September 18, 2002 Committee Hearing: Stephen Push, Kristin Breitweiser, Eleanor Hill
Joint House And Senate Select Intelligence Committee
September 18, 2002
CHAIRMAN HOLDS HEARING ON 9/11 FAILURES
LOCATION: WASHINGTON, D.C.
STEPHEN PUSH, SPOUSE OF 9/11 VICTIM
KRISTIN BREITWEISER, SPOUSE OF 9/11 VICTIM
ELEANOR HILL, STAFF DIRECTOR, JOINT INQUIRY COMMITTEE
HOUSE AND SENATE JOINT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT AND MAY NOT BE IN
ITS FINAL EDITED FORM.]
SEPTEMBER 18, 2002
HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER J. GOSS (R-FL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DOUG BEREUTER (R-NE)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL N. CASTLE (R-DE)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT (R-NY)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JIM GIBBONS (R-NV)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RAY LAHOOD (R-IL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RANDY "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD BURR (R-NC)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TERRY EVERETT (R-AL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA)
HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SANFORD BISHOP JR. (D-GA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JANE HARMAN (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GARY CONDIT (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TIM ROEMER (D-IN)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SILVESTRE REYES (D-TX)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE LEONARD BOSWELL (D-IA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE COLLIN PETERSON (D-MN)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BUD CRAMER (D-AL)
SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
U.S. SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (D-FL)
U.S. SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV (D-WV)
U.S. SENATOR DIANE FEINSTEIN (D-CA)
U.S. SENATOR RON WYDEN (D-OR)
U.S. SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL)
U.S. SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-IN)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC)
U.S. SENATOR BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-MD)
U.S. SENATOR RICHARD C. SHELBY (R-AL)
U.S. SENATOR JON KYL (R-AZ)
U.S. SENATOR JAMES M. INHOFE (R-OK)
U.S. SENATOR ORRIN G. HATCH (R-UT)
U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS)
U.S. SENATOR MIKE DEWINE (R-OH)
U.S. SENATOR FRED THOMPSON (R-TN)
U.S. SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN)
GRAHAM: I call the joint inquiry committee to order. We are here today because 3,025 innocent people, most of them Americans, were killed 53 weeks ago when terrorists stunned the world by hijacking domestic airliners and crashing them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania. We are here today because so many Americans have been personally touched by these horrific events.
We who are privileged to serve in the Senate think of our colleagues and staff as a family. And the Senate family, especially those of the Select Committee on Intelligence, suffered a special loss. Terry Lynch (ph) who had turned 49 one week before the attacks was married and the father of two beautiful daughters, Tiffany Marie (ph) and Ashley Nicole (ph). For more than two decades, he was a public servant. He spent several years on the bipartisan staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he was our expert on Middle Eastern affairs. In 1999, Terry left government service and became a consultant.
On September the 11th, 2001, Terry was attending a meeting at the Pentagon on the subject of extending military survivor benefits to military families. Every day, Terry's family and the Senate family mourn his loss. And we have him on our minds and hearts today as we begin the public hearing phase of the joint inquiry committee's review of those events of September 11th.
Like all Americans, we now realize that terrorism is no longer something that happens "over there" to people on the other side of the globe. Terrorism can hurt people close to us, here at home. In the days after September 11th, many were quick to blame the success of the terrorists' diabolical plot on failures of intelligence or preparedness. These public hearings are part of our search for truth, not to point fingers but to pin blame, but with the goal of identifying and correcting whatever systemic problems might have prevented our government from detecting and disrupting Al Qaida's plot.
The public hearings follow a series of ten closed hearings, including one held on September 12. It is our task here to fulfill our oversight responsibility and to recommend reforms. We will follow the facts wherever they lead to provide answers to the American people and to improve our nation's security. While there have been many congressional investigations of significant events in our nation's history, including the several inquiries that followed Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, this is the first time in the history of the Congress that two permanent committees have joined to conduct a bicameral investigation.
The Joint Inquiry Committee has hired an independent staff, negotiated with the executive branch over access to documents and witnesses and coordinated with the federal judiciary to assure that our public hearings will not interfere with pending prosecutions. I congratulate my colleagues from the Senate and the House and our staff for their commitment and determination to fulfill our obligation to the American people. I am very pleased with our progress today.
As we enter the public hearing phase of the inquiry, our purpose is to inform the American people of our findings and to continue exploring what reforms will be necessary to reduce the chances of another terrorist attack on our homeland. As we said in the preamble to the scope of inquiry statement that the committee adopted in April, our review is designed to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks, to honor the memories of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks by conducting a thorough search for facts to answer the many questions that their families, and many Americans, have raised, and to lay the basis for assessing the accountability of institutions and officials of the government.
To reach those ends, our inquiry is focusing on three key areas. One, the evolution of the terrorist threat to the United States, and our government's awareness of and response to that threat.
GRAHAM: It is important that we gain an understanding of how terrorist organizations, particularly Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida, move from being a relatively insignificant threat to American interests just a decade ago to their status today as America's number one threat.
Second, what the intelligence community and the active consumers of the government's intelligence knew, or should have known, prior to September 11th about the scope and nature of possible attacks on U.S. interests by international terrorists. By examining how and when the government recognized this evolving threat, and how it responded to that threat, we will gain insights into the ways that we need to respond to terrorism. Clearly, this is not a static threat, but a rapidly changing and accelerating danger to America.
Three, how the agencies that make up our intelligence community interact with one another, as well as with other federal, state and local agencies with respect to identifying, tracking, assessing and coping with international terrorist threats, including biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear. The ultimate question we will seek to answer is this, "How can we use the information that we discover during the inquiry to recommend, and then to successfully advocate to the American people and our colleagues, changes in the intelligence community that will reduce the prospects of another September 11?"
In this first open hearing, we will hear from two representatives of the groups that speak for the families of the victims of September 11th. Kristin Breitweiser is co-founder of September 11th Advocates. Stephen Push is co-founder and treasurer of Families of September 11th. They have been asked to speak to us about the impact of September 11th on their families and America, as well as what reforms of the intelligence community will guard us against future threats.
We will then have the first of several presentations from the joint inquiry committee's very capable staff, led by Ms. Eleanor Hill (ph). Ms. Hill (ph) is a former prosecutor, a veteran congressional investigator, a former inspector general of the Department of Defense. We are extremely fortunate to have a person of her experience and capabilities as the committee staff director. Ms. Hill (ph) will review the work of the joint inquiry committee over the last six months, including the ten closed hearings, interviews with nearly 500 individuals, and a review of more than 400,000 documents. Following her presentation, members of the joint inquiry committee will be recognized for comments and questions.
In future open hearings, we will hear from customers of intelligence, including representatives of the Defense and State Departments, front-line personnel from intelligence agencies, and then key leaders of the intelligence community, including the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I now recognize Congressman Porter Goss, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chairman of the joint inquiry committee for opening remarks. I am extremely pleased to have Congressman Goss as a partner in this effort. Congressman Goss will be followed by Senator Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and then by Representative Nancy Pelosi, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
GOSS: Thank you, Chairman Graham. I'm pleased to associate myself with your remarks, and I'm honored to serve with you as co- chairman of this joint effort.
Looking back at the innocent lives lost and the damage inflicted by a fanatical band of suicidal extremists has been very painful for all of us. We all experienced that just a week ago with the remembrances of 9/11, and I think it's fair to say that every American is incensed. We need to understand the hows and the whys of what happened to bring some comfort to those who are still grieving, and there are many, and to ensure the wellbeing of Americans at home and abroad as we go about our lives today and tomorrow in the globe, as it exists.
And I want to thank Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push for being with us today and sharing with others, and I know there are others in the audience who are with them. You put a human face on the tragedy that we all feel. The people whose lives were unfairly ripped from them is way down deep what drives this committee to follow the facts to find the truth and you should know that. Your contribution today, representing so many who have lost so much, reminds us how the impact of September 11th is very profound and very personal across our land, and in fact, around the world.
Providing your thoughtful, specific suggestions for what we can do better and asking penetrating questions is a help to us, and I know your testimony has questions and suggestions. I suppose everybody has a tragic story about pain and suffering related to September 11th. Mine is about CeeCee Lyles, a flight attendant on Flight 93, CeeCee was a resident of Ft. Myers, Florida, in my district. She was a former police patrol officer and detective, and she spent six years risking her life to protect others in that job.
GOSS: In December, 2000, mindful of her young children and looking for a less dangerous and wearing career, although I'm not sure that was a way to characterize flight attendant work, she enrolled in a flight attendant school and began flying for United out of Newark.
At 9:58 on September 11th, 2001, CeeCee called her husband Lorne (ph), a police officer in Fort Myers, from the plane to tell him that her flight had been hijacked. Her words, "I called to tell you I love you. Tell the kids I love them." Her last words that we know of are, "I think they're going to do it. They're forcing their way into the cockpit." And then the call broke off. We here owe a particular debt of gratitude to CeeCee Lyles and her companions on Flight 93, which was heading towards Washington when it crashed in Shanksville.
The president of the United States has told us intelligence is the first line of defense. We know that he's right. We know the first line of defense has to be strong. These hearings will hopefully lead us to capabilities that better fit the threat as it does exist today and make our first line of defense stronger, which obviously it must be. We've already started this process in the oversight committees of intelligence, and I want to compliment all the members of the committees, particularly Representatives Saxby Chambliss and Jane Harman for the excellent report their subcommittee on terrorism has already provided us on the House side.
It's been a useful building block to help our Joint Committee staff, a group I would describe as small in number but dynamic in impact. Under the leadership of Eleanor Hill (ph), they have interviewed a multitude of people, as the chairman has said, read thousands of documents and asked a great many questions, always with the steady hand of the members and the staffs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to back them up.
What this all means is that we have well over 100 professionals and some 37 members dealing with mountains of information. And these mountains are getting bigger every day. Every time we track down another terrorist cell, conduct another raid, through interrogation or documentation exploitation and other leads, we find out more about the enemy, and of course, how to stop them. There will be further chapters as the war on terrorism unfolds. We will incorporate as many as we can in our final report of this joint effort, and I predict there will be plenty of work for the other standing committees of jurisdiction in Congress because our primary focus has been intelligence, and there has been more than just intelligence involved in this situation.
What forms further investigations take we'll leave to the future and concentrate now on finishing our work as completely, as accurately and expeditiously as possible. The terrorist threat remains high. I want to emphasize that it is precisely because we want to save lives in the future that we must be careful how we present and discuss this information in public. It's true, it may be axiomatic, the enemy is listening to us today.
We must protect our sources and methods, and we must not reveal any of our plans and intentions to our enemies, those who would harm us. So today, we begin the process of open hearings with the understanding not everything can be discussed in this forum, as much as we would like to share it with America, but that much can and should be explained to our nation, which is our goal. And we will go as far as we can.
Having said that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you and look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman?
GRAHAM: Senator Shelby.
(UNKNOWN): Could I ask a question, a procedural question?
GRAHAM: Yes. Senator, (inaudible).
(UNKNOWN): Could you inform us as to how we're going to proceed in terms of members' participation?
GRAHAM: Yes. After we complete the opening statements, we will then hear from the representatives of the families then Ms. Eleanor Hill (ph) will present a report on the work of the Joint Inquiry Committee to date, after which members will be recognized for questions of Ms. Hill (ph) and any comments they wish to make.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator.
SHELBY: Mr. Chairman, thank you. We now know that our inability to detect and prevent the September 11th attacks was an intelligence failure of unprecedented magnitude. Some people who couldn't seem to utter the words intelligence failure are now convinced us. Many of us also knew that an accounting would have to be made on behalf of the innocent victims, the families left behind, and the American people. After all, there were nine separate investigations into the attack on Pearl Harbor and the intelligence failures attendant there.
We agreed, however, that some time would have to pass before we began on the committees such an effort, because we were at war and it was our top priority to ensure its success. Approximately six months after that fateful September day, our two committees joined together in what I hoped would be a thorough and comprehensive examination of the United States intelligence community's failures to detect and to prevent the attacks of September the 11th. Now, approximately six months later, we're making progress, but we are far from done, and I am concerned.
The staff has reviewed many thousands of documents, but they have many thousands yet to review. They have interviewed many people, but there are many people yet to interview. In fact, it's still very difficult even to determine how far we've come, and almost impossible to tell how far we've yet to go.
I've been part of many investigations in my career, but none has been as important as this one. Almost 3000 Americans have been murdered, and perhaps thousands more innocent lives will hang in the balance every day. This investigation, I believe, must be thorough, comprehensive, and complete. I want it to be a success. But to be a success, an inquiry needs time and resources. If you limit either one, your chances of success diminish significantly. Unfortunately, I believe we have a short supply of both in this inquiry, and I'm afraid that we're beginning to reap the results.
SHELBY: From the outset, I argued strongly that we should avoid setting arbitrary deadlines. are an invitation to stonewalling and foot-dragging, and we've some of both in this effort. I've also said many times that agencies under the congressional microscope are generally not motivated to cooperate. That's just common sense, that's human nature.
To be thorough, I believe we must be able to identify and to locate relevant information, retrieve it, analyze it in the context of all of the other information we've gathered. This is inevitably difficult and time consuming. Because we have only one to three staffers actually focused on any particular agency at any one time, and because so much of our joint inquiry staff resources are tied up in producing hearings such as this one, which I deem important, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to be as thorough and probing, I believe, as we need to be.
I'm afraid we've asked the joint staff to move a mountain and perhaps only given them a couple of shovels and a little over six months to get it done. I hope it's enough, but I'm concerned. This is a massive undertaking, and I compliment our chairmen, Senator Bob Graham and Congressman Porter Goss for their leadership, because anyone who has willingly, voluntarily, to lead and to coordinate an effort such as this deserves our admiration and our support, and perhaps, our condolences.
But I'm concerned that the management challenges that you faced and continue to face have created some fundamental flaws in our process. Many members of our joint committee have found it exceedingly difficult to get information about the inquiry. They're frustrated by what a lot of them perceive to be efforts to limit their ability to participate in this inquiry fully. They want to support and ultimately to endorse this effort that we have undertaken, but they will be unable to do so, I believe, unless they have a clear and unfettered view of the activities of the joint staff.
At this point, I don't believe they do. Today, Eleanor Hill, our staff director, will present a summary of a statement intended to reflect the current state of our inquiry. Members, however, have had essentially no involvement with the process that led to its drafting, and therefore have little idea, as a whole, whether what it says is accurate or a fair and thorough representation of what has been discovered.
Mr. Chairmen (ph), I'm not saying that it is not accurate or thorough, hopefully, it is both. I'm saying that our members, as they've voiced to me, have no practical of way of knowing. These are concerns that we've discussed before in the four of us meeting, and they will need to be resolved if we're to have any chance of reaching a consensus at the conclusion of this inquiry.
I think it's important that the American people know where we stand as we begin to discuss publicly why their multi-billion dollar intelligence community was unable to detect and prevent the worst single attack on American soil in our history.
At this point, again, I'm very concerned that we may not have the time or resources we set out to do. I will continue to support this effort, and support our chairmen, but there may come a day very soon when it will become apparent that ours must be only a prelude to further inquiries. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator.
PELOSI: Good morning, Mr. Chairmen. I want to join you in welcoming today's very important witnesses. I commend the two of you for your great leadership in doing the best possible job under the circumstances to get to the bottom of all of this, and I associate myself with the remarks of our distinguished chairmen and the priority we place in the participation of the members of the family.
When we began our joint inquiry eight months ago, we began with a moment of silence. We did this in recognition of the tremendous tragedy that had befallen us, the gravity of the responsibility we faced, and the obligation we had to the families of those who lost their lives. Today, it is appropriate that we begin our first public hearing of this joint committee and this inquiry -- be viewed with the presentation of the families.
PELOSI: It is important that this inquiry be viewed through the prism of the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy that occurred at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. The dignity shown by the thousands of family members has been an inspiration to our country and a tribute to their loved ones. They have risen to the occasion that they never could have imagined, and their strength has lifted the spirit of all Americans.
In welcoming our witnesses here today, I want to express the appreciation I know that every American feels towards them. The appreciation of the depth of their grief we can only imagine, but we do appreciate their leadership which has sprung from that sadness. To Kristin Breitweiser, the co-chairman of September 11th Advocates, which is helping other families, and to Stephen Push, co-founder of Families of September 11th, and all the members of the families, thank you for your courage.
All of America has been touched by this tragedy, as we all know, none more directly than all of you. However, we have some of us a closer association because of our work at the Pentagon, members of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence lost their lives when they went to work to work to protect our country. Little did they know that they would lose their lives at the Pentagon doing that.
And of course, Mike Spann was the first American killed in conflict in the -- in our struggle to root out terrorism wherever it is. And his association with the intelligence community is one that I wish to acknowledge. As we address the challenge September 11th presented to our country -- and I also want to mention Betty Ang (ph), a flight attendant on the plane that went into the World Trade Center. She was on Flight 11. She was one of my constituents in San Francisco. Her courage enabled her to keep communicating with the ground until the last possible moment. There are so many, many stories, and we know that there are at least 324 of them directly. We identify New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, but on those planes, one of which was destined for San Francisco, there were people from all over the country whose lives were touched.
As we address the challenge of September 11th that it presents to our country, we're walking on hallowed ground, respecting the sacrifice of those who died and ensuring the families that justice will be done. We must find answers, reduce risk to the American people and comfort the families. Families of those affected by September 11th talk of their continuing reactions to events that used to be no cause for concern. For some family members, every time a plane flies overhead, we have been told, they experience deep fear. We must remove that fear.
We are all united in our determination to win the war against terrorism. We all agree that this battle will be won and that we will succeed by working together. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have a responsibility to ensure that Congress conducts a thorough assessment of the performance of the intelligence agencies leading up to, and including, September 11th.
Yes, Mr. Chairman, we must protect sources and methods, but we must conduct our inquiry in the most open way possible, that information that can be made available to the public, and especially to the families, is made available. Only in the case of protecting sources and methods should it be withheld, not in the case of protecting reputations or to avoid embarrassment to some.
The committees have decided that the best way to do our inquiry is to work cooperatively in a bipartisan manner on an inquiry conducted by the House and the Senate, as you know. And here we are today with our first public hearing. A joint investigation is an unusual step, but the events of September 11th call for unusual measures. I join both of our chairmen in commending our colleagues, the members of the House and the Senate on the committees for their diligence and their reverence for the subject that we are dealing with.
Our purpose is not to assign blame but to identify areas that could lessen the chance that another September 11th could happen. We must do everything we can to prevent another terrible tragedy. In doing so, we will balance the need to enhance physical security for Americans with the duty to preserve the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. The martyrs of September 11th gave their lives because of those freedoms.
The goal of terrorists is to instill fear. That fear can change the way of life for a society. We cannot let them have that victory. We can and we must do things in a way that respects our people, protects our founding principles, and protects and defends our communities. The words of "America the Beautiful" ring true in describing the great cities of Washington, D.C., New York, and indeed, the nation. "Oh beautiful, for patriot dream that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears."
PELOSI: Today, those tears are fresh, but this is America, land of the free, and as the martyrs and their families have shown us, home of the brave.
We will take all the time that is needed. We will pursue every angle. We will turn every stone to find answers for the family. And I hope that in all that we do in this joint inquiry, and in rooting out the terrorism and finding the perpetrators of this tragedy, that our work says to the families, "Peace be with you."
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Pelosi.
We are honored today to be joined by representatives of the families of the victims. We understand the pain that you have suffered over the last year. We can empathize, but you represent an invaluable perspective and an insight into the full meaning of this tragedy, and the responsibilities that we all have to avoid the prospects of its repetition. We very much appreciate your sharing with us today.
First, Ms. Kristin Breitweiser.
BREITWEISER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I have a written statement to be made part of the record, and I would like to submit some supporting documentation.
CHAIRMAN: Ms. Breitweiser, could you put the microphone -- yes, right in front. Good, thank you.
BREITWEISER: That better?
