BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jessica Stern, author of "Terror in the Name of God," it says right under your picture, "Jessica Stern, the foremost U.S. expert on terrorism." I`m sure you didn`t write that.
JESSICA STERN (Author, "Terror in the Name of God"): You`re right. I did not.
LAMB: What do you think about that, when somebody calls you "the foremost expert on terrorism"?
STERN: Well, that was obviously someone in the public relations part of my publisher. There are many experts on terrorism. Terrorism is such a complicated subject. There are people who know a lot about money flows and so-called "rogue regimes," and there are many aspects of counterterrorism that I know essentially nothing about. So I don`t think it`s really reasonable to say that. However, I do know a lot about terrorists. That`s something I do know a lot about.
LAMB: I want to go into some detail about your background. But first, before we do that, how many different countries did you go to to write this book?
STERN: I started out in the U.S. and -- talking to terrorists in the U.S., and I went to Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine.
LAMB: Over how many years?
STERN: About five years.
LAMB: And when did you write the last word for this book? Do you remember the date, roughly?
STERN: Well, the last edits were probably June -- May or June.
LAMB: Your background includes working for Bill Clinton. Doing what?
STERN: Working at the National Security Council on -- essentially, on nuclear smuggling and terrorism.
LAMB: Council on Foreign Relations. Doing what?
STERN: I was the Super-Terrorism Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations -- I did not come up with that title -- working on a book on the prospect for terrorists to use weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
LAMB: At the Hoover Institution, doing what?
STERN: Also working on that same book. I take a long time to write books.
LAMB: And your background includes -- where were you born, and where`d you go to college?
STERN: I was born in New Rochelle, New York, and I went to Barnard College.
LAMB: Studied what?
LAMB: And what would you say got you interested enough to try to find terrorists around the world to talk to? And where does that come from?
STERN: Well, I had been working on a book for which -- I was actually well trained to write my last book, the prospect for terrorists to use weapons of mass destruction. I had been trained originally as a chemist. And then I have a degree in technology policy chemical engineering from MIT, and my doctorate is on chemical weapons, including chemical terrorism. So that was something I was very, very well trained to work on, especially because of my work in government on similar topics.
And while I was researching that book, it occurred to me that a number of the operatives, terrorists who had thought about acquiring or actually acquired chemical or biological agents or attempted to use them, lived in the United States and that I could call them up. And this was a pretty novel idea, given that I`m not a reporter. And I didn`t really know how to do it. So before I would even make a phone call, I would call the police, I would call the neighbors and make sure it was OK to call this person.
And one of the first conversations I had was with a man, Kerry Noble, who had been second in command of a violent identity Christian cult. And this man was very religious. And I was fascinated. I mean, I couldn`t understand how it could be that a person who not only said that he was very religious but seemed very religious could have been involved in a cult whose goals included killing blacks, Jews, so-called "mud people" -- mixed-race couples -- and would get out of prison, come to regret his involvement in that cult and still have strong faith.
And I went out to see him in Texas and got even more curious and then really wanted to learn about this and went many times to Pakistan, where, as you know, there are many individuals who have joined so-called jihadi groups, many of which are now member organizations of bin Laden`s international Islamic front.
LAMB: What`s a jihadi group?
STERN: Well, many of the groups in Pakistan that call themselves jihadi groups are active both -- were active in Afghanistan and continue to be active in Kashmir. In fact, some of them are still active in Afghanistan. They are what we would call terrorists. The Pakistani government has long differentiated those terrorists that are active in Kashmir from those that are active elsewhere in the world, even though the groups active in Kashmir often are involved in terrorism, in the sense that they are deliberately targeting non-combatants. They are not just fighting military personnel.
And also, these groups are very closely aligned with al Qaeda. Some are members, as I said, of bin Laden`s international Islamic front, and many are closely aligned with groups that even the Pakistani government has always referred to as terrorist, the groups that go and kill Shia inside Pakistan.
LAMB: Other background. You say in the text in the book that you did a project that was supported by Ted Turner. What was that?
STERN: Oh, Ted Turner founded an organization called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and I was involved in helping to formulate a sort of vision for that organization when it first began. And then I was funded, together with Professor Scott Sagan at Stanford, to look at whether there was a way to help India and Pakistan improve security of nuclear weapons and materials, in the same way we had done and, in fact, continue to do for former Soviet states. I had been involved in the effort to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union. And so it just seemed like a good idea to try to do it in Pakistan.
I went to Pakistan. Scott went to India. The Pakistanis were very forthcoming and really actually wanted assistance with personnel reliability, in particular. Personnel reliability is -- would be a program to help ensure that custodians of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons do their jobs, that they`re reliable, that they don`t suddenly start getting involved in Islamist groups that might be fighting the Pakistani government or someone else.
