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interview: jeffrey smith

What does the CIA need a lawyer for? [Is it] because the CIA is heavily regulated, but the Pentagon isn't? Maybe you could explain that.

Yes. The Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1948 by the National Security Act, and in creating that, there were some initial laws that set it up. There were lawyers there from the very beginning. But in the mid-1970s, there were two congressional investigations that grew out of Watergate, essentially the Church committee in the Senate and the Pike committee in the House. Those two committees recommended an elaborate series of laws and regulations to oversee the conduct of U.S. intelligence activities. President Ford signed an executive order that regulated U.S. intelligence activities. Then two permanent committees, one in the House and one in the Senate, were created to oversee the U.S. intelligence community.

The result of all of that is that an elaborate, extensive and complex web of laws, executive orders and regulations, governs the conduct of U.S. intelligence activities. No comparable law governs the regulation of U.S. military activity. The only thing that comes anywhere close is the War Powers Resolution, also passed in that same era, which is widely ignored.

So you have the ironic situation of the most secret, sensitive operations of the United States government are heavily regulated with frankly, lots of lawyers involved; very complex, presidential findings are required to be signed prior to the conduct of any covert activity.... The Congress requires by statute that the president execute a signed finding. It's called a finding because if the president says, "I find that this activity is necessary for the national security of the United States," it is then described in considerable detail; the president signs it by hand; it is then provided to the two intelligence oversight committees in Congress. It's often provided to the Appropriations Committee and the Armed Services Committees. Then detailed explanations of those covert activities are given to the Congress prior to the conduct of the operation.

No such rule or regulations governs the conduct of U.S. military operations. So you have the irony of a stack of regulations that must be this high, governing secret intelligence activities, with lots of people in Congress informed about it. And the comparable regulations governing the movement of U.S. forces and the conduct of U.S. military operations is tiny.

The sad fact of the matter is it keeps a lot of lawyers busy. The good news is that, over time, we have figured out ways to conduct necessary intelligence activities and comply with the law, but still largely do what needs to be done. But it clearly "gums up the works" as we try to put together intelligence activity. It risks disclosures, because every time additional people know about activities, there is a greater risk of leaks. But we have largely found a way to make it work.

about jeffrey h. smith

Jeffrey H. Smith was general counsel of the CIA from 1995 to 1996, during which time he was instrumental in drafting new regulations governing the conduct of U.S. intelligence activities. Here, he reflects on claims that those regulations -- as well as regulations prohibiting political assassinations and governing the surveillance of foreign agents -- have hamstrung the intelligence community. Although some procedures and policies may need review, he concludes those policies did not necessarily lead to the intelligence failure of Sept. 11, 2001. He warns that the regulations were put in place for good reasons and should not "be thrown out just because of this one terrible intelligence failure." This interview was conducted mid-September 2001.

Recently, there've been comments that the reason we didn't know about September 11 is because of these bureaucratic requirements--the ban on assassinations which came out of the Church committee hearings, and this bureaucracy that's been created, if you will--that make people in the field risk averse. True?

I don't know the answer to that. I think it is a fair and good question to ask. As former President Bush has said, we ought to look at all of those rules and regulations to determine if we have it right. I'm not certain, in my own mind, that these rules and regulations really inhibited our ability either to penetrate the terrorist organizations, or to find out why--what was coming. It's an enormously difficult intelligence task; made, no doubt, somewhat more difficult by these rules. But I'm not persuaded that they necessarily meant that... I'm not sure that they necessarily lead to the failure.

You say "intelligence task," and...frankly, the word "intelligence" gets thrown around, now, every day, thousands of times a day. What we're really talking about is the ability to secretly get someone inside an organization or secretly plant an eavesdropping mechanism of some kind to find out what's going on. Is that what we're talking about in this case?

Yes. In an ideal situation, the United States, either on its own or working with its allies, would be able to recruit a source, a human source inside these terrorist organizations, or a series of sources very close to them. You can learn a lot about a terrorist group by getting people who aren't necessarily in the heart of it--but who might be on the penumbra of it; that is to say, associated with it in one way or another--[who] can tell you what they're up to.

