Well, we lost the World Trade Center.
Yes, but here we are a nation at peace going along and all of a sudden some bad
guys come along, and they are playing by different rules. They are not playing
by the rules of civilization. ... They're playing by barbaric rules that hardly
make sense. You can't logically get to the conclusion to do the kind of thing
they did in a rational, sane, human way. So they have simply come in and done
something that is, to us, unthinkable. ...
I'm sitting there at home, and I'm a taxpayer. I look at the budget, and it
says, "$10 billion a year for counterterrorism." The job of the intelligence
community is prediction and prevention, and the World Trade Center is not an
unusual target. It's not something that hasn't even been hit before, and they
take it down.
Yes. The point is, should we have known with specificity a date and a time and
a place that the Trade Center was going to be hit again? The answer is that I
wish I could say yes. But we do not have the capability right now to know all
of those things. ...
I know that there was much amusement in the phrase "new world order" after the
Soviet empire crumbled and the wall went down. Actually, things are different,
and you can describe it any way you want, but it is a new world. We have
different kinds of threats, and some of our defense capabilities and some of
our intelligence capabilities are designed for the old order. We need to
readjust them and design them for the new order. ...
We were talking with former officials, high officials of the FBI and others,
over the last couple of days about the whole problem of eavesdropping and
electronic surveillance and the realities of it, as opposed to sort of the
imagined fantasies of it. And one of the problems apparently has been having
the cumbersome nature of the FISA process, the process of getting affidavits
from a secret court [compared to getting permission in a criminal case under
Title 3]. It's my understanding that that has interfered in some cases with
actual eavesdropping in the last six months, with the actual overhearing of
I have heard of that problem. I have not heard of it as a major problem.
Compared to some of the other problems we have about honing the tools we need,
that has not been high on the chart. ... The attorney general, himself, I think
has addressed that issue already. There are so many other things that we need
to think about as well, however, that I think have been much more important in
terms of tying our hands or dampening our enthusiasm to take some of the
risk you need to take to get at these very hard targets, to penetrate into the
inner circles of the community that we are targeting. ...
There is no question that there has been a dampening effect on our operatives
overseas. There is no question that leaks have had a damaging effect on the
cooperation we've got from people around the world. There is no question that
we are not using all technology as well as we should and getting as much out of
There's quite a long list of things we can fix that we have been talking about
for a number of years, saying, "Please let us have a fix for these things."
Unfortunately, there has not been much response, because it has not been a
subject that has caught people's attention; now it has.
Do you back changing the presidential directive on assassinations?
I don't think you need to back it. I think that the use of lethal force as a
last resort in situations where you're trying to bring well-known criminals to
justice is a concept most Americans are fairly comfortable with. It doesn't
exactly go back to the "Wanted, Dead or Alive" poster. But the idea is, if
you've got a criminal, and you've gone through the proper identification
process, as you're trying to bring that person to justice, the person resists
and tries to take a shot at our law enforcement people or our operatives in the
field, I think that the possibility of lethal force is well understood. ...
Let me just make sure I understand. You don't believe we need to change the
presidential directive on assassinations?
I don't think it's necessary. I think it is very important
that we expand the number of arrows we have in the quiver of what I will call
covert action, and I don't mean covert action, capital C, capital A. I just
mean action that is not visible, where our hand doesn't show, or where you
don't necessarily know where it's coming from, but it changes the course of
events. It might be psychological warfare. It might be something going on in some
circles, that change of financial outcome somewhere to the disadvantage of a
terrorist. Things like that need to be expanded. We do not have a big enough
bag of tricks to work with. But the assassination piece, the lethality
question... We are a civilized nation. I don't think we are setting out where
the idea is the way to deal with this is to go assassinate somebody. I think
what we would start out with is we are going to catch that person and bring
them to justice. And I think that is the way to look at this.
So no poison cigars for Castro? That's still out. No hit man like the
Israelis might send to take out some leader of a Palestinian group?
I think in our system of government, there is a possibility of doing those
kinds of things under extreme last resort circumstances with the appropriate
So that would change the presidential directive.
I don't think it would change the presidential directive, if you read it
closely. My view is the president has the right to do that, but not an
unfettered right to do that.
What about dealing with people who kill American citizens and commit mass
murder or human rights violations in their own country; can we recruit them as
agents? As in the Guatemala situation that led to the 1995 rules...
The guidelines for agent recruitment are an area of great debate, and the
consequence of the dampening effect on [risk-taking] of some of our people, has
been unmistakable. We have lost something since 1995.
