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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Tenet Testifies Before 9/11 Commission
Aired March 24, 2004 - 09:10 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to he hearings now, day two, as they begin with George Tenet, the CIA director, now in front of the microphone.
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LEE H. HAMILTON, COMMISSION VICE CHAIR: ... in the United States government. He has an obligation to find out information people don't want to give us, to carry out a lot of clandestine operations, to protect the lives of a lot of people who carry out those missions and, of course, to inform policy-makers.
There's obviously a tension between the mandate of the commission and the responsibilities of the director. And it behooves both of us to try to be sensitive to the responsibilities of the other.
For myself, I've spent decades handling top secret information and I've been informed, at least, about scores, if not hundreds, of covert operations. And I do think that we on the commission have to be very, very careful, and we have to realize what is at stake and we have to respect the judgment of those who really do carry awesome responsibilities.
Now, that respect does not mean that we accept without scrutiny what intelligence is given to us. That's not our responsibility. We should scrutinize it.
But it does mean, it seems to me, that we not press excessively or too hard in public session when the director advises us that questions create risks to U.S. operations and to U.S. national security.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THOMAS H. KEAN, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: Mr. Director?
GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Governor, thank you.
I've submitted a very long statement, and it is not my intention to read that statement and I want to stay under the 10-minute deadline so we can get to questions, which is probably more productive in any event.
KEAN: Thank you, sir.
TENET: I welcome this opportunity to testify before you and the American people on the intelligence community's decisive role in the war on terrorism.
What I will offer today, both in my statement and in my answers to your questions, is a personal perspective.
Nothing I have worked on is more important or more personal. I'm a New Yorker. And like many others in our country, I have friends who were killed in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. The fight against this enemy has shaped my years as director of Central Intelligence. September 11th is a tragedy that we will all carry with us for the rest of our lives.
The community that I'm privileged to lead and represent has also lost officers in this war. Those who now fight this battle through long days and nights are devoted to a single mission: trying to ensure that the terrorists who committed these atrocities will never live in peace.
I have worked for two different administrations, two different political parties. Both sets of policy-makers care deeply about the challenge of terrorism. The first group lived through the terrorist phenomenon and wrestled with difficult issues thoughtfully and diligently. The second group, this administration, was working hard before September 11th to devise a comprehensive framework to deal with al Qaeda based on the best knowledge that we in the intelligence community could provide, and during this time the intelligence community did not stand still.
You, as the commission, must evaluate all of this. I, as the director of central intelligence, must tell you clearly that there was no lack of care or focus in the face of one of the greatest dangers our country has ever faced.
The recent years of this war are well publicized, but the early years are not. For us, the conflict started long ago, after we witnessed the emergence of bin Laden and al Qaeda in the early '90s.
Bin Laden was only starting to expand his reach when we saw him as an emerging threat during his time in Sudan. In 1996, he moved to Afghanistan. We characterized him as one of the most active financial sponsors of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.
During his years in Sudan, bin Laden was not yet the center for terrorist operational planning that he became in Afghanistan. But we were concerned about him enough that in January of 1996 we created a dedicated component the counterterrorism center, the bin Laden issue station, that was staffed by officers from multiple agencies with the mission of disrupting his operations. We also issued the earliest of what turned out to be a long series of warnings about bin Laden and al Qaeda, and I believe those warnings were heeded.
This terrorism problem changed fundamentally after bin laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996. The country had become a haven of where terrorists could disseminate their ideology, plot, fund-raise and train for attacks around the world.
In 1998, bin Laden issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it was their duty to kill Americans and their allies, civilian and military, wherever they may be.
We recognized, through our collection analysis and disruption efforts of the '90s, that we had to change to meet this evolving threat. We had captured and rendered terrorists for years, but we knew we needed to go further to penetrate the sanctuary bin Laden found in Afghanistan. We knew that because our technical coverage was slipping, al Qaeda's operational security was high. We were taking terrorists off the street, but the threat level persisted.
TENET: And finally, we had to operate against a target that was buried deep in territory controlled by the Taliban, an area where we needed to expand our on-the-ground presence. Stand-off operations required predictive intelligence: knowing precisely where a target would be many hours in advance. That we did not have. We needed close-in access to understand the target and maximize our chances for success.
And while we were collecting, we continued to build a coalition of friendly services around the world that would expand our regional access.
So we did change. We developed a new baseline strategy in 1999. Simply we called it The Plan. We worked on The Plan through the summer. We told our customers and counterparts in Washington all about it.
Under this plan, we developed a broad array of both human and technical sources. Our efforts were designed to disrupt the terrorists and their plots, collect information, recruit terrorist spies, all to support new operational initiatives.
To penetrate bin Laden's sanctuary, we also worked with Central Asian intelligence services and with the Northern Alliance and its leader, Ahmed Shah Masood, on everything from technical collection to building an intelligence capability, to potential renditions.
And we developed a network of agents inside Afghanistan who were directed to track bin Laden. We worked with friendly tribal partners for years to undertake operations against him.
Our human intelligence rose markedly from 1999 through 2001. By September 11th, a map of Afghanistan would show that these collection programs, human networks, were in place in numbers to nearly cover the country.
The array meant that when the military campaign to topple and destroy the Taliban began in October of 2001, we were able to support it with an enormous body of information and a large stable of assets. These networks gave us the platform from which to launch the rapid take-down of the Taliban.
The worldwide coalition we built allowed us to respond during periods of high threat. The millennium period was the first of a series of major coordinated operations among a coalition of countries. I told the president to expect between five and 15 attacks against the United States. We disrupted terrorist attacks that saved lives. They were actions in 50 countries involving dozens of suspects, many of whom were followed, arrested or detained.
During the same time period, we conducted multiple arrests in East Asia, leading to the arrest or detention of 45 members of the Hezbollah network in a totally separate operation.
During the Ramadan period in the fall of 2000, we helped break up cells planning attacks against civilian targets in the Gulf.
TENET: These operations netted anti-aircraft missiles and hundreds of pounds of explosives and brought a bin Laden facilitator to justice. We began to fly the Predator in the reconnaissance mode in this time.
Finally, during the summer of 2001, reacting to a rash of intelligence reports, I personally contacted a dozen of my foreign counterparts. This intense period, and thanks to our partner's work, led to arrests and detentions in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Turkey. It led to disruptions in two dozen countries. We helped halt, disrupt or uncover weapons caches and plans to attack U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East and Europe.
In a few minutes, I've described what thousands of people did over the course of years in this country and overseas. But despite these efforts, we still did not penetrate the plot that led to the murder of 3,000 men and women on that Tuesday morning.
Since September 11th, we've worked hard to enhance intelligence, but also improve the integration of this government. We've strengthened our ties to law enforcement, from having officers work jointly in the field in this country to breaking down walls that impeded cooperation, thanks to the Patriot Act. We have a new Terrorist Threat Integration Center. We have made much more comprehensive and integrated effort to fill critical gaps we had in our process of watch-listing potential terrorists. We have a Department of Homeland Security.
All of this is to make a final key point: As a country, you must be relentless on offense, but you must have a defense that links visa measures, border security, infrastructure protection and domestic warnings in a way that increases security, closes gaps and serves a society that demands high level of both safety and freedom.
We collectively did not close those gaps rapidly or fully enough before September 11th. We have learned and are doing better in an integrated environment that allows us to respond faster and more comprehensively than three years ago. And much more work needs to be done.
Mr. Chairman, the war ahead is going to be complicated and long. You need an intelligence community, you need a Homeland Security Department, and we need stamina to continue in this fight because it's going to go on for many years.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you very much.
Commissioner Fielding, is now going to lead our questioning, followed by Commissioner Gorelick.
FRED F. FIELDING, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Everybody bear with me. I don't know how long my voice is going to last this morning.
