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MaltaToday 13 July 2022 MIDWEEK

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INTERVIEW 10 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 13 JULY 2022 Is this your first time in Malta? This is absolutely not my first time. When I was in the FBI, we came very briefly to visit; this was maybe 1997, 1998, when we visit- ed with the police, with the inte- rior minister, the judges and the prosecutors. It was a very brief visit unfortunately. And this one is equally short, I'm sorry to say. I work now for a company called AlixPartners and we do business consulting, we do problem solv- ing for companies. My particular portfolio is to do investigations and work on compliance matters. And also to interact direct with prosecutors, regulators, to make sure our clients' interests are defined and represented. So we have a client here in Malta in the business sector and we're here to work and consult with them. I'm sure we'll return again and have further meetings and maybe some additional contact with the authorities. I also came because yesterday I was in Palermo and I attended the 30th anniversary memorial of Judge Falcone, who was my very good friend and my counterpart. Every year, on May 23rd, we remember him, Judge Borsellino and the other prosecu- tors who were called in the fight against the Mafia. It's a nice me- morial in Palermo. We haven't had it for two years, because of COVID. The president of Italy, Mattarella, was there with other ministers. We spoke about some of the success we've had in the fight against organised crime over the years. So, being so close to Malta, I said 'let me pop over to Malta and see my client'. Plus it was a great opportunity to visit this great and beautiful country on a beautiful day. Today we woke up to news of a gunman killing 19 school- children and two teachers in Texas. Unfortunately, the US seeing more and more of this kind of shootings. Does the US need urgent gun reform? And is it just about gun control at this point? I think it's partially about gun control and it's partially about a culture of violence and a culture where people act out in a violent way their philosophies and be- liefs. As you know, we have a ter- rible problem with violence and gun control. And you're right, we're seeing this phenomenon more and more, even in other countries. In the US, we have far too many guns, we have several billion licensed weapons in the USA today. So even if you were to start banning weapons today, we have this huge arsenal, this inven- tory, which in many cases is very easy to obtain and access. Going forward, a good first step, a more important first step – and I don't know how to do this, because it's not my specialty – is chang- ing the culture of violence and action where people no longer want to demonstrate or wrote an article in a newspaper, but have to kill somebody to make their point. And it's a very distressing and frightening situation. Police, or the FBI, cannot anticipate all the persons who would take this type of action on their own – you know, lone wolf operators. So even good intelligence systems and monitoring social media and depending on people to call up and report suspicious and dangerous people, it's just not enough to cover the whole field. As you say, it's more difficult identifying and dealing with these lone wolf incidents than when facing an organised structure. When I was re- searching your career in the FBI, I learnt for example that you were involved in the latter stages of the WACO investi- gation. That would have been completely different to what investigators face in Texas. Yes. We have a good capability, as all police do, to gather action- able intelligence and then take appropriate steps. But some- body who's online, sitting in their apartment and writing in a jour- nal, it's very hard to anticipate and identify that. You know, we can fortify the schools, but it's not just schools as you see. It's park- ing lots of stores, it's shopping malls … there are so many soft targets it's impossible to protect them all. Nobody would want the changes to the quality of life that would necessitate. You mentioned Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and they probably helped to highlight the fight against or- ganised crime in Europe. Italy had of course a history with the Red Brigade, the Camorra and Mafia for decades. Then the world had to face a spate of hi- jackings and the new terrorism of 9/11, Al Qaeda and then ISIS. What's the biggest threat in the world today? I think the biggest threat today is probably a national securi- ty threat, not just to the United States but also to our EU part- ners and our NATO partners. I mean look at the bad intelli- gence on Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. First, the intelligence was that there would not be an invasion. Then there was the sup- plemental belief that the would be an invasion but it would be done inside of two hours. It's re- ally disturbing that our best intel- ligence networks were not able to anticipate either the strength and courage of the Ukrainian resistance on one hand, and on the other hand the vulnerability of the Russian army that had the reputation of being one of the top military forces in the world. But I think in the long term, the most dangerous will be threats to na- tional security coming from state actors, coming from small groups of non-governmental people who are able and willing to access and destroy infrastructure and dis- rupt day to day way of life. We haven't yet seen the massive de- struction that can be caused by cyber warriors and cyber secu- rity breaches. But you know, if you just use a little imagination – whether it's our mass trans- portation system, our energy system or health system – we're very vulnerable to that. Before we used to fear state actors but now, as you said, it's lone wolfs and people who have the capability to do that. So in the long term, it's national security threats of a massive nature that will impact us more than anything. How do you personally see the Ukraine war playing out? You know Paul, I'm not an ex- pert there. I was a lawyer in the military, which does not car- ry much weight as my military sons remind me all the time. But I think the idea of a ceasefire right now is not feasible because each side is holding its own, so to speak, from a military point of view. I think this has been an absolute disaster for Russia and its leader. I think they need an exit map. I also think their lead- ers need a way to declare vic- tory. And I think on the other side, for the Ukrainians under unprecedented leadership by a person – who if you had taken a profile of, you wouldn't see him as a Winston Churchill, but he's had to be the Winston Church- ill of our times – I don't think they're in the mood or actually need to make concessions. So I think you have a stalemate there, militarily and politically. Mean- while the impact of the sanctions is very destructive to the Russian economy and the Russian peo- ple. And something has to give on that side. I think there's no quick solution but I think any quick solution will surprise both the Ukrainian defenders and the Russian invaders. Has this war busted the myth of a Russian superpower? I think it's certainly changed the perception. But look at the US in Afghanistan. We spent bil- lions and billions of dollars and the conclusion was that the mil- itary services there did not last a week on their own. So I'm not sure that we all don't share some of that criticism and some of that blame. If you look at any great power or any great organisation, sometimes we get enamored with the myth of invincibility. Like in anything run by human beings, with his flaws and vulnerabilities, we should never be too confident even in our own abilities, but also we shouldn't over-estimate our adversaries' abilities. You said you'd been to Malta in the 90s to meet some officials. What did you think of the Maltese justice system and the capabilities of the people you met? Well, I was very impressed. Es- pecially the police, in our view, and currently today – although I am not in law enforcement – are very well respected. The judicial system here is a strong one. You have very good incorporated processes and laws from the UK, like we do, so we share that. The courts here are regarded as fair, the judges are professional and the police competent and also well integrated with international law enforcement. When I men- tioned yesterday to a Guardia di Finanza general that I was com- ing to Malta, he said they have a great relationship with their Maltese counterparts and I'm sure the same is true of the Italian national police. The same thing happened when I mentioned coming to Malta to the FBI and DA representatives present in Palermo; they all said they have a great relationship with Malta and even offered to introduce me to some of their counterparts, though I did not have enough time unfortunately on this trip. But yes, very highly regarded by the FBI and DA representatives in Rome. And that reputation is the same as I remember it from 20, 30 years ago. 'Ukraine in no mood to make concessions' Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, on business in Malta, talks to PAUL COCKS about his past interactions with Maltese police, and his thoughts on the Ukraine war and the greatest threats to the West

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