A View from the CT Foxhole: Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence
September 2019, Volume 12, Issue 8
By Paul Cruickshank, Brian Dodwell
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted while Joseph Maguire was still serving as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and shortly before he transitioned to his new role as Acting Director of National Intelligence.
Joseph Maguire was sworn in as the sixth director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on December 27, 2018. In August 2019, he became the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Maguire previously served as NCTC’s Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning from 2007 to 2010, and represented the Center as a part of the National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group. Prior to his confirmation as the director of NCTC, Maguire served as president and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides college scholarships and educational counseling to the surviving children of fallen special operations personnel, and immediate financial grants to severely combat-wounded and hospitalized special operations personnel and their families.
Prior to leading the foundation, he was a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton. Maguire retired from the United States Navy in 2010 as a vice admiral, culminating a 36-year career as a naval special warfare officer. He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command.
NCTC leads and integrates the national counterterrorism (CT) effort by fusing foreign and domestic CT information, providing terrorism analysis, sharing information with partners across the counterterrorism enterprise, and driving whole-of-government action to secure national CT objectives.
CTC: Eighteen years on from 9/11, what is your assessment of the jihadi terrorist threat facing the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests overseas?
Maguire: The counterterrorism enterprise is the best example of integration that exists across our national security establishment. We built a comprehensive infrastructure to analyze, assess and minimize the terrorism threat. Since the catastrophic attacks on 9/11, we have significantly diminished the ability of jihadists to strike the U.S. by removing hundreds of leaders and operatives, disrupting dozens of networks and plots, and degrading safe havens. But some jihadist groups still have that intent, not only to target the homeland but also our interests overseas. They are continually adapting to setbacks by modifying their tactics, seeking out alternative safe havens, and using new and emerging technologies to communicate, recruit, and conduct attacks. This makes for an increasingly diverse and unpredictable threat, and one that has evolved over time. Eighteen years ago, we were primarily focused on al-Qa`ida, which was then headquartered in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan and along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas. Fast forward to now, and the global jihadist threat landscape still includes al-Qa‘ida, but also now its four affiliates as well as ISIS and its network of almost two dozen global branches and networks. In fact, we assess global jihadist groups have extended their reach into more countries than at any other point in the movement’s 40-year history. This growth has largely paralleled the deterioration of security, governance, and humanitarian conditions in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia. While this threat will continue to be a challenge for us, the U.S. and our partners continue to achieve significant successes applying kinetic pressure on top of the jihadist organizations—most recently demonstrated through the degradation of ISIS safe havens in Iraq and Syria—which has taken time away from them and diminished the luxury they had to plan and execute external attacks. Going forward, we will need to apply persistent pressure against these groups, but we also need to expand our tools in the toolbox to do much more than kinetic to address the permissive environments which they repeatedly exploit.
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