Although the topic of his discussion was far removed from his initial plan to discuss the 2000 presidential election, former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger sparked a lively debate nevertheless.
Terwilliger discussed foreign policy and domestic anti-terrorism legislation with a small crowd of students and faculty at a Calhoun College Master’s Tea Monday afternoon. He then spoke at a Yale Political Union debate that night.
Terwilliger is currently a senior partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm White and Case. He served as deputy attorney general in the administration of George H.W. Bush ’48, and he was a senior member of the George W. Bush ’68 legal team in the 2000 Florida recount case.
As an expert on the election, Terwilliger planned to discuss the Supreme Court’s controversial decision, but this topic was overshadowed by the recent terrorist attacks.
Terwilliger admitted that he does not have much practice in U.S. foreign policy, but he said that he has had experience in domestic counter-terrorism while working as a U.S. attorney and at the National Security Council.
At the YPU, he spoke critically of the government’s recent decision to freeze all assets that belong to organizations believed to fund terrorists.
“Sometimes following money is better than taking it away,” Terwilliger said.
He called for a reform of immigration laws and an expansion of the abilities of local, state and federal government agencies to gather intelligence, including broader wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement.
He also advocated improving communication between local and national law enforcement agencies.
“Good intelligence is the only defense against terrorism. We cannot isolate information,” Terwilliger said.
He also said that the United States needs a new intelligence agency specifically responsible for handling terrorist organizations, possibly drawing talent from agents experienced in infiltrating drug cartels and the Mafia.
“The French created a small, elite force to counteract terrorism. We could create one of our own based on that force that would be under strict congressional and executive oversight,” he said.
He went on to discuss the importance of mandatory identity cards for all foreign nationals in the United States, which he said would better enable the government to track down aliens suspected of terrorist activities.
At the Master’s Tea, conversation continually turned toward the Bush administration’s recent foreign policy decisions.
The former deputy attorney general said that the decision to provide humanitarian aid goes beyond military concerns.
“There’s a strategic reason for dropping food: We need to win people’s hearts and minds. We need to undermine the negative images of the United States that are currently being portrayed,” he said.
On a broader scale, he said that the events of Sept. 11 have redefined the way America’s foreign policy leaders look at the Middle East.
“In the past there has been a certain amount of ambivalence in terms of our policy towards Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, but now we are defining terms solely on whether or not they finance, aid or harbor terrorists,” he said.