But it takes a series of those people to provide you that kind of information. It is clear that, over time, these terrorist organizations have become much more sophisticated with respect to the use of the internet, to the use of encrypted messages, moving money in a manner that's much more difficult to detect. Oddly enough, they have learned how we track them by our successes. And we have had a series of successes, over the years, in breaking up terrorist organization.

But while you were in the CIA as its general counsel, didn't we retrieve Ramzi Yousef...and did all kinds of things, internationally, with this kind of restriction and bureaucracy in place?

Yes. That point that a number of us have made, including former President Clinton, is that we have had a substantial and quite remarkable number of successes against terrorist groups prior to this terrible recent attack in September. We did successfully retrieve Ramzi Yousef, the individual responsible for the World Trade Center bombing, working overseas and in cooperation with foreign governments.

We also got the man who murdered three people outside the CIA in 1993, again, working overseas, by successfully managing to penetrate these groups. There are a number of other successes where we've broken up terrorist organizations, where we've prevented attacks before they occurred. The tragedy is, in this case, we didn't. And as I say, these organizations have developed their own counterintelligence operations; that is to say, activities that they undertake to try to block our ability to penetrate them.

One of those successes, while you were in there--it was thought it was a success--was forcing the Sudanese government to expel Osama bin Laden. We pressured them to do that.


But it backfired.

Every action has a reaction, and it's hard to predict what will happen when we take something that, at the time, seems a very sensible and responsible thing to do. At the time everybody thought that was a success. But he has been able to regroup in Afghanistan, and has gotten support from the Taliban. So I'm not criticizing it. You know, nobody can predict the future.

In your experience--because you start with the Cold War--[as] we come to the present, to modern-day terrorism in the post-Soviet era, has it been really a breakdown not so much of intelligence, but of cultural understanding of what we're dealing with?

Well, in many respects it was much easier to deal with the Soviet Union. We successfully managed a balance of nuclear terror with the Soviets for 50 years, nearly, and we didn't blow one another up. And that's a huge achievement, candidly.

Dealing with these groups is much, much more difficult. They are, as often said, para-statal; they're not a government; they're not a state; but they have many of the attributes of a state. They're big, they're well financed, they're secretive, they operate outside of ordinary established legal channels. They enjoy support across a number of governments. Very, very difficult to deal with.

We don't have formal relations with them like we did with the Soviet Union. We don't have a series of back channels with them like we did with the Soviet Union, and they don't behave in a responsible fashion like, at the end of the day, the Soviets did, with respect to managing their nuclear weapons. It's a fundamentally different situation and we're going to have to look at the way we conduct our business, at the way we confront it, and at the way we fight it.

The CIA's job is to predict and prevent damage to the United States.

It didn't happen this time.

Yes. Terrible failure. The CIA was created in 1948 to prevent another Pearl Harbor, and their most important job is warnings of attacks on the United States. That's what they spend a lot of time on, and in this case, it was a terrible failure. Nobody feels that more than the U.S. intelligence agencies. And as we speak, they're working as hard as they can, pouring every resource, every ounce of energy they can into finding out who did this, finding out whether there are any future attacks being planned, and trying to prevent it.

But there is no way to say this other than it was a terrible failure, and to learn the lessons from it that we must.

The difference with Pearl Harbor is that in the wake of Pearl Harbor, within ten days, the admiral who was in charge of the Pacific Fleet at the time, was demoted, and a national, if you will, compromise was worked out, where we said we wouldn't investigate until the end of the war to figure out exactly what should be done in the future. In this case, it just seems as if we're continuing on. What is our intelligence community up to?

Well, they have been very successful in the past. They have predicted a number of things. They have been able to prevent a number of terrorist actions--everything from drug activities in Central and South America, the U.S. intelligence community has been successful in; but they've had terrible mistakes. The downing of the innocent airplane over Peru is clearly another example of a failure.

This is a very difficult business, and chemical and biological weapons are particularly difficult to attack. If you can brew beer, you can make a biological weapon. If you think for a moment about the number of breweries in the world, is it reasonable to expect that any organization could identify every brewery in somebody's garage, in some obscure part of the world, that might be trying to "cook" a biological weapon that they want to launch against the United States? It is physically not possible, and I think that nothing would be served by having an exercise in keelhauling U.S. senior intelligence officials right now.

