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REPORT OF THE JOINT INQUIRY INTO THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 –
BY THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND THE
SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE

S. REPT. NO. 107- 351 107TH CONGRESS, 2D SESSION H. REPT. NO. 107-792
JOINT INQUIRY INTO
INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
BEFORE AND AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
___________________
REPORT
OF THE
U.S. SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
AND
U.S. HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON
INTELLIGENCE
TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS
DECEMBER 2002

S. REPT. NO. 107- 351 107TH CONGRESS, 2D SESSION H. REPT. NO. 107-792
JOINT INQUIRY INTO
INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
BEFORE AND AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
___________________
REPORT
OF THE
U.S. SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
AND
U.S. HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON
INTELLIGENCE
TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS
DECEMBER 2002

Foreword
This is the declassified version of the Final Report of the Joint Inquiry that was
approved and filed with the House of Representatives and the Senate on December 20,
2002. With the exception of portions that were released to the public previously (e.g.,
the additional views of Members, the GAO Anthrax Report, etc.), this version has been
declassified by the Intelligence Community prior to its public release. That review was
for classification purposes only, and does not indicate Intelligence Community agreement
with the accuracy of this report, or concurrence with its factual findings or conclusions.
At appropriate points in the report, relevant information that developed after the
report was filed, or that has appeared in other public sources, has been inserted and is
denoted with an asterisk (*) and an accompanying footnote. Where necessary,
information that the Intelligence Community has identified as classified for national
security purposes has been deleted. Such deletions are indicated with brackets and a
strikethrough [ ]. In other portions of the report, alternative language that
the Intelligence Community has agreed is unclassified has been substituted for the
original report language which remains classified. Paragraphs that contain alternative
language, whether one word or several sentences, have been identified by brackets at the
beginning and end of the paragraph.
As a result of these changes to the text, the page numbers at the bottom of each
page do not match those of the original report. In order to preserve a record of the
original pagination, page numbers have been inserted in gray font [page xx] in the text to
mark where the corresponding pages begin and end in the original report.

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SUMMARY TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents
Members of the Joint inquiry
Joint Inquiry Staff
Abridged Findings and Conclusions
Recommendations
Final Report
Part One – The Joint Inquiry
- The Context
- Findings and Conclusions
- Factual Findings
- Conclusions - Factual Findings
- Systemic Findings
- Related Findings
Part Two – Narrative – The Attacks of September 11, 2001
Part Three – Topics – The Attacks of September 11, 2001
Part Four – Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive
National Security Matters
Glossary of Terms and Key Names
Additional Views of Members of the Joint Inquiry
Appendices
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PART ONE—FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
Section Page
I. The Joint Inquiry……………………………………………………………………….. 1
II. The Context…………………………………………………………………………….. 3
III. Findings and Conclusions…………………………………………………………….. 6
A. Factual Findings……………………………………………………………….. 6
B. Conclusion - Factual Findings………………………………………………… 33
C. Systemic Findings…………………………………………………………….. 33
D. Related Findings………………………………………………………………. 117
PART TWO—NARRATIVE—THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMER 11, 2001……128
I. The Plot Unfolds for the Attacks of September 11, 2001………………………………. 128
A. The al-Qa’ida Roots of the September 11 Attacks…………………………….. 128
B. The Springboards for the Attack—Germany and Malaysia…………………… 131
C. The Principals Arrive in the United States -- January 2000 through April 2001.135
D. The Supporting Hijackers Arrive--April to June 2001………………………… 137
E. Final Organization of the Attacks……………………………………………… 139
F. Financing of the Attacks……………………………………………………….. 140
G. Execution of the Attacks………………………………………………………. 141
II. Pentagon Flight Hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salim al-Hazmi.. 143
A. The Malaysia Meeting and Identification of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Salim
and Nawaf al-Hazmi — First Watchlist Opportunity ….…………………….. 143
B. Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi Travel to the United States — Second
Watchlist Opportunity …………………………………………………..…… 147
C. Khalid al-Mihdhar Leaves the United States and Nawaf al-Hazmi Applies for
a Visa Extension ……………………………………………………………… 148
D. The Attack on USS Cole and the Identification of Khallad—Third Watchlist
Opportunity……………………………………………………………………. 148
E. The June 11, 2001 FBI/CIA Meeting and Khalid al-Mihdhar’s Return to the
United States………………………………………………………………….. 150
F. The Watchlisting of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi…………………151
G. The Search for Khalid al-Mihdhar…………………………………………….. 152
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H. The Case Against Bin Ladin……………………………………………………154
III. NSA Communications Intercepts Related to Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf and
Salim al-Hazmi …………………………………………………………….…………….. 155
IV. Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar Had Numerous Contacts With an Active
FBI Informant……………..……………………………………………………………… 157
A. Background…………………………………………………………………. 158
B. Informant’s Relationship with Two Hijackers……………………………… 159
C. Questions About the Informant’s Credibility………………………………. 162
V. Associates of the September 11 Terrorists in the United States………………………. 168
A. U.S. Intelligence Community Knowledge of Support Networks Prior to
September 11.………………………………………………………………… 171
B. Persons Known to the FBI With Whom September 11 Hijackers May Have
Associated in the United States …..…………………………………………… 172
a. Omar al-Bayoumi .…………………………………………………….. 172
b. Osama Bassnan…………………………………………………………175
c. [Imam]*………..………………………………………………………. 178
d. [Business Manager] …………………………………………………… 179
e. [Business Owner] ….………………………………………………….. 180
f. [An Individual] ………………………..….…………………………… 181
e. [An Individual]..……………………………………………………….. 182
VI. Germany—Investigation of the Hamburg Cell……………………………………….. 183
VII. The Hijackers’ Visas…………………………………………………………………. 187
VIII. The Rising Threat and the Context of the September 11 Attacks……………………190
A. A New Breed of Terrorists……………………………………………………. 191
B. Emergence of Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida……………………………….. 194
C. Attributes of Bin Ladin’s Terrorist Operations………………………………... 196
D. Intelligence about Bin Ladin’s Intentions to Strike Inside the United States…. 198
E. Indications of a Possible Terrorist Attack in Spring and Summer 2001………. 203
F. Intelligence Information on Possible Terrorist Use of Airplanes as Weapons…209
IX. The Development of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Before September 11…………… 215
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint
Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the
classified version of this final report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due
to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
iii
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A. Counterterrorism as an Intelligence Priority……………………………………216
B. Growing Importance in the Clinton Administration……………………………216
C. Uncertainty During the Transition……………………………………………... 217
D. The George W. Bush Administration………………………………………….. 218
E. Competing Priorities……………………………………………………………219
F. Policy Measures to Fight Terrorism…………………………………………… 220
G. The Law Enforcement Approach……………………………………………… 222
H. Disruptions and Renditions…………………………………………………… 225
I. Afghanistan as a Terrorist Sanctuary…………………………………………. 226
J. The Intelligence Community…………………………………………………. 229
K. The Declaration of War………………………………………………………. 230
L. The Intelligence Community’s Response…………………………………….. 231
M. Shortcomings in the Intelligence Community’s Response…………………… 232
N. The President and Senior Policy Advisor Responsibility…………………….. 234
O. Lack of an Integrated Response………………………………………………. 236
P. The Intelligence Community’s Failure to Establish a Coordinated Domestic
Focus before September 11……………………………………………………. 241
Q. Steps Taken to Fight International Terrorism at Home………………………. 243
R. Lack of Focus on the Domestic Threat……………………………………….. 243
S. Limited Counterterrorism Contributions by Other Intelligence Community
Members………………………………………………………………………. 247
PART THREE – TOPICS – THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001…… 250
I. Counterterrorism Resources…………………………………………………………….. 250
A. Joint Inquiry Resource Review Methodology and Limitations……………….. 251
B. Overall Intelligence Community Funding…………………………………….. 254
C. Resources Dedicated to Counterterrorism…………………………………….. 256
D. Personnel Shortages…………………………………………………………… 260
a. Personnel Concerns at CIA……………………………………………… 261
b. Personnel Concerns at NSA…………………………………………….. 262
c. Personnel Concerns at FBI……………………………………………… 263
E. Counterterrorism and the Competition for Scarce Resources………………… 264
F. Policymaker Criticism of Intelligence Community Budget Allocations……… 266
G. Reliance on Supplemental Funding for Counterterrorism…………………….. 267
H. How Easily Can Money Be Moved?………………………………………….. 269
II. Foreign Liaison………………………………………………………………………... 270
A. Efforts to Improve Foreign Liaison…………………………………………… 271
B. Benefits of Foreign Liaison…………………………………………………… 272
C. Disadvantages of Relying on Foreign Liaison Services………………………. 274
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D. Liaison Service Problems with the United States…………………………….. 275
E. Coordination of Foreign Liaison……………………………………………… 276
F. Additional Challenges for the FBI Overseas………………………………….. 278
G. Progress after September 11, 2001..…………………………………………… 278
III. Covert Action and Military Operations Against Bin Ladin…..…..…………………... 279
A. Background……………………………………………………………………. 279
B. Authorities to Conduct Covert Action Against Bin Ladin……………………. 281
C. Additional Operational Challenges and Constraints………………………….. 291
D. CIA Covert Action Against Bin Ladin [Prior to September 11, 2001].………. 294
E. Use of [ ] Against Bin Ladin.…………………………………. 300
F. Use of U.S. Military Force Against Bin Ladin………………………………… 303
IV. Strategy to Disrupt Terrorist Funding………………………………………………… 308
A. Financial Tracking before September 11……………………………………… 308
B. Financial Tracking after September 11………………………………………... 309
V. Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM): The Mastermind of September 11……………... 309
A. KSM’s Links to Terrorist Attacks before September 11……………………… 310
B. The Hunt for KSM…………………………………………………………….. 311
C. Finding KSM and Building the Case………………………………………….. 311
D. [ ]…………………………………………………. 312
E. Link to al-Qa’ida Discovered………………………………………………….. 313
F. The Emphasis on Renditions…………………………………………………... 313
G. KSM’s U.S. Connection……………………………………………………….. 314
H. The Hunt for KSM Continues…………………………………………………. 315
VI. The FBI’s Investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui Before September 11………………. 315
VII. The Phoenix Electronic Communication (EC)………………………………………. 325
A. The Phoenix EC……………………………………………………………….. 325
B. Headquarters’ Response to the Phoenix EC…………………………………… 327
C. New York FBI Office Action in Connection with the Phoenix EC…………… 329
D. Handling of Phoenix EC Indicates FBI Headquarters Weaknesses…………… 329
E. Links from the Phoenix EC to September 11…………………………………. 332
F. Previous FBI Focus on Suspected Terrorists at U.S. Flight Schools………….. 333
VIII. Strategic Analysis…………………………………………………………………… 336
A. The Intelligence Community’s Lack of Strategic Analysis…………………… 336
B. Analyst Qualifications and Training…………………………………………... 339
C. Analysts’ Access to Information………………………………………………. 341
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D. Language Skills………………………………………………………………... 343
IX. Views of Outside Experts on the Intelligence Community…………………………… 345
A. Setting Priorities……………………………………………………………….. 346
B. Strategy and Organization……………………………………………………... 346
C. Should a Strong Director of National Intelligence Be Established?…………... 347
D. Should the Same Person be both DNI and Director of the CIA?……………… 348
E. Counterterrorism Within the United States and Creation of a Domestic
Intelligence Agency…………………………………………………………… 349
F. A Legislative Charter for the Intelligence Community……………………….. 353
G. Respect for the Rule of Law…………………………………………………... 353
X. Information Sharing…………………………………………………………………… 354
A. Information Sharing Between Intelligence Agencies and within the Federal
Government……………………………………………………………………. 355
a. National Security Agency………………………………………………. 355
b. The Central Intelligence Agency………………………………………... 357
c. The Federal Bureau of Investigation……………………………………. 357
d. The Department of State………………………………………………... 359
e. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA)………………………………………... 360
B. Information Sharing Between Intelligence Agencies and State and Local
Officials……………………………………………………………………….. 361
C. Additional Information Sharing Problems…………………………………….. 362
D. The Wall - Barriers Between Law Enforcement and Intelligence…………….. 363
XI. Technology Gaps……………………………………………………………………... 368
A. Technology Gaps at NSA………………………………………………………. 368
B. [ ]……...…………………………. 388
C. [ ]……..……………………………………… 388
D. [ ]………………………………………………….. 389
E. [ ] …..………………………………………………… 389
F. Selection and Filtering for [ ] Communications…………… 371
G. Analyst Tools………………………………………………………………….. 371
H. Collection Platforms……………………………………………………………372
XII. Technical Collection of Terrorist Communications…………………………………. 373
A. NSA’s Organizational Structure for Collecting Terrorist Communications…… 374
B. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and the September 11 Attacks…………………. 374
C. A Chronological Review of NSA Collection Efforts Against al-Qa’ida……… 376
D. Technical Collection Problems and Limits at NSA…………………………… 379
a. Difficulties of Gaining Actionable Intelligence on al-Qa’ida…………... 380
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b. Difficulties in Adjusting to Terrorist Targets…………………………… 381
c. Problems Keeping Pace with [ ] Advances
before September 11………………………………………………. 381
E. Insufficient Resources for Counterterrorism at NSA………………………….. 382
F. Technical Collection at CIA…………………………………………………… 384
G. NSA/CIA Disputes over [ ] Collection…….…………………….. 384
H. Technical Collection at FBI……………………………………………………. 385
XIII. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Collection………………………………………… 385
A. CIA Human Intelligence Collection……………………………………………. 386
B. DIA Human Intelligence Collection……………………………………………. 390
C. FBI Human Intelligence Collection…………………………………………….. 391
XIV. Summary of Joint Inquiry Review of Anthrax Attacks……………………………… 393
PART FOUR—FINDING, DISCUSSION AND NARRATIVE REGARDING
CERTAIN SENSITIVE NATIONAL SECURITY MATTERS………………..………395
GLOSSARY……………………………………………………………………………….. 423
Additional Views of Members…………………………………………………………….. 436
Appendices
vii
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Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
(SSCI)
107th Congress
Membership
Bob Graham, D - Florida, Chairman
Richard C. Shelby, R - Alabama, Vice Chairman
DEMOCRATS REPUBLICANS
Carl Levin, Michigan Jon Kyl, Arizona
John D. Rockefeller, West Virginia James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma
Dianne Feinstein, California Orrin Hatch, Utah
Ron Wyden, Oregon Pat Roberts, Kansas
Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Mike DeWine, Ohio
Evan Bayh, Indiana Fred Thompson, Tennessee
John Edwards, North Carolina Richard Lugar, Indiana
Barbara Mikulski, Maryland
Al Cumming, Staff Director William Duhnke,
Minority Staff Director
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House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
(HPSCI)
107th Congress
Membership
Porter J. Goss, R - Florida, Chairman
Nancy Pelosi, D - California, Ranking Democrat
REPUBLICANS DEMOCRATS
Doug Bereuter, Nebraska Sanford D. Bishop, Georgia
Michael N. Castle, Delaware Jane Harman, California
Sherwood L. Boehlert, New York Gary A. Condit, California
Jim Gibbons, Nevada Tim Roemer, Indiana
Ray LaHood, Illinois Silvestre Reyes, Texas
Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Leonard L. Boswell, Iowa
Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota
Richard Burr, North Carolina Bud Cramer, Alabama
Saxby Chambliss, Georgia
Terry Everett, Alabama
Timothy R. Sample, Staff Director Michael W. Sheehy,
Democratic Counsel
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JOINT HOUSE/SENATE INQUIRY STAFF*
Eleanor Hill
Rick Cinquegrana
David Barton
Ann Bennett
Daniel Byman
Michael Davidson
George Ellard
Rahul Gupta
Kay Holt
John Ivicic
Michael Jacobson
Everette Jordan
Miles Kara
John Keefe
Thomas Kelley
Dana Lesemann
Patti Litman
Arthur Menna
Lewis Moon
Patricia Ravalgi
Alonzo Robertson
Robert Rosenwald
Michael Smith
Catherine Williams
* As of December 1, 2002. In addition, a substantial contribution to the development and direction of the Joint
Director
Deputy Director
Inquiry was made by the Staff’s first Staff Director, Britt Snider. Other original members of the staff included
Catherine Lotrionte, who left the staff in the summer of 2002.
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ABRIDGED FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
FACTUAL FINDINGS
1. Finding: While the Intelligence Community had amassed a great deal of valuable
intelligence regarding Usama Bin Ladin and his terrorist activities, none of it identified the
time, place, and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for September 11, 2001.
Nonetheless, the Community did have information that was clearly relevant to the
September 11 attacks, particularly when considered for its collective significance.
2. Finding: During the spring and summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community experienced
a significant increase in information indicating that Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida intended to
strike against U.S. interests in the very near future.
3. Finding: Beginning in 1998 and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence
Community received a modest, but relatively steady, stream of intelligence reporting that
indicated the possibility of terrorist attacks within the United States. Nonetheless, testimony
and interviews confirm that it was the general view of the Intelligence Community, in the
spring and summer of 2001, that the threatened Bin Ladin attacks would most likely occur
against U.S. interests overseas, despite indications of plans and intentions to attack in the
domestic United States.
4. Finding: From at least 1994, and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence
Community received information indicating that terrorists were contemplating, among
other means of attack, the use of aircraft as weapons. This information did not stimulate
any specific Intelligence Community assessment of, or collective U.S. Government reaction
to, this form of threat.
5. Finding: Although relevant information that is significant in retrospect regarding the
attacks was available to the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001, the
Community too often failed to focus on that information and consider and appreciate its
collective significance in terms of a probable terrorist attack. Neither did the Intelligence
Community demonstrate sufficient initiative in coming to grips with the new transnational
threats. Some significant pieces of information in the vast stream of data being collected
were overlooked, some were not recognized as potentially significant at the time and
therefore not disseminated, and some required additional action on the part of foreign
governments before a direct connection to the hijackers could have been established. For all
those reasons, the Intelligence Community failed to fully capitalize on available, and
potentially important, information. The sub-findings below identify each category of this
information.
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[Terrorist Communications in 1999]
5.a. [During 1999, the National Security Agency obtained a number of
communications – none of which included specific detail regarding the time, place or
nature of the September 11 attacks -- connecting individuals to terrorism who were
identified, after September 11, 2001, as participants in the attacks that occurred on
that day.]
Malaysia Meeting and Travel of al-Qa’ida Operatives
to the United States
5.b. The Intelligence Community acquired additional, and highly significant,
information regarding Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in early 2000.
Critical parts of the information concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lay dormant
within the Intelligence Community for as long as eighteen months, at the very time
when plans for the September 11 attacks were proceeding. The CIA missed repeated
opportunities to act based on information in its possession that these two Bin Ladinassociated
terrorists were traveling to the United States, and to add their names to
watchlists.
[Terrorist Communications in Spring 2000]
5.c. [In January 2000, after the meeting of al-Qa’ida operatives in Malaysia, Khalid
al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi entered the United States [ ].
Thereafter, the Intelligence Community obtained information indicating that an
individual named “Khaled” at an unknown location had contacted a suspected
terrorist facility in the Middle East. The Intelligence Community reported some of
this information, but did not report all of it. Some of it was not reported because it
was deemed not terrorist-related. It was not until after September 11, 2001 that the
Intelligence Community determined that these contacts had been made from future
hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar while he was living within the domestic United States.]
[Two Hijackers Had Numerous Contacts With an Active FBI Informant]
5.d. [This Joint Inquiry confirmed that these same two future hijackers, Khalid al-
Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had numerous contacts with a long time FBI
counterterrorism informant in California and that a third future hijacker, Hani
Hanjour, apparently had more limited contact with the informant. In mid- to late-
2000, the CIA already had information indicating that al-Mihdhar had a multiple
entry U.S. visa and that al-Hazmi had in fact traveled to Los Angeles, but the two had
not been watchlisted and information suggesting that two suspected terrorists could
well be in the United States had not yet [page xiii] been given to the FBI. The San
Diego FBI field office that handled the informant in question, did not receive that
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information or any of the other intelligence information pertaining to al-Mihdhar and
al-Hazmi, prior to September 11, 2001. As a result, the FBI missed the opportunity to
task a uniquely well-positioned informant -- who denies having any advance
knowledge of the plot --- to collect information about the hijackers and their plans
within the United States].
The Phoenix Electronic Communication
5.e. On July 10, 2001, an FBI Phoenix field office agent sent an “Electronic
Communication” to 4 individuals in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) and two
people in the Usama Bin Ladin Unit (UBLU) at FBI headquarters, and to two agents
on International Terrorism squads in the New York Field Office. In the
communication, the agent expressed his concerns, based on his first-hand knowledge,
that there was a coordinated effort underway by Bin Ladin to send students to the
United States for civil aviation-related training. He noted that there was an
“inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” in this type of training in
Arizona and expressed his suspicion that this was an effort to establish a cadre of
individuals in civil aviation who would conduct future terrorist activity. The Phoenix
EC requested that FBI Headquarters consider implementing four recommendations:
• accumulate a list of civil aviation university/colleges around the country;
• establish liaison with these schools;
• discuss the theories contained in the Phoenix EC with the Intelligence Community; and
• consider seeking authority to obtain visa information concerning individuals seeking to
attend flight schools.
However, the FBI headquarters personnel did not take the action requested by the Phoenix
agent prior to September 11, 2001. The communication generated little or no interest at
either FBI Headquarters or the FBI’s New York field office.
The FBI Investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui
5.f. In August 2001, the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, in conjunction with the INS,
detained Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national who had enrolled in flight training in
Minnesota. FBI agents there also suspected that Moussaoui was involved in a
hijacking plot. FBI Headquarters attorneys determined that there was not probable
cause to obtain a court order to [page xiv] search Moussaoui’s belongings under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, personnel at FBI
Headquarters, including the Radical Fundamentalism Unit and the National Security
Law Unit, as well as agents in the Minneapolis field office, misunderstood the legal
standard for obtaining an order under FISA. As a result, FBI Minneapolis Field
Office personnel wasted valuable investigative resources trying to connect the
Chechen rebels to al-Qa’ida. Finally, no one at the FBI apparently connected the
Moussaoui investigation with the heightened threat environment in the summer of
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2001, the Phoenix communication, or the entry of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi into the
United States.
Hijackers In Contact With Persons of FBI Investigative Interest
in the United States
5.g. The Joint Inquiry confirmed that at least some of the hijackers were not as
isolated during their time in the United States as has been previously suggested.
Rather, they maintained a number of contacts both in the United States and abroad
during this time period. Some of those contacts were with individuals who were
known to the FBI, through either past or, at the time, ongoing FBI inquiries and
investigations. Although it is not known to what extent any of these contacts in the
United States were aware of the plot, it is now clear that they did provide at least
some of the hijackers with substantial assistance while they were living in this
country.
Hijackers’ Associates in Germany
5.h. [Since 1995, the CIA had been aware of a radical Islamic presence in Germany,
including individuals with connections to Usama Bin Ladin. Prior to September 11,
2001, the CIA had unsuccessfully sought additional information on individuals who
have now been identified as associates of some of the hijackers.]
Khalid Shaykh Mohammad
5.i. Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community had information linking
Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM), now recognized by the Intelligence Community
as the mastermind of the attacks, to Bin Ladin, to terrorist plans to use aircraft as
weapons, and to terrorist activity in the United States. The Intelligence Community,
however, relegated Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM) to rendition target status
following his 1996 indictment in connection with the Bojinka Plot and, as a
[page xv] result, focused primarily on his location, rather than his activities and place
in the al-Qa’ida hierarchy. The Community also did not recognize the significance of
reporting in June 2001 concerning KSM’s active role in sending terrorists to the
United States, or the facilitation of their activities upon arriving in the United States.
Collection efforts were not targeted on information about KSM that might have
helped better understand al-Qa’ida’s plans and intentions, and KSM’s role in the
September 11 attacks was a surprise to the Intelligence Community.
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[Terrorist Communications in September 2001]
5.j. [In the period from September 8 to September 10, 2001 NSA intercepted, but did
not translate or disseminate until after September 11, some communications that
indicated possible impending terrorist activity.]
CONCLUSION – FACTUAL FINDINGS
In short, for a variety of reasons, the Intelligence Community failed to capitalize on both the
individual and collective significance of available information that appears relevant to the events of
September 11. As a result, the Community missed opportunities to disrupt the September 11th plot by
denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers; to at least try to unravel the plot through
surveillance and other investigative work within the United States; and, finally, to generate a
heightened state of alert and thus harden the homeland against attack.
No one will ever know what might have happened had more connections been drawn between
these disparate pieces of information. We will never definitively know to what extent the Community
would have been able and willing to exploit fully all the opportunities that may have emerged. The
important point is that the Intelligence Community, for a variety of reasons, did not bring together and
fully appreciate a range of information that could have greatly enhanced its chances of uncovering and
preventing Usama Bin Ladin’s plan to attack these United States on September 11, 2001.
SYSTEMIC FINDINGS
Our review of the events surrounding September 11 has revealed a number of systemic
weaknesses that hindered the Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism efforts before September
11. If not addressed, these weaknesses will continue to undercut U.S. counterterrorist efforts. In
order to minimize the possibility of attacks like September 11 in the future, effective solutions to
those problems need to be developed and fully implemented as soon as possible.
[page xvi]
1. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community was neither well organized
nor equipped, and did not adequately adapt, to meet the challenge posed by global terrorists
focused on targets within the domestic United States. Serious gaps existed between the
collection coverage provided by U.S. foreign and U.S. domestic intelligence capabilities. The
U.S. foreign intelligence agencies paid inadequate attention to the potential for a domestic
attack. The CIA’s failure to watchlist suspected terrorists aggressively reflected a lack of
emphasis on a process designed to protect the homeland from the terrorist threat. As a
result, CIA employees failed to watchlist al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. At home, the
counterterrorism effort suffered from the lack of an effective domestic intelligence
capability. The FBI was unable to identify and monitor effectively the extent of activity by
al-Qa’ida and other international terrorist groups operating in the United States. Taken
together, these problems greatly exacerbated the nation’s vulnerability to an increasingly
dangerous and immediate international terrorist threat inside the United States.
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2. Finding: Prior to September 11, 2001, neither the U.S. Government as a whole nor the
Intelligence Community had a comprehensive counterterrorist strategy for combating the
threat posed by Usama Bin Ladin. Furthermore, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)
was either unwilling or unable to marshal the full range of Intelligence Community
resources necessary to combat the growing threat to the United States.
3. Finding: Between the end of the Cold War and September 11, 2001, overall Intelligence
Community funding fell or remained even in constant dollars, while funding for the
Community’s counterterrorism efforts increased considerably. Despite those increases, the
accumulation of intelligence priorities, a burdensome requirements process, the overall
decline in Intelligence Community funding, and reliance on supplemental appropriations
made it difficult to allocate Community resources effectively against an evolving terrorist
threat. Inefficiencies in the resource and requirements process were compounded by
problems in Intelligence Community budgeting practices and procedures.
4. Finding: While technology remains one of this nation’s greatest advantages, it has not
been fully and most effectively applied in support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Persistent problems in this area included a lack of collaboration between Intelligence
Community agencies, a reluctance to develop and implement new technical capabilities
aggressively, the FBI’s reliance on outdated and insufficient technical systems, and the
absence of a central counterterrorism database.
5. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s understanding of al-
Qa’ida was hampered by insufficient analytic focus and quality, particularly in terms of
strategic analysis. Analysis and analysts were not always used effectively because of the
perception in some quarters of the Intelligence Community that they were less important to
agency counterterrorism missions than were operations personnel. The quality of
counterterrorism analysis was inconsistent, and many analysts were inexperienced,
unqualified, under-trained, and without access to critical information. As a result, there was
a dearth of creative, aggressive analysis targeting Bin Ladin and a persistent inability to
comprehend the collective significance of individual pieces of intelligence. These analytic
[page xvii] deficiencies seriously undercut the ability of U.S. policymakers to understand the
full nature of the threat, and to make fully informed decisions.
6. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community was not prepared to handle
the challenge it faced in translating the volumes of foreign language counterterrorism
intelligence it collected. Agencies within the Intelligence Community experienced backlogs
in material awaiting translation, a shortage of language specialists and language-qualified
field officers, and a readiness level of only 30% in the most critical terrorism-related
languages used by terrorists.
7. Finding: [Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s ability to produce
significant and timely signals intelligence on counterterrorism was limited by NSA’s failure
to address modern communications technology aggressively, continuing conflict between
Intelligence Community agencies, NSA’s cautious approach to any collection of intelligence
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relating to activities in the United States, and insufficient collaboration between NSA and the
FBI regarding the potential for terrorist attacks within the United States].
8. Finding: The continuing erosion of NSA’s program management expertise and experience
has hindered its contribution to the fight against terrorism. NSA continues to have mixed
results in providing timely technical solutions to modern intelligence collection, analysis, and
information sharing problems.
9. Finding: The U.S. Government does not presently bring together in one place all
terrorism-related information from all sources. While the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center
does manage overseas operations and has access to most Intelligence Community
information, it does not collect terrorism-related information from all sources, domestic and
foreign. Within the Intelligence Community, agencies did not adequately share relevant
counterterrorism information, prior to September 11. This breakdown in communications
was the result of a number of factors, including differences in the agencies’ missions, legal
authorities and cultures. Information was not sufficiently shared, not only between different
Intelligence Community agencies, but also within individual agencies, and between the
intelligence and the law enforcement agencies.
10. Finding: Serious problems in information sharing also persisted, prior to September 11,
between the Intelligence Community and relevant non-Intelligence Community agencies.
This included other federal agencies as well as state and local authorities. This lack of
communication and collaboration deprived those other entities, as well as the Intelligence
Community, of access to potentially valuable information in the “war” against Bin Ladin.
The Inquiry’s focus on the Intelligence Community limited the extent to which it explored
these issues, and this is an area that should be reviewed further.
11. Finding: Prior to September 11, 2001, the Intelligence Community did not effectively
develop and use human sources to penetrate the al-Qa’ida inner circle. This lack of reliable
and knowledgeable human sources significantly limited the Community’s ability to [page
xviii] acquire intelligence that could be acted upon before the September 11 attacks. In part,
at least, the lack of unilateral (i.e., U.S.-recruited) counterterrorism sources was a product of
an excessive reliance on foreign liaison services.
12. Finding: During the summer of 2001, when the Intelligence Community was bracing for
an imminent al-Qa’ida attack, difficulties with FBI applications for Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance and the FISA process led to a diminished level of
coverage of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives in the United States. The effect of these
difficulties was compounded by the perception that spread among FBI personnel at
Headquarters and the field offices that the FISA process was lengthy and fraught with peril.
13. Finding: [
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].
14. Finding: [Senior U.S. military officials were reluctant to use U.S. military assets to
conduct offensive counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, or to support or participate in
CIA operations directed against al-Qa’ida prior to September 11. At least part of this
reluctance was driven by the military’s view that the Intelligence Community was unable to
provide the intelligence needed to support military operations. Although the U.S. military
did participate in [ ] counterterrorism efforts to counter Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist
network prior to September 11, 2001, most of the military’s focus was on force protection].
15. Finding: The Intelligence Community depended heavily on foreign intelligence and law
enforcement services for the collection of counterterrorism intelligence and the conduct of
other counterterrorism activities. The results were mixed in terms of productive
intelligence, reflecting vast differences in the ability and willingness of the various foreign
services to target the Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida network. Intelligence Community agencies
sometimes failed to coordinate their relationships with foreign services adequately, either
within the Intelligence Community or with broader U.S. Government liaison and foreign
policy efforts. This reliance on foreign liaison services also resulted in a lack of focus on the
development of unilateral human sources.
16. Finding: [The activities of the September 11 hijackers in the United States appear to
have been financed, in large part, from monies sent to them from abroad and also brought in
on their persons. Prior to [page xix] September 11, there was no coordinated U.S.
Government-wide strategy to track terrorist funding and close down their financial support
networks. There was also a reluctance in some parts of the U.S. Government to track
terrorist funding and close down their financial support networks. As a result, the U.S.
Government was unable to disrupt financial support for Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist
activities effectively. ]
RELATED FINDINGS
17. Finding: Despite intelligence reporting from 1998 through the summer of 2001
indicating that Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network intended to strike inside the United
States, the United States Government did not undertake a comprehensive effort to
implement defensive measures in the United States.
18. Finding: Between 1996 and September 2001, the counterterrorism strategy adopted by
the U. S. Government did not succeed in eliminating Afghanistan as a sanctuary and
training ground for Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network. A range of instruments was used
to counter al-Qa’ida, with law enforcement often emerging as a leading tool because other
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means were deemed not to be feasible or failed to produce results. While generating
numerous successful prosecutions, law enforcement efforts were not adequate by themselves
to target or eliminate Bin Ladin’s sanctuary. The United States persisted in observing the
rule of law and accepted norms of international behavior, but Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida
recognized no rules and thrived in the safe haven provided by Afghanistan.
19. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Government
labored to prevent attacks by Usama Bin Ladin and his terrorist network against the United
States, but largely without the benefit of an alert, mobilized and committed American
public. Despite intelligence information on the immediacy of the threat level in the spring
and summer of 2001, the assumption prevailed in the U.S. Government that attacks of the
magnitude of September 11 could not happen here. As a result, there was insufficient effort
to alert the American public to the reality and gravity of the threat.
20. Finding: Located in Part Four Entitled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding
Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.”
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PART ONE—FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
I. THE JOINT INQUIRY
In February 2002, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence agreed to conduct a Joint Inquiry into the
activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community in connection with the terrorist attacks
perpetrated against our nation on September 11, 2001. Reflecting the magnitude of the
events of that day, the Committees’ decision was unprecedented in Congressional history:
for the first time, two permanent committees, one from the House and one from the
Senate, would join together to conduct a single, unified inquiry.
The three principal goals of this Joint Inquiry were to:
conduct a factual review of what the Intelligence Community knew or
should have known prior to September 11, 2001, regarding the
international terrorist threat to the United States, to include the scope and
nature of any possible international terrorist attacks against the United
States and its interests;
identify and examine any systemic problems that may have impeded the
Intelligence Community in learning of or preventing these attacks in
advance; and
make recommendations to improve the Intelligence Community’s ability
to identify and prevent future international terrorist attacks.
It should be noted that this Joint Inquiry had the specific charter to review the
activities of the Intelligence Community and was limited to approximately one year’s
duration. It is recognized that there are many other issues relating to the events of
September 11, 2001 that are outside the limits of the Intelligence Community, and that
additional new [page 2] information may be developed within the Intelligence
Community that was not reviewed by the Inquiry within the allotted time. With that in
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mind, we look forward to cooperating with the new National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks Upon the United States and the continuing oversight efforts of the House and
Senate Intelligence Committees.
During the course of this Inquiry, these Committees have held nine public
hearings as well as thirteen closed sessions in which classified information has been
considered. In addition, the Joint Inquiry Staff has reviewed almost 500,000 pages of
relevant documents from the Intelligence Community agencies and other sources, of
which about 100,000 pages have been selected for incorporation into the Joint Inquiry’s
records. The Staff also has conducted approximately 300 interviews, and has participated
in numerous briefings and panel discussions, that have involved almost 600 individuals
from the Intelligence Community agencies, other U.S. Government organizations, state
and local entities, and representatives of the private sector and foreign governments.
Thus, the Inquiry has sought and considered information from agencies
throughout the Intelligence Community and other parts of the federal government; from
relevant state and local authorities; and from private sector and foreign government
individuals and organizations. This report is based on information gathered by the
Committees throughout this Inquiry as well as testimony and exhibits received during the
course of both the closed and open hearings. Consistent with the need to protect the
national security, [page 2] the Committees will also subsequently issue an unclassified
* version of this report for public release.
The statement of the Committees’ findings and recommendations in Part I of this
report includes only a brief summary of the nature of the terrorist threat that faced the
United States, and the Intelligence Community, in the years that preceded the vicious
attacks of September 11, 2001. Given the scope of the information and issues considered
during the course of this Inquiry, these findings and recommendations can only be
completely understood against the background of the full hearing and investigative
record. To provide that context, a detailed description of the hearings and investigative
work of the Joint Inquiry is contained in Part II of this report.1
* This is the unclassified version of the original classified report that was approved by the Joint Inquiry.
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II. THE CONTEXT
September 11, 2001, while indelible in our collective memory, was by no means
America’s first confrontation with international terrorism. Although the nature of the
threat had evolved considerably over time, the United States and its interests have long
been prime terrorist targets. For example, the bombings of the Marine barracks and the
U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 should have served as a clear warning that
terrorist groups were not reluctant to attack U.S. interests when they believed such
attacks would further their ends.
The Intelligence Community also had considerable evidence before September 11
that international terrorists were capable of, and had planned, major terrorist strikes
within the United States. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center confirmed this
point, as did the 1993 plots to bomb New York City landmarks and the 1999 arrest at the
U.S.-Canadian border of Ahmad Ressam, who intended to bomb the Los Angeles
International Airport. [Page 4]
Usama Bin Ladin’s role in international terrorism had also been well known for
some time before September 11. He initially came to the attention of the Intelligence
Community in the early 1990s as a financier of terrorism. However, Bin Ladin’s own
words soon provided evidence of the steadily escalating threat to the United States he and
his organization posed. In August 1996, he issued a fatwa -- or religious decree --
authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. In February
1998, Bin Ladin issued a second fatwa authorizing attacks on U.S. civilians and military
personnel anywhere in the world. Bin Ladin’s fatwas cited the U.S. military presence in
1 Anthrax attacks in October 2001 eventually killed five Americans, contaminated the Senate Hart Office building in
Washington, D.C. as well as U.S. Postal Service facilities in Maryland, and significantly affected the U.S. economy.
The statement of Initial Scope of this Joint Inquiry made specific reference to the anthrax attacks. In pursuing that
matter, the Inquiry received briefings from the FBI and the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) regarding their
investigations of the anthrax attacks. It also requested that GAO’s Center for Technology and Engineering review the
attacks; current knowledge regarding the use of anthrax as a weapon; technologies available to detect anthrax; and the
law enforcement community’s ability to combat chemical and biological terrorist attacks, including the FBI’s resources
and analytical capabilities to investigate such attacks. The GAO report has been completed. It is summarized in Part
Three of this report and is included in its entirety as an appendix. To date, no connection has been established between
the anthrax attacks and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
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Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, the Palestinian issue, and U.S. support for Israel as
justification for ordering these attacks.
The gradual emergence of Bin Ladin and others like him marked a change from
the type of terrorist threat that had traditionally confronted the Intelligence Community.
Throughout the Cold War, radical left and ethno-nationalist groups had carried out most
terrorist acts. Many of these groups were state-sponsored. The first bombing of the
World Trade Center in February 1993, however, led to a growing recognition in the
Intelligence Community of a new type of terrorism that did not conform to the Cold War
model: violent radical Islamic cells, not linked to any specific country, but united in anti-
American zeal. A July 1995 National Intelligence Estimate noted the danger of this “new
breed”. By 1996, agencies within the Intelligence Community were aware that Bin Ladin
was organizing these kinds of cells, and they began to collect intelligence on him
actively.
In January 1996, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) – which had been established
at CIA in 1986 -- created a special unit that was dedicated to focusing on Bin Ladin and
his associates. The unit quickly determined that he was more than a terrorist financier,
and it soon became a hub for expertise on Bin Ladin and for operations directed against
his terrorist network, al Qa’ida. Officials from the unit, which started with about 16 CIA
officers and grew to about 40 officers from throughout the Intelligence Community prior
to September 11, 2001, had unprecedented access to senior agency officials and White
House policymakers.
[Page 5]
[At the FBI, the Radical Fundamentalist Unit was created in March 1994 to
handle responsibilities related to international radical fundamentalist terrorists, including
Usama Bin Ladin. This Unit also handled other counterintelligence matters, and was
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responsible for the coordination of extraterritorial intelligence operations and criminal
investigations targeted at radical fundamentalist terrorists. In 1999, the FBI recognized
the increased threat to the United States posed by Bin Ladin and created the Usama Bin
Ladin Unit to handle al-Qa’ida-related counterterrorism matters].
[As al-Qa’ida grew, both CIA and FBI officials recognized that the foreign
intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies of foreign governments, collectively
referred to as “foreign liaison,” could be of great value in penetrating and countering the
organization. They understood that foreign liaison could act as a tremendous force
multiplier against terrorism and, with that in mind, tried to coordinate and streamline
what had been ad hoc relationships. As a result, as former National Security Advisor
Sandy Berger testified, al-Qa’ida cells were disrupted in a number of countries after
1997. CTC also stepped up its efforts to enhance the capabilities of some foreign liaison
services to work against joint terrorist targets. These efforts had mixed results].
The FBI also increased its focus on counterterrorism, establishing its own
Counterterrorism Center at FBI Headquarters in 1996. Recognizing the importance of
good relationships with foreign liaison services, the FBI expanded the permanent
stationing of agents, known as Legal Attaches, or “Legats,” in principal cities across the
globe. In addition to improving relations with foreign services, the FBI engaged in an
aggressive program with the CIA to arrest terrorists outside the United States. Finally,
the FBI established Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in thirty-five field offices before
September 11. These task forces were designed to bring together a range of federal, state
and local agencies that could provide valuable assistance in counterterrorism
investigations.
[Page 6]
The August 1998 bombing of two American embassies in East Africa definitively
put the U.S. Intelligence Community on notice of the danger that Bin Ladin and his
network, al-Qa’ida, posed. The attacks showed that Bin Ladin’s network was capable of
carrying out very bloody, simultaneous attacks and inflicting mass casualties. In
December 1998, George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, gave a chilling
direction to his deputies at the CIA:
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We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin. . .
. We are at war. . . . I want no resources or people spared in this
effort, either inside the CIA or the Community.
Discovering and disrupting al-Qa’ida’s plans proved exceptionally difficult,
however. Details of major terrorist plots were not widely shared within the al-Qa’ida
organization, making it hard to develop the intelligence necessary to preempt or disrupt
attacks. Senior al-Qa’ida officials were sensitive to operational security, and many al-
Qa'ida members enjoyed sanctuary in Afghanistan, where they could safely plan and train
for their missions. Finally, senior members of al-Qa'ida were skilled and purposeful: they
learned from their mistakes and were flexible in organization and planning.
Nonetheless, particularly after the bombings in East Africa, the Intelligence
Community amassed a body of information detailing Bin Ladin’s ties to terrorist
activities against U.S. interests around the world. Armed with that information, prior to
September 11, 2001, U.S. Government counterterrorist efforts to identify and disrupt
terrorist operations focused to a substantial degree on Bin Ladin and his network. The
Intelligence Community achieved some successes – in some cases, major successes – in
these operations. In other cases, little came of the Intelligence Community’s efforts.
[Page 7]
By late 2000 and 2001, the Intelligence Community was engaged in an extensive,
shadowy struggle against al-Qa’ida. Despite such efforts, Bin Ladin carried out
successful and devastating attacks against Americans and citizens of other nations,
including the bombing of USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 and the attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
III. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
A. Factual Findings
In reviewing the documents, interview reports, and witness testimony gathered
during this Inquiry, the Joint Inquiry has sought to determine what information was
available to the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001 that was relevant to
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the attacks that occurred on that day. The record that has been established through this
Inquiry leads to the following factual findings and conclusions.
1. Finding: While the Intelligence Community had amassed a great deal of valuable
intelligence regarding Usama Bin Ladin and his terrorist activities, none of it
identified the time, place, and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for
September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, the Community did have information that was
clearly relevant to the September 11 attacks, particularly when considered for its
collective significance.
Discussion: This Inquiry has uncovered no intelligence information in the
possession of the Intelligence Community prior to the attacks of September 11 that, if
fully considered, would have provided specific, advance warning of the details of those
attacks. The task of the Inquiry was not, however, limited to a search for the legendary,
and often absent, “smoking gun.” The facts surrounding the September 11 attacks
demonstrate the importance of strengthening the Intelligence Community’s ability to
detect and prevent terrorist attacks in what appears to be the more common, but also far
more difficult, scenario. Within the huge volume of intelligence reporting that was
available prior to September 11, there were various threads and pieces of information
that, at least in retrospect, are both relevant and significant. The degree to which the
Community was or was not able to build on that information to discern the bigger picture
[page 8] successfully is a critical part of the context for the September 11 attacks and is
addressed in the findings that follow.
2. Finding: During the spring and summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community
experienced a significant increase in information indicating that Bin Ladin and al-
Qa’ida intended to strike against U.S. interests in the very near future.
Discussion: The National Security Agency (NSA), for example, reported at least
33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack in 2001. Senior U.S.
Government officials were advised by the Intelligence Community on June 28 and July
10, 2001, that the attacks were expected, among other things, to “have dramatic
consequences on governments or cause major casualties” and that “[a]ttack preparations
have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.”
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Some Community personnel described the increase in threat reporting as
unprecedented, at least in their own experience. The Intelligence Community advised
senior policymakers of the likelihood of an attack but, given the non-specific nature of
the reporting, could not identify when, where, and how an attack would take place.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in his testimony, described his recollection
of the threat and the U.S. Government’s response:
We issued between January and September nine warnings, five of them
global, because of the threat information we were receiving from the
intelligence agencies in the summer, when [DCI] George Tenet was
around town literally pounding on desks saying, something is happening,
this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He didn’t know where
it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.
3. Finding: Beginning in 1998 and continuing into the summer of 2001, the
Intelligence Community received a modest, but relatively steady, stream of
intelligence reporting that indicated the possibility of terrorist attacks within the
United States. Nonetheless, testimony and interviews confirm that it was the general
view of the Intelligence Community, in the spring and summer of 2001, that the
threatened Bin Ladin attacks would most likely occur against U.S. interests
overseas, despite indications of plans and intentions to attack in the domestic United
States.
[Page 9]
Discussion: Communications intercepts, the arrests of suspected terrorists in the Middle
East and Europe, and a credible report of a plan to attack a U.S. Embassy in the Middle East
shaped the Community’s thinking about where an attack was likely to occur. While former FBI
Director Louis Freeh testified that the FBI was “intensely focused” on terrorist targets within the
United States, the FBI’s Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism testified that in 2001
he thought there was a high probability – “98 percent” – that the attack would be overseas. The
latter was the clear majority view, despite the fact that the Intelligence Community had
information suggesting that Bin Ladin had planned, and was capable of, conducting attacks
within the domestic United States.
This stream of reporting began as early as 1998 and continued during the time of
heightened threat levels in 2001. For example, the Community received reporting in May 2001
that Bin Ladin supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States to conduct terrorist
operations and, in late summer 2001, that an al-Qa’ida associate was considering mounting
terrorist attacks within the United States.
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[Of particular interest to the Joint Inquiry was whether and to what extent the President
received threat-specific warnings during this period. The Joint Inquiry was advised by a
representative of the Intelligence Community that, in August 2001, a closely held intelligence
report for senior government officials included information that Bin Ladin had wanted to
conduct attacks in the United States since 1997. The information included discussion of the
arrest of Ahmed Ressam in December 1999 at the U.S.-Canadian border and the 1998 bombings
of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. It mentioned that members of al-Qa’ida, including
some U.S. citizens, had resided in or traveled to the United States for years and that the group
apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information
obtained and disseminated in 1998 that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release
of U.S.-held extremists; FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for
hijackings or other types of attacks; as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a
group of Bin Ladin supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives].*
[Page 10]
4. Finding: From at least 1994, and continuing into the summer of 2001, the
Intelligence Community received information indicating that terrorists were
contemplating, among other means of attack, the use of aircraft as weapons. This
information did not stimulate any specific Intelligence Community assessment of, or
collective U.S. Government reaction to, this form of threat.
Discussion: [While the credibility of the sources was sometimes questionable and
the information often sketchy, the Inquiry confirmed that the Intelligence Community did
receive intelligence reporting concerning the potential use of aircraft as weapons. For
example, the Community received information in 1998 about a Bin Ladin operation that
would involve flying an explosive- laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and, in summer 2001,
about a plot to bomb a U.S. embassy from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. The
FBI and CIA were also aware that convicted terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad and several
others had discussed the possibility of crashing an airplane into CIA Headquarters as part
of “the Bojinka Plot” in the Philippines, discussed later in this report. Some, but
* National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice stated in a May 16, 2002 press briefing that, on August 6, 2001, the
President’s Daily Brief (PDB) included information about Bin Ladin’s methods of operation from a historical
perspective dating back to 1997. One of the methods was that Bin Ladin might choose to highjack an airliner in order
to hold passengers hostage to gain release of one of their operatives. She stated, however, that the report did not
contain specific warning information, but only a generalized warning, and did not contain information that al-Qa’ida
was discussing a particular planned attack against a specific target at any specific time, place, or by any specific
method.
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apparently not all, of these reports were disseminated within the Intelligence Community
and to other agencies].
The Transportation Security Administration, for example, advised the Committees
that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had not received three of these reports,
that two others were received by the FAA but through State Department cables, and that
one report was received by the FAA, but only after September 11, 2001. Many
policymakers and U.S. Government officials apparently remained unaware of this kind of
potential threat and the Intelligence Community did not produce any specific assessments
of the likelihood that terrorists would in fact use airplanes as weapons. For example,
former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified before these Committees that:
I don’t recall being presented with any specific threat information about an
attack of this nature [the use of aircraft as weapons] or any alert
highlighting this threat or indicating it was any more likely than any other.
That testimony is consistent with the views publicly expressed by the current
National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, shortly after the September 11 attacks.
[Page 11] Similarly, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz testified that he
had not been made aware of this type of potential threat:
I don’t recall any warning of the possibility of a mass casualty attack using
civilian airliners or any information that would have led us to contemplate
the possibility of our shooting down a civilian airliner.
Even within the Intelligence Community, the possibility of using aircraft as
weapons was apparently not widely known. At the FBI, for instance, the FBI Phoenix
field office agent who wrote the so-called “Phoenix memo” testified that he was aware of
the plot to crash a plane into CIA Headquarters, but not the other reports of terrorist
groups considering the use of aircraft as weapons. The Chief of the Radical
Fundamentalist Unit in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division also confirmed, in an Joint
Inquiry interview, that he was not aware of such reports.
5. Finding: Although relevant information that is significant in retrospect regarding
the attacks was available to the Intelligence Community prior to September 11,
2001, the Community too often failed to focus on that information and consider and
appreciate its collective significance in terms of a probable terrorist attack. Neither
did the Intelligence Community demonstrate sufficient initiative in coming to grips
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with the new transnational threats. Some significant pieces of information in the
vast stream of data being collected were overlooked, some were not recognized as
potentially significant at the time and therefore not disseminated, and some
required additional action on the part of foreign governments before a direct
connection to the hijackers could have been established. For all those reasons, the
Intelligence Community failed to capitalize fully on available, and potentially
important, information. The sub-findings below identify each category of this
information.
[Terrorist Communications in 1999}
5.a. [During 1999, the National Security Agency obtained a number of
communications – none of which included specific detail regarding the time,
place or nature of the September 11 attacks -- connecting individuals to
terrorism who were identified, after September 11, 2001, as participants in
the attacks that occurred on that day].
[Page 12]
Discussion: [In early 1999, the National Security Agency (NSA) analyzed
communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that had
previously been linked to al-Qa’ida activities directed against U.S. interests. Information
obtained [ ] included, among other things, the full name of future hijacker Nawaf al-
Hazmi. Beyond the fact that the communications involved a suspected terrorist facility in
the Middle East, the communications did not, in NSA’s view at the time, feature any
other terrorist-related information. The information was not published because the
individuals mentioned in the communications were unknown to NSA, and, according to
NSA, the information did not meet NSA’s reporting thresholds. NSA has explained that
these thresholds are flexible, sometimes changing daily, and consist of several factors,
including: the priority of the intelligence requirement; the apparent intelligence value of
the information; the level of customer interest in the topic; the current situation; and the
volume of intercept to be analyzed and reported].
[During the summer of 1999, NSA analyzed additional communications involving
a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that included the name of Khaled. At
about the same time, the name Khallad also came to NSA’s attention. This information
did not meet NSA’s reporting thresholds and thus was not disseminated].
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[In late 1999, NSA analyzed communications involving a suspected terrorist
facility in the Middle East that included the names of Khaled and Nawaf. At this time,
NSA did not associate the latter individual with the Nawaf al-Hazmi it had learned about
in early 1999. Later, the two individuals [ ] were determined to be Khalid al-Mihdhar
and Nawaf al-Hazmi, now known to be two of the September 11 hijackers. [
]. This information was passed to the CIA as well as the FBI in late 1999. In
early 2000, NSA also [ ] passed additional
information about Khalid to the CIA, FBI, FAA, the Departments of State, Treasury,
Transportation, and Justice, and others in the U.S. Government].
[Page 13]
Malaysia Meeting and Travel of al-Qa’ida Operatives
to the United States
5.b. The Intelligence Community acquired additional, and highly significant,
information regarding Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in early
2000. Critical parts of the information concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi
lay dormant within the Intelligence Community for as long as eighteen
months, at the very time when plans for the September 11 attacks were
proceeding. The CIA missed repeated opportunities to act based on the
information in its possession that these two Bin Ladin-associated terrorists
were traveling to the United States, and to add their names to watchlists.
Discussion: [By early January 2000, CIA knew al-Mihdhar’s full name and that it
was likely Nawaf’s last name was al-Hazmi, knew that they had attended what was
believed to be a gathering of al-Qa’ida associates in Malaysia, was aware that they had
been traveling together, and had documents indicating that al-Mihdhar held a U.S. B-1B-
2 multiple entry visa that would allow him to travel to and from the United States until
April 6, 2000. CIA arranged surveillance of the meeting and the DCI was kept informed
as the operation progressed].
Despite having all this information, and despite the republication of CTC
guidance regarding watchlisting procedures in December 1999 (see Appendix, “CTC
Watchlisting Guidance – December 1999”), CIA did not add the names of these two
individuals to the State Department, INS, and U.S. Customs Service watchlists that are
used to deny individuals entry into the United States. The weight of the record also
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suggests that, despite providing the FBI with other, less critical, information about the
Malaysia meeting, the CIA did not advise the FBI about al-Mihdhar’s U.S. visa and the
very real possibility that he would travel to the United States. The CIA stated its belief
that the visa information was sent to the FBI and produced a cable indicating that this had
been done.*
The FBI, for its part, had no record the visa information was received. Although
the facts of the Malaysia meeting were included in several briefings for senior FBI
officials, including FBI Director Louis Freeh, no record could be found that the visa
information was part of these briefings.
[Page 14]
[On March 5, 2000, CIA Headquarters received a cable from an overseas CIA
station indicating that Nawaf al-Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles, California on
January 15, 2000. The following day, March 6, CIA Headquarters received a message
from another CIA station noting its “interest” in the first cable’s “information that a
member of this group had traveled to the U.S.” The CIA did not act on either message,
again did not watchlist al-Hazmi or al-Mihdhar, and, again, did not advise the FBI of
their possible presence in the United States. In 2000, these same two individuals had
numerous contacts with an active FBI counterterrorism informant while they were living
in San Diego, California].
On January 4, 2001, CIA acquired information that Khallad, a principal planner in
the bombing of USS Cole, had, along with al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, attended the
January 2000 meeting in Malaysia. Again, the CIA did not watchlist these two
individuals. At the time, al-Mihdhar was abroad, but al-Hazmi was still in the United
States. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to the Joint Inquiry that: “al-Mihdhar’s role
in the September 11 plot . . . before his re-entry into the United States may well have
been that of the coordinator and organizer of . . . the non-pilot hijackers.”
In May 2001, the CIA provided FBI Headquarters with photographs taken in
Malaysia, including one of al-Mihdhar, for purposes of identifying another Cole bombing
* In interviews, CIA personnel could not confirm that the visa information had in fact been provided to the
FBI.
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suspect. Although the CIA told FBI Headquarters about the Malaysia meeting and about
al-Mihdhar’s travel in Southeast Asia at that time, the CIA did not advise the FBI about
al-Mihdhar’s or al-Hazmi’s possible travel to the United States. Again, the CIA did not
watchlist the two individuals. While CIA personnel were working closely with the FBI
in support of the USS Cole bombing investigation, the importance and urgency of
information tying suspected terrorists to the domestic United States apparently never
registered with them. CIA Director Tenet testified that CIA personnel:
. . . in their focus on the [USS Cole] investigation, did not recognize the
implications of the information about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar that
[page 15] they had in their files.
On June 11, 2001, FBI Headquarters and CIA personnel met with the New York
FBI field office agents who were handling the USS Cole investigation. The New York
agents were shown the Malaysia photographs, but were not given copies. Although al-
Mihdhar’s name was mentioned, the New York agents’ requests for more information
about al-Mihdhar and the circumstances surrounding the photographs were refused,
according to one of the field office agents. The FBI Headquarters analyst recalls that she
said at the meeting that she would try to get the information the agents had requested.
In Joint Inquiry hearing testimony, one of the New York FBI agents who was
present described his recollection of the meeting:
When these photos were shown to us, we had information at the time that
one of the suspects had actually traveled to the same region of the world
that this might have taken place, so we pressed the individuals there for
more information regarding the meeting. So we pressed them for
information. [A]t the end of the meeting – some of them say it was
because I was able to get the name out of the analyst, but at the end of that
day we knew the name Khalid al-Mihdhar but nothing else. The context
of the meeting was that we continued to press them two or three times on
information regarding, “Why were you looking at this guy? You couldn’t
have been following everybody around the Millennium. What was the
reason behind this?
And we were told that that information – as I recall, we were told that that
information could not be passed and that they would try to do it in the
days and weeks to come. That meeting – I wouldn’t say it was very
contentious, but we were not very happy, the New York agents at the time
were not very happy that certain information couldn’t be shared with us.
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Again, in that meeting, the CIA had missed yet another opportunity to advise the
FBI about al-Mihdhar’s visa and possible travel to the United States and, again, the CIA
took no action to watchlist these individuals. Just two days later, al-Mihdhar obtained a
new U.S. visa and, on July 4, 2001, he re-entered the United States.
It was not until mid July 2001, that a concerned CIA officer assigned to the FBI
triggered a CIA review of its cables regarding the Malaysia meeting, a task that, [page 16]
ironically, fell to an FBI analyst assigned to the CTC. Working with the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), the FBI analyst determined that both al-Mihdhar and al-
Hazmi had entered the United States. As a result of that effort, on August 23, 2001, the
CIA finally notified the FBI and requested of the State Department that the two individuals
should be watchlisted.
Even then, there was less than an all-out effort to locate what amounted to two
Bin Ladin-associated terrorists in the United States during a period when the terrorist
threat level had escalated to a peak level. For example, neither CIA, FBI, nor State
Department informed the FAA. On August 21, 2001, coincidentally, FAA had issued a
Security Directive, entitled “Threat to U.S. Aircraft Operators.” That Directive alerted
commercial airlines that nine named terrorism-associated individuals – none of whom
were connected to the 19 hijackers -- were planning commercial air travel and should
receive additional security scrutiny if they attempted to board an aircraft. The Directive
was updated on August 24 and August 28, 2001. Had FAA been advised of the presence
of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in the United States, a similar directive could have been
issued, subjecting the two, their luggage and any carry-on items to detailed, FAAdirected
searches.
Further, only the FBI’s New York field office received a request from FBI
Headquarters to conduct a search for the two prior to September 11, 2001. The
Headquarters written instruction to the New York field office only identified al-Mihdhar
in its subject line. Nawaf al-Hazmi was mentioned in the text, and it is not clear whether
it was intended that he be a subject of the search as well. It was not until September 11,
2001 that the Los Angeles FBI field office was asked to conduct a search. Other FBI
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offices with potentially useful informants, such as San Diego, were not notified prior to
September 11.
A New York FBI field office agent testified that he urged FBI Headquarters on
August 28, 2001 to allow New York field office criminal agents to participate in the
search with FBI intelligence agents, given the limited resources that are often applied to
[page 17] intelligence investigations. The request was refused by FBI Headquarters
because of concerns about the perceived “wall” between criminal and intelligence
matters. Looking back, the New York FBI agent testified about his hope that the
Intelligence Community would overcome this kind of restriction in the future:
…after everything happened and we had ramped up where thousands of
FBI agents all over the world were trying to find somebody, I thought to
myself – and I don’t necessarily know how to do it, but we’ve got to be
able to get there – when we find out a Khalid al-Mihdhar is in the country,
intelligence, criminal, or whatever, we’ve got to be able to get to the level
we were at September 12, the afternoon of September 11. We’ve got to be
able to get there before September 11, not September 12.
Joint Inquiry witnesses testified that other federal agencies with potentially valuable
information databases were never asked to assist in FBI’s search.
[Terrorist Communications in Spring 2000]
5.c. [In January 2000, after the meeting of al-Qa’ida operatives in
Malaysia, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi entered the United
States [ ]. Thereafter, the Intelligence
Community obtained information indicating that an individual named
“Khaled” at an unknown location had contacted a suspected terrorist
facility in the Middle East. The Intelligence Community reported
some of this information, but did not report all of it. Some of it was
not reported because it was deemed not terrorist-related. It was not
until after September 11, 2001 that the Intelligence Community
determined that these contacts had been made from future hijacker
Khalid al-Mihdhar while he was living within the domestic United
States].
Discussion: [While the Intelligence Community had information regarding these
communications, it did not determine the location from which they had been made [ ]
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[ ]. After September 11, the
FBI determined from domestic toll records that it was in fact the hijacker Khalid al-
Mihdhar who had made these communications and that he had done so from within the
United States. The Intelligence Community did not identify what was critically
important [page 18] information in terms of the domestic threat to the United States: the
fact that the communications were between individuals within the United States and
suspected terrorist facilities overseas. That kind of information could have provided
crucial investigative leads to law enforcement agencies engaged in domestic
counterterrorist efforts].
[Two Hijackers Had Numerous Contacts with an Active FBI Informant]
5.d. [This Joint Inquiry confirmed that these same two future hijackers,
Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had numerous contacts with a long
time FBI counterterrorism informant in California and that a third future
hijacker, Hani Hanjour, apparently had more limited contact with the same
informant. In mid- to late-2000, the CIA already had information indicating
that al-Mihdhar had a multiple entry U.S. visa and that al-Hazmi had in fact
traveled to Los Angeles, but the two had not been watchlisted and
information suggesting that two suspected terrorists could well be in the
United States had not yet been given to the FBI. The San Diego FBI field
office, which handled the informant in question, did not receive that
information or any of the other intelligence information pertaining to al-
Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, prior to September 11, 2001. As a result, the FBI
missed the opportunity to task a uniquely well-positioned informant -- who
denies having any advance knowledge of the plot --- to collect information
about the hijackers and their plans within the United States.]
Discussion: [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar had numerous contacts with
a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant while they were living in San Diego,
California. There are several indications that hijacker Hani Hanjour may have had more
limited contact with the same informant in December 2000.]
[During the summer of 2000, the informant advised the FBI handling agent that
the informant had contacts with two individuals named “Nawaf” and “Khalid”. The
informant described meeting these individuals. The informant described the two to the
FBI agent as Saudi Muslim youths who were legally in the United States to visit and
attend school. The FBI agent did not, at the time, consider these individuals to be of
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interest to the [page 19] FBI. While the agent says he asked the informant for the
individuals’ last names, the informant never provided that information and the FBI agent
did not press for the names because he had no reason to think they were significant until
after September 11, 2001.]
[ ]
[During one of their last contacts, al-Hazmi advised the informant that he was moving to
Arizona to attend flight training, but the informant did not advise the FBI of this
information until after the September 11 attacks].
[When the FBI’s San Diego field office determined after the attacks that a longtime
FBI counterterrorism informant had had numerous contacts in 2000 with two of the
September 11 hijackers, personnel there were immediately suspicious about whether the
informant was involved in the plot. Subsequently, however, all of the field office
personnel, including senior managers and various case agents, concluded that the
informant was unwitting of, and had no role in, the September 11 plot].
[Several questions remain, however, with regard to the informant’s credibility.
First, while there are several indications suggesting that future hijacker Hani Hanjour had
contact with the informant in December 2000, the informant has repeatedly advised the
FBI that the informant does not recognize photos of Hanjour. Second, the informant told
the FBI that the hijackers did nothing to arouse the informant’s suspicion, but the
informant also acknowledged that al-Hazmi had contacts with at least four individuals
the informant knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom the informant had
previously reported to the FBI. Third, the informant has made numerous inconsistent
statements to the FBI during the course of interviews after September 11, 2001. Fourth,
the informant’s responses during an FBI polygraph examination to very specific
questions about the informant’s advance knowledge of the September 11 plot were
judged by the FBI to be “inconclusive,” although the FBI asserts that this type of result is
not unusual for such individuals in such circumstances].
[Page 20]
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[Finally, there is also information which conflicts with the information provided
by the informant concerning the dates of contacts with the hijackers. The Joint Inquiry,
for example, brought to the FBI’s attention information that is inconsistent with the date
of initial contact as provided by the informant. In its November 18, 2002 written
response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI has acknowledged that there are “significant
inconsistencies” in the informant’s statements about these contacts. The FBI investigation
regarding this issue is continuing].
[The Administration has to date objected to the Inquiry’s efforts to interview the
informant in order to attempt to resolve those inconsistencies. The Administration also
would not agree to allow the FBI to serve a Committee subpoena and deposition notice
on the informant. Instead, written interrogatories from the Joint Inquiry were, at the
suggestion of the FBI, provided to the informant. Through an attorney, the informant has
declined to respond to those interrogatories and has indicated that, if subpoenaed, the
informant would request a grant of immunity prior to testifying].
[The FBI agent who was responsible for the informant testified before the Joint
Inquiry that, had he had access to the intelligence information on al-Mihdhar’s and al-
Hazmi’s significance at the time they were in San Diego:
It would have made a huge difference. We would have immediately
opened [ ] investigations. We had the predicate for a
[ ] investigation if we had that information.…[W]e would
immediately go out and canvas the sources and try to find out where these
people were. If we locate them, which we probably would have since they
were very close – they were nearby – we would have initiated
investigations immediately.…We would have done everything. We would
have used all available investigative techniques. We would have given
them the full court press. [Page 21] We would…have done everything –
physical surveillance, technical surveillance and other assets.
[Whether, as the agent testified he believes, that kind of investigative work would
have occurred and would have then uncovered the hijackers’ future plans will necessarily
remain speculation. What is clear, however, is that the informant’s contacts with the
hijackers, had they been capitalized on, would have given the San Diego FBI field office
perhaps the Intelligence Community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.
Given the CIA’s failure to disseminate, in a timely manner, intelligence information on
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the significance and location of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, that chance, unfortunately,
never materialized].
The Phoenix Electronic Communication
5.e. On July 10, 2001, an FBI Phoenix field office agent sent an “Electronic
Communication” to four individuals in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU)
and two individuals in the Usama Bin Ladin Unit (UBLU) at FBI Headquarters,
and to two agents on International Terrorism squads in the FBI New York field
office. In the communication, the agent expressed his concerns, based on his
first-hand knowledge, that there was a coordinated effort underway by Bin
Ladin to send students to the United States for civil aviation-related training. He
noted that there was an “inordinate number of individuals of investigative
interest” in this type of training in Arizona and expressed his suspicion that this
was an effort to establish a cadre of individuals in civil aviation who would
conduct future terrorist activity. The Phoenix agent’s communication requested
that FBI Headquarters consider implementing four recommendations:
• accumulate a list of civil aviation universities/colleges around the country;
• establish liaison with these schools;
•discuss the theories contained in the Phoenix EC with the Intelligence
Community; and
• consider seeking authority to obtain visa information concerning individuals
seeking to attend flight schools.
However, the FBI Headquarters personnel did not take the action
requested by the Phoenix field office agent prior to September 11, 2001.
The Phoenix communication generated little or no interest at either FBI
Headquarters or the FBI’s New York field office.
[Page 22]
Discussion: Before the Joint Inquiry, the Phoenix agent who authored the
Phoenix communication testified that:
What I wanted was an analytical product. I wanted this discussed with the
Intelligence Community. I wanted to see if my hunches were correct.
He noted, however, that he also knew that this type of analytical product took a back seat
to operational matters at the FBI:
But, I am also a realist. I understand that the people at FBI Headquarters
are terribly overworked and understaffed, and they have been for years.
And at the time that I am a sending this in, having worked this stuff for 13
years, and watched the unit in action over the years, I knew that this was
going to be at the bottom of the pile, so to speak, because they were
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dealing with real-time threats, real-timer issues trying to render fugitives
back to the United States from overseas for justice. And again, it is a
resource issue.
The Phoenix agent was correct, and his communication did fall to the bottom of the pile.
He sent the communication to four individuals in the Radical Fundamentalist
Unit, two individuals in the Usama Bin Ladin Unit, and two agents on International
terrorism squads in the New York field office. Only three of the eight addressees recall
reading the communication prior to September 11, 2001. Neither of the two Intelligence
Operations Specialists who reviewed it at FBI Headquarters undertook a comprehensive
national analysis of the theories it set forth. Nor did they send the communication to the
FBI’s analytic unit or the Intelligence Community, as requested by the Phoenix agent.
Instead, it was forwarded to the Portland FBI field office, not primarily because of
concerns about flight school theories, but rather because that field office had a possible
investigative interest in one of the individuals who were named in the communication.
Similarly, the New York field office personnel who reviewed the communication
said they found it to be speculative and not particularly significant. That office had been
one of the recipients of a 1999 FBI Headquarters request to track Islamic flight students
in its area of jurisdiction.
[Page 23]
The Chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit testified that he did not see the
communication prior to September 11, 2001. In his testimony before the Joint Inquiry,
FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that: “the Phoenix [communication] should have
been disseminated to all field offices and to our sister agencies, and it should have
triggered a broader analytical approach.”
After September 11, the FBI discovered that [ ],* one of the individuals
who was identified in the Phoenix communication, was an associate of hijacker Hani
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the
Joint Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are
contained in the classified version of this final report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this
unclassified version due to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their
activities.
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Hanjour. [This individual] left the United States in April 2000 and returned in June 2001,
remaining in the United States for approximately one month. The FBI now speculates
that [the individual] may have returned to the United States either to evaluate Hanjour's
flying skills, or to provide Hanjour with his final training on the flight simulator before
the September 11 attacks. [The individual] was an experienced flight instructor who was
certified to fly Boeing 737s.
The FBI also has determined since September 11, 2001 that another individual
mentioned in the Phoenix communication – [ ] -- is also connected
to the al-Qa'ida network. [ ] was arrested at an al-Qa'ida safehouse in
Pakistan in 2002 along with [ ], one of the most prominent al-Qa'ida
facilitators.
The FBI Investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui
5.f. In August 2001, the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, in conjunction
with the INS, detained Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national who
had enrolled in flight training in Minnesota. FBI agents there also
suspected that Moussaoui was involved in a hijacking plot. FBI
Headquarters attorneys determined that there was not probable cause
to obtain a court order to search Moussaoui’s belongings under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, personnel at
FBI Headquarters, including the Radical Fundamentalist Unit and
the National Security Law Unit, as well as agents in the Minneapolis
field office, misunderstood the legal standard for obtaining an order
under FISA. As a result, FBI Minneapolis field office personnel
wasted valuable investigative resources trying to connect the Chechen
rebels to al-Qa’ida. Finally, no one at the FBI apparently connected
the Moussaoui investigation with the heightened threat environment
[page 24] in the summer of 2001, the Phoenix communication, or the
entry of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi into the United States.
Discussion: On February 23, 2001, Moussaoui entered the United States at
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, traveling on a French passport that allowed him to stay in the
country without a visa for 90 days, until May 22, 2001. On August 11, 2001, Moussaoui
and his roommate arrived in Eagan, Minnesota to begin classes at Pan Am, a flight school
that offered training on a Boeing 747 flight simulator used by professional pilots.
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According to FBI documents, on August 15, an employee at Pan Am called the FBI’s
Minneapolis field office because he and other employees were suspicious of Moussaoui,
who met none of the usual qualifications for Pan Am students. The FBI’s Minneapolis
field office opened an international terrorism investigation and determined that, since
Moussaoui had been authorized to stay in the United States only until May 22, 2001, he
was no longer in proper legal status.
On the same day the Minneapolis field office learned about Moussaoui, it asked
both the CIA and the FBI’s legal attaché in Paris for any information about Moussaoui
and informed FBI Headquarters of the investigation. The FBI Headquarters agent who
was responsible for the contact suggested that the Minneapolis field office put Moussaoui
under surveillance. However, a Minneapolis field office supervisory agent testified to the
Joint Inquiry that:
. . . .[m]y background in the criminal arena suggests that when a violation
occurs and you can stop further or potential criminal activity, you act on
that. So that is exactly what I instructed the agents to do. . . . Because I
didn’t want him to get any additional time on a flight simulator that would
allow him to have the knowledge that we could no longer take back from
him to operate an aircraft.
INS agents took Moussaoui into custody on August 16 because his authority to
stay in the United States had expired. Moussaoui declined to consent to a search of his
belongings. On Saturday, August 18, the Minneapolis field office sent a detailed
memorandum to an agent in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI Headquarters
describing the investigation.
[Page 25]
The memorandum stated that Moussaoui had two knives, padded gloves and shin
guards in his possession when he was arrested; had told his roommate that “true Muslims
must prepare themselves to fight;” and had begun exercise and martial arts training. In
addition, the memorandum stated that the Minneapolis field office believed that
Moussaoui and his roommate were part of a larger international radical fundamentalist
group. Based on Moussaoui’s “possession of weapons and his preparation through
physical training for violent confrontation,” the Minneapolis filed office stated it had
reason to believe that Moussaoui, his roommate, “and others yet unknown,” were
conspiring to seize control of an airplane.
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The Minneapolis field office agent testified to the Inquiry that Minneapolis agents
decided not to try to obtain a criminal search warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings
as that might prejudice any subsequent efforts to get a court order for a physical search
under FISA. The FBI field office agent contacted the CTC, which then advised CIA
stations abroad about Moussaoui and asked them in an August 25 cable to provide any
relevant information they might have. Based on information provided by the FBI’s
Minneapolis field office, that cable described Moussaoui and his roommate as “suspect
747 airline attackers” and a “suspect airline suicide attacker,” who might be “involved in
a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the U.S…..”
On August 21, 2001, the Minneapolis field office agent sent an e-mail to the RFU
supervisory agent at FBI Headquarters stating: “[It is] imperative that the [U.S. Secret
Service] be apprised of this threat potential indicated by the evidence.…If [Moussaoui]
seizes an aircraft flying from Heathrow to NYC, it will have the fuel on board to reach
DC.” In an interview, the FBI Headquarters agent to whom the message was addressed
said that he told the Minneapolis field office agent that he was working on a notification
to the entire Intelligence Community and the Secret Service about the threat presented by
Moussaoui. The RFU supervisory agent did send a teletype message to the Intelligence
Community and other U.S. Government agencies, including the FAA, on September 4,
2001. That message reported the FBI’s interviews of Moussaoui and his roommate, as
well as other information the FBI had obtained. The teletype, however, merely described
[page 26] the steps in the investigation and did not place Moussaoui’s actions in the
context of the
increased level of terrorist threats during the summer of 2001. Nor did it provide its
recipients with any analysis of Moussaoui’s actions or plans, or information about what
type of threat he may have presented.
[On August 22, the FBI legal attache’s office in Paris provided a report to the
RFU and the Minneapolis field office that contained information [
]. The FBI’s receipt of this information began a series of discussions
between the Minneapolis field office and FBI Headquarters focusing on whether the
Chechen rebels were a “recognized” foreign power for purposes of obtaining approval to
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search Moussaoui’s belongings under FISA. The Minneapolis field office agent testified
to the Joint Inquiry that he had had no training in FISA, but that he believed, based on
advice from FBI Headquarters, that “we needed to identify a – and the term that was
thrown around was ‘recognized foreign power’ and so that was our operational theory.”
As the FBI’s Deputy General Counsel has testified, however, this was incorrect. The FBI
may obtain a search warrant under FISA for an agent of any international terrorist group,
including the Chechen rebels. Because of this misunderstanding, the Minneapolis field
office expended valuable time and effort trying to establish a connection between the
Chechen rebels and al-Qa’ida, which it believed was a “recognized” foreign power].
The FBI Headquarters supervisory agent briefed the FBI’s Deputy General
Counsel, who testified that he agreed with the Headquarters agent that there was
insufficient information to show that Moussaoui was an agent of a foreign power. The
FBI’s focus shifted to arranging for Moussaoui’s deportation to France on September 17,
2001, at which point French officials would search his belongings and provide the results
to the FBI. Although the FBI was no longer considering a search warrant under FISA, no
one revisited the idea of attempting to obtain a criminal search warrant.
[Page 27]
Thus, during the summer of 2001 -- a time when the Intelligence Community was on the
highest state of alert, disparate parts of the FBI had information about Zacarias Moussaoui – a
suspected suicide hijacker, a Phoenix field office agent’s suspicions about radical
fundamentalists engaging in flight training, and the entry into the United States of Nawaf al-
Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who would become two of the September 11 hijackers. The FBI
field office agents in Minneapolis who were investigating Moussaoui knew nothing about the
Phoenix communication or al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. The Phoenix field office agent had never
heard about Moussaoui or the two future hijackers. The FBI agents in New York who were
informed on August 23, 2001 that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar had entered the United States knew
nothing about the other events of that summer. And, finally, the Chief of the RFU at FBI
Headquarters, which had handled both the Moussaoui investigation and the Phoenix
communication, acknowledged in testimony to the Joint Inquiry on September 24, 2001, that no
one at FBI Headquarters connected those events.
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[The indictment against Moussaoui, which was filed on December 11, 2001, alleges that
Moussaoui possessed a number of items on August 16, 2001. On that day, which is when FBI
and INS agents first interviewed him, the INS took Moussaoui’s possessions for safekeeping.
Absent search authority, however, the possessions were not examined at that time. As it turned
out, according to the indictment, Moussaoui’s possessions included letters indicating that
Moussaoui was a marketing consultant in the United States for Infocus Tech. The letters had
been signed by Yazid Sufaat, whom the Intelligence Community was aware was the owner of the
Malaysian condominium in which the January 2000 al-Qa’ida meeting attended by hijackers al-
Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had been held. The indictment also alleges that Moussaoui possessed a
notebook listing two German telephone numbers and the name “Ahad Sabet,” which, the
indictment states, was used by Ramzi Bin al-Shibh to send funds to Moussaoui. Bin al-Shibh,
who was apprehended in Pakistan in September 2002, is named in the indictment as a supporting
conspirator].
Hijackers In Contact With Persons of FBI Investigative Interest
in the United States
5.g. The Joint Inquiry confirmed that at least some of the hijackers were not
as isolated during their time in the United States as has been previously
suggested. Rather, they maintained a number of contacts both in the United
[page 28] States and abroad during this time period. Some of those contacts
were with individuals who were known to the FBI, through either past or, at
the time, ongoing FBI inquiries and investigations. Although it is not known
to what extent any of these contacts in the United States were aware of the
plot, it is now clear that they did provide at least some of the hijackers with
substantial assistance while they were living in this country.
Discussion: The Intelligence Community had information indicating the potential
existence of an al-Qa’ida support network in the United States prior to the attacks, and
this was consistent with al-Qai’da’s modus operandi in previous attacks. The FBI had, to
some degree, focused sources and investigative work on radical Islamic extremists within
the United States prior to September 11. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
testified that, during his time in office, the FBI view had been that “al-Qa’ida had limited
capacity to operate in the United States and any presence here was under surveillance.”
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[Ironically, this Inquiry has confirmed that at least some of the hijackers operated,
without detection, within the scope of the FBI’s coverage of radical Islamic extremists.
Hani Hanjour, Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Khalid al-
Mihdhar may have had contact with a total of 14 people who had come to the FBI’s
attention during counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigations prior to September
11, 2001. Four of those 14 were the focus of active FBI investigations during the time
that the hijackers were in the United States. In fact, as noted earlier, two future hijackers
had numerous contacts with an active FBI counterterrorism informant while in the United
States. Despite their proximity to FBI targets and at least one FBI source, the future
hijackers successfully eluded FBI attention].
Several examples illustrate not only the reliance of the hijackers on the potential
support networks, but also the ease with which they operated despite the FBI’s pre-
September 11 domestic coverage. Shortly after their arrival in the United States, future
hijackers Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi moved to San Diego at the suggestion
of Omar al-Bayoumi, who had previously been the focus of an FBI counterterrorism
[ ] inquiry. In San Diego, they stayed at al-Bayoumi’s apartment for several
days until he was able to find them an apartment. He then co-signed their lease, paid
[page 29] their security deposit and first month’s rent, arranged a party to welcome them
to the San Diego community, and tasked another individual to help them become
acclimated to the United States. [
]. The
second individual served as their translator, helped them obtain bank accounts and
drivers’ licenses, and assisted them in locating flight schools.
[Other individuals in San Diego also provided the two hijackers with similar types
of assistance. A manager of a local gas station, who was at the time being investigated
by the FBI, hired al-Hazmi to work for him briefly, after receiving a call from a mutual
friend at the mosque. In addition, a local imam, who was the subject of an FBI
counterterrorism inquiry for part of the time that the future hijackers were in San Diego,
served as their spiritual advisor when they were living in San Diego. Finally, al-Hazmi
and al-Mihdhar also maintained a number of other contacts in the local Islamic
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community during their time in San Diego, some of whom were also known to the FBI
through counterterrorist inquiries and investigations].
Future hijacker Hani Hanjour also may have received flight-related assistance
from [an individual], who, was also known to the FBI and was, in fact, included among
the individuals discussed in the Phoenix communication. As noted earlier, [this
individual] left the United States in April 2000, and returned in June 2001, remaining in
the United States for approximately one month. [The individual] was an associate of
Hanjour’s and the FBI now speculates that [the individual] may have returned to the
United States either to evaluate Hanjour’s flying skills, or to provide Hanjour his final
training on the Cessna simulator before the attacks. This individual was an experienced
flight instructor and was certified to fly Boeing 737s.
When some of the future hijackers relocated to the East Coast, it appears that they
received assistance similar to that provided to them on the West Coast. Al-Hazmi and al-
Mihdhar’s spiritual advisor relocated to the East Coast, and, when Hanjour and al-Hazmi
arrived at his mosque, one of the mosque’s members helped them find an apartment in
the area. After approximately a month, this same individual drove Hanjour and al-
[page 30] Hazmi, along with two other hijackers, to Connecticut, and then to Paterson,
New Jersey. From the hotel in Connecticut where they stayed for two nights, a total of
75 calls were made in attempts to locate apartments, flight schools, and car rental
agencies for the future hijackers. The hijackers were also in contact with a number of
other people during their time on the East Coast.
[The fact that these future hijackers could rely on this type of support within the
United States is consistent with other information that was available to the Intelligence
Community prior to September 11, 2001. That information also points to the existence of
an al-Qa’ida support network within the United States. An August 2001 Intelligence
Community publication for senior U.S. government policy officials (called a “SEIB”), for
example, indicated that al-Qa’ida members, including some U.S. citizens, have resided in
or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure in
the United States. The FBI Phoenix field office agent who authored the Phoenix
communication also testified that, based on his experience, he had developed an
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“investigative theory” that indicated that this kind of support network had been in place
in Arizona for some time].
[Finally, an early summer 2001 Intelligence Community report stated that Khalid
Shaykh Mohammed – the senior al-Qa’ida official who has been identified as the
mastermind of the September 11 attacks -- was recruiting individuals to travel to the
United States and engage in planning terrorist-related activity there. According to the
[ ] report, these individuals would be “expected to establish contact with
colleagues already living there.” This information was disseminated [ ]
to all Intelligence Community agencies and the [ ], military commanders, and
components within the Departments of Treasury and Justice].
[A September 12, 2001 FBI interview [
] also suggests the existence of an al-Qa’ida support
network within the United States. In that interview, an individual with al-Qa’ida
connections recalled that a senior al-Qa’ida operative had discussed [page 31] “using
multiple cells operating independently in the United States that could execute ten
operations simultaneously or in sequence that would produce a big impact on the United
States.” When queried by the FBI, the individual indicated that the senior operative had
the necessary people positioned in the United States to carry out such a plan, noting that
the senior operative has many contacts in the United States].
Hijackers’ Associates in Germany
5.h. [Since 1995, the CIA had been aware of a radical Islamic presence in
Germany, including individuals with connections to Usama Bin Ladin. Prior
to September 11, 2001, the CIA had unsuccessfully sought additional
information on individuals who have now been identified as associates of
some of the hijackers].
Discussion: [CIA and FBI counterterrorism operations and investigations prior to
September 11, 2001 repeatedly produced intelligence relating to two individuals in
Hamburg, Germany – Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected logistician in Bin Ladin’s
network, and Mohammed Zammar, a suspected recruiter for al- Qa’ida. The CIA had
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been seeking more information about Darkazanli. [
].
After September 11, 2001, it was determined that these same two individuals had
been associates in Hamburg of hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad
Jarrah, as well as other individuals, such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are now believed to
have been involved in the September 11 plot. In fact, the FBI now believes that Zammar
recruited Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah into Al Qaeda, and encouraged their participation in
the September 11 attacks.
[Page 32]
Khalid Shaykh Mohammad
5.i. Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community had information linking
Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM), now recognized by the Intelligence
Community as the mastermind of the attacks, to Bin Ladin, to terrorist plans to
use aircraft as weapons, and to terrorist activity in the United States. The
Intelligence Community, however, relegated KSM to rendition target status
following his 1996 indictment in connection with the Bojinka Plot and, as a
result, focused primarily on his location, rather than his activities and place in
the al-Qa’ida hierarchy. The Community also did not recognize the significance
of reporting in June 2001 concerning KSM’s active role in sending terrorists to
the United States, or the facilitation of their activities upon arriving in the
United States. Collection efforts were not targeted on information about KSM
that might have helped better understand al-Qa’ida’s plans and intentions, and
KSM’s role in the September 11 attacks was a surprise to the Intelligence
Community.
Discussion: [According to information obtained by the Intelligence Community from
several sources after September 11, 2001, Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM) -- also known
as “Mukhtar” (Arabic for “The Brain”) -- masterminded the September 11 attacks. The
information indicates that KSM presented a plan to Usama Bin Ladin to mount an attack
using small rental aircraft filled with explosives. Usama Bin Ladin reportedly suggested
using even larger planes. Thus, the idea of hijacking commercial airliners took hold.
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Thereafter, KSM reportedly instructed and trained the hijackers for their mission, including
directing them to undergo pilot training].
KSM came to the attention of the Intelligence Community as a terrorist in early 1995
when he was linked to Ramzi Yousef’s “Bojinka Plot” in the Philippines. One portion of that
plot involved the idea of crashing an airplane into CIA Headquarters. Through additional
intelligence and investigative efforts in 1995, KSM was also connected to the first World
Trade Center bombing. He was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in January 1996. The
indictment was kept under seal until 1998 while the FBI and CIA attempted to locate him and
arrange to take him into custody. Subsequently, indications were received that he might have
been involved in the East Africa U.S. Embassy bombings.
[In June 2001, [ ] disseminated a report to all Intelligence Community
agencies, [ ], military commanders, and components in the Treasury and Justice
[page 33] Departments emphasizing KSM’s ties to Bin Ladin as well as his continuing travel
to the United States. The report explained that KSM appears to be one of Bin Ladin’s most
trusted lieutenants and was active in recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan,
including to the United States, on behalf of Bin Ladin. According to the report, he traveled
frequently to the United States, including as recently as May 2001, and routinely told others
that he could arrange their entry into the United States as well. Reportedly, these individuals
were expected to establish contact with colleagues already there. The clear implication of his
comments, according to the report, was that they would be engaged in planning terroristrelated
activities].
Although this particular report was sent from the CIA to the FBI, neither agency
apparently recognized the significance of a Bin Ladin lieutenant sending terrorists to the
United States and asking them to establish contacts with colleagues already there. CTC
questioned this report at the time and commented: “We doubt the real [KSM] would do
this…because if it is [KSM], we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him
up.” Neither the CIA nor the FBI has been able to confirm whether KSM had in fact been
traveling to the United States or sending recruits here prior to September 11.
[Terrorist Communications in September 2001]
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5.j. [In the period from September 8 to September 10, 2001 NSA intercepted,
but did not translate or disseminate until after September 11, some
communications that indicated possible impending terrorist activity].
Discussion: [In early September 2001, NSA intercepted [ ]
communications involving [ ].
The communications discussed events that were to occur in the near term and appeared to be
related to terrorism. In the first communication, [ ]
[ ] asked whether [ ]. [ ] responded that [ ]
[ ].
[Page 34]
[Another communication, between [ ] and an unknown person [ ], was a
discussion of whether [ ].
[
]. NSA did not disseminate reports regarding the communications until
September 12 and 13, 2001].
Two additional communications that indicated imminent terrorist activity were
intercepted by NSA on September 10, 2001. The communications contained conversations
between unknown individuals located abroad. NSA Director Hayden described the content of
those communications in his testimony before the Joint Inquiry:
In the hours just prior to the attacks, NSA did obtain two pieces of information
suggesting that individuals with terrorist connections believed something significant
would happen on September 11.
These communications were, however, not translated into English and disseminated by NSA
until September 12, 2001.
It remains uncertain whether any of the September [ ] conversations
referred directly to the attacks of September 11. Like the intelligence reporting described
earlier, these intercepts did not provide any indication of where or what terrorist activities
might occur.
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B. CONCLUSION – FACTUAL FINDINGS
In short, for a variety of reasons, the Intelligence Community failed to capitalize on
both the individual and collective significance of available information that appears relevant
to the events of September 11. As a result, the Community missed opportunities to disrupt
the September 11 plot by denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers; to at least try to
unravel the plot through surveillance and other investigative work within the United States;
[page 35] and, finally, to generate a heightened state of alert and thus harden the homeland
against attack.
No one will ever know what might have happened had more connections been drawn
between these disparate pieces of information. We will never definitively know to what
extent the Community would have been able and willing to exploit fully all the opportunities
that may have emerged. The important point is that the Intelligence Community, for a variety
of reasons, did not bring together and fully appreciate a range of information that could have
greatly enhanced its chances of uncovering and preventing Usama Bin Ladin’s plan to attack
the United States on September 11, 2001.
C. SYSTEMIC FINDINGS
Our review of the events surrounding September 11 has revealed a number of
systemic weaknesses that hindered the Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism efforts
before September 11. If not addressed, these weaknesses will continue to undercut U.S.
counterterrorist efforts. In order to minimize the possibility of attacks like September 11
in the future, effective solutions to those problems need to be developed and fully
implemented as soon as possible.
1. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community was neither well
organized nor equipped, and did not adequately adapt, to meet the challenge posed
by global terrorists focused on targets within the domestic United States. Serious
gaps existed between the collection coverage provided by U.S. foreign and U.S.
domestic intelligence capabilities. The U.S. foreign intelligence agencies paid
inadequate attention to the potential for a domestic attack. The CIA’s failure to
watchlist suspected terrorists aggressively reflected a lack of emphasis on a process
designed to protect the homeland from the terrorist threat. As a result, CIA
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employees failed to watchlist al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. At home, the
counterterrorism effort suffered from the lack of an effective domestic intelligence
capability. The FBI was unable to identify and monitor effectively the extent of
activity by al-Qa’ida and other international terrorist groups operating in the
United States. Taken together, these problems greatly exacerbated the nation’s
vulnerability to an increasingly dangerous and immediate international terrorist
threat inside the United States.