LAMB: You say in the first page of your introduction, "People have always told me their secrets."
STERN: Yes, they have.
LAMB: From childhood?
STERN: Probably, yes.
STERN: I don`t know. Maybe if we weren`t on TV, you would start telling me your secrets!
STERN: I`m not really sure. People just -- almost immediately -- I mean, even taxi drivers, who haven`t, you know, had -- it`s not -- I`m not casting a spell because, you know, presumably, it takes a while to cast a spell. And people just do that.
LAMB: What benefit has that been to you?
STERN: Well, in investigating why terrorists do what they do, it`s been an extraordinary benefit. The jihadi groups in Pakistan, for example, have told me for many years that they were receiving money from Saudi Arabia and Iran, that they were borrowing operatives from Hamas and Hezbollah. And these groups, as I said, are closely aligned with anti-Shia groups. They are killing Shia in Pakistan, and yet they`re receiving money from Iran and they are sometimes borrowing operatives from Hezbollah.
So it became very clear to me early on that terrorist groups are more pragmatic than we assume, in the sense that they have objectives, but we shouldn`t take those objectives too seriously. They become professional killers, and they`re willing to form alliances with groups that we would assume they would never talk to, just alliances of convenience. They`re willing to cooperate.
LAMB: You teach at Harvard, and at the end of your introduction, you say, "I had to present the project to the standing committee on the use of human subjects at Harvard University." What is that?
STERN: Well, anytime research at a university could potentially put the subject at risk, the scholar must go before the committee and demonstrate that the subject will not be harmed. And this whole approach came out of the Nuremberg trials, and pretty much, I would say that it makes sense, in regard to protecting subjects from radioactive milkshakes, that sort of thing. The committee on human subjects had never dealt with a project of this kind. They`d never dealt with a project where the subjects, as I told them, had a Kalashnikov and I did not.
LAMB: Did that scare you at any point? Not the committee, but the Kalashnikov?
STERN: Yes. Not so much the Kalashnikovs themselves, but I did feel -- I can`t say that I didn`t feel scared sometimes.
LAMB: You had a knock on your door, and you said, Who`s there? And they said, Room service. And you said things -- your knees started to knock after that one. Where was that? And what was that story?
STERN: I was in Lahore in Pakistan, and it was -- this was the first time that I was meeting with jihadi groups in 1999. And I had just met with a group from Lashkar e Taiba, which is a group that the U.S. government says is working very closely with al Qaeda and has been funded by al Qaeda. They deny it. I should point that out.
I had met with them for them to decide whether it was OK for me to meet their leader. They wanted to make sure that I wasn`t there to kill their leader. They wanted to make sure I wasn`t there on behalf of India`s intelligence agency, known as RAW. And ultimately, they decided by looking at me that I was not there to kill their leader, that I was just a CIA agent, and that was fine. And I learned this because my translator told me that.
And I think I have gotten to know this group over the years, and I think, at this point, they actually believe that I am who I say I am. I think they believe that I`m not a CIA agent, that I actually am a lecturer at Harvard University. But we didn`t know each other at the time, and I was pretty scared, just as they were a little bit alarmed about bringing me to meet their leader.
And I had brought some clothing. I needed to wear Pakistani clothing, and I had sent it to be pressed. And they were delivering my laundry in the middle of the night, claiming they were room service, just because their English wasn`t that great. And I was petrified. I was sure that the jihadis were coming to get me. And of course, this was ridiculous. It was just my laundry being delivered. But it was a really, really frightening moment for me.
As I say in the book, I felt in the perhaps 10 minutes that it took to figure out what was going on that I lost five pounds. I mean, I was just so, so nervous. And then the next day, I woke up and the sun was out, and I went to see the leader of this organization and they showered me with fruits and they were extremely polite, and soft drinks. They were extremely polite in denouncing America and, in particular, blaming most of the problem in the world on Jews, having determined that I was Jewish, but always in a very polite way. And I never felt when I was with them that I was really in danger.
LAMB: Why do they hate Jews so much?
STERN: Oh, I think Tom Lehrer said it best, "Everyone hates the Jews." I don`t -- I mean, what was interesting about being in Pakistan at that point is that I doubt they`d ever seen a Jew. Certainly, my guide had never seen a Jew. He told me that he had seen Americans before but never talked to one, and had never seen a Jew. And I think it was really a novelty for them.