Nobody feels worse than they do. Nobody is more dedicated than they are, right now, to finding out what went wrong, fixing it and preventing this in future. My own view is that we ought to look at the procedures and rules under which they operate. We ought to look at the manner in which cooperation occurs or doesn't occur between the U.S. intelligence community and the law enforcement community. We ought to look at the way in which our government deals with foreign governments, the amount of information shared back and forth, and we need to build the kind of coalitions that the president is talking about.

Let talk about the conflict between law enforcement and intelligence for a minute.... One of the things that I've had to learn about recently is something called FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act]--or intelligence affidavits that go to a secret court. And those are done for intelligence reasons. Then there's Title 3, which is criminal cases.

... Prior to 1978, the law was that the president, on his own, could authorize the interception of electronic communications in the United States for national security purposes without a warrant.

That is to say, the president could order the wiretap of an American citizen if he thought that this person was operating on behalf of a foreign power, was a spy. We could also target foreign installations in the United States, that is to say, embassies, and so on, without a warrant.

But in the mid-1970s, when it was discovered that sort of thing was going on, the courts began to raise questions about the constitutionality of that. So in 1978, the Congress passed a statute called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--often called FISA for short--that required that a warrant be obtained from a special court that sits to hear applications from the government to conduct these wiretaps within the United States.

This is like a secret court inside the Justice Department building?

That isn't the way I would characterize it. These are sitting federal judges who ordinarily hear cases, routine cases, in federal court. They are designated by the chief justice of the United States to sit on this special court and hear these applications for wiretap warrants.

But their office, or their courtroom, is not in the directory...in Washington, I can't find them?

No, they're not listed in the directory. But the names of the judges are publicly known. And when necessary, they go to the Department of Justice, to a secure room, where they are presented with the facts that the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, NSA, has marshaled, to meet the standard: is there reasonable cause to believe that this person is an agent of a foreign power? And if the U.S. government can prove that to the judge, the judge signs an order, which authorizes the wiretap.

And not just a foreign power, but also a possible terrorist?

That's right. It does cover terrorists; yes.

Now we understand that there have been occasions, some recent occasions actually, where there's a conflict between the use of these intelligence eavesdropping warrants to get access, and what may in fact be a criminal case. So the result has been that this bureaucratic, or, if you will, legal conflict has resulted in people deciding, "Well, I guess we just won't 'bug' these people, or won't do this wiretap." ... Do you remember anything like that happening during your tenure?

These are questions that arise from time to time, yes, and I think...

Which questions?

The question of, is this particular investigation that the United States is conducting a law enforcement investigation that's going to lead to a trial? Or is it an intelligence investigation designed to produce intelligence which might lead to some other action, a military action, a diplomatic response, or an arrest overseas, or intelligence activities to disrupt it?

And the law now is such that, when you start down one course, it's very hard, if not impossible, to shift to the other course, because the Title 3 wiretaps are developed and in place for criminal prosecutions--the Mafia, drug investigations, and so on--and that's designed with a very specific set of rules governing the manner in which wiretaps will be conducted, ultimately, to be introduced in court, designed to protect the rights of the defendant. With an intelligence wiretap, it's very different. The fundamental purpose is to collect as much information as you can--largely about non-Americans, but occasionally about Americans--and there's never the intention that it will be used in prosecutions. The same issue sometimes arises in counterintelligence investigations.

Meaning terrorism...for example.

Well, terrorism, but also trying to find spies in the United States. Are you doing this for the purpose of finding out what they're up to and perhaps expelling them, because you can't try them if they have diplomatic protection? Or are you trying to find out who the American spy is so that you can prosecute them? A very elaborate set of rules and regulations have grown up under each of those two statutes. I think they need to be reconciled....

Well, they almost screwed up the prosecution of Aldrich Ames, right?

They have caused lots of problems over the years, and need to be reconciled. I don't know exactly what the right answer is. But it seems to me that we need to find a way to have these wiretaps conducted in such a way that the maximum amount of information is obtained for intelligence purposes--and keep in mind that it's called the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act"--but at the same time, if necessary, have that information available for use in trial. We're going to have to look at the rules of evidence. We're going to have to look at the legal standards under which these are conducted in the first place, so that adequate protection is still afforded to American citizens under the Fourth Amendment. That cannot change.