[Page 36]
Discussion: The United States has a long history of defining internal threats as
either foreign or domestic and assigning responsibility to the intelligence and law
enforcement agencies accordingly. This division reflects a fundamental policy choice
and is codified in law. For example, the National Security Act of 1947 precludes CIA
from exercising any internal security or law enforcement powers. The Congressional
investigations of the 1970’s into the activities of the intelligence agencies, including their
efforts to collect information regarding anti-Vietnam War activists and other “radicals,”
reinforced the importance of this division in the minds of the Congress, the American
public, and the agencies.
The emergence, in the 1990s, of a threat posed by international terrorists who
operate across national borders demanded huge changes in focus and approach from
intelligence agencies traditionally organized and trained to operate primarily in either the
United States or abroad. The legal authorities, operational policies and cultures that had
molded agencies like CIA, NSA and the FBI for years had not responded to the
“globalization” of terrorism that culminated in the September 11 attacks in the United
States. While some efforts, such as the creation of the CTC at CIA in 1986, were made
to increase collaboration between these agencies, the agencies focused primarily on what
remained essentially separate spheres of operations. In the absence of any collective
national strategy, they retained significant autonomy in deciding how to attack and array
their resources against Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida. Efforts to develop such a
strategy might have exposed the significant counterterrorism gaps that existed between
the agencies as well as the increasingly urgent need to compensate for those gaps in the
absence of more fundamental changes in organization and legal authority.
Prior to September 11, CIA and NSA continued to focus the bulk of their efforts
on the foreign operations of terrorists. While intelligence reporting indicated that al-
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Qa’ida intended to strike in the United States, these agencies believed that defending
against this threat was primarily the responsibility of the FBI. This Joint Inquiry found
that both agencies routinely passed a large volume of intelligence to the FBI, but that
neither agency followed up to determine what the FBI learned from or did with that
[page 37] information. Neither did the FBI keep NSA and CIA adequately informed of
developments within its areas of responsibility.
As noted earlier, the record confirms instances where, despite numerous
opportunities, information that was directly relevant to the domestic threat was simply
overlooked and not disseminated in a timely manner to the FBI. For example, the CIA
analyst who neglected to raise the information concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi’s
U.S. travel in a June 2001 meeting with the FBI in New York said in a Joint Inquiry
interview that the information he had learned concerning the pair’s travel to Los Angeles
“did not mean anything to him.” He also explained to the Joint Inquiry that the
information was operational in nature and he would have needed permission before
disclosing it.
The CIA’s inconsistent performance regarding the watchlisting of suspected
terrorists prior to September 11 also suggests a lack of attention to the domestic threat.
Watchlists are a vital link in denying entry to the United States by terrorists and others
who threaten the national security, and CTC had reminded personnel of the importance of
watchlisting in December 1999 (see Appendix, “CTC Watchlisting Guidance –
December 1999”). Yet, some CIA officers in CTC indicated they did not put much
emphasis on watchlists. The Joint Inquiry confirmed that there was no formal process in
place at the CTC prior to September 11 for watchlisting suspected terrorists, even where,
as was the case with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, there were indications of travel to the
United States.
Other CIA personnel reported that they received no training on watchlisting and
that names were added on an ad hoc basis. In the days and weeks following the
September 11 attacks, more focused CIA review of over 1,500 Classified Intelligence
Reports that had not previously been provided to the State Department for watchlist
purposes resulted in the identification of 150 suspected terrorists and the addition of 58
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suspected terrorist names to the watchlist. DCI Tenet acknowledged in his testimony
before the Joint Inquiry that CIA’s watchlisting training had been deficient and that a
[page 38] mistake had been made in the failure to watchlist both al-Mihdhar and al-
Hazmi promptly.
[There were also gaps between NSA’s coverage of foreign communications and
the FBI’s coverage of domestic communications that suggest a lack of sufficient attention
to the domestic threat. Prior to September 11, neither agency focused on the importance
of identifying and then ensuring coverage of communications between the United States
and suspected terrorist-associated facilities abroad [
]. Consistent with its focus on communications abroad, NSA adopted a policy that
avoided intercepting the communications between individuals in the United States and
foreign countries].
NSA adopted this policy even though the collection of such communications is
within its mission and it would have been possible for NSA to obtain FISA Court
authorization for such collection. NSA Director Hayden testified to the Joint Inquiry that
NSA did not want to be perceived as targeting individuals in the United States and
believed that the FBI was instead responsible for conducting such surveillance. NSA did
not, however, develop a plan with the FBI to collect and to ensure the dissemination of
any relevant foreign intelligence to appropriate domestic agencies. This further
evidences the slow response of the Intelligence Community to the developing
transnational threat.
[The Joint Inquiry has learned that one of the future hijackers communicated with
a known terrorist facility in the Middle East while he was living in the United States.
The Intelligence Community did not identify the domestic origin of those
communications prior to September 11, 2001 so that additional FBI investigative efforts
could be coordinated. Despite this country’s substantial advantages, there was
insufficient focus on what many would have thought was among the most critically
important kinds of terrorist-related communications, at least in terms of protecting the
Homeland].
[Page 39]
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While most of the Intelligence Community focused on the collection of foreign
intelligence, the Joint Inquiry was told repeatedly that the nation lacked an effective
domestic intelligence capability prior to September 11. Former National Coordinator for
Counterterrorism Richard Clarke saw this as a longstanding problem that became
painfully obvious in the aftermath of September 11:
Well, I hear all of these comments about the Phoenix memo, the
Minnesota case, whatever. I think they miss the point that the failures
were years earlier. It was a failure on the part of the United States to not
have a domestic intelligence collection capability. I understand the
reasons for the lack of the ability. I know the abuses the FBI engaged in
[during] the 1950s and 1960s. I know the reason we have the Attorney
General-levied guidelines. But I think the pendulum swung too far, and
when we became aware of the fact that there were forces in the world such
as al-Qa’ida, and others, Iran, Hezbollah, that meant us ill, certainly by the
1980s or 1990s we should have recognized the need for a domestic
intelligence collection capability. Other democracies with civil rights and
civil liberties have that. It doesn’t mean you become a totalitarian state if
you do a good job of oversight and control. We needed to have a domestic
intelligence collection and analysis capability, and we did not have it, and
only now are we beginning to get it.
. . . .
But my point about the FBI was not just a few hints were missed or dots
weren’t connected; it is – my point was, they didn’t have the mission. It
was not their job to be a domestic collection service. Their job was to do
law enforcement. And they didn’t have the rules that permitted them to do
domestic intelligence collection.
While the FBI’s counterterrorist program had produced successful investigations
and major prosecutions of both domestic and international terrorists, numerous witnesses
told the Joint Inquiry that the program was, at least prior to September 11, incapable of
producing significant intelligence products. The FBI’s traditional reliance on an
aggressive, case-oriented, law enforcement approach did not encourage the broader
collection and analysis efforts that are critical to the intelligence mission. Lacking
appropriate personnel, training, and information systems, the FBI primarily gathered
intelligence to support specific investigations, not to conduct all-source analysis for
dissemination to other intelligence agencies. Former National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger testified about the FBI’s failure, prior to September 11, to assess the extent of the
foreign terrorist threat to the United States adequately: [page 40]
Until the very end of our term in office, the view we received from the
Bureau was that al-Qa’ida had limited capacity to operate in the United
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States and that any presence here was under surveillance. That was not
implausible at the time. With the exception of the World Trade Center
bombings in 1993, not attributed before 9/11 to Bin Ladin, plots by
foreign terrorists within the United States have been detected and stopped.
But revelations since September 11 have made it clear that the Bureau
underestimated the domestic threat. The stream of threat information we
received continuously from the FBI and CIA pointed overwhelmingly to
attacks on U.S. interests abroad. Certainly, the potential for attacks in the
United States was there.
Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft told the Joint Inquiry hearing
on September 19, 2002, that:
. . . .I was thinking back [on] intelligence information from the FBI, and I
was trying to think of cases where we actually got it. Not very much,
because we are or I was focused on foreign intelligence primarily. There
was some counterintelligence issues where the FBI intelligence was
particularly involved, and the one case I mentioned. Pan Am 103, but that
was investigative intelligence and the FBI and the CIA did an absolutely
brilliant job on that. But I can't think of many--can't recall of any instances
of pure intelligence product from the FBI. And I don't say that pejoratively
at all.
Former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism Richard Clarke voiced similar
concerns about the extent of the FBI’s understanding of the domestic threat:
Let me give you the FBI case, because I think it is the most clear.
Following the Millennium alert . . . and . . . review, it became very clear to
. . . the [FBI] Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, there was the
potential for sleeper cells in the United States, people . . . the United States
that had been involved in the planned attacks.
. . . .
This was in 2000. The Assistant Director . . . then began a program to try
to get more control of the 56 FBI field offices, and I visited five or six of
the field offices and asked them what they were doing about al-Qa’ida. I
got sort of blank looks of “what is al-Qa’ida?”
He compared the effort to add priority to al-Qa’ida investigations in the FBI field offices
to ”trying to . . . sort of turn this big Queen Mary luxury liner, trying to turn it.”
[Page 41]
Numerous individuals told this Inquiry that the FBI’s 56 field offices enjoy a
great deal of latitude in managing their work, consistent with the dynamic and reactive
nature of its traditional law enforcement mission. In counterterrorism efforts, however,
that flexibility apparently served to dilute the FBI’s national focus on Bin Ladin and al-
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Qa’ida. Although the FBI made counterterrorism a “Tier One” priority, not all of its field
offices responded consistently to this FBI Headquarters decision. The New York Field
Office did make terrorism a high priority and was given substantial responsibility for the
al-Qa’ida target following the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. However,
many other FBI offices were not focused on al-Qa’ida and had little understanding of the
extent of the threat it posed within this country prior to September 11.
The combination of these factors seriously handicapped efforts to identify and
defend against the foreign terrorist threat to the domestic United States. It is not
surprising, in the absence of more focused intelligence, that senior policymakers told this
Inquiry that, prior to September 11, they believed the terrorist threat was focused on U.S.
interests overseas. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, for example, testified that “. . . I
don’t think we really had made the leap in our mind that we are no longer safe behind
these two great oceans. . . .” Former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre said in a
Joint Inquiry interview that he could not remember ever seeing an intelligence report on
the existence of terrorist sleeper cells in the United States. In retrospect, he recalled: “. . .
we thought we were dealing in important things, but we missed the domestic threat from
international terrorism.”
2. Finding: Prior to September 11, 2001, neither the U.S. Government as a whole
nor the Intelligence Community had a comprehensive counterterrorist strategy for
combating the threat posed by Usama Bin Ladin. Furthermore, the Director of
Central Intelligence (DCI) was either unwilling or unable to marshal the full range
of Intelligence Community resources necessary to combat the growing threat to the
United States.
Discussion: The Intelligence Community is a large distributed organism. It
encompasses 14 agencies and tens of thousands of employees. The number of people
[page 42] employed exclusively in the effort against Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida was
relatively small. In addition, these people were operating in geographically dispersed
locations, often not connected by secure information technologies, and within established
bureaucracies that were not culturally or organizationally attuned to one another’s
requirements. Many of them had limited experience against the target, and did not know one
another. To achieve success in such an environment, leadership is a critical factor. The Joint
Inquiry found that the Intelligence Community’s structure made leadership difficult.
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Usama Bin Ladin first came to the attention of the Intelligence Community in the
early 1990s, initially as a financier of terrorist activities. In 1996, as Bin Ladin’s direct
involvement in planning and directing terrorist acts became more evident, the DCI’s
Counterterrorist Center (CTC) created a special unit to focus specifically on him and the
threat he posed to the interests of the United States. Personnel within CTC recognized as
early as 1996 and 1997 that Usama Bin Ladin posed a grave danger to the United States.
Following the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, the
DCI made combating the threat posed by Usama Bin Ladin one of the Intelligence
Community’s highest priorities, establishing it as a “Tier 0 priority.” The DCI raised the
status of the Bin Ladin threat still further when he announced in writing in December
1998 regarding Bin Ladin: “We are at war…I want no resources or people spared in this
effort, either inside the CIA or the [Intelligence] Community.” This declaration
appeared in a memorandum from the DCI to CIA senior managers, the Deputy DCI for
Community Management and the Assistant DCI for Military Support.
The Intelligence Community as a whole, however, had only a limited awareness
of this declaration. For example, some senior managers in the National Security Agency
and the Defense Intelligence Agency say they were aware of the declaration. However, it
was apparently not well known within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In fact, the
Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division testified to the Joint Inquiry
that he “was not specifically aware of that declaration of war.”
[Page 43]
Furthermore, and even more disturbing, Joint Inquiry interviews of FBI field
office personnel indicated that they were not aware of the DCI’s declaration, and some
had only a passing familiarity with the very existence of Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida
prior to September 11. Neither were the Deputy Secretary of Defense or the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff aware of the DCI’s declaration. This suggests a fragmented
Intelligence Community that was operating without a comprehensive strategy for
combating the threat posed by Bin Ladin, and a DCI without the ability to enforce
consistent priorities at all levels throughout the Community.
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The Director of NSA at the time of the DCI’s 1998 declaration was Lieutenant
General Kenneth Minihan. He acknowledged in a Joint Inquiry interview that he was
aware of that declaration, but believed that the DCI was speaking for CIA only. In his
experience, he said, the DCI generally left Intelligence Community matters to the head of
the Community Management Staff.
The record of this Joint Inquiry indicates that the DCI did not marshal resources
effectively even within CIA against the threat posed by al-Qa’ida. Despite the DCI’s
declaration to CIA officials that the Agency was at war with Bin Ladin, there is
substantial evidence that the DCI’s Counterterrorist Center needed additional personnel
prior to September 11, and that the lack of resources had a substantial impact on its
ability to detect and monitor al-Qa’ida’s activities. For example:
• In a September 12, 2002 Joint Inquiry hearing, the former Chief of CTC
testified that he did not have enough people to counter the threat posed by Bin
Ladin’s network: “The three concepts I would like to leave you with are
people, the finances, and operational approvals or political authorities. We
didn’t have enough of any of these before 9/11.”
• In the same hearing, a senior CTC manager said, “Did we have enough
personnel resources? No. We always needed more.”
[Page 44]
• In the same hearing, a former Chief of the CTC unit dedicated to focusing on
Bin Ladin explained: “We never had enough officers from the Directorate of
Operations. The officers we had were greatly overworked….We also received
marginal analytic support from the Directorate of Intelligence….”
• In a September 20, 2002 Joint Inquiry hearing, a CIA officer commented on
the reasons for the CIA’s failure to follow-up regarding the two September 11
hijackers who came to the attention of the Intelligence Community in January
2000:
How could these misses have occurred?… The CIA operators focused on
the Malaysia meeting while it occurred; when it was over, they focused on
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other, more urgent operations against threats real or assessed. Of the
many people involved, no one detected that the data generated by this
operation crossed a reporting threshold, or, if they did, they assumed that
the reporting requirement had been met elsewhere…. They are the kinds
of misses that happen when people – even very competent, dedicated
people such as the CIA officers and FBI agents and analysts involved in
all aspects of this story – are simply overwhelmed.
• When asked why there was no marshaling of personnel to CTC to fight Bin
Ladin’s network, the former Chief of CTC recalled that the CIA’s Deputy
Director of Operations said there were not enough personnel to go around and
CTC was already well-endowed with people as compared to other divisions in
CIA.
Almost immediately after September 11, 2001, there was a substantial infusion of
personnel into the CTC. No comparable shift of resources occurred in December 1998
after the DCI’s declaration of war, in December 1999 during the Millennium crisis, or
after the attack on USS Cole in October 2000.
In his testimony before the Joint Inquiry on October 17, 2002, the DCI said, “In
hindsight, I wish I had said, ‘Let’s take the whole enterprise down,’ and put 500 more
people there sooner.” It is noteworthy that the DCI’s comments were limited to the CIA
[page 45] and did not encompass marshaling the resources of other agencies within the
Intelligence Community.
Despite the DCI’s December 1998 declaration of war, other priorities continued to
detract from the Intelligence Community’s effort against Bin Ladin. The Joint Inquiry
heard repeatedly about intelligence priorities that competed contemporaneously with Bin
Ladin for personnel and funds. These included a range of regional and global issues.
The NSA Director described the pre-September 11 situation at NSA:
We, like everyone else at the table, were stretched thin in September. The
war against terrorism was our number one priority. We had about five
number one priorities. And we had to balance what we were doing against
all of them. . . . .
[Further, the NSA Director testified that he knew what NSA had to do to improve its
capabilities against the modern means of communications used by Bin Ladin and other
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targets prior to September 11, but was unable to obtain Intelligence Community support
and resources for that effort:
Given all the other intelligence priorities, it would have been difficult at
that time within the [Intelligence Community] or the Department of
Defense to accept the kind of resource decisions that would have been
necessary to make our effort against the target more robust. NSA was
focused heavily on [a range of regional and global issues]. Our resources,
both human and financial, were in decline. Our efforts in 2000 to churn
money internally were not accepted by the Community; its reliance on
[signals intelligence] had made it reluctant to give it up].
The inability to realign Intelligence Community resources to combat the threat
posed by Usama Bin Ladin is a relatively direct consequence of the limited authority of
the DCI over major portions of the Intelligence Community. As former Senator Warren
Rudman noted on October 8, 2002 in his testimony before the Joint Inquiry: “You have a
Director of Central Intelligence who is also the Director of CIA; eighty-five percent of
[the Intelligence Community’s budget] is controlled by the Department of Defense.”
[Page 46]
While the DCI has statutory responsibility that spans the Intelligence Community,
his actual authorities are limited to the budgets and personnel over which he exercises
direct control, i.e., the CIA, the Office of the DCI, and the Community Management
Staff. As former Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Lee
Hamilton stated in his testimony to the Joint Inquiry on October 3, 2002:
Currently, the Director of Central Intelligence, the leading intelligence
figure, as we all know, does not control but a small portion of his budget.
The DCI has, as I understand it, enhanced authority after 1997, and that
permits him to consolidate the national intelligence budget, to make some
trade-offs, but given the overwhelming weight of the Defense Department
in the process, that is of limited value.
. . . .
The very phrase “Intelligence Community” is intriguing. It demonstrates
how decentralized and fragmented our intelligence capabilities are. . . .
The Intelligence Community is a very loose confederation. . . .
. . . .
[T]he thing that puzzles me here is why we reject for the Intelligence
Community the model of organization that we follow in every other
enterprise in this country. We have someone at the head who has
responsibility and accountability. We accept that. But for some reason we
reject it when it comes to the Intelligence Community.
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Further evidence of the absence of authoritative leadership and a comprehensive
counterterrorist strategy can be found in what the DCI referred to in his Joint Inquiry
testimony on October 17, 2002 as “The Plan.” In his testimony, the DCI said:
In spring of 1999, we produced a new comprehensive operational plan of
attack against [Usama Bin Ladin] and al Qaeda inside and outside of
Afghanistan. The strategy was previewed to senior CIA management by
the end of July of 1999. By mid-September it had been briefed to the CIA
operational level personnel, to NSA, to the FBI and other partners. The
CIA began to put in place the elements of this operational strategy which
structured the agency’s counterterrorism activity until September 11 of
2001.
[According to documents reviewed by the Joint Inquiry, “The Plan” of 1999
consisted primarily of a variety of CIA covert action efforts directed against Usama Bin
Ladin. Later, “The Plan” also included [
].
Thus, “The Plan” was focused principally on CIA, Afghanistan, covert action, and
technical collection aimed at Usama Bin Ladin].
From a broader perspective, “The Plan” was significant for what it did not
include:
• An Intelligence Community-wide estimate of the threat posed by Usama Bin
Ladin’s network to the United States and to U.S. interests overseas;
• Significant participation by other elements of the Intelligence Community;
• A delineation of the resources required to execute “The Plan;”
• Any decisions to downgrade other Intelligence Community priorities to
accommodate the priority of “The Plan;”
• Any attention to the threat to and vulnerabilities of the U.S. homeland; and
• Any FBI involvement.
The absence of involvement by agencies other than CIA in “The Plan” is
particularly troubling, given gaps that existed in the efforts by other agencies to address
Bin Ladin. While the CIA was putting significant effort and attention into Usama Bin
Ladin, covert action, and Afghanistan, the FBI, for example, was focused on other issues.
Although FBI leadership recognized after the Embassy bombings in August 1998 that al-
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Qa’ida posed an increasing threat to United States interests, investigations in the United
States of those who raised funds for other terrorist groups continued to consume
considerable field resources and attention prior to September 11.
While the FBI devoted considerable resources to the criminal investigations of the
terrorist attacks overseas, substantial efforts to prevent similar attacks at home were
lacking. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the Joint Inquiry: “. . . if
there was a flood of intelligence information [on terrorism] from the CIA, there was
hardly a trickle from the FBI.” In some FBI field offices, there was little focus on, or
awareness of, Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida. This included the San Diego field office
where FBI agents would discover, after September 11, that there had been numerous
local connections to at least two of the hijackers.
[Page 48]
The Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division testified
to the Joint Inquiry that the FBI had no war plan against Bin Ladin: “Did we have a war
plan, a five-paragraph ops order issued on Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida? Absolutely,
we did not at that time.” When asked how the FBI's counterterrorism program fit into
the overall Intelligence Community counterterrorism program, the same Assistant
Director replied: “I am not sure if I know the answer to that. I talked to [the DCI] briefly
about this. I have talked to [the CTC Chief] prior to -- the answer to your question is, I
don't know the answer.” Without a comprehensive strategy in place for the whole
Intelligence Community, there was no assurance that agencies like the FBI were focused
on the DCI’s “war” effort.
Consistent with the absence of any comprehensive strategy, a recent Department of
Justice Inspector General (IG) report found that: “The FBI has never performed a
comprehensive written assessment of the risk of the terrorist threat facing the United States."
As the IG report explained: "Such an assessment would be useful not only to define the nature,
likelihood, and severity of the threat but also to identify intelligence gaps that need to be
addressed. Moreover, we believe that comprehensive threat and risk assessments would be
useful in determining where to allocate attention and resources...on programs and initiatives to
combat terrorism." This kind of assessment still had not been completed as recently as
Director Mueller’s testimony on October 17, 2002. Nor did the DCI’s National Intelligence
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Council ever produce a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding the threat to the United
States posed by al-Qa’ida or Usama Bin Ladin.
Without the support of a comprehensive strategy or credible domestic threat
assessment, DCI resource requests were often unsuccessful. In response to questions
about his own efforts to obtain additional counterterrorism resources, the DCI described
to the Joint Inquiry hearing on June 18, 2002 his inability, prior to September 11, to
generate necessary support within the Executive Branch:
[I would ask e]very year in [the] budget submission. [Page 49]
. . . .
I'm not talking about the Committee. I'm talking about the front end at
OMB and the hurdle you have to get through to fully fund what we
thought we needed to do the job. Senator Kyl once asked me a question in
Senator Shelby's Committee and said, how much money are you short. I'm
short $900 million to $1 billion every year for the next five years, is what I
answered. And we told that to everybody downtown for as long as
anybody would listen and never got to first base. So you get what you pay
for in terms of our ability to be as big and robust as people - and when I
became Director, we had [ ] case officers around the world. Now
we're up to about [ ] and the President's given us the ability to
grow that by another [ ]. And everybody wonders why you can't
do all the things people say you need to do. Well, if you don't pay at the
front end, it ain't going to be there at the back end. Having said that, I
think we made an enormous amount of progress against this target. That
would be my view].
3. Finding: Between the end of the Cold War and September 11, 2001, overall
Intelligence Community funding fell or remained even in constant dollars, while
funding for the Community’s counterterrorism efforts increased considerably.
Despite those increases, the accumulation of intelligence priorities, a burdensome
requirements process, the overall decline in Intelligence Community funding, and
reliance on supplemental appropriations made it difficult to allocate Community
resources effectively against an evolving terrorist threat. Inefficiencies in the
resource and requirements process were compounded by problems in Intelligence
Community budgeting practices and procedures.
Discussion: [Throughout the Joint Inquiry, numerous officials at CIA, NSA and
the FBI testified that the greatest constraint in their effort against al-Qa’ida was the
availability of too few resources, compounded by too many requirements and priorities.
Regional and global issues were identified as some of the other important issues that
competed with counterterrorism and made heavy resource demands].
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These other policy priorities demanded the support of the Intelligence Community
and made it difficult to transfer people or funds to counterterrorism. DCI Tenet testified
that:
As I ‘declared war’ against al-Qa’ida in 1998 – in the aftermath of the East
Africa embassy bombings – we were in our fifth year of round-the-clock
support to Operation Southern Watch in Iraq. Just three months earlier,
we were embroiled in answering questions on the India and Pakistan
nuclear tests and trying to determine how we could surge more people to
understanding and countering [page 50] weapons of mass destruction
proliferation. In early 1999, we surged more than 800 analysts and
redirected collection assets from across the Intelligence Community to
support the NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia.
[Similarly, NSA Director Hayden testified that NSA was focused heavily on
several other high priority intelligence targets. An FBI budget official told the Joint
Inquiry that counterterrorism was not a priority for Attorney General Ashcroft before
September 11, and the FBI faced pressure to make cuts in counterterrorism to satisfy his
other priorities].
The Joint Inquiry’s review of available budget and resource data confirmed that,
overall, the Intelligence Community budget peaked in fiscal year 1992 and thereafter fell
or remained even in constant dollars. The FBI is an exception to the overall resource
picture. Its overall funding increased for much of the 1990s, though most of this went to
the Bureau’s non-intelligence programs.
[In all, however, Intelligence Community capabilities declined over time. At the
CIA, for example, the Directorate of Operations cut the number of its personnel deployed
overseas by almost [ ] and closed down a portion of facilities in one part of the
world – where much information relating to terrorism could likely have been available.
In addition, the necessary support “tail” for counterterrorism, such as communications
and training, suffered from the decline in resources].
Specific funding for counterterrorism was, however, at least one exception to the
overall budget decline. Within existing budgets, counterterrorism spending generally
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increased while funding for other issues generally fell or remained steady. The
counterterrorism component of the overall Intelligence Community budget, for example,
at least doubled at most agencies. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
emphasized the added funding that was provided for counterterrorism: [page 51]
. . . the Clinton Administration more than doubled the federal
government’s counterterrorism spending from $5 billion in FY [Fiscal
Year] 1996 to over $11 billion in FY 2000) at a time of strong bipartisan
effort to achieve balanced budgets that resulted in highly constrained
spending for most programs. . . [T]he FBI’s counterterrorism staff budget
increased by 250% and their counterterrorism budget increased by nearly
350%. Similar increases were made in the CIA counterterrorism budget.
In general, personnel allocated to counterterrorism also increased. Although
specifics are imprecise, this Inquiry’s review and estimates provided by various agencies
indicate that the number of personnel working on terrorism steadily increased despite
overall decreases in Intelligence Community staffing. Nevertheless, the number of
counterterrorism personnel prior to September 11 generally remained small and paled by
comparison with post-September 11 levels.
During the course of the Joint Inquiry, Intelligence Community officials identified
a number of factors that limited their ability to allocate greater resources for
counterterrorism, despite the funding increases that occurred in that area. These
included, in addition to the overall general decline in funding for intelligence, outdated
and unrealistic intelligence priorities, and an overburdened requirements process.
The Intelligence Community’s current strategic-level guidance for national
security priorities was established by Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)-35 in 1995.
Former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake described PDD-35 as follows: “It
formally established our top intelligence priorities and placed terrorism among them, led
only by intelligence support for our troops in the field and a small number of states that
posed an immediate or potential serious threat to the United States.” In an effort to rank
the myriad post-Cold War threats facing the United States, PDD-35 established a tier
system of priorities. The tiers were broad and concentrated at the upper levels of the
scale. For example, there were both Tier 1A and Tier 1B priorities, but the highest
priority was assigned to Tier Zero.
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[Page 52]
However, as several Intelligence Community officers told the Joint Inquiry, in
practice, the lack of adequate separation between the tiers made it very difficult to choose
between priorities, and the intelligence prioritization process was often confusing.
Former National Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke noted that the White
House “…never really gave good systematic, timely guidance to the Intelligence
Community about what priorities were at the national level.” Deputy National Security
Advisor Steven Hadley responded to Joint Inquiry questions by stating that Bush
Administration officials were told by Clinton Administration officials during the
transition that “this priority-setting process [PDD-35] … was not effective for
communicating changing priorities over time.” Joint Inquiry interviews with
Intelligence Community officials indicate that many felt that the prioritization process
was so broad as to be meaningless.
Moreover, PDD-35 was never effectively adapted before September 11 to meet
the changing nature of the threat, despite specific language in the document that required
an annual review. As certain threats, including terrorism, increased in the late 1990s,
none of the “lower level” Tier 1 priorities were downgraded so that resources --money
and people-- could be reallocated. For much of the Intelligence Community, everything
became a priority since its customers in the U.S. Government wanted to know everything
about everything all the time.
The growing inadequacy of the PDD-35 structure fueled an overburdened and
increasingly ineffective requirements system within the Intelligence Community. At
NSA, for example, an official described the PDD-35 requirements system as
“cumbersome.” NSA analysts acknowledged that they had far too many broad
requirements -- some 1500 formal requirements by September 11 -- that covered virtually
every situation and target. Working from these 1500 formal requirements, NSA had
developed almost 200,000 “Essential Elements of Information” that were desired by its
customers. While they understood the gross priorities and worked on the requirements
that were practicable on any given day, several NSA analysts acknowledged that the
[page 53] priority demands sometimes precluded them from delving as deeply into
certain areas as they would have liked.
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As counterterrorism became an increasingly important concern for senior
Intelligence Community officials, collection and analytic efforts did not always keep pace
because other requirements competed with terrorism for attention, and real priorities
often were not clear. In Joint Inquiry interviews, CIA officials said that, because overall
resources were finite, any increased focus on counterterrorism meant that other issues
would have to receive less attention. At the FBI, where overall funding had increased,
officials said that substantial efforts focused on investigating terrorist cases overseas,
critical infrastructure protection programs, and other priorities not directly related to
strategic intelligence or al-Qa’ida activity within the United States.
[The Director of NSA testified that prior to September 11, other priorities
frustrated his attempts to acquire capabilities to process modern communications used by
terrorists and other intelligence targets:
It required a significant redirection of investment for us to acquire the
capabilities to exploit modern communications. I mentioned . . .trying to
churn . . .within what was then a fixed top line about $200 million . . . .
And we could only get about a third of it to stick because the people who
were using the products we created out of traditional means were unable to
give up those product lines to allow us to reinvest those dollars for the new
age signals environment . . . . I was unable to move some money because
we were going to erode our coverage of [another intelligence target] as
part of this effort.]
Even within the CTC, the staff and resources dedicated to counterterrorism could
not keep pace with the amount and scope of incoming intelligence reporting. The DCI
attributed CIA inaction on a cable pointing to al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States to
the fact that overworked CTC personnel did not have time to read “information only”
cables from the field:
The cable that came in from the field at the time, sir, was labeled
"information only," and I know that nobody read that cable. . . . Sir, we
weren't aware of it [page 54] when it came into headquarters. We couldn't
have notified the [FBI]. Nobody read that cable in the March time frame. .
. . It was an information-only cable from the field and nobody read that
information-only cable. [In hindsight, of] course it should have been.
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Another CIA official indicated, post-September 11: “The second thing that was
clear, as I showed [CTC personnel] the cable from March 5, [2000] -- just the look on
their face told me everything I needed to know. They just hadn't seen it. It passed them
by.“ The former CTC Chief added:
We have asked everyone have you seen this and what action was taken. It
did not attract appropriate attention so that they could have been
watchlisted. I think the Director has already mentioned that that was not
done at the time. I think that it was reasonable by certainly March 5 that we
would have been in the position, we should have been in a position to firmly
watchlist this. I just have to underscore that we do this hundreds of times a
month. It should have been done. It was not. We have very good people
working this issue. It was not done, and it was not done because of the press
of lots of other work. We probably should have picked up on this in early
March, but we'd gone by for two months. The delay in that, sir, was the [
], took about six weeks to get that information to us, and in March we
should have picked up on it. All things being equal, they should have been
watchlisted; I think that month we watchlisted about 150 people. It should
have been done. It wasn't. It was a fact of life. And I think what contributed
to that was these same officers watching this operation were also doing a lot
of other things. So it's like balls in the air. There gets to a point where you
don't treat each one with the attention that it deserves.
There was also a March 6, 2001 cable from the field that called attention to the portion of
the March 5 cable regarding al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States, but CTC personnel
also did not read that cable at the time.
Senior NSA and CIA officials have acknowledged that, in hindsight, they would
have devoted many more personnel resources to the al-Qa’ida target and expedited the
development of certain collection capabilities. However, they testified that the operating
environment prior to September 11 – a combination of escalating requirements and
limited resources – limited their ability to respond to the growing terrorist threat.
[Page 55]
Those problems were aggravated by shortcomings that existed in the Intelligence
Community’s budgeting practices. The President annually submits to Congress an
Intelligence Community budget for the coming fiscal year. Included in that request are
both ongoing and new programs that are subject to long established, well understood
oversight and accountability procedures. Supplemental appropriations usually are
granted in reaction to unforeseen events that are not part of the President’s budget
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request. Since it is temporary by nature, supplemental funding is not meant to pay for
additional personnel or for structural upgrades in future years.
The Intelligence Community received large supplemental appropriations from
1998 to 2001 to fight terrorism. These additional funds were provided by Congress
following several major al-Qa’ida attacks and to support the effort during the Millennium
celebrations. In particular, most of CIA’s and some of NSA’s efforts against al-Qa’ida in
the late 1990’s were funded from supplemental appropriations.
In Joint Inquiry interviews, Intelligence Community officials were critical of this
reliance on supplementals for counterterrorism programs. A former CTC Chief, for
example, told the Joint Inquiry that reliance on supplementals made it hard to create a
stable counterterrorism program. He noted that it is far more difficult to develop plans
for hiring and training personnel and to pursue long-term technical programs that require
years to develop without a stable year-to-year funding basis.
Despite such limitations, the Intelligence Community agencies sought additional
supplemental appropriations to sustain its counterterrorism effort rather than alter the
President’s budget request to provide annual counterterrorism funding. This is because
altering the annual budget request would have required the Intelligence Community
agencies to make substantial reductions in other programs, a course they were reluctant to
follow because of the many other intelligence priorities for which they were responsible.
Certain other Intelligence Community budgeting practices and procedures further
impeded efforts to ensure an effective allocation of resources to counterterrorism. A lack
[page 56] of transparency in agency budgets made it very difficult to determine whether
the counterterrorism mission was properly funded because counterterrorism is not an
explicit Intelligence Community budget category. Instead, each Intelligence Community
agency budget consists of a compilation of funding levels desired for specific
capabilities, such as the cost of a particular number of intelligence officers or satellites.
Many of these capabilities are useful for more than one mission. For example, a CIA
operations officer may collect intelligence on the internal politics of a country, a weapons
shipment, and terrorism. The CIA considered having its personnel record the time they
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expend on various missions, as do FBI field officers, but this was rejected due to the
perceived administrative burden it would impose.
This makes it very difficult to measure the amount of resources that the
Intelligence Community allocates to a particular mission such as counterterrorism. As a
result of this ambiguity, the Intelligence Community often does not know how much it
spends on different issues and, therefore, is unable to compare the funding levels it is
devoting to one mission versus another. For example, the CIA had great difficulty
determining for this Inquiry precisely how many of its personnel worked on al-Qa’ida in
recent years.
Moreover, different components of the Intelligence Community use different
measures when they do try to determine how much they spend on missions such as
counterterrorism. To further complicate matters, there is no agreed-upon way to measure
the level of indirect costs, such as communications, that is devoted to counterterrorism
versus other mission areas. Congressional overseers as well as senior Intelligence
Community managers thus find it difficult to judge whether agency resource allocations
reflect overall intelligence priorities.
In Fiscal Year 1999, the Office of Management and Budget began to require that
the Intelligence Community identify counterterrorism spending in each agency.
However, this information is gathered after money is spent, rather than as a planning and
accountability tool for Intelligence Community managers. In addition, the information is
[page 57] collected manually, is not subject to systematic controls and does not constitute
much more than an educated estimate.
Finally, the Joint Inquiry confirmed through interviews that several other budgetrelated
problems hindered Intelligence Community efforts to satisfy counterterrorism
priorities and requirements:
• The DCI’s Community Management Staff has little authority to ensure
compliance with the DCI’s priorities. It cannot withhold funding from the
Intelligence Community agencies if they do not comply with those priorities;
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• Managers within the CIA often found the budget planning and execution process
confusing, making it harder for them to articulate their needs; and
• Intelligence Community officials complained that reprogramming money is
difficult due to a slow Congressional approval process for even small changes.
4. Finding: While technology remains one of this nation’s greatest advantages, it
has not been fully and most effectively applied in support of U.S. counterterrorism
efforts. Persistent problems in this area included a lack of collaboration between
Intelligence Community agencies, a reluctance to develop and implement new
technical capabilities aggressively, the FBI’s reliance on outdated and insufficient
technical systems, and the absence of a central counterterrorism database.
Discussion: The Joint Inquiry confirmed that the Intelligence Community had not
yet fully incorporated the benefits of technology in the war against terrorism. Lack of
agency collaboration in the areas of technical collection and systems development was
one contributing factor. While CIA and NSA have had many successful joint
counterterrorism technical operations, the Inquiry was told that overlapping targets and
greater use of similar technologies caused friction between the two agencies in some
instances. Disputes emerged regarding which agency should be in charge of developing
and using such technologies against which targets. The Director of NSA explained to the
Joint Inquiry that “the old divisions of labor are impractical – the new electronic universe
[page 58] requires more and more cooperation.” He added that he “would not be
surprised if someday the closeness of this relationship would require organizational
changes.”
In Joint Inquiry interviews, agency personnel stated that, while individual
relationships and cooperation between CIA and NSA at the working level had often been
very good, relationships at the mid- and upper-management levels of those agencies were
often strained. CIA perceived NSA as wanting to control technology use and
development, while NSA was concerned that CIA was engaged in operations that were
NSA’s responsibility.
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As a result, significant agency resources were devoted to documenting authorities
and responsibilities. For example, no less than seven executive-level memoranda
(including one from the President) have been necessary to reach agreement and define the
responsibilities and authorities of CIA and NSA in one counterterrorism effort. The
agencies also established a Senior Partnership Advisory Group to continue to deal with
these issues and CIA assigned several officers to NSA to enhance technology
development.
Prior to September 11, the Director of NSA publicly acknowledged the challenge
posed by Usama Bin Ladin’s access to the modern communications technology
developed by a three trillion dollar industry. Despite this recognition, NSA failed to
focus its efforts against al-Qa’ida’s use of certain forms of this technology, [
]. NSA also had not adapted technology fully to the challenge of transnational
threats such as terrorism. These present much different challenges than those posed by
state actors, such as the former Soviet Union, that were NSA’s primary targets in the
1980’s. As a result, prior to September 11, NSA provided little counterterrorism
intelligence from certain important technical sources. More critically, NSA has not been
able to describe to the Joint Inquiry its plans to address this technical problem on a larger
scale.
[Page 59]
Similarly, NSA could not demonstrate its current analytic tools to the Joint
Inquiry and could not identify upgrades that will assist NSA analysts in identifying
critical intelligence amidst the large volumes of information it collects. In the absence of
such tools, NSA language analysts must still conduct the bulk of their work with pencil
and paper. Many develop their own personal “databases” on index cards that cannot be
made readily available to counterterrorism analysts at other agencies. NSA’s highly
publicized TRAILBLAZER program was often cited by NSA officials as the solution to
many of these problems, but the implementation of those solutions is three to five years
away and confusion still exists at NSA as to what will actually be provided by that
program.
The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis testified to
the Joint Inquiry that “one of the FBI’s major deficiencies was that the FBI confronted a
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variety of problems in sharing information, not only with other agencies but within the
Bureau itself. This was and is largely attributable to inadequate information technology.”
Likewise, Director Mueller acknowledged to the Joint Inquiry that “[o]ver the years, [the
FBI] failed to develop a sufficient capacity to collect, store, search, retrieve, analyze, and
share information.”
In their testimony, FBI field agents from Phoenix, Minneapolis and New York all
cited the FBI’s technology problems as among the top three things they would like to see
addressed in terms of the counterterrorism effort. As a New York agent explained:
The technology, number one. The FBI is a member of the Intelligence
Community. We have to be able to communicate with them. We have to
be able to have databases that can be integrated with them, and right now
we do not. It is a major problem. It is a major problem for our analysis.
The FBI deployed its Automated Case System (ACS) in 1995 to replace a system
of written reports and indices. The ACS was supposed to enable agents to send leads to
other FBI offices and units and to have access to a vast array of data electronically.
[Page 60] However, study after study has concluded that ACS is limited in its search
capacity, difficult to use, and unreliable.
The Chief of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) testified that ACS
remains unfriendly, unreliable and unworkable, and that, instead of using ACS to manage
cases, many agents rely on e-mail and paper copies to transmit important data. In
interviews, some FBI personnel conceded that “routine” leads, on which there were no
automated communications, might have “fallen through the cracks.” Despite the priority
given to the war against terrorism since September 11, the Joint Inquiry heard testimony
that, at least as of the end of September 26, 2002, there were still 68,000 outstanding,
unassigned leads directed to the Counterterrorism Division, dating back to 1995.
Because many FBI personnel did not use ACS to track outstanding leads, the FBI has
been unable to determine how many of these leads have been completed. As the RFU
Chief explained:
I think we need to make it very clear, though, because there is [sic] 68,000
leads outstanding on that point, that does not mean that those leads were
not handled.... [E]ven though the lead is shown in the computer as not
covered by the Counterterrorism Division, it is covered by the operational
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unit. So there is a lot of duplication. . . .[T]he system is very cumbersome,
and people unfortunately have just become very frustrated with it, to the
point where . . . [w]hat will frequently happen, for example, is even
though a field division sends a lead to headquarters and ACS, they are also
e-mailing that communication to the particular FBI headquarters
[supervisory special agent]. So they are getting it and working on it via
the e-mail but not necessarily within the ACS system. . . . Even though a
couple of years ago . . . there was a directive that went out to the field
telling them to stop sending hard copies to headquarters because they
should be retrieved electronically, it was well known, both in the field and
at headquarters, that you wouldn’t get the communication or there was a
good chance that you weren’t going to get it. As such, the field would
routinely still send hard copy.
ACS requires that FBI analysts search for information relevant to their analytical
responsibilities. This is in stark contrast to the CIA’s automated system, which
automatically routes communications to analysts that are relevant to their interests.
Before September 11, 2001, many FBI field agents did not include sensitive information
in ACS because they believed the system was not secure. In addition, many agents who
did include information in ACS blocked access to it in order to limit the number of FBI
[page 61] personnel who could obtain the information. Given these limitations, ACS
does not provide assured retrieval of complete, authoritative information on any subject.
The fact that many FBI personnel do not understand how to make maximum use of the
limited capabilities of ACS and the FBI’s other databases compounds the problem.
Because of its limitations, many agents simply did not use ACS as a research or
case management tool. When the Phoenix FBI field office agent was drafting his July
2001 Electronic Communication, he had no easy or reliable way of querying a central
FBI system to determine whether there were other reports on radical fundamentalists
taking flight training or whether other FBI field offices were investigating similar cases.
As a result, the agent did not know that another FBI field office had voiced concern about
Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons in 1998 or that an operational unit in the
Counterterrorism Section at FBI Headquarters had directed twenty-four field offices
(including Phoenix) to pay close attention to certain Islamic students engaged in aviation
training in 1999.
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In addition, because of the limitations of ACS, a number of addressees on the
Phoenix communication, including the Chief of the FBI Headquarters Radical
Fundamentalist Unit, were not aware of the communication before September 11.
Further, even though that Unit handled both the Phoenix communication and the
exchanges with the Minneapolis FBI field office in connection with the Moussaoui
investigation, no one connected the two matters. Likewise, the Minneapolis FBI field
office agents investigating Moussaoui had no reliable way of determining whether there
was information in FBI files about threats to aviation or terrorist plots to hijack planes
and, therefore, did not know about the Phoenix communication and other concerns about
Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons.
While ACS and most other FBI databases are classified at the Secret level, a large
percentage of the information disseminated throughout the Intelligence Community is
classified Top Secret and, therefore, cannot be maintained on ACS. The information is
instead maintained on a separate database to which FBI counterterrorism personnel do
[page 62] not have access at their desks. Further, the CIA places human intelligence
information in a special compartment at the Secret level and that information also cannot
be shared within the FBI’s databases.
The Chief of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit described the FBI’s situation
in September 24, 2002 testimony to the Joint Inquiry:
. . . [C]ommunications coming into our building from NSA, from CIA
cannot be integrated into our existing databases. So if an analyst is
working, say, on a subject in Phoenix division and they run that person's
name through our databases, they will not retrieve information on that
person that other agencies may also have. It is required of them to get up,
walk over to a different set of--or a different computer that has access to a
different database and search that name in that database; and the two
databases will never come together and be integrated. So it is a setup for
failure in terms of keeping a strategic picture of what we are up against.
Although some FBI personnel have access to separate Top Secret Intelligence
Community networks, the FBI’s computer systems are not linked to Intelligence
Community systems or even to the Department of Justice.
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5. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s understanding of
al-Qa’ida was hampered by insufficient analytic focus and quality, particularly in
terms of strategic analysis. Analysis and analysts were not always used effectively
because of the perception in some quarters of the Intelligence Community that they
were less important to agency counterterrorism missions than were operations
personnel. The quality of counterterrorism analysis was inconsistent, and many
analysts were inexperienced, unqualified, under-trained, and without access to
critical information. As a result, there was a dearth of creative, aggressive analysis
targeting Bin Ladin and a persistent inability to comprehend the collective
significance of individual pieces of intelligence. These analytic deficiencies seriously
undercut the ability of U.S. policymakers to understand the full nature of the threat,
and to make fully informed decisions.
Discussion: Despite the recognition of the increased threat posed to the United
States by al-Qa’ida, the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analytic focus on al-Qa’ida was
woefully inadequate prior to the September 11 attacks. At the CTC, for example, there
were only three analysts assigned to work on al-Qa’ida full time between 1998 and 2000,
[page 63] and five between 2000 and September 11, 2001. Including analysts from
elsewhere in CIA who were in some part attentive to al-Qa’ida, the total was fewer than
forty.
[In terms of “work years,” the equivalent of nine analyst work years was
expended on al-Qa’ida within CTC’s Assessments and Information Group in September
1998. According to CIA, nine CTC analysts and eight analysts in the Directorate of
Intelligence were assigned to UBL in 1999. This was only a fraction of the analytic
effort that was to be devoted to al-Qa’ida in July 2002].
DCI Tenet acknowledged at the June 19, 2002 Joint Inquiry hearing that:
I think that is correct. I think [the number of analysts in the CTC analytic
unit working on Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida] was too small. . . . I
think one of the things I would say is from a strategic analytical
perspective we should have had more analysts than we did. . . .
[At the FBI, there were fewer than ten tactical analysts and only one strategic
analyst assigned to al-Qa’ida prior to September 11, 2001. The NSA had only a limited
number of Arabic linguists, on whom analysis depends, and, prior to September 11, few
were dedicated full-time to targeting al-Qa’ida. At the time, NSA’s Arabic linguists were
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also being used to support other high priority targets in the region and to translate
intelligence originating in the region and elsewhere].
Elsewhere in the Intelligence Community, other agencies dedicated varying
numbers of analysts to the al-Qa’ida issue prior to September 11, 2001. The other two
primary all-source analysis centers, DIA’s Joint Intelligence Task Force, Combating
Terrorism, and State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR) focused on
anti-terrorism and force protection analysis to protect overseas equities. INR dedicated
one analyst solely to al Qa’ida, and, at Secretary of State direction, provided a daily
summary of intelligence relating to Usama bin Ladin and his activities. DIA devoted 30
analysts to Sunni Extremism and, on any given day, several of them – augmented by
Reservists – would be involved with Usama bin Ladin-related issues.
[Page 64]
Other agencies and organizations maintained at least an awareness of al-Qa’ida
and performed roles such as financial tracking and training camp observation consistent
with their charters. One non-Intelligence Community organization, the FAA, dedicated
as many as five analysts at any one time to al Qa’ida. In late 2000, according to FAA
officials, FAA offered CTC Chief Cofer Black the support of its nearly two-dozen
analysts regarding transportation security issues in exchange for broader information
sharing, but this offer was not accepted because of CTC concerns about protecting its
sources and methods. The Joint Inquiry was told that a similar offer of analytic support
was made to CTC Chief Black by DIA in 2000, but with similar results. FAA and DIA
are both represented at CTC.
The Intelligence Community’s focus was also far more oriented toward tactical
analysis of al-Qa’ida in support of operations than on the strategic analysis needed to
develop a broader understanding of the threat and the organization. For example, as
mentioned earlier, the DCI’s National Intelligence Council never produced a National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the threat to the United States posed by al-Qa’ida and
Usama Bin Ladin. Active analytic efforts to identify the scope and nature of the threat,
particularly in the domestic United States, were clearly inadequate.
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As noted in an August 2001 CIA Inspector General report, analysts assigned to
CTC only had time to focus on crises or short-term demands, and “did not have the time
to spot trends or to knit together the threads from the flood of information.” These
shortcomings, unfortunately, had an impact on areas that were directly relevant to the
September 11 attacks. The Joint Inquiry record confirms, for example, that the
Intelligence Community had devoted little or no analytic focus prior to September 11 to
the terrorist use of aircraft as weapons or to the significant role in al-Qa’ida that was
played by Khalid Shaykh Mohammed.
This review also confirms that the FBI was performing little, if any, strategic
analysis against al-Qa’ida prior to the September 11 attacks. The Chief of the FBI’s
National Security Intelligence Section testified that the FBI had “no analysts” dedicated
[page 65] to strategic analysis prior to September 11. In fact, as of that date, the FBI had
only one strategic analyst working on al-Qa’ida matters. FBI Assistant Director for
Counterterrorism Dale Watson testified that he could not recall any instance where the
FBI Headquarters terrorism analytical unit produced “an actual product that helped out.”
When the FBI did complete analytic products, the quality was inadequate. During
the summer of 2001, the U.S. Intelligence Community was in a state of heightened alert,
due to concern about an imminent al-Qa’ida attack. However, this concern was not
reflected in the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Threat System (NLETS) reports, which
are the means through which the FBI communicated terrorist threat information with state
and local law enforcement entities. In a May 2001 NLETS report, for example, the FBI
assessed the risk of terrorism as “low,” and, in a July 2, 2001 NLETS report, stated that
the FBI had no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United
States, although the possibility of such an attack could not be discounted. Additional FBI
notices that were issued later in July 2001 indicated that there was a potential for attacks
against U.S. interests abroad, but again that the possibility of an attack in the United
States could not be discounted.
More focus on strategic analysis by the FBI and the CIA would have helped
crystallize the threat, particularly within the United States, and perhaps spurred more
immediate defensive action by U.S. Government policymakers. The Intelligence
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Community was not, however, poised or equipped to deliver the kind of analytic products
needed. The FBI, for example, was not even aware of the collective significance of
information pertaining to al-Qa’ida that was contained within its own files. This fact is
underscored by its failure to connect available information on al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi,
Zacarias Moussaoui, and the FBI Phoenix field office agent’s Electronic Communication
in the summer of 2001. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism
Analysis, recently detailed from CIA to improve the FBI’s analytic capability, testified
that the Bureau “didn’t have analysts dedicated to sort of looking at the big picture and
trying to connect the dots, say between the Phoenix memo and Moussaoui and some
[page 66] other information that might have come in that might have suggested that there
were individuals there who might be preparing to hijack aircraft.”
One of the primary reasons that there was so little focus on strategic analysis in
the Intelligence Community may have been the perception that operational personnel and
matters were more important to agency counterterrorism missions and operations than
analysis and analytic personnel. Consistent with its traditional law enforcement mission,
the FBI was, prior to September 11, a reactive, operationally driven organization that did
not value strategic analysis. While FBI personnel appreciated case specific analysis, for
example, most viewed strategic analytic products as academic and of little use in ongoing
operations. The FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism acknowledged in
Joint Inquiry testimony that the reactive nature of the FBI was not conducive to success
in counterterrorism:
No one was thinking about the counterterrorism program what the threat
was and what we were trying to do about it. And when that light came on,
I realized that, hey, we are a reactive bunch of people, and reactive will
never get us to a prevention and what we do. . . .Is there anybody thinking
and where’s al-Qa’ida’s next target? And no one was really looking at
that.
He also testified about the difficulty of going beyond the FBI’s traditional case-oriented
approach:
We will never 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
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beyond the horizon and that’s very difficult for all of us. It’s particularly
difficult for law enforcement people.
Other FBI executives acknowledged the FBI’s pre-September 11 analytic failings.
Director Mueller testified that:
I would be the first to concede that we have not done a good job in
analysis. We have not had either the technology nor the analytical cadre of
individuals that we have needed to perform strategic analysis.
In Joint Inquiry testimony, the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism
Analysis referred to strategic analysis as the FBI’s “poor stepchild” prior to September
11, 2001. As a result, our review confirmed that strategic analysts were often
marginalized by the operational units and rarely, if ever, received requests from
operational sections for analytical assessments of pending al-Qa’ida’s cases.
In 2000, FBI management aggravated this situation by transferring five strategic
analysts who had been working on al-Qa’ida matters to FBI operational units to assist
with ongoing cases. According to a former Chief of the International Terrorism Analytic
Unit, this “gutted” the analytic unit’s al-Qa’ida-related expertise and left the unit with
little ability to perform strategic analysis.
Concerns about protecting criminal prosecutions also limited the FBI’s ability to
utilize strategic analytic products. In interviews, some analysts said they frequently were
told not to produce written analyses, lest the analyses be included in discovery during
criminal prosecutions. FBI analysts were further hindered because of the limitations of
the FBI’s information technology.
Due in large part to these cultural and practical issues, the Bureau has had little
success in building a strategic analytic capability, despite numerous attempts before
September 11 to do so. For example, in 1996, the FBI hired approximately fifty strategic
analysts for counterterrorism purposes, many with advanced degrees. According to both
current and former FBI analytic personnel and supervisors, most of those analysts left the
Bureau within two years because they were dissatisfied with the role of strategic analysis
at the FBI.
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The lack of emphasis on strategic counterterrorism analysis was also an issue at
the CIA. The former Chief of CTC testified that, at the CTC:
We have under-invested in the strategic only because we’ve had such
near-term threats. The trend is always toward the tactical. . . . The tactical
is where lives are saved. [Page 68] And it is not necessarily commonly
accepted, but strategic analysis does not . . . get you to saving lives.
Analysts in the CTC also expressed concern to the Joint Inquiry that their
opinions were not given sufficient weight. A manager in the CTC confirmed to the Staff
that CIA operations officers in the field resented being tasked by analysts because they
did not like “to take direction from the ladies from the Directorate of Intelligence.”
Despite the need for increased analytic capability, CTC reportedly refused to accept
analytic support offered by at least two other agencies prior to September 11, 2001. As
mentioned earlier, representatives of both FAA and DIA informed the Inquiry that CTC
management rebuffed their offers of analytic assistance in 2000 because those agencies
wanted greater access to CTC information in return, and this raised CTC concerns
regarding protection of its intelligence sources and methods.
Analysts at NSA commented to the Joint Inquiry that CTC viewed them as
subordinate – “like an ATM for signals intelligence.” NSA analysts say they attempted
to accommodate CTC preferences by focusing on short-term operational requirements –
sometimes at the expense of more thorough analysis -- and even altered NSA reporting
formats because CTC did not like including NSA analyst comments in the text of signals
intelligence reports. Several NSA analysts also described a definite perception that the
DCI would always side with CIA and CTC operational personnel in any disagreements
between NSA and CTC.
Some of the shortcomings in analytical capability can be traced to the fact that
analysts were often inexperienced, under-trained, and, in some cases, unqualified for the
responsibilities they were given. At the CTC, the analysts were a relatively junior group
prior to September 11 since CTC had traditionally relied on rotational assignments. An
analytic career service was not created in CTC until about 1997. The average CTC
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analyst had three years of analytic experience, versus the eight years for analysts in the
CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence.
[Page 69]
A former counterterrorism analyst at DIA explained to the Joint Inquiry the
consequences for analytic perspective of this shortfall in experience and knowledge:
Coupled with this issue of experience comes the ability to place current
intelligence reporting in the context of historical perspectives. In the
period leading up to the 1998 East Africa bombings and the 2000 attack
against the USS Cole in Yemen, terrorism analysts nearly across the board
incorrectly assessed that a group would not conduct an attack in an area
where it was able to operate with relative ease. Additionally, there
appears to be a continued reluctance to correctly assess and evaluate the
nature of cooperation between many [ ] and [ ]
Islamic extremist groups. Both of these examples, and there are certainly
others, occurred despite over a decade of credible reporting to the
contrary.
At the FBI, a January 2002 internal study found that 66% of the FBI’s 1200
“Intelligence Research Specialists” (strategic analysts) were unqualified. This problem
was compounded by the fact that newly-assigned strategic and operational analysts
received little counterterrorism training upon assuming their positions. As the Chief of
the FBI’s National Security Intelligence Section testified:
While there was no standardized training regimen, other than a two-week
basic analytical course, training was available on an ad hoc basis and
guidance was provided by both the unit chiefs of the analytical units and
the FBI's Administrative Services Division. The development of a
standardized curriculum, linked to job skills, and career advancement was
being planned . . . , but it was never implemented.
The quality of Intelligence Community counterterrorism analysis also suffered as
a result of the fact that agency analysts often did not have access to important information
residing at other agencies. DIA’s Associate Director for Intelligence at the Joint Chiefs
of Staff testified about the extent of these problems:
In my opinion, one of the most prolonged and troubling trends in the
Intelligence Community is the degree to which analysts, while being
expected to incorporate all sources of information into their assessments,
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have been systematically separated from the raw material of their trade….
At least for a few highly complex high stakes issues, such as terrorism,
where information by its nature is fragmentary, ambiguous and episodic,
we need to find ways to emphatically put the “all” back in the discipline of
all-source analysis.
[Page 70]
Intelligence Community analysts had particularly limited access to “raw material”
contained in the FBI’s counterterrorism investigations, including Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA)-derived information, and to unpublished NSA information. The
former acting head of the FBI’s Usama Bin Ladin Unit informed the Joint Inquiry that,
prior to September 11, the FBI would generally only provide the CIA with FISA-derived
information when the FBI wanted it passed to a foreign government. Primarily due to the
FBI’s technological problems, the FBI’s analysts did not even have access to all relevant
FBI information. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis
testified that “the FBI lacked effective data mining capabilities and analytical tools, it has
often been unable to retrieve key information and analyze it in a timely manner—and a
lot has probably slipped through the cracks as a result.”
There also was, and apparently continues to be, a reluctance at CIA to provide
raw data to analysts outside the Agency. DCI Tenet testified that even analysts at the
Department of Homeland Security will not be allowed access to CIA raw data:
There was a headline today that said raw data provided. Well, actually
that's not what's envisioned. They will get all of the finished product, the
finished analytical product, the finished intelligence that NSA, CIA and
FBI issues, and on a case-by-case basis, depending on what kind of an
environment we're in, we actually may give them a piece of raw data.
Discussions of access to “raw data” or “raw traffic” raise objections from CIA,
since it immediately equates the term to internal operational traffic, and from NSA. Both
agencies are concerned with protecting the sources and methods they use to collect
intelligence, a responsibility that has been specifically placed upon the DCI by the
National Security Act, and NSA is also concerned about its legal responsibilities to
“minimize” U.S. person data in the information it collects.
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A significant portion of the communications collected by NSA involves U.S.
persons as parties or contains information about U.S. persons. NSA is responsible under
law and Attorney General procedures for ensuring that information of this type that does
[page 71] not have intelligence value is eliminated before intelligence is disseminated to
persons outside the NSA production chain. NSA does allow analysts from other agencies
to have access to raw intercepts on a case-by-case basis, typically at NSA and after the
analysts have been trained in the minimization rules.
Analysts, for their part, maintain that there is intelligence information of potential
significance embedded in the raw CIA and NSA data. Much of this, they believe, is
filtered out during the CIA and NSA processes that determine what information analysts
receive in disseminated form. The CIA has implicitly recognized this by integrating its
counterterrorism analysts into CTC where they have full access to raw traffic, an access
that most CIA analysts do not routinely enjoy.
[As an example, the Joint Inquiry found numerous operational cables relating to
the meeting in Malaysia that was attended by al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in January 2000
containing information that could have enabled all-source analysts to assess that meeting
more completely. DIA identified four specific leads its terrorism analysts could have
pursued had this information been shared with it in early 2000, and three leads in the
critical August 2001 timeframe that DIA believes would have allowed additional action
to be taken concerning the arrest of Moussaoui and the watchlisting of Al-Mihdhar and
al-Hazmi. However, DIA did not learn of this operational traffic until informed of it in
the course of the Joint Inquiry in April 2002].
Intelligence analytical personnel told the Joint Inquiry that they are not seeking
access to operational details or the identification of sources and methods. The DIA
Director, for example, observed that he has tried to convince CTC that DIA does not
want operational details, but only important intelligence buried in the operational traffic.
The inadequate quality of the Intelligence Community counterterrorism analysis
impacted not only the Intelligence Community’s strategy and operations, but also the
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ability of the U.S. Government’s policymakers to understand the threat and to make
informed decisions. Several current and former U.S. government policymakers provided
[page 72] testimony to this effect before these Committees. For example, Richard
Clarke, the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure and Counterterrorism
at the National Security Council (“National Counterterrorism Coordinator”) explained to
the Joint Inquiry that:
FBI did not provide analysis. FBI, as far as I could tell, didn't have an
analytical shop. They never provided analysis to us, even when we asked
for it, and I don't think that throughout that 10-year period we really had
an analytical capability of what was going on in this country.
Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State complained that Intelligence
Community analysis tends to provide policymakers with only one view, and that
dissenting opinions are rarely expressed:
I am the consumer. It’s very rare that we get the one off voice or the
dissident voice . . . . For a policy maker, the dissident voice is very
helpful to either confirm what you think or really open up a new area, and
this is not generally done. If I had to say the one biggest weakness in the
analysis area, I would say that’s it. Second, it’s the way analysis in the
Intelligence Community is generally put forth, and it’s related, and that is
consensus…I really would just enforce this observation about the need to
get alternative views up, because almost everything that’s important here
is shrouded in ambiguity and uncertainty. There is a tendency to want to
get things scrubbed out to get the differences eliminated.
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger implied in his testimony that the
U.S. Government has often relied too heavily on analytic expertise within the U.S.
Government, and that he believes that the best analytic expertise is often found
elsewhere:
I think we live in a world . . .in which expertise increasingly does not exist
in the government. It’s a very complicated world. And the five people
who know Afghanistan the best or Sierra Leone the best are probably
located either in academia, think tanks or in companies, not to devalue the
people of the government. So we have to find a way in my judgment to
integrate the expertise that exists on the outside with the information that
exists on the inside.
A former DIA counterterrorism analyst told the Joint Inquiry hearing on October
8, 2002: [page 73]
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The single most important issue that will affect future performance is the
experience level of the analyst. While this certainly applies to all
intelligence analysts regardless of subject area, it is even more critical for
those trying to prevent the next terrorist attack. In the case of an analyst
responsible for tracking a Middle Eastern terrorist group, this person will
need to have an expertise or at least a good working knowledge of
terrorism itself, the group that they have for an account, regional and
country issues present in the group's operating area, which can be quite
extensive, and Islamic history, culture and the sects thereof. This . . .
required level of expertise is rarely going to be found outside the
Intelligence Community and is instead going to be recruited from
academia and then developed in-house through training programs and
mentors.
Former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Lee Hamilton noted in his
testimony to the Joint Inquiry on October 3, 2002 that the Hart-Rudman Commission had
concluded that the U.S. Government’s personnel system has become a national security
issue. As he stated:
There is too much rigidity in the system. There is not enough allowance
for incentive. And it is an exceedingly serious problem in our government.
And it has national security consequences. We've got to work through this
matter so that managers can manage more effectively. . . . . I would
absolutely assure you . . . that you would not tolerate in your office the
kind of management restrictions that operate today in the federal
government. . . . Now I know the importance of this to employees, so it's
a tough problem, but the only thing I want to say here, Senator, when you
talk about personnel we are now approaching this national security review
and we have to look at the civil service system and we have to find ways
and means of getting more flexibility into it. If we don't, we're going to
choke ourselves to death.
During the same hearing, former CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz discussed a
number of actions that might be taken to enhance the quality of the personnel employed
by the Intelligence Community agencies. These included the idea of establishing an
intelligence reserve corps that could be activated at a time of particular need, an
intelligence reserve officer training corps, and more internships to introduce young
people into the agencies. While he recognized that some of these ideas are not new, he
did not believe they had been vigorously pursued.
In sum, prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s analytic components
failed to understand the collective significance of the information in their possession.
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This failure is attributable not only to the factors discussed above, but also to a basic lack
of creativity and imagination in evaluating the intelligence that was at hand. Ironically,
the best example of the creative, imaginative and aggressive analysis of relevant [page
74] intelligence that this review has found was not a product of Intelligence Community
analysts, but, instead, of an FBI field agent in Phoenix. The Phoenix agent, in reviewing
his office’s case files, went beyond the facts of those individual cases to focus on a larger,
and far more serious, picture of the potential, long-term threat. By putting together
various pieces of information, he became convinced that Usama Bin Ladin was sending
individuals to aviation-related training in order to put al-Qa’ida in a position to target
civil aviation. His July 2001 Electronic Communication to FBI Headquarters was a
strategic analytic product that correctly identified at least one critical element that was to
be used in the plot that unfolded on September 11, an element that apparently eluded far
more seasoned analysts elsewhere in the Intelligence Community.
6. Finding: Prior to September 11, The Intelligence Community was not prepared
to handle the challenge it faced in translating the volumes of foreign language
counterterrorism intelligence it collected. Agencies within the Intelligence
Community experienced backlogs in material awaiting translation, a shortage of
language specialists and language-qualified field officers, and a readiness level of
only 30% in the most critical terrorism-related languages.
Discussion: The language problem has been one of the Intelligence Community’s
perennial shortfalls. Prior to September 11, the shortage of language specialists who
would be qualified to process large amounts of foreign language data in general, and
Arabic in particular, was one of the most serious issues limiting the Intelligence
Community’s ability to analyze, discern, and report on terrorist activities in a timely
fashion. According to a senior NSA official, [
]. These are promptly scanned for
intelligence value, and only the most important – [ ] -- are then
translated into English. Yet, prior to September 11, NSA had [ ] personnel assigned
to this task.
[Analyzing, processing, translating, and reporting al-Qa’ida-related [
] communications requires the highest levels of language and target
knowledge expertise that exist at the National Security Agency. The large number of
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communicants whose native origins cover all of the major Arabic dialects makes this
[page 75] analysis linguistically and analytically difficult. The target lives in and
understands life in a thoroughly Islamic milieu, a milieu that is often reflected in the
target’s communications].
Evaluating these communications requires considerable subject matter expertise
in Islam in general and Islamic extremism in particular in order to ensure the best
possible interpretations. Very few Arabic language analysts at NSA have done any
graduate work in Islamic Studies and the vast majority of these linguists [
].
The NSA Senior Language Authority explained to the Joint Inquiry that the
Language Readiness Index for NSA language personnel working in the counterterrorism
“campaign languages” is currently around 30%. This Index is based on the percentage of
the mission that is being performed by qualified language analysts. The current low level
of the Index is due in part to the fact that NSA has moved roughly [ ] language
personnel since September 11 from areas in which they were performing quite well to
counterterrorism, where they must gain experience and expertise before their
performance can improve.
[According to the Chief of the FBI’s Language Services Division, prior to
September 11, the Bureau employed [ ] Arabic speakers and was experiencing a
translation backlog. As a result, 35% of Arabic language materials derived from Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) collection were not reviewed or translated. If the
number of Arabic speakers were to remain at [ ], the projected backlog would rise to
41% in 2003.]
The Director of the CIA Language School testified that, given the CIA’s language
requirements, the CIA Directorate of Operations is not fully prepared to fight a world-
[page 76] wide war on terrorism and at the same time carry out its traditional agent
recruitment and intelligence collection mission. She also added that there is no strategic
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plan in place with regard to linguistic skills at the Agency. When asked about the
language ability of CIA field officers, the Language School Director stated:
[Traditionally we have had an adequate number of Arabic speakers to
conduct their business in [
]. Level of language required to use with a volunteer
or for a thorough debriefing is very different than the level of language
you need to socially chit-chat with somebody or to even recruit someone.
And that is where the bar has been raised much higher, and that's why we
must now have a cadre of language speakers, [ ] who indeed can
debrief and write up reports with these volunteers].
The Director of the CIA Language School explained that CIA should have a pool
of interpreters to meet language support needs at home and abroad, but that this is not
easy to achieve. She stated that: “With the progress of technology, we keep on getting
more material – [ ]. These things need
translation, we don’t have that capability.” In her view, CIA field officers are typically
generalists, and this has been important to their career progression culture since the mid-
1970s. Now, however, it is an absolute must that these officers possess expertise rather
than mastery of “one little dab here and one little dab there.” Her recommendation was
that either a culture change within CIA is called for or that a cadre of specialists be
developed and not penalized.
7. Finding: [Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s ability to produce
significant and timely signals intelligence on counterterrorism was limited by NSA’s
failure to address modern communications technology aggressively, continuing
conflict between Intelligence Community agencies, NSA’s cautious approach to any
collection of intelligence relating to activities in the United States, and insufficient
collaboration between NSA and the FBI regarding the potential for terrorist attacks
within the United States].
Discussion: While one of the Intelligence Community’s greatest strengths is its
ability to rely on its advanced technical collection capabilities, the Joint Inquiry
confirmed that the Community did not, prior to September 11, fully exploit those
[page 77] capabilities in the effort against Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida. Pre-September 11, [
]. Post-September 11, this increased to [
].
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It became very clear after September 11 [
]. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the NSA
Director acknowledged that “little was known prior to 11 September of how al-Qa’ida
used [ ] communications. . . .We continue to attack key gaps that
remain in our . . . [ ] exploitation capabilities.”
Similarly, NSA has long had a program to use [
], but again little was known about al-
Qa’ida targets and few such operations were mounted before September 11. After
September 11, this changed and the NSA Director was able to testify that: “[
].”
The inability to bring technical collection capabilities to bear in the
counterterrorism area was particularly apparent in regard to signals intelligence that could
have shed greater light on the potential for terrorist activity within the domestic United
States. Both the NSA and the FBI have the authority, in certain circumstances, to
intercept international communications, to include communications that have one
communicant in the United States and one in a foreign country, for foreign intelligence
purposes. While those authorities were intended to insure a seamless transition between
U.S. foreign and domestic intelligence capabilities, significant gaps between those two
spheres of intelligence coverage persisted and impeded domestic counterterrorist efforts.
[Page 78]
Before September 11, it was NSA policy not to target terrorists in the United
States, even though it could have obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
order authorizing such collection. NSA Director Hayden testified that it was more
appropriate for the FBI to conduct such surveillance because NSA does not want to be
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perceived as targeting individuals in this country and because the intelligence produced
about communicants in the United States is likely to be about their domestic activities.
[As a result, NSA regularly provided information about these targets to the FBI –
both in its regular reporting and in response to specific requests from the FBI – [
] that NSA acquired in the
course of its collection operations. The FBI used this information in its investigations
and obtained FISA Court authorization for electronic surveillance [
] when FBI officials determined that such surveillance
was necessary to assist one of its intelligence or law enforcement investigations].
[One collection capability that was used by both NSA and FBI under approval of
the FISA Court (the “FISA Court technique”) had a [ ] probability of collecting
[ ] communications between individuals in the United States and foreign
countries. NSA did not use the FISA Court technique against [ ],
however, precisely because of this [ ] probability].
As NSA Director Hayden has testified to the Joint Inquiry, NSA believed it was
the FBI’s responsibility to collect communications of individuals in the United States.
General Hayden stated two reasons for this position. One is that, since the individual is
in the United States, the information obtained is most likely to relate to domestic activity
that is of primary interest to the FBI. The second reason is that NSA does not want to be
viewed as targeting persons in the United States. Joint Inquiry interviews of a wide range
of NSA personnel, from the Director down to analysts, revealed the consistent theme that
NSA did not target individuals in the United States. This is so ingrained at NSA that one
counterterrorism supervisor at NSA admitted that she had never even thought about using
this technique against [ ].
[Page 79]
Despite the NSA view that this category of intelligence collection was the FBI’s
responsibility, NSA and the FBI did not develop any plan to ensure that the Bureau made
an informed decision about whether to use the FISA Court technique to collect
communications between the United States and foreign countries that NSA was not
covering. Thus, a gap developed between the level of coverage of communications
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between the United States and foreign countries that was technically and legally available
to the Intelligence Community and the actual use of that surveillance capability].
[This gap was potentially very damaging in the case of Khalid al-Mihdhar during
the period in early 2000 when he was in the United States. [
]. His presence in the United States was not determined by
the Intelligence Community at the time. [
].
[NSA and CIA officers often worked closely together in [ ] collection
efforts against al-Qa’ida. The two agencies conducted [ ] operations,
And these operations often met with some success. However, one type of these
operations – [
] – caused much friction between NSA and CIA. This was especially true at
the mid- and upper-management levels where struggles developed regarding which
agency was in charge of developing and using such technology when human intelligence
and signals intelligence targets overlapped. CIA perceived NSA as wanting to control
technology deployment and development, while [page 80] NSA was concerned that CIA
was conducting NSA-type operations. The NSA Chief of Data Acquisition noted to the
Inquiry that this has been an issue during his entire tour of almost three years. These
frictions persisted even after the September 11 attacks. In the first six months of 2002,
for example, no less than seven executive-level memoranda (including one from the
President) were issued in attempts to delineate CIA and NSA responsibilities and
authorities in this collection area].
The Chief of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate acknowledged these frictions
in a Joint Inquiry interview, but cited the executive memoranda as evidence that the
situation is improving. NSA Director Hayden, told the Joint Inquiry that “the old
divisions of labor are impractical; the new electronic universe requires more and more
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cooperation. ” He also added that he “would not be surprised if someday the closeness of
this relationship would require organizational changes.”
8. Finding: The continuing erosion of NSA’s program management expertise and
experience has hindered its contribution to the fight against terrorism. NSA
continues to have mixed results in providing timely technical solutions to modern
intelligence collection, analysis, and information sharing problems.
Discussion: One of the side effects of NSA’s downsizing, outsourcing, and
transformation has been the loss of critical program management expertise, systems
engineering, and requirements definition skills. These skills were devalued by NSA
during the 1990s when most technical development was done within the agency, and the
impact of their loss was evident in NSA’s response to the Joint Inquiry’s attempts to
gather information concerning NSA’s plans for developing solutions to its current
technology gaps in areas of particular importance to counterterrorism. [
]. NSA was able to provide little more than very
high-level and general vision statements.
The impact of this lack of program management was evident during interviews
with analysts who expressed frustration regarding their current working environment.
[page 81] For example, they must now write three versions of reports in order to
accommodate the demands of various customers and uses. The TRAILBLAZER
program, which the NSA Director has described as NSA’s “effort to revolutionize how
we produce SIGINT in a digital age,” is now not expected to produce such results until
2004 at the earliest and confusion still exists as to what those results will actually be. In
the meantime, none of the analysts were aware of any near term efforts to alleviate their
current system’s technical limitations.
NSA personnel also stated that NSA’s efforts to collect [
], reveals a critical deficiency in its
capabilities. The solution to this deficiency is well understood and estimated to cost less
than $1 million to implement. However, the project manager is still struggling for funds
to pay for an upgrade that would not be completed until 2004.
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The Joint Inquiry also found a high level of frustration among contractors who do
business with the NSA. Common themes repeated to the Joint Inquiry concern the
extremely poor quality of solicitation packages and acquisition expertise on the part of
NSA employees and the inability of program managers to speak with consistency and
authority on future contract opportunities. NSA also lacks a formal Contracting Officer
Technical Representative certification program. This is of special concern as NSA
continues to increase its reliance on contractors. In testimony to the Joint Inquiry in
October 2002, the NSA Director stated that NSA “spent about a third of our SIGINT
development money this year making things ourselves. Next year the number will be
[dropping to] 17%.”
The Chief of Staff for NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) told the Joint
Inquiry he fears that “SID has lost its business acumen…and [he] worries greatly about
the lack of acquisition experience and program planning, especially in light of NSA’s
huge budget increase.” He also told the Joint Inquiry that he has worked actively on this
issue, especially in providing program management training to frontline workers.
[Page 82]
9. Finding: The U.S. Government does not presently bring together in one place all
terrorism-related information from all sources. While CTC does manage overseas
operations and has access to most Intelligence Community information, it does not
collect terrorism-related information from all sources, domestic and foreign.
Within the Intelligence Community, agencies did not adequately share relevant
counterterrorism information, prior to September 11. This breakdown in
communications was the result of a number of factors, including differences in the
agencies’ missions, legal authorities and cultures. Information was not sufficiently
shared, not only between different Intelligence Community agencies, but also within
individual agencies, and between the intelligence and the law enforcement agencies.
Discussion: Counterterrorism, like other transnational threats such as drug
trafficking, requires close coordination and information sharing among and within the
Intelligence Community agencies. Despite some improvement, significant problems
remained in the sharing of information within the Intelligence Community, prior to
September 11. As a result, the Community was unable to exploit the full range of
capabilities and expertise in the counterterrorist effort.
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Each of the principal collectors and analyzers of counterterrorism intelligence --
the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DIA -- has its own distinct missions, sets of legal authorities and
restraints, and cultures. Unfortunately, these factors, while serving many other legitimate
purposes, often hinder collaboration and willingness to share information. In his
testimony, former Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Lee
Hamilton described the problem:
The very phrase “Intelligence Community” is intriguing. It demonstrates
how decentralized and fragmented our intelligence capabilities are. . . .
The Intelligence Community is a very loose confederation. There is a
redundancy of effort, an imbalance between collection and analysis, and
problems, as we have repeatedly heard in recent weeks, of coordination
and sharing.
While DCI George Tenet and former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified that
collaboration and information sharing in the Intelligence Community have markedly
improved in recent years, this Inquiry found that the agencies still act too often and at too
many levels as a loose collection of entities. The Joint Inquiry heard testimony that
confirmed problems in sharing information between different Intelligence Community
agencies, within individual Intelligence Community agencies, and between law [page 83]
enforcement and intelligence agencies.
For example, the former FBI agent who had handled the San Diego informant
testified about his personal experience with information sharing between the FBI and the
CIA:
Ms. Hill: You also [said] that, in your opinion, information sharing
between the FBI and the CIA prior to 9/ll was almost nonexistent.
Former FBI Agent: It was bad. Well, it’s not nonexistent, but . . . if you
have a case that has a common mission and everybody can benefit from it,
you’re going to get their assistance. But if you don’t have that, asking
them for something, it’s very, very difficult.
. . . .
Former FBI Agent: If I had to rate it on a ten-point scale, I’d give them
about a 2 or a 1.5 in terms of sharing information.
Ms. Hill: Well, could you tell us what your experience was? Why do you
say that?
Former FBI Agent: [P]art of the problem here, I think, is being able to
communicate with them. . . .
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Ms. Hill: By “them,” you mean the CIA?
Former FBI Agent: With the CIA. Everything’s got to go through
headquarters, usually.
Ms. Hill: Through your headquarters, or through CIA?
Former FBI Agent: Through [FBI] headquarters. Normally, . . . you have
some information you want the Agency to check on. You end up writing it
up, sending it back through electronic communication or teletype, . . . or
memo. . . . And then the Bureau, FBI headquarters, runs it across the street
to the Agency. And then, maybe six months, eight months, a year later,
you might get some sort of response.
Even after the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, the Millennium plot, and
attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 revealed that global Islamic
extremists were capable of reaching into the United States, there was little sustained
effort by the FBI, NSA, and CIA to work together to collect and share information about
contacts between foreign persons in the United States and those abroad. For example,
while a great amount of information that NSA collects is routinely transmitted
electronically into CTC databases at CIA, this is not true of terrorist information collected
domestically by the FBI.
The Acting Chief of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit, told the Joint Inquiry
in an interview that, prior to September 11, the FBI would primarily think to provide the
[Page 84] CIA with information obtained through FISA surveillance only when it was
also being passed to a foreign government. The FBI did not share such information with
CTC on a routine basis, partly due to the FBI’s inadequate information technology, but
also because they believed that sharing information with intelligence agencies raised
legal concerns relating to the traditional separation between law enforcement and
intelligence operations. As a consequence, gaps occurred in the collection and analysis
of information about individuals and groups operating in the United States and abroad.
The FBI has traditionally viewed intelligence primarily as a tool for developing
evidence to be used in FBI cases, rather than as the basis for valuable strategic analysis
for the FBI or other intelligence agencies. As Director Mueller noted to the Joint Inquiry:
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. . . one of the things that we have to do, and I think is changing since
September 11, is for agents who are very good in the criminal sphere to
look at a piece of information and not run it through the sifting that you do
to determine whether it would be admissible in court. In other words, is it
hearsay? Well, I am going to thrust it aside. Do I have lack of foundation?
Therefore, I am going to disregard that.
Prior to September 11, FBI personnel were not trained or equipped to share
intelligence developed during FBI counterterrorism investigations with the Intelligence
Community or even with other units within the FBI on a regular basis. For example, after
receiving the Electronic Communication from the Phoenix field office in July 2001
indicating that al-Qa’ida might be sending operatives to the United States for flight
training, a Headquarters Intelligence Operations Specialist (IOS) did not send it to the
FBI’s analytic unit or to the CIA. Instead, the IOS forwarded it to the FBI field office in
Portland, Oregon, primarily because of possible connections to an individual case there.
The Joint Inquiry’s review of a July 2002 CIA cable that it found within a local
FBI field office’s investigative files provides another example of information sharing
problems within the FBI. A CIA officer assigned to a Joint Terrorism Task Force in
California sent a cable to CIA Headquarters after analyzing information gleaned
primarily from a review of the local FBI field office’s investigative files. He also
[Page 85] provided a copy to the local FBI agent who was responsible for those files.
The cable sets forth the CIA officer’s concerns regarding indications that persons
associated with a foreign government may have provided financial support to some of the
September 11 hijackers while they were living in the United States. Those indications,
addressed in greater detail elsewhere in this report, obviously raise issues with serious
national implications. Nevertheless, the FBI agent to whom he provided a copy viewed it
only in relation to ongoing investigations and did not consider its possible value for other
cases or the FBI’s national counterterrorism strategy. Thus, the FBI agent placed the
cable in only one case file and did not forward a copy to FBI Headquarters.
Similarly, the FBI typically used information obtained through the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) only in connection with the cases in which it was
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obtained and would not routinely disseminate it within the FBI or to other members of
the Intelligence Community. FBI personnel advised the Joint Inquiry that FISA
information was not included in the FBI’s Automated Case System (ACS) because both
criminal and intelligence agents had access to that system.
Culture and policy issues also limited the extent to which CIA shared
counterterrorism information within the Intelligence Community. As noted earlier, a lack
of focus on the domestic terrorist threat, which was viewed as an FBI, rather than CIA,
mission, accounted for some information sharing problems. For example, the DCI
acknowledged in his testimony that CIA was not sufficiently focused on advising the
State Department to watchlist all terrorist operatives who might be traveling to the United
States, even though this would provide valuable information to domestic agencies in
targeting these persons at ports of entry. On at least three occasions between January
2000 and August 2001, there were opportunities to watchlist future hijackers Nawaf al-
Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, but the CIA failed to do so. In his testimony on October
17, 2002, the DCI admitted this failure, attributing it to:
. . .uneven practices, bad training and a lack of redundancy. The fact that
[CTC personnel] were swamped does not mitigate the fact that we didn’t
overcome that [with] a separate unit or better training for those people.
[Page 86]
Aside from the formal watchlist procedure, the record strongly suggests that,
despite numerous related contacts with the FBI during the period, no one at CIA advised
the FBI about al-Mihdhar’s U.S. visa and the fact that al-Hazmi had traveled to the
United States. Ironically, this occurred despite the fact that both CIA and FBI personnel
were at the time working in CTC where the information was received. The CIA
employee who briefed FBI personnel about al-Mihdhar on January 6, 2000, but did not
mention any information about al-Mihdhar’s visa and potential travel to the United
States, indicated in an e-mail to a colleague at CIA that same day: “In case FBI starts to
complain later . . . below is exactly what I briefed them on.” This CIA employee told the
Joint Inquiry that he had, at the time, been assigned to work at the FBI Strategic
Information Operations Center specifically to fix problems “in communicating between
the CIA and the FBI.” Obviously, such problems remained.
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The Joint Inquiry also heard from many different agencies within the Intelligence
Community, most notably the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), that the perception
that collecting agencies have “ownership” of the intelligence they acquire impedes the
free flow of information. In a Joint Inquiry interview, one DIA official complained that
analysts were often denied access to critical intelligence held in other Intelligence
Community agencies:
We have to get raw data to the analysts. The analysts have been separated
from source-generated data that is important. There is excessive, filtering,
packaging and selective product reporting that is not helpful. Some
problems are so important that the U.S. Government cannot afford any
longer to filter.
In his testimony, the DCI confirmed that this filtering will continue when he noted
that even all-source analysts within the new Department of Homeland Security will not
have access to all raw intelligence on anything like a routine basis. This tendency to
ownership, in its simplest form, means that the originating agency is free to edit and
otherwise truncate the information it collects before it disseminates it to other agencies.
On the other hand, analysts frequently argued that, in the world of counterterrorism, there
is information in this filtered data that the collecting agency may not recognize as having
significance in the aggregate to analysts elsewhere. In interviews, DIA officials [page
87] emphasized that they always received threat information from other Intelligence
Community agencies, but did not always have access to the background information
necessary to understand the nature of the threat reporting fully. A senior DIA analytical
official testified that:
Senior [Defense Department] officials received information that his
analysts did not receive. However, to extract meaning from that data, to
perform the true analytic function, we need to get that information into the
hands and the brains of analysts who are paid to fill in the gaps of missing
information to compensate for absent evidence and to turn information
into knowledge. That’s what we pay them to do. They don’t have the
information, they can’t do that.
In a written statement to the Joint Inquiry, the new Director of the DIA noted: “ In
my opinion, one of the most prolonged and troubling trends in the Intelligence
Community is the degree to which analysts – while being expected to incorporate the full
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range of source information into their assessments – have been systematically separated
from the raw material of their trade. “
Information sharing is also limited by the longstanding Intelligence Community
practices of narrowly limiting disclosures of intelligence information outside normal
channels in order to protect sources and methods. Disclosures to criminal investigators
and prosecutors were intentionally limited to avoid having intelligence become entangled
in criminal prosecutions. In deference to those kinds of restrictions, CIA did not provide
the FBI New York field office criminal agents who were investigating the USS Cole
bombing information regarding the al-Qa’ida meeting in Malaysia that was attended by
hijackers-to-be al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.
A 1995 Department of Justice policy that established procedures -- often referred
to as the “wall” -- governing FBI sharing of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA)-derived intelligence information with investigators handling parallel criminal
investigations also prevented sharing of important intelligence. Under this policy, the
FBI could share information from FISA surveillances with criminal investigators if the
information was relevant to a crime under investigation and an attorney in an FBI field
office or in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) at the Department of
[page 88] Justice authorized its release. In al-Qa’ida FISA cases, the FISA Court directed
that the Court itself act as the “wall” and determine whether the information in question
was relevant to a criminal investigation and, thus, could be shared.
Unfortunately, the Inquiry confirmed that the Intelligence Community agencies,
perhaps overly “risk averse” in dealing with FISA-related matters, restricted the use of
information far beyond what was required. The majority of FBI personnel interviewed in
the course of the Inquiry incorrectly believed that the FBI could not share FISA-derived
information with criminal investigators at all or that an impossibly high standard had to
be met before the information could be shared. Most did not know that FISA-derived
information could be shared with criminal investigators if it was simply relevant to the
criminal investigation. Because of these misunderstandings, FBI intelligence
investigators rarely sought approval to pass FISA-derived information to FBI criminal
investigators.
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Further, as a result of the FISA Court decision, NSA placed a caveat on all its [
] terrorism intelligence products requiring OIPR approval before information
could be shared with criminal investigators. This stemmed from NSA’s concern that it
could not determine which of its intelligence reports were the result of information
obtained through FBI-conducted FISA surveillances (and therefore subject to the “wall”
requirements) and which were not. The effect of this NSA effort to comply with the
FISA Court’s decision was an unnecessary restriction on the sharing of NSA-acquired
intelligence information with criminal investigators.
In August 2001, when the FBI was attempting to locate al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar
in the United States, an FBI Headquarters e-mail prohibited New York field office
criminal agents from participating in the search because the information had originated in
intelligence channels. However, because this information was not derived from a FISA
surveillance, there was no reason it could not be shared with FBI criminal agents.
Expressing his utter frustration with the system, a New York FBI agent responded by email:
[page 89]
Whatever has happened to this - someday someone will die – and wall or
not – the public will not understand why we were not more effective and
throwing every resource we had at certain “problems.” Let’s hope the
[FBI’s] National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then,
especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL, is getting the most
“protection.”
10. Finding: Serious problems in information sharing also persisted, prior to
September 11, between the Intelligence Community and relevant non-Intelligence
Community agencies. This included other federal agencies as well as state and local
authorities. This lack of communication and collaboration deprived those other
entities, as well as the Intelligence Community, of access to potentially valuable
information in the “war” against Bin Ladin. The Inquiry’s focus on the Intelligence
Community limited the extent to which it explored these issues, and this is an area
that should be reviewed further.
Discussion: This Inquiry confirmed that, prior to September 11, problems in
information sharing reached beyond the boundaries of the Intelligence Community to
encumber the flow of information to and from various other entities. At each level,
communications with potentially valuable partners in the war against terrorism – other
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federal agencies, state and local authorities -- were restricted. Witnesses testified that
these restrictions on information flow occurred at great cost to the counterterrorism
effort.
Officials in the Departments of Treasury, Transportation, and State told the Joint
Inquiry that, although they receive threat information from the Intelligence Community,
they do not always receive the information that adds context to the threat warnings. In
many instances, officials told the Joint Inquiry, this lack of context prevents them from
properly estimating the value of the threat information and taking preventive actions.
The Joint Inquiry was also told that not all threat information in the possession of the
Intelligence Community is shared with non-Intelligence Community entities that need it
the most in order to counter the threats.
For example, DCI Tenet testified that: “The documents we’ve provided show
some 12 reports spread over seven years which pertain to possible use of aircraft as
terrorist weapons. We disseminated those reports to the appropriate agencies, such as the
[page 90] FAA, the Department of Transportation and the FBI as they came in.”
Subsequently, the Transportation Security Intelligence Service (TSIS) -- which formerly
was the Intelligence Office at FAA -- researched the 12 reports mentioned by DCI Tenet
to determine what actions had been taken as a result. TSIS reported to the Joint Inquiry
that it had no record of having received three of those reports, two others had been
derived from State Department cables, and one report was not received at all by FAA
until after September 11, 2001. A TSIS official also testified that, despite its clear
relevance to civil aviation, the FAA was not provided a copy of the FBI's July 1, 2001
Phoenix communication until its existence was made known to officials there by the Joint
Inquiry in early 2002.