They had ideas about Jews, interestingly, that they in some cases picked up from neo-Nazi Web sites in the United States. I noticed that this particular group would have very sophisticated Web sites, had picked up materials from a Web site called Stormfront, a neo-Nazi Web site in the States, that listed the purported Jews working in the Clinton administration, including, for example, George Tenet, who is a Greek-American.
I pointed out to them that I knew where they got that list, that they had gotten from American neo-Nazis and that it was filled with mistakes and they might look into that. And I think they just -- they are very opposed to Israel. Their idea about what a Jew is and how much controls Jews have over the world is obviously quite exaggerated, but it`s not uncommon.
LAMB: In the middle of August, 2003, an F-16 flown by an Israeli flew over the Gaza strip and killed someone that you talked to for this book. I`ll try to pronounce it -- Abu Shanab.
LAMB: Who was he? And why was he killed?
STERN: Abu Shanab was a senior political leader in Hamas. And he was actually also an engineer who had been trained in the United States, and he was the head of the Society of Engineers in Palestine.
LAMB: Which university in the States?
STERN: He had studied in Colorado.
LAMB: Colorado. University of Colorado?
STERN: Yes. And I believe another university, as well, although I`m not sure about that. He only mentioned to me Colorado.
And he was a political leader, as I say. But he said something to me in that interview that was very interesting. He told me that the secret of Hamas`s success was its involvement in social welfare activities and political activities, that it was a successful terrorist group because of these other wings, the political and social welfare wing, that he was very much involved in.
And he also told me that while he was in prison for his activities, he started thinking about the different personality types of the prisoners, people who had been involved in violence against Israelis, and he came to the conclusion that the person who kills with a knife is a nervous personality.
It turns out that it`s very difficult to kill at close range, and a very small other population that human beings really have trouble with this. They have to be brainwashed in order to do it. One study suggests that only 5 percent of people are willing to kill when they can see their victim unless they`ve really been trained to overcome that inhibition.
He said that those who use a rifle are trained -- that it requires training to learn how to be a shooter -- but that the person who blows up a bomb, presumably in a suicide bombing operation, doesn`t need training. He just requires a moment of courage. And I realized, at that point, that what he meant was -- that he had figured out that suicide bombing is cost-effective, that you don`t really need to train the operative very much. You just need to inculcate him and strengthen what Abu Shanab called courage, which he made very clear comes about through a deep hatred of the Israelis, that this person might have witnessed some kind of atrocity and would then be susceptible to a moment of courage, a moment when he forgot that that child that he was about to blow up was a human being.
LAMB: Let me step back a little bit. Hamas is what?
STERN: Hamas is a Islamist group that has several wings, a terrorist wing that is involved in killing innocent Israeli civilians quite regularly, a social welfare wing, which is the most important aspect of Hamas...
LAMB: Based where, though?
STERN: ... based in Palestine -- providing all kinds of social welfare, after-school activities for children, all kinds of clubs, sports activities for children, cut-rate housing for Palestinian students. They`re active at universities, politically active at universities. They provide medical care. They provide assistance to families whose -- when a child donates his or her -- usually his life in a suicide bombing, they`ll provide assistance to the family.
LAMB: Where do they get their money?
STERN: Well, they seem to get money from charitable donations in many parts of the world, including in the United States, and of course, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. And of course, Saddam Hussein was providing money to the families of the so-called martyrs, the suicide murderers active in Israel.
LAMB: How many years has Hamas been operating?
STERN: Many years. Many years.
LAMB: Thirty, twenty?
STERN: It began seriously in the late `80s, but it comes out of a movement that is quite old. It really comes out of the Muslim Brotherhood, that goes way back in Egypt.
LAMB: Back to Egypt.
STERN: Based in Palestine. How many people are involved in it, do you know?
STERN: I`m afraid I don`t know, and I think the number shifts quite a bit. The military wing is a relatively small part of Hamas. Its goals are really more political, I think. And that`s Hamas`s vulnerability, that it`s critically important for Hamas to retain its popularity with the Palestinian people. And I believe the best way to undermine Hamas is to focus on the myths it is spreading among the Palestinian people, and the worst way to destroy Hamas is to increase its popularity with the Palestinian people. Going after political leaders, I think, is not a very effective strategy, even if we know those political leaders are involved in the military wing, as well.
LAMB: What year did you talk to Abu Shanab?
STERN: Oh, dear. I think it was 2000.
STERN: You may remember better than I do.
LAMB: How did you get there?
STERN: I had gone to Jordan, hoping to talk to Hamas, and had to reveal my name, which is a Jewish name, Stern. And Hamas was not willing to talk to me. I then took a bus...
