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Transcript: John Miller talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - JOHN MILLER

HOST: MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MICHAEL MORELL:

John, thanks for joining us today. It is great to have you on the show. So this is a big turning of the tables. When I--

(OVERTALK)

JOHN MILLER:

--role reversal here.

MICHAEL MORELL:

-- exactly. When I (LAUGH) retired from CIA, you were at CBS and you interviewed me for 60 Minutes. And if I remember, you interviewed me for several hours--

JOHN MILLER:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--for what ultimately became 20 minutes.

JOHN MILLER:

That's right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So this is gonna be a 30-minute interview for a 30-minute podcast. Just sayin'.

JOHN MILLER:

I'm glad to see CBS has done so much with productivity since I left.

MICHAEL MORELL:

John, you have had an unusual career. You got interested in the news very early. I read somewhere that in high school you were taking news photographs and selling them. And I heard you were skipping school to do press briefings.

JOHN MILLER:

Only the last period. (LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL MORELL:

So that's either a sign of early passion, or maybe you just didn't like school. But this passion for news came pretty early for you.

JOHN MILLER:

You know, my dad was a reporter. And he either did the brilliant thing or made the terrible mistake, depending how you look at it, of carting me around with him on the weekends to stories he was covering. And very quickly-- and I'm talking about seven, eight, nine years old, I got addicted to having a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth, which is, you know, whatever's going on out there.

And, you know, when I was ten years old, it was 1968. That was a very tumultuous year in America. And by the time I was in high school, I was very accustomed to being where the action was. And I wanted to forge for myself a job, a position-- wherever it was that that thing was going on, I was right there.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And you wanted to be there. So you start your career as a journalist. And then you bounce back and forth between journalism on the one hand and law enforcement and intelligence on the other. And I'm wondering how you found that. You know, did the cops mind that you were a journalist? And did the journalists mind that you were a cop?

JOHN MILLER:

Well, it was funny. 'Cause when I went from NBC to the NYPD, they said, "Wow, so you're going to the dark side." And I went from NYPD to ABC. They said, "Wow, (LAUGH) you're going to the dark side." And when I went from the LAPD to the FBI, they said, "Wow, you're going to the dark side."

MICHAEL MORELL:

The darkest. (LAUGHTER)

JOHN MILLER:

So I guess-- you know, where you stand depends on where you sit. I will say this though. And I bet you're experiencing a little bit of this yourself. Being in the game makes you a much better journalist because you actually understand what you're covering up close. And coming out of the game and being a journalist, if you go back into the game -- makes you come back with a broader perspective.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Sure.

JOHN MILLER:

You're not in the cocoon of operations, government work, law enforcement. You've been outside. You've seen the way people look at you-- your profession, what you do. So it's--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And you know there needs to be a public understanding, right--

JOHN MILLER:

Exactly.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--of what it is you're doing.

JOHN MILLER:

You know, so in a way going back and forth is being-- has been very well rounded.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And in government, both at the federal and at the local level, you jumped back and forth between public affairs and operational jobs. That's unusual.

JOHN MILLER:

So public affairs was a way in. It was a very natural transition, Mike, to go from a journalist covering law enforcement to a law enforcement official involved in public affairs to deal with journalists. The idea was that you would be somebody who could bridge both worlds.

But being in public affairs puts you right next to the boss. You know that from working at the CIA, which is, you know, there's the director's office. There's the chief of staff. There's the public affairs person and the legal people. And, you know, that's usually who is--

MICHAEL MORELL:

It's all one team. Yeah.

JOHN MILLER:

Right. So I had a very unique boss, who was Commissioner Bill Bratton in the NYPD, who became Chief Bill Bratton in the LAPD, who came back and became Commissioner Bratton again. And what he looked for was how to take people out of their boxes and exploit their talents. And understanding that my time in the media-- I had spent a decade covering terrorism, had been to bin Laden's camps, had spoken to bin Laden, had spent time with Al Qaeda members, had a depth of understanding.

