It Will Take Us Years to Get Where We Need to Be
It Will Take Us Years to Get
Where We Need to Be
Written Statement for the Record of James
L. Pavitt Deputy Director for Operations before
the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States Washington,
DC of Mass Destruction (WMD) Programs,
14 April 2004.
Cood morning. It is a privilege for me to appear
before this commission on an issue of vital importance to our nation. By virtue
of my position in the CIA, I am not a public person. Indeed, in the history of
the CIA, no one in my position has ever testified publicly.
And, like my colleagues here at
the table, I am a public servant, dedicated to defending the security of our
nation. For the last five of my more than 30 years in the intelligence
business, I have had the honor of leading a unique organization—the Directorate
of Operations—the clandestine service of America. I am remarkably proud of this
extraordinary group of dedicated professionals, their commitment and their
accomplishments. Many of the men and women of my organization operate abroad in
dangerous locales and always in secret. They cannot publicly appear before you
today. I am here to represent them all.
The threat posed by terrorists
prior to 9/11 was unambiguous. The threat was not just outlined in sensitive
intelligence documents. Two highly regarded commissions—the Bremer Commission
and the Hart Rudman Commission—were prophetic in laying out in unclassified
reports, the terrorist threat we faced—including the possibility of terrorists
inflicting mass casualties both overseas and on American soil.
Two-and-a-half years ago, that
adversary shattered the sense of security that the people of this country have
come to cherish. We fought this enemy through the 1990s, but it was the tragedy
of September 11 that unified and focused this country and allowed us to counter
this threat as never before.
The damage to al-Qa'ida since
that tragedy has been striking. The pre-9/11 al-Qa'ida leadership, almost gone. Bin
Ladin and al-Zawahiri, in hiding. Clandestine operations, at the heart of some
of the most dramatic takedowns of the al-Qa'ida organization. Covert action,
working hand-in-glove with the US military to oust the Taliban and al-Qa'ida
from Afghanistan in an intelligence/military partnership that is seen as a
model. I will answer all the questions you have today, but my first
responsibility here is to look at where we are in this campaign. And to give you
a sense of where we are headed. As you know, I cannot publicly describe our
operations in detail. But I can give you, I hope, a clear sense of how we see
this point in time, and how we want to chart the next steps forward. As I paint
this picture, I want to return to a few themes:
Three: The demise of
Bin Ladin and al-Zawahiri will be a signpost, not a turning point. All of us…you,
me, the American people watching today must realize that this is a campaign
with no clear end in sight, a campaign that will continue to demand our
attention, our partners' assistance, and the full commitment of American
resources and tools of national power.
Let me turn to where we are, by
taking a step back for a moment. Think back to October of 2001, and imagine what
you would have said if someone had described the following future to you:
A worldwide coalition
of partners, dozens and dozens, cooperating despite occasional political
differences, in a global, behind-the-scenes war of massive, indeed
Despite all we have left to do,
the vision I just described is as real today as it was unimaginable even 30
months ago. The clandestine service I lead is at the heart of this
transformation. Men and women who are committed to helping their countrymen
regain some of the sense of security, the American way, that has become so
tested in these past few years.
Where does this leave us, today,
in this campaign? This adversary is hurt, but we are by no means through yet
with al-Qa'ida. The group's leadership was surprised by the ferocity of our
reaction to September 11; they had no coherent escape plan from Afghanistan.
They fled, east into and through Pakistan and west, into and beyond Iran. They
tried to reconstitute a command structure. They failed.
Pakistani cities are no longer a
hub of senior leadership plotting, cleared of senior leaders by our work in
partnership with Pakistan and its courageous leader, President Musharraf. Iran
detained many of the leaders who fled west.
As these leadership nodes eroded,
the operational cells they directed or inspired, in North Africa, the Arabian
Peninsula, and Southeast Asia, coiled to strike. And they did, in Bali, Saudi
Arabia, East Africa, Morocco, and elsewhere. At an operational pace that was no
less intense after September 11 than it was before.
