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Joint Intelligence Committee Leaders Present Final Report

Aired December 11, 2002 - 11:03   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to stay in town, but go across town just a little bit, got to Capitol Hill. There you see Senator Bob Graham of Florida. He is one of the members of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and the leadership of this committee is assembled here. And we just heard the senator say moments ago that it's almost a certainty that the U.S. faces another attack on the scale of 9/11.
Let's listen in.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: ... become the tragedy of September the 11th.

It has now been 10 months since we began this joint inquiry. We have held 22 hearings -- nine open and 13 closed. Our staff has reviewed a half a million documents and conducted nearly 600 interviews and briefings. We have fulfilled the commitment which we made to the families of those 3,025 victims -- victims at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in the rural field of Pennsylvania.

Our commitment was that we would follow the facts where they would lead us. And we would use those facts to answer the questions of: What happened, why did it happen, and then attempt to recommend prescriptions to reduce the prospect of it occurring in the future.

These are some of the principle findings that we have concluded. The intelligence community had considerable intelligence regarding Al Qaida before September the 11th, but no information that would have provided detailed warnings of the attack. The intelligence community had steady, but limited reporting suggesting that terrorists sought to attack the U.S. homeland.

The intelligence community had information that terrorists were contemplating the use of commercial airlines as weapons of mass destruction. Members of the intelligence community did not fully exploit all available information, including information regarding several of the specific future hijackers.

At times, important bits of information or analysis, such as the so-called Phoenix electronic communication, appeared to generate little interest. Key Al Qaida lieutenants, such as Khalid Mohammad did not receive sufficient scrutiny.

Systematically, we concluded that the intelligence community was not properly postured to meet the threat of global terrorism against the people of the United States. The United States lacked a comprehensive strategy for combating Al Qaida and did not properly marshal its resources. A lack of resources hindered the intelligence community's efforts against terrorism and poor prioritization procedures compounded the problem.

Technology was not properly leveraged to support counterterrorists.

Among our recommendations is the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of National Intelligence; an agency that would be a Cabinet agency and would provide the full range of management, budgetary and personnel responsibilities to make the United States intelligence community operate as a coherent whole.

Our review identified a number of problems that stem from the lack of overall coordination of the agencies which make up the intelligence community. Someone with more control over budgets and the prioritization of new technologies and the prioritization of the targets against which the intelligence community would operate is a key recommendation.

For example, our hearing revealed that the current director of Central Intelligence, Mr. George Tenet, declared a war on Al Qaida in late 1998. Problem: Most of his troops didn't either hear that a war had been declared or didn't respond to the trumpet call.

What our intelligence community needs is the equivalent of an admiral of the fleet. Each agency or ship has a captain, but someone needs to command the entire fleet. Naval historians tell us that ship-to-ship engagements don't win wars. It takes a broader strategy, and one person can't be both the admiral and the captain of individual ships.

The challenge will be for us in Congress and the president to implement these recommendations, as well as any that come from the independent commission to be chaired by Dr. Henry Kissinger and Senator George Mitchell. I should point out that one of the last actions of this congressional joint inquiry will be to make available to the Kissinger-Mitchell commission our full record. That should accelerate the pace of the its inquiry.

The joint inquiry itself is a first in the history of the United States Congress. Never before have two standing committees come together for purposes of caring out a joint inquiry. I am very pleased at the manner in which that has occurred. And I believe that itself will add to the strength of our recommendations.

I want to particularly express my gratitude to our colleagues in the House and Senate committees for their commitment and their hard work, particularly Chairman Goss, Vice Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Pelosi. I want to thank our outstanding staff led by Ms. Eleanor Hill. Their excellent work has helped give our country a better understanding of what we will need to do to reduce the prospects of another tragedy.

It's now my pleasure to turn to my friend and colleague, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Porter Goss.

REP. PORTER GOSS (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Chairman Graham.

I appreciate very much the remarks. And I think you've covered an awful lot of important information, and I know that other information has been made available we'll have questions on.

I wanted to emphasize or underscore a couple of particular areas. I know there are a lot of "doubting Thomases" when we started this, using the mechanism that we had that we moved too slow or too fast or not enough or too much left or too much right, whatever.

I think one of the hallmarks that came out of this under Chairman Graham's leadership and with the support of Mrs. Pelosi, our ranking member and Vice Chairman Shelby, that we had extraordinary member participation from 37 members of the United States Congress, senators and representatives alike. And our product contained a great many additions, contributions from across the board of the membership.

Obviously, this is a consensus document and not everybody agreed 100 percent with everything. You wouldn't have expected that, I am sure. Because the second hallmark of this report, in my view of our efforts, is that it is a gateway. It opens doors to things that are essential for the well-being of Americans at home and abroad, in terms of our national security and the protection of our freedoms and our rights.

Particularly, I would go to the area of how we handle domestic intelligence. This matter is given some consideration, does not draw any, obviously, finite conclusions. But we very definitely have to have that debate as a nation, and we have spoken to that.

We have also gotten into very delicate balances not just of questions of security and freedom, but of important things in the intelligence community of, let's say, accountability versus risk aversion. You all know that we've worked very hard trying to create a clearer accountability trail for people with responsibilities here. We've also tried to incentivize and motivate people in the intelligence community to take risks. Obviously, that has to come together somewhere in a meaningful way. But those kinds of debates, I think, are very much before us because of the work that has been done and the extraordinary input from so many members.

