Joint Inquiry Staff Statement, Part I

Eleanor Hill, Staff Director, Joint Inquiry Staff

September 18, 2002


Chairman Graham, Chairman Goss, before I proceed with my statement, I want to make clear to you and the members of these two Committees that the information I am going to present has been cleared for public release. As you know, much of the information the Joint Inquiry Staff has been examining is highly classified. Over the last two months, we have been working with the Intelligence Community in a long and arduous process to declassify information we believe is important to the public's understanding of why the Intelligence Community did not know of the September 11 attacks in advance. By late last night, we were able to resolve all but two issues.

The Director of Central Intelligence has declined to declassify two issues of particular importance to this Inquiry:

According to the DCI, the President's knowledge of intelligence information relevant to this Inquiry remains classified even when the substance of that intelligence information has been declassified. With respect to the key al-Qa'ida leader involved in the September 11 attacks, the DCI declined to declassify his identity despite an enormous volume of media reporting on this individual.

The Joint Inquiry Staff disagrees with the DCI's position on both issues. We believe the American public has a compelling interest in this information and that public disclosure would not harm national security. However, we do not have independent authority to declassify intelligence information short of a lengthy procedure in the U.S.Congress. We therefore prepared this statement without detailed descriptions of our work in these two areas.


Chairman Graham, Chairman Goss, members of this Joint Conunittee, good morning. I appreciate the opporftunity to appear here today to advise the Committees, and the American public, on the progress to date of the Joint inquiry Staff's review of the activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. As the horror and sheer inhumanity of that day engulfed this nation, all of us struggled with the shock, the utter disbelief, and the inevitable search for answers. The questions, if not the answers, were obvious: How could we have been so surprised? What did our government, especially our intelligence agencies, know before September 11, 2001? Why didn't they know more? What can we do to strengthen and improve the capabilities of our intelligence agencies and, as a result, help save ourselves, and our children, from ever having to face this again?

On February 14, 2002, the leadership of these two Committees announced their resolve to come together to find credible answers to those sobering but critically important questions. The Committees joined in an unprecedented, bicameral, and bipartisan Joint Inquiry effort to meet that challenge. With the support of the Senate and House leadership and the White House, the Joint Inquiry focused its work on seven areas of investigation:

Given the scope of the areas of investigation as well as the size of the Intelligence Community, it was clear from the outset that this effort would necessarily entail the review of massive amounts of documentation and other information, as well as interviews of numerous indivicluals, both within the Intelligence Community and elsewhere. To conduct the review, the Committees assembled a single staff-- the Joint Inquiry Staff-- of twenty-four highly skilled professionals with considerable experience in such areas as intelligence collection, analysis, management, law enforcement, investigations and oversight. That staff has been divided into five investigative teams, each responsible for reviewing different aspects of the counterterrorist effort.

My purpose today is to report to you on the results of the Joint Inquiry Staff efforts to date. My testimony this morning, as well as this initial series of public hearings, is intended to address the first of three stages of the Joint Inquiry's work. The Inquiry's initial task, which we will discuss this morning, was 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 or United States interests. Future hearings will address the next stage of this Inquiry, which focuses on the examination of any systemic problems that may have impeded the Intelligence Community from learning of or preventing these attacks in advance. Finally, the Inquiry will address, in both hearings and a subsequent report, recommendations to improve the Intelligence Comtnunity's ability to identify and prevent future international terrorist attacks.

I should also note that my presentation this morning on the factual review is, by necessity, an "interim" statement on that effort. The staff's actual investigative work, such as document review and witness interviews, began in earnest in April 2002. While the staff has made substantial headway in the huge effort required for this inquiry, I cannot at this point report that its work is finished. As we sit here this morning, other members of the Joint Inquiry Staff are continuing to make their way through the massive amount of documentation and information that is relevant to this inquiry. While I will share with you the results of our work to date in a number of specific areas, I caution that the inquiry remains "a work in progress" and that we may be developing additional, relevant information as our work continues. That being said, we feel it is important to share with the American people, through these hearings, what we have found through our efforts to date.

Let me briefly describe the way in which the Joint Inquiry Staff has approached this review.

