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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Former CIA agent talks terrorism at UNCP

Jay A. Hetherington is a warrior who doesn’t tell war stories. The wars the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) senior research officer waged for his country were secret.

Hetherington, who is also a retired Clemson University faculty member, was at UNC Pembroke April 13-14 to talk about terrorism with several criminal justice classes. The outspoken ex-spy said the war on terror is here to stay.

Jay A. Hetherington“I’m here to stir you up because trouble is what I do best,” he said. “Terrorism is going to be a long-term threat for our country, and many of you, as policemen, firemen and other law enforcement officials, will get a taste of it.”

Although terrorism exists in many forms, internal and external, the most imminent threat comes from radical Islamists, Hetherington said.

“Bin Laden is sitting in a cave somewhere in Pakistan believing he’s winning,” he said. “We’re expecting an uptick in terror attacks, and it’s unbelievable that we’ve not had a major attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.”

Dr. Martin Slann, dean of UNCP’s College of Arts and Sciences and an expert on terrorism himself, invited Hetherington and Dr. Cindy Combs of UNC Charlotte to the University. Drs. Combs and Slann collaborated on several books on terrorism.

“Jay has a wealth of knowledge and much of it is first-hand,” Dr. Slann said. “Criminal Justice is one of our largest majors at the University, so I felt his expertise would be valuable for these future law enforcement professionals.”

One of the first questions asked was how to get a job with the CIA. Language and computer skills and a master’s degree, Hetherington responded.

From left: Jay Hetherington, Drs. Martin Slann, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Bruce Ezzell, faculty.

From left: Jay Hetherington, Drs. Martin Slann, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Bruce Ezzell, faculty.

Black Line

“Your undergraduate degree will get you to the first step in local law enforcement today,” he said.

Hetherington praised local law enforcement for their contributions to keeping the nation safe in the post-9/11 world.

“We’re much safer now, but you can never be really safe,” he said. “Local fire, police and hazmat are where the rubber meets the road.

“Everybody was to blame for 9/11, including the intelligence community,” Hetherington said. “The U.S. is crisis-driven and planning is not our strong suit.”

The former agent said the end of the Cold War in 1991 meant reduced funding for the CIA. That problem was resolved, but the more time the nation puts behind it and the 9/11 attacks, the more dangerous the situation becomes, he said.

Hetherington was a Cold Warrior who focused on the Soviet Union, China and North Korea for most of his career. Among other posts, he served in the U.S. Embassy in South Korea.

Hetherington served as senior operations officer in the CIA Operations Center and later as chief of Foreign Liaison and Intelligence Support. In the Reagan administration, he was deputy chief of the director of Intelligence’s Arms Control staff.

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