When I came to L.A. and he said, "I want you not to do the public affairs. I want you to be counterterrorism and intelligence"-- I knew that was gonna be a tough sell internally. And he said-- and this is the way Bill Bratton thought. He thought in very big ways. "I have 9,200 cops here who understand all about how the LAPD works. I know you don't know that. But I know you know things about terrorism and have seen things on the international stage that none of them have seen.

"I will give you a number two who can help you navigate the police department. I want you to push forward your knowledge about how we think about terrorism beyond Los Angeles." And he gave me Mark Leap, who was a terrific deputy. And together we actually made a very good team. Not many other bosses would have taken a risk like that.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right, right, right. Bill's a special person. So let me ask you about two specific moments in your journalism career. You interviewed Osama bin Laden in May of 1998, just three months before the East Africa bombings. How did that come about? What was it like for you? And how did he strike you?

JOHN MILLER:

It came about by a meeting with a source who said, "Do you know who this guy is? Do you know what this guy's behind?" And he basically laid out things like the financing of the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the plot to blow up dozens of airliners, the money that was behind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef's earliest plots and said, "You know, there's a guy in the shadows, you know, working outta caves out of Afghanistan who's behind all of this.

"The plot to President Clinton, the Pope-- a nascent plot to fly planes into CIA headquarters." And I had only vaguely, vaguely heard the name Osama bin Laden because it came up a couple of times in trials of the Blind Sheikh Abel-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef. This may be a guy who supplied money. I didn't understand his role as an operational commander or the head of a group. So that's how it came about.

Finding him involved going to Chris Isham at the investigative unit at ABC News, his team, working with former agency people who knew their way around the community and said, "Well, if you talk to this guy, you might to talk to that guy." We flew from London to Islamabad to, you know, Peshawar to Bannu, in about six months of negotiating and about ten days of travel found ourselves on a mountaintop to do this interview.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And how did you find him?

JOHN MILLER:

I found him-- well, to be candid, he was difficult to read because he didn't speak English. So, he came in in a motorcade and people firing tracer rounds into the night sky. It was a big show. And I got that. I got that, which is, "All right. This is the entrance. Because they understand this is TV. So he's making an entrance. So there's some calculation here."

And then, you know, with a phalanx of bodyguards and his sons, and Zawahiri, and Mohammad Attef, the military commander of Al Qaeda. They came walking across this great field. That's another calculation-- which is they wanted to make an entrance in their vehicles. They wanted to make an entrance with the gunfire into the skies. They wanted to do the long walk to get that footage.

So it occurred to me, you know, from a media standpoint there's a message here. They know what they're doing. But when we began to talk, I expected from prior experience from the Blind Sheikh in New York, from others that he would be a fiery orator, that he'd pound the table, that he would be making demands. And what I got was a very soft-spoken guy where you kind of almost had to lean in to hear.

He spoke entirely in Arabic. I would read the questions in English. The translator would read them back. He would give the answers. But they were long answers. And when we got them translated-- although there was a message in there that he was declaring war and that we would only understand the meaning of this when we brought back the bodies in coffins in our shameful defeat-- they were well-constructed, thoughtfully put together soliloquies-- that I don't think were spontaneous. I think he'd studied the questions, and worked on the answers, and maybe had help.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So the second moment is related. So on 9/11 you sat next to Peter Jennings, who was anchoring ABC News coverage that terrible day, providing commentary on what the FBI, NYPD, New York City Fire Department were all doing. What was that like for you?

JOHN MILLER:

It was as close to an out-of-body experience as you could have. Because here you were in the studio, not at the scene. I was accustomed to being on the scene. But we were in the studio doing live coverage, and you were watching planes fly into buildings that when I was a boy those buildings were a set of warehouses. And then it became a great hole in the ground.