In a similar vein, the FAA had certain intelligence information in its possession
prior to September 11 regarding the terrorist who was apprehended on his way from
Canada to the Los Angeles Airport at the time of the Millennium. It also had conducted a
detailed analysis of the bomb materials that were seized with him, and connected them to
the Bojinka Plot to blow up commercial airliners over the Pacific that had been
discovered in the Philippines in 1995. In testimony to the Joint Inquiry, a TSIS official
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indicated uncertainty regarding whether or not these findings had been formally
communicated to the CIA.
The CIA and NSA had sufficient information available concerning future
hijackers al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to connect them to Usama Bin Ladin, the East Africa
embassy bombings, and the USS Cole attack by late 2000, and there were at least three
different occasions when these individuals should have been placed on the State
Department’s TIPOFF watchlist and the INS and Customs watchlists. Nonetheless, this
was not done, nor was the FBI notified of their potential presence in the United States
until late August 2001.
The CIA also did not provide the Department of State with almost 1500 terrorismrelated
intelligence reports until shortly after September 11, 2001. These reports led to
the addition of almost 60 names of terrorist suspects to the State watchlist. Also, due to a
[page 91] lack of awareness of watchlisting policies and procedures among CIA
personnel before September 11, this information was not provided to the watchlists at
INS, and Customs. Intelligence officers at the Departments of Energy and Transportation
also did not have access to FBI data, CIA reports, and names on the watchlists.
The FBI did not advise the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service of
the reasons for its inquiries regarding al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi’s visa information in
August 2001 when it was engaged in efforts to find the two individuals in the United
States. Neither was INS asked by the FBI to use means available to it, including a search
of the Law Enforcement Support Center’s database, to locate al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi
when the FBI was looking for them in the United States in August 2001. INS and FAA
officials who testified at the Joint Inquiry’s October 1, 2002 hearing asserted that their
agencies might have been able to assist the FBI in locating the two if the FBI had told
them of the purpose and importance of the search.
Officials from the Departments of Transportation, State, Energy, Defense, and
Treasury stated to the Joint Inquiry that, unless information is shared by the Intelligence
Community on a timely basis, they are unable to include dangerous individuals on
various watchlists to either deny them entry into the United States or apprehend them in
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the United States. The Transportation Security Administration Assistant Under Secretary
of Intelligence testified that, had he received the July 2001 FBI Phoenix field office
agent’s Electronic Communication, for example, he would have “…started to ask a lot
more probing questions of the FBI as to what this was all about…what connections these
people may have had to flight schools, by going back to the Airmen Registry in
Oklahoma City that is maintained by the FAA to try to identify additional people.”
The INS also was not privy to the presence of two known terrorists inside the
United States. The INS Deputy Executive Associate Commissioner testified to the Joint
Inquiry hearing on October 1, 2002 that “there is a likelihood” that INS agents would
have been able to stop al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in August 2001. The INS Law
Enforcement Support Center (LESC) has been in operation for more than ten years. It is
[page 92] capable of querying every INS database and is available on a 24 hour per day,
seven-day per week basis. The LESC reportedly can provide information in about seven
minutes on the legal status of individuals in the United States.
In their testimony before the Joint Inquiry hearing, state and local government
witnesses were adamant about the necessity of the intelligence and law enforcement
agencies sharing terrorist information with state and local authorities. Former Virginia
Governor James Gilmore stated that, in his entire four-year term, he never received any
intelligence or law enforcement information regarding terrorists. Governor Gilmore also
testified that:
. . . to the extent that there has been intelligence sharing, it has been ad
hoc. It has been without a real systematic approach. And what would you
expect. With the Intelligence Comnunity, it is not within the culture if not
within the statute that you don't share information. If you do, you are even
subject to criminal penalties not to mention the danger of sharing
information and to the danger of people who provide it. And the capacities
of the United States in order to gather it.
In addition, he explained that he was not even given a security clearance while he was
Governor that would have allowed him to be briefed on possible terrorist plots.
The Police Commissioner of Baltimore stated at the same hearing that he does not
receive intelligence information about suspected terrorists living in his jurisdiction even
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though some may have been associated with the September 11 hijackers. He also cited
the fact that there are 650,000 law enforcement officers nationwide and they should be
viewed by the federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies as force-multipliers.
However, this can only happen if information flows in both directions. The Police
Commissioner also testified that, domestically, the local police force is the “biggest
collector” of information, not the federal government. To illustrate his point that
information must flow in both directions, he added, “we can tell when people move from
one cave to another in Afghanistan, but we can’t tell when they move from one row
house to another in Baltimore.”
By contrast, former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified that information sharing
with federal, state and local authorities was a priority for the FBI. In his Joint Inquiry
testimony on October 8, 2002, he said: [page 93]
We doubled and tripled the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces
[JTTFs] around the United States so we could multiply our forces and
coordinate intelligence and counterterrorism operations with the FBI's
federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. Thirty-four of these
JTTFs were in operation by 2001. . . . We were also tasked to set up the
National Domestic Preparedness Office to counter terrorist threats and to
enhance homeland security.
Mr. Freeh added that counterterrorism was such a high priority that the FBI instituted a
national threat warning system in order to disseminate terrorism related information to
state and local authorities around the country and organized national, regional and local
practice exercises to help the country prepare for terrorist attacks.
Further, FBI Director Mueller explained in his October 17, 2002 testimony before
the Joint Inquiry the changes that had been made in this regard by the FBI since
September 11, and added that:
As a result of these initiatives and despite some of the testimony that this
[Inquiry] has heard, we have received numerous letters of support and
gratitude from state and local officials and most particularly from the
International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP]. . . . Our agents must
work closely with our local and state law enforcement partners. . . . I don't
believe that [the testimony of the Baltimore Police Commissioner] is
representative of the feeling in the field. Does his testimony surprise me? I
would say probably not. But I will tell you every time that I have . . .
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.seen, either publicly or in testimony before this committee or another
committee, that there is a police chief who is not getting what he or she
wants, I have called, picked up the phone and called them to try to address
those concerns.
. . . .
[A] letter from William Berger, the President of the IACP. . . . praises us
for the changes we have made to address this particular problem. I will
just read one paragraph:
It is my belief that the steps you have taken have been very
responsive to these concerns and clearly demonstrate the FBI's
commitment to enhancing its relationship with State and local law
enforcement in improving our ability to combat not only terrorism,
but all crime.
I was at the IACP two weeks ago. I talked to the hierarchy, and I believe
that they are supportive. There are isolated individuals throughout the
United States who do not believe we are doing enough, and there are areas
where we still have a ways to go, getting clearances for chiefs of police,
exchange of information all the [page 94] way down and getting it back
up. We have a number of [JTTFs] that are working exceptionally well
around the country. I think if you went to 9 or 10, or 99 out of 100, or 55
out of 56 you will find that State and local police are very supportive of
the relationship. There will always be one, there will always be two, and
we try to address them as we come along.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the IACP President did indeed write
to FBI Director Mueller to express his appreciation for the steps the FBI has taken,
including the creation of the State and Local Law Enforcement Advisory Panel and the
Office of Law Enforcement Coordination. Subsequently, however, the IACP President
was quoted on September 19, 2002 that:
[Federal communications with state and local police] didn’t work
again…Most local police in New England were informed by the FBI
office in that area…about an hour before the public, but police in other
regions didn’t know about the change until Attorney General John
Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge announced it at a
press conference.
The Inquiry found that the FBI’s establishment of JTTFs in many FBI field
offices had begun to correct some information sharing problems by encouraging
coordination between federal, state, and local agencies prior to September 11. These
efforts did result in some successes. For example, in the Moussaoui investigation, the
INS representative on the Minneapolis JTTF was able to use the INS database to
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determine Moussaoui’s immigration status quickly. The INS and FBI representatives
then approached Moussaoui together and he was taken into INS custody at an INS facility
and questioned by the FBI.
However, a variety of shortcomings in the JTTF program limited its effectiveness
prior to September 11. First, not all of the FBI field office had JTTFs. Further, some of
the JTTFs were hampered by a lack of analytic personnel, limited participation by local
law enforcement organizations, incomplete access to information by some of the
participants, and the absence of CIA detailees.
Prior to September 11, only 35 FBI field offices had JTTFs and only six JTTFs
had CIA representatives. This might help explain why [page 95] the CIA did not receive
a copy of the July 2001 Phoenix communication until well after September 11. The
Gilmore Advisory Panel reported anecdotal evidence suggesting that the JTTF and other
similar efforts, while well intentioned, continue to be confusing, duplicative, non-routine,
and bifurcated in both structure and implementation.
11. Finding: Prior to September 11, 2001, the Intelligence Community did not
effectively develop and use human sources to penetrate the al-Qa’ida inner circle.
This lack of reliable and knowledgeable human sources significantly limited the
Community’s ability to acquire intelligence that could be acted upon before the
September 11 attacks. In part, at least, the lack of unilateral (i.e., U.S. –recruited)
counterterrorism sources was a product of an excessive reliance on foreign liaison
services.
Discussion: The U.S. Intelligence Community was not able to penetrate al-
Qa’ida’s inner circle successfully before September 11, despite the fact that human
penetration of that organization was considered a priority. Richard Clarke, the former
National Counterterrorism Coordinator, described the problem as well as the impact that
it had on policymakers:
[It was not until 1999 that the Counterterrorism Center began to have
some success in developing penetrations of al-Qa’ida. A new Director. .
.took over the Counterterrorism Center and was instructed by George
Tenet to get human penetrations of al-Qa’ida, and they did have some
success in the succeeding years, although none of them very high level.
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. . . .
. . . . [
] never had anyone in
position to tell us what was going to happen in advance, or even where
Bin Ladin was going to be in advance [
] we never knew where
he was going to be in advance, And usually we were only informed about
his – where he was after the fact. . . . And [ ]
where they were able to tell us where they thought he was at the moment,
[ ] the CIA itself recommended against
action, because they said their sources were not very good, or not good
enough to recommend military action].
[Page 96]
Former Director Louis Freeh emphasized the critical difference that human
sources and adequate “infiltration” of terrorist organizations could have made in the
context of the September 11 attacks:
If one of those 19 hijackers had spoken – maybe they did, maybe we don’t
know about it yet – incautiously or imprudently to someone in some place
where that information could have been captured, we could have had a day
of terror prevented instead of September 11th. There’s all kinds of
possibilities there. So, infiltration. We need to have our agents sitting
around wherever they were sitting around in Hamburg and the U.A.E. and
other places, as well as in the caves over in Afghanistan so we can know
what is going on.
[Lacking access to senior, high level al-Qa’ida leadership, the Community relied on
secondhand, fragmented and often questionable human intelligence information, a great
deal of which was obtained from volunteers or sources obtained through the efforts of
foreign liaison].
[According to senior CTC officials, CIA had no penetrations of al-Qa’ida’s
leadership and never obtained intelligence that was sufficient for action against Usama
Bin Ladin from anyone. A large number of current and former CTC officers indicated
that CTC had numerous unilateral sources outside the leadership who were reporting on
al-Qa’ida, and a larger number who were being developed for recruitment, prior to
September 11. The best source was handled jointly by CIA and the FBI. In addition,
CIA managed a network of [ ] in Afghanistan that often reported
information regarding Bin Ladin issues and relations with the Taliban. They occasionally
provided threat information as well, but had no access to al-Qa’ida’s leadership].
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[Especially after the East Africa U.S. embassy bombings in 1998, CIA also tried
many avenues in an effort to obtain access to Bin Ladin and his inner circle. [
]
[page 97] [
]. Despite
these creative attempts, according to former senior officials of CTC, CIA had no
penetrations of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, and the Agency never acquired intelligence from
anyone that could be acted upon, prior to September 11].
[Numerous sources were being handled by foreign intelligence services. Most
disruptions of al-Qa’ida activities abroad before September 11 were the result of joint
initiatives with foreign governments. However, relying on foreign services [
] meant that very little counterterrorism intelligence was obtained by
CIA in some parts of the world [ ].
[There was a surge in volunteer sources after the 1998 East African embassy
bombings, another surge on the anniversary of those bombings in 1999, and a third after
the December 1999 disruption of the Jordanian Millennium plot. [
]. One of these was very good and provided information that was used to
thwart attacks on U.S. interests in Europe. Several of these volunteers continue to act as
CIA sources. [
]. The
negative considerations were that most volunteer information was considered bogus by
CTC, some volunteers were suspected of being al-Qa’ida provocations, and some were
believed to have cooperated with terrorist groups].
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The inability to develop reliable human sources effectively stemmed, in part, from
the difficult nature of the target. Members of Usama Bin Ladin’s inner circle have close
bonds established by kinship, wartime experience, and long-term association. [Page 99]
Information about major terrorist plots was not widely shared within al-Qa’ida, and many
of Bin Ladin’s closest associates lived in war-torn Afghanistan. The United States had no
official presence in that country and did not formally recognize the Taliban regime,
which viewed foreigners with suspicion. Pakistan is the principal access point to
southern Afghanistan, where al-Qa’ida was particularly active, but U.S.-Pakistani
relations were strained by Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and a military coup in 1999.
While attempts to penetrate al-Qa’ida cells outside Afghanistan may have
presented fewer obstacles, other factors limited CIA efforts to do so. [
]. This meant as a practical matter that CIA did not focus as
heavily as would otherwise have been the case on recruiting human sources of
counterterrorism intelligence in other locations such as [ ].
CTC personnel said they did not view guidelines issued by former DCI John
Deutch in 1996 concerning CIA recruitment of human sources with poor human rights
records as an impediment to the pursuit of terrorist recruitments in al-Qa’ida, and none of
the CTC officers interviewed by the Joint Inquiry attributed the lack of penetration of the
al-Qa’ida inner circle to the Deutch guidelines. In fact, the effort to recruit such
penetrations became increasingly aggressive with respect to Bin Ladin's network
beginning in 1999. These responses should be balanced against the examination of the
effect of the Deutch guidelines that was conducted by the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Its July 2002 report stated in this regard: [page 99]
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. . . Many CIA managers at headquarters posited that the guidelines did not
present a problem and that no extra labor [was] required on the part of
field officers as a result of the guidelines. Many others, including CIA
officers in the field who brought their concerns to the attention of HPSCI
members and staff, had a different view . . . . Their concerns were not that
waivers were denied, but that they were not career enhancing and that the
process by which requests were brought forward was cumbersome and
resulted in disincentive to work to recruit anyone who might have been
involved in proscribed acts. . . .
Prior to September 11, the FBI also attempted, but with only limited success, to
develop human sources regarding the activities of al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups
within the United States. Again, the difficult nature of the target, as well as FBI and
Department of Justice policies and practices, may have hampered the FBI’s coverage of
the radical fundamentalist community in this country.
Recruiting sources in fundamentalist communities within the United States may
have been more difficult than such recruitments abroad. The FBI advised the Joint
Inquiry that, for example, only 21 FBI agents possess the Arabic language skills that
would be expected to be important in pursuing such recruitments.
However, even those FBI agents who were skilled at developing such sources
faced a number of difficulties that may have hampered the FBI’s ability to gather
intelligence on terrorist activities in the United States. According to several FBI agents,
for example, FBI Headquarters and field managers were often unwilling to approve
potentially controversial activity involving human sources who were in a position to
provide counterterrorism intelligence. The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act specifically outlawed providing material support to terrorism. If an FBI
source was involved in illegal funding or in terrorist training, the agent responsible for
the source had to obtain approval from FBI Headquarters and the Department of Justice
to allow the source to engage in the illegal activity. According to FBI personnel, this was
a difficult process that sometimes took as long as six months. Because terrorist sources
frequently engaged in activity that violated the 1996 Act, the cumbersome approval
process often discouraged aggressive recruitment of these sources in the field.
[page 100]
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FBI agents also cited to the Joint Inquiry the requirement for prior DCI approval
of FBI source travel abroad as a roadblock to sending sources overseas for operational
purposes. Several FBI agents expressed the opinion to the Joint Inquiry that the CIA took
advantage of this requirement to prevent FBI sources from operating overseas. Another
FBI agent complained that FBI Headquarters management did not readily approve
overseas travel for sources because of its belief that the FBI should focus on activity
within the United States. When FBI management did approve overseas travel for assets,
it often declined to allow the responsible agents to accompany the sources during such
travel. These decisions, according to FBI agents in Joint Inquiry interviews, significantly
diminished the quality of the operations
The FBI also apparently did not use those counterterrorism sources that had been
identified in the most effective and coordinated manner. The FBI generally focused
source reporting on cases and subjects within the jurisdiction of specific field offices and
did not adequately use sources to support a national counterterrorism intelligence
program. For example, the FBI received intelligence in 1999 that a terrorist organization
was planning to send students to the United States for aviation training. While an
operational unit at FBI Headquarters instructed twenty-four field offices to “task sources”
for information, it appears that no FBI sources were in fact asked about the matter.
In addition, when the Phoenix FBI agent reported to FBI Headquarters in July
2001 his concern that Middle Eastern students were coming to the United States for civil
aviation-related training, there was no effort by either FBI Headquarters or the field
office that was advised of his concern by FBI Headquarters to task counterterrorism
sources for any relevant information. Similarly, when Minneapolis FBI field office
agents detained Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001, they were concerned that he might
be part of a larger conspiracy. Nonetheless, neither the Minneapolis field office nor FBI
Headquarters asked any FBI sources whether they knew anything about Moussaoui or the
existence of any larger plot.
[Page 101]
[Finally, in August 2001, the FBI learned from the CIA that terrorist suspects
Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar were in the United States. Neither the FBI field
offices that were involved in the search nor FBI Headquarters thought to ask FBI field
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offices to ask their sources whether they were aware of the whereabouts of the two
individuals, who later took part in the September 11 attacks. As one result, the San
Diego counterterrorism informant who had numerous contacts with those two individuals
during 2000 was never asked to help the FBI locate them in the last weeks before
September 11].
12. Finding: During the summer of 2001, when the Intelligence Community was
bracing for an imminent al-Qa’ida attack, difficulties with FBI applications for
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance and the FISA process led
to a diminished level of coverage of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives in the United
States. The effect of these difficulties was compounded by the perception that
spread among FBI personnel at Headquarters and the field offices that the FISA
process was lengthy and fraught with peril.
Discussion: In the summer of 2000, during preparation for the trial in New York
of those involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in East Africa, prosecutors
discovered factual errors in applications for FISA orders sanctioning electronic
surveillance. The FISA Court found that these errors included an erroneous statement
that a FISA target was not under criminal investigation, erroneous statements concerning
overlapping intelligence and criminal investigations, and unauthorized sharing of FISA
information with criminal investigators and prosecutors.
The FISA Court also determined that these errors called into question the
certifications that had been made by senior officials that the FISA surveillances requested
by the applications had as their purpose the gathering of foreign intelligence, rather than
criminal-related information, as required by FISA. After being informed of additional
errors in subsequent months, the FISA Court barred an FBI agent who had prepared one
of the erroneous applications from appearing before the Court again.
The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review
(OIPR) began a systematic review of the FISA application process in September 2000 to
[page 102] ensure the accuracy of FISA Court filings. Some FISA surveillances targeting
al-Qa’ida agents were allowed to expire while OIPR and the FBI investigated how the
errors had occurred. These orders were not renewed until after the attack on USS Cole in
October 2000. In April 2001, the Bureau promulgated procedures for the review of draft
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FISA declarations and the submission of FISA applications to the Court. OIPR also
revised the standard al-Qa’ida FISA application to reduce the amount of extraneous
information that was required and that increased the likelihood of factual errors.
During this process, many FISA surveillances of suspected al-Qa’ida agents
expired because the FBI and OIPR were not willing to apply for application renewals
when they were not completely confident of their accuracy. Most of the FISA orders
targeting al-Qa’ida that expired after March 2001 were not renewed before September 11.
The Joint Inquiry received inconsistent figures regarding the specific number of FISA
orders that were allowed to expire during the summer of 2001. One FBI manager stated
that no FISA orders targeted against al-Qa’ida existed in 2001, others interviewed said
there were up to [ ] al-Qa’ida orders at that time, and an OIPR official explained that
approximately two-thirds of the number of FISA orders targeted against al-Qa’ida had
expired in 2001.
Several organizations played a role in the breakdown of the FISA process in the
year before the September 11 attacks. According to FBI personnel, OIPR and the FISA
Court erred by requiring much extraneous information in FISA applications, thus
increasing the likelihood of mistakes. Bureau agents frequently could not or did not
verify the accuracy of information in the FISA applications. The FISA Court’s order
prohibiting an FBI agent from appearing before the Court also apparently had a chilling
effect on FBI agents, and they became increasingly unwilling to confirm the veracity of
FISA applications.
13. Finding: [
[page 103]
].
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Discussion: [During his tenure, President Clinton signed documents authorizing
CIA covert action against Usama Bin Ladin and his principal lieutenants. [
].
[
]:
• [
].
• [
].
[
] [page
104] [ ]. [Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
testified to the Joint Inquiry on September 19, 2002 that, from the time of the East Africa
U. S. Embassy bombings in 1998, the U. S. Government was:
. . . embarked [on] an very intense effort to get Bin Ladin, to get his
lieutenants, through both overt and covert means. . . . We were involved –
at that point, our intense focus was to get Bin Ladin, to get his key
lieutenants. The President conferred a number of authorities on the
Intelligence Community for that purpose.
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Senator Shelby: By “get him,” that meant kill him if you had to, capture
him or kill him?
Mr. Berger: I don’t know what I can say in this hearing, but capture and
kill. . . . There was no question that the cruise missiles were not trying to
capture him. They were not law enforcement techniques. . . .”]
[
].
[
].” As former National Security Advisor
Berger noted in his Joint Inquiry interview, “We do not have a rogue CIA.”
[
].”
In his June 11, 2002 briefing to the Joint Inquiry, Mr. Clarke reiterated this point
when he said: [page 105]
I think if you look at the 1980s and 1970s, the individuals who held the
job of [DDO], one after another of them was either fired or indicted or
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condemned by a Senate committee. I think under those circumstances, if
you become Director of Operations, you would want to be a little careful
not to launch off on covert operations that will get you personally in
trouble and will also hurt the institution. The history of covert operations
in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s was not a happy one, and I think that
lesson got over-learned by people who at the time were probably in their
twenties and thirties, but by the time they became in their fifties, and they
were managers in the [Directorate of Operations], I think that they
institutionalized a sense of covert action is risky and is likely to blow up in
your face. And the wise guys at the White House who are pushing you to
do covert action will be nowhere to be found when the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence calls you up to explain the mess that the covert
action became.
Mr. Clarke went on to say: “I think it is changed because of 9/11. I think it is changed
because George Tenet has been pushing them to change it.”
In a July 26, 2002 Joint Inquiry interview, a former Chief of CTC made a similar
point when he implicitly acknowledged that he pushed whenever possible for clarity in
the covert action authorities [
].”
The policy makers’ reluctance [ ] limited the scope of
CIA operations against Bin Ladin. [ ] [Page
106] [
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].”
[
]:
[
].
In any event, the differing perceptions about the scope of the authorizations
shaped the types of covert action the CIA was willing to direct against Bin Ladin prior to
September 11, 2001 and, therefore, its ultimate effectiveness. [
].
[
] [Page
107] [
].
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The CIA’s actual efforts to carry out covert action against Bin Ladin in
Afghanistan prior to September 11, 2001 were limited and do not appear to have
significantly hindered al-Qa’ida’s ability to operate. [ ]:
• [
];
• [
];”
• [
];
• [
];”
[Page 108]
• [
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];
• [
]; and,
• [
].
Many of these efforts were key elements in “the Plan” – initially developed in
1999 and subsequently modified -- that the DCI described in his testimony before the
Joint Inquiry on October 17, 2002. “The Plan” did not, however, feature elements
commonly associated with war plans or contingency plans, such as a mission statement,
strategic goals or objectives, a statement of commander’s intent, a delineation of the
resources that would be required or are available for the operation, or the measures by
which operational success might be measured. Although a covert action plan might not
be expected to contain all of the elements of a war plan, the absence of all these elements
suggests an absence of rigor in the planning process.
[
]
[Page 109] [
].
The Joint Inquiry heard testimony on September 12 and September 19, 2002 that,
between March 2001 and September 2001, the Bush Administration was engaged in a
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review of counterterrorism policy.
].
[
]. [Deputy Secretary of State Armitage testified that the Bush
Administration was considering, among other things, “increased authorities for the
Central Intelligence Agency” in the summer of 2001 and was close to final agreement on
a more aggressive strategy against Bin Ladin and his followers by September 11, 2001:
The National Security Council . . . called for new proposals [in March
2001] on a strategy that would be more aggressive against al-Qa’ida. The
first deputies meeting, which is the first decision making body in the
administration, met on the 30th of April and set off on a trail of initiatives
to include financing, getting at financing, to get at increased authorities for
the Central Intelligence Agency, sharp end things that the military was
asked to do. . . . So, from March through about August, we were preparing
a national security Presidential directive, and it was distributed on August
13 to the principals for their final comments. And then, of course, we had
the events of September 11. . . .]
14. Finding: [Senior U.S. military officials were reluctant to use U.S. military assets
to conduct offensive counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, or to support or
participate in CIA operations directed against al-Qa’ida prior to September 11. At
least part of this reluctance was driven by the military’s view that the Intelligence
Community was unable to provide the intelligence needed to support military
operations. Although the U.S. military did participate in [ ] counterterrorism
efforts to counter Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network prior to September 11, 2001,
most of the military’s focus was on force protection].
Discussion: National Security Council officials, CIA officers in the CTC, and
senior U.S. military officers differ regarding the U.S. military’s willingness to conduct
operations against Usama Bin Ladin prior to September 11, 2001. In general, however,
[page 110] these officials indicate that senior military leaders were reluctant to have the
military play a major role in offensive counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan prior to
September 11:
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• In his June 11, 2002 remarks, former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Richard Clarke said, “the overwhelming message to the White House from the
uniformed military leadership was ‘we don’t want to do this,’ [
]. Later in that same briefing, he said: “The
military repeatedly came back with recommendations that their capability not be
utilized [ ] in Afghanistan.”
• In a written response to the Joint Inquiry, former National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger said:
President Clinton’s top military advisers examined [military options].
They advised us that there would be a low probability of success for such
operations in Afghanistan (before 9/11 when we did not have the
cooperation of Pakistan and other bordering nations) in the absence of
substantial lead-time actionable intelligence (i.e., specific advanced
knowledge of where bin Ladin would be at a specific time and place).
There were many obstacles to deploying ground troops into Afghanistan
from staging areas at some distance, including a serious possibility of
detection, difficulty of basing back-up forces nearby and logistical
difficulties.
• Interviews of officials at the CTC and a review of CTC documents support the
finding that the military did not seek an active role in offensive counterterrorism
operations. For example,
].” In the CTC’s view,
although there was “lots of desire at the working level,” there was “reluctance at
the political level,” and it was “unlikely that JSOC will ever deploy under current
circumstances.”
[Page 111]
• On September 12, 2002, a former Chief of CTC said: “You know, [the U.S.
military] – they have their own views on their willingness to take casualties and
take risky operations… For them to go, they are more exacting in their
requirements, in terms of intelligence certainly, before they engage.”
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• Another former Chief of CTC testified:
Actually it was discussed… turning the ball over to [the military], but
having them do it themselves. They declined, as I recall, as best I recall,
because they lacked the covert action authorities to work in that
environment. Since there wasn’t an official declaration of war, there
wasn’t fighting, they didn’t think they had the authorities to go in and do it
themselves. They were willing to help… but they couldn’t put boots on
the ground themselves.
• The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the U.S. military
primarily thought about the threat posed by Usama Bin Ladin's network in terms
of protecting U.S. forces deployed overseas from terrorist attack. He also stated
his belief that the CIA and FBI should have the lead roles in countering terrorism,
and that military tools should be viewed as an extension and supplement to the
leading roles played by the CIA and FBI. In discussing offensive
counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, the former Chairman cited the lack of
actionable intelligence, noting “Look at the risk associated with swooping in.”
With regard to using U.S. military forces in clandestine operations, the former
Chairman said: “you don’t put U.S. armed forces in another country if the
President doesn’t declare war, unless you declare war on the Taliban.” He said he
never received a tasker to put boots on the ground to obtain actionable
intelligence, noting "the military does what it is told to do."
• The Joint Chief of Staff’s Director of Operations indicated that options developed
by the military for the White House in 2000 were in part aimed at “educating” the
National Security Advisor on the complexities of operations in Afghanistan
involving “U.S. boots on the ground.”
[Page 112]
In Joint Inquiry interviews, senior and retired U.S. military officers cited the lack
of precise, actionable intelligence as a primary obstacle to the military conducting its own
operations against Bin Ladin. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated,
for example: “. . . you can develop military operations until hell freezes over, but they are
worthless without intelligence.”
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However, according to CIA officers in the CTC who testified before the Joint
Inquiry on September 12, 2002, the U.S. military often levied so many requirements for
highly detailed, actionable intelligence prior to conducting an operation – far beyond
what the Intelligence Community was ever likely to obtain – that U.S. military units were
effectively precluded from conducting operations against Bin Ladin’s organization on the
ground in Afghanistan or elsewhere prior to September 11. A former Chief of CTC's
special Bin Ladin unit said:
[the military's] requirements, before they operate, are absolutely
impossible for us to collect in most instances. [
]. And the requirements they sent us included items
like, which side of the door are the hinges on, do the windows
open out or go up and down. And it is just not the kind of
intelligence we can provide on anything resembling a regular basis.
The Department of Defense did ask the Defense HUMINT [Human Intelligence]
Service to determine whether it could obtain information regarding Bin Ladin’s
whereabouts. However, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicated that
the U.S. military did not undertake any independent efforts, utilizing U.S. military forces,
to determine Bin Ladin’s location.
Lower-level military officers appeared to be more enthusiastic than senior
military officials about active military participation in counterterrorism efforts. Senior
CIA officers, CIA documents, and at least one former special operations forces
[page 113] commander indicated, in interviews and testimony, that military operators
were both capable and interested in conducting a special operations mission against Bin
Ladin in Afghanistan prior to September 11. A former JSOC commander told the Joint
Inquiry that his units did have the ability to put small teams into Afghanistan. A CIA
document commenting on the prospects of Joint Special Operations Command units
participating in an operation to capture Bin Ladin said: “lots of desire at the [military]
working level,” but there was “reluctance at the political level.”
Despite senior officers’ reluctance to play a major role, military personnel and
assets did contribute to several counterterrorism efforts in addition to force protection.
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The Joint Inquiry has identified [ ] major types of military participation in, or
support for, operations to counter Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network prior to
September 11:
• On August 20, 1998, following the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East
Africa, the U.S. military, acting on President Clinton’s orders, launched cruise
missiles at Usama Bin Ladin-related targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. One of
the objectives of those strikes was to kill Usama Bin Ladin. As former National
Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified: “we [were] trying to kill Bin Ladin, we
dropped cruise missiles on him;”
• Between 1999 and 2001, the U.S. military positioned a number of Navy ships and
submarines armed with cruise missiles in the North Arabian Sea to launch
additional cruise missile strikes at Bin Ladin in the event the Intelligence
Community was able to obtain precise information on his whereabouts in
Afghanistan; and
• [In 2000 and 2001, the Joint Staff and U.S. Air Force provided technical
assistance in the development of the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle as a [Page
114] second source of intelligence on Usama Bin Ladin’s precise whereabouts in
Afghanistan. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the Joint
Inquiry that:
The Clinton Administration was engaged in an active strategy against Bin
Ladin and was continuously examining new initiatives for defeating Bin
Ladin and al-Qa’ida, given what was known and the allies available at the
time. For example, in 2000, we developed the Predator program, which
was successfully tested in late 2000 and was available to be
operationalized as a critical intelligence platform to confirm intelligence
on his whereabouts when the weather cleared in the Spring of 2001].
In general, however, the CIA and U.S. military did not engage in joint operations,
pool their assets, or develop joint plans against Usama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan prior to
September 11, 2001 – despite interest in such joint operations at the CIA. Commenting
on the idea of the CIA and U.S. military engaging in joint operations, a former Chief of
CTC testified:
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I think it is absolutely great [idea]. This is something we have been
advocating for a long time. If you want to go to war, you take the CIA, its
clandestinity, its authorities, and you match it up with special operations
forces of the U.S. military, you can really – you can really do some
damage.… This is something that we have tried to advocate at the
working level, and we haven’t made much progress. But, if this is
something that [the Congress] would like to look into, it would be great
for the United States.
Similarly, a former Chief of CTC's special Bin Ladin unit said: “As someone who
served [ ] and worked with special forces, they want to work with us and we want
to work with them. History was made between the CIA and special forces. We need to
do that.” However, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Joint
Inquiry that he did not believe in joint operations with the CIA. He said, “I want to make
sure the military piece of the plan is under military control, and not predicated on the
CIA’s piece being successful.”
15. Finding: The Intelligence Community depended heavily on foreign intelligence
and law enforcement services for the collection of counterterrorism intelligence and
the conduct of other counterterrorism activities. The results were mixed in terms of
productive intelligence, reflecting vast differences in the ability and willingness of
the various foreign services to target the Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida network.
Intelligence Community agencies sometimes failed to coordinate their relationships
with foreign services adequately, either within the Intelligence Community or with
broader U.S. Government liaison and foreign policy efforts. This reliance on
foreign liaison services also resulted in a lack of focus on the development of
unilateral human sources.
[Page 115]
Discussion: [In the mid-1990s, CIA counterterrorism officials decided that
unilateral operations alone were of limited value in penetrating al-Qa’ida and that foreign
liaison services could serve as a force multiplier. Foreign intelligence and security
services often had excellent local knowledge and capabilities; [
]. Therefore, CIA, FBI, NSA, and other Intelligence Community
agencies strengthened their liaison relationships with existing foreign partners and forged
new relationships to fight al-Qa’ida and other radical groups. For example, the CIA [
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]. The FBI expanded its Legal
Attache (Legat) program].
[Despite those efforts, many weaknesses in foreign liaison relationships were
apparent before the September 11 attacks. These weaknesses limited the amount and
quality of the counterterrorism intelligence received as a result of those relationships. For
example, individuals in some liaison services organization are believed to have
cooperated with terrorist groups].
[Regarding Saudi Arabia, former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified that,
following the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the FBI “was able to forge an effective
working relationship with the Saudi police and Interior Ministry.” A considerable
amount of personal effort by Director Freeh helped to secure what he described as
“unprecedented and invaluable” assistance in the Khobar Towers bombing investigation
from the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and the Saudi Interior Minister. By
contrast, the Committees heard testimony from U.S. Government personnel that Saudi
officials had been uncooperative and often did not act on information implicating Saudi
nationals].
[Page 116]
[According to a U. S. Government official, it was clear from about 1996 that the
Saudi Government would not cooperate with the United States on matters relating to
Usama Bin Ladin. [
], reemphasized the lack of Saudi cooperation and stated that there was
little prospect of future cooperation regarding Bin Ladin. [
] told the Joint Inquiry that he believed the U.S. Government’s hope of eventually
obtaining Saudi cooperation was unrealistic because Saudi assistance to the U.S.
Government on this matter is contrary to Saudi national interests].
[A U. S. Government official testified to the Joint Inquiry on this issue [
] as follows:
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[
]….[F]or the most part it was a very troubled relationship where
the Saudis were not providing us quickly or very vigorously with response
to it. Sometimes they did, many times they didn’t. It was just very slow
in coming.
The Treasury Department General Counsel testified at the July 23, 2002 hearing
about the lack of Saudi cooperation:
There is an almost intuitive sense, however, that things are not being
volunteered. So I want to fully inform you about it, that we have to ask
and we have to seek and we have to strive. I will give you one-and-a-half
examples. The first is, after some period, the Saudis have agreed to the
designation of a man named Julaydin, who is notoriously involved in all of
this; and his designation will be public within the next 10 days. They
came forward to us two weeks ago and said, okay, we think we should go
forward with the designation and a freeze order against Mr. Julaydin. We
asked, what do you have on him? Because they certainly know what we
have on him, because we shared it as we tried to convince them that they
ought to join us. The answer back was, nothing new.
. . . .
. . . I think that taxes credulity, or there is another motive we are not being
told.
[Page 117]
[A number of U. S. Government officials complained to the Joint Inquiry about a
lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations both before and after the September
11 attacks.
]. A high-level U. S. Government officer cited greater Saudi
cooperation when asked how the September 11 attacks might have been prevented. In
May 2001, the U.S. Government became aware that an individual in Saudi Arabia was in
contact with a senior al-Qa’ida operative and was most likely aware of an upcoming al-
Qa’ida operation. [
].
[
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].
Several other Arab governments hesitated to share information gleaned from
arrests of suspects in the USS Cole bombing and other attacks. Even several European
governments were described to the Joint Inquiry as indifferent to the threat al-Qa’ida
posed prior to September 11, while others faced legal restrictions that impeded their
ability to share intelligence with the United States or to disrupt terrorist cells. Prior to
September 11, for example, [ ], despite repeated requests from CIA,
[Page 118] provided little helpful information [ ]. A CIA
representative described the situation in his testimony before the Joint Inquiry:
We had passed [ ] a great number of leads about al-Qa’ida
members. We passed [them] a great deal of leads on al-Qa’ida members,
including some of the people you see in the press now, like [
], and we had really given them a lot of names to track after
September 11. The arrests they made [after September 11, 2001] showed
that they had in fact been following them and monitoring them to some
extent. But the CIA did not get information back [
] on it to any measurable extent that would help us with our efforts.
[CIA’s liaison partners vary in competence and commitment. [
]. However, the Agency still had to rely heavily on liaison partners in
several countries in order to acquire counterterrorism intelligence for the conduct of other
counterterrorism activities].
There were also missteps in the efforts of various Intelligence Community
agencies to develop foreign liaison relationships. [
]. However, significant problems arose because liaison on
counterterrorism was not always well integrated into overall U.S. regional goals and
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liaison relations. As a result, other issues, albeit important, sometimes diverted attention
from counterterrorism.
The many channels for contact between U.S. and foreign intelligence services
also led to a lack of coordination at times. Former National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger noted that many U.S. agencies, ranging from the CIA and FBI to the Agriculture
Department, develop liaison service relations and that, in some countries, there are now a
dozen or more of these kinds of relationships. Often, U.S. ambassadors were not able to
control these interactions, and, as a result, the U.S. Government did not always place
[page 119] proper priorities on what it asked of foreign governments. In his testimony,
Mr. Berger recommended giving “the DCI authority to coordinate all intelligence
cooperation with other countries.”
Finally, the capabilities of FBI Legats were not always incorporated within the
overall intelligence relationship with a foreign country. Thus, other members of the U.S.
Intelligence Community did not always utilize relationships developed by the Legats to
their full advantage.
16. Finding: [The activities of the September 11 hijackers in the United States
appear to have been financed, in large part, from monies sent to them from abroad
and also brought in on their persons. Prior to September 11, there was no
coordinated U.S. Government-wide strategy to track terrorist funding and close
down their financial support networks. There was also a reluctance in some parts of
the U.S. Government to track terrorist funding and close down their financial
support networks. As a result, the U.S. Government was unable to disrupt financial
support for Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist activities effectively].
Discussion: [Tracking terrorist funds can be an especially effective means of
identifying terrorists and terrorist organizations, unraveling and disrupting terrorist plots,
and targeting terrorist financial assets for sanctions, seizures, and account closures. As
with organized criminal activity, financial support is critically important to terrorist
networks like al-Qa’ida. Prior to September 11, 2001, however, no single U.S.
Government agency was responsible for tracking terrorist funds, prioritizing and
coordinating government-wide efforts, and seeking international collaboration in that
effort. Some tracking of terrorist funds was undertaken before September 11. For the
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most part, however, these efforts were unorganized and ad-hoc, and there was a
reluctance to take actions such as seizures of assets and bank accounts and arrests of
those involved in the funding. A U.S. Government official testified before the Joint
Inquiry, for example, that this reluctance hindered counterterrorist efforts against Bin
Ladin: “Treasury was concerned about any activity that could adversely affect the
international financial system . . . ].”
Treasury Department General Counsel David Aufhauser testified to the Joint
inquiry on July 23, 2002 that, prior to September 11, the financial war on terrorism was
“ad-hoc-ism”, episodic, and informal without any orthodox mechanism for the exchange
[page 120] of information or setting of priorities. He stated that, prior to September 11,
the DCI never asked Treasury to perform an analysis of Bin Ladin, al-Qa’ida, or
associated terrorist financing.
At the same hearing, the Chief of the FBI’s Financial Review Group also testified
to the lack of an overall financial strategy against terrorist funding. He stated that the
FBI’s financial investigations prior to September 11 were inconsistent, done on a caseby-
case basis, and not supervised by a specialized unit at FBI Headquarters.
Given this lack of focus on terrorist financing, the Intelligence Community was
unable, prior to September 11, to identify and attack the full range of Bin Ladin’s
financial support network. Former National Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard
Clarke described for the Joint Inquiry his pre-September 11 frustration with the
Intelligence Community’s lack of focus in this regard:
[
].
. . . .
Whenever we pressed the various agencies to do more on finding Bin
Ladin’s money, we would hear that they didn’t consider it as important as
the White House did for the reason you specified, that you were able to
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stage an operation for a small amount of money. My view was that it may
have been true that you could stage an operation for a small amount of
money, but you couldn’t run al-Qa’ida for a small amount of money. Al-
Qa’ida was a vast worldwide organization that was creating terrorist
groups in various countries that would not be called a-Qa’ida, but would
be called names associated with that particular country. But they were
creating terrorist groups, they were funding them from the start. They
were taking preexisting terrorist groups and buying their allegiance and
buying them additional capability. It seemed to me it must have cost a
great deal of money to be al-Qa’ida, but I was never able to get the
Intelligence Community to tell me within any range of magnitude how
much money the annual operating budget of al-Qa’ida may have been.
[Page 121]
Prior to September 11, there was also some reluctance to use available financial
databases to track suspected terrorists. The Chief of the FBI’s Financial Review Group –
which had been only a section in the FBI’s White Collar Crime Unit before September 11
-- and the Director of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
(FinCEN) both testified before the Joint Inquiry that, prior to September 11, they had
capabilities to develop leads on terrorist suspects and link them to other terrorists and to
terrorist funding sources. They both agreed that they would have been able to locate
Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar in the United States in August 2001, if asked,
through credit card and bank information. The use of these capabilities in the first weeks
after September 11 enabled the FBI, with assistance from the Secret Service, to connect
almost all of the 19 hijackers to each other very quickly by linking bank accounts, credit
cards, debit cards, address checks, and telephones. Despite the existence of those
capabilities, the FBI did not seek their assistance in the search for al-Hazmi and al-
Mihdhar in late August 2001.
FinCEN was involved in tracking terrorist funds prior to September 11 and
experienced some success. FinCEN began doing linkage analysis of terrorist financing in
October 1999 and first identified a specific account with a direct link to al-Qa’ida in
February 2001. It has the advantage of being able to work with both law enforcement
and intelligence information, and to combine that information with Bank Secrecy Act and
commercial data to assist the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) and others in the seizure, blocking, and freezing of terrorist assets. FinCEN’s
capabilities have been made available to federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies for lead purposes since before September 11.
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The FBI did some tracking of terrorist funds prior to September 11, but this was
mostly done on an episodic basis, primarily directed at money laundering activity, in the
context of field office investigations with no national or international coordination, and
with very limited cooperation with the Treasury Department. The Joint Inquiry was
informed that the FBI’s newly-formed Financial Review Group is developing what did
not exist pre-September 11, a national strategy for a coordinated U.S. Government-wide
[page 122] effort to track terrorist funds, mine financial data from a common database,
investigate, disrupt, arrest, and prosecute.
International cooperation in tracking terrorist funds was also not easy to achieve
prior to September 11. For example, the Director of OFAC at the Treasury Department
testified that he made two trips to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and
Kuwait in 1999 and 2000 to request their cooperation in tracking and restricting Bin
Ladin and al-Qa’ida funds, but only achieved limited results. Pre-September 11, OFAC
did take some actions, such as trade sanctions and an asset freeze against the Taliban for
harboring Bin Ladin, that achieved a modicum of success.
On September 24, 2001, President Bush gave a new priority to the tracking of
terrorist funds when he stated: “We will direct every resource at our command to win the
war against terrorists, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every
instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence. We will starve the terrorists of
funding.” (Emphasis added.) The President made this statement four days after signing
an executive order to block the funds of terrorists and their associates. Substantial
actions have been taken by the U.S. Government in this area since September 11,
including blocking terrorist-related assets; seizing assets and smuggled bulk cash;
arresting terrorist financiers and indicting them; and, shutting down front companies,
charities, banks, and hawala conglomerates that served as financial support networks for
al-Qa’ida and Bin Ladin.
New authorities that have been granted since September 11 have also been
instrumental in making these seizure and arrest actions successful. For example, OFAC
at Treasury requested and received in the October 2001 USA PATRIOT Act explicit
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authorities to block assets while an investigation is in progress and to use classified
information as evidence in order to place additional names on the list for freezing and
blocking assets. The challenge facing the Intelligence Community is to maintain, expand
and adapt the use of these capabilities to combat future terrorist threats effectively.
Despite improvements since September 11, former National Counterterrorism [page 123]
Coordinator Richard Clarke told the Joint Inquiry that, as of June 2002, there were still
many unanswered questions about Bin Ladin’s finances:
We asked [CIA] in particular [ ], because initially
– because he was said to be a financier. They were unable to do that, [
].CIA was [ ] unable to tell
us what it cost to be Bin Ladin, what it cost to be al-Qa’ida, how much
was their annual operating budget within some parameters, where did the
money come from, where did it stay when it wasn’t being used, how it was
transmitted. They were unable to find answers to those questions.
Part of the challenge for the Intelligence Community, and particularly the FBI, is
the difference between terrorist financing and other forms of organized criminal money
laundering. Strategies and tactics that were effective in countering money laundering
must be reexamined in order to assure their effectiveness in regard to terrorist financing.
The Treasury Department’s General Counsel was in England at a money laundering
conference on September 11, 2001 and explained to the Joint Inquiry how his perception
of the problem shifted as he watched the two World Trade Center towers disintegrate:
It was as if we had been looking at the world through the wrong end of a
telescope. . . . Money had been spirited around the globe by means and
measures and in denominations that mocked all of our detection. . . . The
most serious threat to our well being was now clean money intended to
kill, not dirty money seeking to be rinsed in a place of hiding.
D. RELATED FINDINGS
During the course of this Joint Inquiry, testimony and information were received
that pertained to several issues involving broader, policy questions that reach beyond the
boundaries of the Intelligence Community. In the three areas described below, the Inquiry
finds that policy issues were relevant to our examination of the events of September 11.
[Page 124]
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17. Finding: Despite intelligence reporting from 1998 through the summer of 2001
indicating that Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network intended to strike inside the
United States, the United States Government did not undertake a comprehensive
effort to implement defensive measures in the United States.
Discussion: As noted earlier, the Joint Inquiry has established that the
Intelligence Community acquired and disseminated from 1998 through the summer of
2001 intelligence reports indicating in broad terms that Usama Bin Ladin’s network
intended to carry out terrorist attacks inside the United States. This information
encompassed, for example, indications of plots for attacks within the United States that
would include:
• attacks on civil aviation;
• assassinations of U.S. public officials;
• use of high explosives;
• attacks on Washington, D.C., New York City, and cities on the West Coast;
• crashing aircraft into buildings as weapons; and
• using weapons of mass destruction.
The intelligence that was acquired and shared by the Intelligence Community was
not specific as to time and place, but should have been sufficient to prompt action to
insure a heightened sense of alert and implementation of additional defensive measures.
Such actions could have included: strengthened civil aviation security measures;
increased attention to watchlisting suspected terrorists so as to keep them out of the
United States; greater collaboration with state and local law enforcement authorities
concerning the scope and nature of the potential threat; a sustained national effort to
inform and alert the American public to the growing danger; and improved capabilities to
deal with the consequences of attacks involving mass destruction and casualties. The
U.S. Government did take some steps in regard to detecting and preventing the use of
weapons of mass destruction, but did not pursue a broad program of additional domestic
defensive measures or public awareness.
[Page 125]
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Both the DCI and the FBI Director discussed the important role that defensive
measures could have played. According to the DCI’s ’s testimony, looking back at the
September 11 attacks:
. . . since now we understand and possibly have understood the basis of the
history of specific reporting with regard to specific targets, and the context
was we raced from threat period to threat period, from target to target, and
once we resolved them we never thought about the fact that the security
that was protecting, whether it's a plane or an infrastructure or a bridge, is
poor to begin and somebody will come back to the same target that they've
planned against. Unless they see a security profile and a deterrent posture
that's different, there's nothing to stop them from doing that, because
essentially we all believed that it would never happen here. That's the
point.
. . . .
. . . I posit a theory that we were so busy overseas in terms of what we
were doing at the time that, you know, they were looking here the whole
time and steadily planning in terms of what they were doing. So they
were operating on two fronts.
FBI Director Mueller added:
I think you can look at what happened September 11 and I think both of us
would say there are things we did right and things we missed and did
wrong. But you look at it from the perspective of could we have prevented
these individuals, identified these individuals and prevented them from
undertaking this multi-plane undertaking, and I guess I would say I think
it's speculation, but in looking at each of the areas that we could have done
better, I'm not certain you get to the point where we stop these individuals.
On the other hand, looking at the concept of hijacking planes and taking
them over, as a country one could look back and say with reports of
hijackings over a period of time, perhaps we as a country should have
looked at changing the way we protect our planes, which means doing
what we are doing now in terms of hardening the cockpit, understanding
that the threat of a hijacking is not for a person to hijack a plane and get it
to the ground, utilizing the passengers as hostages, but the concept of
using a plane as a weapon. Had we, as a country, reached the position
where the attacks were such and the possibilities such that we would
change what we did in our airline industry to harden cockpits and train
pilots to resist being taken over, that's another avenue that I think might
have made a difference. But that's speculation.
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18. Finding: Between 1996 and September 2001, the counterterrorism strategy
adopted by the U. S. Government did not succeed in eliminating Afghanistan as a
sanctuary and training ground for Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network. A range
of instruments was used to counter al-Qa’ida, with law enforcement often emerging
[pge 126] as a leading tool because other means were deemed not to be feasible or
failed to produce results. Although numerous successful prosecutions were
generated, law enforcement efforts were not adequate by themselves to target or
eliminate Bin Ladin’s sanctuary. While the United States persisted in observing the
rule of law and accepted norms of international behavior, Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida
recognized no rules and thrived in the safehaven provided by Afghanistan.
Discussion: Between 1996 and September 2001, the United States worked with
dozens of cooperating foreign governments to disrupt al-Qa’ida activities, arrest and
interrogate operatives, and otherwise prevent terrorist attacks. Throughout that period of
time, however, Afghanistan was largely a terrorist “safe haven.” In its Afghan sanctuary,
al-Qa’ida built a network for planning attacks, training and vetting recruits, indoctrinating
potential radicals, and creating a terrorist army with little interference from the United
States.
Some CIA analysts and operators have told the Joint Inquiry that they recognized
as early as 1997 or 1998 that, as long as the Taliban continued to grant Bin Ladin’s
terrorist organization sanctuary in Afghanistan, it would continue to train a large cadre of
Islamic extremists and generate numerous terrorist operations. In 1999, senior officials at
the CIA and the State Department began to focus on the Taliban as an integral part of the
terrorist problem. In 1999 and 2000, the State Department worked with the United
Nations Security Council to obtain resolutions rebuking the Taliban for harboring Bin
Ladin and allowing terrorist training. The Defense Department began to focus on this
issue in late 2000, after the USS Cole bombing. A State Department demarche to Taliban
representatives in Pakistan, on June 26, 2001, specifically noted the threats to Americans
emanating from Afghanistan and stated that the United States would hold the Taliban
regime directly responsible for any actions taken by terrorists harbored by the Taliban.
Former National Security Advisor Berger noted in a statement to the Joint Inquiry
that “In fact, there was a concerted military, economic, and diplomatic pressure on the
Afghanistan and the Taliban….” Mr. Berger also explained that Saudi Arabia and
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Pakistan were pressed to cut support for the Taliban and that covert and military
measures were taken to disrupt al-Qa’ida activities in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the
[page 127] Joint Inquiry found that none of these actions were effective in hindering
terrorist training or al-Qa’ida’s ability to operate from Afghanistan.
[Despite the Intelligence Community’s growing recognition that Afghanistan was
churning out thousands of radicals, the U.S. government did not integrate all the
instruments of national power and policy – diplomatic, intelligence, economic, and
military – to address this problem. [
]. Prior to September 11, military force was
used only in the August 20, 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Afghanistan and the
Sudan. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified to the Joint Inquiry that
massive military strikes on Afghanistan would have had little public or Congressional
support before September 11, 2001. Moreover, as Mr. Berger noted to the Joint Inquiry,
a lack of intelligence on which to base action hindered efforts to use military force in
Afghanistan].
Permitting the sanctuary in Afghanistan to exist for as long as it did allowed Bin
Ladin’s key operatives to meet, plan operations, train recruits, identify particularly
capable recruits or those with specialized skills, and ensure that al-Qa’ida’s masterminds
remained beyond the reach of international justice. In his testimony before the Joint
Committee on October 17, 2002, the DCI responded to a question about what he would
do differently prior to September 11, 2001, saying:
[H]indsight is perfect, we should have taken down that sanctuary a lot
sooner. The circumstances at the time may have not warranted, the
regional situation may have been different, and after [September] 11 all I
can tell you is we let a sanctuary fester, we let him build capability. And
there may have been lots of good reasons why in hindsight it couldn't have
been done earlier or sooner. I am not challenging it, because hindsight is
always perfect, but we let him operate with impunity for a long time
without putting the full force and muscle of the United States against it.
As an adjunct to covert and military efforts to eliminate Bin Ladin’s sanctuary in
Afghanistan, the United States Government relied heavily on law enforcement to counter
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[page 128] terrorism. The origins of this emphasis on prosecutions can be traced back to
the 1980s, when Congress and President Reagan gave the FBI an important role in
countering international terrorism, including events overseas. More recently, the
successful prosecutions of individuals involved in the 1993 World Trade Center
bombing, the plot to attack New York City landmarks, and the 1998 bombings of two
U.S. Embassies in East Africa added to the emphasis on law enforcement as a
counterterrorism measure.
Senior Department of Justice officials, including former U.S. Attorney for the
Southern District of New York Mary Jo White, who prosecuted many of the most
important cases against al-Qa’ida, point out that they saw their efforts as an adjunct to
other means of fighting terrorism. Prosecutions do have several advantages in the fight
against terrorism. As Ms. White noted to the Joint Inquiry, prosecutions take terrorists
off the street. She acknowledged that this does not shut down an entire group, but some
bombs do not go off as a result of the arrests. In addition, critical intelligence often
comes from the investigative process, as individual terrorists confess or reveal associates
through their personal effects and communications. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh
pointed out to the Joint Inquiry, “you can’t divorce arrest from prevention.” Ms. White
also contends that the prosecutions may deter some, though admittedly not all,
individuals from using violence. Finally, the threat of a jail sentence often induces
terrorists to cooperate with investigators and provide information.
Heavy reliance on law enforcement had limits, however. As Paul Pillar, National
Intelligence Officer for the Near East and Asia, explained to the Joint Inquiry, it is easier
to arrest underlings than masterminds. Those who organize and plan attacks, particularly
the ultimate decision makers who authorize them, are often thousands of miles away
when an attack is carried out. In addition, the deterrent effect of imprisonment is often
minimal, particularly for highly motivated terrorists such as those in al-Qa’ida.
Moreover, law enforcement is time-consuming. The CIA and the FBI expended
considerable resources supporting investigations in Africa and in Yemen regarding the
Embassies and USS Cole attacks, a drain on scarce manpower and resources that could
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[page 129] have been used to gather information and disrupt future attacks. Further, there
were no established mechanisms for law enforcement officials to share foreign
intelligence developed in these investigations with the Intelligence Community, and they
did not always recognize it, prior to September 11. Finally, law enforcement standards of
evidence are high, and meeting these standards often requires unattainable intelligence or
the compromise of sensitive intelligence sources or methods.
At times, law enforcement and intelligence have competing interests. The former
head of the FBI’s International Terrorism Division noted to the Joint Inquiry that
Attorney General Janet Reno leaned toward closing down Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act-based collection activities if they seemed to hinder criminal cases. Ms.
White, however, said that the need for intelligence was balanced with the effort to arrest
and prosecute terrorists.
The reliance on law enforcement when individuals can operate from a hostile
country such as the Taliban’s Afghanistan appears particularly ineffective, as the
masterminds are often beyond the reach of justice. One FBI agent, in a Joint inquiry
interview, scorned the idea of using the Bureau to take the lead in countering al-Qa’ida.
He noted that the FBI can only arrest and support prosecution and cannot shut down
training camps in hostile countries. He added that, “[it] is like telling the FBI after Pearl
Harbor, ‘go to Tokyo and arrest the Emperor.’” In his opinion, a military solution was
necessary because, “[t]he Southern District [of New York] doesn’t have any cruise
missiles.” As the DCI testified to the Joint Inquiry on June 19, 2002:
The fact that you went into the sanctuary and took it down is the single
most important thing that occurred [after September 11], because they no
longer operated with impunity in terms of their training and financing and
all the things they were doing. And that opportunistically has changed the
game. So the policy question I would answer first is, the longer you wait
when you see this kind of thing, the longer you wait to intervene, the
longer you wait to allow evidence to manifest behavior, I guarantee you
will be surprised and hurt.
19. Finding: Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community and the U.S.
Government labored to prevent attacks by Usama Bin Ladin and his terrorist
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[page 130] network against the United States, but largely without the benefit of an
alert, mobilized and committed American public. Despite intelligence information
on the immediacy of the threat level in the spring and summer of 2001, the
assumption prevailed in the U.S. Government that attacks of the magnitude of
September 11 could not happen here. As a result, there was insufficient effort to
alert the American public to the reality and gravity of the threat.
Discussion: The record of this Joint Inquiry indicates that, prior to September 11,
2001, the U.S. Intelligence Community was involved in fighting a “war” against Bin
Ladin largely without the benefit of what some would call its most potent weapon in that
effort: an alert and committed American public. Senior levels of the Intelligence
Community, as well as senior U.S. Government policymakers, were aware of the danger
posed by Bin Ladin. Information that was shared with senior U.S. Government officials,
but was not made available to the American public because of its national security
classification, was explicit about the gravity and immediacy of the threat posed by Bin
Ladin. For example:
• In December 1998, as noted earlier, the DCI wrote: “We must now enter a
new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin…We are at war…I want no
resources or people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the [Intelligence]
Community.”
• A classified document signed by the President in December 1998 read in part:
“The Intelligence Community has strong indications that Bin Ladin intends to
conduct or sponsor attacks inside the United States”; and
• A classified document signed by the President in July 1999 characterized a
February 1998 statement by Bin Ladin statement as a “de facto declaration of
war” on the United States.
In addition, numerous classified intelligence reports were produced and
disseminated by the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, based upon
information obtained from a variety of sources, about possible terrorist attacks being
planned by Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network. Some of this information was
summarized and released, in declassified form, in the Joint Inquiry’s September 18, 2002
hearing, including: [page 131]
• In June 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information from several
sources that Usama Bin Ladin was considering attacks in the United States,
including against Washington, D. C. and New York;
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• In August 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that a
group of unidentified Arabs planned to crash an explosive-laden plane from a
foreign country into the World Trade Center;
• In September 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that
Usama Bin Ladin’s next operation could possibly involve flying an aircraft
loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport;
• In October 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that al-
Qa’ida was trying to establish an operative cell within the United States, and
that there might be an effort underway to recruit U.S. citizen- Islamists and
U.S.-based expatriates from the Middle East and North Africa;
• In September 1999, the Intelligence Community obtained information that
Usama Bin Ladin and others were planning a terrorist act in the United States,
possibly against specific landmarks in California and New York City; and
• In late 1999, the Intelligence Community obtained information regarding the
Bin Ladin network’s possible plans to attack targets in Washington, D. C. and
New York City during the New Year’s Millennium celebrations.
There is little indication of any sustained and successful national effort to
mobilize public awareness about the gravity and immediacy of the threat prior to
September 11, however. Specifically citing speeches by President Clinton at the United
Nations in 1995 and at George Washington University in1996 regarding the fight against
terrorism, former national Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the Inquiry that the
President: “continuously attempted to raise public awareness of the terrorist threat, as a
central challenge to our country and our future, [and] including in every State of the
Union address for eight years.”
Clearly, there were Presidential remarks regarding terrorism in the years before
September 11, 2001, including references to the threat that Bin Ladin’s network posed to
the interests of the United States. There were also periodic statements and references to
[page 132] the threat from terrorism and Bin Ladin in Congressional testimony and
elsewhere by both the DCI and the FBI Director.
In an interview, Richard Clarke, the former National Counterterrorism
Coordinator under President Clinton, pointed to background briefings to the press by his
office immediately after the Millennium crisis in January-February 2000 and the
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Administration’s cooperation with the New York Times in December 2000 and with
CBS’s 60 Minutes on stories about terrorism as efforts to inform the American people of
the growing terrorist threat.
These efforts were, however, largely sporadic and, given the classified nature of
intelligence, limited in terms of the specifics that could be shared with the public about
the immediacy and gravity of the threat. They were not sufficient to mobilize and sustain
heightened public awareness about the danger of a domestic attack.
By comparison to what has occurred since September 11, the American public
was not focused on and was not on heightened alert regarding Bin Ladin, his fatwa
against the United States, and the immediate likelihood of a terrorist attack on American
soil. In the aftermath of September 11, two incidents illustrate the difference that an
alerted American public can, and does, make:
• On September 11, 2001, passengers aboard Flight 93, aware that two aircraft
had been flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City,
attempted to retake control of their hijacked aircraft and, it is widely believed,
saved further loss of life and destruction; and
• On December 22, 2001, an alert flight attendant on board an American
Airlines flight from Paris to Miami noticed passenger Richard Reid attempting
to light a fuse in his shoe. Reid was subsequently subdued by a number of
passengers and has pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to blow up the
aircraft.
[Page 133]
Kristen Breitweiser, speaking on behalf of the families of the victims of the
September 11 attacks, reminded the Joint Inquiry of the importance of an alert and
involved American public in the war against terrorism. In her testimony, she emphasized
the potential importance of information that was not shared with the public before
September 11, 2001:
One thing remains clear from history. Our intelligence agencies were
acutely aware of an impending domestic risk posed by Al Qaeda. A
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question that remains unclear is how many lives could have been saved
had this information been made more public.
. . . .
How many victims may have taken notice of these Middle Eastern men
while they were boarding their plane? Could these men have been
stopped? Going further, how many vigilant employees would have chosen
to immediately flee Tower 2 after they witnessed the blazing inferno in
Tower 1, if only they had known that an Al Qaeda terrorist attack was
imminent?
Could the devastation of September 11 been diminished in any degree had
the government’s information been made public in the summer of 2001?
20. Finding: Located in Part Four Entitled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative
Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.”
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PART TWO – NARRATIVE – THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
I. The Plot Unfolds for the Attacks of September 11, 2001
The Joint Inquiry received testimony from the Director of Central Intelligence and the
Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, and also
examined the records of these agencies, to determine what the Intelligence Community knows
now about the September 11 attacks. FBI Director Mueller described efforts by the U.S.
intelligence and law enforcement communities “to find out everything we could about the
hijackers and how they succeeded.”
A. The al-Qa’ida Roots of the September 11 Attacks
Usama Bin Ladin came to the FBI’s attention after the first attack on the World Trade
Center in February 1993. While the FBI has not linked that attack directly to Bin Ladin, the
investigation developed information that Muslim men, including participants in the attack, had
been recruited at the al-Kifah refugee office in Brooklyn, New York and sent to training camps
in Afghanistan – first to fight the Soviet army and later to engage in a jihad against the United
States. In 1993, the FBI also learned of a plot to blow up bridges, tunnels, and landmarks in
New York. That investigation led to the conviction of Omar Abdul al-Rahman, the “Blind
Sheikh,” for soliciting others to commit all of those acts of terrorism in 1993. Bin Ladin’s
fatwas and press statements later called for avenging the Blind Sheikh’s imprisonment.
The FBI has identified at least two Bin Ladin connections in Ramzi Yousef’s 1995
conspiracy, centered in the Philippines, to blow up twelve U.S. airplanes flying East Asian routes
to the United States. Mohamed Jamal Khalifah, the alleged financier of the plot, is Bin Ladin’s
brother-in-law. Ramzi Yousef was arrested at a Bin Ladin guesthouse in Pakistan to which
Yousef had fled after the plot had been uncovered. Yousef was a principal in the first World
Trade Center attacks, for which he was tried and convicted upon being returned to the United
States. [Page 135]
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George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), testified that “a common thread
runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 and the 11 September
attacks.” The thread is Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, also known as Mukhtar or “the Brain.”
According to the DCI, Muhammad, “a high-ranking al-Qa’ida member,” was “the mastermind or
one of the key planners of the 11 September operation.” The DCI noted that Mukhtar is Ramzi
Yousef’s uncle, and, after the World Trade Center attack, Muhammad joined Yousef in the 1995
airplane plot, for which Muhammad has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
In August 1996, Bin Ladin issued the first fatwa declaring jihad against the United States.
A second fatwa in February 1998 proclaimed: “to kill the Americans and their allies – civilian
and military is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is
possible to do it.” Bin Ladin repeated these threats in a May 1998 press interview. The
bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania followed in August.
In June 1998, the Department of Justice obtained a sealed indictment in the Southern
District of New York against Bin Ladin as the sole named defendant in a “conspiracy to attack
defense utilities of the United States.” Among other overt acts, the indictment charged that in
October 1993 “members of al-Qa’ida participated with Somali tribesmen in an attack on United
States military personnel serving in Somalia [which] killed a total of 18 United States soldiers
and wounded 73 others.” The indictment was unsealed after the East African embassy bombings
and was followed by a series of superseding indictments that charged Bin Ladin and others with
a conspiracy to “murder United States nationals anywhere in the world, including in the United
States.”
The U.S. Government produced proof in the embassy bombing trials of Bin Ladin’s
direct connections to the attacks. Mohamed al-Owhali, who was to have been a suicide
passenger in the Kenya bombing, ran from the bomb truck moments before it exploded. After
his arrest in Kenya, al-Owhali confessed and admitted that he had been given a telephone
number in Sana’a, Yemen, which he called before and after the bombing. Telephone records for
calls to that number led to the bomb factory for the Nairobi attack in a house occupied by a
ranking al-Qa’ida [page 136] member and training camp veteran. Calls from Bin Ladin’s
satellite phone to the Yemen number were made the day of the attack and the day after when al-
Owhali called that number for help. Al-Owhali also confessed that he had asked Bin Ladin for a
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mission, a request that led to his being in the bomb truck. According to al-Owhali, the suicide
driver had been present with him at Bin Ladin’s May 1998 press conference.
U.S. investigators have also described Bin Ladin’s connection to the October 2000 attack
on the United States Navy’s ship, USS Cole. The [ ], which
figured in the East Africa embassy bombings, was also used in planning the attack on USS Cole.
In addition, Tawfiq bin Attash, known as Khallad, who had been a trainer at an al-Qa’ida camp
in Afghanistan, prepared an introduction in the summer of 1999 for Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri
addressed to Jamal al-Badawi, who had trained under Khallad. Al-Nashiri is believed to be a
long-time Bin Ladin operative and a first cousin of the suicide driver who attacked the U.S.
Embassy in Kenya. Khallad appears to have directed the Cole operation from Afghanistan or
Pakistan, while al-Nashiri was its local manager.
Investigators believe that Khallad’s letter set in motion plans to attack another U.S. Navy
ship. Following al-Nashiri’s introduction, Badawi obtained the boat that would be used in the
failed attack on USS The Sullivans in January 2000. The same boat was used later that year in
the attack against USS Cole.
[In testimony to the Joint Inquiry, the DCI explained that, after September 11, 2001, CIA
learned [ ] that “in 1996, Bin Ladin’s second-in-command, Muhammad Atif, drew up a
study on the feasibility of hijacking U.S. planes and destroying them in flight.” Khalid Shaykh
Muhammad proposed to Bin Ladin that the World Trade Center “be targeted by small aircraft
packed with explosives.” Bin Ladin reportedly suggested using even larger planes].
According to the DCI, Muhammad Atif “chose the hijackers from young Arab men who
had no previous terrorist activities.” After Bin Ladin had approved the selection, Khalid Shaykh
[page 137] Muhammad “trained them and instructed them on acquiring pilot training” and
“supervised the ‘final touches’ of the 11 September operation.”
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B. The Springboards for the Attack - Germany and Malaysia
In addition to Afghani-based al-Qa’ida roots of the September 11 attacks, the FBI reports
that “[t]he operational planning for the September 11th attacks took place in overseas locations,
most notably Germany, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.”
Malaysia
Two principal hijackers in the September 11 attacks, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-
Hazmi, entered the United States on a flight from Bangkok on January 15, 2000, a week after
leaving a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three other principals, Mohammed Atta,
Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, entered the United States in May and June 2000 from or
through Europe. Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah had lived in Hamburg, Germany where they
associated with each other in various ways. A sixth principal, Hani Hanjour, had been in the
United States off and on since October 1991.
In June 18 testimony at a Joint Inquiry hearing, the DCI described al-Hazmi and al-
Mihdhar as “al-Qa’ida veterans.” They had been involved with al-Qa’ida for six years before
September 11, 2001, “having trained and fought under al-Qa’ida auspices in three different
countries.”
Al-Hazmi first traveled to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager and came into contact with a
key al-Qa’ida facilitator in Saudi Arabia in 1994. In 1995, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar traveled to
Bosnia to fight with other Muslims against the Serbs. Al-Hazmi probably came into contact with
al-Qa’ida leader Abu Zubaydah when Zubaydah visited Saudi Arabia in 1996 to convince young
Saudis to attend al-Qa’ida camps in Afghanistan. Sometime before 1998, al-Hazmi returned to
Afghanistan and swore loyalty to Bin Ladin. He fought against the Northern Alliance, possibly
with his brother Salem, another of the hijackers, and returned to Saudi Arabia in early 1999,
[page 138] where, [ ], he disclosed information about the East
Africa embassy bombings.
Al-Mihdhar’s first trip to the Afghanistan training camps was in early 1996. [
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]. In 1998, al-Mihdhar traveled to Afghanistan and swore
allegiance to Bin Ladin.
In April 1999, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, and Khalid al-Mihdhar obtained visas
through the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi then
traveled to Afghanistan and “participated in special training,” which, according to the DCI, may
have been “facilitated by Khallad” (Tawfiq bin Attash who also directed the USS Cole
operation). A USS Cole suicide bomber also participated in that training.
From Yemen, al-Mihdhar traveled to Kuala Lumpur, arriving on January 5, 2000. There
he met al-Hazmi, who had traveled to Malaysia from Pakistan. In Malaysia, the two met Khallad
at a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, who later signed letters of introduction on behalf of
Zacarias Moussaoui that were found in Moussaoui’s possessions after the September 11 attacks.
Malaysian police arrested Sufaat in December 2001 after they developed information that he had
procured four tons of bomb material, ammonium nitrate, for an Indonesian jihad cell.
Germany
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI Tenet described the significant characteristics
that were shared by Muhammad Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah – the September 11
hijackers who most likely piloted the airplanes that the groups they were part of commandeered.
The three were intelligent, spoke English and were proficient in several other languages, and
were familiar with Western society. They were also educated in technical subjects and had
[page 139] mastered skills necessary to pilot planes. Of particular note, the three were part of a
group of young Muslim men in Hamburg, Germany, who came from different countries and
backgrounds, but attended the same mosques, shared acquaintances, and were drawn together by
Islamist views and disenchantment with the West.
Atta was born in Egypt in 1968. He graduated from Cairo University with a degree in
Architectural Engineering in 1990 and began attending the Technical University in Hamburg in
1992. Between 1996 and 1998, Atta traveled in the Middle East and then returned to Germany.
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Al-Shehhi was born in the United Arab Emirates in 1978. A sergeant in the UAE Army,
he was sent to Germany for technical studies in 1996. In 1997 and 1998, he studied English at
the University at Bonn and electrical engineering at the Technical University in Hamburg.
Jarrah was born in Lebanon in 1975. He attended the Fachhochschule, a technical
University in Hamburg from 1996 to 2000, studying aircraft construction and maintenance.
While in Germany, Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah, according to FBI documents, Akept
company with a loosely organized group of associates comprised of roommates, co-workers and
mosque colleagues.@ Three associates, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, and Zakariya Essabar,
became subjects of post-September 11 German arrest warrants for alleged membership in a
terrorist organization and for murder and aircraft piracy. A fourth, Mounir el Motassadeq, is on
trial in Hamburg on those charges.*
Bin al-Shibh, who was born in Yemen in 1972 and entered Germany in 1995, is
described as a Asupporting conspirator” in the Moussaoui indictment. In August 2000, Jarrah
attempted to enroll Bin al-Shibh in the Florida Flight Training Center, where Jarrah was taking
lessons. On August 15, Bin al-Shibh sent a $2200 wire transfer to the school for tuition, and in
July and September, he transferred funds to al-Shehhi in Florida. Between May and October
2000, Bin al-Shibh unsuccessfully attempted four times -- three in Germany and once in Yemen
[page 140] - to obtain a visa to travel to the United States. Between December 2 and 9, 2000,
Bin al-Shibh was in London. Moussaoui flew from London to Pakistan on December 9.
FBI Director Mueller testified that Bin al-Shibh was a “significant money person.” The
Moussaoui indictment charges that Bin al-Shibh received $15,000 in wire transfers from the
UAE on or about July 30 and 31, 2001 and that he wired $14,000 to Moussaoui in Oklahoma on
or about August 1 and 3 from train stations in Dusseldorf and Hamburg.
[DCI Tenet testified that, after September 11, 2001, CIA received reports identifying Bin
al-Shibh “as an important al-Qa’ida operative.” The agency suspects that, “unlike the three
* Motassadeq was convicted in Germany on February 19, 2003 of being a member of a terrorist organization and
accessory to over 3,000 murders in New York and Washington.
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Hamburg pilots, he may have been associated with al-Qa’ida even before moving to Germany in
1995.” Bin al-Shibh flew to Spain in early September 2001. He disappeared until an interview
with al-Jazeera was aired in September 2002, and he was captured in Pakistan on September 11,
2002. Bin al-Shibh is now being held [ ] at an undisclosed location].
Atta lived at Marienstrasse 54 in Hamburg with Bin al-Shibh, Essabar, and Bahaji.
Director Tenet testified that, after Bin al-Shibh failed to obtain a U.S. visa, “another cell
member,” Essabar, “tried [on two occasions in December 2000] and failed to obtain a visa in
January 2001” to travel to Florida while Atta and al-Shehhi were there. Uncorroborated sources
report that Essabar was in Afghanistan in late September 2001. Bahaji left Germany on
September 3, 2001 for Pakistan. Uncorroborated sources also placed him in Afghanistan in late
September 2001.
DCI Tenet testified that Muhammad Heydar Zammar was an acquaintance of members of
Atta’s circle in Hamburg, where Zammar lived. Zammar, a German citizen born in Syria in
1961, was described by DCI Tenet as “a known al-Qa’ida associate,” active in Islamic extremist
circles since the 1980s, who trained and fought in Afghanistan in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1995 and
returned to Afghanistan a number of times between 1995 and 2000.
It has been reported that U.S. and German officials believe that Zammar is a pivotal
figure in understanding the genesis of the September 11 attacks. DCI Tenet told the Joint
[page 141] Inquiry that Zammar “was taken into custody by the Moroccans [ ]”
when he traveled to Morocco to divorce his wife and that he was “moved from Morocco into
Syrian custody, where he has remained.” It has also been reported that Zammar has provided
details about the September 11 attacks to U.S. investigators. According to the DCI, Zammar has
said that he met Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah in the late 1990s in Hamburg’s al-Qods mosque and
he “persuaded them to travel to Afghanistan to join the jihad.”
DCI Tenet testified that Atta may have traveled to Afghanistan for the first time in early
1998. In June 1998, he applied for a new passport in Egypt, although his old one had not
expired. This suggested, according to the DCI, “that he might have been trying to hide evidence
of his travel to Afghanistan.” On November 29, 1999, Atta flew from Hamburg to Istanbul and
then to Karachi. He left Pakistan to return to Hamburg on February 25, 2000.
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In the fall of 1999, al-Shehhi stayed at Bin Ladin’s Qandahar guesthouse while awaiting
transportation to Pakistan for medical treatment. He returned to Germany in January 2000.
According to FBI information, Atta and al-Shehhi “were both present at Bin Ladin facilities in
Kandahar in December 1999.” The DCI noted that “Jarrah’s travel at this time mirrored Atta’s,”
as Jarrah flew from Hamburg to Karachi on November 25, 1999 and stayed in Pakistan for two
months.
There are indications that Bin al-Shibh was in Afghanistan in 1998 and had been seen at
the Khalden Camp or guesthouse in late 1998. The Moussaoui indictment alleges that
Moussaoui had been present at the Khalden Camp in or about April 1998.
C. The Principals Arrive in the United States – January 2000 through April 2001
On January 15, 2000, one week after leaving Malaysia, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-
Hazmi flew to Los Angeles from Bangkok and settled in the San Diego area. In April 2000, al-
Hazmi took an introductory flying lesson at the National Air College in San Diego. A week
[page 142] later, al-Hazmi received a $5000 wire transfer through a third party sent from the
United Arab Emirates. In May, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi took flight training in San Diego, and
in June, al-Mihdhar left the U.S. on a Lufthansa flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, connecting
to Oman. Al-Mihdhar did not return to the United States until thirteen months later in July 2001.
Al-Hazmi remained in the United States, staying in the San Diego area until December
2000 when he moved to Arizona with Hani Hanjour who had just returned to the United States.
The DCI testified that Hanjour went to Afghanistan for six weeks in 1989 when he was 17 to
participate in a jihad. He first entered the United States in October 1991 from Saudi Arabia to
attend an English language program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. When he left the
U.S. in early 1992 for Saudi Arabia, he was a “different person,” according to a brother who
spoke to the media. According to the DCI, Hanjour then “wore a full beard, cut his past social
ties, and spent most of his time reading books on religion and airplanes.” Hanjour returned to
the United States in April 1996. After residing in Florida for a month, he moved to Oakland,
California, where he took an English language course. In the summer, he began flight training,
and in September, he moved to Arizona where he took flight lessons for a month in Scottsdale.
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Hanjour left the U.S. for Saudi Arabia in November 1996, returning to the United States in
November 1997.
Hanjour left the United States again in April 1999, after receiving an FAA
commercial pilot certificate. In September, after an initial denial, he obtained a student visa in
Jeddah and returned to the United States. Then in November 2000, having stayed in Florida for
a month, he met al-Hazmi in California and traveled with him to Arizona in early December.
On December 12, he took up residence in Mesa, Arizona with al-Hazmi and resumed aviation
training. He took Boeing groundwork and simulator training in February and March 2001, when
he and al-Hazmi left Arizona for northern Virginia.
Atta returned to Germany from Afghanistan through Pakistan in February 2000. On
March 1, he sent the first of a series of e-mails to pilot training schools in Lakeland, Florida and
Norman, Oklahoma. Claiming that his passport had been lost, Atta obtained a new Egyptian
passport in Hamburg in May 2000 and a visa for travel to the United States. He crossed over to
the Czech Republic by bus [page 143] and flew to Newark in June 2000. Al-Shehhi had arrived
several days earlier on a flight from the United Arab Emirates through Brussels to Newark. He
obtained a new passport, apparently in Pakistan before leaving for Germany at the beginning of
January 2000. Later that month, he obtained a ten-year multiple entry visa at the U.S. consulate
in Dubai. Atta and al-Shehhi stayed in the New York area, renting apartments together until the
beginning of July when they flew to Oklahoma City for a short visit to the Airman Flight School
in Norman. They proceeded to Florida, opened a joint account at Sun Trust Bank (depositing
$7000), and began training at Huffman Aviation in Venice.
In the meantime, Jarrah arrived in the U.S. on June 27 at Atlanta, Georgia. Earlier in the
year, he reported losing his Lebanese passport, and in May he obtained a five-year B1/B2
multiple entry visa. On arriving in the United States, Jarrah proceeded to Venice, Florida, where
he began training at the Florida Flight Training Center.
In Fall 2000, Atta and al-Shehhi obtained instrument certifications and commercial pilot
licenses while at Huffman Aviation. They also spent a brief period at Jones Aviation in Sarasota,
Florida. From December 29 through 31, Atta and al-Shehhi received Boeing flight simulator
training at Sim Center and Pan Am International in Opalocka, Florida. The FBI reports that that
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both men “requested training on >executing turns and approaches” but not other training
normally associated with the course.@ In the meantime, Jarrah continued flight training until
December 2000 where he had begun it, the Florida Flight Training Center. In mid-December
and in early January 2001, he took Boeing flight simulator lessons at the Aeroservice Aviation
Center in Virginia Gardens, Florida.
In December 2000, al-Shehhi flew to Hamburg and then on to the United Arab Emirates,
returning for the December flight simulator training with Atta. On January 4, 2001, Atta flew
from Tampa through Miami to Madrid, returning to Miami on January 10. The DCI testified
that the purpose of Atta’s trip to Spain “may have been to meet with another al-Qa’ida operative
to pass along an update on the pilots’ training progress and receive information on the supporting
hijackers who would begin arriving in the U.S. in the spring.” DCI Tenet testified that “Atta
may also have traveled outside of the U.S. in early April 2001 to meet an Iraqi intelligence
officer, although we are still working to [page 144] corroborate this.” Atta may have traveled
under an unknown alias: the CIA has been unable to establish that he left the United States or
entered Europe in April under his true name or any known alias.
On April 18, al-Shehhi, who traveled outside the United States three times, flew to Egypt
by way of Amsterdam and returned to Miami from Egypt through Amsterdam on May 2. In
Egypt, al-Shehhi visited Atta’s father and returned to the U.S. with Atta’s international driver’s
license. Apart from that, the DCI testified, “nothing else is known of al-Shehhi’s activities while
traveling outside the U.S.” Jarrah traveled even more frequently, taking at least five trips outside
the United States to visit his family in Lebanon, and to visit his girl friend in Germany.
After al-Shehhi returned from Morocco in January 2001, he and Atta moved to Georgia
for flight training. In February, they traveled to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where they opened a
mailbox account. A crop duster pilot in Belle Glade, Florida identified Atta as inquiring about
the purchase and operation of crop dusters while Atta was living in the Atlanta area.
D. The Supporting Hijackers Arrive – April to June 2001
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The thirteen remaining hijackers, the “muscle,” whose role was to overcome pilots and
control passengers, began arriving in the United States in April 2001. Except for one threesome,
they arrived in pairs, the last in June. Twelve of the thirteen were from Saudi Arabia, and one
was from the United Arab Emirates. Salem al-Hazmi, Nawaf’s brother, obtained his visa as
early as April 1999; seven obtained visas from September to November 2000; three, as late as
June 2001. As FBI Director Mueller noted, these hijackers arrived in the United States “within a
fairly short window,” each transiting through the United Arab Emirates.
Many in the group knew each other. There were two pairs of brothers, the al-Hazmis and
al-Shehris, in addition to networks of friends. Many came from southwest Saudi Arabia, and
they represented a range of socioeconomic levels. A few had higher education. Others had little
education. Some had struggled with depression or alcohol abuse. Some, according to DCI
Tenet, “never exhibited much religious fervor, before apparent exposure to extremist ideas –
through family members, friends, [page 145] or clerics – led to an abrupt radicalization and
separation from their families;” some spoke of “their desire to participate in jihad conflicts such
as the war in Chechnya, and some appear to have used this as a cover for traveling to
Afghanistan.” The DCI also testified that “[a]s part of their commitment to militant Islam, these
young Saudis traveled to Afghanistan to train in the camps of their exiled countryman Usama
Bin Ladin.” Most supporting hijackers went to Afghanistan for the first time in 1999 or 2000.
Notwithstanding the experience in Afghanistan, the CIA does not believe that the supporting
hijackers became involved in the plot until late 2000. Their early travel may have “added these
young men to the ranks of operatives that al-Qa’ida could call upon to carry out future missions,”
but DCI Tenet said he does not believe that al-Qa’ida leadership wanted the supporting hijackers
to know about the plot any sooner than necessary: “they probably were told little more than that
they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States.”
Al-Mihdhar, who left the United States a year before, obtained a visa in Jeddah in June
2001, using a new Saudi passport. According to DCI Tenet, he “spent the past year traveling
between Yemen and Afghanistan, with occasional trips to Saudi Arabia.” Al-Mihdhar traveled
to New York in July 2001 from Saudi Arabia, six days after the last of the supporting hijackers
had flown to the United States. FBI Director Mueller testified that “al-Mihdhar’s role in the
September 11 plot between June 2000 and July 2001 – before his re-entry into the United States
– may well have been that of the coordinator and organizer of the movements of the non-pilot
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hijackers. This is supported by his apparent lengthy stay in Saudi Arabia and his arriving back in
the United States only after the arrival of all the hijackers.”
E. Final Organization of the Attacks
Beginning in May 2001, each of the four pilot hijackers flew across the United States.
FBI Director Mueller described these trips: “With their training complete, it appears that the
pilots began conducting possible surveillance flights as passengers aboard cross-country flights
transiting between the Northeast United States and California.” On May 24, al-Shehhi flew
from New York to San Francisco on a Boeing 767 (seated in first class), leaving immediately on
a Boeing 757 (seated in first class) to Las Vegas. On May 27, al-Shehhi left Las Vegas to San
Francisco, continuing to New York on a Boeing 767 (seated in first class). On June 7, Jarrah
flew from Baltimore via Los Angeles to Las [page 146] Vegas, returning to Baltimore on June
10. On June 28, Atta flew from Boston to San Francisco, continuing to Las Vegas, departing
there on July 1 through Denver to Boston. On August 13, Atta flew a second time across country
from Washington to Las Vegas on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class), returning on August 14 to
Ft. Lauderdale. On August 13, Hanjour and al-Hazmi (seated in first class) flew from Dulles to
Las Vegas via Los Angeles. They left Las Vegas on August 14 on a flight to Minneapolis (close
to Eagan, Minnesots, where Moussaoui had started flight lessons the day before), connecting an
hour and a half later to a flight to Baltimore.
Director Mueller noted the Las Vegas layovers:
Each of the return flights for these hijackers had layovers in Las Vegas. To date,
the purpose of these one-to-two day layovers is not known. However, with
respect to travel to Las Vegas, we know that at least one hijacker on each of the
four hijacked airplanes traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada sometime between May
and August of 2001. This travel consisted of an initial transcontinental trip from
an east-coast city to a west-coast city, and a connection in that west-coast city to a
Las Vegas-bound flight.
Atta flew to Zurich from Miami in July 2001, continuing on to Madrid. He checked out
of a Madrid hotel on July 9 and rented a car that he returned on July 19, after having driven
1,908 kilometers. For the days immediately following July 9, Atta’s whereabouts are unknown
until he checked into a hotel in Tarragona on Spain’s east coast on July 16. On July 9, Bin al-
Shibh flew from Hamburg to Tarragona, where he checked out of a hotel on July 10. His
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whereabouts from July 10 to 16 are unaccounted for, “roughly the same period during which
Atta’s movements are unknown,” suggesting, according to DCI Tenet, that “the two engaged in
clandestine meetings on the progress of the plot.” Atta returned to the United States on July 19,
arriving in Atlanta. Jarrah traveled to Germany from Newark on July 25, returning on August 5,
a trip that may have permitted further contact with Bin al-Shibh. Director Mueller also testified
that “[d]uring the summer of 2001, some of the hijackers, specifically Mohamed Atta and Nawaf
al-Hazmi appear to have met face-to-face on a monthly basis to discuss the status of the
operation, and ultimately the final preparation for the attack.” In an interview with al-Jazeera
shortly before his capture, Bin al-Shibh described al-Hazmi as Atta’s “right hand.”
[Page 147]
As the supporting hijackers arrived, they divided between Florida and New York before
moving to three staging areas. The two who arrived in Virginia and the two who arrived in New
York joined Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hanjour in Paterson, New Jersey. The four who arrived in
Orlando and the five who arrived in Miami joined Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah in the Fort
Lauderdale, Florida area.
The nineteen hijackers began to book September 11 flights on August 26. Al-Mihdhar
and Majed Moqed, hijackers on the Pentagon flight, were unable to buy tickets on August 24
because their address could not be verified. They finally purchased them with cash on
September 5 at the American Airlines counter in the Baltimore/Washington International
Airport. The hijackers in the Fort Lauderdale area also booked flights to locations in the Boston,
Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. areas where the teams for each September 11 flight
assembled.
F. Financing of the Attacks
The FBI estimates that the September 11 attacks cost $175,000 to $250,000. According
to Director Mueller and Bureau documents, “the funding mechanism behind the conspiracy
appears to center around Marwan al-Shehhi and individuals providing financial support
primarily” through the “banking and wire service infrastructure” of the United Arab Emirates.
In Hamburg, al-Shehhi received substantial transfers from the UAE by wire from
Mohamed Yousef Mohamed Alqusaidi, whom the FBI believes to be al-Shehhi’s brother. In
July 1999, al-Shehhi opened a checking account in the UAE and soon after granted a power of
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attorney over the account to Alqusaidi. From July 1999 to November 2000, about $100,000
moved through the account. While they were in Germany, al-Shehhi transferred funds to Atta.
In July 2000, al-Shehhi and Atta opened a joint account at Suntrust Bank in Venice,
Florida, which received, according to the FBI, Awhat appears to be the primary funding for the
conspiracy,@ four transfers from the UAE totaling approximately $110,000 from Ali Abdul Aziz
Ali using a variety of aliases. In June 2000, al-Shehhi also received $5,000 by Western Union
wire from Isam Mansour. In [page 148] April, Ali wired $5,000 to al-Hazmi in San Diego.
Several hijackers, including Hanjour and al-Mihdhar, supplemented their financing with credit
cards drawn on Saudi and UAE banks.
Transfers to Bin al-Shibh on July 30 and 31, 2001, which preceded his transfers to
Moussaoui, were from Hashem Abdulraham, whom FBI Director Mueller identified as Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, “the Brain.”
There was also an important flow of money back to the UAE immediately before
September 11. FBI documents state that funds “were returned to the source because the
hijackers would not have wanted to die as thieves, therefore they returned the money that was
provided to them.@ Three hijackers, including Atta and al-Shehhi, sent funds to Mustafa Ahmed
Alhawsawi in the UAE. Al-Hazmi sent an Express Mail package to a UAE post office box
rented in Alhawsawi’s name that contained al-Mihdhar’s debit card for an account in which
$10,000 remained. Alhawsawi also had power of attorney over accounts of several hijackers in
the UAE.
G. Execution of the Attacks
At approximately 7:59 a.m., on September 11, American Airlines Flight 11, bound for
Los Angeles, was cleared for takeoff from Logan International Airport in Boston. On board
were 81 passengers and 11 crew members. Two hijackers were in the first two seats in First
Class, from which the cockpit doors were easily accessible. According to Director Mueller, the
hijackers “apparently using commonly available box cutters” seized the aircraft and diverted its
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course at about 8:13 a.m. At 8:45 a.m. Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North
Tower, which collapsed at 10:25 a.m.
Atta is believed to have been the pilot because he was the only Flight 11 hijacker known
to have had flight training. He spent the night before the attacks in Portland, Maine, flying to
Boston on the morning of September 11. Atta’s luggage did not make the connection to Flight
11. The FBI Director testified that a search “revealed a three page letter handwritten in Arabic
which, upon translation, was found to contain instructions on how to prepare for a mission
applicable, but not specific, to the September 11 operation.”