At an early point in the inquiry, it became apparent that a focused approach was essential to an effective and efficient analysis of the vast amounts of information that could potentially be involved in this kind of review. We decided to target our search on categories of information that would most likely yield any intelligence material of relevance to the September 11 attacks. Specifically, our teams requested and reviewed from the Intelligence Community agencies:

A large part of our effort has been centered in the on-site work of our investigative teams assigned to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, where the most extensive universe of potentially relevant intelligence information resides. The Joint Inquiry Staff has also interviewed officials and requested and reviewed materials at other intelligence and other U.S. Government agencies, among them: the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Justice, Transportation, and Energy, as well as a number of private sector individuals and organizations.

To supplement that labor-intensive effort, the Joint Inquiry Staff also submitted written questionnaires to these organizations. We will submit separately for the record a classified summary of relevant information that was provided in the written responses to those questionnaires.

Regarding the scope of this ongoing document-gathering effort, I can report to date that the staff has reviewed over 400,000 pages of relevant documents, identified and selected over 66,000 pages for our central records, and documented approximately 400 interviews and technical discussions.

Scope of the Information to be Presented Today

Because this is a public hearing about the activities of the Intelligence Community, let me also say a few words about some of the terms and concepts that are particularly relevant to our Inquiry.

As Members of these Committees are well aware, the U.S. Government divides terrorism into two categories. Domestic terrorism is perpetrated by domestic groups in the United States and is beyond the scope of the of the Joint Inquiry. International terrorism is within the scope of this Inquiry and involves the territory or citizens of more than one country; it includes acts perpetrated by international groups either in the United States or against U.S. interests overseas.

This Inquiry is focused for the most part on international terrorist acts perpetrated by Usama Bin Ladin's network, just one international terrorist group that poses a danger to U.S. interests.

Many people instantly associate the term "Intelligence Community" with the Central Intelligence Agency. When we use the term "Intelligence Community" we are referring to the group of fourteen government agencies and organizations that, either in whole or in part, conduct the intelligence activities of the United States Government.

The Intelligence Community has multiple responsibilities with respect to counterterrorism, all of which are relevant to this Inquiry. Among the most important are:

The Joint Inquiry is examining the Intelligence Community's performance of all these responsibilities as they relate to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

With respect to the Intelligence Community's role in warning of impending terrorist operations, our review has focused on both strategic and tactical warning capability. "Strategic warning" is used to describe instances in which the Intelligence Community has very broad indications that an attack may occur but does not have the specifics as to where, when, or how the attack will be carried out. An example would be when terrorists are overheard talking to each other in general terms about the impact that an attack might have without mentioning the precise target of the attack. Strategic warning enables policymakers and government decision-makers to take steps to strengthen anti-terrorist defenses and initiate other counterterrorist actions.

"Tactical warning" may be issued when the Intelligence Community has not only broad indicators of an impending attack but also more detailed information on where, when, or how the attack might be carried out. Tactical warning enables policymakers and government decision-makers to direct preventive action against specific individuals who may be involved in the planned attack and to implement appropriate protective action for specific targets. Ideally, such action occurs before the attack ever gets underway.

The distinction is important because, so far as the Inquiry has been able to determine to date, the Intelligence Community did have general indications of a possible terrorist attack against the United States or U. S. interests overseas in the spring and summer of 2001 and promulgated strategic warnings. However, it does not appear to date that the Intelligence Community had information prior to September 11 that identified precisely where, when and how the attacks were to be carried out.

Finally, the Intelligence Community employs various offensive and defensive tools to disrupt, pre-empt and prevent terrorist operations. These tools include: intelligence gathering; analysis and dissemination; criminal investigations and prosecutions in the United States and overseas; renditions of terrorists abroad for prosecution in U.S. courts; raids on suspected terrorist facilities; use of watch lists to deny terrorists U. S. visas and entry into the United States, liaison relationships with foreign intelligence and law enforcement services; covert action; and warnings promulgated to appropriate federal, state and local government agencies, the private sector, including, for example, the aviation industry, and the Arnerican public.