Mr. Director, Mr. Deputy Director, thank you very much for coming. And let us all express our appreciation to you both for the awesome task that you have and for the loyal service you've given to your country. And we really appreciate your cooperation with our commission in its work.
I would like to start today by trying to put into context the testimony you've given and the written testimony you've given us. And in that regard, I would be appreciative if you would explain to us and describe to us how you communicated intelligence to President Clinton and to his national security advisers.
TENET: The principal method of communication, obviously, is one through our president's daily brief every morning, which we provided to the president for his reading; through the national security adviser, Sandy Berger; and on issues of terrorism, as you all know, there was a consolidated group called the CSG on terrorism at the NSC that funneled its way up. We participated to Mr. Berger and then onward to the president.
In periods of high threat or in periods particularly subsequent to the East Africa bombings in particular, we met with the president directly and in other time periods as well. So that was principally the way we interacted with them.
FIELDING: And what would be the role of the national security adviser in that?
TENET: The national security adviser's role is, obviously, he ran the principals committee meetings that I sat at. He saw the president every day. He discussed the intelligence with him. The national security adviser and I met once a week, talked daily, or, you know, a number of times a week on these kinds of matters. So there was an intimate interaction with him during this time period.
FIELDING: Now, I think all of us are -- we're a little surprised to find out that Osama bin Laden was actually being followed by you even to the point of setting up a unit as early as 1997.
TENET: '96, sir.
FIELDING: '96, I'm sorry. But would you also explain not just what the OBL station was, but what the watch facts was? Or at least it's been described to us as watch facts, I'm sorry. It was a OBL situation report. TENET: Well, first of all, the unit we created -- obviously the thought process behind it was we saw a phenomenon here that we were quite worried about. And we wanted to take a group of people off-line to focus on this exclusively, grow it over time and help us understand how to drive operations and analysis against this phenomenon.
The watch facts -- I don't know what you call it -- I guess there was almost a daily report -- I guess this is what the watch facts is -- that we sent to senior policy-makers during different time periods.
TENET: And, obviously, there was constant communication in both administrations with the CSG, the terrorist group at the NSC.
FIELDING: Well, see, that's what I was really trying to define, because we'd heard about this report and then it was prepared four or five times a week for most of the Clinton administration, but I'm trying to determine to whom it went.
TENET: I believe that was something we sent to Sandy Berger.
Is that correct, John?
JOHN E. MCLAUGHLIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: That's my recall, yes.
FIELDING: OK. And is our information correct that it was four, five, six days a week?
MCLAUGHLIN: My recall is it was about five days a week.
TENET: That's my recollection, yes.
FIELDING: All right, thank you.
Now, during the period of transition, what was your specific role, Mr. Director, in the transition to the new administration in regard to the president and to his national security team?
TENET: Well, first, I was trying to figure out whether I was going to keep my job, but that's a separate issue.
FIELDING: Who did you consult on that?
TENET: That's classified, sir.
FIELDING: I accept that, sir.
TENET: During this time period, there was a transition team and obviously we prepared transition books and lots of papers for the transition team. I believe your staff statement even indicates that I actually -- we actually -- the deputy director of operations and I met with the president, talked about bin Laden.
I'll be candid with you: The deputy director for operations has a clear recollection of this session. I don't have nearly as clear recollection. We talked about terrorism in this time period.
And obviously, as the new administration was formed up, early on Dr. Rice and Stephen Hadley came out and thoroughly reviewed the authorities that we had on terrorism and the basis from which we were proceeding. So there was a fair discussion about this phenomenon even early on.
FIELDING: Were there any marked changes in your relationship with the White House administration?
TENET: Well, the principal difference is that I would see the president every day to conduct the daily brief with our briefer usually six days a week. So this president wanted a face-to-face contact and so I was in the Oval Office with him or at Camp David every day of the week.
FIELDING: How did that come about? Was that his specific request?
TENET: He expressed the distinct preference that that's the way we were going to work, and that's the way we did.
FIELDING: Did that task you a little harder on a daily basis?
TENET: Well, it gets your adrenaline flowing early in the morning, sir, and obviously it's important.
TENET: It's important because there's an active dialogue with the president on not only on what we're writing, but what we're thinking. Since I had been around for a while I could give him some perspective on some of these issues.
FIELDING: What was your interaction in the new administration with the national security adviser?
TENET: Well, as in the previous administration, we would have weekly meetings -- a regular meeting with the national security adviser. Obviously, some weeks, for scheduling purposes, it doesn't happen. But the same kind of relationship: daily phone contact, weekly meetings.
The national security adviser, of course, would be in the morning brief with the president so I would see her there as well.
FIELDING: I was interested in your prepared statement when you described the interest that was a continuum, as I believe you said, between the administrations. But was there any change in attitude that you sense in regard to the threat analysis or the acceptance of this threat that you were talking about? TENET: No, sir.
I think that both groups and both sets of policy-makers -- obviously, one set lived through a period -- a much longer time period, but the new group also immediately understood what we were talking about here, and bin Laden and al Qaeda became an agenda item early on with the national security adviser and the president.
FIELDING: I certainly respect your position on authorities, and will observe your request.
You know, we do have a dilemma with our commission in that we have had witnesses who've testified different views of authorities. But I think that the public should be aware that we have also discussed this with you in closed session, and we'll be able to, I'm sure, sort out the discrepancies before our final report is prepared.
And I'd like to talk about capabilities, if my time doesn't run out and my voice doesn't run out.
But before that, what was your relationship with Mr. Clarke in both periods of time?
TENET: Well, Mr. Clarke ran the CSG in both periods of time. At the working level, our chief CTC and our terrorism experts had almost daily contact with Mr. Clarke and I'd have periodic contact with him as I'd bumped into him at meetings.
FIELDING: But was that pretty much a continuum again?
TENET: Yes, I believe that we pretty much maintained the same type of relationship, sir.
FIELDING: Let me ask you a couple specific questions before we get into capabilities, and this is really, kind of, important because there are some things that have been floating around that we're trying to come to ground on.
Did you ever suggest actions to either president to respond to threats that were ever disapproved?
TENET: Actions that we would take, sir?
FIELDING: Yes, sir.
TENET: No, I don't believe so, no.
FIELDING: Has either president ever denied a request from you for either enhanced legal authority or operational approval?
TENET: Sir, the approval process of authorities is something I don't want to get into in this session.
FIELDING: I'm sorry.
TENET: But in terms of both administrations, because of my relationship with the national security adviser and certainly in this environment with direct contact with the president, I gave the president very intimate understanding of what we were doing operationally around the world, particularly as we got into a high- threat period in terms of disruption operations, countries I was contacting, things I might need from other policy-makers to aid and abet my efforts.
TENET: So there was a clear understanding of what we were doing around the world to deal with this problem.
FIELDING: And I'm sure you'd be respectable, but you wouldn't be shy if you felt you needed something from either president; is that correct?
TENET: No, sir.
FIELDING: That's not correct?
TENET: No, sir, that is correct.
FIELDING: Was there any predictable intelligence against bin Laden that -- against him personally in 2001?
TENET: No, sir, I don't believe so, not in the 2001 time period. There were periods -- you talked about these yesterday -- there were these three particular instances where there was -- where there were...
FIELDING: Yes, but that was pre-2001.
TENET: No, that was 1998 and...
FIELDING: I want to get into those in just a second, but there have been so many questions about that I thought that we just should come to ground on it.
Again, the question that keeps coming up, do you think if you had gotten in any way shape or form bin Laden in the year 2001 you would have prevented the 9/11 attacks?