But our operations, in concert
with our partners, are gaining ground against the core of al-Qa'ida. Again, look
back. Two-and-a-half years ago, we would have listed our top concerns: Yemen,
Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia. And we remain concerned about extremists operating
in these areas. But today, almost every senior target is gone in Yemen, killed
or captured. We have a level of cooperation in Saudi Arabia that far exceeds
anything we have seen before, and the results show it: damage to the leadership
of almost all the al-Qa'ida cells we have identified in the Kingdom. Progress
as well in Southeast Asia, where we are working against one of al-Qa'ida's most
dangerous affiliates, Jemaah Islamiyah.
These are all places where we
have targeted leadership, through technical operations, human sources, and joint
work with partners. Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali, Nashiri. All
senior al-Qa'ida leaders or associates, all taken down directly as a result of
human source operations that are the fuel for our successes today.
The capabilities and
partnerships we are using to fight this campaign are notable, not only for what
they bring to bear in the field overseas but also for the unity of effort they
represent at home. Overseas, every station in the clandestine service has
counterterrorism as its top priority. Not just to take down individual
terrorists, but to follow finances; terrorists' efforts to find chemical,
biological, or radiological materials; terrorist recruitment; false document
rings; alien smuggling. we are working on every aspect of this international
I've mentioned our work with
services worldwide as one of the tools we are using. I cannot overestimate the
importance of the global clandestine coalition we are forging. We work with
friends, we work with foes. We cover a terrorist target around this globe using
a cadre of case officers that is smaller than the number of FBI officers who
work in New York City alone.
Complementing these classic
clandestine operations is a covert action capability that became critically
important two-and-a-half years ago. My officers remain in the field in
Afghanistan, today providing the intelligence eyes that are helping to drive the
operations of our military partners. This capability did not appear overnight.
Remember, our ability to move quickly in Afghanistan, one of the most successful
covert actions ever, grew out of the strategic decision we made in the late
1990s to maintain a relationship with the Northern Alliance.
The Washington end of this
story, today, is no less vibrant. Visit my building; let me tell you what you
will see. On covert action, interaction and coordination with the US military
that is not just regular, it is daily, every single working day. We talk with
military field operators, daily, and Pentagon civilian and military officers sit
in our Counterterrorist Center, privy to any operational detail we discuss. You
would see the same cooperation with law enforcement. On any given day, some 20
full-time FBI officers sit in our Counterterrorist Center. They know our
operations, and they know our human agents. We still need to learn how to
continue improving this partnership, but we started learning well before
September 11, when we first posted a senior FBI officer as one of the deputy
directors in the Center. We can and we will be better still.
People outside this circle have
access to what we know, including information about our operations. We provide
our backbone database, a highly sensitive combination of intelligence reporting
and operational detail, to officers across the community who are sitting in the
Terrorist Threat Integration Center. And we have a large cadre of officers whose
sole job it is to disseminate intelligence information to the Intelligence
Community and beyond. If we receive a threat, we disseminate it immediately.
I am proud of what this unique
collection of Americans has done. But make no mistake. While we pursue this
enemy, the record since September 11 shows, time and time again, that it can
operate in the midst of decline. I mentioned earlier a few of the operations
al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have conducted since September 11. I will return to
my office today, and I guarantee, before the day is out, my officers will speak
to me about plotters around the world who want to attack us with a lack of
regard for human life that defies description. We are prevailing, but this fight
is far from over.
Why? Why is this so? How can I
speak to you about the series of successes at the same time that I warn you that
the world I see today, April 14, is seething with people who are hatching plots
that are tomorrow's Madrids, Balis, and Casablancas? It is because we are
watching, as we preempt, disrupt, and destroy the relatively small group we know
as al-Qa'ida, the spread of a far looser, flatter movement of people inspired by
Bin Ladin. Our mission will change with this enemy, month by month, year by year.
I've drawn an image of an al-Qa'ida organization that has its back against a
wall, damaged but still potent.
