for the Record of the
Director of Central Intelligence
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
March 24, 2004
The Emerging Threat Over Time
CIAs Response Was Strong and Persistent
Budget and Resources
The DCIs Role
The Status of the War on Terrorism
The War Ahead
I welcome the opportunity to be here today to support the National
Commissions work in preparing a full and complete account of the
circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
I firmly believe that it is most important for the American people,
and especially for the families of the victims of the attacks, to understand
what the CIA and the Intelligence Community were doing to learn about
and destroy the al-Qaida terrorist network and to try to prevent
attacks on Americans. It is also important for me to outline for you
what we have been doing since 9/11 to forestall any further attacks
that Bin Ladin and the al-Qaida organization are determined to
You have asked me to talk about specific themes. What I will do today,
as explicitly as I can in this public forum, is tell you and the American
people what we learned about the evolving al-Qaida threat in the
years before the tragic attacks; describe our intelligence collection
against the threat; describe the counterterrorism policies and programs
we carried out; and describe my role as DCI in the war on terrorism.
Finally, I will share with you where we stand now in the war and the
challenges we face in winning it. I hope we have a chance later in this
forum to go into details on other issues as well.
There have been thousands of actions taken in this war over the past
decade by CIA managers, operatives, and analysts. Not every action we
took was executed flawlessly, but I believe the record will show a keen
awareness of the threat, a disciplined focus, and persistent efforts
to track, disrupt, apprehend, and ultimately bring to justice Bin Ladin
and his terrorist henchmen.
September 11 brought the fight with international terrorism home to
the United States in the most vivid way. But, we did not discover terrorism
suddenly on September 11, 2001. The Intelligence Community, including
the FBI, was already fully engaged in this war for several years.
The growing terrorist threat to US citizens and facilities worldwideincluding
in the United Stateshas been at the top of the Intelligence Communitys
agenda for many years. We have a nearly two decade-long record of involvement
in fighting terrorism, and particularly in the last decade Usama Bin
Ladin and his al-Qaida network. It is a record of keen awareness
of the threat, disciplined focus, and persistent efforts to track, disrupt,
apprehend, and ultimately bring to justice Bin Ladin and his lieutenants
and dismantle al-Qaida. It is also a record of consistent efforts
to warn policymakers and the public of the seriousness of the al-Qaida
Although this hearing focuses on CIAs efforts since 1996 to counter
the threat of terrorism, it is useful to briefly review for the record
how we got to that period. The context is important for understanding
both the complexity of the al-Qaida target and the efforts we
have been taking to defeat it.
Bin Ladin gained prominence during the Soviet-Afghan war for his role
in financing the recruitment, transportation, and training of ethnic
Arabs who fought alongside the Afghan mujahidin against the Soviets
during the 1980s. At age 22, Bin Ladin dropped out of school in Saudi
Arabia and joined the Afghan resistance almost immediately following
the Soviet invasion in December 1979. While we had heard of Bin Ladin
from others with whom we were in contact in Afghanistan, we had no direct
contact with him and his profile was low enough to avoid any particular
The Afghan experience provided Bin Ladin with an opportunity to make
and strengthen contacts with a wide variety of Islamic extremists of
various nationalities. Many of the men who became key members of al-Qaida
had met him in Afghanistan.
It is at this time in the mid- to late-1980s that Bin Ladin began perverting
the teachings of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed for his own violent
purposes. In addition, he began to exploit underlying social, political,
and economic discontent and widespread resentment of the West in many
parts of the Muslim world.
- In a 1988 press interview, he claimed that when a mortar shell that
landed a few feet away from him did not explode, he felt it a sign
from God to battle all opponents of Islam.
- Urged on by fervent Islamic radicals, he began using his personal
fortune to shelter and employ hundreds of militant, stateless, Afghan
Arabs and to train them for jihad, or holy war, around the world.
Although Bin Ladin returned to Saudi Arabia to work in his familys
construction business after the Soviets left Afghanistan in early 1989,
he continued to support militant Islamic causes and radicals who by
then had begun redirecting their efforts against secular and moderate
Islamic governments in the region. He began publicly criticizing the
Saudi Government and condemned the Gulf War and the presence of US and
other Western forces in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Saudi officials seized Bin Ladins passport in 1989 in an apparent
try to prevent him from solidifying contacts with like-minded extremists
he had befriended during the Afghan-Soviet war.
- The Saudis subsequently in 1994 stripped Bin Ladin of his citizenship
while he was in Khartoum.
Bin Ladin came to the attention of the CIA as an emerging terrorist
threat during his stay in Sudan from 1991 to 1996.
- We saw him as a prominent financial backer of Islamic terrorist
movements who was funding the paramilitary training of Arab religious
militants operating in, or supporting fellow Muslims in, Bosnia, Egypt,
Kashmir, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen.
- While in Sudan, Bin Ladin and al-Qaida financed Islamic extremists
who opposed secular and moderate Islamic governments and who despised
- We characterized him in January 1996 as among the most active financial
sponsors of Islamic extremist and terrorist activity in the world.
During his five-year residence in Sudan, Bin Ladin combined business
with jihad under the umbrella of the al-Qaida organization. In
association with powerful members of the ruling Sudanese National Islamic
Front, he embarked on several business ventures. His workforce in Sudan
included militant Afghan war veterans who were wanted by the authorities
in their own countries because of their subversive or terrorist activities.
While in Sudan, Bin Ladin apparently paid particular attention to the
turmoil in neighboring Somalia. We believe his perception of events
in Somalia played a significant role in molding his views of the United
States. He has publicly said the US withdrawal from Somalia demonstrated
that Americans were soft and the United States a paper tiger that could
be more easily defeated than the Soviets had been in Afghanistan.
CIAs assessment of Bin Ladin during the early 1990s continued
to be that he was a major terrorist financier.
- We did not yet see him as the center of a significant organization
or network focused on carrying out terrorist attacks on the United
- Moreover, he was only one of a number of potential terrorist threats.
As such, the Bin Ladin and al-Qaida targets competed for intelligence
resources with other dangerous targets such as Hizballah, then considered
more threatening to US interests.
Nevertheless, as Bin Ladins prominence grew during the latter
part of his residence in Sudan, our awareness of the threat he represented
also grew significantly. In early 1996 we singled him out as a major
target for our counterterrorism operations.
In fact, what began in early 1996 as an effort designed to penetrate
and destroy Bin Ladins financial network soon provided intelligence
revealing a broader and more pernicious terrorist capability that reached
well beyond financial activity.
By the time Bin Ladin left Sudan in 1996 and relocated himself and
his terror network to Afghanistan, the Intelligence Community had gained
a substantial appreciation of the significance of his threat and was
taking strong action to try to stop him.
- For example, in January 1996 CIA focused more of its resources on
him by creating a dedicated component in the Counterterrorist Centerthe
Bin Ladin Issue Stationstaffed by CIA, NSA, FBI, and other officers.
The groups mission was to track him, collect intelligence on
him, run operations against him, disrupt his finances, and warn policymakers
about his activities and intentions.
- We monitored his whereabouts and increased our knowledge about him
and his organization by using every available intelligence means.
It is important to remember that during this mid-1990s period, Bin
Ladin was only one of several areas of terrorism concern that we were
following. The others included Lebanons Hizballah, the Egyptian
Islamic Jihad, the Sendoro Luminoso in Peru, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines,
and Sri Lankas Tamil Tigers, just to name a few.
If any doubts remained about the emerging threat Bin Ladin and al-Qaida
represented to the United States, they were gradually dispelled by a
series of declarations he issued from his refuge in Afghanistan during
the 1996-1998 timeframe.
- In an undated interview in Afghanistan published in July 1996 in
the London daily The Independent, Bin Ladin declared that the
killing of Americans in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia
in June 1996 marked the beginning of the war between Muslims and the
- One month later, in August 1996, Bin Ladin, in collaboration with
radical Muslim clerics associated with his group, issued a religious
edict or fatwa in which he proclaimed a Declaration of War,
authorizing attacks against Western military targets on the Arabian
- In February 1998, six months prior to the August US Embassy bombings
in East Africa, Bin Ladin issued another fatwa under the banner of
the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.
This fatwa stated ominously that all Muslims have a religious duty
to kill Americans and their allies, both civilian and military
- During a subsequent media interview, Bin Ladin explained that all
US citizens were legitimate targets because they pay taxes to the
By the time of the 1998 East Africa bombings, al-Qaida had established
its modus operandi emphasizing careful planning and exhaustive field
preparations toward a goal of inflicting high casualties. For example,
Bin Ladin was asked in a November 1996 interview why his organization
had not yet conducted attacks in response to its August fatwa. He replied,
If we wanted to carry out small operations, it would have been
easy to do so after the statements, but the nature of the battle requires
qualitative operations that affect the adversary, which obviously requires
By early 1998, CIA knew that the United States was dealing with a sophisticated
terrorist organization bent on causing large numbers of American casualties.
