Nightly News   |  October 20, 2011

Leiter: Libya faces many challenges 

Former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter joins Brian Williams with analysis of what Moammar Gadhafi’s death means to the United States’ war against terror.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: For more we're joined by Michael Leiter , an intelligence veteran of both the Bush and Obama administrations, the former director of the US National Counterterrorism Center . Thank you for coming in.

Mr. MICHAEL LEITER (Former Director National Counterterrorism Center): It's good to be here.

WILLIAMS: You were in the Situation Room the night the Osama bin Laden raid went down. I'm sitting here looking at the list of names that we have gone through who are no longer here. Was this the mission from the get-go? Remember the pressure early on on President Obama , go in big, go in strong, we can finish this off. But I think tempered by two wars going on, the US wanted to do it this way.

Mr. LIGHTER: Well, I wouldn't say that killing Gadhafi was necessarily the mission. I think the mission really was to give the Libyan people an opportunity to have a more democratic country. But undoubtedly killing Gadhafi was a necessary start to that. Without Gadhafi gone there really wasn't going to be progress in Libya , and this was a critical step in that regard.

WILLIAMS: To a lot of people around the world this looks like a positive development. You look at Libya , the size of Alaska , population less than the city of New York , they've got a lot of oil. They could have good days ahead. Doesn't always happen. When we took out Iraq , we took out Iran 's natural enemy and the order can be upset. Do you think this is overall net-net a positive development for the world? Do you think we'll start feeling that soon?

Mr. LEITER: Oh, I think undoubtedly it is. And obviously, as Andrea just reported, it's an important step for the United States , as well, given Gadhafi 's history. It's going to be hard for Libya . They've got issues of governance. They've got economic issues. And they've got potentially still problems with terrorist organizations throughout their nation in the south of the country. So it's going to be a challenge to get a rule of law established across Libya . But, again, it couldn't have really started until Gadhafi was gone.

WILLIAMS: All right, Michael Leiter , thank you very much for your expertise and for being with us here tonight.