I think that we have found, as Senator Graham has said, that we have some serious systems problems that need to be fixed, that we have some capability matters which need to be addressed.

We don't have the right mix and skills today of our capabilities to deal with all the threats that confront the United States of America, its citizens, at home and abroad.

Those things we, I think, get a good step forward on in terms of suggestion and creative thought for the executive branch and readers (ph) to consider.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, to borrow from my ranking member, Nancy Pelosi -- who has been extraordinary stalwart, and I want to congratulate her for the just very thoughtful contributive and energetic way that she has managed her responsibilities in this, given her extra responsibilities particularly now, really have been wonderful for us. And I can say, speaking for, I think, both the joint committee and, particularly the House side, we've operated very well as a team, remembering it is the flag of the United States of America where we all salute.

I would also say that Ms. Pelosi brought to our attention, as we started with a moment of silence, appropriately, and ended with a moment of silence yesterday for the victims of September 11, that we have indeed traveled sacred ground. And I hope you'll agree with us that we've honored it. Thank you.

GRAHAM: Senator Shelby and I are concluding our service on the Senate Intelligence Committee. It has been, as Congressman Goss just described, a great partnership, and that partnership hopefully will contribute to the security of the people of this nation.

U.S. SENATOR RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, I want to thank Senator Graham for working with me on the committee, both when I was chairman of the committee and then when he became chairman. I think our working relationship has helped bring about the report that you're getting today.

I also want to thank Chairman Goss for his work, his insights, and also Congresswoman Pelosi.

I think, at the end of the day, you'll see that, despite a few bumps here and there, we've worked pretty well together.

I support this report. I think that we are putting out a credible, substantive report that's going to recommend and also have some findings that are important to the intelligence community and important in the future to national security. I hope that as soon as possible that a lot of the findings can be declassified -- I know some of them should have been from the beginning, but I know Eleanor Hill is working with the CIA and others to try to bring this about -- because I think it ought to be declassified as much as possible, short of sources and methods, because the American people need to know about all this. They need to know what their problems are and the problems we're facing in the intelligence community, the challenges of the future, and also the successes, and there are many. But there are a lot of failures, too many failures.

Although I support the report, I have got additional views, as some of my colleagues will have, and some of my additional views are very detailed, and we will furnish you a copy of those.

But I basically concur in this recommendation, I'm proud of what the committees have done. I'm especially proud to have been associated with Eleanor Hill and the staff, because she drove this.

Eleanor, you gave us focus when we needed it. You made some tough decisions with your staff. You went into areas that a lot of people didn't want to go into. You called into question things that needed to be called in. My only regret is that we didn't have enough time, that we didn't have longer to do this, because the longer the time period, the better and deeper we could go.

And also scope. A lot of you know that we were tied to the basic jurisdiction of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. We did not have scope dealing with immigration. We did not have the scope to get into a lot of the transportation issues, FAA and everything.

But we have, I believe, laid the predicate for the Kissinger- Mitchell commission, and I believe that they will find that this has been a worthwhile investigation. I know it will be.

My basic difference and additional views would be in the area of accountability. I believe we're all accountable, and I believe people make decisions, on a high level or a middle level, dealing with the security of this nation should be accountable for what they do or what they don't do. And I believe that you'll see that we spoke to this, asking the inspector general of the various agencies to look into the details of people who, I believe, have failed the country at times (inaudible).

But I also believe the leaders should be held accountable. George Tenet. And I personally like George Tenet, and I think he has done some good things as director, but I have called into question many times, and I'll do it again today, there have been more massive failures of intelligence on his watch as director of CIA than any director in the history of the agency.

John Deutch, when he was director of the CIA, a lot of you know the history there, but he took insufficient steps, a lot of insufficient steps, to bring the intelligence community, and especially the CIA, into the new era to fight terrorism. And he's got some responsibility.

And let's not forget Louis Freeh, who's someone we all respect and we love. But Louis Freed presided over the FBI during a catastrophic era, when the FBI, I think, for a lot of reasons lost its way and needed leadership at a crucial time. And even today a lot of people are not sure they have it.

Michael Hayden (ph) over at NSA, I think he's got some culpability. He failed to move decisively into the collection, I believe and others believe, into the war against terrorism.

General Menahan (ph), his predecessor, I believe that he was basically a status quo man. A good man, well-meaning, but didn't move into the terrorist area. Barbara McNamara, I believe she wanted to keep the status quo, and we cannot do this. And there are others, people, I believe, in the bureau, in the FBI who were running a so- called center and ignored things like the Phoenix memo or the Moussaoui information. I believe they've got to be called on to account. But those are some of my views.

Overall, I think we've done a very substantive, credible report. I'd like to see us do more. And I wish the commission well in their endeavor.

GRAHAM: Before calling on Congresswoman Pelosi, just briefly, as Congressman Goss said, one of the most difficult areas of this report is the issue of accountability. It raises a number of tensions. One of those tensions is the tension between not wanting to make an institution which had already become, in my judgment, excessively risk adverse, even more risk adverse.

Second, is to recognize what was our responsibility and what is essentially an executive responsibility, which is to establish a means by which responsibility for both positive and negative recommendations will be made.

HARRIS: We're going to step away from this announcement. There's going to be quite a bit of talk about all of this that we've just heard, and the documentation that will be released after this is over throughout the day here on this network, that's for sure.


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