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Of course today we are told that we should direct ourselves to the threat against our homeland in Iraq. Maybe so. But this committee is going to be held accountable for vulnerabilities to the homeland right under our nose. That is why the two reports are so important.
I want to raise two issues right under our noses, not in a faraway land, that concern me and that are simply representative, I think, of the plethora of outstanding issues: the absence of clear intelligence priorities based on threats and vulnerabilities. What am I to do when the security chief at Union Station comes to see me and says that there is nothing that has been done about security in the train system? The station is the center of the commuter train travel across boundaries. He talks about tracks, passengers, cargo. How am I to assess whether that-whether we are where we should be in that regard, with no sense of what the priorities in homeland security are in the first place? I can't tell him, well, we are going to get to that. I can't tell him that is happening. This is the kind of problem that I think that-and he comes to see me in part because I am a member of the Homeland Security Committee. Or, let's take charter service. It is down in this region. But generally it is a part of airline service. We haven't even gotten to that yet. When are we going to get to it? Where does it stand in the priorities?
Or, you look at television, and somebody says that there is construction and an airport is wide open. Very different from if you happen to be an employee at the airport. How am I to measure whether that is good or bad if there are no priorities that exist that I can point to that I know we are getting to or we have gotten there?
Finally, let me say a word about watchlists. If you happen to represent the Nation's Capital, you live here and you know that 2 years after 9/11 there still isn't any database of suspected terrorists from around the world, you really don't feel safer than you did on 9/11. I don't want to oversimplify this, but we are not asking that all the terrorists in the world be identified, just that they be put in one place on the same list, and that local and State officials have access to them. I know this is more than pushing a button or doing a computer run, but it does seem to me that 2 years later, one list somewhere where local law enforcement officers or people at ports of entry can go to is not too much to ask.
Those are representative of the kind of tasks, issues, that I think need to be raised here this afternoon. And I thank you, Mr. Chair
Chairman Cox. Thank the gentlelady.
Chairman Cox. Does any other member seek recognition?
Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent toChairman Cox. Mr. Langevin is recognized for 3 minutes for purposes of an opening statement.
Mr. LANGEVIN. Čould I just ask unanimous consent to insert my statement into the record?
Chairman Cox. All members are advised that the record will be left open for the balance of the week, until the close of business on Friday, for purposes of additions to the record. Without objection.
Chairman Cox. Does any other member seek recognition? If not, I invite our witnesses to the table. And while our witnesses are taking their seats, I want to thank all of the members of this committee Mr. Goss, Ms. Harman, Mr. Boehlert, Mr. Gibbons- who served on the Joint Inquiry for your work in getting us to this point. We look very much forward, Governor Gilmore, Ms. Hill, to your testimony today.
Normally we ask that witness statements be limited to 5 minutes, but by prior arrangement with the committee, Ms. Hill, your testimony is going to be summarized in something more like 7 to 8 minutes. Take the time that you think is necessary for that purpose, because this is an important topic.
STATEMENT OF ELEANOR HILL, STAFF DIRECTOR, JOINT
Ms. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have-
Ms. HILL. Thank you. I have a long written statement which I would like to offer to be included for the record, but I am going to try to briefly summarize it.
Part of the hazards of writing a report that is 800 pages and is full of facts is that it is very difficult to summarize that in a few minutes, but I think I can do that.
So with that preface, good afternoon, Chairman Cox, Ranking Member Turner, and members of the committee. I appreciate your invitation to discuss with you the final report of the Joint Inquiry by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees which, as you know, focused on the activities of the Intelligence Community as they related to the terrorist attacks of September 11th and, as such, is clearly relevant to your focus on homeland security.
Several members of this committee, as you know-Mr. Goss, Ms. Harman, Mr. Boehlert and Mr. Gibbons-also served on our Joint Inquiry. They have considerable familiarity with these issues, and I am sure they will prove tremendously helpful to you as this committee considers how to best apply the lessons of September 11 to the challenges of homeland security.
Our unclassified version of the Joint Inquiry's report was released on July 24th, 2003, and it numbers over 800 pages in length. That report was the culmination of a tremendous and I believe unprecedented amount of joint work and joint effort by two permanent congressional committees, which included review of 500,000 pages of relevant documents, investigative interviews and discussions with over 600 individuals, testimony and evidence produced at 13 closed sessions of the two committees, and 9 public hearings and nearly 7 months of difficult and often frustrating declassification negotiations with the Intelligence Community.
From the outset, the inquiry faced considerable, even daunting challenges: a huge amount of investigative work in a limited time frame, undertaken by two House and Senate committees with a single nonpartisan investigative staff, during a period of unquestioned national crisis, emotional upheaval, and open skepticism about the effectiveness and the objectivity of a congressional review. Given all those circumstances, any chance of success would
have been impossible absent strong, steady, and committed leadership at the helm.