I will summarize my testimony as follows: I would like to thank the families of the 3000 victims for allowing me to represent them here today before the Joint Intelligence Committee. It is a tremendous honor. Testifying before this committee is a privilege and an enormous responsibility that I do not take lightly. I will do my best not to disappoint the families or the memories of their loved ones.
Toward that end, I ask the members present here today to find in my voice the voices of all the family members of the 3000 victims of September 11th. I would also ask for you to see in my eyes the eyes of the more than 10,000 children who are left to grow up without the love, affection and guidance of a mother or a father who was tragically killed on September 11th.
I would now like to thank the members of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Eleanor Hill and her staff for giving the families this opportunity to be heard. It has been an excruciating and overwhelming 12 months, and it is now time for our words and our concerns to be heard by you. My three-year-old daughter's most enduring memory of her father will be placing flowers on his empty grave. My most enduring member of my husband Ronald will be his final words to me. "Sweets, I'm fine, I don't want you to worry. I love you."
Ron uttered those words while he was watching men and women jump to their deaths from the top of Tower One. Four minutes later, his tower was hit by United Flight 175. I never spoke to my husband again. I don't really know what happened to him. I don't know whether he jumped or he choked to death on smoke. I don't know whether he sat curled up in a corner watching the carpet melt in front of him, knowing that his own death was soon to come. Or if he was alive long enough to be crushed by the buildings when they ultimately collapsed. These are the images that haunt me at night when I put my head to rest on his pillow.
I do know that the dream that I had envisioned, that I desperately needed to believe, that he was immediately turned to ash and floated up to the heavens, was simply not his fate. I know this because his wedding band was recovered from Ground Zero, with a part of his arm. The wedding band is charred and scratched, but still perfectly round and fully intact. I wear it on my right hand it will remain there until the day I die.
September 11th was the devastating result of a catalogue of failures on behalf of our government and its agencies. My husband and the approximately 3000 others like him went to work that morning and never came home.
BREITWEISER: But were any of our government agencies doing their job on that fateful morning? Perhaps the carnage and devastation of September 11th speaks for itself in answering this question.
Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. But their negligence does not stand alone. Agencies like the Port Authority, the city of New York, the FAA, the INS, the Secret Service, NORAD, the Air Force and the airlines also failed our nation that morning. Perhaps said more cogently, one singular agency's failures do not eclipse another's.
And it goes without saying that the examination of the intelligence agencies by this committee does not detract, discount, or dismantle the need for a more thorough examination of all of these other culpable parties. An independent, blue ribbon panel would be the most appropriate means to achieve such a thorough and expansive examination, in large part because it would not be limited in scope or hindered by time limits. An independent blue ribbon panel would provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and definitive report that the devastation of September 11th demands.
Soon after the attacks, President Bush stated that there would come a time to look back and examine our nation's failures, but that such an undertaking was inappropriate while the nation was still in shock. I would respectfully suggest to President Bush and to our Congress that now, a full year later, it is time to look back and investigate our failures as a nation.
A hallmark of democratic government is a willingness to admit to, analyze and learn from mistakes, and it is now time for our nation to triumph as the great democracy that it is. The families of the victims of September 11th have waited long enough. We need to have answers. We need to have accountability. We need to feel safe living and working in this great nation.
On May 17th, 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice stated, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile -- a hijacked airplane as a missile." Unquote. The historical facts illustrate differently. In 1993, a $150,000 study was commissioned by the Pentagon to investigate the possibility of an airplane being used to bomb national landmarks.
A draft document of this was circulated throughout the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and to FEMA. In 1994, a disgruntled FedEx employee invaded the cockpit of a DC10 with plans to crash it into a company building. Again, in 1994, a lone pilot crashed a small plane into a tree on the White House grounds. Again, in 1994, an Air France flight was hijacked by members of the Armed Islamic Group with the intent to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In January, 1995, Philippine authorities investigating Abdul Murad, an Islamic terrorist, unearthed Project Bojinka (ph). Project Bojinka's (ph) primary objective was to blow up 11 airliners over the Pacific. In the alternative, several planes were to be hijacked and flown into civilian targets in the United States. Among the targets mentioned were CIA headquarters, the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower, and the White House.
Murad told U.S. intelligence officials that he would board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger and that he would then hijack the aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at CIA headquarters. In 1997, this plot resurfaced during the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center. During the trial, FBI agents testified that, quote, "The plan targeted not only the CIA, but other U.S. government buildings in Washington, including the Pentagon," unquote. In September 1999, a report, "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism," was prepared for U.S. intelligence by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress.
It stated, quote, "Suicide bombers belonging to Al Qaida's martyrdom battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House." Again, that was in September, 1999. This laundry list of historical indicators, in no way exhaustive, illustrates that long before September 11th, the American intelligence community had a significant amount of information about specific terrorist threats to commercial airline travel in America, including the possibility that a plane would be used as a weapon.
On March 11th, 2002, Director of the CIA George Tenet stated, quote, "In broad terms last summer that terrorists might be planning major operations in the United States, but we never had the texture, meaning enough information to stop what happened," unquote. On May 8th, 2002, Director of the FBI Robert Mueller stated, quote, "There was nothing the agency could have done to anticipate or prevent the attacks," unquote.
Once again, the historical facts indicate differently. Throughout the spring and early summer of 2001, intelligence agencies flooded the government with warnings of possible terrorist attacks against American targets, including commercial aircraft, by Al Qaida and other groups. The warnings were vague, but sufficiently alarming to prompt the FAA to issue four information circulars to the commercial airline industry between June 22nd and July 31st warning of possible terrorism.
On June 22nd, the military's second and European commands enforced force protection condition delta, the highest anti-terrorist alert. On June 28th, 2001, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said, quote, "It is highly likely that a significant Al Qaida attack is in the near future within several weeks," unquote. As of July 31st, the FAA -- excuse me, the FAA urged U.S. airlines to maintain a quote, "high degree of alertness." One FAA circular from late July, 2001, noted, according to Condoleeza Rice, that there was, quote, "No specific target, no credible info of attack to U.S. civil aviation interests, but that terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings, and we ask you therefore to use caution."
Two counter terrorism officials described the alerts of the early and mid-summer 2001 as quote, "the most urgent in decades," unquote. One thing remains clear from this history: Our intelligence agencies were acutely aware of an impending domestic risk posed by Al Qaida. A question that remains unclear is how many lives could have been saved had this information been made more public. Airport security officials could have gone over all the basics again of this depth needed to prevent hijackings. The policy allowing passengers to carry razors and knives with blades up to four inches in length certainly could have come under scrutiny.
Indeed, officials could have issued an emergency directive prohibiting such potential weapons in carry-on bags. Finally, all selectees under the computer-assisted passenger prescreening system, and their carry-on luggage, and checked bags, could have been subjected to additional screening.
BREITWEISER: Apparently, none were on September 11th, although internal FAA documents do indicate that caps selected some of the hijackers.
And how many victims may have thought twice before boarding an aircraft? How many victims would have chosen to fly on private planes? How many victims would have taken notice of these Middle Eastern men while they were boarding their plane? Could these men have been stopped? Going further, how many vigilant employees would have chosen to immediately flee Tower Two after they witnessed the blazing inferno in Tower One if only they had known that an Al Qaida terrorist attack was imminent? Could the devastation of September 11th been diminished in any degree had the government's information been made public in the summer of 2001?
On July 5th, the government's -- July 5th, 2001 -- the government's top counter terrorism official, Richard Clarke (ph) stated to a group gathered at the White House, "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."
The group included the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, the Secret Service, and the INS. Clarke (ph) directed every counter terrorist office to cancel vacations, defer non-vital travel, put off scheduled exercises, and place domestic rapid response teams on much shorter alert. For six weeks, last summer, at home and abroad, the U.S. government was at its highest possible state of readiness against imminent terrorist attack.
A senior FBI official attending the White House meeting on July 5th, 2001, committed the Bureau to redouble contacts with its foreign counterparts and to speed up transcription and analysis of wiretaps obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act among other steps. But when the field agent in Phoenix, Arizona reported the suspicions of a hijacking plot just five days later, the FBI did not share the report with any other agency. One must ask, "Why?"
That report, written by Agent Kenneth Williams, now well-known as the Phoenix Memo, recommended that the FBI investigate whether Al Qaida operatives were training at U.S. flight schools. Williams posited that Osama bin Laden followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil aviation system as pilots, security guards, or other personnel. He recommended a national program to track suspicious flight school students. Agent Williams was dead on point. But in the summer of 2001, while our nation was at its highest state of alert, his memo was flatly ignored. And what result if it hadn't been ignored? What if his memo was promptly paced on Intelink, Siprnet or Niprnet? What if other agents had the same suspicions in Florida, California, Georgia, Ohio, and Nevada? Could the terrorists have been stopped?
On August 15th, 2001 an alert civilian instructor at a Minnesota flight school called the FBI and said, quote, "Do you realize that a 747 loaded with fuel can be a bomb?" The next day, Zacharias Moussaoui was arrested. After investigating Moussaoui's past, the FBI, with the help of French intelligence, learned that he had Islamic extremist connections. They also knew that he was interested in flight patterns around New York City, and that he had a strong desire to fly big jets, even though at the time he didn't have so much as a license to fly a Cessna.
And then what happened? The FBI office in Minnesota attempted to get a FISA warrant, but they were rebuffed, a crucial mistake, because Zacharias Moussaoui's possessions contained evidence that would have exposed key elements of the September 11th plot. Why was this request denied? Again, the historical facts must be analyzed. In March, 2001, an internal debate ignited at the Justice Department and the FBI over wire-tap surveillance of certain terrorist groups. Prompted by questions raised by Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge of the FISA court, the Justice Department opened an inquiry into Michael Resnik (ph), an FBI official who coordinated the ACTS (ph) applications.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller, then deputy attorney general, ordered a full review of all foreign surveillance authorizations. Again, this was in March, 2001. Justice Department and FBI officials have since acknowledged the existence of this internal investigation and said that the inquiry forced officials to examine their monitoring of several suspected terrorist groups, including Al Qaida. And while senior FBI and Justice Department officials contend that the internal investigation did not affect their ability to monitor Al Qaida, other officials have acknowledged that the inquiry might have hampered electronic surveillance of terror groups. The matter remains highly classified.
What is not classified is that in early September, a Minnesota FBI agent wrote an analytic memo on Zacharias Moussaoui's case, theorizing that the suspect could fly a plane into the World Trade Center. Tragically, this too was ignored. Also ignored by U.S. intelligence agencies was the enormous amount of trading activity on the Chicago Exchange Board and in overseas markets.
BREITWEISER: Our intelligence agencies readily use PROMISE software to analyze these kinds of market indicators that presented themselves in the weeks prior to September 11th. Why were these aberrational trades and market swings ignored? We were at the highest state of alert, an attack by Al Qaida was expected to occur at any given moment, and yet massive amounts of trade occurred on American Airlines, United Airlines, reinsurance companies and lease holders in the World Trade Center, and none of our watchdogs noticed.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the information regarding Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhamzi, two of the hijackers. In late August 2001, the CIA asked the INS to put these two men on a watch list because of their ties to the bombing of the USS Cole. On August 23rd, 2001, the INS informed the CIA that both men had already slipped into this country.
Immediately thereafter, the CIA asked the FBI to find Al-Midhar and Alhamzi, not a seemingly hard task in light of the fact that one of them was listed in the San Diego phone book, the other took out a bank account in his own name, and finally we have to come find out recently that an FBI informant happened to be their roommate. But again, our intelligence agencies failed.
It was only after the devastation of September 11th that our intelligence agencies seemed to get back on track. On September 12th, 2001, the New York Times reported, quote, "On Tuesday, a few hours after the attacks, FBI agents descended on flight schools, neighborhoods and restaurants in pursuit of leads. The FBI arrived at Huffman Aviation at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. They walked out with all of the school's records, including photocopies of the men's passports."
The New York Times also reported that day that students at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University said that, quote, "within hours of the attacks, FBI investigators were seen," at their school. How did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case?
The New York Times went on to report on September 12th that, quote, "Federal agents questioned employees at a store in Bangor, Maine, where five Arab men believed to be the hijackers, tried to rent cell phones late last week. Store employees at first refused to sell the phones because the men lacked proper identification, but they gave in after the five offered $3,000 cash employees to store employees, an airport official said."
The September 12th article goes on to state, quote, "The men then phoned Bangor Airport trying to get a flight to Boston, but were told that there was no flight that matched their desired departure time. The men then phoned Portland International Jetport, where two of them apparently made reservations for a flight to Boston on Tuesday morning."
How would this information be gleaned so quickly? How would the FBI know to visit a store in Bangor, Maine, only hours after the attacks? Moreover, how would they know the details of a phone conversation that occurred a week prior to the attacks? Were any of the hijackers already under surveillance?
It has been widely reported that the hijackers ran practice runs on the airline routes that were chosen on September 11th. Did our intelligence agents every shadow these men on any of their prior practice runs?
Furthermore, on September 12th, the New York Times reported that, quote, "Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday's attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them. They prepared biographies of each identified member of the hijack teams, and began tracing the recent movements of the men."
How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them? Could the attacks of September 11th been prevented?
The speed by which the FBI was able to locate, assimilate and analyze a small amount of information so soon after the attacks, barely one day later, perhaps answers this question for itself.
But if the terrorists were under investigation, then why were they ever permitted to board those planes? Perhaps even more potently, why, if such an investigation was already under way, was our nation so late in responding to the emergency that quickly unfolded that morning?
Too many questions remain. Topping the list of unanswered questions are those that involve our nation's coordination, communication and response to the attacks that morning. The 24 hours that presented themselves on September 11th beg to be examined. Questions like, why did the New York Port Authority not evacuate the World Trade Center when they had an open phone line with Newark Traffic Control Center and were told that the second plane was bearing down on the South Tower? New York/New Jersey Port Authority had at last 11 minutes of notice to begin evacuations of the South Tower. An express elevator in the World Trade Center was able to travel from top to bottom in one minute's time. How many lives may have been saved had the Port Authority acted more decisively? Or rather, acted at all?
Washington Air Traffic Control Center knew about the first plane before it hit the World Trade Center, yet the third plane was able to fly loop-the-loops over Washington, D.C., one hour and 45 minutes after Washington Center first knew about the hijacking. After circling in this restricted airspace, controlled and protected by the Secret Service, who had an open phone line to the FAA, how is it possible that that plane was then able to crash into the Pentagon? Why was the Pentagon not evacuated? Why was our Air Force so late in its response? What, if anything, did our nation do in a defensive military posture that morning?
Three thousand innocent Americans were killed on September 11th, leaving behind families and loved ones like myself and my daughter. There are too many heartbreaking stories to recount. There are too many lost opportunities and futures to be told. But what can be said to you today is that the families continue to suffer each and every day. All we have are tears and a resolve to find the answers, because we continue to look into the eyes of our young children, who ask us, "Why?"
We have an obligation, as parents and as a nation, to provide these young children with answers as to why their mother or father or aunt or uncle or grandmother or grandfather never returned from work that day. We need people to be held accountable for their failures. We need leaders with the courage to take responsibility for what went wrong.
Mistakes were made, and too many lives were lost. We must investigate these errors so that they will never happen again. It is our responsibility as a nation to turn the dark events of September 11th into something from which we can all learn and grow and as a nation look forward to a safe future.
BREITWEISER: In closing, I would like to add one thought. Undoubtedly, each of you here today, because you live and work in Washington, D.C., must have felt that you were in the bullseye on the morning of September 11th. For most of you, there was a relief at the end of that day, a relief that you and your loved ones were in safe hands. You were the lucky ones. In your continuing investigation, please do not forget those of us who did share in your good fate. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Breitweiser for a moving, inspirational and highly motivating statement. Thank you.
BREITWEISER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Stephen Push?
PUSH: Chairmen Graham and Goss, Ranking Minority Members Shelby and Pelosi, and members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, I would like to thank you, and also thank the joint 9/11 inquiry staff, for the vital work that you have been doing to understand the problems of the intelligence agencies and take steps to correct them. I appreciate the hard work that you and your staff are doing to ensure that our loved ones have not died in vain.
I would also like to thank you for inviting Kristin and me to testify before you today. I realize that your decision was not popular with the bureaucrats in the intelligence community, but the victims' families greatly appreciate the opportunity to have their voices heard on the important work of your inquiry.
Our loved ones paid the ultimate price for the worst American intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor. I hope that Kristin and I can do justice to their sacrifice and contribute in some small way to preventing other families from experiencing the immeasurable pain that accompanies such a tragic loss.
While I eagerly await the final report of your inquiry, one thing is already clear to me from the news reports about the intelligence failures that led to the attacks: If the intelligence community had been doing its job, my wife, Lisa Raines, would be alive today. She was a passenger on flight 77, the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon.
I realize that preventing terrorism is a very difficult task, and that we will never achieve complete safety. But a series of missteps that defy common sense made the attack on the Pentagon possible.
In January of 2000, the Central Intelligence Agency learned that two Saudi nationals, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Khalid Almidhar attended an Al Qaida meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks to the infamous stovepiping of information in the intelligence community, these two men, who were to become two of the hijackers on flight 77, were not immediately placed on the terrorism watch list, and they were allowed to enter the United States.
PUSH: Shortly after the bombing of the USS Cole in October of 2000, the CIA discovered that one of the men photographed with Alhazmi and Almihdhar in Kuala Lumpur was a suspect in the Cole attack. But still the two suspected terrorists in the United States did not appear on the watch list. The Federal Bureau of Investigation seems to have been unaware of him, even though they lived with an FBI informant during part of their time in this country.
The two suspects were finally added to the watch list on August 23, 2000, but on September 11th, they were able to board flight 77 using their real names. I don't know why they called it a watch list; apparently no one was watching them.
After the Kuala Lumpur meeting, Alhazmi had at least three meetings with Hani Hanjour, the terrorist believed to have piloted flight 77. I am convinced that had the CIA and the FBI displayed any initiative, Alhazmi, Almihdhar and Hanjour would have been apprehended. With the loss of three hijackers, including the pilot, flight 77 would not have been hijacked and the lives of the 184 people murdered in the Pentagon attack would have been saved.
What's more, Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 conspiracy and the pilot of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, attended one of the meetings between Alhazmi and Hanjour. Thus it's possible if not likely that surveillance of Alhazmi could have led to surveillance of Atta and discovery of the other terrorists involved in the conspiracy. In fact, the FBI, in an apparent attempt to pin the blame for 9/11 on the CIA, reportedly developed a chart that showed how timely access of the information about Alhazmi and Almihdhar would have enabled the FBI to foil the entire 9/11 plot.
I won't belabor the argument about the possibility of preventing the 9/11 attacks. A number of intelligence experts have said that preventive work is easier said than done. I don't know if that's a fair excuse, but one conclusion is incontestable: The 9/11 attacks exposed serious shortcomings in the American intelligence community. Or to state this fact more precisely: The attack exposed these flaws to the wider public. Many of the flaws have been known to intelligence professionals, to your two committees and to a succession of commissions for years.
In voicing these complaints it is not my intention to malign the field officers, agents, analysts, technicians and others serving their country in the intelligence agencies. I'm sure that most of them are very competent and dedicated people. But in many cases they seem to be stymied by a bloated, risk-averse and politicized intelligence bureaucracy that is more interested in protecting its turf than in protecting America.
Initially, I thought 9/11 would be a wake-up call for the intelligence community, but I was mistaken. The intelligence agencies and the White House have asserted that no mistakes were made. They couldn't possibly have conceived that anyone would use commercial jets in suicide attacks on buildings. They asserted that Al Qaida is impossible to penetrate.
Such a can't-do attitude is profoundly un-American. It also raises the question of why taxpayers should continue to spend tens of billions of dollars annually on the intelligence community if it cannot protect us.
The following anecdote suggests that little has changed at the FBI since 9/11. Three years ago, a female flight attendant for an American airline was assaulted in flight in front of a witness by a male flight attendant wielding a knife that the female flight attendant described at the time as looking like a box cutter. The assailant had bragged to this flight attendant about how he regularly smuggled the knife past security. The woman reported the incident immediately, but the airline dropped the case without explanation.