The East Africa bombings in August 1998 and the attack on the USS Cole
in October 2000 succeeded because of al-Qaidas meticulous
preparation and effective security practices.
- Al-Qaida targeting studies and training materials captured
around the time of the East Africa and USS Cole attacks revealed that
much of the terrorists advance planning involved careful, patient,
and meticulous preparation.
- This included extensive surveillance and casing studies that detailed
the vulnerabilities of potential targets. The terrorists casing
study of the US Embassy in Nairobi, for example, was prepared in 1993,
five years before the attack. It included information about the buildings
physical structure, security posture, and business hours, as well
as the layout of the reception area inside the Embassy.
- The analysts also pointed out that the intelligence data indicated
the terrorists were very much conscious of operational security.
We were also becoming increasingly concernedand therefore we
warned aboutal-Qaidas interest in acquiring chemical
and biological weapons and nuclear materials.
- In a December 1998 interview, Bin Ladin called the acquisition of
these weapons a religious duty.
- As early as July 1993, in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, DCI Woolsey warned of the Intelligence Communitys
heightened sensitivity to the prospect that a terrorist incident could
involve weapons of mass destruction. In February 1996, in testimony
to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, DCI Deutsch expressed
his concern about the growing lethality, sophistication, and wide-ranging
nature of the terrorist threat. He observed that terrorists would
push this trend to its most awful extreme by using weapons of mass
destruction. I made similar warnings to these committees as early
as 1998, when I pointed to Bin Ladins attempts to purchase or
manufacture biological and chemical weapons for an attack against
None of Bin Ladins and al-Qaidas extensive terrorist
plotting, planning, recruiting, and training in the late 1990s would
have been possible without the Taliban sanctuary in Afghanistan.
- The Taliban aided Bin Ladin by assigning him security guards, establishing
communications facilities for him and al-Qaida, spreading disinformation
on his behalf, and permitting him to build and maintain terrorist
camps. The Taliban refused to cooperate with efforts by the international
community to extradite Bin Ladin after the US indicted him in 1998
on 319 criminal counts, including conspiracy to murder US citizens.
- In return, Bin Ladin invested money in Taliban projects and provided
hundreds of well-trained fighters to help the Taliban consolidate
and expand its control of the country. We often talk of two trends
in terrorism: state supported and people working on their own. In
Bin Ladins case with the Taliban, what we had was something
completely newa terrorist sponsoring a state.
Afghanistan had served as a place of refuge for international terrorists
since the 1980s. Since the Soviet invasion and its aftermath, Afghanistan
had become a country with a vast infrastructure of camps and facilities
for the refuge, training, indoctrination, arming, and financing of tens
of thousand of Islamic extremists from all over the world.
- Afghanistan provided Bin Ladin an isolated and relatively safe operating
environment to oversee his organizations worldwide terrorist
- Militants who received training in Afghanistan were sent to fight
in Kashmir, Chechnya, or Bosnia. When they returned to their homes
to resume their normal lives or migrate to other countries, they constituted
a ready supply of manpower for terrorist operations.
The al-Qaida-Taliban training camps formed the foundation of
a worldwide network by sponsoring and encouraging Islamic extremists
from diverse locations to forge longstanding ideological, logistical,
and personal ties.
- Extremists in the larger camps received basic training in the use
of small arms and guerrilla tactics. In the smaller camps, militants
received advanced and specialized training in subjects such as explosives,
poisons, and assassination techniques.
- Clandestine and counterintelligence tradecraft courses included
basic instruction on how to establish secure, cell-based, clandestine
organizations to support insurgencies or terrorist operations.
- Bin Ladin emphasized indoctrination in extremist religious ideas.
He included the constant repetition that the United States is evil
and that the current regimes of Arab countries are not true believers
in Islam and should be overthrown as a religious duty.
- Some of the Afghan campssuch as the Derunta campalso
provided the militants instruction in the production and use of toxic
chemicals and biological toxins.
In summary, what Bin Ladin created in Afghanistan was a sophisticated
adversary. To be sure, as CIA improved its understanding of the threat,
it refocused and intensified its efforts to track, disrupt, and bring
the terrorists to justice. We were handicapped, however, by the fact
that we had no presence in or access to Afghanistan on a regular basis.
Our analysts assessed al-Qaidas modus operandi, capabilities,
and intentions to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, they
warned policymakers during the summer of 2001 that the threat of terrorist
attacks was real and serious. Such performance was the result of significant
measures by the Directorate of Intelligence to enhance its analytical
capabilities assigned to this target.
We strove to find the best balance between strategic and tactical analysis.
From 1995 to the 11 September attacks we produced 46 papers that I would
call significant strategic intelligence analysis on Bin Ladin, al-Qaida,
and Islamic extremism.
- A 1996 analysis took a careful look at Bin Ladin and other Islamic
extremists as suspects in the Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi
- Papers in 1997 assessed Bin Ladins seeking of a WMD capability,
and the role of Islamic financial institutions in financing extremist
- A 1998 paper flagged the key shift in the Bin Ladin threat from
one aimed at US forces in Saudi Arabia to US interests worldwide.
- A 1999 paper was a wide-ranging, strategic analysis of Bin Ladins
command of a global terrorist network.
- A 2000 paper assessed al-Qaidas efforts to develop chemical,
biological, and radiological weapons.
- A March 2001 paper analyzed the critical role played by Afghanistan
in international terrorism.
- An April 2001 paper assessed the growing propensity of jihadist
movements to act as part of a global fight against their perception
of a US-led conspiracy against Islam.
We created a separate analytic unit in July 2001 to assure that the
demands for daily tactical support did not sidetrack our strategic analytic
effort. The separate unit allowed us to isolate its analysts from the
grind of daily crises to focus on the bigger picture. It also allowed
us to better train and develop the analysts.
- During 2000 and 2001, we also pushed our analytical products, both
strategic and tactical, into broader circulation.
In addition to the analytic effort undertaken in the Counterterrorist
Center, analysts from across CIAs Directorate of Intelligence
contributed to the counterterrorism mission. They carried out specialized
work on topics such as the societal issues that create the breeding
ground for terrorism, the financial flows that enable terrorism, and
explosive and other technical modeling, to name a few.
Since 9/11, we have expanded our capabilities to provide strategic
and alternative analysis on terrorism. Additional experienced officers
have been added to the effort. They benefit from the fusion of intelligence
from all sources that has been the hallmark of the Center. They have
access to electronic platforms that enable them to collaborate with
counterparts throughout the Intelligence Community, to tap external
expertise to help out-of-the-box thinking, and to communicate with policymakers.
We are adding to their toolkits regularly so they can manage the volume
of information that our focused collection is making available. Their
singular goal is to produce over-the-horizon analysis that will enable
homeland defense, warfighters, and senior policymakers to make the smart
decisions about strategic commitments that will protect the American
people against an evolving, dynamic threat.
The leadership of the CIA repeatedly warned the policy community in
the Executive Branch and the Congress of the seriousness of the threat.
I placed terrorism prominently in every annual public testimony since
1997 to the appropriate Congressional Committees on the Worldwide Threat,
as shown in a series of excerpts from my Statements for the Record.
- February 1997: Even as our counterterrorism efforts are improving,
international groups are expanding their networks, improving their
skills and sophistication, and working to stage more spectacular attacks.
- January 1998: Mr. Chairman, I must stress that the threat
to US interests and citizens worldwide remains high
there has been a trend toward increasing lethality of attacks, especially
against civilian targets
a confluence of recent developments
increases the risk that individuals or groups will attack US interests.
- February 1999: On terrorism, Mr. Chairman, I must be frank
in saying that Americans increasingly are the favored targets
is not the slightest doubt that Usama Bin Ladin, his worldwide allies,
and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us
progress against his networks, Bin Ladins organization has contacts
virtually worldwide, including in the United States
he has stated
unequivocally that all Americans are targets
we have noted recent
activity similar to what occurred prior to the African embassy bombings
I must tell you we are concerned that one or more of Bin Ladins
attacks could occur at any time
Bin Ladins overarching
aim is to get the United States out of the Persian Gulf, but he will
strike wherever in the world he thinks we are vulnerable.
- February 2000: Usama Bin Ladin is still foremost among these
terrorists, because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat
everything we have learned recently confirms our conviction
that he wants to strike further blows against America
some well-publicized disruptions, we believe he could still strike
without additional warning.
- February 2001: The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate,
and it is evolving
as we have increased security around government
and military facilities, terrorists are seeking out softer
targets that provide opportunities for mass casualties
bin Ladin and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain
the most immediate and serious threat
as shown by the bombing
of our Embassies in Africa in 1998 and his Millennium plots last year,
he is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning.
We raised the immediacy of the terrorist threat in other public and
private forums as well.
- During the Millennium threat in late 1999, we warned that we could
expect between 5 to 15 terrorist attacks against American interests
both here and overseas.