LAMB: By the way, if I remember right, that`s the only time I read in the book that the Islamic folks or Hamas wouldn`t talk you to, a Jew.
STERN: That`s right.
LAMB: One time only? Is that the only time it happened?
STERN: That`s correct. That`s correct. I didn`t have to reveal my name in every case. And this is what happened with Hamas. I decided that the best approach for me was just to go to Palestine and stay with a Palestinian family. And Gaza is a very small place, and it turned out that the family I was staying with -- there were a lot of doctors in the family and there -- Dr. Rantissi is a senior leader of Hamas. I also talked to him. The Israelis have also made an attempt on his life. Once you know one doctor in Gaza, it was fairly easy to get to a doctor, even a doctor involved in a terrorist organization. And so that`s what I did. I just...
LAMB: You were in Jordan, and you had to go all the way across Israel to get to Gaza.
LAMB: How did you do that?
STERN: I took a bus, and then from Jerusalem, I hired a car. And then at the border crossing, I walked across the border, and there I was actually met by a Palestinian official.
LAMB: Anybody traveling with you?
STERN: I had with me -- yes, a Swede came with me, someone who was also interested in talking to Hamas. And I hired a translator who was a student in the United States at a very good school and...
LAMB: She was from Saudi Arabia.
STERN: That`s right.
LAMB: Her name.
STERN: I am not going to tell you her name. She`s asked that I not reveal it.
LAMB: Don`t you use her name in the book?
STERN: I use a false name.
LAMB: A false name?
STERN: Yes. And I make that clear. In most cases, people allowed me to use their name, but in this case, she requested that I not reveal her name or even the university she was attending.
LAMB: Now, this was before the suicide bombings, wasn`t it, when you met with Abu Shanab?
STERN: It was before the recent spate. But no, there had been many suicide bombings, by that point.
LAMB: In the year 2000, though, you met with him where?
STERN: I met with him in his office.
LAMB: Why did he meet with you? Do you have any idea?
STERN: He was very interested in persuading Americans that Hamas had noble objectives, that its goals were legitimate -- and in fact, some of their goals are legitimate -- that what it did was legitimate, and some of what it does is legitimate. It is genuinely involved in very important social welfare activities.
And this is typical of what we see in a very weak state or a failed state. A terrorist group can really step in where the state is failing, can provide those social services that the state doesn`t provide. And it`s very easy for Saudis to feel that they are doing good work because they`re supporting Hamas's good works, even though the three wings -- the political wing, the social welfare wing and the terrorist wing -- are closely intertwined.
And it was actually at that point when I was in Gaza that a member of the Palestinian authority said that to me. He said that the distinctions between the wings, as far as they were concerned, were pretty fictional because a person who was part of the social welfare wing or political wing one day could the next day be recruited to be involved in the military wing.
Now, I don`t believe that applies to the senior political leaders -- for example, Abu Shanab or Dr. Rantissi. They told me that they had -- everyone has his own role, and they considered that what they did was much too -- that it was very important that they continue doing what they were doing, and that other people`s role was to load themselves up on buses.
LAMB: So he`s dead today and...
STERN: He`s dead.
LAMB: Yes. And the Israelis killed him. What was the -- it goes back to -- you don`t agree with that "tit for tat," the idea that Hamas sends a suicide bomber into Israel, kills 16, 18 people, and then the Israelis go back and kill their leaders. Not a good idea?
STERN: I think it`s very complicated. I think if Palestine was a country and the two countries were at war, it might be legitimate. It might be legitimate. But they`re not, and that makes it a problem, a very serious problem morally. But more importantly, it makes it a very serious problem in that I think it will be counterproductive. I don`t see that this policy of "tit for tat" is working at all.
LAMB: What was your reaction when you heard he had been killed?
STERN: I thought it was counterproductive. I can`t say that I...
LAMB: Did he think he was going to be killed?
STERN: I think he felt willing. I don`t think that he was prepared to deliberately put himself at risk. You know, the truth is, I don`t know what he was doing. It could be that the Israelis had intelligence that linked him with some major imminent plot. If that were the case, if it were actually a preventative strike, a preventative strike where the attack was imminent and -- then perhaps there could be an argument about the necessity of that kind of -- of killing him. But based on what I know and based on what we observe about the utility, I don`t think it`s productive.
But at the same time, I can`t -- I think maybe you`re wanting to know whether I felt devastated that this person I had spoken with had died. I didn`t feel that this was an admirable human being. I thought that this was someone who was morally confused. I thought that this was a person who really believed he was doing the right thing, but was involved in a group that is doing -- is perpetrating evil, and perpetrating evil not just on the Israeli people, but on the Palestinians, as far as I`m concerned.
