I am honored to address this the 26th Meeting of the ‘Pumpkin Papers Irregulars.” It is humbling to share the podium with such Intelligence Community luminaries as former Directors of Intelligence: William Casey, William Webster And James Woolsey. Indeed this gathering has reached out to other giants such as Kenneth Starr and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Finally, this gathering has been treated to an address by no less than President Richard Nixon who owes, at least part of his fame to the incidents which spawned the reason for the gathering.
Each year you gather in the name of a symbol of over a half century of debate - the Pumpkin Papers. There are those far more schooled and knowledgeable about the details of the Alger Hiss - Whittaker Chambers confrontation so I won’t bore you with my interpretation. Rather, I would like to address a points which may remind each of us, that the names may change in life’s dramas but the propensity of some to repudiate freedom in the name of what they believe to be ‘the better path’ will usually be the origin of their woes.
Justice Stevens wrote :
There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.
Such was the case with a young Ronald Reagan during the ‘childhood’ of his Political career. President Reagan attributed his turn from “New Deal liberalism” to the conservative values he espoused for the rest of his life in large and significant part to the Hiss case. In fact, some of his earlier letters give us a view of Reagan’s extreme distaste for Hiss, “the perjurer and traitor” and a media that would edit the true meaning of an interview to suit its political leanings.
In a letter dated 20 November 1962 to longtime pen-pal, Lorraine Wagner, President Reagan commented on an interview by Alger Hiss on ABC. The interview was part of Hiss’ campaign to create a “new truth’ from the old facts. It was noteworthy because Chambers had recently died and obviously could not answer. What was as vexing to Reagan was ABC’s willingness to artfully edit the interviews of those providing facts harmful to Hiss’ case. It was appalled by the lack of integrity on the part of the network; yet he took the time to emphasize the need for a complete and truthful media, free of the political spin one could make of the facts.
I would like to discuss with you tonight a few observations and recommendations concerning issues within our Intelligence Community.
Long before the September 11 attacks, I made no secret of my feelings of disappointment in the U.S. Intelligence Community for its performance in a string of smaller-scale intelligence failures during the last decade. Since September 11, I have similarly hid from no one my belief that the Intelligence Community does not have the decisive and innovative leadership it needs to reform itself and to adapt to the formidable challenges of the 21st Century.
My term of eight (8) years on the Intelligence Committee has ended. It was a fascinating and difficult time to be Chairman. Too much has happened, however, for us to be able to conclude that the American people and our national security interests can be protected simply by throwing more resources at agencies still fundamentally wedded to the pre-September 11 status quo. I salute the brave and resourceful Americans – both in and out of uniform – who are even at this moment taking the fight to the enemy in locations around the world. These patriots, however, deserve better than our government’s recommitment to the bureaucratic recipes that helped leave us less prepared for this war than we should have been.
There are six areas I will briefly touch on. I will begin with what I feel is the most pressing need within the Intelligence Community-LEADERSHIP!
The lack of leadership within the Intelligence Community impacts directly on the its structure and organization. The story of counterterrorism (CT) intelligence work before September 11 illustrates not only the unwillingness of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) fully to exercise the powers he had to direct resources and attention to Counterterrorism, but also the institutional weakness of the Director’s office within the Community. Caught ambiguously between its responsibilities for providing national-level intelligence and providing support to the Department of Defense to which most Intelligence Community agencies owe their primary allegiance, the Community proved relatively unresponsive to the Director’s rhetorical 1998 declaration of “war” against Al-Qa’ida. The fragmented nature of the Director’s authority has exacerbated the centrifugal tendencies of bureaucratic politics and has helped ensure that the Intelligence Community responds too slowly and too disjointedly to shifting threats. Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the Community still faces inordinate difficulty responding to evolving national security threats.