- During the Ramadan threat period in the autumn of 2000, we warned
that terrorist cells were planning attacks against US and foreign
military and civilian targets in the Persian Gulf region. As it turned
out, our operations were able to disrupt the terrorists plans.
- In hearings on terrorism in spring 2001, I told the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Appropriations Committee
that the threat from al-Qaida was an immediate and pressing
concern. I observed that that, Despite [our] successes,
there are limits to what we can do. We will generally not have specific
time and place warning of terrorist attacks
that I consider it likely that over the next year or so that there
will be an attempted terrorist attack against US interests.
- During the week of July 2, 2001, reacting to a rash of intelligence
threat reports, I contacted by phone a dozen of my foreign liaison
counterparts to urge them to redouble their efforts against al-Qaida.
The chief of the Counterterrorist Center, the chief of Near East Division,
and others made additional urgent calls. These calls resulted in several
arrests and detentions in Bahrain, Yemen, and Turkey.
Even with the intense focus on terrorism in general and Bin Ladin in
particular, the Intelligence Community had to deal with several other
challenges that demanded the highest attention.
- Some issues were themselves closely linked to terrorism, such as
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the danger that
some terrorist group would acquire such weapons. In this regard, we
have worked extensivelyoperationally and analyticallyon
the danger of rogue elements within nuclear states such as Pakistan
and India helping terrorists gain access to these weapons.
- Throughout the 1990s and beyond, we were intensely engaged in supporting
US policy and our military forces in the Balkans, Haiti, and elsewhere.
Under Congressional mandate, we supported the efforts of the International
Criminal Tribunal on War Crimes in Yugoslavia to bring some of the
accused to justice.
High priority issues had resource consequences for collection, operations,
and analysis. Some of these issues required increased tasking of collection
assets that were in direct competition with our efforts on terrorism.
- After the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, for example,
we launched a major effort to improve our ability to warn of the next
round of nuclear tests, which entailed the diversion of resources
to this issue.
Our experience over several years in assessing, warning about, and
operating against al-Qaida contributed to our ability to warn
during the summer of 2001 that Bin Ladin and al-Qaida were engaged
in intensive operational planning and preparations and that among their
targets of choice was the US homeland. Our collection sources lit
up during this period. They indicated that multiple spectacular
attacks were planned and that some of the plots were in their final
- By long-established doctrine, we disseminated these raw reports
immediately and widely to policymakers and action agencies such as
the military, State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration,
FBI, Department of Transportation, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, and others.
- We documented the increased threat in the intelligence analysis
that we provided to senior policymakers. We cited plots in the Arabian
Peninsula and Europe, and ultimately in August 2001 we warned about
Bin Ladins desire to conduct terrorist attacks in the US homeland.
- The interagency Community Counterterrorism Board also issued several
threat advisories during the summer 2001. These advisories, sent to
US Government entities that have a counterterrorism mission, noted
that al-Qaida was most likely to attempt spectacular attacks
resulting in numerous casualties, and that it was prepared to mount
one or more terrorist attacks at any time.
The reporting was maddeningly short on actionable details. The most
ominous reporting hinting at something big was also the
most vague. The only occasions in this thread of reporting where there
was an explicit or implicit location appeared to point abroad, especially
to US interests in the Middle East.
Our analysts tried to find linkages among the reports and linkages
to past terrorist threats and tactics. We considered policymakers
questions whether al-Qaida was feeding us this reporting to create
panic through disinformation or to test our defenses, but we concluded
that the reports were real. When some reporting hinted that an attack
had been postponed, we continued to stress that there were multiple
attacks planned and that one or more could be continuing apace. We grew
concerned that so much of the reporting pointed to attacks overseas
and noted that one of Bin Ladins goals had long been to strike
CIA for many years was well aware that terrorists considered using
airplanes in a variety of ways to conduct their operations. We produced
both source reports and strategic analysis addressing these issues.
CIA collected and disseminated relevant reporting and produced and disseminated
relevant analysis to a wide customer base within the US Government,
including the FAA. Our information was received and understood by these
customers. For example, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety
and Security (the Gore Commission) in 1997 noted:
The FBI, the CIA, and other intelligence sources have been warning
that the threat of terrorism is changing in two important ways. First,
it is no longer just an overseas threat from foreign terrorists. People
and places in the United States have joined the list of targets, and
Americans have joined the ranks of terrorists. The bombings of the World
Trade Center in New York and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City are
clear examples of the shift, as is the conviction of Ramzi Yousef for
attempting to bomb twelve American airliners out of the sky over the
Pacific Ocean. The second change is that in addition to well-known,
established terrorist groups, it is becoming more common to find terrorists
working alone or in ad-hoc groups, some of whom are not afraid to die
in carrying out their designs.
CIA, FBI, and FAA focused on the potential threat represented by terrorists
using airplanes in the 1995 plotting in Manila to bring down 12 US airliners.
- A National Intelligence Estimate later that yearthe highest
form of coordinated strategic intelligence that the DCI issuesnoted
this threat. We reiterated this concern when we updated the Estimate
two years later.
- Threats to aircraft were also regularly disseminated in reporting
and used in analysis.
The information we had about terrorists using airplanes was only part
of a wealth of information on a range of terrorist plans and intentions.
Even though most of the reporting in this area was of questionable quality,
we disseminated it to our customers with appropriate caveats given how
seriously we took threats to American lives.
- Our information was passed on to customers in intelligence reports,
briefings to senior policymakers, and briefings to Congressional Committees.
- The FAA received this intelligence at its headquarters, and the
FAA had a representative in the Counterterrorist Center with access
to all analytical and operational information that related to airline
security. We are satisfied that all the relevant information we developed
in the area of airline threats was made available to the FAA.
We know that our strategic message on terrorism was reaching its audience.
For example, in its 2000 annual publication, Criminal Acts against
Civil Aviation 2000, the FAA emphasized threats to civil aviation
posed by Bin Ladin and others.
- The report noted, Although Bin Ladin is not known to have
attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal
to do so. Bin Ladins anti-Western and anti-American attitudes
make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation,
especially US civil aviation.
- In citing the plot by convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi
Yousef to place explosive devices on as many as 12 US airliners flying
out of East Asia, the FAA report noted its concerns that others like
Yousef who may possess similar skills pose a continuing threat to
civil aviation interests.
- The report concluded, increased awareness and vigilance are
necessary to deter future incidents, be they from terrorists or non-terrorists.
It is important to do the utmost to prevent such acts rather than
to lower security measures by interpreting the statistics [shown as
75 percent lower incidence rate in 2000 compared to 1999] as indicating
a decreasing threat.
That said, there is a vast difference between being aware that a type
of threat exists and having a specific warning of the date, time, and
location of a planned attack. We did not have intelligence of that specificity
on which we could warn or take action.
Intelligence collection is the necessary prerequisite to any actions
we could take to try to eliminate the terrorist threat posed by Bin
Ladin and his al-Qaida organization. In the spring of 1999, we
did a baseline review of the CIAs operational strategy against
Bin Ladin and a new strategic plan. The Counterterrorist Center produced
a new comprehensive operational plan of attack against the Bin Ladin
and al-Qaida target inside and outside Afghanistan. The Center
previewed this new strategy to senior CIA management at the end of July
1999. By mid-September, it had been briefed to CIA operational level
personnel and to NSA and FBI. CIA then began to put in place the elements
of this operational strategy that structured the Agencys counterterrorist
activity for the intervening years leading up to the events of September 11.
This strategy took on the name, The Plan. It evolved in conjunction
with increased covert action authorities and built on what the Counterterrorist
Center was recognized as doing wellcollection, quick reaction
to operational opportunities, renditions and disruptions, and analysis.
The Plan emphasized in its multifaceted program the priority of capturing
and rendering to justice Bin Ladin and his principal lieutenants.
- This central undertaking, which involved a range of operational
initiatives, recognized that the first priority was to acquire intelligence
about Bin Ladin by penetrating his organization. Without this effort,
the United States could not mount a successful covert action program
to stop him or his operations.
- The Plan thus included a strong and focused foreign intelligence
collection program. We needed to be able to gather the intelligence
that would let us track and act against Bin Ladin and his associates
in terrorist sanctuaries including Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen, and most
importantly Afghanistan. The Plan comprised an aggressive human source
collection effortboth unilateral and joint with liaison partnersand
a vigorous development of technical collection within Afghanistan.
- To execute The Plan, the Counterterrorist Center developed a program
to select and train officers and put them where the terrorists are
located. The Center launched a nation-wide officers recruitment program
using the CIAs Career Training Program resources to identify,
vet, and hire qualified personnel for counterterrorist assignments
in hostile environments. We sought native fluency in Arabic and other
terrorist-associated languages, as well as police, military experience
and appropriate ethnic background. In addition, the Center established
an eight-week advanced Counterterrorist Operations Course to teach
CIAs hard won lessons learned and counterterrorism operational
- Another element of the strategy that emerged in 2000 and 2001 was
the use of the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor the activity
of Bin Ladin and his camp network in Afghanistan.