LAMB: You have a quote in here from somebody named Sheikh -- I don`t know if this is -- Younis al-Astal, a Hamas leader. And it`s, "A believer should never be afraid of being poor, but of being rich. When you become rich, you think only of things. This kills your soul. Islam distinguishes us in that it prepares people to die for the sake of Allah. They are always ready to die for Allah."
But also in your book, you discuss the business of money and the fact that the poor people are the ones sent in to blow themselves up and the leaders are making lots of money, and sometimes the people that are in the rank and file find that out. What did you discover on all your trips about money?
STERN: Well, the first thing to point out is that poverty in and of itself, as far as I can tell, does not cause terrorism. If it did, I think we`d see a lot more terrorism in very poor countries around the world where we don`t see it. But leaders definitely take advantage of the poor. And it`s most obvious, not in Palestine, especially today, where suicide murder is spreading like an epidemic, including among the well-educated and even the advantaged, but in a country like Pakistan or also, to some extent, in Indonesia, it`s very easy to see how the poor are taken advantage of.
The extremist madrassas which, of course, represent a relatively small proportion of religious seminaries, which are known as madrassas in Pakistan, function as orphanages for the very poor and inculcate into them the notion that the best way to worship Allah is to donate their lives in a purported jihad. And I visited these schools, which really function as jihad factories. And I saw young kids who told me that their goal in life was to become a mujahid.
And I did meet with a number of mid-level managers who discovered that their leaders were making a killing, that their leaders were getting really, really rich off the jihad, and that these young men were serving as cannon fodder in what is obviously a losing battle in Kashmir or in Afghanistan. They were going actually on their summer vacations to help out the Taliban in Afghanistan. That was how they -- that was summer camp for them. Not necessarily knowing what they were doing; in some cases their parents not having signed on to this.
There have been a number of cases where young men have died and the parents have tried to go after the jihadi groups. And so, that is how I think the poor are being taken advantage of, but I`m not arguing that a way to stop terrorism is through foreign aid across the board. I think poverty plays a role, but not the simple role that some people argued shortly after September 11.
LAMB: How many madrassas are there in the United States, do you have any idea?
STERN: No, I don`t know. The figure in Pakistan -- there are many figures. A figure that was given to me by a leader, a Pakistani leader who had his own very large madrassa but was also involved in the leadership of the madrassas, was 45,000. I don`t know very much about their religious seminaries in the United States. And my guess is that very few of them would be extremists in the way I describe in Pakistan, if any.
LAMB: Well, we keep hearing from people on television, talking about the situation around the world that the Saudis are funding the madrassas in this country and other places?
STERN: In Pakistan, I think.
LAMB: And here, too, where they feed this anti-Americanism all the time. Do you buy off on that?
STERN: I buy off on that completely. I have never studied madrassas in the United States. I`d have to defer to those who have, but I have no doubt that it`s happening in Pakistan, because they have a lot of money, and they`re quite open that their money comes from Saudi Arabia. They`re quite open about their fund-raising missions to the Gulf states. They detailed for me trips they have taken, how much money they have made on those trips. That they go for Hajj and are fund-raising on the side. And they tell me about money they`re able to raise in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.
Until recently, I think, it never occurred to them that this was something that perhaps they should keep secret. Now, of course, there`s a lot of concern in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world about the role that Saudi Arabia has played in fomenting anti-American and anti-Western sentiment and in creating terrorists, and in funding factories for terrorists, these extremist madrassas.
LAMB: Why are they doing it?
STERN: Well, there are a number of theories. One, of course, is that they are happy to support jihad, as long as it`s not against their own regime. That it`s a way to funnel that sentiment, which is furious, actually, with the Saudi regime, and blames America, to funnel it elsewhere, to funnel it in generally anti-Western sentiment in a way that won`t impact them. Of course, it has come back to haunt them.
LAMB: Have you been inside madrassas themselves?
STERN: Yes, I have.
STERN: In Pakistan, and the equivalent in Indonesia.
LAMB: What did you see once you got inside these? Give us some examples.
STERN: The most interesting madrassa I visited was one that was actually in Lahore.
STERN: Lahore, Pakistan. It was not out near Peshawar, it was not in the sort of jihadi area. It was not near Afghanistan. It was right in Lahore, a beautiful city. And this school was producing young men who were prepared to join anti-Shia groups. It was very closely associated with anti-Shia groups, as well as a very important jihadi group, known as Kharada Mujahideen, which is a member of bin Laden`s International Islamic Front, very closely aligned with al Qaeda.
LAMB: What does it mean, anti-Shia?
