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Novelist Alex Berenson on his new book, The Midnight House

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
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HH: Special hour of the Hugh Hewitt Show. You folks know that I love thrillers, I love talking to the authors who write the great ones, and I’m pleased to welcome back today Alex Berenson. He is, of course, a writer for the New York Times, before that, The Denver Post. He’s the author of three previous thrillers, including The Faithful Spy, which reached number one on the New York Times bestsellers paperback list. His brand new book comes out this week, The Midnight House. It’s another John Wells novel, and Alex, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.

AB: Hugh, it is great to be on with you.

HH: Now are you a little bit surprised at the life you are leading now that you’ve written three very successful thrillers?

AB: Yes, I mean, a few days ago, a couple of days ago, I was saying to myself you know, when did I turn into a full time novelist? And it just sort of happened over the last couple of years, this career change. You know, it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to get to sit and think about these books and write them, and create this world with John Wells. And you know, it’s a privilege to get to travel and go to places like Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and incorporate what I see into these books.

HH: Now there will come a moment when you cease to be the New York Times reporter, and then you’re only a novelist. Has that yet happened to you, or do people still remember you’re a reporter at the same time that you’re a writer?

AB: Well, you know, I am officially leaving the paper, and so it’s a little scary for me, because it’s been a big part of my identity for a long time. And I know there are people out there who don’t like the New York Times, but being a reporter for the Times is a great job. And so yeah, I am leaving, and I think there may be a day when people just think of me as a novelist. But I’ll always think of myself as a reporter also.

HH: That’s interesting. The website, by the way, America, is www.alexberenson.com. But The Midnight House can be found in every bookstore. And I always believe in reading these in order, though it’s not really necessarily so. But I really think you ought to start with The Faithful Spy, and go through The Ghost War and The Silent Man. But if you’ve read those already, The Midnight House is a treat. And to that, we turn. Once again, your subject is radical Islamist fundamentalism, Alex Berenson. How do you stay current on this, because this is a very current book in many respects?

HH: Well, you know, I read everything I can get my hands on, and I talk to anybody in the Agency or in the FBI, whether former or current, who will talk to me, and I travel. You know, there is a lot of reporting in these books, and some authors, I think, even some thriller writers, they like to write a little bit more fanciful stuff. And I think there’s definitely a place for that. I think there’s a place for books where the good guy is pure as the driven snow, and the bad guys are just as evil as can be, and the good guy always wins in the end. But I want to write something that’s a little bit grittier, a little bit more real than that. And so if I’m going to do that, I really do need to be on top of current events.

HH: All right, this is a spoiler alert. I necessarily have to tell you some things by discussing it, though I will not give away too much about the plot of The Midnight House. Nevertheless, if you listen to this conversation, you’re going to know something about John Wells, who is at the center of Alex Berenson’s four books. So now you are fully warned. I want to start with an odd question, Alex. 1993, Mir Aimal Kasi, attacked the CIA. And he actually killed the husband of a friend or an acquaintance of mine. He was captured in 1997, he was executed in 2002. These details are in your book. When did you actually learn about this?

AB: You know, I don’t remember. It certainly was several years ago, but it probably wasn’t until after 9/11, because if you remember in the 90s, there were these attacks, it was really the beginning of a radical Islamist terror against the United States. There was the CIA attack, there was the first World Trade Center bombing, there were the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, there was the USS Cole bombing, I mean, that was 2000, but there were these attacks, but you know, none of them were that big, and a couple of them happened overseas. The embassy attacks were pretty bad, and a couple of hundred people died. But mostly, they weren’t Americans, and so I think I’ll plead guilty to this. A lot of us didn’t really put it together, and that certainly includes the CIA, whose job it was to put it together. But I do remember after 9/11, sort of saying wow, this really has been going on for a long time if you look at the trend line here.

HH: Yeah, that’s why I appreciated so much the reference to Kasi, because that is often lost in the narrative about Islamist fundamentalism, and about how we do the job of stopping it, meaning the counterterrorism forces. And so one of the things I like about your book is that you’re probably now pretty steeped in the history of counterterrorism and fanaticism.

AB: Yes, and of course, our engagement with what became the Taliban in Afghanistan, and even going further back than that to really the beginnings of radical Islamic terrorism, date back to the 70s, arguably to 1979 when at the same time in Iran there was the takeover of the U.S. embassy and the overthrow of the Shah, and then in Saudi, there was the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which is a little known even, but which is very well described in a book that came out about a year and a half ago by a Wall Street Journal reporter. But that even really set the stage for the big move right of the Saudis. And the Saudis really, ever since, have been exporting terror along with oil.

