On Hardball: Worried Next Terror Attack Could Strengthen Tea Party

Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's Hardball, brought on two former CIA officials to discuss the latest terror attack, and the MSNBC host agreed with Tyler Drumheller that the most recent attacker was motivated by his house being foreclosed on and also agreed with Robert Baer who feared another attack could lead to "The Tea Party being strengthened" which could lead to "people blaming the White House for a situation it didn't create." Baer also hit Matthews' sweet spot of talking points when he went on to warn that the last successful terror attack "got us into a war in Iraq we didn't need to be in." [audio available here

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA FIELD OFFICER: But what I'm really afraid, Chris, is the next time one of these guys are going to get through. And what's it gonna do to this country? It's gonna rip it apart. Because people are gonna be looking for quick, immediate answers.

MATTHEWS: How so?

BAER: You know, they're gonna, they're gonna look, you know, crack down on, you know, who knows where it's gonna to end up? You're gonna see the Tea Party being, you know, being strengthened. You're gonna see people blaming the White House for a situation it didn't create. 

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

BAER: It could affect the, you know it could affect the United States for a long time. Look, it got us into a war in Iraq we didn't need to be in...

MATTHEWS: Yeah well I agree.

The following exchange was aired on the May 4 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know, Roger Cressey made a point earlier, Tyler, along the lines you're talking about, about how they recruit overseas. We've been very successful in American and I know we are, about assimilating people, it's our great strength. You can become an American in very few years. You learn a bit of the language, you make an effort to really become an American, you get into our culture, you get into our values, you're an American damn quick. And the danger, of course, is some people don't have that motive. That they may be doing all kinds of things to us. In this case, this guy radicalized, how do you figure? How do you figure the radicalization occurred?

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FMR CIA EUROPE OPERATION CHIEF: Well I think this is, I think the, the assimilation of, of the Islamic community in the United States has protected us to this point. But I think as things go along. I mean in his case it could be, it could be an economic problem. It could be, it could be all sorts of things.

MATTHEWS: Yeah I think you're onto it. I think you're on to the economic problem.

DRUMHELLER: And, and he, his house was being foreclosed on. It's the same thing if you, what you saw in Europe. And I keep going to that because that's what I - I think that's an important lesson to learn. You have a group of disgruntled people or a disgruntled guy and all they need to do is run into one person that's a serious recruiter or a trainer or something like that. And then like Bob said, they end up in a camp, they get a, they get a degree of training, they go back. And for the Pakistani, and for the people in Pakistan there, they see this as a war with us. I mean we, we, we should not think that we can attack them and they're not going to retaliate. And so this, it's, I think it would be a mistake to think that we're looking for a specific plan. Like go to Times Square and blow it up. But I think the, what they said was, probably train him and said, at an opportunity do something like this. Which makes it much more dangerous. It would be easier if it was a highly-organized thing because that's easier to penetrate.

MATTHEWS: You know Bob everybody knows about people that emigrate, some successfully, and others not. A lot of people came here from Ireland, for example, and most made it in America and some had to go home. They didn't make it here, they didn't fit in. Is this an opportunity for recruitment?

ROBERT BAER FMR CIA FIELD OFFICER: Oh absolutely! With the, immigration is going up, we're getting a lot more people. The State Department effectively does not screen people immigrating to this country. And it's barely cursory. We don't know who's inside our borders. We're nothing like Israel who keeps track of people for obvious reasons. We're still very non-militarized, liberal country. But, you know, we simply don't know who's within our borders. A lot of people still don't speak English. And their primary loyalties are outside the country.

MATTHEWS: Yeah but people coming from Pakistan, generally do speak English. That wouldn't be the problem here, would it?

BAER: A lot of them don't. A lot of them just speak Urdu and Pashtun. They don't speak it very well. And they're not integrated. They're moving out into communities in Connecticut and New Jersey, and they're, they're, they're sticking together, and we don't really know who they are. This is a, this is a big statement. But we, the FBI, let's put it this way, cannot keep track of every immigrant in this country. What happened in Times Square was not an intelligence failure. In fact it was, it was a brilliant wrap-up of this guy and - but, but what I'm really afraid, Chris, is the next time one of these guys are going to get through. And what's it gonna do to this country? It's gonna rip it apart. Because people are gonna be looking for quick, immediate answers.

MATTHEWS: How so?

BAER: You know, they're gonna, they're gonna look, you know, crack down on, you know, who knows where it's gonna to end up? You're gonna see the Tea Party being, you know, being strengthened. You're gonna see people blaming the White House for a situation it didn't create.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

BAER: It could affect the, you know it could affect the United States for a long time. Look, it got us into a war in Iraq we didn't need to be in...

MATTHEWS: Yeah well I agree. And by the way, I think coming up on airplanes, I thought this with the Christmas bomber. Tyler, you on this. I thought there was gonna be, well I'll predict it right now. We get a real bad airplane situation in the next couple of years, we're gonna have all kinds of stuff going on about who gets on airplanes, we're gonna be so close to Israel in the way that they do it, don't you think?

DRUMHELLER: I think it's gonna...

BAER: Oh absolutely! People are gonna demand it.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts Tyler?

DRUMHELLER: I think it's gonna go more and more in that direction. And I think the other thing to worry about is the reaction. Again this is going back to your. This is the reaction of the extreme right to the, where you have a counter reaction against these communities. And that just adds to bring in more recruits for these-

MATTHEWS: Yeah explain how that happens?

DRUMHELLER: Well it's because, as, as, as these attacks occur, it feeds a certain, a certain part of the, of the extreme right that looks on immigration as a threat to the American identity and then they react, and a violent fringe of that reacts violently against Moslems in some part of the country. And the next thing you know, then the recruiters or the people on the Internet, who if they're doing it remotely, play on this and say "See, this is America, hates Moslems." I mean you hear that more and more when you talk to young, to young Moslems. That it's not, it's not a majority, but it's and Bob knows more about this, about that part of the world than I do.

MATTHEWS: Yeah I know, I know. You know Bob, the problem is really not so much people who have a lot of contact with people from the Middle East or from South Asia, like I do. It's, it's people who don't meet anybody. So they make the generalization, I assume.

BAER: Yeah.

DRUMHELLER: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: Obviously they can't differentiate among the 99 percent that are wanting to become Americans and the, and the small element is just are misfits, basically and are open to recruitment. It's a, it's a situation that takes a little bit of thought to put into it. But I'll tell ya, when it comes to airplanes, people aren't gonna be so discriminating. They're gonna want to know who's going to be getting on that airplane if we another problem like Christmas.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.