September 26, 2002 Committee Hearing: Cofer Black, Dale Watson, Robert S. Mueller
Joint House And Senate Select Intelligence Committee
September 26, 2002
LOCATION: WASHINGTON, D.C.
COFER BLACK, FORMER CHIEF OF THE COUNTER-TERRORIST CENTER, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
DALE WATSON, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
ROBERT S. MUELLER, III, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
U.S. SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND HOUSE PERMANENT
SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE HOLD A JOINT HEARING
ON PRE-9/11 INTELLIGENCE FAILURES
SEPTEMBER 26, 2002
U.S. 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)
HOUSE PERMANENT 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)
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)
GOSS: The joint inquiry hearing will come to order please. This is a joint inquiry of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I'm advised that Chairman Graham will be here shortly.
This is the fifth open hearing by our committees as they conduct their joint inquiry into the intelligence community performance regarding the September 11 attacks. The committees have also held 10 closed hearings.
Our witnesses this morning will be Cofer Black, former chief of CIA's counterterrorist center and Dale Watson, former executive assistant director of the FBI's counter-intelligence and counterterrorism division.
Gentlemen, welcome we're pleased you came up this morning.
Each has been asked to address the evolution of his agency's response to the growing international terrorist threat and how his agency assessed the nature of possible attacks against the United States and U.S. interests.
Before swearing in these witnesses there is one brief business matter I'm advised on. On June 18 the committees heard in testimony in closed session from the director of central intelligence, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the director of the National Security Agency about what the intelligence community now knows about the September 11 plot. We then asked the directors to declassify their testimony to the extent consistent with national security. The director of the FBI has submitted his declassified statement for the record. I ask unanimous consent that the declassified June 18 statement of the FBI director now be made part of the open record of these proceedings. Is there objection?
(UNKNOWN): No objection.
GOSS: Hearing none, it so ordered.
If there's any question that either witness determines would be best answered by other than CIA or FBI personnel who are present, we would welcome being informed of that.
Our goal is to have the best possible information. So, that we don't need to interrupt the flow of questioning by administering oaths to other personnel who are called upon to speak, would anyone who might be called upon to speak now identify himself or herself for the record and take the oath together with Mr. Black and Watson.
And, Mr. Black and Mr. Watson, do you have anybody with you, particularly you anticipate will be assisting you?
BLACK: No, sir.
GOSS: The answer being no in both cases. Is there anybody else from either agency that is intending to speak?
Seeing none. Each of our committees has adopted a supplemental rule for this joint inquiry that all witnesses shall be sworn. I'll ask our witnesses to rise at this time and raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear the testimony you will give before these committees will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
WITNESSES: I do.
GOSS: Thank you, gentlemen.
The full prepared statement of the witnesses will be placed in the record of these proceedings. I'll now call on Mr. Black first and then Mr. Watson, as I understand was the selected order.
WATSON: That's agreeable.
GOSS: Mr. Black, welcome. The floor is yours, sir.
BLACK: Thank you very much. Can you hear me, Mr. Chairman?
GOSS: I can hear you very well.
BLACK: Mr. Chairman, I am honored to be here. I'd like to express my appreciation to you and to the committee offering me a screen to protect my identity and to enhance my security. Good security is always a very good idea. And, if this were normal circumstances I would accept your offer. The work of this committee and this hearing is just too important.
I don't want to be just a voice behind a screen. When I speak I think the American people need to look into my face. And I want to look the American people in the eye.
My name is Cofer Black. I'm a case officer of the director of operations of the Central Intelligence Agency. I served as the director of the counterterrorism center from the 29th of July 1999 until May 2002.
Mr. Chairman, I hoped that these proceedings provide the relatives and the loved ones of those lost in the horrific act of 9/11 the information that they're seeking. But, we are meeting here today because of the loss of over 3,000 innocents. We provided strategic warning. Our intense efforts were unable to provide tactical warning on 9/11. We all share a profound and horrible sense of loss.
Everything we do in this global war and the very real risks that we take have only one objective and that's to defend America and to defend innocents. In this long fight my CIA colleagues, operating with me in Khartoum, Sudan in 1995 preempted preparations of the Osama bin Laden's thugs to kill me.
Six years later, Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida are the killers of 9/11. You need to appreciate fully three factors. There were choices made for us. These choices were made for the Central Intelligence Agency and they were made for the counterterrorism Center. These involve the numbers of people, money and operational flexibility.
I'd like to talk about people for a minute. Before 9/11 the CIA counterterrorism Center has as many people as maybe three Army infantry companies. Three infantry companies can be expected to cover a front of a few kilometers. Our counterterrorism Center is responsible for the entire world and all the terrorist threats. It was not only Al Qaida that we engaged, until 9/11 Hizbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group, Hizbollah is also our responsibility as are all the others. We work through the director of operations, which is deployed overseas.
The head of operations directed will tell you, Mr. Chairman, that at the end of the 1990s, he had 25 percent less covert operations officers than he had at the beginning.
The director of central intelligence, George Tenet did all that he could to help us out. We, of all his interests, had the highest priority. Prior to my arrival there had been a substantial increase in our personnel. We still struggled. While all the other operating components were being cut, the counterterrorism Center received what small increases were available.
My second point, cash, this is what we use to pay for operations. At the beginning of each of my three fiscal years as chief the counterterrorism Center had enough money to purchase about two modern jet fighter aircraft. When I became the chief in 1999, I had a fiscal reality. We had less money to support operations than we had the year before. As a result, I cut all of my subordinate units except for one, more than 30 percent. We survived because the director of Central Intelligence support and the supplemental fundings that we received.
My third point, operational flexibility, this is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know there was a before 9/11 and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off. Nearly 3,000 Al Qaida and their supporters have been arrested or detained.
In Afghanistan the Al Qaida who refused to surrender have been killed. The hunt is on. At your hearing last Friday my colleague, referred to only as CIA Officer behind the screen, was a witness before you and spoke. I think the significant point that he raised was an unprepared remark saying that he was overwhelmed. He was overwhelmed by limitless work and he was overwhelmed by a lack of resources. Perhaps now we can say why he said this instinctively.
However, even a fully staffed and supported intelligence effort will not provide comprehensive, 100 percent defense. We must constantly intensify our offensive while at the same time supporting law enforcement and its work.
I'll leave you again with the three points: resources, people, operational flexibility.
I'd like to talk a little bit about working with the FBI. Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned that your hearings last week left you with a substantial misunderstanding about communications between the CIA and the FBI regarding investigation of the attack on the USS Cole. In that case we were supporting the FBI's investigation. The two agencies wanted to find out who killed our sailors and bring these terrorists to justice.
We are an intelligence organization. We are in the business of collecting and providing intelligence. We are not in the business of withholding intelligence information. I want to be clear that FBI agents and analysts had access to information we acquired about the Cole attack. For example, we ran a joint operation with the FBI to determine if a Cole suspect was in a Kuala surveillance photo. Joint means together.
The FBI had access to the information from the beginning. Our records establish that. The special agents from the FBI's New York field office, who were investigating the USS Cole attack, reviewed the information about the Kuala Lumpur photo in late January 2001. I also want to be clear that according to the CTC analyst who attended the June 2001 FBI/CIA meeting in new York City, the FBI analyst brought the photos to New York and showed them to the FBI.
I want to repeat that. An FBI analyst brought the photos to New York. Furthermore, the CIA analyst was not permitted to provide all of the information FBI criminal investigators wanted because of laws and rules against contaminating criminal investigators with intelligence information. My statement for the record will provide more details about Kuala Lumpur.
We learned of some of Al Qaida's plots in time to provide the warning that law enforcement and intelligence services needed to stop them. Examples of many of the successful operations would include: 1998, plans to attack the U.S. embassy in Teoranta, Albania, were thwarted when we identified the plotters. 1999-2000 millennium plot, Al Qaida efforts to blow up hotels and other terrorist sites in Jordan would have resulted in hundreds of casualties. Our global effort was the largest operation in the history of counterterrorism, 2000, Ramadan threat, defeated. Summer, 2001 threat, this also included planned attacks on U.S. embassies in Yemen and France, saved lives. In addition, we rendered scores of terrorists to law enforcement.
Mr. Chairman, it would be my greatest wish to bring classified holdings of our successes and use them in an open format. There are sources to protect. There are methods to protect and there are foreign relationships to protect. The complete list of our successes was reported in closed session to oversight committees. We're happy to meet with you at any time and I must leave it at that.
How do we get successes? The men and women of the counterterrorism Center and those in the CIA who work counterterrorism are the finest Americans this country can produce. They are smart. They are quick. They are patriotic. They are loyal. They are brave and they are hardworking. Fourteen, 16, 18, 24-hours a day, six, seven days a week, week after week, month after month for the entire time that I was there.
Our people fought with what we provided them and turned back defeat. Leading up to 9/11 CTC conducted intense intelligence war measured by constant threats, emerging, engaged and defeated. We were also the first on the ground in Afghanistan before the month of September of 2001 was out. We're able to support the military and their success.
I would like to take this opportunity, because these days you never can really tell who is going to speak for the people that do their best and do the work. I want to thank all the people in the intelligence community and in law enforcement and in CIA, those that do counterterrorism, and particularly, in the CIA case, our field personnel.
Now, I want to speak to each man and woman in the counterterrorist center. I want their families, their neighbors and the American people to hear this. I was proud of them when I led them. I'm proud of them now and I will be proud of them as long as I live.
Mr. Chairman, I'll submit the remainder of my statement for your record. Thank you, sir.
GOSS: Thank you very much, Mr. Black, for, I think, a very compelling and obviously heartfelt bit of testimony, which I think helps us all understand a little better just what does go on behind the veil that we don't see. I appreciate that.
WATSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to also say that I'm honored to be here this morning. I'm very honored to be next to my friend and colleague, Cofer Black. On behalf of the men and women of the FBI, we certainly extent our sympathy and our prayers to the victims of this horrible act on 9/11, as well as to all American victims that have been victimized by terrorism over the years, as well as our foreign citizens overseas.
What I thought I would do this morning with you since I have my prepared statement that's introduced is to hit some highlights of some areas not specifically covered in that statement, but some issues that need to be talked about this morning.
And the first is I'd like to talk briefly, real briefly, and most of you Senators and intelligence committee members have heard some of this before, but I think it's worth bringing up what the FBI was doing in counterterrorism since 1996.
I would also like to briefly discuss the relationship that we've had with the CIA over the years, particularly since 1996. Thirdly, discuss briefly the budget request, particularly the budget years 2000, 2001, and 2002. This is not a budget hearing, but there's some numbers that need to be put out and so you clearly understand where we were coming from in the process. And, then, lastly, make some general observations about some perceptions that I think need to be clarified for the record. Were we doing everything we could on the aircraft or civil aviation threats? Was the FBI assuring the administration that an Al Qaida could not attack us inside the United States? I'd like to clarify those points.
And then, thirdly, talk about the concept of being reactive and proactive and how that is become popular post-9/11 and that we were certainly making headway in the proactive area long before 9/11. And I think you need to hear those statements. And, as well as Cofer, about the dedication of the men and women of the FBI.
Let's start off with the history real briefly and I will not go into a lot of detail about this. Starting in 1993 with the World Trade Center I think everyone's realized the first World Trade Center killed six U.S. citizens. The 1993 followed that up with the attempt to bomb landmarks in New York City. The whole list of terrorist cases that we focused on as the FBI, along with all the other matters in counterterrorism that were going on, the manila air plot in 1994, the Oklahoma City matter in 1995 where 168 of our citizens were killed inside the United States as a result of the domestic terrorist group. (Inaudible) in November of 1995 in Saudi Arabia, which killed five American military personnel. June '96, Khobar towers, wherein 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed. Following up with that in 1998 we had the East African bombings were 12 U.S. citizens were killed. Followed up by the millennium threat where Rusam (ph) was arrested coming across the border in the State of Washington prior to the millennium. Where we charged him and other individuals in New York City. October of '00 the USS Cole resulted in the death of 17 U.S. sailors, and, then, most importantly, 9/11.
To take you back where we were with the counterterrorism program at the time way back when in 1993 and prior to that it was a high profiled program within the FBI but had very few people working it. We had less when I was in the -- working counterterrorism in 1991 we had less than 50 people total in the section, which was responsible for all of counterterrorism, domestic, international, as well as special events.
Over a period of time, as you well know, and particularly starting in 1996 with the 1996 anti-terrorism effective death penalty, here's what the FBI was doing. And, sometimes we get lost in the shuffle here looking at what we've done since 9/11 as opposed to prior to 1996. Over a period of time we've expanded the Legat Programs and we started out with a small number of Legat Programs. I think the number was 16. We're now up to 44. Opening new Legat Programs since 1996 was a clear indication of our focus on counterterrorism and the problems we were having. Those Legat offices were not opened in areas where the major concern was in organized crime or drugs. They were opened in Tel Aviv and Riyadh and Islamabad, Cairo, and I could go with the list.
WATSON: So, it was a clear focus by us understanding the expanded jurisdiction, which the congressional passed legislation for expanding our jurisdiction of about U.S. citizens and Americans being attacked overseas. That clearly we recognize the need to have a closer and stronger and a larger presence overseas, not in any way responsible or trying to do what the CIA does, but to look at it from a law enforcement perspective.
In addition to that we expanded our JTTF's inside the United States. And I'm happy to report that at present we have over 56. Prior to 9/11 we had 34 on the books and those are law enforcement people assigned to FBI field offices along with our federal partners. I think there's been a lot of discussion about the JTTF's. I think you understand that. What that does for us is not only incorporate the information sharing that we need, but it's also a force multiplier for the agents and the number of people working counterterrorism within the United States, a very worthwhile and beneficial program.
Since '96 we've expanded and improved our threat warning system. And without saying much further about that, I think you understand that we have the ability to electronically communicate with our federal, state and local partners on threat information instantaneously. We established the counterterrorism center at FBI headquarters. And basically what that was was brining in 19 federal partners actually working within the FBI headquarters to look at counterterrorism cases and try to figure out what we're trying to do and where we're going.
We expanded our SAIC operations in order to be able to cover more and bring in more partners during a time of crisis. And we improved our relationship with the CIA, being the first deputy chief over at the counterterrorism center in 1996, it was an exchange program that you've all heard about before and it's proved very beneficial and very helpful to us.
After the East Africa bombings we expanded the five rapid deployment teams. Teams that were formed in our field offices to be able to rapidly deploy in an overseas environment in order to investigate and bring responsible individuals for those acts to justice.