HH: There’s also a pretty good chapter in The Looming Tower about that, and how the French got into it, and all that kind of stuff. But go on, in terms of when you now listen to people talking about this war on Islamist fundamentalism, do you, like Lawrence Wright, shake your head at what you hear, because so much of it is ill-informed, or completely misinformed?

AB: Yeah, I think if you don’t know the history, and you don’t know the context, you can jump to some conclusions that are not necessarily the case. I mean, this problem has been a long time in the making. It’s going to be a long time in the unmaking. And I think unfortunately, you know, what seemed like easy solutions like these drone strikes, for example, aren’t necessarily going to work in the long run, which isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be using drones, but we should be fully aware of the limits of their effectiveness, I think.

HH: I’m talking with Alex Berenson, novelist, soon to be a former New York Times reporter. His brand new book is The Midnight House. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com. Alex, I want to ask first, John Wells and Ellis Shafer are the two key figures here. Do people from both the CIA and other affiliated agencies tell you that these feel authentic?

AB: Well, I think Wells a little less so, unfortunately, because Wells, you know, Wells is really a soldier as much as a spy. John Wells is a guy who operates outside the system, and so he, you know, he’s one of these people who sadly only exist in fiction. Someone of his skills and his abilities, who’s really like the man who can do anything, and he’s not a superman, but you know, he’s just a little bit faster and a little bit stronger than everybody else when push comes to shove. You know, that, unfortunately, is not the way the world works. But somebody like Shafer, yes. I mean that, the guy who’s on the inside who is sort of desperately trying to put the pieces together, who’s often running into pushback from his superiors, I do hear from people that that character resonates.

HH: How about the characterization of the United States counterterrorism effort as riven by jealousy, duplicative, ineffective, Machiavellian, Vincent Duto is anything except gracious. He is Mr. Machiavelli himself. What about that portrait that emerges?

AB: I think unfortunately, that’s quite true. And you know, sometimes that actually spills out into public, into the open. Last year, the CIA and the DNI, the director of national intelligence, were fighting about who would have the right, the final right, to place some CIA officers. And that is not something that they should be fighting about.

HH: Agreed.

AB: Now honestly, I think that probably belongs to the CIA, but it’s just, that is not an issue that you should be reading about on the front page of the New York Times. There’s no way that’s good for our intelligence community.

HH: Now that leads to a very obvious question, which I think I’ve asked you before. Has the New York Times helped or hurt our campaign against Islamist fanaticism?

AB: I think honestly, you give too much credit either way if you say that it’s helped or hurt. I mean, the Times is going to run that story if there are people, senior people at the Agency, or at the DNI, who are leaking it. That’s, you know, that’s sort of our job. You can argue that on some level it helps by getting some of this poison into the open. You could also argue that it hurts, because it gets some of this poison into the open. I will remind your readers, and again, I know some of them are probably pretty conservative, that when the Times was asked by President Bush not to run a story about the NSA and wiretapping, we actually sat on that story for a bit more than a year.

HH: Yup.

AB: And so appeals to the Times in the name of national security are listened to and taken very seriously by senior people there. Now I know there are people out there who think that basically any reporting on this stuff is a mistake, and that the government needs to sort of have free rein to work as it sees fit, and that yes, there should be some Congressional oversight, but not necessarily even too much of that, that this is really an executive branch activity. But I have to disagree with that. I think that the history of the Agency says that oversight and some public exposure, obviously not public exposure of methods and sources, but public disclosure broadly of what the Agency’s programs are is a good thing.

– – – –

HH: And I gather there’s a fifth one underway right now, Alex?

AB: There is, and that’s going to be focused largely on Saudi. And I just think that’s a fascinating place. And amazingly, when I looked back and tried to find thrillers that focused on Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t find too many.

HH: Have you come across Andy Finlayson yet?

AB: No, I have not.

HH: Col. Finlayson did a lot of the training of the Saudi Guard. You ought to track him down, guest on this show occasionally.

AB: I will look that up.

HH: But before I get to the…I’ll have Duane give you the thing during the break. Before I do, a couple of fun things. First of all, Tonka is in this book. Tonka’s a dog. Are you a dog owner?

AB: I am a dog owner. My wife and I have a dog.

HH: Is Tonka your dog?

