIS COSTA:
So I'll tell you one of my favorites. We like to say the British fought us very hard during the Colonial times, but we outspied the British. So the network that George Washington, his direction-- our first president before he was the president, he was a general in charge of the Continental forces -- he also oversaw a network of intelligencers, a network of collectors and, really, early analysts-- and we tell that story, the idea that intelligence network became a force multiplier and resulted in our success against the British.

So that's just one of many examples where intelligence really impacted on the history of a nation. And that's just our nation. We tell other stories. We tell the story of-- an obscure story that most Americans may not know-- the story of an attack against a vessel in New Zealand, the Rainbow Warrior.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yes, I remember that.
CHRIS COSTA:
A covert action executed by the French to really disrupt protesters. And then it was divulged to the world, frankly. And people were arrested. And an individual was killed. That changed, literally, the French government. So those are two examples, one international and one, of course, is very germane to the United States but it had repercussions throughout the world, didn't it?
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah. I remember in General Washington's case that one of the first entries in the Continental Army's accounting books is a payment to a spy--
CHRIS COSTA:
Secret funds, right?
MICHAEL MORELL:
-- yes.
CHRIS COSTA:
You know your history well. Yeah.
MICHAEL MORELL:
So Chris, let's continue the discussion of these themes that are on your website. So the second one that I mentioned was "Listen." And what it says on the website is, "Listen to real spies tell real spy stories." So are there one or two of those that stand out to you?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well one of the stories I will tell is my own personal story. And I had to think long and hard. First of all, there is no manual when you leave as an intelligence officer. You know that you can't violate trust. You sign nondisclosure agreements. At the same time, each one of us has to determine, "What are those stories that we can tell responsibly?"

So I had to come up with a whole series of stories. And I tell a story that has an excellent outcome. Without being a complete spoiler, I will tell you, it's about battlefield human intelligence. And it's really representative of intelligence that took place post 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they're stories that we didn't tell on F Street at the previous museum because it was too early in time. But I tell a story about Afghanistan regarding a walk-in, somebody that wanted to volunteer intelligence information, a former Taliban.

And as a result of that, it had an excellent outcome. That's one of those stories we tell. Of course it's more dramatic in my telling-- real spies, real stories-- but we go to real intelligence officers. And I think they're compelling stories. And we've refreshed those stories from what we told in the past.
MICHAEL MORELL:
And are these on a video screen?
CHRIS COSTA:
Yeah.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Are they audio? Or how does that work?
CHRIS COSTA:
Excellent question. It's filmed. It's filmed. And it's in the spies' own words and from multiple agencies telling their stories. And that's just one small theatre of many filmings that we have at the museum.
MICHAEL MORELL:
The next on the list is "uncover." And it says, "Uncover the tradecraft and tools of the trade of intelligence." Are there a couple of items that you're most proud of?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, in particular, I really like the fact that we have a tool that was used for assassination against Trotsky. And it was used and it's part of Lethal Action, where the Soviets killed Trotsky who was in hiding in Mexico City. And they dispatched assassins to kill him, and he was killed quite brutally. But we have that literal as -- ice axe.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--the very tool or one like it?
CHRIS COSTA:
No, it is the very tool.
MICHAEL MORELL:
The very tool.
CHRIS COSTA:
And that was acquired by H. Keith Melton. And the story behind how he got it is one for the spy books, candidly. I mean, to hear his telling, it was much like any other spy operation, to authenticate that device, to make sure he had what was actually used in that killing. As gruesome as it sounds, it's an important part of history. And when you compare it and contextualize what's happening currently-- attempted poisonings in the U.K. by Russian intelligence-- it--
MICHAEL MORELL:
It kind of never ends, right?
CHRIS COSTA:
--it doesn't (LAUGH) end, right?
MICHAEL MORELL:
It just goes on and on.
CHRIS COSTA:
And that's why it's so important to have the context, so that people can make those connections from current events to events that happened in the past.
MICHAEL MORELL:
So if you want to know --exactly what this tool was, and exactly how it was used to kill Trotsky, you've got to go to the museum.
CHRIS COSTA:
Yes. (LAUGH) You--
MICHAEL MORELL:
Right?
CHRIS COSTA:
--have to see it to believe it, right?
MICHAEL MORELL:
The last theme on your list on the website is, "Test." And this, I find, really interesting. "Test your skills as an intelligence officer." What kind of ways will visitors be able to do that?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, in our analytical gallery, which I think is amazing in its ability to test people on things like cognitive bias-- imagine that-- and at the same time we culminate by talking about the bin Laden raid-- and you know a lot about the bin Laden raid.