One of the main points, though, I need to tell you about is starting in 1998, the light basically came on for us as to what we were trying to do in counterterrorism. I came to the conclusion, being promoted to deputy assistant director in charge of counterterrorism, that if you looked across the board and you go back and you look specifically at counterterrorism issues, you realize that from a starting point that one, we will never be able to stop all acts of terrorists. We could have 100,000 FBI agents and the CIA could have 10,000 more DO officers and our probability of stopping every act of terrorism is probably not going to happen. And once you realize and take that concept for what it is, then you have to ask yourself what does that leave you? Do you throw your hands up and you say well, we'll just wait and react to somebody bombing us or killing American citizens and we'll have the FBI investigate it. And we'll tell us post-event who the people were that were responsible for doing that. Well the answer is, that's not the answer. And the answer, if you look at it from a strategic standpoint, and we started doing that in 1998, what you come up with is the idea that if you can't prevent all acts, then you better be at the highest capacity that you can possibly be. Just let us into a strategic thinking about what does that mean for our 56 field offices? What does that mean for the FBI at FBI headquarters? And through a long process called maximum capability by '05, Max Cap 5, we started down that road to look at it and to say that the FBI does a tremendous job in the area of investigations after a crime has been committed. We put 1,000 agents or more in East Africa. Oklahoma City we mobilized probably 35 different operation centers throughout the country. But, if you look at it from a logical standpoint, those things will never get you in the prevention business. They will tell you who did it and how they did it, but it's always post event.
So, we started out in a process of trying to develop our capability in our field offices and understanding what the threat is over the horizon. And when it's the hardest thing ever tried to do in a bureaucracy as large as ours. We have great people, but great people sometimes have an understanding that change is very disruptive and change is hard. So, we started in '98 to look at this. And the only way we could do it was to look at how capable our field offices were. And if our field offices were not capable of responding, investigating, doing everything they can to include resources, technology, then we would be vulnerable for attack again at the level inside the United States.
In addition to looking at our field offices and we started a specific process to do that with several reports coming back to me that evaluated where we were in all our field offices and what capabilities they had and had a very simple color system, red, yellow and green, that we were able to take that.
But, it's not fair to just evaluate our field offices. We also looked internally within ourselves at FBI headquarters. And we looked at how well are we doing in the intelligence business of sharing information, obtaining information, processing information, and what does intelligence mean? And intelligence to law enforcement is different than intelligence to the CIA. And how do you process intelligence? And our thinking of intelligence was tell us what's happened in post cases. And that's never going to get you into the prevention business if you continue to look post. So, we evaluated ourselves and said we needed great help in the intelligence arena.
The third area we looked at at headquarters on the criteria was the technology piece. And I think you've all been briefed on those areas of concern. And we realize we were well short of what we needed in technology, the ability to share information and pass information back and forth electronically, not only with our federal partners, but with our state and local partners as well.
And then fourth we looked internally and evaluated ourselves internally, not on reactive stuff but on being proactive on the liaison side. How well we're sharing information, what are our relationships with our foreign partners, what are our relationships with our federal partners? And there were areas of improvement that we needed in all those areas. And once you identify what your capabilities are and have a standard to be able to measure it and say we're at this percentage and this is where we need to go, it helps you formulate budget requests. It helps you formulate what you need in technology. It helps you to formulate exactly from a national program of what you're trying to do.
In 1998 we declared Osama bin Laden the number one priority in the Al Qaida organization within the FBI. In early spring of '99 he was placed on our top ten list. And, so, we hear things all the time that the FBI wasn't focused on counterterrorism. In addition, to that in November 1999, at no one's request but an internal review by the FBI, we created the counterterrorism division in addition to that, with our investigative services division. And, so we were singularly focused on that and trying to run a national program and being able to raise our capability in order to prevent acts of terrorism is the number one thing.
We will never ever move away from being reactive. We understand that. And that's what people want to talk about most of the time is how's that case going in East Africa, or how's the USS Cole investigation going? But, if you step back and look at it strategically you need to have people thinking beyond the horizon and that's very difficult for all of us. And it's particularly difficult for law enforcement people. And it's very east post-event to figure how the kidnapping occurred. I won't say it's very easy, but you have a lot more leads post-9/11 as to how they did this, as opposed to prior to 9/11. And there were red flags in the ocean out there. There were a lot of red flags prior to 9/11.
And once 9/11 occurred it's real easy to go back and pick out the red flag in the ocean of red flags and say you should have done this or you should have seen this. And a threat to aviation is certainly one of the areas that we receive threat reporting on. It was not the only area. They had threats to malls, threats to power plants, threats to assignations; across the board we have threats coming in every day.
And if something happened today concerning a small boat attacking somewhere in one of our harbors in the U.S. we'd probably have information about that. So, it's a mass of information and it's a sea of threats. And it's like working against a maze. And if you know where the end point of a maze is, it's certainly easier to work your back to the starting point then being trying to go through the maze and sort out all the red flags.
I'm not defensive whatsoever. I encourage you look back look. I encourage people to ask us questions and said why didn't you do this or why didn't you do that? But, the men and women of the FBI that were working this in conjunction with Cofer's folks were working full- time. We were not sitting on our hands. We were not asleep over there thinking that while this can't possibly happen inside the United States. We were aware of that.
Just a couple of other quick points I need to make. We also realize prior to 9/11 that information sharing with our state and locals is a key piece. We have 600,000 law enforcement people in the United States, and as result of October of '00 we initiated a pilot project in St. Louis where we would actually load, hopefully if we get all the kinks worked out, federal information, as well as all state and local information in order to electronically be able to use that information to connect the smallest dots in the terrorism program.
An individual stopped in St. Louis County might be the key to unraveling a terrorist plot and that requires time and effort and technology to do that. It's not a technology issue, but it's a project that needs to be done. Post-9/11 we initiated a similar project in San Diego. We also have one going in the Northwest with three states: Oregon, Washington and Idaho. We do not have all the correct answers on those projects yet. But, as we continue to work our information sharing will get better.
Just a couple of other key points over a period of time since the early '90s is the renditions. The renditions are key in law enforcement, but at the same time it is a very difficult task to render people back to the United States. We were successful in Shirasaki coming out of Nepal and several key East African fugitives that were able to get out, working, not only with the CIA, but the State Department, as well as our DOD.
The key point here is the FBI was a law enforcement effort, trying to investigate, bring to justice under our rules, our Constitution, crimes that were committed against American citizens. And a key point to remember in this war in terrorism, and particularly Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden, is the fact that sometimes the idea that not only is it law enforcement issue, it is also a national security issue. We can lock up 15 people for bombing in East Africa. We can indict and charge individuals in the USS Cole or we can indict and charge individuals in whatever terrorist act that goes on, but this will not stop this. This is a national security issue. And I'm not advocating passing the mantle from law enforcement into a national security issue, but as, Senator Shelby, you well remember on a briefing that we had with you, me and the director of the FBI, where we talked about a very sensitive matter where we were close to getting indictment. Former Senator Kerry from Nebraska said turned to my director and said I'd really like to thank you for this effort that the FBI's put into this. But, actually this is a national security issue. This matter should be taken to the administration and taken to DOD because we're never going to stop it just solely through the law enforcement side.
And, so, that's a key point I think we should remember and talk about. The other things that, real briefly, are the resources and budget. This is not in any way a criticism. This is not anyway a reflection upon what we were trying to do and what we ended up getting or an excuse of what happened about 9/11. But, I would turn your attention to our request, the FBI director's request in the '00 budget. I'm not going to talk about what made it actually up here, the numbers, but I can tell you what I, head of the counterterrorism division requested. And I'll be real brief about this and I only have a couple of more points.
In '00 the FBI requested 180 agents and 680 for support in the '00 budget. What comes out the other end approved by Congress is five support people. In the '01 budget we asked for 30 agents, 397 support people. And what comes out the other end is 0-0. In the '02 budget we asked for 203 agents, 104 support, and what comes out the other end is 8 agents and 56 support people. If you add those figures up for just three years you come up with close to 2,000 individuals that we asked for, a breakdown of that of about 430 agents and 1,482 support people. And what we got on the other end was 69. This begs to question and I'm not here to answer that question, is would this have made a difference prior to 9/11? Would we be here talking about the Phoenix memo or something else if the identification and the recognition of the resources we needed? And I know Congress had other issues. And I'm a realist. We had other programs going. We had a drug program. We had a gang problem. But, yet at the same time it comes down to resources. And what we asked for and what we received was the figures.
Does that explain why, and we can discuss these figures, why we only had one strategic analysts looking at UBL? Does it explain the number of people that we had working UBL? I'll leave that for further discussion.
Mr. Chairman, I think Congress recognized the need that we needed resources because in the '02 supplemental, right after 9/11, we received 297 agents and 823 support people. I'll leave that at that.
The last area, in closing, is we've heard some talk, some perceptions that we didn't do enough about the airlines threats. And I think I've covered that. The airlines threats were out there, as well as the mall threats, as well as the suicide bomber in 1997, as you recall, that attempted to go into the New York subway and blow himself up, as well as other things. Continued, continued, you know, repeated threats that we received in working with the agency.
I'm not here to say that there were not clues or red flags that we should have picked on. But, it is a sea of red flags. The other thing is that there's a perception that we, the FBI, never briefed the administration that Al Qaida could attack us in the United States. I will tell you that perception is absolutely incorrect. If you looked at just the fact that we've been attacked in the World Trade Center in '93. If you looked at Oklahoma City, if you looked at the Rasam (ph) individual who was going to set off a bomb in LAX. You understand clearly that we were vulnerable in the United States. Looking at the pattern before 9/11, of all the pattern, I was convinced we were going to be attacked. As a matter of fact, we had a discussion with the director about this prior to, long before September 11 about pre- positioning people overseas, FBI agents. And I was convinced at that time that the probability of an attack against us was great, but I was also, the majority of my thought process was it would be overseas. But, we had never at any time told anyone that we could not be attacked inside the United States.
The last two points is it continues to be that we're all reactive. And if you've heard some of this, and I'll be glad to explain this more, we were moving in the right direction in being proactive. We were trying to look over the horizon. We will always be reactive because of the crimes we do, but we also have people that look and think about where is the next threat and how's it coming and what we should do about it.
And, in closing, I guess the best thing is that somehow or another people think that we were asleep at the switch. We have dedicated men and women. We have individuals, field agents, support people, professional staff that have absolutely worked themselves almost to death over this problem. And just as Cofer said, I'm extremely proud of those individuals. And I'm extremely proud of what the work of the FBI has done since the early '90s in the counterterrorism program. And we don't do everything always right. But, in the realm of counterterrorism that's a judgment that we're based up or evaluated on. I've used this analogy before. We're like a soccer goalkeeper. We can block 99 shots and no one wants to talk about any of those. And the only thing anyone wants to talk about is the one that gets through. And I understand that. I'm not asking for sympathy on that, but I'm telling you what reality is. And so our folks are very dedicated and work very hard about this.
The last point is somehow or another words out that somehow that the FBI and CIA conspired or had information prior to 9/11 that could have prevented this and that we were not interested in pursing that. I can't tell you how I wish we could have prevented this. I worry about. And over the period of time, even prior to 9/11, it was always the though process of what have we missed, what are we doing that we need to do better? But, I'm not responsible for the individuals, the 19 individuals that got on those planes and the Al Qaida organization that pulled this plan off.
However, I think it's important to remember that we did the best we absolutely could with the resources we had. I wish we would have had technology that would instantaneously evaluated all the documents. I wished we had 150 analysts assigned to FBI headquarters. We didn't. But, we did the best we could. And that's not being defensive at all, Mr. Chairman, that's being very honest with you.
I thank you for this opportunity. I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.
GOSS: Thank you, Mr. Watson. That also was compelling testimony and very helpful to us.
Our procedure is now that we assign 20 minutes each to pre- selected, designated lead questioners and today's hearings are -- questioners are Representative Gibbons, Senator Durbin, Representative Reyes, and Senator DeWine in that order. And after they've completed their questioning then we'll proceed with the list of the other members using the Senate system, which is in front of me.
The order of arrival we have is Representative Peterson, Representative Roemer, Senator Levin, Representative Hoekstra, Senator Bayh, Representative Castle, Senator Feinstein, Senator Roberts, Representative Boehlert, Representative Harman, Representative Burr, Senator Mikulski.
What is going to happen, I'm advised, is the House is going to have a series of votes starting about 11 and so I would suggest that we can probably get in Mr. Gibbons questions before that and if you can continue in that case while we go over there we can keep the questioning going.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Mr. Gibbons, the floor is yours, sir, for 20 minutes.
GIBBONS: Thank you very, very much, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity and I do want to welcome our witnesses this morning, Mr. Watson and Mr. Black, thank you for being here before this committee to enlighten us. And also thank you for your service to our country.
Not often, I'm sure, do you hear people tell you thank you enough for what you do and the commitment that you've got. I want to say at the outset of this hearing that I believe that your experience, your dedication and the time you've spent in the jobs that you've held, both in CIA and the FBI and counterterrorism, have made you the proper witnesses to be here. I think your knowledge level and experience bring what we need to hear on this committee. And we look forward to that.
Let me say that the purpose of this hearing and the purpose of my questioning is to identify the systemic problems at the foundation of our intelligence community. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. And this certainly is not a witch-hunt. This problem is larger than any one individual and it's what we are out to do is to find solutions to making sure that tomorrow's attacks and tomorrow's problems are solved today.
The issue before us is whether we had, not just the right people or the number of people, but whether we had the right skill sets and whether we had the right operational attitude in some of our agencies to allow us to get to the critical information that would be necessary to fight this.
And, may I say to both of you, that if I do probe or ask a question that requires a consideration of national security for clearance, please note the question and we will be happy to receive your answer in the closed session that we have this afternoon.
Mr. Black, I would like to start with you if I may. And, again, welcome to our committee. And let me say that you've always been a staunch advocate before our committee. This is my sixth year on the Intelligence Committee and I can say to those watching that you have come before our committee time and time again as a staunch reporter of terrorist activities, what this country was facing, what we needed to do. My question would be, was there an articulation of your interest in the terrorist activity and the needs of our agencies dealing with terrorism communicated to superiors and how was that received?
BLACK: Well, my superiors, of course, are the director of operations, Jim Pavitt, and the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. And, I would tell you, sir, that there is one person who has been more frenetic in his actions and more concerned about counterterrorism than I and that's the director of Central Intelligence. My leadership certainly understood the threat. They were consumed with it. They were fixated on it. They attempted to allocate resources. As I recall from my statement, I did say that we were the first among equals, the entity not to be cut, I think that, from a very resource pie, we certainly got our share and a bit more.