And then I watched them go up floor by floor. I grew up with the World Trade Center Tower. And to watch them be hit, to watch them fall, to understand just by watching them collapse, you know, you did the math in your head about how many people worked in there, and how many people would still be in there, and how many people were below on the street. The incredible loss of life that you were watching before your eyes in a place just down the street that you had dinner in, you know, in the rooftop restaurant, you know, as recently as a few months before, it was surreal and nightmarish.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Do you remember talking about bin Laden on the air?

JOHN MILLER:

I do. I was being careful because I had watched other journalists during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 say, "This has all the marks of Hezbollah. Clearly this is, you know, Islamic extremism turned into terrorism come to our shores." And it turned out to be, you know, an ex-Army guy and a couple of his buddies. So I wanted to not jump to conclusions. But when the question was asked, you know, I said, "This is the kind of thing that bin Laden talked about."

When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993 and Ramzi Yousef was captured and he was flown over the building, and they pulled the blindfold over in a helicopter, and pointed them out, and said, "Look, you know, the towers are still standing," he smiled and said, "They wouldn't be if I had just had a little more money." It-- what I said to Peter Jennings that day is, "This as a target has never left Al Qaeda's mind, has never left bin Laden's mind."

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, John, your current job. So tell us about the intelligence and counterterrorism program at the NYPD that you are responsible for. How does it work? Some people have called it, you know, a CIA inside NYPD. How do you think about what it is and what it does every day?

JOHN MILLER:

So the intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus are two separate bureaus that are connected at the hip. Intelligence is about just that. Intelligence, analysis, and then prevention. Because at the end of--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And does it cover more than counterterrorism? 

JOHN MILLER:

60% of what we do is criminal. You know, now, we live in the safest major city in the United States-- a place where murders, shootings, violent crime is at an all-time low. But there are still pockets of the city that are plagued by crime, particularly gun crime, gang crime. And what we do in intelligence is the same thing: intelligence, analysis, prevention against crime.

And that's why, you know, we have 106 field intelligence officers who are responsible for vacuuming up 1,000 or 1,100 guns a year off these streets. So the criminal work is very important. But-- I mean, you understand this. We do that. We're very good at the criminal side. But 70 or 80% of my bandwidth as the head of that operation is taken up by the terrorism piece.

And that's because it's going to be the lower-frequency crime. We're going to have our shootings. We're going to have our gangs. And we're pretty good at dealing with them. But the stakes are much higher in the terrorism realm in terms of sometimes the body count but almost always the impact on the public psyche. So we pay a lot of attention to that. So it boils down to that intelligence, analysis, prevention. The counterterrorism bureau, which is, you know, co-located there, they pick up where intel leaves off.

So they start with prevention. But then it goes to preparedness and response. That means they're out there in high-profile positions. The long gun teams, the dogs, the explosive canine. You see them everywhere. That's part of prevention. They do a lot more behind the scenes. But then it goes to, "But if it happens, do we have the right training, the right people, enough people, the right equipment?" That's preparedness.

And then finally, and when the bell rings, you know the response. Are we going to be capable, well trained, experienced, effective with-- tactics and rapid response? And that's how those two things fit together. One is to make sure it never happens. And the other is to make sure if it does, we're ready, and we're fast, and we're effective.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So on the intelligence side, is there much of a difference between the way that works at the national level, the federal level, and the way it works at a city?

JOHN MILLER:

There is. And the best thing about the difference is what happens when you fit them together. So the way it works on a national level, you're looking at complex foreign adversaries. You're looking at people coming into this country who are planning to do bad things. You're looking at propaganda coming from designated foreign terrorist organizations.

And there's a big focus on that external threat, which is both necessary because the capability is there in the CIA, the NSA, the DIA, and so on. But it's also required because the major intelligence agencies are focused and required by law to focus on threats coming from outside the United States whereas the FBI and the New York Police Department are focused on threats here.

The thing about the NYPD is you have, you know, dozens of nationalities in terms of the diversity of the people that make up the NYPD. One example is over a thousand Muslim officers who speak all kinds of languages and dialects but more importantly have a great cultural understanding when they look at something and they can tell you, "That's something of concern. This is nothing of concern."

