Congressional Record: February 3, 2004 (Senate)
Page S385-S388

                          INTELLIGENCE LESSONS

  Mr. GRAHAM of Florida. Mr. President, yesterday I spoke to the Senate 
relative to my assessment of the responsibility for the attacks of 
September 11, 2001, some of the lessons learned from those attacks, and 
the status of the implementation of those lessons. I explained that my 
view was that those terrible events would have been prevented if our 
national intelligence community had been better organized and more 
clearly focused on the problem of terrorism. And if the Congress and 
the President had drawn on those lessons learned from the tragedy of 9/
11 and initiated reforms of the intelligence community, we might well 
have avoided some of the embarrassments of the flawed intelligence on 
weapons of mass destruction or the misleading use of that intelligence 
which formed the basis of the war against Iraq. Today I would like to 
continue my discussion of those lessons that we should have learned and 
  As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for most 
of the 107th Congress, I had the honor of cochairing a bipartisan, 
bicameral committee charged with investigating the events of the 
intelligence community and their activities before and after the 
attacks of September 11. We set out to determine whether or not there 
was anything more we could have done to prevent the attacks and, 
specifically, if our intelligence community had problems that needed to 
be corrected.
  The importance of our task was well understood. The 9/11 attacks were 
not the work of a crazed individual but, rather, were the result of a 
sophisticated plot carried out by a group of 19 terrorists and an 
undetermined number of facilitators who prepared for the execution of 
their plot over a period of almost 2 years. We can, we must, improve 
our ability to detect and disrupt plots of this nature. We can do so by 
ensuring that our intelligence-gathering networks are operating in an 
optimal manner and that any flaws in our intelligence community are 
addressed as quickly and effectively as possible.
  Our committee identified a number of problems with our current 
intelligence-gathering system. We followed up with recommendations on 
how to fix these problems. By conducting this inquiry, making these 
recommendations, Congress not only assumed the responsibility for 
determining what happened before and after September 11 as related to 
our intelligence community, but it also assumed a responsibility 
relative to the implementation of the recommendations.
  The American people will respond to future terrorist attacks by 
asking: What did we learn from the previous attack and how has that 
information been used to give the American people greater protection? 
They have the right to ask this question and we have an obligation to 
give them a good answer: What have you done with the information and 
the lessons learned? How have you implemented those lessons in a way to 
give me and the American people a greater sense of security?
  So far, we have not made acceptable progress toward providing an 
answer to the American people. In fact, if we had to give it today, it 
would not be an answer of which we would be proud.
  A large number of the problems identified by the joint inquiry and a 
series of commissions which preceded the joint inquiry have not been 
addressed. In my previous statement, I discussed those recommendations 
which related specifically to the issue of counterterrorism. This 
morning, I would like to address those recommendations which deal with 
the structure of the intelligence community.
  Our national intelligence community is beset by a number of serious 
problems. There is a lack of leadership at the top and the absence of a 
coordinated national intelligence policy that gives us agencies with 
priorities, missions, and resources that do not necessarily complement 
one another.
  As an example, in December of 1998, the Director of Central 
Intelligence, the man who has the statutory responsibility for the 
coordination of all of our various intelligence agencies, told senior 
managers of the CIA that he considered the United States to be at war 
with al-Qaida and that the intelligence community, all of its agencies, 
working in a coherent manner, should devote as many resources as 
possible to combating that terrorist organization.
  While this statement might seem to be a positive step, a step in the 
right direction, our joint inquiry found that the DCI was either unable 
or unwilling to enlist other intelligence agencies in this effort. The 
troops either didn't hear or simply ignored the bugle call of war.
  The lack of consistent, coordinated priorities is paralleled by a 
lack of consistent, predictable funding as well as the lack of internal 
accountability. This shortage of resources meant that the intelligence 
community simply did not have enough personnel to perform all the 
functions that were needed. This left the intelligence community ill-
prepared to deal with the rapidly changing terrorist threat.
