Warning Is Not Good Enough Without the Structure to Put it Into Action
Warning Is Not Good
Enough Without the Structure to Put it Into Action
Written Statement for the Record of the
Director of Central Intelligence George J.
Tenet Before the National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks Upon the United States,
April 14, 2004.
I welcome the opportunity to
appear before the Commission and the American people to address the performance
of the Intelligence Community in the period leading up to September 11, 2001.
First, some context.
By the mid-1990s the
Intelligence Community was operating with significant erosion in resources and
people and was unable to keep pace with technological change. When I became DCI,
I found a Community and a CIA whose dollars were declining and whose expertise
We lost close to 25
percent of our people and billions of dollars in capital investment.
The pace of technological
change and a $3 trillion telecommunications revolution challenged the National
Security Agency’s ability to keep up with the increasing volume and velocity
of modern communications.
The infrastructure to recruit,
train, and sustain officers for our clandestine services—the nation’s human
intelligence capability—was in disarray.
We were not hiring new
analysts, emphasizing the importance of expertise, or giving analysts the
tools they needed.
I also found that the
threats to the nation had not declined or even stabilized, but had grown more
complex and dangerous.
The rebuilding of the
Intelligence Community across the board became my highest priority.
We had to invest in
the transformation and rebuilding of NSA to attack the modern communications
technology that the terrorists and other high priority targets were using.
We had to invest in a future
imagery architecture to replace aging satellites.
We had to overhaul our
recruitment, training, and deployment strategy to rebuild our human
intelligence critical to penetrating terrorist cells.
We had to invest in our people
by recruiting, training, and equipping the best analytical talent we could
And while we were rebuilding
across the board, we ensured that investments in counterterrorism continued to
grow while other priorities either stayed flat or were reduced.
Finally, we knew that
our information systems were becoming obsolescent during the greatest
information technology change in our lifetimes. We were missing opportunities to
gather and fuse data. We recognized the technical problem well before 9/11 and
took steps to solve it.
I challenged the
Intelligence Community to do better in my 1999 “Strategic Intent for the
Intelligence Community.” A cornerstone of this strategy was information
The Intelligence Community
Chief Information Officer began immediately to build a Community information
infrastructure integrated across agencies and with systems that are
While we were doing all
this, terrorism was not the only national security issue we had to worry about.
At no point during this period did we have the luxury to put all our resources
against terrorism alone. As you know well, there was intense interest in such
buildup and the threat to Taiwan,
North Korea’s nuclear
The prospect for war between
India and Pakistan, and
Our support to combat
operations in the Balkans.
Building our overall
capabilities would be instrumental in how we positioned ourselves against al-Qa‘ida
and its terrorist organizations that represented a worldwide network in 68
countries and operated out of a sanctuary in Afghanistan.
We also needed an
integrated operations and collection plan against al-Qa’ida. We had one. I have
previously testified about the 1999 strategy that we called simply, “The Plan.”
The Plan required that collection disciplines be integrated to support worldwide
collection and disruption and penetration operations inside Afghanistan and
other terrorist sanctuaries. CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, CTC, was our
In 1998, after the East
Africa bombings, I directed the Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for
Collection to ensure that all elements of the Intelligence Community had the
right assets focused on the right problem with respect to al-Qa‘ida and Bin
Ladin. He convened frequent meetings of the most senior collection specialists
in the Community to develop a comprehensive approach to support the
Counterterrorist Center’s operations against Bin Ladin.
He told me that despite
progress, we needed a sustained, longer-term effort if the Community was to
penetrate deeply into the Afghanistan sanctuary. We established an integrated
Community collection cell focused on tracking al-Qa‘ida leaders and on
identifying al-Qa‘ida facilities and activities in Afghanistan. The cell, which
met daily, included analysts and operations officers from CIA, imagery officers
from NGA, and SIGINT officers from NSA.
We used these sessions
to drive signals and imagery collection against al-Qa‘ida and to build
innovative capabilities to target Bin Ladin and the al-Qa‘ida organization.
We moved a satellite
to increase our coverage of Afghanistan. CIA and NSA designed and deployed a
clandestine collection system inside Afghanistan. NGA intensified its efforts
across Afghanistan and more imagery analysts were moved to cover al-Qa‘ida.
NGA gave the highest priority to al-Qa‘ida targets in the intense daily
competition for overhead imagery resources.
We established an integrated
Community collection cell that focused on tracking al-Qa‘ida leaders and on
identifying and characterizing al-Qa‘ida facilities and activities in
When Predator began flying in
the summer of 2000, we operated it in a fused, all source environment within
the Counterterrorist Center.