I think the concern was that this is a long war. My director declared it, declared the intelligence war in 1998. He took them very seriously. We hire people against it. We train for it. But, I think the issue before you for your consideration would be this is going to be a long struggle. And it's certainly going to see a lot of us out in terms of longevity. We need to build a base so that we can move forward without people like Mr. Watson's special agents getting burned out or our personnel running on empty year after year. This is no way to run a system, sir.
If you're going to fight, you want to get the right number of troops. And, so, more is not necessarily the only answer, but certainly more is required. But, I think we also have to look for the resource base to move forward. Thank you.
GIBBONS: So, what you're telling our committee is is that your advocacy of the threat posed by the terrorists was communicated to your leadership in a need for more resources in the application of the war against terrorism beginning in 1998.
BLACK: I actually came to this job in 1999. But...
GIBBONS: Beginning in 1999.
BLACK: ... the answer to that is yes, they were certainly aware of my concerns. They were as equally concerned and being by their side, their actions conformed to their concerns.
GIBBONS: Now, you also mentioned that budget reductions in 1999 saw or forced an approximate 30 percent cut in agency operations. This is in opposition to what we're hearing in terms of the rise in the advocacy of the threat. Can you explain why administrative cuts were requested to the agency when there was an increase in the level of threat knowledge?
BLACK: Well, I'm only going to speak for the counterterrorism Center. But, I will tell you is that the counterterrorism Center essentially was able to perform at the level or was resourced at the level that we achieved as a result supplemental funding. The one-year monies I thought were for, in terms of the mission, again, as I stated in my testimony was relatively modest. That appeared to be how we conduct affairs in the government. We are the recipients of this type of action, sir.
GIBBONS: Let me go back to something you've indicated that during your time as the head of the CTC, chief of the DCI portion for CTC. Personnel numbers, oftentimes we hear that you had equivalent of three infantry companies or on the line fighting this war. My question to you is did the numbers of people you had have the right skill mix with regard to language capability, with regard to operational capability and skills needed to be able to gather the appropriate information?
BLACK: I think that we had a very good skill mix. We hire towards this. We emphasize those attributes that are going to be effective overseas. That's what we do.
GIBBONS: Well, let me ask a question then. Did you have the right numbers of people that could speak Arabic, Pashtun, Urdu, Farsi?
BLACK: You always need more speakers in those languages. We have gone out of our way, increasingly over the time, to specifically target these types of individuals with these language skills. In fact, I can tell you that the counterterrorism Center even advanced through the appropriate offices its own hiring campaign where we advertise in newspapers specifically looking for people interested in counterterrorism and that had the right language qualifications.
GIBBONS: OK. Many times in our intelligence gathering overseas we often use liaison type operations. When is it essential to use liaison operations? And when is it or when should we use efforts for unilateral type operations?
BLACK: I appreciate that question. It's a very important one. And, this is a global war and we are involved in essentially intelligence combat. When you go to war it's usually a good idea to have as many allies on your side as you can. There's a commonality of interest here. Most countries are against terrorism and we in the CIA have developed a constellation of allies that certainly, as I speak right now, is extremely effective. And when you need to do it yourself is when there is no friend to help you, there is no alternative besides taken high-risk actions on your own.
I must say we conduct the normal business of intelligence operations at all time, but counterterrorism is a little special in that we all need to cooperate and we do. But, there's no reluctance to, as you say, unilateral operations. This is what I do for a living. And there is no hesitation certainly under the leadership of this director. We launch very quickly whenever it's appropriate.
GIBBONS: Do you feel there was an under reliance on unilateral operations between the periods of 1999 and 2001?
BLACK: No, I do not. I believe that with the resource base that we had, that we maximized our operational product with exactly how we did it, which was a good mix, appropriate mix at the right time.
GIBBONS: So, you don't believe that we could have used more unilateral operations in that time period?
BLACK: Well, we could absolutely. We need the people to do them.
GIBBONS: So, the issue was then we go back to if you had the people with the right skill mix to gather that information and to do those operations...
BLACK: Yes, sir. If you had the right number of people with the right skill mix.
GIBBONS: Well, that's the issue.
BLACK: Yes, sir. There you go.
GIBBONS: That's the bottom foundation issues. No matter how many people we have, we've got to have the right skill mix, whether it's language skills. And I'll ask you again and you feel that we had the right number of language skilled people to conduct the right kind of operations in a war against terrorism?
BLACK: We always need more. My opening testimony stated that we need additional personnel to be as effective as possible overseas.
GIBBONS: So, I guess the answer is no we didn't have the right numbers of language skilled people. We needed more.
BLACK: Yes, correct.
GIBBONS: OK. Mr. Watson, I want to turn the question to you in the time I have. Do you feel that the FBI was overly focused on gathering information for prosecution purposes rather than focusing on terrorism prevention prior to 2001?
WATSON: I think, as I've indicated, in 1998 that the light really came on for me personally, as well as an organization that we were going to be involved in the collection of evidence. We were going to be involved in investigating post events. But, we also realized in 1998 the need to be proactive. And there's a blending of that. And that's a cultural change within the FBI. And in order to figure that out that's why it was so important to be able to evaluate and have an understanding of exactly where you were.
So, the answer to your question is 1998 -- starting in '98 and this was a very difficult process because what we had always done. And then you try to talk to individuals or even outside the bureau about well, what do we think might happen across the horizon? And you look at the cyber arena, and I'm trying to answer your question very specifically. We looked at that in '98 because NIPC, the National Infrastructure Protection Center was under the counterterrorism program at the time. What the world are we going to do to try to get to where we need to be by '05 in just the cyber arena? And people started thinking about it and I started thinking it. That if we don't do it we'll be here in '05 and we won't be able to figure out cyber issues and they're probably be no crime or no criminal act committed that doesn't involve cyber.
So, to answer your question, heavy, heavy on the collection of evidence and investigative side. But, starting in '98 it was very clear to me that you had to have a vision and you had to look beyond cases. And if we were just running out and investigating cases, that's all we would ever be doing. And, so, some smart people got together and we decided what is the threat and how do we address is.
GIBBONS: Let me ask both of you to answer this question because I think it's clear that both of you have definite and distinct approaches to counterterrorism in America. I would ask each of you to identify how you measure success in your fields with regard to what you've done since 1999 or '98 whenever you came to those. What are your success measurements and benchmarks that you established to allow you to identify what you were doing was correct?
WATSON: Do you want to go first or you want me, who?
GIBBONS: Mr. Watson, if you want to go first that's fine.
WATSON: OK. That is a very clear question and I'll be happy to answer that. I think in order to evaluate the counterterrorism program with the FBI and if you look at prior to '98 and even post-98 you had to have very specific criteria. And if you rely upon the number of arrests, number of convictions, or the number of acts of terrorism prevented, I think you might get a faulty representation of how well you're doing.
And, so, the idea was, starting in 1998, was to see how well and what criteria. So, we developed specific criteria to measure and evaluate ourselves at every field office. And it was no longer acceptable for a special agent in charge to be assigned to some field office that had worked drugs all his life who is now responsible for counterterrorism in a certain state or area. He needs help with that or she needs help. So, we developed specific measurable criteria to say this is what we want you to do in Little Rock, or whatever city it was, and we're going to measure that. And I'm going to hold you accountable for that action. And this is where, when you put all that together, is a huge management success to be able to say exactly where you were in the process and exactly what resources for the first time we needed and what were the technology problems. And does all our field offices have enough analysts? And you measure that and we measured that through a series of reports every six months provided to the director.
Did that answer your -- the third question?
BLACK: Sir, essentially in my business you're looking at a global counterterrorism program. There are a lot of criteria's of success or your measurements towards success. There are things such as the number of and the quality of foreign relationships that you have overseas. The number and quality of an asset that are providing you insightful counterterrorist information. Also, the support and development measurements, the selection of appropriate officers, as you mentioned before, of language criteria, the training given and assignment to specific regions to maximize the qualities and skills of that officer against specific targets.
In the end, it is my personal view that programmatic approach is a good one in counterterrorism because this fight's going to be long. It's going to be very difficult. It's going to consume the time of a lot of our officers, as well as resources and be looking at relationship, you're looking at your own people conducting these operations, as well as the product, which is the reporting from assets to be analyzed by analysts and the end result objection, which is very difficult, but which we do achieve and we attempt to achieve always, is to develop that tactical detailed intelligence so that can be passed over to law enforcement or other intelligence sources so that we can preempt and disrupt specific attacks and save lives.
WATSON: Congressman, may I add just one other thought that I would like to, referring to your question? I think, Senator Shelby and Congressman Goss are good examples, I'll use both of you in this, I mean when I would come up and appear before you I think the question would be for the FBI, Mr. Watson, what's your budget and the numbers were so and so. Well, last year how many acts of terrorism did you prevent? What did we get with that money? And my mind would race real rapidly. We had the case in Sacramento. We had the guy down in Tampa, Florida. Well, if we cut your budget in half, would we get half that many? If we doubled your budget would we get double the number of preventions?
And the answer is no. The answer is you have to be working at the highest capability, the maximum things that the FBI could do. So, the measurement is how well are you doing on the capacity? And if you're there, then that's all you can do. But, if you're not there, that's the measure of standard in a counterterrorism program. It has not anything to do, well, it does, and I don't want to downgrade that, by a specific number of statistics. And we've long been driven by statistics. It's being able to project and it's being able to understand what you're capacities are. And we were hurting. We were hurting in the areas of training and analysts, those things. I just wanted to make that point.
GIBBONS: Thank you.
Mr. Black, I want to go back to something you indicated. The product of your measurement was reporting, increased reporting as part of that product. It seems to me that there was a dramatic rise in the number of reports that were presented to the agency from the field with regard to terrorism over this period of time. My question is, do you feel that the threshold of reporting was low enough or so low that it presented you with a flood of information that could not be properly analyzed? It could not be properly disseminated to the intelligence community? That would have been able to be verified and substantiated and corroborated because of the sort of frantic pace that we were under to get information and any information that we could. Did that have that effect? In other words, preventing it from being properly analyzed, properly disseminated and distributed to our intelligence community?
BLACK: We're obviously in the business of collecting intelligence and disseminating intelligence. When we collect intelligence information that is new and it's considered at the time to be accurate, then that is passed along, with the appropriate review and processing that would go to our analysts. I seem to always return or come back to the same thing and that is that the people are the most important part of all of this. All the intelligence we collect is reviewed and processed. It is disseminated.
We're not going to be in the business of withholding intelligence information from a validated customer. There is a little secrecy involved in this, but if it is caveated, if we feel and essentially think it's necessarily completely true, we may say that.
GIBBONS: Mr. Chairman, I see that my time has expired. I want to thank you for the opportunity.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Gibbons.
DURBIN: Thank you very much, Chairman Graham and I want to thank our two witnesses for joining us today. And let me say by way of preface to these remarks. That, as I'm sure you would not question the commitment of Congress, the House and the Senate to the security of the United States, we certainly don't question your individual commitment nor the commitment of the fine men and women who work in your agencies. You are truly on the front line of protecting this great nation. And many of your colleagues risk their lives every single day in that pursuit.
We should never minimize that, nor ignore it in any of these hearings. And I think we should make a point of saying that the purpose of this joint inquiry is not only to raise questions about your agencies and the intelligence community and the law enforcement community across America, but to raise questions about Congress itself. What is it that we did or failed to do that might have had an impact on September 11, 2001? Some of these will be hard and embarrassing questions, but they have to be asked and answered.
Judgments are made and in retrospect they might not have been proper. The same can be said of Congress as can be said of your agencies. And I think it's those judgments that we are exploring in the course of these hearings. So, I hope with that caveat and with that understanding that you'll bear with me as I ask a few questions that will try to get into some detail about issues which still remain unresolved in my own mind.
There's so much of this that we are discussing that is subjective. Decisions made by men and women at a given time in history based on information they have before them, based on what they believe to be a threat to the United States and what they believe we should do to respond. There are some things, though, that are objective and I think we should start there. Because I think, Mr. Black, that's where your testimony started.
And the objective element here relates to the number of personnel who were dedicated to the war against Al Qaida, a war declared in December of 1998 by DCI George Tenet. In a close hearing on September 12, 2002, Mr. Black, you testified about not having enough people in CTC. In a public hearing on September 20 we heard from a CIA officer who talked about, "misses that happen when people, even very competent, dedicated people, are simply overwhelmed" by their workload.
Then, shortly thereafter a press release was issued by the Central Intelligence Agency. This press release of September 19, 2002, really raised a question as to whether or not the joint inquiry was correct in saying that we were -- that the CIA was inadequately staffed to meet this challenge. I guess the nature of my first question to you relates to these staffing levels.
And I'd like if you would clarify at this point, if you can. First, did you, Mr. Black, play in any role in the preparation of that September 19, 2002 press release by the CIA?
BLACK: No, I did not. You know, press business is not my fair.
DURBIN: So, you weren't called on to provide information about facts or experiences that related to their...
BLACK: I believe that information came from the counterterrorism Center. As I did testify, I left the counterterrorism Center in May. And there's a new chief and I am confident that this information came from there.
DURBIN: Let me ask you this, the CIA press statement indicates that prior to September 11, 2001 there were 115 analysts throughout the CIA working terrorism-related issues. You said before our committee earlier that the CTC didn't have enough people. I really have to ask you which version we should stand by.
DURBIN: Your conclusion or the conclusion to the CIA press release?
BLACK: Unfortunately, my view, probably both. There is a difference between the analysts that are assigned within the CTC, as well as analysts that are outside CTC and other components in the CIA, do provide analytical support. If you're looking at things such as a specific terrorist equipment or sort of regional analysis of terrorist trends, things like that, these personnel spend a considerable amount of their time on counterterrorism issues.
So, I will say this is a dangerous area. counterterrorism, as a center, does specifically and only counterterrorism. There's a tremendous amount of support to this effort that comes from outside. And we work, generally, through others.
DURBIN: The CIA press statement reference to 115 analysts. Is it fair for me to conclude from what you've just said that that does not mean full-time analysts dedicated to this war against Al Qaida?
BLACK: I have not read the press release. And we use analysts in a lot of different ways. I would have to check and look at the numbers. I'm not familiar with it. We have our analytical personnel do a lot of things. They do operational support. They do tarving (ph). They do only analytical work. So, I would have to check and I'd have to take that for the record and get back to you.