[Page 149]
At approximately 7:58 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for Los Angeles, left
Logan with 65 passengers and crew members. At 9:05 a.m., Flight 175 crashed into the World
Trade Center’s South Tower, which collapsed at 9:55 a.m. Marwan al-Shehhi is believed to have
been the pilot.
As of December 2002, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New
York reported that 2792 persons are reported as missing as a result of the attacks on the World
Trade Center, including persons on the ground and passengers and crew of the two planes. Of
this number, 2743 death certificates have been issued. The Chief Medical Examiner has
periodically revised the death toll based on continuing forensic and other determinations.
At approximately, 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 left Dulles International
Airport for Los Angeles with 58 passengers and six crew members. The last routine radio
contact with the plane was at 8:50 a.m. A few minutes later the plane made an unauthorized
turn. At 9:39 a.m., Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon’s southwest side. In addition to the
passengers and crew, 125 military and civilian Pentagon employees died. The pilot is believed
to have been Hani Hanjour. A copy of the letter in Atta’s luggage was found in a car registered
to al-Hazmi that had been parked at Dulles.
At approximately 8:42 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark International Airport
for San Francisco with 37 passengers and seven crew members. Ziad Jarrah was the only one of
four hijackers aboard known to have a pilot’s license; therefore, he is believed to have been the
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pilot. At approximately 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 crashed into the ground at Stoney Creek Township
in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Telephone calls from passengers and crew to family and friends described attempts by
passengers and crew to retake the plane prior to the crash. One call described three hijackers
wearing bandanas and armed with knives, with one hijacker claiming to have a bomb strapped to
his waist. Two hijackers entered the cockpit and closed the door behind them. The passengers
were herded to the back of the plane. The captain and co-pilot were seen lying on the floor of
the First Class section, possibly [page 150] dead. At the words, “Let’s roll,” passengers rushed
forward. As described by the FBI Director, the cockpit tape-recorder indicates that a hijacker,
minutes before Flight 93 hit the ground, “advised Jarrah to crash the plane and end the
passengers attempt to retake the airplane.”
A copy of the letter found in Atta’s baggage and al-Hazmi’s car was also found at the
Flight 93 crash site. The FBI notes that some of the Arabic on the cockpit tape, “such as
supplications to Allah, conforms to the suicide preparation instructions” in that letter.
In the UAE, Alhawsawi, the plot financier, consolidated in his bank account funds the
hijackers had returned, to which he added funds he withdrew from one of their accounts just
hours before the September 11 attacks. He then flew to Karachi, Pakistan. His whereabouts are
unknown.
II. Pentagon Flight Hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Salem al-Hazmi
A. The Malaysia Meeting and Identification of Khalid al-Mihdhar and
Salem and Nawaf al-Hazmi – Watchlist Opportunity Lost
[In late 1999, the Intelligence Community launched a worldwide effort to disrupt terrorist
operations that were planned to occur during the Millennium celebrations. A CIA officer told
the Joint Inquiry that, as the Intelligence Community reviewed information from the 1998 East
Africa embassy bombings, “a kind of tuning fork . . . buzzed when two individuals reportedly
planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur were linked indirectly to what appeared to be a support element
. . . involved with the Africa bombers.” One traveler, Khalid al-Mihdhar, started his journey to
Malaysia from the Middle East, where, according to Joint Inquiry testimony from DCI Tenet, he
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had been at a “suspected al-Qa’ida logistics facility.” The other, Nawaf al-Hazmi, began his trip
to Malaysia from Pakistan. Initially, only the travelers’ first names were known. From the
outset, information circulated throughout the Intelligence Community that identified them as
“terrorist operatives.” For example, a CIA cable stated, “Nawaf’s travel may be in support of a
terrorist mission].”
[Page 151]
The intelligence preceding the Malaysian meeting also showed that a person whose first
name was Salem would attend. An intelligence analyst observed at the time that “Salem may be
Nawaf’s younger brother,” and that observation was reported to other Intelligence Community
agencies.
The Kuala Lumpur meeting took place between January 5 and 8, 2000. There has been
no intelligence about what was discussed at the meeting, but, according to DCI Tenet,
surveillance [ ] that began with al-Mihdhar’s arrival on
January 5 “indicated that the behavior of the individuals was consistent with clandestine
activity.”
It was later determined that Khallad bin-Atash, a leading operative in Bin Ladin’s
network, also attended the meeting. According to DCI Tenet, Khallad was “the most important
figure at the Kuala Lumpur meeting” and he would later become “a key planner in the October
2000 USS Cole bombing.”
The principal location of the meeting was a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, who
DCI Tenet identified to the Joint Inquiry as “a Malaysian chemist . . . directed by a terrorist
leader to make his apartment available.” Later in 2000, Sufaat signed letters of introduction for
Zacarias Moussaoui as a representative of his company, letters Moussaoui took with him to the
United States.
DCI Tenet testified that, “[i]n early January 2000, we managed to obtain a photocopy of
al-Mihdhar’s passport as he traveled to Kuala Lumpur.” This gave the CIA al-Mihdhar’s full
name, his passport number, and birth information. It also showed that al-Mihdhar held a U.S.
visa, issued in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in April 1999, that would not expire until April 2000. These
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facts were verified at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah before the meeting started. The DCI told the
Joint Inquiry:
We had at that point the level of detail needed to watchlist [al-Mihdhar] – that is,
to nominate him to State Department for refusal of entry into the US or to deny
him another visa. Our officers remained focused on the surveillance operation
and did not do so.
Surveillance photographs of the meeting were taken by the [ ] and
transmitted to CIA Headquarters. When the meeting ended, al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and Khallad
(under a different name) flew to Thailand seated side by side.
[Page 152]
Soon after the travelers left Malaysia on January 8, the CIA received evidence that
Nawaf’s last name might be al-Hazmi when it learned that someone with that last name had been
seated next to al-Mihdhar on the flight from Malaysia. That information could have led to
Nawaf al-Hazmi’s watchlisting.
Unknown to the CIA, since early 1999 the National Security Agency had information
associating al-Hazmi by his full name with the Bin Ladin network, information it did not
disseminate. NSA Director Hayden, told the Joint Inquiry:
We did not disseminate information we received in early 1999 that was
unexceptional in its content except that it associated the name of Nawaf al-Hazmi
with al-Qa’ida. . . . At the time of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, we had the al-
Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salem, as well as Khalid al-Mihdhar, in our sights.
We knew of their association with al-Qa’ida, and we shared this information with
the Community. I’ve looked at this closely. If we had handled all of the above
perfectly, the only new fact that we could have contributed at the time of Kuala
Lumpur was that Nawaf’s surname (and perhaps that of Salem, who appeared to
be Nawaf’s brother) was al-Hazmi.
Although NSA did not disseminate this information to the Intelligence Community
before September 11, it was available in NSA databases. However, no one at CIA or elsewhere
asked NSA before September 11 to review its database for information about Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Knowledge of Nawaf’s last name also pointed to his brother Salem’s last name, which
meant that the Intelligence Community had in its grasp the full names of three of the future
hijackers. In addition, the State Department had in the records of its Jeddah consulate the fact
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that Nawaf and Salem al-Hazmi had obtained U.S. visas in April 1999, several days before al-
Mihdhar obtained his U.S. visa at that consulate.
Thus, at the time of the Malaysia meeting, the CIA had passport information regarding al-
Mihdhar, including his U.S. visa. A CIA officer, who was working as a CTC Supervisor,
testified before the Joint Inquiry that a CTC cable in early 2000 noted that al-Mihdhar’s passport
information had been “passed to the FBI,” but the CIA was unable to “confirm either passage or
receipt of the [page 153] information” and, thus, could not identify “the exact details . . . that
were passed.” The Joint Inquiry found no record of the visa information at FBI Headquarters.
While the Malaysia meeting was in progress, a CIA employee sent an e-mail to a CIA
colleague describing “exactly” the briefings he had given two FBI agents on al-Mihdhar’s
activities. The CIA employee had been assigned to the FBI’s Strategic Information Operations
Center to deal with problems “in communicating between the CIA and the FBI.” The e-mail did
not mention that al-Mihdhar held a U.S. visa, but did report that the CIA employee told the
second FBI agent the following:
This continues to be an [intelligence] operation. Thus far, a lot of suspicious
activity has been observed but nothing that would indicate evidence of an
impending attack or criminal enterprise. Told [the first FBI agent] that as soon as
something concrete is developed leading us to the criminal arena or to known FBI
cases, we will immediately bring FBI into the loop. Like [the first FBI agent]
yesterday, [the second FBI agent] stated that this was a fine approach and thanked
me for keeping him in the loop.
An e-mail from the second FBI agent to FBI Headquarters discussed the conversation with the
CIA employee. This e-mail also did not mention al-Mihdhar’s visa information. None of the
participants in these communications now recalls discussing the visa information.
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B. Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi Travel to the United States – Watchlist
Opportunity Lost
[For six weeks, CIA sought to locate al-Mihdhar in Thailand. It was unsuccessful,
however, because, according to a CIA officer’s testimony, “[w]hen they arrived [in Thailand] we
were unable to mobilize what we needed to mobilize.” Nonetheless, in February 2000, CIA
rejected a request from foreign authorities to become involved because CIA was in the middle of
an investigation “to determine what the subject is up to].”
[In early March 2000, CIA Headquarters, including CTC and its Bin Ladin unit, received
a cable from a CIA station in [ ] noting that Nawaf al-Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles on
January 15, 2000. The cable was marked “Action Required: None, FYI [For Your
Information].” The following day, another station, which had been copied on the cable by the
originating station, cabled [page 154] CTC’s Bin Ladin unit that it had read the cable “with
interest,” particularly “the information that a member of this group traveled to the U.S. following
his visit to Kuala Lumpur.” No action resulted at CIA].*
Once again, the CIA did not add Nawaf al-Hazmi’s name to the State Department’s
watchlist for denying admission to the United States. It also did not notify the FBI that a
“terrorist operative,” as al-Hazmi was described in January, had entered the United States. The
CIA did not consider the possibility that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, who had flown together to
Thailand, continued on together to the United States. In fact, al-Mihdhar had flown with al-
Hazmi to the United States on January 15, 2000.
The CIA Headquarters employee who had direct responsibility for tracking the
movement of the attendees at the Malaysia meeting does not recall either the March 5 or March
6, 2000 messages concerning al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States. The CTC Supervisor,
referred to earlier, testified before the Joint Inquiry:
It’s very difficult to understand what happened with [the March 5] cable when it
came in. I don’t know exactly why it was missed. It would appear that it was
missed.
* This occurred even though CTC had republished guidance reminding personnel of the importance of watchlisting
in December 1999. (see Appendix, “CTC Watchlisting Guidance – December 1999”).
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DCI Tenet also testified about this omission: “Our receipt of the information in March should
have triggered the thought to watchlist al-Hazmi, but no CTC officer recalls even having seen the
cable on his travel to LA when it arrived.” In fact, the DCI explained: “[n]obody read that cable
in the March time frame.” Summing up these early watchlisting failures, the DCI told the Joint
Inquiry:
During the intense operations to thwart the Millennium and Ramadan threats, the
watchlist task in the case of these two al-Qa’ida operatives slipped through. The
error exposed a weakness in our internal training and an inconsistent
understanding of watchlist thresholds.
C. Khalid al-Mihdhar Leaves the U.S. and Nawaf al-Hazmi Applies for a Visa Extension
[Page 155]
By February 2000, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had settled in San Diego, California where
they used their true names on a rental agreement. They did the same in obtaining California
driver’s licenses.
[In May 2000, they took flight lessons in San Diego. While in San Diego, the two had
numerous contacts with a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant].
On June 10, al-Mihdhar flew from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, and then on to Oman. Al-
Hazmi remained in the United States. On July 12, two days before the expiration of the sixmonth
visa he had been granted on arriving in January, al-Hazmi applied to the INS for an
extension, using the address of the San Diego apartment he had shared with al-Mihdhar.
The INS does not have a record of any additional extension request by al-Hazmi, who
remained in the United States illegally after his extension expired in January 2001. In December
2000, al-Hazmi moved to Mesa, Arizona, with Hani Hanjour, another hijacker.
D. The Attack on USS Cole and the Identification Of Khallad – Watchlist
Opportunity Lost
On October 12, 2000, two Al Qa’ida terrorists attacked USS Cole as the destroyer
refueled in Yemen. In investigating the attack, the FBI developed information that Khallad bin
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Attash had been a principal planner of the bombing and that two other participants in the Cole
conspiracy had delivered money to Khallad in Malaysia at the time of the Malaysia meeting.
The FBI shared this information with the CIA, whose analysts decided to conduct a review of
what was known about the meeting.
In January 2001, CIA concluded, based on statements by a joint CIA/FBI human source,
that Khallad appeared in one of the surveillance photos taken during the Malaysia meeting. The
CIA recognized that Khallad’s presence at the meeting was significant because it meant that the
other attendees, including al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, had been in direct contact with the key
planner of the Cole attack for Bin Ladin’s network. DCI Tenet described the import of this
development to the Joint Inquiry: [page 156]
The Malaysian meeting took on greater significance in December 2000 when the
investigation of the October 2000 USS Cole bombing linked some of Khalid al-
Mihdhar’s Malaysia connections with Cole bombing suspects. We further
confirmed the suspected link between al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi and a person
thought to be one of the chief planners of the Cole attack, via a joint FBI-CIA
[human] asset. This was the first time that CIA could definitively place al-Hazmi
and al-Mihdhar with a known al-Qa’ida operative.
Although al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had now been “definitively” placed “with a known
al-Qai’ida operative,” the CIA once again did not act to add them to the State Department’s
watchlist. In January 2001, Khalid al-Mihdhar was abroad, his visa had expired, and he would
have to clear a watchlist check before obtaining a new visa to re-enter the United States.
The DCI testified that the information about Khallad resulted from a “joint case” the FBI
and the CIA were conducting. The CTC Chief at the time also testified that the CIA ran “a joint
operation with the FBI to determine if a Cole suspect was in a Kuala Lumpur surveillance
photo”:
Both agencies wanted to find out who killed our sailors. Both agencies were
working to bring those terrorists to justice. We were in the business of providing
information to the FBI, not withholding it.
The day after the photo identification by the joint CIA/FBI human source in January
2001, the asset’s identification of Khallad in the photo was reported to CIA Headquarters.
However, the Joint Inquiry found no information showing that the FBI representative on the
scene, who also worked with that source, was told about the identification or that the information
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was provided to FBI Headquarters. To the contrary, contemporary documents over the next
month strongly suggest that the FBI did not know of this development. It was not until August
30, 2001, that CIA Headquarters transmitted to the FBI a memorandum stating, “We wish to
advise you that, during a previously scheduled meeting with our joint source,” Khallad was
identified in a surveillance photo.
E. The June 11, 2001 FBI/CIA Meeting and Khalid al-Mihdhar’s Return to the United
States
[Page 157]
On May 15, 2001, the CTC Supervisor, who had just been detailed to the FBI, sent a
request to CIA Headquarters for the surveillance photographs of the Malaysian meeting. In a
May 18 e-mail to a CIA analyst, the CIA officer described the basis for his interest:
. . . the reason (aside from trying to find a photo of the second Cole bomber) I’m
interested is because Khalid Mihdar’s two companions also were couriers of a
sort, who traveled between [the Far East] and Los Angeles at the same time
(hazmi and salah).
“Salah” was the name under which Khallad traveled during the Malaysian meeting. Thus,
information about al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States began to attract attention at CIA at least
as early as May 18, 2001.
Toward the end of May 2001, a CIA analyst contacted an Intelligence Operations
Specialist (IOS) at FBI Headquarters about the surveillance photographs. The CIA wanted the
FBI to review the photographs to determine whether a person in the custody of [ ] officials in
connection with the FBI’s Cole investigation, who had carried money to Southeast Asia for
Khallad in January 2000, could be identified. When interviewed, the FBI IOS explained to the
Joint Inquiry that the CIA had told her that the photographs had been taken during the Malaysia
meeting, but had said nothing about al-Mihdhar’s potential travel to the United States. The CIA
also did not tell the FBI IOS that the photographs were of a meeting Khallad had attended.
[On June 11, 2001, the CIA analyst and FBI IOS traveled to New York to meet with FBI
criminal case agents handling the Cole investigation. The New York agents were shown, but not
given copies of [ ] of the [ ] surveillance photographs taken in Malaysia and were
asked if they could identify anyone in them. A New York FBI agent testified to the Joint Inquiry
that the agents pressed for information about the photographs and asked: “Why were you
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looking at this guy? You couldn’t have been following everybody around the Millennium. What
was the reason behind this?” Nonetheless, the agent said, “at the end of the day we knew the
name Khalid al-Mihdhar but nothing else.” The agent testified that he was told that “the
information could not be passed” at that time, but might be “in the days and weeks to come.”
However, no additional information was transmitted for use in a criminal case until after
September 11].
[Page 158]
In addition to not being told why al-Mihdhar was being surveilled, the New York agents
were not told about his U.S. visa, Nawaf al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States, the January 2001
photo identification of Khallad, or the fact that the analyst had come upon material in a CIA
database that led him to conclude that “Al-Hazmi was an experienced [Mujahadeen].” The FBI
IOS had none of that information, but the CIA analyst who attended the New York meeting
acknowledged to the Joint Inquiry that he had seen all of it. In fact, he had received an e-mail
just three weeks earlier that referred to al-Hazmi’s travel to the United States. That information,
he related in a Joint Inquiry interview, “did not mean anything to him,” since he was interested in
terrorist connections to Yemen. The CIA analyst explained to the Joint Inquiry that the
information was operational in nature and he would not disclose it outside CIA unless he had
prior authority to do so.
Summing up the New York meeting and all that preceded it, the same CTC Supervisor on
detail to the FBI, who did not attend the meeting but knew of it testified:
[E]very place that something could have gone wrong in this over a year and a
half, it went wrong. All the processes that had been put in place, all the
safeguards, everything else, they failed at every possible opportunity. Nothing
went right.
On June 13, 2001, al-Mihdhar obtained a new U.S. visa in Jeddah, using a different
passport than the one he had used to enter the United States in January 2000. On his visa
application, he checked “no” in response to the question whether he had ever been in the United
States. On July 4, al-Mihdhar re-entered the United States.
F. The Watchlisting of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi
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In early July 2001, the same CTC Supervisor located in a CIA database the cable for
which he had been searching that contained information the CIA had acquired in January 2001
about Khallad’s attending the Malaysia meeting. He told the Joint Inquiry that Khallad’s
presence at the meeting deeply troubled him and he immediately sent an e-mail from FBI
Headquarters to CTC stating, “[Khallad] is a major league killer, who orchestrated the Cole
attack and possibly the Africa bombings.”
[Page 159]
A review was launched at CIA of all cables regarding the Malaysia meeting. The task
fell largely to an FBI analyst assigned to CTC. On August 21, 2001, the analyst put together two
key pieces of information: the intelligence the CIA received in January 2000 that al-Mihdhar had
a multiple entry visa to the United States, and the information it received in March 2000 that al-
Hazmi had traveled to the United States. Working with an INS representative assigned to CTC,
the analyst learned that al-Mihdhar had entered the United States on January 15, 2000, had
departed on June 10, and had re-entered the United States on July 4, 2001. Suspicions were
further aroused by the fact that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had arrived in Los Angeles in January
2000, when Ahmed Ressam would have been in Los Angeles to conduct terrorist operations at
Los Angeles Airport, but for his apprehension at the U.S./Canada border in December 1999.
On August 23, 2001, the CIA sent a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs, and
FBI requesting that “Bin Ladin-related individuals,” al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, Khallad, and one
other person at the Malaysia meeting, be watchlisted immediately and denied entry into the
United States “due to their confirmed links to Egyptian Islamic Jihad operatives and suspicious
activities while traveling in East Asia.” Although the CIA believed that al-Mihdhar was already
in the United States, placing him on the watchlist would enable authorities to detain him if he
attempted to leave. The CIA cable stated that al-Hazmi had arrived in Los Angeles on January
15, 2000 on the same flight as al-Mihdhar and that there was no record of al-Hazmi’s departure.
On August 24, the State Department watchlisted al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and the others listed in
the CIA cable. On August 27, it revoked the visa that al-Mihdhar had obtained in June.
G. The Search for Khalid al-Mihdhar
FBI Headquarters promptly sent to the FBI New York field office a draft communication
recommending the opening of “an intelligence investigation to determine if al-Mihdhar is still in
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the United States.” It stated that al-Mihdhar’s “confirmed association” with various elements of
Bin Ladin’s terrorist network, including potential association with two individuals involved in
the attack on USS Cole, “make him a risk to the national security of the United States.” The goal
of the intelligence [page 160] investigation was to “locate al-Mihdhar and determine his contacts
and reasons for being in the United States.”
That communication precipitated a debate between FBI Headquarters and New York
field office personnel as to whether to open an intelligence or criminal investigation on al-
Mihdhar. A New York FBI agent tried to convince Headquarters to open a criminal
investigation, given the importance of the search and the limited resources available in
intelligence investigations, but Headquarters declined to do so. An e-mail exchange between
Headquarters and the New York agent described the debate:
• From FBI Headquarters:
“If al-Midhar is located, the interview must be conducted by an intel [intelligence]
agent. A criminal agent CAN NOT be present at the interview. This case, in its
entirety, is based on intel. If at such time as information is developed indicating
the existence of a substantial federal crime, that information will be passed over
the wall according to the proper procedures and turned over for follow-up
criminal investigation. (Emphasis in original.)
• From the New York agent:
Whatever has happened to this - someday someone will die – and wall or not – the
public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every
resource we had at certain ‘problems.’ Let’s hope the [FBI’s] National Security
Law Unit (NSLU) will stand behind their decisions [about the “wall”] then,
especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL, is getting the most
‘protection.’”
The agent was told in response: “we (at Headquarters) are all frustrated with this issue,” but
“[t]hese are the rules. NSLU does not make them up.”
The former head of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section explained to the
Joint Inquiry why the search for al-Mihdhar was conducted as an intelligence, rather than a
criminal matter: “Although we certainly suspect, and rightfully so, that they were probably
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engaged in . . . criminal acts, the information brought to us came essentially in total in the
intelligence channel, so an intelligence investigation was opened.”
[Page 161]
The FBI contacted the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department on August
27, 2001 to obtain al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi’s visa information. This was provided to the FBI on
August 29 and revealed that, on entering the United States in July 2001, al-Mihdhar claimed that
he would be staying at a Marriott hotel in New York City. An FBI agent determined on
September 5 that al-Mihdhar had not registered at a New York Marriott. The agent checked
computerized national and New York criminal and motor vehicle indices on al-Mihdhar and al-
Hazmi, but those checks were negative. On September 11, the agent sent an electronic
communication to the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, asking it to look for al-Mihdhar and to
check airline records.
H. The Case Against Bin Ladin
In the days following the September 11 attacks, the FBI received additional photographs
from the surveillance of the Malaysia meeting. One of these, the FBI quickly learned, was a
photograph of Khallad. The Bureau also learned that the January 2001 photo identification of
Khallad by the joint FBI/CIA asset had been mistaken. The person thought to be Khallad was
actually Nawaf al-Hazmi. The conclusion that Khallad had attended the Malaysian meeting was
nonetheless correct.
Later in September, the FBI prepared an analysis of Bin Ladin’s responsibility for the
September 11 attacks to help the State Department develop a “White Paper” that could be shared
with foreign governments:
Even at this early stage of the investigation, the FBI has developed compelling
evidence [the analysis concluded] which points to Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida as the
perpetrators of this attack. By way of illustration, at least two of the hijackers met
with a known senior al-Qa’ida terrorist, the same al-Qa’ida terrorist which reliable
information demonstrates orchestrated the attack on USS Cole and who was
involved in the planning of the East Africa Embassy Bombings.
The two hijackers were al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. The senior al-Qa’ida terrorist was Khallad.
The place they met was Malaysia. The facts linking al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to Khallad and
therefore to [page 162] Bin Ladin became the crux of the case the State Department made to
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governments around the world that Bin Ladin should be held accountable for the September 11
attacks.
III. NSA Communications Intercepts Related to Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf and Salem
al-Hazmi
[In the fall of 1998, NSA began to focus its analysis on a suspected terrorist facility in the
Middle East. That facility had been associated with al-Qa’ida activities against U.S. interests. [
].
[In early 1999, NSA analyzed communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in
the Middle East, some of which were associated with Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khaled [ ], who
NSA now believes to have been Khalid al-Mihdhar. [
]. These
communications were the first indication NSA had of a link between al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi.
They were not disseminated in NSA SIGINT reporting because the persons were unknown and
the subject matter did not meet NSA reporting thresholds. Those thresholds vary, depending on
the judgment of the NSA analyst who is reviewing the intercept and the subject, location, and
content of the intercept].
[In early 1999, another organization obtained the same or similar communications and
published the information in a report it gave to NSA. NSA’s practice was to review such reports
and disseminate those responsive to U.S. intelligence requirements. For an undetermined reason,
NSA did not disseminate the [ ] report. It was not until early 2002 during the Joint Inquiry
that NSA realized that it had the [ ] report in its databases and subsequently disseminated it to
CIA and other customers].
[No additional activity of counterterrorism interest was associated with the suspected
terrorist facility in the Middle East until summer 1999 when NSA analyzed additional
communications involving Khaled, that is, al-Mihdhar, [page 163] and [
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]. At about the same time, the name Khallad came to the attention
of NSA for the first time].
[NSA analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the
Middle East from later in the summer of 1999. These communications also involved the names
of Khaled and others. None of this information was disseminated because the subject matter did
not meet NSA reporting thresholds].
[In late 1999, NSA analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility
in the Middle East involving Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khaled, and, for the first time, Salem. It was
thought at the time that Salem might be al-Hazmi’s younger brother, and this was later
confirmed].
[In early [ ] 2000, NSA analyzed what appeared to be related
communications concerning a Khaled [ ]. NSA reported this information in early January
to CIA, FBI, and other counterterrorism customers].
[After this NSA report [ ], CIA submitted a formal request to NSA in early 2000 for
approval to share information in the report with [ ] foreign intelligence liaison
services, along with the fact that Khaled may have been connected to a suspected terrorist facility
in the Middle East that had previously been linked to al-Qa’ida’s activities against U.S. interests.
CIA wanted to cite these connections to enlist liaison assistance [
]. NSA
allowed the information to be released].
[Page 164]
[On January 10, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at CIA gave NSA information
regarding the [ ] Kuala Lumpur meeting, including
information about al-Mihdhar [ ]; the name of the person who
assisted him in Kuala Lumpur; the fact that al-Mihdhar’s primary purpose in coming to Malaysia
appeared to have been to meet with others [ ]; and other information
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[ ].
On January 13, NSA received CIA operational reporting from CTC. [
].
[In mid-January 2000, NSA queried its databases for information concerning Khaled [
]. These queries remained active until May
2000, but did not uncover any information].
[In early 2000, NSA analyzed communications involving Khaled and a suspected terrorist
facility in the Middle East linked to al-Qa’ida activities directed against U.S. interests. The FBI
determined, based on toll records it obtained after September 11, that Khaled had been in the
United States at the time. [
]. Some of these communications
met NSA reporting thresholds and were reported to FBI, CIA, and other customers, but some did
not. [
].
[NSA analyzed additional communications in the summer of 2000 that were associated
with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East, Salem and Khaled. [
[page 165]
]. NSA did not believe this provided any new information, and there was no
dissemination].
IV. [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar Had Numerous Contacts with an FBI
Informant]
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[Two September 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, lived in San
Diego, California, beginning in February 2000. Al Mihdhar left San Diego in June 2000, while
al-Hazmi remained until December 2000, when he moved to Arizona. During the time they were
in San Diego, these two hijackers had numerous contacts with a long-time FBI counterterrorism
informant. A third hijacker, Hani Hanjour, may have had more limited contact with this
individual in December 2000].
CIA and FBI Headquarters had information tying al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to al-Qa’ida
as early as January 2000 and later received information that they were in the United States. The
San Diego FBI field office received none of this information before September 11. As a result,
the informant was not asked to collect information about the hijackers.
[An FBI written response to the Joint Inquiry acknowledges questions about the
informant’s credibility, but the Administration and the FBI have objected to the Joint Inquiry’s
request to interview the informant and have refused to serve a Committee subpoena and notice of
deposition on the informant. As suggested by the FBI, the Joint Inquiry submitted written
interrogatories for response by the informant. Through an attorney, the informant declined to
respond and indicated that, if subpoenaed, the informant would require a grant of immunity prior
to testifying. Thus, this section has been prepared without access to the informant and in reliance
on FBI documents, interviews of FBI personnel, and FBI representations about the informant].
A. Background
[In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the San Diego FBI field office determined
that a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant had numerous contacts with Nawaf al-Hazmi
and Khalid al-Mihdhar].
[Page 166]
[
].
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[
].
B. [Informant’s Contacts with Two Hijackers]
[After the September 11 attacks, the informant’s FBI handling agent interviewed the
informant about contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. Due to suspicions that the informant
might have been involved in the attacks, the informant was interviewed multiple times by a
number of FBI agents about the informant’s contacts with the hijackers. According to the FBI
handling agent, the informant admitted having numerous contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar,
but denied knowledge of the plot and initially expressed disbelief that the two were involved].
[The informant provided the FBI with information concerning the informant’s contacts
with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. The informant subsequently told the FBI slightly different stories
concerning the initial contact and provided different dates for the contacts with them].
[The informant told the FBI that during the contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the
informant observed no signs that they were involved in terrorist activity. The informant said that
at the time the informant thought that [page 167] the two were good, religious Muslims. They did
not act in a peculiar manner and did nothing to arouse the informant’s suspicions. [
].
[The informant told the FBI that based on the informant’s contacts with al-Hazmi and al-
Mihdhar, they did not work, yet they always seemed to have money. Although they did not fit
the profile of rich Saudis, the informant never questioned them about finances].
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[
].
[
].
[During one of the informant’s final contacts with al-Hazmi in San Diego, al-Hazmi was
[page 168] with someone the informant had not previously met. The informant described the
person as 27 years old, 5’8”, 130 to 140 pounds, fair complexion, and of either Saudi or Yemeni
ancestry. The FBI has determined that Hani Hanjour, who fits this general description, arrived in
San Diego from Dubai on December 8, 2000, and left San Diego with al-Hazmi for Arizona
several days later. The two future hijackers lived together in Arizona. The informant was shown
a picture of Hanjour and stated this was not the person that the informant had met].
[After September 11, the informant gave the FBI a list of individuals the informant
understood had contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Midhar while they were in San Diego.
• [
].
• [
].
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• [
].
• [
].
[Four of the persons had been the subject of FBI investigations; three of them had been under
active FBI investigation during the time that the future hijackers were in San Diego. The FBI
opened counterterrorism investigations on other individuals on the list after September 11].
[The informant’s handling agent described his relationship with the informant in a Joint
Inquiry hearing:
At some points, I would speak to the informant several times a day for hours at
a times, while there were also periods that I did not speak with the informant
for several months. Our discussions were not only about substantive matters of
interest to the FBI, but also about personal matters such as the informant’s
health, family, and general well being…[D]uring…a debriefing in the summer of
2000 the informant told me that the informant met two individuals the
informant described as] good Muslim Saudi youths who were legally in the
[page 169]United States to visit and attend school. According to the informant,
they were religious and not involved in criminal or political activities…At some
later point, but before September 11, the informant told me their names were
Nawaf and Khalid. The informant did not tell me their last names prior to
September 11, 2001].
[According to the handling agent, the informant did not mention that al-Hazmi was
pursuing flight training until after September 11. The handling agent told the Joint Inquiry that
he did not consider the informant’s information about these individuals unusual:
[
].
[The FBI handling agent said he “did not document the information provided by the
informant on these two persons in FBI files before September 11”. This was because the
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informant “provided this information during a discussion of personal matters and not because the
informant believed it had any investigative significance:”
As required by the Attorney General Guidelines, I only recorded information
about persons with some nexus to international terrorism, foreign
counterintelligence or criminal activity. I was unaware prior to September 11 of
2001 that these persons had any such ties].
[The handling agent said in Joint Inquiry interviews that none of the information
provided by the informant about the hijackers before September 11 raised concerns. The fact that
the two individuals were Saudi was not a concern before September 11 because Saudi Arabia
was considered an ally. The FBI confirmed this in its written response].
[The agent noted that [
]. He also
explained that, if the informant had told him about [page 170] contacts between the two and
persons under investigation or if he had received derogatory information about them from
Headquarters, he could have taken some action. However, the informant did not tell the FBI
about al-Hazmi’s and al-Mihdhar’s contacts with persons under investigation until after
September 11. In addition, the FBI’s San Diego field office did not learn until after September 11
that the CIA had information that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were affiliated with al-Qa’ida and
had been linked to persons connected to the Cole bombing].
[FBI interviews of the informant after September 11 confirm the FBI handling agent’s
account and add some context. [
]. The informant
confirmed that the two individuals were only mentioned in passing during a conversation with
the handling agent. The informant recalls identifying the two only by their first names because
the informant did not consider them suspicious. The informant told the FBI that other details
were not provided prior to September 11 because the informant did not consider the information
important or significant].
C. Questions about the Informant’s Credibility
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[When the San Diego office realized that the informant had numerous contacts with the
two hijackers, FBI personnel became suspicious that the informant may have been involved in
the plot. San Diego personnel interviewed by the Joint Inquiry, including senior managers and
case agents, now believe that the informant was an unwitting observer with no role in the attacks
because:
• The informant made no effort to hide the hijackers or their identities from the FBI
handling agent.
• [
].
[Page 171]
• The informant has cooperated fully since September 11, agreeing to FBI
interviews and to being polygraphed by the FBI. Although the informant’s
responses during the polygraph examination to very specific questions about the
informant’s advance knowledge of the September 11 plot were judged to be
“inconclusive,” the FBI asserts this type of result is not unusual for such
individuals in such circumstances.
• The informant provided the FBI with extensive details after September 11 on the
informant’s contacts with the hijackers and their associates in the San Diego
area].
[In a written response to a Joint Inquiry staff statement, the FBI provided additional
reasons for concluding that the informant was not a conspirator. [
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].
[The FBI handling agent attributed inconsistencies in the informant’s reporting to the
informant’s personality.
[
]
Despite these characteristics, the FBI handling agent testified that the informant was “very
credible, highly reliable, very, very credible, very useful.” In the FBI handling agent’s opinion,
the informant was “duped” by the hijackers and was not suspicious of them at all].
[The FBI’s written response notes that the informant did not report on the hijackers’
association with others the informant knew were of interest to the FBI because the associations
known to [page 172] the informant appeared innocuous. For example, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar
associated with a local imam ostensibly because the “two hijackers attended religious services at
the mosque where the imam preached.” In addition, the informant “has advised that…neither al-
Hazmi nor al-Mihdhar conducted themselves in a manner which [the informant] subjectively
viewed as suspicious nor has FBI investigation to date developed any evidence that [the
informant’s] lack of suspicion was not objectively reasonable].”
[
].
[Based on Joint Inquiry interviews of San Diego FBI personnel involved with the
informant before September 11 or in assessing the informant’s credibility after the attacks and
reviews of thousands of Bureau documents, several unresolved questions about the informant’s
credibility remain. Although the informant did not recognize hijacker Hani Hanjour in
photographs shown to the informant by the FBI after September 11, there are indications that
Hanjour was in the San Diego area with al-Hazmi in December 2000 and probably met the
informant:
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• [
].
• [
].
• [
].
• [
[page 173] ].
[FBI personnel believe it likely that the informant met Hanjour in December 2000 and are
unable to explain why the informant failed to identify Hanjour].
[The informant’s credibility is called into question in other important ways:
• The informant made a variety of inconsistent statements to the FBI during the course
of multiple interviews. The informant has provided the FBI with many different dates
as to the informant’s numerous contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar and their
initial contact. The FBI acknowledged that “San Diego agrees with [the] Joint
Inquiry…that there are significant inconsistencies” in the informant’s reports.
• Some of the informant’s statements are not consistent with information developed
through investigation concerning the dates of the contacts. The FBI concedes that the
hijackers may have known the informant months earlier than the informant admitted.
[
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].
• [
[page 174]
].
• The informant told the FBI after September 11, 2001 that al-Hazmi had told the
informant that he was moving to Arizona for flight training and never mentioned
flight training he received while living in San Diego.
• [
].
• [
].
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In its written response, the FBI acknowledges “unexplained inconsistencies” in the informant’s
reporting which continue to warrant ongoing FBI investigation].
[The CIA was aware in January 2000 that al-Mihdhar had a U.S. visa and in March 2000
that al-Hazmi had traveled to California. The FBI handling agent testified that, if he had access
to the CIA intelligence concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi when they were in San Diego]:
It would have made a huge difference. We would have immediately opened [
] investigations. We had the predicate for a [ ] investigation if we had
that information.… [page 175] We would immediately go out and canvas the
sources and try to find out where these people were. If we locate them, which we
probably would have since they were very close – they were nearby – we would
have initiated investigations immediately….We would have done everything. We
would have used all available investigative techniques. [We] would have given
them the full court press. We would…have done everything – physical
surveillance, technical surveillance and other assets.
[FBI Headquarters became aware in late August 2001 that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were
in the United States. The San Diego field office did not receive this information until after
September 11. The FBI handling agent stated that he believes that San Diego could have located
the two hijackers, and he was critical of Headquarters’ failure to share information]:
We’d have immediately gone out to various assets who already work in the
streets for us. We’d basically run the names by them and find out – we’d
locate them…I’m sure. I’m sure we could have located them and we could
have done it within a few days.
[The San Diego office was also generally unaware of the al-Qa’ida threat. As the FBI
handling agent testified]:
We knew [al-Qa’ida] was an important person or organization. But we
didn’t have any presence. We didn’t have any cases and we didn’t have any
source information that indicated that these guys were here in San Diego at
that time.
[The FBI handling agent said that he did not discuss Bin Ladin or al-Qa’ida with the
informant before September 11 because that was:
. . . not an issue in terms of my assignments. [
].
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[In a written response, the FBI took issue with the contention that the FBI was not
treating al-Qa’ida as a serious threat in San Diego, citing an internal document dated March 15,
1999 which identified:
[Usama Bin Ladin as the number one priority of the U.S. Intelligence
[page 176] Community. [
].
The Assistant Special Agent in Charge in San Diego told the Joint Inquiry that, upon assuming
his duties in June 2000, he met with the counterterrorism squad to review this communication
and emphasize the stated priorities].
The FBI response also noted that “there was no known al-Qaeda presence in San Diego
before 9/11/2001.” However, the record confirms that future hijackers al-Mihdhar, al Hazmi, and
perhaps Hanjour, were in the San Diego area and unknown to the FBI during the time they were
there.
V. Associates of the September 11, 2001 Terrorists in the United States
In June 2002 testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI Tenet and FBI Director Mueller
asserted, in explaining how the September 11 hijackers had avoided the notice of the Intelligence
Community, that the conspirators intentionally avoided actions or associations that would have
attracted law enforcement attention during their time in the United States. The DCI said:
Once in the U.S., the hijackers were careful, with the exception of minor traffic
violations, to avoid drawing law enforcement attention and even general notice
that might identify them as extremists. They dressed in Western clothes, most
shaved their beards before entering the U.S., and they largely avoided mosques.
FBI Director Mueller appeared to concur:
While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering
nothing that would have alerted law enforcement and doing nothing that exposed
them to domestic coverage. As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist
sympathizers in the United States.
The former Assistant Director for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division also emphasized
this point in his testimony: [page 177]
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[T]here were no contacts with anybody we were looking at inside the United
States . . . quite honestly, with zero contact in the United States of any of our
known people with the 19 persons coming here that we had no information about,
intelligence-wise, before, through no one’s fault, that’s how they did it.
However, the Joint Inquiry review of documents and interviews of FBI personnel indicate
that the six hijackers who served as the leaders and facilitators of the September 11 attacks were
not isolated in the United States, but instead maintained a number of contacts in the United
States before September 11. Although the extent to which the persons with whom they were in
contact in the United States were aware of the September 11 plot is unknown, it is clear that
those persons provided some of the hijackers with substantial assistance while they prepared for
the attacks. These contacts in the United States helped hijackers find housing, open bank
accounts, obtain drivers licenses, locate flight schools, and facilitate transactions.
The record of the Joint Inquiry demonstrates that some persons known to the FBI through
prior or then-current FBI counterterrorism inquiries and investigations may have had contact
with the hijackers, for example;
• [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar had numerous contacts with a long-term FBI
counterterrorism informant while they were living in San Diego, California. There are
several indications that hijacker Hani Hanjour may have had more limited contact with
this individual in December 2000].
• Before September 11, hijackers al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Hanjour, Muhammed Atta,
Marwan al-Shehhi, and possibly others had contact with people who had come to the
FBI’s attention during counterterrorism or counterintelligence inquiries or investigations.
In all, some of the hijackers were in various degrees of contact with at least fourteen such
persons; four of whom were the focus of active FBI investigations, while the hijackers
were in the United States.
• Before September 11, al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, Hanjour, Atta, al-Shehhi, and possibly other
hijackers attended at least seven mosques in California, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, and
[page 178] Maryland, some of which were also attended by persons of interest to the
FBI.
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The fact that so many persons known to the FBI may have been in contact with the
hijackers raises questions as to how much the FBI knew about the activities of Islamic extremist
groups in the United States before September 11 and whether the FBI was well-positioned to
thwart the attack. Moreover, the extent to which the hijackers interacted with and relied on other
persons in the United States is vitally important in understanding the modus operandi of the
hijackers and al-Qa’ida and in preventing future attacks.
At a Joint Inquiry hearing in October 2002, FBI Director Mueller commented on his
earlier testimony about the hijackers’ conduct in the United States:
[When] I say that the hijackers did “nothing that exposed them to domestic
coverage” . . . [and when I say that] the hijackers “contacted no known terrorist
sympathizers in the United States,” [I] meant in the context of the hijackers not
contacting — before 9/11 — terrorist sympathizers on whom we had technical or
other form of coverage. The point being that had they done so, we might have
been able to identify them as a result of that coverage. When making that
statement, I did not have in mind what may have been known to the Bureau about
persons such as al-Bayoumi [a Saudi living in California, who may have assisted
hijackers, al-Hazmi and al-Midhar]. I can see, however, how the statement could
be subject to an alternate interpretation that even as of June 18 we had uncovered
no persons who had had contact with the hijackers and were “terrorist
sympathizers.” I can assure the Committee that I had no intent to mislead.
In a written response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI explained that, “while [the hijackers]
lived their day-to-day lives in an open manner, [they] pursued their inimical objectives in a
cloistered, secretive and highly covert manner that kept them on the periphery of the FBI’s
counterterrorism coverage.” The FBI acknowledged that:
. . . the hijackers ‘may have had contact’ with subjects of prior or current
[counterterrorism] investigations in San Diego. Such contact occurred principally
through the hijackers’ attendance of religious services at various mosques in San
Diego, some frequented by subjects of FBI [counterterrorism] investigations.
[Page 179] However, the FBI argued that there is “a significant difference between ‘having
contact’ and ‘making contact’” and contends that “[t]he record does not suggest that the hijackers
unilaterally or affirmatively sought out or initiated contact with the 14 persons named.”
Nonetheless, at least one FBI document prepared shortly after the September 11 attacks
concluded that the hijackers, rather than operating in isolation, were assisted by “a web of
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contacts “ in the United States. In an undated draft analysis based on information available as of
November 2001, the FBI’s Investigative Services Division concluded:
Initial reporting from observers cast the hijackers as loners who stayed aloof from
those around them. While these characterizations remain an accurate appraisal of
the hijackers’ general orientations toward most persons they came into contact
with in the United States, more intensive scrutiny reveals that the hijackers – in
particular, the six leaders/facilitators – were involved with a much greater number
of associates than was originally suspected. In addition to frequent and sustained
interaction between and among the hijackers of the various flights before
September 11, the group maintained a web of contacts both in the United States
and abroad. These associates, ranging in degrees of closeness, include friends and
associates from universities and flight schools, former roommates, people they
knew through mosques and religious activities, and employment contacts. Other
contacts provided legal, logistical, or financial assistance, facilitated U.S. entry
and flight school enrollment, or were known from UBL-related activities or
training.
A. U.S. Intelligence Community Knowledge of Support Networks prior to September 11
The Intelligence Community had information before September 11 suggesting the
existence of a radical Islamic network in the United States that could support al-Qa’ida and other
terrorist operatives. The FBI had focused sources and investigative work to some degree on
radical Islamic extremists within the United States before September 11. However, according to
former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, the Bureau believed that “al-Qa’ida had limited
capacity to operate in the United States and [that] any presence here was under [FBI]
surveillance.”
An August 2001 Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, provided to senior U.S.
Government officials at the time, noted that al-Qa’ida members, including some U.S. citizens,
resided in or traveled [page 180] to the United States for years and apparently maintained a
support structure here. According to CIA documents, [ ] in June 2001
[ ] al-Qa’ida operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was recruiting persons to travel to the
United States and engage in planning terrorist-related activity here. [ ], these
persons would be “expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there.” In short,
before September 11, the Intelligence Community recognized that a radical Islamic network that
could provide support to al-Qa’ida operatives probably existed in the United States.
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The FBI Phoenix field office agent who wrote the “Phoenix communication” testified
that he believed this type of support network existed in Arizona before September 11:
I cannot sit here and testify today that [Wadi] al-Haj established a network there.
However, looking at things historically in Arizona we have seen persons go to
school at the University of Arizona in Tucson who subsequently went on to
become rather important figures in the al-Qa'ida organization . . . prior to al-
Qa'ida even coming into existence these people were living and going to school in
Arizona. As al-Qa'ida formed and took off and became operational, we've seen
these people travel back into the State of Arizona. We've seen Usama bin Ladin
send people to Tucson to purchase an airplane for him [and] it's my opinion that's
not a coincidence. These people don't continue to come back to Arizona because
they like the sunshine or they like the state. I believe that something was
established there and I think it's been there for a long time. We're working very
hard to try to identify that structure. So I cannot say with a degree of certainty
that one is in place there. But . . . that's my investigative theory. . . .
B. Persons Known to the FBI with whom September 11 Hijackers may have Associated in
the United States
The Joint Inquiry identified a number of individuals known to the FBI through prior or
then-current inquiries or investigations who had some degree of contact with some of the
hijackers and are described below.
a. Omar al-Bayoumi
[Page 181]
On January 15, 2000, following an important meeting of al-Qa’ida operatives in
Malaysia, hijackers al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in Los Angeles, where they remained for
approximately two-and-a-half weeks. At one point, they met Omar al-Bayoumi. A person the
FBI interviewed after September 11 says that he was with al-Bayoumi when the latter met al-
Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. This person says that al-Bayoumi invited him to travel to Los Angeles,
explaining that he had business at the Saudi Consulate. When they arrived at the consulate, al-
Bayoumi met with someone behind closed doors. Al-Bayoumi and the person with whom he had
traveled to Los Angeles went to a restaurant, where they met al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. Al-
Bayoumi struck up a conversation with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar after he heard them speaking
Arabic, and he invited them to move to San Diego. Al-Bayoumi returned to San Diego after
leaving the restaurant, and al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar arrived in San Diego shortly thereafter.
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According to several FBI agents, the meeting at the restaurant may not have been
accidental. In fact, the FBI’s written response to the Joint Inquiry refers to the restaurant
encounter as a “somewhat suspicious meeting with the hijackers.” According to another person
the FBI interviewed after September 11, al-Bayoumi said before his trip that he was going to Los
Angeles to pick up visitors.
When al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar moved to San Diego, al-Bayoumi gave them
considerable assistance. They stayed at al-Bayoumi’s apartment for several days, until he was
able to find them an apartment. Al-Bayoumi co-signed their lease and paid their first month’s
rent and security deposit. The FBI noted in a written response to the Joint Inquiry that “financial
records indicate a cash deposit of the same amount as the cashier’s check into al-Bayoumi’s bank
account on the same day, which suggests that the hijackers reimbursed him.” However, another
FBI document appears to reach a different conclusion: “a review of Khalid al-Mihdhar and
Nawaf al-Hazmi’s bank records indicate [sic] there is no bank documentation that supports the
reimbursement of [the rent money], or any monies to Omar al-Bayoumi from al-Hazmi or al-
Midhar.”
After the hijackers moved into their own apartment, al-Bayoumi organized and hosted a
party to welcome them to the San Diego community. He also tasked [ ],* another
member of the Islamic Center of San Diego, to help them become acclimated to the United
States. [ ], whose [page 182] brother is the subject of an [ ] counterterrorism
investigation, served as their translator, answered their questions about obtaining driver’s
licenses, and called a flight school in Florida for them.
[Since September 11, the FBI has learned that al-Bayoumi has connections to terrorist
elements. He has been tied to an imam abroad who has connections to al-Qa’ida. Further, the
FBI’s Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence described in
testimony before the Joint Inquiry FBI contacts “with the [ ] government about
collection on a person named [ ], who has ties to al-Qa’ida, who has ties to al-
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint
Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the
classified version of this Final Report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due
to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
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Bayoumi.” According to FBI documents, [
Diego areas in 2000 and 2001].
] was also in the Phoenix and San
[An FBI report after a search of Bayoumi’s residence asserted that an “exhaustive
translation of his documents made it clear that . . . he is providing guidance to young Muslims
and some of his writings can be interpreted as jihadist.” According to an individual interviewed
by the FBI, al-Bayoumi’s salary from his employer, the Saudi Civil Aviation authority, was
approved by Hamid al-Rashid. Hamid is the father of Saud al-Rashid, whose photo was found in
a raid of an al-Qa’ida safehouse in Karachi and who has admitted to being in Afghanistan
between May 2000 and May 2001. The FBI noted, however, that there is no direct evidence that
the money al-Rashid authorized for al-Bayoumi was used for terrorist purposes].
[In September 1998, the FBI opened a counterterrorism inquiry on al-Bayoumi based on
a report [
].
[During the counterterrorism inquiry, the FBI discovered that al-Bayoumi had been in
contact with several persons who were under FBI investigation [
].
[Page 183]
Despite the fact that he was a student, al-Bayoumi had access to seemingly unlimited
funding from Saudi Arabia. For example, an FBI source identified al-Bayoumi as the person
who delivered $400,000 from Saudi Arabia for the Kurdish mosque in San Diego. One of the
FBI’s best sources in San Diego informed the FBI that he thought that al-Bayoumi must be an
intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.
[The Bureau closed its inquiry on al-Bayoumi in July 1999 for reasons that remain
unclear. The responsible FBI agent said that she closed the inquiry because the original
complaint [ ] turned out to be false and she had developed no
other information of such significance as to justify continuing the investigation. [
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]:
[
].
b. Osama Bassnan
[Page 184]
[Although the FBI has not developed definitive evidence that Osama Bassnan, another
Saudi national living in San Diego, had ties to al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the following
information obtained by the Joint Inquiry suggests such a connection:
• Bassnan was a close associate of al-Bayoumi, [
]. Bassnan also had close ties to a
number of other persons connected to the hijackers, including [
].
• [
].
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• Bassnan lived in the apartment complex in San Diego across the street from al-Hazmi
and al-Mihdhar.
• [
].
• [
].
[Page 185]
• [
].
• [
].
[The FBI did not investigate Bassnan before September 11, but had been made aware of
him on several occasions. In May 1992, the State Department provided the FBI with a box of
documents recovered from an abandoned car. The documents were in Arabic, and one, a
newsletter to supporters of the Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ) Movement, provided updates on the
EIJ’s council and was marked “confidential.” The box contained letters addressed to Bassnan
that discussed plans to import used cars to the United States. The FBI opened a counterterrorism
inquiry on the EIJ, but, having failed to develop information that would predicate further
investigation, closed the investigation in December 1992. In 1993, the FBI received reports that
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Bassnan had hosted a party for the “Blind Sheikh” in Washington, D.C. in 1992. However, the
FBI did not open an investigation].
The Intelligence Community had information connecting Bin Ladin to the EIJ as of
1996. [ ]. In addition,
FBI documents note that a high-level member of the EIJ was on Bin Ladin’s Shura Council. A
May 2000 FBI document indicates that FBI Headquarters personnel were not handling EIJ
matters due to resource constraints.
After September 11, the FBI developed information clearly indicating that Bassnan is an
extremist and a Bin Ladin supporter. [
[page 186]
].
[
].
In early December 2002, the FBI orally advised the Joint Inquiry that it would be amending its
written response to reflect the comments [
]. According to the FBI, the amended response will note that there is some evidence that
Bassnan had contact with the hijackers, but the FBI does not believe this evidence to be credible and has
not been able to corroborate this reporting through subsequent investigation.
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c. [Imam]*
[After the September 11 attacks, the FBI developed information that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar
were closely affiliated with an Imam in San Diego who reportedly served as their spiritual advisor
during their time in San Diego. [
]. Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam
had closed-door meetings in San Diego with al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and another individual, whom al-
Bayoumi had asked to help the hijackers].
[Page 187]
[This imam moved to Falls Church, Virginia in 2001 [
]. In 2001, hijackers al-Hazmi and Hanjour also moved to Falls Church and began to
attend the mosque with which the imam was associated. One of members of the mosque helped
them find an apartment in the area and, after approximately a month, this person drove Hanjour
and al-Hazmi, along with two other hijackers, to Connecticut and then to Paterson, New Jersey.
From the hotel in Connecticut where they stayed for two nights, a total of 75 calls were made to
locate apartment, flight schools, and car rental agencies for the hijackers. The hijackers then
returned to Paterson on their own. During a search of Ramzi Binalshibh’s residence in Germany,
police found the phone number for the imam’s mosque. The FBI agent responsible for the
September 11 investigation informed Joint Inquiry staff that “there’s a lot of smoke there” with
regard to the imam’s connection to the hijackers].
[The FBI originally opened a counterterrorism inquiry into the imam’s activities in June
1999 [ ]. During the counterterrorism inquiry, the FBI discovered that the
imam was in contact with a number of other persons of investigative interest, including [
].
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint
Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the
classified version of this Final Report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due
to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
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[In early 2000, the imam was visited by a subject of a Los Angeles investigation closely
associated with Blind Sheikh al-Rahman. [
].
[The FBI closed its inquiry into the activities of the imam in March 2000, approximately
two months after al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in San Diego. [
]. In the case closing
memorandum, the agent asserted that the imam had been “fully identified and does not meet the
criterion for [further] investigation.” The investigation was closed despite the imam’s contacts
with other subjects of counterterrorism investigations and reports concerning the imam’s
connection to suspect [page 188] organizations. The Bureau’s written response to the Joint
Inquiry asserts that “the imam was a ‘spiritual leader’ to many in the community” and that
hundreds of Muslims associated with him].
d. [Business Manager]
[In 2000, al-Hazmi briefly worked at a San Diego business. The manager of the business,
told the FBI that he hired al-Hazmi after receiving a call from “mutual friends” at the Saranac
Street Mosque. The FBI does not know how much al-Hazmi was paid or whether he received
financial support from the business manager or the business owner because the business manager
often paid employees in cash].
[In January 2000, before al-Hazmi’s employment at the business, the FBI Los Angeles
field office initiated a counterterrorism investigation of the business manager after a person
whom the FBI was surveilling entered the business manager’s car in a mosque parking lot. That
person was [ ], the brother of a known Bin Ladin operative [ ]. The
business manager was under FBI investigation when he hired al-Hazmi].
[The FBI agent handling the business manager’s investigation interviewed him by phone.
The business manager told the agent that he did not want to meet in person because it would be a
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strain to travel to Los Angeles. The business manager informed the agent that he had lived in
San Diego for two and a half years and did not want to give his home address. The business
manager said that he worked at the local business. The agent concluded that the business
manager did not pose a threat to national security, and the investigation was closed in December
2000].
e. [Business Owner]
[The business owner, a Palestinian by birth and a U.S. citizen, owns a number of
businesses in the San Diego area, including the business where al-Hazmi worked for several
weeks. A number of the hijackers’ associates, including [ ] and [ ], also worked at
this business. FBI records show that both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi spent time socializing at the
business].
[Page 189]
[Before September 11, the business owner was in contact with an individual who told the
FBI after September 11 that he was al-Hazmi’s best friend and that the individual had contact
with an FBI informant who also had contacts with the hijackers. The FBI also learned that the
business owner had been associating with other persons with possible ties to the hijackers,
including Osama Bassnan, and it received reports that the business owner cheered upon learning
of the September 11 attacks].
[The FBI conducted several investigations of the business owner prior to September 11.
The first was opened in August 1991 upon receipt of reports from the San Diego Police
Department that, during a traffic stop, he had stated that the United States needed another Pan
Am 103 attack and that he could be the one to carry it out. The business owner also said that all
Americans should be killed for what they did to Iraqis].
[During the investigation, the FBI developed information that the business owner was
associated with members of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a
known terrorist organization, in San Diego and Chicago. In 1994, San Diego police also
received an anonymous call stating that the business owner was a PFLP member. The FBI
received information in 1994 that he had threatened to kill a former Israeli intelligence officer
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who resided in San Diego. The business owner informed the Israeli that he was a member of the
Palestine Liberation Organization and that the orders to kill him had come from the PLO].
[The FBI closed its investigation of the business owner, but reopened it in 1997 when it
received information tying him to a possible terrorist plot based in North Carolina. In February
2001, a stockbroker called the FBI to say that the business owner had closed his account,
explaining that he was sending the money to freedom fighters in Afghanistan. During its post-
September 11 investigation, the FBI discovered that the business owner was associating with
Osama Bassnan and [ ], two other possible hijacker associates in San Diego].
[Page 190]
f. [An Individual]
[According to information obtained by the FBI after September 11, hijacker Marwan al-
Shehhi was in contact with an individual (referred to as “the first individual” below) on the East
Coast. [
].
[
]. Intelligence reporting has confirmed that
a second individual, reportedly connected to the first individual, was an associate of Atta’s in
college and that information in the first individual’s possession connected the first individual to
Mohammed Atta’s sister].
[The first individual has been the subject of an FBI investigation since July 1999 and has
ties to important al-Qa’ida figures and several organizations linked to al-Qa’ida. The FBI is
concerned that this individual is in contact with several persons with expertise in nuclear
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sciences. [
].
[Page 191]
In a written response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI stated [
].
g. [An Individual]
[An individual may have assisted hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour. This individual was
known to the FBI and is discussed in the Phoenix Communication. The FBI believes that,
beginning in 1997, Hanjour and this individual trained together at a flight school in Arizona.
Several instructors at the school told the FBI that the two were associates and one instructor
thought they might have carpooled together].
[The FBI has confirmed five occasions when this individual and Hanjour were at the
school on the same day. On one occasion in 1999, logs show that Hanjour and this individual
used the same plane. According to a flight instructor, the individual was an observer and school
rules require that Hanjour approve the individual’s presence in the aircraft. Another person
informed the FBI after September 11 that the individual and Hanjour knew each other from flight
training and through a religious center in Arizona].
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[Some evidence links Hanjour and the individual in the summer of 2001. The FBI has
located records from a Phoenix flight school showing that one day in June Hanjour and several
other persons signed up to use a Cessna simulator. The next day, two persons who signed up
with Hanjour the previous day came to the facility with the individual. An employee of the flight
school told the FBI that he recalls a fourth person had been with Hanjour the day before.
Another employee placed Hanjour and this person together during that time frame, although she
was not completely confident in her identification].
[The FBI attempted to investigate the individual in May 2001, but decided not to open a
formal investigation after determining that the individual was out of the country. Because the
FBI did not place the individual’s name on a watchlist, it was unaware that the individual
returned to the United States soon after and may have associated with Hanjour and several other
Islamic extremists. In a Joint Inquiry hearing, a Phoenix [page 192] FBI agent conceded that the
individual might have returned to the United States to screen pilots for the September 11
attacks].
VI. Germany – Investigation of the Hamburg Cell
According to the FBI, “much of what took place on September 11, 2001 originated
during the mid-1990s when [presumed hijacker pilots] Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and
Ziad Jarrah moved to Germany, eventually settling in Hamburg, and began to associate with
Islamic extremists.”
An FBI agent asserted in a Joint Inquiry interview that the three future hijackers were not
radicals when they came to Germany, but became so during their time there. While in Hamburg,
Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah attended the al Quds mosque where they met a group of radical
Islamists, including Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mamoun Darkazanli, Zakariya Essabar,
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, and Munir Mottasadeq. The hijackers prayed, worked, lived,
socialized, and attended university classes with this group, which has become known as the
“Hamburg Cell.”
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Zammar and Darkazanli were known to U.S. [ ] before
September 11. Zammar was born in Syria in 1961, moved to Germany, and obtained German
citizenship. According to an FBI summary of its September 11 investigation, Zammar is
believed to have recruited Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah into al-Qa’ida and encouraged their
participation in the September 11 attacks.
Darkazanli is a Syrian national, born in 1958. He entered Germany in 1983 and became a
naturalized German citizen in 1990, though he retained his Syrian citizenship. While
Darkazanli’s relationship to the future hijackers is less clear, he is a close associate of Zammar.
According to the FBI, Bin al-Shibh and Essabar were to have participated in the
conspiracies that carried out the September 11 attacks. A martyr video was discovered in Bin al-
Shibh’s possessions in Afghanistan, and [ ] reportedly discovered information about
flight training on Essabar’s computer. [Page 193] However, neither was able to obtain a U.S.
entry visa. Before the attacks, Bin al-Shibh and Bahaji left for Pakistan where Bin al-Shibh was
eventually captured [ ].
Mottasadeq lived with Atta and signed his will, and also had power of attorney for al-
Shehhi. He is now being held in Germany on charges related to September 11.*
[
] Darkazanli was in
contact with a number of Islamic extremists, including [
].
After September 11, the FBI discovered that Darkazanli traveled to Spain in the summer
of 2001 at approximately the same time that Atta was there. It is possible that Darkazanli and
Atta met with Yarkas, who may have had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks.
* Motassadeq was convicted on February 19, 2003 in Germany of membership in a terrorist organization and
accessory to over 3,000 murders in New York and Washington.
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Spanish authorities intercepted a call to Yarkas on August 27, in which he was told, “we have
entered the field of aviation and we have even slit the throat of the bird.” The FBI speculates
that the “bird” represented the bald eagle, symbol of the United States. Yarkas, who was
arrested by the Spanish on November 13, 2001, has met at least twice with Bin Ladin. A
Spanish indictment alleges that he had contacts with Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh.
[
].
According to CIA documents, the U.S. Intelligence Community first became aware of
Darkazanli in 1993 when a person arrested in Africa carrying false passports and counterfeit
money was found with Darkazanli’s telephone number. A CIA report notes that, despite careful
scrutiny of Darkazanli and his business dealings, authorities were not able to make a case against
him.
[Page 194]
The FBI became interested in Darkazanli in 1998 after the arrests of Wadi El-Hage and
Abu Hajer, operatives in Bin Ladin’s network. According to FBI documents, Darkazanli’s fax
and telephone numbers were listed in El-Hage’s address book. El-Hage has been convicted for
his role in the 1998 Embassy bombings and is in U.S. custody. The FBI also discovered that
Darkazanli had power of attorney over a bank account belonging to Hajer, a high-ranking al-
Qa’ida member who has served on its Shura Council. Hajer is currently in U.S. custody.
[
].
[Zammar had come to the CIA and FBI’s attention on numerous occasions before the
September 11 attacks. CIA documents refers to Zammar as an Islamic extremist and note that
his name has turned up in the possession of several extremists questioned or detained. Of
particular importance, [ ] in mid-1999 that
Zammar was in direct contact with one of Bin Ladin’s senior operational coordinators].
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[In March 1999, CIA received intelligence about a person named “Marwan” who had
been in contact with Zammar and Darkazanli. Marwan was described as a student who had spent
time in Germany [ ]. The CIA speculated at the time that
this was a Bin Ladin associate who lived in the United Arab Emirates, but now believes that
Marwan was Marwan al-Shehhi, one of the presumed hijacker pilots. After September 11, the
FBI received information about additional connections before the attacks between Zammar and
persons who participated in the attacks].
[Considerable pressure was placed on foreign authorities in the years leading up to the
September 11 attacks to target Darkazanli, Zammar, and other radicals [ ]. A senior U.S.
Government officer told [page 195] the Joint Inquiry that significant information concerning al-
Qa’ida members had been shared with foreign authorities, but that it became apparent only after
September 11, 2001 that the foreign authorities had been watching some of those persons before
that date].
[The Joint Inquiry reviewed numerous documents describing efforts to pressure [ ]
authorities to act. [
]. In the end, these efforts were largely unsuccessful. In
most cases, the [ ] did not take actions that were suggested].
Significant legal barriers restricted Germany’s ability to target Islamic fundamentalism.
Before September 11, it was not illegal in Germany to be a member of a foreign terrorist
organization, to raise funds for terrorists, or plan a terrorist act outside German territory. This
law has since been changed. A legal privilege also dramatically restricted the government’s
ability to investigate religious groups. In fact, due to the difficulty in investigating terrorist
cases, the German government would often attempt to investigate terrorist subjects for money
laundering. Unfortunately, laundering laws were difficult to enforce. For example, over the past
several years, out of three to four hundred money laundering investigations, only one person has
been convicted. [
]. The German government apparently did not consider Islamic groups a threat
and were unwilling to devote significant investigative resources to this target.
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[
].
U.S. efforts [ ] also provide a window into CIA and FBI coordination and
information sharing. Both agencies were interested in radical Islamists [ ]. However, on
several occasions the FBI and CIA unknowingly operated against the same targets. The FBI
legal attaché in Germany did [page 196] not recall getting information about Darkazanli and
Zammar from the German government or the CIA before September 11. He was unaware that
Darkazanli and Zammar had been the subject of government investigations before the attacks.
VII. The Hijackers’ Visas
The Joint Inquiry reviewed passport and visa histories of the nineteen hijackers involved
in the September 11 attacks to determine whether they entered the United States legally. It also
sought to determine whether there were anomalies in the visa process that might have alerted
U.S. Government officials to the hijackers in some way.
Over ten million applications for visas to enter the United States are received each year at
approximately two hundred fifty consular locations. Consular officers at posts abroad review all
applications and interview selected applicants to determine whether they are likely to return to
countries of origin in accordance with the visa or are suspected of criminal or terrorist activities.
Consular officers must certify in writing that they have checked applicant names against the
State Department’s watchlist.
Although there were anomalies and mistakes on some of the hijackers’ visa applications,
consular-affairs experts at the State Department contended in Joint Inquiry interviews that these
errors were “routine.” By contrast, an October 2002 review by the General Accounting Office
(GAO) concluded that the omissions and inconsistencies in the hijacker’s applications should
have raised concerns about why they wanted visas to come to the United States.
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Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals who received visas in Saudi Arabia.
Before September 11, the United States had not established heightened screening for illegal
immigration or terrorism by visitors from Saudi Arabia. In a Joint Inquiry hearing, DCI Tenet
described a less than rigorous review of visa applicants in Saudi Arabia before September 11:
Most of the young Saudis [hijackers] obtained their U.S. visas in the fall of 2000.
The State Department did not have a policy to stringently examine Saudis seeking
visas [page 197] before 11 September because there was virtually no risk that
Saudis would attempt to reside or work illegally in the U.S. after their visas
expired. U.S. Embassy and consular officials do cursory searches on Saudis who
apply for visas, but if they do not appear on criminal or terrorist watchlists they
are granted a visa. Thousands of Saudis every year are granted visas, as a routine;
the majority are not even interviewed. The vast majority of Saudis study,
vacation, or do business in the U.S. and return to the kingdom.
Consistent with this description of the situation, the Joint Inquiry’s review confirmed that, prior
to September 11, 2001, only a small percentage of visa applicants in Saudi Arabia were
interviewed by consular affairs officers; travel agencies were used to deliver visa applications to
consular offices in Saudi Arabia; and a relatively low standard was applied in scrutinizing visa
applications for accuracy and completeness in Saudi Arabia.
The 19 hijackers received visas at consular offices abroad in accordance with routine
procedures. The majority of the hijackers sought new passports shortly before applying for
visas. Requests for new passports can stem from theft, loss, or accidental destruction. However,
terrorists also often try to hide travel to countries that provide terrorist training by acquiring new
passports.
Multiple-entry visas were issued to the hijackers for periods ranging from two to ten
years. Eighteen of the nineteen received B-1/B-2 visas for tourist and business purposes. The
nineteenth hijacker, Hani Hanjour, was issued a B-1/B-2 visa in error. He should have been
issued an F-1 visa for study in the United States because he had expressed a desire to study
English here. Recognizing the error, the INS issued Hanjour an F-1 visa when he arrived in the
United States.
At their ports-of-entry, the hijackers were issued “stay visas” valid for six months. Some
hijackers, Atta, Hanjour, al-Shehhi, al-Mihdhar, and Jarrah, entered and re-entered the United
States for several six-month periods before September 11. They stayed for five or six months,
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went abroad for weeks or months, re-entered the United States, and received additional sixmonth
stays.
Since the majority of the hijackers were Saudi nationals who received their visas in Saudi
Arabia, questions have been raised about the “Visa Express” program, a process in many
countries that encourages visa applicants to submit non-immigrant applications to designated
travel agencies or other collection points for forwarding to U.S. embassies. In Joint Inquiry
interviews, State Department [page 198] officials described Visa Express as simply an
application collection process and not a visa adjudication, issuance, or determination system.
Visa Express is merely a way of “dropping the application off.” Travel agencies assist by giving
applicants correct forms, helping non-English speakers fill out the forms, and collecting fees.
Approximately sixty embassies and consulates throughout the world use travel agencies or other
businesses in this manner.
The Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia began in May 2001. Five of the 19 hijackers
applied for visas in Saudi Arabia in June, so it is likely that they used travel agencies to acquire
application forms and deliver them to the embassy. None of the five, including al-Mihdhar, was
on a watchlist at the time. Thus, when name checks were performed, the system showed no
derogatory information. If derogatory information did exist in the system, as was the case with a
suspected terrorist who applied for a visa in Saudi Arabia in August 2001 under the Visa Express
program, the watchlist system should block issuance of a visa.
State Department officials informed the Joint Inquiry that the Visa Express program was
terminated in Saudi Arabia in July 2002 because news reports suggested that the program
allowed Saudi applicants to skirt the normal process. According to State Department officials,
the program did not affect the number of Saudis interviewed because applicants are selected for
interviews when their applications present signs of an intention to immigrate. These officials
said that all applications, including those delivered to consular officers under the Visa Express
program in Saudi Arabia, were checked against the watchlist.
The Joint Inquiry also received information from the Immigration and Naturalization
Service about the 19 hijackers, two of whom, including Nawaf al-Hazmi, had overstayed their
visas. In addition, Hani Hanjour had been issued an F-1 visa to study English, but did not
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register for classes and, therefore, became “a non-immigrant status violator.” The INS was not
aware of these violations until after September 11.
VIII. The Rising Threat and the Context of the September 11 Attacks
[Page 199]
A basic question before the Joint Inquiry was whether the Intelligence Community
adequately recognized the threat international terrorist groups posed to the United States. The
Inquiry therefore examined the evolution of the terrorist threat to this country, the Community’s
response since the creation of the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) in 1986, and what the
Community has or should have learned from all sources, including previous terrorist attacks,
about the threat to the United States.
[Understanding the September 11 attacks requires an historical perspective broader than
the details of those attacks. Consequently, the Joint Inquiry took note of major acts of terrorism
directed against the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s, including:
• The 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut by
Islamic Jihad
• The March 1984 kidnapping and murder of William Buckley, a CIA official in
Beirut, and subsequent kidnapping of other U.S. citizens in Lebanon
• The April 1984 bombing of a restaurant frequented by members of the U.S. armed
forces near Torrejon Airbase in Spain by the Iranian-backed terrorist group
Hizbollah
• The September 1984 bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut
• The June 1985 hijacking of TransWorld Airways Flight 847
• The October 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro
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• The November 1985 hijacking of an EgyptAir flight from Athens and
[Page 200]
• The December 1985 attack on the Rome and Vienna airports by the Abu Nidal
organization.
Before the emergence of al-Qa'ida in the early 1990s, attacks like these shaped the U.S.
Government’s conception of how terrorist groups behaved. In general, those groups were
viewed as instruments of the nation states that sponsored them and they were not interested in
mass casualties. The lessons learned at that time were reflected in Joint Inquiry testimony by
former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft:
[In the late 1980s], terrorism was primarily a phenomenon which was statesponsored
or state-assisted or tolerated. And therefore, it was natural for us to
think of deterring or dealing with terrorism primarily through the sponsor than
through the terrorist organizations directly where things like deterrence and so on
would have some impact.…A further point, none of the terrorist organizations at
that time so far as we knew had global reach. This meant that while U.S. persons,
U.S. interests, and U.S. assets were not immune from terrorist attack, the United
States homeland, in effect, was. And that certainly colored how terrorism was
viewed. Terrorist organizations appeared to be either regionally or issue related.
And even though Hizbollah was thought to be behind many of the terrorist acts
that occurred during the Reagan Administration, the acts themselves seemed to be
relatively independent and uncoordinated events rather than part of an overall
strategy.
Terrorism aimed at the United States began to take on a different set of characteristics in
the 1990s as Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida emerged as a threat to the United States. Bin Ladin was
intent on striking inside the United States, and the Intelligence Community detected numerous
signs of a pending terrorist attack by al-Qa’ida in the spring and summer of 2001.
A. A New Breed of Terrorists
International terrorism struck directly in the United States in February 1993, when a truck
bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. A second
alarm sounded in June 1993 when the FBI arrested eight persons for plotting to bomb New York
City landmarks, including the United Nations and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The central
figures in these plots were Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, who was the
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spiritual leader of both Gama’at al- [page 201] Islamiya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Although
the Intelligence Community has not established that Bin Ladin had a role in either plot, both
Yousef and Rahman were later determined to have ties to Bin Ladin. Both 1993 plots featured
the deliberate intent to kill thousands of innocents by a group composed of different nationalities
without a state sponsor, characteristics previously absent from terrorist schemes.
The new trend in terrorism became more apparent in January 1995 when Philippine
National Police discovered Ramzi Yousef’s bomb-making laboratory in Manila and arrested his
accomplice, Abdul Hakim Murad. Captured material and interrogations of Murad revealed
Yousef’s plot to kill the Pope, bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, blow up twelve
U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean, and crash a plane into CIA Headquarters. These plans
were known collectively as the “Bojinka Plot.” Murad was eventually convicted for his role in
the plot and is currently incarcerated in the United States.
It is worth noting that Murad was charged only for his involvement in the scheme to blow
up the airliners over the Pacific and not for the other aspects of the Bojinka Plot. Because the
plans to crash a plane into CIA Headquarters and to assassinate the Pope were only at the
“discussion” stage, prosecutors decided not to include those plots in the indictment. FBI agents
who were interviewed by the Joint Inquiry about the Bojinka Plot confirmed this tight focus on
the elements of the crime investigated and charged, explaining that the case was about a plan to
blow up twelve airliners and, therefore, other aspects of the plot were not relevant to the
prosecution. As a result, the Joint Inquiry was able to locate almost no references to the plan to
crash a plane into CIA Headquarters in the FBI’s investigatory files on the case.
The first World Trade Center bombing, the New York City landmarks plot, and the
Bojinka Plot pointed to a new form of terrorism. The plots revealed a growing threat from
persons who ascribed to a radical interpretation of Sunni Islam; they involved infliction of mass
casualties; and they confirmed that international terrorists were interested in attacking symbolic
targets within the United States, such as the World Trade Center.
[page 202]
The increasing development of religious-based terrorist organizations in the 1990s
contributed directly to the emergence of this new form. As Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert
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with the RAND Corporation noted in a statement for the Joint Inquiry record: “[f]or the religious
terrorist, violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or a divine duty.”
The new breed also focused on America. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, former
National Security Advisor Sandy Berger noted that the new terrorists were “hardened by battle
against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the ’80s and energized against the United States by the
military presence we left in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War.”
The first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, five years before Bin Ladin openly
called on his followers to bring jihad to America, was a clear signal that Sunni extremists sought
to kill Americans on American soil. Seven years later, the arrest of Ahmed Ressam and the
seizure of bomb-making materials in his car at the U.S./Canada border should have dispelled all
doubt that al-Qa’ida and its sympathizers sought to operate on U.S. soil, even though most of the
terrorist masterminds remained overseas.
Emphasis on mass casualties was another important change from the terrorism the United
States witnessed in the 1980s. Although attacks in the 1980s sometimes were intended to kill
hundreds of official or military personnel, for example, the bombings of the Marine barracks and
the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, no major terrorist group attempted to kill thousands of civilians.
Brian Jenkins, an expert on terrorism, wrote in 1975: “[T]errorists want a lot of people watching
and a lot of people listening and not a lot of people dead.” Twenty years later, Director of
Central Intelligence James Woolsey contended that: “[T]oday’s terrorists don’t want a seat at the
table; they want to destroy the table and everyone sitting at it.” The 1999 edition of the FBI’s
Terrorism in the United States pointed out that the number of terrorist attacks had decreased in
the 1990s, but the number of casualties had increased. Terrorism had evolved from a frightening
episodic danger that could kill hundreds to an ominous menace that directly threatened the lives
of tens of thousands of Americans.
[Page 203]
It took some time for the Intelligence Community to recognize the emergence of this new
form of terrorism. In Joint Inquiry interviews, FBI personnel who were involved in the
investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing suggest that the Intelligence Community
was initially confused about the new adversary. This form of terrorism featured Arabs from
countries hostile to one another working together without a state sponsor. Counterterrorism
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experts eventually recognized the shift and incorporated it into their analyses. A July 1995
National Intelligence Estimate, for example, identified a “new breed” of terrorist, who did not
have a state sponsor, was loosely organized, favored an Islamic agenda, and had an extreme
penchant for violence.
B. Emergence of Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida
Usama Bin Ladin’s connection to international terrorism first came to the attention of the
Intelligence Community in the early 1990s. According to a former CTC Chief in testimony
before the Joint Inquiry, Bin Ladin was first seen as “a rich Saudi supporting Islamic extremist
causes.” He founded the al-Qa’ida organization in 1989 and moved to Sudan in 1991 or 1992.
During his time in Sudan, Bin Ladin built a network of international Islamic extremists and allied
himself with other Sunni terrorist groups.
Bin Ladin drew on a broad network of Islamic radicals fighting in the Balkans,
Chechnya, and Kashmir in an attempt – in their eyes – to defend Islam against its persecutors.
Fighters from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and many other countries took up arms to aid their
co-religionists, while Muslims from around the world contributed money. Although the specific
actions of al-Qa'ida often did not enjoy widespread support, the causes it championed were
viewed as legitimate, indeed laudable, in much of the Muslim world.
[In December 1992, as U.S. military forces were deploying to Somalia as part of a United
Nations operation to provide humanitarian assistance to a starving population, Islamic extremists
attacked a hotel in Aden, Yemen housing U.S. service members supporting that operation. An
Intelligence Community paper from April 1993 concluded that “[Bin Ladin’s] group almost
certainly played a role” in that attack. An article from an April 1993 National Intelligence Daily
also took note that three to four hundred Islamic militants had [page 204] received training the
previous year at military camps in Afghanistan funded by Persian Gulf Arabs. One camp was
run by an Egyptian and funded by Bin Ladin].
In Joint Inquiry testimony, former CTC Chief Cofer Black reported that the CIA learned
in 1993 that “Bin Ladin was channeling funds to Egyptian extremists” and in 1994 that “al-
Qa’ida was financing at least three terrorist training camps in northern Sudan.” He also noted
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Bin Ladin’s connection to the 1995 assassination attempt against Egyptian President Mubarak
and explained that “an al-Qa’ida defector [had] laid out for us Bin Ladin’s role as a head of a
global terrorist network.”
[In November 1995, five Americans were killed when the Office of Program
Management at a Saudi National Guard facility in Riyadh was bombed. According to the
Intelligence Community, the cumulative body of evidence eventually suggested that Bin Ladin
and a group he supported were responsible. [
].
In May or June 1996, Bin Ladin moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, where he was treated
as an honored guest of the Taliban, then the dominant political and military group. According to
DCI Tenet’s testimony before the Joint Inquiry, “[o]nce Bin Ladin found his safehaven in
Afghanistan, he defined himself publicly as a threat to the United States. In a series of
declarations, he made clear his hatred for Americans and all we represent.”
In August 1996, Bin Ladin issued a public fatwa or religious decree, authorizing attacks
by his followers against Western military targets on the Arabian Peninsula. In February 1998,
Bin Ladin and four other extremists issued another public fatwa expanding the 1996 fatwa to
include U.S. military and civilian targets anywhere in the world. In a May 1998 press
conference, Bin Ladin publicly discussed “bringing the war home to America.”
On August 7, 1998, two truck bombs destroyed U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred twenty four people, including twelve Americans, were
killed in the attacks and 5,000 were injured. The Intelligence Community confirmed very
quickly that these attacks [page 205] had been carried out by Bin Ladin’s terrorist network. The
attacks showed that the group was capable of carrying out simultaneous attacks and inflicting
mass casualties.
In early December 1999, the Jordanian government arrested members of a terrorist cell
that planned to attack religious sites and tourist hotels in connection with the Millennium
celebrations. About a week later, in mid-December 1999, Algerian extremist Ahmed Ressam
tried to enter the United States from Canada with bomb making chemicals and detonator
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equipment. He was arrested after an alert Customs agent asked to search his car and he
attempted to flee. Investigation revealed that his target was Los Angeles International Airport
and that he was an operative with ties to Bin Ladin’s network.
In describing what the U.S. Government might have done differently before September
11, DCI Tenet testified:
[T]he one thing that strikes me that we all just let pass from the scene after the
Millennium threat was this fellow who tried to cross the border from Canada into
the United States. There were no attacks. There were no Americans killed. We
didn’t have any hearings. We didn’t talk about failures. We didn’t talk about
accountability. We just assumed the system would keep working because it
prevented the last attack. He tried to cross the border; and I think one of the
things that everybody should have done is say, “what does this mean?,” more
carefully, rather than just moving from this threat to the next. Assuming that it
had been disrupted, what does it mean for the homeland? Should we have taken
more proactive measure sooner? Hindsight is perfect, but it is the one event that
sticks in my mind.
In October 2000, Bin Ladin operatives carried out an attack by boat on USS Cole, as it
was refueling in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed. An investigation revealed
that USS The Sullivans had been the original target of the Cole attack in January 2000, but the
terrorists’ boat had sunk from the weight of the explosives loaded on it.
C. Attributes of Bin Ladin’s Terrorist Operations
As the 1990s progressed, it became clear that Bin Ladin’s terrorist network was unusual,
although not unique, in its skill, dedication, and ability to evolve. The 1998 embassy attacks, the
[page 206] planned attack in Jordan around the Millennium, and the attack on USS Cole
suggested a highly capable adversary. Operations carried out by Bin Ladin’s network before
September 11 suggested several worrisome traits:
• Long-range planning. The 1998 attack on two U.S. embassies in East Africa took
five years from its inception. The planning for the attack on USS Cole took several
years.
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• Simultaneous operations. The 1998 attack on the two embassies and the Millennium
plots demonstrated that al-Qa’ida was able to conduct simultaneous attacks,
suggesting sophisticated overall planning. In a statement for the Joint Inquiry record,
RAND’s Bruce Hoffman noted that simultaneous terrorist attacks are rare, as few
groups have enough skilled operators, logisticians, and planners to conduct such
operations.
• Operational security. Terrorist manuals and training emphasize that operations
should be kept secret and details compartmented. Communications security is also
stressed. Thus, disrupting these operations is difficult, even if low-level foot soldiers
make mistakes and are arrested. Several attacks carried out by Bin Ladin’s operatives
occurred with little warning. Even the successful disruption of part of a plot, as
occurred during the Millennium, does not necessarily reveal other planned attacks,
such as an attack on a U.S. warship planned for around the same time.
• Flexible command structure. Bin Ladin’s network uses at least four different
operational styles: a top-down approach employing highly-skilled radicals; training
amateurs like Richard Reid, the so-called “shoebomber,” to conduct simple, but lethal
attacks; helping local groups with their own plans, as with Jordanian plotters during
the Millennium; and fostering like-minded insurgencies. Tactics that can stop one
type of attack do not necessarily work against others.
• Imagination. Most terrorists are conservative in their methods, relying on small arms
or simple explosives. The attack on USS Cole, however, was a clear indication of the
Bin [page 207] Ladin network’s tactical flexibility and willingness to go beyond
traditional delivery means and targets.
Size also distinguishes Bin Ladin’s network from many terrorist groups. The recently
disrupted Greek radical group, November 17, for example, contained fewer than fifty people.
According to Hoffman, the Japanese Red Army and the Red Brigades both had fewer than one
hundred dedicated members. Even the Irish Republican Army, one of the most formidable
terrorist organizations in the 1970s and 1980s, had no more than four hundred activists.
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Arresting and prosecuting members of these groups was an effective way to end or lessen the
threat they posed.
Although the number of highly skilled and dedicated persons who have sworn fealty to
Bin Ladin was probably in the low hundreds before September 11, the organization as a whole is
much larger, with tens of thousands having gone through the training camps in Afghanistan. Its
organizational and command structures, which employ many activists who are not formal
members of the organization, make it difficult to determine where al-Qa’ida ends and other
radical groups begin. Media reports indicate that al-Qa’ida has trained thousands of activists in
Sudan and Afghanistan, and interviews of intelligence officials indicate that al-Qa’ida can draw
on thousands of supporters when raising funds, planning, and executing attacks.
D. Intelligence about Bin Ladin’s Intentions to Strike Inside the United States
Central to the September 11 plot was Bin Ladin’s determination to carry out a terrorist
operation inside the United States. The Joint Inquiry therefore reviewed information the
Intelligence Community held before September 11 that suggested that an attack within the
United States was a possibility. Our review confirmed that, shortly after Bin Ladin’s May 1998
press conference, the Community began to acquire intelligence that Bin Ladin’s network
intended to strike within the United States. Many of these reports were disseminated throughout
the Community and to senior U.S. policy-makers.
These intelligence reports should be understood in their proper context. First, they
generally did not contain specific information as to where, when, and how a terrorist attack
might occur, and, [page 208] generally, they were not corroborated. Second, these reports
represented a small percentage of the threat information that the Intelligence Community
obtained during this period, most of which pointed to the possibility of attacks against U.S.
interests overseas. Nonetheless, there was a modest, but relatively steady stream of intelligence
indicating the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the United States. Third, the credibility of the
sources providing this information was sometimes questionable. While one could not, as a
result, give too much credence to some of the individual reports, the totality of the information in
this body of reporting clearly reiterated a consistent and critically important theme: Bin Ladin’s
intent to launch terrorist attacks within the United States.
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The Joint Inquiry reviewed many intelligence reports, including:
• In June 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information from several sources
that Bin Ladin was considering attacks in the United States, including Washington,
D.C., and New York. This information was provided to [ ] senior
government officials in July 1998.
• In August 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that a group of
unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country
into the World Trade Center. The information was passed to the FBI and the FAA.
The latter found the plot to be highly unlikely, given the state of the foreign country’s
aviation program. Moreover, the agencies believed that a flight originating outside
the United States would be detected before it reached its intended target inside the
United States. The FBI’s New York office took no action on the information, filing
the communication in the office’s bombing file. The Intelligence Community
acquired additional information since then suggesting links between this group and
other terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida
• In September 1998, the Community prepared a memorandum detailing al-Qa’ida
infrastructure in the United States, including the use of fronts for terrorist activities.
[page 209] This information was provided to [ ] senior government
officials in September 1998.
• In September 1998, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin’s next
operation might involve flying an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and
detonating it. This information was provided to [ ] senior
government officials in late 1998.
• In October 1998, the Community obtained information that al-Qa’ida was trying to
establish an operative cell within the United States. This information suggested an
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effort to recruit U.S. citizen Islamists and U.S.-based expatriates from the Middle
East and North Africa.
• In the fall of 1998, the Community received information concerning a Bin Ladin plot
involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.
• In November 1998, the Community obtained information that a Bin Ladin terrorist
cell was attempting to recruit a group of five to seven men from the United States to
travel to the Middle East for training, in conjunction with a plan to strike U.S.
domestic targets.
• In November 1998, the Community received information that Bin Ladin and senior
associates had agreed to allocate rewards for the assassination of four “top”
intelligence agency officers. The bounty for each assassination was $9 million. The
bounty was in response to the U.S. announcement of an increase in the reward for
information leading to Bin Ladin’s arrest.
• In the spring of 1999, the Community obtained information about a planned Bin
Ladin attack on a government facility in Washington, D.C.
[Page 210]
• In August 1999, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin’s organization
had decided to target the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and DCI.
“Target” was interpreted by Community analysts to mean “assassinate.”
• In September 1999, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin and others
were planning a terrorist act in the United States, possibly against specific landmarks
in California and New York City.
• In late 1999, the Community obtained information regarding possible Bin Ladin
network plans to attack targets in Washington, D.C. and New York City during the
Millennium celebrations.
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• On December 14, 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested as he attempted to enter the
United States from Canada, and chemicals and detonator materials were found in his
car. Ressam’s intended target was Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam was
later determined to have links to Bin Ladin’s terrorist network.
• In February 2000, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin was making
plans to assassinate U.S. intelligence officials, including the Director of the FBI.
• In March 2000, the Community obtained information regarding the types of targets
that operatives in Bin Ladin’s network might strike. The Statue of Liberty was
specifically mentioned, as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plants.
• In March 2000, the Intelligence Community obtained information suggesting that Bin
Ladin was planning attacks in specific West Coast areas, possibly involving the
assassination of several public officials.
• In April 2001, the Community obtained information from a source with terrorist
connections who speculated that Bin Ladin was interested in commercial pilots as
[page 211] potential terrorists. The source warned that the United States should not
focus only on embassy bombings, that terrorists sought “spectacular and traumatic”
attacks and that the first World Trade Center bombing would be the type of attack
that would be appealing. The source did not mention a timeframe for an attack.
Because the source was offering personal speculation and not hard information, the
information was not disseminated within the Intelligence Community.
The Joint Inquiry did not find any comprehensive Intelligence Community list of Bin
Ladin-related threats to the United States that was prepared and presented to policymakers before
September 11. Such a compilation might have highlighted the volume of information the
Community had acquired about Bin Ladin’s intention to strike inside the United States.
[Nonetheless, the Intelligence Community did not leave unnoticed Bin Ladin’s February
1998 declaration of war and intelligence reports indicating possible terrorist attacks inside the
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United States. The Community advised senior officials, including [ ] the
Congress, of the serious nature of the threat. The Joint Inquiry also reviewed documents, other
than intelligence reports, that demonstrate that the Intelligence Community, at least at senior
levels, understood the threat Bin Ladin posed to the domestic United States, for example:
• A December 1998 Intelligence Community assessment that Bin Ladin “is actively
planning against U.S. targets. . . . Multiple reports indicate UBL is keenly interested
in striking the U.S. on its own soil . . . . [A]l-Qa’ida is recruiting operatives for
attacks in the U.S. but has not yet identified potential targets.”
• The December 1998 declaration of war memorandum from the DCI to his deputies at
the CIA:
We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin . . . we all
acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than
we have previously experienced. . . . We are at war. . . . I want no resources or
people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the [Intelligence] Community.