In fact, I have to tell you a very, very quick story as it relates to how we test people in red-teaming, where guests will have an opportunity to test themselves on the information that CIA and the rest of the intelligence community had. And you're part of that storytelling. And I want to share s--
MICHAEL MORELL:
I kinda walk folks through that, right?
CHRIS COSTA:
That's right. And people will have an ability to test themselves, not only on what really happened, but on the intelligence that we weren't aware of perhaps. And that'll come to life. And I will tell you, we unveiled that for a group of businessmen last week, a behind-the-scenes view. And I will tell you, our president said to make sure I tell you this story, Tamara Christian. She said there was a clapping by the audience when that occurred.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Oh, that's very nice.
CHRIS COSTA:
And we didn't expect that. And that doesn't happen every day in a spy museum.
MICHAEL MORELL:
That's very nice.
CHRIS COSTA:
And the last thing -- to go to your question, if I could-- we have an RFID. And that's an example of radio frequency identification. So all these interactives, you'll have feedback when you leave. It'll be around your neck. You can opt in. And you're going to get feedback, "Hey, maybe I have an aptitude for being an analyst," or, "Maybe, since I showed no fear, then maybe I'd make a great covert action operator or perhaps a case officer."
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, I want to switch gears a bit, because I didn't want to miss the opportunity to talk a bit about your career. Because you were an intelligence officer.

You were in this business, right? You spent two decades as an Army counterintelligence specialist, six years mentoring Navy SEALs, and just over a year on National Security Council staff. So maybe the place to start is, what does it mean to be a counterintelligence specialist in the Army? What did you do every day, at least to the extent you can talk about it?
CHRIS COSTA:
So, my career, my first deployment as a counterintelligence agent was to Operation Just Cause in Panama. In that case it was an opportunity to screen the population, to conduct interrogations and interviews, to separate the wheat from the chaff as they say. And that was my formative experience as a counterintelligence agent.

After that I went to a Special Forces group. And after serving in a Special Forces group, I decided I wanted to become eventually a case officer, which I did become. I went through all the appropriate schooling. But my foundation was first to be a counterintuitive agent, to see the enemy through my adversary's eyes, right, to understand how they think, how they operate against us. That was an incredible tool-- to be able to do it first in a combat environment and then to do it on the streets of Europe as a counterintuitive agent in the final days of the Cold War.

So I was exposed to the cobblestone streets, the intrigues that went on in Europe. In some cases we were burned against the very adversaries that we talk about in the International Spy Museum, like the East Germans in some cases. But that gave me a strong foundation to then do HUMINT work. And I decided I wanted to spend my time as a career HUMINT officer working in Special Operations. And that's what I did throughout the 1990s in places like Bosnia, which, in hindsight, became almost a dress rehearsal for what we did post-9/11 with Special Operations. And then after 9/11 I spent all my time operationally deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
MICHAEL MORELL:
So Chris, I just want to make clear to our listeners, so intelligence is when we collect intelligence on our adversaries. Counterintelligence is preventing them from being able to do that to us. Is that correct?
CHRIS COSTA:
That's correct. To detect, to deny, to deter hostile intelligence services from foiling our operations, becoming a spoiler. And that's the role of a counterintelligence officer, not only to protect your operations but also to disrupt the adversary's ability to, you know, attack us using the intelligence discipline as a tool.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah. So you said earlier that in Afghanistan that-- and you actually do this, right, at the new museum-- that you learned about the value of human operations and supporting Special Operations.
CHRIS COSTA:
Yes.
MICHAEL MORELL:
What did you mean by that?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, I think my experience post-9/11 was to take all of that learning and to essentially build networks of indigenous sources that provided an indigenous reconnaissance and surveillance capability, for example, and in some cases would provide targeting information so we could go around our targets on the battlefield.

And that really happened by recruiting sources. So it's no different from operating in a nation's capital. All the principles apply. But it's done in a tactical situation. But you have to spot, you have to assess, you have to build a relationship and ultimately you have to recruit somebody to provide information on the network that we wanted information on. In some cases, we were going after Al Qaeda facilitators. In some cases, we were contributing, in hindsight, in small to larger ways in filling in some of the gaps on bin Laden. But the trail eventually, as you know, went cold, at least in Afghanistan. But we all work toward those goals, so it was a tremendous experience.
MICHAEL MORELL:
And how do you do that job of spotting, assessing, developing, recruiting in a war zone, right, where it's dangerous to go outside the wire? How does that work?
CHRIS COSTA:
So that's an excellent question. And I like to compare it to my predecessor, an intrepid case officer -- my predecessor at the Spy Museum, Peter Earnest. He did some of his operations wearing a tuxedo. And as I reflected on that before I went to the Spy Museum I thought, "Geez, I've never done anything in a tuxedo operationally." But then I realized our mission was the same.

When he went to a cocktail party in a nation's capital, I went to the field to go to see multiple tribal leaders. I went from tribe to tribe, village to village, and not working a cocktail circuit but literally building relationship with tribal leaders. But ultimately, my goal was to peel away some of those individuals and build a relationship with them, ultimately recruit some of them to provide intelligence. So, the same principles apply, except for we didn't wear tuxedos. We carried grenades and had sidearms.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--and had security.
CHRIS COSTA:
That's right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
You had security, right?
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Had some guys with guns with you. That human support to Special Operations, I know, from experience. You can see immediately the result of your work, right? It's very satisfying. It's not writing an analytic product and you don't know what impact it has at the end. It's that you actually see the impact in a very short period of time. Isn't that right?
CHRIS COSTA:
No, that's exactly right. And it's very gratifying. I mean, the story I tell at the International Spy Museum, my story, is about saving lives. So it had a very good outcome. Not all stories ended like that. But you've got to appreciate and be gratified that you did something that was tangible on a battlefield. And it takes years, in some cases of foreign intelligence, to produce something that someone walks away feeling that gratified. But it happens.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Chris, so you're not only a former intelligence officer, counterintelligence officer, case officer, and now executive director of a museum, you're also a counterterrorism expert.