But we also have a great language capability, people from all over the world. So we draw on that. The other advantage is we have a lot of contacts. We get 8 million calls a year to 911. Four and a half million are people looking for the police. Others are for fire and ambulance. But that's a lot of contact with the public. And that's a lot of opportunities to gather information just from regular citizens who we keep saying, you know, the bumper sticker. "If you see something, say something."

We have a hotline number. You can talk to your neighborhood coordination officer. You can talk to that police officer that responds to a call. They have training. Their eyes are open. They look for suspicious activity, people, things. When you ball all that together, you have a real-- granular ability for ground intelligence. And that's very important.

MICHAEL MORELL:

There's not a lot of, "If you see something, call CIA," signs in Iran.

JOHN MILLER:

Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Or Russia. (LAUGH)

JOHN MILLER:

Exactly--

MICHAEL MORELL:

China. So NYPD's track record is very good. You guys have stopped plots. You stopped attacks. Any sense how many ballpark since 9/11?

JOHN MILLER:

So in the ballpark, 30. You know, I could kind of run through 27, 28 of them. But as you would understand better than most, Mike-- there's a number of attacks that we can't even disclose that we stopped because we can't talk about how we knew about them to stop them. We may use those same sources and methods again. And that's where those partnerships between us and other agencies come together. But I think, you know, when you look at the neighborhood of 30, that's significant.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So of those you stop, what's the key to success? Or keys?

JOHN MILLER:

The keys to success are being in the same channels and places as prospective terrorists, people who are thinking about doing it, who want to do it, who are looking for those instructions and messages. That's important. About being connected to the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is the connector to the rest of the intelligence community for a local law enforcement agency.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And it gives you a flow of intelligence.

JOHN MILLER:

So that's the flow of intelligence coming from overseas, coming from other intelligence agencies. Not just American agencies but our British colleagues, our colleagues in Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Germany. So that's very important. And the ability to plug those two things together, which is to be able to go into your cadre of officers and pick the right undercover who speaks the right language or has the right background to insert into an operation to be able to work with your federal partners, to be able to pick up that person coming off the plane and do that surveillance till you see who they're meeting.

All of these things are aided by the partnership with the JTTF and their connection to the rest of the intelligence community. We've got Bill Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the New York office, Brian Parman, before that Carlos Fernandez. All of these were people in the FBI who also had a lot of international experience and partnerships. And they really bring value.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So of those you stop, how often is the suspect already known to police? Is it rare, or is it often?

JOHN MILLER:

It's--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Or a mixed bag?

JOHN MILLER:

Well, it's an interesting question because when we stop it, of course they've come onto our radar somehow. Sometimes it's somebody we encountered before. The more interesting question is: when we don't stop it, how often is the subject known to police? And what we're seeing increasingly, Michael, is a pattern where the Boston Marathon bombers had come onto the law enforcement radar screen and been investigated to the limits of law enforcement's legal ability to investigate them.

But without them having committed a crime, that case would have to be closed. But then they come back. And now they're two bombers. Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando nightclub, the Pulse nightclub, the largest loss of life on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack since 9/11-- this is the person who was the subject of calls and tips. But he was investigated, had not broken the law -- and then comes back in a terrible way later.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And is there anything-- 

JOHN MILLER:

Ahmed Rahimi, the Chelsea Bomber.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--is there--

JOHN MILLER:

You know, we touched him before too. So you see this pattern.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Is there any way to deal with that problem? Or are we just stuck with it? 

JOHN MILLER:

So yes and yes. The first thing I did when we saw this repeatedly was, all right, so we know we're not able to arrest somebody. And when you close those cases, you can't go back and reopen them just because we want to check up on this guy. You have to have a tangible reason.