All of this collection
recognized the primacy of human and technical penetration of al-Qa‘ida’s
leadership and network and the necessity to get inside its sanctuary in
Afghanistan. This integration was the context of the plan we put into place in
Between 1999 and
2001, our human agent base against the terrorist target grew by over 50
percent. We ran over 70 sources and sub-sources, 25 of whom operated inside
We received information from
eight separate Afghan tribal networks.
We forged strategic
relationships, consistent with our plan, with liaison services that, because
of their regional access and profile, could enhance our reach. They ran their
own agents into Afghanistan and around the world in response to our al-Qa‘ida-specific
The terrorist training camps
in Afghanistan were critical targets for penetration. Therefore CIA undertook
unilateral and liaison programs to identify individuals to insert directly
into the al-Qa‘ida training program.
The period from early
2000 to September 2001 also was characterized by an important increase in our
unilateral capability. Almost one half of the assets and programs in place in
Afghanistan on September 11 were developed in the preceding 18 months.
By September 11, 2001,
a map would show that these collection programs and human networks were
operating throughout Afghanistan. This array meant that when the military
campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Qa‘ida began that October, we were
already on the ground supporting it with a substantial body of information and a
large stable of assets.
Let me say something
about our analytical work. The record before 9/11 already showed a large number
of very specific reports that represented significant strategic intelligence
analysis on Bin Ladin, al-Qa‘ida, and Islamic extremism. Senior policymakers
were well informed of the terrorist threat by:
Estimates on the foreign terrorist threat in the United States,
Assessments of Bin Ladin’s
quest for a WMD capability,
Analysis of the role of
Islamic financial institutions in financing extremist movements,
Analysis of the key shift in
the Bin Ladin threat from one aimed at US forces in Saudi Arabia to US
Analysis of Bin Ladin’s
command of a global terrorist network, and
Assessments of the critical
role played by Afghanistan in international terrorism.
Our analysis got to the
policymakers in many forms, including daily current intelligence, medium-term
assessments, Community papers, and National Estimates. And it was available to
the most senior policymakers.
The analysis of the
seriousness of the al-Qa‘ida threat was a feature of five major Memorandums of
Notification that underpinned covert action programs.
Analysis was presented and
discussed in the Counterterrorism Security Group chaired by the NSC, which was
the main point of action for formulating policy responses to the terrorist
In my annual public worldwide
threat briefings here on Capitol Hill, I identified terrorism as one of the
top three challenges facing the country every year since becoming DCI, and
every year since 1999 I have highlighted Bin Ladin as the chief threat to US
Assessing Our Performance
The intelligence we
provided to our senior policymakers about the threat al-Qa‘ida posed, its
leadership, its operational span across over 60 countries, and the use of
Afghanistan as a sanctuary was clear and direct. Warning was well understood—even
if the timing and method of the attacks were not.
Community had the right strategy and was making the right investments to
position itself for the future and against al-Qa‘ida specifically.
We made good progress across
intelligence disciplines in attacking al-Qa‘ida. Disruptions, renditions, and
sensitive collection activities no doubt saved lives.
However, we never penetrated
the 9/11 plot. While we positioned ourselves very well with extensive human
and technical penetrations to facilitate the takedown of the Afghan sanctuary,
we did not discern the specific 9/11 operational plot.
We made mistakes. Our
failure to watchlist al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in a timely manner—or the FBI’s
inability to find them in the narrow window of time afforded them—showed
systemic weaknesses and the lack of redundancy.
There were at least
four separate terrorist identity databases at State, CIA, Department of
Defense, and FBI. None were interoperable or broadly accessible.
There were dozens of
watchlists, many haphazardly maintained.
There were legal impediments
to cooperation across the continuum of criminal and intelligence operations.
It was not a secret, we all understood it, but little action was taken by
anyone to create a common arena of criminal and intelligence data that we all
But most profoundly we
lacked a government wide capability to integrate foreign and domestic knowledge,
data, operations, and analysis.
Warning is not good
enough without the structure to put it into action.
We all understood Bin
Ladin’s intent to strike the homeland but were unable to translate this
knowledge into an effective defense of the country.
Doing so would have
complicated the terrorists' calculation of the difficulty in succeeding in a
vast open society that was, in effect, unprotected on September 11.