DURBIN: Thank you. I wish you would. And, also, the CIA press statement says that the CIA special UBL unit task and directed 200 agency offices worldwide to work the counterterrorism target. The same question applies. How many of these were really full-time dedicated people working on it? How many of them may have been tasked to do only part of their work related to UBL?
So, if you would be kind enough to provide that information as well. You also raised in your opening statement a question about cash resources. And I read it carefully, just having been given it this morning, but I read it carefully. And it indicated I think some serious problems that you face when you became chief in 1999, which resulted in an effort to cut subordinate unit except one at least 30 percent. Let me ask you this question. This committee prepared the fiscal year 2002 authorization bill last summer in 2001, prior to September 11, 2001. We were told that the CIA had excess money for counterterrorism left over from the supplemental appropriation. The CIA explained that they did not intend to spend that money in fiscal year 2002, but wanted to hold it for use at some future time. Are you able to testify as to whether or not there was excess money unspent on counterterrorism during that period of time before September 11, 2001?
BLACK: No. Frankly, I don't recall. This is a very complex issue that's three years. Generally, if there new money at the end of year it becomes an issue of what to do with it. I do not recall ever having excess funds that I was -- of which I had control. If it was excess, we're always looking for more money to keep our machine going.
DURBIN: Thank you for that.
Let me address, if I can, the issue that's been raised about the cooperation between your two agencies, the CIA and the FBI. One of the questions relates to this now famous June 11, 2001 meeting, which you've made reference to, Mr. Black, in your testimony. And you allowed us to how the FBI presented photos at that meeting for the CIA to consider.
The joint inquiry staff statement noted that a CIA analyst who attended that meeting of CIA and FBI personnel would not share information with the CIA unless he was specifically authorized to do so. When, in fact, that was the purpose of the meeting, to share information. Why wouldn't a CIA analyst be more forthcoming with information of value to the FBI? Is this analyst attitude typical of personnel at your agency or the relationship with the FBI?
BLACK: It could not be, first of all, I don't believe this happened. The CIA is in the business of collecting and disseminating intelligence. And, in this case, the CIA analyst had been briefed that is was the laws and regulations of the land that prevented this information of being passed over to a criminal bureau agent. I'd have to defer to Mr. Watson on the difference between intelligence and criminal matters inside the FBI. But, the guidance, as I understand it, comes from the FBI.
DURBIN: I need for you to clarify your answer. First you said you didn't believe it happened. And, second, you believed that if it happened it was because of laws and rules that prohibited the exchange of information, which conclusion are you giving us?
BLACK: What I'm saying is that the CIA analyst from CTC was told that, by the FBI, was told that this was an intelligence matter and that the criminal people should not be tainted by this because there could be prosecution involved.
DURBIN: That certainly raises, I think, an interesting policy question, which we have circled so many times in the course of this joint inquiry about whether existing laws, policies or let me just say the culture of different agencies creates obstacles to the sharing of information necessary for national security.
Mr. Watson, one of the things that came to our attention with the arrest of Mr. Moussaoui in Minneapolis was the statement by the FBI agent that because of her frustration in dealing with FBI headquarters she decided to take a bold and somewhat dangerous move by suggesting that the CIA be contacted directly so that information could be found about his background, Moussaoui's background to justify arrest and detainment. Are you aware of that statement by the FBI agent that's been given to this committee?
WATSON: I know this is pending prosecution, so I'll be very limited. But, I'll try my best to answer that question. What you have in a situation like that, without being absolutely specific about it, is that this relationship with the CIA that we have is top-down driven. There are always, and it doesn't matter what program you're looking at, there are always bumps in the road. But, the value is that you can get it to the top and there's confusion about what can be shared and what can't be shared. What's taken out for FISA or what's developed in a criminal case?
I'm not sure that everybody understands all those rules. But, if it's a hindrance, they certainly have the opportunity to raise that up the highest levels of the FBI. And if someone would have told me that or if someone would have called Cofer about any of these problems, particularly the Moussaoui deal or whatever, then those matters would have been resolved.
Now, I don't know if that was your specific question about Moussaoui or not, but I'll come back on that.
DURBIN: I understand what you're saying...
DURBIN: ... and frankly that is the solution. It has to start at the top.
WATSON: That's right and if it's not top-driven, it's not going to work.
DURBIN: But, the most important element is that it reaches the bottom so that the agent in the district office understands what his or her authority is and how far they go in cooperation with other agencies.
WATSON: But, if you look at, though, post-98 and what we were trying to do in building capacity, one of the criteria for the Minneapolis office is do you meet with your NR-counterparts on a regular basis? Do you have a working group with all your federal folks about counterterrorism? And, so, if there's an inference there, oh, who are these people in Minnesota from the CIA that's their problem and that's a performance issue that has to be addressed from my perspective. And that's what we're trying to do.
DURBIN: Thank you. Let me move from staff performance to the performance of technology. I had paid close attention now for over a year to what I consider to be the sad state of technology in your agency. I don't how has to shoulder that responsibility for the current state of affairs, but it is a fact. And, testimony that we received here, as well as in the Judiciary Committee suggests that information technology is primitive in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is improving because of the trilogy project and others. But, let me ask you specifically, Mr. Watson, if we can overcome any cultureral obstacles to sharing information how close are we to the point where we actually have computers in communication?
I mean we have received testimony, for example, at a hearing on Tuesday the FBI confirmed that there are currently 68,000, 68,000 outstanding our unassigned counterterrorism related leads at the FBI dating back to 1995, how much of this is attributable to the current state of FBI's information technology? And, let me also add at the same hearing an agent stated that due to technological limitations there are probably, in his words, hundreds of communications with his name on it that he's never seen.
Tell me how bad is it and how much of an obstacle is this to really winning this war on terrorism?
WATSON: I think that's a fair question. And I think some of those numbers there are a little distorted. I probably need to clarify that. From a technological standpoint, I'm not a technocrat. What I am is an operator. And we have been very specific about what technology we need to fight the war on terrorism. I can't address exactly, you know, do we need this type of device or technology? I think we're moving in that direction. Do we have that capability? We recognize we did not have that capability way back even before 1998.
DURBIN: Do you currently have the capability?
WATSON: To do what?
DURBIN: To deal with terrorism with the most modern information technology available.
WATSON: With the most modern, the answer is no.
DURBIN: And how far away is the FBI from having at its beck and call the information technology resources, which will make us effective in dealing with law enforcement on the war on terrorism?
WATSON: If you're asking me for a timeline for the trilogy project I do not the answer to that. I know money's been appropriated for it. I know we're moving as fast as we can in that direction. Is it a problem for us? Has it been? You're absolutely right.
DURBIN: I can tell you that before the Judiciary Committee the person who is in charge of this now tells us that she is hopeful that by mid-2004 we will reach that point. That, I think, is a sobering analysis of the lack of progress at your agency. And I have tried mightily, even in the Department of Homeland Security bill currently pending on the floor to make this a higher priority. Once we have the right culture, once we have the dedicated men and women, for goodness sakes they need the weapons in their arsenal to fight. And the FBI now has one hand tied behind its back and it's using primitive equipment.
Let me give you -- or at least ask you a question related to the same thing. When the FBI receives new names during the course of terrorism investigation, it's standard practice to run the names through your database to determine whether there's any information about the individual. Arabic names are often spelled many different ways in English. I've seen that in the press. Given the state of the FBI's information system, what kind of problems does this present for the FBI in the war on terrorism?
WATSON: The spelling of the names and the ability to run data in there? A good answer to that is to say do we have an analytical software on top of our ASC database? The answer is no. Is that technology available off the shelf? Yes, it is. You know, and I'm not smart enough on the trilogy issue to talk about that. But, our information-sharing project in St. Louis is exactly that. We take all the Illinois State Police records. We take all the St. Louise Police records. We take our data and load it in there. And then if we have a bit of information that says tattoo on left arm it can immediately weed those documents and it's not a point and click system where you get a 1,000 documents Xeroxed back where you have to go look at them. It analyzes those documents. It is a tremendous weapon and I hope we get there.
And I hope we get there before '04.
DURBIN: It's a weapon that is available for most...
WATSON: I should not have said probably that it's off the shelf stuff. But, I know what we're trying to utilize in St. Louis and I don't know the security aspects of how to protect that. I mean they're probably reasons why you can't walk down to some technology place and buy that and put it on the FBI's equipment that they...
BLACK: I understand that, but I'm saying, though, that is a tremendous weapon that will be, particularly with the information sharing to the state and locals than the 600,000 locals.
DURBIN: I just want to be as candid about this...
BLACK: I do too.
DURBIN: This is an issue, and I thank you for your candor, this is an issue which has been raised repeatedly by myself and others to the highest levels of this government and it's still, the answer is so unsatisfying to be told that there is computer technology available in most computer stores across America that is not available in the premier law enforcement agency in America to search databases for names of dangerous would-be terrorists. And I won't dwell on it because it isn't your particular responsibility.
WATSON: Well, I'm glad that you're frustrated by it, but from an operational standpoint, I'm doubly frustrated by that.
DURBIN: Well, let me ask you if I can, to -- let me just conclude by saying I think it is fair to say that if you can't search for the information within your agency.
WATSON: Well, we can. We can search for our information.
DURBIN: We were told that word search in the FBI computer system requires eight screens today, eight screens before you can search...
WATSON: I don't know who told you that, but if you're talking about being able to search ACS we can do that. We have that capability and we can link words up with that. We don't have the ability for it to read all the documents and say six foot one many, Abu whatever and spelling of that or John Smith in Birmingham, Alabama.
DURBIN: Or flight training school. If you're looking for...
WATSON: We have some capability of word association now currently, but it's not where we need to be.
DURBIN: I agree.
WATSON: We should be able to say flight training schools and we should be able to say I-94's. I mean, you're right. We're talking about the same thing.
DURBIN: I'm not going to quarrel with that. Let me ask you...
DURBIN: ... then about questions raised by General Scowcroft and Mr. Burger about some of the priorities within the FBI in terms what is viewed as good performance in the FBI and what is not. And I think those questions kind of go to some of the earlier observations you made as to whether or not when it comes to evaluating the work of an FBI agencies whether or not, as General Scowcroft told us, that the best FBI agents do criminal investigations, not terrorism. Was that a mindset or is that a mindset within the agency today?
WATSON: And he was basing that upon what?
DURBIN: Basing it on his experience?
WATSON: I think you might could draw that association 20 years ago. counterterrorism work is extremely difficult. It is not easy. General criminal investigative work is a lot less -- I need to probably be careful with my words here, is probably not easier, what's the word I'm looking for Michael? Easier. Man, I talked around in circle on that one. Is it somebody that culturally in the 1960s and '70s we hired people through the -- even into the '80s, to come into the FBI and the image was that was chasing bank robbers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama or solving a kidnapping or working white collar crime or whatever. Yes, that's why we need to look at the skill sets of agents. I take exception to the fact that somebody says that the better agents are criminal matters. Those are difficult cases. You have to be extremely organized and you have to be particularly in counterterrorism and counter-intelligence field to outthink your opponent. And it's easy to react on criminal matters.
Someone calls up the banks been robbed. Someone calls and says that somebody scammed me out of $100,000, as opposed to where will Al Qaida attack us next. And I take exception to that statement and I take exception with the understanding that he's probably looking years past. That's not the case. The men and women we have in the FBI working counterterrorism are the absolute best we have.
DURBIN: I think that's a very fair conclusion on your part, too, that it is more difficult to be analytical in perspective in terms of the threat then to deal with the specific crimes that have traditionally been assigned to the FBI.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator Durbin.
Our House colleagues are still in a series of votes. So, our next questioner will be Senator DeWine.
DEWINE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Let me first thank Mr. Black and Mr. Watson for your service to this country. And please convey to people back at headquarters and the field our thanks. You both articulated very well the pride that you have in your men and women and we have that same pride. If you can convey that to them we would appreciate it very much.
To Mr. Watson, let me say a special thanks to you as you -- for your many years of service as you begin your retirement. We certainly wish you well.
I remember in our witnesses today and the witnesses that we've had during these hearings to them and to you, this committee must look like 37 Monday morning quarterbacks. And we all know how much players and coaches dislike Monday morning quarterbacking. But, I guess to some extent that is the nature of inquiries such as this.
In my 20 minutes today I want to focus on the future, on the future. Because, as we all know, no amount of Monday morning quarterbacking will change the tragedy of September 11. I think it's only useful to look at past mistakes so that we can learn from them, so that we can take steps to prevent a future September 11.
What has been unspoken, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, what has been unspoken in this room throughout these public hearings is this. What every intelligence failure there was was a failure not just of the intelligence agencies, not just of the FBI, but also a failure of Congress and a failure of presidents. There's been a failure to prioritize. It's been a failure to have enough vision. It's been a failure of resources.
In the 1970s many public hearings were held and I happen to believe there were some good reforms that were made, but I also happen to believe that there was a chilling impact made on our intelligence operations. And the value of covert operations and the value of good human intelligence was certainly de-emphasized. The end of the Cold War, the peace dividend, that term was used. That peace dividend was taken out of the hide, not only of the defense of this country, but also out of our intelligence agencies. And sometimes we forget that.
We simply did not understand the new world that we lived in. We don't understand that the danger that we were living in was just as dangerous as what we all grew up in. We grew up on the Cold War. The enemy was communism, the Soviet Union. We understood it. We fought it. We won. We didn't understand that there were other enemies out there. We understood it, but we just didn't, I guess, react. We didn't understand the need for covert action and the need for human intelligence. They were just as important now as they had ever been. I guess in a sense we thought that the long twilight struggle that John Kennedy talked about was over. But, the danger to freedom does, in fact, continue. It is out there.
We simply did not provide the resources. I have gone back. I've gone back to 1990, 1988 and looked at the budget figures. And I'm not going to talk about those budget figures and specifics today obviously. But, it's simply what you find when you looked at what the president proposed and what Congress did, what was enacted into law, you find that frankly there is enough blame to go around for both Congress and the president, presidents. None of us really got it. You know, we just didn't provide the resources.
Let me ask, if I could, Mr. Watson, you talked about resources. Let me ask actually both of you, both Mr. Watson and Mr. Black, a specific question and that is how much bigger should the counterterrorism units be if we're serious about providing defense, Mr. Watson's made a very good point, there's no guarantees we understand that. We can't guarantee we're going to stop every terrorist attack. But, we've grown. We've reacted. But, if we look at this the way we ought to be looking at it in Congress and the way your departments, agencies should be looking at it, where should we be two years from now, five years from now? What kind of growth should we expect to see?