TENET: Commissioner Fielding, I don't believe so. I believe that this plot line was off and running. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was in the middle of it. Operators were moving into this country. Any understanding of this -- we certainly understand that they had the operational flexibility to decide what to do, but this plot was well on its way. Decapitating one person, even bin Laden in this context, I do not believe we would have stopped this plot.
FIELDING: Yesterday, if you followed the hearings at all, the phrase du jour was "actionable intelligence." And we heard DOD officials contend that the CIA was unable to provide actionable intelligence, and that somehow limited their abilities to undertake military actions in Afghanistan. I guess just, kind of, a generic, I'd like you to discuss that a little.
How would you explain that reaction and that position? Do you think it's valid? And if you do, was there ever an attempt between you and the DOD to enhance the abilities?
TENET: Let me answer the question a couple of ways. First of all, there's a difference between intelligence and actionable intelligence. That there was intelligence in a number of instances was a fact, to be sure. Now the question is how do you evaluate the data.
And in thinking about this last night -- because these were interactive conversations among people thinking about specific scenarios -- here are the kind of criteria that occurred in phone calls and meetings to discuss this: Was the reporting single- threaded? Could we maintain continuous eyes on the target without regard for compromise, given a tough security environment? What was the track record, reliability and certainty of this reporting?
TENET: What do we know about the reporting source? Will the target be there long enough to take action since launching a cruise missile is four to six hours away? It's not retargettable on the way in. What are the implications for collateral damage? Where is the target? If it's in a complex of buildings, can the source data specifically tell you what building the target is in?
Now, we -- it's interesting in this time period we also created a book for principals with the imagery that we laid in about all the potential targets that we might encounter so that -- the situations were obviously unpredictable -- so that we could at least have people visualize what we were talking about as we were talking about whether or not we believe we had enough data to go forward in any of these instances.
I think in most of these instances the decision-making had to be fairly rapid. We had to come to conclusions. And we all came out at the same place. The Pentagon would have views about collateral damage because they're firing a weapon and we would have views about the quality of intelligence. And I must tell you that we all ended up at the same place.
I would state my judgment about whether we had enough to meet these criteria. They would reflect on it from the perspective of collateral damage and other issues, but in no case did we disagree about a final decision or an outcome.
FIELDING: Well, who's we? Please help me with that a little.
TENET: Well, director of central intelligence, secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs sometimes joined by his J-2, his chief intelligence officer, and the national security adviser.
So this was an integrated discussion. And we tried to make sure that everybody had the same data to the extent that we could -- and I'd inform them of new data and give them a sense of what I believed the quality of the intelligence was.
FIELDING: Well, yesterday we talked about the three events in '98 and '99 where there were occasions that it looked like there might be an opportunity which then, in each instance, was deemed not to be operational. And the one that I find the most intriguing and the one that's been labeled as perhaps the lost opportunity more than any was the February '99 hunting camp -- I guess it's been described -- the desert camp.
And yesterday in the staff statement that was read, we're told about that and we were told that the intelligence seemed pretty strong and that the preparations were made and then the strike was called off. And the lead CIA agent in the field felt that it was very reliable intelligence.
I guess, was there anything unique about the intelligence or the circumstances that necessitated that decision?
FIELDING: And who made that decision?
TENET: I don't have a recollection of the uniqueness of the intelligence in question at the time. I can go back and provide that for you. In fact, I'd like to go back and try and package up all the data at my disposal when we were thinking about these issues.
I believe this was a collective decision. I also believe this target went away because the camp was ultimately dismantled. So in reading through your staff inquiry -- your staff notes on this, I can't recall who made the call, but I know we were all in the same place about it, Mr. Fielding.
FIELDING: I would appreciate that on behalf of the commission, if you could do that because it seemed that this -- when the intelligence was so good and that by the time the camp was dismantled, days and days had passed. So I would appreciate that.
TENET: It's also a question, I believe, as to whether bin Laden was inside or outside the camp...
FIELDING: Of course.
TENET: ... the complicating issue in this whole thing and whether he was there or not. So there's a second complicating factor here.
The third complicating factor here is you might have wiped out half the royal family in the UAE in the process, which I'm sure entered into everybody's calculation in all this.
But in any event, I will try and reconstruct the data as best I can in terms of what I had in my possession at the time.
FIELDING: I would appreciate it. Thank you, and thank you for your testimony. I see that little red light is on.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Commissioner Gorelick?
JAMIE S. GORELICK, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Tenet, I would note at the outset that while other individuals in both administrations in our testimony have been referred to as the secretary or the director or by their last names, everyone who talks about you refers to you as George and I think that there is a reason for that.
I think that you have developed strong personal relationships with all of the key players that has served you and has served your agency very well. There's evident affection for you across two administrations, which is a hard thing to pull off.
I do want to talk about covert authorities consistent with the guidelines that you have laid down. And I will note for the record that while we are in agreement with the position that you've taken, we have these public charges that have been made in a book through information provided evidently through the CIA, and we will want to address them privately with you -- and I know you have indicated your availability to do that.
GORELICK: But I just want to be very clear that if you felt that an authority that you had been given was insufficient -- our staff statement says that your obligation was to seek clarity or to seek a new authority. Is that correct?
GORELICK: The second issue -- I'm sorry, did you want to elaborate?
TENET: Can I just give you a little perspective on this without going into specific covert actions?
If I can just give you a little bit of a perspective about how you arrive at -- covert action is an enormously sensitive tool that the president uses. And covert action authorities are the culmination of three separate streams of thinking: operational proposals, legal determinations and policy determinations. In the democracy that we live in, all three become vital in the way authorities are presented to the president of the United States.
In the case that we're talking about -- without getting into all of this -- obviously, very sensitive issues were discussed with regard to the provision of specific lethal authorities, and we won't go beyond that.
TENET: My job is essentially -- I would say a couple of things to you about this issue, Commissioner Gorelick.
One, I never went back and said, "I don't have all the authorities I need."
And here is a key fundamental point that everybody needs to understand about covert action: You need foreign intelligence to create operational opportunities that lead you to enhanced authorities and enhanced covert action.
In part, one of the principle focuses of changing our plan to get inside the sanctuary and develop greater access was so that we could enhance our operations and our access in order to prepare ourselves to have better covert action opportunities. The capability to do what you're asked to do is actually a lot more important than the authorities that you are granted. It's a very key point people have to understand.
If I had ever felt that my capabilities grew -- and, in fact, when you look at the authorities that were granted in some cases based on intelligence, additional authorities were provided. If I felt that I had developed access or capability that required dramatically different authorities, I would have gone in and said. "This is what I have, this is what I think I can do; please give me these authorities," and I don't doubt that they would have been granted.
GORELICK: Thank you for that elaboration. We have, sort of, left in your hands, actually, the degree to which you talk about this.
TENET: And think this is the right way to talk about it.
GORELICK: That's fine, and we will pursue it in private. But I appreciate both your answer and the elaboration on the answer.
You in your statement and your written statement -- which, with all due respect, we haven't had a chance to read since we just received it, and it's about an inch thick -- but in your oral statement you have a very impressive description of your activities in disrupting terrorist activities and trying to preempt terrorist activities from 1996 on.
GORELICK: And that also comes through in the intelligence that we have seen in your reporting.
I think two things would be news to the American people and should be news to the American people. And one is how engaged the CIA was and how engaged its foreign counterparts were on a daily basis checking and parrying and disrupting the activities of terrorists, particular al Qaeda; and second, that the CIA and its foreign partners were, in fact, effective in disrupting many terrorist plots.
Is that a fair summary?
TENET: It is.
And let me just say, just as the secretary of state builds a diplomatic coalition and the military has the foreign military, we systematically built a coalition of the willing with key regional partners who had the right access, and we did a lot of things to help them improve their capability.