STERN: These groups are going around Pakistan and killing Shia, killing doctors, killing lawyers, killing people whose bad luck, at least at that moment, is that they were -- they are Shia.
LAMB: Why? What`s wrong with being a Shia?
STERN: Well, there is a tension between Sunni and Shia. A tension between Sunni and Shia, which is very important in Pakistan, but is less important right now in some parts of the world where both Sunni and Shia groups are joining forces, for example, in Iraq, where we see very surprisingly Hezbollah active with the same goals as al Qaeda, and also Sunni groups in Iraq.
But let me just go back to what I saw at this madrassa. Every young man that I talked to said he hated America, down with America. When I asked why -- why do you hate America? The answer is, I don`t know. Everyone hates America. Almost every young man said he wanted to be a so-called mujahid when he grew up, but I met a couple who did not say they wanted to be mujahideen. They said -- one said he wanted to be a doctor. I don`t remember what the other one wanted to be. And the chancellor of the school was deeply embarrassed. He said that they hadn`t been there very long. And after they had been around for a while, he was sure that they, too, would want to be mujahideen.
And this was a guy who was really mesmerizing. He had a skill. I could see that it would be very easy for young men to fall under his power. He also went on at great lengths about how he didn`t want his kids to be learning mathematics or literature or music, that it was most important for them to understand -- to memorize the Quran, which they did in Arabic, without understanding it, and to become mujahideen, to become holy warriors.
LAMB: You just defined it. Someplace in your book, you said that the U.S government took your notes away from you at some point, wanted to see your notes?
STERN: No, no. My notes were subpoenaed, they did not take my notes away. My notes were subpoenaed in this case in regard to an American, nobody ever bothered me about notes that I took abroad. It was an American terrorist who was targeting American officials.
LAMB: That was -- the name? Do you have the name?
STERN: I`m not going to go into details about that case, but that`s what happened.
LAMB: Why did you mention it? What was the reason?
STERN: Why did I mention that my notes had been subpoenaed?
STERN: I think it`s a very important part of the -- describing the process that I underwent in order to get to -- to have these conversations, and I just thought it was part of the story, but it doesn`t mean that I necessarily want to reveal all the details.
LAMB: There`s a fellow named ...
STERN: And I want to say that I was very fortunate. I received the help of a very skillful lawyer and I did not have to turn over my notes.
LAMB: There`s a fellow, but again, correct my pronunciation, Mir Aimal Kansi.
STERN: Kansi, yes.
LAMB: Kansi? He`s dead.
STERN: Well, he`s dead. He`s also dead. There are a fair number in this book that are now dead.
LAMB: But you talked to him. And he was executed on November 14, 2002. Who was he and why did you talk to him?
STERN: He was a Pakistani national who had shot -- had been involved in a very serious shootout at the CIA. He killed two CIA employees, and wounded several others. He claimed to be doing this because he was opposed to American policy, and he had a very, very big influence on, I think, how the CIA views its own security in the U.S. And he was a very confused, very confused young man, and I went to see him when he was in prison.
LAMB: So, people might forget, he literally walked up out front where the cars were coming in at the CIA and shot -- killed these people right there on the scene.
STERN: He did. He did.
LAMB: Then you tell the story in here about how he got on the plane and went back to Pakistan
STERN: Yes, he did.
LAMB: Almost immediately.
STERN: Almost immediately.
LAMB: How did he do that?
STERN: He was involved in the Pakistani expatriate community. And he managed to get a ticket through a local agent. Nobody knew, of course, that he was a killer. And he was sort of a misfit. In fact, I think if he had been more embraced, perhaps, by the community, perhaps he wouldn`t have done what he did, or maybe not. Maybe -- it`s unclear. But it is -- I must say -- not surprising that the person who did this was someone who really had trouble forging a new identity in the country where he had moved. This is something that I think is a big problem around the world, especially in France, where immigrants that really have trouble fitting in can come to feel angry, and Islamism is a very attractive sort of dystopic ideology, that may be attractive less because of the religious aspects, but more as a result of its sort of -- it appeals to the sort of angry young men, I think.
LAMB: How did we find him back in Pakistan and get him back here and try him and execute him?
STERN: There was help provided. First of all, there was money on offer for any leads leading to his capture, and there were -- someone provided the U.S. government with information that made it possible to extradite him, even though there is no extradition treaty with Pakistan, with the current -- with Pakistan as opposed to pre-Pakistan. This is something that lawyers argue about, is there an extradition treaty or not. But most Pakistanis would say there is no extradition treaty, this was wrong, it was wrong of the Pakistani government to allow this to happen, and I subsequently heard from a former Pakistani official that, in fact, that money -- that it was really the Pakistani intelligence agency that had provided the tip, that it wasn`t really a ordinary Pakistani citizen who had made it possible for the U.S. government to find Kasi. He called himself Kansi, but apparently his name is really Kasi.