Let me explain a bit more about our Predator operations. Between September
and December 2000, with the support of Air Force crews and an interagency
operations and analysis team, CIA flew an unarmed Predator Unmanned
Aerial Vehicle on 15 reconnaissance missions over Afghanistan. Although
the Taliban detected and launched interceptors against it, the Predator
was able to operate over a denied hostile area and returned imagery
useful to the foreign intelligence collection program.
During two missions the Predator may have observed Usama bin Ladin.
In one case this was an after-the-fact judgment. In the other, sources
indicated that Bin Ladin would likely be at his Tarnak Farms facility,
and, so cued, the Predator flew over the facility the next day. It imaged
a tall man dressed in white robes with a physical and operational signature
fitting Bin Ladin. A group of 10 people gathered around him were apparently
paying their respects for a minute or two.
With the onset of bad weather in December 2000, the Predator operations
ceased for the winter and the aircraft were returned to the United States.
Almost immediately, however, planning began for a second deployment.
In 2000, Air Force and CIA officers began to discuss the possibility
of capitalizing on an Air Force program to arm the Predator by adapting
it to carry and fire Hellfire missiles. These officers, and later the
leadership of CIA, reasoned that if we could develop the capability
to reliably hit a target with a Hellfire missile and could develop the
enabling policy and legal framework, we would have a capability to accurately
and promptly respond to future sightings of high value targets.
CIA recognized that significant issues would need to be resolved to
enable this program. These included the successful completion of weapons
testingtechnical issues delayed deployment even while we were
solving othersapproval by the nation hosting the deployed operation,
arrangements with the Department of Defense for personnel and equipment,
and working through legal issues.
It was also clear that one of the most difficult issues would be developing
a command and control arrangement that could respond to fleeting opportunities
while ensuring the right level of leadership control over the operation.
CIA leadership from the beginning felt it important that there was a
full understanding by the President and the National Security Council
of the capabilities of the armed Predator and the implications of its
Weapons tests occurred between May 22 and June 7, 2001, with mixed
results. While missile accuracy was excellent, there were some problems
with missile fusing that raised questions about its suitability against
some targets. These problems were not resolved in the short term, and
remained questions on 11 September 2001.
One issue that occupied much discussion was whether to try to deploy
the Predator early in the summer of 2001 in a purely reconnaissance
mode to take advantage of good weather, or to wait until the armed capability
was ready and the policy and legal questions were resolved. The Counterterrorist
Center argued for the latter option for several reasons.
- The 2000 experience had demonstrated that even if we again sighted
Bin Ladin, we did not have a timely response option. Targets in Afghanistan
were hours away from conventional attack, even if the policy decision
had been made and weapons were positioned and ready.
- Some CIA officers believed that continued reconnaissance operations
would undercut later armed operations. The Taliban would almost certainly
detect the flights (as it did the previous year), and would alert
al-Qaida to our presence. Reconnaissance operations would also
expose the Predator to the risk of interception or anti-aircraft fire.
- Additionally, indications were that the host country would be unlikely
to tolerate extensive operations, especially after the Taliban became
aware, as it surely would, of that countrys assistance to the
During the summer, CIA led an interagency effort to fully develop the
capabilities of the armed Predator and to explore the questions inherent
in its use. One question that arose was who would bear responsibility
for Predators that might be lostDOD or CIA. While we finally agreed
to split the cost evenly, the question was still in negotiation on 11
September 2001. It is important to emphasize, however, that this issue,
while contentious, did not slow down the program. We continued to work
all the preparations for armed deployment, with the knowledge that the
funding question would eventually be resolved. After September 11 it
became a non-issue.
As part of this interagency effort, two exercises were conducted in
May and June 2001 to walk through the spectrum of operational and policy
questions. These questions included: What are the capabilities of the
system? How do we set up the communications architecture? What are the
command and control arrangements? What criteria would we use to shoot?
Who authorizes weapons firing? What are the implications of a successful
firing and of an unsuccessful firing?
In early September 2001, CIA was authorized to deploy the system with
weapons-capable aircraft, but for reconnaissance missions only. The
DCI did not authorize the shipment of missiles at that time because
the host nation had not agreed to allow flights by weapons-carrying
aircraft. Moreover, the technical problems that had bedeviled earlier
tests remained questions.
Subsequent to 9/11, approval was quickly granted to ship the missiles,
and the Predator aircraft and missiles reached their overseas location
on September 16, 2001. The first mission was flown over Kabul and Qandahar
on September 18 without carrying weapons. Subsequent host nation approval
was granted on October 7 and the first armed mission was flown the same
Our surge in collection operations on counterterrorism in general and
al-Qaida in particular paid off.
- Our human intelligence reporting on all counterterrorism topics
increased steadily from 1998 through the first nine months of 2001.
- Human intelligence reporting specifically on Bin Ladin and al-Qaida
increased by 50 percent over the same period.
- The number of human sources we had operating against the terrorism
target grew by more than 50 percent between 1999 and September 11.
- Working across agencies, and in some cases with foreign services,
we designed and built several collection systems for specific use
against al-Qaida inside Afghanistan.
- By September 11, 2001, a map would show that these collection programs
and human networks nearly covered Afghanistan. This array meant that
when the military campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Qaida
began in October 2001, we were able to support it with an enormous
body of information and a large stable of assets.
The realm of human source collection frequently is divided between
liaison reporting that we get from cooperative foreign intelligence
services, and unilateral reporting that we get from agents we run ourselves.
Even before The Plan, our vision for human intelligence on terrorism
was simple: we had to get more of both types. The figures for both rose
every year after 1998, and by 2000 the volume of reporting on terrorism
from unilateral assets exceeded that from liaison sources.
- The integration of technical and human sources has been key to our
understanding of, and actions against, international terrorism. It
was this combinationthis integrationthat allowed us years
ago to confirm the existence of numerous al-Qaida facilities
and training camps in Afghanistan.
- On a virtually daily basis, analysts and collection officers from
NSA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (formerly NIMA),
and CIA came together to interactively use satellite imagery, communications
information, and human source reporting.
- This integration helped provide the baseline data for the US Central
Commands target planning against al-Qaida facilities and
infrastructure throughout Afghanistan.
As time progressed, Bin Ladin became an increasingly harder target
in his Afghan sanctuary. In response, additional authorities were added
in appreciation of both new operational opportunities and the increasing
policy determination for Bin Ladin to be rendered to law enforcement.
By 1998, the key elements of the CIAs strategy against Bin Ladin
- Working with foreign countries to break up cells and carry out arrests.
- Disrupting and weakening his businesses and finances.
- Listening to his communications.
- Detaining and disrupting his operatives.
- Pursuing a multi-track approach to bring him to justice, including
working with liaison services, developing a close relationship with
US federal prosecutors, and enhancing our unilateral capability to
CIAs policy and objectives statement for the FY 1998 budget submission
prepared in early 1997 evidenced a strong determination to go on the
offensive against terrorists. The submission outlined our Counterterrorist
Centers offensive operations and noted the goal to render
the masterminds, disrupt terrorist infrastructure, infiltrate terrorist
groups, and work with foreign partners.
The FY 2000 budget submission prepared in early 1999 described Bin
Ladin as the most significant individual sponsor of Sunni Islamic
extremist and terrorist activity in the world today.
- It noted the Agencys use of a wide range of offensive operational
techniques against the targets. These included the creation of dedicated
counterterrorist units in key countries, joint operations with liaison
partners to apprehend wanted terrorists, recruitment of well-placed
agents, and penetrations of terrorist support groups.
Commenting on the Bin Ladin-dedicated Issue Station in the Counterterrorist
Center, the FY 2000 submission noted that, This Station, staffed
with CIA, FBI, DOD, and NSA officers, has succeeded in identifying assets
and members of Bin Ladins organization, and nearly 700 intelligence
reports have been disseminated about his operations.
It is important to note that the political context of this period presented
an operational environment with significant impediments that CIA constantly
fought to overcome.
- The US Government had no Embassy or other official presence in Afghanistan.
The US did not recognize the Taliban regime, making it difficult to
get access to Bin Ladin and al-Qaida personnel.
- US policy stopped short of replacing the Taliban regime or providing
direct support to others for the specific purpose of overthrowing
the Taliban. These realities limited our ability to exert pressure
on Bin Ladins hosts.
- During this period, the Taliban gradually gained control over most
of Afghanistan, reducing the oppositions capabilities and room
- Pakistans nuclear tests of 1998 and the military coup in 1999
strained relations with Pakistan, the principal access point to Afghanistan.
It also is important to note that this Afghanistan-focused strategy
was played out against the necessity for aggressive and complex efforts
to disrupt planned Bin Ladin-sponsored terrorist operations on a worldwide
basis. Responding to the Millennium threat, the attack on the USS Cole,
and the rash of indications of planned terrorist actions during Ramadan
2000 and the months leading to September 11 worked to shift the focus
of operational effort away from internal Afghanistan operations.