AB: No, Tonka is not our dog. Tonka is the dog actually that I would have liked to have, but you know, we live in New York City, and my wife likes small dogs. I would have rather had a big dog, and so we got a dog that has a great personality, and is a mutt. We got her from a shelter, and she’s about 20 or 22 pounds. I remember being at the dog run, and saying to some guy, yeah, I never wanted a small dog, I wanted a big dog, so we compromised. And he looks at the dog and he laughed, and said I see you compromised.

HH: Yeah, the other thing, there are a lot of asides in The Midnight House, which I just laugh at. One of them is you’ve got a young teacher leading some kids around the monuments, and you say there’s a teach for America refugee, halfway between the Ivy League and law school. I mean, there’s a lot packed into that sentence, Alex Berenson. You must have had some of your Yalie friends go off and do Teach For America en route to Wall Street firms, huh?

AB: Yeah, no, it’s true. I mean, I think some of the funniest, best stuff in the book are just throwaway lines that have nothing to do with the main plot. And the book was reviewed sort of randomly about a week ago by the Baton Rouge paper, the Baton Rouge Advocate. And they pointed to a line in the book which is a total throwaway, has nothing to do with the rest of the book. But this ranger, this former ranger is in a fight with his wife who’s divorcing him, and he says to her, and she says well you know, I’m the one with the college degree, and he says to her, physical therapy is not a college degree, even if N.C. State says it is.

HH: I know, it’s brutal. It’s brutal. Now I’m curious when your editor is looking at these things, does he say Berenson, this has got nothing to do with spies and Wells, take it out? Or does he like the fact, or she like the fact that it makes the book give a few laughs?

AB: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s funny you mention it, because I think The Midnight House has a certain amount of humor in it that the other books did not have. And I think that given the seriousness of what I’m writing about, and given what happens in the book and how hard I think some of it is, I think that it’s a necessary leavening. It’s a little there where people can smile and realize that life does go on, even with some of the stuff that I’m writing about.

HH: What we’re talking about, the series of this, this is a novel about the interrogation of illegal enemy combatants. In a nutshell, that’s what it is. It’s about torture, it’s about enhanced interrogation, it’s about how the government operates. And I’m curious, Alex Berenson, if your friends have reacted to this in the same way they reacted to the other ones, because this is loaded territory you’re walking into here.

AB: It’s very interesting in The Midnight House, because I think people reading the book have different reactions. And I think people, you know, who I know on the left have said to me oh, you know, you really show how torture and rendition and American policy just has been unethical and the problem with it. And people on the right who have read it have said to me you know, you really show the value of the information we get, and that even though this is a really difficult thing to do, it’s very important that we have people doing it. And so I think readers are going to get out of it, on some level, what they…I don’t expect to change any minds. This is a loaded issue, and honestly, I am somewhere in the middle on this. I just think that we need to talk about it honestly, and talk about whether or not we’re willing to make the moral sacrifices that we may need to make. And the other graph in The Midnight House, the opening line, is when Moses strikes the rock in the Bible, and he gets water. And the last line, the epigraph in the book, at the end of the book, is the line in the Bible where Moses is told by God that he is not going to be allowed to get to the promised land.

HH: Yeah.

AB: And so…and to me, that’s what this is about. We can get this information, and there are going to be times when we are going to get information by hurting people that we couldn’t get any other way. And I do believe that. And the question we have to ask is, is that a trade we’re willing to make? And I don’t think there’s an easy answer to it. But I think that people on the left who pretend that there are substitutes sometimes for coercion are kidding themselves. And that, you know, that I do think.

HH: I think you’re probably too young, I don’t know if you’ve even ever seen The Deer Hunter. Have you ever seen The Deer Hunter?

AB: I have not. I have not.

HH: People who saw that movie right after Vietnam, those who favored the Vietnam War thought it was a pro-Vietnam war movie. Those who opposed the Vietnam war thought it was an anti-war movie. I think The Midnight House is very similar in that regard, and that’s why I think it’s well, well done. Let’s talk a little bit about the interrogation methods and practice that are discussed in here. How deeply did you research this issue? How far into the tall weeds of the executive orders and the Office of Legal Counsel opinions did you go?