What is it? What did we lose?
What I am suggesting is that the concern about the political backlash of having
a flap in a foreign country, especially involving a human rights violator, is
so great that it isn't worth [it to] our operatives out there. It isn't just a
question of them being denied the opportunity to go do that. It's just the
smart people out there say, "This isn't worth going at the target this way.
I'll try and go at it another way." That's what's happened.
Has there been any intelligence failure because of that?
I would say yes. But ... how do you know what you don't know? ...
But have any of these restrictions impeded their ability to gather
In their view, yes. And that's the point. But if you go to the headquarters
personnel here and talk to the top brass, they say, "No, because we give
waivers. If they come in with a legitimate case, we'll give them a waiver." And
I think they've said, "We've never turned them down." So there's a
miscommunication going on here. ...
The whole issue is, at what level do you get approval to do that? That's
essentially been the discussion. Can you get this approval in the field any
more? No, you have to come home. You have to come to headquarters. Does
headquarters want to ... be put in a position where they have to make
these tough judgment calls? Not really. Therefore, if you're smart in the
field, you don't send a hard decision back to headquarters. ...
So the people who are blaming the Church committee hearings back in 1975,
former secretary of state...
That's another subject. ... The Church commission and the Pike commission,
those reports really went at the whole argument about, do we need intelligence?
Is intelligence so unsavory that we should not be in the business of
intelligence? Will it be abused against Americans? Those were the kinds of
questions. Will it be used for lethality in unwarranted situations? Those
questions came out. And it was a very pejorative, negative atmosphere. CIA
recruiters couldn't go to college campuses. All kinds of other sort of societal
sanctions were heaped upon the intelligence community, and the CIA in
The FBI has told us that they have had a problem over the last decade
because there are almost no Arab-speaking FBI agents, and they've had to build
up their capacity.
We literally don't speak their language. We have a shortage of people who
understand the dialects, the languages of those parts of the world where
Muslims come from.
You're right. ... Despite oversight committee recommendations of all the
appropriate committees and the appropriators and everybody else, we have not
been able to get the administration to listen to, in the past decade, the need
to invest in those capabilities; to diversify law enforcement agency and
intelligence agencies; and train sufficiently to get the job done that needs to
be done. ...
I recall back in the Aspin-Brown report as it came out, one of the main
findings we made after investigating the roles and capabilities of our
intelligence community back in the early 1990s was that we did not have the
right mix of skills. ... There's not enough money to train people to speak the
languages. There are not enough agents out there, enough officers out there, to
recruit agents who speak the languages. There are not enough agents out there
who speak the languages who are sympathetic to the United States of America and
what it stands for. ...
What would the benefit be from having agents who actually steeped in the
language, in the culture? What could they do for us in the
... They have the contacts. They know the culture. They know the places to go.
They know the nerve centers. They can go to the right coffee shop at the right
time and hear the right minister's aide talking to the other minister's aide
and get the right information. You could study that target forever and not know
that, unless you knew the local scene.
Those people are invaluable. We have fewer and fewer of them. And the tragedy
is we have not brought along the next generation of them. We're going to have a
generational gap of these people. We've lost them in droves in retirements.
We've lost some, tragically, in casualties. ...
So to call it maybe an intelligence failure leading up to September 11 is a
misnomer; it's almost a cultural failure to have the cultural ability to
understand what's happening.
I like your view of calling it a cultural failure if you need to call it a
Six thousand dead people is a failure.
Six thousand dead people, the way it happened, is an aberration of horror. The
fact it was committed by human beings is what makes it worse. The question of,
can you stop human beings like that on a day-in day-out basis? The answer is,
no. You simply cannot stop somebody who is bent on suicide and doing mayhem.
Now, can you stop something as organized as that? ... And even though it was
simple in its concept, it took some complication to make it all happen and
execute. You ought to be able to stop that. And the answer is, yes, we can
But you cannot go through the day every day on high alert. One of the biggest
problems we have had in the past six months with all of the alerts that we are
getting -- and we are getting them from walk-ins, we are getting them from all
of our sources, we're getting them from the rumor mill, we're getting them from
the usual suspects -- suddenly we've got this abundance of information coming
in, saying, "The sky is going to fall soon." ... How often can you keep your
troops on alert? ... You just can't keep them on alert every day, because after
a while, alert doesn't mean anything. ...
