« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The 1996 attack on the U.S. military at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans and wounded 500;
The 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks, which occurred less than 10 minutes apart, destroyed the facilities and killed 12 Americans and over 200 Kenyans and Tanzanians; more than 4,000 were injured, many permanently blinded;
The planned attacks in 1999 and 2000 around the Millennium celebrations; and
The 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 more. Each of those is gone into in far greater detail in our staff statement, but for purposes of the oral summary, I will not repeat those details.
The Joint Inquiry Staff review of these five incidents suggest several important characteristics of the emerging terrorist threat. Some were obvious to all at the time and others only became clear in retrospect, but all required changes in U.S. counterterrorism efforts and, more broadly, within the Intelligence Community.
The characteristics include:
The emergence of a new breed of terrorist, practicing a new form of terrorism, different from the state-sponsored, limited-casualty terrorism of the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. The new terrorists were not directly sponsored by a state and sought to kill thousands or more in their attacks;
The presence of international terrorists who operated in America and were willing to conduct attacks inside America. The relative immunity from international terrorism that America had for many years enjoyed was gone. Terrorists would conduct attacks on U.S. soil and organize and raise funds in the United States for attacks overseas;
An adversary, al-Qa'ida, that is unusual in its dedication, its size, its organizational structure and its mission. Throughout the 1990s, al-Qa'ida became more skilled and attracted more adherents, making it, in essence, a small army by the end of the decade;
The existence of a sanctuary in Afghanistan that allowed alQa'ida to organize, to train, to proselytize, to recruit, to raise funds and to grow into a worldwide menace; and
Finally, the exploitation of permissive environments, such as Yemen, where governments were not willing or able to crack down on radical extremist activity. Unlike Afghanistan, the regimes in these countries did not necessarily support al-Qa'ida; rather, they lacked the will or the ability to stop its activities.
As these challenges emerged, the Intelligence Community and, at times, the United States Government adopted several important measures that increased America's ability to fight terrorism in general and al-Qa'ida in particular. Many of these measures can only be described obliquely or cannot be mentioned at all due to national security requirements and rightful concerns about revealing intelligence methods. Several counterterrorism efforts do, however, deserve mention.
First, the early creation of a special unit to target bin Ladin well before bin Ladin became a household name or even well known to counterterrorism specialists: The CTC created a unit dedicated to learning more about bin Ladin's activities. This unit quickly deter
mined that bin Ladin was more than a terrorist financier, and it became the U.S. Government's focal point for expertise on and operations against bin Ladin. Later, after the 1998 embassy attacks made the threat clearer, the FBI and the NSA increased their focus on al-Qa'ida and on Islamic extremism.
Second, innovative legal strategies: In the trial of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the Department of Justice creatively resurrected the Civil War-era charge of seditious conspiracy, enabling the U.S. Government to prosecute and jail individuals planning terrorist attacks in America.
Aggressive renditions: Working with a wide array of foreign governments, the CIA helped deliver dozens of suspected terrorists to the United States or allied countries. These renditions often led to confessions and disrupted terrorist plots by shattering cells and removing key individuals.
Improved use of foreign liaison services: As al-Qa'ida emerged, several CIA officials recognized that traditional U.S. intelligence techniques were of limited value in penetrating and in countering the organization. They understood that foreign liaison could act as a tremendous force multiplier, and tried to coordinate and streamline what had been an ad hoc process.
Strategic warning on the risks to U.S. interests overseas: After the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the CIA clearly and repeatedly provided warnings to senior U.S. policymakers, warnings that reached a crescendo in the summer of 2001. Policymakers from both the Clinton and the Bush administrations have testified that the Intelligence Community repeatedly warned them that al-Qa'ida was both capable of and seeking to inflict mass casualties on America.
Expansion of the FBI overseas: FBI Director Louis Freeh greatly expanded the number of legal attache offices and focused them more on countries in which terrorism was prevalent or which were important partners against terrorism.