Up to this point, I have focused primarily on CIAs role in developing
our understanding of the al-Qaida threat and devising and implementing
a robust and well-focused program and strategy to counter it. A critical
aspect of the overall counterterrorism effort is the broader Intelligence
- Taking the fight to Bin Ladin and the al-Qaida organization
was not just a matter of mobilizing the Counterterrorist Center at
CIA. This was, and still is, an interagencyand internationaleffort.
- The Counterterrorist Center at CIA was created in 1986 to take the
offensive to the terrorists. Its defined mission is to preempt,
prevent, and disrupt terrorist activities and plans. The Center
enables the fusion of all sources of information in a single, action-oriented
unit. Not only does it fuse source reporting on international terrorism
from US and foreign collectors, but it also integrates counterterrorism
operational and analytical activity. The Center is also the CIAs
single point of contact on counterterrorism issues for US policymakers.
The Centers fused, integrated activities give us the speed that
we must have to seize fleeting opportunities in the shadowy world
- The Center has racked up many successes, including the rendition
of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001.
- No matter how much is integrated within the Center and no matter
how large we build it, there are still valuable counterterrorist players
outside it, making the sharing of knowledge essential. We have counterterrorist
partners, for example, throughout CIA, especially in the field, and
with NSA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, FBI, and the
Special Forces, to name a few.
It is also clear that when errors occurwhen we miss information
or opportunitiesit is often because our sharing and fusion are
not as strong as they need to be. Communications across bureaucracies,
missions, and cultures is among our more persistent challenges in the
fast-paced, high-pressure environment of counterterrorism. The opposite
is also true. Progress in raising the level of cooperation among the
Community agencies over the years has been key to warning policymakers
and stopping and disrupting attacks against US interests overseas.
The Counterterrorist Center has aggressively pursued inter-agency representation,
both in line management and at the working level, since its establishment.
Over the years, this emphasis has fostered both improved communications
as well as begun to break down the often-cited cultural institutional
barriers to creative and effective support and joint operations. By
2001, the Center had over 30 representatives from more than a dozen
agencies involved in the fight against terrorism.
One of the more critical alliances in the war against terrorism is
that between CIA and FBI.
- An FBI officer has been serving as a deputy to the chief of the
Counterterrorist Center since the mid-1990s. The FBI reciprocated
by making a CIA operations officer deputy to the Bureaus Counter-Terrorist
- Prior to September 11, six FBI officers were detailed to the Center
as a whole, a number that has now grown to some 20 officers.
- Two CIA operations officers served at FBI headquarters prior to
September 11 2001. The Counterterrorist Center now has 10 officers
detailed to the FBI. Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has increased
the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in the US to 56.
The CIA has connectivity with and provides intelligence support to
all 56, and has assigned 90 officers either full- or part-time to
23 of them. CIA also had assigned officers to work with FBI to assist
them in establishing their own foreign intelligence reporting and
- From the mid 1990s on, the Center has had on average 10 to 12 NSA
officers on detail. NSAin addition to hosting working level
CIA officershad until recently a senior CIA Directorate of Operations
officer serving as one of the deputies to the NSA Operations Directorate.
A CIA Directorate of Intelligence officer serves as deputy to NSAs
Office of Analysis and Production.
- As the Counterterrorist Center ramped up its efforts against Bin
Ladin and al-Qaida, the relationships and institutional structures
that developed over the years among Community agencies paid enormous
The Agencys strategy of drawing foreign governments into the
fight against terrorism also has continued to pay strong dividends.
Through the Counterterrorist Center we have financed training and information-sharing
arrangements that have encouraged the cooperation of scores of nations
in regions both breeding and afflicted by terrorism. This has facilitated
many renditions and other successful disruptions.
Working closely with foreign liaison partners has been an indispensable
part of CIAs counterterrorism strategy before and after September
11. A disruption of a terrorist plot abroad would often be impossible
without the cooperation of at least one liaison service and the sharing
of threat reporting.
- The involvement of at least three liaison partners was required
to disrupt the plots in 1998 to blow up the US Embassy in Albania
and in the summer of 2001 to attack the US Embassy in Yemen and destroy
the US Embassy in a European capital.
To be sure, there have been ups and downs in our relationship with
- Some liaison services were unwilling to provide the sourcing information
that we use to evaluate a sources reliability and access. This
limited CIAs ability to use their threat reporting.
- This reluctance to share becomes acute when concerns exist that
information based on reporting from extremely sensitive sources might
be leaked to the press.
Although liaison services are an essential part of an aggressive posture
against terrorism, their ability to share is sometimes hindered by their
countries own legal protections and open societies. These limitations
include restrictions on rendering terrorists to countries that permit
capital punishment. Terrorists have learned how to operate in open societies
such as ours and those of our close partners.
Even while targeting Bin Ladin and al-Qaida in their Afghan lair,
we did not ignore its cells of terror spread across the globe. Especially
in periods of peak threat reporting, we accelerated our work to shake
up and destroy al-Qaida cells wherever we could find them.
- This took resourcesoperations officers, desk officers, analysts,
and translatorsthroughout the Intelligence Community and law
- We also mobilized intelligence services around the globe.
During the Millennium threat period, the CIA overseas and the FBI in
the US organized an aggressive, integrated campaign to disrupt al-Qaida.
The campaign used human assets, technical operations, and the hand-off
of foreign intelligence to facilitate obtaining court warrants under
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Over a period of months, there were close daily consultations that
included the Director of the FBI, the National Security Advisor, and
the Attorney General. We identified 36 additional terrorist agents at
the time around the world. We pursued operations against them in 50
countries. Our disruption activities succeeded against 21 of these individuals,
and included arrests, renditions, detentions, and surveillance.
- We assisted the Jordanian government in dealing with terrorist cells
that planned to attack religious sites and tourist hotels. We helped
track down the organizers of these attacks and helped render them
- We mounted disruption and arrest operations against terrorists in
eight countries on four continents, which also netted information
that allowed us to track down even more suspected terrorists.
- During this same period, unrelated to Millennium threats, we conducted
multiple operations in East Asia, leading to the arrest or detention
of 45 members of the Hizballah network.
- In the months after the Millennium experiencein October 2000we
lost a serious battle, when USS Cole was bombed and 17 brave American
The efforts of American intelligence to strike back at a deadly enemy
continued through the Ramadan period in the autumn of 2000, another
period of peak threat reporting.
- Terrorist cells planning attacks against US and foreign military
and civilian targets in the Persian Gulf region were broken up. This
resulted in the capture of hundreds of pounds of explosives and other
weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles. These operations also netted
proof that some Islamic charitable organizations had been either hijacked
or created to provide support to terrorists operating in other countries.
- We succeeded in bringing a major Bin Ladin terrorist facilitator
to justice with the cooperation of two foreign governments. This individual
had provided documents and shelter to terrorists traveling through
the Arabian Peninsula.
- We worked with numerous European governments, such as the Italians,
Germans, French, and British to identify and break up terrorist groups
and their plans against US and local interests in Europe.
The third period of peak threat was in the spring and summer 2001.
As with the Millennium and Ramadan 2000, we increased the tempo of our
operations against al-Qaida. We stopped some attacks and caused
the terrorists to postpone others.
- We helped to break up another terrorist cell in Jordan and seized
a large quantity of weapons, including rockets and high explosives.
- Working with another foreign partner, we broke up a plan to attack
US facilities in Yemen.
- In June, CIA worked with a Middle Eastern partner to arrest two
Bin Ladin operatives planning attacks on US facilities in Saudi Arabia.
- In June and July, CIA launched a wide-ranging disruption effort
against Bin Ladins organization, with targets in almost two-dozen
countries. Our intent was to drive up Bin Ladins security concerns
and lead his organization to delay or cancel its attacks. We subsequently
received reporting that attacks were delayed, including an attack
against the US military in Europe.
- In July, a different Middle East partner helped bring about the
detention of a terrorist who had been directed to begin an operation
to attack the US Embassy or cultural center in a European capital.
- In addition, in the summer of 2001, local authorities, acting on
our information, arrested an operative described as Bin Ladins
man in East Asia.
- We assisted another foreign partner in the rendition of a senior
Bin Ladin associate. Information he provided included plans to kidnap
Americans in three countries and to carry out hijackings.
- We provided intelligence to a Latin American service on a band of
terrorists considering hijackings and bombings. An FBI team detected
explosives residue in their hotel rooms.
We spend an enormous amount of time trying to get the money and the
people the CIA needs for the war on terrorism. The Congressional Joint
Inquiry investigation singled out budgetary resources specifically.
The record shows that despite the well-documented resource reductions
we took in the 1990s and the enormous competing demands for our attention,
I and a series of DCIs before me saw to it that the resources committed
to the counterterrorism effort were not only protected but also enhanced.