But in terms of the manner in which the information is collected, disseminated, and handled, that needs to change. There are also instances in which the FBI and the Department of Justice will do a Title 3 wiretap--that's a criminal wiretap--for counterterrorist purposes, because they intend to prosecute somebody, or they're pursuing a counterintelligence investigation, and they refuse to share that information with the CIA. I think that has to change.

Or they're in a grand jury and they're legally...prohibited.

The same--yes; precisely right. The same issue arises under Rule 6C of the grand jury rules, which prohibit the Department of Justice from giving grand jury information to the intelligence community. There are, as we speak, a series of proposals in Congress to change these rules, both for FISA wiretaps and for grand jury information, and my hope is that those rules will be changed.

So when we interviewed the recently retired head of the FBI in New York, Lew Schiliro, who led many of the terrorism investigations of the bin Laden organization, and he says to us, "Oh, that's not a real problem. We, the FBI, figure that out with people, usually to everyone's satisfaction." You don't agree?

I do not agree with that. The FBI and the Justice Department understand that the intelligence community needs to have access to that information. But they've been reluctant, and indeed feel prohibited under the existing law from giving the intelligence community access to that. They will say, "Tell us what you're interested in and we'll see if there's a way we can tell you whether there's anything we know that you might want to know. But it's entirely up to us." And that's not a satisfactory way to do intelligence.

So even though the Soviet Union collapsed over a decade ago, intelligence and law enforcement apparatus really hasn't readjusted to efficiently deal with, let's say the wars of the 21st century?

I'm not sure I agree with that characterization. We have carried to this day the legacy of the laws of the 1940s, when this establishment was created, post-World War II, and the changes that were made in the mid-1970s. I do think we need to look at the manner in which we are organized.... We need to act and fight as the military does--jointly. The CIA and the FBI are doing much better than they did in the past; but they can still do a lot better.

You're responsible for the regulation, as I understand it, that restricts the Central Intelligence Agency from recruiting or paying people who are guilty of murder or human rights violations?

That is not an accurate representation of the regulations.

Are you responsible for the regulation?

In 1995, when I became general counsel of the CIA, there were a series of investigations about CIA activity, largely in Central and South America. There were a series of allegations in public that were being investigated by the Congress and by the...CIA inspector general--that CIA officers overseas had recruited and were paying people as sources of information who were serious human rights abusers, and, in one case, were paying an individual who was responsible for the death of an American citizen. That allegation later turned out not to be true, by the way.

But, nevertheless, the agency was under huge pressure from the Congress and from the press about, how could you deal with these horrible people? And so it occurred to us that the CIA had no guidelines for dealing with sources of intelligence information who had serious criminal or human rights problems. The DEA and the FBI have had such guidelines forever. So I suggested, and Director of Central Intelligence Deutch agreed, and the operations directorate agreed, that it would be a good idea to have guidelines patterned after those used by the FBI in their dealings, for example, with a source inside the Mafia.

So we put those guidelines in place. Essentially, they require that if the CIA wishes to recruit a source of human intelligence information, that is to say, a human being, outside the United States--excuse me--with a bad record, that is to say, someone who's committed murders, someone who's a drug dealer, someone who's a terrorist... These are terrible people. On the other hand, they're the only ones that are going get us inside these terrorist organizations. [The guidelines require] that when we're going to recruit somebody like that, the CIA headquarters ought to know about that, and they ought to be given the opportunity to balance the value of the intelligence that we're going to gain by having a relationship with this person against the risks to the United States that accrue from dealing with him or her.

You mean they would just recruit people in the past and not inform headquarters to what they were like or who they were?

There was information that went to headquarters about a recruitment; but in our judgment, it was inadequate. So we simply added to the amount of information that had to be provided to headquarters before a recruiting attempt was made, and at the time everybody thought that was a good idea. One of the principal objectives was to protect the officer in the field dealing with that individual, so that he or she knew they were, in effect, licensed to deal with that person.

Protect them in case it came out that the U.S. government...was paying money to somebody who was, let's say, a mass murderer in Guatemala...of the local citizens?