We operate under the Handschu guidelines in the NYPD which are very strict, but I find them reasonable, that are the procedures that we follow to make sure that, you know, we are not spying on purely constitutional activities or arresting or investigating people for no reason. But what I did after those cases was I threw this at the analysts and said, "When we put a suspect away saying, 'Okay, we've run that case out, and there's no action that we can take legally, and there's no proof that he was doing what they said he was doing. So we're going to close that case'-- how do we look at that subject? And what can we find about these other subjects that-- were tells?"

And what we came up with was a complicated matrix where we will have different people in play. And, you know, it's, "Do they have access to the propaganda? How much are they listening or looking at it? How can we tell? Can we tell if we're missing part of what they're looking at? Do they have access to weapons? Have they taken some third step? Have they been to a location? Have they conducted surveillance?"

But then there are wildcards. "Has there been some big setback in their life? They were fired from their job, thrown out of their apartment, and, you know, dumped by their girlfriend in rapid succession in a period?" This is the other thing. Sometimes the terrorism isn't really about the terrorism. It's about, "My life's unraveling. And ten years ago, 20 years ago, I might have just gone and jumped off a bridge. But now, I can rewrite my story. I was some kind of martyr, some kind of hero. I did it for a cause." And, by the way, Michael, this transcends Islamic extremism.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Sure.

JOHN MILLER:

Right-wing extremism.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Sure.

JOHN MILLER:

The school shooter. The workplace violence. We see this again and again where repeated stressors in somebody's life translate to, "I'm gonna lash out against the world, but I'm gonna put a label across it that I'm doing it for this cause or that cause." Because everybody wants to be the hero of their own story-- and not go out a loser. And we're seeing that pattern go forward. And that's where intelligence is really important.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So one case you recently worked on was the Cesar Sayoc issue, the suspected mailer of the pipe bombs, right, to prominent Democrats and Trump critics. Arrested in Florida. He was no stranger to law enforcement, right?

JOHN MILLER:

No.

MICHAEL MORELL:

But do you think it was possible to foresee him as a domestic terrorism threat?

JOHN MILLER:

I think he would have been a very small blip on the radar. So let's talk about it both ways. He wasn't any kind of master criminal. He wasn't any kind of-- bomb maker or terrorist-- you know, on the law enforcement radar I mean. But first he loses his job. Then he loses his house. Now, he's living out of a van. He's angry at the world because it can't be that he's a failure. The world must be failing him. Whose fault is that?

MICHAEL MORELL:

So this fits that narrative you were talking about.

JOHN MILLER:

It fits the narrative. And, you know, these pipe bombs start to come in in rapid succession. And, you know, we're running from place to place with a bomb squad, with the JTTF, with the NYPD, with the fire department. And we're dealing with these things. And in the meantime, we're like, "Okay, needle in a haystack." First we look at who's he targeting.

Then we said, "All right. Let's make a target of people that if I were targeting people like that, I'd also target these people." And our list-- was running pretty close to his list. We went out to people and said, "Expect a package." And the package would actually come to them. So we knew a little bit about the offender characteristic, which is different about knowing the offender.

And that's when you turn that big switch. You turn on the whole NYPD counterterrorism machine. And then you turn that other switch, the giant one that turns on the entire FBI capability. And now you've got an explosives lab that's been dealing with every device found in Afghanistan or Iraq for 15, 17 years. But now it's running 24/7, running every DNA, every latent print, every hair until they came up with this name.

And then very quickly once we had the name that matched that print and DNA the JTTF contacted Miami. We had already sent New York agents to the area. We had already sent NYPD officers with them to the area from the JTTF. And within a few hours we had him in custody.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So-- John, the terrorist threat today to New York City-- ISIS has lost its caliphate. Has the threat declined with that or not? Where does the biggest threat come from today in your mind? Is is it from ISIS? Is it from AQ? Is it from homegrown extremists? Is it from domestic left-wing or right-wing terrorism? How do you think about the threat?

JOHN MILLER:

So it's all of that. But if you look at the threat as we used to find it here in New York City it was a deep threat-- and a narrow threat. Very complex. So you had Al Qaeda with the sophisticated external operations bureau that could recruit people, put together cells, have them managed by professionals with experience, and do complex plots. That's a giant threat.

