Counterterrorism Intelligence Capabilities and Performance prior to 9/11

It is good to be back with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee, where I used to serve.

I want to preface my comments on the Subcommittee’s report by saying that this is a report about gaps in the performance of several intelligence agencies. It is not about gaps in the dedication, commitment, and patriotism of the thousands of Americans who work in them – both here and abroad.

The report is designed to give good people better tools – more resources, access to watch lists, digital technologies, advanced platforms, better language training and career support.

My formal statement, which I believe you have, gives a detailed summary of the Subcommittee’s findings and recommendations for the NSA and FBI.

I will focus here on the issues of the most relevance to this panel.

First, let me note that this report is filled with specific findings and recommendations to improve the performance of these intelligence agencies. So was the report of the Bremer Commission, on which I served for two years. So are the reports of the Gilmore Commission, which this committee has authorized.

The recommendations of those reports have almost all been ignored. I would suggest that it is up to our committees to make sure that the good work that went into this report does not meet the same fate.

The intelligence community has implemented two recommendations, as Congressman Chambliss noted in his statement.

HPSCI has pushed for some additional language-related fixes in the FY03 authorization. One unclassified program is support for the National Security Education Program, providing $10M additional annual funding for a new Flagship Language Initiative that supports the best universities at teaching key languages such as Arabic and Farsi, and creating stronger service opportunities in intelligence jobs for NSEP students after their language and cultural training.

Much of the language capabilities for the intelligence community are part of the military. I urge this panel to continue to support language training resources, and to explore ways to increase utilization of these resources to intelligence personnel where possible.


The Subcommittee’s principal finding for the FBI, in fact the most important finding in the report, was the need to share information better.

Your committee is familiar with bureaucratic stovepipes and fiefdoms that prevent effective sharing of information. The same problems exist in the intelligence community, and especially internally in the FBI.

We recommend improvements in culture, organization, and information technology.

Also, as recent press coverage has indicated, there has been high turnover in counterterrorism leadership at FBI this summer, partly a result of the grueling pace they’ve faced in dealing with the terrorist threat. FBI agents have shown incredible dedication but had weak counterterrorism tools at their disposal.

We need to demand that their successors push even harder to make the changes necessary to fight terrorism. This turnover is a window of opportunity to implement the wide range of changes necessary to enhance the FBI's prevention mission - improve intelligence collection, improve analysis, change the culture of sharing information horizontally and vertically, and build new information technology architecture to support these new priorities.


Most importantly, the culture of NSA must change from that of a “gatherer” of information to a “hunter.” There is simply too much information out there. The challenge is to go after the information that will be useful.

The National Security Agency has the enormous task of monitoring communications and other signals intelligence (SIGINT). More than human intelligence at the CIA or investigations at the FBI, these NSA responsibilities have expanded extensively due to modern information technology and telecommunications.

Al Qa’ida is digital – existing in disparate cells and planning attacks using the Internet and disposable cell phones. The NSA must counter this technology with better technology of its own. Our report recommends improvements to the acquisition and use of such technology.

As the Department of Defense and armed forces develop improved communications capabilities, both of our committees should ensure similar advances at the NSA.

Homeland Security

Beyond these findings in the report, I want to address the Department of Homeland Security and some related issues.

Of special interest to the Armed Services Committee – how will the Department of Homeland Security interact with the Pentagon, in particular with the Northern Command and National Guard?

Coordinating these forces will be absolutely critical for success in the war against terrorism, which I would call the war of our future. The troops and weapons look different, but homeland security is the national security of today and tomorrow.

The House version of the Homeland Security bill included the creation of a Homeland Security Council in the White House, patterned on the National Security Council, to make sure this coordination occurs.

Your experience with the NSC will prove invaluable to making the HSC work, and your support for this concept in the Senate debate and conference is critical to passing the right organization.

Secondly, the private sector has a different role in homeland security than in military applications. All the big defense contractors, many of whom have facilities in my district, now have entire homeland security divisions. This is where government funds are, and this is where their unique capabilities and resources are sorely needed.

I would add that these companies will have much to contribute to homeland security by virtue of their defense background. Conversely, they will have more to add to military matters by virtue of their work in homeland security.

These companies are now looking for the right ways to get involved in homeland security, and finding no entrance to the federal government. There is no equivalent to a Pentagon office for acquiring new technologies for chemical detection or biological antidote.

The Department of Homeland Security bill passed by the House and pending in the Senate both have language creating a “clearinghouse” for homeland security technologies. This front door to the department for private companies to demonstrate products and identify the right federal procurers. It is based in concept on the DoD Technical Support Working Group.

Other lessons for homeland security derived from the military include chain of command, interoperable communications, and situational awareness.

There is a great deal of shared interest in our committees in homeland security, and we need to overcome turf concerns to do homeland security right.