LAMB: Where did you talk to him?
STERN: I talked to him in Virginia, where he was on death row.
LAMB: What was he like?
STERN: He at first, did not want to talk to me. I had written to him, and he said he would only talk to me if I gave him a lot of money. And I told him that I was not going to pay for an interview that was not acceptable. And then he said he would only talk to me if I would donate money to his favorite charity, and I told him that as far as I was concerned, that was the same thing as giving him money, and that I might give money to Pakistani charities if I chose to, and in fact I have, but that I was certainly not going to do so at his bidding, and I was not going to give money to the charity he chose.
Well, then, I thought that was the end of it, but he then decided that he did want to talk to me. And he invited me to come, and he was very excited about the interview. He was obviously very lonely. And then he wrote to me after the interview, and invited me to convert to Islam, and allowed me to ask him some additional questions in writing.
And this, of course, is something that happened to me over and over again, that I would be invited to convert to the religion, to donate money to the cause, to support the activities of the terrorist group after they talked to me.
LAMB: This is out of context, but it is in the beginning, and it might fit where we are at the moment. There was a nun in your life, a Catholic nun?
LAMB: And you start off by telling us about her, and why? What was her name?
STERN: Her name was Sister Miriam Therese. And she was my grandmother`s best friend. And she and the other nuns in New Rochelle, New York, referred to my grandmother, Miriam Jackson, as their Jewish mother. And we were always invited to holidays at the convent, and Sister Miriam Therese -- I had a very good impression of her. She really did good things. She really spent her life, and still is very active helping the poor and especially helping the elderly. And it seemed to me that religion must make people better.
And so, as I say in the opening to the book, I had a very strong prejudice in favor of religion, even though I grew up in a secular household. I feel very Jewish culturally, but it wasn`t religiously Jewish, it was certain values that I now realize that seem to be typically Jewish values, but I hadn`t really been exposed to religion very much other than through Sister Miriam. And it seemed sort of a little bit exotic, a little bit scary, a lot of control in a way, but at the same time comforting, to certainly to spend time with nuns seemed very comforting.
LAMB: Now, you dedicate the book to Evan and Jeff. Who are they?
STERN: My son and my husband.
LAMB: How old is your son?
STERN: He`s almost 2.
LAMB: What about the personal side of all this? Do you ever feel threatened or do you ever feel you might be marked because of the way you take this information and present it in books and interviews?
STERN: I will not be going back to talk to terrorists in the field the way I did researching this book. Having a child completely changed my feeling about doing that. Even though I was always extremely careful, still, having seen what happened to Daniel Pearl, who did exactly what I did -- of course, I was -- I believe that being a woman made me much safer, but nonetheless, with a son, that`s just not something I will do. And I probably will not go back to Pakistan, where I am told I am the best known American among the jihadis.
I have not -- you know, it would be very nice for me to be able to go there and talk to government officials. I love Pakistan. I`d love to do that, but I am not sure that would be entirely safe for me. And so, I won`t be talking to terrorists in the field.
LAMB: What kind of work is your husband in?
STERN: He`s an economist.
LAMB: And you teach. How often at Harvard and what`s the subject?
STERN: This fall I am co-teaching a course with Sam Huntington, the author of "The Clash of Civilizations" and David Little, who is a professor at the Divinity School. We are teaching a course that will be offered at the Divinity School in the faculty of arts and sciences and at the Kennedy School. And in the spring, I`ll be teaching about terrorism.
LAMB: And just a brief connection, Sam Huntington endorses your book.
LAMB: Says, among other things, "her analysis is indispensable to our understanding contemporary terrorist threats to the civilized world."
Let me make another connection in the book. You spent time in the course of this book with someone named Judy Miller, "New York Times" reporter.
LAMB: What were the circumstances?
STERN: Judy heard -- I don`t even remember how this came about, maybe I told her, I can`t even remember, that I was going to the line of control. The Pakistani government had offered to take me to the line of control between Pakistan and India, and this is something that is hard to do. It requires the government to bring you. And Judy wanted to come with me. And I -- as I made it clear to the Pakistani government that I was not going to have any control over her writing, and that they had to understand that, and she was a reporter, and she was not going to be taking five years to write up her assessment, but I would like her to come, and they said yes. And so, she came with me.
LAMB: If I`m correct, her husband was your editor?