By September 11, there were 44 legal attache offices, up from 16 in 1992. Given the increasing role the FBI and the Department of Justice were playing in counterterrorism, these offices helped ensure that domestic and overseas efforts were better coordinated.
Augmenting the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs: The Joint Terrorism Task Force model was originally created to improve coordination between the FBI and the New York Police Department. The first World Trade Center attack led to the expansion of the JTTFs to other cities and led to the inclusion of CIA officers in several task forces.
Improved information sharing: Intelligence officials and policymakers took several measures to improve information-sharing on terrorism among leading U.S. Government agencies. The National Security Council revived the interagency process on terrorism and threat warning, resulting in regular senior policymaker meetings concerning terrorism. The NSA and the CIA held regular video conferences among analysts after the 1998 embassy bombings. Although many weaknesses remain, the FBI and the CIA took steps to increase collaboration, which had been extremely poor in the early 1990s, and established rotations in each other's counterterrorism units.
Despite these measures to better fight terrorism, the Community response was limited by a number of factors, including interpretations of U.S. law and overall U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Among these factors were, first, continued terrorist sanctuary. Up until September 11, al-Qa'ida raised an army in Afghanistan. Despite the Intelligence Community's growing recognition that Afghanistan was churning out thousands of trained radicals, there was little effort to integrate all the instruments of national powerdiplomatic, intelligence, economic and military-to address this problem.
Both the Clinton and the Bush administrations took some steps to address the problem of Afghanistan. Former National Security Adviser Berger has testified that after August, 1998, "The President authorized a series of overt and covert actions to get bin Ladin and his top lieutenants." None of these actions appear to have ultimately hindered terrorist training or al-Qa'ida's ability to operate from Afghanistan. However, Berger also testified that there was little public or congressional support for an invasion of Afghanistan before September 11.
Deputy Secretary of State Armitage and Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz have testified that by the time of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration was far along, but not finished, with a policy review that called for more aggressive policy against the Taliban and against al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan. They were not, however, actively using the military against terrorism before this time.
In addition, al-Qa'ida exploited the laxness of other countries' counterterrorism efforts or the limits imposed by their legal systems. As the National Commission on Terrorism, the Bremer Commission, reported in 1998, "Some countries use the rhetoric of counterterrorist cooperation, but are unwilling to shoulder their responsibilities in practice, such as restricting the travel of terrorists throughout their territory."
A law enforcement approach to terrorism: In part because options such as military force were not promising or deemed feasible, the United States defaulted to countering terrorism primarily through arrests and trials. The use of the law enforcement approach had several weaknesses, including allowing al-Qa'ida continued sanctuary in Afghanistan. The reliance on law enforcement when individuals fled to a hostile country, such as Iran or the Taliban's Afghanistan, appears particularly ineffective, as the masterminds are often beyond the reach of justice.
During our interviews, one FBI agent scorned the idea of using the FBI to take the lead in countering al-Qa'ida, noting that all the FBI can do is arrest and prosecute. He noted that they cannot shut down training camps in hostile countries. In his view, "It is like telling the FBI after Pearl Harbor, 'Go to Tokyo and arrest the Emperor." In his opinion, a military solution was necessary because, "The Southern District doesn't have any cruise missiles."
Although the investigations contributed greatly to America's understanding of al-Qa'ida, the emphasis on prosecutions at times led to the diversion of considerable resources away from intelligence
Limited FBI aggressiveness at home: The FBI responded unevenly at home, with only some field offices devoting significant resources to al-Qa'ida. An overall assessment of the risk to America was not prepared, and much of the FBI's counterterrorism effort was concentrated abroad. This situation reflected a huge gap in the U.S. Government's counterterrorism structure, a lack of focus on how an international terrorist group might target the United States itself.