The last decade saw a number of conflicting and competing trends: military
forces deployed to more locations than ever in our nations history;
a growing counterproliferation and counternarcotics threat; constant
tensions in the Middle East, and, to deal with these and a host of other
issues, far fewer intelligence dollars and manpower.
The cost of the post-Cold War peace dividend was that during
the 1990s our intelligence community funding declined in real terms,
reducing our buying power by tens of billions of dollars over the decade.
We lost nearly one in four of our positions. This loss of manpower was
devastating, particularly in our two most manpower intensive activities:
all-source analysis and human source collection. By the mid-1990s, recruitment
of new CIA analysts and case officers had come to a virtual halt. NSA
was hiring no new technologists during the greatest information technology
change in our lifetimes. Both Congress and the Executive Branch for
most of the decade embraced the idea that we could surge our resources
to deal with emerging intelligence challenges, including threats from
During this time of increased military operations around the globe,
the Defense Department was also reducing its tactical intelligence units
and funding. This caused the Intelligence Community to stretch its capabilities
to the breaking point, because national systems were covering gaps in
tactical intelligence. It is always our policy to give top priority
to supporting military operations.
While we grappled with a multitude of high priority, overlapping crises,
we had no choice but to modernize selective intelligence systems and
infrastructure in which we had deferred necessary investments and downsized,
or we would have found ourselves out of business.
Throughout the Intelligence Community during this period we made difficult
resource reallocation decisions to try to rebuild critical mission areas
affected by the funding cuts. With the al-Qaida threat growing
more ominous and with our resources devoted to countering it clearly
inadequate, however, we began taking money and people away from other
critical areas to improve our efforts against terrorism.
Despite the resource reductions and the enormous competing demands
for our attention, we managed to triple Intelligence-wide funding for
counterterrorism from fiscal year 1990 to 1999. The Counterterrorist
Centers resources nearly quadrupled in that same period. We had
significantly reallocated both dollars and people inside our programs
to work the terrorism problem.
From a budget perspective, the last part of the 1990s reflects CIAs
efforts to shift to a wartime footing against terrorism. CIAs
budget had declined 18 percent in real terms during the decade and we
suffered a loss of 16 percent of our personnel (this is slightly less
of a cut than the 1 in 4 cited for the Intelligence Community as a whole
earlier). Yet in the midst of that stark resource picture, CIAs
funding level for counterterrorism just prior to 9/11 was more than
50 percent above our FY 1997 level. CIA consistently reallocated and
sought additional resources for this fight. In 1994, the budget request
for counterterrorism activities equaled less than four percent of the
total CIA program. In the FY 2002 CIA budget request we submitted prior
to 9/11, counterterrorism activities constituted almost 10 percent of
the budget request. During a period of budget stringency when we were
faced with rebuilding essential intelligence capabilities, we had to
make some tough choices. Although resources for virtually everything
else in CIA were going down, counterterrorism resources were going up.
After the US embassies in Africa were bombed, we knew that neither
surging our resources nor internal realignments were sufficient to fund
a war on terrorism. Consequently, in the fall of 1998, I asked the Administration
to increase intelligence funding by more than $2.0 billion annually
for fiscal years 2000-2005 and I made similar requests for FY 2001-2006
and FY 2002-2007. Only small portions of these requests were approved.
Counterterrorism funding and manpower needs were number one on every
list I provided to Congress and the Administration and, indeed, it was
at the top of the funding list approved by Speaker Gingrich in FY1999,
the first year in which we received a significant infusion of new money
for US intelligence capabilities during the decade of the 90s.
That supplemental, and those that followed it, were essential to our
efforts. They helped save American lives and we are grateful. We knew,
however, that we could not count on supplemental funds to build multi-year
programs and that is why we worked so hard to reallocate our resources
and to seek five year funding increases.
I want to make a couple of comments about manpower. In CIA alone, I
count the equivalent of 700 officers working counterterrorism in August
2001 at both headquarters and in the field. That number does not include
the people who were working to penetrate either technically or through
human sources a multitude of threat targets from which we could derive
intelligence on terrorists. Nor does it include friendly liaison services
and coalition partners. You simply cannot gauge the level of effort
by counting only the people who had the words al-Qaida
or Bin Ladin in their position description.
We reallocated all the people we could given the demands placed on
us for intelligence on a number of the highest priority issues such
as chemical, nuclear and biological proliferation, and support to operational
military forces. We surged thousands of people to fight this fight when
the threat was highest. When we realized surging was not sufficient,
we began a sustained drumbeat both within the Administration and the
Congress that we had to have more people and money devoted to this fight.
Nonetheless, it will take many more years to recover the capabilities
we lost during the resource decline of the 1990s.
Up to now I have been talking about the terrorist threat and the actions
of organizations to combat it. I would like to turn briefly to a more
personal topicthe role the American people have entrusted to me
in this important endeavor.
The DCI is prosecuting this war every day. I was doing that before
the September 11 attacks and I am doing it now. Going back to the Millennium
threat period, there is a meeting almost every day at CIA about what
we are doing operationally; what the relationships are among all the
The need for the DCI to lead and communicate on these issues is never
going to change. The meeting in my conference room at five oclock
five days a week could be the most important meeting that occurs in
Washington on terrorism, because operational and analytic decisions
are made on the spot about global terrorism, al-Qaida, Afghanistan,
the terrorist threat from chemical, biological, and radiological weapons,
and the financial war on terrorism. Representatives from all the major
agencies are there.
Obviously, terrorism is an issue on which the DCI chooses to spend
an enormous amount of personal time. I spend it at the strategic level,
the tactical level, and understanding our operations and analysis. There
is not a more dangerous threat to the country than this. I am personally
involved with our liaison partners, often making direct phone calls
for operational discussions. In the Millennium period alone I personally
talked with 20 of our liaison partners to alert them to our findings
about targets and the need to go after them. Every visit I take overseas
has a counterterrorism or al-Qaida component to it.
That was the reality of my job before September 11 and it is the reality
now. I continue to devote the greatest proportion of my time to the
war on terror, just as I did before 9/11. Operations are more complex
now, and counterterrorism is intensely operational. There is a constant
flow of new data, new threat reporting, new people, and new relationships.
There are new and bigger actors on the scene, because there is a very
different set of relationships with the military than existed before
9/11. I have a close working relationship with the Central Command and
with the Special Operations Command that is different today and very
intense. CIA is engaged in direct support to our military in counterterrorism
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other theatres of operation
on a scale not seen since Vietnam.
There is a difference in the pace and scope of my relationship with
the FBI, now that we have created a common threat matrix and common
data points that we review and discuss each day. We have more joint
investigations and CIA support to their investigations.
From a technical perspective we are collecting a lot more data because
we have a lot more people in the fight than we ever had before. We are
managing a collection process that integrates the National Security
Agency and a new and very important Information Operations Center. We
can integrate them with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process
in a way that was never done before.
- Specifically, the Patriot Act authorized intelligence officials
engaged in the collection of foreign intelligence under the FISA to
consult with law enforcement personnel in order to coordinate efforts
to investigate or protect against threats to national security.
- Additionally, law enforcement personnel are required by the Patriot
Act to share with the DCI foreign intelligence obtained during criminal
- Finally, the Patriot Act gave me the authority to establish requirements
and priorities for the collection of foreign intelligence information
pursuant to the FISA, an authority that I have exercised.
We have a very robust analytical effort that is substantially bigger
than before. Additional supplemental funding provided by the Congress
has provided an enormous amount of impetus. From a management perspective,
we have a much bigger cadre of people working the problem than we ever
had before. We also learned that we could not fight this war effectively
without a trusting, professional, dedicated set of liaison partners
to help with collection and operations.
Whoever sits in this job is going to be right in the middle of countering
terror for their entire time in office. It does not matter who it is.
Yes, we have broken down a lot of stovepipes. But, there are still things
you work on all the time. The big management moral of the story is that
you have got to be here doing it hands-on in a continuous way.
One month ago, on February 24, I presented to the Congress and the
American people my annual worldwide threat assessment. I began that
testimony with a stark bottom line on terrorism, and I will repeat it
here today for you.
First, though, I should tell you what we know so far about the recent
tragic bombings in Madrid, Spain. While the investigation is far from
complete, available information strongly implicates Spain-based Islamic
extremists linked to al-Qaida as being responsible. Spanish authorities
have detained nearly a dozen suspects, many with ties to former Spain
al-Qaida cell leader Barakat Yarkas, but we have no information
indicating whether the central al-Qaida leadership ordered or
approved the attack.
- The explosives used were inexpensive and likely obtained locally
and the key suspects appear to have some explosives expertise. This
suggests that they could have launched the attack without financial
or operational help from al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.
- Europe-based al-Qaida associates traditionally have received
little or no oversight or funding from al-Qaida leaders, judging
from a variety of reporting since 11 September 2001. We suspect that
there may be over 100 al-Qaida trained extremists in Europe.
- We have no information suggesting the Basque Fatherland and Liberty
(ETA) terrorist group was involved in the attack, but we continue
to explore the possibility.