  One of the reasons for the unpredictability and decline of funding of 
the intelligence community was the mistaken belief that the end of the 
cold war yielded a peace dividend for the American people when it came 
to defense spending, including a reduced need to spend money on 
  Mr. President, in fact, the change from the single focus on the 
Soviet Union and its allies to the current world of diverse, constantly 
changing, emerging threats such as weapons of mass destruction and 
international terrorist groups has increased demand and, therefore, the 
cost of intelligence.
  The first recommendation made by our commission urges the creation of 
a Cabinet-level director of national intelligence, appointed by the 
President and subject to Senate confirmation. We made this our first 
recommendation because we think it is the most important recommendation 
and one that can do the most to prevent another 9/11 tragedy. I 
gratefully recognize the excellent work of Senator Feinstein in 
championing this issue.
  The director of national intelligence would be responsible for 
establishing consistent priorities for all of our national intelligence 
agencies and assuring that these agencies work together, rather than 
independently, by coordinating budgets and resources and managing 
interagency relationships. We made this recommendation because of the 
obvious need for strong leadership in our intelligence community.
  It is clear that prior to 9/11 our intelligence-gathering agencies 
had no comprehensive strategy for counterterrorism. Intelligence 
priorities were inconsistently formulated and applied throughout the 
various agencies and were not effectively leveraged through interagency 
coordination. The joint inquiry report offers specific details of FBI 
supervisors who thought there was no need to pay attention to Saudi 
citizens in the United States while at the same time the CIA was 
tracking suspected Saudi terrorists around the world.
  The director of the national security agency, which is responsible 
for our electronic eavesdropping, described the problem of unclear 
priorities when he said: ``We had about 5 number 1 priorities.''
  Although the Director of Central Intelligence is normally the head of 
the intelligence community, in practice he

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has functioned as the head of one of those agencies, the CIA, with 
limited influence over other organizations. The limited ability of the 
Director of Central Intelligence to mobilize other intelligence 
agencies in the war against al-Qaida is a tragic example of this point. 
Before 9/11, personnel in many intelligence agencies--particularly the 
FBI--had not even heard his statement on the topic, let alone acted 
upon it.
  The DCI does have some budgetary authority, but it cannot be 
exercised effectively without the cooperation of the Department of 
Defense since many intelligence agencies are run through the Department 
of Defense. It is therefore necessary to appoint a strong director of 
national intelligence who is not the head of any specific intelligence 
agency. This is a recommendation which has been consistently made by 
citizens, commissions, and governmentally appointed commissions which 
have reviewed the intelligence community in the recent past.
  So far, Congress and the administration have not acted on this first 
recommendation and indeed appear to be moving in the opposite 
direction. The recent creation of an Under Secretary of Defense for 
Intelligence will serve to further separate the Defense Department from 
the civilian intelligence agencies rather than improving cooperation. 
Legislation has been introduced to accomplish this 
necessary restructuring, but as of this date it has not had a hearing 
before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  This is an issue which now sits upon the shoulders of the Congress. 
If we fail to act, we will be held accountable when the next 
preventable terrorist act occurs.
  Another important recommendation was No. 11, which called for the 
recruitment and development of greater numbers of quality intelligence 
personnel. Obviously, the need for more counterterrorism training is a 
major part of this recommendation, as is the need for more linguists 
and an expanded intelligence community reserve corps that could provide 
relevant expertise when special circumstances arise.
  The committee also recommends an expansion of education grant 
programs, such as the national security education program. Included 
among the suggestions for improving the workforce was one calling for 
legislation that instills the concept of jointness or interoperability 
among the various agencies. This is similar to the 1986 Goldwater-
Nichols Act, which applied the concept of jointness to the military. 
One way jointness has been instilled in the military is by having 
service members serve tours of duty with another service or in a 
multiservice command. This reform is widely recognized as having 
substantially improved our military's ability to fight and win wars, as 
was so dramatically demonstrated in Iraq.