No agency appears to have been responsible for regularly assessing the threat to the homeland. In his testimony before the Joint Committees on September 19, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz opined that an attack against the United States had fallen between the cracks in the Intelligence Community's division of labor. He noted that, "There is a problem of where responsibility is assigned." The CIA and the NSA followed events overseas, and their employees saw their job as passing relevant threat information to the FBI. The FBI, on the other hand, did not have the strategic analytic capability independent of individual operations to prepare comprehensive assessments of U.S. vulnerability and relied heavily on the CIA for much of its analysis.
Attention to terrorist activity in the United States did, however, often increase after an attack when the links between the extremists in the United States and those overseas became better known. For example, former FBI Counterterrorism Chief Dale Watson said that he only knew of three al-Qa'ida suspects in the United States before the 1998 Africa embassy bombings, but some 200 FBI counterterrorism cases were opened after those bombings.
Lack of a coordinated Intelligence Community response: The main intelligence agencies often did not collaborate. They, at times, did not work together to target terrorists, and officers at one agency often unknowingly withheld information that was needed by another. Classification of data and legal restrictions magnified the problem. Even the CTC, the Intelligence Community's counterterrorism organization that was expressly designed to foster a Community-wide response, suffered from parochialism. Interviews at the NSA, the DIA, and the FBI indicate that many officials there saw the CTC primarily as a CIA rather than a Community organization.
Beyond the CTC, the JTTFs did not always include CIA officers. Of the 35 JTTFs active on September 11, only six had CIA officers on them.
At NSA, officials contended that the responsibility for collecting information concerning foreign radicals in the United States was the responsibility of the FBI. NSA maintained that this was true even when these individuals were communicating internationally. As a result, NSA did not use one sensitive collection technique that would have improved its chances of successful collection. NSA adopted this strategy even though its mission included the collection and exploitation of foreign communications that have one communicant in the United States, and such coverage would have been available under a FISA. NSA does not appear to have developed a systematic plan to ensure that the FBI would routinely pursue collection in cases where NSA would not do so.
The net effect of these collaboration problems was gaps in the collection and analysis of information about individuals and groups operating both in the United States and abroad.
The actions of those responsible for the attacks on September 11 demonstrate why effective integration of both domestic and foreign collection is critical in understanding fully the operations of international terrorists. We know now that several hijackers communicated extensively abroad after arriving in the United States, and at least two entered, left, and returned to the United States. Effective tracking of their activities, which would have required coordination among the agencies, might have provided important additional information.
Difficulties in sharing law enforcement and intelligence information: The walls that had developed to separate intelligence and law enforcement often hindered efforts to investigate terrorist operations aggressively, as we saw in previous testimony about the CIA and FBI action regarding hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
In addition, misunderstandings, misperceptions and cultural differences led to other types of walls that often hindered the flow of information within the Community and between the Community and other parts of the U.S. Government.
Finally, limited changes in intelligence priorities: As certain threats, including terrorism, increased in the late 1990s, none of the lower level, Tier One national security priorities were downgraded so that resources, i.e., money and people, could be reallocated. As a result, to much of the Intelligence Community, everything was a priority. The U.S. wanted to know everything about everything all the time.
For example, NSA analysts acknowledged that they had far too many broad requirements, some 1,500 formal ones, that covered virtually every situation and every target. Within these 1,500 formal requirements, there were almost 20,000 essential elements of information that were mandated by customers.
Analysts understood the gross priorities and worked the requirements that were practicable on any given day. While counterterrorism became an increasingly important concern for senior Intelligence Community officials, collection and analytic efforts did not keep pace.
In closing, as this review suggests, the Intelligence Community made several impressive advances in fighting terrorism since the end of the Cold War, but many fundamental steps were not taken. Individual components of the Community scored impressive successes or strengthened their effort against terrorism, but important gaps remained. These included many problems outside the control or the responsibility of the Intelligence Community, such as the sanctuary terrorists enjoyed in Afghanistan and the legal limits on information-sharing between intelligence and law enforcement offi
However, another major contributing factor was that the Community did not fully learn the lessons of past attacks. On September 11, 2001, al-Qa'ida was able to exploit the gaps in the U.S. counterterrorism structure to carry out its devastating attacks.