[Page 212]
• A document prepared by the CIA and signed by the President in December 1998:
“The Intelligence Community has strong indications that Bin Ladin intends to
conduct or sponsor attacks inside the United States.”
• June 1999 testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by the CTC
Chief and a July 1999 briefing to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
staff members describing reports that Bin Ladin and his associates were planning
attacks inside the United States.
• A document prepared by the CIA and signed by the President in July 1999
characterizing Bin Ladin’s February 1998 statement as a “de facto declaration of war”
on the United States.
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, however, former National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger put this information in context:
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The stream of threat information we received continuously from the FBI and CIA
pointed overwhelmingly to attacks on U.S. interests abroad. Certainly the
potential for attacks in the United States was there.
E. Indications of a Possible Terrorist Attack in Spring and Summer 2001
The Joint Inquiry record confirms that, in the eyes of the Intelligence Community, the
world appeared increasingly dangerous for Americans in the spring and summer of 2001.
During that period, the Intelligence Community detected a significant increase in information
that Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida intended to strike against U.S. interests in the very near future.
Some Community officials have suggested that the increase in threat reporting was
unprecedented, at least in their own experience. While the reporting repeatedly predicted dire
consequences for Americans, it did not provide specific detail that could be acted on.
Between late March and September 2001, the Intelligence Community identified
numerous signs of an impending terrorist attack, some of which pointed specifically to the
United States as a target: [page 213]
• In March, an intelligence source claimed that a group of Bin Ladin operatives was
planning to conduct an unspecified attack in the United States in April 2001. One of
the operatives allegedly resided in the United States.
• In April, the Intelligence Community obtained information that unspecified terrorist
operatives in California and New York State were planning a terrorist attack in those
states for April.
• [Between May and July, the National Security Agency reported at least thirty-three
communications suggesting a possibly imminent terrorist attack. The Intelligence
Community thought at the time that one of them might have constituted a signal to
proceed with terrorist operations. While none of these reports provided specific
information on the attack, and it was not clear that any persons involved in the
intercepted communications had first-hand knowledge of where, when, or how an
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attack might occur, they were widely disseminated within the Intelligence
Community].
• In May, the Intelligence Community obtained a report that Bin Ladin supporters were
planning to infiltrate the United States by way of Canada to carry out a terrorist
operation using high explosives. This report mentioned without specifics an attack
within the United States. In July, this information was shared with the FBI, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, and the State
Department and was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials
in August.
[Page 214]
• In May, the Department of Defense acquired and shared with other elements of the
Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with
Bin Ladin had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the
United States.
• In June, CTC obtained information that key operatives in Bin Ladin’s organization
were disappearing, while others were preparing for martyrdom.
• In July, the CTC became aware of a person who had recently been in Afghanistan
who reported, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack.” The Intelligence
Community was also aware that Bin Ladin had stepped up his propaganda efforts in
the preceding months.
• On August 16, the INS detained Zacarias Moussaoui in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His
conduct had aroused suspicions about why he was learning to fly large commercial
aircraft and had prompted the flight school he was attending to contact the local FBI
field office. FBI agents believed that Moussaoui might have intended to carry out a
terrorist act.
• On August 23, CIA requested that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, who had first come to
the attention of the CIA and NSA in 1999 as possible associates of Bin Ladin’s
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network, be added to the Department of State watchlist for denying entry to the
United States.
• In late summer, the Intelligence Community obtained information that a person
associated with al-Qa’ida was considering terrorist operations in the United States.
There was no information as to the timing or possible targets.
• On September 10, NSA intercepted two communications [ ]
suggesting imminent terrorist activity. These communications were not translated
[page 215] into English and disseminated until September 12. They were not
specific, and it is unclear whether they referred to the September 11 attacks.
During the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community also disseminated information
to a wide range of senior government officials at all federal agencies and military commands
about the potential for imminent terrorist attacks. For example:
• On June 25, the Intelligence Community issued a terrorist threat advisory warning
government agencies that there was a high probability of an imminent “spectacular”
terrorist attack resulting in numerous casualties against U.S. interests abroad by Sunni
extremists associated with al-Qa’ida.
• Subsequently, intelligence information provided to [ ] senior government
leaders on June 30 indicated that Bin Ladin’s organization expected near-term attacks
to have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties.
• [A briefing prepared for senior government officials at the beginning of July asserted:
“Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that
UBL will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in
the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass
casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made.
Attack will occur with little or no warning].”
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• Later, on July 9, intelligence information provided to [ ] senior
government leaders indicated that members of Bin Ladin’s organization continued to
expect imminent attacks on U.S. interests.
[Of particular interest to the Joint Inquiry was whether and to what extent the President
received threat-specific warnings during this period. Access to this information was denied the
Joint Inquiry by [page 216] the White House. However, the Joint Inquiry was told by a
representative of the Intelligence Community that, in August 2001, a closely held intelligence
report for [ ] senior government officials included information that Bin Ladin had
wanted to conduct attacks in the United States since 1997. The information included discussion of
the arrest of Ahmed Ressam in December 1999 at the U.S.-Canadian border and the 1998
bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. It mentioned that members of al-Qa’ida,
including some U.S. citizens, had resided in or traveled to the United States for years and that the
group apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information
obtained and disseminated in 1998 that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release of
U.S.-held extremists; FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for
hijackings or other types of attacks; as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a
group of Bin Ladin supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives].*
The Joint Inquiry was also interested in the nature and scope of the intelligence that was
being provided to senior policymakers regarding the terrorist threat. In addition to the
President’s Daily Brief, the Intelligence Community produces a Senior Executive Intelligence
Brief (SEIB) each day, a series of short articles that summarize political, military, economic, and
diplomatic developments around the world of particular interest to senior government executives.
The Joint Inquiry reviewed SEIBs distributed by the Intelligence Community in the spring and
summer of 2001 and confirmed a rise in reporting on Bin Ladin between March and June. This
increase was still only a relatively small portion of the array of intelligence subjects that the
SEIBs brought to the attention of policymakers. For example, the peak in Bin Ladin–related
* National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice stated in a May 16, 2002 press briefing that, on August 6, 2001, the President’s
Daily Brief (PDB) included information about Bin Ladin’s methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to
1997. One of the methods was that Bin Ladin might choose to highjack an airliner in order to hold passengers hostage to gain
release of one of their operatives. She stated, however, that the report did not contain specific warning information, but only a
generalized warning, and did not contain information that al-Qa’ida was discussing a particular planned attack against a specific
target at any specific time, place, or by any specific method.
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reporting came in June 2001 when Islamic extremists, including Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida, were
referred to in eighteen of the 298 articles that appeared in the SEIBs that month.
The rise in threat reporting concerning Bin Ladin in 2001, though lacking in detail, did
generate government terrorist advisories and warnings, including:
• An FAA Circular on June 22, 2001, referring to a possible hijacking plot by Islamic
terrorists to secure the release of fourteen persons incarcerated in the United States in
connection with the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers.
[Page 217]
• A public, worldwide caution issued by the State Department on June 22, warning
Americans traveling abroad of the increased risk of a terrorist action.
• Four terrorism warning reports or warning report extensions issued by the
Department of Defense on June 22 and 26, and July 6 and 20, primarily to alert U.S.
military forces and the Department of Defense to signs that Bin Ladin’s network was
planning a near-term, anti-U.S. terrorist operation.
• A State Department démarche to Taliban representatives in Pakistan on June 26,
2001, declaring that the Taliban would be held responsible for terrorist attacks carried
out by Bin Ladin or al-Qa’ida.
• An FBI communication on July 2, advising federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies of increased threat reporting about groups aligned with or sympathetic to
Bin Ladin. The communication noted that the majority of the reports suggested a
potential for attacks against U.S. targets abroad and that the FBI had no information
suggesting a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States, although the
possibility could not be discounted.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage described the situation to the Joint Inquiry:
In fact, [the intelligence] was good enough for us to take several steps. We issued
between January and September nine warnings, five of them global, because of
the threat information we were receiving from the intelligence agencies in the
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summer, when George Tenet was around town literally pounding on desks saying,
something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He
didn't know where it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.
Interviews conducted during the Joint Inquiry show that the general view within the
Intelligence Community in the spring and summer of 2001 was that an attack on U.S. interests
was more likely to occur overseas, possibly in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Intelligence information,
the arrest of suspected terrorists in the Middle East and Europe, and a credible report of a plan to
attack a U.S. embassy in the [page 218] Middle East shaped the Community’s thinking about
where an attack was likely to occur. In fact, FBI agents working in Yemen on the Cole
investigation were told to leave the country because of concern about a possible attack.
The belief that an attack was likely to occur overseas was also reflected in numerous
statements and data the Joint Inquiry reviewed, for example:
• In a May 16, 2002 press briefing, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said: “I
want to reiterate that during this time, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that
this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas”
• The FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism at the time said that the intelligence he
was seeing led him to believe with a high probability – “98 percent” – that an attack
would occur overseas.
• At a Joint Inquiry hearing, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified: “I, in
general, perceived the threat to be at our interests overseas, primarily in the Gulf, some in
Southeast Asia, and most definitely in Israel. That is from my point of view and the
Department of State.”
• At the same hearing, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz testified: “I would
say near-term we perceived the threat to be overseas, as Secretary Armitage says. In the
mid- to longer-term, we perceived the threat to be mass casualties in the United States as
a result of chemical or biological or conceivably nuclear attack. . . .”
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• Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley asserted in a written response to Joint
Inquiry questions:
The specific warning the Administration did have pointed to operations against
U.S. interests abroad. . . . The threat warnings, in the spring and summer of 2001,
did not, to my knowledge, include any specific warning information to indicate
plans for terrorist [page 219] attacks inside the United States. . . . During this
period of increased threat reporting, information from [Intelligence Community]
agencies focused specifically on potential attacks in Europe, the Middle East, and
the Arabian Peninsula. . . . [Intelligence Community] officials, however, did not
discount the possibility of domestic attacks by al-Qa’ida and other groups.
Bin Ladin-related threat reporting began to decline in July 2001. The Intelligence
Community did, however, continue to follow up on some of the information in its possession.
F. Intelligence Information on Possible Terrorist Use of Airplanes as Weapons
Central to the September 11 attacks was the terrorists’ use of airplanes as weapons, which
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice addressed in a May 2002 press briefing:
I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these same people would take an
airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, taken another one and slam it
into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked
airplane as a missile. All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional
hijacking. You take a plane – people were worried they might blow one up, but
they were most worried that they might try to take a plane and use it for release of
the blind Sheikh or some of their own people.
The Joint Inquiry confirmed that, before September 11, the Intelligence Community
produced at least twelve reports over a seven-year period suggesting that terrorists might use
airplanes as weapons. As with the intelligence reports indicating Bin Ladin’s intentions to strike
inside the United States, the credibility of sources was sometimes questionable and information
often sketchy. The reports reviewed by the Joint Inquiry included:
• In December 1994, Algerian Armed Islamic Group terrorists hijacked an Air France
flight in Algiers and threatened to crash it into the Eiffel Tower. French authorities
deceived the terrorists into thinking the plane did not have enough fuel to reach Paris and
diverted it to Marseilles. A French anti-terrorist force stormed the plane and killed all
four terrorists.
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[Page 220]
• In January 1995, a Philippine National Police raid turned up material in a Manila
apartment suggesting that Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Murad, and Khalid Shaykh Mohammad
planned, among other things, to crash an airplane into CIA Headquarters. The police said
that the same group was responsible for the bombing of a Philippine airliner on
December 12, 1994. Information on the threat was passed to the FAA, which briefed
U.S. and major foreign carriers.
• In January 1996, the Intelligence Community obtained information concerning a planned
suicide attack by persons associated with Shaykh al-Rahman and a key al-Qa’ida
operative to fly to the United States from Afghanistan and attack the White House.
• In October 1996, the Intelligence Community obtained information regarding an Iranian
plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crash it into Tel Aviv. A passenger would
board the plane in the Far East, commandeer the aircraft, order it to fly over Tel Aviv,
and crash the plane into the city.
• In 1997, an FBI Headquarters unit became concerned about the possibility that an
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) would be used in terrorist attacks. The FBI and CIA
became aware of reports that a group had purchased a UAV and concluded that the group
might use the plane for reconnaissance or attack. The possibility of an attack outside the
United States was thought to be more likely, for example, by flying a UAV into a U.S.
embassy or a U.S. delegation.
• In August 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that a group, since
linked to al-Qa’ida, planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into
the World Trade Center. As explained earlier, the FAA found the plot to be highly
unlikely given the state of the foreign country’s aviation program. Moreover, the
agencies concluded that a flight originating outside the United States would be detected
before it reached its target. The FBI’s New York office took no action on the
information.
[Page 221]
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• In September 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that Bin Ladin’s
next operation might involve flying an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and
detonating it. This information was provided to senior government officials in late 1998.
• In November 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that the Turkish
Kaplancilar, an Islamic extremist group, had planned a suicide attack to coincide with
celebrations marking the death of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. The
conspirators, who were arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into
Ataturk’s tomb during a ceremony. The Turkish press said the group had cooperated
with Bin Ladin, and the FBI’s New York office included this incident in a Bin Ladin
database.
• In February 1999, the Intelligence Community obtained information that Iraq had formed
a suicide pilot unit that it planned to use against British and U.S. forces in the Persian
Gulf. The CIA commented that this was highly unlikely and probably disinformation.
• In March 1999, the Intelligence Community obtained information regarding plans by an
al-Qa’ida member, who was a U.S. citizen, to fly a hang glider into the Egyptian
Presidential Palace and detonate explosives. The person, who received hang glider
training in the United States, brought a hang glider to Afghanistan. However, various
problems arose during the testing of the glider. He was subsequently arrested and is in
custody abroad.
• In April 2000, the Intelligence Community obtained information regarding an alleged Bin
Ladin plot to hijack a Boeing 747. The source, a “walk-in” to the FBI’s Newark office,
claimed that he had learned hijacking techniques and received arms training in a
Pakistani camp. He also claimed that he was to meet five or six persons in the United
States. Some of these persons would be pilots who had been instructed to take over a
plane, fly to Afghanistan, or, if they could not make it there, blow the plane up. Although
[page 222] the source passed a polygraph, the Bureau was unable to verify any aspect of
his story or identify his contacts in the United States.
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• In August 2001, the Intelligence Community obtained information about a plot to bomb
the U.S. embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash the airplane into it. The
Intelligence Community learned that two people who were reportedly acting on
instructions from Bin Ladin met in October 2000 to discuss this plot.
The CIA disseminated several of these reports to the FBI and to agencies responsible for
preventive actions. These included the FAA, which is responsible for issuing security directives,
alerting domestic and international airports and airlines of threats the Intelligence Community
has identified.*
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI Tenet mentioned additional evidence
developed since September 11 concerning al-Qa’ida’s intention of to use airplanes as weapons:
[After 11 September, we learned from a foreign government service that in 1996,
Bin Ladin's second-in-command, Muhammad Atif, drew up a study on the
feasibility of hijacking US planes and destroying them in flight, possibly
influenced by Yousef’s and Mukhtar's unrealized plans [the Bojinka Plot]. . . .
Bin Ladin's determination to strike America at home increased with the issuance
of the February 1998 fatwa targeting all Americans, both military and civilian.
The ideas about destroying commercial airliners that had been circulating in al-
Qa'ida leadership circles for several years appear to have been revived after that
fatwa, in the early planning stages of the 9/11 plot. We believe that outside
events also shaped al-Qa'ida leaders' thinking about an airliner attack. [
] the October 1999 crash of Egypt Air Flight 990,
attributed in the media to a suicidal pilot, may have encouraged al-Qa'ida’s
growing impression that air travel was a vulnerability for the United States].
Despite these reports, the Intelligence Community did not produce any specific
assessments of the likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons, and U.S.
policymakers apparently remained unaware of this kind of potential threat. Former National
Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified before the Joint Inquiry: “We heard of the idea of
airplanes as weapons, but I don't recall being presented with any specific threat information
about an attack of this nature or any alert highlighting this [page 223] threat or indicating it was
any more likely than any other.” In response to written Joint Inquiry questions, Deputy National
Security Advisor Steve Hadley asserted:
* As noted earlier, however, the former intelligence office at FAA, the Transportation Security Intelligence Service,
researched 12 reports concerning the possible use of airplanes as weapons that the DCI testified had been
disseminated to appropriate agencies and found that there was no record of FAA receipt of three of them, two others
had been derived from State Department reports, and one was not received by FAA until after September 11, 2001.
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Before September 11, I do not recall receiving any information concerning al-
Qa’ida using aircraft as weapons for attacks within the United States. One CIA
analysis stated that al-Qa’ida was interested in possible hijackings in order to win
the release of imprisoned al-Qa’ida members, but did not mention the possibility
of using aircraft themselves as weapons.
The failure to consider seriously the use of aircraft as weapons may be the result of
insufficient resources directed to intelligence analysis. Before September 11, CTC had forty
analysts to analyze terrorism issues worldwide, with only one of its five analytic branches
focused on terrorist tactics. As a result, the only terrorist tactic on which CTC had performed
strategic analysis was the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons because
of the obvious potential for mass casualties.
Aviation-related terrorism was included in some broader terrorist threat assessments,
such as the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism. For example, a 1995 NIE
mentioned the plot to blow up twelve U.S. airliners and cited the consideration the Bojinka
conspirators gave to attacking CIA Headquarters with an aircraft laden with explosives. The
FAA worked with the Intelligence Community on this analysis and drafted the section
addressing the threat to civil aviation, which said:
Our review of the evidence… suggests the conspirators were guided in their
selection of the method and venue of attack by carefully studying security
procedures in place in the region. If terrorists operating in [the United States] are
similarly methodical, they will identify serious vulnerabilities in the security
system for domestic flights.
A 1997 update to the 1995 NIE concluded:
Civil aviation remains a particularly attractive target in light of the fear and
publicity the downing of an airliner would evoke and the revelations last summer
of the U.S. air transport sectors’ vulnerabilities.
As a result of the increasing threats to aviation, Congress required the FAA and FBI to
conduct joint threat and vulnerability assessments of security at select "high risk" U.S. airports
and to provide [page 224] annual reports to Congress. A classified portion of the December
2000 report downplayed the threat to domestic aviation:
FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups operating
within the U.S. but do not suggest evidence of plans to target domestic civil
aviation. Terrorist activity within the U.S. has focused primarily on fundraising,
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recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international
terrorists have conducted attacks on U.S. soil, these acts represent anomalies in
their traditional targeting which focuses on U.S. interests overseas.
Thus, less than a year before the September 11 attacks, and notwithstanding intelligence
information to the contrary, the FBI and FAA assessed the prospects of a terrorist incident
targeting domestic civil aviation in the United States as relatively low.
After September 11, the CIA acknowledged some of the information that was available
regarding the use of airplanes as weapons. A draft analysis dated November 19, 2001, “The 11
September Attacks: A Preliminary Assessment,” explains:
We do not know the process by which Bin Ladin and his lieutenants decided to
hijack planes with the idea of flying them into buildings in the United States, but
the idea of hijacking planes for suicide attacks had long been current in jihadist
circles. For example, GIA terrorists from Algeria had planned to crash a Air
France jet into the Eiffel Tower in December 1994, and Ramzi Yousef – a
participant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – planned to explode 12 US
jetliners in mid-air over the Pacific in the mid-1990s. Likewise the World Trade
Center had long been a target of terrorist bombers.
Despite that intelligence, the Joint Inquiry found no evidence that, before September 11,
analysts in the Intelligence Community were:
• cataloguing information regarding the use of airplanes as weapons as a terrorist tactic;
• sending requirements to collectors to look for additional information on this threat; or
• considering the likelihood that Bin Ladin, al-Qa’ida, or any other terrorist group,
would attack the United States or U.S. interests in this way.
[Page 225]
The CTC’s Deputy Director acknowledged that the CIA had not performed strategic
analysis on airplanes as weapons before September 11. He also explained ways in which CTC
has sought to improve its analytic capabilities since then:
We have a couple of approaches to strategic analysis in CTC now…We have
spent a fair amount of analytic time looking at intelligence reporting that [al-
Qa’ida is] going to use a particular type of tactic or go after a particular type of
target, other intelligence reporting…that shows that they have actually trained at
that tactic or trained for that type of target. . . . When you get all three of those
ingredients, that’s pretty sobering. What is most alarming to us is the number of
tactics that we’ve gotten that kind of a case on, that three-legged case . . . on
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surface-to-air missiles…use of truck bombs and car bombs . . . the use of aircraft,
both aircraft hijackings and aircraft as weapons . . . the use of improvised
explosive devices like Mr. Reid put in his shoes several months ago . . . the use of
poisons and toxins. Put it all together and you can say that al-Qa’ida has built a
handful of cards, any of which it could be playing, all of which it intends at some
point and with some opportunity to play. Its choices are very broad and very
frightening.
Even if enough analysis is done to provide better analysis to policymakers regarding
strategic threats, there remains the issue of how much influence that information will have in
warning other federal entities and the private sector. In discussing what could have been done
better before September 11, the DCI told the Joint Inquiry that the failure to focus on the the use
of airplanes as weapons was just one area that should have been part of a “systematic thought
process to think about how you play defense:”
You can disseminate all of the threat reportings you want. You can do the
strategic analysis about airplanes. You can do the strategic analysis about car
bombs, truck bombs, assassination attempts, fast boats and everything else. You
can put all of that out there to people. Unless somebody is thinking about the
homeland from the perspective of buttoning it down to basically create a
deterrence that may work, your assumption will be that the FBI and the CIA are
going to be one-hundred percent flawless all of the time. And it will never
happen.
IX. The Development of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy before September 11
When the Cold War ended, counterterrorism was not a top U.S. policy priority.
However, as the threat from al-Qa’ida increased in the 1990s, concern grew about the danger to
America. The Clinton [page 226] Administration steadily increased its attention to terrorism,
which became a top priority after the August 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania. The Bush Administration also devoted considerable attention to the al-Qa’ida threat
as it conducted a policy review in the months before September 11.
Despite sharpened focus in the years before September 11, terrorism remained only one
concern of many and counterterrorism efforts had to compete with other priorities. The process
for setting intelligence priorities was also vague and confusing, and neither the Clinton nor the
Bush Administration developed an integrated counterterrorism strategy that drew on all elements
of national power before September 11.
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A. Counterterrorism as an Intelligence Priority
Counterterrorism was not a top intelligence priority in the immediate aftermath of the
Cold War. Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft testified that the first Bush
Administration focused primarily on the former Soviet Union. Moreover, the sense of
immediacy diminished because the incidence and severity of terrorism had declined since the
Reagan Administration. Mr. Scowcroft noted that the focus of discussions on terrorism was
state-sponsored attacks, from which the U.S. homeland was thought to be immune.
As a result, neither the first Bush administration nor the Intelligence Community devoted
considerable attention to terrorism at the time. Former National Coordinator for
Counterterrorism Richard Clarke noted that the first Bush Administration approved only one
“narrow document” related to terrorism, suggesting that the subject was not a high priority.
Thus, as former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified:
When President Clinton began his first term in 1993, the Intelligence Community
was primarily focused on the agenda created by the Soviet Union’s collapse, the
Cold War’s end, and our Gulf War victory. . . . The CIA maintained no
significant assets in Afghanistan after our withdrawal from the region in 1989.
Little was known about Osama Bin Ladin except that he was one of many
financiers of terrorist groups.
[Page 227]
B. Growing Importance in the Clinton Administration
Mr. Clarke has testified that, when the Clinton Administration came into office, “the
furthest thing from [its] mind in terms of the policy agenda was terrorism.” This quickly ended
with Mir Amal Kansi’s murder of two CIA employees outside agency Headquarters shortly after
President Clinton’s inauguration. That event, plus the Iraqi attempt to assassinate former
President Bush in 1993 and the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, “catapulted”
terrorism onto the Administration’s agenda, according to Mr. Berger. He also noted that these
events led to the President becoming personally focused on terrorism.
The Clinton Administration issued several documents that many witnesses saw as
reflecting the growing importance of terrorism:
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• In 1995, the Clinton Administration issued Presidential Decision Directive
(PDD) 35, which former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake described as
“formally establish[ing] our top intelligence priorities and plac[ing] terrorism
among them, led only by intelligence support for our troops in the field and a
small number of states that posed an immediate or potential serious threat to the
United States.”
• Several months later in 1995, the President issued PDD 39, the first PDD issued
explicitly on terrorism since the Reagan administration. Mr. Lake noted that PDD
39 “mandated increased efforts to capture terrorists abroad; high priority for
detecting and preventing attacks with weapons of mass destruction; and the
exchange between the FBI and CIA of high-level anti-terrorism officials.”
• In 1998, Presidential Decision Directives 62 and 63 were issued to raise the
importance of counterterrorism within the interagency process and to clarify
responsibilities for reacting to an attack. According to Mr. Clarke, these
directives established an interagency coordination process, to include regular
meetings to evaluate threats, discuss resources, and treat counterterrorism as a
continuous, rather than ad hoc concern.
Al-Qa’ida emerged as a leading adversary during the second term of the Clinton
Administration. Mr. Berger told the Joint Inquiry that Bin Ladin was portrayed as a financier as
late as 1996, but that U.S. knowledge of his activities and concern about the threat his
organization posed began to grow rapidly. After the August 1998 attack on U.S. embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania, Bin Ladin dominated [page 228] U.S. counterterrorism concerns. As Mr.
Berger testified, “In 1996 he was on the radar screen; in 1998 he was the radar screen.”
Senior level officials met frequently on terrorism. In the months before the Millennium
celebrations, according to Mr. Berger, there were constant Principals Meetings and much senior
level attention to the risk of an al-Qa’ida attack. According to Deputy National Security Advisor
Steve Hadley, Mr. Berger and Mr. Clarke both emphasized the importance of terrorism during
the transition from the Clinton to the Bush Administration.
C. Uncertainty During the Transition
Transitions between administrations always take considerable time. For some high level
positions, such as National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, it is difficult if not impossible to
maintain continuity or an intense daily focus on an issue, if the status of the person holding the
position is unclear. Mr. Berger explained that the Clinton Administration did not respond to the
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October 2000 attack on USS Cole, in part, because it believed that the incoming Bush
Administration should handle the matter. However, Bush Administration officials testified that
they did not begin their major counterterrorism policy review until April 2001. Thus, it appears
that significant slippage in counterterrorism policy may have taken place in late 2000 and early
2001. At least part of this was due to the unresolved status of Mr. Clarke as National
Coordinator for Counterterrorism and his uncertain mandate to coordinate Bush Administration
policy on terrorism and specifically on Bin Ladin.
D. The George W. Bush Administration
Al-Qa’ida remained an intelligence priority under the Bush administration. Mr. Hadley
told the Joint Inquiry that “countering terrorist threats to the United States was a top intelligence
priority from the first days of this Administration.” He noted that Clinton Administration
counterterrorism programs and covert action authorities remained in place in early 2001, while
the Bush Administration considered a far more aggressive policy against al-Qa’ida and its
Taliban supporters: [page 229]
From the first days of the Bush Administration through September 2001, it
conducted a comprehensive, senior-level review of policy for dealing with al-
Qa’ida. The goal was to move beyond the policy of containment, criminal
prosecution, and limited retaliation for specific attacks, toward attempting to ‘roll
back’ al Qa’ida.
[As Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified to the Joint Inquiry on September 19,
2002:
The National Security Council . . . called for new proposals [in March 2001] on a
strategy that would be more aggressive against al-Qa’ida. The first deputies
meeting, which is the first decision making body in the administration, met on the
30th of April and set off on a trail of initiatives to include financing, getting at
financing, to get at increased authorities for the Central Intelligence Agency,
sharp end things that the military was asked to do. . . . So, from March through
about August, we were preparing a national security Presidential directive, and it
was distributed on August 13 to the principals for their final comments. And
then, of course, we had the events of September 11. . . .]
That policy review reportedly involved drafting new covert action authorities, several senior
level meetings to discuss policy alternatives, and exploration of other initiatives. The review
was nearing completion in the days before September 11.
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E. Competing Priorities
[Counterterrorism was only one of many priorities for both the Clinton and Bush
Administrations. Although a complete review of their policy priorities is beyond the scope of
this inquiry, several senior officials have suggested the wide range of concerns that faced both
administrations:
• Intelligence Community officials with responsibility for resource management noted that
a range of regional and global issues were important concerns that policymakers
emphasized in allocating resources.
• Mr. Clarke explained that he faced resistance to using military force in Afghanistan, in
part because the United States was already bombing Iraq and Serbia.
• Former Clinton Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth noted in an
interview that the East Africa embassy bombings made counterterrorism the top U.S.
priority in its dealings with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Before then, ending the
civil war, advancing women’s rights, and establishing a broad-based government were
U.S. priorities for that country.
• Mr. Inderfurth also noted that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even
nuclear confrontation, competed with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism.
[Page 230]
• Mr. Hadley noted that Bush Administration concerns before September 11 included the
P-3 aircraft incident with China and the June 2001 G-8 Summit].
Even those involved directly in counterterrorism efforts focused much of their attention on
groups other than al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. Mr. Clarke told the Joint Inquiry that Iran and the
Lebanese Hizbollah were the most important terrorist concerns during the first Clinton
Administration. This was corroborated by Mr. Lake, who noted that the Administration’s
“primary preoccupation was on state sponsors of terrorism and such organizations as Hizbollah.”
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The Iranian supported attack on the U.S. military at Khobar Towers in 1996 reinforced this
concern, according to Mr. Clarke.
Several agencies also focused their counterterrorism efforts on force protection. After the
embassy bombings, the State Department tried to augment security in its facilities worldwide.
Similarly, the attacks on Khobar Towers and USS Cole led to increased Defense Department and
military efforts to protect U.S. military facilities and assets abroad.
Moreover, the process of setting intelligence priorities was often confusing. Mr. Clarke
noted that the White House “never really gave good systematic, timely guidance to the
Intelligence Community about what the priorities were at the national level.” Mr. Hadley stated
that Bush Administration officials were told during the transition that “this priority-setting
process [PDD-35] . . . was not effective for communicating changing priorities over time.” Joint
Inquiry interviews with Intelligence Community officials suggest that many felt that the
prioritization process was so broad as to be meaningless.
There was also bureaucratic confusion about responsibility for counterterrorism. Despite
efforts by the NSC’s Counterterrorism Security Group to streamline the process, agencies often
did not coordinate their counterterrorism efforts. Mr. Inderfurth noted that the State Department
had different elements working on counterterrorism in regard to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia,
embassy security, and other matters. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre noted in
an interview that several different components of the Defense Department were involved in
counterterrorism, often with little coordination.
[Page 231]
F. Policy Measures to Fight Terrorism
In accordance with the growing importance of terrorism, Clinton Administration officials
took several steps to strengthen U.S. counterterrorism efforts. During the late 1990s, the CIA
initiated a campaign, working with foreign liaison services to disrupt and “take down” al-Qa’ida
and other terrorist cells around the world. Mr. Clarke told the Joint Inquiry that “‘disrupt’ means
‘arrest,’ if possible, have the host country arrest, or if there is any reason to bring them back to
the United States, to arrest them and bring them back here.” The Clinton Administration
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strongly backed this campaign, according to Mr. Berger, who pointed out that terrorist cells were
dismantled and disrupted in more than twenty countries as a result.
The Clinton Administration used military force, albeit in a limited manner as is discussed
in detail in a separate chapter. Mr. Clarke noted that the retaliatory strike on Iraq in 1993 for its
attempted assassination of former President Bush was the first time the U.S. had used military
force to punish a state for terrorism since 1986. According to Mr. Berger, the 1998 cruise
missile strikes on terrorism-linked facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan were meant to
demonstrate the Clinton Administration’s seriousness, as well as to disrupt al-Qa’ida’s
infrastructure. The Clinton Administration also initiated an increasingly aggressive covert action
policy, also discussed in a separate section.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Lake noted several other measures the Clinton
Administration initiated:
• Increasing intelligence funding after 1995
• More than doubling the number of FBI agents devoted to, and more than tripling the
FBI budget for, counterterrorism
• Expanding the size of the CTC and otherwise increasing CIA efforts against terrorism
[Page 232]
• Passing the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996 and legislation to
track foreign student visas
• Pressing CIA to establish an operational unit focused on tracking Bin Ladin and
terrorist financing (Intelligence Community and Clinton Administration officials
differ as to who deserves credit for this effort)
• Encouraging CIA and the FBI to improve cooperation on terrorism, including
exchanging senior officials. (Officials in the FBI, CIA, and Clinton Administration
also differ as to who deserves credit for this effort)
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• Increasing diplomatic pressure on the Taliban through bilateral discussions, U.N.
sanctions, and freezing of assets.
Policymakers report to the Joint Inquiry that they had limited flexibility with regard to
Afghanistan. Mr. Berger testified that neither Congress, the media, nor the international
community supported invading Afghanistan before September 11. During the Bush
Administration, the United States issued a démarche to the Taliban in June 2001, noting that it
would be held accountable for al-Qa’ida attacks on the United States.
Neither the Clinton nor Bush Administration aggressively tried to disrupt al-Qa’ida
financing. A former Intelligence Community official testified that in 1996 or 1997 the
Intelligence Community had plans [
], plans the Treasury Department blocked
due to concerns about [ ] and worries that [ ].
Because of Treasury’s concerns, the Intelligence Community, according to the former official,
was limited before September 11 to “[
].” Mr. Clarke noted that counterterrorism officials hoped to
appeal Treasury’s initial position by presenting concrete information on terrorism fundraising.
The Intelligence Community, however, was not able to provide the information.
[Page 233]
G. The Law Enforcement Approach
Some policy makers recognized that countering al-Qa’ida required the application of all
aspects of U.S. power. According to testimony from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz, the effort against al-Qa’ida:
. . . is not just something for the Intelligence Community alone; . . . you can’t go
to war against al-Qa’ida without recognizing the role that the Government of
Afghanistan is playing. You can’t go after the Government of Afghanistan
without recognizing the problems in your relationship particularly with Pakistan,
but with other neighboring countries, and you can’t get serious about this without
looking at military options.
Before September 11, however, neither the Clinton nor Bush Administration developed a
plan to disrupt al-Qa’ida that integrated U.S. diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military
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assets. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified that the Bush Administration
received briefings on the urgency of the al-Qa’ida threat, but “we were never given a plan,” a
contention Mr. Berger echoed. Mr. Wolfowitz testified that even contingency planning for using
the military for counterterrorism “was in the very most primitive stages.” General Hugh Shelton,
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Joint Inquiry that he did not believe that
policy makers had any serious plans to use the military in a significant way against the Taliban
before September 11.
In the absence of a more comprehensive strategy, the United States defaulted to relying
on law enforcement, at home and abroad, as the leading instrument in the fight against al-Qa’ida.
The perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the plot against New York City
landmarks, several conspirators in the 1998 embassy bombings, and several members of a group
that planned Millennium attacks were all prosecuted. This emphasis on prosecution continued a
trend begun in the 1980s when Congress and President Reagan gave the FBI an important role in
countering international terrorism, including attacks overseas.
Government officials apparently never intended to rely exclusively on law enforcement
to fight terrorism. Senior Department of Justice officials testified that they saw their efforts as an
adjunct to other means of fighting terrorism. Mary Jo White, who as U.S. Attorney for the
Southern District of [page 234] New York prosecuted many of the most important cases against
al-Qa’ida, testified before the Joint Inquiry that “no one considered prosecutions to be the
country’s counterterrorism strategy or even a particularly major part of it.” Mr. Wolfowitz
testified that terrorism “is not a law enforcement problem, and it can’t be dealt with simply by
retaliating against individual acts of terrorism.” However, covert action and military force had
little impact before September 11.
Prosecutions do have several advantages in the fight against terrorism. As Ms. White
noted in her testimony and in an interview, prosecutions take terrorists off the street. She
acknowledged that this does not shut down an entire group, but some bombs, she said, do not go
off as a result of arrests. In addition, she pointed out that critical intelligence often comes from
the investigative process, as individual terrorists confess or reveal associates through their
personal effects and communications. As former FBI Director Louis Freeh asserted in an
interview, “You can’t divorce arrest from prevention.” Ms. White contended that the
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prosecutions might deter some, though not all individuals from violence. Finally, the threat of a
jail sentence often induces terrorists to cooperate with investigators and provide information.
Heavy reliance on law enforcement, however, has costs. National Intelligence Officer for
the Near East and South Asia Paul Pillar noted in Joint Inquiry testimony that it is easier to arrest
terrorist underlings than masterminds. Those who organize and plan attacks, particularly the
ultimate decision makers who authorize them, are often thousands of miles away when an attack
is carried out. In addition, the deterrent effect of imprisonment is often minimal for highly
motivated terrorists such as those in al-Qa’ida.
Moreover, law enforcement is time-consuming. The CIA and the FBI expended
considerable resources supporting investigations in Africa and in Yemen into the embassy and
U.S.S. Cole attacks, a drain on scarce resources that could have been used to gather information
and disrupt future attacks. Finally, law enforcement standards of evidence are high, and
establishing a legal case that meets these standards often requires unattainable intelligence and
threatens to compromise sensitive sources or methods.
[Page 235]
At times, law enforcement and intelligence have competing interests. The former head of
the FBI’s International Terrorism Section noted that Attorney General Reno leaned toward
closing down surveillances under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act if they hindered
criminal cases. In addition, convictions that help disrupt terrorists are often based on lesser
charges (such as immigration violations), and this may not always convince FBI field personnel
that the effort is worthwhile compared with other cases that put criminals in jail for many years.
As former FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson explained, Special Agents
in Charge of FBI field offices focused more on convicting than on disrupting.
Reliance on law enforcement when individuals have fled to a hostile country, such as Iran
or the Taliban’s Afghanistan, appears particularly ineffective, as the masterminds are often
beyond the reach of justice. One FBI agent scorned the idea of using the Bureau to take the lead
in countering al-Qa’ida, noting that all the FBI can do is arrest and prosecute. They cannot shut
down training camps in hostile countries. He noted that the strategy is “like telling the FBI after
Pearl Harbor, ‘go to Tokyo and arrest the Emperor.’” In his opinion, a military solution was
necessary because “[t]he Southern District doesn’t have any cruise missiles.”
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H. Disruptions and Renditions
Disruptions and renditions are important tools in the fight against terrorism, and terrorist
activity can be disrupted in many ways. Examples include watchlists to deny entry into the
United States, liaison relationships with foreign intelligence and law-enforcement services
willing to arrest and detain radicals, raids on terrorist facilities, and criminal investigations and
prosecutions.
In testimony to the Joint Inquiry, the DCI summed up the ultimate disruption of al-Qa’ida
operations -- destruction of the Afghani sanctuary:
In this struggle, we must play offense as well as defense. The move into the
Afghanistan sanctuary was essential. We have disrupted the terrorists’ plans,
denied them the comfort of their bases and training facilities and the confidence
that they can mount and remount attacks without fear of serious retribution.
[Page 236]
Disruption became increasingly important in the years before September 11. Following
the arrest of Ahmed Ressam with explosives at the U.S./Canada border and the discovery of
plots in Jordan during the Millennium celebrations, a worldwide effort was launched to thwart
other attacks. The effort involved dozens of foreign intelligence services, which detained
suspected radicals, minimally to keep them off the streets, but also in the hope of gaining
confessions or intimidating them into aborting planned attacks. Former National Security
Advisor Sandy Berger gave some idea of the scope of these disruption efforts when he testified
that the Intelligence Community had worked around the world since 1997 to dismantle al-Qa'ida
cells in about twenty countries.
A rendition is the arrest and detention of terrorist operatives for return to the United
States or another country for prosecution. Renditions often lead to confessions, and they disrupt
terrorist plots by shattering cells and removing key individuals. In practice, almost all renditions
entail disruptions.
[Working with a wide array of foreign governments, CIA and FBI have helped deliver
dozens of suspected terrorists to justice. CTC officers responsible for the renditions program
told the Joint Inquiry that, from 1987 to September 11, 2001, CTC was involved in the rendition
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of several dozen terrorists, a number that increased substantially after September 11. Former
National Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke described for the Joint Inquiry a
particularly successful program, through which “we were able to identify al-Qa'ida members
throughout the world [
].”
The emphasis on renditions and disruptions increased as the Intelligence Community
received more frequent reports of impending al-Qa’ida attacks in the spring and summer of 2001.
As DCI Tenet testified:
Starting in the spring and continuing through the summer of 2001 we saw a
significant increase in the level of threat reporting. Again, working with the FBI
and foreign liaison services, we thwarted attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Paris,
our Embassy in Yemen, U.S. facilities in Saudi Arabia and operations to kidnap
U.S. citizens. We approached twenty countries with specific targets for disruption,
prompting arrests in [
], and elsewhere.
[Page 237]
[U.S. Government officials told the Joint Inquiry that [
] , and that there are a number of factors that make
the rendition process difficult. [
].
I. Afghanistan as a Terrorist Sanctuary
[Between 1996 and September 2001, the United States worked with dozens of foreign
governments to disrupt al-Qa’ida, arrest and interrogate its operatives, and prevent terrorist
attacks. Throughout that period, Afghanistan was a terrorist safehaven, in which al-Qa’ida built
a network for planning attacks, training and vetting recruits, and indoctrinating potential radicals.
In essence, al-Qa’ida created a terrorist army in Afghanistan with little interference. As DCI
George Tenet explained in testimony before the Joint Inquiry:
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The terrorist plotting, planning, recruiting, and training in the late 1990s were
aided immeasurably by the sanctuary the Taliban provided.
-- Afghanistan had served as a place of refuge for international terrorists since
the 1980s. The Taliban actively aided Bin Ladin by assigning him guards
for security, permitting him to build and maintain terrorist camps, and
refusing to cooperate with efforts by the international community to
extradite him.
-- In return, Bin Ladin invested vast amounts of money in Taliban projects and
provided hundreds of well-trained fighters to help the Taliban consolidate
and expand their control of the country.
--While we often talk of two trends in terrorism – state supported and
independent -- in Bin Ladin’s case with the Taliban what we had was
something completely new: a terrorist sponsoring a state]. (Emphasis in
original.)
Some CIA analysts and operators told Joint Inquiry staff that they recognized as early as
1997 that Bin Ladin’s terrorist organization would continue to train cadres of Islamic extremists
and generate numerous terrorist operations, as long as the Taliban granted al-Qa’ida sanctuary in
Afghanistan.
[Page 238]
Failure to eliminate Afghanistan as a terrorist sanctuary had practical operational
consequences. In describing to the Joint Inquiry the CIA’s 1999 plan to capture and bring Bin
Ladin and his principal lieutenants to justice, DCI Tenet explained that, because “U.S. policy
stopped short of replacing the Taliban regime, . . . the ability of the U.S. Government to exert
pressure on Bin Ladin” was seriously limited. Because our government had “no official
presence in Afghanistan, and relations with the Taliban were seriously strained,” the DCI
asserted, it became much “more difficult to gain access to Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida personnel.”
Between 1999 and 2001, the government did undertake some efforts to address the
problem of Afghanistan as a terrorist sanctuary. In 1999, senior CIA and State Department
officials began to focus on the Taliban as an integral part of the terrorist problem. In 1999 and
2000, the State Department worked with the United Nations Security Council to obtain
resolutions rebuking the Taliban for harboring Bin Ladin and allowing terrorist training. The
Defense Department began to focus on this issue in late 2000 after the Cole bombing and
formulated military options for dealing with the Taliban.
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According to Steve Hadley, President Bush’s Deputy National Security Advisor, the
Bush Administration initiated shortly after taking office a senior-level review of al-Qa’ida
policy. In Summer 2001, the State Department sent a démarche to Taliban representatives in
Pakistan, which noted threats to Americans emanating from Afghanistan and declared that the
United States would hold the regime responsible for actions by terrorists the Taliban harbored.
None of these actions appears to have restrained terrorist training or al-Qa’ida’s ability to operate
in Afghanistan.
Despite the Intelligence Community’s growing recognition that Afghanistan was
churning out thousands of radicals, the Joint Inquiry found little effort to integrate the
instruments of national power - diplomatic, intelligence, economic, and military - to address the
problem effectively. [
]. Little effort was made to use the
full force of the U.S. military before September 11, with the exception of August 1998 cruise
missile strikes. Former National Security Advisor Sandy [page 239] Berger testified that there
was little public or Congressional support for an invasion of Afghanistan before September 11.
Permitting the sanctuary in Afghanistan to exist allowed Bin Ladin’s key operatives to
meet, plan, train recruits, and ensure that al-Qa’ida’s masterminds remained beyond the reach of
international justice. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the DCI explained:
Nothing did more for our ability to combat terrorism than the President’s decision
to send us into the terrorists’ sanctuary. By going in massively, we were able to
change the rules for the terrorists. Now they are the hunted. Now they have to
spend most of their time worrying about their survival. Al-Qa’ida must never
again acquire a sanctuary.
In response to a question about what he would have done differently in hindsight before
September 11, the DCI reiterated this point about sanctuary:
[W]e should have taken down that sanctuary a lot sooner. The circumstances at
the time may have not warranted, the regional situation may have been different,
and after 9/11 all I can tell you is we let a sanctuary fester, we let Bin Ladin build
capability. And there may have been lots of good reasons why in hindsight it
couldn't have been done earlier or sooner. I am not challenging it, because
hindsight is always perfect, but we let him operate with impunity for a long time
without putting the full force and muscle of the United States against it.
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J. The Intelligence Community
[The nation’s experience with international terrorism in the 1980s began with the
bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 and a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in
October. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for both attacks, which were followed by the
March 1984 kidnapping and murder of William Buckley, a CIA official in Beirut. Over the next
two years, terrorist groups kidnapped other American citizens in Lebanon who were not
connected to the U.S. Government].
In April 1984, the Iranian backed terrorist group Hizbollah claimed responsibility for the
bombing of a restaurant frequented by U.S. service members near Torrejon Airbase in Spain. In
September 1984, the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut was bombed. 1985 brought a flurry of
terrorist [page 240] activity against U.S. citizens and interests, including the June 1985 hijacking
of TransWorld Airways Flight 847, the October 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro,
and the November 1985 hijacking of an EgyptAir flight from Athens to Malta. In December
1985, terrorists from the Abu Nidal organization attacked the Rome and Vienna airports.
Certain responses by the U.S. Government to the emerging threat were of particular
interest to the Joint Inquiry because they became the foundation of our policy toward
international terrorism before the September 11 attacks. A task force led by Vice President
George H. W. Bush made a series of recommendations in a December 1985 report on combating
terrorism, some of which were quickly implemented:
• President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 207 in January
1986, outlining our nation’s policy with respect to international terrorism and
assigning counterterrorist functions to government components.
• The Director of Central Intelligence’s Counterterrorist Center was established in
February 1986 as the focal point for counterterrorism.
• A directive signed in the spring of 1986 authorized the CIA to conduct certain
counterterrorist activities.
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As is explained in more detail in other sections of this report, America first faced major
international terrorist attacks within the United States in February 1993 when a bomb was
detonated in the World Trade Center and in June 1993 when the FBI arrested eight persons for
plotting to bomb New York City landmarks. In 1996, as Bin Ladin’s involvement in directing
terrorist acts became more evident, the Counterterrorist Center created a special unit with ten to
fifteen members to focus on him. Since 1996, the Community has been actively engaged in
operations with mixed success to collect intelligence on Bin Ladin and disrupt his network. On
September 10, 2001, thirty-five to forty people were assigned to the CTC’s Bin Ladin unit. In
1999, the FBI also created a Bin Ladin unit at Headquarters. Approximately nineteen persons
were working in that unit on September 10.
[Page 241]
In August 1998 after the two embassy bombings in Africa, the Intelligence Community
quickly confirmed that the attacks had been carried out by Bin Ladin’s network. The DCI made
combating the threat Bin Ladin posed one of the Intelligence Community’s highest priorities,
establishing it as a “Tier [Zero] priority,” and he raised the status of the threat still further when
he announced in December 1998 that “[w]e are at war” with Bin Ladin.
K. The Declaration of War
Whether and when the Intelligence Community as a whole recognized that Bin Ladin was
waging war on the United States and that it was necessary to respond in kind is an important
factor in assessing the Community’s response to the threat Bin Ladin’s network posed. In
interviews, many persons on the National Security Council staff and at CTC pointed to the
August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa as the moment when they
recognized that Bin Ladin was waging war against the United States. That judgment was
reflected in two statements by President Clinton in the immediate aftermath of the bombings:
• On August 20, 1998, in an address to the nation on military action against terrorist
sites in Afghanistan and Sudan, President Clinton declared: “A few months ago, and
again this week, Bin Ladin publicly vowed to wage a terrorist war against America.”
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• On August 22, 1998, in a radio address to the nation, President Clinton declared:
“Our efforts against terrorism cannot and will not end with this strike. We should
have realistic expectations about what a single action can achieve, and we must be
prepared for a long battle.”
In December 1998, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet elaborated on the
President’s statements in a memorandum to senior CIA managers, the Deputy DCI for
Community Management, and the Assistant DCI for Military Support, declaring war on Bin
Ladin: [page 242]
We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin. . . . We are at
war. . . . I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside [the]
CIA or the Community.
L. The Intelligence Community’s Response
The DCI stated to the Joint Inquiry that in early 1999, following his declaration, he
ordered a baseline review of CIA’s operational strategy against Bin Ladin. According to the
DCI’s testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the CIA “produced a new comprehensive operational
plan of attack against the Bin Ladin/al-Qa’ida target inside and outside Afghanistan,” a plan of
attack that in subsequent testimony the DCI simply called “The Plan”:
The Plan included a strong and focused intelligence collection program to track –
and then act against – Bin Ladin and his associates in terrorist sanctuaries. It was
a blend of aggressive human source collection – both unilateral and with foreign
partners – and enhanced technical collection. . . .To execute the Plan, CTC
developed a program to select and train the right officers and put them in the right
places. We moved talented and experienced operations officers into the [CTC].
We also initiated a nation-wide program to identify, vet and hire qualified
personnel for counterterrorist assignments in hostile environments. We sought
native fluency in the languages of the Middle East and South Asia, combined with
policy, military, business, technical, or academic experience. In addition, we
established an eight-week Counterterrorist Operations Course to share the
tradecraft we had developed and refined over the years.
[According to documents reviewed by the Joint Inquiry, “The Plan” included covert
action and technical collection aimed at capturing Bin Ladin and his principal lieutenants. CIA
activities within The Plan included working with [
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]. The Plan was the Intelligence Community’s strongest response
before September 11, 2001 to the Bin Ladin threat and the DCI’s declaration. The Plan is
examined in greater depth in the chapter on covert action].
[Page 243]
M. Shortcomings in the Intelligence Community’s Response
The Joint Inquiry has determined that the Intelligence Community as a whole was not on
a war footing before September 11. For example, knowledge of the DCI’s declaration appears to
have been limited. Some senior managers at NSA and DIA were aware of the statement, but
many in the FBI had not heard of it. For example, the Assistant Director of the FBI’s
Counterterrorism Division testified to the Joint Inquiry that he “was not specifically aware of that
declaration of war.” Senior officers in other components of the government, including the
Defense Department and the U.S. military, apparently were also unaware of the declaration.
When asked whether he knew that the United States had been at war with Bin Ladin, Deputy
Secretary of State Richard Armitage responded:
I was briefed in January and February [2001], leading to my hearings in March
before the U.S. Senate. The term "at war" was, to my knowledge, not used. There
was no question, though, that we were in a struggle with al-Qa'ida, and al-Qa'ida
was the very first thing that the administration took on at the deputies level.
[The Joint Inquiry also reviewed whether the DCI’s declaration of war had any real effect
in the covert action area prior to September 11, 2001. Cofer Black, former CTC Chief, explained
in a statement to the Joint Inquiry: “[A]fter 9/11, the gloves came off].”
[Resources dedicated to counterterrorism generally increased during the 1990s.
Notwithstanding the DCI’s December 1998 exhortation to spare no resources, however,
counterterrorism had to compete with other intelligence priorities. Senior CIA officers pointed
to, for example, a variety of regional and global issues as intelligence priorities that required
resource allocations. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the DCI took note of those
competing intelligence requirements]:
As I “declared war” against al-Qa’ida in 1998 – in the aftermath of the East
Africa embassy bombings – we were in our fifth year of round-the-clock support
to Operation Southern Watch in Iraq. Just three months earlier, we were
embroiled in answering questions on the India and [page 244] Pakistan nuclear
tests and trying to determine how we could surge more people to understanding
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and countering weapons of mass destruction proliferation. In early 1999, we
surged more than 800 analysts and redirected collection assets from across the
Intelligence Community to support the NATO bombing campaign against the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The only substantial infusion of personnel to counterterrorism occurred after September
11, 2001, when the number of CIA personnel assigned to CTC nearly doubled -- from
approximately 400 to approximately 800 -- and additional contractors were hired in support of
CTC. No comparable shift of resources occurred in December 1998 after the DCI’s declaration
of war, in December 1999 during the Millennium crisis, or in October 2000 after the attack on
USS Cole.
NSA Director Hayden described a similar situation before September 11:
We, like everyone else at the table, were stretched thin in September. The war
against terrorism was our number one priority. We had about five number one
priorities. And we had to balance what we were doing against all of them.
General Hayden asserted that he knew what NSA had to do to target Bin Ladin effectively before
September 11, but was unable to obtain Intelligence Community support and resources for that
purpose:
Given all the other intelligence priorities, it would have been difficult at that time
within the [Intelligence Community] or the Department of Defense to accept the
kind of resource decisions that would have been necessary to make our effort
against the target more robust. NSA was focused heavily on [a range of regional
and global issues]. Our resources, both human and financial, were in decline.
Our efforts in 2000 to churn money internally were not accepted by the
Community; its reliance on [signals intelligence] had made it reluctant to give it
up.
The Joint Inquiry also learned that, even after the DCI’s declaration of war, there was
considerable variation in the degree to which FBI-organized Joint Terrorism Task Forces
prioritized and coordinated efforts targeting Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida in the United States. While
the Bureau’s New York office took the lead in the vast majority of counterterrorism
investigations concerning Bin Ladin, many other FBI offices around the country were unaware
of the magnitude of the threat. In an interview, former National Coordinator for
Counterterrorism Richard Clarke contended that FBI field [page 245] offices, except New York,
were “clueless” about counterterrorism and al-Qa’ida and did not make them priorities. Former
National Security Advisor Berger testified before the Joint Inquiry: “What we have learned since
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9/11 makes clear that the FBI, as an organization, was not as focused [on the counterterrorism
mission].”
N. The President and Senior Policy Advisor Responsibility
The DCI’s December 1998 declaration was remarkable for its foresight and
aggressiveness. But it could only have effect within a limited sphere because coordinating the
U.S. Government’s response to the Bin Ladin threat was not the responsibility of the DCI or the
Intelligence Community, but of the President and the National Security Council.
In a Joint Inquiry briefing, Mr. Clarke touched on this issue when he discussed
Presidential Decision Directive 62, “Protection Against Unconventional Threat to the Homeland
and Americans Overseas.” That PDD was signed by President Clinton in May 1998, before the
bombings of the two U.S. Embassies in Africa and before the DCI’s declaration of war.
According to Mr. Clarke, the PDD created a ten-program counterterrorism initiative and assigned
counterterrorist responsibilities to specific agencies:
• Apprehension, extradition, rendition, and prosecution (Department of Justice);
• Disruption (CIA);
• International cooperation (State);
• Preventing terrorist acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (National Security
Council);
• Consequence management (Department of Justice/Federal Emergency Management
Agency);
• Transportation security (Department of Transportation);
• Protection of critical infrastructure and cybersystems (National Security Council);
• Continuity of operations (National Security Council);
• Countering the foreign terrorist threat in the United States (Department of Justice);
and [page 246]
• Protection of Americans overseas (Departments of State and Defense).
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Within that effort were the seeds of an integrated, comprehensive government-wide
strategy for countering the Bin Ladin threat that could have put the nation on a war footing
before September 11. The initiative is perhaps the closest that President Clinton and the National
Security Council came between 1998 and the Administration’s departure from office in January
2001 to a coordinated response to the threat. However, the PDD does not appear to have had
much impact. It is clearly not as straightforward as the DCI’s declaration and, beyond Mr.
Clarke’s reference to it in his testimony, no other Joint Inquiry witness pointed to PDD-62 as the
policy guiding the government’s response to the growing al-Qa’ida threat.
Shortly after the Bush Administration took office in January 2001, the National Security
Council undertook a review of existing policy for dealing with al-Qa’ida. In response to written
Joint Inquiry questions, Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley explained:
The Administration took the al-Qa’ida threat seriously and, from the outset, began
considering a major shift in United States counterterrorism policy. From the first
days of the Bush Administration through September 2001, it conducted a seniorlevel
review of policy for dealing with al-Qa’ida. The goal was to move beyond
the policy of containment, criminal prosecution, and limited retaliation for
specific attacks, toward attempting to “roll back” al-Qa’ida. The new goal was to
eliminate completely the ability of al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups of global
reach to conduct terrorist attacks against the United States. . . . Between May and
the end of July 2001, four Deputies Committee meetings were held directly
related to the regional issues which had to be resolved in order to adopt a more
aggressive strategy for dealing with al-Qa’ida. These meetings focused on [
].
This new policy might have produced a coordinated government response to the Bin
Ladin threat or put the nation on more of a war footing with al-Qa’ida before September 11.
However, as Mr. Hadley noted, “[t]he Administration finalized its review of policy on al-Qa’ida
at an NSC Principals [page 247] Committee meeting on September 4, 2001.” President Bush
had not reviewed the draft policy before September 11.
In short, the DCI and other Intelligence Community officials recognized the Bin Ladin
threat. Notwithstanding the DCI’s declaration, President Clinton’s August 1998 statements, and
intelligence reports to policymakers over many years indicating that Bin Ladin was waging war
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on the United States, neither President Clinton nor President Bush nor their National Security
Councils put the government or the Intelligence Community on a war footing before September
11.
O. Lack of an Integrated Response
Usama Bin Ladin’s involvement in international terrorism first came to the attention of
the Intelligence Community in the early 1990s. As his direct involvement in planning and
directing terrorism became more evident, CTC created a unit to focus specifically on Bin Ladin
and the threat he posed to U.S. interests. CTC personnel recognized as early as 1996 that Bin
Ladin posed a grave danger to the United States.
Following the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, the DCI placed Bin Ladin’s
terrorist network among the Intelligence Community’s highest priorities. The DCI raised the
status of the threat further still when he announced to CIA senior managers in December 1998:
We are at war [with Bin Ladin] . . . . I want no resources or people spared in this
effort, either inside the CIA or the [Intelligence] Community.
These were strong words. Rather than having a galvanizing effect, however, the Joint
Inquiry record reveals that the Intelligence Community continued to be fragmented without a
comprehensive strategy for combating Bin Ladin. The record also shows that the DCI was either
unable or unwilling to enforce consistent priorities and marshal resources across the Community.
Evidence of a fragmented Intelligence Community can be found in the limited
distribution of the DCI’s declaration. The Community as a whole had only a limited awareness
of the statement. For [page 248] example, although some senior NSA and DIA managers were
aware of it, few FBI personnel were. The Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism
Division told the Joint Inquiry that he “was not specifically aware of that declaration of war.”
Equally disturbing, Joint Inquiry interviews of FBI field personnel showed that they did not
know of the DCI’s declaration, and some had only passing familiarity with Bin Ladin and al-
Qa’ida before September 11. Senior U.S. military officers were also unaware of the DCI’s
declaration.
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[A former chief of the unit in the DCI’s Counterterrorist Center formed to focus on Bin
Ladin, put it succinctly:
In my experience between 1996 and 1999, CIA’s Directorate of Operations was
the only component of the Intelligence Community that could be said to have
been waging the war that Bin Ladin declared against the United States in August
of 1996. The rest of the CIA and the Intelligence Community looked on our
efforts as eccentric and, at times, fanatic].
Additional evidence of the absence of a comprehensive counterterrorist strategy and
authoritative leadership can be found in “The Plan” the DCI described in testimony before the
Joint Inquiry:
In spring of 1999, we produced a new comprehensive operational plan of attack
against [Bin Ladin] and al Qaeda inside and outside of Afghanistan. The strategy
was previewed to senior CIA management by the end of July of 1999. By mid-
September, it had been briefed to the CIA operational level personnel, to NSA, to
the FBI, and other partners. The CIA began to put in place the elements of this
operational strategy which structured the agency’s counterterrorism activity until
September 11 of 2001.
[According to documents reviewed by the Joint Inquiry, in 1999 “The Plan” consisted of
a variety of CIA covert actions against Bin Ladin. Later, in 2000, “The Plan” came to include [
]. “The Plan” focused principally on CIA covert action and technical collection
aimed at capturing Bin Ladin. “The Plan” was also significant for what it did not include:
• A Community estimate of the threat Bin Ladin’s network posed to the United States
and to U.S. interests overseas; [page 249]
• Significant participation by elements of the Intelligence Community other than the
CIA;
• Delineation of the resources required to execute the plan;
• Decisions to downgrade other Community priorities to accommodate the priorities of
the plan;
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• Attention to the threat to and vulnerabilities of the U.S. homeland; and
• Discussion of FBI involvement in the plan.
The Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division testified to the Joint
Inquiry that the FBI had no war plan against Bin Ladin: “Absolutely, we did not [have a plan] at
that time.” When asked how the FBI's counterterrorism program fit into the overall Community
program, the Assistant Director replied:
I am not sure if I know the answer to that. I talked to [the DCI] briefly about this.
I have talked to [the CTC Chief] before -- the answer to your question is, I don't
know the answer.
The lack of involvement by agencies other than the CIA is particularly troubling, given
gaps in efforts by those agencies to address the threat. For example, while the CIA devoted
resources to Bin Ladin, covert action, and Afghanistan, the FBI focused on investigating funding
for terrorist groups other than al-Qa’ida, even though FBI leadership recognized after the
embassy bombings in August 1998 that al-Qa’ida posed an increasing threat. In some FBI field
offices, there was little appreciation for Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida, including the San Diego office
where FBI agents would discover after September 11 connections between terrorist sympathizers
and at least two hijackers.
Consistent with this evidence of the absence of a comprehensive strategy is a recent
finding by the Inspector General for the Department of Justice that “[t]he FBI has never
performed a comprehensive written assessment of the risk of the terrorist threat facing the United
States": [page 250]
Such an assessment would be useful not only to define the nature, likelihood, and
severity of the threat but also [to] identify intelligence gaps that need to be
addressed. Moreover, . . . comprehensive threat and risk assessments would be
useful in determining where to allocate attention and resources . . . on programs
and initiatives to combat terrorism.
This assessment still had not been completed as recently as FBI Director Mueller’s Joint Inquiry
testimony on October 17, 2002. Likewise, the DCI’s National Intelligence Council never
produced a National Intelligence Estimate on the threat al-Qa’ida and Bin Ladin posed to the
United States.
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[Absent a comprehensive strategy for combating the threat Bin Ladin posed, the DCI
could not be assured that the entire Intelligence Community would focus on the “war.” The
record of the Joint Inquiry also establishes that the DCI was unable or unwilling to enforce
priorities and marshal resources in accordance with his declaration that the Intelligence
Community was “at war.” Despite the DCI’s declaration, the Joint Inquiry heard repeatedly
about CIA intelligence priorities that competed with Bin Ladin for personnel and funds,
including other high priority intelligence targets worldwide].
NSA Director Hayden described to the Joint Inquiry the situation at his agency before
September 11:
We, like everyone else at the table, were stretched thin in September [2001]. The
war against terrorism was our number one priority. We had about five number
one priorities. And we had to balance what we were doing against all of them.
General Hayden also explained that he knew what NSA had to do to target Bin Ladin, but he had
been unable to obtain sufficient Community support and resources:
Given all the other intelligence priorities, it would have been difficult at that time
within the [Intelligence Community] or the Department of Defense to accept the
kind of resource decisions that would have been necessary to make our effort
against the target more robust. NSA was focused heavily on [a range of regional
and global issues]. Our resources, both human and financial, were in decline.
Our [page 251] efforts in 2000 to churn money internally were not accepted by
the Community; its reliance on [signals intelligence] had made it reluctant to give
it up.
The Joint Inquiry record establishes that, even within the CIA, the DCI did not enforce
priorities or marshal resources effectively against the al-Qa’ida threat. Despite the DCI’s
declaration of war against Bin Ladin, there is substantial evidence that the CIA’s Counterterrorist
Center had insufficient personnel before September 11, which had a substantial impact on its
ability to detect and monitor al-Qa’ida. For example, a former CTC Chief testified before the
Joint Inquiry that he did not have the resources to counter the threat Bin Ladin posed:
The three concepts I would like to leave you with are people, the finances, and
operational approvals or political authorities. We didn’t have enough of any of
these before 9/11.
When asked why personnel were not marshaled to CTC to fight Bin Ladin’s network, the former
Chief recalled the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations explaining that there were not enough
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personnel to go around and that CTC was already well supplied with staff compared to other CIA
divisions.
A former Chief of the CTC unit dedicated to Bin Ladin also told us, in a judgment
confirmed by his successor:
We never had enough officers from the Directorate of Operations. The officers
we had were greatly overworked. . . . We also received marginal analytic support
from the Directorate of Intelligence. . . .
In particular, a CIA officer commented on the reasons for the CIA’s failure to follow
through on information about two September 11 hijackers who came to the attention of the
Intelligence Community in January 2000:
How could these misses have occurred?… The CIA operators focused on the
Malaysia meeting [the hijackers attended]; when it was over, they focused on
other, more urgent operations against threats real or assessed. Of the many people
involved, no one detected that the data generated by this operation crossed a
reporting threshold, or, if they did, they assumed that the reporting requirement
had been met elsewhere. . . . They are the kinds of misses that happen when
people – even very competent, dedicated people such as the [page 252] CIA
officers and FBI agents and analysts involved in all aspects of this story – are
simply overwhelmed.
On September 12, 2002, there was a substantial infusion of personnel into the CTC. No
comparable shift of resources occurred in December 1998 after the DCI’s declaration of war, in
December 1999 during the Millennium crisis, or in October 2000 after the attack on USS Cole.
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI George Tenet asserted, “In hindsight, I wish I had
said, ‘Let’s take the whole enterprise down,’ and put 500 more people there sooner.” It is
noteworthy that the DCI’s comments were limited to the CIA and did not encompass the
resources of other agencies within the Intelligence Community.
In response to questions about efforts to obtain additional counterterrorism resources,
DCI Tenet described to the Joint Inquiry his inability, before September 11, to generate
necessary support within the Executive Branch:
[I would ask every] year in [the] budget submission . . . I'm not talking about the
Committee. I'm talking about the front end at OMB and the hurdle you have to
get through to fully fund what we thought we needed to do the job. Senator Kyl
once asked me “How much money are you short?” “I'm short $900 million to $1
billion every year for the next five years” is what I answered. And we told that to
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everybody downtown for as long as anybody would listen and never got to first
base. So you get what you pay for in terms of our ability to be as big and robust
as people - and when I became Director, we had [ ] case officers around the
world. Now we're up to about [ ] and the President's given us the ability to
grow that by another [ ]. And everybody wonders why you can't do all the
things people say you need to do. Well, if you don't pay at the front end, it ain't
going to be there at the back end.
The inability to realign Intelligence Community resources to combat the threat Bin Ladin
posed is in part a direct consequence of the limited authority the DCI enjoys over major portions
of the Intelligence Community. As former Senator Warren Rudman noted in testimony before
the Joint Inquiry: “[E]ighty-five percent of [the Intelligence Community’s budget] is controlled
by the Department of Defense.”
[Page 253]
While the DCI has statutory responsibility spanning the Intelligence Community, his
actual authority is limited to budgets and personnel over which he exercises direct control: the
CIA, the Office of the DCI, and the Community Management Staff. As former House
Intelligence Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton told the Joint Inquiry:
Currently, the Director of Central Intelligence, the leading intelligence figure . . .
control[s] but a small portion of his budget. The DCI has, as I understand it,
enhanced authority after 1997, and that permits him to consolidate the national
intelligence budget, to make some trade-offs, but given the overwhelming weight
of the Defense Department in the process, that is of limited value. . . . [T]he thing
that puzzles me here is why we reject for the Intelligence Community the model
of organization that we follow in every other enterprise in this country. We have
someone at the head who has responsibility and accountability. We accept that.
But for some reason, we reject it when it comes to the Intelligence Community.
In sum, the Joint Inquiry found leadership and structural failings in the Intelligence
Community’s response to the Bin Ladin threat. Proposals to restructure the Community are
examined in another section of this report.
P. The Intelligence Community’s Failure to Establish a Coordinated Domestic Focus
Before September 11, 2001
Throughout the 1990s, the desire and capacity of international terrorist groups,
particularly Islamic radicals, to strike the United States at home increased dramatically. Several
terrorist attacks and disrupted plots in the 1990s underscored the reality of this danger.
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Recognizing the threat, the Intelligence Community warned regularly and repeatedly that al-
Qa’ida and affiliated radicals sought to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
The FBI increased its focus on terrorism in the 1990s, but critics charge that it neither
focused sufficiently on radical Islamist activities in the United States nor properly aligned itself
to counter the growing danger of terrorism domestically. As a result, the critics say, radical
Islamists were able to exploit our freedoms and operate undetected within the United States.
Several senior FBI officials, [page 254] however, contend that countering terrorism at home was
a top priority and that Islamic radicals simply did not present opportunities for the FBI to disrupt
their activities.
[Other Intelligence Community members made only limited contributions to preventing
attacks at home and refrained from activities that could be construed as monitoring American
citizens. The CIA provided general assessments, noting the risk to the United States. NSA
offered some leads related to possible radical activity in the United States, but chose not to
intercept communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries. In
general, the Community as a whole did not come together to close gaps in coverage of
international terrorist activity in the United States].
As is explained in other sections of this report, in the 1990s, it became clear that al-
Qa’ida was a deadly adversary operating in America and able to levy attacks on U.S. soil. The
relative immunity from international terrorism that America had enjoyed for many years was
gone. Al-Qa’ida was also unusual in its dedication, size, organizational structure, and mission.
As former CTC Chief Cofer Black testified, al-Qa’ida became more skilled and attracted more
adherents throughout the 1990s, becoming in essence a small army by the end of the decade.
The Intelligence Community repeatedly warned that al-Qa’ida had both the capability
and the intention to threaten the lives of thousands of Americans and that it wanted to strike
within the United States. This information was conveyed in intelligence reports, broader
intelligence assessments, counterterrorism policy documents, and classified Congressional
testimony. Policymakers from the Clinton and Bush administrations have testified that the
Intelligence Community repeatedly warned them of the danger al-Qa’ida posed and the urgency
of the threat.
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Q. Steps Taken to Fight International Terrorism at Home
The FBI increased its focus on terrorism throughout the 1990s and helped prevent several
major attacks that would have killed many innocent people. According to Director Mueller,
these schemes included a 1993 plot to attack New York City landmarks; a 1995 plot to bomb
U.S. commercial aircraft; [page 255] a 1997 plot to place pipe bombs in New York City
subways; and a plot to bomb the Los Angeles airport in December 1999.
The FBI took several important measures to improve its ability to fight international
terrorism in the United States. Former Director Freeh testified that, during the 1990s, the FBI
more than doubled the number of personnel working counterterrorism, and its counterterrorism
budget more than tripled. In 1998, former Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson
and other FBI leaders recognized that the Bureau was reacting to terrorist attacks rather than
preventing them. They initiated the “MAXCAP05” program to improve the FBI’s ability to
counter terrorism. In 1999, the FBI made counterterrorism a separate Headquarters division,
elevating its importance within the Bureau, and created a separate operational unit focused on
Bin Ladin.
Several current and past senior FBI officials have also testified about Bureau initiated
personnel exchanges with the CIA and the expansion of its Legal Attaché program (stationing
FBI representatives in U.S. Embassies), both of which deepened the FBI’s ability to link
domestic and international threats. Finally, former Director Freeh has testified that Joint
Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) were given increasing prominence throughout the 1990s. The
JTTF model, originally created to improve coordination between the FBI and the New York City
Police Department, was expanded to other cities after the first World Trade Center attack. Over
time, the number of JTTFs increased, improving coordination with state and local officials and
even other elements of the Intelligence Community, as CIA officers joined several task forces.
R. Lack of Focus on the Domestic Threat
In spite of these steps, several critics contend that the Intelligence Community did not
pay sufficient attention to the risk of an attack at home, and that, as a result, the United States
became a sanctuary for radical terrorists:
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• Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft testified that as a result of
American freedoms and civil liberties, “the safest place in the world for a terrorist
[page 256] to be is inside the United States. . . . As long as [terrorists] don’t do
something that trips them up against our laws, they can do pretty much all they
want.”
• Richard Clarke, former NSC Special Coordinator for Counterterrorism, contends
that, with the exception of the New York office, FBI field offices around the
country were “clueless” about counterterrorism and al-Qa’ida and did not make
these targets priorities. Former National Security Advisor Berger testified that the
FBI was not sufficiently focused on counterterrorism before September 11.
• As the Joint Inquiry record confirms, FBI officials working on terrorism faced
competing priorities and the ranks of those focusing on al-Qa’ida were not
sufficiently augmented. Only one FBI strategic analyst focused exclusively on al-
Qa’ida before September 11. The former Chief of the FBI’s International
Terrorism Section stated that he had more than one hundred fewer Special Agents
working on international terrorism on September 11 than he did in August 1998.
• Interviews of FBI New York field office and FBI Headquarters personnel suggest
that the New York Field Office, the office of origin for all major Bin Ladinrelated
investigations, focused primarily on investigating overseas attacks.
• The terrorist threat was viewed through a narrow lens because of the FBI’s casebased
approach. Interviews of FBI personnel show that analysts were sent to
operational units to assist in case work rather than assess data gathered by the
various field offices.
• According to FBI agents, FBI counterterrorism training was extremely limited
before September 11.
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• Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White testified that the FBI often lacked linguists
competent in the languages and dialects spoken by radicals linked to al-Qa’ida.
[Page 257]
• An FBI agent with considerable counterterrorism experience noted that foreign
governments often knew more about radical Islamist activity in the United States
than did the U.S. Government because they saw this activity as a threat to their
own existence.
As is discussed in other sections of this report, the Joint Inquiry record confirms that the
FBI’s decentralized structure and inadequate information technology made the Bureau unable to
correlate the knowledge possessed by its components. The FBI did not gather intelligence from
all its many cases nation-wide to produce an overall assessment of al-Qa’ida’s presence in the
United States. The Joint Inquiry has also found that many FBI field offices had not made
counterterrorism a top priority and they knew little about al-Qa’ida before September 11.
The FBI also did not inform policymakers of the extent of terrorist activity in the United
States, although former Director Freeh stated that he met regularly with senior U.S. Government
officials to discuss counterterrorism. Former National Security Advisor Berger has testified that
the FBI assured him that there was little radical activity in the United States and that this activity
was “covered.” Although the FBI conducted many investigations, these pieces were not fitted
into a larger picture.
FBI officials argue that al-Qa’ida and its sympathizers proved a difficult target in the
United States. Director Mueller contends that the hijackers did little to arouse suspicion in the
United States, staying away from known terrorist sympathizers:
They gave no hint to those around what they were about. They came lawfully.
They lived lawfully. They trained lawfully.
This judgment is corroborated by several senior FBI investigators who point out that, although
“international radical fundamentalists” operate in the United States, “real al-Qa’ida members,”
those involved in planning or carrying out attacks, avoid other radicals and radical mosques as
part of their tradecraft. As is discussed elsewhere in this report, that judgement is open to some
question, based on what is now known about the activities of the hijackers in the United States.
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[Page 258]
Former FBI Director Freeh also noted in an interview that al-Qa’ida operations were
small and were not connected to real “cells,” and the former Assistant Director for the FBI’s
Counterterrorism Division contended that many of the “red flags” now apparent are visible only
in hindsight. Other FBI officials noted in testimony that U.S. protection of civil liberties
precluded the use of intrusive investigative techniques, and Mr. Freeh criticized the idea of using
the FBI preventively by being much more aggressive as a potential risk to a democratic and open
society.
Finally, FBI officials contend that resources were limited, while requirements kept
increasing. Former Director Freeh and the Assistant Director for the Counterterrorism Division
testified that the FBI provided security against terrorism at trials, at special events such as the
Olympics, and for meetings of world leaders, all of which demanded considerable resources. In
addition, cyber threats and weapons of mass destruction demanded FBI attention. Mr. Freeh
testified that, by the end of the decade, “the allocations were insufficient to maintain the critical
growth and priority of the FBI’s counterterrorism program.”
The Joint Inquiry received mixed reports regarding the FBI’s aggressiveness in
penetrating radical Islamic groups in the United States. Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White
testified that FBI sources proved invaluable in the successful prevention of the 1993 attack on
New York landmarks and the prosecution of the first World Trade Center attack that same year.
In addition, the FBI had numerous wiretaps and several human informants in its effort to target
various radical Islamist organizations.
However, an FBI official involved in the investigations of the first World Trade Center
attack and other terrorist plots argued that the FBI made it exceptionally difficult to handle
sources and that this difficulty increased in the 1990s. The agent contended that the FBI did not
want to be associated with persons engaged in questionable activities, even though they can
provide useful information. In addition, he asserted that agent performance ratings downgraded
the importance of developing informants. Director Mueller, however, testified that many
constraints and restrictions had decreased since the 1970s, enabling FBI agents to recruit sources
with few impediments.
[Page 259]
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S. Limited Counterterrorism Contributions by other Intelligence Community Members
The criticisms regarding the FBI’s limited attention to the danger at home reflects a large
gap in the nation’s counterterrorism structure, a failure to focus on how an international terrorist
group might target the United States itself. No agency appears to have been responsible for
regularly assessing the threat to the homeland. In his testimony before the Joint Inquiry, Deputy
Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz asserted that an attack on the United States fell between the
cracks in the U.S. Intelligence Community’s division of labor. He noted that there is “a problem
of where responsibility is assigned.”
The CIA and NSA followed events overseas, and their employees saw their job as
passing relevant threat information to the FBI. Both the CIA and NSA are leery of activity that
suggests they are monitoring U.S. citizens or conducting assessments linked to the activities of
persons in the United States, a task that officials interviewed at these agencies believed belongs
exclusively to the FBI. The FBI, on the other hand, does not have the analytic capacity to
prepare assessments of U.S. vulnerability and relies heavily on the CIA for much of its analysis.
At times, the CIA ignored threat activity linked to the United States, focusing instead on
radical activity overseas. For instance, one CIA officer told the Joint Inquiry in an interview that
the travel of two hijackers to Los Angeles was not important and that he was interested only in
their connection to Yemen.
[A particular failure by NSA and the FBI to coordinate the interception of
communications by al-Qa’ida operatives before September 11 illustrates the gaps between
programs implemented by the members of the Intelligence Community. Both the FBI and NSA
had programs in place to collect al-Qa’ida communications. [
]. The FBI had not identified a significant number of al-Qa’ida cells in the United
States and, thus, had fewer opportunities to use electronic surveillance against these targets].
[While each agency pursued its own collection strategy, neither exerted any effort to
develop a coordinated plan to intercept international communications, particularly those between
the United [page 260] States and foreign countries. We now know that several hijackers
communicated extensively abroad after arriving in the United States and that at least two entered,
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left, and returned to this country. Effective coordination among the Intelligence Community
agencies could have provided potentially important information about hijacker activities and
associations before September 11].
[NSA analyzed several communications from early 2000 involving hijacker Khalid al-
Mihdhar, and a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that was associated with al-
Qa’ida’s activities directed against United States’ interests. [
]. The Intelligence Community did not determine until after
September 11, 2001 that these contacts occurred while al-Mihdhar was in the United States. [
]. Knowledge of al-Mihdhar’s presence in the United States could have
proven crucial to launching an investigation that might have revealed information about him and
his roommate, hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi, who came into contact with Hani Hanjour and other
hijackers at various times in 2001].
[Better coordination between NSA and the FBI might have: improved prospects for
determining that al-Mihdhar was in this country in early 2000; led to the collection of
information concerning international communications by other hijackers; identified radical
suspects; and created leads for the FBI. Both NSA and FBI are authorized to access international
communications between the United States and foreign countries. [
].
[Both agencies had independently learned of the suspected terrorist facility in the Middle
East and knew that it was linked to al-Qa’ida activities directed against United States’ interests.
The FBI informed NSA when it learned of the suspected terrorist facility in August 1998. [Page
261] NSA disseminated several reports of communications involving the suspected terrorist
facility in the Middle East to the FBI, including reports relating to [
]. However, NSA and the FBI did not fully coordinate their efforts, and, as a result, the
opportunity to determine al-Mihdhar’s presence in the United States was lost].
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[
]. [NSA Director Hayden testified before the Joint Inquiry that the collection of
communications between the United States and foreign countries will most likely contain
information about [ ] domestic activities and, thus, [ ] is the responsibility of the FBI,
not NSA. General Hayden contrasted the foreign intelligence value of such intercepts and their
domestic security value. If the former is at stake, he asserted, NSA should intercept the
communications; if the latter, the FBI].
General Hayden, senior NSA managers, NSA legal staff, and NSA analysts made clear in
Joint Inquiry testimony and interviews that they do not want to be perceived as focusing NSA
capabilities against “U.S. persons” in the United States. The Director and his staff were
unanimous that lessons NSA learned as a result of Congressional investigations during the 1970s
should not be forgotten.
[Whatever the merits of this position, it was incumbent on NSA and the FBI to coordinate
so that the full range of intelligence collection weapons in the arsenal of the Intelligence
Community could have been deployed against the terrorist threat. NSA routinely gave the FBI
intelligence reporting, and that reporting contained leads about foreign terrorist-related
communications. In addition, NSA responded to requests from the FBI for such information
[ ]. The FBI used NSA-supplied information to advance its investigative
interests. However, there was no inter-agency procedure in effect to ensure that the FBI made an
informed decision to cover communications that NSA was not covering [
].
[Page 262]
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[Page 262]
PART THREE-TOPICS-THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
I. Counterterrorism Resources
Throughout the Joint Inquiry, Intelligence Community witnesses cited a lack of money and
people to explain why agencies failed to produce more intelligence on al-Qa’ida, did not arrest or
disrupt more terrorists, and were otherwise limited in their response to the growing terrorist threat.
In general, between the end of the Cold War and September 11, 2001, Intelligence
Community resources fell or remained even in constant dollars. As a result, overall capabilities
declined. The CIA, for example, reduced the number of its operations officers in the field. In
addition, the necessary support “tail” for counterterrorism, such as communications and training,
eroded. More generally, depth of coverage and expertise declined as personnel moved from crisis
to crisis or focused only on the highest priorities.
Within the overall intelligence budget, however, spending on counterterrorism increased
considerably during the 1990s. The counterterrorism component of the overall National Foreign
Intelligence Program (NFIP) at least doubled at most agencies in the decade before the September
11 attacks, while funding for other intelligence missions declined or stayed even.
In spite of this increase in counterterrorism resources, the overall decline in Intelligence
Community resources made it difficult to expand the counterterrorism effort significantly to meet
the growing threat. In addition, the overall decline in capabilities hindered the robustness of the
counterterrorism effort. Spending on counterterrorism, and spending on al-Qa’ida in particular,
relied heavily on supplemental appropriations, which carried with it additional disadvantages.
Although details are imprecise, the Joint Inquiry’s research and Intelligence Community
agency estimates show that the number of people working on terrorism rose steadily, despite
overall decreases in Intelligence Community staffing. Nonetheless, the number of people in
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counterterrorism remained small, particularly when compared with post-September 11 levels.
[Page 263]
A. Joint Inquiry Resource Review Methodology and Limitations
To explore resource allocations, the Joint Inquiry reviewed documents, requested
additional information on specific issues, and interviewed knowledgeable personnel. Documents
included formal NFIP submissions and responses; staffing descriptions for major counterterrorism
offices, such as the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at CIA and the FBI’s Counterterrorism
Division; CIA and FBI submissions requesting additional resources; supplemental appropriations
and justifications; National Security Council (NSC)-mandated reviews of counterterrorism
spending throughout the Intelligence Community; Inspector General reports; internal assessments
of the effort against al-Qa’ida; and many other documents.
Because existing documentary information was insufficient, the Joint Inquiry asked the
Intelligence Community for additional information. This included identifying the number of
personnel who worked directly on al-Qa’ida and terrorism; determining and reviewing budget
methodology; calculating full-time-equivalent staffing levels; and ascertaining resources that other
groups received. Interviews related to resources spanned a range of policy officials, Intelligence
Community leaders, and budget officers from the agencies and former OMB officials. Policy
officials at the NSC and Department of Defense (DoD) were asked about the level of resources
provided for intelligence and for counterterrorism.
Based on this review, it appears that the Intelligence Community has only a limited sense
of what is budgeted for missions such as counterterrorism. Agencies submit budget requests for
field agents or spy satellites, for instance, but do not systematically track the missions for which
these capabilities are used. As a result, methodologies vary for estimating how much is spent on
terrorism. Moreover, because Intelligence Community managers do not use this data for day-today
operations, little information was readily available in response to our data requests. The
Intelligence Community cannot quickly determine how or where money is spent, or which
missions its personnel are carrying out.
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Intelligence Community budgeting procedures thus make it difficult to determine whether
counterterrorism as a mission is properly funded. Community components budget by [page 264]
capabilities, such as the number of intelligence officers or satellites, rather than by missions, such
as counterterrorism. Many of these capabilities, however, serve more than one function or
mission, making it difficult to measure resource allocation. For example, a CIA field officer may
collect on the internal politics of a country, a weapons shipment, and terrorism.
According to the CIA’s Associate Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) for Resources,
Plans and Policies, it is difficult to measure how much is spent on counterterrorism and the least
precise area of accounting is human resources. For instance, in the field, personnel might work on
several targets. Requiring them to keep track of the time they spend on particular tasks was
considered, but rejected due to the administrative burden this would impose.
Also, counterterrorism often entails infrastructure costs that cannot be readily allocated to a
particular effort. Before Fiscal Year (FY) 1999, there was little effort to track counterterrorism
spending because counterterrorism was not an office or an expenditure center. Counterterrorism is
not limited to CTC, and other CIA components support the effort. Finally, the CIA’s accounting
system focused on capabilities and resources, not on missions.
In FY 1999, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required that spending on
counterterrorism be tracked. According to the CIA Budget Office’s Director and Deputy Director,
counterterrorism spending was calculated by determining the cost of CTC and specific
counterterrorism operations for other offices. Indirect costs for those offices, like infrastructure
and computers, were not included. To make these calculations, budget officers had to examine
each organization and each program. While efforts are underway to restructure budget procedures
to make data more easily retrievable, it remains difficult to determine what the Intelligence
Community is spending on specific issues and missions. Data must be manually retrieved since
budget systems do not “talk” to human resources systems. The effort is time and labor intensive
and not “repeatable” because different measures are used in different years.
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Even the CIA report on the counterterrorism effort that was provided in response to a
specific Joint Inquiry request required a manual reconstruction of hours worked, which is
imprecise at best. Thus, the Agency could provide only limited information on how its officers
[page 265] divided their time in 1998. A senior NSA official in testimony criticized personnel
accounting procedures that focus only on one product line, such as counterterrorism, noting that
cryptographers, target developers, and other personnel contribute to products even if they are not
formally part of the product lines. However, NSA was unable to provide a procedure to account
for the contributions of these personnel.
As a result of these ambiguities, the Community often does not know how much it spends
on particular efforts, making it difficult to compare funding across missions. Moreover, different
components of the Community use different measures to determine how much they spend on
missions, and there is no universally accepted method to measure indirect costs such as
infrastructure.
In light of these difficulties, the estimates of spending on counterterrorism that follow
should be viewed as rough outlines, not detailed pictures of overall expenditures. Since
counterterrorism is not an explicit budget category for the Intelligence Community, it is difficult to
estimate the percentage of Community capabilities (e.g., field officers or spy satellites) dedicated
to counterterrorism. Community budget officers advised that components of the Community use
different measures to estimate total sums spent on counterterrorism and these measures are not
consistently used within agencies. Finally, indirect costs (such as infrastructure or
communications) are often excluded from these figures.
In addition to this data problem, the White House refused to allow the Intelligence
Community to respond to Joint Inquiry requests for information regarding budgets and budgetary
decision making. Many important resource issues revolved around the question of “Who said
no?” to requests for additional funds for counterterrorism. However, the White House invoked
Executive privilege and refused to permit the Intelligence Community to provide “pre-decisional”
data on budget requests that were made by agencies before they were sent to Congress. The Joint
Inquiry received some of this information indirectly, but large gaps remain. The White House also
invoked Executive privilege in response to requests for information on spending for covert action.
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Wolfowitz testified that his work with the “Rumsfeld Commission” in 1998 concerning the
ballistic missile threat to the United States made clear to him that “resources for intelligence had
been cut too deeply.” DCI Tenet testified that the CIA regularly asked OMB for more money, but
had little success. This led to a shortage of trained agents and other resources.
Former FBI Director Freeh testified that the FBI did not have sufficient resources to
“maintain the critical growth and priority of the FBI’s counterterrorism program.” From 1996 to
1999, Congress increased appropriations substantially, but from 2000 to 2002, requests for
additional funds were denied. As a result, FBI Headquarters units that dealt with Islamic
extremism had insufficient resources. According to Mr. Freeh:
For FY 2000, 2001, and 2002 FBI counterterrorism budgets, I asked for a total of
1,895 Special Agents, analysts, linguists, and others. The final, enacted allocation I
received was 76 people over those three years. . . . Thus, at the most critical time,
the available resources for counterterrorism did not address the known critical
needs.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees typically authorized more for the
Intelligence Community in the years before September 11 than the Congressional appropriators
eventually approved. As Chart 1.1 indicates, only in one fiscal year (FY1996) did the
appropriation exceed the authorization.
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a. Personnel Concerns At CIA
At the request of the Joint Inquiry, the CIA reviewed its counterterrorism effort from 1998
to 2002. This included analysts and operators outside CTC, many of whom made important
contributions but worked only part time on al-Qa’ida. The review resulted in estimates of total
“work-years” (i.e., 2087 labor hours per annum) combining the time expended by analysts
focusing exclusively on al-Qa’ida and those working on related issues, such as terrorist financing.
The results are summarized in Table 2.0.
Table 2.0. Full-Time Equivalent Personnel Dedicated To Counterterrorism At CIA (Excludes
CIA Contractors And Detailees From Other Agencies)
Full-Time Equivalent (Work-years)
for Staff Employees
September 1998 August 2001 July 2002
Total Headquarters and Staff Workyears
Devoted to al-Qa’ida
[ ] [ ] [ ]
Total Headquarters and Staff Workyears
Devoted to Terrorism,
Excluding al-Qa’ida
[ ] [ ] [ ]
Total CTC Effort against terrorism
(both al-Qa’ida and other groups)
[ ] [ ] [ ]
As Table 2.0 indicates, the number of CIA personnel working on al-Qa’ida almost
doubled from the August 1998 East Africa U.S. embassy attacks to September 11, 2001. Before
[page 275] September 11, the numbers of CTC personnel involved in the effort against terrorism
grew, though much of the increase occurred in the field.
Despite these increases, the former Chief of the CTC’s Sunni Extremist Group testified
that “[w]e always needed more,” though he also noted that every other part of the CIA’s
Directorate of Operations (DO) also believed they needed more resources. DCI Tenet testified
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that “we never had enough” personnel working on al-Qa’ida.” Many CTC personnel asserted in
interviews that the number of employees was well below the levels that were necessary, given the
volume of information and the growing nature of the threat. One officer claimed she was told
when appeals for more resources were rejected: “People [will] have to die for them to get
resources.”