That's correct. And keep in mind that many of these [CIA] officers were being investigated, personally, by congressional committees, by the CIA's inspector general. And in some cases it led to possible criminal charges against these officers. CIA officers have been dragged in front of grand juries--in my view, unnecessarily--and so many CIA officers, out of their own pocket, purchased liability insurance to provide for the cost of hiring lawyers. Frankly, I thought that was outrageous.

But we heard from Congressman Goss and from former Senator Rudman that their experience in the field is that agents in the field today feel risk-averse, if you will, because of these regulations, and this added bureaucratic paperwork that they have to go through.

I understand that concern. And if that is the case, it needs to be fixed. I think the guidelines ought to be reevaluated. CIA management ought to look at them, and if they are having this effect, then they need to be modified, accordingly. Let me hasten to add, however, that George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, the other senior leadership of the CIA, do not agree with that assessment. In their view, and in my experience, the guidelines never led to the CIA at Washington being unwilling to approve the recruitment of a human source with serious human rights or criminal problems when that individual could provide valuable intelligence.

But that's the headquarters view, if you will.

That's correct.

That's the CIA view, sitting behind a desk, where you're worried about the political consequences. In the field, people are saying, apparently, "Why bother getting into all of that, if it's not going to help your career, and only will get you in trouble?"

As I say, if these guidelines are having that effect, they need to be changed. And it needs to be made very clear to officers in the field that we expect them to take risks, and we're going to back them up when they take those risks. If that's not happening--and I must say I'm disappointed to learn that some officers in the field believe that--but if it is happening, that needs to be fixed.

So when I hear from people in the Central Intelligence Agency that I know, and some people who have gone public on this, that it's the Church committee, it's regulations like this, it's the prohibition on assassinations, that's why we can't do our job, that's why we didn't know about September 11...

I don't necessarily agree with that. It is certainly clear...

But you might?

We don't know the reason why we don't know that this was going to occur. We need to look at what went wrong. Why didn't we know about this terrible attack? And we need to try to identify those problems and fix them. Former President Bush has said we need to look at these rules and regulations, and if they have unnecessarily restricted our ability to collect and disseminate intelligence, then they need to be changed. I agree with that.

It is premature to conclude, simply because there are a lot of rules passed by Congress, by the way, signed by a number of presidents of both parties going all the way back to President Ford... I think it is wrong to conclude in a simplistic fashion that these rules and regulations, which have been designed to constrain the activities of an intelligence agency in a democracy... I think it's a mistake to immediately conclude that those rules need to be thrown out just because of this one terrible intelligence failure.

... What you're saying is it's not the time to blame anyone in the intelligence community for this failure, because we need to find out what happened and we need to move forward and do something about it. At the same time, we don't necessarily need to throw out all these regulations that we've developed for operating a secret agency in a democracy until we know what's going on. So how...what should we do?

Two things, in my judgment. First of all, with respect to some of these specific rules and regulations, Congress right now is proposing to enact legislation to move the line; that is to say, to make it easier.... For example, in terms of using wiretaps to collect information, Congress is proposing to move the line, to make it easier to collect information under one wiretap, under Title 3 criminal wiretap, and make it available to the intelligence community for foreign intelligence purposes. I think that's appropriate. Congress has directed George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, to look at and rescind these regulations that require headquarters approval to recruit someone with serious human rights problems.

All of those things are appropriate to do in my view. We need to look at these rules and regulations and make appropriate adjustments. My point is we shouldn't throw everything out; these were put in place for good and valid reasons at the time. They have worked to protect the rights of American citizens, because we are still worried about an overreaching national security and law enforcement apparatus. And we're still worried about protecting American rights under the Fourth Amendment. We can move too quickly; we can move the line too far in the wrong direction, and find that we are abusing the rights of Americans in order to enforce a law overseas.

We've been told that, that in 1998--this is after you left--but we've been told that in 1998, DEA agents in Pakistan had developed their own network of informants into Afghanistan. Of course, the Nairobi bombing had taken place. And they had discovered that Osama bin Laden has a kidney problem, is on dialysis, that his doctor was in Peshawar, and that they had the ability, possibly, to poison his dialysis treatment, but that their proposal to do so was rejected when it was sent through the embassy to CIA, because of the ban on assassinations.