But here's something people have to understand: You can't do this alone. TENET: You need nations willing to take responsibility to help you in this fight and that's what we recognized through authorities and other things we could do. And this has grown steadily over the '90s and into the time period we are now.
But there is a coalition of people that work this issue together.
GORELICK: And the CIA itself was active in these disruptions.
The point I'm trying to make here is that our nation was not simply responding via law enforcement, if you will, to the threat that was faced. You were out there very active and, in many cases, successful. Is that correct?
TENET: Commissioner Gorelick, we used all the tools at our disposal.
I've testified there were over 70 renditions, but renditions in and of themselves doesn't stop this. Active penetrations, disruptions of the kind you talked about were also being aggressively pursued through intelligence channels.
GORELICK: Thank you.
Now, from April through August of '01, the intelligence that you were providing to senior policy-makers in both a number of reports and in their content was hair raising, similar, and maybe even more so than the reports during the millennium -- a very significant spike.
And you have told us our collection sources lit up during this intense period. They indicated that multiple spectacular attacks were planned -- some of them in the final stages. The report suggested that the targets were American, though some reporting simply pointed to the West, or Israel.
The reporting, by itself, stood as a dramatic warning of imminent attack -- and you noted that these warnings were widely disseminated in the government.
Your agency has been faulted for not predicting that the attack would come in the United States and via an airplane.
First of all, did you limit your reporting of threats to say that this event -- whatever might be happening -- was only going to possibly happen overseas?
TENET: The predominant focus and threat of the reporting took us overseas, but we could not discount the possibility of an attack on the homeland, although the data just didn't exist with any specificity to take you there. I mean, that was what was maddening about this.
You see in my long testimony, all the disruption efforts were things where people were actually getting wrapped up about to do things.
We did not have this same kind of granularity inside the country, nor did the reporting take us -- in the tactical sense -- to give us the kind of specificity we needed to give us opportunities to do things that would have led us to conclude that the plot was inside the United States now.
GORELICK: We will get -- if time permits me, in any event -- to the relationship with the FBI and the gaps in reporting in the United States, and how that might have limited your ability to pinpoint what was happening here.
But my view of the reporting is that it talked about threats to American interests and while the specifics that you had were abroad, by no means did you say, "Don't worry about the domestic United States." Is that correct?
TENET: Is it OK to give you some historical perspective?
GORELICK: As long as it's short. I'm watching that light because my chairman is going to give my colleagues...
KEAN: I'm sorry. Go ahead. It's OK.
GORELICK: I've never seen you so easily intimidated.
I would like to ask how your colleagues in the administration responded.
My colleague, Mr. Fielding, asked you about the briefings that you did of the president and I was struck by the comment in that the president made, in "Bush at War," that Bin Laden was not the focus of his national security team. He said, "I didn't feel that sense of urgency. My blood was not nearly as boiling." And I think that's a fairly candid comment on his part.
Did he evidence that he was seized with the urgent nature?
TENET: By the spring and summer everybody was seized with the urgency of this nature by virtue of what I was telling them. And by this time period, the CSG's meeting every day. We're taking actions to undertake disruptions. The Defense Department is taking security precautions at its facilities. The State Department is taking security precautions at facilities overseas. The CSG is issuing advisories to the FAA.
So this period of time saw an enormous amount of activity typical to the kind of activity we saw in previous threat periods. And all I can tell you is the policy-maker's got it because I talked to all of them about it and they understood the nature of what we were dealing with.
GORELICK: Let me follow up on that, because you had said, and this is a quote from you, "I went into millennium threat mode," your phrase... TENET: Right.
GORELICK: ... meaning what was done at the end of 1999. But in the millennium threat mode, all of the principals were summoned to the NSC table to ensure that their departments could do everything they could.
Now, while in the administration in 2001 there were policy meetings, there were not deputies committee meetings or principals committee meetings around the threat. And to be sure, the CSG was meeting, but, as we will hear later today, the CSG operates at a different level.
Now, as it turns out, you didn't know what was inside the FBI. For goodness sakes, the FBI didn't know what was inside the FBI. Eighteen of the 19 hijackers entered this country after April 2001.
In the millennium, Attorney General Reno, we have been told, literally turned the FBI upside down and shook it and got information out of it that it might not have in some way disgorged. I mean the NSC didn't know that Al-Midhar and Al-Hamzi were the subject of an FBI search, or that the FBI had found Arab men trying to take flying lessons but not to learn how to take off or land, or the FAA didn't have the benefit of the State Department watch list, or that there was this really sleepy response, I have to say, from the FAA -- a couple of, in my view, feckless advisories. And the secretary of transportation told us he didn't even know about the threats.
GORELICK: When we interviewed Steve Hadley, he actually expressed surprise that there had been these daily meetings during the millennium.
So my question to you is, did you say, "Steve, when we have had these spikes before, we all got together so that we could find out what each other knew and to bring some intensity to this process"?
TENET: No, I didn't say that.
My sense of what is at the time was I was talking to the national security adviser and the president and vice president every day. I know that she was talking to her colleagues and principals. I know she had a meeting of domestic agencies sometime in July. I know the CSG was meeting.
Maybe the method of communication was different. I did not see any less attention to what we were trying to do. I certainly didn't get a sense that anybody was not paying attention to what I was doing and what I was briefing and what my concerns were and what we were trying to do.
I'm going to come back to my historical point because it's an important point, even if it takes a little bit of time.
GORELICK: My colleagues are telling me I didn't actually intimidate you.
Go right ahead, George.
TENET: What is one of the most important systemic lessons for all of us? I'll tell you what I think it is, OK? For a period of how many years, go back to the mid-'90s, all the way through 2001, what did we do relentlessly? We raced from threat to threat to threat. We resolved the threat; it either happened or it didn't happen.
And from the homeland perspective, what was the galvanizing mechanism that forced real defensive preparation and measures to be put in place?
So, you know, the question systemically is, if you go through the '90s and you're aware of hijackings, airline commissions -- and I'm not picking on a sector here, but my point is this: The country was not systemically protected because even in racing through all these threats, sometimes exhaustively -- we exhausted ourselves -- there was not a system in place to say, "You got to go back and do this and this and this and this."
It's not criticizing anybody, but the moral of the story is, if you'd taken those measures systemically over the course of time and closed seams, you might have had a better chance of succeeding, stopping, deterring or disrupting.
So it's easy to go talk about what I didn't get them to do on day one, day two or day three, and almost is the wrong way to talk about this, from a historical perspective, with a lot of experience, with a lot of mistakes we made and everybody else made. No perfection in this deal. We didn't stop this attack.
TENET: And so, the question is looking forward: How do you enhance your prospects of success?
With respect to everybody, going to more meetings isn't necessarily going to help -- OK -- and different policy-makers are going to basically communicate in different ways.
So one size doesn't fit all. You have to judge. I can only give you personal perspective from where I sat.
GORELICK: Let me make a comment because my time is up.
First of all, not speaking for the commission, but speaking for this commissioner, I completely agree with what you just said. The purpose of the meetings was to use essentially brute force to break through walls and barriers and seams and processes that were broken. That's not a solution. It is not a solution.
And we will ask, particularly Dick Clarke, about this this afternoon: What are the mechanisms for seeing what the problems are systemically and fixing them?
I raise the issue of the meetings because in the absence of those systemic fixes, all you can do is use brute force to bring everyone to the table and say: What do you know? Have you turned over every rock?
And that's why I raise that question.
But thank you very much for your comments and your testimony and your service.
KEAN: Thank you. I have one question.
Part of our job, as you know, is to make recommendations at the end of our report. And nobody worked harder than the CIA, you were into this earlier. You tried to alert other people. You did all the right things in those areas, and yet we failed. We really failed.
And the story is written up in books like "Ghost Wars" and so on of the whole effort and the frustrating effort to try and penetrate that sanctuary in Afghanistan, to really find bin Laden and capture him or take him out or whatever is a story of one frustration after another.