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the female flight attendant, noting the parallels between her assailant and the hijackers, reported the incident to the FBI. An agent interviewed her, but later told her that the FBI couldn't find the male flight attendant because he no longer worked for the airline.
I had a private investigator, yesterday, do a search for me using public databases, and within a matter of a few hours he was able to tell me the current address of this male flight attendant and also report to me that he is indeed still an employee of the airline in question.
Nearly a year later, the female flight attendant grew frustrated and asked her congressman to investigate. The congressman sent the request, including the original incident report describing the weapon and the assault, to FBI headquarters.
PUSH: Within a few weeks the woman received a letter from the FBI explaining that the matter fell outside the bureau's jurisdiction.
I find this response unacceptable, not only because assaulting an airline crew member in flight is a federal offense, but also because a violent man, who smuggles knives onto planes, should have received more attention from the FBI than this man apparently did.
The time for incremental reform of the intelligence community ended on September 11th, 2001. The ossified intelligence bureaucracy must now be thoroughly restructured. If it isn't, the next attack may involve weapons of mass destruction, and the death toll may be in the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands.
I urge you, please, seriously consider making the following changes in the intelligence community.
One, put someone in charge of intelligence. Stovepiping is an inevitable consequence of competition among agencies. Only a strong leader with authority over all of the intelligence agencies can force them to share information.
In principle, this is the president's job, but he has limited time to spend on intelligence. There should be a Cabinet-level official with authority over all of the intelligence agencies.
Two, establish a new domestic intelligence agency, similar to Britain's MI-5. This agency would have no law enforcement powers, and would work with the FBI when criminal investigations and arrests were necessary. The FBI would retain a small intelligence unit to serve as a liaison with the intelligence community.
Domestic intelligence professionals can not flourish in a culture that rewards people for the number of cases solved, or the number of arrests made.
Three, develop closer links with state and local law enforcement agencies. There are 700,000 state and law enforcement officers who can provide help by providing the intelligence community with raw intelligence, and by acting on threat assessments issued by the federal government.
Four, create a new clandestine service. Human intelligence has become a lost art at the CIA. A new clandestine service should be established, and must be protected from second-guessing by the risk- averse politicized bureaucracy.
Five, share more intelligence with other countries. American intelligence agencies have obtained much valuable intelligence from foreign intelligence services. But the American agencies have a reputation for not reciprocating. If we want to maintain the flow of information from these other services, we must be more generous with the information we provide them.
Six, require all intelligence reports to be uploaded immediately to Intelink (ph), the intelligence community secret online database. This will help foster information exchange at all level of the intelligence community.
Seven, reorient the National Security Agency to be a hunter of information rather than a gatherer.
The volume of electronic communications has grown exponentially, to the point where intercepts cannot be translated in a timely manner. We've all read about the two intercepts on September 10th that warned of something to happen on September 11th that were translated on September 12th.
The agency must learn to focus its resources on those communications links most likely to yield information about terrorist threats.
Eight, upgrade technical intelligence. The proliferation of new communications technologies has hampered the NSA's ability to intercept messages. Some of the nation's best scientists and engineers should be assigned to a Manhattan Project-style program aimed at making breakthroughs in new technologies for monitoring electronic communications.
Nine, set up a separate oversight subcommittee specifically for intelligence on terrorism.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I believe it addresses some of the most urgent problems in the intelligence community. Whether you decide to accept or reject these specific recommendations, I hope you will agree that the monumental tragedy of 9/11 requires changes far more sweeping than the reform measures that have been implemented in recent years.
Finally, I join Kristin in urging Congress to establish an independent commission to study the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks.
While the work of your inquiry is invaluable, it has become clear that you cannot complete a thorough, comprehensive investigation by the end of the 107th Congress. And also there are other 9/11 issues other than intelligence that should be investigated by an independent commission, such as law enforcement, border control and immigration policy, diplomacy, transportation security and the flow of assets to terrorists.
PUSH: In conclusion, I would like to thank you again for offering the 9/11 families this opportunity to have our voices and the voices of our loved ones heard on these very important issues.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Push, thank you very much for that very informative statement, and your specific recommendations. They will be taken fully into account throughout the completion of our inquiry.
PUSH: Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
The panel is dismissed.
Again, we extend our thanks and appreciation to Ms. Breitweiser and to Mr. Push and to all the families who are with us today. You are a reminder of why we are undertaking this inquiry. You are a challenge for us to fully fulfill our obligation.
Ms. Eleanor Hill, staff director of the Joint Inquiry Committee?
HILL: Good morning, Chairman Graham, Chairman Goss, members of these committees.
Before I proceed with my statement, I have a long written statement which I would like to submit for the record, and I'm going to orally summarize it, given the length of what we have here.
CHAIRMAN: The full statement will appear in the record.
HILL: Thank you.
But before I get into the main part of the statement, I do want to make clear to you and members of the committees that the information that's in this statement that we're going to present this morning has been cleared for public release. And, as I think most of you know, much of the information that our staff has been working on over the last several months is obviously highly classified, or has been highly classified.
In the course of the last two months, we have been working with the intelligence community in a long and what I would call very arduous process to declassify much of the information that we have reviewed and that we believe is important to the public's understanding of why the intelligence community did not know of the September 11th attacks in advance.
And I would point out that that process -- we want to say for the record that we appreciate the many long hours that have been put into that process and what I believe has been very constructive cooperation with the executive branch on that process. A good number of professionals from the community have been in working groups and have gone over with our staff the details of this information to put it in a form where it could be released publicly. So we have made very good progress.
But I do need to report that by late last night, we were able to resolve all but two issues where we believe relevant information to the inquiry has not yet, despite our discussions with the executive branch, been declassified. And I want to make reference to those two issues because this statement has been prepared recognizing that those two areas remain classified.
The two areas are any references to the intelligence committee providing information to the president or the White House, and the identity of, and information on, a key Al Qaida leader involved in the September 11th attacks.
According to the White House and the DCI -- director of Central Intelligence -- the president's knowledge of intelligence information relevant to this inquiry remains classified, even when the substance of that intelligence information has been declassified.
With respect to the key Al Qaida leader involved in the September 11th attacks, I am advised this morning that the White House and not the DCI has declined to declassify his identity despite an enormous volume of media reporting on this individual that has been out there for some time.
The joint inquiry staff disagrees on both of those issues. We believe the public has an interest in this information and that public disclosure would not harm national security.
However, as I believe you know, we do not have the independent authority to declassify intelligence information short of a lengthy procedure in the U.S. Congress, and we therefore have prepared this statement without detailed descriptions of our work in those two areas...
ROEMER: Mr. Chairman?
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Roemer?
ROEMER: Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Roemer?
ROEMER: Are the committees bound by the classification decisions made in these two instances?
CHAIRMAN: It is our advice from staff director and counsel that we do not independently have the authority to declassify material, and therefore we are constrained by the decisions made by those who have that legal responsibility.
ROEMER: Further parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman: Is there a process then that either the committee or the Congress can undertake to challenge a classification decision such as that?
CHAIRMAN: The answer is yes, and I would like -- Ms. Hill alluded to the fact that there was such a process. I think she described it as being cumbersome.
If you or counsel might briefly explain what the option is to Congress.
HILL: Mr. Chairman, I am not an expert on the committee process. As I understand it, from speaking with the full committee counsel on this, it would require the Congress to -- you'd have to have a vote -- I'm not sure if it's the full Congress or the Senate or House, but there's a vote involved. You would have to run it through -- the Congress itself would have to override that classification decision.
The reason that we -- we did not originate this information, and under the classification system, the agency that originates it makes the classification and declassifies it, and in this case, that would not be the Congress. So the only alternative would be to go through this rather -- what I am told is a lengthy, rather prolonged process.
I should point out that right before the hearing this morning I was advised by the White House that they were going to look at these two issues again and they thought they would review it again within the next 48 hours. And I advised them that if their position changes, please to advise the committees and we could always issue a supplemental statement on those two issues for the record.
So my assumption is they are still reviewing it.
ROEMER: Final parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman: Does the chairman intend to have this committee consider or debate that kind of process? I'm not advocating that we challenge it at this point, but certainly understanding more from the joint inquiry staff that strongly disagrees with the decision as to why might be helpful in a deliberative sense for the committee.
CHAIRMAN: I think there are two questions in your inquiry. One is whether we might consider utilizing the currently existing process in this or future instances in which we have a disagreement as to whether the information which is being withheld is, in fact, classified information; i.e., that it relates to the national security.
Second question might be, as part of our final report, we might want to recommend to our colleagues a change in the law that relates to the congressional role in declassification so that it would be more available as an alternative in the event that there was a disagreement between Congress and an executive classifying agency.
ROEMER: Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you. I hope we do have a robust discussion of this, and I appreciate your patience.
PELOSI: Mr. Chairman?
CHAIRMAN: Yes, Ms. Pelosi?
PELOSI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to join you in your earlier comments commending Eleanor Hill and Rick Sacragroni (ph) and the joint inquiry staff for their fine work. And I want to inquire if it's possible, just on this point, that the parliamentary inquiry that Mr. Roemer brought up, if Ms. Hill could just clarify.
It says, "Any reference to the intelligence community providing information to the president or the White House." Could you give us an example of that?
HILL: What we're referring to is obvious, and it's clear as you go through this statement that I'm about to present, that we are talking about a number of intelligence reports, which we have had declassified through this process. And part of our role was not just looking at what was the reporting, but where the reporting went.
And you will note that this statement includes many intelligence reports. And in some instances says they were provided to senior government officials, I believe is the wording that's used, but there's no reference on any of the pages as to whether the president received that information or not. And we have been told that that information -- in other words, not what is in the report, but rather or not it went to the president, would be classified under this decision.
PELOSI: And when you say the president, you mean any president...
HILL: That's correct. And clearly if you look at this statement the reporting has dates on it and the reporting is not just reporting that would have been under the current administration, but also reporting that was made under the prior administration. And the decision, in fairness, obviously to the White House, it is not simply as to this sitting president, but as to any president.
PELOSI: Well, I would hope, Mr. Chairman, whoever's presiding here, that Mr. Roemer's comments will be taken seriously by the chairman and that the committee should consider the options under existing committee rules to make this information public, depending on how it goes in the next 48 hours. I think that the White House should be aware that there is strong interest among many of us to have this be the most open process possible in fairness to those families who are affected, we heard from this morning, and really in the interest of a democratic society.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LAHOOD: Mr. Chairman?
CHAIRMAN: Chairman Graham had to step out for a moment. He'll be back. But I assure you, Ms. Pelosi, that he will be attentive to that request, as will I.
Is it a point of inquiry or on this matter?
LAHOOD: On this matter.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Lahood?
LAHOOD: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if the two chairman could approach the White House within the next 48 hours since they have this under consideration to encourage them to make this information public and to relay the will of -- I believe it's the will of the joint committee that, based on what our staff director has said, that this information is important to be released. And it sounds like they're trying to make a political decision. And the joint committee would encourage them to release the information.
I say that because it's under consideration. And I think it's important, particularly given the testimony that was provided by the first two witnesses.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Lahood.
I assure that this is not a matter of first impression for the two chairman or actually the four of us. We have made this case before.
And just so all members of the committee and the public will know, there are approximately three generalized areas that we feel there is legitimacy to withhold information to the public. Otherwise we feel the burden is on to the administration to prove to us why we should not give it to the public. We take the position the public deserves it.
Those three exceptions are, of course, sources of methods, particularly those are still active; plans and intentions that would be involving any actions we might take, which might put our personnel at harm by giving advance information about what they're up to; and the third area is in the active prosecutions ongoing by the Department of Justice. We don't want to any way mess up a prosecution that is going forward by saying something inadvertent that would create a problem for the prosecution.
I think other than those three areas the public has a right to know and a need to know. Because part of the reason we're going public here is the awareness curve of what this enemy looks like, what they can do to us, and why we need to have a better system and why we are going to be asking for the support of our constituency, the American people, to give us a better intelligence system and all that that means.
Well, I hope that's a satisfactory answer. And your request is duly noted and will be dealt with.
Would you please proceed, after I advise the members that we have about 12 minutes left on a vote in the House? Is it one vote or two? Do we know? I believe it is one vote. The members of the Senate wish to continue.
FEINSTEIN: Mr. Chairman?
CHAIRMAN: Yes, Senator?
FEINSTEIN: Might I ask a question? Will there be a brief recess over the lunch hour for those of us that have commitments?
CHAIRMAN: It had been intended that there would not be. And I would suggest that when Senator Graham comes back that you confer with him on that.
The members of the House are now going to vote. And we will be away for about 20 minutes. And perhaps in that time you can decide how you wish to carry forward.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, do you want us to wait and suspend the hearing, because you won't have the benefit of our testimony?
CHAIRMAN: What is the view of the members? Do you want them to suspend or...
(UNKNOWN): Until you get back. I think so.
CHAIRMAN: OK. We'll take a suspension until you return.
The hearing will suspend until the members of the House return.
CHAIRMAN: Call the hearing back to order.
CHAIRMAN: Ms. Eleanor Hill was in the early stages of providing us with the report of the joint inquiry staff. For purposes of people's schedules, it is our plan, after Ms. Hill completes her statement, to then call upon members in the order in which they arrived for five minutes of either questions or comments.
I recognize that we'll be running through the lunch hour. If members have to leave for previous commitments or the pangs of hunger become overwhelming, they are encouraged to do so, but also encouraged to return so that they can have their opportunity to ask questions or make their comments.
HILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(UNKNOWN): Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, could you read the list so we might know where we are?
CHAIRMAN: Yes, ma'am. After the chairs and vice chairs, they are in this order: Senator DeWine, Congressman Boehlert, Senator Wyden, Congressman Bereuter, Congressman Bishop, Senator Levin, Senator Inhofe, Congressman Peterson, Congressman Kramer, Congressman Boswell, Congressman Castle, Congressman Roemer, Congresswoman Harman, Congressman Burr, Senator Bayh, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Feinstein, Senator Mikulski, Congressman Lahood, Congressman Hoekstra, Senator Edwards, Congressman Gibbons, Congressman Everett.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman?
(UNKNOWN): Would it be appropriate to ask unanimous consent of the members that if individuals do have to leave, if they have statements that they could be included as part of the record?
CHAIRMAN: It will be included in the record.
(UNKNOWN): I thank the chair.
CHAIRMAN: Are there any other comments before we return to Ms. Hill?
HILL: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Before I forget, I do want to ask that -- we have two versions of this statement. It's the same statement, but we have two copies, one of which has been signed and certified as releasable, cleared for public release by the chair of the declassification working group for the intelligence community, and each page has been initialed by that individual.
And the second copy that I would also like to make available and part of the record is a similar copy that was signed and certified by the representative of the Department of Justice and initialed, indicating that they agreed and concurred that it was suitable for public release. Because, as you know, the Justice Department has some litigation concerns, ongoing cases.
So I'd ask that those be made part of the record.
CHAIRMAN: Without objection.
HILL: I appreciate the opportunity to appear here today to advise the committees and the American public on the progress to date of the joint inquiry staff's review of the activities of the U.S. intelligence community in connection with the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States.
As the horror and sheer inhumanity of that day engulfed this nation, all of us struggled with shock, with the utter disbelief, and the inevitable search for answers. The questions, if not the answers, were obvious: How could we have been so surprised? What did our government, especially our intelligence agencies, know before September 11th, 2001? Why didn't they know more? What can we do to strengthen and improve the capabilities of our intelligence agencies and as a result help save ourselves and our children from ever having to face this again?
On February 14th, 2002, the leadership of these two committees announced their resolve to come together to find credible answers to those sobering but critically important questions. The committees joined in an unprecedented, bicameral and bipartisan joint inquiry effort to meet that challenge. To conduct the review, the committees assembled a single staff, that we call the joint inquiry staff, of 24 highly skilled professionals with experience in such areas as intelligence collection, analysis, management, law enforcement, investigations and oversight.
My testimony this morning is intended to address the inquiry's initial task, which was to conduct a factual review of what the intelligence community knew or should have known prior to September 11th, 2001 regarding the international terrorist threat to the United States.
I caution that the inquiry remains a work in progress, and that we may be developing additional relevant information as our work continues. That being said, we feel it is important to share with the American people, through these hearings, what we have found through our efforts to date.
Let me briefly describe the way in which we have approached this review. We decided to target our search on categories of information that would most likely yield any intelligence material of relevance to the September 11th attacks.
Specifically, our teams requested and reviewed from the intelligence community agencies these categories of information: any information attained before September 11th suggesting that an attack on the United States was imminent, and what was done with it; any information obtained before September 11th that should have alerted the intelligence community to this kind of attack, that is, using airplanes to attack buildings, and what was done with it; any information obtained before September 11th about the 19 dead hijackers and what was done with it; and any information obtained after September 11th about the hijackers and their backgrounds, including their involvement with Al Qaida, entry into this country and activities while in this country, as well as why they never came to the attention of the United States government.
And I would point out on the issue of the hijackers that we do intend -- we will not address that this morning, but we do attend to have an additional statement at subsequent hearings that are focused on that issue.
As part of this review of the evolution of the international terrorist threat against the United States, the joint inquiry staff produced a chronology that begins in 1982 and ends on September 11th, 2001. And that chronology I believe has been reproduced and handed out, and is also depicted on these charts here in the room this morning.
And I would request that the chronology also be part of the record.
CHAIRMAN: Without objection, so ordered.
HILL: The chronology notes significant events in international terrorism, significant counter terrorism actions that were taken by the U.S. government in response to the threat, and information received by the intelligence community that was potentially relevant to the September 11th attacks.
The chronology underscores several points regarding what the U.S. government, specifically the intelligence community, knew about the international terrorist threat to the United States and U.S. interests prior to September 11th, 2001. And these are those points.
September 11th, while indelible in magnitude and in impact, was by no means America's first confrontation with international terrorism. While the nature of the threat has evolved and changed over time, it has long been recognized that United States interests were considered prime targets by various international terrorist groups.
In response to a number of terrorist attacks on U.S. interests abroad during the 1980s, the U.S. government initiated a focused effort against terrorism, including the establishment by the director of Central Intelligence, William Casey, of the Counter-Terrorism Center, or CTC, at CIA headquarters in 1986. In 1996, 10 years later, the FBI created its own counter-terrorism center at FBI headquarters.
Both in terms of attempts and actual attacks, there was considerable historical evidence prior to September 11th that international terrorists had planned and were in fact capable of conducting major terrorist strikes within the United States. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the subsequent discovery in 1993 of plots to bomb New York City landmarks, and the arrest in 1999 during the millennium of an individual with Al Qaida connections intending to bomb Los Angeles International Airport should have erased any doubt, to the extent they existed, about that point.
From 1994 through as late as August 2001, the intelligence community had received information indicating that international terrorists had seriously considered the use of airplanes as a means of carrying out terrorist attacks.
HILL: While this method of attack had clearly been discussed in terrorist circles, there was apparently little, if any, effort by intelligence community analysts to produce any strategic assessments of terrorists using aircraft as weapons.
Osama bin Laden's role in international terrorism came to the attention of the intelligence community in the early 1990s. While bin Laden was initially viewed as a financier of terrorism, by 1996 the intelligence community was aware of his involvement in directing terrorist acts, and had begun actively collecting intelligence on him.
Bin Laden's own words indicated a steadily escalating threat. In August 1996, Osama bin Laden issued a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian peninsula. In February 1998, bin Laden issued another public fatwa authorizing and promoting attacks on U.S. civilians and military personnel anywhere in the world.
Following the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, intelligence community leadership recognized how dangerous bin Laden's network was. In December 1998, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet provided written guidance to his deputies at the CIA declaring in effect a, quote, "war" with bin Laden.
While counter-terrorism was a resource priority from the time of the DCI statement onward, it was competing with several other intelligence priorities, such as nonproliferation. Despite the DCI's declaration of war in 1998, there was no massive shift in budget or reassignment of personnel to counter-terrorism until after September 11th, 2001.
