George Tenet

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Bebeto Matthews / AP

George Tenet, former CIA director, listens during an interview in New York, Monday April 30, 2007.

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TIME Have we degraded al-Qaeda or are they reconstituting?

TENET: Once you get very disruptive and you get inside the sanctuary and you catch Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and you catch Abu Zubayda and you catch Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, once you start taking down senior operational planners, logisticians, financiers, then you start to understand your impact on the capability of an organization to do things because it's that operational level just below Bin Laden and Zawahiri that you care about the most. Is it a permanent kind of report card? No, because they're always going to try to reconstitute. The issue for them, of course, is the people who succeed, that layer that you've taken away, are never quite as good and the game is against them before they get as good. So, you know, that's the whole deal here.

TIME: Why can't we find and kill bin Laden?

TENET: You've got to keep working against that layer below bin Laden and Zawahiri who are operators, planners, logisticians, financiers, who are going to be responsible for that next operational act against us or an allied country, and you have to systematically keep eroding their ability to hurt you. And out of that, sooner or later, you're going to get a lead, you're going to get data, you're going to have an opportunity.

TIME: Why hasn't there been another attack inside the U.S.?

TENET: I'm not so arrogant to believe that everything we did has stopped them. You've got to say you've hurt them on one level operationally, the country thinks about security differently, there's a different deterrent posture in the country. They're trying to figure out what it all means. And, ultimately, what they're trying to figure out is, are they going to be consistent and stay with it, or are we going to have the luxury of time and just wait for them to essentially get tired of doing this?

TIME: What does your gut tell you?

TENET: Nothing that you see tells you that there's not anything but intense interest, and the United States is continuing to be a target.

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