Returning to the threat assessment, the al-Qaida leadership structure
we charted after September 11 is seriously damaged, but the group remains
as committed as ever to attacking the US homeland. As we continue the
battle against al-Qaida, we must overcome a global movement infected
by al-Qaidas radical agenda. In this battle we are moving
forward in our knowledge of the enemys plans, capabilities, and
intentions. What we have learned continues to validate my deepest concernthat
this enemy remains intent on obtaining, and using, catastrophic weapons.
Now let me tell you about the war we have waged against the al-Qaida
organization and its leadership. Military and intelligence operations
by the United States and its allies overseas have degraded the group.
Local al-Qaida cells are forced to make their own decisions because
of disarray in the central leadership.
Al-Qaida depended on leaders who not only direct terrorist attacks
but also who carry out the day-to-day tasks that support operations.
Over the past 18 months, we have killed or captured key al-Qaida
leaders in every significant operational arealogistics, planning,
finance, and training. We have eroded the key pillars of the organization,
such as the leadership in Pakistani urban areas and operational cells
in the al-Qaida heartland of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The list of al-Qaida leaders and associates who will never again
threaten the American people includes:
- Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, al-Qaidas operations chief and
the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
- Nashiri, the senior operational planner for the Arabian Gulf area.
- Abu Zubayda, a senior logistics officer and plotter.
- Hasan Ghul, a senior facilitator who was sent to case Iraq for an
expanded al-Qaida presence there.
- Harithi and al-Makki, the most senior plotters in Yemen, who were
involved in the bombing of the USS Cole.
- Hambali, the senior operational planner in Southeast Asia.
We are creating large and growing gaps in the al-Qaida hierarchy.
Unquestionably, bringing these key operators to ground disrupted plots
that would otherwise have killed Americans. Al-Qaidas finances
are also being squeezed. This is due in part to takedowns of key moneymen
in the past year, particularly the Gulf, Southwest Asia, and even Iraq.
Meanwhile, al-Qaida central continues to lose operational safehavens,
and Bin Ladin has gone deep underground. We are hunting him in one of
the unfriendliest regions on earth. We follow every lead.
We are receiving a broad array of help from our coalition partners,
who have been central to our effort against al-Qaida.
- Since the May 12, 2003 bombings, the Saudi government has shown
an important commitment to fighting al-Qaida in the Kingdom,
and Saudi officers have paid with their lives.
- Elsewhere in the Arab world, we are receiving valuable cooperation
from Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, the UAE, Oman, and many others.
- President Musharraf of Pakistan remains a courageous and indispensable
ally who has become the target of assassins for the help he has given
- Partners in Southeast Asia have been instrumental in the roundup
of key regional associates of al-Qaida.
- Our European partners worked closely together to unravel and disrupt
a continent-wide network of terrorists planning chemical, biological,
and conventional attacks in Europe.
We have made notable strides. Do not misunderstand meI am not
suggesting al-Qaida is defeated. It is not. We are still at war.
Al-Qaida is a learning organization that is committed to attacking
the United States, its friends, and allies. Successive blows to al-Qaidas
central leadership have transformed the organization into a loose collection
of regional networks that operate more autonomously. These regional
components have demonstrated their operational prowess in the past year.
- The sites of their attacks span the entire reach of al-QaidaMorocco,
Kenya, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
and Indonesia, for example.
- Al-Qaida seeks to influence the regional networks with operational
training, consultations, and money.
You should not take the fact that these attacks occurred abroad to
mean the threat to the US homeland has waned. As al-Qaida and
associated groups undertook these attacks overseas, detainees consistently
talk about the importance the group still attaches to striking the main
enemy: the United States. Across the operational spectrumair,
maritime, special weaponswe have time and again uncovered plots
that are chilling.
- On aircraft plots alone, we have uncovered new plans to recruit
pilots and to evade security measures in Southeast Asia, the Middle
East, and Europe.
- Even catastrophic attacks on the scale of September 11 remain within
al-Qaidas reach. Make no mistakewherever these plots
are hatched, they target US soil or that of our allies.
So far, I have been talking only about al-Qaida, but al-Qaida
is not the limit of terrorist threat worldwide. Al-Qaida has infected
others with its ideology, which depicts the United States as Islams
The steady growth of Usama bin Ladins anti-US sentiment through
the wider Sunni extremist movement and the broad dissemination of al-Qaidas
destructive expertise ensure that a serious threat will remain for the
foreseeable futurewith or without al-Qaida in the picture.
A decade ago, bin Ladin had a vision of rousing Islamic terrorists
worldwide to attack the United States. He created al-Qaida to
indoctrinate a worldwide movement in global jihad, with America as the
enemyan enemy to be attacked with every means at hand.
In the minds of Bin Ladin and his cohorts, September 11 was the shining
moment, their shot heard round the world, and they
want to capitalize on it.
Even as al-Qaida reels from our blows, other extremist groups
within the movement it influenced have become the next wave of the terrorist
threat. Dozens of such groups exist. Let me offer a few thoughts on
how to understand this challenge.
- One of the most immediate threats is from smaller international
Sunni extremist groups who have benefited from al-Qaida links.
They include groups as diverse as the al-Zarqawi network, the Ansar
al-Islam in Iraq, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Jemaah Islamiyah
in Southeast Asia, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
- A second level of threat comes from small local groups, with limited
domestic agendas, that work with international terrorist groups in
their own countries. These include the Salifiya Jihadia, a Moroccan
network that carried out the May 2003 Casablanca bombings, and similar
groups throughout Africa and Asia.
These far-flung groups increasingly set the agenda, and are redefining
the threat we face. They are not all creatures of Bin Ladin, and so
their fate is not tied to his. They have autonomous leadership, they
pick their own targets, and they plan their own attacks.
Beyond these groups are the so-called foreign jihadists.
These individuals are ready to fight anywhere they believe Muslim lands
are under attack by what they see as infidel invaders. They
draw on broad support networks, have wide appeal, and enjoy a growing
sense of support from Muslims who are not necessarily supporters of
terrorism. The foreign jihadists see Iraq as a golden opportunity.
Let me repeat: for the growing number of jihadists interested in attacking
the United States, a spectacular attack on the US Homeland is the brass
ring that many strive for, with or without encouragement by al-Qaidas
To detect and ultimately defeat these forces, we will continually need
to watch hotspots, present or potential battlegrounds, and places where
these terrorist networks converge. Iraq is of course one major locus
of concern. Southeast Asia is another. So are the backyards of our closest
allies. Even Western Europe is an area where terrorists recruit, train,
- To get the global job done, foreign governments will need to improve
bilateral and multilateral, and even inter-service cooperation. They
also will have to strengthen domestic counterterrorist legislation
and security practices.
Al-Qaidas interest in chemical, biological, radiological,
and nuclear weapons is strong. Acquiring these is a religious obligation
in Bin Ladins eyes. Al-Qaida and more than two dozen other
terrorist groups are pursuing these materials. Over the last year, we
have also seen an increase in the threat of more sophisticated weaponry.
For this reason we take very seriously the threat of a chemical, biological,
or radiological attack.
- We particularly see a heightened risk of poison attacks. Contemplated
delivery methods to date have been simple but this may change as non-al-Qaida
groups share information on more sophisticated methods and tactics.
- Extremists have widely disseminated assembly instructions for an
improvised chemical weapon using common materials that could cause
a large numbers of casualties in a crowded, enclosed area.
- Although gaps in our understanding remain, we see al-Qaidas
program to produce anthrax as one of the most immediate terrorist
mass casualty threats we are likely to face.
- Al-Qaida continues to pursue its strategic goal of obtaining
a nuclear capability. It remains interested in dirty bombs. Terrorist
documents contain accurate views of how such weapons would be used.
Other terrorist organizations also threaten US interests. Palestinian
terrorist groups in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza remain a formidable
threat and continue to use terrorism to undermine prospects for peace.
- Last year Palestinian terrorist groups conducted more than 600 attacks,
killing about 200 Israelis and foreigners, including Americans.
- Lebanese Hizballah cooperates with these groups and appears to be
increasing its support. It is also working with Iran and surrogate
groups in Iraq and would likely react to an attack against it, Syria,
or Iran with attacks against US and Israeli targets worldwide.
- Iran and Syria continue to support terrorist groups, and their links
into Iraq have become problematic to our efforts there.
Finally, cyber vulnerabilities are another of our concerns, with terrorists,
foreign governments, hackers, crime groups, and industrial spies all
attempting to obtain information from our computer networks.
Since September 11, we have been essentially responsive threat by threat.
I expect to continue to discover terrorists plans, to warn of
threats, to analyze the terrorists capabilities. Our challengemine,
the governments, and the American peoplesis to turn
the warnings into actions that can save lives.
The first step in that process is to manage our risk more effectively.
We need to fine-tune our defensive response so that we are reducing
the risk from the threat we have identified. One size does not fit all.