AB: You know, I have read most of what’s out there to read. And this is something else, you know, I think that people on the left need to be honest about. What happened in the last eight years is not torture, okay? It’s coercion, it’s unpleasant, it may be morally wrong. What I’m describing in The Midnight House is torture, by the way. I mean, I go further than we went. There’s no question about that, and I do that because it’s a novel, and because it makes the conflicts more, it heightens the conflicts in a way that is good artistically. But when you have lawyers at the CIA and at the Defense Department arguing over whether you can keep somebody in a stress position for four hours or six hours or two hours, and whether it can be 42 degrees or 46 degrees, that’s not torture. I’m not saying we should do it, okay? But it does frustrate me when the left uses that word. That word should be reserved for something more serious.

HH: I agree with that…Very quickly, Alex Berenson, have you been to Egypt a lot?

AB: I haven’t been a lot. I did go last year, and I’m going to go back fairly soon. I’ve been now to almost every country in the Arab world. I have not been to Syria, and I guess I’ve not been to Libya, but most of the rest of the world.

HH: It’s great writing about Egypt. Yeah, it’s great writing about Egypt. I’ll be right back.

– – – –

HH: When we went to break, Alex, we were talking about Egypt. In this book on Page 91, you write, “In theory, Egypt remained moderate today. But in reality, Egypt had swung towards Islam since throwing off Britain’s colonial yoke in 1952.” Fifty pages later, you refer to Mubarak as a pharaoh. I mean, this is, it’s not a comforting picture of Egypt that you provide the reader.

AB: No, and you know, I don’t think we should be comforted about what’s happening in Egypt. I don’t think we should be comforted about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia. I think we have not come to terms, and these countries have not come to terms with whether they are going to be allied with the West, or whether they’re going to be against the West. You know, those two countries especially have leaders who are supposedly pro-Western, but they have a lot of anti-American, anti-Western sentiment. And I fear that that’s an issue that’s going to be resolved on the street, especially in Egypt, I think.

HH: Is it a cliché, or is it simply true that the police agencies and the intelligence agencies of these countries simply torture all the time whenever they need something?

AB: I think that’s true. I think that’s true. It’s quite clear…and you know, it’s quite clear that when we were sending people to these places after 9/11, we knew exactly what was going to happen to them when they were there.

HH: So if that’s the case, when you hear someone in the West say torture doesn’t work, it might be true that torture is immoral, and I think it is, but is it true that torture doesn’t work? And if so, are they just idiots in these countries to continually use it?

AB: I mean, this is exactly the problem, is that torture kind of doesn’t work. You know, it helped the French beat down the Algerians in the late 50s, and it helped these very unpopular regimes stay in power. If you don’t care about your moral position, torture will help you keep power, just the way shooting students in the streets can help you keep power. In the end, I mean, I’m not advocating either of those things. But let’s be honest about this, and let’s be honest about something else, which is that this idea somehow that, and I talk about this in The Midnight House, that one of the characters, one of the interrogators who’s at the Midnight House, which is the place in Poland where the interrogation is happening, talks about the fact that there are plenty of people in jail in the United States who could have gotten out if they’d been willing to make deals, okay? Prosecutors all the time try to make deals with people when they don’t have any other evidence. And sometimes it works, but a lot of times, it doesn’t. A lot of times, people would rather stay quiet. And that’s not, these are not people who have religious motivations, they’re not people who maybe are related by blood. They’re just people who are in a gang with somebody, and who don’t like the police. So why do we think that it’s always going to work?

HH: I love these two paragraphs from Page 230. “Anyone who thought the FBI’s tactics would work against jihadis needed to look at American prisons, which were filled with criminals who had accepted long jail terms instead of testifying against friends or relatives in return for shorter sentences. Stop snitching. Hell, Barry Bonds’ trainer had gone to jail instead of admitting what he knew about Bonds’ steroid use, and the guy had won. Eventually, the Feds let him out, which was fine as far as Carp was concerned. Steroid use wasn’t a capital crime. But if the trainer kept his mouth shut for no better reason than to protect Barry Bonds, nobody should be surprised when religious fanatics weren’t helpful to their interrogators.” Boy, in two paragraphs, you made the case.

AB: You know, it is what it is. And you just have to be honest about that. There are going to be people who are going to take their three hots and a cot and not say a word to us. And there are going to be plots that we don’t crack, probably.

HH: So what do you think about giving Miranda rights to Abdulmutallab, and remanding him into the custody of civil authorities as opposed to Guantanamo Bay? What’s your opinion of the wisdom of that move, Alex Berenson?

AB: Oh boy, you are putting me on the spot on that. I think if you try to take down a jetliner and kill 250 people at once, it’s probably not a civilian crime. And I think that probably you ought to go someplace where you don’t have a lawyer, at least for a while.