I've heard you talk about it. And you really are an expert. So I want to ask you a couple questions about that. So when you were at the NSC you worked on President Trump's counterterrorism strategy -- which, by the way, ended up pretty much like Bush's counterterrorism strategy and Obama's counterterrorism [strategy] when I looked at it. What was that process like? Was it straightforward based on intelligence analysis and policy analysis? Did politics creep into it? What was that process like?
CHRIS COSTA:
So that's a great question. So, first, I have to tell you that the foundation for the work that we did came from intelligence professionals on my team from across the intelligence field, and policymakers as well, and special operators, all part of a counterterrorism team.

And there was a staying arc of continuity between administrations on counterterrorism. And what we did, what I tried to do is to incessantly protect our guys from politicization, to make sure I was well-informed by intelligence. The one advantage I had, the one advantage I had was having a lot of experience as an intelligence officer. I knew the questions I could ask the analysts, the PDB briefers, the presidential daily briefers, that I had the luxury of hearing from them every day, ask them the right questions.

And I knew how to leverage intelligence. So despite worries of politicization, I will tell you that our team built a framework for an excellent counterterrorism strategy. And it wasn't finished while I was there. And I am grateful that it wasn't finished. Now, I wanted it done while I was there. But in the end, it was a better product because the debates continued. And there were some impasses based on very nuanced wording and philosophies.

But at the end of the day, when I left, the team continued working on that strategy. And frankly, I believe it's the best strategy the nation's ever had, the framework is, for counterterrorism. And it needed to be updating. But make no mistake. I think there's a continuity that goes back pre-9/11--
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
CHRIS COSTA:
--on working counterterrorism.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yes. And a question about ISIS. So, it's now lost all of its territory. It's lost its caliphate, right, in Iraq and Syria. And people see that as a good thing. What's your view on where the threat from ISIS stands today?
CHRIS COSTA:
So I think ISIS is still and remains a threat. Not having a physical caliphate is a good thing. We took away their caliphate. We took away a golden dream, if you will. But what that leaves us with is an underground. And it's harder to get at our adversaries.

So they're going to be underground and they're going to continue their planning. But make no mistake, the fact that we've taken away that rallying call to a physical caliphate is a good thing. And they're on their heels. But in time what's going to happen—and, to your question-- is they're going to rebuild. They're going to coalesce around some other ideas on what it means to be a terrorist organization.

But there's going to be some reincarnation. And oh, by the way, Al Qaeda has quietly and patiently watched. And no one knows Al Qaeda better than you do. (LAUGH) But they've been very patient. ISIS stuck up their head and they paid a price for it. But Al Qaeda has quickly and patiently watched that play out.
MICHAEL MORELL:
What's the greatest terrorism threat that you see to the nation today?
CHRIS COSTA:
So I think it's still terrorists getting access to nuclear materials. I worry a lot about that. The loose nuke scenario. The idea that a dirty bomb can detonate. You know, early on in the administration, we were very, very concerned about the threat to commercial aviation. That also is mass destruction, an aircraft going down.
MICHAEL MORELL:
And where they keep on -- coming back to that, don't they?
CHRIS COSTA:
That's right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah. Chris, you've been great with your time. I just really want to ask one more question. One of the people you work with at the museum is Jonna Mendez --
CHRIS COSTA:
Right.
MICHAEL MORELL:
--a former CIA officer herself and the wife of the legendary Tony Mendez, who passed away in January and who was memorialized in the film Argo. Both of them were known to have been gifted in the art of disguise. What did you learn working with them?
CHRIS COSTA:
Well, first of all, Jonna is tremendous. And Tony has a rich, rich legacy. Both of them in their own rights are tremendous giants in this business. What I learned, it goes back to what this business demands. And that is, a quiet professionalism and the humility.

They learned the art of storytelling. And they did so with a tremendous amount of humility. And we should all aspire to do that. I know I aspire to be a better storyteller. And as I told Jonna recently, I'm so touched by the loss of Tony. But people like me, in following generations, they have somebody to look to. And there are lots of figures in the business. And there are many we don't know that aren't advertised. And I know some of those people. But Jonna and Tony, they're very special, because they operated as a unique pair, didn't they?
MICHAEL MORELL:
Yeah, they sure did. Chris, thank you for your time today. The new museum sounds fantastic. I can't wait to see it. And if my listeners are in Washington, D.C., go see it as soon as it opens. And if you're not in D.C., then get yourself to D.C. to see it. Thank you very much.
CHRIS COSTA:
Thank you very much.
* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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