To Donald J. Trump,
In 1993, when very few knew who Osama Bin Laden was or the threat his group would pose, I was a young terrorism analyst working for the Intelligence Community. It was a confusing time in the early post-Cold War world. No one wanted to believe a single individual without the massive resources of a nation state could be a significant threat to the United States. So to help explain the tremendous power of influence that one person could yield, I compared Bin Laden to someone everyone did know at the time: a public figure whose charisma and wherewithal were enough to see that vision come true. I compared Osama Bin Laden to you.
I did not know in that moment how accurate and enduring that comparison would be. Like you, Bin Laden saw his vision through. He derailed America’s purpose in the world – to be a beacon of hope for those who seek nothing more than the simple freedom to pursue their life, liberty, and happiness without being targets of hatred, vilification, and violence. He bankrupted America and divided us from each other. In doing so, Bin Laden and his followers revealed to other adversaries the vulnerability of what was once America’s greatest strength, the strength we embraced and relied upon to defeat totalitarianism in the Cold War. That strength was our deep-rooted tolerance of diversity, our rejection of tyranny of the majority, our embrace of checks and balances; in other words, our Constitution.
Osama Bin Laden, like all men of evil with their serpent’s tongues, persuaded a handful of men to place themselves above the God they worshipped and judge the worth of human beings based on their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, culture, and core identity. He did all this through the power of influence. Bin Laden did not fly the planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or across the Pennsylvania sky. Bin Laden never shot a weapon into a crowd or detonated a suicide vest. He used his words to motivate others to kill for him.
And so have you.
But just as we have refused to relent to our foreign adversaries’ influence on America, so too will we refuse to listen to your calls for more hate, more violence, and more divisiveness.
Gina M. Bennett
Gina Bennett is a member of the CIA’s Senior Analytic Service, and long-standing member of the Senior Analytic Service currently on assignment as the Senior Counterterorrism Advisor in the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning in the National Counterterrorism Center. She is a seasoned counterterrorism specialist who authored the 1993 report that warned of the growing danger of Osama Bin Laden and the extremist movement he was fomenting.
The views expressed in this excerpt are the author’s and do not imply endorsement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or any other U.S. Government agency.