STERN: Her husband was one of my editors, yes.
STERN: Jason Epstein, yes. That came about in a very strange way. Jason claims when he decided he wanted to edit me that he didn`t remember that I was the person that had gone to the line of control with his wife. And I think that`s probably true. I think he -- actually, he saw me on CNN, and decided that if I ever wrote a book, he wanted to help edit it. My official editor, of course, was Dan Halpern at Echo at Harper Collins, but Jason was part of the team, and that was a very exciting experience. He is, as everyone knows, a master. He is a legendary editor, and he had a very big influence on this book, and why I think you brought me on this show.
I think if I had written another book more like the first one for University Press, you would have been less interested. As a matter of fact, I believe Harvard University Press tried to get me on this show. So Jason turned me into the sort of writer that you would be interested in. He made me put the material in the footnotes, the interviews with the terrorists had been in the footnotes. And he made me put the material that had been in the footnotes in the text. And that was very frightening for me. I categorically refused to do it when he first suggested it. I actually told Dan I wanted to fire Jason. I didn`t want to have anything to do with him.
I just felt he was trying to turn me into a different person, and then I went home and did exactly what he told me to do. He obviously hypnotized me. And we fought all the time. But I was very fortunate that I had Dan, who is also a legendary editor. He`s actually a poet. And he is well known as an editor of poetry, but he -- it was just great having the combination.
LAMB: In the opening, which it`s italicized, it starts off, "Religious terrorism starts off from pain and loss and impatience with a god who is slow to respond to our plight." Where does that come from? What is that?
STERN: I wrote that.
LAMB: You wrote that?
LAMB: I couldn`t tell, as a matter of fact. And why did you do it the way you did it here? It`s italicized, it`s out front. What`s the point?
STERN: I didn`t write it to be the sort of poem in the opening of the book. It was just something that I wrote that just came to me, and Jason urged me to put it in the front of the book that way. Because he felt that it summarized the argument of the book, or much of the argument of the book.
LAMB: And then in the introduction, you quote Kathleen Norris. Who is she?
STERN: She is a poet.
LAMB: "Any creative encounter with evil requires that we not distance ourselves from it by simply demonizing those who commit evil acts." There`s more, of course. What`s the purpose of putting that up front?
STERN: I know that what I did, that many people at first blush would be horrified by what I did, and might think that I was getting too close to evil. And it was, for me, a very difficult and at first very frightening and exhausting. I was puzzled, why was it so exhausting, having a two-hour conversation with a terrorist or even a former terrorist? I would just be completely knocked out. I just felt like -- I just have to lie on the floor, I`m just so exhausted. I didn`t understand why.
And I came to understand that it was that I was trying to empathize. That I was trying to understand the feelings that led a person to do evil things, and I knew that some people would be offended by that and would not understand the distinction between empathy, the understanding of the feelings that give rise to an action, and sympathy. And indeed, "The Washington Post" book review, I think that the reviewer didn`t really fully understand that difference. She said that it was a good thing that I didn`t go too far. She seemed to feel that I was at risk of joining the groups. And I was aware that that could be a response. Fortunately, most of my readers haven`t responded that way.
LAMB: Almost out of time. Do you have any hope that this can ever stop?
STERN: Yes. I do. I think that if we look in historical terms, very long term, I think that -- I`m not talking about the last century, I`m talking about the last -- over many centuries, that human beings do become more tolerant and more compassionate, and I believe that tolerance and compassion on both sides ultimately will end this problem, but we have a long battle ahead of us.
LAMB: Do you have another book in you around this subject?
STERN: Yes. I hope to write a book now about post-September 11 fears, how the fear and the reaction to that fear can hurt us, and that it`s completely understandable why we feel this fear. I want to talk about the fear that terrorists feel, the fear that counter terrorists feel. The fear that ordinary New Yorkers feel, the fear in Muslim communities in the United States and elsewhere.
LAMB: This sounds like an awkward question. Do you think you`re more fearful because of all that you know and we haven`t even scratched the surface in this book, or compared to someone else that just is afraid of terror? That doesn`t know much?
STERN: I think I`m probably less fearful. I think I`m aware of the fact that the likelihood -- that I`m very aware of the impact of these attacks, and how it`s impossible not to react very emotionally and to not be -- that the actuarial risk, in a sense, is actually quite low. I`m aware that terrorism is psychological warfare, and I`m very aware that its aim is to make us feel fear more than is rational, actually.
LAMB: The cover of the book looks like this -- "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill." Jessica Stern of Harvard went all around the world talking to terrorists, and we thank you very much for joining us.
STERN: Thank you very much.
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