  In the intelligence community, there is too much isolation among 
intelligence agencies and between those agencies and the users of 
intelligence. As an example, the intelligence community, having 
examined the likely means of attack by al-Qaida, identified hijacking 
of commercial airliners to be used as weapons of mass destruction as a 
particularly significant part of the arsenal of al-Qaida. However, the 
Federal Aviation Administration was not notified of this new form of 
threat. Therefore, the training and protocols of flight crews had been 
to not attempt to resist hijackers but, rather, to succumb until the 
plane was on the ground and then let other law enforcement and 
professionals attempt to negotiate with the hijackers, and that was the 
form of action that was still in place on September 11.
  Possibly, had the FAA been aware of this new threat of taking command 
of a plane not for economic or political purposes but to use it as a 
weapon, airlines would have been better prepared to deal with this 
particular generation of hijackers. We need our intelligence community 
to substantially improve its capability in the same way that the 
military has.
  By working and training on a joint basis, intelligence agencies can 
conserve resources and help personnel gain an appreciation for a wider 
variety of intelligence-gathering tactics and techniques. If this 
recommendation had been implemented earlier, it could have reduced our 
  Our joint inquiry found that a shortage of staff was a near universal 
problem for intelligence agencies before 9/11. For instance, at the 
CIA's counterterrorism center, employees were required to work 
extremely long hours with no relief. Overworking these critical 
personnel made them less effective and lowered their morale to the 
point where retention had become a problem. Problems similar to that of 
the CIA's counterterrorism center existed at the FBI, the National 
Security Agency, and the shortage of Arabic linguists at the National 
Security Agency became especially pronounced. Linguists continue to be 
in short supply, in part because qualified linguists cannot be trained 
  Counterterrorism training has been stepped up in other areas, but 
raising our capabilities to an adequate level will still require more 
personnel with enhanced and expanded training.
  The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 included 
pilot programs for training students who will form the future of the 
intelligence community.
  No legislation regarding jointness has yet been passed despite the 
clear, positive results achieved by previous efforts in similar and 
relevant parts of the Federal Government.
  The joint terrorism task forces set up by the FBI have had some 
success in bringing together officials from different agencies. It was 
one of these groups which was responsible for the capture of Zaccaria 
Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. If more of these task forces 
had been set up before 2001, and if those that did exist had all the 
personnel they needed to be effective, we can only imagine what might 
have been accomplished, what might have been prevented.
  Recommendation No. 12 regards our national intelligence budget and 
suggests several measures to ensure our investments in intelligence 
provide maximum benefits. It calls for more flexibility in the budget 
to be accompanied by greater oversight and raises the idea of a cost-
benefit analysis by an independent agency.
  It also urges the President and the Congress to develop a budget that 
includes a sustained, long-term investment in counterterrorism to 
replace the unpredictable funding stream that currently exists. 
Providing the intelligence community with an adequate level of base 
funding would obviously increase budget stability and assist in long-
term planning.
  Contrary to that, for the past several years, counterterrorism 
programs have been funded primarily through supplemental appropriations 
which were often in response to a specific event, such as the September 
11 tragedy, and therefore the supplemental appropriations varied 
greatly from one year to the next.
  Intelligence officials who were interviewed by our joint inquiry were 
understandably critical of this system since it makes it more difficult 
to plan sustainable counterterrorism programs. This dynamic still 
persists, despite its obvious flaws, despite its obvious contribution 
to the increased--the unnecessarily increased--vulnerability of the 
American people.
  There have been significant increases in our intelligence budget, but 
in 2003, a substantial portion of our counterterrorism budget still 
came from supplemental appropriations.
  Another problem with the intelligence budget is the way it is tied to 
the Defense Department's budget. During the 1990s, we made significant 
cuts to the Defense Department budget, and the intelligence budget was 
cut proportionately.
  While the end of the cold war meant we could reduce the size of our 
Armed Forces, intelligence requirements actually increased due to the 
diversification of the threat. In addition, greater budget stability in 
our efforts to fight terrorism would be better served by greater budget 
flexibility. It is currently quite difficult for intelligence officials 
to shift resources from one priority to the other as circumstances 
require. Even small adjustments require prolonged formalized approvals.