BLACK: Yes, sir. The key point, at least from my agency's end, is that I need to underscore that it is more than just the counterterrorism Center. The counterterrorism Center essentially is a resource provider. We provide expertise. We provide people with special languages, special skills. When the going gets tough we get called in things like that.
We operate essentially through others, through the operations director and our field stations. So, the answer actually is that we need to increase the base of a long haul. We need more resources for the operations director upon which CTC can achieve its objectives. I would say everything at that -- just me personally talking, I'd say the organization could easily absorb 100 percent increase in terms of personnel and resources.
DEWINE: Where you are today.
BLACK: Where we are today. And that should not be -- I know you're very interested in this, sir, but that should not necessarily be considered the end. That is a good beginning and that's an absorption rate and that could take us for the next three to five years.
DEWINE: I think your point is very interesting. And you've made this point to me in private before that we're not just talking about the counterterrorism Center itself, that you have to operate with support around the world.
BLACK: You've also made the point to me, Mr. Black, and I won't belabor it that you cannot increase yours without increasing what surrounds you, but also vice versa.
BLACK: Also, we are dependent on each other, us being the smaller partner.
DEWINE: So, when we examine your budget we need to keep that in mind?
BLACK: If you would, sir, that would be good.
DEWINE: Mr. Watson, do you comment on that at all? I know you don't like to get into a lot of speculation, but...
WATSON: Sure, Senator. Something in your introduction though I would like to reflect back on real quick. And I think a lot of times we lose sight of the fact. During this period of time if you look at it and we used to talk about it, Mike Rollins and I used to talk about this, is that we're pushing a program where we get up and actually admit that more Americans were probably, you know, murdered in Chicago than killed as a result of terrorist acts against Americans. And, so, that perspective is a lot of where we were in the process. Because the political will was we've got gang problems here in D.C. and in Detroit, I mean whatever...
WATSON: ... that situation is. So, no one really looked at this and they looked at the numbers and I in no way want to talk that the numbers aren't important of the number of Americans killed. But, if you look at the numbers compared to what else was going on, there was nobody sitting there saying, holy smokes, when someone attacks and kills 3,000 Americans the gloves come off and that's it.
But, let me go back to your...
DEWINE: Both your agencies have big priorities.
DEWINE: Mr. Black has other priorities at his agency and...
DEWINE: ... there are other priorities.
WATSON: ... and there are other priorities.
DEWINE: I get it.
WATSON: OK. All right. Let me answer your question real quick. A typical bureaucratic answer is we need a thousand times more than what we have. I think the answer to your specific question is where do we need to be in two years. I think it's an accountability piece that you should hold our organization accountable for. And when it's time for budget to say we need 150 analysts. We should articulate to you what they're going to be doing. And we need an additional 400, rather than the normal process of saying we need 400 agents. And there's nothing wrong with that.
What we need to do is look beyond the horizon over the next two to three years out to include the cyber arena.
DEWINE: Mr. Black, talk to me a little bit about the strategic long-term thinkers and what that ratio should be to the tactical side. Analysts, I'm talking about.
BLACK: We have under-invested in the strategic only because we've had such near-term threats. The trend is always towards the tactical. We need to put additional resources; units have been established doing this now. The tactical is where the lives are saved. And it is not necessarily a commonly accepted, but strategic analysis does not -- is not the compelling entity that gets you to saving lives. I would say a good ratio to be worked towards with increased resources would be something in the ratio like one to four, one to five.
DEWINE: Is that where we are today?
BLACK: No. The ratio is greatly imbalanced. We are something like one to eight, something like that.
DEWINE: All right. Let me ask both of you the impression that I think the public would get and people watching this would get or listening to this or reading about it, of these hearings, would be that there's -- there were a lot of facts out there. And this investigation has brought all those facts together, things going on here, things going on there. And the impression is that if they had all been brought together by the intelligence community, by the FBI and had brought in together into one place and one person had looked at them that September 11 could have been prevented. And I want to know if you can address that perception, whether that is, in your opinion, based on what we now know, whether that is true or not.
BLACK: That is a question, certainly, that we all need to look at very closely.
DEWINE: If it can be answered.
BLACK: It's difficult. We always try to -- it's very popular to use the term connect the dots. It means a lot of things to a lot of different people. The object here is to get the tactical warning. And tactical warning is very difficult. Tactical warning requires specific details. Analysis can give you strategic warning. It is specific intelligence information that is actionable for my colleague in the FBI so he can do something about it, take specific action.
The strategic is essentially related to infrastructure support. If you want to put more emphasis on the protection of containers or an aircraft or trucks. I think the emphasis on strategic will continue, but I would say that the tactical is where the lives are saved, sir.
DEWINE: But, what should the public take away from this?
BLACK: The public...
DEWINE: That is the perception out there. I wanted your opinion about it. Reasonable minds can differ.
DEWINE: I'm curious to know what yours is.
BLACK: That's a difficult question. And I come out on the side with the status of the resources we had at the time and the technology we had at the time and the ability to analyze and process information, I come out tactically we couldn't have prevented it.
DEWINE: Is there one place...
DEWINE: Go ahead.
BLACK: I'm sorry, Senator.
DEWINE: No, no, you finish.
BLACK: If we had 10,000 analysts I might come out a different way in this thinking. But, again, as I mentioned earlier, looking specifically hindsight 20/20 after an event it's pretty easy to draw the lines. It's pretty easy to say you guys should have done this. But, if you're looking in a sea of red flags of 1,000 things and I hope that answers your question.
DEWINE: Thank you very much.
BLACK: Yes, sir.
DEWINE: As you both know, Senator Kyl and Senator Schumer have proposed a modification of the FISA law to allow surveillance of terrorists who are not explicitly connected to a foreign group. I very much support that fix. I think it is the correct thing to do. I'd like to know if either one of you have looked at that.
WATSON: I fully support that idea.
DEWINE: All right.
DEWINE: Mr. Black, have you looked at it or not. I'm sorry.
BLACK: I support it, the little that I know of it. I've not made a detailed study of it.
DEWINE: Thank you very much.
We've heard testimony this week, Mr. Watson, from our joint investigation committee that during the months prior to September 9, the counterterrorism section at the FBI headquarters sent out a request to 24 field offices asking them to investigate information that headquarters had received about a terrorist organization which was planning to send students to the U.S. for aviation training. But, the request received little or no action.
Further, the joint investigation committee found that such a lack of -- or the staff found that such a lack of response was not uncommon because the field offices have a great deal of control over what they do and often ignore headquarters' request. I want to know if you could comment on that, is that true? And, if so, what are we doing to assert more control with regard to national priorities such as terrorism?
WATSON: Specifically if you're referring to what's been, I'm sure, testified up here before about the specific facts of that request that came in, my answer is that is I'm glad the agent sent it in. But, if you look at what he was saying in that information, there was nothing in there that would have caused us to open a specific case and go after that specific group of individuals at that time.
And the idea that someone says that the field ignores headquarters, that's not totally accurate. There is requirements that the field report to headquarters. They have reporting requirements. We have reporting requirements to the Department of Justice. Where the office of origin is gives a lot of latitude to that office. But, if it's a counterterrorism matter it also has a lot of focus from FBI headquarters, granted a stolen car ring case is totally different and if it's in Knoxville, Knoxville can handle that. But, a counterterrorism case in Little Rock requires input from headquarters. And I don't know -- that's where we come out with that.
DEWINE: We heard testimony last week from Secretary Armitage and secretary Wolfowitz that both of them believe one of the biggest problems with our intelligence analysis is that the agencies strive for consensus and don't always encourage dissemination of dissident views.
Mr. Black, do you agree with that or not? Do you have a comment on that?
BLACK: I think in theories it's, of course, a concern. We work towards that. We do have a system in place, which we developed where we encourage innovative thinking. We use red teams. And when analysis cannot be coordinated and is compelling that lack of coordination is so indicated. So, I think we have a reasonable balance at this point. I looked to the counterterrorism Center where we have a lot of new analysts coming onboard there and we absolutely encourage unusual analysis, unusual out of the box thinking. So, I think if anything we're heading in a good direct in that area.
DEWINE: Mr. Watson, any comment?
WATSON: We don't produce a lot of analytical reports. So...
DEWINE: Should you be producing more?
WATSON: Yes, we should, absolutely. Should we have reports officers out in the field offices, you know, absolutely.
DEWINE: I mean isn't that part of the problem that we're still understandably in a case mode and that, you know, the long-term analysis, even the short-term analysis sometimes no one's got time to do it.
WATSON: That's correct. That...
DEWINE: It's not a priority.
WATSON: I think it's a priority. I think we're getting...
DEWINE: We're getting there.
WATSON: ... (inaudible) in the priorities. Yes, sir.
DEWINE: OK. All right.
WATSON: Remember this is a large bureaucracy and it's hard to steer the ship in a different way.
DEWINE: Right. We just want to...
WATSON: OK. Yes.
DEWINE: ... make sure we're moving in that direction.
My last question, gentlemen, we've had -- we hear a lot of discussion since September 11 about sharing of information, not just between agencies of the federal government, but down to the local level. How do we deal with the conflicting tug and pull of wanting to share information, get back information, being able to allow people in the field to access that while at the same time keeping the secrecy that you need to keep? We have, you know, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement agencies in this country who do a great job and who are out there and who are our eyes and ears and who are the first ones on the scene. How do we do that? And is one of the ways we do it with increased more sophisticated technology?
Let me just say with what Mr. Durbin said before you answer that. You know, I have been a proponent for more technology at the FBI. You know, it is shameful where we are. You know, the position we have put you in, Mr. Watson, is wrong. The position the FBI is in is wrong. It's wrong for the agents. And, you know, I'm not satisfied with where we are going.
You can answer my question.
WATSON: The information-sharing piece is very important. And let me just briefly discuss how we're trying to do it in St. Louis. There is a need in any information sharing for the local police to understand what they all want to get into the fight us in counterterrorism and help the U.S. government. You hear that all the time. The probability of something coming up at a local police department that might prevent an act of terrorism is probably a very small percentage. But, at the same time probably the most important thing that needs to be reported and retrieved. And what we basically designed starting back in '00 with the information sharing, particularly through the International Association of Chief of Police is to have this data warehouse. And the way, not the way you get around it, but the way you access it is through the JTTF's. And the JTTF's have officers, police officers, from state and local jurisdictions there that have security clearances. And you can design technology so that there are different levels of information that you can ping into.
But, the key to information sharing is everyone loading up into that warehouse. And there are 1,000 reasons that you can be talked out of not doing that. Well, how dare you to think that some police officer might have access to FBI information. Well, how dare we not give him access to that if he stopped somebody that's at an apartment complex that has some interest in us that we would have no way to knowing about that.
And then the last piece, the most critical piece, is you've got to have the technology to be able to analyze that and read that and not be a point and click system.
DEWINE: Well, let me thank both of you very much, Mr. Black, Mr. Watson, for your service to our country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GOSS: Thank you, Senator DeWine.
I'll turn to Representative Reyes for 20 minutes.
REYES: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And, gentlemen, I, too, appreciate the hard work that both the CIA and the FBI do on behalf of our nation. And I know from firsthand experience, first as a border patrol agent and then as a chief of sectors along the U.S. Mexican border, I always prioritize working with my colleagues, in particular the FBI, the CIA on a more infrequent basis. But, we always considered that we were tentacles of intelligence out there.
If I had 1,000 agents out there, there were 1,000 potential eyes and ears for the intelligence community. And, so, I was always happy to do that. I want to start off my questions by asking both of you an opinion. And that is does the way that Congress conducts its oversight hearings, in your opinion, does that make a difference? Our ability to do oversight is that something that you feel is beneficial?
Well, I have my own opinion, that's why I'm asking you.
BLACK: Well, I certainly have enjoyed and welcomed the opportunity to address oversight committees, but particularly in closed sessions. I must say the reason that I'm here, truly, is to represent my people who have worked so hard and try and give a face to the Central Intelligence Agency's counterterrorism effort.
My own personal observation would be that in this interaction that we could achieve the resources that we're looking for. And, I believe that when we've met on this subject before, and I know, Congressman, you've come out and had access to a lot of the things that we do. I think that is very informative to both sides where you get to have a closer appreciation from your oversight committee role into what I do, which is classified hard things. So, I think this interaction can be very good. In our case it certainly has been.
REYES: Mr. Watson?
WATSON: I think the oversight is appropriate. We welcome that, believe it or not. I've been up here a lot. Some sessions are a lot easier than other sessions. But, at the same time I think there's an obligation on our part for us to explain to you what's going on because, let's fact it, I mean resources and budget and you're a representatives of the American people. You need to understand what we're doing and try to do. I welcome that. And I have no problem with that even in times when it becomes in closed sessions, not as comfortable as other times. But, that's OK.
REYES: And the reason I ask that question is because I was, particularly as a field chief, at times frustrated because more often than not we didn't get the opportunity to testify about issues that we thought Congress needed to know, including resources, staffing plans and those kinds of things that are -- you know, they're the bread and butter of our ability to carry out our mission, regardless of what that is, whether it's monitoring the border or doing intelligence work or prosecutions or whatever that is.
So, in that context, let me ask is there a -- when the declaration of war back in 1998 was issues against Osama bin Laden as the number one target it stands to me as, based on my experience as a field chief, there are two things that are critical that you do. First of all, you've got to understand what the challenge is and how you can meet it with the resources that you have.
But, secondly, and most importantly, is understanding the challenge and recognizing what it is that the director or the commissioner or whoever is prioritizing the issue for you is what do you need to make sure that you are successful in carrying out that mission or that task. So, my question is, first and foremost, in your respective agencies did we, in your opinion, understand the scope of the challenge of going to war against Osama bin Laden and what he was capable of doing against this country?
And, secondly, did you put a plan in place to carry out that? And, more importantly, and Mr. Watson, you talked about the request for additional positions and funds for the agency that came to Congress. But, was there a comprehensive staffing plan put together that we can look at that says here is the declaration of war, here is what we have and how we will carry that out based on what we have now and here is what we need. Is there such a document that we can have?
WATSON: The declaration of war was issued by the DCI. We were well aware of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida in 1998. As a matter of fact, he was indicted in November of 1998 for his crimes. From December '98 forward that was the number one priority for the counterterrorism program in the FBI. That crossed many fronts. One is where is he and working with our colleagues and maybe -- and I don't want to go into this, I mean we actively pursued with our colleagues from the agency and probably more so with the agency, what are we going to do about this. And, so, that's going on.