By late 1998, the intelligence community had amassed a growing body of information, though general in nature, and lacking specific details on time and on place, indicating that bin Laden and the Al Qaida network intended to strike within the United States. And concern about bin Laden continued to grow over time and reached peak levels in the spring and summer of 2001, as the intelligence community faced increasing numbers of reports of imminent Al Qaida attacks against U.S. interests.
In July and August 2001, that rise in intelligence reporting began to decrease, just as three additional developments occurred in the United States: the Phoenix memo, the detention of Zacarias Moussaoui, and the intelligence community's realization that two individuals with ties to bin Laden's network, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, were possibly in the United States.
The two individuals turned out to be two of the 19 hijackers on September 11. The intelligence community apparently had not connected these individual warning flags to each other, to the drum beat of threat reporting that had just occurred, or to the urgency of the war effort against bin Laden.
Our review today provides further context for each of these points. And my written statement addresses in great detail each point. For purposes of this review, I'm going to focus not on the historical section, but rather on our review of more recent intelligence reporting.
And the first point in that regard would be intelligence reporting on bin Laden's intentions to strike inside the United States. Central to the September 11th plot was Osama bin Laden's idea of carrying out a terrorist operation within the United States.
It has been suggested that prior to September 11th, 2001, information available to the intelligence community had, for the most part, pointed to a terrorist threat against U.S. interests abroad. Our review confirms that shortly after Osama bin Laden's May 1998 press conference, the intelligence community began to acquire intelligence information indicating that bin Laden's network intended to strike within the United States. These intelligence reports, which I'll go through in a minute, should be understood in their proper context.
First, they generally did not contain specific information as to where, when and how a terrorist attack might occur, and generally they are not collaborated by further information.
Second, these reports represented a small percentage of the threat information that the intelligence community obtained during this period. Most of which pointed to the possibility of attacks against U.S. interests overseas. Nonetheless, there was a modest but relatively steady stream of intelligence information indicating the possibility of terrorist attack within the United States.
Third, the credibility of the sources providing this information was sometimes questionable. While one could not, as a result, give too much credence to some individual reports, the totality of information in the body of reporting clearly reiterated a consistent and critically important theme: bin Laden's intent to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.
HILL: And I will summarize several of these reports. And I should stress again, these are in declassified versions. They have been declassified.
In June 1998, the intelligence community obtained information from several sources that bin Laden was considering attacks in the United States, including Washington, D.C., and New York. This information was provided to senior U.S. government officials in July 1998.
In August 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center. The information was passed to the FBI and the FAA. The FAA found the plot highly unlikely, given the state of that foreign country's aviation program. Moreover, they believed that a flight originating outside the United States would be detected before it reached its intended target inside the United States. The FBI's New York office took no action on the information, filing the communication in the office's bombing repository file.
The intelligence community has acquired additional information since then indicating there may be links between this group and other terrorists groups, including Al Qaida.
In September 1998, the intelligence community prepared a memorandum detailing Al Qaida infrastructure in the United States, including the use of fronts for terrorist activity. This information was provided to senior U.S. government officials in September 1998.
In September 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that bin Laden's next operation would possibly involve flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport and detonating it. This information was provided to senior U.S. government officials in late 1998.
In October 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that Al Qaida was trying to establish an operative cell within the United States. This information indicated there might be an effort under way to recruit U.S.-citizen Islamists and U.S.-based expatriates from the Middle East and North Africa.
In the fall of 1998, the intelligence community received information concerning a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas.
In November of 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that a bin Laden terrorist cell was attempting to recruit a group of five to seven young men from the United States to travel to the Middle East for training. This was in conjunction with planning to strike U.S. domestic targets.
In November of 1998, the intelligence community received information that bin Laden and senior associates had agreed to allocate reward money for the assassinations of four top intelligence agency officers. The bounty for each assassination was $9 million. The bounty was in response to the U.S. announcement of an increase in the reward money for information leading to the arrest of bin Laden.
In the spring of 1999, the intelligence community obtained information about a planned bin Laden attack on a U.S. government facility in Washington, D.C.
In August 1999, the intelligence community obtained information that bin Laden's organization had decided to target the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the director of central intelligence. "Target" was interpreted by intelligence community analysts to mean assassinate.
In September 1999, the intelligence community obtained information that bin Laden and others were planning a terrorist act in the United States, possibly against specific landmarks in California and New York City.
HILL: The reliability of the source of this information was unknown.
In late 1999, the intelligence community obtained information regarding the bin Laden network's possible plans to attack targets in Washington, D.C., and New York City during the New Year's millennium celebrations.
On December 14th, 1999, an individual named Ahmed Rassam was arrested as he attempted to enter the United States from Canada. An alert U.S. Customs Service officer in Port Washington stopped Rassam and asked to search his vehicle. Chemicals and detonator materials were found in his car. Rassam's intended target was Los Angeles International Airport.
In February 2000, the intelligence community obtained information that bin Laden was making plans to assassinate U.S. intelligence officials, including the director of the FBI.
In March 2000, the intelligence community obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives in bin Laden's network might strike. The Statue of Liberty was specifically mentioned, as were skyscrapers, ports, airports and nuclear power plants.
In March 2000, the intelligence community obtained information indicating bin Laden was planning attacks in specific West Coast areas, possibly involving the assassination of several public officials. The intelligence community had concerns that this information might have come from a source known to fabricate information.
And in April 2001, the intelligence community obtained information from a source with terrorist connections who speculated that bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists. The source warned that the United States should not focus only on embassy bombings, that terrorists sought, quote, "spectacular and traumatic," close quote, attacks and that the first World Trade Center bombing would be the type of attack that would be appealing. The source did not mention a time frame for any attack.
Because the source was offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information was not disseminated within the intelligence community.
Bin Laden's declaration of war in 1998 and intelligence reports indicating possible terrorist plots inside the United States did not go unnoticed by the intelligence community which, in turn, advised senior officials in the U.S. government of the serious nature of the threat.
The staff has also reviewed documents other than individual intelligence reports that demonstrate that, at least at senior levels, the intelligence community understood that bin Laden posed a serious threat to the domestic United States.
Here are five examples. A December 1st, 1998, intelligence community assessment of Osama bin Laden read, in part, and I quote, "UBL is actively planning against U.S. targets. Multiple reports indicate UBL is keenly interested in striking the U.S. on its own soil. Al Qaida is recruiting operatives for attacks in the U.S. but has not yet identified potential targets."
On December 4th, 1998, in a memorandum to his deputies at the CIA, the director of Central Intelligence summed up the situation in this way: quote, "We must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden. Our work to date has been remarkable and in some instances heroic. Yet each day we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced. We are at war. I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the community."
A classified document signed by a senior U.S. government official in December 1998, read, in part, quote, "The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the United States."
In June 1999 testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and in a July 1999 briefing to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffers, the chief of the CTC described reports that bin Laden and his associates were planning attacks in the United States.
And a classified document signed by a senior U.S. government official in July 1999, characterized bin Laden's February 1998 statement as, quote, "a de facto declaration of war," close quote, on the United States.
What is less clear is the extent to which other parts of the government, as well as the American people, understood and fully appreciated the gravity and the immediacy of the threat.
HILL: For example, officials at the National Security Agency whom we have interviewed were aware of DCI Tenet's December 1998 declaration that the intelligence community was at war with bin Laden. On the other hand, relatively few of the FBI agents interviewed by the joint inquiry staff seem to have been aware of DCI Tenet's declaration.
There was also considerable variation in the degree to which FBI- led joint terrorism task forces, or JTTFs, prioritized and coordinated field efforts targeting bin Laden and Al Qaida. While the FBI's New York office was the lead office in the vast majority of counter- terrorism investigations concerning bin Laden, many other FBI offices around the country were unaware of the magnitude of the threat.
There are also indications that the allocation of intelligence community resources after the DCI's December 1998 declaration did not adequately reflect a true war effort against bin Laden. In 1999, the CTC had only three analysts assigned full time to bin Laden's terrorist network worldwide. After 2000, but before September 11th, 2001, that number had risen to five.
On a broader scale, our review has found little evidence prior to September 11th of a sustained national effort to mobilize public awareness and to harden the homeland against the potential assault by bin Laden within the United States, with the possible exception of a heightened focus on weapons of mass destruction.
The second point that I want to cover is strategic warning: indications of a possible terrorist attack in the spring and summer of 2001.
Let me briefly describe what we have found regarding the level and the nature of threat information that was obtained by the intelligence community during the spring and summer of 2001. During that time period, the community experienced a significant rise in information indicating that bin Laden and Al Qaida intended to strike against United States interests in the very near future.
Some individuals within the community have suggested that the increase in threat reporting was unprecedented, at least in terms of their own experience. While the reporting repeatedly predicted dire consequences for Americans, it did not provide actionable detail on when, where and how specific attacks would occur.
Between late March and September 2001, the intelligence community detected numerous indicators of an impending terrorist attack, some of which pointed specifically to the United States as a possible target.
In March 2001, an intelligence source claimed a group of bin Laden operatives were planning to conduct an unspecified attack in the United States in April 2001. One of the operatives allegedly resided within the United States.
In April 2001, the intelligence community obtained information that unspecified terrorist operatives in California and New York state were planning a terrorist attack in those states for April.
Between May and July, the National Security Agency reported at least 33 communications indicating a possible imminent terrorist attack. None of these reports provided any specific information on where, when or how an attack might occur, nor was it clear that any of the individuals involved in these intercepted communications had any firsthand knowledge of where, when or how an attack might occur. If they did know, it was not evident in the intercepts. These reports were widely disseminated within the intelligence community.
In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained information that supporters of bin Laden were reportedly planning to infiltrate the United States via Canada in order to carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives. The report mentioned an attack within the United States, though it did not say where in the U.S., or when or how an attack might occur.
In July 2001, this information was shared with the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Customs Service and the State Department, and was included in a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials in August 2001.
In May 2001, the Department of Defense acquired and shared with other elements of the intelligence community information indicating that seven individuals associated with bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In June 2001, the DCI's CTC had information that key operatives in Osama bin Laden's organization were disappearing, while others were preparing for martyrdom.
In July 2001, the DCI's CTC was aware of an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan who had reported, quote, "everyone is talking about an impending attack," close quote. The intelligence community was also aware that bin Laden had stepped up his propaganda efforts in the preceding months.
On August 16th, 2001, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the INS detained Zacharias Moussaoui. Prior to that date, in August 2001, Mr. Moussaoui's conduct had aroused suspicions about why he was learning to fly large commercial aircraft, and had prompted the flight school he was attending in Minneapolis to contact the local FBI office. FBI agents believed that Moussaoui may have been intending to carry out a terrorist act.
HILL: On August 23rd, 2001, the intelligence community requested that two individuals, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, who had first come to the attention of the community in 1999 as possible associates of bin Laden's terrorist network, be added to the U.S. Department of State's watch list for denying visas to individuals attempting to enter the United States.
Working levels of INS and U.S. Customs had determined that at least one of them was likely in the United States, prompting FBI headquarters to request searches for them in both New York and Los Angeles. The FBI's New York field office unsuccessfully searched for Almihdhar and Alhazmi. The FBI's Los Angeles office received the search request on September 11th, 2001.
In late summer 2001, the intelligence community obtained information that an individual associated with Al Qaida was considering mounting terrorist operations within the United States. There was no information available as to the timing of possible attacks or the alleged targets.
And on September 10th, 2001, NSA intercepted two communications between individuals abroad suggesting imminent terrorist activity. These communications were not translated into English and disseminated until September 12th, 2001. These intercepts did not provide any indication of where or what activity might occur.
Despite these indicators of a possible terrorist attack inside the United States, during the course of interviews the joint inquiry staff was told that it was the general view of the U.S. intelligence community in the spring and summer of 2001 that an attack on U.S. interests was more likely to occur overseas. Individuals in the intelligence community pointed to intelligence information, the arrests of suspected terrorists in the Middle East and Europe and a credible report of a plan to attack a U.S. embassy in the Middle East as factors that shaped their thinking about where an attack was likely to occur. One senior FBI officials said that based on the intelligence he was seeing, he thought there was a high probability, quote, "98 percent," close quote, that the attack would occur overseas.
During the summer of 2001 the intelligence community was also disseminating information through appropriate channels to senior U.S. government officials about possible terrorist attacks.
For example, in June 2001, the community issued a terrorist threat advisory warning U.S. government agencies that there was a high probability of an imminent terrorist attack against U.S. interests by Sunni extremists associated with bin Laden's Al Qaida organization. The advisory mentioned the Arabian peninsula, Israel and Italy as possible locations. According to the advisory, the community continued to believe that Sunni extremists associated with Al Qaida are most likely to attempt spectacular attacks resulting in numerous casualties.
Subsequently, intelligence information provided to senior U.S. government leaders indicated that bin Laden's organization expected near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties.
A briefing prepared for senior government officials at the beginning of July 2001 contained the following language, quote, "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that UBL will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."
Later intelligence information provided to senior government leaders indicated that bin Laden's organization continued to expect imminent attacks on U.S. interests.
The joint inquiry staff has been advised by a representative of the intelligence community that about a month later, in August 2001, a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials included information that bin Laden had wanted to conduct attacks in the United States since 1997.
The information included discussion of the arrests of Ahmed Ressam in December 1999 and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. It mentioned that members of Al Qaida, including some U.S. citizens, had resided or traveled in or traveled to the United States for years and that the group apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information obtained in 1998 that bin Laden wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release of U.S.-held extremists.
FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attack and the number of bin Laden-related investigations under way, as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives.
In August 2001, based on information it had in its possession at the time, the CIA sent a message to the FAA asking the FAA to advise corporate security directors of U.S. air carriers of the following information: quote, "A group of six Pakistanis currently based in Bolivia may be planning to conduct a hijacking or possibly a bombing or an act of sabotage against a commercial airliner. While we have no details of the carrier, the date or the location of this or these possibly planned actions, we have learned that the group has had discussions in which Canada, England, Malaysia, Cuba, South Africa, Mexico, Atlanta, New York, Madrid, Moscow and Dubai, have come up, and India and Islamabad have been described as possible travel destinations," close quote.
While this information was not related to an attack planned by Al Qaida, it did alert the aviation community to the possibly that a hijacking plot might occur in the U.S. shortly before the September 11th attacks occurred.
Now, I want to turn to intelligence information on possible terrorist use of airplanes as weapons.
Central to the September 11th attack was the terrorist use of airplanes as weapons. In the aftermath of the attacks, there was much discussion about the extent to which our government was or could have been aware of the threat of terrorist attacks of this type and the extent to which adequate precautions were taken to address the threat. Based on our review to date, we believe that the intelligence community was aware of the potential for this type of terrorist attack, but did not produce any specific assessment of the likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons. Our review has uncovered several examples of intelligence reporting on the possible use of airplanes as weapons in terrorist operations.
In December 1994, Algerian-armed Islamic Group terrorists hijacked an Air France flight in Algiers and threatened to crash it into the Eiffel Tower.
HILL: French authorities deceived the terrorists into thinking the plane did not have enough fuel to reach Paris and diverted it. A French anti-terrorist force stormed the plane and killed all four terrorists.
In January 1995, a Philippine national police raid turned up materials in a Manila apartment indicating that three individuals planned, among other things, to crash a plane into CIA headquarters. The Philippine national police said that the same group was responsible for the bombing of a Philippine airliner on December 12, 1994. Information on the threat was passed to the FAA, which briefed U.S. and major foreign carriers.
In January 1996, the intelligence community obtained information concerning a planned suicide attack by individuals associated with Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and a key Al Qaida operative. The plan was to fly to the United States from Afghanistan and attack the White House.
In October 1996, the intelligence community obtained information regarding an Iranian plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crashed it into Tel Aviv. An individual would board the plane in the Far East. During the flight, he would commandeer the aircraft, order it to fly over Tel Aviv and then crash the plane into the city.
In 1997, one of the units at FBI headquarters became concerned about the possibility of a terrorist group using an unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, for terrorist attacks. The FBI and CIA became aware of reporting that this group had purchased a UAV. At the time, the agencies' view was that the only reason that this group would need a UAV would be for either reconnaissance or attack. There was more concern about the possibility of an attack outside the United States; for example, by flying the UAV into a U.S. embassy or a visiting U.S. delegation.
As noted previously, in August '98, the intelligence community obtained information that a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center.
Also noted previously, in September '98, the intelligence community obtained information that bin Laden's next operation could possibly involve flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport and detonating it.
In November 1998, the community obtained information that a Turkish Islamic extremist group had planned a suicide attack to coincide with celebrations making the death of Ataturk. The conspirators, who were arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into Ataturk's tomb during a government ceremony. The Turkish press said the group had cooperated with Osama bin Laden. The FBI's New York office included this incident in one of its Osama bin Laden databases.
In February 1999, the intelligence community obtained information that Iraq had formed a suicide pilot unit that it planned to use against British and U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. The CIA commented that this was highly unlikely and probably disinformation.
In March 1999, the intelligence community obtained information regarding a plan by an Al Qaida member, who was a U.S. citizen, to fly a hang glider into the Egyptian presidential palace and then detonate the explosives he was carrying. The individual, who received hang glider training in the United States, brought the hang glider back to Afghanistan.
In April 2000, the intelligence community obtained information regarding an alleged bin Laden plot to hijack a 747. The source, who was a walk-in to the FBI's Newark office, claimed that he had been to a training camp in Pakistan where he learned hijacking techniques and received arms training. He also stated that he was supposed to meet five to six other individuals in the United States who would also participate in the plot. They were instructed to use all necessary force to take over the plane because there would be pilots among the hijacking team. The plan was to fly the plane to Afghanistan, and if they could not make there, that they were to blow up the plane.
Although the individual passed an FBI polygraph, the FBI was never able to verify any aspect of his story or identify his contacts in the United States.
And, in August 2001, the intelligence community obtained information regard a plot to either bomb the U.S. embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. The intelligence community learned that two people who were reportedly acting on instructions from bin Laden met in October 2000 to discuss this plot.
Despite these reports, the community did not produce any specific assessments of the likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons. This may have been driven in part by resource issues in the area of intelligence analysis. Prior to September 11th, 2001, the CTC had 40 analysts to analyze terrorism issues worldwide, with only one of the five branches focused on terrorist tactics. Prior to September 11th, 2001, the only terrorist tactic on which the CTC performed strategic analysis was the possible use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, because there were more obvious potential for mass casualties.
At the FBI, prior to September 11th, 2001, support for ongoing investigations and operations was favored in terms of resources over long-term strategic analysis. We were told during the course of our FBI interviews that prevention occurred in the operational units, not through strategic analysis, and that prior to September 11th the FBI had insufficient resources to do both.
We were also told that the FBI's Al Qaida-related analytic expertise had been, quote, "gutted," close quote, by transfers to operational units and that as a result the FBI analytic unit had only one individual working on Al Qaida at the time of the September 11 attacks.
While focused strategic analysis was lacking, the subject of aviation-related terrorism was included in some broader terrorist threat assessments, such as the National Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism.
For example, the 1995 NIE on Terrorism cited the consideration the Bojinka conspirators gave to attacking CIA headquarters with an aircraft. The document contained the following language: "Our review of the evidence suggests that the conspirators were guided in their section of the method and venue of attack by carefully studying security procedures in place in the region. If terrorists operating in this country, the United States, are similarly methodical, they will identify serious vulnerabilities in the security system for domestic flights."
The 1997 update to that report on terrorism included the following language: "Civil aviation remains a particularly attractive target in light of the fear and publicity the downing of an airliner would evoke and the revelations last summer of the U.S. air transport sector's vulnerabilities."
In a December 2000 report, the FBI and the FAA published a classified assessment that suggested less concern about the threat to domestic aviation. Quote: "FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups operating within the United States, but do not suggest evidence of plans to target domestic civil aviation. Terrorist activity within the U.S. has focused primarily on fund- raising, recruiting new members and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on U.S. soil, these act represent anomalies in their traditional targeting, which focused on U.S. interests overseas."
HILL: After September 11th, 2001, the CIA belatedly acknowledged some of the information that was available, and had been available regarding the use of airplanes as weapons.