There are not enough people to examine all the information. We are inundated
with tidbits of information. Finding in these ever-growing haystacks the
nuggets, the needles that we need, has become increasingly difficult, because
the haystacks have taken on a culture of their own now. ...
We don't have enough analysts. We are hopelessly underinvested in analysts.
These are again, the language people, the people familiar with the culture, the
people who have actually been on the street in Khartoum or wherever you want to
go, who understand a little bit what this means.
Sitting in a chair one way might mean something to one person; it might be
unremarkable to somebody else. If you know the culture and see the way a person
is gesturing with his hands or his feet or something, you get a message that
you might not get if you don't understand the culture. So it is critical that
we have those people. We're horrendously underinvested in them. ...
It is what's referred to in the intelligence community as the "TPED" problem:
tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination. In other words, getting
the value-added part of a raw bit of information, consolidated, analyzed with
the smart look from the analysts; what this really means and signifies is
getting that in a timely way to the decision maker, to the battlefield
commander, to whatever the appropriate customer is. That is a problem that we
are, as I said, horrendously underinvested in. It's not the glamour part of the
business, but it's the essential part of the business.
We've got wonderful sensors. ... That's glamorous, in-place sensors. That's fun
stuff. But when it talks about going through reams and reams and reams and
reams of take, and say, "Does any of this stuff mean anything?" especially if
it's in a foreign language or in code or in some other thing, that's very hard
to deal with. That's hard work, and it takes a very dedicated person with a
great deal of concentration to do that job well, and a huge amount of
knowledge. And those people are hugely valuable, and they are probably
under-rewarded in the system.
And hard to come by.
Very hard to come by. People say, "Well, don't you share with the university
system or the private enterprise and so forth?" The answer is, we're doing that
more and more. ... We go to the people who are expert in these things and say,
"What do you think this means?" The intelligence community didn't use to do
The FBI tells us that if somebody at a flight school called in and said, "We
have somebody who's an Arab national who's taking flight training, and said, 'I
don't want to learn how to land...'"
They couldn't do anything about it. ... "And so what?" is exactly the answer.
They couldn't get a warrant. They couldn't do anything.
So, is that suspicious? Well, that wasn't suspicious until Tuesday. Now it's
very suspicious. So that's also part of the thing we have to guard against. You do enough of these things, then pretty soon every time somebody
forgets their shopping bag at lunch in department store in New York, somebody's
going to see that bag and say, "Whoops, that may be a bomb", and evacuate the
Do you think that everybody who goes to flight school ought to have to go
through an FBI investigation? Why? And if everybody who goes to flight school
has to go through an FBI investigation, does that mean everybody who wants to
get a license to be a ship captain or a navigator, or any other of the things
that we do in our life -- be an engineer in a railroad train, where you can
take what is a benign useful transportation function and turn it into a weapon
of terror [should have to go through an FBI investigation]?
You're talking about going at this the wrong way. What we have to do, I think,
to deal with the terrorist issue is exactly what the president said. You've got
to take out the network. You've got to remove most of the wherewithal, the
support, the feeling that there are safe harbors for those people anywhere.
A CIA officer told the New York Times, "You never stop all the
attacks, because you never hear about all of them. You just can't spy on all of
these groups. You have to destroy them, and that's not what the CIA has been
set up to do."
Do we need a James Bond agency that goes out and basically whacks
No, we don't. We don't need that. ... We have been trying to redefine our
defense capabilities to respond to the kinds of threats we have today, and
we're trying to do the same exact thing with intelligence, change the
capabilities we have. Do we need more arrows in the quiver of small "c," covert
action? The answer is yes. There is no doubt about that. Is it a James Bond
assassination squad? Certainly not. It's a great movie, but movies,
unfortunately, are not reality.
Back in the day when James Bond was popular, that was sort of the image of
intelligence. Those were, in many ways, the heydays. ... Now we're in the
position where we have had to overcome this sort of bad period where
intelligence is not only unfashionable, it's un-American, and we don't want to
do that any more. We've had to resist that, rebuild the financing for it,
rebuild the recruiting, rebuild the morale. It has been a very hard problem,
and we are caught a little short, and that's one of the reasons.
So when you say, *"Was this a cultural problem that we had?" The answer is
partly yes, because we decided that the world didn't need quite as much
intelligence, and we weren't sure what it exactly it should be. So we backed
off from some stuff. I can't say we would have prevented the tragedies of last
Tuesday if we'd had more intelligence. I'd just say the odds were higher that
we could have.
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