REYES: So, there is a plan?
REYES: There's a plan that we can see that you developed when the declaration was issued? Because I asked the staff if anything had been...
WATSON: No, I don't think -- I'm sorry.
REYES: Well, because I asked the staff did we, across all the pages of information that they've reviewed and they inform me that they had not seen anything like that. That's why I'm asking.
WATSON: Did we have a war plan of five-paragraph ops order issued on Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida? Absolutely, we did not at that time.
REYES: If not, why not?
REYES: It seems to me like if you're going to issue up a directive...
WATSON: It was the number one priority that was addressed through each field office through discussions with the SAC in relationship to their annual report that they sent in, and in our guidance that we gave back as to what we were trying to do with Al Qaida. There were other priorities as well. I mean it was one...
REYES: And I understand that. I'm just interested...
WATSON: All right. Yes.
REYES: ... in...
WATSON: Can I answer your question specifically can I give you a document? Here's what we're going to do. Those types of issues came up in the director's report as to exactly specifically what we were going to try to accomplish in the next 120 days or the next 180 days across the board, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, (inaudible), you know, those sort of things. That's where that is found.
REYES: And, what about the second part, did we identify resources that were going to be needed in order to be successful in carrying out this mission or this tactic?
WATSON: As specifically directed at that mission, probably not broken down that way. Specifically directed at raising the capability of each of our field offices of what we needed to get there? Absolutely.
REYES: But, given...
WATSON: And budget formula -- I'm sorry.
REYES: But, that was given -- all the priorities that you've mentioned, so nothing was actually put together that would zero in? Again, what I'm trying to get at is making sure that we understood the potential threat that Osama bin Laden meant to this country. And, therefore, the priority of making him the number one target. And I believe you said he was put on the top 10 list?
WATSON: Yes, in the spring of '99. I'm not dancing around on your question, but to understand and to know what the threat was, absolutely. Did we have a flip chart that shows exactly this week this is what we're going to do, next week, we were working in that -- you know, toward a specific document like that. We don't have a specific war document. That's the answer to your question. But, we had plans.
BLACK: After 1998, with the declaration of war from the director, we certainly carried Osama bin Laden, his Al Qaida organization as our number one priority threat. We did, indeed, develop plans. It is indeed a document. And it is, indeed, very classified. But, it was comprehensive, exacting and it was a global engagement strategy.
REYES: And by being very classified it's not available for us to review or is it?
BLACK: It's classified before the oversight committee. I believe you're on the oversight committee.
BLACK: Yes, sir.
REYES: OK. And earlier or last week we had General Scowcroft, who testified before the committee that said that the safest place in the world for a terrorist was to be in the United States. And one of the FBI witnesses supported that by saying that we know that terrorists are among us and they're poised to strike. And that, in his opinion, we hadn't yet devised a -- and I think he specifically said we don't yet have the best system designed to fared them out. What do we have today, both from the FBI and also, auxiliary to that, support from the CIA to identify those that are here and to fared them out? I don't want specifics. I just want to know what kind of plans we have either to come up with a system or...
WATSON: Let me comment on that statement. We have a constitution here. And our form of government is the freest in the world. And if you're talking about a safe harbor for people, we have a safe harbor here for justice and fairness. And do we want to go to a country or become a society that ignores that?
And, so, I think -- I mean it's easy to generalize and make statements like that. But it's also we're vulnerable because of our freedoms. And I don't think any of us ever want to change those freedoms of what we represent, not only inside the United States, but to the world. What we were doing to identify those people is very clearly when we have specific information that we can open a case on, we do that and we try to identify that working with the CIA, working with pocket litter, working with document exploitation, working with individuals arrested. And arrested becomes a prevention because they provide information that you wouldn't get anywhere else.
And a good example of that is the individual Wadi Al-Hajj (ph) that was convicted in the East Africa bombings, a U.S. citizen who wouldn't tell us anything until he was later prosecuted and was facing the bar of justice.
So I think there's a blend here between the intelligence work and the law enforcement work. As to how do we get those people out, it's a difficult process. It's not something the FBI can do by itself. And the process here and the threat is of those individuals that have gone through those training camps since 1996 that have scattered around the world, where are those people. Are they living in Texas? Are they living in Montana? I don't know the answer to that. But that's why we have to join forces and try to identify those people.
REYES: OK. But, putting it in context, Director Mueller has told the joint committee that the FBI's number one priority is now prevention of terrorist attacks. So, obviously, the issue here transfers from prosecution to prevention. At this point, what is the FBI doing to ...
WATSON: Prevent it?
REYES: Yes, have this change in strategy or this change in direction.
WATSON: That's a fair question.
REYES: In the context of what you said.
WATSON: I'm sorry?
REYES: In the context of what you said.
WATSON: Oh, OK. I think that's a fair question and that what we're doing is any threat information or any thread of information that comes in, regardless. If it's an address or if it's a phone number overseas that pertains to the United States, it's run down absolutely fast as we can, as quick as we can. Don't lose sight of the fact that prosecutions are an aid in preventions.
And so, are we abandoning prosecution? Absolutely not. But prevention is the number one priority. And prevention might mean that we take individuals and charge them with credit card fraud as opposed to the only way that we can deal with them. Or take them if they're out of status and they're illegal immigrants, take them off and arrest them or charge them for being out of status. That would be, in fact, a prevention.
REYES: Can we assume that somebody in the FBI is working on a plan that will tie this change in strategy that will come to Congress with this is the challenge that we're facing, these are the things that we want to accomplish and this is what we need in order to accomplish that? Is that being worked on now?
WATSON: That's absolutely right. But, remember also that we were moving toward prevention in '98. And so, this whole process has been started. And certainly, we can do that.
REYES: Yes, and I would -- and, you know, I say this with all due respect ...
REYES: ... based on my experience when we were tasked by the commissioner of what resources it would take to control the border or to manage the border. We were all charged with coming up with staffing surveys that we had to justify at what level we could expect to maintain control. And without that, frankly, coming to Congress asking for more people and more money, it's not going to happen, especially in an environment like there is today. So, that's why I'm pursuing this line of questions.
WATSON: Yes, and I think that was Senator Dewine's point for budget justification. Absolutely.
REYES: Mr. Black, again getting back to the global plan that you were talking about that you developed against Osama bin Laden, is part of that plan was there an assessment made of the plan's potential for success to either capture or eliminate Osama bin Laden? And also, in following up with what I was discussing with Mr. Watson, is a component of that plan additional resources? In other words, identifying the challenge and telling either the director or Congress in order for us to be successful here, these are the additional resources that we'll need by way of support from Congress. Is that part of that, those two things?
BLACK: Yes. What I'd like to do on this is that -- I've already stated that this particular plan is available to you. Because of the classified nature of it, I would suggest that at your soonest convenience that this be provided to you as a member of the oversight committee and hopefully it'll answer your questions.
REYES: Is there an assessment in there of the potential success upon implementation of the plan?
BLACK: There are various aspects of the plan. And the plan is essentially a global effort. So, I don't have the plan in front of me, so I don't know which aspect and geographical area and function.
REYES: OK. How about does a component of that also address resources, additional resources to be able to successfully carry out that plan?
BLACK: I believe I recall as of (ph) a few years ago, I believe it did. I believe it did. I'm not absolutely sure because I don't have it in front of me.
REYES: Thank you.
Mr. Watson, one other issue that I'm curious about. And I'm curious about it because the comment was made in prior testimony by one of the FBI agents that in the context of the request for FISA authorization that come up here to headquarters that it was my impression based on his testimony that you have these requests come up to headquarters. And then there's, to some extent, some lobbying going on to rise the individual FISAs from different offices up to the top of the ladder in order to be considered.
So, given the fact that we have seen that Al Qaida can carry out very well coordinated attacks against this country and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that simultaneously they could be planning operations in the northeast, the southeast, the northwest, the midwest, wherever, is there an analytical component that looks at these FISA requests that would connect those kinds of threats, number one?
And number two, in that system that evaluates the FISAs, I want to make sure that we're not in a situation where one is considered at the expense of others. So, can you describe what takes place when a FISA request comes up here?
WATSON: There are a large number of FISA requests that are processed through FBI headquarters. Once a month, a meeting is held with OIPR, the Department of Justice office that handles and processes those requests that eventually get to the judge with an FBI agent. Those are prioritized, they are discussed which priority first in the FISA process, which one.
If Detroit comes in with one -- and I'll make this up -- that involves (inaudible) or 17 November or whatever, one of the 30 terrorist organizations on the list and the same time Kansas City has a request for Al Qaida, those things are prioritized. And they're prioritized on the basis of what our priorities are within the division. But you also have to understand that on emergency basis, those FISAs can be approved within a very short period of time, probably less than two hours. Michael? Two hours that we run FISAs on emergency basis.
REYES: So, was it a fair statement to make that there is some effort or lobby to get your FISA up based on what the priority is for that prospective -- or is there somebody looking at the whole ...
WATSON: They're prioritized by the section chief in conjunction with OGC who understands what our priorities are in the counterterrorism arena. And so, if you have limited resources, unless it's an emergency and those go through. If you have limited resources within the prioritization, that's where they end up.
REYES: All right.
WATSON: They're prioritized. And so, you know, the JRA or Tamil Tigers, you know, I mean, not saying they're not important.
REYES: But there is somebody that's looking at the big picture ...
WATSON: Yes. Yes, sir.
REYES: ... when those things come in?
WATSON: That's the process.
REYES: Very good.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Reyes.
We've completed the original designated questioning round. We'll turn now to those members who have questions, with each member limited to five minutes each. And we will proceed in the order of their arrival here. I'd like to turn now to Senator Shelby.
SHELBY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Five minutes is not a lot.
Mr. Watson, Mr. Black, I want to join the course that I appreciate what you've done and what you will do. Mr. Watson and I go back a while. He referenced my home state of Birmingham. He spent some time there as a young FBI agent. He even mentioned my home town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He knows a lot about that area. He knows a lot of those agents. I was a U.S. magistrate before he got here.
I'm a little older, you know, Dale. But, to both of you, we do appreciate what you do. And we appreciate the CIA and the FBI. What we're trying to do is find out how we can help you to function better. And if you put it in that context, with more funds, with maybe more oversight, but not micromanagement, I think, is good (ph).
Mr. Watson, a few questions first to you. You said the light -- and I believe this is the phrase. The light came on for me in 1998. Why didn't the light come on in 1993? When did you go and become head of the terrorism section of the FBI?
WATSON: In the section, it's 1997.
SHELBY: '97? So, you were not there in '93?
WATSON: In '93, I was ...
SHELBY: Well, you were at the FBI, but you were not the head?
WATSON: Yes. I was within the Iranian unit at the time.
SHELBY: Yes, sir.
WATSON: And then left and went to Kansas City in '94.
SHELBY: Yes, sir. But what's troubling to me and perhaps others is we had the first hit on the World Trade Tower in '93.
SHELBY: You were involved, all of you were ...
WATSON: Yes, sir.
SHELBY: ... in the investigation. And then, in, was it '96, we had the Prince Sultan Barracks were hit. And then, the Khobar Towers. We worked with you on that ...
WATSON: That's right.
SHELBY: ... at that time. And then in '98, our embassies were hit simultaneously in Tanzania and Kenya.
SHELBY: You worked on that.
WATSON: Yes, sir.
SHELBY: And then, in late 2000, the USS Cole ...
WATSON: October (ph).
SHELBY: ... which my colleague, Senator Roberts, has spent a lot of time on and all of us have, too. So, it was '98, you'd been in your present job as the head of that, what, a few months?
WATSON: Yes, sir. A year and a half.
SHELBY: So you became aware this was a serious, serious ...
WATSON: No, sir. That's not what the light came on about.
SHELBY: OK. Tell us. Explain it to me.
WATSON: OK. OK. I'll be glad to and I hope -- I'm sorry if you were confused about it.
SHELBY: OK. No.
WATSON: What the light came on was ...
SHELBY: No, they were your words.
WATSON: Maybe my words without the proper explanation.
SHELBY: Yes, go ahead.
WATSON: What came on as a light came on to me was that we were very reactive. And it was clear that the FBI was being very reactive. It had nothing to do with was Osama bin Laden a threat or was Hezbollah a threat. We all knew that. We were all working in that.
WATSON: But our mentality was pointed at being very reactive. And the crucial piece was I came to realize that we probably will never stop all acts of terrorists. And the only way we could look at this and feel good about ourselves, if that's a right term to use, is to raise our capacity. That's what I meant when the light came on.
WATSON: Not the fact that there were threats out there.
SHELBY: My colleague just a few minutes ago, I believe he used the phrase -- I'm trying to dig it out -- scope. I think he used the scope of the challenge presented by the terrorists. Was that really comprehended by the FBI and the CIA at that time? Because I think that is a very, very good question he's asked. Was the scope of the terrorist threat appreciated early on or prior to September the 11th?
WATSON: Absolutely. And there were a few people that got it, so to speak. We knew within the FBI and particularly Mike Rollins, the section chief that worked for me, we knew exactly what the scope of the problem was. And if you talked to the folks at the CIA, they knew exactly what the scope of the problem was. And if you talk to representatives up at the NSC, they understood what the scope of the problem was. If there was a breakdown, it's not with those three individuals. But if there was a breakdown, it was where we were at, U.S. government wise, policy wise, will of the American people. Did they understand the scope? Did you, you know, I mean, that's -- I'll leave it at that.
SHELBY: If the FBI understood the scope, and the CIA understood the scope, did everybody else understood the scope of what the terrorists presented as a threat and what we were up against? Is that what you're saying?
WATSON: Yes, sir. Well, I don't want to speak for the agency. But that was my impression. They understood it clearly.
SHELBY: Quickly, Mr. Watson, my time's up. But, could you describe your role either here or you can do it in a closed session if you prefer, in the internal FBI debates over whether to share FISA obtained information with the CIA and other agencies? Did you support such sharing or oppose it?
WATSON: I fully supported that position. And as a matter of fact...
SHELBY: What was your role in that? Do you have a central role?
WATSON: If you're talking about a specific incident, we need to talk about that in closed session.
SHELBY: In closed session.
WATSON: If you're talking generically, we had a pilot...
SHELBY: Speak generically first.
SHELBY: Then we'll get into specifics later.
WATSON: We had a pilot project probably back to 1999 and I think that's the right time ...
WATSON: ... where we were offering raw FISA data to CIA folks to come in and look at because they could probably mine intelligence bits of information out.