This is the first time I've heard that story. I have no idea whether it's true or not. But if your question is should we rescind the ban on assassinations, my view is, no. In my view, Americans are not assassins. And we have been able to conduct necessary military and intelligence activities, including covert intelligence activities involving the use of lethal force to combat and disrupt terrorist activities outside the United States, and, in some instances, the activities of drug dealers outside the United States, without engaging in assassinations.

But...when you were in the CIA, as general counsel, we were, in a sense, at peace. Now, for all intents and purposes, we're at war. Shouldn't we be taking the gloves off?

Even in war, there are rules. We don't shoot prisoners. There's a whole body of law that governs the conduct of armed hostilities, and the reason is because how you fight a war does matter, because there will come an end to the war. We'll have to move on with life, and you don't necessarily throw out all of the rules just because you are at war. The ban on assassinations, which is a presidential executive order, initially signed by President Ford, but, in essence, was repeated and endorsed by all presidents to date...

When George Bush, Sr. was head of the CIA, I believe.

That's correct. The executive order, signed by President Ford in 1976, first instituted the ban on assassinations. At about that same time, George Herbert Walker Bush was appointed as the Director of Central Intelligence.

So he was familiar with the ban from his time, both as the Director of Central Intelligence, as head of the CIA, and as president. There is something about crossing that line that Americans have been unwilling to do. It raises moral questions: Is this the sort of country we are, that we target a foreign leader for murder? And it also raises questions of, is it effective? Does it truly deter or disrupt terrorist activities?

Do I hear you correctly, as a 30-year veteran of the intelligence community--either in it, or outside of it, or advising it--that despite the horror of September 11, we still have to have rules? We still have to make sure that we don't turn into what we're trying to destroy?

Yes. We cannot abuse the rule of law in seeking to enforce the rule of international law or our own domestic law. There will come a time when we will win this war, and how we fought it and how we won it matters, and we are a nation held together by a belief in the Constitution, held together by the rule of law. We are not bound together by ethnic nor religious reasons. We believe in the Constitution.

That is what makes this country great. It's terribly important that we not lose sight of that in the course of fighting this war. We may need to adjust the lines, we may need to make some changes in the way we govern U.S. intelligence activities, and law enforcement activities, and the way we conduct them. We need to be brutally tough. We need to be, when necessary, vicious. We need to use force and violence to achieve this objective. But that can still be done consistent with the rules of law in this country and the rule of law in armed conflict.

So when you authorized at the CIA a covert operation using a terrorist who had operated against the United States, and you approved of this, apparently, because he then went on to help us capture a well-known terrorist--Carlos, the Jackal--that's what you're talking about? ... Tell me what happened in that situation.

I can't talk about the details of that operation.

But there was...an operation where we did use a former terrorist who had been operating against the United States, to help us apprehend a terrorist who was wanted overseas?

We still don't talk about the details of that operation, along with a lot of other operations.

They talk about it in Khartoum, in Sudan, where it happened.

I am not going to talk about the details of those operations. The fact is the United States government, through the CIA, through other U.S. intelligence services, has dealt with some terrible people, and we do so for valid reasons in the national interest. But you must also understand that when we deal with these people, when we pay them money, when we meet with them, when we become part of their lives, which is what happened, the United States is inevitably drawn in to the activities of that individual, and what they're doing, and what that group is doing. And one has to do that with your eyes open, and not become in any way a part of that activity. That's a challenge--to get the intelligence but not be tainted in some fashion by dealing with some people that are embodiments of evil....

OK. So the question is, is it true, as some people are alleging, that the Central Intelligence Agency or international covert operators can't go near "bad guys" that we need in order to accomplish something?

That is not true. We have, in the past, in instances in which I am personally aware, dealt with individuals who have engaged in terrible acts, some of which were designed to kill Americans. We have dealt with those individuals. We have paid them for the acquisition of intelligence information from them. The information we have obtained from those individuals has proved extraordinarily valuable to the United States in disrupting activities, in bringing people to justice, when necessary.

It is not accurate to say that we have been unable to do it. The American people should be reassured that we, the CIA, has an extraordinary number of brave men and women out there, risking their lives, dealing with these terrorists to obtain intelligence and to protect American interests.