And I guess my question is, looking back at that period -- when we probably did have some opportunities to get him and didn't -- in hindsight, what did you need and what could you -- what could have government have given you -- what authorities what resources, what change -- what could have been done to change that history?
What should we be doing now? Because wilderness is where these people are going to hide. They're going to hide in the wild places of this world. And we're going to have this situation again of trying to get bin Laden or the future bin Ladens.
TENET: Governor, let me give you a big systemic answer that I feel pretty passionately about.
You know, in about the mid-'90s at the time we were trying to take this all on, we started to rebuild a clandestine human operations capability that went away on this country. We were trying to recapitalize NSA. We were trying to get ourselves better imagery capability.
And on the human side, I'm still five years away from being able to look at you in the eye and say -- because it's terribly -- you got to recruit the right people, have the right training infrastructure. We've built all those things.
There has to be -- you know, just like people talk about other instruments of power, there must be a relentless focus on ensuring that the intelligence capability this country has is allowed to grow in the critical areas that allow us to have capability inside sanctuaries where people are going to go hide.
TENET: The investment strategy is laid out; the strategic game plan is there. People have to sort of take a look at this from the perspective of: How do we ensure -- on just the capabilities side -- we ensure that the country gets the intelligence it deserves, no matter what it costs? Now, from the perspective of integration, the sharing of data, the relationship on the domestic side -- I mean, one of the things that obviously needs to be built here is seamless flows of data from your law enforcement community to your intelligence community that requires law enforcement community to have.
And Bob Mueller is building a digital communications system that allows you to connect the dots of his empire in the United States so all the data comes forward in a way that we can see it and feel it and touch it the same way and understand its integrity.
And all of that data that we collect, sir, ultimately we have to treat the state and local governments and their police forces as if they're part of this fight in a way, because they are not really interested in how you did the operation. They need the data. Thousands of people who walk around our streets that can collect data need to be educated.
Now, to be sure, we'll get into longer-term intelligence, systemic issues in April, I suspect.
And to be sure, we have to ask ourself some pretty tough questions about, are we organized the right way? Is this the structure you want for the next 50 years? It's been here for 57 years. What kinds of issues do we have to put on the table? All with the notion of fusing and integrating operations and data in a manner that's seamless so that there's never the assertion that I didn't see this piece of information that could have saved lives.
KEAN: Do you believe you're getting the support from the administration and the Congress to do that?
But we need to ensure that there's continuity in the approach over a long period of time. And this commission has to establish benchmarks and report cards and do-outs (ph) that the country has to have people come back and talk about every year.
Because as this thing fades, my fear is people are going to say, it's five years away, it's six. It's not. It's coming. They are still going to try and do it, and we need to sort of -- men and women here who have lost their families have to know that we've got to do a hell of a lot better.
KEAN: Vice Chairman Hamilton?
HAMILTON: Mr. Director, my questions may follow on from the two preceding ones, but maybe it will help to elaborate. And I think I'm probably taking you outside a little bit of your bailiwick, which is intelligence.
But I think all of us would agree that the primary responsibility of government is to protect and secure the people. HAMILTON: And the question that keeps coming back to me, and the question I think this commission has to answer, is why we were unable to do it.
Now, yesterday -- I don't know if you had a chance to tune in to any of the proceedings here, but we had -- in both administrations, they presented very long lists of things that they had done prior to 9/11 to keep the people secure. And I know those steps were taken with conviction and utter sincerity. And I don't believe there's any high-level public official that I've ever met that would not act to protect the American people.
But the over-arching fact, of course, is that we did not do it and we lost a lot of people. So the question that we have to address, and here I need some help from you, is why were we unable to do it?
TENET: Three layers of answers: We didn't steal the secret that told us what the plot was, we didn't recruit the right people or technically collect the data, notwithstanding enormous effort to do so -- macro issue.
Second issue: We didn't integrate all the data we had properly and probably we had a lot of data that we didn't know about that if everybody'd known about maybe we would have had a chance. I can't predict to you one way or another.
But you also had systemically a wall that was in place between the criminal side and the intelligence side. What's in a criminal case doesn't cross over that line. Ironclad regulations. So that even people in the Criminal Division and the Intelligence Divisions of the FBI couldn't talk to each other, let alone talk to us or us talk to them. Systemic issues like that: Patriot Act absolutely essential.
Three: Visa policies, watch list policies. We didn't watch list them and the FBI didn't find them and, you know, you have to make a determination, but we can't walk away from telling that and we have.
But there's a larger systemic question. OK, are we integrated in our watch list?
TENET: Is our visa policy commensurate? Do we know who's coming in and who's coming out? Are we getting the best data we possibly can?
The truth is, is here's the unassailable fact: The terrorist is a smart operational animal. He's going to figure all this out. He's going to figure out your watch list system's better or your visa system's better, and he's going to infiltrate your country with phony documents and passports.
And then the question's going to be: How good are you inside your country in understanding what these groups are doing? How good is your domestic intelligence capability? Precisely what Director Mueller's focused on. So those are different layers of the same problem, sir, but, you know, there's obviously that tactical thing that didn't go right. The cost -- never going to get out of my head. But there are some other things.
I think the deputy director would like to speak. He's getting restless here.
JAMES PAVITT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I'm just thinking about Chairman Kean's question and your question, Mr. Hamilton. It's obviously the key question, and there are many, many components to it. The director has talked about a number of them.
I think there are also issues of posture and resources. And while we were on the offensive prior to 9/11, and can document that in some of the ways that Commissioner Gorelick talked about, with capture operations and rendition operations and relations with other services, the country, with all of its capabilities, is now much more orchestrated into an offensive mix that is relentless.
One thing the American people need to understand is that we are still at war every single day; that the director and I and others gather in a room every day and go over operations around the world that have an offensive component to them, meaning we are acting on intelligence to take down terrorists across the world.
So the posture is very important, not just for the CIA, but for all of the agencies that are working with us.
HAMILTON: And that posture was not present prior to 9/11?
PAVITT: It wasn't present as a nation.
And as the director said, this war is going to go on for a long time. We are not at the end of it, and we will have to stay in an offensive posture -- and much of this will not be visible to the public. We will have to stay in an offensive posture 24/7.
Resources: Congress has been very generous with resources with us, and I'm not here to make a pitch for more resources at this point, other than to make the strong argument that this work is very resource-intensive.
PAVITT: And we are very well resourced now. But when one of these captures fleets across the headlines -- and there's a long list of them in the director's testimony -- Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Tawifq bin Atash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh -- all of these key figures -- it involves literally hundreds of people working sometimes weeks and months to accomplish that one thing, stations and individuals and agencies from every part of our government across continents. I could give you examples to demonstrate that, but it's very resource- intensive and labor-intensive.
So offensive posture, hard work, labor-intensive, and that's the way it's going to be for a long time.
HAMILTON: And in the lead-up now to 9/11, were you short of resources?
TENET: Systemically, absolutely. In terms of, you know...
HAMILTON: Were you requesting them and asking for them?
TENET: Sure, I went through this with the staff. I don't want to have a resource discussion when we're talking about these things. It's not appropriate.
HAMILTON: I didn't bring it up. He brought it up.
TENET: Yes, sir, I understand.
I'm trying to get to him through you, sir.
In any event -- you did well -- in any event, one of the things you might want to do Mr. Hamilton, I think the commission may want to do is you actually might want to come and sit out and see how it works today just to get a sense of what has changed. Well, how is the integration really working? What is the relationship between the CIA, the FBI, TTIC and all these entities? How good is the data sharing? You should see it, make your own judgments and think through what other systemic fixes we need to put in place.
HAMILTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Senator Kerrey?