  For instance, a number of CIA officials were aware of the need for 
more agents in Afghanistan prior to 2001 but were unable to reassign 
resources away from other priorities. The Director of the National 
Security Agency has discussed similar problems. The 2004 Intelligence 
Authorization Act permits the

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Director of Central Intelligence to authorize the employment of 
additional civilian personnel if he believes this is necessary.
  This is a small step in the right direction, but more flexibility is 
still needed. This flexibility must be accompanied by increased 
congressional oversight.
  It became apparent during the course of our joint inquiry that the 
intelligence community does not have a clear idea of how much money it 
spends on counterterrorism, and accounting methods vary among the 
different agencies.
  In light of this, it seems appropriate that a cost-benefit analysis 
from an outside agency would be very helpful, but so far no real 
efforts have been made to undertake such a step.
  Recommendation No. 15 suggests that the President and the Congress 
evaluate and consider revising the intelligence classification process. 
This task would pursue the twin goals of expanding access to important 
information and assuring that classified intelligence information is 
not disclosed inappropriately.
  The current system of intelligence classification is not the result 
of a thoughtful, open debate, but is, rather, the product of a series 
of Executive orders rooted in cold war mentality and issued with little 
or no consultation of Congress.
  Many people with extensive knowledge of the system have suggested 
there is a tendency toward too much secrecy and that this has had a 
predictably negative effect on the flow of information.
  There was an interesting column recently in the New York Times 
talking about one of the core problems within the Government of Saddam 
Hussein prior to the war, and that was that all parts of that society 
practiced secrecy and deception; that the army deceived Saddam Hussein 
as to just what it was doing to prepare for war; scientists deceived 
Saddam Hussein as to the state of their development of weapons of mass 
destruction; Saddam Hussein attempted to fool the people of Iraq, and 
our intelligence agencies were fooled by all of the above.
  Allowing an increase in a curtain of secrecy to fall over the 
information of our United States agencies will have the same effect the 
veil of secrecy did in Iraq, and that is to make us less secure, more 
vulnerable because we have not shared information in a way that can 
increase our security.
  By treating so much of this information as treasure to be guarded, 
intelligence agencies can actually reduce the information's usefulness. 
By reducing biases toward excessive secrecy, Congress and the President 
can help make sure more information gets to the people who need it, 
particularly those such as first responders, local government, law 
enforcement officials, and Federal agencies, such as the Federal 
Aviation Agency.
  There is a suspicion among many Americans--and I believe it is 
justified--that classification is being used to shield politically 
embarrassing information from public scrutiny, as was the case with the 
information on the role of foreign governments in the September 11 
  Unfortunately, little progress has been made so far in the task of 
reviewing the use of classified information, particularly in the area 
of intelligence. The Intelligence Authorization Act requires the 
President to report on the barriers to sharing classified information. 
Congress has not yet given serious consideration to this important 
  Another very important recommendation issued by the joint committee, 
which has also been largely ignored, is recommendation No. 16, which 
calls for a new standard of accountability in the intelligence 
community. Given the continued and increasing use of intelligence 
information in our national policymaking, whether it is to fight 
terrorism, to determine the true capability of a potential adversary, 
or to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it is 
critically important that we have accountability mechanisms in place 
that review intelligence agencies' failures in order to learn from 
those mistakes. To date, no personnel in intelligence or other affected 
agencies has been sanctioned as a result of the tragedy of September 
  It is also true that no one has been sanctioned for the apparently 
incorrect intelligence assessments upon which the case to go to war in 
Iraq was predicated. Weapons of mass destruction alleged to exist in 
Iraq have not been found and, according to David Kay, our lead 
investigator, it is unlikely they will ever be found. This raises in 
stark terms the responsibility of the President to determine who is 
accountable for intelligence failures and what should be the 
appropriate sanction of those responsible.
  It is as though the chairman of the steamship company that owned the 
Titanic put all of the blame for the tragedy on the iceberg and 
declared that was the end of it; the captain of the ship would be let 
off scot-free.
  At the same time, it is unclear if any rewards or recognitions have 
been given for outstanding performance in the intelligence community, 
outstanding performance such as that of those who contributed to the 
capture of Saddam Hussein.