During periods of
heightened threat, we undertook smart, disciplined actions, but ultimately all
of us must acknowledge that we did not have the data, the span of control, the
redundancy, the fusion, or the laws in place to give us the chance to compensate
for the mistakes that will be made in any human endeavor. This is not a clinical
excuse—3,000 people died. In the end, one thing is clear. No matter how hard we
worked -- or how desperately we tried -- it was not enough . The victims and
the families of 9/11 deserve better.
Let me now describe
some of the changes we have made since the 9/11 attacks.
On the terrorism issue,
the crucial importance of sharing data was greatly assisted by the Patriot Act.
It also is being addressed with the creation of the Terrorist Threat Integration
Center, TTIC. TTIC is capturing in one place data available in FBI and CIA
operational files and data from domestic agencies and the foreign intelligence
community. You will hear more about TTIC later today from its Director. For the
first time we are bringing together in one place intelligence databases and
other terrorist threat-related information spanning the intelligence, law
enforcement, homeland security, diplomatic, and military communities.
Better warning will
result from the integration of data from domestic and foreign sources as
envisioned in TTIC. Yet, warning must be accompanied by action. The Department
of Homeland Security has been established to take action to protect the
homeland. This is an important and necessary initiative. But there must be a
national commitment to sustain and enhance the capabilities of DHS.
We have taken major
strides to achieve a Community that operates more as a single corporate unit
than is commonly understood:
We have put in place
an intelligence requirements system that is reviewed every six months by the
President and the NSC to ensure that we have the most urgent priorities where
they should be. It is more flexible and precise than any previous system.
We have tied our requirements
system into our budget building process so that we can begin planning now to
get the resources we will need not only for today’s issues but also for those
five years or more over the horizon.
We now have a means of
connecting those priority decisions back to our two most precious resources—people
and collection systems. We regularly check our array of collectors and
analysts to ensure not only that we have covered our most urgent needs, but
also that we have the right collectors and analysts assigned. We have a much
better sense of where our gaps lie and where we can find the resources to fill
We also have instituted
processes by which we can shift collection and analytical resources on fairly
short notice to areas where they are most needed. We put a mechanism in place
to work with senior collection managers to ensure that we have integrated
collection strategies against the highest threats to our national security.
We have a Collection Concepts
Development Center to study our toughest analytical issues in order to find
innovative ways to collect against them.
And on the important
information technology front, we have in place a roadmap for building a more
information-integrated Intelligence Community.
As for the future,
proposals to reform or reorganize the Intelligence Community should be
considered in the broader context of the mission of US intelligence. Terrorism,
as important as it is to our national well being, is not the only area of
concern for the country or the Intelligence Community. I would urge the
Commission to consider the following principles as you review management or
We have spent enormous
time and energy transforming our collection, operational and analytic
capabilities. The first thing I would say to the Commission is that the care and
nurturing of these capabilities is absolutely essential.
It will take us another
five years of work to have the kind of clandestine service our country needs.
There is a creative, innovative strategy to get us there that requires sustained
commitment and funding. The same can be said for the National Security Agency,
our imagery agency, and our analytic community. The transformation is well under
way, but our investments in capability must be sustained.
Second, we have created
an important paradigm in the way we have made changes to the foreign
intelligence and law enforcement communities—beginning with the Counterterrorist
Center and evolving through the creation of TTIC—with the fusion of all-source
data in one place against a critical mission area.
This approach could
serve as a model for the intelligence community to organize our most critical
missions around centers where there is an emphasis on fusion, the flow of
data, and full integration of analytic and operational capabilities.
Third, in the foreign
intelligence arena, aside from the President, the DCI's most important
relationship is with the Secretary of Defense. Rather than focus on a zero sum
game of authorities, the focus should be on ensuring that the DCI and the
Secretary of Defense work together to guide investments tied to mission.
Fourth, the DCI has to
have an operational and analytical span of control that allows him or her to
inform the President authoritatively about covert action and other very
Finally, our Oversight
Committees should begin a systematic series of hearings to examine the world we
will face over the next 20-30 years, the operational end state we want to
achieve in terms of structure, and the statutory changes that may need to be
made to achieve these objectives.
Thank you. I look
forward to your questions.
9/11 Commission's web site to review all the testimony from Public Hearing
Staff Statement No. 9: Law Enforcement, Counterterrorism, and Intelligence
Collection in the United States Prior to 9/11
Staff Statement No.10: Threats and Responses in 2001
Staff Statement No. 11: The Performance of the Intelligence Community
Staff Statement No. 12: Reforming Law Enforcement, Counterterrorism, and
Intelligence Collection in the United States
Statement for the Record of James L. Pavitt, Deputy
Director for Operations, before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States, 14 April 2004.
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, 14 April 2004.