The lack of adequate resources meant that CTC personnel responsible for al-Qa’ida were
required to work extremely long hours without relief. This created morale problems, made
retention difficult, and fostered the perception that the DO did not truly support the
counterterrorism mission. As the former Chief of the CTC unit focused on Bin Ladin testified:
We never had enough officers from the [DO]. The officers we had were greatly
overworked. And there was always more senior-level concern for [
] than for providing more officers to protect
the health and welfare of the unit’s officers.
[Despite recognition of the menace al-Qai’da posed and the relatively limited
understanding of its network, the CIA had relatively few analysts working on the problem. At
CTC, the total work-years for terrorism analysis relating to al-Qa’ida inside its analytic group was
only nine in September 1998. According to CIA, nine CTC analysts and eight analysts in the
Directorate of Intelligence were assigned to UBL and al-Qa’ida in 1999. This was only a fraction
of the analytic effort that was to be devoted to al-Qa’ida in July 2002].
b. Personnel Concerns At NSA
[NSA had only a limited number of Arabic linguists. Before September 11, 2001, few
were dedicated full-time to al-Qa’ida, which was only one of many priority counterterrorism [page
276] targets at NSA for which Arabic linguists were needed. For example, those linguists were
also used to support other important regional topics and to translate intelligence originating in
other parts of the world].
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Source: FBI
Chart 1.6 demonstrates that FBI requests for additional personnel were cut or rejected at
times by the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congress.
Sometimes the Bureau received most of its initial request, and its request was exceeded in one
instance. Former OMB officials noted in Joint Inquiry interviews that it was rare for any agency
to receive more than its initial request during a time of budget stringency. They also pointed out
that, while the FBI often did not receive additional personnel for counterterrorism, many other
agencies faced significant cuts.
E. Counterterrorism and the Competition for Scarce Resources
[Page 278]
Because intelligence budgets were shrinking while counterterrorism resources were
steadily growing, senior policy and intelligence officials were reluctant to make the additional cuts
in other programs that would have been necessary to augment counterterrorism programs further.
This would have jeopardized their ability to satisfy other collection priorities within the
Intelligence Community. As Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified:
As I “declared war” against al-Qa’ida in 1998 – in the aftermath of the East Africa
embassy bombings – we were in our fifth year of round-the-clock support to
Operation Southern Watch in Iraq. Just three months earlier, we were embroiled in
answering questions on the India and Pakistan nuclear tests and trying to determine
how we could surge more people to understanding and countering weapons of mass
destruction proliferation. In early 1999, we surged more than 800 analysts and
redirected collection assets from across the Intelligence Community to support the
NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
[Similarly, NSA Director Hayden testified that his energy was focused heavily on a range
of regional and global issues. An FBI budget official told the Joint Inquiry that counterterrorism
was not a priority for Attorney General Ashcroft before September 11, 2001 and that the FBI
faced pressure to make cuts in counterterrorism to satisfy the Attorney General’s other priorities].
The CIA’s Associate Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) for Resources recalled some
attempt to protect counterterrorism in response to the DCI’s declaration of war. However, this did
not lead to any change in training, any dramatic increase in the size of CIA’s Middle East stations,
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or significantly greater numbers of personnel assigned to CTC. A particular problem was that
counterterrorism was a worldwide target, and the DO was closing stations in less strategic areas
[ ] even though al-Qa’ida was active there. This hindered acquisition of information on
terrorism in these areas. In interviews, CIA officials explained that they were reluctant to cut
entire areas of collection, particularly in the field, because senior U.S. Government policymakers
had many requirements for intelligence across a wide variety of issue areas.
[Page 279]
By the late 1990s, Intelligence Community coverage of many issues was exceptionally
slim, and staffing was skeletal. The CIA’s DO cut by almost one-third the number of personnel
deployed overseas, according to the DDO. The Associate DDO for Resources noted that the DO
often was not able to meet its collection goals, in part because an increased focus on
counterterrorism meant that other issues received less attention. At best, the DO could sustain
what it had, but could not invest in the future. Communications and training suffered
tremendously, DO officials reported.
[The Intelligence Community was unable to reduce requests for collection on other
priorities. As NSA Director Hayden testified, “Our efforts in 2000 to churn money internally were
not accepted by the Community; its reliance on [signals intelligence] had made it reluctant to give
it up.” Former CTC Chief Black noted that shifting resources was difficult because the policy
community had other demands for intelligence. He stated in an interview that “[w]e could see it
coming in Afghanistan, but, for example, couldn’t get more Agency slots [within the theater].” In
an interview, the CIA official responsible for the Near East noted that, even after September 11,
no major issues were deleted, despite the imperatives of the war on terrorism].
As a result, Intelligence Community officials contend they had too many priorities for the
resource levels that were available. The NSA Director testified that, “[g]iven all the other
intelligence priorities, it would have been difficult at that time within the [Intelligence
Community] or the Department of Defense to accept the kind of resource decisions that would
have been necessary to make our effort against the target more robust.”
Requests for additional assistance by counterterrorism officials often fell on unsympathetic
ears because of declining resources. Mr. Black noted in an interview that the DDO told him that
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the CTC had more than its share of people when compared with other divisions. According to the
Associate DDO for Resources, every office in the DO asked for more people and the demand for
Arabists was particularly high. In general, requests for additional personnel were small because
managers knew that resources were limited.
[Page 280]
When additional resources did become available, intelligence officials sought to build up
overall capabilities, not just those tied to terrorism. According to the Director of the CIA’s Office
of the Budget, proposals for putting more DO officers in the field, which was a priority for several
years, were not specifically tied to counterterrorism. Any additional field officers would be tasked
according to current requirements.
F. Policymaker Criticism of Intelligence Community Budget Allocations
Several former OMB and NSC officials asserted in interviews that the FBI and CIA
focused too much on protecting overall funding, and not enough on shifting priorities to increase
spending on terrorism. Budget requests specifically tied to counterterrorism were generally
approved, according to former OMB officials. However, most requests were for overall
capabilities, which met with less support.
For example, former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure and
Counterterrorism Richard Clarke criticized the Intelligence Community and the FBI for not
putting aside other priorities to ensure that al-Qa’ida received sufficient coverage. Mr. Clarke
explained in a briefing that only a small part of CIA’s counterterrorism expenditures was devoted
to al-Qa’ida, even though “[w]e in the NSC and we in the OMB asked CIA repeatedly to find
programs of lesser priority, either in the CIA budget or the Intelligence Community budget, to
increase the size of these activities, and they claimed there was no program anywhere in the
intelligence budget where they could get any funding to reprogram.” Former OMB officials
corroborate Clarke’s argument that the Intelligence Community was reluctant to reprogram money
to pay for efforts against al-Qa’ida or otherwise re-align overall spending.
The FBI’s use of counterterrorism resources received particular criticism. The Bureau
assigned fewer than ten tactical analysts and only one strategic analyst to al-Qa’ida before
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September 11. Analysts instead focused on critical infrastructure, case support, and domestic
terrorism. FBI officials told the Joint Inquiry that they focused on investigating overseas
terrorism, rather than on strategic analysis or on radical activity in the United States.
[Page 281]
G. Reliance on Supplemental Funding For Counterterrorism
The President submits to the Congress an annual budget for the Intelligence Community
for the coming fiscal year. The budget request includes funding for ongoing and new programs.
Programs that are part of the President's request are considered programs of record (also called
base programs) and have established and well understood oversight and accountability procedures.
Whereas the President's budget request anticipates funding for current priorities, supplemental
appropriations are a reaction to unforeseen events and are granted in addition to base funding.
The Intelligence Community relied heavily on supplemental appropriations to finance the
effort against terrorism. The Community received large supplementals to fight terrorism
following several major al-Qa’ida attacks and as part of the effort during the Millennium
celebrations. In particular, most of the CIA’s program against al-Qa’ida in later years was funded
from supplemental appropriations. This hindered efforts to sustain and plan counterterrorism
programs.
Chart 1.7 illustrates the critical importance of supplemental funding in the effort against al-
Qa’ida.
[Page 282]
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• Programs within the DO take years to develop and cannot be “surged” or cut from year to
year.
Despite these problems, the Intelligence Community sought additional supplementals to
sustain its counterterrorism effort, rather than alter program funds in the President’s budget
request. DO officials reportedly did not change overall funding patterns because they did not want
to lose expertise or capabilities in other areas; they were confident that supplemental funding
would be appropriated to sustain their effort; and the overall funding was largely for “target
neutral” infrastructure, such as communications, that would also hinder the effort against al-Qa’ida
if cut.
The Director of CIA’s Office of the Budget noted that, if a supplemental is expected,
program managers can plan without changing their base. In his judgment, from late 1998 through
2001, managers reasonably expected supplementals (though the amount was never fixed) and thus
could do some planning. If supplemental funding was not appropriated, base funding could have
been adjusted to spend more on al-Qa’ida.
H. How Easily Can Money Be Moved?
[The Intelligence Community has limited flexibility in redistributing resources in response
to crises. Reallocation can occur within budget categories. For example, operational activities
relating to both a foreign country and counterterrorism may fall into “agent operations” or
“analysis” and tradeoffs between them are easier to make. According to a senior Community
Management Staff (CMS) budget official, there is considerable latitude in re-allocating small
sums, though what counts as “small” varies across agencies. To re-allocate larger amounts,
approval must be obtained from the Congressional Intelligence Committees].
According to the CMS budget official, CMS tries to influence the budget and agency
spending, but has limited authority. CMS tries to use a “bully pulpit” and takes matters up with
the DCI when intelligence components do not comply with CMS directives. CMS also has some
leverage in these matters because of its influence over future budget proposals. [Page 284]
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However, CMS exerts only limited control over the expenditure process. Unlike agency
comptrollers, CMS cannot withhold money from agencies that do not comply with its directives.
Agencies may also appeal to the DCI to overturn CMS guidance or inform Congressional staff
about their dissatisfaction. The interests of the Secretary of Defense also matter tremendously in
the appropriations process, as the Secretary controls the vast majority of the Intelligence
Community budget. As a result, CMS is often able to influence only the margins of the process.
Within agencies, resource realignment is also restricted, according to the CIA’s Budget
Director. Resources cannot be taken out of programs that OMB and Congress have “fenced,” i.e.,
dedicated for only specified activities. National Security Council-mandated [ ]
program money is always fenced. To move fenced money, budget office must negotiate with the
Congress, CMS, OMB, and others. In addition, personnel services funds cannot be reallocated to
pay for non-personnel services costs.
In light of these limits, there has been a call for increasing the budget authority of
Intelligence Community managers. For instance, former National Security Advisor Berger
testified: “I believe in strengthening the DCI’s program to plan, program, and budget for
intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination will permit much more effective integration of
our intelligence priorities and efforts, including better concentration on counterterrorism.” And
former FBI Director Freeh criticized the budget process as taking away discretion from the FBI
Director and making it difficult to transfer money to priorities such as terrorism.
II. Foreign Liaison
Al-Qa’ida is engaged in a worldwide struggle against the United States and its allies.
Those responsible for the September 11 plot, for example, became radicalized in Germany, held
meetings in Malaysia, and received funds channeled through the United Arab Emirates. The
September 11 attack is only one example of the global scope of al-Qa’ida’s activities. The group
has conducted or supported attacks not only in America, but also in the Balkans, the Caucasus,
[page 285] France, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Tanzania, Tunisia,
Uzbekistan, Yemen, and dozens of other countries.
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The Intelligence Community recognized early on that an effective U.S. response to al-
Qa’ida must be global and that foreign intelligence and security services (“liaison services”)
would be important allies in fighting terrorism. Improving ties to liaison services became
increasingly important for the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other agencies, and their efforts helped make
foreign countries more effective partners and more willing to assist U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
[Several problems remained, however, some of which are inherent to bilateral
relationships. CIA’s liaison partners vary in competence and commitment. Others are unwilling
to share information and some include individuals believed to have cooperated with terrorist
groups. At times, U.S. policies and procedures also hinder successful liaison].
A. Efforts to Improve Foreign Liaison
[In the mid-1990s, CIA counterterrorism officials recognized that unilateral CIA
operations alone were not sufficient in penetrating and countering terrorist organizations. For
instance, difficulties in unilaterally penetrating [ ] extremist groups necessitated
increased cooperation with liaison services, according to a former CTC Chief. To this end, CIA,
NSA, and other Intelligence Community agencies strengthened their liaison relationships with
existing partners and forged new relationships to fight al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups.
Throughout the 1990s, the FBI also greatly expanded its efforts to work with foreign
governments against terrorism. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified that he met with dozens
of foreign leaders to build a global counterterrorism network and greatly expanded the Bureau’s
presence overseas through its Legal Attache (“Legat”) program. As of September 11, 2001, the
FBI had agents assigned to 44 U.S. embassies. As Mr. Freeh explained, the FBI began to position
itself around the globe “in places that matter in the fight against terrorism,” particularly in the
Middle East, as Legats were assigned to Cairo, Islamabad, Tel Aviv, Ankara, [page 286]
Riyadh, and other sites. As a result, he added, the FBI was often able to expedite access to
witnesses and create additional channels for information about terrorism.
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[Liaison relationships within a country often vary by agency. For instance, interviews the
Joint Inquiry conducted in [
]. Arrangements also vary by location. For example, FBI Legats often have established
relationships with liaison services in Europe, but they often coordinate efforts through CIA in
certain countries of counterterrorism interest].
[The struggle against al-Qa’ida led U.S. intelligence agencies to work closely with liaison
services that were not major partners during the Cold War. The Joint Inquiry received testimony
and responses from U.S. Government officials that several foreign liaison services deserved praise
for their assistance to the United States. [
].
[In the developing world, many liaison services are limited in resources, training and
[ ], according to CIA officers, and the U.S. may be able to augment their
capabilities greatly. According to Joint Inquiry interviews in [ ], for example, the U.S. has
helped pay for and train the [ ], to the point that the [ ] require personnel to take
several CIA- taught courses in order to rise above the rank of Major. The CIA support has
improved [ ] capabilities and has led to several joint efforts against terrorism, according
to the Chief of CIA’s Near East Division].
[The CIA has also developed a program that CIA personnel told the Joint Inquiry makes
liaison services [page 287] better able and more willing to pursue terrorist groups].
B. Benefits Of Foreign Liaison
[The United States relies heavily on liaison services in the fight against terrorism because
they offer many critical advantages. A former CTC Chief described liaison services as a “force
], language skills and cultural backgrounds enable multiplier.” Their [
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them to work more effectively against local terrorism than can most American intelligence officers
[ ]. Some liaison services are highly skilled and have operated against these targets for
decades].
Liaison services can also provide considerable assistance in human intelligence operations
that goes beyond mere information sharing. [
].
In addition, liaison services have legal jurisdiction in their own countries, which they used
before September 11 to support a number of U.S. Government operations against terrorist suspects
and otherwise disrupt terrorist activities. Liaison services, particularly those outside the West, can
operate more freely in accordance with laws and procedures often less restrictive than those of
liberal democracies. [
].
[Page 288]
Liaison operations are often necessary because of the paucity of unilateral Intelligence
Community sources, according to CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South
Asia. This is especially so in remote or hostile parts of the world where U.S. access is limited.
[
].
Liaison services are also important for [
].
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C. Disadvantages of Relying on Foreign Liaison Services
[Despite the many advantages of working with foreign liaison services, this approach has
several limitations that were manifest before September 11. These limitations can hinder
cooperation and possibly be exploited by terrorists].
[On some occasions, individuals in some liaison services are believed to have cooperated
with terrorist groups, [
]. In addition,
the former Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit testified that [
].
Governments can also be highly sensitive about information that embarrasses them or
implicates their citizens in terrorism. The former Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit testified that [
[page 289]
].
Problems are common even with governments that have long been close partners of the
United States. Many intelligence services are reluctant to share information. Even the most
cooperative services withhold information to protect sources and methods and for other reasons.
Several European governments were described as indifferent to the threat al-Qa’ida posed before
September 11, while others faced legal restrictions that impeded their ability to disrupt terrorist
cells.
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the Joint Inquiry that European
governments (except Britain) did not share the U.S. assessment of the al-Qa’ida threat. Joint
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Inquiry interviews in Germany showed that the Germans did not see Islamist groups as a
significant threat to their interests before September 11. Deputy National Security Advisor Steve
Hadley also noted that European support varied according to the perceived threat.
[The former Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit testified that some European services had
minimal interest in the Bin Ladin target and offered little assistance. [
].” Bin Ladin also was not a priority target for the [
] until after September 11, according to Joint Inquiry interviews abroad].
Several services are apparently excessively bureaucratic. Interviews in Germany revealed
that the intelligence apparatus was deliberately fragmented to make abuses of power more
difficult. This fragmentation also made coordination and information sharing more difficult.
Furthermore, before September 11, it was not illegal to be a member of foreign terrorist
organizations in Germany or to raise funds for them. The Assistant Director for the FBI’s
[page 290] Counterterrorism Division noted that “the Germans were so restrictive prior to 9/11
with their Constitution about what they can and cannot do, that they could do very little.”
[Finally, [ ] liaison partners have their own equities to consider, and this must
be taken into account when working with them and in evaluating information received from them.
Some services will try to take advantage of joint operations to seek more information [
].
D. Liaison Service Problems with the United States
An array of factors can often hinder the degree of liaison services cooperation. Many of
these are outside the control of the Intelligence Community.
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Leaks of information revealing a liaison service’s role in assisting the United States are a
source of frustration cited by almost every expert the Joint Inquiry interviewed. At times, leaks
are the result of procedures regarding warnings. For example, the U.S. has issued warnings based
on information from liaison services – warnings required by U.S. policies – even though this
angered the liaison service by potentially revealing its sources. More commonly, leaks are
unauthorized, serve no policy purpose and simply anger liaison services whose sources and
methods may be compromised.
[Leaks also hinder cooperation with governments that prefer to minimize public ties to the
U.S., and particularly to U.S. intelligence. For example, one foreign government is sensitive to
excessive public connections with the United States because they damage its reputation in the area
and provide fuel for criticism to [ ] rivals, according to a U.S. Government official].
Interviews with Intelligence Community officials suggest a range of additional problems.
The U.S. can easily overwhelm a small liaison service with many demands. For instance, CIA
Station personnel in [ ] maintain that one of their principal responsibilities is to decide on the
priorities for requests for information so that the [ ] do not receive too many. U.S. laws,
[page 291] particularly those that attach the death penalty to crimes, make it difficult for several
governments to extradite terrorist suspects to, or provide information in support of prosecutions
by, the U.S. This has hindered cooperation in the investigations of Zacarias Moussaoui and other
suspects. Finally, although intelligence cooperation is often isolated from shifts in bilateral
diplomacy, poor bilateral relations can affect intelligence liaison relations in negative ways.
E. Coordination of Foreign Liaison
[Most Intelligence Community officials operating overseas coordinate liaison relations
well with DCI representatives who are responsible for intelligence relations with foreign
governments. U.S. Ambassadors are always briefed, according to the Chief of the CIA’s [
]. He emphasized that the primary instruction given to the DCI representatives by CIA is:
“Recruit the U.S. Ambassador first,” that is, gain the good will of the Ambassador. Interviews
with several Ambassadors indicate that, in general, the Intelligence Community coordinates well
with U.S. embassies].
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Nonetheless, there are challenges to coordinating relations with liaison services. For
instance, liaison on counterterrorism has not always been integrated into overall U.S. regional
goals. Senior policy makers told the Joint Inquiry that, before September 11, they had not always
succeeded in incorporating the struggle against al-Qa’ida into U.S. policy toward key states [
]. As a result, other issues often diverted attention from terrorism.
There are also many channels through different agencies for U.S. Government liaison with
foreign governments. These range from CIA and FBI to the Agriculture and Commerce
Departments. As former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger noted, U.S. ambassadors often
lack control over these relationships and, consequently, the U.S. Government does not always
properly consider the priorities of all the requests it makes of foreign governments.
Mr. Clarke also noted that there exists a “gentleman’s agreement” with friendly liaison
services: “you don’t spy in the United States and we don’t spy in your country.” In his view,
[page 292] however, this arrangement can put the U.S. at “some disadvantage when [foreign
liaison services] are not terribly aggressive on our behalf.”
[This disadvantage was compounded by the decision at the end of the Cold War to cut CIA
presence in some Western countries dramatically. [
].
[The CIA is responsible for coordinating the overall intelligence liaison relationship, but
FBI Legats and Defense Department attachés do not need CIA permission to interact with their
local partners when, for example, a U.S. citizen overseas is involved in terrorism. Weaknesses in
inter-agency coordination overseas can also reflect lack of coordination within the United States.
For example, during Joint Inquiry interviews abroad, it was determined that a joint planning
meeting to target al-Qa’ida leader [ ], which was to include CIA officers
and their foreign liaison service counterparts, did not include the local FBI Legat. In fact, he was
not aware of the meeting, although the Bureau plays a major role in tracking [ ]. In
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general, however, CIA and FBI have come to learn more about each other’s procedures and
requirements and, as a result, have improved cooperation overseas].
F. Additional Challenges for the FBI Overseas
The FBI’s Legat program, which grew rapidly in the 1990s and remains relatively new,
faces several additional problems. FBI agents reported to the Joint Inquiry that some offices were
responsible for too large an area or for too many countries. As a result, they have little
opportunity for the face-to-face meetings with foreign counterparts that are integral to establishing
liaison relationships. In addition, Legats have limited funding for interaction with foreign
counterparts. One Legat also noted that most FBI agents in the United States have little
understanding of how the program works and, therefore, do not use it effectively.
[Page 293]
In addition, the Joint Inquiry was told in interviews that FBI Headquarters has often been
slow in responding to Legat requests for support or information. The FBI Headquarters unit that
supports the Legat program appears to be understaffed, since it has the same number of staff to
support 45 Legat offices as it did when there were only 20 such offices.
G. Progress After September 11
[The Joint Inquiry did not delve deeply into how liaison relationships changed after the
September 11 attacks. However, almost all interviews and testimony that dealt with this subject
indicated that cooperation had improved dramatically, particularly in regard to al-Qa’ida. The
immediacy and magnitude of the threat impressed governments worldwide. In addition, increased
U.S. attention to terrorism increased pressure on other governments to cooperate, and the amount
of shared intelligence reporting has greatly increased, as have other types of cooperation, even
with some previously recalcitrant or hostile countries [ ].
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III. Covert Action and Military Operations Against Bin Ladin
[The Joint Inquiry examined whether the Intelligence Community might have missed
opportunities to disrupt the September 11 attacks through covert action or military operations
directed against Usama Bin Ladin. To answer that question, the Joint Inquiry reviewed covert
action documents and interviewed twenty-six persons with first-hand knowledge of U.S. efforts to
capture Bin Ladin before September 11. The review included documents authorizing covert action
[
], and information related to 13 military options formulated by the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff in late 2000. Interviews included CIA personnel involved in covert action to
capture Bin Ladin and his principal lieutenants; senior military officers responsible for planning
contingency operations; [
]; senior CIA and NSC officials and senior military officers involved in
[page 294] authorizing and implementing covert action and the use of military force; and State
Department counterterrorism officials.
A. Background
The National Security Act of 1947, as amended, defines “covert action” as “activities of
the United States Government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad,
where it is intended that the role of the United States Government will not be apparent or
acknowledged publicly.” Covert action does not include activities whose primary purpose is to
acquire intelligence; traditional diplomatic or military activities; traditional law enforcement
activities; or routine support to these activities or the activities of other government agencies
abroad.
[In spring 1986, President Reagan signed a directive authorizing CIA to conduct certain
counterterrorism operations abroad]. [
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].
[
, [page 295]
]. All actions authorized [ ] must be
important to U.S. national security as established in the relevant Presidential Finding. [
]:
[
].
[
].
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The U.S. military does not require [
]. Thus, a traditional military operation, such as a strike by cruise missile or special
operations forces, to kill or capture Bin Ladin would require only an order from the President.
B. Authorities to Conduct Covert Action Against Bin Ladin
[Page 296]
[Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified that “from August 1998 on, . . .
[President Clinton] authorized a series of overt and covert actions to try to get Bin Ladin and his
principal lieutenants.” [
]:
[
].
[
]:
• [
];
• [
];
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• [
]; and
[Page 297]
• [
].
According to CIA personnel and NSC officials interviewed by the Joint Inquiry, Bin Ladin
and his associates were expected to resist capture attempts. [
].
The President also ordered the U.S. Navy to fire cruise missiles at targets in Sudan and
Afghanistan. Some of the missiles were aimed at a location where Bin Ladin was thought to be,
and the Joint Inquiry was told that one of the objectives of the strike was to kill Bin Ladin.
[
]. The NSC was considering [ ] operations: to capture Bin Ladin and
a U.S. Navy cruise missile strike to kill him. According to a former Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin
unit, the NSC decided against a cruise missile strike because of concerns about collateral damage
to a nearby mosque.
NSC and CIA personnel alike have said that [
]. They differ in their interpretation [ ],
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however. [
[page 298]
].
[Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified to the Joint Inquiry on
September 19, 2002 that, from the time of the East Africa U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998, the
U.S. Government was:
. . . embarked [on] an very intense effort to get Bin Ladin, to get his lieutenants,
through both overt and covert means. . . . We were involved – at that point, our
intense focus was to get Bin Ladin, to get his key lieutenants. The President
conferred a number of authorities on the Intelligence Community for that purpose.
Senator Shelby: By “get him,” that meant kill him if you had to, capture him or kill
him?
Mr. Berger: I don’t know what I can say in this hearing, but capture and kill. . . .
There was no question that the cruise missiles were not trying to capture him. They
were not law enforcement techniques. . . .”]
[ ]. Mr. Berger noted that the Administration was openly and
simultaneously trying to kill Bin Ladin with cruise missiles. Mr. Clarke also told the Joint Inquiry
in June 2002 that “we wanted to make clear to the people in the field that we preferred arrest, but
we recognized that that probably wasn’t going to be possible.” [
].
[Later in the September 19, 2002 hearing, Mr. Berger and former National Security
Advisor Brent Scowcroft were asked whether the Executive Order 12333 prohibition on
assassinations should be reconsidered. They responded:
Mr. Scowcroft: . . . it gets us into all kinds of complications and drawing legalistic
lines. One of the things that we found [in connection with a 1989 coup attempt in
Panama] is that CIA personnel who were – I wouldn’t say involved, but who knew
about it and were meeting with the coup plotters and so on, were concerned about
being accessories; because if you mount a coup, . . . it is very likely there are going
to be some people killed.
Mr. Berger: . . . we received rulings from the Department of Justice that the
Executive Order did not prohibit our ability . . . to try to kill Bin Ladin, because it
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did not apply to situations in which you are acting in self-defense or you are acting
against command and control targets against an enemy, which he certainly was. . . .
[A]s a practical matter, it didn’t stop us from doing anything].
. . . .
Senator Bayh: . . . we have heard from some of [those] who deal in these kinds of
areas. They are pretty reluctant, absent an express authorization, to wander too far
down that path for fear of having the wrong legal interpretation and someday being
faced with a lawyer who has a different analysis of some kind. . . .
Mr. Berger: They certainly would have to have clarity from the President of the
United States or something like that.]
[
]:
• “[
].”
• “[
].
[page 299] [
].
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• “[
].”
• “[
].”
• “[
].”
As former National Security Advisor Berger noted in his interview, “We do not have a rogue
CIA.”
While NSC officials maintained that [
]. CIA
personnel interviewed by the Joint Inquiry explained that [
[page 300]
].
[
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]:
• [
]:
• [
]; and
• [
].”
[
[page 301]
].
[
286
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].
[
].
[
[Page 302]
]:
[
].
. . . .
[
].
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[
].
[
].
[
].
[Page 303]
[
].
According to individuals interviewed by the Joint Inquiry, [
]. This idea reflects a tension between two views of counterterrorist efforts.
One view is that the problem is primarily a law enforcement matter, with prosecutions and
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convictions as the ultimate goal, while the other is that we are at war and terrorists are combatants
in a foreign army who may be detained until the end of the conflict.
[
]. The White House refused to allow the Joint Inquiry to
review the relevant documents, but [
]:
[
].
[
[Page 304]
].
[Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified to the Joint Inquiry on September
19, 2002 that:
The National Security Council . . . called for new proposals [in March 2001] on a
strategy that would be more aggressive against al-Qa’ida. The first deputies
meeting, which is the first decision making body in the administration, met on the
30th of April and set off on a trail of initiatives to include financing, getting at
financing, to get at increased authorities for the Central Intelligence Agency, sharp
end things that the military was asked to do. . . . So, from March through about
August, we were preparing a national security Presidential directive, and it was
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distributed on August 13 to the principals for their final comments. And then, of
course, we had the events of September 11. . .].
[
]:
• [
].
• [
].
The Joint Inquiry was told [
]. The Joint Inquiry was not able to
determine whether senior U.S. Government policymakers or the President reviewed them before
that date.
Within the Congress, distribution of [ ] was limited to the
Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, the Minority Leaders of the [page 305] House
and Senate, and the Chairs and Ranking Minority members of the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees. Congress did nor receive [ ].
Senior U.S. military officers involved in planning military operations against Bin Ladin
have told Joint Inquiry staff that there were no documents [ ] authorizing the
U.S. military to carry out clandestine operations against Bin Ladin. Nor were there efforts to draft
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such documents, because they were not deemed necessary. However, Presidential approval would
have been required for military operations.
C. Additional Operational Challenges and Constraints
In interviews, CTC personnel pointed out numerous operational challenges and constraints
they faced in attempting to capture [ ] Bin Ladin and his lieutenants:
• Bin Ladin resided in a country suspicious of foreigners and embroiled in a civil war.
Thus, determining his whereabouts was exceptionally difficult and dangerous,
especially for Western intelligence officers.
• Bin Ladin had a number of enemies, any one of whom might attempt to kill him. As a
result, when he traveled inside Afghanistan, he was always in the company of a large
security detail. Some of his bodyguards were “hardened killers” who had fought with
Bin Ladin against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
• [
]. Moreover,
Bin Ladin and his associates were careful not to reveal operational information [
].
[Page 306]
• [
]; and
• The U.S. had limited access to Afghanistan and the countries near it, [
].
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In interviews with the Joint Inquiry, a former CTC Chief and a former Chief of the [
] Extremist Group also described constraints on CIA actions:
• The CIA could not violate the Constitution, U.S. law, or human rights, including Bin
Ladin’s, during these operations;
• The operations could not violate the prohibition on assassinations in Executive Order
12333;
• [
];
• [
];
• The CIA was not authorized to upset the political balance in Afghanistan; and
• The U.S. military did not support putting U.S. “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan.
[Page 306]
[In the September 12, 2002 hearing, a CIA official also spoke of the constraints he faced
in staging covert action against Bin Ladin:
[
].
In a Joint Inquiry interview, a former CTC Chief also offered his opinion that firing cruise missiles
based on a single strand of human intelligence was not advisable since the risk of missing Bin
Ladin or inflicting excessive collateral damage outweighed the chances of success.
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In a statement to the Joint Inquiry, a former CTC Chief cited the “international political
context of this period” as presenting “an operational environment with major impediments that
CIA constantly fought to overcome”:
• “The U.S. Government had no official presence in Afghanistan, and relations with the
Taliban were seriously strained. Both of these factors made it difficult to get access to
Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida personnel.”
• “U.S. policy stopped short of replacing the Taliban regime or providing direct support
to others for the specific purpose of overthrowing the Taliban. These realities limited
our ability to exert pressure on Bin Ladin.”
• “During this period, the Taliban gradually gained control over most of Afghanistan,
increasingly limiting the opposition’s capabilities and room to maneuver.”
[Page 308]
• “U.S. relations with Pakistan, the principal access point to Afghanistan, were strained
due to the nuclear tests of 1998 and the military coup in Islamabad in 1999.”
He also noted other factors that complicated CIA operations against Bin Ladin:
[
].
The former CTC Chief explained that these challenges and operational constraints, [
], left virtually no room to craft an executable operation. In
an interview with the Joint Inquiry, CIA’s Deputy Director for Operations also noted that CIA
[ ] capabilities had “atrophied” in the years preceding the
September 11 attacks.
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General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Joint Staff’s
current Director of Operations pointed to two additional constraints on military operations against
Bin Ladin. The first was the absence of “actionable” intelligence on Bin Ladin’s whereabouts: the
Intelligence Community never provided a location and time at which a missile strike could be
launched. The second was the absence of a declaration of war or some similar declaration
indicating that the Taliban was a formal enemy. In General Shelton’s view, the absence of such a
declaration precluded the United States from sending U.S. soldiers into Afghanistan to capture or
kill Bin Ladin. He believes that solving the Afghanistan problem before September 11 required
the full range of diplomatic, economic, and military tools available to the U.S. Government.
[Page 309]
In contrast, the Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit through June 1999, told the Joint Inquiry:
[
].
A former CTC Chief had a somewhat different view of intelligence support to the military during
his tenure [ ]:
[The military has] exacting criteria that intelligence needs, that needs to be met
before they can launch an operation. [
].
Another Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit had yet another view on actionable intelligence:
I think our swift victory . . . after September 11th – underscores the fact that we had
an enormous body of actionable intelligence on Bin Ladin’s terrorist infrastructure.
[
].
D. CIA Covert Action Against Bin Ladin [ ]
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[The Joint Inquiry also became aware of the existence of [
]. The White House declined to provide access, but the Joint Inquiry was
able to develop some information about their content.
[Page 310]
Notwithstanding the extensive efforts [ ] to guide CIA covert action against Bin
Ladin, actual efforts to implement covert action and military operations against him in
Afghanistan before September 11 were very limited. A central element in these efforts was the
CTC unit established in 1996 to focus exclusively on Bin Ladin and his terrorist network.
Initially, the unit was created to examine terrorist financing and to determine whether Bin Ladin
posed a significant threat. [
].
[
]. In February 1998,
Bin Ladin issued his public fatwa authorizing attacks on American civilians and military personnel
anywhere in the world. His statement and subsequent indictment in the United States added
urgency to the effort to formulate a covert action plan against him. [
].
[
].
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[
[page
311]
].
[
].
[
].
[
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[Page 312]
]:
[
].
[
] [The President ordered the U.S. Navy on August 20, 1998 to launch
cruise missiles against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. This is the only instance the Joint
Inquiry has been able to identify in which the CIA or U.S. military carried out an operation
directly against Bin Ladin before September 11].
According to the President’s public statements at the time, the cruise missile strikes were
launched in self-defense against groups that had played key roles in the embassy bombings, had
executed earlier attacks against Americans, were planning to launch additional attacks, and were
attempting to obtain chemical weapons. All personnel interviewed on this matter by the Joint
Inquiry concur that one objective of the strikes in Afghanistan was to kill Bin Ladin.
[
]:
• [
]. [Page 313]
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• [
].
• [
].
[
].
In the summer and fall of 1999, following the arrival of a new Chief of CTC and a new
Chief of the Bin Ladin unit, CTC reviewed its covert action program against Bin Ladin and
developed “The Plan.” This review was propelled by the DCI’s December 1998 memorandum
declaring “war” against Bin Ladin. The Plan that resulted in September 1999 contained five main
elements, with an estimate of each element’s prospects of success:
• [
].
• [
].
[Page 314]
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• [
].
• [
].
A CIA September 1999 briefing presentation outlining these elements concluded:
[The Bin Ladin unit] cannot implement “The Plan” without additional resources. . .
. Without additional resources, we will continue to be defense [sic]. . .not
offensive. . . . [The Chief of the CTC is] working on resource issue.
[
].” In CTC’s view, although there was “lots of desire at the working
level,” there was “reluctance at the political level,” and it was “unlikely that JSOC will ever
deploy under current circumstances.”
A [ ] CIA document mentions another option to capture Bin Ladin [
[Page
315][
].
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In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the DCI acknowledged impediments to “The Plan”:
U.S. policy stopped short of replacing the Taliban regime, limiting the ability of the
U.S. Government to exert pressure on Bin Ladin. U.S. relations with Pakistan, the
principal access point to Afghanistan were strained by the Pakistani nuclear tests in
1998 and the military coup in 1999. The U.S. Government had no official presence
in Afghanistan, and relations with the Taliban were seriously strained. Both factors
made it more difficult to gain access to Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida personnel.
Over time, CTC officers engaged in these covert action efforts concluded that “getting Bin
Ladin” required dealing with the Taliban regime first. They believed that the different means of
capturing Bin Ladin were unlikely to succeed as long as the Taliban continued to provide Bin
Ladin a safehaven. In addition, CIA officers recognized that the entire al-Qa’ida apparatus in
Afghanistan, not just Bin Ladin, was a problem. Thus, placing pressure on the Taliban to expel
Bin Ladin and end its support for terrorism was necessary.
[
]. [The Joint Inquiry was denied access to that document].
While it appears that CIA was not able to mount a single operation against Bin Ladin
directly before September 11, CIA [
] were key factors in
U.S. military execution of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan beginning in October
2001. The DCI alluded to this in his testimony before the Joint Inquiry on June 18-19, 2002.
[Page 316]
E. [Use of [ ] against Bin Ladin
[In June 2002, then-Presidential Advisor for Cybersecurity Richard Clarke told a
Congressional forum examining technology that can be used to combat terrorism:
Because of that development, which was telescoped and done very quickly in six
months instead of three years, we were able to launch [ ] into
Afghanistan last September].
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[Former National Security Advisor Berger testified that the President demanded more
information on Bin Ladin’s location in 2000:
We were continually looking at what we were doing, looking at new techniques,
looking at new steps we could take. In the fall – in February of 2000, for example,
I sent a memo to President Clinton outlining what we were doing. And he wrote
back, this is not satisfactory. It was particularly related to how you find this guy.
We have got to do more. And that prompted us to work with the Intelligence
Community and the military on a new technique for detecting Bin Ladin. . . .
Actually it was very promising as a way of determining where he would be if we
had one strand of human intelligence].
[
].
[
]:
[
].
[Page 317]
[
].
[
301
TOP SECRET
TOP SECRET
].
[
].
[
].
[
].
[Page 318]
[
302
TOP SECRET
TOP SECRET
]:
[
].
[Beginning in 2001, the U.S. Government embarked on an effort to develop [
].
[
].
[
]
[Page 319]
F. Use of U.S. Military Force Against Bin Ladin
According to interviews of current and retired senior military officers and DoD civilians
about U.S. military options for capturing or killing Bin Ladin, cruise missile strikes in August
1998, following the embassy bombings in East Africa, were the only use of U.S. military force
against Bin Ladin or his terrorist network in Afghanistan prior to September 11, 2001. On [ ]
occasions in [ ], President Clinton and his advisors contemplated additional
missile strikes against Bin Ladin.
• [
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].
• [
].
• [
[page 320]
].
In each situation, the Intelligence Community lacked “actionable intelligence” for a
capture or kill operation by military means. Mr. Clarke described the problem:
The Clinton Administration considered additional military strikes against Afghanistan on [
] occasions [
]. We now know that on only one of those [ ]
occasions was the intelligence correct.
[Actionable intelligence was particularly difficult to obtain since killing or capturing Bin
Ladin required knowing where he would be when cruise missiles arrived at the target area, not
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where he had been when they were launched. Several senior CIA officers who were interviewed,
including the Deputy Director for Operations, two former CTC Chiefs, a former Chief of CTC’s
Bin Ladin unit, and a [
]. Thus, CIA’s general reluctance to rely on a single source of information or recommend
missile launches based on human intelligence alone was compounded by concerns about the
reliability of this information. In addition, policymakers sought information on the presence of
non-combatants and property that might be damaged in a strike].
[The interviewees also mentioned contingency plans to launch additional cruise missile
strikes at Bin Ladin had the Intelligence Community been able to obtain precise information on his
location. [Page 321] As former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger explained to the Joint
Inquiry:
Unfortunately, after August 1998, we never again had actionable intelligence
information reliable enough to warrant another attack against Bin Ladin or his key
lieutenants. If we had, President Clinton would have given the order. The
President ordered two submarines loaded with cruise missiles on perpetual
deployment off the coast of Pakistan for that very purpose. We also were engaged
in a number of covert efforts I cannot discuss in this unclassified format].
According to a CIA document, in December 1999, the U.S. Special Operations Command
had been tasked to begin planning and was “working closely” with CIA. The Joint Inquiry did not
identify any operations that came about as a result of this planning.
In an interview with the Joint Inquiry, General Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff explained the military options beyond cruise missile strikes. In the fall of 2000, he
prepared a paper containing 12 or 13 options for using military force against Bin Ladin. Several
options reportedly involved “U.S. boots on the ground” in Afghanistan and were aimed at
capturing Bin Ladin, [ ]. General Shelton, along with
Secretary of Defense William Cohen, discussed these options with National Security Advisor
Berger in late 2000, after Mr. Berger had expressed impatience with U.S. efforts to get Bin Ladin.
The military Joint Staff’s Director of Operations described the military options paper as an effort
to “educate” the National Security Advisor about the “extraordinary complexity of the ‘boots-onthe-
ground’ options.” According to this officer, the military did not receive any tasking to develop
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these options further. The Joint Inquiry requested a copy of both the paper detailing the military
options as well as the military Joint Staff’s pre-September 11 strategic plan for Afghanistan that is
discussed below. The NSC denied that request, although a senior officer in the military Joint Staff
was allowed to brief the Joint Inquiry on those options.
Former Chairman Shelton said the options could have been executed “very quickly,” but
depended on the Intelligence Community obtaining actionable intelligence. He said CIA never
provided such intelligence and the military had never been tasked to obtain it.
Mr. Clarke explained that “the overwhelming message to the White House from the
uniformed military leadership was ‘we don’t want to do this,’ [ ]
[Page 322]
].” Mr. Clarke also said that ‘[t]he military repeatedly came back
with recommendations that their capability not be utilized for commando operations in
Afghanistan.”
According to CTC officers, the military levied so many requirements for highly detailed,
actionable intelligence before conducting an operation – far beyond what the Intelligence
Community was ever likely to obtain – that U.S. military units were effectively precluded from
conducting operations against Bin Ladin’s organization on the ground in Afghanistan before
September 11. As noted above, the Joint Inquiry heard conflicting testimony from CIA officers
about the Intelligence Community obtaining actionable intelligence. For instance, one former
CTC officer told the Joint Inquiry:
[
].
A former CTC Chief [ ] explained:
[The military has] exacting criteria that intelligence needs . . . that needs to be met
before they can launch an operation. [
].
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The military Joint Staff’s Director of Operations also mentioned a strategic plan developed
by the Joint Staff in late 2000 for dealing with the Taliban regime. The U.S. military was coming
to the same conclusion as the Intelligence Community: getting Bin Ladin meant dealing with the
Taliban regime first and shutting down the sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The Joint Inquiry also asked General Shelton whether the military and CIA ever pooled
assets or developed plans to conduct a joint operation against Bin Ladin. The former Chairman
said that no plans existed, and that, as a general principle, he was opposed to joint CIA-military
[page 323] operations. He explained that he did not want U.S. military units to be dependent on
the actions of CIA paramilitary units outside the military chain of command. He noted an instance
in which CIA and the U.S. military conducted a coordinated operation [ ].
In that case, a “firewall” between CIA and military units allowed the military to proceed even if
CIA units did not accomplish their mission. General Shelton said that he would have insisted on
similar arrangements for joint operations in Afghanistan against Bin Ladin. In contrast, a former
CTC Chief said about joint operations involving CIA and military units:
I think it is an absolutely great [idea]. This is something we have been advocating
for a long time. If you want to go to war, you take the CIA, its clandestinity, its
authorities, and you match it up with special operations forces of the U.S. military,
you can really – you can really do some damage... This is something that we have
tried to advocate at the working level, and we haven’t made much progress. But, if
this is something that you [the Congress] would like to look into, it would be great
for the United States.
Similarly, a former Chief of CTC’s Bin Ladin unit commented:
As someone who [ ] worked with special forces, they want to
work with us and we want to work with them. History was made between the CIA
and special forces. We need to do that.
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IV. Strategy to Disrupt Terrorist Funding
Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida financial assets and networks are substantial, diverse, and elusive.
In addition to Bin Ladin’s personal wealth, the al-Qa’ida financial network relies on funds
reportedly raised through legitimate and illegitimate businesses and on donations from wealthy
Muslims and charitable organizations supporting Muslim causes. Bin Ladin has claimed that he
has access to four ways of transferring money: smuggling cash, the global banking system, the
Islamic banking system, and hawalas or informal money transfer networks. Bin Ladin once
boasted to a Pakistani newspaper that the cracks in the Western financial system were as familiar
to him and his al-Qa’ida colleagues as the lines on their own hands.
[Page 324]
A. Financial Tracking before September 11
Before September 11, no single federal agency was responsible for tracking terrorist funds
or coordinating U.S. Government efforts and securing international collaboration to interdict these
funds. Some agencies did track terrorist financing, but, for the most part, the effort was
disorganized and related to specific cases, and the U.S. Government was generally reluctant to
seize assets or make arrests relating to that financing.
The General Counsel of the Department of Treasury explained to the Joint Inquiry that,
before September 11, 2001, the financial war on terrorism was “ad-hoc-ism,” episodic, and
informal, with no mechanism for exchanging information among agencies or for setting priorities.
He described errors in perception, focus, and targeting of the Bin Ladin threat and his realization
as he watched the World Trade Center Towers disintegrate:
It was as if we had been looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope.
. . . Money had been spirited around the globe by means and measures and in
denominations that mocked all of our detection. . . . The most serious threat to our
well-being was now clean money intended to kill, not dirty money seeking to be
rinsed in a place of hiding.
The fact that, before September 11, no single agency was responsible for coordinating
government efforts to attack terrorist funding does not mean that individual agencies were not
tracking funds effectively, identifying terrorists and their organizations, and unraveling their plots
by targeting assets. The Chief of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section and the Director of
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Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) told the Joint Inquiry that, before
September 11, they had the capacity to develop leads on terrorist suspects and link them to other
terrorists by examining funding sources. The FBI Financial Crimes Section Chief also explained
his belief that he would have been able to locate hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-
Mihdhar, if asked, through credit card and banking transactions.
FinCEN started doing linkage analysis of terrorist financing in April 1999 and first
identified an account with a direct link to Bin Ladin in February 2001. FinCEN has the advantage
of being able to work with law enforcement and intelligence information, which it [page 325]
combines with Bank Secrecy Act information and commercial data to produce a product useful to
the Department of Treasury and others in seizing, blocking, and freezing terrorist assets. These
capabilities and databases at FinCEN, the Drug Information Center, and across the Intelligence
Community enabled the FBI and FinCEN to connect almost all 19 hijackers within days after
September 11 by linking their bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, addresses, and telephone
numbers.
B. Financial Tracking after September 11
Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has taken actions to block and seize
terrorist assets such as smuggled cash, to arrest and indict terrorist financiers, and to shut down
front companies, charities, banks, and hawala conglomerates that offer financial support to al-
Qa’ida. On September 24, 2001, four days after signing an Executive Order blocking terrorist
funds, President Bush gave a new priority to the effort: “We will starve the terrorists of funding.”
The Treasury General Counsel described to the Joint Inquiry the change in the government’s
strategy: “the difference between the activity before 9/11 and after 9/11 is the difference between a
mule and an 8-cylinder Chevy.”
V. Khalid Shaykh Mohammed: The Mastermind Of September 11
[Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM) is one of al-Qa’ida’s most senior leaders and is
believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. Although the Intelligence
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Community knew of KSM’s support for terrorism since 1995 and later learned of his links to al-
Qa’ida, he was not recognized as a senior al-Qa’ida lieutenant. In April 2002, the Intelligence
Community learned that KSM and his group conceived the September 11 plot. KSM is also
known as Mukhtar or “the Brain].”
The efforts the Intelligence Community took against KSM illustrate the difficulties it had
in understanding al-Qa’ida’s activities and structure and formulating a coherent response. The
Community devoted few analytic or operational resources to tracking KSM or understanding his
[page 326] activities. Coordination within the Community was irregular at best, and the little
information that was shared was usually forgotten or dismissed.
A. KSM’s Links to Terrorist Attacks before September 11
KSM and his followers played a major role in several Islamist extremist plots before
September 11. These plots are notable for the large number of casualties they sought to create, the
use of airplanes, and focus on symbolic targets such as the World Trade Center and U.S.
government facilities, all characteristics of the September 11 attacks.
Investigators determined in 1995 that KSM was linked to the February 1993 bombing of
the World Trade Center. Federal prosecutors gave CIA a copy of a financial wire transaction for
$660 between Qatar and the U.S., dated several days before the blast, from “Khaled Shaykh” in
Doha to Muhammad Salameh, one of four defendants convicted in the World Trade Center
bombing. With additional information that emerged from the Philippines investigation described
below, CIA was able to determine that Khaled was KSM, that KSM was an uncle of Ramzi
Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing plot, and that KSM had married
the sister of Yousef’s wife.
[In 1995, Yousef’s plots to bomb twelve U.S. airplanes flying Asian routes, kill the Pope,
and crash a plane into CIA Headquarters were thwarted by Philippine police when a fire erupted in
an apartment where Yousef was preparing explosives. The police seized a list of names and
telephone numbers and found a notation for “Khalid Doha” with telephone and facsimile numbers
in Qatar. [
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]. Yet another link to
KSM was made when Yousef, who was apprehended shortly after fleeing the Philippines, made a
call from detention to Qatar and asked to speak with “Khalid.” This number was similar to the
one found by the Philippine police. [
].
[Page 327]
B. The Hunt for KSM
The Intelligence Community agencies worked together to apprehend KSM during his time
in Qatar and in the Balkans. However, KSM’s frequent travels, and the slow pace of efforts to
learn his whereabouts, [ ].
C. Finding KSM and Building the Case
[
]. [Prosecutors asked that CIA
continue to assist the FBI by using its assets to help establish the case. [
].
[
].
[It was determined that KSM was a top priority. The FBI was poised to take a photograph
abroad for identification purposes. If KSM were identified from the photograph, an indictment
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would be sought. [
]. On December 30, 1995 KSM was
identified [page 328] from the photograph, and he was indicted by a New York City grand jury in
January 1996. The indictment was sealed and would be opened once KSM was in custody].
D. [ ]
[
].
[
].
[
].
[
].
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E. Link to al-Qa’ida Discovered
The Intelligence Community was not sure of KSM’s alliances until after [ ]. For
example, a December 1995 CIA cable stated, “As far as we know, Yousef and his [page 329]
confederates – such as [KSM] – are not allied with an organized terrorist group and cannot readily
call upon such an organized unit to execute retaliatory strikes against the U.S. or countries that
have cooperated with the U.S. in the extradition of Yousef and his associates.”
[This assessment changed in 1996 when a foreign government shared information that Bin
Ladin and KSM had traveled together to a foreign country the previous year. In August 1998,
after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, another foreign government sent CIA a list of
the names of individuals who flew into Nairobi before the attack. Based on information delivered
by another liaison service, CIA recognized that one of the passengers’ names was an alias for
KSM. The liaison report also described KSM as close to Bin Ladin. In an interview, the FBI
agent responsible for the KSM case could not remember this information, even though it had been
disseminated by CIA. This information and subsequent reporting led the CIA to see KSM as part
of Bin Ladin’s organization. Several CIA cables indicated that following up on information
relevant to KSM was essential, given his past activities and his links to al-Qa’ida].
F. The Emphasis on Renditions
[
].
[
]: [Page 330]
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[
].
Only once before September 11 did an analyst write requirements that were intended to determine
KSM’s role in al-Qa’ida, his future plans, or other traditional intelligence concerns.
G. KSM’s U.S. Connection
[Though KSM had numerous links to the United States, it appears that information
concerning such links was difficult to discover and did not generate an aggressive response. The
Intelligence Community knew that KSM had attended college in the United States in the 1980s.
Both the CIA and FBI tried to track this down, but they were unsuccessful until the Kuwaitis
published information in the media. CIA disseminated a report that KSM had traveled to the
United States as recently as May 2001 and was sending recruits to the United States to meet
colleagues already in the country did not cause the Intelligence Community to mobilize, even
though it contained apparently significant [ ] information. The report explained that
KSM was a relative of convicted World Trade center bomber Ramzi Yousef, appeared to be one
of Bin Ladin’s most trusted lieutenants and was active in recruiting people to travel outside
Afghanistan, including to the United States, to carry out unspecified activities on behalf of Bin
Ladin. According to the report, he continued to travel frequently to the United States, including as
recently as May 2001, and routinely told others that he could arrange their entry into the United
States as well. Reportedly, these individuals were expected to establish contact with colleagues
already there. The clear implication of his comments, according to the report, was that they would
be engaged in planning terrorist-related activities].
[Page 331]
The CIA did not find the report credible, but noted that it was worth pursuing in case it was
accurate: “if it is KSM, we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him up.” The
Joint Inquiry requested that CIA review this particular source report and provide information
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concerning how CTC, CIA field personnel, and other agencies reacted to this information. That
information has not been received.
H. The Hunt for KSM Continues
[Since September 11, the CIA has come to believe that KSM may have been responsible
for all Bin Ladin operations outside Afghanistan. In Spring 2002, intelligence indicated that he
played a leading role in the USS Cole bombing. In the Summer 2002, CIA created a new High
Value Target Team to track and target terrorist masterminds such as KSM. In the summer of
2002, KSM appeared along with Ramzi Bin al-Shibh in a taped al-Jazeera interview. Despite Bin
al-Shibh’s capture in Pakistan shortly thereafter, KSM has not yet been found].*
VI. The FBI’s Investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui Before September 11
Zacarias Moussaoui came to the attention of the FBI as the Intelligence Community was
detecting numerous signs of an impending terrorist attack against U.S. interests somewhere in the
world. He was in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on September
11, 2001. The Joint Inquiry examined whether information resulting from the FBI’s investigation
of Moussaoui could have alerted the government to the scope and nature of the attacks on
September 11.
From interviews with flight school personnel and with Moussaoui himself in August 2001,
the FBI pieced together the details of his arrival in the United States. Moussaoui contacted the
Airman Flight School in Oklahoma by e-mail on September 29, 2000 and expressed interest in
taking lessons to fly a small Cessna aircraft. On February 23, 2001, he entered the United States
at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, traveling on a French passport that allowed him to stay in [page 331]
the country without a visa for 90 days until May 22, 2001. On February 26, he began flight
lessons at Airman Flight School.
* On March 1, 2003, Khalid Shaykh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan as a result of a joint operation
by Pakistani and U.S. authorities.
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Moussaoui was unhappy with the training and, at the end of May, contacted Pan American
International Flight School in Minneapolis. While Airman provided flight lessons in piloting
Cessnas and similar small aircraft, Pan Am provided ground training and access to a Boeing 747
flight simulator used by professional pilots.
Most of Pan Am’s students were newly hired airline pilots, who used the flight simulator
for initial training, or active airline pilots, who used the equipment for refresher training.
Although anyone can sign up for lessons at Pan Am, the typical student has a pilot’s license, is
employed by an airline, and has several thousand flight hours. Moussaoui had none of these
qualifications.
On August 11, Moussaoui and his roommate, Hussein al-Attas, arrived in Egan, Minnesota
and checked into a hotel. Moussaoui began classes at Pan Am on August 13. On Wednesday,
August 15, a Pan Am employee called the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office because he and other
Pan Am employees had become suspicious of Moussaoui.
Before September 11, the FBI determined that Moussaoui had paid approximately $6,800
in cash for training on the Boeing 747 simulator, but met none of the usual criteria for students at
the flight school. Moussaoui had no aviation background and, apparently, no pilot’s license. It
was also considered odd that Moussaoui simply wanted to learn the most challenging elements of
flying, taking off and landing a 747, which he referred to as an “ego boosting thing.”
Based on information from the flight school, the FBI field office opened an international
terrorism investigation of Moussaoui. Agents within that office saw him as a threat to national
security. Because the FBI field office in Minneapolis hosts and is part of a Joint Terrorism Task
Force, INS agents, who share space and work closely with the FBI in Minneapolis, were able to
determine immediately that Moussaoui had been authorized to stay in the United States until May
22, 2001 and, thus, was “out of status” when the FBI began to investigate him in August.
[Page 333] On the day the Minneapolis field office learned about Moussaoui, it asked both the
CIA and the FBI’s legal attaché in Paris for information about him. The FBI field office also
informed FBI Headquarters about the investigation.
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FBI documents indicate Moussaoui’s instructors thought that he had what they
characterized as a “legitimate” interest in aircraft. Nonetheless, he was unlike any other student
with whom his flight instructor had worked. Moussaoui began the ground school portion of the
training with a Power Point presentation on aircraft systems. The instruction was reportedly
useless for Moussaoui, who had no background in sophisticated aircraft systems and, apparently,
had only approximately 50 hours of flight training in light civil aircraft. In addition, Moussaoui
was extremely interested in the operation of the plane’s doors and control panel. Pan Am found
that suspicious. Further, Moussaoui reportedly said that he would “love” to fly a simulated flight
from Heathrow Airport in England to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Thus, the
Minneapolis FBI office decided to arrest Moussaoui.
In a Joint Inquiry interview, a Minneapolis FBI field office agent said that a Supervisory
Agent at Headquarters had suggested that Moussaoui be put under surveillance, but Minneapolis
did not have enough agents to do that. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, however, the
Minneapolis agent said that he had relied on his criminal experience in deciding to arrest
Moussaoui, rather than surveilling him:
The decision on whether or not we were going to put Mr. Moussaoui under
surveillance rested with me. And I made the decision that he was going to be
arrested because we had a violation. The INS was participating as a member, a full
member of our joint terrorism task force. My background in the criminal arena
suggests that when a violation occurs and you can stop further or potential criminal
activity, you act on that. So that is exactly what I instructed the agents to do. If we
had the possibility of arresting him, we were going to arrest him. If we needed to
surveil him, we certainly could have instituted a surveillance plan. . . . It was not
appropriate to do [so] in this case.
In response to questions, the agent explained in more detail why he decided to arrest
Moussaoui, rather than put him under surveillance: [Page 334]
Because I didn't want him to get any additional time on a flight simulator that
would allow him to have the knowledge that we could no longer take back from
him to operate an aircraft. This provided us the opportunity to freeze the situation
as it was going on right there, prevent him from gaining the knowledge that he
could use at some point in the future. And, if ultimately we determined all we
could do, after interviewing him and doing some other investigative steps, if all we
could do was deport him, then we would be sensitized to the fact that he was
interested in doing something else and he could be put in the Tip-off System. He
would be put in--the appropriate notifications could have been made if he attempted
to reenter the United States. But our focus was on preventing him getting the
knowledge that he would have needed. . . .
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[I]t is important to remember the circumstances that were present before September
llth. We had no real incidents of airplane hijacking that had happened domestically
within the preceding decade. We now have a different perspective, that it is very,
very difficult to go back and forget and not acknowledge. But, again, I speak to my
criminal background in saying if a violation has occurred, and we can take further
steps to stop what could speak to a continued violation, we will act. And those
were the circumstances under which I made that decision.
Thus, on August 16, 2001, FBI agents, along with two INS agents, went to Moussaoui’s
hotel. The INS agents temporarily detained Moussaoui and his roommate, Hussein al-Attas, while
checking to determine if they were legally in the United States. Al-Attas showed the INS agents a
valid student visa and agreed to allow the agents to search his property in the hotel room.
Moussaoui showed the agents his passport case, which included his passport, a British
driver’s license, a bank statement showing a deposit of $32,000 in cash to an Oklahoma account,
and a notification from INS acknowledging his request to extend his stay in the United States.
The INS agents determined that Moussaoui had not received an extension beyond May 22, 2001,
and they therefore took him into custody.
Moussaoui declined to allow the agents to search his belongings. When the agents told
him that he would be deported, Moussaoui agreed to let the agents take his belongings to the INS
office for safekeeping. In packing those items, the agents noticed that Moussaoui had a laptop
computer.
[Page 335]
The agents interviewed Moussaoui at the INS office in Minneapolis. He told them that he
had traveled to Morocco, Malaysia, and Pakistan for business, although he could not provide
details of his employment or convincingly explain the $32,000 bank balance.
After Moussaoui’s detention, the Minneapolis case agent called the field office’s legal
counsel and asked if there was any way to search Moussaoui’s possessions without his consent.
He was told that he had to obtain a search warrant. Over the ensuing days, Minneapolis agents
considered several alternatives, including a criminal search warrant and a Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) Court search order. They also considered deporting Moussaoui to
France, after arranging for French authorities to search his possessions and share their findings
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with the FBI. Adding to the sense of urgency, a supervisor in the INS Minneapolis office told the
FBI that INS typically does not hold visa-waiver violators like Moussaoui for more than 24 hours
before returning them to their home countries. Under the circumstances, however, the supervisor
said that INS would hold Moussaoui for seven to ten days.
After August 17, the FBI did not conduct additional interviews of Moussaoui. On
Saturday, August 18, Minneapolis sent a detailed memorandum to FBI Headquarters describing
the Moussaoui investigation and concluding that Minneapolis had reason to believe that
Moussaoui, al-Attas “and others yet unknown” were conspiring to seize control of an airplane,
based on Moussaoui’s “possession of weapons and his preparation through physical training for
violent confrontation.”
In Joint Inquiry interviews, FBI Minneapolis field office agents said that FBI Headquarters
advised against trying to obtain a criminal search warrant as that might prejudice subsequent
efforts to obtain a FISA Court order. Under FISA, an order warrant could be obtained if the
agents could establish probable cause to believe that Moussaoui was an agent of a foreign power
and that he had engaged in international terrorism or was preparing to do so. FBI Headquarters
was concerned that if a criminal warrant were denied and the agents then tried to obtain a FISA
Court order, the FISA Court would think the agents were trying to use authority for an intelligence
investigation to pursue a criminal case.
[Page 336]
Around this time, an attorney in the National Security Law Unit at FBI Headquarters asked
the Chief Division Counsel in the Minneapolis field office whether she had considered trying to
obtain a criminal warrant. The Chief Division Counsel replied that a FISA order would be the
safer course. Minneapolis also wanted to notify, through the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, the
Criminal Division within the Department of Justice about Moussaoui, believing it was obligated to
do so under Attorney General guidelines that require notification when there is a “reasonable
indication” of a felony. FBI Headquarters advised the Minneapolis field office that there was not
enough evidence to justify notifying the Criminal Division.
The Minneapolis field office agent became increasingly frustrated with what he perceived
as a lack of assistance from the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at Headquarters. He had had
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conflicts with the RFU agent over FISA issues earlier and believed that Headquarters was not
being responsive to the threat Minneapolis had identified. At the suggestion of a Minneapolis
supervisor, the agent contacted an FBI officer who had been detailed to the CTC. The agent
shared the details of the Moussaoui investigation with the CTC detailee and provided the names of
Moussaoui’s associates. The agent explained in a Joint Inquiry interview that he was looking for
any information CTC could provide to strengthen the case linking Moussaoui to international
terrorism.
On August 21, the Minneapolis field office agent sent an e-mail to the RFU Supervisory
Special Agent handling this matter:
[It’s] imperative that the [U.S. Secret Service] be apprised of this threat potential
indicated by the evidence. . . . If [Moussaoui] seizes an aircraft flying from
Heathrow to NYC, it will have the fuel on board to reach D.C.
The RFU supervisory special agent sent a teletype to several U.S. Government agencies on
September 4, 2001, recounting the interviews of Moussaoui and al-Attas and other information the
FBI had obtained in the meantime. The teletype, however, merely described the investigation. It
did not place Moussaoui’s actions in the context of the increased level of terrorist threats during
the summer of 2001, and it did not analyze Moussaoui’s actions or plans or present information
about the type of threat he might have presented.
[Page 337]
A CIA officer detailed to FBI Headquarters learned of the Moussaoui investigation from
CTC personnel in the third week of August. The officer was alarmed about Moussaoui for several
reasons. First, Moussaoui had denied being a Muslim to the flight instructor, while al-Attas,
Moussaoui’s companion at the flight school, informed the FBI that Moussaoui was a
fundamentalist. Further, the fact that Moussaoui was interested in using the Minneapolis flight
school simulator to learn to fly from Heathrow to Kennedy Airport made the CIA officer suspect
that Moussaoui was a potential hijacker. As a result of these concerns, CIA Stations were advised
by cable of the facts known about Moussaoui and al-Attas and were asked to provide information
they had. Based on information received from the FBI, CIA described the two in the cable as
“suspect 747 airline attackers” and “suspect airline suicide attacker[s],” who might be “involved in
a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the U.S.”
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On Wednesday, August 22, the FBI Legat in Paris provided a report that [
] started a series of discussions
between Minneapolis and Headquarters RFU as to whether a specific group of Chechen rebels was
a “recognized” foreign power, that is, was on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups and for
which the FISA Court had previously granted orders.
The RFU agent told Joint Inquiry staff that, based on advice he received from the NSLU,
he believed that the Chechen rebels were not a “recognized” foreign power and that, even if
Moussaoui were to be linked to them, the FBI could not obtain a search order under FISA. The
RFU agent told the Minneapolis agents that they had to connect Moussaoui to al-Qa’ida, which he
believed was a “recognized” foreign power. The Minneapolis case agent later testified before the
Joint Inquiry that he had had no training in FISA, but that he believed that “we needed to identify
a – and the term that was thrown around was ‘recognized foreign power’ and so that was our
operational theory.”
As the FBI’s Deputy General Counsel would later testify, the agents were incorrect. The
FBI can obtain a search warrant under FISA for an agent of any international terrorist group,
including Chechen rebels. Because of this misunderstanding, the Minneapolis field office spent
[page 338] valuable time and resources trying to connect the Chechen group to al-Qa’ida. The
Minneapolis field office agent contacted CTC, asking for additional information regarding
connections between the group and al-Qa’ida. The Minneapolis supervisor also suggested that the
RFU agent contact CTC for assistance on the issue. The RFU agent responded that he had all the
information he needed and requested that Minneapolis work through FBI Headquarters when
contacting CTC in the future. Ultimately, the RFU agent agreed to submit Minneapolis’ FISA
request to attorneys in the FBI’s NSLU for review.
In interviews, several FBI attorneys with whom the RFU agent consulted confirmed that
they advised the RFU agent that the evidence was insufficient to link Moussaoui to a foreign
power. One of the attorneys noted that Chechen rebels were not an international foreign terrorism
group under FISA. The Deputy General Counsel, however, testified before the Joint Committee
that “no one in the national security law arena said that Chechens were not a power that . . . could
qualify as a foreign power under the FISA statute.” The FBI attorneys also said that, had they had
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been aware of the July 2001 communication from the Phoenix field office raising concerns about
al-Qa’ida flight training in the U.S., they would have forwarded the FISA request to the Justice
Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.
Two FBI agents assigned to the Oklahoma City field office’s international terrorism squad
visited Airman Flight School on August 23 as part of the Moussaoui investigation. In September
1999, one of the agents had been assigned a lead from the Orlando field office to inquire at the
flight school about another individual, who had been identified as Usama Bin Ladin’s personal
pilot and who had received flight training at Airman Flight School. The agent had not been given
any background information about this individual, and he did not know that the person had
cooperated with the Bureau during the East Africa U.S. embassy bombings trial. Although the
agent told the Joint Inquiry that this lead had been the most significant terrorism information he
had seen in Oklahoma City, he did not remember it when he returned to the flight school two years
later to ask questions about Moussaoui. The agent acknowledged that he should have connected
the two visits but he did not have time to do so.
[Page 339]
[The Joint Inquiry also confirmed that an individual, who attempted to post bond for
Moussaoui’s roommate, had been the subject of a full-field FBI international terrorism
investigation in the Oklahoma City Field Office. According to FBI reports, this individual was a
Vice President of Overseas Operations and Recruiting for al-Fatah, the Palestinian group, and a
member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was also a close associate of [ ],
the imam at the Islamic Center [ ], which hijackers al-Hazmi and al-Midhar attended
when they lived there. That imam was also a close associate of the imam in San Diego who
served as the hijackers’ spiritual leader. The Minneapolis field office agent and the head of the
RFU both testified that neither of them knew that the individual who had attempted to post bond
for Moussaoui’s roommate was the subject of a terrorism investigation before September 11].
On August 27, the RFU agent told the Minneapolis supervisor that the supervisor was
getting people “spun up” over Moussaoui. According to his notes and his statement to the Joint
Inquiry, the supervisor replied that he was trying to get people at FBI Headquarters “spun up”
because he was trying to make sure that Moussaoui “did not take control of a plane and fly it into
the World Trade Center.” The Minneapolis agent said that the Headquarters agent told him:
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[T]hat’s not going to happen. We don’t know he’s a terrorist. You don’t have
enough to show he is a terrorist. You have a guy interested in this type of aircraft –
that is it.
[On August 28, the RFU agent edited, and returned to Minneapolis for comment, the
request for a FISA Court order that Minneapolis had prepared. The RFU agent told the Joint
Inquiry that it was not unusual for FBI Headquarters agents to make changes to field submissions.
The major substantive change was removal of information that tried to make connections between
the Chechen rebels and al-Qa’ida. After the edit was complete, the RFU agent briefed the FBI
Deputy General Counsel, who told the Joint Inquiry that he agreed with the agent that there was
insufficient information to show that Moussaoui was an agent of a foreign power].
The Bureau’s focus shifted to arranging for Moussaoui’s planned deportation to France,
planned for September 17. French officials had agreed to search his belongings and provide the
results to the FBI. Although the FBI was no longer considering a FISA Court order, no one
[page 340] revisited the idea of attempting to obtain a criminal search warrant, even though the
only reason for not attempting to obtain a criminal search warrant earlier – concern that it would
prejudice a request under FISA – no longer existed.
On Thursday, September 4, Headquarters sent a teletype to the Intelligence Community
and other government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), providing
information about the Moussaoui investigation. The teletype noted that Moussaoui was being held
in custody, but did not describe any particular threat that the FBI thought he posed -- for example,
that he might be connected to a larger plot. The teletype also did not recommend that the
addressees take action or look for additional indicators of a terrorist attack. It also did not provide
any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or specific warnings. The following day, the
Minneapolis field office agent hand-carried the teletype to two employees of the FAA’s
Bloomington, Minnesota office and briefed them on the investigation. The two FAA employees
told the Joint Inquiry that the agent did not convey any urgency about the teletype and did not ask
them to take specific action. The final preparations for Moussaoui’s deportation were underway
on September 11.
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The Joint Inquiry record demonstrates that the FBI’s focus when Moussaoui was taken into
custody appears to have been almost entirely on investigating specific crimes and not on
identifying links between investigations or on sharing information with other agencies with
counterterrorist responsibilities. The RFU chief testified that no one at Headquarters saw a
connection between the Moussaoui case and the Phoenix communication, the possible presence of
al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in the United States, and the flood of warnings about possible terrorists
attacks in the United States, some using airplanes as weapons, all of which developed in the spring
and summer of 2001. Moreover, as the RFU Chief testified, before September 11, the FBI did not
canvass persons in custody and cooperating with the government in terrorist investigations to see
whether they knew Moussaoui. After September 11, FBI agents showed one of those persons a
photograph of Moussaoui and asked him what he knew of Moussaoui. He asserted that he had
met Moussaoui in an al-Qa’ida terrorist camp in Afghanistan. When asked about this during
[page 341] testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the RFU Chief admitted that “[t]he photograph was
not shown before 9/11 and it should have been.”
[The indictment against Moussaoui, which was filed on December 11, 2001, alleges that
Moussaoui possessed a number of items on August 16, 2001. On that day, which is when FBI and
INS agents first interviewed him, the INS took Moussaoui’s possessions for safekeeping. Absent
search authority, however, the possessions were not examined at that time. As it turned out,
according to the indictment, Moussaoui’s possessions included letters indicating that Moussaoui
was a marketing consultant in the United States for Infocus Tech. The letters had been signed in
October 2000 by Yazid Sufaat, whom the Intelligence Community was aware was the owner of
the Malaysian condominium used for the January 2000 al-Qa’ida meeting attended by hijackers al-
Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. The indictment also alleges that Moussaoui possessed a notebook listing
two German telephone numbers and the name “Ahad Sabet,” which the indictment states was used
by Ramzi Bin al-Shibh to send funds to Moussaoui. Bin al-Shibh, who was apprehended in
Pakistan in September 2002, is named in the indictment as a supporting conspirator.]
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VII. The Phoenix Electronic Communication
In July 2001, an FBI agent in the Phoenix field office sent an “Electronic Communication”
(EC) to the Usama Bin Ladin and the Radical Fundamentalist Units at Headquarters and to several
agents on an International Terrorism squad in the New York field office. The agent outlined his
concerns about a coordinated effort by Bin Ladin to send students to the United States for aviation
training. He noted an “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking such
training in Arizona and speculated that this was part of an effort to establish a cadre of persons,
trained in aviation, who could conduct terrorist activity. The EC contained a number of
recommendations the agent asked FBI Headquarters to consider.
The FBI’s handling of the Phoenix EC is symptomatic of its focus on short-term
operational priorities, often at the expense of long-term strategic analysis. The Bureau’s ability to
handle strategic analytic products, such as the EC, was limited before September 11, 2001. The
EC also highlights inadequate information sharing within the FBI, particularly between
operational and analytic units. Several addressees on the EC, especially at the supervisory level,
did not receive it before September 11 because of limitations in the electronic dissemination [page
342] system. The Joint Inquiry repeatedly heard such complaints about the FBI’s information
technology. Finally, the FBI’s case-driven approach, while extremely productive in the Bureau’s
traditional law-enforcement mission, does not generally encourage FBI personnel to pay attention
to preventive analysis and strategy, particularly when the matter appears to have no direct,
immediate impact on ongoing counterterrorism investigations.
A. The Phoenix EC
The Special Agent in Phoenix who wrote the EC told the Joint inquiry he first became
concerned about aviation-related terrorism in the early 1990s, while he was investigating Libyans
with suspected terrorist ties who were working for U.S. aviation companies. Possible terrorists
with easy access to aircraft conjured up for the agent visions of Pan Am Flight 103, which
terrorists had blown up years before. His primary concern was that Islamic extremists, studying
aviation subjects ranging from security to piloting, could learn how to hijack or destroy aircraft
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and evade airport security. However, the agent told the Joint Inquiry that, in writing the EC, he
never imagined terrorists using airplanes as was done on September 11.
The Phoenix EC focused on ten individuals who were subjects of FBI investigations, Sunni
Muslims from Kenya, Pakistan, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Saudi Arabia. Not
all were in flight training; several were aeronautical engineering students, and one was studying
international aviation security.
The Phoenix agent testified that in April 2000 he interviewed the primary subject of the
EC. In the agent’s experience, young foreign nationals who are subjects of interviews tend to be
somewhat intimidated in their first contact with the FBI. By contrast, this subject told the agent
that he considered the U.S. Government and military to be legitimate targets of Islam. The agent
noticed a poster of Bin Ladin and another poster of wounded Chechen mujahideen fighters in the
subject’s apartment. He was also concerned that the subject, who was taking expensive aviation
training, was from a poor Middle Eastern country and had not studied aviation before his arrival in
the United States.
[Page 343]
The agent described to the Joint Inquiry another incident that increased his suspicion about
Middle Eastern flight students in the Phoenix area. During a physical surveillance, the agent
determined that the primary subject of the Phoenix EC was using a vehicle registered to another
person, who in 1999 had been detained with a third person after trying to gain access to the
cockpit of a commercial airliner on a domestic flight. The two told FBI agents who questioned
them that they thought the cockpit was the bathroom, and they accused the Bureau of racism.
After an investigation, they were released and the case was closed. In November 2000, the
subject’s name was added to the State Department’s watchlist after intelligence information was
received that he may have received explosive and car bomb training in Afghanistan. In August
2001, the same person applied for a visa to re-enter the United States and, as a result of the
watchlisting, was denied entry.
Finally, the Phoenix agent’s concern about Middle Eastern flight students in Arizona was
fueled by suspicion that al-Qa’ida had an active presence in Arizona. Several Bin Ladin
operatives had lived and traveled to the Phoenix area, and one of them -- Wadih El-Hage, a Bin
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Ladin lieutenant -- had been convicted for his role in the 1998 East Africa U.S. embassy
bombings. The agent believes that El-Hage established a Bin Ladin support network in Arizona
that is still in place.
The Phoenix EC requested that FBI Headquarters consider four recommendations:
• Headquarters should accumulate a list of civil aviation university
and colleges around the country;
• FBI offices should establish liaison with these schools;
• Headquarters should discuss the theories in the EC with the Intelligence Community;
and
• Headquarters should consider seeking authority to obtain visa information on persons
seeking to attend flight schools.
[Page 344]
B. Headquarters’ Response to the Phoenix EC
When the Phoenix agent sent the EC to FBI Headquarters, he requested that the Radical
Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) and the Usama Bin Ladin Unit (UBLU) consider implementing the
suggested actions. The Phoenix agent explained in testimony to the Joint Inquiry that:
Basically what I wanted was an analytic product. I wanted this discussed with the
Intelligence Community. I wanted to see if my hunches were correct.
The EC was initially assigned to an Intelligence Operations Specialist (IOS) in the RFU,
who worked on it with a Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU. The latter consulted two
IOSs in her unit, mentioning specifically the paragraph in the EC about obtaining visa
information. Their discussion centered on the legality of the proposal and whether it raised
profiling issues. The IOS also decided to forward the EC to the Portland FBI field office because
a person named in the EC, with ties to suspected terrorists arrested in the Middle East in early
2001, was an employee of an airline and had previously lived and studied in the northwestern
United States. Portland did not take action on the communication or disseminate it because it was
sent to the field for “informational purposes” only.
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On August 7, 2001, the Specialists in the two units decided that the matter should be
closed. The Specialist in the UBLU told the Joint inquiry that she intended to return to the project
once she had time to do additional research, but on September 11, she had not yet had an
opportunity to do so. Both Specialists also said that they had considered assigning the Phoenix
communication to a Headquarters analytic unit, but had decided against it.
The Chiefs of both the RFU and UBLU informed the Joint Inquiry that they did not see the
Phoenix EC before September 11. They do not remember even hearing about the flight school
issue until after September 11. An FBI audit of the central records system requested by the Joint
Inquiry supports their statements.
[Page 345]
The Phoenix EC was also not shared with other agencies before September 11, although
the former Chief of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section explained in testimony
to the Joint Inquiry:
One of the great frustrations is that [the Phoenix Communication] talks about
airlines—we have FAA people in the [International Terrorism Operations Section];
it talks about intelligence—we have CIA people; it talks about visas—there are
State Department people and immigration people in that unit. That information
should have been shared, if only for [informational] purposes, with all those people
at our Headquarters. And it wasn’t done, and it should have been done.
In fact, Transportation Security Administration Assistant Undersecretary for Intelligence
Claudio Manno testified at a Joint Inquiry hearing that “the first time that we saw [the Phoenix
EC] was when it was brought to our attention by [the Joint Inquiry Staff]. Had the FAA received
the memo before September 11, Mr. Manno believes that:
[W]e would have started to ask a lot more probing questions of FBI as to what this
was all about, to start with. There were a number of things that were done later to
try to determine what connections these people may have had to flight schools by
going back [to information] maintained by the FAA to try to identify additional
people. . . . [I]n fact our process is whenever we get a threat, we open . . . an
intelligence case file, and that is so we segregate that issue from the hundreds and
hundreds and hundreds of other intelligence reports that we get and that we focus
on it. And the work that may entail in trying to determine whether this is a credible
threat, something that needs to be acted upon, maybe going back and working with
FBI to try and get additional information. In some cases it can be working with the
State Department or the CIA if it requires overseas work. So we make all efforts to
try to get to the bottom of what this is all about.
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C. New York FBI Office Action in Connection with the Phoenix EC
The Phoenix EC was sent to two FBI New York field agents who specialize in Bin Ladin
cases. They were asked to “read and clear” the memorandum, but were not asked to take follow-up
action. A Joint Inquiry audit of electronic records shows that at least three people in New York
saw the EC before September 11. Two of the three do not recall seeing the communication
[page 346] before September 11; the third remembers reading it, but said that it did not resonate
with him because he found it speculative.
The New York agents stated in Joint Inquiry interviews that they had been aware that
Middle Eastern men frequently came to the United States for flight training because the United
States was considered the best and most reasonably priced venue for such training. In the agents’
view, information about Middle Eastern men with ties to Usama Bin Ladin receiving flight
training in the United States would not necessarily be alarming because the agents knew that
persons connected to al-Qa’ida had already received training in the United States. Before
September 11, many agents believed that Bin Ladin needed pilots to operate aircraft he had
purchased in the United States to move men and material. Two pilots with al-Qa’ida ties testified
for the government during the East African embassy bombing trial.
Nonetheless, the FBI had also received reports not entirely consistent with this view of Bin
Ladin pilots. One of those who testified and one other pilot had been trained in al-Qa’ida camps
in Afghanistan to conduct terrorist operations. One who had received training in surveillance and
intelligence apparently was selected for the course because of his aviation skills. In addition, the
FBI’s New York field office was one of the recipients of the 1997 communication from FBI
Headquarters, asking that the field office identify Islamic students from certain countries who
were studying aviation within its area of responsibility.
D. Handling of Phoenix EC Indicates FBI Headquarters Weaknesses
The manner in which FBI Headquarters handled the Phoenix EC provides valuable insight
into the Bureau’s operational environment before September 11, 2001. A number of FBI
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executives have acknowledged that the handling of the EC illustrates important weaknesses before
September 11. For example, Director Mueller told the Joint Inquiry:
. . . the Phoenix memo should have been disseminated to all field offices and to our
sister agencies, and it should have triggered a broader analytical approach. . . .
These incidents . . . have informed us on needed changes, particularly the need to
improve accountability, analytic capacity and resources, information sharing and
technology, to name but a few.
[Page 347]
The Joint Inquiry found that the FBI’s strategic, analytic, and technological problems were
the primary weaknesses demonstrated by the handling of the Phoenix EC. As a supervisory
Headquarters agent testified: “when you want to look at systemic problems, . . . clearly you are
going to be focused in on strategic analysis and you are going to be focused in on technology; and
to run a national program you have to do both.”
The Phoenix EC demonstrates how strategic analysis took a back seat to operational
priorities at the Bureau before September 11. Many people throughout the government and the
FBI believed that an attack was imminent in Summer 2001, but this led only to further deemphasis
of strategic analysis. For example, the Specialist in the UBL unit who handled the
Phoenix EC was primarily concerned with a person in the EC connected to persons arrested
overseas and paid less attention to the flight school theories.
The RFU Chief told the Joint Inquiry that because he could not keep up with the
approximately one hundred pieces of mail he saw daily, he assigned responsibility for reviewing
intelligence reports to an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the unit. Even the FBI analytic unit
responsible for strategic analysis was largely producing tactical products to satisfy the operational
section. There was no system for handling projects with nationwide impact, such as the Phoenix
EC, differently than other matters. In fact, the Phoenix agent testified that he recognized the
possibility that his EC might not receive a great deal of attention.
I am also a realist. I understand that the people at FBI Headquarters are terribly
overworked and understaffed, and they have been for years. And at the time that I
am sending this in, having worked this stuff for thirteen years, and watched the unit
in action over the years, I knew that this was going to be at the bottom of the pile,
so to speak, because they were dealing with real-time threats, real-time issues
trying to render fugitives back to the United States from overseas for justice.
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The handling of the Phoenix EC also exposed information sharing problems among FBI
Headquarters elements. A number of analysts commented in Joint Inquiry interviews that the
UBLU and RFU frequently do not share information with the International Terrorism analytic
unit. A UBLU supervisor explained that the Investigative Services Division, of which the
[page 348] analytic unit is a part, was not a “major player” and that information was often not
shared with it. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for
Counterterrorism Analysis referred to strategic analysis as the Bureau’s “poor stepchild” before
September 11. As a result, strategic analysts were often marginalized by the operational units and
rarely if ever received requests from those units for assessments of pending al-Qa’ida cases.
Even if the Phoenix EC had been transmitted to the International Terrorism Analytic Unit,
its capacity to conduct strategic analysis on al-Qa’ida was limited because five of the unit’s
analysts had been transferred to operational units. According to the Chief of the National Security
Intelligence Section, the Bureau had no personnel dedicated solely to strategic analysis before
September 11. The Joint Inquiry has also been told that, as competent new analysts arrived,
UBLU and RFU would recruit them as operational support analysts or refuse to share information
with them if they remain in the analytic unit.
Due to the FBI’s technological limitations, operational units, such as UBLU and RFU,
controlled information flow. Strategic analysts often had to rely on operational units for incoming
intelligence, a problem the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis
acknowledged before the Joint Inquiry: “[because] the FBI lacked effective data mining
capabilities and analytical tools, it has often been unable to retrieve key information and analyze it
in a timely manner—and a lot has probably slipped through the cracks as a result.” Thus, even if
the project had been assigned to an al-Qa’ida analyst in the analytic unit, there can be no guarantee
that the several reports the FBI had received about airplanes as weapons and terrorist networks
sending students to flight schools in the United States would have been drawn together.
The handling of the Phoenix EC also illustrates the extent to which technological
limitations affected information flow because most EC addressees have told the Joint Inquiry that
they had not seen the EC before September 11. The FBI’s electronic system is not designed to
ensure that all addressees receive communications, a point a Headquarters supervisory agent
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addressed in testimony before the Joint Inquiry: “I can tell you that, based on my position, that my
name is on hundreds, if not thousands of documents in that building that will probably not be
brought to my attention.” In fact, the electronic system was considered so unreliable that many
[page 349] personnel in the field and at Headquarters used e-mail and followed up personally on
important communications to ensure that they were not neglected. The same supervisory agent
described the FBI’s information systems as “a setup for failure in terms of keeping a strategic
picture of what we are up against.” He went on to conclude that, “the technology problems . . . are
still there.”
RFU and UBLU policies at the time of the Phoenix EC gave the person to whom the
matter was assigned discretion to determine which people in the unit would see the report. One
FBI employee said that he was not certain why the Phoenix agent put all the addressees on the EC
but believes the Intelligence Operations Specialist probably decided that the EC was more relevant
to UBLU and therefore did not route the communication to all addressees within the RFU.
E. Links from the Phoenix EC to September 11
FBI officials have noted in public statements and Joint Inquiry testimony that the
September 11 hijackers did not associate with anyone of “investigative interest.” However, there
are indications that hijacker Hani Hanjour, who was unknown to the Intelligence Community and
law enforcement agencies before September 11, associated with [ ], an individual who
was mentioned in the Phoenix EC, had taken flight training in the United States, and was possibly
a radical fundamentalist. There are several reasons why [ ] ’s association with Hanjour
did not bring Hanjour to the FBI’s attention before September 11.
FBI personnel believe that, beginning in 1997, Hanjour and the person named in the
Phoenix EC trained together at a flight school in Arizona and may also have known each other
through a religious center. The Bureau attempted to investigate this person in May 2001, but
discovered that he was out of the country. The Phoenix office generally did not open
investigations on persons they believed had permanently left the United States. Although there
were no legal bars to opening an investigation, Headquarters discouraged this practice. The
Phoenix office did not notify INS, the State Department, or CIA of its interest in this person. The
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[page 350] FBI was apparently unaware that the person returned to the United States soon
thereafter and may have associated with Hanjour and several other Islamic extremists.
For the FBI to be aware that persons of investigative interest have returned to the United
States, close contact must be maintained with INS and CIA. Unfortunately, before September 11,
no system was in place to ensure coordination. In this case, the FBI did not notify the INS, State
Department, or CIA of its interest in the Phoenix subject. Therefore, this person was able to get
back into the United States without any notification to the FBI.
The FBI has confirmed since September 11, 2001, that another individual mentioned in the
Phoenix EC is also connected to the al-Qa’ida network. This individual was arrested [
] in Pakistan in 2002 with [ ], one of the most prominent al-Qa’ida figures
and one of the primary al-Qa’ida facilitators.
F. Previous FBI Focus on Suspected Terrorists at U.S. Flight Schools
The Phoenix EC must be understood in a broader context: it was not the first occasion that
the FBI was concerned about terrorist groups sending persons to the United States for aviation
study. The agents involved in drafting the Phoenix EC and the Headquarters personnel who
worked on it were unaware of this context.
In 1981, as the U.S. military was involved in hostilities with Libya, President Reagan
decided to revoke visas held by Libyan students in the United States involved in aviation or
nuclear studies. In March 1983, the INS published a rule in the Federal Register, terminating the
non-immigrant status of Libyan nationals or persons acting on behalf of Libyan entities engaged in
aviation or nuclear studies. The INS turned to the FBI for assistance in locating such persons. In
May 1983, FBI Headquarters sent a “priority” communication to all field offices, asking for
assistance in complying with the INS request.
In 1998, the Chief Pilot in the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office informed an agent on the
office’s counterterrorism squad that he had observed many Middle Eastern men at Oklahoma
[page 351] flight schools. An intra-office communication to the counterterrorism squad supervisor
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was drafted noting the Chief Pilot’s concern that the aviation education might be related to
terrorist activity and his speculation that light planes would be an ideal means to spread chemical
or biological agents. The communication was sent to the office’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction”
control file, apparently for informational purposes only with no follow-up requested or conducted.
The FBI also received reports in 1998 that a terrorist organization might be planning to
bring students to the United States for flight training. The FBI was aware that persons connected
to the organization had performed surveillance and security tests at airports in the United States
and had made comments suggesting an intention to target civil aviation.
In 1999, the FBI received reports that another terrorist organization was planning to send
students to the United States for aviation training. The purpose of this training was unknown, but
organization leaders viewed the plan as “particularly important” and reportedly approved openended
funding for it. An operational unit in the Counterterrorism Section at Headquarters
instructed 24 field offices to pay close attention to Islamic students from the target country
engaged in aviation training. This communication was sent to the Phoenix Office’s International
Terrorism squad, but the agent who wrote the Phoenix EC does not recall it. The communication
requested that field offices “task sources, coordinate with the INS, and conduct other logical
inquiries, in an effort to develop an intelligence baseline” regarding the terrorist group’s
involvement with students. There is no indication that field offices conducted any investigation
after receiving the communication. The analyst who drafted it explained that he received several
calls from the field for guidance since it raised concerns about the Buckley Amendment, which
bars post-secondary educational institutions that receive federal funding from releasing personal
information without written student consent.
The project was subsequently assigned to the International Terrorism Analytic Unit at
Headquarters, where an analyst determined that 75 academic and more than 1000 non-academic
institutions offered flight education in the United States. In November 2000, the analyst informed
field offices that no information had been uncovered about the terrorist group [page 352]
recruiting students and stated that “further investigation by FBI field offices is deemed imprudent”
by FBI Headquarters.
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The former chief of the operational unit involved in this project told the Joint Inquiry that
he was not surprised by the apparent lack of vigorous investigative action by the field offices. The
FBI’s structure often prevented Headquarters from forcing field offices to take investigative action
they were unwilling to take. The FBI was so decentralized, he said, and Special Agents in Charge
of field offices wielded such power that when field agents complained to a supervisor about a
request from Headquarters, the latter would generally back down.
Personnel working on the Phoenix EC at Headquarters were not aware of these earlier
reports on terrorist groups sending aviation students to the United States and did not know that
Headquarters had undertaken a systematic effort in 1999 to identify Middle Eastern flight students
in the United States. This example demonstrates the lack of information sharing in the FBI.
According to interviewees, this is a problem not only at Headquarters, but also in the field.
