This week's podcast features former CIA Al Qaeda expert Cindy Storer
Great interview, Jeff
Good interview. I hadn't previously heard from Agency analysts on what the events of 9/11 meant to them. Brought back memories of the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. My tour there was nearly over, but I had an R&R trip left to take, so I dragged my housemate, Mark, to Bangkok for a few days, telling him that nothing ever happened over Tet. I knew from ample personal experience. Hah! We had no warning as to what was coming. The Communist Vietnamese were roaming the streets of Saigon before the alarm was sounded. Talk about intelligence failures. I was in no hurry to return to Vietnam--my tour was to end in six weeks--but Mark was still fairly new and felt compelled to hurry back. On the second night of the enemy offensive we boarded a USAF C-130 bound for Saigon. Two MPs and a jeep met us at the airport and whisked us to our house. The power was off. No street lights, house lights or traffic lights. Streets empty.. Stop signs ignored. Non-stop. Probably the scariest ten minutes of my time in Vietnam. Our cook and maid were happy to see us, though. As were their relatives who had sought safety in our home.
The next morning, sunny and pleasant though it was, I felt a chill when I saw a USAID officer walking to his office, certainly in his fifties, paunch obvious, cigarette in hand, rifle slung over his shoulder. That's not the way it was supposed to be. We had been caught off guard, as we would be again in 2001, and the landscape had been altered.
Great interview, Jeff. Empathetic and poignant.