BOB KERREY, COMMISSION MEMBER: Well, Mr. Chairman, let me, first of all, say for the record, since Dr. Rice is not going to be here in this -- yesterday we heard both Secretary Wolfowitz and Secretary Rumsfeld refer to the failure of the Clinton administration to deliver a plan dealing with al Qaeda, and they'd spent seven or eight months developing their own plan.
I was briefed this morning on that plan. And I would say, fortunately for the administration, it's classified because there's almost nothing in it. It calls for more diplomacy. It calls for increased pressure. Basically the same thing that Director Tenet just talked about, using tribals against al Qaeda. And lastly, calls for some vague things to try to oust Mullah Omar.
I mean, it's not, in my judgment, what it was sold to be. And I have to say that for the record. I would love to get Dr. Rice in front of this commission in the public to have her answer a series of questions about that because...
... I would say -- Chairman, I do not believe the August 20th attack on al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan was a pin prick. My guess is if you were on the ground that day, you would say, "I hope to hell this doesn't happen again." And I'll say for the record, sadly, it didn't happen again. That was the last time that mil ops were used against al Qaeda.
Osama bin Laden held a press conference to declare open war on the United States of America in February 1998. And I appreciate that Afghanistan has fewer targets, but in the expression of frustration about not having enough military operations so far, I don't see in the record any request for additional military operations. And I don't think we can look at Director Tenet and say that covert operations had to carry the day. I don't think it's enough.
And so I just want to say for the record that I'm personally frustrated. I've been very critical of the Clinton administration. I took your phone call on the 19th of August in 1998 to inform me, as vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that we were going to attack Afghanistan. And I told you then that I hoped it was big enough that they knew the United States of America had done it.
KERREY: And I think our only mistake was not doing more, not having seriatim attacks afterwards that allowed ourselves to say that we were going to try to destroy somebody who declared war upon us.
Now let me ask you a question relating to, again, this issue of policy. Why didn't we change our strategic policy? That's the provocative question the staff asked. I think an exceptional document that they read to the commission earlier.
Now let me take you back to the summer of 2001. On the 5th of July, National Security Advisor Rice says that she's worried enough about the millennium plot, that is to say an attack on the United States of America, that she asked Dick Clarke to bring a new set of domestic agencies into the counterterrorism security group, the CSG.
To be brief, that included Customs, INS, FAA, some local law enforcement people, as well. And as Commissioner Gorelick had decided earlier, I believe the warnings that were put out as a consequence of that were, at the very least, weak, given the possibilities of an attack on the United States demonstrated by the millennium plot.
The president was worried enough that he asked you, according to staff, about the possibility of a domestic attack. And that produced the presidential daily -- the famous presidential daily brief on the 6th of August, 2001.
And, you look confused, is that -- pardon me?
TENET: I don't think that's how it happened. But go ahead, sir. It doesn't -- please, I didn't mean to interrupt.
KERREY: Go ahead and correct me if it happened differently.
TENET: I don't know if I can but go ahead.
KERREY: Well, but the question that I've got is that, after that briefing is produced, after the daily briefing is done on the 6th of August, I don't understand why -- I appreciate you said all the things that we could do going forward.
I don't understand why we didn't put an order out to get everything the FBI had, get everything that everybody had in, try to determined whether or not it was possible an attack was going to occur in the United States of America. I just don't understand it, given the level of urgency that was demonstrated by Dr. Rice in talking to Mr. Clarke and demonstrated as well by the president in talking to you.
Now, tell me if I got it wrong.
TENET: Well, sir, my perspective on it is I believe that, through the mechanisms that we had in place, through the CSG process, through principals consultations, I briefed the attorney general, I believe people were doing all those things. I believe that I think people were doing everything they knew how to do to try and figure what this was and what this wasn't.
I didn't get a sense of a lack of urgency on the part of people in this time frame.
KERREY: I appreciate that, Director Tenet, and I'll ask Dick Clarke later, because he was chairing the CSGs all summer. I mean, he brings the FAA in; why in God's name doesn't he say, "You know, it's a possibility there's going to be a hijacking and it could be a domestic hijacking"? And it doesn't become a part of their planning. It doesn't become a part of their planning.
KERREY: They don't change the rules dealing with hijacking -- and I'll have a chance to ask Dick Clarke that later, but the FBI headquarters wasn't aware of the Phoenix memo. We had all this stuff out there, and I appreciate you've got this wall that was separating intel and law enforcement, and after Patriot and after 9/11, that changed.
But even before that -- it seems to me -- given the level of concern about a possible domestic attack, that we should have swept that information up to try to find out if there's anything out there that indicated an attack was going to occur in the United States.
I guess there's no question here, it's just a declaratory.
TENET: I've always learned how to listen to you, Senator Kerrey.
KERREY: I don't get it, George.
I mean, I don't understand why it wasn't done, and I don't think it's a resource question. I just don't understand why it wasn't done.
Mr. Chairman, I guess there's no question there -- this is all a statement as it turns out.
KEAN: Thank you.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, COMMISSION MEMBER: Good morning, Director Tenet.
I want to start out by thanking you and the extraordinary people who work at CIA for their dedication to the task of countering the terrorist threat.
And, as you know, I have been an admirer of you personally and, in the time that we have spent together, understand the tremendous pressures that individuals have been under in your agency to protect our country.
Let me pick up on, since my colleague, Senator Kerrey, raised the question -- with respect to the PDD of August 8, 2001, Dr. Rice has made some statements to us and, to some extent, publicly with respect to the origin of that document.
Is it fair to say that the recollection of CIA, which we have received in a written document from your office, contains a different recollection -- that that August 8th PDD was initiated by individuals within the CIA and not as a direct request from the national security adviser?
TENET: I simply don't know. I don't know what we've responded or what the origin is. I just don't know.
BEN-VENISTE: You might ask Mr. Bonk (ph) who is sitting behind you.
It is correct that we had received a document from you dated March 19th, 2004, in which that correction is noted?
BONK (ph): I think we initiated it, but...
TENET: Would you like Mr. Bonk (ph) to respond?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, he can whisper in your ear.
So that the record is correct on this point, since it was raised by Senator Kerrey, I think it's appropriate that we have been advised that the August 6th PDD was the product of individuals within CIA without prompting from national security...
TENET: Commissioner Ben-Veniste, Ben only has a recollection. Let me come back for the record. I'll go back and look at this. I just don't...
BEN-VENISTE: Well, I'll read into the record. The author of this piece and others familiar with it say they have no information to suggest that this piece was written in response to a question from the president. And indeed, it goes on to say that it was prompted by an idea from the CIA.
So we have these clarifications and it's appropriate that the record be as accurate as possible.
Let me go to another question, and that is August '98 -- the missile attack, 60 Tomahawk missiles more or less, 20 to 30 al Qaeda killed, bin Laden escaped, according to your intelligence with only hours to spare. Yesterday, we heard from the secretary of defense who talked about these missile attacks as bouncing the rebel.
Would you regard that attack in August of '98 as bouncing the rebel?
TENET: Well, you know that the '98 attack was predicated on intelligence that told us that there was going to be a gathering of senior al Qaeda leadership in one place.
BEN-VENISTE: Yes, I do.
TENET: So the potential value there was high.
I would say that continuing a program of cruise missile attacks wouldn't have been a smart thing to do subsequent to that because I don't think it would have made much difference unless there was some predictable intelligence, but I guess there's...
BEN-VENISTE: And we could talk about whether the flying of the Predator in its reconnaissance mode might have developed similar intelligence in the spring of 2001.
TENET: Should we talk about that?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, we can, but not on my nickel here.
Let me go into one other thing.
The CIA provided massive aid to the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan on the theory that our enemy's enemy could be our friend.