To help alleviate these problems, the office of the Director should be given more management and budgetary authority over Intelligence Community organs and be separated from the job of the CIA Director, as the Joint Inquiry suggests in urging that we consider reinventing the Director of Central Intelligence as the “Director of National Intelligence.” Moreover, the Director (or DNI, as the case may be) should be compelled actually to use these powers in order to effect real Intelligence Community coordination and management. An Intelligence Community finally capable of being coherently managed as a Community would be able to reform and improve itself in numerous ways that prove frustratingly elusive today – ultimately providing both its national-level civilian and its military customers with better support. Congress should give serious consideration, in its intelligence reform efforts, to developing an approach loosely analogous to that adopted by the Goldwater-Nichols Act in reforming the military command structure in order to overcome entrenched bureaucratic interests and forge a much more effective “joint” whole out of a motley and disputatious collection of parts. Most importantly, Congress and the Administration should focus upon ensuring an organizational structure that will not only help the Intelligence Community respond to current threats but will enable our intelligence bureaucracies to change themselves as threats evolve in the future.
Ultimately, Congress and the Administration should re-examine the basic structure of the intelligence provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 in light of the circumstances and challenges our country faces today. Returning to these roots might suggest the need to separate our country’s “central” intelligence analytical functions from the resource-hungry collection responsibilities that make agencies into self-interested bureaucratic “players.”
Information-Sharing. Our Joint Inquiry has highlighted fundamental problems with information-sharing within the Intelligence Community, depriving analysts of the information access they need in order to draw the inferences and develop the conclusions necessary to inform decision-making. This should come as no surprise to anyone! The Intelligence Community’s abject failure to “connect the dots” before September 11, 2001 illustrates the need to wholly re-think the Community’s approach to these issues. The CIA’s chronic failure, before September 11, to share with other agencies the names of known Al-Qa’ida terrorists who it knew to be in the country allowed at least two such terrorists the opportunity to live, move, and prepare for the attacks without hindrance from the very federal officials whose job it is to find them. Sadly, the CIA seems to have concluded that the maintenance of its information monopoly was more important that stopping terrorists from entering or operating within the United States.
Nor did the FBI fare much better, for even when notified in the so-called “Phoenix Memo” of the danger of Al-Qa’ida flight school training, its agents failed to understand or act upon this information in the broader context of information the FBI already possessed about terrorist efforts to target or use U.S. civil aviation. The CIA watchlisting and FBI Phoenix stories illustrate both the potential of sophisticated information-sharing and good information-empowered analysis and the perils of failing to share information promptly and efficiently between (and within) organizations. They demonstrate the need to ensure that intelligence analysis is conducted on a truly “all-source” basis by experts permitted to access all relevant information – no matter where in the Intelligence Community it happens to reside.
In order to overcome bureaucratic information-hoarding and empower analysts to do the work our national security requires them to do, we need to take decisive steps to reexamine the fundamental intellectual assumptions that have guided the Intelligence Community’s approach to managing national security information. As one witness told the Joint Inquiry, we may need “to create a new paradigm wherein ‘ownership’ of information belonged with the analysts and not the collectors.” In addition, the imbalance between analysis and collection makes clear that in addition to being empowered to conduct true “all-source” analysis, our analysts will also need to be supplied with powerful new tools if they are to provide analytical value-added to the huge volumes of information the Intelligence Community brings in every day.
I fear that the information-analysis organization within the new Department of Homeland Security, which has great potential to contribute to effective Counterterrorism informationsharing and analyst-empowerment within the U.S. Government, will fall victim to the same hoarding. If knowledge is power, then hoarding becomes the ‘steroid’ which has damaged the Intelligence Community to the point of its own ineffectiveness.
The September 11 story also illustrates the tremendous problems of coordination between U.S. law enforcement and intelligence entities that developed out of a long series of misunderstandings, timorous lawyering, and mistaken assumptions. Congress and the Administration have made progress since September 11 in breaking down some of the mythologies that impeded coordination. Thanks to Congress’ passage of the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001 and the Justice Department’s success in appellate litigation to compel the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to implement these changes, for instance, the legally fallacious “Wall” previously assumed to exist between intelligence and law enforcement work has been breached and years of coordination-impeding Justice Department legal reticence has been overcome.