  If we want our intelligence agencies to be as good as they can be and 
they must and should be, then we must assure that they have systems in 
place to reward exceptional performance and to deal with bad 
performance appropriately. Currently, there are no systems performing 
this function and all attempts to bring accountability to our 
intelligence-gathering programs have been made in an ad hoc manner. We 
must demand that the intelligence community establish standards of 
accountability since reliable intelligence is critical to our security 
as citizens and our credibility as a nation.
  The last recommendation I would like to address today is No. 17. This 
calls for the removal of inappropriate and obsolete barriers between 
intelligence and law enforcement agencies engaged in counterterrorism. 
It advises the administration to report to Congress regarding the 
removal of these barriers so that Congress can take whatever 
legislative actions are appropriate.
  Our joint inquiry found that the various agencies engaged in 
counterterrorism have been surprisingly reluctant to share information 
with each other. Example: In the months before the September 11 attack, 
the CIA was aware of two terrorists associated with al-Qaida, Khalid 
al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. These two terrorists had attended a 
planning session in Malaysia, a session at which both the attack on the 
USS Cole, which was to occur in November of 2000, and the attack on the 
World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the failed effort that ended in a 
field in Pennsylvania had been discussed.
  Both of these terrorists attended a planning conference for purposes 
of proceeding with those two terrorist attacks, and then acquired visas 
for travel to the United States, because the CIA had not informed law 
enforcement or border protection agencies of the threat posed by these 
individuals. The FBI and other agencies did not seem to have received 
this information which could have helped disrupt the 9/11 attack.
  Similarly, the FBI prevented its agents from participating in an 
effort to track down these terrorists on the grounds that this was not 
a job for criminal investigators. The FBI was reluctant to share 
information regarding counterterrorism because of concerns about legal 
barriers preventing collaboration between intelligence and law 
enforcement agencies. These concerns sprang partly from an overly 
restrictive Department of Justice policy and partly 
from misunderstanding among agents regarding the law. Sharing of 
intelligence information with law enforcement agencies was seen as 
particularly difficult, almost taboo. This was a clear contradiction of 
the law that existed prior to September 11.
  Legal considerations also seem to have impaired information sharing 
by the National Security Agency and the CIA as well. However, these 
agencies, particularly the CIA, were also motivated by an overly 
zealous desire to protect sources. While protecting sources and methods 
is certainly an important goal, these sources and methods are not very 
useful if we cannot effectively use the information they provide to us.
  From a legislative point of view, significant progress has been made 
in this area. Congress has passed legislation removing legal 
restrictions regarding

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the sharing of intelligence information. Agency heads have updated 
obsolete and inappropriate guidelines. Intelligence community personnel 
now seem to have a much clearer picture of what methods and actions are 
available to them.
  Unfortunately, while the legislative barriers to information sharing 
have been removed, the fact is that effective information sharing is 
still not taking place between intelligence and law enforcement, and 
this is a special problem between Federal intelligence and law 
enforcement agencies and State and local law enforcement.
  I frequently hear complaints that agency culture, habit, and inertia, 
have preserved problems that should have been solved, making this yet 
another area in which the lessons of 9/11 have not been learned and not 
been applied effectively.
  September 11 was a wake-up call. It alerted us to the fact that our 
intelligence agencies were not performing at the level required during 
this era of terrorism. We have just received our first report card. The 
report card is to tell us how well we have done since September 11 in 
applying lessons learned to the greater protection of the American 
people. We have received a grade of F. The false assertion of large 
stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq demonstrates that we 
have not yet made the reforms to our intelligence agencies that are 
  The next report card will come when we have the next intelligence 
failure. The President and the Congress will both be held accountable 
if we have not acted on these necessary reforms to protect the safety 
of the people of America.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from 
Florida for his extraordinarily enlightening and very helpful 
discussion in this series of speeches he is giving this week. I think 
we would all do well not only to listen but to read and to thoughtfully 
consider much of what he has shared with us. He speaks with experience 
and extraordinary credibility, and I applaud him for taking the time 
and making the effort that he has to bring this important issue before 
us in a meaningful way.