We Are Not Yet Optimally Configured to Deal with the Terrorist Threat
We Are Not Yet Optimally
Configured to Deal with the Terrorist Threat
Written Statement for the Record of John
O. Brennan Director,
Terrorist Threat Integration Center on Law Enforcement and the Intelligence
Community before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United
States Washington, D.C.,
April 14, 2004.
Good morning, Chairman Kean,
Vice Chairman Hamilton, and Members of the National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks Upon the United States.
I welcome the
opportunity to join my colleagues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) to discuss intelligence and law enforcement efforts to prevent
terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. It is also a privilege for me to
represent the many men and women from throughout the Government who have joined
forces in an unprecedented manner in the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center
As members of the
Commission and the American public well know, the scourge of international
terrorism poses a serious threat to U.S. interests, both at home and abroad.
Since the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, hundreds of innocent lives
have been lost in terrorist attacks in Tunisia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia,
Indonesia, Turkey, and Spain. More attacks are in the planning stages, and U.S.
lives and property are being actively targeted by al-Qa’ida and other terrorist
organizations that have death and destruction as their principal goals.
We learned some painful
lessons on September 11, 2001. We learned that while we had developed a wide
array of U.S. Government counterterrorism capabilities and accrued a vast amount
of information about those who would do us harm, we lacked a government-wide
ability to integrate knowledge, data systems, expertise, mission, and
capabilities, which are the critical weapons in the fight against terrorism. It
is only through such integration of effort that we will be able to prevent
As we strive as a
nation to create such a framework, a key objective of the U.S. Government’s
counterterrorism strategy today is to ensure that all agencies and departments
involved in the fight against terrorism share threat information and finished
analysis that can be used to prevent terrorist attacks. At the direction of the
President, TTIC began its mission May 1, 2003, specifically to achieve this
objective for counterterrorism analysis.
TTIC represents a new
way of optimizing the U.S. Government’s knowledge and formidable capabilities in
the fight against terrorism. For the first time in our history, a multi-agency
entity has access to information systems and databases spanning the
intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomatic, and military
communities that contain information related to the threat of international
terrorism. In fact, TTIC has direct-access connectivity with 14 separate U.S.
Government networks -- with connectivity to another 10 networks planned --
enabling information sharing as never before in the U.S. Government. This unprecedented access to information allows us to gain a comprehensive
understanding of terrorist threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad and,
most importantly, to provide this information and related analysis to those
responsible for detecting, disrupting, deterring, and defending against
A key objective of TTIC
is to develop an integrated information technology architecture so that
sophisticated analytic tools and federated search capabilities can be applied to
the many terabytes of data available to the Federal Government. We must be able
to cross check these different data sets, which are collected by departments and
agencies statutorily authorized to do so, in a manner that allows us to identify
terrorists and their supporters before they reach our shores or when they emerge
within our midst. Simply put, we need to create new knowledge from existing
information. We can do this, with complete respect for the privacy rights of
U.S. persons and in accordance with the Constitution, as we work together in a
collaborative and integrated manner.
There exists within the
TTIC “joint venture” real-time collaboration among analysts from a broad array
of agencies and departments who sit side-by-side, sharing information and
connecting the scattered pieces of the terrorism puzzle. These partners include
not only the FBI, CIA, and the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland
Security, but also other Federal agencies and departments, currently including
the Capitol Police, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. Other federal departments and agencies have been invited to join.
As envisioned by the
President, this physical integration of expertise and sharing of information
enables and empowers the key organizations involved in the fight against
terrorism. Collectively, they are fulfilling their shared responsibilities in
a fused environment, “doing business” jointly as TTIC. This fusion and
synergy will be further enhanced when TTIC and most of CIA’s Counterterrorist
Center and FBI’s Counterterrorism Division collocate at a state-of-the-art
facility this summer.
business model not only capitalizes on our respective and cumulative
expertise, but it also optimizes analytic resources in a manner that allows us
to cover more effectively and comprehensively the vast expanse of terrorist
threats that will face the Homeland and U.S. interests worldwide for the
The integration of
perspectives from multiple agencies and departments represented in TTIC is
serving as a force multiplier in the fight against terrorism. On a strategic
level, TTIC provides the President and key Cabinet officials a daily analytic
product on the most serious terrorist threats and related terrorism information
that serves as a common foundation for decision-making regarding the actions
necessary to disrupt terrorist plans. Rather than multiple threat assessments
and disparate information flows on the same subject matter being forwarded
separately to senior policymakers, information and finished analysis are now
fused in a multi-agency environment so that an integrated and comprehensive
threat picture is provided. If there are analytic differences on the nature or
seriousness of a particular threat, they are incorporated into the analysis.
