Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
A Conversation with James Woolsey: Reflections from the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

James Duff
Montreal 3.June.2003  

JD:  Mr. Woolsey, how should we deal with the prisoners of war?

Woolsey: Technically, prisoners of war who are part of organized military forces and meet the Geneva Court standards of carrying their weapons openly and having insignia, observing the laws of war themselves, should be treated exactly like prisoners of war in other hostilities and that's the way those
who met that test in the Iraqi Army were dealt with. But terrorists are not prisoners of war, and irregular forces who don't wear insignia, don't carry weapons openly are also not prisoners of war. They may be detained and dealt with under American law, anyway by special military tribunals...this was
upheld by the Supreme Court explicitly during WWII in the case of German infiltrators into the United States, a couple of whom were American citizens, as well as German citizens, who were effectively terrorists.

They had right to council, but they were dealt with in special military tribunals, and there's no reason under American law not to deal with terrorists in that fashion. If someone is an American citizen, and there's evidence of a sort that could be used in a criminal court against him, then he sould be tried in criminal court if we get custody, but someone captured in Afghanistan trying to blow up a truck with a hand grenade, and not being part of an organized military force, if he ends up in Guantanamo and is kept
there for a long time, questioned, there's no problem with that under
American law.

"I would say also that another aspect to this war, for example dealing with North Korea and its threatened export of fissionable material for nuclear weapons, there's absolutely no reason why we should not regard North Korean vessels and unmarked fishing ships used to smuggle drugs into Japan, there's
no reason for us not to use old laws of piracy of dealing with contraband, to deal with efforts of that sort....the bottom line was given, I think, by our Supreme Court Justice Jackson, who in an opinion once years ago on a related subject, he said the constitution is not a suicide pact...we have to
follow our laws and our constitution, but we do not have to ignore the fact that people fight as terrorists or outside the laws of war or smuggle drugs or plutonium on unmarked ships we don't need to keep our hands off them if we catch them.

JD: How can we prevent antidemocratic forces from exploiting our democratic structures?

Woolsey: Ultimately our democratic processes and our openness are our great strengths, but they can be exploited by groups, whether they're Islamists or in the old days, Communists, for totalitarian purposes...I believe we should regard those who are in the world of beliefs associated with Al Qaeda and those who support them, whether they're Wahabis in Saudi Arabia or whomever,  very much the way we regarded Communists during the Cold War...we had special laws in the United States for the registration of Communists, they were bitterly fought about before the Supreme Court, but we are not obligated, for example, to treat a Wahabi-funded charity that gives money to Hamas, in the same way that we treat a Sufi Muslim charity that is giving money to poor Muslims.  We are seeing in the Unted States special scrutiny
being given to some of these alleged charities operating with funds from Saudi Arabia...the Constitutionšs not a suicide pact.

JD: How much distrust for Canada is there in American security circles?

Woolsey: Outside rather specialized circles, people donšt know a great deal about it...Americans are generally very favourably disposed toward Canadians and Canada, and regard them as cousins and family members on better when there are differences over things like immigration issues that can lead to greater problems and terrorism, what most Americans expect is that the FBI and the CIA and CSIS and the Mounties are going to get together and sort it out. I anticipate probably that's what will happen....certainly that's what should happen...we're all on this piece of land together and wešve got to work together.

JD: How confident are Americans that there is no fundamental structural problem in the Canadian security network?

Woolsey:There could be some glitches here and there, just as there are in ours, but ultimately this is a remarkable country and a highly civilized democratic country and our good friend and close neighbour and when problems like this come up, we just need to work through them.