SEYMOUR HERSH: I can't -- look, you know what? You can go up and down, back and forth, and raise questions about anonymous sources, but believe me, if these guys -- you know, they'd all be living like Snowden in Russia for the rest of their lives, if they were lucky. Nobody's going to talk for the record. These are --
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me turn to David Shedd, who you do quote, the deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I quote a document. No, I don't quote -- I quote a document that was sent to him.
AMY GOODMAN: But let me go directly to him --
SEYMOUR HERSH: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: --who spoke in July at the Aspen Security Forum about the Syrian opposition.
DAVID SHEDD: I count no less than 1,200 disparate groups in the opposition. And so, to a large extent, the conditions of Syria benefit those who have a tendency toward or are actually in the far extreme, because what happens is, they go for the space and organization and certainly what they view as their mission vis-a-vis the Bashar Assad regime and its proxy fighters with Hezbollah and so forth. They are the most effective end of that spectrum of those 1,200 groups. They are increasingly stronger within the opposition in their relative capabilities against the regime. That is not a statement on the flow and the ebb that pertains to how the regime is doing against the opposition. But within the opposition, I think, to your question, I think the al-Nusra Front is gaining in strength and is a case of serious concern for us.
AMY GOODMAN: That's David Shedd, the deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, speaking in July. The significance of what Shedd said, and what he also couldn't say, Seymour Hersh?
SEYMOUR HERSH: I don't know what he could or could not say. I'm not in -- I can't get into his mindset. I just know that by then he had received one major report, and also the ops order was being conducted. And Shedd, by -- Shedd's been around a long time. He was in the CIA. And I haven't talked to him, and I didn't discuss this with him. But he's a fine intelligence officer. And I -- he's reflecting on what -- look, by the time he's talking, inside the community, for the last year, it's been known that the only game in town, whether you like it or don't like it, was Bashar, because otherwise the -- what we call the secular anti -- the opposition to Bashar, the legitimate, non-radical, if you will, dissenters, people from within the army, people -- civilians who didn't like the lack of more social progress, etc., etc., they were overrun, even by--we know that beginning in early in the year. We knew they were being overrun by jihadists. And so, the only solution, it seemed to me, for -- it seems for the government at the time, the people I know -- and I've talked to people about this for years; it's been more than a year of talk -- is, the only solution for stability was Bashar. You have to just like it or don't like it.
Israel, which -- don't forget, Damascus is, what, 40 miles, 45 miles from the Golan Heights and 130 miles south of -- north of -- northeast of Tel Aviv, easily within range of any missiles. The Israelis are not going to tolerate a jihadist government inside Syria, or even any area that the jihadists will claim as an area of sharia law. They'll hit it. The only potential for stability was to keep Bashar there, or at least to get him in a position where maybe he'd be willing to negotiate some sort of collaborative government, which seems to be the only sensible theme right now.
And so, Shedd could well have been talking just about that. The reason I wrote about it, mentioned what he said, is because he got -- he said what he said after getting a lot of very tough intelligence about al-Nusra and its capability. And I will also tell you there was a very scary incident in May in Turkey, in which some al-Nusra groups were found, initially reported, to have more than four pounds of sarin, and they were going to use it to hit an American air base in a place called Adana. We have a big air base there, and it caused some trouble there. I didn't write about it because by the time that case got to a trial, a further-along indictment, the government, the Turkish government, no longer claimed that they had sarin, but they were looking for it. And as we -- as many in the audience in the audience may not know, Erdogan, the head of -- the prime minister of Turkey, and his intelligence -- chief intelligence officer, a gentleman named Fidan, are very pro-Islamist, and there's a lot of tension there about that in the region. So you have Turkey in one side that really wants Bashar to go down, but it's also an ally of ours, and it also tries to maintain good relationships with Iran. It's a very complicated, messy thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour --
SEYMOUR HERSH: And the nerve gas --
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Yes, go ahead. I'm sorry. No, go ahead. I'm fine.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did the piece appear in the London Review of Books and not in your traditional place where you publish, in The New Yorker or, as it was expected to appear, in The Washington Post, with Executive Editor Marty Baron saying the sourcing in the article didn't meet the Post's standards?