Terrorism Expert Ilana Freedman on What Comes After the Death of Osama bin Laden, Future of al-Qaeda, Pakistan, More

Back in December, Ilana Freedman, who claims over 20 years experience in counterterrorism strategies and intelligence analysis, provided us with an overview of how WikiLeaks impacted America. With the death of Osama bin Laden, we welcome back Ilana for an in-depth analysis of what his death means for America.

Listen to the entire Ilana Freedman interview:

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Many of you might recall, from our first interview (see interview here), that Ms. Freedman demonstrates a broad understanding of American foreign policy. She is the CEO and senior analyst of Gerard Group International, a company that specializes in intelligence solutions for homeland security and businesses and has written articles concerning terrorism and security for such media outlets as the New York Post.

Ilana gives us her thoughts on the death of Osama:

“He has obviously done enormous amount of damage, not only in terms of human life where he’s taken, been responsible for taking over 3000 lives of Americans. But he is the father of a great deal more damage in terms of altering the way we live and the way we have to live and the amount of freedom that we have lost because of him. So I think the fact that he is gone is at least a little bit, goes a little bit towards healing some of that pain.”

Ms. Freedman notes that she has a network of intelligence contacts, in the field, worldwide. She states that two weeks ago, she heard something big was going to go down in relation to something that happened 10 years ago.

“All of the news that we’re getting now is this action happened yesterday. But the initial report said that it happened a week ago and we got a heads up on it two weeks ago. So I’m not sure what that means. Two weeks ago it was just something big was going to be happening, but we needed, and it had to do with something that was 10 years in the making, but that we had to be quiet about it until we were told it was ok to talk about it. So that was two weeks ago. Why were we given this heads up? I don’t know. How come it just happened yesterday if they knew about it two weeks ago? These are just questions.”

I pressed Ms. Freedman on what she had heard two weeks ago, regarding something big happening. She provided this response:

“It was somebody from my network and it was a trusted source. But I was told not to say anything about it. In my business when I get these kinds of reports, first of all, you want to wait to make sure that they’re confirmed before you ever release anything because they could be wrong…There’s always the possibility that a source might be compromised and be in danger because of you’re releasing something prematurely. The third thing is that the actual operation may be compromised…We did what we were asked to do which was not to say anything until the announcement was made.”

Ilana goes on to explain her concerns. As an analyst, she is hoping for a lengthy report on Osama bin Laden’s death in order to draw some accurate conclusions.

“My concern is that, I’m an analyst, I deal with facts and with reports from trusted sources. When I find that there are inconsistencies in the information, it’s important to figure out why these inconsistencies exist in order to understand what’s really going on. In the case of the burial, I’m very concerned, this is a very, very important event historically and in all other ways in terms of creating closure and so forth, but historically, this event needs to be very, very heavily documented so that there is no doubt about what happened and we’re not getting that documentation…I’m hoping that there will be more information that we can sort out and maybe understand it better.”

On the question of whether Bin Laden’s death is the end of al-Qaeda, Ms. Freedman states that the terrorist organization is still active globally and will be strong in a different way. She says al-Qaeda has become a bunch of franchises and that there is no one man at the top.

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think al-Qaeda is going to be strong in a different way. They’re highly motivated. They have changed their whole method of operation significantly. Their organization use to be very top down and Osama bin Laden was at the top and he gave the orders. That was on 9/11, but then they changed, they decentralized and they went through a period of having local cells get a little money, get a little training, but basically be on their own and that’s what happened in London when they had the explosions, the bombings. They created what I call franchises of al-Qaeda. So you have al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, which is in Africa. Then you have al-Qaeda in Iraq and you have al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that is a very strong and very active al-Qaeda.”

There is speculation that al-Qaeda might retaliate for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Ilana says retaliation is on al-Qaeda’s agenda, but there are other terrorist organizations that share a focus in targeting Americans. The Taliban, for example, has already issued threats against American interests.

“I think that retaliation is definitely on their agenda. It’s not just al-Qaeda…I believe that there are many other terrorist organizations as well that will take issue with our having killed Osama bin Laden and will want to take revenge. Many of them reside, have branches if you will, in the United States. Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas have very active branches all over the United States. Some of these organizations will come here…It’s very clear that some of these organizations are interested in hitting American targets and Taliban for example has already put out a very serious threat against American interests. So I think what we need to be concerned about is terrorism on the home front what we would call home grown terrorism except that it really originates from overseas and the people who follow it are either from overseas or they are brought into the Islamist fold and radicalized and are ready to do damage here.”

After the invasion of Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, reports state that that country knew nothing of the U.S. military operation. People are wondering about future United States/Pakistan relations. Ms. Freedman gives her thoughts on the issue:

“I would suspect that Pakistan may try to strengthen its ties with the United States. Right now, they’ve said that we’ve intruded and that we overstepped our bounds by going in and intruding in their space. But that doesn’t mean, they may see it in their best interests to tighten the relationship a little bit with the United States, but over time I don’t think it’s going to last. I think our foreign policy is so weak that Pakistan will have to turn away from us because they’ll have to form their allegiances with other Muslim countries. That’s my guess.”

Finally, Ilana tells us the death of Osama bin Laden will impact the Middle East, but it is not exactly clear in which way.

“I think the Middle East is embroiled in what I call the rolling rebellion. This is going to affect that. It’s not clear how yet, but there is no way that something this big cannot impact the entire Middle East. We have to wait and see what that’s going to be, but I think we have to be mindful that there are changes afoot and we are likely to be targeted as enemy of this change.”

You can find more information about Ilana Freedman and the Gerard Group International at http://www.gerardgroup.com

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