A draft analysis dated November 19th, 2001, entitled "The September 11 Attacks: A Preliminary Assessment," states: "We do not know the process by which bin Laden and his lieutenants decided to hijack planes with the idea of flying them into buildings in the United States. But the idea of hijacking planes for suicide attacks had long been current in jihadist circles.
"For example, GIA terrorists from Algeria had planned to crash an Air France jet into the Eiffel Tower in December 1994. And Ramsi Yousef, a participant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, planned to explode 12 U.S. jetliners in mid-air over the Pacific in the mid- 1990s. Likewise, the World Trade Center had long been a target of terrorist bombers."
Despite the intelligence available in recent years, our review to date has found no indications that prior to September 11, analysts in the intelligence community were: cataloging information regarding the use of airplanes as weapons as a terrorist tactic, sending requirements to collectors to look for additional information on this threat, or considering the likelihood that Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida or any other terrorist group would attack the United States or U.S. interests in this way.
Mr. Chairman, our purpose this morning was to report on the information that the intelligence community possessed prior to September 11th, 2001, about terrorist attacks of the kind America witnessed on that fateful day. In closing, let me just say that for all of us who have been conducting this review, the task has been and continues to be not only a daunting one, but in all respects a sobering one.
We are ever-mindful that lost lives and shattered families were the catalyst for this inquiry. We know, as I have heard Ms. Pelosi say many times, that we are on sacred ground.
We also have come to know from our review of the intelligence reporting, the depth and the intensity of the enemy's hatred for this country, and the relentless zeal with which it targeted American lives. We understand not only the importance, but also the enormity, of the task facing the intelligence community.
As my statement this morning suggests, the community made mistakes prior to September 11th. And the problems that led to those mistakes need to be addressed, and they need to be fixed.
On the other hand, the vengeance and the inhumanity that we saw on that day were not mistakes for Osama bin Laden and for others like him. The responsibility for September 11th remains squarely on the shoulders of the terrorists who planned and participated in the attacks. Their fervor and their cruelty may be incomprehensible, but it is real, it persists and it is directed at Americans.
We are convinced that it is no longer a question of whether the intelligence community can do better. It must do better. America can afford no less.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement this morning. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Ms. Hill, I would like to extend my congratulations to you and the staff for an excellent, sobering assessment of the events prior to September the 11th. I recognize this is the first of what will be a series of publicly released statements of the results of our inquiry to date, and we look forward to your future reports.
HILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: We will now proceed to questions and comment from members, starting with Senator DeWine.
Let me just state who the next questioners will be: Mr. Boehlert, Senator Wyden, Mr. Bereuter, Mr. Bishop, Senator Levin, Senator Inhofe, Mr. Peterson, Mr. Cramer.
DEWINE: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Ms. Hill, thank you for your very good statement and your good work.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to make some brief remarks at this very important public hearing.
Let me also thank our witnesses who testified this morning. While none of us can understand what you have been through, I have seen how tragic the events of September 11th had been for my own state director, a very good friend of mine, Barbara Schenck. Barbara lost her husband, Doug Sherry (ph), to the terrorist attacks.
Before talking about what I hope comes out of these hearings, let me express a concern. I've been concerned from the outset of this investigation that the time deadlines under which this committee is operating would not be conducive to producing the product that we want. The artificial deadline I believe is making it extremely difficult to get the job done.
DEWINE: Simply a lack of time, it's a lack of resources.
However, Mr. Chairman, there still are things that we can accomplish, even with the current constraints of this investigation. First, it is important to report, and we have begun this today -- it's important to report to the American people what intelligence failures did occur. Not so we can assess blame, but so we can learn from the specific mistakes that were made.
But there is more to it than that. Yes, we need to gather the facts and take time to examine what they mean with regard to what happened on September 11th, but we certainly cannot stop there. We also need to figure out what these facts tell us about the current structure of our overall intelligence community. What are the shortcomings? Where do we need reform?
And I thought Mr. Push's testimony earlier was very excellent. I thought he talked about some of the big picture issues that we're not going to resolve on this committee, but at least that we can begin to look at and begin that national dialogue about these issues. So I thought his testimony was particularly telling.
I think, for example, Mr. Chairman, in investigating these issues, we must take a serious look at the role of the director of central intelligence. I believe it's time to give the DCI the necessary authority and the ability to truly direct our overall intelligence operations. Quite simply, we need to empower the DCI to do the job.
I believe we also must seriously examine the long-term resource issues that confront us, not just now, but over the long haul, over the next decade or two decades. Do we have the human resources available within the agencies themselves? Do we have the right technology, and enough of it, to get the job done in the new world that we live in? Do we have a long-term commitment to intelligence?
I think we need to discuss that commitment and what we are looking at and make it very plain to the American people the sacrifices that are going to have to be made if that intelligence community is to do its job, and what kind of resources they need.
And finally, I believe that we need to re-examine the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the FISA statute, and determine what changes are needed to make sure we are getting the intelligence from the source to help prevent future attacks.
FISA deserves and requires a great deal of attention and oversight from the joint committee, from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and, frankly, from the entire Congress. We must focus our congressional duty for oversight, as we simply have not had in my opinion effective oversight since FISA was instituted approximately a quarter of a century ago. Somehow, we've got to figure out, Mr. Chairman, how to do that.
Finally, this committee's job, I believe, is really to kick off, to launch, a serious national debate about what changes must be made in our intelligence community. Because if we've learned anything from September 11th, it is that our security, our safety, the safety of our loved ones, is intrinsically linked to the quality of that intelligence.
I thank the chair.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator.
BOEHLERT: Mr. Chairman, let me ask a procedure. Are we just to have an opening statement or to go right to questions?
CHAIRMAN: It is your choice; you have five minutes...
BOEHLERT: All right, thank you very much Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hill, let me thank you for an excellent presentation, and let me begin where you ended. You said we are convinced that it is no longer a question of whether the intelligence community can do better, it must do better. America can afford no less. I could not agree more with that statement.
Your summation of our 10 closed hearings and the revelation of the information in the public domain is somewhat difficult to deal with because so much of what we've had, obviously, during those closed hearings has been highly classified, dealing with sensitive national security information.
But it appears to me that the alarm was sounded not once, but several times, but too many gave it a deaf ear. I'm not ascribing any sinister motives, I'm just saying too many were not paying attention. A lot of reasons for that, resource deficiencies, lack of adequate staff, some of the revelations in your testimony are just absolutely mind-boggling.
But let me ask something. Back in '98, when the director of central intelligence declared war on Al Qaida, sent a memorandum to his agency people, was that a unilateral declaration of war? Was that memorandum shared with anyone but the in-house people at the CIA? Did it go to the FBI? Did it go to all the other agencies in the intelligence community?
HILL: We have been following that question in the course of our interviews and we've been basically asking, we're dealing with a lot of the agencies in the intelligence community and we're trying to find out how much the entire community was aware of that declaration of war.
And what we're finding is some people were. I think, close -- certainly senior levels in the CIA were, and probably in the CIA, but as I mentioned, if you go out to the field offices of the FBI they were not aware of it.
Other people in the federal government were not aware of it. The Defense Department people -- we've interviewed some people there who were not aware of it that might have been interfacing with the community.
So I would say it appears to be, it was the DCI's decision. It was circulated to some people but certainly not broadly within the community.
And what I find disturbing about it is that it was at senior levels, but sometimes the operative level, the level in the field is where it actually is critical that they know what the priorities should be and have to be, particularly in something like combating something like Al Qaida. The field offices of the FBI, in terms of domestic activity, are crucial because they are the ones who are going to be in the front lines in the United States dealing with those kinds of groups.
And, at least in that respect, what we're finding is that many of them were not aware of that declaration of war and some of them really were not focused very much at all on Al Qaida and bin Laden.
BOEHLERT: Well, I find that incomprehensible, quite frankly. Because a key operative in our intelligence community, a leader, issues something as important as a declaration of war against an organization that is openly declared its determined effort, a fatwa, the religious decree to destroy America and Americans, and that information is not shared at the highest level down to the lowest level.
Which brings me forward to the Phoenix memo and the Minneapolis case involving Mr. Moussaoui. And I've checked with counsel to see if it's all right to reveal some of this stuff, because the problem is, I have difficulty, and I've had for all the years I've served on the committee, in recalling where I learned the information that I have. Was it from a highly secure, highly sensitive briefing, or did I read it in the front page of the newspaper? And so my practice has been just not talk to the media at all about this very important assignment.
But we go forward to the Phoenix memo, which was sent up to headquarters, at a time we had a declaration of war in the intelligence community and the memo was marked "Routine."
HILL: Well -- and it was not only at the time of the declaration of war, it was in the summer of 2001; it was at a time when the threat level was very high also.
BOEHLERT: And so the memo was marked "Routine" and it was given the most routine handling, it never got above mid-level. And then we go out to Minneapolis in the Moussaoui case, and that was treated in a somewhat cavalier, very routine manner.
I fail to see how, with all the alarms that were sounded, why -- what do we know? There was not the proper coordination, there was not the proper information sharing.
You have indicated some corrective action has been taken -- but boy, God, we would only hope so -- since September 11th, but I would suggest a lot of corrective action should have been taken well before September 11th.
Let me ask you this. With our first two witnesses, Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push -- and their testimony was very poignant...
CHAIRMAN: Your time is expired.
BOEHLERT: That's a fast five minutes. All right, just let me finish the one question, I'm in the middle of it.
CHAIRMAN: We'll be compassionate.
BOEHLERT: Did you spend an extended amount of time with both of these witnesses? Because they both have statements that are forever seared in our souls. Some deal with opinion, others deal with alleged fact. And so did you spend a good amount of time with them? And have you checked up on the alleged facts that they presented?
And I'm not questioning those facts, I just want to make sure we're dealing with the same information.
HILL: I have met with Ms. Breitweiser several times since I joined this effort with the committee, with her and her group. And Mr. Push, I believe, I've met with him once.
I have not checked up on all the specifics in their statements because I didn't see the statements until yesterday -- I mean, we got those statements yesterday.
But I've had a lot of discussions with them and some of the things, you know, that they mentioned I am aware of, some of them I'd want to look into in more detail, obviously.
BOEHLERT: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence.
CHAIRMAN: Senator Wyden?
WYDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hill, as you know, there were years of history indicating that airplanes would be used a tool of terrorism. And yet you state on page 30, and I'll quote here, "Our review to date has found no indications that prior to September 11th analysts in the intelligence community were cataloguing information regarding the use of airplanes as weapons, as a terrorist tactic, sending requirements to collections to look for additional information this threat or considering the likelihood that bin Laden, Al Qaida or other terrorist groups would attack the United States or U.S. interests in this way."
That is a remarkable statement, given the history going back, I believe, to 1994 at least. And my question, to begin with, is when you asked the intelligence community why this was the case, why they didn't catalogue this information regarding the use of planes as weapons or consider the likelihood that they would be used as terrorist tools, what was the response of the intelligence community when you asked them why?
HILL: Well, I think a couple of things. They would probably say to that question -- and we've spoken to many people over there and gotten, you know, opinions and reactions on this.
You have to understand, the reason we have been able to catalogue all these instances, is because one of the things we did was ask the community to go back and find anything that related to aircraft as weapons. So we went back and consolidated and went through their databases to pull it all out so you could see it all together. And I don't believe that had been done, obviously, before we focused on it, given September 11th.
So one, it's not been all pulled together for them to see it, you know, other than piecemeal over time.
Secondly, I think what they will tell you on almost -- many of these things in the terrorism is that they were overwhelmed. The people who were looking at Al Qaida and bin Laden will complain to you about resources, about the amount of information that was coming in. They were overwhelmed by almost a flood of information. Because, as you can see from our statements, there's a lot of reporting in there just on these topics. And of course, that reporting is but a small amount of the overall amount of reporting that the community deals with.
So I think the reason that they would give that they had not done that was that it was spread out over time, they were overwhelmed by resources and other priorities, and they were overwhelmed by the amount of information they were getting and dealing with the responses to other areas.
WYDEN: What is so hard to swallow, however, is how anything could be a higher priority than this. And for you to state that the intelligence community was not considering the likelihood that bin Laden, Al Qaida would attack the United States in this way is, of course, exactly the kind of thing we've got to address in these inquiries.
In your testimony and also from the victim's families we have heard about the failure to place Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi -- and by the way, Mr. Alhazmi is listed in the phone book in San Diego, I gather -- on a watch list that would have prevented their entry into the United States.
I offered an amendment on the intelligence bill this year to create a terrorist tracking system that would help ensure that this information would finally, actually get shared to everybody in the intelligence, everybody in the law enforcement area, and would actually get to local law enforcement officials.
In your view, to make this kind of a system effective, what sort of policies need to be included, so that finally we can respond to what Mr. Push has asked for, and that is, to have a system that on an ongoing basis makes as a top priority tracking the most dangerous individuals who threaten this country?
HILL: Well, I think part of it is, you have to get people's attention. I mean, you have to get people focused on the need to do that -- people in the system, in the agencies, in the group that is working on those issues. We're going to go into that particular case in much more detail when we present our testimony or statement on the hijackers; that would relate to the case you're talking about. So we will go into it in a lot more detail and tell you what we've heard from people who were handling that information at the time and why it slipped by them.
But I think part of what you will hear again was it -- you may hear anything from they had too many things to do, it wasn't considered that significant, they were overwhelmed and it was simply a mistake -- they made a mistake.
WYDEN: Mr. Chairman, my time has expired. I would only want to add one last point with respect to where I think we are in terms of our inquiry.
As we all know there are many, both on this committee and off, who think that essentially this committee out to punt to an independent effort. I'm of the view that the bar is very, very high now in terms of establishing the credibility of this effort and to show that we're capable of attacking these fundamental problems. This is not something that's going to be solved by just moving the boxes around on the organizational chart and people going up with pointers and saying the problem is solved.
So I think Ms. Hill has helped us, with the families, get off to a good start. And I look forward to working with my colleagues.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator.
BISHOP: Thank you.
This is, indeed, a historic occasion when the two Intelligence, Committees working together on a matter of great importance like this, comes to pass.
BISHOP: And I'm sure however that given the nature and the circumstances which require our attention, the destructive attacks on our country September 11th, it's a task which all of us wish that we didn't have to face. But we are most appreciative today for the well prepared, thoughtful and helpful testimony presented by Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push.
We have a responsibility to thoroughly and professionally gather, assess and present the facts about September 11th as they relate to performance of the intelligence agencies. And as we enter these public hearings, there remains a general sense of disappointment and disbelief within the American people that those agencies, particularly the CIA and the FBI, were not better positioned to detect the conspiracy and to prevent the attacks.
We must try to address the many questions which have arisen about why better intelligence was not collected, or why better use was not made of the information which was available. And now publicly examining the performance of the communities and the decisions that were made in the executive branch, and perhaps in Congress about the establishment of priorities within the intelligence community, we will be conducting the type of oversight which these committees are at present uniquely situated to provide.
It is my continued hope that these hearings and our final report will result in a marked improvement in our understanding of the events that led up to 9/11 and most importantly, in our ability to protect the American people from terrorist attacks such as these.
I look forward to working with the joint leadership and all of our scheduled witnesses. And I want to thank Ms. Hill and her staff for the tremendous work that they have done under very difficult circumstances with some muzzling and bridling and limitations and with great time constraints. It has, I think, been a valiant effort. And we will certainly, as a committee, work with you to try to secure the cooperation that you need from the executive branch and the agencies in getting access and being able to explain to the American people, and have this committee explain to the American people, in the kind of detail which does not compromise sources and methods, plans and intentions, or active ongoing prosecutions so that they can understand, as well as we hope to understand, what happened, why it happened, and what we can do to make sure it does not happen again.
With that, I have no questions, but I did want to share those comments and thank again the witnesses for taking the time and the efforts, which must have been extremely difficult, given the exigencies of your lives over the past year to have come forward and done the magnificent job that you did today.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Bishop.
Our next questioner, or discussant will be Mr. Senator Levin. After Senator Levin, Mr. Boswell, Mr. Castle, Mr. Roemer, Ms. Harman, Mr. Burr, Senator Bayh, and Senator Rockefeller.
LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, let me thank you Ms. Hill...
HILL: Thank you.
LEVIN: ... and your staff for getting us to the point where we are finally analyzing and presenting to the American people the significant intelligence failures which occurred prior to September 11th. At this stage of the inquiry, much is already evident.
First, the intelligence community said that it was at war with Osama bin Laden, and had said so for three years prior to the attack of September 11.
Second, despite National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's assertions to the contrary, the use of a plane as a terrorist weapon capable of causing mass casualties, was neither ingenious nor novel, but rather a method of attack that the intelligence community knew that the terrorists were considering as early as the early and mid- 90s.
Third, there is much troubling evidence that information crucial to preventing attacks by Al Qaida terrorists was not shared or acted upon by intelligence officials prior to September 11th. Those intelligence failures will haunt loved ones and their families and should also haunt us and motivate us to very strong and necessary reforms.
Here is just a few examples that I'm summarizing from your report. In January of 2000, the U.S. intelligence community was alerted to a meeting of Al Qaida members in Malaysia, including two of the eventual hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77. The hand off of that information from the CIA to the FBI was bungled. The individuals were not tracked and inexplicably, were not promptly placed on a watch list. Ten days later, the two accomplices entered the United States on a flight to Los Angeles. The location of the individuals after they were finally placed on the watch list was also mishandled.
Second, a July 10, 2001 memorandum from an FBI field agent in Phoenix to the Osama bin Laden unit and the radical fundamentalist unit at FBI headquarters requesting that an investigation be opened in the foreign terrorists training at flight schools in the U.S. was never acted upon. Nor was the Phoenix field investigation shared with the CIA as specifically suggested by the FBI agent.
And this is not in your memo, but this is what we learned, that nearly a year after the Phoenix memo, the FBI director was unable to explain to our committee who saw that request from the Phoenix FBI agent, what was done with the request, and who, if anyone, had been held accountable for letting that important information fall between some crack.
Third, the August 16, 2001 arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and the suspicions of the FBI agents in Minneapolis, that he might be planning to undertake a terrorist attack using a plane and the urgent request that a warrant to search his computer and other belongings were not acted upon by FBI Headquarters.
And I want to emphasize a point here. These were not some reports by unreliable sources. These were not unconfirmed statements.
LEVIN: These were FBI agents that were asking for action. Their requests were ignored.
Now I believe it is critically important for the administration to release the Phoenix memorandum, documents relating to the Minneapolis FBI office request, and other documents that will allow the American people to judge for themselves the significance of these missed signals and the failures to share information between and within the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
The committee, I understand, has asked for declassification of those documents. That request is under consideration, I understand, by the administration in preparation for next week's hearings.
And I -- we've had discussion about this already this morning, but I do hope that the leadership of these committees, our committees, will let the administration know that our committees will seek congressional authorization, by legislation if necessary, to declassify appropriate information if the executive branch refuses.
We have chairmen and vice chairmen of our committees who've agreed on some matters. It seems to me that is enough for us as committees to automatically authorize them to seek legislation should the executive branch refuse. And that would go to future refusals, not just to previous ones.
The American people understand that perfection is unattainable. But they also believe, as I do, that when errors are made, accountability, accountability is essential if lessons are to be learned for the sake of the future security of our nation.
Now -- my time up?
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator, and for those very thoughtful...
... and obviously well-received suggestions of actions by the committee. We will take those under advisement.
BOSWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think the word that hit me hardest today has been the word sobering. And as I heard the testimony of Kristin and Steven, it caused me to do a little flashback in my earlier life when I had to spend a lonely night, as some of the rest of you have done, to write to the loved ones why their loved one was lost in the battlefield that day.
I've sensed your pain. I love you, respect you, and want you to have relief. And I see the relief for you is to see that these lessons learned are learned and filed and not have to be learned again.
I used to work for Admiral Fluckey, probably the most decorated living American. He said "Put that in your lessons learned file and don't have to learn it again." And that's what I hope we accomplish here.
I feel like maybe my colleague from the Senate that said that maybe we don't need this extra blue-ribbon panel after listening to Kristin and Steven. I think you made a pretty good case maybe we do need it.