transform threat information and analysis into alerts and advisories in order to
better prepare the Nation as well as to warn targets of potential terrorist
For example, TTIC
issued a terrorist threat alert at 11:00 p.m. on 20 December of last year,
which triggered senior-level discussions and a subsequent decision before noon
the following day to raise the national threat condition level to “orange.”
assessments also have had an impact overseas. TTIC advisories, warnings, and
alerts about threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East, Europe, and
Southeast Asia have prompted reviews and adjustments of security postures and
procedures at various locations over the past year.
In addition to
connecting the proverbial intelligence “dots” and doing analytic assessments,
TTIC also is actively working to ensure that terrorist threat information and
finished analysis are disseminated to those who play a role in protecting U.S.
interests at home and abroad. For example, TTIC sponsors a top secret website,
TTIC Online, that has in excess of 3 ½ million terrorism-related documents at
various levels of classification from the intelligence, law enforcement,
homeland security, diplomatic, and military communities.
In the coming months,
TTIC Online will be replicated at lower classification levels that will
enhance the ability of DHS and FBI to make more terrorism-related material
available to state and local government officials, law enforcement entities,
and the private sector.
In addition, a joint
information-sharing program office of TTIC partner agencies is currently focused
on addressing key impediments to the free flow of terrorism-related information.
Community traditionally has used a marking called “ORCON,” or “Originator
Control," which limits the dissemination of intelligence reports. The
Intelligence Community has reduced the percentage of terrorism-related ORCON
documents by about half since the latter part of 2001, from approximately 11
percent then to 6 percent now.
significant progress has been made by the Intelligence Community on the use of
“tear-line” reporting -- reporting where sensitive sources and methods
information has been removed so the information can be disseminated in a
timely manner to a broader audience. The availability and use of tear-lines
has increased nearly 70 percent since 2001.
Under Homeland Security
Presidential Directive 6 of September 2003, TTIC is also responsible for
integrating and maintaining a single repository of all U.S. Government
international terrorist identities information in support of a streamlined
Government-wide system for “watchlisting” and terrorist screening activities.
To date, TTIC has approximately 100,000 known or suspected international
terrorist identities catalogued. This information is provided to 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 before they enter the United States.
I cannot tell you that
all of these efforts have enjoyed smooth sailing, as there are many challenges
associated with what is, in essence, the crafting of a new national terrorism
analysis and information-sharing framework to better protect this nation. We
need to implement this revolutionary concept in a thoughtful and evolutionary
fashion, as my colleagues on this panel are actively engaged in fighting a
global war against terrorism, and I believe that we cannot afford to adversely
affect these activities by dislocations associated with organizational change or
abrupt shifts in analytic responsibility. In particular, this new national
framework for the cross-government integration of information systems,
expertise, and analytic missions should not come at the expense of operational,
collection, covert action, and investigative activities of our Intelligence, Law
Enforcement, and Homeland Security Communities.
As we continue in what
is destined to be a multiyear battle against the deadly forces of international
terrorism, my colleagues and I have a special obligation to learn from the
painful lessons of 9/11 and to continue the task of implementing a national
counterterrorism system and strategy that maximizes the security and safety of
all Americans, wherever they live or work. In my personal opinion, the
organizational and information-sharing status quo that existed on September
11, 2001 was inadequate to safeguard America. While significant progress has
been made since then, I believe that we, as a government and as a nation, are
not yet optimally configured to deal with the terrorist threat. This
Commission, with its studied and comprehensive review of the events and factors
that resulted in the tragedies in New York, the Pentagon, and the fields of
Pennsylvania, is ideally suited to take a fresh look at how all the eclectic
parts of the national counterterrorism effort fit together and whether we need
to adopt new and better ways to organize ourselves. It is only by enhancing the
security of Americans everywhere that we will truly honor the lives and the
sacrifice of those who died more than two-and-a-half years ago.