Let me now turn for a few
minutes to the movement that this group has spawned, the movement that I believe
represents the next stage in this long campaign. Bin Ladin and his operators
attacked in East Africa in 1998, in Yemen in 2000, in New York in 2001. But his
organization never saw itself as the sole master of all terrorism. The group
trained Egyptians, Algerians, Moroccans, Saudis, Yemenis, Filipinos ... and
Americans. And, maybe more important, the group developed and disseminated an
ideology that led others, regardless of their affiliation with al-Qa'ida itself,
to see the world as al-Qa'ida does, with the United States as the primary enemy.
What we will face, in the coming years, are those who absorbed this message,
those who now themselves see the murder of innocents as an acceptable cost of
their drive to act on this ideology.
The web we are disrupting is
increasingly global, increasingly dispersed, and increasingly local. And the
tools we use to break down this web must continue to extend beyond intelligence,
the military, and law enforcement. We need diplomacy to keep partners engaged,
education to stem the tide of recruits into this network, economic progress to
undercut the despair that drives people to radicalism. And, above all, we cannot
afford to dilute the focus and commitment to prevent another leader from
emerging to ride this ideological wave. Never forget, because our adversary
The kinds of commitments my
service will need to make reflect this assessment of an international network
that is broad, committed, and durable. We started re-growing the clandestine
service in the 1990s. It will take us years to get where we need to be, in
clandestine training, language skills, and field experience. Field officers will
The 90’s were lean times for the
human intelligence business. As a result of the post Cold War’s so-called
“Peace Dividend,” We were in a period of decline. Our clandestine ranks were
reduced by 20%.During this period, our targets were diverse-from terrorism to
weapons proliferation to counternarcotics-but our resources were not keeping
pave. We worked hard to sustain our collection efforts against the terrorist
target. But let me be clear: We were vastly underfunded and we did not have the
people to do the job.
The tragedy of September 11
unified and focused our government and our country. As a result, we were granted
new and more robust authorities and resources to attack this threat as never
before. The Patriot Act and expanded covert action authorities mandated by
President Bush are important elements of the foreign policy response to 9/11. We
finally had an unprecedented authority to mount an aggressive and effective
offensive Further, we received an immediate infusion of funding to hire hundreds
of additional staff. Today, more than 50% of our funding and about 30% of our
people are focused on the terrorism target. Our Counterterrorism Center has more
than tripled in size since 9/11.
The resources we will need to
fight this war will not diminish.They may in fact increase, directly as a result
of the fact that our operations, like our enemy, will have to be global and
This vision of an overseas
intelligence coalition, working with our clandestine assistance and supported by
al the tools of national power, must run in parallel to a homeland architecture
that gives us the same sort of teamwork. As we attack this target, we will not
only coordinate with our law enforcement colleagues, we will expand on programs
to run joint human sources with them, not only overseas but here in the
homeland. We must. Our adversary doesn’t respect our borders; we have to have
the capability, working with law enforcement, to ensure that this government can
operate seamlessly across borders as well.
Our operational focus is
shifting as well, to meet the challenge of the coming years of this fight.We
have invested, in the months and years after September 11, in taking out the
leadership of the organization that conceptualized and conducted the attack. We
came to understand better how embedded their web is.We will maintain these
disruption operations against the Al-Qa’ida organization, but we will also
increasingly shift to aggressive infiltration of the broader network, to
recruitment and penetration operations that will allow us to map this web, not
just its operations but its low-level and support personnel. We are taking down
those who plotted the murder of 3,000 Americans; we are planning for a future
where we take down those who may follow them.
I know it is time to turn your
to your questions but first I must speak on behalf of those men and women of the
CIA who could not be here today but who work so hard to stop Bin Laden and his
associates; indeed their lives are consumed with combating the terrorist threat.
To the families, I
want to extend our heartfelt condolences to you for the tragic loss of your
loved ones. My officers sounded the alarm about the gathering, lethal threat
and put their hearts and souls into disrupting and preventing attacks against
America. Their commitment, bravery, sacrifice and dedication to the defense of
our nation are second to none. But in the end that was not enough to stop the
attacks on September 11th. We did all we knew ho to do. We failed to stop the