The threat today is much lower. You know, compared to what it was, it's two inches deep. The problem is it's now miles wide. Because a long time ago an individual you'll know-- a historian, a religious scholar, a military tactician, a guy named Mustafa Setmariam Nasar-- or al-Suri-- who was an advisor to people like al-Baghdadi but principally Al Qaeda in the Al Qaeda days said, "The most successful terrorist organization is the one that puts itself out of business.

"Because true success is achieved when the message itself is the driver and that the cells form themselves, that the jihad," as he called it in his 1,100-page book, "is the jihad of the individual and that this becomes self-propelling because the authorities can never dismantle something that has no shape. They cannot crush an organization that's already flat."

And while al-Suri's vision didn't come together exactly the way he intended, by the unintended consequence of our effectively smashing ISIS and Al Qaeda-- the pieces scattered. And that's why the threat is two inches deep but miles wide. And the message is what Rahimi, the Chelsea Bomber, was going off of. It's what Saipov, who ran people over on the West Side Highway in the bike path, was going off of. It's what Ullah Akayed Ullah who blew himself up in the subway was going off of.

Because when we get their computers and their phones, we find out not just that they looked at the propaganda but that they had their favorite films. They looked at dozens, hundreds, sometimes 200 times-- to inspire them but also desensitize them to the violence. And, by the way, I'm going to take another step back and say this is not a system unique to Islamic extremism.

We're seeing that now in some of these right-wing attacks where they're watching the same stuff, and they're in the chat rooms, and they're stirring each other up, and they're pouring gasoline on each other's comments. And it becomes self-propelling.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So ISIS online propaganda and then Al Qaeda online propaganda. So I imagine the ISIS propaganda's down since the loss of the caliphate? Is that right or not? And then what's going on with AQ online propaganda?

JOHN MILLER:

So AQ never got propaganda. This is such an interesting question because Al Qaeda propaganda was bin Laden sitting in front of the camera talking for 20 minutes. It was Ayman--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And you waited and waited for the next audio or video, right?

JOHN MILLER:

Right. Right. It was Ayman al-Zawahiri sitting in front of the camera pointing his finger, saying, "Kill, kill, kill," talking for 45 minutes in plainer terms. It was Anwar al-Awlaki in perfect, unaccented English resonating, connecting, a lot of charisma, especially with the Western, particularly American audiences. He may have been more effective than the other two. Okay. So that's Al Qaeda propaganda. Not terribly effective.

ISIS got television. Their films, their recruiting films were not a guy sitting in front of the c-- it wasn't Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sitting in front of the camera saying, "I want you." It was films about the ISIS soldiers, about the doctor working in the hospital, about the brutality of the war from the brutal Assad, to the godless Russia and Putin, to, you know, the clueless America, to--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And you can be the hero, right, of the story--

JOHN MILLER:

And you can be the hero. And they would show the soldiers fighting, sometimes fighting and dying, and say, you know, "This is the call. You must come." And, you know, the way the Marines recruit, the way the Army recruits. "Be all you can be." ISIS would say--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And so is there--

JOHN MILLER:

--ISIS would say, "The few of the few of the few."

MICHAEL MORELL:

So is there less of that now? Or is it still out there?

JOHN MILLER:

So-- I'm not gonna say there's less of it. There's less new material. But they dust off some old material. Some of their best films are still in reruns. But, Michael, you just have to go back to the end of 2017, going into the beginning of 2018, and we had our first attempted suicide bombing on the subway with Akayed Ullah, who had watched a film called Flames of War II, the sequel to Flames of War.

And it was an ISIS production. It is extremely layered. It has a very specific story arc, a David-and-Goliath fight, ISIS against the West that inspired him. And remember when it comes to the propaganda having people in the chat rooms recruiting people person to person, two-way conversations, that's free. Making a film on a laptop by taking different videos on YouTube and stringing them together, adding in the music, fast cuts and special effects, that's almost free.