But...what we've learned is that the CIA doesn't like to tell the FBI things, sometimes for rivalry reasons, or personality conflicts, sometimes because they don't want to give up, quote, "their sources." The INS doesn't have an efficient system, many times, to tell the FBI or the CIA that the person they're looking for is already in the country.... The Secret Service doesn't want to tell anybody anything, because of the secrets around counterfeit money.... There's a culture of distrust, of bureaucratic procedures that are different, laws that are in conflict with each other. It's almost like we have Keystone Kops running around, who may [in the end, when we study this,] could have put together September 11. But because of the culture or customs, the laws of America, it didn't happen.

I strongly suspect that when we look back at what happened, we will find that there are nuggets of information scattered around various U.S. agencies, perhaps information in the hands of foreign intelligence services, that had we been able to pull it together, would have given us warning. That is a very serious issue that needs to be examined. You are correct. A variety of U.S. agencies, intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies, do not share information....

The intelligence community needs to be prepared to share its information with the law enforcement community. We've had great success, interestingly enough, by creating small task forces of CIA officers and FBI officers to go after a particular target, and we did that, in part, because of the way the military approached jointness. What the military found was that if you put a group of senior officers in a room and said, "You guys figure out how to operate jointly," it would never happen, because there would be procedures and regulations and memoranda of understanding, and they'd bring the lawyers in. And it would be hopeless.

But when they were given a particular task like, take Grenada, they would roll up their sleeves. They were Americans committed to a single mission, and all of this dogma and doctrine that the military talks about, fell to one side and...they got the job done, because they were committed to a particular mission. So we did the same thing between the CIA and the FBI. We created small task forces to go after particular targets or particular intelligence challenges, and it was very productive. When we got a handful of CIA and FBI officers in a room together, and said, in effect, "You guys go solve this problem," they got to know one another. They got to trust one another, and they had a very real mission that wasn't theoretical; it was real. That's the sort of thing that now needs to be done on a much grander scale.

When we began to do those operations in the mid-1990s, we were astonished, on both sides--the FBI and the CIA--on what we knew. CIA would say, "Well, we have some information over here, we have a source over here." The FBI would do the same thing. And when we put it together, we were adding two and two and getting five, and that's the very sort of thing that needs to be done now, except across a much broader scale.

It's going to be very hard to do, because these procedures have grown up over years; they have good reasons, in some instances, reasons that are based in the law. But that ought to be changed. We now are facing a much more difficult challenge in finding terrorists, in building international coalitions, in rooting them out, and we can't approach this through the rules and regulations of the past. We've got to be more adroit. We've got to be quicker on our feet. We've got to share information more quickly. We've got to be able to deal with foreign governments and their intelligence and law enforcement services in a more efficient way, and we're going to have to deal with some foreign governments that we might not like dealing with very well....

Some people have said this is not an intelligence failure; this is a policy question. It has to do with U.S. foreign policy overseas, U.S. economic policy, the general condition of the Islamic world, and there is no quick fix here, or even an intelligence fix. It's a question of us confronting the way the world is and maybe reassessing some of the things that we do.

I think that's right. It's really interesting. Not long ago, people were saying that this was a new world, that the internet was going to make this a borderless world, that...


... Globalization. Some were even questioning the future of the nation-state. What this has proved is that states, as nation-states, are still the basis for the international system and that we are going to... President Bush, the other night, wisely said we are going to hold states accountable for supporting terrorism. We are going to expect them to adhere to the international rule of law.

And the notion of a borderless world, in my judgment, has changed over the last couple of weeks. Now, suddenly, we are looking to these governments, and we're saying you've got to control your territory. One of the basic attributes of a state in international law is that they can control their boundaries, that there's a definable boundary, and that they are the governing body in that piece of territory. We are now saying to those governments that you've got to control your population, the people who live within your boundaries, and we are going to hold you accountable.

At the same time, many of the states in the region are not democracies. They do not tolerate dissent, and they are facing terrible Islamic fundamentalist movements. There are enormous economic challenges in the region. This is a very tough problem that has to be confronted comprehensively. Ultimately, in my view, the solution is for the Arab and Muslim states to recognize that we're all in this together, and there is an obligation on their part to adhere to the international rule of law. And that means not permitting para-statal terrorist organizations to operate in their territory.

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