Earl Anthony Wayne Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

U.S. Economic Policy after 9/11: Conversation with Earl Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State; December 13, 2004, by Harry Kreisler

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Cooperation in Anti-Terror Efforts

This problem seems to invite a discussion of what we were talking about earlier [in regards to] negotiations within the U.S. government itself. I assume that in undertaking these tasks, you have encountered some of the problems that the 9/11 Commission talked about, namely the sharing of data among agencies of the American government, breaking out of routines that are well established, and so on. Without asking you to "name names" or anything, I'm curious how you move the process along? Is it that everybody realizes we've got a new problem, and is that the primary thing? What are your resources to make changes when the president can't be in the room, presumably, at every one of these meetings to make people respond to what needs to be done?

Well, as the 9/11 Commission has pointed out, there were serious problems in interagency coordination and sharing of information in the whole counterterrorism area. It was certainly true in the terrorist financing area, too. But after 9/11, we for the first time brought a group together whose main responsibility, sole responsibility, was to look at terrorist financing. We brought [together] the Treasury Department, the National Security Department, the State Department, the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the Justice Department, and we started learning by making ourselves sit down together and work on the targets, the groups, the individuals that were out there, the norms that we wanted to establish to get another country to cooperate. Through that process, we hammered out a very good set of practices in our agency.

If you look at the 9/11 Commission Report, the report is actually pretty positive on what we've done so far. It's not in any way perfect, but they did a special annex on terrorist financing, and they said, "These guys are making a serious effort."

What about the allies and potential allies that you have to also bring to the table in these negotiations? Let's talk about our traditional allies, some of whom have been called the "old" Europe [by the Bush administration]. If you were trying to [negotiate with them] in the eighties, it would have been much easier. If you were trying to do it in the nineties, it probably would have been much easier -- it probably would have been harder to convince the Europeans about some [issues], but still, easier than [now], after U.S. foreign policy has taken the decision [to invade Iraq] which so-called "old" Europe has disagreed with.

So my question is, do we still see cooperation with our traditional allies, despite the political differences about some of the choices that the administration has made?

Yes. There's been no spillover from a disagreement on other foreign policy areas to terrorist financing. We've had very close cooperation. There are challenges in a number of countries. For example, getting their various ministries who handle different parts of this problem to talk with each other is still a challenge.

So, the same problem that we have here.

It's the same problem that we have, except since they were not the subject of an attack, they weren't forced to knock heads together. So there's a lot of persuasion, a lot of hard work, a lot of showing best examples and encouraging people to come together. That's in our traditional allied capitals.

In other places around the world -- in South Asia and the Middle East, in East Asia -- there's just a capacity problem. They often don't have enough trained people to do the forensic work needed to trace money. Their law enforcement officials are focused just on trying to track the terrorists down, let alone finding the financiers. So there's a lot of space there for capacity-building assistance, which we and other members of the G8 are doing. The IMF and the World Bank are also working on this, just so they can carry out a number of the basic tasks and help out.

Without naming countries, are there also political challenges? There's enough in the press to believe that in some countries, parts of the government may be intertwined with terrorist organizations -- not necessarily allies, but at least not wanting to expose different parts of the society. What do we do about those kinds of connections where it's not a bureaucratic or a learning [process], but political resistance to going all the way to stop financing?

Right. This is a real challenge for diplomacy. We try to persuade and and show people why it's in their interest to cooperate with us. You're right that there are sometimes political alignments within a society or a government that make it hard for people without very crystal-clear evidence to actually act against a certain group or a certain interest. But then at the same time, we do stress that if there is not cooperation on a number of these areas, then we won't be able to cooperate with them on things that they want, or maybe provide them the kind of assistance that they need.

We try and do this, of course, in the quiet of non-public discussion, because that's the most effective way to go forward. With some governments, for many years we haven't been able to have that kind of approach, and we have a whole program where we've named states as state supporters of terrorism. That was the main focus when I did work on counterterrorism previously in my career. As you know, Iran and Syria and North Korea and others are still in that category for us. Those are countries where we haven't been able to get any degree of meeting of the minds on the fight against terrorism. But in many other places we are able to persuade people, and we try to move them step by step in the right direction. Sometimes we get additional steps that we like, and sometimes we get frustrated and have to try to think through new ways to go forward.

You mentioned that some of this is done behind closed doors. I guess that in a democracy, making foreign policy and the relationship of the media to all of that is awfully complicated. Throughout your career there's been quite an evolution of the respect for the secrecy needed to do the job to get things done. It's hard work, as you're on the verge of a successful negotiation. A potential leak before all the ducks are in a row could blow the whole thing out of the water.

Certainly, we have increasingly learned in recent years that we have to have a public diplomacy aspect to everything we do. We have to have a plan for explaining what we're doing or what we aren't able to do. At a minimum, Congress will be asking us, "Why haven't you gotten this country to cooperate?" So you need to keep Congress informed, keep the press informed, even if you're quietly negotiating at the same time. You have to be ready for these leaks that come out, and to say, "This is what we're trying to do, and that's as far as I can tell you right now," or, "This is where we're going."

But you're right that in this information era, we need to be more information-savvy, and that requires new skills. Hopefully, some of us have learned those new skills, though it's something that we didn't have initially. We have been trying to get better at it. It's true all around the world, of course, and it's very important. It's good to have this information out there flowing; it has all sorts of positive ramifications for people around the world knowing what's going on. But it does give us some challenges, no question.

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