And I wonder about the time and the resource and availability to us to finish this job, though I trust that the days lying ahead of you, Mr. Chairman, you're going to be dealing with that, with this side of the operation, and I know you'll give it serious consideration.
A couple of questions, Ms. Hill, if I might ask. And I'll just ask them all and then I can refresh if you need them, but I assume you have -- do you intend to have further statements of fact as we go forward from here today?
HILL: Not today, but we do in future hearings.
BOSWELL: I mean in the future. All right.
Would you want to elaborate a little bit on what, or could you, what agencies had the responsibility to respond to the warnings. We've heard so much about the warnings for two, three years.
Would you have any comment from your research and your study that who should have been responding -- military, who?
HILL: Well, it would depend on, what, you mean a warning from the intelligence community or the reports?
BOSWELL: Well, a combination. Did we fail as part of our lesson learned, if we can, in the area of maybe there should have been some responses going out to somebody else?
HILL: Well, some of this -- it depends. I mean, some of this information was disseminated further, some was not disseminated. Some, for instance, that we talked about, some went to the FAA in certain cases, and then they in turn would put out a warning.
For instance, I talked about the one instance of the terrorist attack to commercial private industry. So it depends of the nature of what the threat was and who they would warn, but...
BOSWELL: I think in your further analysis and maybe what I'm asking is that you share with us as you look at it and have more time, if there's some things that we can put in this...
HILL: We are -- I can say that we are pursuing the whole issue of -- I mean there's questions of warnings and dissemination of information is not just sharing information, as Senator Levin was talking about, within the intelligence community, between the FBI and CIA, for example, but also sharing threat information beyond the intelligence community to the agencies within government, outside the community and also to the private sector, which gets into the warning and how far this information went.
HILL: And that is an area we are looking at, and we haven't yet, you know, come back with a report on it. But we are looking at that. And you know, that's a valid point because intelligence not only is the job to get the good intelligence and to analyze it, but then to disseminate it to people who can use it in a timely manner.
BOSWELL: OK, thank you. And I just -- I've got a little bit of time left. Do you have any comment about the -- and all the emphasis on bin Laden and his activities and his lack of being able -- prior to September 11 that is -- lack of ability to bring damage to us. Did that lure our people into complacency, even at the senior levels?
HILL: I think part of it is, as I alluded to earlier, is that the community, you know, does get so much information. And as I said in this statement, there were a lot of these threats coming in, but they -- a lot of them they couldn't really collaborate. They didn't know if some of them were true or not true. So I think, you know, it may be human nature if you keep hearing this stuff all the time and nothing happens and you never really know if it's accurate, you tend to start disregarding it.
And the problem is that buried in the middle of all that where some may be accurate, some maybe not, there may be something that really is important that needs to be looked at.
So it may be that when the threat level was very high and all the chatter was coming true, it was hard to distinguish what was really legitimate and something they needed to be concerned about.
BOSWELL: Thank you very much. My time is up. I appreciate the hard work that you've presented to us, the straightforwardness, and I'm looking forward to what you further have to say as we go on from here.
HILL: Thank you.
GOSS: Thank you, Mr. Boswell.
CASTLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would also like to thank Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push for their testimony on their own behalf, on behalf of the others who have endured this. You're brave to be here. But you also had a lot to say and from a perspective that's different than we've heard so far.
And I also thank Ms. Hill for making sure that we started off with this testimony. I think it is vitally important that we hear this.
And some of my -- these are sort of statements/questions. Let me go through a few of them, and if we have time, perhaps you could respond to some of them, Ms. Hill, based in large part on matters that both Kristin and Stephen referenced.
But one that has concerned me for some time, and Mr. Boehlert referenced it too, and that is the whole business of public versus private or classified information versus non classified information. I for one have felt for some time, having served on this committee for a while, that we over classify terribly in the world of intelligence. You read about it the next day in the New York Times. It's about 90 percent of what you'd heard about the day before. And I just have serious questions about that.
But the point was made in some of their testimony about the failure to warn the public. And I would imagine the public really didn't know much about bin Laden. Based on what you said, I'm not even sure the intelligence community knew what it should have known about bin Laden when September 11th came in 2001.
We saw what the president has been able to do with Saddam Hussein, who is probably in the forefront of the minds of almost every American today. We know what can be done if there is a greater public awareness as to what is going on.
And a lot that's happened since September 11th of last year has caused us all to be much more aware of possible terrorist activities or whatever. I would hope that as our committee looks at all of this, we look at the public aspect of it. The American public is very intelligent and very cognizant of what's going on in the world. And if they're given a chance to know what the potential problems are, my sense is that perhaps we can prevent some of the problems that we've had so far. And we shouldn't be so closed as far as intelligence is concerned.
Now I understand there are circumstances in which that can not happen. I well understand that, and I'm not trying to go too far in saying that. But I really think we need to visit that question in terms of speeches being given by people in the intelligence community, perhaps could be more open in terms of information that could be released. That kind of thing. And I'm very interested in pursuing that at some point.
Something that Mr. Push said I had heard earlier when I visited the Homeland Security. And that is that the officials here in Washington were struck by how much the local law enforcement officers know about what's happening in their communities, about the individuals in their communities, perhaps troubled individuals in their communities, various things that we probably would never know in Washington, D.C. There are a whole lot of them, you know, well over half a million state and local law enforcement officers who have a tremendous world of knowledge.
And I think that Homeland Security is looking at trying to develop and to cultivate that knowledge, and make it part of a central -- not a central bank system necessarily -- but the ability to be able to have that information go up and be digested and used in dealing with terrorists and other activities in this country. I think that's vitally important. We don't hear much about that.
We hear about the CIA and the FBI and NSA in various major federal agencies. When you're dealing overseas, that's probably what it's all about. But when you're dealing in America, and also even when you're dealing overseas, you're dealing with some sort of a cell or a pod or somebody who's here locally, it's very helpful to have that information.
And I hope as we go about our business of this particular committee and what we're doing, that we incorporate that into it as well. So that also concerns me.
And another area is much broader too than anything we've talked about and that's the area of prevention overall. I am vitally concerned about the hatred that exists in the Middle East, apparently at least in certain pockets of the Middle East, for America and perhaps for Israel and other portions of the world.
And I don't know how to go about this. And I'm not suggesting that we should be starting to formulate policy with respect to diplomacy and education. But it seems to me its something we should be paying attention to. If we could get to the root causes of this, of why that is there, if we could start to build the relationships that might change some of this, this might take 10, 15 or 25 years, but I don't think we should ignore it. And perhaps it's a little bit beyond what we are doing on this committee, but the bottom line is I think it's a very important function of what we're doing as American citizens to try to prevent terrorism activities as far as the future is concerned.
And I do have a specific question. I'd like your comment on any of those things. And then a specific question -- I've got about 10 seconds here I think -- and that is, just how far along are we in terms of all of your work? Are we going to be able to get our work done by the completion of this Congress?
HILL: I am optimistic that we will be able to get through what we have in our minds sat down and figured would be our schedule in terms of treating various topics that we think need to be treated. Where no one can ever be sure is that things are still coming up as we investigate. You know, once you start looking at an agency and you're going through files, what tends to happen is the more you get into it, the more you start finding more things. And as we find things, we want to follow those where the facts lead and make sure we understand what did or did not happen. And that takes time.
So there are some things like that, that we are now working on that are going to take us more time, because we haven't planned for that. But I'm cautiously optimistic we can make what I think would be a significant contribution on this whole front in terms of really understanding what did and didn't happen here before the 11th and why, why we didn't know more in terms of what were the systemic problems that were preventing people from knowing more.
HILL: So I can't, I would be foolish to sit here and tell you we're going to look at every single document on terrorism that the United States government had for the last 20 years, because we haven't tried to do that.
We've tried to narrow it to where we get to the relevant material that pertains to September 11. And that I think we have a good shot at doing.
CASTLE: Thank you, Ms. Hill. We'll take my other statements and perhaps we can discuss them further at some point in terms of what we can do with them.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Castle.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, Mr.Chairman.
Thank you, Ms. Hill, very much...
HILL: Thank you, Senator.
ROCKEFELLER: ... for your distinguished work. In the interests of time, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to make just three points.
First, the fundamental question is what did the intelligence community know, and then what did they do with what they knew. The work of the committee has not to this point unearthed any single piece of information, or smoking gun, if you will, that would have in and of itself have prevented the attack. But we have found far too many breakdowns in the intelligence-gathering and processing method.
My own conclusion is that, given the events and signals of the preceding decade, the intelligence community could have, and in my judgment should have, anticipated an attack on U.S. soil on the scale of 9/11.
We had witnessed attacks on Americans overseas, as you laid out -- the USS Cole, Kenya, Tanzania, Khobar, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. We knew beyond any doubt that Al Qaida wanted to strike the United States.
We were just sort of struck in our classic American innocence that anything that happens is going to happen overseas. But there was information and plenty of it, disseminated or not disseminated that something was going to happen here.
Yet the intelligence community, for a whole host of reasons, did not launch the all-out effort that is its responsibility, that might have detected and potentially prevented 9/11.
Second, the FBI is an outstanding law enforcement agency. But I have serious questions about whether it is the right place to do intelligence work necessary in our country.
Law enforcement is not necessarily compatible with intelligence gathering; in fact it is not. It's not the same skills, not the same mission.
Going forward, we must not undermine the FBI's ability to carry out its fundamental responsibilities, because they're very important, and they do it very well.
And we must not give short-shrift to new intelligence demands. So we have to ask ourselves, can the problem be addressed by reforming the FBI? I don't think so.
Or is this a case where we need to find a wholly different solution? This is a tough question, obviously, which I hope this committee will be tackling in the coming months, and it leads me to my final point.
Are we ready, as a committee, as a Congress, as a government, as a people, not only to pose the tough questions -- it's easy to do -- but also to find and to implement the tough solutions?
It is clear to all of us that we must make serious changes in how we gather, process and react to intelligence in this country. Our existing agencies came into being in the Cold War. That's fine; that structure no longer matches the threat that we face.
Lines of authority are, in my judgment, blurred intentionally for the sake of turf, for the sake of all kinds of things which in some cases have justification, in many cases do not.
The whole process leading up to today has been an interesting example of how difficult it is to get, you know, in a very common purpose, to get people to agree on some relatively simple things.
So lines of authority are blurred, information gets lost, and the mission is unfocused, the intelligence mission is unfocused. It might best be described as trying to do everything and in the process doing little well.
Far-reaching change isn't just a goal, it's a necessity. Unfortunately, it's a very controversial and very uncomfortable necessity. It's something that they don't want to do here in Congress, they don't want to do at the White House, they don't want to do at the Defense Department, they don't want to do in the non-defense intelligence aspect of what we carry on in this country.
But are we going to find the political will to create an intelligence system that works? Or are we going to say that this is going to be politically impractical, or probably not doable, and therefore cut our goal by 50 percent and then get leveraged down from there?
So are we as a committee, in which we have our own differences and our own conflicts, as a Congress where the same exists, and as a government where the same exists, in the intelligence community where the same exists, do we have the political will and the strength and the determination to do the job right?
Nothing else counts.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator.
ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank Ms. Hill for an excellent presentation and outline this afternoon to help us understand this issue a bit more after several months of this investigation.
I want to compliment your top-notch staff for their sacrifices and their hours of service to the country. And Mr. Chairman, you and Mr. Goss, on my side, I want to compliment both of you for bringing together in a bipartisan way this committee to launch an unprecedented bicameral investigation into the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history.
And it is with pride and confidence that I know that we will produce a good product on this committee.
In listening to the very moving testimony from Kristin and Steve this morning I'm even more convinced, I'm even more compelled to work hard. I'm even more persuaded that an independent blue-ribbon commission is the right way to go.
It's the right way to go because if this committee, with its jurisdiction and its might and insight and experience and dedication to intelligence, does its job, and by the very nature of an investigative inquiry staff doing their job over an eight-month period, unearthing facts, uncovering data, asking tough questions, they will produce even more questions for us to try to answer over the next year.
So I think there is a compelling case by the very effectiveness of this committee to do its job near perfectly and assume its jurisdiction as a body of Congress to take on this tough task. We make the case in a very convincing way for follow-up and a thread attached to this, for an independent blue-ribbon commission to continue to look at these very, very tough questions as to how to reorganize an intelligence community that made mistakes, that committed failures, that saw warnings, and reorganize it in a time when we are threatened by a brand new source that wants to kill Americans in massive numbers very quickly. And they can do it in this kind of world environment.
I think the case is made compellingly for an independent blue- ribbon commission. And I think that compliments us, and I think it adds into the history of this committee, the Intelligence Committee, which has had independent commissions as Aspin-Brown, Hart-Rudman, the NRO, Rumsfeld on ICBMs, and even in the Senate bill, a brand new commission to study something else.
Ms. Hill, I do have a question or two that I wanted to ask about the classification of data. On page 16 there is a reference to information provided to senior U.S. government officials in September of 1998, and on page 28 mentioning senior government officials in July of 2001.
Now without getting into, breaking our classification -- and we don't want to do that -- one would be a Democratic administration, one would be a Republican administration. Is there the possibility that those references might be, could be to a White House?
HILL: Well, you know, obviously given the classification...
ROEMER: I'm just asking in the realm of possibilities.
HILL: Well, I guess are you asking the term "senior government officials?" I mean, I guess the term "senior government officials" would be anyone at a senior level in the entire U.S. government, so.
But I cannot, as I understand the rules on this, we are not allowed...
ROEMER: But your case, Ms. Hill, is that it's important for the American people to know when we get intelligence that it's not only the intelligence agencies that act upon it, it's the administration, as to what they do with it, with the military, with other branches of government...
ROEMER: ... the FAA, the border control, and so forth and so on.
HILL: That's absolutely right. Because, I mean, to make intelligence really the way it should be and important and valuable it has to be not only collected, analyzed, but it has to be disseminated to the people who can use it in a timely manner.
That's the whole point of having intelligence, so.
ROEMER: Part of our bipartisan efforts would be to get in a bipartisan way this access to declassifying that kind of references. Is that your argument?
HILL: Well, I mean, our argument on this issue about the White House is that if you've declassified the information itself, it seems to us we don't see the national security interest in declassifying where it goes from there.
If you declassify, it goes to some people, you should be able to declassify it goes to everybody, whoever it went to, to explain that.
ROEMER: I would hope our committee would have a long, very serious discussion about what to do on this declassification issue.
Finally, Ms. Hill, if I could ask one final question. You mention the CTC and the number of analysts that they had, and I think mentioned a number of three to five.
ROEMER: Yet as we've looked at the CTC budget over the 1990s and a question of resources, without mentioning a specific number, which is classified, the trend which we can talk about, right...
ROEMER: ... is a quadrupling in the CTC budget. So why isn't more money put into analysts in that budget when it's quadrupling?
HILL: I think it's a priority question.
HILL: I mean it's, you know, as the resources -- and what we found and we're saying is that the resources -- they were getting more resources for counter-terrorism prior to September 11th and after the DCI declared war on bin Laden, it was going up.
But there was no massive shift. It was a gradual thing and...
HILL: ... in terms of analysis, there was not a significant amount of resources dedicated to it.
So I assume it is like very other research allocation. It's depending on where your priorities are, and obviously there was not a big priority on the analysis.
ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Roemer.
LAHOOD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hill, thank you for your service to our committee and to your staff too. I know they've worked long hours.
HILL: That's very true, and they've done an excellent job.
LAHOOD: They really have; I agree with that.
And to Kristin and Steve, thank you for -- if you're still here -- for being here and the people that you represent.
Obviously, our hearts go out to all of you.
Ms. Hill, if you take all of the information that's in your report today, and you analyze all of that information, and then you look at the notion that there was a lot of information prior to 9/11, there were a lot of people in separate ways who saw it, and if you took that information, and it was analyzed correctly, and the people responsible, whether it be the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, the CIA director, FBI director, if they had all of the information that you've collected and documented in your report, could 9/11 have been prevented, if they had seen the Phoenix memo, if they had seen the memo from Minnesota, if they had seen, really had all of these transits, these documents that had come over the transit for any number days?
I mean, there has to be some idea about -- because the criticism is that a lot of information came, but it wasn't shared. A lot of information was available, but wasn't shared, and the right people didn't know it.
Well, if you take all of that information, and if it had been shared with the highest elected people in our government and the highest appointed people in our government who have responsibility for counteracting these activities, could 9/11 have been prevented?
HILL: My own view is that I don't think anyone will ever be able to say -- no one will ever really know whether 9/11 could have been prevented. Because what we're talking about here is we not only would have to know what everyone would have done with the information they had in the intelligence community in terms of law enforcement and intelligence, you would also have to know how bin Laden and the hijackers would have reacted. We don't know that.
I mean, it's all -- we're hypothesizing. And there's been so much emphasis on, "Was there a smoking gun?" Was there a where, when, how," that sort of thing.
We didn't -- we haven't found that. What we have found is a lot of information, a lot of things that weren't put together. And to me, maybe the biggest issue is, and we say it somewhat in the statement, not only that they weren't put together, but they weren't recognizing the importance given everything else they should have known, for instance, in the summer of 2001. That's the summer that you had Almihdhar and Alhazmi. You had Phoenix. You had Moussaoui. You had a high threat level. Well, you would think that with all of that, when you got Phoenix or you got Moussaoui, or you got -- it would have even been more -- you would have been more aggressive with it. And that didn't happen.
So there's a lot of unknowns. There's questions whether people would have -- if you had caught one hijacker, would they have replaced him with someone else? There's questions about could you -- if you had gotten on to one of these cases, could you have surveilled and perhaps found what was going on?
All of those are hypothetical. And we're never going to know, but I think what we do clearly know is that the community could have done a lot better and -- the intelligence side and the law enforcement side.
LAHOOD: But your answer is that the community could have a lot better. But knowing what we know about information that was there and the dots were never connected in a lot of these different areas, you're not saying though that the community could have prevented this. They could have done a lot better, but...
HILL: I'm saying they could have...
LAHOOD: ... they couldn't have prevented it.
HILL: No, I didn't say they -- I never said they couldn't have...
LAHOOD: Well, I want to know. I want you to be able to tell us pretty definitively here for these people that are here that if all of the dots were connected and if all of the information was shared and all of the right people would have known it, could we have prevented 9/11?
HILL: I would say...
LAHOOD: I mean, that's the criticism all of this town and all over the country and all over the world that we, that you know we collected a lot of information, but it wasn't connected, that people didn't connect the dots, they didn't share information.
And my question is, and I think it's a question on the minds of the American people, if it had been done correctly, could it have been prevented?
And people that are promoting a blue ribbon committee, which I am not, are saying that that's the way we get to the bottom line.
But I want to know from you, who have been working at this now for several months, could it have been prevented?
HILL: I can't say guaranteed that it could have prevented. There could have been some things done that there's possible that they might have been able to uncover some of this plot if they had had the information on individuals and they had followed them and they had surveilled them and the individuals had talked about something and they might of picked it up.
I mean, all of those are ifs. It's one if after another. You're never going to know that.
But if you don't get beyond the point that they could have done better, you know, that's what they have to do the next time. Because if they don't, you're not going to have a shot at preventing this the next time. That's where the issue is, not so much preventing what's already happened. It's preventing what may happen in the future that we have to focus on. That's my own view.
And I think to prevent what may happen in the future, there's a lot of things that have to be done to get us there.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. LaHood.
Let me say tomorrow we're going to have two panels with five persons in total, all of whom have had extensive experience at the highest level of actually making decisions based on intelligence. And I would suggest the question you just asked of Ms. Hill would be a very appropriate question to ask of those panelists to get their assessment of whether there was enough information from the experience and perspective that they have had and can provide as to whether there was enough to have avoided September the 11th.
HOEKSTRA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I'd like to thank the chairman for how they started off these public hearings. I believe with Steve and Kristin today, a very appropriate way to begin the process by remembering those whose families paid the ultimate sacrifice on September 11 and recognizing the sense of urgency and the importance with which this committee has to go through and conduct its work.
And Ms. Hill, thank you for your work.