It's an Apple laptop computer. It's director's Final Cut software. It's whatever normal tools that the average film student would have, and you're cranking that out. And what we found was as they crushed ISIS in Iraq-- as they pushed them back, and further back, and further back-- the propaganda makers shifted to, you know, living rooms and apartments in European cities where they could operate in peace and make the same films.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So Al Qaeda never learned? Never learned from ISIS? Or--

JOHN MILLER:

Al Qaeda didn't get it. And they still don't. When you see Al Qaeda's propaganda today, they're like, "Wow, ISIS captured the younger audience. They're getting the demographic we want but that we tend to miss." So they got bin Laden's son, and they said, "Here, you'll be the new voice. They're tired of Zawahiri. You know, we can only play so many bin Laden reruns. But now we'll show the son, and you'll appeal to the younger generation." And, I mean, the kid couldn't be more boring.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So John, you said several months ago that it's not only difficult to stop lone wolves but that it is becoming harder. What did you mean by that?

JOHN MILLER:

What I meant by that is what we just kind of talked about, which is if the propaganda is the driver, they're not recruiting people, getting them to travel overseas where we would, you know, have a record, getting them to go to a camp where we would have foreign intelligence, when the conspiracy is between this person's mind up here and that glowing computer screen a foot away, that's a very small space to collect intelligence in between.

That's a very hard place to get into. "All right. Well, what is this person thinking?" and so on. And I have to remind our audience we live in a democracy. We don't generally spy on Americans. We have to have probable cause. We are very mindful of purely constitutional protected activities of free speech, of unpopular speech that is free. So, you know, the ability to operate in a way where we can stop everything is challenged by the idea that we're not a police state.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, yeah. So I don't want to put words in your mouth, but sounds to me like you're saying threat remains.

JOHN MILLER:

Threat remains. That's right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And we have got to stay on top of this. And now I'm really going to put words in your mouth because I'm going to say what I think, which is we're often at the most dangerous time when we're not expecting the next attack right around the corner.

JOHN MILLER:

I would agree with all of that. And I think that the key to the threat as we go into this holiday season where we'll go from Thanksgiving to the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza to New Year's Eve with, you know, more than a million people in Times Square is-- that's a very wide berth of territory to deal with threats over where you have a determined adversary who's pumping out a message, not just the headquarters message but fan art that's being created by their acolytes-- that is saying, "Target these things and execute these attacks. And it doesn't have to be anybody but you with whatever capabilities you have at hand."

MICHAEL MORELL:

So your officers -- both on the intelligence side and the CT side -- still have a very important job to do.

JOHN MILLER:

We do, but I would say that no municipal police agency on the planet Earth has devoted either this many people or that much money in terms of total resources towards mitigating that threat-- or has better partners with the FBI, the JTTF, and the other intelligence agencies in the community. The reason we've been as successful as we have been is because of the amount of resources and talent that we push at this problem.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, John, you've been amazing with your time. And I know how busy you are. Just one more question. Actually, maybe two. Journalism and law enforcement. Where do you feel most at home? And if you had to make a binary choice of doing one or another for the rest of your life, which one would it be? Because you love both, and you've been amazing at both of them. And maybe this is an unfair question. (LAUGH) But what do you think?

JOHN MILLER:

Well, I would say this. I love journalism because it was the quest for truth. I always was trying to get the story, but I was always trying to get the real story, too, because you have to peel back the layers. And I appreciated that part of the work. Intelligence is very much the same.

The only difference between any other job and public service, whether you're with the Director of National Intelligence, or the FBI, or the NYPD, the alarm goes off very early. And when your feet hit that cold floor in the morning, in those jobs you never have to wonder why you're going to work or if it makes any difference. And it's always harder to be certain about that in the private sector.

MICHAEL MORELL:

John, thank you very much for joining us.

JOHN MILLER:

Thanks for having me. It's great to be with a colleague.

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