THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY & U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM
By George J. Tenet
The pace of technological change 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 the 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 of the National Security Agency to attack modern communications. We had to invest in a future imagery architecture. We had to overhaul our recruitment, training, and deployment strategy to rebuild our human intelligence capabilities and resources, which are critical to penetrating terrorist cells. And we had to invest in our people.
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.
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 "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 .
In 1998, after the East Africa bombings, I directed the Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection to ensure that all elements of intelligence in the Intelligence Community had the right assets focused on the right problem with respect to Al-Qa'ida and Osama bin Laden.
We convened frequent meetings with the most senior collection specialists in the Intelligence Community to develop a comprehensive approach to support the Counterterrorism Center's operations against bin Laden. The Assistant DCI for Collection told me that, despite progress, we needed a sustained, longer-term effort, if the Intelligence Community was to penetrate deeply into the Afghan sanctuary.
We established an integrated community collection cell focused on tracking Al-Qa'ida leaders, identifying their facilities and activities in Afghanistan. The cell, which often met daily, included analysts, operations officers, imagery officers, and officers from the National Security Agency. We used these sessions to drive signals and imagery collection against Al-Qa'ida and to build innovative capabilities to target bin Laden and the Al-Qa'ida organization.
We moved to satellite to increase our coverage of Afghanistan. The CIA and NSA designed and employed a clandestine collection system inside Afghanistan. The imagery agency intensified its efforts across Afghanistan and more imagery analysts were moved to cover Al-Qa'ida.
The imagery agency gave Al-Qa'ida interest in targets its highest priority in the intense daily competition for overhead imagery resources.
We established an integrated community collection cell that focused on tracking Al-Qaida leaders and identifying and characterizing their facilities. When the Predator began flying in the Summer of 2000, we opened it in a fused, all-source environment within the Counterterrorism Center.
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 of Afghanistan.
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 in response to our tasking.
The period of early September, 2000, to 2001 was also characterized by an important increase in our unilateral capability. Almost half of these assets and programs in place in Afghanistan 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 campaigned to topple the Taliban and destroy Al-Qa'ida began in October, we were already on the ground supporting it with a substantial body of data and a large stable of assets.
As regards our analytical product, I think that there was depth and clarity across a range of products and a range of venues. I believe that that product got to our policy-makers, including the most senior policy- makers, in many forms.
How do I assess our performance? The intelligence that we provided our senior policy-makers 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.
The Intelligence Community had the right strategy and was making the right investments to position itself for future efforts against Al-Qa'ida. We made good progress across intelligence disciplines. Disruptions, renditions, and sensitive collection activities no doubt saved lives. However, we never penetrated the 9-11 plot overseas.
While we positioned ourselves very well with extensive human and technical penetrations to facilitate the take-down of the Afghan sanctuary, we did not discern the specific nature of the plot.
We made mistakes. Our failure to watchlist Hazmi and Mihdhar in a timely manner or the FBI's inability to find them in the narrow window of opportunity afforded them at the time showed systemic weaknesses and the lack of redundancy.
There were at least four separate terrorist identity databases maintained by four separate U.S. government agencies -- the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These databases were not interoperable or broadly accessible. There were dozens of watch lists, many haphazardly maintained. There were legal impediments to cooperation across the continuum of criminal intelligence operations. It was not a secret at all that we understood it, but in truth, all of us took little action to create a common arena of criminal and intelligence data that we could all access.
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 Laden's attempt to strike the homeland, but we never translated this knowledge into an effective defense of the country. Doing so would have complicated the terrorist calculation of the difficulty in succeeding in a vast open society that, in effect, was unprotected on September 11.
During periods of heightened threat, we undertook smart, disciplined actions. But ultimately all of us 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 always be made in any human endeavor.
I want to close on four or five points about the future of intelligence and relevant issues.
First, we've spent an enormous amount of time and energy transforming our collection, operational, and analytical capabilities. The care and nurturing of these capabilities is absolutely essential.
It will take us another five years to have the kind of clandestine service our country needs. There is a creative, innovative strategy to get us there, a strategy that requires sustained commitment, leadership, and funding. The same can be said for our other disciplines. Something has to be said quite publicly about the importance of intelligence for the country and how we look at this discipline.
Second, we have created an important paradigm in the way we have made changes in the Foreign Intelligence and Law Enforcement Communities beginning with the Counterterrorism Center and evolving through the creation of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (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's an emphasis on fusion, the flow of data, the fluid integration of analytical and operational capabilities.
Third, capabilities are important. The organization around missions where those capabilities are fully integrated in whatever structure you want to create, I think, is the way ahead in the future, and that's the way we're moving.
Why? Because the investments that we make together in accounts that we don't jointly manage, I believe, have enormous power when they're synchronized, and the Secretary of Defense and I have been working to achieve just that.
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 sensitive activities.
Fifth and finally, our oversight committees should begin a systematic series of hearings to examine the world we will face over the next 20 or 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. And none may be required, but I believe some will be.
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
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War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Terrorism & U.S. Homeland Security
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
George J. Tenet, U.S. Director of Central Intelligence and head of the Central Intelligence Agency, presented the foregoing
statement, on April 14, 2004, as testimony at the hearings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United
States (9-11 Commission).
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