Transcript: Top Security Officials Talk With Diane Sawyer About the Nation's Safety


JOHN BRENNAN: And you're always-- (COUGHING) trying to anticipate what the next threat is going to be. What we need to do. One of the things that the President has said to all of us is to make sure we take every step we can-- when we have indications that there might be a threat to the American people. Either at the-- in the homeland or abroad. And so that's one of the things 'cause as we each go home at night we wanna make sure that we have done all that we can do to identify these threats and to stop them.

DIANE SAWYER: As we know, Michael Rider (PH), who is at the National Counterterrorism Agency, has said, "We will not stop all the attacks. And it may well be tragic, innocent lives will be lost." Do you agree?

JOHN BRENNAN: I think what we have done as a counterterrorism/Homeland Security/intelligence community is to put the appropriate resources against the threats. And-- we work 24/seven-- constantly identifying where those threats are and what we can do to stop them. I think there's been a combination of some very, very good work-- at the federal/state/local levels. The international partnerships that have-- emerged over the past number of years. So I think we're better poised right now to identify these threats and stop them. But this is gonna be a constant effort. There are people out there that are trying to carry out attacks and-- we're gonna do our best to-- prevent them from doing so.

JANET NAPOLITANO: And-- and look-- I think-- Mike Rider was correct. You-- you can't put a hermet-- you know, you-- you cannot hermetically seal the United States. And we also--

DIANE SAWYER: So do you--


DIANE SAWYER: --all agree there will be pre-- and attack? We--


DIANE SAWYER: -cannot stop all--


JAMES CLAPPER: Well, I tell you anyway we-- we're not gonna bat 1,000 necessarily. We can't guarantee that. But we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any-- any kind of an attack. but to guarantee publicly that we're gonna bat 1,000 every day-- and I think that's what Mike was getting to. Is this-- to sound a note of realism.

JANET NAPOLITANO: Right. And-- and that's why-- one of the other missions we have is to make sure that we are ready to respond should an attack-- actually get through all the-- the various-- efforts that we have underway. So part of this is the resilience of the country and the American people, should an attack succeed.

JAMES CLAPPER: We have a (UNINTEL) track record, though, in terms of stopping attacks. Preventing them from happening. People sometimes point to luck. You know, that-- something didn't happen because--

JANET NAPOLITANO: We just got lucky.

JAMES CLAPPER: --the operative wasn't able to carry out the attack. Well, it's because we've been able to degrade the capabilities, prevent them from training appropriately, so they lack a lot of the skills and sophistication precisely because we are keeping this constant pressure on them. So, you know, it-- it-- people may attribute it to luck but I think it's because of the pressure that we as the U.S. government has put on the terrorist groups over the past decade. And particularly since 9/11.

DIANE SAWYER: You really think that the Christmas Day Bomber and with the Times Square bomber as close as they were with that level of explosives available to them, that it was because we had just degraded their capability?

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