We can NEVER and should NEVER again see the kind of decision-making exhibited when the CIA refused to share information with FBI criminal investigators about two known Al-Qa’ida terrorists (and soon-to-be suicide hijackers) in the United States, and when the FBI – only days before the September 11 attacks – deliberately restricted many of its agents from participating in the effort to track down these terrorists on the theory that this was work in which criminal investigators should play no role. We cannot afford to see the kind of fundamental legal misunderstanding displayed by FBI lawyers in the Moussaoui case, in which investigators in Minneapolis were led on a three-week wild goose chase by a faulty analysis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It will take sustained Congressional oversight in order to ensure compliance with the information-sharing authorities and mandates of the USA PATRIOT ACT, but it is imperative that we ensure that such problems do not recur. The American people certainly deserve better from those of us to whom they entrust the National Security.
Domestic Intelligence. The story of September 11 is also replete with the FBI’s problems of internal counterterrorism and counterintelligence (CI) coordination, information-sharing, and basic institutional competence. The FBI was unaware of what information it possessed relevant to internal terrorist threats, unwilling to devote serious time, attention, or resources to basic intelligence analytical work, and too organizationally fragmented and technologically impoverished to fix these shortfalls even had it understood them and really wished to do so. These problems persisted, moreover, through a major FBI reorganization ostensibly designed to address these problems, which had been well known for years.
The FBI’s problems in these respects suggests that the Bureau’s organizational and institutional culture is terribly flawed, and indeed that the Bureau – as a law enforcement organization – is fundamentally incapable, in its present form, of providing Americans with the security they require against foreign terrorist and intelligence threats. This is what I have termed “the tyranny of the case file.” Modern intelligence work increasingly focuses upon shadowy transnational targets, such as international terrorist organizations, that lack easily-identifiable geographic loci, organizational structures, behavioral patterns, or other information “signatures.” Against such targets, intelligence collection and analysis requires an approach to acquiring, managing, and understanding information quite different from that which prevails in the law enforcement community. The United States already has a domestic intelligence agency in the form of the FBI, but this agency is presently unequal to the challenge, and provides neither first-rate Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence competence nor the degree of civil liberty protections that would obtain were domestic intelligence collectors deprived of their badges, guns, and arrest powers and devoted wholly to Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism tasks. This pattern of dysfunction compels us to consider radical reform at the FBI.
A very strong argument can be made for removing the Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism portfolios from the Bureau, placing them in a stand-alone member of the Intelligence Community that would be responsible for domestic intelligence collection and analysis but would have no law enforcement powers or responsibilities. Alternatively, it might be sufficient to separate the Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism functions of the FBI into a semi-autonomous organization that reports to the FBI director for purposes of overall coordination and accountability, but which would in every other respect be wholly separate from the “criminal” components of the FBI. A third approach might be to move the FBI’s Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism functions to the new Department of Homeland Security, thereby adding a domestic collection element to that organization’s recently created UnderSecretariat for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.
Human Intelligence. The status quo of Intelligence Community approaches to human intelligence (HUMINT) was tested against the Al-Qa’ida threat and found wanting. The CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) has been too reluctant to develop non-traditional HUMINT platforms, and has stuck too much and for too long with the comparatively easy work of operating under diplomatic cover from U.S. embassies. This approach is patently unsuited to HUMINT collection against nontraditional threats such as terrorism or proliferation targets, and the CIA must move emphatically to develop an entirely new collection paradigm involving greater use of non-official cover (NOC) officers. Among other things, this will necessitate greater efforts to hire HUMINT collectors from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, though without a fundamental shift in the CIA’s HUMINT paradigm diversity for diversity’s sake will be of little help. The CIA should also spend more time developing its own sources, and less time relying upon the political munificence of foreign liaison services.