HH: And when we get leaks that Abdulmutallab is cooperating, and I pray to God he is, are you suspicious of those leaks, Alex Berenson?

AB: You know, I think unfortunately, I think this is unfortunately a highly political issue, and just as some of the stuff that came out in the Bush administration turned out not to be true, it’s possible that this will turn out not to be true. I mean, you can define cooperating broadly or narrowly.

HH: Based on everything you know, do you think we would have gotten more information from him if he’d gone on a straight ticket to Gitmo and been given over to our professional CIA-affiliated interrogators?

AB: Again, very tough question. They would have had more…

HH: I think that’s a yes, but I’ll come back and ask again.

– – – –

HH: Alex, you invent in this book, this thriller, a secret memo from the president authorizing a task force 673 to go about hard-nosed enhanced interrogation, to go to the limit that they needed to do to get information. Do you think that we don’t know, are you satisfied that we know everything about the Bush interrogation program now?

AB: I think we do. You never know. Something could come out in a couple of years. But I think we’ve seen what the Department of Justice did. We’ve seen the Office of Legal Counsel, we’ve seen John Yoo’s memos. But there could be something else out there. And the names that have been discussed in that program go right to, they’re all the people who were senior members of al Qaeda who we are known to have captured. So if there’s something else out there, it would have to be with somebody who for some reason, his capture’s not been disclosed, and at the same time, that person is so important that for some reason we felt that we could go beyond what we did with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. So it just seems, it seems unlikely to me, but you never know. You never know.

HH: I agree. Have you had a chance yet to read Marc Thiessen’s Courting Disaster book, the new, it’s on the New York Times bestseller list now?

AB: Oh yes. I don’t…I have not read it yet. It’s on my list.

HH: I must tell you, given…I read The Midnight House when I got the uncorrected proof a few months ago, and then I got Courting Disaster a few weeks ago. And they are, they’re almost startling similar in the methods and operations discussed, and the ethical quandaries raised. I mean, they’re both fascinating books in this regard. Now would you explain to people what a dancer is? You describe it on Page 226.

AB: So a dancer is someone who fakes, essentially who plays games with his captors, and often is speaking insanity, someone who will answer questions for a while and then will stop answering questions, who will give truthful answers, and then begin to lie, and who doesn’t seem to have any pattern, and someone who may appear to be breaking down under the stress of interrogation, but who may be and who may not be. And so in The Midnight House, I go into this. And these are very hard people for our interrogators to deal with.

HH: Did you spend much time with our professional interrogators?

AB: Not as much as I would have liked. Not as much as I would have liked.

HH: Is this a terms of art, dancer, that exists within that community?

AB: You know, I’m going to take the 5th on that.

HH: All right. Quoting from Page 229, “For interrogations to succeed, detainees had to feel, not just understand, but feel that they were beaten. They had to wake up every day knowing their captors controlled every choice they made. Only then would they tell the truth.” That is very similar to what Thiessen says about Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and others. They have to feel that they’ve been pushed to the edge of their resistance, and then they can, in “good conscience”, cooperate.

AB: Right.

HH: It’s fascinating.

AB: It is. I mean, it is fascinating, how you get, how you break or don’t break somebody who is going in believing that you’re not going to be able to break him. And it’s a fascinating topic. And I think The Midnight House, again, I have the freedom of fiction, so I can go further than these guys went in reality.

HH: Yup.

AB: And that, I think, highlights the ethical quandaries. But the ethical quandaries are real.

HH: What about the impact on the interrogation teams? I don’t want to give anything away in The Midnight House, so I’m not going to tell people about that, but clearly to participate in these long term debriefings, long term interrogations, will change the people who are conducting them, no matter how upright, no matter how moral, no matter how on the balance beam. Is there literature about that? Or is that all fiction on your side?

AB: No, there is literature about that. I mean, and that goes back, frankly, that goes back to the Stanford prison experiment, and to the Milgram experiment, which were both in the 60s, sort of those came up in response to the Holocaust, and to whether or not Americans would have participated willingly in something as terrible as that. And so these professors tried to set up experiments to see how hard people, civilians, would be willing to push in situations where they were given prisoners to manage.

HH: Interesting.

AB: And unfortunately, it stood out that people will push pretty hard, pretty quickly. A little bit of power goes a long way.