Agents often will be familiar only with cases in their own squad. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant
Director for Counterterrorism Analysis, recently detailed from CIA to improve the FBI’s analytic
capability, testified before the Joint Inquiry that the Bureau “didn’t have analysts dedicated to sort
of looking at the big picture and trying to connect the dots, say between the Phoenix memo . . .
and some other information that might have come in that might have suggested that there were
persons there who might be preparing to hijack aircraft.”
The Phoenix agent also testified that he was unaware of most of the earlier reports on the
potential use of airplanes as weapons. He explained that after a downsizing at Headquarters “we
in the field . . . saw a decreased amount of analytical material that came out of Headquarters that
could assist someone like myself in Arizona.” In an interview, the agent noted that he often felt
“out on an island” investigating counterterrorism in Phoenix. In his words, before September 11
counterterrorism and counterintelligence were the “bastard stepchild” of the FBI because these
programs do not generate career-enhancing statistics like other programs, such as Violent
Crimes/Major Offenders or drugs.
[Page 353]
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VIII. Strategic Analysis
A recurrent theme throughout this Joint Inquiry has been the need for stronger, more
focused analytic capability throughout the Intelligence Community. The FBI had fewer than ten
tactical analysts and only one strategic analyst assigned to al-Qa’ida before September 11. At
CTC, only three analysts were assigned to al-Qa’ida full time between 1998 and 2000, and five
analysts between 2000 and September 11, 2001. Including analysts from other CIA components
in CIA who focused on al-Qa’ida to some degree, the total was fewer than 40 analysts. DCI Tenet
acknowledged at a Joint Inquiry hearing that the number of analysts in the CTC analytic unit
working on Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida was “too small” and “we should have had more analysts than
we did.”
NSA had, in all, approximately [ ] analysts in its Counterterrorism “Product Line,”
supported by analysts in other lines. Throughout 2001, the Counterterrorism Product Line had a
standing request for an additional [ ] SIGINT analysts, but there was little expectation that
such a large request would be satisfied. Moreover, requirements for NSA’s Arabic linguists were
substantial. Before September 11, only [ ] language analysts were working “campaign
languages,” such as Arabic, Pashto, and Dari. Today that number is almost [ ], but
requirements continue to increase.
When CTC was created in 1986, DIA’s analytic capability remained as a parallel analytic
organization. In 1993 or 1994, DIA began a concerted effort against Bin Ladin, with a total
authorized strength of 80 terrorism analysts.
A. The Intelligence Community’s Lack of Strategic Analysis
The Intelligence Community’s analytic focus on al-Qai’da was far more oriented toward
tactical analysis in support of operations than on strategic analysis intended to develop a broader
understanding of the threat and the organization. For example, the DCI’s National Intelligence
Council never produced a National Intelligence Estimate on the threat al-Qa’ida posed to the
United States. According to an August 2001 CIA Inspector General report, CTC analysts only had
time to focus on crises or short-term demands and “did not have the time to spot trends or to [page
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354] knit together the threads from the flood of information.” Commenting on the CTC’s analytic
record, the Director of Terrorism Analysis explained during a Joint Inquiry hearing:
[W]hile the unit's production had gone up dramatically—particularly in the area of
current intelligence where the increase had been more than double—production of
strategic research had, in fact, remained flat. Earlier correction of these
shortcomings would not have enabled us to produce explicit tactical warning of the
September 11 plot—the available data was only sufficient to support the strategic
warning we indeed provided – but we did recognize our shortcomings and took
several steps to address them.
In a Joint Inquiry hearing, DCI Tenet explained the importance of strategic analysis:
[T]he single lesson learned from all of this is the strategic analytical piece of this
has to be big and vibrant to give you the chance to be predictive, even when you
don’t have much information to go on. I think it’s a very important point. We’ve
made a lot of progress.
FBI witnesses identified little, if any, strategic analysis against domestic al-Qa’ida
activities before September 11, 2001. The Chief of the FBI’s National Security Intelligence
Section testified to the Joint Inquiry that the FBI had “no analysts” dedicated to strategic analysis
before September 11. In fact, as of that date, the FBI had only one analyst working on al-Qa’ida.
FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson testified that he could not recall any
instance where the FBI Headquarters analytical unit produced “an actual product that helped out.”
In regard to the September 11 attacks, witnesses confirmed the Bureau’s failure to connect
information on al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, Moussaoui, and the FBI Phoenix memorandum in the
summer of 2001. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis, recently
detailed from the CIA to improve the FBI’s analytic capability, testified before the Joint Inquiry
that the Bureau “didn’t have analysts dedicated to sort of looking at the big picture and trying to
connect the dots, say between the Phoenix memo and Moussaoui and some other information that
might have . . . suggested that there were individuals there who might be preparing to hijack
aircraft.”
One of the primary reasons there was so little focus on strategic analysis in the Intelligence
Community may have been the perception that operational matters were more [page 355]
important to counterterrorism missions than analysis. Consistent with its traditional law
enforcement mission, the FBI was, before September 11, a reactive, operationally-driven
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organization that did not value strategic analysis. While FBI personnel appreciated case-specific
analysis, most viewed strategic analytic products as academic and of little use in on-going
operations. The FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism acknowledged in Joint Inquiry
testimony that the reactive nature of the FBI was not conducive to success in counterterrorism:
No one was thinking about the counterterrorism program what the threat was and
what we were trying to do about it. And when that light came on, I realized that,
hey, we are a reactive bunch of people, and reactive will never get us to a
prevention and what we do. . . . Is there anybody thinking and where’s al-Qa’ida’s
next target? And no one was really looking at that.
The Assistant Director also acknowledged the difficulty of going beyond the FBI’s traditional
case-oriented approach:
We will never 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. It’s particularly difficult for law enforcement people.
A former CTC Chief also told the Joint Inquiry that in CTC:
We have underinvested in the strategic only because we’ve had such near-term
threats. The trend is always toward the tactical. . . . The tactical is where lives are
saved. And it is not necessarily commonly accepted, but strategic analysis does not
… get you to saving lives.
In Joint Inquiry testimony, the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism
Analysis explained that, before September 11, strategic analysis was the FBI’s “poor stepchild.”
As a result, strategic analysts were often marginalized by operational units and rarely, if ever,
received requests from operational sections for assessments of pending al-Qa’ida cases.
In 2000, FBI management aggravated this situation by transferring five strategic analysts,
who had been working on al-Qa’ida matters, to operational units to assist with ongoing cases.
[Page 356] According to a former Chief of the International Terrorism Analytic Unit, this
“gutted” the analytic unit’s al-Qa’ida expertise and left it with little capacity to perform strategic
analysis.
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Concerns about protecting criminal prosecutions also limited the FBI’s ability to utilize
strategic analytic products. In interviews, some analysts said they frequently were told not to
produce written analyses, lest they be included in discovery during criminal prosecutions. FBI
analysts were further hindered because of the limitations of the FBI’s information technology.
The Bureau has had little success in building a strategic analytic capability, despite
numerous attempts before September 11 to do so. For example, in 1996, the FBI hired
approximately 50 strategic analysts, many with advanced degrees. Most of those analysts left the
Bureau within two years because they were dissatisfied with the role of strategic analysis at the
FBI.
CTC analysts also expressed concern that their opinions were not given sufficient weight.
A CTC manager confirmed that CIA operations officers in the field resented tasks from analysts
because they did not like to take direction from the Directorate of Intelligence. Despite the need
for increased analytic capability, CTC reportedly refused to accept analytic support from other
agencies in at least two instances before September 11. Both FAA and DIA informed the Joint
Inquiry that CTC management rebuffed offers of analytic assistance because the agencies wanted
in return greater access to CTC intelligence, particularly intelligence about CIA operations.
NSA analysts told Joint Inquiry staff that the CTC viewed them as subordinate, like an
“ATM” for signals intelligence. The analysts attempted to accommodate CTC requests for
information by focusing on short-term operational requirements, sometimes at the expense of
more thorough analysis, even changing reporting formats because CTC did not like NSA analyst
comments to be embedded in the text of the reports. Several NSA analysts also stated their belief
that the DCI will always side with the CIA’s CTC operational personnel over NSA analysts in the
event of agency disagreements.
[Page 357]
B. Analyst Qualifications and Training
The Joint Inquiry explored the extent to which analysts were inexperienced, undertrained,
and, in some cases, unqualified for the responsibilities they were given. At the CTC, analysts
were a relatively junior group before September 11 with three years experience on the average, in
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contrast to eight years for analysts in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence. The Director of
Terrorism Analysis explained during a closed hearing:
We had some analysts who had been on the terrorism target for some time, but . . .
our biggest concentration was people at about the three to four years of experience,
so we had a few senior analysts, a large cadre of very good, very experienced when
we hired them, but nevertheless they hadn't had the ten years, fifteen years on the
account that you would want. There's a historical reason for that. In the
Counterterrorist Center, when it was founded, people were brought in on a
rotational basis and worked there for two years, and then they went back to their
home office. So you hadn't built up that skill back in the late eighties and nineties.
Starting in about '97 the Counterterrorist Center had a career service, a nurturing
expertise-building service. So by 2000, when I arrived in the Center, what you had
is the new people who had been hired into that career service who were reaching
their own, but still in the beginning part of their careers.
A January 2002 FBI internal study found that 66% of the FBI’s 1200 “Intelligence
Research Specialists,” or analysts, were unqualified. This problem was compounded by the fact
that newly assigned analysts received little counterterrorism training. As the Chief of the FBI’s
National Security Intelligence Section told the Joint Inquiry:
While there was no standardized training regimen, other than a two-week basic
analytical course, training was available on an ad hoc basis and guidance was
provided by both the unit chiefs of the analytical units and the FBI's Administrative
Services Division. The development of a standardized curriculum, linked to job
skills, and career advancement was being planned . . . , but it was never
implemented.
A senior CTC supervisor testified at a Joint Inquiry hearing that CTC did not have enough
analysts with sufficient experience to produce sophisticated, in-depth analysis in the quantities
needed. In the same hearing, the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis
testified that FBI analysts “had great expertise on investigations, [but] were not in a position to see
the big picture [or] connect the dots.” As a result, the FBI’s [page 358] Counterterrorism Division
had great difficulty in producing integrated intelligence assessments that provided early warning
of emerging threats. Finally, the Chief of DIA’s Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating
Terrorism concluded, “We are probably still in the business of describing potentials more than we
are able to really render predictive analysis.” That testimony reinforces an observation by a DIA
senior official with broad experience in counterterrorism that Intelligence Community analysts
largely perform descriptive analysis, and interpretive analysis skills have not been encouraged or
built into the workforce.
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Former NSA Director William Odom also focused on training in materials he submitted to
the Joint Inquiry:
[Although] the Intelligence Community's system of education and training is
extensive, diverse, specialized — and fragmented . . . it lacks three key elements.
First, nowhere is a common doctrinal understanding of intelligence functions and
processes documented and taught to all Intelligence Community management and
executive leadership personnel. Second, the teaching of Community-wide resource
management has been generally neglected. Third, there is no educational emphasis
on senior executive leadership and staff training.
C. Analysts’ Access to Information
The Joint Inquiry was also told that all-source counterterrorism analysis suffered because
analysts not located at CTC had limited access to “raw material” in FBI counterterrorism
investigations, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act information, unpublished NSA
information and CIA operations cables. The Special Assistant for Intelligence at DIA testified
about the extent of these problems:
In my opinion, one of the most prolonged and troubling trends in the Intelligence
Community is the degree to which analysts, while being expected to incorporate all
sources of information into their assessments, have been systematically separated
from the raw material of their trade. . . . At least for a few highly complex high
stakes issues, such as terrorism, where information by its nature is fragmentary,
ambiguous and episodic, we need to find ways to emphatically put the “all” back in
the discipline of all-source analysis.
At the FBI, information access continues to be frustrated by serious technology shortfalls.
The Bureau’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis told the Joint Inquiry:
[page 359]
There were a variety of problems in sharing information, not only with other
agencies, but within the Bureau itself. This was and is largely attributable to
inadequate information technology. In a nutshell, because the Bureau lacks
effective data mining capabilities and analytical tools, it has often been unable to
retrieve key information and analyze it in a timely manner - and a lot probably has
slipped through the cracks as a result.
Following the attack on the USS Cole, DIA recognized the need for better information
sharing and initiated the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center. The DIA Special Assistant for
Intelligence testified:
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. . . a specific aspect of the concept of operations was its provisions for a highlyprotected
merged data base containing all U.S. intelligence on terrorism, regardless
of sensitivity, sourcing or collection methods. This was a Director of DIA initiative
to overcome the evident vulnerabilities posed by insufficient intelligence sharing
within the U.S. Intelligence Community. Although Intelligence Community
principals endorsed the idea at the time and since, it has so far not been
implemented. . . . Legacy rules, policies, interpretation of regulations, and agency
cultures continue to impede information and data sharing. As a result, we cannot
bring our full analytical power to bear on the terrorist threat, nor can we provide the
best possible support to military planners, operators, decision makers or to other
consumers of intelligence. . . . [P]rogress is being made and there are positive
developments under way. But so far remedies remain insufficient to the magnitude
of the problem.
Witnesses also described a lack of collaboration among analysts within the Intelligence
Community. Terrorist-related intelligence often consists of small fragments of seemingly
disparate information. Information that may seem unimportant to one agency may be critical to
another. Capitalizing on the analytical strengths of each intelligence agency to understand the
terrorist target from different angles should be paramount. Unfortunately, there was no
mechanism in place to enable inter-agency collaboration. A former CTC Director of Terrorism
Analysis described the problem:
I think the only way to overcome the various cultures of the various agencies is to
force the interaction . . . where you're putting people together and getting the
understanding. You do find out there are real concerns. People aren't trying to be
jerks on purpose. They have problems and you start finding out about those and
learning how to work with those.
[Page 360]
Although it was established with the intention that it would be the Intelligence
Community’s hub for counterterrorism activities, some suggested that CTC’s operational focus
significantly overshadowed collaborative strategic analysis. In interviews, NSA analysts, for
example, said that CTC viewed them as subordinate, despite the value of their products.
Constructive CTC feedback on their reports was rare. A positive step was taken in early 2001
when NSA and CTC analysts began holding bi-weekly video teleconferences, but these were
suspended following September 11 due to workload demands.
DIA analysts reported that their efforts are not fully appreciated by CIA. According to a
senior DIA official, a lack of trust on the part of collectors and all-source analysts underlay the
failure of the CIA to share information with the rest of the Intelligence Community concerning the
January 2000 Malaysia meeting that involved at least two of the September 11 hijackers.
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Another component of collaboration is understanding the culture and information
requirements of other intelligence agencies. NSA regularly sends liaison personnel to other
intelligence agencies to help NSA customers better understand its products. Currently there are
[ ] NSA analysts assigned to CTC; before September 11, there were [ ]. There also are [ ]
NSA analysts at the FBI; before September 11, there were [ ]. These analysts often do double
duty as NSA liaison and by working on projects for the offices to which they are assigned.
Conversely, no CIA analyst and only one FBI analyst works in NSA’s Counterterrorism
Product Line. The lack of Intelligence Community representation at NSA reportedly prevents
collaboration and insight into how customers use NSA products. Over a year ago, for example, a
CIA analyst agreed to an assignment at NSA. While there, she was able to scour unpublished
NSA transcripts for lead information, such as [ ], of utility to CTC operations.
She left after four months without a replacement, despite CTC’s increasing need for leads. While
the CIA analyst was at NSA, she had access to the CIA computer network, which is not otherwise
available to NSA analysts. The CIA detailee conducted searches of CIA operational cables to
determine how NSA products were being used by CTC and to check lead information relevant to
NSA. These NSA analysts found the information very useful. When the detailee left, the CIA
computer access left as well. A senior NSA analyst said that, if her office had daily [page 361]
access to CIA [ ] cable traffic, its productivity could increase dramatically with
immediate insight into [ ] requirements and lead information. Currently, the
responsibility for reviewing CTC [ ] cables for lead information falls to
overworked NSA analysts assigned to CTC who usually conduct these searches “when they have
the time.”
D. Language Skills
[Witnesses emphasized for the Joint Inquiry the critical importance of language skills in
counterterrorism analysis. The linguistic expertise needed to identify, analyze, and disseminate
intelligence relating to the al-Qa’ida threat includes an understanding of colloquial expression in
[ ] “terrorist languages” and dialects. [
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]. The majority of Intelligence Community language employees,
however, do not have the skills necessary to understand terrorist communications.
[According to NSA’s Deputy Director for Analysis and Reporting, “[a]nalyzing,
processing, translating, and reporting al-Qa’ida related [ ] communications
requires the highest levels of language and target knowledge expertise that exists.” Communicants
speak all major Arabic dialects, making analysis linguistically and conceptually challenging.
Evaluating these communications requires considerable subject-matter expertise in Islam in
general and Islamic extremist thought in particular to ensure accurate interpretation. Very few
NSA Arabic language analysts have done any graduate work in Islamic Studies, [
]. The
targeted person lives in and understands life in a thoroughly Islamic milieu that is reflected in that
person’s communications].
[The level of language expertise needed to work on the counterterrorist threat is very high.
Subject-matter knowledge is necessary in explosives, chemistry, technical communications,
[ ], paramilitary operations, weaponry and tactics. Moreover, speakers of
Arabic [page 362] and other languages used by al-Qa’ida are in demand: Arabic linguists are also
sought for such important issues [ ] as other regional and terrorist intelligence targets].
The pool of qualified persons from which the Intelligence Community can draw to meet
this challenge is very small and includes persons with military experience, university students, and
those with native background or extensive experience in particular countries. Very few U.S.
college graduates have more than a limited capability in Arabic. According to the 2002 Integrated
Postsecondary Education Data System statistics, American colleges granted only six degrees in
Arabic in the survey year, 183 in Chinese, and 339 in Russian. U.S. colleges or universities offer
degrees in languages that are critical in countering the terrorist threat, such as Dari, Pashto,
Punjabi, Persian-Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, Turkmen, Tadjik, Tagalog, Somali, Kurdish, Chechen, or
Uzbek.
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In sum, the Joint Inquiry was told that the quality of Intelligence Community
counterterrorism analysis affected not only its strategy and operations, but also the ability of U.S.
Government policymakers to understand threats and make informed decisions. Several current
and former policymakers provided testimony underlining the importance of intelligence analysis.
For example, Mr. Clarke, former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, explained:
The FBI did not provide analysis. The FBI, as far as I could tell, didn't have an
analytical shop. They never provided analysis to us, even when we asked for it, and
I don't think that throughout that ten-year period we really had an analytical
capability of what was going on in this country.
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger implied in his testimony that the U.S.
Government has often relied too heavily on analytic expertise within its own ranks:
I think we live in a world, Congressman, in which expertise increasingly does not
exist in the government. It’s a very complicated world. And the five people who
know Afghanistan the best or Sierra Leone the best are probably located either in
academia, think tanks or in companies, not to devalue the people of the
government. So we have to find a way in my judgment to integrate the expertise
that exists on the outside with the information that exists on the inside.
[Page 363]
IX. Views of Outside Experts on the Intelligence Community
The Joint Inquiry interviewed and took testimony from many leading experts on the
Intelligence Community. The experts touched on a wide array of topics, but much of the
discussion revolved around four issues: setting priorities, strategy against international terrorism,
reform of the Intelligence Community, and counterterrorism within the United States. Included in
the record are, for example, the testimony and statements of several seasoned observers: Lee
Hamilton, former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Judge
William Webster, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central
Intelligence Agency, General William Odom, former Director of the National Security Agency;
Frederick Hitz, former CIA Inspector General; former Senator Warren Rudman, co-chairman of
the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century; and former Governor James Gilmore,
chairman of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism
Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.
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A. Setting Priorities
Former Congressman Hamilton placed “first” on his list of reforms setting “clear priorities
for the Intelligence Community.” Because demand for intelligence by policymakers has become
“insatiable,” the Congressman argued, the Intelligence Community has become “demand driven”
and “there are simply too many intelligence targets, products, and consumers.” Since the end of
the Cold War, there has not been a “clear set of priorities” within the Intelligence Community and,
consequently, there has not been an ordered allocation of resources.
In addition, Former Congressman Hamilton noted that generally “responsibility [has been]
on the consumer of the intelligence in both the Legislative and the Executive branches to set
forward in some orderly manner the priorities,” and he called on the National Security Council to
provide guidelines for “long-term strategic planning.” The two most important [page 364]
priorities, he urged, should be “combating and preventing terrorism” and “preventing the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
B. Strategy And Organization
Senator Rudman brought to the Joint Inquiry’s attention a 1996 recommendation of the
Aspin/Brown Commission on Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence
Community, “a distinguished group of Americans who spent a lot of time looking in advance of
9/11 at precisely the things that [the Joint Inquiry is] looking at post-9/11.” Under the heading,
“The Need for a Coordinated Response to Global Crime,” the Aspin/Brown Commission
recommended that, in responding to terrorism and other transnational criminal dangers to the
American people, the U.S. Government may have to develop “strategies which employ diplomatic,
economic, military, or intelligence measures . . . instead of, or in collaboration with, law
enforcement response.” This made it essential “that there be overall direction and coordination of
U.S. response to global crime.” Senator Rudman reflected, “I will tell you that nobody evidently
read it.”
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Congressman Hamilton stated the broad case for reorganizing the Intelligence Community,
which he described as now a “loose confederation” with redundant efforts, imbalances between
collection and analysis, and coordination problems:
The very phrase ‘Intelligence Community’ is intriguing. It demonstrates how
decentralized and fragmented our intelligence capabilities are. . . . New
intelligence priorities demand a reorganization of the Intelligence Community. . . .
[W]e really are in a new era, and we must think anew.
Joint Inquiry witnesses expressed a range of views on two interrelated questions about the
organization of the Intelligence Community:
whether Community leadership should be vested in a new, cabinet-level Director of
National Intelligence (DNI) with Community-wide responsibilities beyond those now
vested in the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), particularly with regard to budget
planning and execution; and [page 365]
whether the “double-hatting,” by which the DCI is also the Director of the Central
Intelligence Agency, should be ended so that the DNI becomes the President’s
principal intelligence advisor with authority to lead the Community, while a separate
Director oversees the CIA.
C. Should a Strong Director of National Intelligence be Established?
Congressman Hamilton testified that:
[w]e need a single cabinet-level official who is fully in charge of the Intelligence
Community, a Director of National Intelligence or DNI.” To fulfill that role, the
DNI “must be in frequent and candid contact with the President[,] have his full
confidence . . . have control over much, if not most of, the Intelligence
Community budget, and the power to manage key appointments. [Presently, the
DCI] does not have this control, and thus [the DCI] lacks authority.
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger also stated:
. . . [S]trengthening the DCI’s authority to plan, program and budget for
intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination will permit much more effective
integration of our intelligence priorities and efforts, including better concentration
on counterterrorism.
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A DNI with authority over management and particularly budget, Congressman Hamilton
concluded, is important for “responsibility and accountability”:
The person who controls the budget controls the operation. And if you don’t have
budget authority, you are dramatically undercut in your ability to manage the
operation. That’s why the bureaucrats fight so hard over budget. Budget is power.
General Odom expressed a limited difference on the extent of the proposed Director of
National Intelligence’s budget authority: “I think Congressman Hamilton wants more executive
budget authority than I do, but otherwise I think we overlap enormously.” The General would
give the DNI the planning power necessary to take “an overall comprehensive look” at the
intelligence budget and assess whether intelligence agencies are adequately funded. He would not
give the DNI budget “execution” or “spending” power, which would require that Congress [page
366] rewrite regulations governing Department of Defense spending because NSA, a principal
member of the Intelligence Community, is a component of the Department of Defense.
D. Should the Same Person be both DNI and Director of the CIA?
Several experts called for separate heads of the Intelligence Community and the CIA.
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger “encourage[d] the Committees to consider
proposals to separate the DCI and CIA Director positions, so the DCI can focus primarily on
Community issues and not just CIA concerns.” Congressman Hamilton was even more definite:
to avoid a “natural bias” toward the CIA, the head of the CIA should not also be the DNI: “You
cannot be head of the Intelligence Community and head of the CIA at the same time. There’s a
conflict there. And I want someone over all that. . . .” General William Odom, former Director
of the National Security Agency; added: “The DCI becomes trapped if he’s also directing an
agency, and therefore he doesn’t look at the Community as a whole as much as he could.”
Judge Webster disagreed with separate appointments and roles for the head of the
Community and the CIA and argued instead for keeping the DCI “double-hatted,” but
strengthening the DCI role.
[M]ore emphasis [should be put] on finally addressing the lack of real authority that
the DCI has over the Intelligence Community. He does not write the report cards
on the agency heads. He does not even pick the agency heads. He has nominal
authority over the budget….
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Reflecting on his time as DCI, Judge Webster explained that “[o]ccasionally I would issue
something that looked nominally like an instruction, it was mostly hoping with a lot of
groundwork behind it . . . something would come of it.” If the head of national intelligence were
placed at the White House “without troops,” Judge Webster argued, “it’s difficult for me to see
how it would be truly effective.”
Former CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz agreed with Judge Webster, describing the
Secretary of Defense as an “800-pound gorilla” that the DCI has never been able to wrestle to the
ground because of the Secretary’s responsibility and command authority for defense intelligence
[page 367] agencies. Mr. Hitz recommended “realistic” proposals giving the DCI “a kibitzing
power over selection of Director of NSA and more collaborative powers with the Secretary of
Defense.”
Former Congressman Hamilton responded that the Director of National Intelligence should
have “real authority and real personnel authority”: “I wouldn’t put him in the White House, as
Judge Webster is suggesting [I would].” General Odom argued that the DNI “has to take some
organizational capability with him – he can’t just stand out there in an office and be a czar over in
the White House.” He should have an expanded National Intelligence Council as a reinforcement
which together with the DCI’s Community management staff give him “a pretty good
organizational base.” As for limiting change to strengthening the existing DCI position,
Congressman Hamilton asserted:
We’re in a new world, and we have to begin to think of ways to structure this. I
have heard the argument about strengthening the DCI for 35 years. . . . It’s a move
in the right direction. But I don’t think it gets us into the new era we’re in.
E. Counterterrorism within the U.S and Creation of a Domestic Intelligence Agency
The witnesses addressed the organizational and other challenges to the effective conduct of
counterterrorism operations in the United States. To Congressman Hamilton, the CIA and FBI
must “fundamentally alter” policies and practices: “The FBI, with its new emphasis on prevention,
will have to focus more on counter-terrorism, and the CIA will have to trace international leads to
the homeland.” Indeed, “the threat of terrorism is going to require an unprecedented overlap
between intelligence and law enforcement.” Although Congressman Hamilton favored
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restructuring the Intelligence Community so that “resources can be coordinated and agencies aid,
not obstruct one another,” he did not recommend a new organization to conduct counterterrorism
domestically:
I don’t think it’s a statutory solution, a legislative solution. . . . Most important, the
two agencies will have to share information and work together to infiltrate, disrupt
and destroy terrorist cells … If the shortcomings leading up to 9/11 were systemic
in nature, the solution lies in better system management, the handling and analysis
of vast amounts of information, and the distribution in a timely manner of the key
conclusions to the right people.
[Page 368]
Congressman Hamilton urged recognition of the fact that CIA and FBI have “for a very
long period” done their jobs “quite well” and they are now “suddenly confronted with a new
world.” The decision to transform FBI priorities from law enforcement to prevention is a “huge
change,” and we cannot expect the Bureau “to turn around on a dime.” Rather than new
legislation, change “takes leadership, it takes oversight.”
In contrast, General Odom argued for a major change in the organization of U.S.
counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Counterintelligence, he urged, “is in the worst shape of
all.” Five agencies have counterintelligence operations – FBI, CIA, and three military services –
“with no overall manager.” As a consequence, “[t]he parochialism, fragmentation, and
incompetence are difficult to exaggerate in the U.S. counterintelligence world.” Fragmentation
and lack of skills ensures “dismal performance” because “terrorists, like spies, come through
openings.”
General Odom recommended that the “first step” is “to take [counterintelligence]
responsibility out of the FBI, leaving the Bureau with its law enforcement responsibilities, and
create a National Counterintelligence Service under the DCI with operational oversight over the
[counterintelligence] operations of the CIA and the three military departments in the Pentagon.”
The new organization would not be given arrest authority, which would remain with the FBI and
other law enforcement organizations: “The FBI might be the agency to use [intelligence] to go
make arrests and provide the evidence for prosecutions, but the business of locating spies, finding
out what they’re doing, understanding patentable collection, terrorist infiltrations, et cetera, can be
primarily an intelligence operation.”
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Judge Webster did not “warm to the idea of separating counterterrorism from the FBI.” He
responded to proposals for a separate domestic intelligence service modeled after England’s MI-5
service:
We’re not England. We’re not 500 miles across our territory. We have thousands
of miles to cover. Would you propose to create an organization that had people all
over the United States, as the FBI does?
[Page 369]
The Congress, Judge Webster argued, would “never vote the resources to have a second
FBI throughout the country.” It is better, then, “to use what we have and train them to be more
responsive.” Rather than spending time “moving the boxes around,” Judge Webster
recommended that Congress look to those areas in the system which need to be shored up with
appropriate resources and training.” The “crucial” example, he testified, was the FBI’s twelve
year-old information system, that “the FBI has been trying to get help with for years, and has not
succeeded.” Judge Webster also called for “new sets of relationships between CIA, which has
been functioning largely abroad, until more recently, with the FBI’s participation and expanded
legal attaché relationships, and the law enforcement responsibilities of dealing with the threat
here”:
More than any other kind of threat, there is an interrelationship between law
enforcement and intelligence in dealing with the problem of terrorism … We need
both investigative capability and intelligence collection capability, as well as those
who go through the bits and pieces and fill in the dots.
Senator Rudman maintained that creation of a British-styled MI-5 domestic intelligence
service would not solve the problems we face: “You have got enormous domestic collection
capability in the FBI, assuming it is focused in the right direction.” He concluded that the
Intelligence Community could enhance its campaign against terrorism by adopting measures
designed to share and cooperate amongst its members:
[T]he more jointness that you have between these agencies, the more they work in
joint counterterrorism centers, the more their information databases become
common, the more there is constant daily, hourly cooperation between them, the
more the NSA is brought in by statute, if necessary, to supplying the FBI with
domestic counterterrorism information, then you will do the improvement you
need.
Senator Rudman spoke forcefully against proposals for a new counterterrorism organization:
I do not believe we need new structures or new systems. We may need different
kinds of people, we may need different kinds of technology, but I don’t think
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[page 370] there is anything wrong with the systems. I think there is a lot wrong
with how they have been used over the last ten years.
Senator Rudman did not believe that a law-enforcement culture makes it impossible for the
Bureau to be an effective intelligence-gathering agency, an issue he has also addressed as
chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. “The best domestic
intelligence-gathering organization . . . on the ground today is the FBI,” although the Senator
agreed that “[t]he problem is that they have had a law enforcement mind-set.” In spite of that
problem, the Bureau has 56 field offices and 44 offices overseas, and, therefore, “it is not a
question of trying to get a new agency to do the domestic intelligence, counterintelligence; it is a
question of [getting] the resources” necessary for the task.
Following the Joint Inquiry hearings, the Commission that Governor Gilmore chairs on
assessing domestic response capabilities against terrorism, released recommendations in advance
of its fourth annual report in December 2002. The Commission recommended establishment of a
National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), a “stand-alone organization” headed by a Senate
confirmed, presidential appointee, “responsible for the fusion of intelligence, from all sources,
foreign and domestic, on potential terrorist attacks inside the United States.” The Commission
also recommended that “collection of intelligence . . . on international terrorist activities inside the
United States, including the authorities, responsibilities and safeguards under the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are currently in the FBI, be transferred to the NCTC” for two
reasons: First, “while the FBI remains the world’s preeminent law enforcement agency, there is a
big difference between dealing with a terrorist act as a crime to be punished and dealing with it as
an attack to be prevented.” Second, “it is important to separate the intelligence function from the
law enforcement function to avoid the impression that the U.S. is establishing a kind of ‘secret
police.’” The proposed NCTC would not have arrest authority.
Governor Gilmore’s preference is “to maintain these [domestic intelligence] functions
within the FBI and to build upon [its] considerable structures, sources and resources to upgrade
and improve these functions.” Nevertheless, he said he would support the Commission’s
recommendation, given the oversight provisions and legal restrictions described in the
Commission’s preliminary report to ensure that our civil liberties are not diminished. Another
Commission member disagreed with the [Page 371] recommendation, however, asserting in
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dissent that “[t]he FBI culture as a law enforcement agency provides a backdrop and check and
balance against any abuse of civil liberties.”
F. A Legislative Charter for the Intelligence Community
Beyond streamlining the Intelligence Community by, for example, enacting legislation to
create a new Director of National Intelligence, Congressman Hamilton urged the enactment of a
“legislative charter” for the Community, a task he knew from personal experience would be
difficult to accomplish:
U.S. intelligence is governed by a set of disparate laws and executive orders
produced over the last fifty-five years. No single one of these laws provides a
comprehensive legal foundation for our massive intelligence establishment. This is
a remarkable state of affairs in a country that takes the rule of law so seriously.
In short, the Congressman testified, “[w]e need a statutory foundation for U.S. intelligence.”
G. Respect for the Rule of Law
Notwithstanding differences on particular proposals, many witnesses joined in the
conviction Congressman Hamilton voiced that “[r]eforms in the Intelligence Community must not
come at expense of the rule of law and respect for civil liberties.” As Judge Webster put it: “I
hope that in the rush to judgment, we will remember who we are and [that] the methods we
choose, both for intelligence and for law enforcement, will be consistent with who we are in this
country.” Congressman Hamilton described the challenges ahead: “Intelligence work requires
that our government obtain information, and obtaining that information requires surveillance of
people who have committed no crime -- the challenge is to facilitate information-gathering about
suspicious people, while insulating legitimate personal and political activity from intrusive
scrutiny.”
Congressman Hamilton also stressed that responsibility for protecting basic rights lies in
several places:
It’s very easy to overlook these matters of privacy and civil rights -- it has to come
from the top of the agency. It has to be protected by the courts. The United
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[page 372] States Congress, the intelligence committees, have to be sensitive to the
manner in which intelligence activities are carried out, and they have to zero in on
civil rights and liberties.
Judge Webster added that ensuring that investigatory tools are used in accordance with the law is
“an important role for the Department of Justice,” and, therefore, he is opposed to law
enforcement “go[ing] outside the Department of Justice at the federal level by giving it to people
who are not trained and do not understand the requirements that the Constitution and our laws
impose on them.”
General Odom asserted that “[t]he [Congressional] committees that did the investigation
[of the Intelligence Community] in the 1970s did a great service in implementing the system that
they have at NSA now, ensuring that rights are not violated”:
Congress should get credit for that. And as the director of the agency I felt better
for having this. I felt that I could be certain that my bureaucracy was not going to
run away and violate these kind of rights. And it was a thoughtfully done process
that created that system in the 1970s.
Finally, General Odom emphasized the importance of accountability:
In the military, we have a tradition. When you screw things up, we relieve the
commander, which leaves me puzzled about the behavior of the Administration in
the intelligence area. I consider intelligence . . . a military engagement, and I
would hold the commanders as responsible as I would ship commanders who run
their ships aground. They don’t stay around after they’ve run them aground, even
if they are not very guilty.
X. Information Sharing
Before September 11, 2001, the Intelligence Community had not melded into an effective
team to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States. Efforts had been taken to improve
cooperation between the CIA and FBI. After the DCI created the CTC in 1986, for instance, CIA
and FBI cross-detailed personnel to each other’s counterterrorism units, but this did not lead to a
plan between those two agencies or across the Community to integrate intelligence collection and
analysis. In the absence of a plan, agencies tended to operate independently.
[Page 373]
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Prior to September 11, information was inadequately shared not only within the
Intelligence Community, but also between the Community, other federal agencies, and state and
local authorities. In sum, the Joint Inquiry discovered significant problems in how intelligence
agencies shared information among themselves and with entities that need information to protect
the nation against terrorist attack.
A. Information Sharing between Intelligence Agencies and within the Federal Government
In closed and open hearings witnesses from both the intelligence and law enforcement
communities spoke of the need to share information. As the Comptroller General put it in a
statement submitted for the Joint Inquiry record, “The success of a homeland security strategy
relies on the ability of all levels of government and the private sector to communicate and
cooperate effectively with one another.”
a. National Security Agency
NSA intercepts well over [ ] communications each day, which it uses to
create reports for dissemination to components of the Executive Branch that have expressed
requirements for certain information. The growth of global communications and computer
networks has significantly increased the volume of communications NSA can intercept. One of
the major challenges the agency faces is to find information buried in the avalanche of electronic
data it receives every day. In deciding which communications [ ] to target, which [ ] to
monitor [ ], and which communications to select [ ], NSA tries to
maximize its exploitation capability, including its linguistic and analytic workforce.
[The effort to find and report the most useful information results in decisions at every step
in the exploitation process that leave information behind, unanalyzed and unreported. Thus,
potentially vital information is rejected before analysts see it, or, if it reaches an analyst, it is not
reported to customers. For example, NSA informed the Joint Inquiry that it reported some but not
all communications analyzed in 1999 and the first half of 2000 involving a [page 374] suspected
terrorist facility in the Middle East linked to al-Qa’ida activities directed against U.S. interests.
NSA did not publish other communications involving this facility and associated with a participant
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in a January 2000 meeting in Malaysia, hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar. As was explained in the
section of this report devoted to that meeting, these communications fell below NSA’s reporting
threshold].
NSA officials described the threshold as a subjective standard that can change every day.
It is a product of several factors including the priority of the intelligence topic (for example, threat
warnings have the highest priority), the level of customer interest in a particular subject, the
perceived value of the information, and the amount of intercept available for analysis and
reporting. In short, analysts have considerable discretion in reporting information, especially
when it is fragmentary or obscure.
A major concern of NSA customers is that this winnowing process is not sufficiently well
informed to avoid leaving potentially vital but seemingly irrelevant information on the “cutting
room floor,” particularly with regard to targets like al-Qa’ida where the smallest piece of
information may fill in the mosaic of the organization and its plans. To make well-informed
decisions about what to report, NSA needs detailed knowledge about how raw intercept data might
respond to customer needs. NSA deploys many analysts to customer agencies to understand their
needs and help them shape NSA reports. This is an important, but not complete solution to the
problem.
NSA officials complained to the Joint Inquiry that its customers rarely reciprocate by
assigning analysts to NSA to access its information, including raw intercepts. An NSA
counterterrorism supervisor noted that the productivity of NSA analysts was substantially
increased when a CIA analyst with access to Directorate of Operations cables was detailed to
NSA.
NSA officials are concerned about sharing raw intercepts in large part because some
intercepts contain information about “U.S. persons” that NSA must protect under “minimization
procedures” established by the Attorney General and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
It is not practical to review all raw traffic to strip off this information, and minimized [page 375]
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information might not have the same value as original text. NSA officials also cited concerns
about protecting sources and methods that produced the data and the difficulties in separating
content from information about them.
b. The Central Intelligence Agency
CIA personnel also make decisions about sharing information, particularly with regard to
[ ] cables that contain vital information about CIA activities.
[NSA has told the Joint Inquiry that regular access to [ ] cables would
enhance its understanding of material it intercepts and increase the productivity of its analytic
workforce. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency expressed particular concern about
cables relating to the Malaysia meeting. Joint Inquiry staff identified numerous CIA [ ] cables
concerning that meeting that contained information of value to all-source analysts. In response to
a Joint Inquiry request, DIA identified four leads its terrorism analysts could have pursued in early
2000 and one in December 2000, had information been shared. DIA also identified three leads in
[CIA] cables in August 2001 that would have allowed it to take action concerning the Malaysian
meeting, Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Nawaf al-Hazmi].
[CIA is concerned that access to cables would place its sources and methods at risk
because cables contain information about activities, including meetings with human assets. Most
analytic personnel recognize this concern and profess not to want operational details or
information about sources and methods. These analysts see information of potential significance,
embedded in the raw data. The CIA, they believe, filters out many intelligence “nuggets” before
analysts receive the information. The agency has itself recognized the value of this data by
integrating its counterterrorism analysts into the CTC where they are supposed to have full access
to raw traffic].
[Page 376]
c. The Federal Bureau Of Investigation
The FBI collects vast amounts of information from both criminal and intelligence
investigations, including interviews, wiretaps, physical searches, grand jury material, and
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intelligence disseminated by other members of the Intelligence Community. The FBI’s problem is
twofold: 1) dissemination of information within the Bureau and, 2) sharing of information with
other members of the Intelligence Community. In some cases, the FBI was limited by legal or
policy constraints on, for example, the use of grand jury information and information obtained
through criminal wiretaps. The USA Patriot Act eliminated some of those constraints. However,
the FBI has also been hampered by its own limitations, for example, a failure to develop a strategy
for sharing information. As its Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and
Counterintelligence testified:
We did not leverage what we had information-wise, and we did not leverage what
other agencies had as information. We lacked analysts, we lacked linguists, we
lacked electronic architecture that allows to us interact with other organizations. . . .
We lacked size. And we lacked attacking the target from 360 degrees. For
example, we did not develop a program that leveraged what we have as expertise,
what the Treasury had as expertise, and what the [CIA] had as to expertise for a
concentrated, focused, aggressive investigation in finances. Terrorist organizations
. . . like al-Qa'ida . . . have several points of strength, but several points of
weakness. . . . We did not leverage State and local police. The culture says you
don't share that information.
In addition, as a result of technological problems, FBI analysts did not have access to all
information within the Bureau. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism
Analysis testified that “the FBI lacked effective data mining capabilities and analytical tools, it has
often been unable to retrieve key information and analyze it in a timely manner, and a lot has
probably slipped through the cracks as a result.”
Before September 11, FBI personnel were not trained or equipped to share foreign
intelligence developed in counterterrorism investigations with the Intelligence Community or even
with other units within the Bureau, which deprived analysts throughout the Community of
information. The FBI’s Chief of the Counterintelligence Analysis Section in the
Counterintelligence Division explained: [page 377]
Technology alone, however, is not the silver bullet; gaining access to all relevant
FBI information associated with an individual terrorist suspect, terrorist group or
State Sponsor was also an issue the analysts faced periodically. Information was
sometimes not made available because field offices, concerned about security or
media leaks, did not upload their investigative results or restricted access to specific
cases. This, of course, risks leaving the analysts not knowing what they did not
know.
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Finally, the FBI typically used information obtained through the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act only in the cases in which it was obtained and would not routinely disseminate
the information within the Bureau or to other members of the Intelligence Community.
d. The Department Of State
One of the principal State Department contributions to the fight against terrorism is the
TIPOFF watchlist program, which, according to its director, was established in 1987 after the
Department issued a visa to someone the Intelligence Community knew was a terrorist.
According to TIPOFF’s Director, from inception to Summer 2002, the program prevented
763 individuals from receiving visas to enter the United States. However, the Joint Inquiry was
told that information flow into TIPOFF before September 11 was less than complete. It was not
until 1995, eight years after a terrorist was mistakenly allowed into the United States, that the CIA
approved State Department declassification of data for inclusion in TIPOFF. Before the change in
policy, State would submit a list of names monthly for CIA declassification, and that process
delayed the watchlist updates.
Growing concern about the terrorist threat did not noticeably increase the amount of
information shared between the Intelligence Community and the State Department before
September 11, which, in contrast, advised the Joint Inquiry that it received at least 1,500 CIA
Central Intelligence Reports containing terrorist names shortly after September 11. State
Department officials also spoke about the difficulty in obtaining data for watchlisting purposes
from the FBI National Crime Information Center, in spite of ten years of negotiations with the
Bureau for access.
[Page 378]
September 11 hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi provide perhaps the most
glaring examples of incomplete information sharing with the State Department. As is
demonstrated in other sections of this report, the CIA had reportable information about these men
long before it asked that they be “watchlisted” in August 2001. As DCI Tenet testified, this failure
is not the result of a limited problem in the systems in place:
The fact that we did not recommend al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar for watchlisting is
not attributable to a single point of failure. There were opportunities, both in the
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field and at Headquarters, to act on developing information. The fact that this did
not happen – aside from questions of CTC workload, particularly around the period
of the disrupted Millennium plots – pointed out that a whole new system, rather
than a fix at a single point in the system, was needed.
In particular, the DCI pointed to CIA personnel not understanding their obligation to place
people on watchlists or the criteria by which watchlist decisions should be made. The Director of
the TIPOFF program also described poor attendance at meetings he would arrange to brief CIA
personnel on the program and the frequent turnover of CIA personnel assigned to it.
Some improvements have been made since September 11. For example, Ambassador
Francis Taylor told the Joint Inquiry that, “in August, 2002, the entire TIPOFF database, including
full biographic records on nearly 85,000 terrorist names, photographs, fingerprints, and on-line
documentation, was made available to the authorized users from five Intelligence Community and
law enforcement agencies.” In August 2002 the State Department added over seven million
names from FBI indices to a State watchlist, augmenting the 5.8 million names already uploaded.
e. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA)
The FAA and its successor TSA are responsible for making threat information available to
airlines and airports, domestic and foreign. Without specific information from intelligence [page
379] and law enforcement agencies, TSA is unable to provide the context of threat to carriers and
airports. FAA officials told the Joint Inquiry that they have to make convincing cases about
threats to the aviation industry because the industry is not willing to absorb additional security
costs, absent strong evidence of need.
An example of the importance of providing context is the memorandum an agent in the
FBI’s Phoenix office prepared expressing concern about Middle Eastern students taking aviation
training. Claudio Manno, TSA’s Assistant Undersecretary for Intelligence, told the Joint Inquiry
that the FAA saw the Phoenix memorandum for the “first time” when Joint Inquiry staff brought
the matter up. Mr. Manno testified that, had he been made aware of the document, he would have
done “a number of things that were done later” to advance the post-September 11 investigation.
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B. Information Sharing between Intelligence Agencies and State and Local Officials
Although federal officials emphasized the importance of state and local perspectives, the
Joint Inquiry heard witnesses complain that the federal government does not systematically
involve state and local agencies in counterterrorism programs. Governor Gilmore, Chairman of
the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons
of Mass Destruction, testified:
[T]o the extent that there has been intelligence sharing, it has been ad hoc. It has
been without a real systematic approach. And what would you expect? With the
Intelligence Community, it is within the culture if not within the statute that you
don't share information. If you do [share information], you are even subject to
criminal penalties. . . .
Some progress was made on information sharing with state and local officials after the FBI
organized Joint Terrorism Task Forces in its field offices. Starting with the first JTTF New York
City in 1980, the FBI made a concerted effort to expand the program. As Director Freeh noted,
“We doubled and tripled the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the United States so
we could multiply our forces and coordinate intelligence and counterterrorism [page 380]
operations with FBI’s federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.” As of September 11,
thirty-five FBI field offices had JTTFs; now all fifty-six offices do.
JTTFs are designed to combine federal and local law enforcement and intelligence
capabilities into a cohesive unit to address complex international and domestic terrorism
investigations. JTTFs might include federal participants from CIA, INS, the Marshals Service, the
Secret Service, TSA, Customs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the State
Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the IRS, Park Police, and other agencies.
According to FBI representatives, JTTFs have improved communication among these
agencies and enabled the FBI to leverage their capabilities in counterterrorism investigations. For
example, INS personnel assigned to the Minneapolis JTTF were able to determine quickly that
Zacarias Moussaoui’s authority to stay in the United States had expired, leading to his arrest and
detention.
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JTTFs have not solved the information concerns of all state and local officials. Baltimore
Police Commissioner Edward Norris told the Joint Inquiry that serious gaps remain:
I would like to know exactly what everyone else knows in my city. Whatever
Federal agencies are working on in my city . . ., I should know exactly what's
happening. . . . [W]e know for a fact [that] terrorists are living in our cities. We all
know they're here; we just don't know who they are, we being the urban police
departments in this country. I would like to know and I would like to have a
briefing . . . at least every month. I would like to know what's happening, because I
get briefings from my intelligence division every day, so I know who we're
working on and I know what we're looking at. . . . If I had access in a full briefing
from whatever agency investigating within my city, it would make my life a whole
lot more efficient and comfortable. I would like to know what is happening, but
currently do not.
C. Additional Information Sharing Problems
Detailing employees from one agency to another is often praised as a form of information
sharing, but the Joint Inquiry heard that there are several limits to the practice. The Departments
of State, Transportation, Treasury, and Energy and the INS, Customs, and other organizations
detail personnel to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, the FBI, and, to a much lesser extent, NSA.
[Page 381]
Intelligence Community agencies also send detailees to non-intelligence and lawenforcement
agencies. Numerous task forces and cooperative agreements exist between the FBI
and border-security and intelligence agencies. Task forces are also primary vehicles for involving
state and local agencies in counterterrorism efforts.
The Joint Inquiry was told repeatedly that host agencies restrict access to information and
limit databases detailees can query on security and policy grounds. Detailees often learn about
intelligence only after host agency employees make ad hoc judgments to share information.
Representatives of detailing agencies also told the Joint Inquiry that host agency
employees often do not understand issues of interest to other agencies and consequently provide
detailees with information without context.
Access to databases is also impaired. This is because there is no single architecture in the
Intelligence Community that bridges all federal, state, and local government databases.
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Cultural concerns are another problem. Former DIA Director Admiral Thomas Wilson
explained to the Joint Inquiry that “information sharing” implies that one “owns the information.”
According to Admiral Wilson, agencies must shed the belief that they own information, which, in
fact, belongs to the government.
D. The Wall: Barriers between Law Enforcement and Intelligence
Legal and other considerations have substantially influenced the degree to which
intelligence agencies share information with law enforcement agencies. These concerns also
affected how information was shared between FBI intelligence components and FBI criminal
investigators and Department of Justice prosecutors. In interviews and at hearings, the Joint
Inquiry has been told repeatedly that a phenomenon known as the “Wall” significantly hampered
the free flow of information between the intelligence and law-enforcement entities. Michael
Rolince, former Chief of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section, testified:
[Page 382] In terrorism cases this became so complex and convoluted that in some
FBI field offices FBI agents perceived walls where none actually existed. In fact,
one New York supervisor commented that “so many walls had created a maze”
which made it very difficult for the criminal investigators.
The “Wall” is not a single barrier, but a series of restrictions between and within agencies
constructed over sixty years as a result of legal, policy, institutional, and personal factors. These
walls separate foreign from domestic activities, foreign intelligence from law-enforcement
operations, the FBI from the CIA, communications intelligence from other types of intelligence,
the Intelligence Community from other federal agencies, and national-security information from
other forms of evidence.
Following World War II, the National Security Act of 1947 created the Central Intelligence
Agency, our first peacetime civilian intelligence organization. Two fundamental considerations
shaped that Act: the United States would not establish an organization that coupled foreign and
domestic intelligence functions, and the FBI’s domestic jurisdiction would be preserved. To
satisfy these aims, the Act provided that the CIA would not have police, subpoena, or law
enforcement powers and would not perform internal security functions.
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Generations of intelligence professionals have been trained in the belief that the CIA
should not play an internal security role. They also learned that sensitive information should be
disclosed only to those with a demonstrable “need to know” the information within the rigidities
of a national security classification system. In addition, law enforcement personnel have long
recognized that confidentiality, protection of witnesses, and secrecy of grand jury information are
essential to the successful investigation and prosecution of crimes. Thus, in the law-enforcement
and foreign intelligence professions, security practices and strict limits on sharing information
have become second nature.
The division between foreign intelligence and law enforcement is illustrated in the
different procedures developed for law-enforcement and foreign-intelligence electronic
surveillance and searches.
[Page 383]
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires a judicial warrant for most physical
searches for law enforcement purposes. In 1967, the Supreme Court held in Katz v. United States,
389 U.S. 347, that the Constitution requires that law enforcement officers engaged in electronic
surveillance in criminal investigations also obtain a warrant.
The 1967 decision stated that it was not addressing the question of whether electronic
surveillance for foreign intelligence required a warrant. However, in 1972, the Court held that a
domestic group could not be subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance, even if authorized by
the President or Attorney General, unless a connection was established between the group and a
foreign power. The government’s argument that surveillance was necessary to collect intelligence
about the group as part of an “internal security” or “domestic security” investigation was not
sufficient to override the Constitutional warrant requirement. The Court explicitly did not address
the President’s surveillance power with respect to foreign powers.
A few years later, Congress conducted extensive investigations into the activities of U.S.
intelligence agencies, including warrantless electronic surveillance of citizens who were not agents
of a foreign power and warrantless physical searches purportedly to identify subversives and
protect intelligence sources and methods. These investigations led to the enactment of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).
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FISA established a special court in response to the argument that the judiciary was not
equipped to review requests for foreign intelligence surveillances. Recognizing that intelligence
and law enforcement interests would coincide in many cases where foreign intelligence
surveillance is appropriate, such as espionage and terrorism investigations, the Act permits
information produced by surveillance to be shared with law enforcement. However, to ensure that
the division between foreign-intelligence and law-enforcement surveillance was maintained, the
Act required a certification that “the purpose” of a proposed FISA surveillance was collection of
foreign-intelligence information.
[Page 384]
In the early 1980s, the law enforcement and intelligence communities often worked
together often in counterintelligence and counternarcotics investigations. Law enforcement
agencies became more acutely aware in the course of this collaboration of the evidentiary
complications that could arise as a result of using intelligence information in law enforcement
efforts. For example, defense attorneys seeking discovery of investigative information relating to
the guilt or innocence of their clients could move to have charges dismissed, if the government
withheld information on the basis of national security. Thus, increased interaction between law
enforcement and intelligence agencies required that procedures be devised to disseminate
intelligence for law enforcement use while protecting intelligence sources and methods. For
example, intelligence agencies provided information to law enforcement organizations “for lead
purposes only,” so as to allow those organizations to act on the information without its becoming
entwined in criminal prosecutions.
Personnel within the Justice Department and United States Attorneys’ Offices were given
responsibility for insulating law enforcement personnel from intelligence information while
finding ways for them to benefit from it. These arrangements came to be known as “walls.”
To avoid court rulings that FISA surveillances were illegal because foreign intelligence
was not their “primary purpose,” Department of Justice lawyers began to limit contacts between
FBI personnel involved in these activities and DOJ personnel involved in criminal investigations.
One result of this approach was that the then Counsel for Intelligence Policy at DOJ, the official
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most responsible for dealing with the FISA Court, was recused from handling FISA applications
on al-Qa’ida because she had worked with prosecutors on the embassy bombing prosecution.
The Attorney General issued procedures in 1995 regulating FBI foreign intelligence
investigations in which FISA was used and potential criminal activity was discovered. These
procedures required notice and coordination among the FBI, DOJ’s Criminal Division, and its
Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). In November 2001, the FISA Court adopted
these procedures.
[Page 385]
The wall in FISA matters became thicker and higher over time, as the FISA Court
explained in a May 2002 opinion rejecting procedural changes proposed by the Attorney General:
[T]o preserve . . . the appearance and the fact that FISA [was] not being used sub
rosa for criminal investigations, the Court routinely approved the use of
information screening “walls” proposed by the government in its applications.
Under the normal “wall” procedures, where there were separate intelligence and
criminal investigations, or a single counter-espionage investigation with
overlapping intelligence and criminal interests, FBI criminal investigators and
[DOJ] prosecutors were not allowed to review all of the raw FISA [information]
lest they become de facto partners in the FISA [operations]. Instead, a screening
mechanism, or person, usually the chief legal counsel in an FBI field office, or an
assistant U.S. attorney not involved in the overlapping criminal investigation,
would review all of the raw [information] and pass on only that information which
might be relevant evidence. In unusual cases . . . , [DOJ] lawyers in OIPR acted as
the “wall.” In significant cases, . . . such as the bombings of the U.S. embassies in
Africa, . . . where criminal investigations of FISA targets were being conducted
concurrently, and prosecution was likely, this Court became the “wall” so that
FISA information could not be disseminated to criminal prosecutors without the
Court’s approval.
The thicket of procedures, reviews, and certifications regarding FISA information and
contact between foreign-intelligence and criminal investigators led to confusion and error. An FBI
attorney noted in an interview that, as detail was added to certain FISA applications, the Court
began to expect that level of detail in all applications. Thus, an application to renew a surveillance
of an intelligence officer of a foreign government that might have originally required two
paragraphs in support grew to many pages, increasing the possibility of error in details.
In March 2000, the Department of Justice discovered substantive errors in factual
applications presented to the FISA Court. By September 2000, the Department identified errors in
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about seventy-five FISA matters, and in March 2001 notified the FISA Court of additional errors.
In response, the Court required that all DOJ personnel involved in FISA matters certify that they
understood that FISA information could not be shared with criminal prosecutors without the
Court’s approval and an FBI agent involved with the erroneous filings was barred from the Court.
While the Department attempted to correct the process that had led to erroneous [page 386] filings,
a large number of FISA surveillances, including many related to international terrorism, expired in
the spring and summer of 2001.
[The consequences of the FISA Court’s approach to the Wall between intelligence
gathering and law enforcement before September 11 were extensive. FBI personnel involved in
FISA matters feared the fate of the agent who had been barred and began to avoid even the most
pedestrian contact with personnel in criminal components of the Bureau or DOJ because it could
result in intensive scrutiny by OIPR and the FISA Court. In addition, because NSA was not
certain that it could identify reporting that came from FISA derived information, it began to
indicate on all reports of terrorism-related information that the content could not be shared with
law enforcement personnel without FISA Court approval].
The various walls have had other consequences of direct relevance to the Joint Inquiry.
For example, a CIA employee spoke to two FBI employees in January 2000 about the activities of
future hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar in Malaysia, but did not tell them that he had a U.S. visa. The
CIA officer stated in an e-mail at the time that the FBI would be brought “into the loop,” only
after “something concrete” was developed “leading us to the criminal arena or to known FBI
cases.” Perhaps reflecting the deadening effect of the long standing wall between CIA and FBI,
the FBI agents reportedly thanked the CIA employee and “stated that this was a fine approach,”
although the FISA wall did not apply in this case.
Even in late August 2001, when the CIA told the FBI, State, INS, and Customs that Khalid
al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and two other “Bin Laden-related individuals” were in the United
States, FBI Headquarters refused to accede to the New York field office recommendation that a
criminal investigation be opened, which might allow greater resources to be dedicated to the
search for the future hijackers than would be available in an intelligence investigation. This was
based on Headquarters’ reluctance to utilize intelligence information to draw the connections
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between al-Mihdhar and the USS Cole bombing necessary to open a criminal investigation. FBI
attorneys took the position that criminal investigators “CAN NOT” (emphasis original) be
involved and that criminal information discovered in the intelligence case would be “passed over
the wall” according to proper procedures. An agent in the FBI’s New York field office responded
by e-mail, [page 387] “Whatever has happened to this, someday someone will die and, wall or
not, the public will not understand why we were not more effective in throwing every resource we
had at certain problems.” Again, FBI Headquarters applied FISA “walls” to a non-FISA case.
The USA PATRIOT Act, enacted in response to September 11, provided unambiguous
authority for the Attorney General and other law enforcement officials to disclose to the Director
of Central Intelligence foreign intelligence collected in the course of a criminal investigation. The
Act also requires that intelligence be “a significant purpose” of a FISA search rather than “the
purpose.” These provisions were intended to reduce, if not remove restrictions that had grown up
around FISA operations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Review Court, in its first opinion
since being established in 1979, has affirmed that the Act permits the free flow of intelligence to
prosecutors, who may direct and control FISA surveillances.
XI. Technology Gaps
Technology is critical to the Intelligence Community’s efforts to collect, analyze, and
disseminate information on terrorist identities, locations, capabilities, plans, and intentions. The
Joint Inquiry examined a number of issues in order to assess how well-postured the Community
was in regard to its use of technology as well as its understanding of the use of technology by
terrorists. The NSA, which, of all the intelligence agencies, relies the most on technical collection,
received most of the attention.
A. Technology Gaps at NSA
Al-Qa’ida members employed a variety of communications technologies, including
modern ones such as [ ], in the conduct
of their activities. In his testimony, NSA Director Lt. Gen. Hayden lamented the fact that
terrorists have access to the three-trillion-dollar-a-year communications industry. The Joint
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Inquiry attempted to examine NSA’s current and planned capabilities to exploit these types of
modern communications as well as the tools being used and developed to help linguists and
analysts process and share the volumes of information collected. In addition, the Joint Inquiry
[page 388] examined the health of the technical collection platforms from which the majority of
counterterrorism intelligence information is derived.
The assessment presented below draws on testimony, interviews, and some NSA
documentation.
[ ]
[
].
[
].
[ ]
[
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].
[Page 389]
[
].
[ ]
[
].
[ ]
[
].
[
]
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[Page 390] [
].
F. Selection and Filtering for [ ]Communications
Much of NSA’s pre-September 11 success against terrorist targets was due to the ability to
[ ] based on [ ] interest rather
than randomly choosing among millions of communications. With the proliferation of multimedia
communications, even better selection and filtering techniques will be required.
One area of increased attention is [
] an area in which NSA has made only limited progress. [
]. Unfortunately, NSA’s selection capabilities suffer from a critical
deficiency, [ ] . The solution to
this deficiency is well understood and estimated to cost less than $1 million to implement.
However, the Joint Inquiry learned in interviews that even though [ ] have been
available for many years, and even though NSA has had recent significant funding increases, the
program manager is still “scrounging” for funds to pay for this upgrade that would not be
completed until 2004.
G. Analyst Tools
NSA often did not provide analysts with sufficient tools to exploit the data collected. For
example, NSA in 1998 did not have the capability to [
], NSA’s Analysis and Production Chief, noted, “At that time the
systems that were in place were high tailored, not integratable. The plug and play was only
beginning to come into play at that point in time. So a tailored solution that you might be able to
architect at home wasn't necessarily one that you could deploy across [ ] or
within a CT shop.” [ ] noted, however, that this capability now existed.
[Page 391]
However, field operators still do not have such tools, even though they were available at
NSA Headquarters after September 11. During a visit to the [ ],
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Joint Inquiry personnel found [ ] linguists frustrated with Headquarters support for language
tools. In fact, one of their primary concerns was the inability to display [
]. They noted that they could purchase software on the local economy that can display
[ ] but are prohibited from doing so because the software is not an
“approved application” for their computer platform. “When they officially requested such a
capability through official channels, they were told that something could be available in 18
months.” They noted that some computers they still use are 1993 vintage UNIX machines that
cannot even display ordinary graphical user interfaces correctly due to color graphics limitations.
H. Collection Platforms
NSA collects signals intelligence using a variety of methods or platforms. Often these
platforms, which have a sizable infrastructure investment, serve a myriad of intelligence missions.
In identifying these critical platforms, the Joint Inquiry examined statistics on counterterrorismrelated
reporting. The following chart shows the source of counterterrorism reports per technical
collection platform both pre- and post-September 11:
Collection Platform All
Counterterrorism
Reports 10 May 01
- 10 Sep 01
All
Counterterrorism
Reports 11 Sep 01
- 11 Jan 02
Percent
Increase
[ ][ ][ ][]
NSA spending increases after September 11, however, are not focused on several of the
most productive sources of counterterrorism information. [ ] [Page 392]
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[
].
The evidence suggests that an effective counterterrorism effort requires [
]. In testimony, Lt. Gen. Hayden acknowledged, [
]. Lt.
Gen. Hayden also stated that in his effort to develop capabilities against new communications
technologies by the end of the 1990s, “This meant taking money away from current, still active,
still producing activities. . . .” Since the attacks, NSA has focused on its transformation strategy.
Lt. Gen. Hayden testified:
“Shortly after September 11th, I had a meeting of my senior leaders. I asked them
the following question: Is there any part of our transformation roadmap that we
should change as a result of the attacks? Unanimously, they responded, ‘No, but
we need to accelerate these changes.’ With the money the President has requested
and Congress has provided, we have done just that.”
NSA’s commitment to the future viability of the [ ] collection platforms remains
unclear, despite their value.
XII. Technical Collection of Terrorist Communications
[Responsibility for most of the technical collection of terrorist communications falls under
the purview of the National Security Agency, although the CIA and the FBI also conduct technical
collection against terrorism. NSA and other agencies learned valuable information from
intercepting terrorist communications and prevented several planned attacks. Indeed, numerous
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officials throughout the policy and Intelligence Community told the Joint Inquiry that [page 393]
Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) was a valuable source of information on al-Qa’ida. Exploitation of
terrorist communications, however, was uneven at best and suffered from insufficient investment.
Al-Qa’ida was only one of several high priority targets and a difficult one].
A. NSA’s Organizational Structure for Collecting Terrorist Communications
Within the NSA, the Signals Directorate, which was created in February 2001 by
combining the Operations and Technology Directorates, has the primary SIGINT mission. Within
the Signals Directorate, the Counterterrorism Product Line has the lead for counterterrorism
reporting. [
]:
• [ ];
• [ ];
• [ ];
• [
];
• [ ];
• [ ].
B. SIGINT and the September 11 Attacks
Prior to 11 September 2001, NSA had no specific information indicating the date, time,
place, or participants in an attack on the United States. Numerous NSA personnel, including
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Lt. [page 394] General Hayden, the Director of the NSA (DIRNSA), repeatedly related this
conclusion to the Joint Inquiry.
[NSA had intercepts on September 10, 2001 that, in retrospect, appear to relate to the
September 11 attacks. These intercepts were processed on September 11 (after the terrorist
attacks) and reported early on September 12, 2001. Although each of the products referred to
something occurring the following day, neither intercept had specifics on the attack, location, or
targets. This wording was similar to other non-specific threats occasionally reported by NSA over
the past several years].
In an effort to place the September 10 messages in perspective, General Hayden testified,
“I should also note that [over a period of time] earlier that summer we had intercepted and
reported over 30 such imminent attack messages and that since September 11 [NSA continues to
report similar activities].”
In fact, following September 11, there was a flurry of similar [ ] intercepts that were
not associated with any terrorist attacks:
• [
];
• [ ];
• [
]; and
• [
].
[Page 395]
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C. A Chronological Review of NSA Collection Efforts Against al-Qa’ida
[In the years before the September 11 attacks, NSA steadily increased its collection on al-
Qa’ida. Initial Intelligence Community efforts focused on Bin Ladin himself as a terrorist
financier. As the 1990s wore on, this effort expanded to collection on Bin Ladin’s associates and
the al-Qa’ida organization. [
].
The following review is largely drawn from Joint Inquiry interviews. It highlights
important milestones in NSA’s collection against al-Qa’ida.
[
]. Bin Ladin was viewed almost exclusively by the
Intelligence Community as a terrorist financier until 1996].
[In 1996, CTC established its Bin Ladin unit as the Intelligence Community focal point for
tracking Bin Ladin. [
]. The first phase of the unit’s Bin Ladin project was strategic information
gathering, [ ]. It was at this
point that the Intelligence Community began focusing on the Bin Ladin target as a terrorist support
network in addition to being a terrorist financier].
[
].
[Page 396]
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[Before Bin Ladin issued his February 1998 anti-American fatwa, [
]. Following the fatwa, the Director of
NSA appealed to [ ] partners, few of which were focused on counterterrorism at the
time, for counterterrorism assistance. [
].
[Following the August 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings, NSA instituted a much higher
operations tempo, which never really subsided. After the bombings, at the request of FBI’s New
York Field Office, NSA provided all reports that appeared related to the attacks. This information
was useful to the FBI].
[In the fall of 1998, NSA lost the ability to listen to Bin Ladin on his satellite phone. This
loss was probably the result of, among other things, a media leak. [
].
[
].
In February 1999, the Department of State demarched the Taliban, [
].
[Page 397]
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[
].
The Millennium threat surge began in November 1999. The Millennium threat was a top
priority for the entire Intelligence Community, and NSA personnel worked around the clock
supporting CIA’s disruption campaign. During this time, Jordanian officials arrested terrorists
linked to al-Qa’ida. [
].
[
].
Several other advances occurred throughout 2000. [
].
[Page 398]
Following the USS Cole bombing in October 2000, NSA consolidated some of its
counterterrorism efforts [
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].
[By the winter of 2000, NSA noted a general rise in threat activity. The Intelligence
Community assessed the threat to be mostly oriented abroad. In spring 2001, NSA noted another
significant rise in threat activity. Again, the Intelligence Community assessed the threat to be
directed abroad].
[Throughout June and July 2001, another rise in threat activity was identified. NSA
analysts noted vague communications traffic indicating that something was afoot. Intelligence
Community speculation centered on whether the likely target was abroad. The U.S. military was
sufficiently concerned that an attack would occur on the Arabian Peninsula that “ThreatCon
Delta” was declared and all ships in the area were sent to sea].
[Military customers asked NSA/CT analysts if the threat were real. NSA counterterrorism
analysts reviewed the evidence and were confident that it was. [
].
[In the spring, the Intelligence Community reported indications that an attack may have
been postponed. The Joint Inquiry was told that this led the Intelligence Community to believe
that a real terrorist attack had been averted].
[Page 399]
D. Technical Collection Problems and Limits at NSA
Technical collection was limited. This was due to both the nature of the target and
missteps by the NSA and other U.S. government elements.
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a. Difficulties of Gaining Actionable Intelligence on al-Qa’ida
[Several senior NSA officials, including the Deputy Director of NSA and Chief of the
counterterrorism organization contended in interviews and testimony that information on terrorist
plans and intentions was often not available [
]. Even when information was intercepted, the analyst often must interpret arcane,
circumspect discussions, put them into context, and identify linkages to other known targets or
activities. NSA’s Director stated: “…. we do not anticipate being able to provide detailed threat
information from SIGINT in most cases.” Indeed, SIGINT did not provide significant intelligence
to prevent other major terrorist attacks against U.S. interests such as Khobar Towers, the East
Africa U.S. Embassies, and USS Cole].
[However, these arguments are somewhat belied by evidence uncovered during the Joint
Inquiry that identified several instances of communications providing some specifics in terms of a
timeframe and general location for terrorist activity. In addition, the FBI acquired toll records that
five or six hijackers communicated extensively abroad after they arrived in the United States. The
Intelligence Community had no information prior to September 11, 2001 regarding these
communications, and, as a result, does not know what clues they may have contained].
[
]
[Page 400] [ ]. The Director of NSA, testifying about the
targeting challenges facing NSA, said “cracking into these targets is hard – very hard – and
SIGINT operations require considerable patience – sometimes over years – before they mature.”
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b. Difficulties in Adjusting to Terrorist Targets
The communications sophistication of stateless terrorists in general and al-Qa’ida in
particular clearly surprised NSA officials. The rise of al-Qa’ida seemingly paralleled in some
respects what NSA’s Director referred to as “the telecommunications and information revolution”
of the past ten years. He noted that al-Qaida operatives are skilled users of the global
telecommunications infrastructure, “al-Qa’ida is in many respects different from NSA’s typical
SIGINT targets of the past 50 years.”
In spring 2001, NSA began to change direction: rather than analyzing what was collected,
NSA would dissect its targets’ communications practices to determine what to collect. This is
commonly referred to at NSA as hunting rather than gathering. This procedure was in its infancy
when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred.
c. Problems Keeping Pace with [ ] Advances before September 11
[
]. The Director of NSA did
acknowledge NSA’s deficiencies in dealing with some forms of modern communications, but was
also quick to credit his organization for working on the building blocks before September 11, so
that [Page 401] fielding additional capabilities after September 11 was expedited].
NSA’s Director apparently felt handcuffed in his effort to move forward in this area, citing
his inability to “churn” (redirect) some $200 million into “new age signals ... because we were
going to erode our coverage of [other intelligence issues] as part of this effort.” Indeed, General
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Hayden told the Joint Inquiry that he was severely criticized on several occasions for abandoning
so-called legacy communication paths in favor of developing robust new capabilities.
[There is some apparent inconsistency concerning NSA’s concentration. On at least one
occasion, the Director of NSA asserted that it was not so much NSA’s inability to collect some
modern communications, but other factors. The bulk of the information available to the Joint
Inquiry, however, suggests NSA was behind the curve in this area and only began to catch up after
September 11, 2001].
E. Insufficient Resources for Counterterrorism at NSA
Although NSA has had difficulty in generating consistent, accurate personnel numbers for
the Joint Inquiry, it appears from interviews and the limited information provided that personnel
employed in the counterterrorism organization were largely static over several years, despite
repeated efforts by local managers to increase the numbers of linguists and analysts. General
Hayden testified that in hindsight he would have liked to have doubled his resources against al-
Qa’ida.
NSA acknowledged it had insufficient numbers of linguists and analysts on the
counterterrorism target. This acknowledgment seems to have come from leadership in retrospect,
while those closer to the counterterrorism problem stated to the Joint Inquiry they had been
requesting personnel increases for years, mostly to little or no avail.
[Page 402]
Declining overall resources made it difficult to dramatically expand counterterrorism
coverage. As discussed in more detail in a separate chapter, for much of the 1990s NSA’s budget
and manpower were steadily reduced to a point that all collection efforts were impeded. Cuts
were “salami-sliced” across the agency rather than specifically targeted, a tactic employed by NSA
for many years to cope with declines while still trying to satisfy an increasing number of
intelligence requirements, and competing priorities (especially force protection requirements) that
drained scarce resources, such as Arabic linguists. Funds for [ ] collection,
historically two of NSA’s most lucrative reporting sources, were essentially put in a maintenance
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mode, with investment focused on other collection sources that NSA felt needed to be developed
to have a more balanced SIGINT collection system.
There was little significant, sustained reaction to the DCI’s declaration of war on al-Qa’ida
in 1998. Indeed, LTG Hayden (who became Director of NSA in 1999) noted that by 1998, NSA
was already at a heightened counterterrorism posture and thus no additional wholesale shifts in
resources were made at that time. LTG Minihan, the Director of NSA at the time of the DCI’s
declaration, told the Joint Inquiry that he felt the DCI was speaking for the CIA only. In his view,
the DCI generally left Intelligence Community matters to the head of the Community
Management Staff.
[Numerous individuals noted that counterterrorism was but one of several seemingly
equally high priority targets levied on NSA prior to September 11. Although the Director of the
Signals Directorate stated that in addition to al-Qa’ida, [ ] was the only other Tier 0
(highest priority) target in the 1998-2001 timeframe, there did not seem to be an objective method
for resource assignment within NSA, nor guidance from the DCI. The Director of NSA in his
testimony referred to the PDD-35 requirements system as “cumbersome.” The requirements
system in place on the eve of September 11 consisted of some 1,500 standing requirements calling
for some 200,000 detailed pieces of information – ad hoc requirements that were received
telephonically or via e-mail, and requests for additional information. In response, NSA juggled
resources to cope with competing requirements but did not make dramatic cuts in other priorities
to dramatically expand counterterrorism coverage].
[Page 403]
The NSA Director also cautioned in his testimony, “If these hearings were about the war
that had broken out in Korea or the crisis in the Taiwan Straits that had taken us by surprise or if
we had been surprised by a conflict in South Asia or if we had lost an aircraft over Iraq or if
American forces had suffered casualties in Bosnia or Kosovo, in any of these cases I would be
here telling you that I had not put enough analysts or linguists against the problem. We needed
more analysts and linguists across the agency, period.”
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F. Technical Collection at CIA
Most of the technical collection operations at the CIA have a human access element, and
the primary offices with responsibility are in the Directorate of Operations. The Counterterrorist
Center has a Technical Operations Branch that is responsible for orchestrating special technical
collection operations for terrorist targets. Some of these operations are conducted in concert with
NSA, [
].
[
]. [Despite this [ ] effort, a senior CIA official testified that in
hindsight he would have liked to have had more [
].
G. NSA/CIA Disputes Over [ ] Collection
[NSA and CIA failed to agree on an approach to collect [ ],
and both agencies independently developed a capability [
]. After considerable discussion with NSA and CIA personnel, the Joint Inquiry [page
404] determined that CIA wished to have [ ] as soon as possible [
], and NSA said it could not deliver in the requested
timeframe. Accordingly, CIA developed its own capability while NSA continued with its
program, which ultimately was delivered some 15 months early. In the end, peace was made and
over time, NSA and CIA began to benefit from each other’s capabilities].
Especially during periods of budgetary shortfalls, the competitive example just cited
appears particularly wasteful. To avoid similar disputes, NSA and CIA have created the Senior
Partnership Advisory Group (SPAG).
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H. Technical Collection at FBI
The FBI performs considerable technical collection within the United States to support its
own intelligence and criminal investigations. It also supports the collection efforts of Intelligence
Community agencies, [
]. These activities are conducted pursuant to the authority of
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. [
].
FBI was conducting relatively few technical collection operations against al-Qa’ida before
September 11. The intelligence produced was of relatively limited value because the targets did
not appear to be involved in significant activity.
FBI officials indicated that after September 11 a joint program had begun with NSA [
]. FBI is responsible for collecting the information. NSA
receives the information and is responsible for reporting to the Intelligence Community and
[page 405] intelligence customers. [ ]. FBI personnel maintain that collaboration [
] can still be improved.
XIII. HUMINT Collection
Three agencies in the Intelligence Community have primary responsibility for HUMINT
(intelligence from human sources) collection: the CIA, the FBI, and the DIA. Before September
11, none of these agencies had collected any information through HUMINT sources warning of
the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
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[The agencies’ attempts to use human penetrations to gather intelligence on al-Qa’ida
steadily grew throughout the 1990s, until by the end of the decade it was a top priority. The CIA
met with the most success through its foreign liaison relationships and with volunteers. It made
only limited progress with unilateral attempts to place human assets in al-Qa’ida’s leadership. The
DIA’s Defense Humint Services (DHS) had some success against the Taliban, but little against al-
Qa’ida. The FBI collected valuable information on Islamic radical activity in the United States,
but the Bureau’s focus was often overseas. In addition, the FBI often failed to coordinate its
human collection].
The Joint Inquiry collected information about the agencies’ pursuit of HUMINT through
interviews and reviews of documents. The Joint Inquiry was frequently unable to catalog or audit
the HUMINT sources from the information delivered by CIA because the documents were heavily
redacted for source protection. This did decrease the Joint Inquiry’s ability to judge the breadth
and depth of the HUMINT program at CIA.
A. CIA Human Intelligence Collection
[The CIA has tried to collect on Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida since the mid-1990s. Collecting
human intelligence on al-Qa’ida became an increasingly important priority at the CIA, and in
1996, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) set up a special Bin Ladin unit to increase its focus on
[page 406] Bin Ladin. The CIA used the three traditional mechanisms for developing HUMINT
or field intelligence: unilateral sources, volunteers, and liaison relationships].
The CIA made the penetration of al-Qa’ida a top priority. The DCI characterized the
counterterrorism effort against Bin Ladin and his organization to the Committees on June 18, 2002
in this way:
We understood that our first priority was to try and stop the next attack that was
going to occur and operate against these people around the world, and then
penetrate a sanctuary through whatever means we could, to build the [capabilities]
that would allow us to mount these kinds of operations. . . . As we race through [a]
period of threat when we’re disrupting specific attacks against embassies and
overseas facilities and thousands of people would be dead, except for what we did,
I don’t remember anybody saying you guys are too timid, you’re not working it
hard enough or you haven’t expended a level of effort.
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[To improve collection on, and efforts to disrupt, al-Qa’ida, a special unit focused on Bin
Ladin was created in early 1996. The Bin Ladin unit initially had fewer than 20 people, and
included operations officers, analysts who acted as targeteers, and desk officers who directed field
operations. At the start, it did not have any case officers of its own deployed to the field. To
conduct operations overseas for intelligence collection or disruption, the unit had to work through
the Directorate of Operations (DO) area divisions and request the use of their operations officers
to pursue al-Qa’ida related leads. With the passage of time and the increased priority of al-Qa’ida,
more people were added to the Bin Ladin unit and more case officers were assigned to the field
either permanently or temporarily. The area divisions also increased their case officers’ efforts
against the target].
However, Joint Inquiry interviews indicate that even into 2001, the Bin Ladin unit knew it
needed more people – particularly experienced Headquarters desk officers and targeters – to
effectively meet the HUMINT challenge. In early Spring 2001 briefing to the DCI, CTC
[page 407] requested hiring a small group of contractors not involved in day-to-day crises to digest
vast quantities of information and develop targeting strategies. The briefing emphasized that the
unit needed people, not money.
The penetration of al-Qa’ida by an Intelligence Community human asset is an
exceptionally difficult task. Intelligence Community officials in several agencies told the Joint
Inquiry that members of Usama Bin Ladin’s inner circle have close bonds established by kinship,
wartime experience, and long-term association. Information about major terrorist plots was not
widely shared within al-Qa’ida, and many of Bin Ladin’s closest associates lived in war-torn
Afghanistan. The United States had no official presence in that country and did not formally
recognize the Taliban regime, which viewed foreigners with suspicion. Pakistan is the principal
access point to southern Afghanistan, where al-Qa’ida was particularly active, but U.S.-Pakistani
relations were strained by Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and a military coup in 1999. This was an
exceedingly difficult operational environment in which to conduct clandestine operations.
[Nevertheless, CIA officials recognized the imperative of penetrating al-Qa’ida,
particularly at the leadership level. A CTC presentation made to the CIA senior leadership on
December 2, 1999 noted:
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• Without penetrations of [the] UBL organization… [
].
• While we need to disrupt operations…we need to also recruit sources inside
UBL’s organization.
• Realize that recruiting terrorist sources is difficult…but we must make an
attempt].
[On the next day, the CTC briefed the National Security Council Small Group about the
CIA’s lack of sources and the importance of recruitment:
We will continue with disruptions of operations and renditions…but with an
increased emphasis on recruiting sources; at this time, we have no penetrations
inside UBL’s leadership].
[Page 408]
[Because this target was such a high priority, the CIA tried many unilateral avenues to
obtain access to Bin Ladin and his inner circle. Interviews of CIA officials and documents
provided to the Joint Inquiry indicate the CIA tried to [
]
According to documents reviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff, [
]: “[
].” Despite these creative attempts, former CTC officers told the Joint
Inquiry that before September 11 the CIA had no penetrations of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, and the
Agency never got actionable intelligence [ ].
In interviews with current and former CTC officers, the Joint Inquiry learned that [
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].
The CIA frequently draws on an active set of volunteer sources, [ ], to gain
intelligence. [
].
[Page 409]
[Volunteers needed particular scrutiny, as some of these individuals were suspected of
being sent in from foreign intelligence services as counterintelligence assets, or they might have
been al-Qa’ida provocations. [
].
[
].
Critical to the successful collection of intelligence and to the disruption of terrorist
activities were the relationships forged with foreign liaison services. (See Section II). Because of
the scarce personnel resources initially assigned to this target, and because of the intense pressure
to capture Bin Ladin himself, CTC chose to have liaison services develop sources wherever
possible to support the U.S. mission. In addition, as noted in section II, liaison services had
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additional capabilities that made them particularly effective against the al-Qa’ida target. The DCI,
the senior leadership of the CTC, and the leadership of the Directorate of Operations were actively
engaged in building and maintaining these liaison relationships.
Developing relationships with liaison services paid off handsomely when there was some
actionable intelligence about a terrorist or a cell. For example, in July 2001, a Bin Ladin operative
was arrested in the [
]. Because of this arrest, a plot to bomb an American Embassy in Europe was
thwarted.
[Page 410]
[The liaison relationship worked extremely well with the [ ], as well as with other
services in the [ ]. Liaison sources often provided valuable information about the al-
Qa’ida network, but the CIA could not rely on them to provide access to Bin Ladin’s leadership.
Moreover, in other parts of the world, abdicating collection to foreign partners meant the CIA
obtained precious little information. According to one U.S. Government official, if liaison
services did not want to help, for example in certain Western countries, there was little that could
be done, by CIA].
B. DIA Human Intelligence Collection
[DIA’s Defense HUMINT Service also plays a role in clandestine collection, though on a
much smaller scale than CIA. According to General Dayton, the Director of DHS, after the
Embassy bombings DHS “got excited” about Bin Ladin and al Qa’ida. They searched their old
agent files and reestablished contact with [ ] sources that could help them with terrorist targets.
[ ] former highly placed agents were reactivated. Prior to September 11, at any one
time, DHS had [ ] active. Based on those sources they produced several hundred
intelligence reports from fall 1998 to September 2001.
Most of the DHS sources were focused on [ ] and had little direct reporting
capability against [ ]. DHS characterized its [ ] sources as well placed
and extremely useful in the post-September 11 air campaign targeting effort. [
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].
C. FBI Human Intelligence Collection
The FBI attempted to develop specific intelligence that could be acted upon before
September 11 by penetrating terrorist organizations operating in the United States. Before
September 11, the FBI had 70 full field investigations of individuals with al-Qa’ida ties.
[Page 411] However, Bureau and Department of Justice policy and practice may have hampered
the FBI’s coverage of the radical fundamentalist community in this country. Much of the FBI’s
effort against al-Qa’ida was actually expended overseas, with the investigations of the terrorist
attacks against the US Embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000.
Recruiting sources in fundamentalist communities within the United States is difficult for
many of the reasons noted above with regard to the penetration of al-Qa’ida in general. However,
even those FBI agents who were skilled at developing such sources faced a number of difficulties
that may have hampered the Bureau’s ability to gather intelligence on terrorist activities in the
United States. According to several agents, for example, FBI Headquarters and field managers
were often unwilling to approve potentially controversial activity involving human sources that
could provide counterterrorism intelligence.
The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which specifically outlawed
providing material support to terrorism, posed a particular problem. If an FBI source was
involved in illegal funding or in terrorist training, the agent responsible for the source had to
obtain approval from Headquarters and the Department of Justice to allow the source to engage in
the illegal activity. This reportedly was a difficult process that sometimes took as long as six
months. Because terrorist sources frequently engaged in activity that violated the 1996 Act, the
cumbersome approval process negatively affected the Bureau’s ability to operate more sources
successfully.
Sending sources recruited in the United States overseas proved particularly difficult. Some
FBI agents also saw the requirement that the Director of Central Intelligence approve such
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operations as a problem, claiming that the CIA took advantage of this requirement to prevent FBI
sources from operating overseas. Another FBI agent stated that FBI Headquarters management
did not readily approve overseas travel for sources because of its belief that the Bureau should
focus on activity within the United States. When management did approve such operations, it
often declined to allow the responsible agents to accompany the sources while traveling overseas,
a decision some agents believe significantly diminished the quality of the operations.
[Page 412]
The Joint Inquiry was told by several officials that the FBI was not using its network of
counterterrorism sources in the most effective and coordinated manner. The Bureau focused
source reporting on cases and subjects within specific field offices and did not adequately use
sources to support a national counterterrorism intelligence program. In 1999, the FBI received
reporting that a terrorist organization was planning to send students to the United States for
aviation training. In response, an operational unit at FBI Headquarters instructed twenty-four field
offices to “task sources” for information. However, it appears that no FBI sources were asked
about the matter. The problems experienced in Phoenix and Minneapolis – both of which are
discussed in separate sections – further suggest that the FBI did not effectively task its sources in
the United States to follow up on suspicious activity.
[This problem was painfully manifest in August 2001,when the FBI was made aware by
CIA that terrorist suspects Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar were in the United States.
Neither the FBI field offices that were involved in the search nor FBI Headquarters thought to ask
FBI field offices to ask their sources whether they were aware of the whereabouts of the two
individuals, who later took part in the September 11 attacks. A San Diego FBI field office agent
who handled such sources, including the source who had numerous contacts with Nawaf al-Hazmi
and Khalid al-Mihdhar, insisted to the Joint Inquiry that he would have been able to find them
through his sources].
Finally, that same agent testified that he had "never" discussed any FBI interest in Bin
Ladin or al-Qa'ida with that source prior to September 11, "because that was not an issue in terms
of my assignments. I was interested in Hamas, Hizbollah, Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the whole different range.” He
stated that “we knew [al-Qa’ida] was an important person or important organization. But we
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didn't have any presence. We didn't have any cases and we didn't have any source information
that indicated that these guys were here in San Diego at that time.”
[Page 413]
XIV. Summary of Joint Inquiry Review of Anthrax Attacks
In October 2001, the Congress, the United States Postal Service (USPS), and elements of
the domestic infrastructure were the targets of anthrax attacks that eventually killed five
Americans. The Joint Inquiry requested that the General Accounting Office review those attacks,
focusing on the difficulty of producing and spreading anthrax, mail as a delivery system, the status
of USPS efforts to detect anthrax, the federal investigation into the attacks, and how the
government is preparing for other incidents.
When the Joint Inquiry report was filed, the GAO investigation had been substantially
completed, with an initial finding that no consensus exists among experts regarding the ease with
which terrorists or a disgruntled scientist could effectively produce and disseminate anthrax on
U.S. soil. According to the GAO, technical experts believe that it would be very difficult to
overcome technical and operational challenges to produce and deliver biological warfare agents
sufficient to cause mass casualties.
According to the experts the GAO interviewed, delivery of anthrax by mail is not as
efficient a method of producing mass casualties as military technologies. However, in the public’s
mind and in terms of economic damage, anthrax powder in the mail represents a potentially
significant problem. The USPS effort to defend against biological agents illustrates a key aspect
of homeland defense: the distinction between reactive and proactive operational environments.
Whereas the nation’s posture had been to prevent attacks against military facilities, the anthrax
attacks targeted civilian facilities that are unprepared to react.
According to the GAO, the FBI is aware of numerous anthrax incidents throughout the
United States, which were random in nature and determined to be hoaxes. Because this was the
first time the FBI responded to an actual attack, however, there was some initial confusion about
the investigative roles and responsibilities of various agencies. The Bureau has recognized the
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need to involve subject-matter experts and, as a result, its investigative teams include scientists,
criminal investigators, hazardous-material experts, investigators from other federal agencies, and
federal laboratories.
[Page 414]
As a result of the anthrax attacks, the FBI and other investigative agencies have increased
attention on chemical and biological threats. These agencies have reached agreements delineating
roles and responsibilities, increased liaison with public health officials, developed a Center for
Disease Control and FBI handbook for conducting investigations, and identified state and local
officials who need security clearances for access to classified information.
To date, no connection has been established between the anthrax attacks and the terrorist
attacks of September 11.
A copy of the GAO report can be found in the Appendix to this volume.
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[Page 415]
PART FOUR—FINDING, DISCUSSION AND NARRATIVE REGARDING
CERTAIN SENSITIVE NATIONAL SECURITY MATTERS
20. Finding: [Through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information
suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while
they were in the United States. The Joint Inquiry’s review confirmed that the Intelligence
Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified,
concerning these potential sources of support. In their testimony, neither CIA nor FBI
officials were able to address definitively the extent of such support for the hijackers
globally or within the United States or the extent to which such support, if it exists, is
knowing or inadvertent in nature. Only recently, and at least in part due to the Joint
Inquiry’s focus on this issue, did the FBI and CIA strengthen their efforts to address these
issues. In the view of the Joint Inquiry, this gap in U.S. intelligence coverage is
unacceptable, given the magnitude and immediacy of the potential risk to U.S. national
security. The Intelligence Community needs to address this area of concern as aggressively
and as quickly as possible].
Discussion: [The Joint Inquiry reviewed information in FBI and CIA documents
suggesting specific potential sources of foreign support for the September 11 hijackers. While
the Joint Inquiry uncovered this material during the course of its review of FBI and CIA
documents, it did not attempt to investigate and assess the accuracy and significance of this
information independently, recognizing that such a task would be beyond the scope of the Joint
[page 416] Inquiry. Instead, the Joint Inquiry referred a detailed compilation of information it
had uncovered in documents and interviews to the FBI and CIA for further investigation by the
Intelligence Community and, if appropriate, law enforcement agencies. A detailed summary of
the available information pertaining to this issue is included in the classified version of the Joint
Inquiry final report].