In the House we were very fortunate to have Chairman Goss and Ranking Member Pelosi, and, in the Senate, Chairman Graham and Vice Chairman Shelby. I cannot tell you how important their support and their constant determination to work together was to our ability to uncover the facts and to achieve bipartisan consensus on recommendations.
Let me just say a few words about Chairman Goss, who is a member of your committee and is here this afternoon, and with whom I have had the very great pleasure and privilege of working throughout the course of this Joint Inquiry. Much of the Inquiry's success can be and should be credited to his very hard work, his unflagging support, and his strong commitment to follow the facts thoroughly and objectively throughout the entire effort. In short, he made my job far easier, and I thank him again for his help and support.
With that, let me skip over some of this and focus on three of the repeated themes that I think run through the systemic findings. My statement goes into much more detail as to the factual systemic findings and also the recommendations.
The report does have 16, what we term systemic findings, which identify and explain systemic weaknesses that the committees felt hindered the Intelligence Community's counterterrorism efforts prior to September 11th. Many of those findings relate in whole or in part to three problem areas that, at least in my view, are critically important and repeatedly surface throughout the course of the Inquiry. Those three are a lack of access to relevant information, a lack of adequate focus on the terrorist threat to the domestic United States, and a lack of sufficient quality in both analytic and investigative efforts.
On the topic of access, even the best intelligence will prove worthless if our Intelligence Community is unable to deliver that intelligence to those who need it in time for them to act on it. The report finds that within the community, agencies did not adequately share relevant counterterrorism information for a host of reasons, including differences in missions, legal authorities, and agency cultures.
Serious problems in information sharing also persisted between Intelligence Community agencies and other Federal agencies as well as State and local authorities. The report contains numerous examples of these problems. The information on al-Midhar and alHazmi's travel to the United States, despite numerous opportunities, never reached the San Diego FBI in time for them to capitalize on their informant's contacts with the two hijackers.
Prior to September 11th, the Phoenix electronic communication was not shared with the FBI agents handling Zacarias Moussaoui or with the FBI agent whose informant knew that al-Hazmi was taking flight training in Arizona which, of course, was part of the subject of of the Phoenix memo.
The Phoenix memo was also not shared even with the FAA. The FAA also did not receive all of the intelligence reporting on the possible use of aircraft as weapons. The CIA also did not provide the State Department with almost 1,500 terrorism-related intelligence
reports until after September 11th. Other nonintelligence Federal agencies as well as State and local authorities complained about their lack of access to relevant intelligence. Even Intelligence Community analysts complained about their inability to have access to raw but highly relevant intelligence information held within other Intelligence Community agencies.
Lack of focus. Even in instances where relevant information was available, there was a lack of sufficient focus on the bin Laden threat to the domestic United States.
The report concludes that the U.S. foreign intelligence agencies paid inadequate attention to the potential for a domestic attack, and that, at home, counterterrorism efforts suffered from the lack of an effective domestic intelligence capability.
Again, examples are plentiful in the report. While the DCI had declared war on bin Laden in December of 1998, the Director of the National Security Agency at the time told the Inquiry that he believed, quote, "The DCI was speaking for CIA only." The report found that prior to September 11th neither the FBI nor NSA focused on the importance of identifying and then ensuring coverage of communications between the United States and suspected terrorist facilities abroad. And the report goes on to state that, in fact, we now know that one of the hijackers did communicate with a known terrorist facility in the Middle East while he was living in the United States.
Former Secretary of Defense John Hame told the Inquiry that he could not recall ever seeing an intelligence report on the existence of terrorist sleeper cells in the United States. He noted, "We thought we were dealing in important things, but we missed the domestic threat from international terrorism."
Former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Richard Clark, stated that when he visited FBI field offices to increase their focus on al Qaeda, quote, "I got sort of blank looks of what is al Qaeda." The FBI counterterrorism agent responsible for the informant that had contacts with the hijackers told the Inquiry he never discussed bin Laden or al Qaeda with that informant before September 11th, because that was, quote, "not an issue in terms of my assignments."
The former chief of the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden unit testified that between 1996 and 1999, "the rest of the CIA and the Intelligence Community looked on our efforts as eccentric and at times fanatic."
Finally, lack of quality. The report cites quality problems in two critically important areas: analysis and investigation. In analysis, the report concludes that there was a dearth of creative, aggressive analysis targeting bin Laden and a persistent inability to comprehend the collective significance of individual pieces of intelligence. There was little or no analytic focus on, for example, reports about terrorist interests in aircraft as weapons and reports on the likelihood that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was recruiting individuals for terrorist activity within the United States.
The former FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, quote, "could not recall any instance where the FBI headquarters' Terrorism Analytic Unit produced an actual product that helped out."