BEN-VENISTE: Fair enough.
What has continued to puzzle and troubled me, George, is this: Didn't the CIA -- knowing the proclivities and the extreme xenophobia of these jihadists, who the CIA had helped to arm and train, why didn't the CIA seek to penetrate these organizations and keep close track of them in the years that follow the disbanding of the effort in Afghanistan?
TENET: Well, first of all, there was an accommodation of mutual convenience, because we had a common enemy. And in fact, if you go back and look at some of the planning that we did, we went back and found people that used to work for us who became part of our networks again. Equally, you found other people that were fighting you, people who had become jihadists. There are people in Afghanistan today fighting us that we knew way back when, and people in Afghanistan today who are on our side.
So, I mean, we had an advantage in terms of understanding all of the personalities on the ground, who they were, what their networks looked like, so it was a plus.
But, you know, we drove the Russians out and essentially the United States left Afghanistan right after all of that, and the Taliban emerged and took a country down and allowed a terrorist organization to run a state. So the history here is interesting on all sides.
BEN-VENISTE: But given the fact that these were people trained in lethal modalities, who hated foreigners in Muslim countries, which is a basis of their attempt to throw the Russians out, don't you think you could have been more effective following up on some of these personalities, who include Osama bin Laden?
TENET: Well, but we didn't train him, Richard. But the point of the matter is, is a guy like Masood is somebody we met in this conflict and continued to work with. I mean, you know, we kept track of some of these people. We didn't keep track of all these people. Many of them show up as jihadists in other conflicts around the world.
So I wasn't around at the time, but I'm sure that the nature of our understanding of these relationships also helped us over the course of time as we were operating in Afghanistan.
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Commissioner Thompson?
JAMES R. THOMPSON, COMMISSION MEMBER: You can talk about the Predator on my nickel, Mr. Director.
THOMPSON: But, before you do, I want to read something to you.
Talking about the Predator, Mr. Clarke says, "CIA had been blocking the deployment, refusing to be involved in running an armed version of the unmanned aircraft to hunt and kill bin Laden." Is that statement true?
TENET: No. Blocking -- I'm sorry, can you read that again?
THOMPSON: Sure. "CIA had been blocking the deployment of the Predator, refusing to be involved in running an armed version of the unmanned aircraft to hunt and kill bin Laden."
TENET: I don't think that -- Dick had contacts with all kinds of people in our building, and they had all kinds of disputes, but at this level we wanted to go ahead with arming that Predator. I mean, I haven't read the book, so I don't know what the context is.
THOMPSON: Has anybody at CIA read the book?
TENET: Not yet, sir.
MCLAUGHLIN: Just, if I could add, Commissioner...
KEAN: Yes, Mr. McLaughlin?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, my recall of that period -- and again, I haven't read the book, and I don't know what context that sentence sits in, what comes before and after. But my recall of that period is we were all trying to figure out how to arm the Predator. That was not a trivial task.
And, in that period of time, we all wanted to get it armed. The only issues were really a matter of timing and a matter of how it would be deployed once it was armed; and, you know the story, whether it would be deployed in a reconnaissance mode and armed mode, or just one of those.
But that's my recall of where that story was with just not knowing the context of that sentence.
THOMPSON: The Predator couldn't fly in the winter, is that correct?
TENET: That's correct. There were problems in the winter time.
THOMPSON: And you had to go through all sorts of testings to arm it, is that correct, because it hadn't been designed as an armed missiles?
TENET: There was an extensive testing program that took you through the summer and, actually, early fall of 2001, sir.
THOMPSON: So, is it fair to say that the administration, and everybody in it, was trying to get to an armed Predator as quickly as possible?
TENET: Yes, sir.
THOMPSON: Mr. Director, I want to read for the public record two paragraphs in your written statement, because I think they deserve the attention of the public record.
Page 12, talking about the spiked reporting in the summer of 2001: "The reporting was maddeningly short on actionable details. The most ominous reporting hinting at something big was also the most vague. The only occasions in this threat of reporting where there was an explicit or implicit location appeared to point abroad, especially to U.S. interests in the Middle East." And then on 13: "There is a vast difference between being aware that a type of threat exists" -- and a type of threat would, for example be, the use of airplanes as weapons -- "and having a specific warning of the date, time and location of a planned attack. We did not have intelligence of that specificity on which we could warn or take action."
KEAN: Please sit down, sir.
The committee will stand in recess until the police restore order.
You may proceed, sir.
BEN-VENISTE: Mr. Tenet, do you have any idea of how many aircraft were in the air on September 11th?
TENET: I don't, sir.
BEN-VENISTE: If I said over 4,000 would that surprise you?
BEN-VENISTE: Had the president of the United States ever been told anything by anybody, but especially by the CIA, that would have allowed him to predict that on the morning of September 11th four aircraft would be hijacked and used as weapons at specific locations?
TENET: Had we told him that, sir? Is that the question?
TENET: No, we did not.
BEN-VENISTE: Were you able, using all sources of your intelligence, to tell him that?
TENET: I was not before the attack.
BEN-VENISTE: In the period January to September 2001, the CIA participated, along with other agencies, in the preparation of the plan, as it's been described, responding to the threat of al Qaeda, is that correct?
TENET: That's correct.
BEN-VENISTE: Were you ever dissatisfied with the pace of the Bush administration in the preparation of that plan?
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Director. KEAN: Thank you.
ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Mr. Director.
As a member of the Intelligence Committee, having travelled around the world to visit some of the locations where we have the dedicated people working for the CIA, I just want to remind you how highly you're held in esteem by those people. And I want to thank those people around the world for the spectacular job they do.
I want to try, Mr. Director, if we can to talk about your role in the PDBs and the NSC's role in developing policy. As I said yesterday, I would hope that if we get Mr. Clarke here -- which he will be here in a few hours -- sworn in to tell the truth, that we would have Dr. Rice come and talk in the same way under the same grounds and talk to us about how policy was or was not developed during the first nine months of the Bush administration.
Would you agree, Mr. Director, that the PDBs are not policy?
As you said before, you are frustrated by racing around from event to event trying to find out where they're coming at us next. Are you a policy-maker?
TIMOTHY J. ROEMER, COMMISSION MEMBER: You're not a policy-maker. The NSC, whether it be in the Clinton or the Bush administration, is tasked with developing the policy of the president of the United States, coordinating that policy with other agencies, and pushing it out and implementing it so something gets done, whether that's in the State Department policy or fighting al Qaeda.
TENET: Mr. Roemer, I obviously have an input into the policy process with the data I provide. And from time to time I am asked, although I don't inject unilaterally, for my views on issues. Doesn't happen all the time, but it occasionally happens and happens on terrorism occasionally.
ROEMER: With you not fulfilling the policy-maker role, but that we agree that the NSC is the primary policy-maker and coordinator for the president and the United States government -- I want to come back to that in a minute, but I want to come to the PDD itself.
The PDD of August 6th, 2001, as you're aware, was declassified or portions of it were declassified from a conversation with the CIA provided to the joint inquiry. It's a public document declassified on page 206 of that public document, and I want to read you a couple of things that were included in the joint inquiry statement on that PDD of that August 6th, 2001 time period.
"A senior government official told the joint inquiry that the information included that bin Laden had wanted to conduct attacks on the United States since 1997. It mentions al Qaeda, including some U.S. citizens, had resided in or traveled to the United States for years and the group apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information obtained and disseminated in 1998 that bin Laden wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release of U.S.-held extremists.
"The FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings of other types of attacks as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of bin Laden supporters were planning attacks in the United States with explosives."
Now, that's the joint inquiry public declassified statement about what was in the August 6th, 2001 PDD.
Now, that's not saying that this was in New York on September 11th of 2001. That is saying there was a possibility of attacks domestically.