HH: I’m talking with Alex Berenson. His new novel, The Midnight House, in bookstores everywhere right now. He’s the author of three previous bestsellers, just fascinating ones beginning with The Faithful Spy. Now a bigger issue, Alex Berenson, on Page 73, you’ve got the head of the CIA, Vincent Duto, saying this to John Wells and Ellis Shafer, and people who are just walking in, Wells is the operator, Shafer is high, but, very senior management but not the top, and Duto is the top. He says not even you two know what’s going on here. Only about eight people in the whole country know the whole story, which would suggest a level of sensitive compartment of information, SCI, that exists that really, you know, two dozen people in American really know where the war is. Is that your belief?

AB: I think there are facts out there that are known to only a few people. And probably the most sensitive issues that we’re dealing with, you know, they’re around the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and around whatever deals we have made with the government of Pakistan to keep an eye on that arsenal. I mean, one of the points I make in The Midnight House towards the end, and this doesn’t give away too much of the plot, but it’s just that one of the reasons that we have, the force in Afghanistan that we do, and that we will probably not draw it down ever, is because we need to keep an eye on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal…

HH: Yup.

AB: …which is arguably the most important, strategic issue in the world today, because if al Qaeda gets one of those bombs, then all bests are off.

HH: Now you’re nature, you must be an optimist, because you’re living in Manhattan, which other than Washington, D.C. is the target. But how worried are you about the ability of radical Islam to strike the United States in a 9/11 sort of way again?

AB: I’m worried. I think the good news is we have them on the run, that the senior operatives within al Qaeda really don’t have much ability to plan anything. So I think what’s more likely to happen is there are going to be some more smaller attacks. I think that if you, trying to think about it from al Qaeda’s point of view, that for a long time after 9/11, they probably had a mistaken belief in their own abilities, and they thought you know what, we’re going to go get a nuclear bomb, and we’re really going to take it to these infidels.

HH: I’ve got to cut you off. One more segment coming up with Alex Berenson, the author of The Midnight House.

– – – –

HH: Alex, we were going to break, and you were saying al Qaeda overestimated their reach, but we’ve got them on the run.

AB: So they overestimated their reach, they wanted, you know, there’s been this belief in the intelligence communities that they always want the next attack to be bigger than the last attack, which essentially would mean a nuclear attack, or a really significant biological attack. But I think at this point, nine years on, they probably know that that is not going to happen. At least the more realistic members know that’s not going to happen. And so I think when you see, for example, last week, you had people testifying very…there was a very serious risk of attack in the United States in the next three to six months. I don’t think they’re blowing smoke. I think that there probably is a very serious risk of attack. And it could be something bad. It could be something where a plane has blown up, or where a truck bomb has blown up in Times Square or in downtown Chicago, or in downtown L.A., and a couple of hundred people die, which is not anything to be happy about, but at least it’s not a nuclear weapon, it’s not a plane flying into buildings. So I do think we’re at higher risk, but for a smaller attack right now. And I think even if al Qaeda, even if Osama bin Laden wants that to happen, because he still wants a big, spectacular attack, they’ve probably lost control of the sort of tentacles of the group in such a way that they can’t really prevent that from happening. So I am concerned as somebody who walks the streets of New York every day, as somebody who’s going to be flying around next week for my book tour. But you’ve just got to go on. I mean, you really, you cannot live your life in fear.

HH: If you want to meet Alex Berenson on his book tour, by the way, go to his website, www.alexberenson.com. Alex, last question, one of the reason I love these thrillers is that they teach the American people a lot about this war that they’re not going to learn anywhere else. They’re not going to get it from CNN, they’re not going to read The Looming Tower, not even members of Congress read The Looming Tower. So it’s an important sort of way of conveying information. There is one theme in this book, that there’s a lot of money washing through the American black ops community, some of which ends up in the wrong place. Do you really believe that?

AB: Oh, yeah. I definitely believe that.

HH: How interesting.

AB: Because there’s not functional oversight, and there’s a lot of money. And so some of that money is going to get stolen or certainly wasted. And by the way, Hugh, I really appreciate what you say about the book. I would say the first part of that is I know I’m writing novels, and I want to write something that’s entertaining. I want people to be with John Wells. I want them to think of them as a hero, a flawed hero, but a hero. And I want them to be thinking I can’t put this book down.

HH: And that is in fact what happens with The Midnight House, America. Alex Berenson, always a pleasure. I look forward to your next book and our next conversation. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com, The Midnight House is. And you can go to www.alexberenson.com if you want to catch up with him at a book signing.

End of interview.

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