[It should be clear that this Joint Inquiry has made no final determinations as to the
reliability or sufficiency of the information regarding these issues that was found contained in
FBI and CIA documents. It was not the task of this Joint Inquiry to conduct the kind of
extensive investigation that would be required to determine the true significance of such alleged
support to the hijackers. On the one hand, it is possible that these kinds of connections could
suggest, as indicated in a CIA memorandum, “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for
these terrorists [---------------------------].” On the other hand, it is also possible that further
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investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these
associations].
[Given the serious national security implications of this information, however, the
leadership of the Joint Inquiry is referring the Joint Inquiry Staff’s compilation of relevant
information to both the FBI and the CIA for investigative review and appropriate investigative
and intelligence action].
[Page 416]
[ -
-------------------------------------------------------].
[
]:
• [
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- ---------];
[Page 418]
• [
]; and
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[
], including:
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------------------------------------ [page 419] ----
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]
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].
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[page 420] -
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------------------------------------------------------------------------
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NARRATIVE
[ ]
[
].
[
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[
].
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---
------------------------------
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[page 421] --------------------------------------------------
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[Page 422]
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[Page 423]
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[Page 426]
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The Joint Inquiry also found, [
]:
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];
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[Page 427]
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TOP SECRET 409
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431]
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].
TOP SECRET 412
------------------------ ---------------------------------------------------------------
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TOP SECRET
[----------------------------------------------
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[page
434]
].”
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, [ ]:
[
].
[-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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].
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[.
-].
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436] --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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[A U. S. Government official testified about [ ]:
[--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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-].
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].
[Page 439]
[--------------------- -] A U.S. Government official testified to
the Joint Inquiry on this issue]:
[--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-
-----].
[-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
]
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---------------].
[-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------].
[A U. S. Government official testified at the [ ] hearing about [
]: [page 440]
[
].
Mr. Bereuter: [ ]?
U. S. Government official: [
].
[
]
[-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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]:
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].
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[
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[
]:
[--------------------------------
].
[
]:
[--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
].
In the October 10, 2002 closed hearing, FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that he
became aware of some of the facts regarding this issue only as a result of the investigative work
of the Joint Inquiry Staff:
I’m saying the sequence of events here, I think the staff probed and, as a result of
the probing, some facts came to light here and to me, frankly, that had not come
to light before, and perhaps would not have come to light had the staff not probed.
That’s what I’m telling you. So I’m agreeing with you that the staff probing
brought out facts that may not have come to this Committee.
Senator DeWine: But what you’re also saying, though, is that that probing then
brought facts to your attention.
Director Mueller: Yes.
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GLOSSARY
OF
TERMS AND KEY NAMES
TOP SECRET
[Page 444]
GLOSSARY
OF
TERMS AND ACRONYMS
ACS FBI Automated Case System
Actionable Intelligence Intelligence information that is directly useful to customers for
immediate exploitation without having to go through the full
intelligence production process; it may address strategic or tactical
needs, close support of US negotiating teams, or action elements
dealing with such matters as international terrorism or narcotics.
AIG Assessments and Information Group – Counterterrorist Center’s
analytic arm pre-September 11. After September 11th this office
became the Office of Terrorism Analysis.
Agent (1) A person who engages in clandestine intelligence activity under
the direction of an intelligence organization but who is not an
office, employee, or co-opted worker of that organization. (2) An
individual who acts under the direction of an intelligence agency or
security service to obtain, or assist in obtaining, information for
intelligence or counterintelligence purposes. (3) One who is
authorized or instructed to obtain or to assist in obtaining
information for intelligence or counterintelligence purposes.
Analysis A process in the production step of the intelligence cycle in which
intelligence information is subjected to systematic examination in
order to identify significant facts and derive conclusions therefrom.
Asset (1) Any resource – a person, group, relationship, instrument
installation, supply – at the disposition of an intelligence agency
for use in an operational or support role. (2) A person who
contributes to a clandestine mission but is not a fully controlled
agent.
[ ]
BW Biological Warfare
CBRN Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
CDC FBI Chief Division Counsel (Chief Field Office Counsel)
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CIA Central Intelligence Agency. An Intelligence Community agency
established under the National Security Council for the purpose of
coordinating the intelligence activities of several US departments
and agencies in the interest of national security. The CIA collects,
[page 445] produces, and disseminates foreign intelligence and
counterintelligence; conducts counterintelligence activities abroad;
collects, produces, and disseminates intelligence on foreign aspects
of narcotics production and trafficking; conducts special activities
approved by the President; and conducts research, development,
and procurement of technical systems and devices.
CIR Central Intelligence Report– A specific form of communicating
intelligence from the CIA to other agencies.
Clandestine Operation A preplanned secret intelligence collection activity or covert
political, economic, propaganda, or paramilitary action conducted
so as to assure the secrecy of the operation; encompasses both
clandestine collection and covert action.
Classification The determination that official information requires, in the interest
of national security, a specific degree of protection against
unauthorized disclosure, coupled with a designation signifying that
such a determination has been made; the designation is normally
termed a security classification and includes Confidential, Secret,
and Top Secret.
Compartmentation (1) Formal system of restricted access to intelligence activities,
such systems established by and/or managed under the cognizance
of the DCI to protect the sensitive aspects of sources, methods, and
analytical procedures of foreign intelligence information, limited to
individuals with a specific need for such information and who are
therefore given special security clearances and indoctrination in
order to have access to it. (2) Establishment and management of
an intelligence organization so that information about the
personnel, organization, or activities of one component is made
available to any other component or individual only to the extent
required for the performance of assigned duties.
Counterintelligence Information gathered and activities conducted to protect against
espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations
conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations,
persons, or terrorist activities, but not including personnel,
physical, document, or communications security programs.
Counterterrorism Offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, and respond to a
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terrorist act or the documented threat of such an act.
Covert Action (1) An operation designed to influence governments, events,
organizations, or persons in support of foreign policy in a manner
that is not necessarily attributable to the sponsoring power; it may
[page 446] include political, economic, propaganda, or
paramilitary activities.
(2) Operations that are so planned and executed as to conceal the
identity of, or permit plausible deniability by, the sponsor.
Covert Operation (Preferred term - Clandestine operation). A covert operation
encompassing covert action and clandestine collection.
[ ]
CSG Counterterrorism Security Group (also known as the Coordinating
Subgroup)
CTAU Counterterrorist Action Unit
CTC DCI’s Counterterrorist Center at the CIA
[ ]
CTD FBI Counterterrorism Division
DCI Director of Central Intelligence- (1) Primary advisor to the
President and National Security Council on national foreign
intelligence, appointed by the President with the consent of the
Senate. (2) Head of the Intelligence Community and responsible
for the development and execution of the National Foreign
Intelligence Program. (3) Director of the Central Intelligence
Agency.
DHS DIA’s Defense Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Service
DHS Department of Homeland Security
DIA The Defense Intelligence Agency is an agency of the Intelligence
Community responsible for satisfying the foreign military and
military-related intelligence requirements of the Secretary of
Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Unified and Specified
Commands, other Defense components, and, as appropriate, nondefense
agencies. It is a provider of military intelligence for
national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence products and
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is responsible for coordinating the intelligence activities of the
military services and managing the Defense Attaché System.
Dissemination The timely distribution of intelligence products (in oral, written, or
[page 447] graphic form) to departmental and agency intelligence
consumers in a suitable form.
DNI Director of National Intelligence
Domestic Collection The acquisition of foreign intelligence information within the
United States from governmental or nongovernmental
organizations or individuals who are witting sources and choose to
cooperate by sharing such information.
[ ]
EC FBI Electronic Communication
Estimate (1) An analysis of a foreign situation, development, or trend that
identifies its major elements, interprets the significance, and
appraises the future possibilities and the prospective results of the
various actions that might be taken. (2) An appraisal of the
capabilities, vulnerabilities, and potential courses of action of a
foreign nation or combination of nations in consequence of a
specific national plan, policy, decision, or contemplated course of
action. (3) An analysis of an actual or contemplated clandestine
operation in relation to the situation in which it is or would be
conducted in order to identify and appraise such factors as
available and needed assets, and potential obstacles,
accomplishments, and consequences.
FAA Federal Aviation Administration
Fatwa Religious decree
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation-The FBI is within the Department
of Justice. It is the principal law enforcement investigative arm of
the US government and the lead agency responsible for
counterterrorism in the United States.
FinCEN Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury
Department
Finding A determination made by the President stating that a particular
intelligence operation is important to the national security of the
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United States, in compliance with Section 503 (50 U.S.C. 413b) of
the National Security Act, as amended.
[Page 448]
Finished Intelligence (1) The product resulting from the collection, processing,
integration, analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of available
information concerning foreign countries or areas. (2) The final
result of the production step of the intelligence cycle; the
intelligence product.
FISA Court Court that reviews, for sufficiency, applications for orders issued
under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
FISA Order Order authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
to conduct electronic or physical searches within the US for
foreign intelligence purposes.
Foreign intelligence service An organization of a foreign government that engages in
intelligence activities.
Foreign Liaison Efforts to work with foreign government intelligence services,
including law enforcement agencies that gather or carry out
intelligence-related activities. Examples of foreign liaison include
sharing information, joint collection efforts, and the arrest of
suspected terrorists by foreign governments using US-supplied
information. Every major US intelligence agency has some form
of liaison relationship with foreign governments.
[ ]
[ ].
HPSCI House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence- A permanent
select committee of the House of Representatives established by
House Rule XLVIII, whose function is to monitor and provide
oversight for the Intelligence Community and intelligence-related
activities of all other government organizations. The committee is
also responsible for legislation pertaining to intelligence agencies
and activities, including authorizing appropriations for such
activities.
IC Intelligence Community-The aggregate of the following executive
branch organizations and agencies involved in intelligence
activities: the Central Intelligence Agency; the National Security
Agency; the Defense Intelligence agency; offices within the
Department of Defense for the collection of specialized national
foreign intelligence through reconnaissance programs; the Bureau
of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State;
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intelligence elements of the military services, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the Department of Treasury, and the Department
[page 449] of Energy; and staff elements of the Office of the
Director of Central Intelligence.1
IICT Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism
[ ]
Intelligence (1) A body of evidence and the conclusions drawn therefrom
acquired and furnished in response to the known or perceived
requirements of customers; it is often derived from information
that is concealed or not intended to be available for use by the
acquirer. (2) A term used to refer collectively to the functions,
activities, or organizations that are involved in the process of
planning, gathering, and analyzing information of potential value
to decision-makers and to the production of intelligence as defined
above. (3) The product resulting from the collection, collation,
evaluation, analysis, integration, and interpretation of all collected
information.
Intelligence assessment A category of intelligence production that encompasses most
analytical studies dealing with subjects of policy significance,
thorough in its treatment of subject matter – as distinct from
building-block papers, research projects, and reference aids, but
unlike estimative intelligence need not attempt to project future
developments and their implications; usually coordinated within
the producing organization, but may not be coordinated with other
intelligence agencies.
Intelligence report (1) A product of the production step of the intelligence cycle;
(2) Military Usage-A specific report of information, usually on a
single item, made at any level of command in tactical operations
and disseminated as rapidly as possible in keeping with the
timeliness of the information.
Intelligence requirement Any subject, general or specific, upon which there is a need for the
collection of intelligence information or the production of
intelligence.
International terrorism Terrorist acts that transcend national boundaries in their conduct or
purpose, the nationalities of the victims, or the resolution of the
incident. Such an act is usually designed to attract wide publicity
1 Pursuant to Title I, Section 105, of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, the United States Coast
Guard has been included as an element of the Intelligence Community.
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[page 450] to focus attention on the existence, cause, or demands
of the perpetrators.
IOS FBI’s Intelligence Operations Specialists- Specialists conduct case
specific (tactical) research.
IRS FBI’s Intelligence Research Specialist- Specialists conduct long
term (strategic) research.
[ ].
JITF-CT DIA’s Joint Intelligence Task Force – Combating Terrorism
JSOC Military’s Joint Special Operations Command
JTTF FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force
LEGAT FBI’s Legal Attaché in foreign countries
Manila (Bojinka) Plot A Ramzi Yousef plot to blow up 12 airliners over the Pacific
Ocean and to crash a plane into the CIA Headquarters (1995)
MI-5 Britain’s internal security service (BSS).
[ ]
[ ]
NGO Non-Governmental Organization
NIC National Intelligence Council, comprised of the National
Intelligence Officers (NIOs), their staff, and an analytic group.
The NIOs support the DCI by producing national intelligence
estimates and other interagency assessments and by advising him
on the intelligence needs of policymakers.
NID National Intelligence Daily – An Intelligence Community
produced digest of current intelligence drafted six times a week for
senior government officials. (Replaced by the SEIB)
NIE National Intelligence Estimate: (1) A thorough assessment of a
situation in a foreign environment relevant to the formulation of
foreign, economic, and national security policy, that projects
probable future courses of action and developments, and is
structured to illuminate differences of view within the Intelligence
Community; it is issued by the DCI with the advice of the National
Foreign Intelligence Board; (2) a strategic estimate of capabilities,
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[page 451] vulnerabilities, produced at the national level as a
composite of the views of the Intelligence Community.
NIMA National Imagery and Mapping Agency, an Intelligence
Community agency.
NIO The senior staff officer of the DCI for an assigned area of
functional or geographic responsibility. The NIO manages
estimative and interagency intelligence production on behalf of the
DCI; he is the principal point of contact between the DCI and
intelligence consumers below the cabinet level and is a primary
source of national-level substantive guidance to intelligence
Community planners, collectors, and resource managers.
NFIP National Foreign Intelligence Program
NRO National Reconnaissance Office, an Intelligence Community
agency.
NSA National Security Agency, the Intelligence Community agency
responsible for centralized coordination, direction, and
performance of highly specialized technical functions in support of
US Government activities to protect US communications and
produce foreign intelligence information. It coordinates, directs,
and performs all cryptologic functions for the US Government;
collects, processes, and disseminates SIGINT information for
DoD, national foreign intelligence, and counterintelligence
purposes; and is the national executive agent for classified
communications and computer security.
NSD National Security Directive
NSC National Security Council
NSLU FBI National Security Law Unit
OIPR Office of Intelligence Policy Review, Department of Justice
OMB Office of Management and Budget
PDB President’s Daily Brief (Prepared by CIA for President and very
small number of other senior officials)
PDD Presidential Decision Directive
[Page 452]
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PENTTBOMB FBI investigation of September 11 WTC & Pentagon attacks
PFIAB President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board-A body
consisting of senior non-government members appointed by, and
reporting directly to, the President, empowered to assess the
quality, quantity, and adequacy of intelligence collection, of
analysis and estimates, or counterintelligence, and other
intelligence activities with a view toward increasing the
effectiveness of the national intelligence effort; specific duties and
responsibilities are outlined in Executive Order 12331.
Phoenix EC Electronic communication of July 2001 from the FBI’s Phoenix
field office to FBI Headquarters expressing concern about an
increase in the number of Middle Eastern men enrolled in civil
aviation training (also referred to as the Phoenix Memo).
Raw Intelligence A colloquial term meaning collected intelligence information that
has not yet been converted into finished intelligence.
RFU FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit
SA Special Agent
SAC Special Agent in Charge
SEIB Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (CIA intelligence summary for
senior USG officials; replaced the NID, see above.)
SIGINT Signals intelligence-Intelligence information derived from signals
intercept comprising, either individually or in combination, all
communications intelligence, electronic intelligence, and foreign
instrument signals intelligence, however, transmitted.
SIOC FBI’s Strategic Information Operations Center
SOIC Senior Officials of the Intelligence Community-The heads of the
organizations comprising the Intelligence Community or their
designated representatives.
SRTD Signals Research and Target Development, a NSA function
SSA Supervisory Special Agent
SSCI Senate Select Committee on Intelligence- A select committee of
the Senate established by Senate Resolution 400, 94th Congress, 2nd
Session (1976), whose function is to monitor and provide oversight
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[page 453] over the Intelligence Community and intelligencerelated
activities of all other government organizations; the
Committee is also responsible for legislation pertaining to
intelligence agencies and activities, including authorizing
appropriations for such activities.
Strategic intelligence Intelligence required for the formulation of policy and military
plans at national and international levels; it differs primarily from
tactical intelligence in level of use, but may also vary in scope and
detail.
Tactical intelligence Intelligence produced in support of military, intelligence, or other
operations, or that relates to the specific time, date, nature, and
other details of events.
Title III Order Order issued by a court pursuant to the provisions of Title III of the
Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Public Law
90-351 (June 19, 1968), as amended, authorizing the interception
of oral, wire, and/or electronic communication.
UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
UBLU FBI’s Usama bin Ladin Unit
USSID United States Signals Intelligence Directive
Volunteer Persons who, on their own initiative, make contact with a
government representative and volunteer information and/or
request political asylum.
WTC World Trade Center
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[Page 454]
KEY NAMES
Mohamed Yousef
Mohamed Alqusaidi Marwan al-Shehhi's brother
Muhammed Atif Bin Ladin’s lieutenant
[ ]
[ ]
[ ]
Usama Bin Ladin Leader of al-Qa’ida and promoter of terrorist attacks against US
Imad Mugniyah Hizbollah Leader
Khalid Shaykh Mohammad Bin Ladin Lieutenant; believed to be the mastermind of the
September 11th attacks (AKA Mukhtar or “the Brain”)
Mohamed al-Owhali Passenger in truck bomb that jumped out of the bomb laden
vehicle before it crashed into the American embassy in Kenya
Al-Qa'ida Terrorist organization led by Usama bin Ladin. Translates as “the
Base”
Omar Abd al-Rahman Blind Sheikh
Ahmed Ressam Convicted terrorist who tried to cross into the United States from
Canada with explosives intending to target Los Angeles
International Airport in December 1999
Ramzi Yousef Organizer of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center
Ayman Zawarhari Bin Ladin lieutenant
Abu Zubaydah Bin Ladin Lieutenant captured in March 2002
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[Page 455]
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 HIJACKERS
American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m.
Mohamed Atta [Mo-Ha-mahd A-tta] Pilot
Abd Al-Aziz Al-Omari [Abd al-A-ziz Al-OMA-ree]
Satam Al-Suqami [Sa-TOM Ah-Suq-AMI]
Wail Al-Shehri [Wa-EEL Ah-SHEH-ree]
Walid Al-Shehri [Wa-LEED SHEH-ree]
United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:05 a.m.
Marwan Al-Shehhi [Mar-WAHN Ah-SHEH-hee] Pilot
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi [Ah-MED al-GAM-dee]
Hamza Al-Ghamdi [HAM-za al-GAM-dee]
Fayez Ahmed [FA-yez AH-med]
Mohand Al-Shehri [MO-hahnd ah-SHEH-ree]
American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m.
Hani Hanjour [Ha-NEE HAN-joor] Pilot
Khalid Al-Mihdhar [Kah-LEED al-MID-har]
Majid Moqed [MAH-jid MOE-Ked]
Nawaf Al-Hazmi [Now-Woff al-HAS-me]
Salim Al-Hazmi [Sa-LEEM al-HAS-me]
United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m.
Ziad Jarrah [Zee-YAHD Jara] Pilot
Ahmad Al-Nami [AH-med Ah-Nah-mee]
Ahmad Al-Haznawi [AH-med al-Has-NOW-wee]
Saled Al-Ghamdi [Sah-EED al-GAM-dee]
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ADDITIONAL VIEWS
AND
APPENDICES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Additional Views Of Members
Sen. Richard C. Shelby
Rep. Michael N. Castle
Sen. Mike DeWine
Rep. Jane Harman
Sen. John Kyl & Sen. Pat Roberts
Sen. Carl Levin
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski
Rep. Tim Roemer
Appendices
Initial Scope Of Joint Inquiry
Supplemental Joint Inquiry Rules
Joint Inquiry Hearings
List of Hearing Witnesses
List of Persons Interviewed
Counterterrorism Organizations Within The Intelligence Community
Evolution Of The Terrorist Threat And The U.S. Response, 1983-2001
Selected Events In The Chronology Of Terrorism, 1982 – 2001
CIA/FBI Failures In Regard To Two September 11 Hijackers, The Phoenix Electronic
Communication, And The Moussaoui Investigation (Adapted From A Chart Presented By
Senator Carl Levin At The October 17, 2002 Joint Inquiry Hearing)
The Phoenix Electronic Communication
Moussaoui Related FBI Field Agent Notes & Field Office/Headquarters E-Mails
General Accounting Office: Analysis Of U.S. Anthrax Attacks
CTC Watchlisting Guidance – December 1999
The Joint Inquiry In Court
Access Limitations Encountered By The Joint Inquiry
ADDITIONAL VIEWS
OF
MEMBERS OF
THE JOINT INQUIRY
On December 10, 2002, the Report of the Joint Inquiry was voted on and
approved by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The following additional views were
submitted by individual members of those committees.
September 11 and the Imperative of Reform
in the U.S. Intelligence Community
Additional Views of Senator Richard C. Shelby
Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
December 10, 2002
“In actual practice, the successful end to the Cold War and the lack of
any national intelligence disasters since then seem to militate in favor
of keeping the existing structure until some crisis proves it to be in
dire need of repair. . . . Thus we are likely to live with a decentralized
intelligence system – and the impulse toward centralization – until a
crisis re-aligns the political and bureaucratic players or compels them
to cooperate in new ways.”
— Deputy Chief, CIA History Staff
publication dated 20011
Our country’s Intelligence Community was born because of the devastating surprise
attack the United States suffered at Japanese hands at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the
wake of that disaster, America’s political leaders concluded “that the surprise attack could have
been blunted if the various commanders and departments had coordinated their actions and
shared their intelligence.” This was the inspiration behind the National Security Act of 1947,
1 Central Intelligence: Origin and Evolution (Langley, Virginia: CIA History Staff, CIA Center for
the Study of Intelligence, 2001), from the Historical Perspective by Dr. Michael Warner
[hereinafter “Warner”], at 2 & 18.
1
which “attempted to implement the principles of unity of command and unity of intelligence.”2
Sixty years later, on September 11, 2001, we suffered another devastating surprise attack,
this time by international terrorists bent upon slaughtering Americans in the name of their God.
This second attack is the subject of the findings and recommendations of the unprecedented Joint
Inquiry conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). In this document, I offer my own
assessments and suggestions, based upon my four and a half years as Chairman of the SSCI and
one and a half years as its Vice Chairman. These additional views are intended to complement
and expand upon the findings and recommendations of the Joint Inquiry.
Long before the September 11 attacks, I made no secret of my feelings of disappointment
in the U.S. Intelligence Community for its performance in a string of smaller-scale intelligence
failures during the last decade. Since September 11 I have similarly hid from no one my belief
that the Intelligence Community does not have the decisive and innovative leadership it needs to
reform itself and to adapt to the formidable challenges of the 21st Century.
In the following pages, I offer my suggestions about where our Intelligence Community
should go from here. These views represent the distilled wisdom of my eight years on the SSCI,
of innumerable hearings, briefings, and visits to sensitive sites and facilities, and of thousands of
man-hours of diligent work by intelligence oversight professionals on the SSCI staff over several
years. Most of all, these Additional Views represent the conclusions I have reached as a result of
the work of our Joint Inquiry Staff and the many private and public committee hearings we have
had into the intelligence failures that led up to September 11.
2 Warner, supra, at 1.
2
I hope that the American public servants who inherit responsibility for these matters
during the 108th Congress and the second half of President Bush’s first term will carefully
consider my arguments herein. Thousands of Americans have already been killed by the enemy
in the war declared against us by international terrorists, and though we have enjoyed some
signal successes since our counteroffensive began in late September 2001, our Intelligence
Community remains poorly prepared for the range of challenges it will confront in the years
ahead.
Too much has happened for us to be able to conclude that the American people and our
national security interests can be protected simply by throwing more resources at agencies still
fundamentally wedded to the pre-September 11 status quo. I salute the brave and resourceful
Americans – both in and out of uniform – who are even at this moment taking the fight to the
enemy in locations around the world. These patriots, however, deserve better than our
government’s recommitment to the bureaucratic recipes that helped leave us less prepared for
this crisis than we should have been.
I hope that the Joint Inquiry’s report – and these Additional Views thereto – will help
spur the kind of broad-ranging debate in Congress, within the Administration, and among the
American public that our present circumstances deserve. The road to real intelligence reform is
littered with the carcasses of forgotten studies and ignored reports. We cannot afford to let the
results of this unprecedented Joint Inquiry be forgotten as well. The American people will not
forgive us if we fail to make the changes necessary to ensure that they are better protected in the
future.
Executive Summary
3
Community Structure and Organization. With respect to the
structure and organization of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), the
story of counterterrorism (CT) intelligence work before September 11
illustrates not only the unwillingness of the Director of Central
Intelligence (DCI) fully to exercise the powers he had to direct resources
and attention to CT, but also the institutional weakness of the DCI’s office
within the Community. Caught ambiguously between its responsibilities
for providing national-level intelligence and providing support to the
Department of Defense to which most IC agencies owe their primary
allegiance, the Community proved relatively unresponsive to the DCI’s at
least partly rhetorical 1998 declaration of “war” against Al-Qa’ida. The
fragmented nature of the DCI’s authority has exacerbated the centrifugal
tendencies of bureaucratic politics and has helped ensure that the IC
responds too slowly and too disjointedly to shifting threats. Ten years
after the end of the Cold War, the Community still faces inordinate
difficulty responding to evolving national security threats.
To help alleviate these problems, the office of the DCI should be
given more management and budgetary authority over IC organs and be
separated from the job of the CIA Director, as the Joint Inquiry suggests in
urging that we consider reinventing the DCI as the “Director of National
Intelligence.” Moreover, the DCI (or DNI, as the case may be) should be
compelled actually to use these powers in order to effect real IC
coordination and management. An Intelligence Community finally
4
capable of being coherently managed as a Community would be able to
reform and improve itself in numerous ways that prove frustratingly
elusive today – ultimately providing both its national-level civilian and its
military customers with better support. Congress should give serious
consideration, in its intelligence reform efforts, to developing an approach
loosely analogous to that adopted by the Goldwater-Nichols Act in
reforming the military command structure in order to overcome
entrenched bureaucratic interests and forge a much more effective “joint”
whole out of a motley and disputatious collection of parts.
Most importantly, Congress and the Administration should focus
upon ensuring an organizational structure that will not only help the IC
respond to current threats but will enable our intelligence bureaucracies to
change themselves as threats evolve in the future. We must not only learn
the lessons of the past but learn how to keep learning lessons as we change
and adapt in the future. To this end, the IC should adopt uniform
personnel and administrative standards in order to help ensure that its
personnel and organizational units remain unique and valuable individual
resources but also become administratively fungible assets, capable of
being reorganized and redirected efficiently as circumstances demand. It
will also be necessary to break the mindset within the IC that holds that
only intelligence professionals actually employed by the traditional
collection agencies can engage in collection or analysis of those agencies’
signature types of intelligence. The traditional collection agencies’
expertise in “their” areas should be used to enrich the Community’s pool
5
of intelligence know-how rather than as barriers to entry wielded in
defense of bureaucratic and financial “turf.” Instead, the collection
agencies should be charged with certifying – but not running or
controlling – training curricula within other IC agencies that will produce
competent specialists in the relevant fields.
Ultimately, Congress and the Administration re-examine the basic
structure of the intelligence provisions of the National Security Act of
1947 in light of the circumstances and challenges our country faces today.
Returning to these roots might suggest the need to separate our country’s
“central” intelligence analytical functions from the resource-hungry
collection responsibilities that make agencies into self-interested
bureaucratic “players.”
Information-Sharing. Our Joint Inquiry has highlighted
fundamental problems with information-sharing within the IC, depriving
analysts of the information access they need in order to draw the
inferences and develop the conclusions necessary to inform decisionmaking.
The IC’s abject failure to “connect the dots” before September
11, 2001 illustrates the need to wholly re-think the Community’s approach
to these issues.
The CIA’s chronic failure, before September 11, to share with
other agencies the names of known Al-Qa’ida terrorists who it knew to be
in the country allowed at least two such terrorists the opportunity to live,
6
move, and prepare for the attacks without hindrance from the very federal
officials whose job it is to find them. Sadly, the CIA seems to have
concluded that the maintenance of its information monopoly was more
important that stopping terrorists from entering or operating within the
United States. Nor did the FBI fare much better, for even when notified in
the so-called “Phoenix Memo” of the danger of Al-Qa’ida flight school
training, its agents failed to understand or act upon this information in the
broader context of information the FBI already possessed about terrorist
efforts to target or use U.S. civil aviation. The CIA watchlisting and FBI
Phoenix stories illustrate both the potential of sophisticated informationsharing
and good information-empowered analysis and the perils of failing
to share information promptly and efficiently between (and within)
organizations. They demonstrate the need to ensure that intelligence
analysis is conducted on a truly “all-source” basis by experts permitted to
access all relevant information – no matter where in the IC it happens to
reside.
The IC’s methods of information-sharing before September 11
suffered from profound flaws, and in most respects still do. In order to
overcome bureaucratic information-hoarding and empower analysts to do
the work our national security requires them to do, we need to take
decisive steps to reexamine the fundamental intellectual assumptions that
have guided the IC’s approach to managing national security information.
As one witness told the Joint Inquiry, we may need “to create a new
paradigm wherein ‘ownership’ of information belonged with the analysts
7
and not the collectors.” In addition, the imbalance between analysis and
collection makes clear that in addition to being empowered to conduct true
“all-source” analysis, our analysts will also need to be supplied with
powerful new tools if they are to provide analytical value-added to the
huge volumes of information the IC brings in every day. Recent
development and initiatives in comprehensive databasing and data-mining
suggest that solutions to these challenges may be within our reach. The
information-analysis organization within the new Department of
Homeland Security als has great potential to contribute to effective CT
information-sharing and analyst-empowerment within the U.S.
Government – and Congress has given it the legal tools it needs to play
this crucial catalytic role. Meanwhile, Congress should take decisive steps
to help stem our contemporary culture of endemic “leaking” of national
security information to the media, so as better to ensure that our analysts
remain better informed about terrorists than the terrorists do about them.
Intelligence-Law Enforcement Coordination. The September
11 story also illustrates the tremendous problems of coordination between
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence entities that developed out of a long
series of misunderstandings, timorous lawyering, and mistaken
assumptions. Congress and the Administration have made progress since
September 11 in breaking down some of the mythologies that impeded
coordination. Thanks to Congress’ passage of the USA PATRIOT Act of
2001 and the Justice Department’s success in appellate litigation to
compel the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to implement these
8
changes, for instance, the legally fallacious “Wall” previously assumed to
exist between intelligence and law enforcement work has been breached
and years of coordination-impeding Justice Department legal reticence has
been overcome.
With luck, we will never again see the kind of decision-making
exhibited when the CIA refused to share information with FBI criminal
investigators about two known Al-Qa’ida terrorists (and soon-to-be
suicide hijackers) in the United States, and when the FBI – only days
before the September 11 attacks – deliberately restricted many of its
agents from participating in the effort to track down these terrorists on the
theory that this was work in which criminal investigators should play no
role. Hopefully we will also no longer see the kind of fundamental legal
misunderstanding displayed by FBI lawyers in the Moussaoui case, in
which investigators in Minneapolis were led on a three-week wild goose
chase by a faulty analysis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA). It will take sustained Congressional oversight in order to ensure
compliance with the information-sharing authorities and mandates of the
USA PATRIOT Act, but it is imperative that we ensure that such
problems do not recur. To help achieve this, Congress should modify the
Act’s “sunset” provisions and should approve legislation proposed by
Senators Kyl and Schumer to modify FISA’s “foreign power” standard.
Domestic Intelligence. The story of September 11 is also replete
with the FBI’s problems of internal counterterrorism and
9
counterintelligence (CI) coordination, information-sharing, and basic
institutional competence. The FBI was unaware of what information it
possessed relevant to internal terrorist threats, unwilling to devote serious
time, attention, or resources to basic intelligence analytical work, and too
organizationally fragmented and technologically impoverished to fix these
shortfalls even had it understood them and really wished to do so. These
problems persisted, moreover, through a major FBI reorganization
ostensibly designed to address these problems, which had been well
known for years.
The FBI’s problems in these respects suggests that the Bureau’s
organizational and institutional culture is terribly flawed, and indeed that
the Bureau – as a law enforcement organization – is fundamentally
incapable, in its present form, of providing Americans with the security
they require against foreign terrorist and intelligence threats. Modern
intelligence work increasingly focuses upon shadowy transnational
targets, such as international terrorist organizations, that lack easilyidentifiable
geographic loci, organizational structures, behavioral patterns,
or other information “signatures.” Against such targets, intelligence
collection and analysis requires an approach to acquiring, managing, and
understanding information quite different from that which prevails in the
law enforcement community. The United States already has a domestic
intelligence agency in the form of the FBI, but this agency is presently
unequal to the challenge, and provides neither first-rate CT and CI
competence nor the degree of civil liberty protections that would obtain
10
were domestic intelligence collectors deprived of their badges, guns, and
arrest powers and devoted wholly to CI and CT tasks.
This pattern of dysfunction compels us to consider radical reform
at the FBI. A very strong argument can be made for removing the CI and
CT portfolios from the Bureau, placing them in a stand-alone member of
the Intelligence Community that would be responsible for domestic
intelligence collection and analysis but would have no law enforcement
powers or responsibilities. Alternatively, it might be sufficient to separate
the CI and CT functions of the FBI into a semi-autonomous organization
that reports to the FBI director for purposes of overall coordination and
accountability, but which would in every other respect be wholly separate
from the “criminal” components of the FBI. A third approach might be to
move the FBI’s CI and CT functions to the new Department of Homeland
Security, thereby adding a domestic collection element to that
organization’s soon-to-be-created Undersecretariat for Information
Analysis and Infrastructure Protection. Some kind of radical reform of the
FBI is long overdue, and should be a major item on the “intelligence
reform” agenda for the 108th Congress. The Bush Administration and the
108th Congress should make it a high priority to resolve these issues, and
to put the domestic components of our Intelligence Community on a
footing that will enable them to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Human Intelligence. The status quo of IC approaches to human
intelligence (HUMINT) was tested against the Al-Qa’ida threat and found
11
wanting. The CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) has been too
reluctant to develop non-traditional HUMINT platforms, and has stuck too
much and for too long with the comparatively easy work of operating
under diplomatic cover from U.S. embassies. This approach is patently
unsuited to HUMINT collection against nontraditional threats such as
terrorism or proliferation targets, and the CIA must move emphatically to
develop an entirely new collection paradigm involving greater use of nonofficial
cover (NOC) officers. Among other things, this will necessitate
greater efforts to hire HUMINT collectors from ethnically and culturally
diverse backgrounds, though without a fundamental shift in the CIA’s
HUMINT paradigm diversity for diversity’s sake will be of little help.
The CIA should also spend more time developing its own sources, and
less time relying upon the political munificence of foreign liaison services.
Covert Action. The CIA’s decidedly mixed record of success in
offensive operations against Al-Qa’ida before September 11 illustrates the
need for the President to convey legal authorities with absolute clarity. If
we are not to continue to encourage the kind of risk-averse decisionmaking
that inevitably follows from command-level indecision, our
intelligence operators risking their lives in the field need to know that
their own government will make clear to them what their job is and protect
them when they do it. Congress should bear this in mind when conducting
its legitimate oversight of covert action programs in the future, even as it
12
struggles to cope with the oversight challenges posed by the potential for
the Defense Department to take a greater role in such activities.
Accountability. The story of September 11 is one replete with
failures: to share information, to coordinate with other agencies; to
understand the law, follow existing rules and procedures, and use
available legal authorities in order to accomplish vital goals; to devote or
redirect sufficient resources and personnel to counterterrorism work; to
communicate priorities clearly and effectively to IC components; to take
seriously the crucial work of strategic counterterrorism analysis; and most
importantly, to rise above parochial bureaucratic interests in the name of
protecting the American people from terrorist attack.
The DCI has declared us to be at “war” against Al-Qa’ida since
1998, and as the President has declared, we have really been so since at
least September 11. Some have suggested that this means that we should
postpone holding anyone accountable within the Intelligence Community
until this war is over and the threat recedes. I respectfully disagree.
The threat we face today is in no danger of subsiding any time
soon, and the problems our Intelligence Community faces are not ones
wisely left unaddressed any longer. Precisely because we face a grave and
ongoing threat, we must begin reforming the Community immediately.
Otherwise we will be unable to meet this threat. The metaphor of “war” is
instructive, for wise generals do not hesitate to hold their subordinates
13
accountable while the battle still rages, disciplining or cashiering those
who fail to do their duty. So also do wise Presidents dispose of their
faltering generals under fire. Indeed, failures in wartime are traditionally
considered less excusable, and are punished more severely, than failures in
times of peace.
Nor should we forget that accountability has two sides. It is also a
core responsibility of all good leaders to reward those who perform well,
and promote them to positions of ever greater responsibility. In urging the
Intelligence Community to hold its employees accountable, the IC must
therefore both discipline those who fall down on the job and reward those
who have excelled.
For these reasons, it is disappointing to me that despite the Joint
Inquiry’s explicit mandate to “lay a basis for assessing the accountability
of institutions and officials of government” and despite its extensive
findings documenting recurring and widespread Community shortcomings
in the months and years leading up to September 11, the Joint Inquiry has
not seen fit to identify any of the individuals whose decisions left us so
unprepared. I urge President Bush to examine the Joint Inquiry’s findings
in order to determine the extent to which he has been well served by his
“generals” in the Intelligence Community.
Some have argued that we should avoid this issue of accountability
lest we encourage the development of yet more risk-aversion within the
14
Community. I do not believe this is the case. The failings leading up to
September 11 were not ones of impetuousness, the punishment for which
might indeed discourage the risk-taking inherent in and necessary to good
intelligence work. The failures of September 11 were generally ones not
of reckless commission but rather of nervous omission. They were failures
to take the necessary steps to rise above petty parochial interests and
concerns in the service of the common good. These are not failings that
will be exacerbated by accountability. Quite the contrary. And, more
importantly, it is clear that without real accountability, these many
problems will simply remain unaddressed – leaving us needlessly
vulnerable in the future.
I advocate no crusade to hold low-level employees accountable for
the failures of September 11. There clearly were some individual failings,
but for the most part our hard-working and dedicated intelligence
professionals did very well, given the limited tools and resources they
received and the constricting institutional culture and policy guidance they
faced. The IC’s rank-and-file deserve no discredit for resource decisions
and for creating these policies.
Ultimately, as the findings of the Joint Inquiry make clear – though
they stop short of actually saying so – accountability must begin with
those whose job it was to steer the IC and its constituent agencies through
these shoals, and to ensure that all of them cooperated to the best of their
abilities in protecting our national security. Responsibility must lie with
15
the leaders who took so little action for so long, to address problems so
well known. In this context, we must not be afraid publicly to name
names. The U.S. Intelligence Community would have been far better
prepared for September 11 but for the failure of successive agency leaders
to work wholeheartedly to overcome the institutional and cultural
obstacles to inter-agency cooperation and coordination that bedeviled
counterterrorism efforts before the attacks: DCIs George Tenet and John
Deutch, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and NSA Directors Michael Hayden
and Kenneth Minnihan, and NSA Deputy Director Barbara McNamara.
These individuals are not responsible for the disaster of September 11, of
course, for that infamy belongs to Al-Qa’ida’s 19 suicide hijackers and the
terrorist infrastructure that supported them. As the leaders of the United
States Intelligence Community, however, these officials failed in
significant ways to ensure that this country was as prepared as it could
have been.
I. Intelligence Community Structure
A. The DCI’s Problematic “War” of 1998
The Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) testified before Congress in February 2001
that he considered Usama bin Laden and Al-Qa’ida to be the most important national security
16
threat faced by the United States.3 In December 1998, in fact – in the wake of the terrorist
bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya – he had
proclaimed that “[w]e are at war” with Al-Qa’ida.4 The story of this “war,” however, underlines
the problematic nature of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s management structure.
As the Joint Inquiry Staff (JIS) has noted in its presentations to the Committees,
“[d]espite the DCI’s declaration of war in 1998, there was no massive shift in budget or
reassignment of personnel to counterterrorism until after September 11, 2001.”5 Indeed, the
amount of money and other resources devoted to counterterrorism (CT) work after the DCI’s
“declaration of war” in 1998 barely changed at all. The budget requests sent to Congress
relating to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC), for instance, rose only marginally – in the
low single-digit percentages each year into Fiscal Year 2001 – and at rates of increase essentially
unchanged from their slow growth before the “war.” (These requests, incidentally, were met or
exceeded by Congress, even to the point that the CIA ended Fiscal Year 2001 with millions of
dollars in counterterrorism money left unspent.6)
In his 1998 “declaration of war,” the DCI had declared to his deputies at the CIA that “I
3 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, hearing into “Worldwide Threats to National Security”
(February 7, 2001) (remarks of George Tenet, declaring that “Osama bin Laden and his global
network of lieutenants and associates remain the most immediate and serious threat.”)
4 JIS, written statement submitted to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 18, 2001), at 9.
5 JIS, written statement submitted to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 18, 2001), at 10.
6 The detailed figures remain classified.
17
want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside the CIA or the Community.”7 CIA
officials also told the HPSCI on March 4, 1999 – in a written response to questions about the
CIA’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2000 – that “the Agency as a whole is well positioned” to
work against Al-Qa’ida targets, and that they were “confident that funding could be redirected
internally, if needed, in a crisis.”8
7 JIS, written statement submitted to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 18, 2001), at 9.
8 Central Intelligence Agency, response to “HPSCI Questions for the Record” (March 4, 1999)
(declassified portion).
18
Shortly thereafter, however, a study conducted within the CTC found that it was unable
to carry out more ambitious plans against Al-Qa’da for lack of money and personnel,9 and CIA
officials reported being “seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload”
before September 11, 2001.10 According to former CTC chief Cofer Black, “before September
11, we did not have enough people, money, or sufficiently flexible rules of engagement.”11 The
troops fighting the DCI’s “war,” in short, didn’t have the support they needed. (Even when the
DCI requested additional counterterrorism money from Congress, it almost invariably did so in
the form of supplemental appropriations requests – thus denying Community managers the
ability to prepare long-term plans and programs because these increases were not made a part of
the Community’s recurring budgeting process.)
Under the National Security Act of 1947, the DCI has considerable budgetary power over
the U.S. Intelligence Community. His consent is needed before agency budget requests can be
folded into the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP) budget proposal, and he has
authority over reprogramming both money and personnel between agencies.12 Simultaneously
serving as Director of the CIA, the DCI also has essentially complete authority over that
9 This was the conclusion presented to an internal CIA conference on September 16, 1999. Further
information about this internal study, however, has not been declassified.
10 JIS, written statement submitted to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 18, 2001), at 13.
11 Cofer Black, written statement submitted to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 26, 2001), at
10.
12 See 50 U.S.C. § 403-4(b), (c), and (d).
19
organization, both with respect to budget requests and day-to-day management. If a DCI were
willing actually to use the full range of powers available to him, these statutory levers would
give him considerable influence over the Community. One of the great unanswered questions of
our September 11 inquiry, therefore, is how the DCI could have considered himself to be “at
war” against this country’s most important foreign threat without bothering to use the full range
of authorities at his disposal in this fight.
Unfortunately, part of the reason for this failure is the current DCI’s longstanding
determination – which he expressed quite frankly to some of us at a SSCI off-site meeting – that
he does not really consider himself to be DCI. His principal interest and focus in office, he has
told us, revolves around his role as head of the CIA, rather than his role as head of the
Community as a whole. (The DCI has also publicly supported the creation of an Undersecretary
of Defense for Intelligence [USDI], which seems likely only to reduce his influence over the
Defense components of the U.S. Intelligence Community.) Part of the reason may also lie in the
merely rhetorical nature of the DCI’s 1998 proclamation: since September 11 the DCI has
pointed to his “declaration of war” as a token of his pre-September 11 seriousness of purpose
against Al-Qa’ida, but it does not appear to have been circulated or known outside a small circle
of intimates before that date. And part of the reason that more was not done may also lie at
higher levels of political authority. The nature of the “war” contemplated in 1998 certainly pales
in comparison to the use of that term after September 11, and officials have suggested in the
press that they undertook, as much as was politically possible at the time.13
13 See, e.g., Barton Gellman, “Broad Effort Launched After ‘98 Attacks,” Washington Post
(December 19, 2001), at A1 (quoting former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
Karl Inderfurth that “Until September 11th, there was certainly not any groundswell of support to
mount a major attack on the Taliban.”); Bob Drogin, “U.S. Had Plan for Covert Afghan Options
Before 9/11,” Los Angeles Times (May 18, 2002), at A14 (quoting former Clinton Administration
State Department official that invasion of Afghanistan was “really not an option” before
20
That said, there can be no gainsaying that even if the DCI had really meant to “declare
war” against Al-Qa’ida in 1998, the fragmented structure of the Intelligence Community and his
tenuous authority over its component agencies would have greatly handicapped any effort to
conduct an effective counterterrorist campaign from the DCI’s office. His existing budget and
reprogramming authorities under Section 104 of the National Security Act, for instance, extends
by its terms only to the NFIP budget – and not to the Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP)
and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Accounts (TIARA) budgets.14 For this reason, no
serious plan to reform the U.S. Intelligence Community can ignore the problem of Community
management and the weaknesses of the office of the DCI as the Community’s nominal head.
2. Reinvigorating the Office of the DCI?
The most obvious problem with respect to the IC’s ability to act as a coherent and
effective whole is the fact that more than 80 percent of its budgets and personnel resources are
controlled by the Department of Defense (DOD). The DCI may be the titular head of the
Intelligence Community, but the National Security Agency (NSA), National Imagery and
Mapping Agency (NIMA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Defense Intelligence
September 11).
14 Section 104 only discusses the NFIP. See 50 U.S.C. §§ 403-4(b) (budget approval); 403-4(c)
(reprogramming); & 403-4(d) (transfer of funds and/or personnel).
21
Agency (DIA), and military service intelligence arms are all DOD organizations and report first
and foremost to the Secretary of Defense. (The heads of NSA and DIA, and the service
intelligence agencies are active duty military officers, and the NRO Director is an
Undersecretary of the Air Force.) Only the CIA itself – and a comparatively tiny “Community
Management Staff” (CMS) – is unambiguously under the authority of the DCI.
The domination of the IC by the Department of Defense is perhaps the most fundamental
bureaucratic fact of life for anyone who aspires to manage the Community as a whole. As one
organizational history of the CIA has noted, “[t]he DCI never became the manager of the
Intelligence Community,” and decisions over the years to “us[e] declining resources first and
foremost to support military operations effectively blunted the Congressional emphasis upon
centralization by limiting the wherewithal that DCIs and agency heads could devote to national
and strategic objectives.”15
Nor is this arrangement entirely accidental. This awkward balance of authority between
DCI and the Secretary of Defense reflects an inability finally to decide whether agencies such as
NSA and NIMA are “really” national intelligence agencies that should report to the DCI or
“combat support agencies” that should report to DOD. The U.S. military, of course, is an
enormous – and, in wartime, perhaps the most important – consumer of certain sorts of
intelligence product, particularly signals intelligence (SIGINT), photographic and other imagery
(IMINT), and mapping products. Without immediate access to such support, our armed forces
would have difficulty knowing where they are, where the enemy is, and what the enemy is doing.
The reason that the military possesses integral service intelligence arms and cryptologic support
15 Warner, supra, at 8 & 17.
22
components, in fact, is precisely because the imperatives of war planning and operational
decision-making do not permit these functions to be entirely separated from the military chain of
command. This attitude, however, also exists at the national level: DOD officials insist that
organizations such as NSA and NIMA are, above all else, “combat support agencies.”
Implicitly, this means that in any unresolvable resource-allocation conflict between the Secretary
of Defense and the DCI, the Secretary must prevail.
The difficulty lies in the fact that the DOD components of the Intelligence Community
are also vital parts of the national intelligence system, and provide crucial intelligence products
to national-level consumers, including the President. To the extent that DOD’s domination of IC
resources impedes the Community’s ability to provide adequate national-level support – and to
the extent that such high-level bureaucratic stand-offs hamper the IC’s ability to reorient itself
against dangerous emerging threats, or to reform itself in response to intelligence failures – we
face grave challenges.
These problems have led many to suggest the need finally to empower the DCI to act as
the true head of the U.S. Intelligence Community. At one pole, such suggestions have included
proposals to give the DCI full budgetary and management authority over all IC components –
effectively taking them out of DOD and establishing the DCI as something akin to a cabinetlevel
“Secretary of Intelligence.” (Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft has
allegedly recommended something to this effect, but his report has never been released –
supposedly due to Defense Department opposition.) At the other pole, some in Congress have
suggested merely ending the “dual-hatted” nature of the DCI’s office by separating the roles of
DCI and CIA Director.
23
In my view, these two poles leave us with a Hobson’s choice between the virtually
unworkable and the clearly undesirable. Creating a true DCI would entail removing dozens of
billions of dollars of annual budgets from the Defense Department, and depriving it of
“ownership” over “its” “combat support organizations.” In contemporary Washington
bureaucratic politics, this would be a daunting challenge; DOD and its Congressional allies
would make such centralization an uphill battle, to say the least.
Indeed, if anything, the trend in the post-September 11 world is against DCI
centralization. DOD has asked for, and Congress has now established, a new Undersecretary of
Defense for Intelligence (USDI) to oversee and coordinate DOD’s intelligence components,
creating what may well be, in effect, a Pentagon DCI – and one, moreover, likely to have at least
as much influence over the agencies in question than the DCI himself. DOD’s Joint Intelligence
Task Force for Counterterrorism (JITF-CT) already reproduces at least some of the analytical
functions of the CIA’s CTC, DIA analysts already supply all-source analysis across a wide range
of functional and regional specialties, and press accounts suggest that the Pentagon is
increasingly interested in establishing its own parallel covert action capability using Special
Operations Forces (SOF) troops.16 DOD is, in short, creating a parallel universe of intelligence
organs increasingly independent of the DCI. Particularly under a DCI who prizes his role as
CIA Director above his Community responsibilities, the prospects for DCI centralization are
grim indeed.
On the other hand, without more, proposals merely to separate the DCI’s office from that
of the CIA Director will likely only make the situation worse. At the moment, one of the few
16 Susan Schmidt & Thomas E. Ricks, “Pentagon Plans Shift in War on Terror; Special Operations
Command's Role to Grow With Covert Approach,” Washington Post (September 18, 2002), at A1.
24
sources of bureaucratic power the DCI enjoys is his “ownership” of what is, in theory at least,
the nation’s premier intelligence analysis organization – and its only specialist HUMINT
collection agency – the CIA. Heading the CIA gives the DCI at least “a seat at the table” in
national-level debates: a DCI without the limited but non-trivial bureaucratic clout of the CIA
behind him would find himself even more marginalized and ineffective than the office is today.
My experience with the fragmented and disjointed Community management process have
led me to conclude that the best answer is probably to give more management and budgetary
authority over IC organs to an effective DCI focused upon issues of IC coordination and
management – as the Joint Inquiry has suggested by urging that we consider the creation of a
“Director of National Intelligence” with powerful new Community-management authority.
Because he will need to use these new powers to arbitrate between and set policies for selfinterested
bureaucratic “players” within the Intelligence Community rather than be one of them,
this augmented DCI (or DNI, as the case may be) should not simultaneously hold the position of
CIA Director.
The “combat support” argument is, in my view, overblown. There is nothing to suggest
that organizations like NSA and NIMA would deny crucial support to the Defense Department
the moment that they were taken out of the DOD chain of command. Any lingering doubts about
the effectiveness of the Pentagon’s “combat support” from intelligence agencies could be allayed
by improving the effectiveness and resources devoted to the services’ organic intelligence and
cryptologic components. (Civilian directors of NSA and NIMA – appointed with DCI and
Secretary of Defense concurrance – could serve as Assistant DCIs for SIGINT and IMINT,
respectively, serving alongside an Assistant DCI for Military Intelligence, a high-ranking
military officer charged with ensuring that the IC is at all times aware of and responsive to
25
military needs.) Best of all, an Intelligence Community finally capable of being coherently
managed as a Community would be able to reform and improve itself in numerous ways that
prove frustratingly elusive today – ultimately providing both its national-level civilian and its
warfighter customers with better support.
Congress took a remarkable step in reforming the basic structure of the military
command system in 1986 with the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation.17 This
landmark legislation – which reformed the roles of the Chiefs of Staff and created an entirely
new system of regional unified commanders – tilted at what were thought to be bureaucratic
windmills and ran into fearsome bureaucratic opposition, but it succeeded brilliantly and helped
our armed forces find new strength and coherence in war-winning “joint” operations. The
success of the Goldwater-Nichols reforms should be a lesson to Intelligence Community
reformers today, for it teaches that it is possible sometimes to overcome entrenched bureaucratic
interests and forge a much more effective whole out of a motley and disputatious collection of
parts.
Unfortunately, Congress, the Administration, and the American public have yet to engage
in much of a debate about these issues. Perhaps nothing can shock us into serious debates about
the fundamental structure of our Intelligence Community if the horror of September 11 cannot,
but I am hopeful that the SSCI and HPSCI will make these issues a centerpiece of their agenda
for the 108th Congress. I urge them strongly to do so.
C. An Agile and Responsive IC
17 Public Law 99-433 (October 1, 1986).
26
As the 108th Congress takes up these reform challenges, I would like to offer some
additional suggestions that I believe would help the IC both meet the challenges it faces today
and be prepared for those it may face tomorrow. One of the roots of our problems in coping with
threats such as that posed by Al-Qa’ida beginning in the 1990s is that the tools with which we
have had to fight transnational terrorism were designed for another era. The U.S. Intelligence
Community is hard-wired to fight the Cold War, engineered in order to do a superlative job of
attacking the intelligence “targets” presented by a totalitarian superpower rival but nowhere near
as agile and responsive to vague, shifting transnational threats as we have needed it to be.
The lesson of September 11, therefore, should be not simply that we need to reform
ourselves so as to be able to address the terrorist threat but also that we need an Intelligence
Community agile enough to evolve as threats evolve, on a continuing basis. Hard-wiring the IC
in order to fight terrorists, I should emphasize, is precisely the wrong answer, because such an
approach would surely leave us unprepared for the next major threat, whatever it turns out to be.
Our task must be to ensure that whatever we do to “fix” the problems that helped leave us
unprepared in the autumn of 2001, we make sure that the Intelligence Community can change,
adapt, and move in unanticipated directions in the future. Otherwise the IC will face little but a
future punctuated by more intelligence failures, more Congressional inquiries, and more
Commissions.
This is perhaps the most powerful argument for strengthening the DCI’s ability to lead
the Intelligence Community as a community, insofar as it is notoriously difficult to reorient large
bureaucracies under the best of circumstances, and virtually impossible to do so simply by
persuasion. But there are additional steps that Congress and the Administration should consider
in order to make the IC “quicker on its feet” in anticipating and preparing for – and, where that
27
fails, responding to – future threats.
Well short of putting the entire Community under a “Secretary for Intelligence,” one way
to greatly augment the ability of the Intelligence Community to adapt flexibly and effectively to
future threats would be to increase the degree of uniformity in its personnel management system.
A homogenized payment and benefits structure for the Community would not necessarily
require putting the agencies themselves under the DCI’s operational command. It would,
however, enable the IC to move personnel and reorganize organizational structures on an ad hoc
basis much more effectively in response to future developments.
Achieving such organizational flexibility – and the conceptual flexibility that must
accompany it – will be essential if the Community is not simply to replace its dangerous and
inflexible Cold War hard-wiring with an equally rigid and unadaptable CT paradigm. This is
what might be called the “meta-lesson” of our current round of “lessons learned” studies of
intelligence failures: we must not only learn the lessons of the past but learn how to keep
learning lessons as we change and adapt in the future. Adopting uniform personnel standards
would help the Community ensure that its personnel and organizational units remain unique and
valuable individual resources but they would also become administratively fungible assets,
capable of being reorganized and redirected efficiently as circumstances demand.
The CIA, to its credit, has experimented in recent years with approaches to organizing
“virtual stations” – ad hoc issue-focused organizations mimicking the structure of an overseas
Directorate of Operations outpost, but simply existing within CIA Headquarters. In the future,
the IC as a whole will need to learn from (and improve upon) this concept, by developing ways
to “swarm” personnel and resources from various portions of the Community upon issues of
28
particular importance as circumstances demand. At the same time, the IC will have to be willing
to move personnel resources out of programs and organizations that no longer fulfil their
missions, or whose targets have been superseded in priority lists by more important threats. We
must, in short, be willing to build new structures and raze old ones in a continual process of
“creative destruction” not unlike competitive corporate approaches used in the private sector.
Concomitant with this, it will also be necessary to break the artificial definitional
monopoly within the IC that holds that only intelligence professionals actually employed by the
traditional collection agencies can engage in collection or analysis of those agencies’ signature
types of intelligence. We should be open to unconventional HUMINT collection opportunities,
for instance, and should not deny non-CIA analysts a chance to provide the analytical “valueadded”
that can be obtained by making them more aware than they are today of the origins of
their information. And we should reject the self-satisfied assumptions of NSA managers that
only NSA personnel can be trusted with analyzing “raw” SIGINT data. (Unfortunately, the
Administration seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction in this respect. If recent
reports are to be believed, the President intends to ratify the information-monopolistic status quo
by issuing an Executive Order to make Homeland Security intelligence analysts dependent upon
the traditional IC collection bureaucracies to tell these analysts what information is relevant.18)
The traditional collection agencies do have valuable expertise in “their” areas, but this
expertise should be used to enrich the Community’s pool of intelligence expertise rather than
simply as barriers to entry wielded in defense of bureaucratic and financial “turf.” Instead, the
collection agencies should be charged with certifying – but not running or controlling – training
18 See, e.g., Dan Eggen & John Mintz, “Homeland Security Won’t Have Diet of Raw Intelligence,”
Washington Post (December 6, 2002) at 43.
29
curricula within other IC agencies that will produce competent specialists in the relevant fields.
A SIGINT analyst, for instance, should be properly trained to meet the relevant professional
standards (e.g., compliance with USSID 18), but there is no reason why he must receive his
paycheck from NSA in order to make important contributions to the Community. Agencies such
as CIA and NSA with special expertise in a particular “INT” should become jealous advocates
and guardians of high professional standards within the Community as a whole, but they should
no longer be permitted to use their expertise to maintain parochial information monopolies.
Fundamentally, Congress and the Administration should be willing, over the coming
months, carefully to examine the basic structure of the intelligence provisions of the National
Security Act of 1947 in light of the circumstances and challenges our country faces today. At a
time in which the State Department and the military services provided the only thing resembling
national-level information collection and analytical expertise in the entire U.S. Government, the
Act set up a “central” intelligence agency to be an objective source of information and to stand
above the bureaucratic political infighting of the day. It was to be what Colonel William (“Wild
Bill”) Donovan had called for in October 1946: “a centralized, impartial, independent agency
that is qualified to meet the atomic age.”19 In 2002, however, the CIA no longer quite fulfils that
function, now existing as one of many bureaucratic fiefdoms within a sprawling – and Defensedominated
– Intelligence Community.
19 Thomas F. Troy, Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence
Agency (Langley, Virginia: CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1981), supra, at 382 (quoting
Donovan); see also id. at 408 (noting that “Congress wanted CIA . . . [to be] free from undue
military influence as well as Department control.”); id. at 410 (noting that Donovan “recognized
that the appropriate status for intelligence was independence and that such independence required
the establishment of an ‘agency’ free of any other department of government”).
30
One possibility to which Congress and the Administration should give very careful
consideration is whether we should return to the conceptual inspiration behind the intelligencerelated
provisions of the National Security Act of 1947: the need for a “central” national level
knowledge-compiling entity standing above and independent from the disputatious
bureaucracies. Returning to these roots might suggest the need to separate our country’s
“central” intelligence analytical functions from the resource-hungry collection responsibilities
that make agencies into self-interested bureaucratic “players” – that is, to separate human
intelligence (HUMINT) collection into a specialized service that would, along with other
collection agencies, feed information into a national-level purely analytical organization built
around the core of the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence. (The resulting pure-analysis
organization would arguably be the sole institution that could appropriately be run directly by a
new Director of National Intelligence, who would serve as the overall head of the IC and as the
President’s principal intelligence advisor.) Whether or not we determine that this is the right
answer, however – and howsoever we determine that any such agency would interact with a
more empowered DCI – our opportunity seriously to consider such changes is now.
II. Information-Sharing
Perhaps the most fundamental problem illustrated by the findings of the Joint Inquiry
Staff (JIS) in connection with the intelligence failures leading up to September 11 relates to the
problem of persuading U.S. Intelligence Community agencies to share information efficiently
and effectively. This problem is inextricably tied up with the longstanding problem of ensuring
quality intelligence analysis within the Community, for without access to a broad range of
information upon which to draw inferences and base conclusions, even the best individual
31
analysts necessarily find themselves gravely handicapped.
There exists a fundamental tension in intelligence work between the need for security and
the need for sharing information. Increasing the number of persons having access to a particular
item of information inevitably leads to at least some increase in the likelihood of its compromise,
either accidentally or deliberately (e.g., in a “leak” to the press or to a foreign power through
espionage). Agencies which possess sensitive information, therefore, tend to prefer to restrict
others’ access to “their” information. (This is particularly true in an Intelligence Community
institutional culture in which knowledge literally is power – in which the bureaucratic
importance of an agency depends upon the supposedly “unique” contributions to national
security it can make by monopolizing control of “its” data-stream.)
On the other hand, perfectly secure information is perfectly useless information. Since
the purpose of intelligence-gathering is to inform decision-making, restricting access inevitably
degrades the value of having intelligence collectors in the first place. For good analysis to be
possible, expert analysts must be able to perform what is called “all-source intelligence fusion” –
drawing upon the available breadth of information in order to tease patterns of “signal” out of the
mass of irrelevant and distracting “noise” that comprehensive collection invariably brings in. If
good analysis is to form the basis for intelligent policy, moreover, information must be passed
along to the policy community in order to inform their actions.
This tension between security and sharing has been part of the fabric of intelligence
policy for years, perhaps manifesting itself most clearly in U.S.-British debates during the
Second World War over when (or whether) to share high-grade communications intelligence
with operational commanders who needed such information in order to win the war against Nazi
32
Germany.20 Today, similar debates continue as it becomes clear that the sort of sophisticated
pattern-analysis and semi- or fully-automated “data-mining” capabilities that will be necessary
for intelligence analysis to keep up with complex transnational threats such as those presented by
Usama bin Laden’s Al-Qa’ida organization are not compatible with traditional notions of inter-
Intelligence Community secrecy and restrictions upon access based upon an outsider’s “need to
know” as determined by the agency information-holders themselves.
A. The Intelligence Community’s Failure to “Connect the Dots” Prior to 9/11
The most fundamental problem identified by the JIS is our Intelligence Community’s
inability to “connect the dots” available to it before September 11, 2001 about terrorists’ interest
in attacking symbolic American targets. Despite a climax of concern during the summer of 2001
about imminent attacks by Al-Qa’ida upon U.S. targets, the Intelligence Community (IC) failed
to understand the various bits and pieces of information it possessed – about terrorists’ interest in
using aircraft as weapons,21 about their efforts to train pilots at U.S. flight schools,22 about the
20 See, e.g., F.W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret(New York: Harper & Row, 1974), at 86; John
Winton, ULTRA At Sea(New York: Morrow & Co., 1988), at 148; Patrick Beesly, Very Special
Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945(London:
Greenhill, 2000), 89, 98-100, 189-90, & 279; David Kohnen, “F-21 and F-211: A Fresh Look into
the ‘Secret Room,’” in New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers from the Fourteenth
Naval History Symposiumed. Randy Carol Balano and Craig L. Symonds, (Annapolis, Md.,: Naval
Institute Press, 2001), at 304 & 327-29.
21 For an account of information available to the Intelligence Community about terrorists’ interest in
using aircraft as weapons, see JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing
(September 18, 2002), at 26-28.
22 For an account of information available about terrorists’ interest in acquiring aviation training at
U.S. flight schools, see JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September
24, 2002), at 3.
33
presence in the U.S. of Al-Qa’ida terrorists Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and about
Zacarias’ Moussaoui’s training at a U.S. flight school – as being in some fashion related to each
other.
As the JIS concluded, the IC failed to “connect[] these individual warning flags to each
other, to the ‘drumbeat’ of threat reporting that had just occurred, or to the urgency of the ‘war’
efforts against Usama bin Laden.”23 Having failed to make that connection, the IC was caught
flat-footed when the attack finally came. Accordingly, no effort to “fix” the problems
highlighted by September 11 should be taken seriously unless it attempts to address the
pervasive problems of information-sharing that afflict our Intelligence Community.
(1) Terrorist Names
One of the serious problems identified by our Joint Inquiry is the pervasive refusal of the
CIA, in the months and years before September 11, to share information about suspected
terrorists with the very U.S. Government officials whose responsibility it is to keep them out of
the United States: the State Department consular officials who issue visas and the INS officials
who man immigration posts at every American port of entry.
As the JIS outlined in its testimony before one of our joint SSCI/HPSCI hearings, the socalled
TIPOFF system provides the basic “watchlist” function by which consular and INS
23 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 18, 2002), at 10.
34
officials check visa applicants or U.S. arrivals against lists of suspected terrorists and other
undesirables. With respect to suspected terrorists, the TIPOFF database is populated principally
through the submission of names from the CIA. Crucially, however, without CIA input, these
officials cannot do their job – and even terrorists known to the CIA will be able freely to acquire
visas and be granted entry if the CIA has neglected to share their names with TIPOFF.
Alarmingly, this is apparently precisely what happened for years, because CIA was
unwilling to share more than a small fraction of its information about suspected terrorists with
State and INS. Based upon clear internal guidance issued on December 11, 1999, the CIA was
required to pass to the TIPOFF program the names of all persons it suspected of being
terrorists.24 Before September 11, however, the Agency did not consistently do this. Instead, it
often provided the names of suspected terrorists to TIPOFF if the CIA already had information
indicating that the terrorist planned to travel to the United States.25 Because of the practical
impossibility of knowing the personal travel plans, in advance, of every suspected terrorist in the
world, this inevitably meant that the CIA withheld hundreds or perhaps thousands of names from
the TIPOFF database – names of persons who were thus free to obtain U.S. visas and walk
through INS booths without notice. Indeed, even though it signed an explicit Memorandum of
24 CIA Office of Congressional Affairs Liaison Officer Gary Dionne, unclassified telephonic
communication to SSCI Minority Counsel Christopher Ford (December 9, 2002). The text of the
December 11, 1999 guidance, however, is still classified.
25 CIA officials have informed SSCI staff that this occurred because State Department officials felt
overly burdened with having to process all the names. Their account, however, is not consistent
with the State Department complaints about CIA practice recorded by the JIS. See, e.g., JIS,
written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 15. In any
event, it is clear that the “rules of the road” involved the CIA passing comparatively few names in
violation of its own rules: by no one’s account were the 1999 guidelines actually consistently
followed as written.
35
Understanding (MOU) in January 2001 with the FBI, NSA, and State Department on watchlist
procedures, State Department officials have complained to the JIS that the CIA still did not share
many of its terrorism-related Critical Intelligence Report (CIRs) with the TIPOFF program in the
months leading up to the September 11 attacks.26
What’s more, the CIA apparently did not take its watchlisting responsibilities very
seriously even when it did see fit to pass some names to TIPOFF. According to the JIS, the CIA
provided its employees no training in this regard.27 Indeed, one CIA official from the
Counterterrorism Center’s special cell devoted to tracking Al-Qa’ida told the JIS that he didn’t
feel that his organization needed to worry about whether anyone watchlisted Al-Qa’ida
terrorists.28 The CIA, therefore, apparently neither trained nor encouraged its employees to
follow its own rules on watchlisting – embodied in the December 1999 guidance – and they
clearly did not do so.29
26 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 15.
27 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 7-8.
28 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 8.
29 Strangely, to judge from the testimony given in Joint Inquiry hearings by JIS representatives, the
JIS does not seem ever to have discovered that the CIA had “hard” guidance in place requiring
such watchlisting. The CIA, however, has now provided me with a copy of its classified
December 1999 guidance.
36
Nor, despite repeated inquiries about watchlisting standards, did the CIA apparently ever
disclose the existence of this guidance to the JIS. As the JIS has recounted, “[w]e were told that
there was, at the time, no formal system in place at the CTC for watchlisting suspected
terrorists.”30 This, however, was not true. As noted above, the CIA’s December 1999 guidance
specifically provided watchlisting standards – which were often ignored. By failing to provide
this information to the JIS, the CIA thus managed to keep the fact that it violated its own rules
out of the formal report of the Joint Inquiry.
30 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 7.
37
The magnitude of the CIA’s watchlisting failures and the potential impact of this
information-hoarding upon our country’s preparedness for terrorist attack may be seen in the
contrast between the CIA’s pre-September 11 performance in this respect and its performance
after the attacks. Within a month after September 11, the CIA provided more than 1,500 CIRs to
TIPOFF that had it had previously withheld. The State Department reported a 455 percent
increase in the number of names CIA provided during the months after the attacks – with the
total provided rising from 1,761 during the three months before September 11 to 4,251 in the
three months afterwards.31 But for the shock of September 11, these thousands of potential
terrorists would presumably still be free to obtain visas and enter the United States without
anyone asking any questions, thanks to the CIA’s apparent belief that only it can be trusted with
its information. As it turns out, two of the September 11 hijackers did precisely this.
(2) The al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi Story
What such watchlisting problems can mean in practice is illustrated by the failures of the
CIA and FBI in dealing with Al-Qa’ida-affiliated terrorists Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-
Hazmi. Their story is ably recounted by in the body of the JIS report, but its highlights are worth
repeating here. Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi attended a terrorist meeting in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, in early January 2000.32 This meeting was known to – and surveiled by – the CIA,
which already knew that al-Mihdhar possessed a multiple-entry visa permitting him to travel to
the United States. The National Security Agency (NSA) also independently possessed
information linking al-Hazmi to Al-Qa’ida. Neither the CIA nor NSA, however, saw fit to
31 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 15.
32 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 5.
38
provide their names to the TIPOFF database.33 There is apparently some confusion over whether
the CIA told the FBI anything about al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. CIA e-mail traffic reviewed by
the JIS, however, suggests that the CIA did brief the FBI in general terms . The CIA, however,
still did not bother to tell the FBI that al-Mihdhar had a multiple-entry visa that would allow him
to enter the United States.34
33 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 6.
34 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 6-7.
39
In early March 2000, the CIA learned that al-Hazmi had arrived in Los Angeles on
January 15. Despite having just learned of the presence in this country of an Al-Qa’ida terrorist,
the CIA told no one about this. The internal cable transmitting this information, in fact,
contained the notation: “Action Required: None, FYI.”35 This information came at the height of
the U.S. Intelligence Community’s alarm over Al-Qa’ida’s “Millennium Plot,” and al-Hazmi’s
arrival had occurred at about the same time the CIA knew that Al-Qa’ida terrorist Ahmed
Ressam was also supposed to have arrived in Los Angeles to conduct terrorism operations.36
Still, however, the CIA refused to notify anyone of al-Hazmi’s presence in the country.
By this point, both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi – both terrorists known to the CIA – were
living in San Diego under their true names. They signed these names on their rental agreement,
both used their real names in taking flight school training in May 2000, and al-Mihdhar even
used his real name in obtaining a motor vehicle identification card from the State of California.37
In July 2000, al-Hazmi even applied to the INS for an extension of his visa, sending in this
application using both his real name and his current address in San Diego (where he would
remain until that December).38 INS, of course, had no reason to be concerned, since the CIA had
35 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 7; see also
generally CIA officer, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20,
2002), at 3.
36 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 8 & 10.
37 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 8.
38 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 8-9.
40
withheld the two terrorists’ names from TIPOFF. Nor did the FBI have any reason to look for
them – e.g., by conducting a basic Internet search for their names or by querying its informants
in Southern California – since the last it had heard from CIA was that these two terrorists were
overseas.
The CIA’s failure to watchlist al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi became even more alarming and
inexplicable in January 2001, when the CIA discovered that the Malaysia meeting had also been
attended by a suspect in the USS Cole bombing. This presumably made the two terrorists even
more interesting to the CIA – and their known presence in the U.S. even more dangerous, by
confirming their linkages to Al-Qa’ida operational cells – but the CIA still did not bother to
inform TIPOFF. This failure was particularly damaging because al-Mihdhar was overseas at the
time: putting his name on the watchlist would have enabled INS agents to stop him at the
border.39
Even when given the opportunity to tell the FBI – in face to face meetings – about the
presence of these two terrorists in the United States, the CIA refused. At a meeting in June 2001
with FBI officials from the New York Field Office who were working on the USS Cole case, a
CIA official refused to tell them that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had come to the United States.40
Meanwhile, Khalid al-Mihdhar was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and applied for a new U.S.
39 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 9; see also
CIA official, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 4;
Michael Rolince, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002),
at 2.
40 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 21; see
also id. at 10.
41
visa in June 2001. The State Department officials who took this application appear to have
followed procedures and checked his name against their CLASS database, which incorporates
TIPOFF watchlist information. Because CIA continued to refuse to put the name of this Al-
Qa’ida terrorist into TIPOFF, however, no CLASS “hits” occurred, and al-Mihdhar was given a
visa and returned to the United States unmolested in July.41
41 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 10.
42
The CIA only decided to watchlist al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in late August 2001, by
which point they were already in the United States and in the final stages of preparing for the
September 11 attacks.42 By this point, tragically, it was too late for the FBI – hamstrung by its
own investigative regulations – to stop them. Although the FBI scrambled in late August and
early September to locate the two terrorists in the United States,43 it denied itself the services of
any of its own agents assigned to criminal work and refused even to conduct a basic Internet
search that would have revealed al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar living under their true names in San
Diego. (According to testimony from an FBI agent in New York who conducted just such an
Internet search after the September 11 attacks, finding al-Mihdhar’s address “within hours.”44) It
also denied itself any assistance that could have been obtained from Treasury officials in
tracking down al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi through their credit card or banking transactions. As it
turned out, however, on September 11, 2001, the two men boarded American Airlines Flight 77,
and helped fly it into the Pentagon.
(3) The “Phoenix Memo”
The affair of the FBI Electronic Communication (EC) sent by the Phoenix field office to
FBI Headquarters in order to warn officials about potential dangers from Al-Qa’ida-affiliated
individuals training at U.S. flight schools, also illustrates the tremendous difficulty our
42 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 10; see
also Rolince, supra, at 3.
43 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 20, 2002), at 11.
44 FBI Agent from New York Field Office, testimony before joint SSCI/HPCSI hearing (September
20, 2002), available from Federal News Service (response to question from Senator Shelby).
43
Intelligence Community has had with sharing information and “connecting the dots” –
particularly where the FBI is concerned.
The FBI special agent in Phoenix who sent the EC to headquarters on July 10, 2001,
addressed his memorandum to the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU) and the Radical
Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) within the Bureau’s counterterrorist organization. Headquarters
personnel, however, decided that no follow-up was needed, and no managers actually took part
in this decision or even saw the memorandum before the September 11 attacks.45 The CIA was
made aware of the Phoenix special agent’s concerns about flight schools, but it offered no
feedback46 despite the information the CIA possessed about terrorists’ interest in using aircraft as
weapons. Nor did the new FBI officials who saw the Phoenix EC at headquarters ever connect
these concerns with the body of information already in the FBI’s possession about terrorists’
interest in obtaining training at U.S. flight schools.47 The full contents of the “Phoenix Memo”
have yet to be made public, but it is astonishing that so little was made of it, especially since it
drew readers’ attention to certain information already in the FBI’s possession suggesting a very
specific reason to be alarmed about one particular foreign student at an aviation university in the
United States.48
45 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 24, 2002), at 2.
46 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 24, 2002), at 6.
47 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 24, 2002), at 11-13.
48 FBI Special Agent in Phoenix, Arizona, electronic communication addressed to Radical
Fundamentalist Unit et al. (July 10, 2001), at 5. The FBI declined to declassify any more specific
an account of this information.
44
(4) Missed Opportunities
Altogether, the al-Mihdhar/al-Hazmi and “Phoenix EC” stories suggest both the potential
of sophisticated information-sharing and good information-empowered analysis and the dangers
of failing properly to “connect the dots.” It is impossible to know, of course, whether the
September 11 plot could have been disrupted – or at least significantly delayed – had the FBI
and CIA acted properly in sharing and understanding information available to them. The
evidence, however, suggests a number of pregnant “what ifs”:
• If the CIA had been willing to share its information about al-Mihdhar and
al-Hazmi with consular and INS officials through the TIPOFF program,
one or both of them might have been apprehended upon entering or
reentering the United States after their Malaysia meeting.
• If the CIA had informed the FBI when it first knew that al-Mihdhar and
al-Hazmi were in the United States – and the FBI had permitted itself to
do common-sense things like use the Internet – these two terrorists might
have been located at their home in San Diego (or in flight school in the
area) long before the September 11 attacks. Surveillance of them might
have led the FBI to other hijackers, or to operational cell leaders, or their
deportation might have disrupted the plot.
• If the FBI had been able to “connect the dots” between the Phoenix EC
and the body of information already in the FBI’s possession about terrorist
interest in U.S. flight schools – and information held by the Intelligence
45
Community about terrorists’ interest in using aircraft as weapons – it
might have been better able to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui and obtain
information on some of the other September 11 hijackers from information
in Mouassaoui’s computer and in his personal effects.
• If the FBI had understood the full significance of the Phoenix EC in light
of this other information, they might have begun to conduct the follow-up
work recommended by the Phoenix special agent. In May 2001, the FBI
had already briefly considered opening an investigation upon one of the
individuals named in the EC, but this was dropped when it was discovered
he was out of the country at the time. Had the Phoenix EC spurred serious
follow-up by FBI Headquarters, however, this individual’s name might
have been added to the TIPOFF watchlist – leading investigators right to
him upon his subsequent return to the United States. Restarting the
aborted investigation of this individual would likely also have led the FBI
to his radical fundamentalist flight school classmate in Arizona,
September 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour.49
The September 11 story, therefore, should be an object lesson in the perils of failing to share
information promptly and efficiently between (and within) organizations, and in the need to
ensure that intelligence analysis is conducted on a truly “all-source” basis by experts permitted
to access all relevant information – no matter where in the Intelligence Community it happens to
reside.
49 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 24, 2002), at 10.
46
B. Pervasive Problems of Information-Sharing
That effective information-sharing and truly all-source analysis should have been such a
scarce commodity in counterterrorism work during the months and years leading up to
September 11 – years during which the Director of Central Intelligence supposedly believed the
U.S. Intelligence Community to be “at war” with Al-Qa’ida and made fighting it his highest
priority – is a testament to the recurring problems of agency parochialism and informationhoarding.
Even Community-wide attempts to “fix” the problem of information-sharing, such as
the DCI’s ongoing development of the computerized Intelligence Community-Wide System for
Information Sharing (ICSIS), simply replicate the problem. ICSIS will be built around a series
of agency-specific electronic “shared spaces” accessible to users of the system, but populated
only with such information as each agency sees fit to permit others to see.50 ICSIS will, in other
words, presumably speed access to what agencies are willing to share, but it will do nothing to
address broader issues of their unwillingness to permit experts from other intelligence agencies
any window upon the data-streams the monopolization of which is the source of each host
agency’s bureaucratic power.51
50 It is not even clear that ICSIS will meet the Community’s needs even on its own terms. In January
2001, the NIMA Commission report recommended that NIMA begin building a new informationmanagement
system essentially from scratch, notwithstanding ICSIS planned deployment over the
next ten years. See Dr. Robert C. Norris, written statement presented to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing
(October 1, 2002), at 4.
51 The culture of information-holder control is formally enshrined most obviously in the “originator
control” (ORCON) classification caveat, which requires that anyone given access to a certain piece
of information not reveal it to anyone else without explicit permission from its originating agency.
According to FBI official Michael Rolince, the ORCON caveat made it very difficult for the FBI
to pass intelligence information to criminal investigators in terrorism cases, “even for lead
purposes,” because the originating agency (frequently the CIA) would refuse to allow it. See
Michael Rolince, written statement presented to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (September 20, 2002),
47
at 4. According to the JIS, ORCON rules present a major problem to efficient informationsharing,
because they impose upon sharing arrangements a cumbersome and lengthy case-by-case
adjudication process. See JIS, written statement presented to joint SSCI/HPSCI hearing (October
1, 2002), at 6. Our Joint Inquiry also discovered this to be the case, encountering frequent delays
allegedly because of the necessity of clearing ORCON transmittals to Congress.
In travels and discussions with U.S. Allies currently engaged in helping us fight the war
against terrorism, SSCI Members and staff have heard many complaints that the U.S. classification
caveat “no foreign” (NOFORN) has also unnecessarily impeded information-sharing. Even our
closest military allies have privately complained about what they describe as the unnecessary and
reflexive use of the NOFORN caveat by U.S. officials. This has frequently resulted in U.S.
intelligence officers stamping “NOFORN” on information provided to them by those same allies,
denying these contributors to our war and intelligence efforts the ability to see the intelligence
products we make out of their information. The Intelligence Committees attempted to draw
attention to this “NOFORN problem” in § 831 of the Fiscal Year 2003 Intelligence Authorization
Bill (Public Law 107-306), which requires that the DCI and the Secretary of Defense report to
Congress on the impact of NOFORN practices upon allied intelligence-sharing relationships.
48
Such information-hoarding thus goes deeper than simply being “policy,” often reaching
the level of simple reflex. For instance, the FBI for years monopolized the processing of
information obtained from surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) –
even though it fell hopelessly behind in processing FISA “raw data” and accumulated vast
backlogs of untranslated tapes that were of no use to anyone. Thus also does the NSA insist that
only its employees can be trusted with handling “raw” signals intelligence (SIGINT) data under
the standards prescribed by U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18. And the CIA’s
Directorate of Operations usually refuses even to let CIA analysts see its own operational cable
traffic.
Reading the DCI’s authority to protect intelligence “sources and methods” as barring the
disclosure of source information not simply to the public or to U.S. adversaries but also to
anyone else in the U.S. Intelligence Community, the CIA has proven unwilling to permit others a
window upon the context that source information can occasionally provide. CIA informationhoarding
is hardly a problem unique to the al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi story. The CIA also
refused requests by U.S. Navy intelligence officers to turn over highly relevant information
about the source of an intelligence warning that might have prompted the Navy to direct the USS
Cole away from Yemen in October 2000.
As the Senate and House Intelligence Committees have seen repeatedly, the Intelligence
Community shares information poorly and reluctantly, at best. Especially since September 11,
Community representatives have assured us on innumerable occasions that their coordination
and information-sharing problems have been fixed: it has become their mantra that such
cooperation is now “seamless” and “unprecedented.” Even today, however, these sharing
49
arrangements consist principally of the assignment of agency personnel for reciprocal details at
counterpart agencies (e.g., FBI personnel at the CIA, and CIA personnel at the FBI). (Nor is the
CIA’s CTC much of a “joint” center in the military sense, since the overwhelming majority of its
personnel are CIA employees. It was, and remains, a CIA organization.)
Such cross-detailing, as we have long known and as testimony before our Joint Inquiry
hearings has made doubly clear, is at best “an imperfect response” to the information-sharing
problem.
“The almost unanimous opinion among the detailing agencies is
that host agencies still restrict access to information and limit the
databases that can be queried by detailees from other agencies on
grounds of personnel or information security, and intelligence
policies.”52
52 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1, 2002), at 7.
50
Such detailees commonly bring special experience and contextual knowledge to their
assignments that host-agency personnel may lack, but they are seldom fully trusted by their host
agencies and are seldom, if ever, permitted to know as much as “real” agency employees.
Moreover, even when detailees are given comparatively good access to host-agency information,
they are almost invariably prohibited from passing it back to their home organizations. This, for
instance, is the fate of non-FBI officials assigned to the FBI-run Joint Terrorism Tracking Task
Forces (JTTFs).53 It is also that of DIA analysts cross-assigned to other IC agencies.54 As Rear
Admiral Lowell Jacoby recounted in testimony submitted to the Joint Inquiry, cross-assigned
personnel are routinely denied “unfettered and unconditional access to all relevant . . .
information” and are often not permitted to transmit to their home agencies what they are
permitted to see.55
Today, the “seamless” and “unprecedented” information-sharing within our Intelligence
Community remains built around personal contacts and such cross-details. According to FBI
Counterterrorism chief Dale Watson, the FBI’s arrangements with the CIA and with other U.S.
Government agencies revolve principally around the “exchange of working level personnel and
senior managers at the headquarters level.”56 This may represent considerable progress
compared with what prevailed before September 11, but it is woefully inadequate to our
intelligence needs in the 21st century.
53 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1, 2002), at 7-8.
54 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1, 2002), at 13.
55 RADM Lowell E. Jacoby, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1,
2002), at 5.
56 Dale Watson, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (September 26, 2002), at 4
& 6.
51
C. The Future of Information-Sharing
(1) The Imperative of “Deep” Analyst Data-Access
The greatest contributions that intelligence analysis can make against vague, shifting, and
inherently ambiguous transnational threats such as international terrorism lie in analysts’
capacity to conduct “all-source fusion” of information – performing the classic task of
assembling fragmentary information into actual or inferential “mosaics” and teasing useful
“signals” out of the “noise” brought in by our wide-ranging means of intelligence collection.
Problems of information-hoarding and dysfunctional sharing methodologies, however, restrict
analysts’ ability to apply their talent, training, and experience against intelligence targets in a
truly all-source fashion. If they are to be expected to have success against such modern targets
in the future, we will need to do a great deal to improve their ability to survey and draw patterns
out of the masses of data that exist in discrete and carefully-guarded bundles throughout the
Intelligence Community.
Intelligence collectors – whose status and bureaucratic influence depends to no small
extent upon the monopolization of “their” information-stream – often fail to recognize the
importance of providing analysts with “deep” access to data. The whole point of intelligence
analysis against transnational targets is to draw patterns out of a mass of seemingly unrelated
information, and it is crucial that the analysis of such patterns not be restricted only to personnel
from a single agency. As Acting DIA Director Lowell Jacoby observed in his written testimony
before the Joint Inquiry, “information considered irrelevant noise by one set of analysts may
52
provide critical clues or reveal significant relationships when subjected to analytic scrutiny by
another.”57
This suggests that the fundamental intellectual assumptions that have guided our
Intelligence Community’s approach to managing national security information for half a century
may be in some respects crucially flawed, in that it may not be true that information-holders –
the traditional arbiters of who can see “their” data – are the entities best placed to determine
whether outsiders have any “need to know” data in their possession. Analysts who seek access
to information, it turns out, may well be the participants best equipped to determine what their
particular expertise and contextual understanding can bring to the analysis of certain types of
data.
In this vein, the Military Intelligence Board has explicitly suggested that deep
information-sharing will require a re-examination of traditional concepts of “need to know” –
although, not surprisingly, traditional collection agencies such as the CIA still contest this
conclusion.58 Rear Admiral Jacoby made the point firmly to our Joint Inquiry, writing that it
should be the task of intelligence reformers
57 RADM Lowell E. Jacoby, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1,
2002), at 4.
58 JIS, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1, 2002), at 12.
53
“to create a new paradigm wherein ‘ownership’ of information
belonged with the analysts and not the collectors. In my opinion,
one of the most prolonged and troubling trends in the Intelligence
Community is the degree to which analysts – while being expected
to incorporate the full range of source information into their
assessments – have been systematically separated from the raw
material of their trade.”59
Sadly – and dangerously – the result of this systematic separation is that “groundbreaking,
innovative, true all-source analysis” has become “the exception, not the rule” in today’s
Intelligence Community.60
The imperative of “deep” analyst data-access is intertwined with another dynamic. For
some time, our ability to analyze information has been falling increasingly behind the enormous
volumes of information collected by our intelligence agencies. This imbalance between analysis
and collection has been the subject of numerous SSCI hearings. It has important implications for
the future of information-sharing within the Intelligence Community because it suggests that in
addition to being empowered to conduct true “all-source” analysis, our analysts will also need to
be supplied with powerful new tools if they are to work their analytical magic upon such large
information volumes.
As Rear Admiral Jacoby has suggested, the challenge for intelligence reform is thus
59 Jacoby, supra, at 6.
60 Id.
54
twofold: we must persuade information-holders to give analysts “deeper” and less conditional
access to data than they have ever before enjoyed, and we must equip analysts with the tools
needed to “mine” these data-streams for useful information.
“[W]e need to find a way to immediately and emphatically put the
‘all’ back into all-source analysis. . . . If we expect analysts to
perform at the level and speed expected in a counterterrorism
mission environment characterized by pop-up threats, fleeting
targets, and heavily veiled communication, they require
immediate, on-demand access to data from all sources and the
ability to mine, manipulate, integrate, and display all relevant
information.”61
As noted previously, making information accessible necessarily exists in some tension
with keeping it secure – and some balance must always be sought between usability and security.
I have come to the conclusion that our Intelligence Community, dominated by traditional
collection agencies such as CIA and NSA that enjoy special status precisely because of the
monopolization of “their” data-streams (e.g., HUMINT and SIGINT), has drawn this line in
ways incompatible with our intelligence needs in the 21st century. I thus believe, with RADM
Jacoby, that we must bring about a radical change in the access collection agencies give to allsource
analysts, including all-source analysts from outside their own ranks.
Such analyst empowerment must be accomplished in ways that do not leave our secrets
61 RADM Lowell E. Jacoby, written statement presented to SSCI/HPSCI joint hearing (October 1,
2002), at 7.
55
unduly vulnerable to compromise. It is thus the challenge of reform not only to persuade
recalcitrant information-hoarders into making their databases available to sophisticated
analytical exploitation but also to ensure that the resulting information architectures are secure.
There is no reason why appropriately cleared analysts should not be trusted with such
information: they are no less patriotic, no less committed to protecting national security, and no
less professional in their fields than the collection bureaucrats who would presume to deny them
access. That said, of course, there is every reason to develop comprehensive security protocols
and accountability systems to reduce the risk of espionage or accidental compromise that is to
some degree inherent in any expansion of the universe of persons given access.
Fortunately, recent efforts to move forward in empowering analysts to conduct true allsource
analysis provide reasons for confidence that a workable solution is possible. As the
SSCI’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) – a nonpartisan group principally composed of expert
private sector technologists and managers with the highest possible security clearances – has
forcefully recommended, we must move forward into the realm of comprehensive databasing
and data-mining now, and the technology we need is either in existence already or well on its
way to development. As this technology advances, the TAG has suggested, agency resistance to
such developments in the name of “security” is looking increasingly like a mere excuse:
“The technology of multi-level-security databases and computer
systems is highly developed, and all that stands between the
present moment and the operation of such a database in the
National interest is political will.”62
62 SSCI Technical Advisory Group, “TAG Findings-&-Recommendatinos Post-9/11,” memorandum
to Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby (April 3, 2002), at 3.
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(2) Faltering Steps Forward
In efforts to meet the analytical challenge of transnational terrorism, both the Department
of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have undertaken new experiments in allsource
fusion aimed at the targets. At DOD, the Defense Intelligence Agency set up an
organization it calls Joint Intelligence Task Force-Counterterrorism (JITF-CT). Established in
the wake of the bombing of the USS Cole by Al-Qa’ida members in October 2000, and
augmented by new assignments of personnel and resources after the September 11 attacks, JITFCT
aspires to provide its analysts with deep data access sufficient to permit real all-source
fusion. According to RADM Jacoby, DIA’s aim in establishing JITF-CT was to create a “standalone
limited acces