AMERICA'S CLANDESTINE SERVICE &
U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM POLICY
By James L. Pavitt
Two-and-a-half years ago, the terrorist adversary shattered the sense of security that the people of this country had come to cherish.† We fought this enemy through the 1990s, but it was the tragedy of September 11, 2001, 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 is almost gone.†Osama bin Ladin and Al-Zawahiri are in hiding.†Clandestine operations have been at the heart of some of the most dramatic takedowns of the Al-Qa'ida organization.†Covert action is working hand-in-glove with the U.S. military to oust the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida from Afghanistan in an intelligence/military partnership that is seen as a model.†
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:
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:
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, the CIA's Directorate of Operations, is at the heart of this transformation. The Directorate of Operations is comprised of† men and women who are committed to helping their countrymen regain some of their sense of security, the American way, which has become so tested in these past few years.
Where does this leave us, today, in this campaign? The terrorist adversary is hurt, but we are by no means through 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 Al-Qa'ida leadership plotting. The cities have been cleared of senior jihadist leaders by our work in partnership with Pakistan and its courageous leader, President Pervez Musharraf. Iran detained many of the terrorist 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 strike in Bali, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, Morocco, and elsewhere. They did so 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 as 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. There has been 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, have been 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. It operate, not just to take down individual terrorists, but to follow terrorists' finances; their efforts to find chemical, biological, or radiological materials; terrorist recruitment; false document rings; alien smuggling.† The clandestine service is working on every aspect of this international terrorist network.
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, D.C., end of this story, today, is no less vibrant. Visit my building; let me tell you what you will see. With respect to covert action, you would see interaction and coordination with the U.S. military that are not just a regular occurrence; they occur 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 Intelligence 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 the terrorist 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, 2004, 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 Osama 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 of America 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 never will.
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 the1990s. It will take us years to get where we need to be, in clandestine training, language skills, and field experience. Field officers will be crucial.
The 1990s were lean times for the human intelligence business. As a result of the post Cold War's socalled "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 pace. 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 USA 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 dispersed.†
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, but also expand on programs to run joint human sources with them, here in the homeland as well as overseas. We must. Our adversary doesn't respect our borders; we have to have the capability, working with law enforcement, to ensure that the U.S. 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 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 11. We did all we knew how to do. We failed to stop the attacks.
I can assure you the memory of your loved ones continues to be a tremendous source of inspiration to those of us who dedicate our lives to combating this enemy. We will succeed.
The Middle East & the Arabs
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
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War & Peace in the Real World
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
James L. Pavitt, the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations, presented the foregoing statement, on April 4, 2004, as testimony at the
hearings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon rhe United States (9-11 Commission).
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