We need to become more agile in our response. For example, we can adopt
sector-by-sector approaches, as we did during this last holiday season.
We learned of threats to specific flights and we took countermeasures
without disrupting large portions of the airline industry. At times
we may need quieter approaches to avoid alerting the people we are trying
to stop. At other times we may need a nationwide alerta brute
force response so that terrorists see what we are doing and retreat.
That can buy us the time we need to disrupt their operation.
We have learned a lot since September 11 from supporting our military
forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. We are going to have to
use that experience to support governors, mayors, chiefs of police,
and the like if we are going to reduce our risk of terrorist attack.
We need to share critical information quickly and seamlessly. We need
systems to put our intelligence at the disposal of those who need it
wherever they may be and whatever their specific responsibilities are
for protecting us from attack.
We will become more able to manage risk as the Department of Homeland
Security and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) evolve.
More importantly, we will become more effective and more agile when
we have tapped the talent of people on the line at the federal, state,
and local levels of government. Officials on the visa line in embassies
abroad, immigration posts throughout the US, and key officials in state
and local governments can help provide the information we need to defend
ourselves. In particular, we need to ensure that police officers have
the information they need to spot and stop terrorists before they strike.
The burden is on us in the Intelligence Community to protect intelligence
as we distribute it. The cop on the beat does not need a Top Secret
The Terrorist Threat Integration Center, established May 1, 2003, exemplifies
a new way that the Federal Government is doing business to advance our
analytic capabilities in the fight against terrorism. For the first
time we have unfettered access to intelligence databases and other terrorist
threat-related information spanning the intelligence, law enforcement,
homeland security, diplomatic, and military communities. The Center
has connectivity with 14 separate US Government networks, enabling information
sharing as never before. This unprecedented access to information is
enabling us to provide a comprehensive, all-source-based picture of
terrorist threats to US interests at home and abroad.
TTICs goal is to ensure that threat information gets to all who
play a role in protecting the American people from terrorism. TTICs
partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, for instance, helps to ensure that information
and analysis are passed expeditiously to state and local officials and
to law enforcement personnel.
- Rapid sharing of threat information is critical. Some call state
and local officials and law enforcement entities our first responders,
but if the information reaches them in time, they are really our first
and last defenders.
The Center and other inter-agency efforts have made tangible progress
toward better information sharing. To that end, the Center hosts a joint
program office to facilitate information sharing. This joint office
is focused currently on key impediments to the free flow of terrorism-related
- TTIC sponsors a classified website that has more than 3 million
terrorism-related documents from the intelligence, law enforcement,
homeland security, and military communities.
- Our use of an information handling restriction known as ORCON,
or Originator Control, has dropped almost in half since
the latter part of 2001. This change allows more rapid sharing of
sensitive information within the US Government. We are determined
to reduce the use of this control much more, and any such controls
will be used only to the extent that they are consistent with the
Presidents priority on preventing, preempting, and disrupting
- The use of tear line reporting so that terrorism-related
information can be disseminated to a much broader audience in a timely
manner without revealing sensitive sources or methods has increased
by 70 percent since late 2001.
TTIC is also responsible for integrating and maintaining a repository
of international terrorist identities information in support of a streamlined
system for watchlisting and terrorist screening activities. To date,
the Center has approximately 100,000 international terrorist identities
catalogued. TTIC works hand in glove with the FBI-administered Terrorist
Screening Center, which ensures that front line law enforcement officers,
consular officials, and immigration and border personnel have the capability
to rapidly screen individuals known or suspected to be terrorists and
to respond before they enter the US.
The integration of perspectives from the many agencies and departments
that reside in the Center is a force multiplier in the fight against
- On a strategic level, the Center has developed reporting mechanisms
by which the President and key Cabinet officials are briefed daily
on the key threats as well as actions underway. This provides a common
foundation of information for decision-making regarding actions to
disrupt terrorist plans.
- On a tactical level, the analysis performed collectively among partner
agencies and departments that reside in TTIC allows us to be more
agile. We can, for example, use it to shape the mitigation measures
and security procedures that protect US citizens, property, and interests
at home and abroad.
All this will be neither easy nor cheap. We will need sophisticated
distribution systems. We will need substantial training and retraining,
then more training. We cannot place this burden on state and local officials.
Large, sustained budget infusions will be required separate from our
other resource needs.
An adversary is out there who has a strategic targeting doctrine. We
know what the doctrine is. We have to stop thinking about this from
a tactical perspective of depending on discovering the day, time, and
place of the next attack. It is the wrong intellectual premise to think
about it that way. Rather, we as a nation have to start thinking about
how we take what we know about al-Qaidas doctrine and apply
it, in terms of real actions to protect ourselves and to close gaps
in our security that will make it harder for the terrorists to succeed.
I must emphasize to the American people that we are going to live with
this for the foreseeable future. It is not going away. We need to focus
on our heartland and our homeland because people want to come hurt us.
It is not going to change.
- The terrorists have a tactical advantage. They can pick and choose
any of countless targets as they please and attack them with misguided
martyrs who do not care how many innocent people they
kill or injure.
- Ironically, the success we have had wrapping up al-Qaida leaders
and disrupting its communications and finances increases the odds
that local cells, driven by their extremist hatred and cut off from
senior planners, may take independent actions to kill Americans at
- We have learned an important lesson that we cannot race from threat
to threat, disrupt it, and then move on. Targets at risk remain at
risk. We have gone on high alert several times for good reason, only
to have no attack occur. I wish I could say these were false alarms,
but they were not.
- Total success against such threats is impossible. Some attackers
will get through to us despite our determined efforts and despite
any conceivable defenses we mount.
- We must design systems that reduce both the chances of an attacker
getting through and the impact if he or she does. We must address
both the threat and our vulnerability and not allow ourselves to mentally
move on while the enemy is still at large and intent on murder.
There are no easy fixes. We in the Intelligence Community will continue
to look incisively at how we carry out our missions and will listen
intently to suggestions about how we can do our jobs better; but we
must also be honest with ourselves and with the American public about
the world in which we live.
The National Commission can help, too. We look forward to your recommendations
and guidance to not only the CIA but to all the entities that are engaged
in this important fight. The Joint Inquiry of the Senate and House Intelligence
Committees in its Report last year made 19 recommendations to improve
the nations ability to combat terrorism. The Intelligence Community
has taken action on all of them that are within our control. Among these
- The President signed National Security Presidential Directive 26
to create a dynamic process for articulating and reviewing intelligence
priorities. DCI Directive 2/3 established a National Intelligence
Priorities Framework as a mechanism to translate the national foreign
intelligence objectives and priorities approved by the National Security
Council into specific guidance and resource allocations for the Intelligence
- In February 2003 the President issued the National Strategy for
Combating Terrorism, incorporating strategic planning elements of
national security, homeland security, combating weapons of mass destruction,
securing cyberspace, and protecting critical infrastructure.
- The position of National Intelligence Officer for Transnational
Threats has been established and an officer and deputy are in place.
- The Terrorist Threat Integration Center was established in May 2003
to enable the full integration of terrorist threat-related information
and analysis. The Center is a joint venture composed of officers from
five major partners (CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department
of Defense, Department of State), as well as from organizations such
as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, and Capitol
Police. The Center reports directly to the DCI in his or her statutory
capacity as head of the Intelligence Community.
- The FBI is making considerable progress strengthening and improving
its domestic capability in such fields as counterintelligence, counterterrorism,
and analysis and reports. The Bureau has developed a strategic plan
outlining its top counterterrorism priorities, increased hiring and
training and reassigned agents to high-priority programs, and expanded
the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to all 56 Field Offices
and to 28 Resident Agencies.
- An interagency FISA Panel has been established to prioritize foreign
intelligence collection pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act when resources are not sufficient to permit timely processing
of FISA requests.
- A plan to resolve SIGINT technical challenges, provide quarterly
reviews of products and funding, and integrate collection and analytic
capabilities of NSA, CIA, and FBI has been submitted to the House
and Senate Intelligence Committees.
- Measures to enhance recruitment and development of a Counterterrorist
workforce are underway. These include signing the Strategic Direction
for Intelligence Community Language Activities directive to provide
objectives for investment decisions in language training; launching
a five-year, $15 million investment in new computer-delivered proficiency
tests used by the Intelligence Community; and making watchlist training
mandatory for all Counterterrorist Center line officers.
- A DCI Directive was issued to address intelligence information security
in the context of providing expanded access to intelligence information
outside the Intelligence Community.
- The Information Sharing Working Group was established under the
authority of the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community
Management and the Intelligence Community Deputies Committee to develop
a comprehensive strategy for sharing information among intelligence
and law enforcement agencies engaged in counterterrorism.
- Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 established the Terrorist
Screening Center to integrate all terrorist-related watchlist systems.
- Finally, the CIA and the FBI, as well as other Intelligence Community
agencies, continue collection and analysis programs to try to determine
the extent to which foreign governments are providing support to or
are engaged in terrorist activity targeting the US.