HILL: Thank you.
HOEKSTRA: Having gone through some other investigations on other committees, recognizing the importance of how you approach this work and the intensity and the professionalism and having to put up with Members of Congress.
So thank you for being willing to go through that process.
As you've gone through and done the analysis, have you also taken a look at other attempted terrorists activities during this timeframe which may have been prevented because of knowledge that we had beforehand and things that might not be part of the public record? Have you uncovered anything like that?
HILL: You mean other actions by other groups or other...
HOEKSTRA: By Al Qaida or other groups that -- you know, where they had been planning on attacking the United States and for one reason or another, those attacks were thwarted.
HILL: We have heard some of that. I mean, we have not focused on that because we have been focusing on the information on terror -- aircraft as weapons and the September 11th plot.
But certainly in talking to people, there were successes by the intelligence community against Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. There were also you know, failures...
HOEKSTRA: There were other failures.
HILL: So I mean it was...
HOEKSTRA: That's right.
HILL: ... and I think I didn't read that part of it, but in our statement we talk about the fact that they did -- that it was a very difficult target for the intelligence community. Al Qaida was -- had a lot of operational security. They were hard to penetrate. They were hard to get them to talk about things that would help you. It was difficult. There were resource problems.
But despite all of that, the community did amass a lot of information on them, and they were engaged in operations against Al Qaida. And there were some successes, but there were also some failures.
HOEKSTRA: As you go though this process, will you also overlay policy decisions that were made either in Congress or at the executive level? Specifically, I think this morning, Steve talked about -- and I'm not sure exactly what the words were, but the inability to penetrate organizations like Al Qaida with human intelligence.
And recognizing that during parts of the '90s, you know, there were decisions that were made that changed the way that the CIA and other organizations could actually recruit human intelligence.
HILL: I think that area, I mean those are all valid policy questions, and it's relevant to how you, you know, how you combat terrorism in groups like this obviously, because penetrating a group like this is tremendously important. It's a valuable source of intelligence.
But I think those are issues that we will probably address. As I understand the chairman, one of the things we want to do as we get further away from the facts -- we're trying to get the factual review out first -- go to the systemic problem and then look at possible ways to reform the community and changes and policy issues and those sorts of things.
So I would guess that those issues would be addressed once we get into where do we go from here in terms of reform.
HOEKSTRA: Because it's very, very clear that the intelligence community and the various agencies don't operate in a vacuum. There are policy decisions that...
HOEKSTRA: ... are consistent -- that are over a period of time that will have an impact on the culture within, within the various agencies as to their ability to recruit or how they will use or who they will access for human intelligence.
HOEKSTRA: There's also decisions that are made by Congress in terms of the funding levels and direction and those types of things.
And as the report moves forward, we will get a fuller context of where the breakdowns will be, some of which may have occurred within the intelligence agencies, some of which may have occurred in the executive, other parts of the executive branch or some of which may have occurred in Congress because of decisions that have been made over here, so that we get that full picture of what went on.
HOEKSTRA: That will all be -- those are all areas that you plan on looking at?
HILL: The game plan, so to speak, is to look at the factual review, get through that, then look at the systemic issues and then decide how those systemic issues can be addressed through reform. And what you're talking about I think would be in the systemic issue problems, restrictions on our ability to penetrate human sources, and then where we go from here in terms of reform.
HOEKSTRA: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
GRAHAM: Thank you very much.
SHELBY: Thank you. I've missed some of this because like everybody, we have to do other things during the meetings.
Would it be fair to say at this point in the inquiry, the investigation, that we're a long way from finishing our inquiry, are we not?
HILL: I like to look at it -- I like to be optimistic rather than pessimistic, and I would say I think we've made a significant good start down the road. We're not finished, but, you know, I think we've done a fair amount of work here, and we have a good record on the facts so far.
SHELBY: But you are a veteran investigator, veteran prosecutor, inspector general DOD, we all know this and we have a lot of respect for you. In any investigation, you don't know what's going to turn up next, do you?
SHELBY: And you're not telling us here today and the American people that you see the end of this investigation?
HILL: No, I think I said previously in response to another question that any investigation, the more you dig, you find things and then you have to have time to go through those things.
SHELBY: Analyze it.
HILL: That is happening. It's happening to us like it happens in any investigation, and we're trying to follow those facts to where they lead. Now, whether all of that will be finished by whenever this is determined to end, I don't know. But I think we'll make a significant contribution, and we'll have made a good body of knowledge.
SHELBY: Well, I think you're already making a significant contribution, and I think the staff is. My concern is that we don't know what we don't know.
HILL: That is correct.
SHELBY: And I have the feeling that there's more out there because I raised this morning -- I raised the issue in my opening statement that I don't believe, as a member of the committee, that we've had the utmost support by the agencies that we're investigating. And I don't believe that we've had the support that was promised at the outset, you know, by the administration.
Having said that, I want to focus just what little time I have on the FBI. You may have talked about this earlier -- I know you addressed it -- and that is the analytical component of the FBI. We know that the FBI has got good people. We know that they're great on investigations. They have no peer, I believe. But on analysis of intelligence information, some of us have been on the committee -- and this is my eighth year here -- that we've been concerned with that for a long time. It's hard to put an intelligence division or component together and make it work.
Tell us in your judgment, what was the state of the analytical component of the FBI before September 11...
HILL: Well, terrorism, basically.
SHELBY: ... as far as terrorism is concerned?
HILL: The FBI, I mean, our figures -- we have the figures in the statement -- they, I think, had one individual working Al Qaida analytically.
SHELBY: One individual working Al Qaida before September 11 in the analysis.
HILL: Analysis, right.
And, you know, my personal view, and you alluded to it, and I have worked with the FBI for many, many years starting...
SHELBY: I know you have.
HILL: ... when I was a prosecutor and I agree with you. I think they are tremendous investigators. And in terms of law enforcement, they can be the best on some cases and prosecutions. but that's their mission. Their mission is to do an investigation, to do a prosecution, do a case. If it's their case and their mission, their prosecution, they will go to the nth degree to -- and they're very aggressive and we need that.
But they are not, at least in my experience, their training and their mission does not focus on going beyond that into the broader analytical world and looking at the big picture. They are focused on their case, and it's too bad because their aggressiveness would be very good if they could also channel it, at least in issues like terrorism, a little broader onto the analytic view.
SHELBY: But before September the 11, they only had one person in the whole bureau working on that, you just testified to -- is that correct -- on Al Qaida?
HILL: Yes, and I just have a note from our staff, who has done a lot of these interviews, that it was at the FBI. They had one individual doing strategic analysis, is what we're talking about.
SHELBY: That's right.
HILL: They did have some others that were doing, as she calls "operational analysis," which I would interpret that to mean that was connected with prosecutions and cases. And so, there were individuals doing that.
SHELBY: Do you think that there is a way to get the FBI changed, or at least part of it, toward strategic analysis of information dealing with terrorism in the future? I know we talked to the director about this, but that's harder to do than it is to say, isn't it?
HILL: Well, I think it's not only getting them to expand their focus -- I mean, it's like any job or profession in an agency, they have to be able to give people incentives in terms of career and progression and those sorts of things to make the analysis positions in the FBI important positions that people want to do.
SHELBY: Well, my light's on. I guess I'll wait another round, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Ms. Pelosi?
PELOSI: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to join others in commending Ms. Hill on the excellent work that she and the members of her very able staff have performed.
HILL: Thank you.
PELOSI: I hope that it is a comfort to the families to know how persistent and thorough the staff is in this investigation -- in this inquiry. However limited it is, it's strictly to intelligence. And as was mentioned earlier, there are other agencies of government beyond the intelligence community that need some review as well.
The question of could it have been prevented, of course, is one that will haunt us as long as we exist as a country, and there's no good answer. The good news is the bad news. If the answer is no, it could not have been prevented, that means we're very exposed in the future. If it means yes, it could have been prevented, that's good news because that bodes well for the future, but is a tragedy, obviously, for the families. It's a tragedy in any event. But if it could have been prevented, we'll all be haunted by the guilt associated with that, and that's not even good enough punishment for us. There will be hell to pay. That's going up to September 11.
Post-September 11, if any of these agencies of government in the intelligence community are not dealing honestly with us -- and by that I mean, being forthcoming with information -- if, as Mr. Shelby says, there's other information to come that we don't know about now, I believe there will be hell to pay for them because we all assume that everyone is doing their best to protect our country, and they must help us get to the bottom of this.
PELOSI: I trust that they are helping us all they can, but we must continue the inquiry.
I think, as one who originally supported an independent commission -- I was the original author of it and we passed in committee, we failed on the floor -- the idea, I think, is an important one. However, it does not in any way undermine the important work of this inquiry. As Mr. Roemer has said, and others have said, this piece of it that goes into the Intelligence Committee is very important.
We could have had the best intelligence in the world, though, and what we've found out since September 11 is that the hijackers and the Al Qaida knew something about us that we did not know about ourselves, and that is we had tremendous exposure at the airports. That all four of these hijackings could have been successful is remarkable. I find it remarkable that maybe one would get by, but four of them to succeed, in their words "succeed," is remarkable to me.
So my question to you, Ms. Hill, is on this subject your report is clear, but I'd just like to see if you could shed some further light. As you were looking into this issue of the hijackers, and we'll go more into it in a couple of days, but did you see a distinction made between hijacking -- of course, that's a predictable threat to us -- and using airplanes as weapons as two distinct threats, because from the perspective of many of us, a hijacking is still the loss of many, many lives and should have been taken as seriously as hijacking with intent to do further damage?
HILL: We, certainly, when we went out looking for information and requesting information from the agencies, distinguished it because we were asking for information on the use of aircraft as weapons. So that would imply more than the usual just hijack a plane to get somewhere or take hostages or whatever.
But in terms of, you know, being prepared to address it -- and your comments about why they were able to hijack all four of these planes and our defenses were down -- there's probably less of a distinction, and I point to the FAA, FBI assessments that we quote in this staff statement. I think for that year, which was I believe 2000, they were looking at the whole threat, terrorist threat to civil aviation, so they were not distinguishing between aircraft as weapons or hijacking. And what was interesting about it is they were concluding that there was a very small domestic threat. So they were not too concerned about any sort of terrorist threat to domestic U.S. aviation here in the United States as late as 2000.
PELOSI: Well, I find that to be a serious shortcoming separate and apart from not knowing the time and place and date.
PELOSI: The fact that the entire threat was minimized to that extent. So I do see the need, as I had said before, to assess the performance of any agency, beyond the intelligence agencies, which have a responsibility to protect against acts of terrorism and to shed -- to look with fresh eyes and some innovative thinking on our intelligence and all other aspects of protecting the American people in this regard. And of course, as Senator Rockefeller said, we must do it right, but I think doing it right also means protecting our civil liberties.
So we have quite a challenge, and your presentation this morning and the work of your staff has been a valuable contribution. Thank you.
HILL: Thank you.
PELOSI: I look forward to following hearings.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Ms. Pelosi.
GOSS: Thank you. Let me advise members of the House that there's ten minutes left on a vote in the House, so my wrap-up will be very quick.
First of all, I want to thank Ms. Hill for a very excellent presentation.
HILL: Thank you.
GOSS: I like the version that we had before it had been redacted better, and I expect that we are going to continue to press on because I do believe that there is more that can be revealed.
And along that area, is it fair for me to make a statement that because of the joint staff, we now know some things that we otherwise certainly would not have known. Is that a fair statement?
HILL: I would hope so, yes. I would say so.
GOSS: It is certainly is my feeling as well, and I would hope that much of that can be shared with the American people.
The second question I wanted to ask, provides some guidance from my perspective, it was in your excellent report this morning on intelligence reporting on bin Laden's intentions to strike inside the United States on pages 14 and 15 of your report -- 15 and 16. There are a series of specifics that cries out to say, why was all this ignored? Where was the audience? Why was nobody listening?
And one of the issues that I would like to have further amplification on on this is if this was 2 percent of the reporting, what was the other 98 percent of the reporting that was consuming the analysts' time in the intelligence community? I'm not asking for an answer now. I think that's going to be helpful for our report.
The next question, I think, is self-evident and others have said it. There's no doubt that some of the questions members here have addressed today to you are more appropriate for witnesses that will be forthcoming, and I want to make sure that we understand that there will be other witnesses forthcoming. We will try and have as much of that as public as we can, as it should be.
GOSS: But the very penetrating questions that were asked by Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push, and the recommendations I think are excellent points. Each one of them deserves consideration and we'll get them at some point. In fact, some of them have already been given consideration, as I'm sure you know.
And finally, with regard to the remarks about Senator Levin and Senator Rockefeller on declassification, my view is that the burden is on the administration to tell us why we must preserve classification, unless it's in those areas -- those exempt areas that I spoke to; sources, methods, plans and intentions, and ongoing prosecutions by the Justice Department.
The final point I would make is that the work of this committee will be done. There is no question about that, and there will continue to be oversight by the United States Congress in a number of areas, including in the Intelligence Committees, no matter who the members are of that committee. So this is an issue that is not going to be dropped merely because another date flips up on a calendar or there is a change of personnel somewhere in the establishment. This will go forward because the American people deserve the answer, and they will get the answer.
I thank you very much for your participation today. An excellent job, Ms. Hill.
HILL: Thank you.
GOSS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Goss.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly concur with the remarks that have been made about the excellence of the report.
HILL: Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: I'm just sorry I couldn't get it until the meeting so I had to spend my time reading it during the meeting, which Mr. Chairman, I would suggest is not the best way of enabling us to carry out our duties.
GRAHAM: Senator, as you know, we made the original non-redacted version available in both the House and the Senate Intelligence Committee rooms, and I understand that you took advantage of that. Unfortunately, it was only within the last -- less than 36 hours that we got back from the declassification agencies the version that we could make public. I hope that in the future we and they will do a better job and a more expeditious job so that will give us an opportunity to know what's going to be public with more lead time.
FEINSTEIN: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hill, on December 4, 1998 the DCI told his deputies in a memo about bin Laden and Al Qaida that, "We are at war. I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the community." Yet, in your testimony, you indicate that when it came time to translate that declaration of war into real resources, the government's efforts fell woefully short.
Specifically, you concluded that the allocation of intelligence community resources did not adequately reflect a true war against bin Laden. For example, you point out in 1999 the CTC of CIA had only three analysts assigned to the bin Laden network worldwide. And after 2000 that number had risen to just five, and that things were even worse outside the CIA. The international terrorism analytic unit at the FBI had in place only one analyst to address Al Qaida, this out of an intelligence budget of literally billions of dollars every year.
Now, it really concerns me because I was one that felt very strongly that the warnings that something was going to happen were there. And certainly, by July -- I mean, I was just based on what I heard in this committee, 100 percent certain that something was going to happen. I even said that on national television that I thought it was going to happen within the next three months. And my question really goes to the fact that whether today even we have enough to do what we need to do.
Why do you think so little attention, even after these declarations of, "We're at war," were really paid when it came to devoting real resources and what was taking a higher priority?
HILL: I think that we have asked that to many people in the community, and I will give you -- and again I have to be careful with the details of it because we're in a public session -- but I think what we are hearing is that there were other priorities that the intelligence -- one reaction would be that people would tell you is that the intelligence community responds to its customers; customers being other parts of government that are tasking them to come up with intelligence on certain items. And that, in some respects, there were customers that they had to satisfy, they felt they had to satisfy, and were told to satisfy on other topics other than Al Qaida. So that was one issue that we've heard.
We have heard in the FBI on the resources, there was, as we just discussed with Senator Shelby, there were not many -- there was like one strategic analyst for Al Qaida in the FBI.
HILL: There were some more analysts on operations, and there was a much bigger emphasis in the FBI on operations, on cases, investigations as opposed to strategic analysis even though it was on Al Qaida, which was as high threat. But their mission was more focused on actual prosecutions and cases.
So I think as with any resource issue, it was a question of other priorities, customers demanding other things and the agencies responding to that.
FEINSTEIN: Do you believe that today there's sufficient resources?
HILL: We have not, Senator -- we know some of the details as to how things have jumped since September 11 in terms of resources, but we have not focused intently on what is going on post-September 11 because our job has been to try and find out what was happening before September 11. So I really would not feel, you know, probably qualified to start guessing as to whether it's adequate now.
FEINSTEIN: On page 15...
GRAHAM: Senator, we will have another round after this round.
FEINSTEIN: I don't even get the time that our question too up. Never mind, that's all right.
GRAHAM: Senator Mikulski?
MIKULSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, a few words to the families, and then a question for Ms. Hill.
To the families, first of all, my name is Barbara Mikulski. I'm a United States Senator and I'm from the state of Maryland. I had people die at the World Trade Center, and I also had 60 Marylanders die at the Pentagon when a plane created the inferno there. I also believe I owe my life to the gallantry of the men and women who fought back on flight 93 because I do believe the plane was heading towards us. And I have two constituents who died in the anthrax attack on us.
So know that I'm absolutely on your side. And I want you to know I thank you today for coming because you show such inspirational strength and courage, and I believe you have a right to know about what happened. You have a right to be heard in any public forum, and I believe that Americans have a right to be protected. I know that you're still looking for answers on why this happened, how it happened and how it doesn't happen again.
Know I would support a vote to establish an independent commission. I believe my committee has done an outstanding job. But I believe when such an impact happens to America and its families, we need more than one opinion on how to make sure it never happens again.
I find many things about what happened troubling, but what I find most troubling is that four of the terrorists were stopped by local law enforcement; four for speeding and one for not having a driver's license. They were actually in the hands of law enforcement. But when they were stopped and the police went to check the databases, nothing alerted them to detain these men. Something is wrong here.
State troopers, like the one in my own state that stopped one of these thugs and other police officers, know more when they check their database, know more about men being behind in their child support the database will tell them, than they will do about men who are possibly around a terrorist attack. There are more than 50 different watch lists to keep track of people dangerous to the United States.
But guess what, if you're a watch list, you don't talk to other watch lists. If you're a watch list, you like live in one of those caves. You might not know if there are other watch lists out there. You don't tell anyone that you are a watch list, and you certainly don't talk to each other, make friends with the other watch list or make friends with law enforcement. That's really, I think, unacceptable.
And these will be the questions I'm going to direct to Ms. Hill, because like you, I want to be sure that this committee gets answers for you and the rest of America on how we can detect, deter, disrupt and defeat any attack on the United States of America.
And having said that, Ms. Hill, you know about these watch lists. You know that they're all over the place and they're nowhere. In our work with you and my colleagues, I wanted to see if there was a smoking gun. I wanted to know what were the systemic problems and what were the solutions. I'm not sure there's a smoking gun, but these watch lists are definitely a systemic problem.
Could you elaborate on them that you can? Or where you would see solutions going on this watch list issue?
HILL: The watch list issue, Senator, I am aware of it. We are going to go into that in more detail when we get to the hearing on the hijackers because as you alluded to that is an issue regarding Midhar and Hamzi. I mean, that's a very big issue. It's an issue of getting in on the right watch list, getting it to the right people. But even before that, it's also an issue of getting it between the intelligence community and the law enforcement community and breaking down the reluctance sometimes to share information across the intelligence -- from the intelligence community to the criminal investigators and law enforcement on the other side.
HILL: And that, I think, may also play in some of this. But those are issues that we will talk about when we look at the hijacker case. And you're right, they are problems.
MIKULSKI: Well, let me just say this before the yellow goes to red. I raise the issue of a smoking gun. I've been at many hearings. Do you believe that there is a smoking gun on what went wrong or were there just a series of total disconnects?
HILL: Well, of course, I'm handicapped in answering that because we are in a public session and we are still looking at a number of other issues that have come up. But I don't think in any of what we have seen here, smoking gun -- if you mean by smoking gun that somebody had information of when, where, how this was going to happen in the United States government, we have not found that.
But I had a discussion actually with one of our staff on this the other day and he pointed out wisely that there's been so much discussion about looking for a smoking gun, the truth is you hardly ever get a quote, "smoking gun," in not just terrorism, but in a criminal case, et cetera, et cetera. And if by focusing all of the time on, we have the smoking gun, you know, we have to be ready to go if we have a smoking gun, the truth is most of the time, you'll never have a smoking gun. It's a lot harder to find it when you don't have one.
