Counterterrorism takes center stage at Aspen Security Forum |

Counterterrorism takes center stage at Aspen Security Forum

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
** FILE ** Vice Adm. Eric Olson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Special Operations Command Commander in this June 12, 2007 file photo. More than half a dozen top special operations slots are changing hands over the next few months: Olson succeeds Army Gen. Bryan Brown as SOCOM commander - Brown retires from the military next month. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

ASPEN – The man probably best suited to assess how America’s killing of Osama bin Laden affected the war on terrorism will be a featured speaker in a public presentation during the Aspen Security Forum (ASF) next week.

Martha Raddatz of ABC News will interview Adm. Eric Olson, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, in the opening presentation of ASF at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He will be speaking in the Greenwald Pavilion on U.S. Special Forces’ role in the global war on terrorism. Tickets are $15 through

Olson is one of several high-profile speakers at the conference, July 27-30. The ambassadors to the United States from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the former ambassador to the United Nations from Yemen, will participate in a panel discussion, “The View from Abroad.” The ASF website said some of the fundamental questions that U.S. policymakers and citizens are wondering is whether Pakistan is friend or foe, and why we need 10,000 U.S. troops needed in Afghanistan. The ambassadors are likely to shed light on those topics.

Clark Ervin, director of the ASF, said the institute’s goal over time is to make the event the “go-to” conference for homeland security and counterterrorism professionals. He feels that the Institute is making big strides with just its second annual conference.

This year’s conference is delving into areas that it didn’t cover last year, such as terrorism financing. Stuart Levey, the former undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence for the of the federal Treasury Department, will share his insights.

In a different session, legal experts will debate what is torture and whether it is effective.

Even topics covered last year that are being revisited this year will have fresh angles because of changing world events, such as bin Laden’s death, Ervin said. Aviation security, for example, will get a fresh look with John Pistole, assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration.

One issue that has popped up since last year’s conference is a report that there have been 25,000 security breaches at U.S. airports in the decade since 9/11, Ervin said. That is sure to come up in the interview of Pistole by Jeanne Meserve of CNN, he said.

Ervin said the ASF draws an audience that he divided into five categories: top present and former government officials, security industry leaders, members of think tanks, “A-list” reporters that specialize in covering terrorism and security issues, and “concerned citizens.” He estimated that “normal folks” who want to learn more about the topics make up 20 percent of the audience.

A general pass to the forum is $1,200; day passes are available for $450.

A handful of events are open to the public. In addition to Olson’s presentation, there will be a screening of the film, “Killing in the Name” on Thursday followed by a panel discussion with moderator Dina Temple-Raston of National Public Radio. The screening will be at 7:30 p.m. in Paepcke Auditorium. The cost is $20. The Oscar-nominated film is from the Global Survivors Network.

The closing session, “The Department of Homeland Security at Year Eight,” will feature Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff, the former holder of that position. The session will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Greenwald Pavilion. Tickets are $20.

Expect security in town to be thick for the Aspen Security Forum, July 27-30.

The Aspen Institute event is bringing top U.S. military and government officials to town, along with the ambassadors to the U.S. from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The most evident affect from increased security will be at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, where parking restrictions will be in place from July 26 through Aug. 2. No unattended vehicles will be allowed on the curb in front of the terminal, at the request of federal officials, said David Ulane, assistant director of aviation at the airport.

“They will get towed immediately, no questions asked,” Ulane said.

Anyone who needs to leave a vehicle to assist a departing passenger or pick someone up should use Parking Lot A, which is a short distance from the terminal, Ulane said. Parking is free for the first hour. Parking Lot B is also available.

Departing passengers should early in case of traffic congestion.