Monday, December 07, 2015

Is the U.S.' Counterterrorism Message Working?

Alberto Fernandez used to run the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications at the U.S. State Department


Updated December 7, 20153:22 PM ET

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David Greene talks to Alberto Fernandez about U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS. Fernandez used to run the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications at the State Department.


And let's hear one perspective on the president's speech now. It comes from Alberto Fernandez. From 2012 until earlier this year he was President Obama's coordinator for strategic counterterrorism communications. The office he worked for at the State Department counters terror groups in the digital world. Fernandez has become an outspoken critic of the president. He called the administration's response to San Bernardino flailing and tone deaf. And his criticism doesn't stop there.

ALBERTO FERNANDEZ: There are problems with the administration's policy going back during the years when the Islamic State grew from 2011 to 2014. I mean, there was a sense in Washington - I was in the U.S. government - there was a sense that basically we had this taken care of. And it got away from us. I actually think that the president's speech is indicative that they are slowly, clumsily, beginning to do the right things. And all the elements of a successful strategy are there, you know, like raisins in a pudding in that speech.

GREENE: Raisins in a pudding. What exactly did you mean by that?

FERNANDEZ: I mean, there are good things in the speech. The question of course is a lot of what the president said was about process not necessarily about results. So there was a lot of language about more training, more info sharing. I'm surprised we haven't been sharing information with our allies. More hope of a Syrian solution. But the remarks were not very detailed, in terms of actual results.

GREENE: What is an example of something you saw in the speech that gave you confidence that you are seeing a policy improve?

FERNANDEZ: Well, there are a couple of things which I thought were good. One, I think the president made a good kind of summary about the challenge of this extremist ideology. He was a lot more clear about that and he has been. Also his comments about reviewing the visa process. And looking at stronger screening of those people who don't have visas and can come to the United States. Those are good things to say. Again the challenge is to turn those into results.

GREENE: Alberto Fernandez, you when you were in the government were focusing in large part on combating terror groups in the digital space. Is there anything the administration you feel should have been doing more urgently? Could now be doing more urgently, when it comes to going after the ISIS brand online?

FERNANDEZ: There's a lot that you could've done. You certainly could've tried to match volume against volume. In other words, the ISIS network is something that exists. I mean, you saw Secretary Clinton yesterday talk about how we need to - we need to get the social media companies to do more. She's saying this now. This is something that was known a year ago or two years ago or three years ago. So once again, I mean, they are figuring out the right things to do but it's being done in a kind of slow way.

GREENE: All right Alberto Fernandez used to run the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications at the U.S. State Department. Thanks so much for coming on the program sir.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you.


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