So what we ought to be focusing on is how to get our system ready to find these guys when you don't have a smoking gun, which is what you're going to be faced with most of the time. You know, the odds are, you're not going to have that. And we need to have our intelligence and law enforcement people good enough and bright enough and aggressive enough that they can track these guys down and find this even when there is no smoking gun, because, you know, in my own experience at least in law enforcement, is that's what you have most of the time.
MIKULSKI: Thank you.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator.
Senator Kyl has submitted an opening statement which will be placed in the record.
KYL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
By the way, I think that last point is a very important point and needs to be underscored. And it's one of the most important things that comes from your statement today, Ms. Hill.
HILL: Thank you, Senator.
KYL: I was this morning detained in my office waiting for a couple of phone calls, but I had my television on the entire time and was privileged to hear not only the statements of the chairman of our committee, but also the statements made by Ms. Breitweiser and Mr. Push. And as has been expressed by others here, my heart goes out to them and the families and friends that they represent. And I think that I should state that I am certain that every American shares their grief and their anger and even their frustration. And I also share their view that there's more we could have done to try to prevent the terrorism we experienced on September 11.
I also agree with Eleanor Hill that at the end of the day, it's doubtful we'll ever find a smoking gun, but as she said, the important point is to be in a better position to deal with the other pieces of information in order to try to prevent this in the future.
I do think, Mr. Chairman, that it is very unclear whether the joint investigation -- Joint Committee investigation that we're engaged in here and whatever report we eventually submit will satisfy these witnesses and those that they represent or whether they will satisfy members of this committee, let alone the other members of the House and Senate.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, I've expressed serious reservations about the direction of our investigation, including the allocation of time and resources to holding open hearings at this time before we've finished our work. Ours is a large undertaking, and we've got a lot more work to do before our fast approaching deadline. And yet, we're proceeding with public hearings in spite of not having completed that investigation.
What was presented today was only a staff document. I'm talking now about the testimony of Ms. Hill. It was not a consensus product of the committee. Members had no practical input into interim report, I think the public should know. Ordinarily, we investigate, we write our report and then we present our recommendations.
The staff's presentation of its interim report before member vetting is, therefore, in my view, premature as well as a diversion of the joint staff from the investigation that we have given them the job to do. The interim statement from our joint inquiry staff provides some very valuable information about what has been done to date; a chronology of events leading to the September 11 attacks, and some background information about the growing threat of Al Qaida over the last decade. It is very useful to have this history, and it's important to make it public, but the committee should have approved it first. And in any event, the release of the report could have been done without taking the time to have it read by the staff director.
KYL: But more importantly, I believe the questions fundamental to our investigation have yet to be pursued adequately. These include, but are not limited to, whether part of the pre-September 11 problem was the result of a culture of risk aversion in the intelligence community, and/or an inadequate allocation and improper prioritization of resources to those on the front lines of our counter-terror efforts.
Mr. Chairman, you know I've expressed before my concern that committee members have been able to play only a limited role on this inquiry. It's largely being conducted by the Joint Committee staff with little input by or to our own committee staffs, let alone the members themselves. And that will make it difficult to concur in the final product without reservations. We will not know what we haven't been told, and, therefore, we will not be able to vouch unequivocally for the final product.
Questions about this investigative process have led to calls for the creation of a national commission to investigate all of these matters. This would further stress the intelligence community at the very time we're trying to fight the war on terrorism. While it may be deemed necessary, it can hardly be deemed desirable.
So I hope, Mr. Chairman, that we can continue to work to resolve these issues. Only by doing our very best will we have done our duty to the victims who are represented here today and to the American people.
GRAHAM: Senator, thank you.
Senator Bayh is supposed en route. Senator Shelby, do you have a comment?
SHELBY: Yes, sir, if you'll recognize me till he comes.
GRAHAM: And then, I have a couple of questions I'm going to ask at the conclusion of Senator Bayh's questions.
SHELBY: Ms. Hill, I'd like to go back to the FBI and the analytical component we were talking about earlier or lack thereof.
In your investigation regarding the analytical ability of the FBI, do you know if the FBI prior to September 11 ever did an analysis of terrorist tactics; that is tactics with a possible use of airplanes as weapons?
HILL: I don't believe so. We, as I think the statement says...
SHELBY: You're saying no? You go ahead and answer.
HILL: As the statement says, we haven't found any analysis of the use of aircraft as weapons in the community, as far as I know, including the FBI.
SHELBY: In the community -- you're talking about the intelligence community...
HILL: Yes, but we would include...
SHELBY: ... not just the FBI?
HILL: Right. I think it's safe to say the FBI also on that.
SHELBY: Now, in our statement, I believe it's on page 28 -- without reading it all -- and I'll quote some of it. It says, "In April 2000 the intelligence community obtained information regarding an alleged bin Laden plot to hijack a 747. The source was a walk-in to the FBI's New York office claiming that he had been to a training camp in Pakistan where he learned hijacking techniques and received arms training. He also stated that he was supposed to meet five or six other individuals in the U.S. who would participate in the plot."
I'll read further. "They were instructed to use all necessary force to take over the plane because there would be pilots among the hijacking team. The plan was to fly the plane to Afghanistan and if they could not make it there, they were to blow up the plane."
This is part of your report, is that right?
SHELBY: Now, I believe there was another report of August 2001, according to page 28 of your report. "In August 2001 the intelligence community obtained information regarding a plot to either bomb the U.S. embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. The intelligence community learned that two people who were reportedly acting on instructions from Osama bin Laden met in October 2000 to discuss this plot."
And then we go back, and you've touched on this I believe. I know we've had hearings on it, about the Philippine '95 situation where there was information that they could use airplanes as weapons and so forth.
SHELBY: In the light of the part of your statement that I just referred to, you're saying that they're, according to your investigation, there was not any analysis of these terrorists tactics in the intelligence community regarding the use of airplanes?
HILL: There was no analysis of the likelihood of the use of airplanes as weapons as a terrorist tactic.
SHELBY: I wonder why not.
HILL: I would hypothesize that when we've asked questions of people -- it's a resource issue -- people say they were overwhelmed. The other thing, and I mentioned this earlier; I don't think anyone had polled as we did. The way we got this information is by going to the agencies and saying we want everything you have on the use of aircrafts as weapons. And we have polled out of this huge amount of data they have and come up with enough to show that there was this trend and this scene going through some of the reporting.
SHELBY: This was not on September the 11th something new or shouldn't have been something new.
SHELBY: This was stuff that had been out there at least since '95 before then. And I believe you talked about the Harris incident...
SHELBY: ... where the French...
HILL: The Eiffel Tower.
SHELBY: Oh, yes, the Eiffel Tower deal, the Philippine deal, these reportings that you listed. So, when people come up and they say, gosh, we were shocked that they would use airplanes as weapons and we didn't do any analysis of that in the community, are you shocked or surprised?
HILL: Well, it was there. The information was there.
SHELBY: The information was there, if they had analyzed it.
SHELBY: As far as the potential tactics of the highjackers, is that right?
HILL: Yes. Based on what we've seen, this was not a new idea as of September 11th.
SHELBY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Senator Durbin?
DURBIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I apologize for not being here earlier, but I had a Judiciary Committee hearing which ran in conflict with this hearing today. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Shelby and our counterparts in the House for the time that we've put into this effort and your leadership in bringing us to this moment.
I personally feel that we have identified some things of value in terms of shortcomings from the government's point of view prior to September 11th. We have identified a lack of communication among the intelligence agencies and I'm afraid that today, although there's been an improvement, there's still much room for improvement.
I have focused primarily on the issue of information technology and I have been chagrinned and disappointed by the reports about the lack of coordination of the computer architecture of the federal government so that intelligence agencies can share information effectively. Governor Ridge referred to this as a force multiplier and it would be, but it is not because of those shortcomings.
We've also considered the results of those shortcomings, not the least of which was the example of the Phoenix Memo, which should have been but was not brought to the attention of or analyzed by counter terrorism forces. That memo might, might have at least helped us to be better prepared for what occurred on September 11th. Though, I don't want to suggest that anyone saw this coming in its specifics, but it certainly raised questions, which should have been pursued and were not. I think recalling some of the testimony we received, there was clearly a lack of follow up at the FBI and a lack of involvement by the CIA.
The same thing holds true for the Moussaoui arrest and disclosures that came out of the FBI afterwards. Again, evidencing a lack of coordination, a lack of sharing of vital information that could have had us better prepared to defend America.
Those two incidences though, I would like to bring to the attention of this joint inquiry, have come to the public eye because of leeks, leeks by the administration, leeks from Capitol Hill of vital information. It strikes me as unwise and unfair for us to expect there to be a thorough investigation of what led up to September 11th based on the possibility of leeks coming from anywhere.
History has told us that it is far better to have a public hearing, a public investigation and the involvement of third parties when it comes to assigning blame and perhaps suggesting meaningful and painful reforms. But, that has not been the case here. I think we are doing what we set out to do, to try to find ways to improve the workings of the intelligence community to avoid a future September 11th. But we will never be able to satisfy the needs and curiosity of the American people about whether their government did everything it could to protect them in closed hearings with occasional leeks. That is not going to serve the need of America.
I know that earlier today there was testimony of one of the widows of a victim of September 11th and I have met in my office with some of those same victims and their families in painful meetings. There is an anger and a sadness in the message that they bring to Congress, but there is certainly, I think, wisdom in what they've suggested. Let us do our business here. Let us try to find even within closed hearings ways to improve the intelligence committee and community, but let's not forget our primary obligation to the people of this country. We do not serve the needs of an open society with closed hearings in relation to an attack on America, virtually unprecedented in our history. It is time for us to acknowledge the obvious. We need a third party investigation, people that we can trust who have no political animus, who are going to come to this as loyal Americans and try to help us be a safer nation.
I commend the staff. They have done heroic work and I know have worked long and hard to bring the report that we have today and we should continue to meet our mandate as best we can. But, let us not believe that this chapter has been closed in American history. We have merely addressed the foreword with this investigation. Now we must get into the substance and do it in a public way. That's not to diminish any of the efforts of my colleagues or anyone on this Committee, but I think we owe it to the American people to give them more.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: I would like to ask a question and then make a comment. The question has to do with the relationship between intelligence and affecting the operations of a governmental agency. You have five or more pages in which you outline the examples of the use of commercial aviation as a weapon of mass destruction. As I understand the history, generally the taking of an airplane by highjackers has been done for either a political or an economic purpose. In light of that, the standard protocol of what a crew is supposed to do if they are subjected to highjacking is to cooperate, to acquiesce, try to get the airplane on the ground and then start the process of negotiating with the highjackers. From your review is that an accurate statement?
HILL: Yes, I think that's correct and that was traditionally the way you would deal with a highjacker.
CHAIRMAN: And I believe it was reflected in the way in which the first three planes that were highjacked on September the 11th reacted. It was not until the information of the first three planes became known to the persons on the fourth plane that there was a resistance to the highjackers and the result the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
With the kind of intelligence information then, there might be a shift in the way in which highjackers and aircraft interrelate. That is instead of they can be airplane for a political or economic purpose that the plane itself might be converted into a weapon and used in the horrific manner that it was. Was that information from the intelligence community transmitted to either the FAA or the commercial aviation industry so that it might affect the way in which they advised crews as to how to respond to a highjack?
HILL: I can't say that all that information was transmitted to the FAA, but the FAA did get some of it and we talk about their analysis of the (inaudible) civil aviation. My own read on it is I don't think that to the extent the FAA got the information there was a real recognition that this was a serious threat.
We certainly -- you're correct. If they had changed their focus from highjacking for a ransom or to take the plane and fly it somewhere else or hostages or whatever, if that had changed to the use of an aircraft as weapon, you would have had to change the entire mindset and training that was given to the flight crews, for instance, and the security in the plane and everything. And that, obviously, did not happen, because as of September 11th, you're absolutely correct. It didn't happen on September 11th until, evidently, the passengers in the fourth plane became aware of what was going on. But, that was not -- the flight crews up to that point, I assume, were following the standard protocol for dealing with a highjacking.
But that issue underscores the importance of someone recognizing in the community, the intelligence community, that this was a serious threat and there was a stream of information there and that perhaps it was serious enough and the likelihood was serious enough that they needed to address not only disseminating it, but telling policy makers in those other agencies that this was a threat they now had to be prepared to meet.
CHAIRMAN: One of my criticisms of the threats that are being issued to the general public, including the one within the last two weeks, is that what's lacking is the follow on of what is the citizen who receives this information that they're living in a heightened threat environment supposed to do to protect themselves, their families, their communities. And here we have a case where intelligence information was sent to a sophisticated industry, commercial aviation, apparently, without any direction as to how the industry should use the information and the consequence was they didn't use the information and that contributed to what happened on September the 11th.
I'd like to ask if we might pursue that issue, because I think it is a metaphor for the larger issue of how do you get intelligence from the theoretical to actually affecting the way people function and how they use that information to reduce their vulnerability to a particular threat.
UNKNOWN: I think Senator Dewine was before him, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Oh, I'm sorry. Senator Dewine, I'm sorry.
DEWINE: Mr. Chairman, I don't have any future questions, thank you.
UNKNOWN: May I, Mr. Chairman?
Ms. Hill? I wanted to kind of follow up on where I was trying to go with this. The year 2001 was a very big year in the early spring with a lot of pieces of intelligence coming in. In reading your report, the year 1998 also appears to have been a very big year for all kinds of pieces. And I wanted to see if we couldn't go into some of those pieces a little bit more. They're contained on page 15 on your written statement. You talk about the use of fronts for terrorist activities. You talk about flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into an airport and detonating it. Al-Quada was trying to establish an operative sell within the United States. A Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in New York and Washington, recruiting a group of five to seven young men from the United States to travel to the Middle East for training, reward money for assignations of four top intelligence agency officers and on like that. And then of course the war that was declared in the CIA.
Can you go into any more detail on any of these individual pieces of intelligence and how they were used from an intelligence perspective to try to weave an intelligence web? Because it seems to me with this, and then unfortunately in July of 2001, with the Phoenix Memo and then in August with Moussaoui, I don't know what was in his computer or in his possession, but I would suggest if you took those pieces and the other pieces, one might be able to weave together a rather significant scheme. Can you give us any more information?
HILL: I can't. I don't think I can give you more information on the actual report, because as I mentioned at the outset, the language that we have in this statement is what has been declassified. So, to venture beyond that language, that is the language that the declassification group basically signed off on as suitable for public release. I can't go into much more detail about the language of the report.
We did go on some of these to the FBI and asked them what they did with some of this information or what happened to it when the report came in if they got it and I can tell you, some of them, and we've given them a whole list and some we still have not gotten responses. They are still trying to find out what they did or locate the record. Others they have found. For instance, I think you mentioned the 1998 information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in New York and Washington. The FBI, I can tell you, did receive that information and they worked actually with local law enforcement to try to verify the report, but they were not able to corroborate the report and took no further action is what we have been told.
In September '98, we had one where we did get a response from the FBI. This was the one about that they've obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation could involve flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport and detonating it. We asked the FBI if they got that information and what did they do with it. They did receive the information and they also worked with another government agency to try to verify the information. The source of the information said that another individual had advanced knowledge of some of Bin Laden's operations and had given him the information about Bin Laden's attack in this report. The FBI tells us that they tried to work with other agencies and did verify portions of this account, but they were not able to locate the individual who purportedly had the advanced knowledge. And after September 11th they actually went back to this report and tried to locate that individual again and were unable to do so.
So, what we tried to do when we got these reports that we felt were significant, particular the ones -- there were many in 1998 involving domestic U.S. attacks and on those, we went back to the FBI, as I said, and asked them did you get the report? What did you do to verify it or did you take any action? And they have come back to us on some of them. Some of them, there are a number of them, they are still trying to go through the records and come up with an answer as to whether they got it and if so what they did with it. But, those two are examples of the type of thing we're getting from them.
UNKNOWN: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, just one quick comment, if I might? I think this report becomes kind of a basic primer on 9-11. I'm sure more will be filled in as time goes on, but I find it a very valuable document in establishing a chronology of what was known, when it was known, the fragmentary messages that come through here and my hope is as these hearings go on and particularly when we get to the Phoenix Memo and the Moussaoui case, that we might be able to ask some questions and I don't know in public session if we will about if there had been a fiza (ph) warrant on Moussaoui and the information made available, whether that would have been substantial enough to really ring a very strong bell.
But, I wanted to thank the staff and Ms. Hill and also thank the victims who are here today. It's very special and I hope you know that we really do care and you really do have our sympathy and our determination to get at the heart of it.
CHAIRMAN: And Senator, I share those comments and I would say that within the next week or ten days, we will have a further specific hearing on the issues that surround the Moussaoui case and that would a very excellent opportunity to bore in at the level of detail that you've indicated your interest.
I didn't get a chance in my first round to make my comments, so I will do so, unless does anyone have any remaining questions or this will be the last word.
To me, one of the lessons that we have been learning and today we've learned it at a new depth is how difficult it is to get an organization which has been doing its business, important business in a particular pattern for an extended period of time to be flexible enough to recognize that the environment has shifted and it is going to have to change its pattern of business. In case of the intelligence agencies, they were a child born in 1947 and grew up in the Cold War. Every experience that the U.S. Intelligence Service had was a post 1947 experience, because we didn't have any civilian intelligence service in the United States prior to 1947. I contrast that with, for instance, the British, who've had an intelligence service since the Napoleonic Wars. So, it's not surprising that when the Cold War ended, the agencies continued to act pretty much the way they did while the Cold War was still underway because that was the only environment in which they have ever functioned or known.
We've had some examples and I think in the report that Ms. Hill has given us today, the difficulty in reestablishing priorities, even though we've declared that terrorism and Osama Bin Laden specifically was such an advisory (ph) that we were at war with him. We didn't change resources commensurate with that decision. We did not recognize that terrorism was now becoming a domestic threat, because historically we thought of terrorism as something that happened abroad. And the new creative uses that the highjackers were about to make of commercial airliners. No longer were they passive instruments to try to use to secure money or some political advantage, they have themselves become a weapon of mass destruction.
So, I see as one of our challenges as we move from what we're learning to what we're going to prescribe for the future is to how can we build in to our intelligence community a greater capability of internal adaptation? We certainly don't want to leave this issue for the future that will require a repetition of September the 11th to get to grab us by the sleeves and say you've got to change, because your old ways are threatening the security of the American people. And how we go about doing that, I suggest will be one of our major tasks and if we're successful, one of our major accomplishments.
If there's no further statement, as I indicated earlier, the record will be open for 48 hours if anyone has any additional material they would like to submit.
I want to especially thank the families who are represented here today and especially to Kristin, who I see is still with us, and also Stephen for their excellent presentation which started our public hearings with the appropriate recognition of why we are here. We are here because of you. Thank you.
UNKNOWN: Mr. Chairman? What's the schedule for the rest of the week?
CHAIRMAN: Ms. Hill, do you want to review tomorrow?
HILL: I believe tomorrow we are going to have a public hearing in this room beginning at 10 o'clock and there will be two panels of users of intelligence products from the intelligence community and those users will be senior government officials over several administrations. I believe tomorrow we will have Mr. Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser, Tony Lake, former National Security Adviser and Sandy Burger, former National Security Adviser.
UNKNOWN: Will we start at ten?
CHAIRMAN: You'll start at ten o'clock in the -- assuming that the stars line up properly we can accomplish this, our goal would be to complete the first panel, which will be Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Armitage in approximately three hours, have a break and then return at 2:30 and have the second panel run another... I'm corrected, the second panel's going to start at two o'clock so that we can try to finish at approximately five, which both panels.
HILL: That's correct.
CHAIRMAN: Are we at a point, Ms. Hill, we can comment on Friday yet?
HILL: I think we're still engaged in ongoing discussions on Friday.
CHAIRMAN: OK. Thank you, Senator.
[????] - Indicates Speaker Unknown
[--] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.[off mike] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.
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