WATSON: There was a lot of resistance from that, but (inaudible).
SHELBY: But it's very important that you share that with them, was it?
WATSON: Yes. Oh, absolutely. Yes, sir.
SHELBY: All right.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your indulgence.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator.
PETERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, I want to talk about the hijacks a little. When did it become known that the Sunni extremist terrorists were possibly going to hijack planes and use them as missiles? Do you remember when that became known?
BLACK: For me? This is a subject that goes back a long way. You'd need exactly a specific example of, you know, which particular group was involved. I mean, it goes back I can recall 1994.
PETERSON: And did the FBI or the CIA ever warn the commercial aviation section about this specific threat?
BLACK: About the aviation threat?
PETERSON: Airplanes being used as missiles.
BLACK: Hijacking of aircraft and the potential for, in the time frame, yes.
PETERSON: They were, the commercial aviation section was warned?
PETERSON: Was it in a forum (ph) where they would have been able to actually do something about it? You know, where they could change their security practices? You know, ...
BLACK: We disseminate ...
PETERSON: Apparently they didn't, and, you know, ...
BLACK: You know, well, we disseminate, we collect intelligence, we analyze it and we disseminate it. And the actions that they wish to take, obviously, are their responsibility.
PETERSON: So, you think it was of sufficient alarm that they should have taken some action?
BLACK: I think there was significant -- they have to analyze it according to their own criteria.
PETERSON: On this following up on Congress Reyes on this FISA situation in Minneapolis, you say that this group meets once a month, that this OITR ...
WATSON: This is a headquarters prioritization of all the FISAs.
PETERSON: So, some of these sit around for a month before they actually get considered to the point where they can get past this process (ph)?
WATSON: It all depends, Congressman, on the priority of what you're talking about on a FISA. If you're talking about ...
PETERSON: But, apparently the one in Minneapolis maybe never even got to that point?
WATSON: Well, I'd be glad to discuss that with you probably in closed session.
PETERSON: OK. And apparently you testified that when you came in that you were making a priority of adding staff into the field offices to try to beef up this area. And when the Minneapolis agent was here Friday, I think he said that the Minneapolis office had a couple of positions open and that there were folks in that acting in those open positions. And that was one of the reasons why they were having problems there, from what I can remember him saying. So, if you were beefing up this situation, you know, why was the situation like that in Minneapolis? Why were those positions open?
WATSON: Probably through a process of career development, those slots were -- I'm not sure exactly which positions you're talking about. But those routinely -- not routinely occur, but occur within the bureau. If you look at it from strategically Minneapolis had an opening and maybe Houston was evaluated by us as being very vulnerable. And the list of priorities that I considered, I would consider what I considered where the threat was most vulnerable to try to fix first.
During my deposition, I was asked about an Omaha EC where Omaha said they were desperate to get two agents to work -- or three agents -- to work counterterrorism. At the same time, you had a big vacancy in Los Angeles or you had a vacancy in New York. Where, in the scheme of things, do you fit that out? I'm not downgrading Omaha, but it was an effective and efficient way to determine where you're going to put your resources in and what priority.
PETERSON: So, what was going on then, at the time in Minneapolis, they had these openings, but there was probably other areas that ...
WATSON: I don't know specifically about those openings.
PETERSON: Yes. It gets back to this whole resources issue. Is that part of the reason why this happens because there wasn't enough resources? There wasn't enough (inaudible)?
WATSON: I don't know what the agent testified to. But if he was talking about an acting SAC in a period of time between, that's fairly normal when a vacancy occurs. It doesn't, you know ...
PETERSON: I think it was more than just one position that was in an acting capacity, if I recall. And I think it did have some impact on what they were trying to do there and ...
WATSON: I will only say that -- OK, we can probably talk about that (inaudible).
PETERSON: Yes. And the, you know, -- I think it had some impact on, you know, how many people knew how this whole FISA thing worked.
WATSON: That is absolutely correct. And if you deal with one FISA in your career, if you deal with 500, you certainly have a better understanding.
PETERSON: Yes. And I had asked -- I guess my time is out, but maybe we can talk about the training process in this FISA, too, because I still have some questions about that.
WATSON: That's fine. Yes, Congressman.
PETERSON: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank Mr. Black and Mr. Watson both for their testimony and their service. My question comes back to trying to change the culture in your respective organizations.
Mr. Black, in your testimony you used some interesting words. You said after September 11, and I quote, "the gloves came off and the hunt was on". Was it extremely difficult to do the hunt and take the gloves off even after the DCI had declared war and even after Osama bin Laden had declared war on us?
BLACK: I think there was an evolutionary or escalatory approach to the issue key to the intelligence that was acquired and driven. You know, one can recall that Osama bin Laden essentially came into the '90s as a financier and in some areas, a doer of good works that required very close study to be able to concretely identify that he was a supporter of terrorists, a financier of terrorists. By the mid '90s, he became more active.
And then as we know, shortly after that, went to Afghanistan. So what I would say is yes, that the approach kept pace with the common view at the time that was driven by the intelligence. And as it was not perhaps preemptive, but it was certainly keeping up with the pace of the status of this guy's a threat to the United States.
ROEMER: Let me ask you a question of resources. And I want to keep trying to come back to this. The hunt for Osama bin Laden keeps getting escalated, as you said, but the gloves don't come off until after September 11. The resource issue is one that you considered to be an important one in your testimony. You say you're overwhelmed. The CTC budget, although we can't talk about numbers, roughly triples during the 1990s.
And I just want to know, with regard to resources, you must have felt a great deal of frustration with this. You get a bigger budget, but you still feel like you don't have enough personnel fighting an elusive target. Did you say to the CIA director at that point, did you e-mail him, did you call him on the phone and say to him, we need more resources? And do you have records of this saying to Mr. Tenet, we're overwhelmed, we have to get more resources and more money here, even though this budget's tripled?
BLACK: When you find yourself in a situation of essentially intelligence war, I'm sorry if I smiled about the idea of documenting because there's not much time to document in that sense. Communication is informal and verbal because things are moving so quickly at such a high pace. I would say that without equivocation, the director and I were together on these issues. He had an appreciation of our needs. From the resources he had available to him, he gave us as much as he could. And as I indicated in my testimony, that we were able to make it through the years because of his intervention and provision of funds and lobbying for us.
ROEMER: So, he tried to fight for as many of these funds and as maybe one of the reasons why you got a tripling in the CTC budget. Did you go to the White House and OMB and say, we need more, we're not getting enough, this is not enough for us? Were they aware that you wanted more resources and more money?
BLACK: Well, I report through the director and I believe you may be inviting him to testify. I'm the chief of the counterterrorism center, you know. And I should speak to that level of authority and position. I made my superiors aware and they were as helpful as possible.
ROEMER: And so you're unaware of the chain above that?
BLACK: Well, the chain, I just feel ...
ROEMER: My question, Mr. Black, is, did you ever go to Mr. Tenet and say, I asked you for resources, when are you going to find out from the White House or OMB about these requests?
BLACK: Resources and requests for resources were actively considered. And what I can say is that I personally requested and lobbied for the funds that I thought I needed. You have to understand that compared to most people, that I was very much in the forefront because I was the closest to the problem. So it did require an aspect of interaction in trying to advance, the funds actually should go to this area as opposed to the other.
ROEMER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Roemer.
LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me welcome our two witnesses. I want to go back to some of the testimony here of Mr. Black where you acknowledged, as has Mr. Tenet that the CIA fell short, using your words, in not informing the Department of State that you had identified two Al Qaida men. And these were the two Almihdhar and Alhazmi who were hijackers on Flight 77. These were two people you had identified back in January, 2000 and in March, 2000. There's another problem here besides failing to notify the State Department and that was failure to notify the FBI.
The FBI says that it did not know of key bits of information that a visa had been issued to one of them and that the other one had actually entered the United States until August, 2001. So, there was not just a failure to notify the State Department to get these folks on the watch list, but the CIA was aware of the fact that one of them had a multiple entry visa and the other one had actually entered the country in March. And by the way, this is not nothing to do with intelligence information and nothing to do with not crossing a line between criminal investigation and intelligence investigation. This was public information.
This was a visa had been issued and somebody had traveled actually to the United States. My question is this. Why was the FBI not notified by the CIA of those two critical facts about two people that the CIA had identified as terrorists until August, 2001?
BLACK: Because of the nature of our work being very fast paced, there was communication and there was communication between the CIA officers and the counterterrorism center and individuals in the FBI, particularly a CIA officer assigned to the FBI. There were phone conversations, e-mails, things like that. And in particular the lapse that we're referring to is to do the extra work of submitting a formal report to the State Department into their lookout system, Tip Off, so that action can be taken.
And there was communication. I think you have a very good point. We have admitted to the lapses of not submitting a report in a form. That would be actionable. But there was communication. But there's also an incredible amount of work. (inaudible)
LEVIN: Yes. (inaudible) made the point, though, about the lack of communication. You say there was communication. I want to focus on those two specific, critical facts. Are you saying that the CIA did communicate to the FBI that those two people that you suspected as being terrorists had a multiple entry visa into the United States and had entered the United States? Are you saying that in that communication, that general word you're using, that those two facts were communicated orally to the FBI? Is that what you're saying?
BLACK: What I'm saying is the identities, the names of the individuals.
LEVIN: No. No.
BLACK: But the issue of the visa is problematic.
LEVIN: All right.
BLACK: We have no evidence that that piece of information was communicated.
LEVIN: And that's critical information. Now to the FBI. The FBI is at the counterterrorism center?
WATSON: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: And so, when the counterterrorism center is informed of this information, why is that not automatically, then, known to the FBI? We're trying to connect dots here, folks. The counterterrorism center is one place where the dots are supposed to be connected. And now I want to press the FBI.
Since you're at the counterterrorism center, and since that information, I believe, went to the counterterrorism center, why, then, wasn't the FBI put on notice that two terrorists identified in early 2000 as terrorists because they had been at those critical meetings in Kuala Lumpur, why then, was that not enough notice, just being at the CTC for the FBI to then say, whoops, wait a minute, these guys have visas to the United States, this guy entered the United States? Why weren't you put on notice? How can you say you didn't know about this until August, 2001?
WATSON: I don't know the answer to that, Senator. And there's a volume of information that flows through every day. And I'm not sure where the FBI agents were at the time that might have had access to that cable or not. It might have come in from the other division of the CIA. So I can't defend or say that they saw it and didn't report it. I will say, though, without a doubt, I know that if the agency had it, there was no plot, no thought by anybody at the CIA not to tell us.
LEVIN: Well, wait a minute. There was a decision by the CIA not to tell you back in June, 2001. They were sitting there at a meeting and the decision was made at that meeting in New York not to tell the FBI about it. That was a CIA decision for reasons that totally mystify me because this is not criminal investigation versus intelligence. This isn't blurring the line, violating rules and regulations. This has got nothing to do with that. This is public visa information. This is public travel information, commercial travel information. I understand the rules and regulations about not blurring the line between criminal investigation and intelligence because you don't want to mess up your criminal investigation. But that is not the type of information that the CIA -- that we're talking about here and that the CIA did not share at that June meeting. But I want to press the FBI.
BLACK: Sir, could I just say one thing?
BLACK: As we understand it, sir, the CIA analyst was not permitted to provide all of the information FBI criminal investigators wanted because of laws and rules against contaminating criminal investigators with intelligence information.
LEVIN: I understand that.
BLACK: OK. That's what I'm saying (ph).
LEVIN: But you're saying you could have put it and should have put it on the watch list up at the State Department. This isn't polluting criminal investigation. This is stuff that should have gone on the watch list by your own acknowledgment. This is a visa. That's public information. This is commercial travel. That is public information. There is no pollution of criminal investigation whatsoever, under any regulation by simply the CIA telling the FBI, hey, watch these folks. We have identified these folks as terrorists. These folks have entered the United States. That's all you have to tell them.
You don't have to go into sources, methods. You don't have to talk about wiretaps. You don't have to talk about anything, just that these folks identified by us have now entered the United States. That's all we're talking about. There's no violation of any rule, any regulation that I know of by simply telling the FBI that. And I think you acknowledge that when you say we should have notified the State Department to put them on a watch list. That makes it the kind of information which is, and should have been available to the FBI. My time is up. If the chairman wants to give them time to comment, that would be up to the chairman. I would welcome it, but I can't press that any further with that red light on.
CHAIRMAN: Certainly if your answers are brief in this response, we would like you to respond.
BLACK: In my view, I think we're talking about two separate things. On the one hand, we're talking about the New York meeting between the CIA and the FBI. And on the other, we're talking about the watch listing issue. Yes, the whole purpose of the system is to provide this type of information to the Department of State. There's no question about that.
CHAIRMAN: And Senator Levin, if we have additional time at the end, we'll certainly allow you to ask some more.
LEVIN: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hoekstra?
HOEKSTRA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, gentlemen, for being here today. I want to follow up a little bit on what Mr. Reyes and what Mr. Roemer were talking about, exactly what the process is here for planning. You're planning a war against Al Qaida and terrorism.
Mr. Black, you've said that that plan was put in writing. And we have access to review that and we'll do that. I'm assuming it outlines the requirements that you feel that you need to conduct this war effectively, outlining personnel requirements, resource requirements and perhaps also a review of what you may or may not be able to do because of legal requirements or executive orders and those types of things.
You then go through a process where, you know, the budget requests come to Congress. We pass a budget. Mr. Tenet then comes back and says, you know, Mr. Black, here's your resources. Here's what we've got for you. And then what happens at that point that you go back and you say to George and say, I can't do my job with this? And, you know, these are the risks that we are going to encounter.
BLACK: The essence of counterterrorism is -- or the problem of counterterrorism is the harder you work ...
BLACK: ... and the more effective you are, the more work you create for yourself.
BLACK: So you're in a constant state of requiring more and more to keep up with the problem. And the better you are, you know, the more agents you have, the more reports you produce, the more people you have overseas, the more work is generated, the more success you have. So there is essentially inherent in this kind of business a constant state of a relationship between the subordinate and a superior, me going to the director and say, you know, this is all we're doing and we've created this opportunity over here.
And then this has to be weighed, not only, first within the counterterrorism mission, you also have to think about things like Hezbollah and the Palestinians war with Jihad and the whole rest of it. So you have that going on. And that has to be if it goes outside of that process, then you have to be coordinated with the director and the director of operations in terms of other specific areas that are of key interest. But again, counterterrorism was always the highest priority.