Covert Action. The CIA’s decidedly mixed record of success in offensive operations against Al-Qa’ida before September 11 illustrates the need for the President to convey legal authorities with absolute clarity. If we are not to continue to encourage the kind of risk-averse decision making that inevitably follows from command-level indecision, our intelligence operators risking their lives in the field need to know that their own government will make clear to them what their job is and protect them when they do it. Congress should bear this in mind when conducting its legitimate oversight of covert action programs in the future, even as it struggles to cope with the oversight challenges posed by the potential for the Defense Department to take a greater role in such activities.
Accountability. The story of September 11 is one replete with failures: to share information, to coordinate with other agencies; to understand the law, follow existing rules and procedures, and use available legal authorities in order to accomplish vital goals; to devote or redirect sufficient resources and personnel to counterterrorism work; to communicate priorities clearly and effectively to Intelligence Community components; to take seriously the crucial work of strategic counterterrorism analysis; and most importantly, to rise above parochial bureaucratic interests in the name of protecting the American people from terrorist attack.
The threat we face today is in no danger of subsiding any time soon, and the problems our Intelligence Community faces are not ones wisely left unaddressed any longer. Precisely because we face a grave and ongoing threat, we must begin reforming the Community immediately. Otherwise we will be unable to meet this threat. The metaphor of “war” is instructive, for wise generals do not hesitate to hold their subordinates accountable while the battle still rages, disciplining or cashiering those who fail to do their duty. So also do wise Presidents dispose of their faltering generals under fire. Indeed, failures in wartime are traditionally considered less excusable, and are punished more severely, than failures in times of peace. Nor should we forget that accountability has two sides. It is also a core responsibility of all good leaders to reward those who perform well, and promote them to positions of ever greater responsibility.
The failings leading up to September 11 were not ones of impetuousness, the punishment for which might indeed discourage the risk-taking inherent in and necessary to good intelligence work. The failures of September 11 were generally ones not of reckless commission but rather of nervous omission. They were failures to take the necessary steps to rise above petty parochial interests and concerns in the service of the common good. It is clear that without real accountability, these many problems will simply remain unaddressed – leaving us needlessly vulnerable in the future. I advocate no crusade to hold low-level employees accountable for the failures of September 11. There clearly were some individual failings, but for the most part our hard-working and dedicated intelligence professionals did very well, given the limited tools and resources they received and the constricting institutional culture and policy guidance they faced. The Intelligence Community’s rank-and-file deserve no discredit for resource decisions and for creating these policies.
Accountability must begin with those whose job it was to steer the Intelligence Community and its constituent agencies through these shoals, and to ensure that all of them cooperated to the best of their abilities in protecting our national security. Responsibility must lie with the leaders who took so little action for so long, to address problems so well known. The U.S. Intelligence Community would have been far better prepared for September 11 but for the failure of successive agency leaders to work wholeheartedly to overcome the institutional and cultural obstacles to interagency cooperation and coordination that bedeviled counterterrorism efforts before the attacks: Directors George Tenet and John Deutch, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and NSA Directors Michael Hayden and Kenneth Minnihan, and NSA Deputy Director Barbara McNamara. These individuals are not responsible for the disaster of September 11, of course, for that infamy belongs to Al-Qa’ida’s 19 suicide hijackers and the terrorist infrastructure that supported them. As the leaders of the United States Intelligence Community, however, these fficials failed in significant ways to ensure that this country was as prepared as it could have been.
As a final thought I would like to address the classification system. The much speculated about 28 pages in the Joint Inquiry Report should be largely declassified. Ultimately, the President must decide if these passages were classified to further our continuing dialogue with those who call themselves our Allies.
It appears that they were classified based on some misguided notion that our “Ally” would be offended. This is wrong. The concept of accountability in the Global war on terrorism is now a multi-national accountability. It is time for Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and all others who would want and need our assistance to publicly support our efforts with all their considerable resources. We will fight alone if we have to but we must address this scourge at its roots. Those roots are not found on our homeland. They are fostered in those Nations who turn a blind eye.
We all have heard Edmund Burke’s cogent quote:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
You may be unaware however of another of his Quotes:
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
It is time for us all to combine; to fix those ills within the Intelligence Community so that our good men and women can prevail.