Now, why weren't we concentrating more on those kinds of possibilities? You were running around saying something spectacular is going to happen. You were worried about this. You were on record from 1998 on saying you're at war with al Qaeda.
But why wasn't the United States government more concerned about those attacks on the United States?
TENET: Congressman Roemer, I'd ask you this afternoon when you get Mr. Clarke here, who was the chairman of the CSG, to go through the process of what they were looking at, actions they were tasking, how they thought about this problem. I wasn't sitting in that room.
I'd ask you to think about asking him how we dealt with this in this time period and find out what that response is.
ROEMER: So you're saying that it is the responsibility of the National Security Council...
TENET: Well, the CSG...
ROEMER: ... to develop the policy to go after the terrorists...
TENET: Sir, the CSG is a mechanism where all of these issues come into play every time it meets. What is the threat? What actions do we take?
TENET: What are we asking agencies to do?
It's a focal point for the way this government has organized itself around terrorism for years.
ROEMER: So you're saying it's them, not the CIA, that should have been attentive to this?
TENET: Well, the CIA is in the CSG meeting as well. I mean, everybody's at the table. The FBI is there, the NCS is there, CIA is there, domestic agencies are there.
Throughout this time period -- I don't have access to the minutes and recordings of what happened -- what actions were they tasking, how were they thinking about this?
ROEMER: They're going through a bottom-up review...
KEAN: Congressman, we've got to move on. We have run out of time. We've got one more commissioner.
Just to underscore my concerns here, Mr. Director, I really believe that we need better data mining and better coordination at the CIA to track that kind of information in the PDBs so that you can task back to the policy-makers in the White House about how to go after this threat and how to help develop this.
Dr. Rice, Mr. Clarke and others, we will talk to about their role in developing the government's coordination and the government policy with respect to this.
Thank you again.
KEAN: Thank you all.
Last questions are going to come from Commissioner Lehman.
JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you.
Mr. Director, I have three questions.
One, first, a number of the interviewees in the testimony that we've had have complained about an overly legalistic culture in dealing with operations and with intelligence that was particularly marked in the Clinton administration but hasn't really changed much since.
The '93 attack on the WTI, on the World Trade Center -- there were some very significant linkages that came out of that investigation. Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the paying of legal bills by Osama bin Laden, to the assassin of the rabbi in Israel, Rabbi Kahane, and particularly the role, which still is not clear to us, of Abdul Rahman Yasin.
All of this came out and these linkages were there in the investigation of the attack, but we have been told by a number of witnesses that there was such a total forensic policy toward that event that there was almost no sharing of this information.
LEHMAN: When did you learn about all these al Qaeda linkages to the '93 World Trade Center? Was it shared with you as it was developed?
TENET: Commissioner Lehman, I don't get to CIA until '95. I have to go back and look. I just don't recall when those things were shared. I'll go back and check. I don't remember.
LEHMAN: I'd appreciate that for the record.
One of the issues that has troubled me is why, after it became known of Yasin's, particularly Yasin's role and linkages and the fact that he fled to Baghdad and was in the hands of the Iraqi intelligence, was there ever any effort made to render him? And where is he now?
TENET: Yes. And I don't know if I can do this in the open, but the answer is yes. And I'd like to give you the details of that.
KEAN: OK. We'll receive that in private.
LEHMAN: Thank you.
The second question is the Cole. Yesterday, we had a former secretary of state say that she was given no evidence of any linkages between al Qaeda and the Cole attack right up to the end of the administration. And there have been other witnesses that have said that CIA did not say there was a link to al Qaeda until well into -- or at least into the early months of the new administration.
TENET: Sir, I believe that the briefing charts that we've reviewed would say that the briefing said something like the following: "On a preliminary basis, we believe that there are operatives who are associated with al Qaeda that took part in this attack." There are some named individuals.
The briefing also goes on to note that, "Some of the data that is coming to us is coming from the Yemenis, we don't have direct access to some of their prisoners, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." The briefing also then says that we could not make a conclusive judgment about whether bin Laden and his lieutenants had authority, direction and control over this operation, notwithstanding the fact there were named al Qaeda operatives who participated in the operation.
I think I've got that about right. Maybe there's more to it.
So there is al Qaeda operatives as a link. There is no definitive, at that moment, authority, direction and control.
You'll remember in the East Africa bombings, you did have authority, direction and control through some means -- very, very quickly -- and there were named individuals: Nashiri, Kahlad (ph), some other people who were al Qaeda operatives.
And so there is a distinction between where these operatives -- what we couldn't take you to was until we got Nashiri and Kahlad (ph) in custody over a year later -- well, a year after 9/11, no specific dates -- where they both told us definitively that bin Laden was involved in the planning and execution of this attack, we could not say definitively that we had that piece of data while we had al Qaeda operatives of their stature involved in the attack.
LEHMAN: So that assessment was made -- what? -- not until January?
TENET: No, sir, I think that that assessment is provided -- I think the same assessment was provided in December and in January. There were three different periods.
My recollection is that there's a meeting in November -- there's a small group meeting in November, there's a principals meeting in December that I did not physically get to, I don't believe. John was there. And then there's a follow-on material that's written in the January time frame.
LEHMAN: Thank you.
My last question is, Mr. Clarke and others, as we've heard in the staff statement this morning, have stated that at least since the Church- Pike era, there is a very deeply entrenched culture in the Directorate of Operations against covert operations and especially and strongly against assassination.
Do you share Mr. Clarke's assessment?
TENET: No, I don't.
Look, I know that -- you've asked three separate questions in one.
Number one, to, sort of, talk about the culture of the Directorate of Operations without living and working there every day is a stretch, OK?
Number two, nobody ever talks about assassinations frivolously -- ever. So one and the other. But the idea that they're risk-averse, couldn't get the job done, weren't forward-leaning -- I'm sorry, I've heard those comments and I just categorically reject them.
LEHMAN: Do you also reject Mr. Clarke's statement that at least two of the most senior officials in D.O. said they'd resign rather than carry out?
TENET: Well, I don't know that because I think that was something you learned in your staff interviews. And I don't -- this is an issue...
KEAN: We're going to move on.
TENET: There's some deeply held views here, but, I mean, I don't know who said it and why they said it. There you go, sir.
LEHMAN: Thank you.
KEAN: With your permission, sir, Senator Gorton has asked for one final question.
SLADE GORTON, COMMISSION MEMBER: Mr. Director, Commissioner Roemer's last question led me to ask you whether or not the bright line distinction established in 1947 between intelligence domestically and intelligence overseas, in your view, is now an anachronism and whether some reorganization in that connection is in order.
TENET: I don't know if I understand the question.
GORTON: Should the CIA have some jurisdiction within the United States?
TENET: Absolutely not. Under no circumstance.
GORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: OK, I want to thank you very, very much. We appreciate your testimony, appreciate your coming.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening in to day two of the 9/11 Commission hearings, taking place on Capitol Hill, in the Senate hearing room. CIA director George Tenet on the hot seat today. He has been answering questions for about the last hour and 45 minutes. The CIA director saying that his biggest concern that this turns into a nitpicking session, and not one that looks at what America needs to do to keep this from happening again as they go forward. His concern that as the memory of 9/11 fades, Americans will become less concerned. He says that will be a big mistake.
Still a lot more testimony ahead on this second day of the commission hearings. Let's take a look at who will be coming up: Samuel Berger, former national security adviser under the Clinton administration; Richard Clarke, he has been in the news with the release of his book this week, "Against All Enemies," very critical of the Bush administration and how they handled the war on terrorism, and then Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, currently serving the Bush administration under Colin Powell.
We'll have much more ahead. We're going to get reaction from the White House and also from the Pentagon, straight ahead. Right now, we fit in a quick break.
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