HOEKSTRA: Yes. But the question that, I think, that maybe Mr. Roemer and I have is at the end of the day, you know, we along with the president are the ones that determine exactly under what constraints you're going to be operating under. And, you know, how do we get that information more clearly or more accurately or perhaps in a more timely basis that says, you know, I'm sorry, you haven't resource enough or you haven't put in place the proper frame work for us to do the job effectively. As a result of that, we're not going to be able to win this war on terrorism. We're fighting skirmishes. We're going to be -- you know, we are very, very vulnerable and we're opened up to these kind of risks.
BLACK: I think communication, certainly between the senior intelligence officers and members of the oversight committee is key. I must say that, you know, in the last two years, I have been before the oversight committee with, I think, regulatory. I think the congressman has validated that. My need for resources, the need, at least, certainly was conveyed almost every time I came.
HOEKSTRA: Mr. Watson, I'm a little concerned about what the planning process may be at the FBI in that, you know, if there's not that plan in place as to -- or you said that there's not a written plan in place.
WATSON: A war plan?
WATSON: I think that's an -- well, I know that's an accurate statement. We have priorities, though, that we establish. And the number one priority was Al Qaida and UBL. That is clearly articulated.
HOEKSTRA: It's a number one priority, but I don't know what -- if that doesn't translate into specific allocations of resources, specific allocations of personnel, and those types of things, I mean, I don't know what it means if you had a number one priority.
WATSON: True (ph). Yes.
HOEKSTRA: Do you have three number ones and the war on terrorism became number four, you know, the fourth number one priority?
WATSON: It's very helpful for the counterterrorism program to be a national program and say, -- let me see if I can explain this. At the field level, what do you want Little Rock to do with limited counterterrorism resources?
WATSON: And if they have somebody that's on, you know, a group that's number 30 on the list of priorities, it's a prioritization. And so, those priorities are set by us. And we say this is what the priorities are. That also equates to what we request through the budget cycle and the planning process of what we need. What do we need to do to address, resource wise, at headquarters for Al Qaida? We need more analysts. We need more agents. We need better technology. We need, you know, the intelligence piece to report to us, et cetera.
I don't want to mislead anybody by saying we didn't understand that process. I thought the question was do you have a five paragraph op order against Al Qaida and the war that was declared on them in '98. The answer to that was no. But did we understand what the threat was? Did we know what we were trying to do? Yes, it was and it drove the budget request as part of the budget request for counterterrorism. It also -- budget request included domestic terrorism issues. We had the winter Olympics coming, for instance. We had the problem out in Seattle with the World Bank and IMF and, I mean, resources drains like that. So, the aggregate budget was incorporated all the numbers.
HOEKSTRA: Mr. Black -- I'm sorry. I guess my time's up.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Witnesses, thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Hoekstra.
ROBERTS: Mr. Black, Mr. Watson, I only have five minutes. Bear with me. I have an observation and one question. My observation is cross current with some of my colleagues on this committee and the process that has been adopted by the joint inquiry staff and basically acquiesced to by the leadership of this committee. I have not acquiesced to it. My concern and frustration is that, while unintended, one of the results of this investigation has been to demoralize our intelligence community. These are the people, as you have pointed out, whose job it is to detect, deter terrorist acts against our citizens.
The Catch-22 of this process, it seems to me, is that in an attempt to learn our deficiencies, what went wrong prior to 9/11 and to fix it and to provide the public transparency through public hearings, not to mention the unfortunate leaks that we have seen, we have been the source, if not the instigator of what I call "got you" charges and also "got you" headlines. These now (ph) and specific insinuations and charges are media incendiary. They're controversial and they're political. We have seen a media frenzy as a result and increasing frustration and concern and anger on the part of the American people. Where was the smoking gun?
I say this knowing that mistakes were made. Hindsight is 20/20. We have an obligation for oversight and to ask the tough questions. I still believe the USS Cole is a microcosm of the challenges that we face and I don't think that was handled right. But my point is if we are all to assess responsibility, if not blame, that responsibility should not be selective. The responsibility for 9/11 also lies with the Congress, past and current policy makers and, yes, more comprehensive reporting by the nation's press.
Yet our process here is to pose questions to you that I define as pejorative in nature. Your only choice and response is the old "while I" answer. While I agree with you, sir, while I think we needed more resources, while I think we needed more analytical ability, let me point out that. You're in a Catch-22. You cannot provide any answers in full context to show there has been no smoking gun because the full context is classified unless it's leaked. And should it be made public, it would compromise sources and endanger lives.
My preference, shared by some on this committee, not a majority obviously, was not to stage public hearings until the investigation of the joint inquiry staff was complete and then report, then go public. But here we are. My question is the same I had from Monday's behind the scene witnesses. We are at war. The work of those in the intelligence community is crucial to the safety of our American people. One of the problems we face is risk aversion. I worry about the morale and the esprit de corps of our intel community.
Before I ask you to say how is your morale and how you're feeling about this and what is the morale at the community, the question referred to you earlier, Mr. Black, was from the joint inquiry staff briefing book. Now you remember the question. I think it was asked by Senator Durbin and I certainly don't mean to be pointing any fingers at him. A book, by the way, that was provided through this member as of this morning which is standard operating procedure. Had I wanted it earlier, I would have had to have gone to the chairman for permission to speak to the staff which is a little unique for this member in terms of the Senate and serving on any committee.
You've heard the questions. Let me tell you the rest of the story. After the question, there is a suggestion if not an instruction to members. And it is, Mr. Black will probably dissemble on this point and simply say that the press statement is accurate insofar as the total number, et cetera, et cetera. Next question and then there's some instruction. Mr. Black will probably dissemble on this point, too. I have a definition of dissemble from the dictionary. It says to hide under a false appearance, to put on the appearance of, to simulate, to put on a false appearance, conceal facts, intentions or feelings under some pretense.
You're almost on trial, sir. You're almost on trial. I have to apologize, you know, for that and for this book. You have my apologies. It's only me. I'm not speaking for the rest of the committee for the intended consequences of what I believe is an inspector general runaway train. I don't like it. And for me, I want you to apologize, Senator Pat Roberts, to your people in the FBI and the CIA, which I think is, I won't call it shameful, but it's damn close. How is the morale down at your place?
BLACK: Senator, you really made my day. This is so unfortunate. There is no one that I know that does counterterrorism that would dissemble to a representative of the American people. I've got to tell you something's getting out of hand here. I work for the American people. I'm a big boy. Let me tell you, I'm responsible for my people. And why do you think I came in here starting with, you know, pride for my people? Things happen. People die in war. No one regrets it more than us. But dissemble, mislead our people? No. It's like living a nightmare. What's going on here? I better stop. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Mr. Watson?
WATSON: I think it's been a long process since 9/11 and the finger pointing and looking at we should have done this or you should have done that. And the responsibility of that clearly rests with myself. And, you know, I don't duck any of those issues or those questions. Individuals that work down in those sections and the agents out in the field that work these problems are absolutely the best we have. They should be supported. And it's a disappointment.
ROBERTS: I thank you both. I think with the red light on, I've probably said enough.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator.
BURR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, or at least, I think thank you.
It's somewhat difficult to follow Senator Roberts because I think it's safe to say that there was not full agreement among members of the course that we're currently on. But the fact is that we've got the task to do it now and for that reason, you're here today. Let me move to a section that we've already covered to some degree. And that's the notification that went from either agency specifically to the aviation world about the potential threat. Let me for the purposes of your answer ask you to separate the FAA from the commercial airline industry and ask you was the alert that went out to one or to both, the alert that went out within the entire community about an imminent threat? Or was there a specific communication, either written or verbal that went out to the FAA and commercial airlines that was targeted specifically because of the fear of a commercial aircraft being used as a delivery system?
Mr. Watson, let me turn to you first.
WATSON: I don't know the answer to that question specifically, Congressman. I can't tell you if there was a circular that went to the commercial side or what notification. I'll be glad to get back and try to answer that question.
BURR: I would appreciate it.
WATSON: OK. Maybe we can have it by this afternoon closed session.
BURR: Thank you. Thank you. Mr. Black, anything that might have emanated from (inaudible) agency?
BLACK: Sir, I'd like to help you out on this, too. And I certainly do remember there were alerts and notifications going out. They have dates. And I think they certainly were pretty descriptive. I just don't want to answer the question right now because I don't have all the facts available to me. What I will do is I'll promise you so we'll get the information and get back to you.
BURR: I appreciate that.
BLACK: I don't want to misspeak here.
BURR: I appreciate that and I recognize that you can't be the wealth of 100 percent of what transpired. I think it's very important that we separate for the purposes of the answer, the FAA and the commercial airline industry specifically. If, in fact, this was an alert that went to the FAA but then was not disseminated to the airlines themselves, who, at the time, were primarily responsible for the security within the airports, I think that's an important aspect that we need to know.
BURR: By the same token, we would like to make sure that our system today for notification, heaven forbid that we were to have to put one out today, that if we had a similar situation where we believed there was a higher likelihood of a particular means of delivering the threat and that was a commercial airliner, that in fact, there might be a different alert that went to the FAA then went to general communities specifying why they should read it and act on it more quickly.
Let me, Mr. Watson, if I could, turn to you and ask you in hindsight on or about August 23, we put everything together as it related to Almihdhar and Alhazmi being in the United States. And the FBI began a process to find these individuals. Using hindsight as a tool, did we respond at that time like we should have? Or would you have responded differently looking back at it, i.e., did we put the correct number of people? Did we put the right people? Did we exhaust every possibility in what was a very short period of time, what ended up being a little over two weeks, to locate these individuals?
WATSON: That can be a short answer or a long answer. And I think the short answer is I don't have a problem with what we did after August 23. If you recall on the I 94, he lists his name on the I 94. He lists his sponsor as himself. He lists his occupation as fisherman. And he lists his place of staying as the Marriot, New York City. And there were 17 of those long gone from the Marriot in New York City, long gone if you want to take this and think this through, long gone from California.
BURR: Let me ask you, if I could because I've just got a couple seconds left.
WATSON: OK. Sure.
BURR: I understand that the focus was on Almihdhar. Was there an effort on Alhazmi to try to locate him? Because, in fact, he had an address that was in a phone book, though it wasn't current. He had an address that was the same under his own name on a visa extension that during the period he's in the country was granted. Was all the focus on Almihdhar and not on Alhazmi?
WATSON: It was on both. Absolutely on both. And if you recall, though, and I know your time's up and I'll be real short with the answer, long gone out of California. Yes, he was in the phone book. Yes, he got a loan. And there are a lot of clues there, but he's not in California on August 23.
BURR: I thank both of you for your willingness.
The chair has been very gracious. Thank you. I yield back.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Burr.
BAYH: Thank you.
Gentlemen, thank you for your testimony. I have five minutes. I have five questions so I'll try and move quickly and I'd be grateful to you if you could do the same.
Mr. Black, most of these questions are for you. As you stated, you were the head of CTC until, I think, about four months ago.
BLACK: Yes, sir.
BAYH: And in your prepared testimony, you had indicated that before 9/11 of last year, Hezbollah had really been perceived as probably the greatest terrorist threat. The question I have for you is could you give us the -- as of the date that you left CTC, can you give us the hierarchy of priorities? I assume Al Qaida was number one by that point.
BLACK: Yes, sir. I have to apologize if I misspoke. I didn't mean it like that. I said -- I was trying to convey the sense that there was not only Al Qaida. There was Hezbollah. And up until 9/11, Hezbollah had killed more Americans.
BLACK: So I'm not saying that they were (inaudible).
BAYH: So as of the date you left, it would have been Al Qaida, presumably would have been number one?
BLACK: Al Qaida would have been first. This is a list of particularly -- what I'd rather do is give you the criteria. Essentially, it makes it easier. The highest criteria for us are terrorist groups that say they want to kill us, have the capability to kill and have killed us in (inaudible). So essentially, if you look at that, that would be the highest. The greatest threat to the United States would be like Al Qaida.
BAYH: Let me cut to the chase.
BAYH: I was sort of laying a predicate there. As of May when you left, where would Iraq have been on the priority list of terrorist threats to our country?
BLACK: That's a good question, but it's sort of the wrong shop. That is a state's sponsored terrorism. I deal with the outgrowth of that. I don't specifically address countries (inaudible).
BAYH: Well, we're now in the business of trying to analyze the nexus between state sponsorship and other terrorist organizations. But in any event, with other questions, I'll just move on. That obviously is a question of some moment (inaudible).
BLACK: Yes, it is. And I don't think it would be a good idea, certainly, for me to address that here.
BAYH: The question of the use of lethal force, we can't get into that in any detail here. But, as you know, there's a prohibition against that. Occasionally, the chief executive of the country can authorize certain activities that don't involve that but might involve that. The lawyers get involved.
(UNKNOWN): ... intelligence, at least in the aggressive sense abroad. We're attempting to reconstitute that, but aren't quite where we need to be yet. And as a result of that, we're more reliant upon some of our allies who have the right assets in the right places. Mr. Black, how long, if I'm correct -- first of all, am I correct? And if so, how long will we be overly reliant upon others for that kind of capability? How long will it take us to reconstitute our human intelligence resources so that we can be more independent in terms of protecting our country?
BLACK: Well, I think we are independent. I think it's a combination of two (inaudible) ...
(UNKNOWN): Or have the assets that we really need.
BLACK: Have the assets that we really need is a function of resources and people. We have to put the trainers in place. We have to put the right kind of people here. We have to do much, much more. I hate to say this. This won't sound very clever. Of what we're doing already. Then we get the people out there and produce. I don't want to minimize the relationship with others.
(UNKNOWN): Well, my last comment was -- and again, thank you for the chair's forbearance. If given a blank check, how long would it take?
BLACK: A blank check. Use (ph) speculation, sir, I can give, you know, it depends what type of comprehensive defense you're looking for. There'll never be 100 percent. So you can give me everything and I can't get 100 percent. It would go down something from there. It would be speculative.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator.
Mr. Black, Mr. Watson, thank you for your presence here today. We've kept you what must have seemed like an eternity. It's been three hours and we appreciate that. Your testimony has been very helpful and very enlightening, not only just to the committee, but to those of us that have been able to listen and watch what's gone on.
I do have an announcement to make at the request of the chairmen. The committee will meet this afternoon in Senate 407. That's upstairs in the Capitol and it will be a closed session starting at 2:00 p.m. We will also, once again, return to this room Tuesday, October 1, at 10:00 a.m. and we will return to an open session.
With that, this meeting has been adjourned.
[????] - 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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