The Joint Inquiry is examining the Intelligence Community's efforts in each of these realms. However, several forms of Intelligence Community activity, including some offensive operations aimed at collecting intelligence or disrupting Usama Bin Ladin's terrorist network, remain highly classified and beyond the scope of information appropriate for a public hearing. This is particularly true given the national security concerns arising from the ongoing war on terrorism. While further detail on specific operations is inappropriate in a public forum, this Inquiry is reviewing those operations, both through the staff's investigation and through testimony in closed hearings. For purposes of today's public hearing, I can state that our review has to date confirmed that, prior to September 11, 2001:

The Joint Inquiry is also examining why those efforts, like the actions to be discussed in these public hearings, did not enable the U.S. Government to anticipate and prevent the September 11 attacks.

The Evolving Terrorist Threat: A Context for the September 11 Attacks

As part of its review of the evolution of the international terrorist threat against the United States, the Joint Inquiry Staff has produced a chronology that begins in 1982 and ends on September 11, 2001. That chronology, which I request be made part of the hearing record, notes significant events in international terrorism, with particular attention to the rise of Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida. The chronology also highlights significant counterterrorist actions that were taken by the U.S. Government in response to the threat. Finally, based on our factual review, the chronology also indicates information received by the Intelligence Community that was potentially relevant to the September 11 attacks.

The chronology underscores several points regarding what the U.S. Government, specifically the Intelligence Community, knew about the international terrorist threat to the United States and U.S. interests prior to September 11, 2001:

Our review to date provides further context for each of these points.

International Terrorism against U.S. Interests in the 1980s and early 1990s
and the Intelligence Community's Response to the Evolving Terrorist Threat

Our nation's experience with international terrorism in the 1980s began with the bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 and the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in October l983; the terrorist group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for both attacks. These were followed by the March 1984 kidnapping and murder of William Buckley, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Other U.S. citizens in Lebanon not connected to the U.S. Government were also kidnapped by terrorist groups over the next two years.

In April 1984, the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah 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 activity directed at 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, the Rome and Vienna airports were attacked by terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization.

Three of the U.S. Government's responses to the emerging threat are of particular interest to this Inquiry because they represent the foundations of U.S. policy towards international terrorists prior to the September 11 attacks. The responsive actions, recommended by a task force led by then-Vice President George H. W. Bush in a December 1985 report on combating terrorism, included the following:

Americans first faced the reality of a major international terrorist attack within the United States on February 26, 1993, when a bomb was detonated in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. A second alarm sounded on June 24, 1993, when the FBI arrested eight individuals for plotting to bomb a number of New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The central figures in these plots were Ramzi Yousef and Shaykh Omar Abd al-Rahman, both of whom have been linked to Usama Bin Ladin and are now serving prison sentences.

In January 1995, the Philippine National Police discovered Ramzi Yousef's bombmaking lab in Manila and arrested an accomplice named Abdul Haldm Murad. Captured materials and interrogations of Murad revealed Yousef's plot to kill the Pope, bomb U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, blow up 12 U.S.-owned airliners over the Pacific Ocean, and crash a plane into CIA headquarters. Together, 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.

Interestingly, Murad was charged only for his involvement in the plot to blow up 12 airliners over the Pacific, and not for the other aspects of the Bojinka Plot. The plans to crash a plane into CIA headquarters and to assassinate the Pope were only at the "discussion" stage and therefore not included in his indictment. The FBI's criminal investigative file reflects the focus of the prosecution. The Joint Inquiry Staff located almost no references to the plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters in the FBI's investigatory files on the case. The FBI agents interviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff about the Bojinka Plot confirmed this focus, stating that this case was about the plan to blow up 12 airliners and that the other aspects of the plot were not part of the criminal case and therefore not considered relevant.

The first World Trade Center bombing, the New York City landmarks plot, and the Bojinka Plot are significant in terms of this inquiry for several reasons:

All of this historical information was in the possession of the Intelligence Community and other parts of the U.S. Goveniment years before September 11, 2001.

Usama Bin Ladin's War on the United States

Usama Bin Ladin's connection to international terrorism first came to the attention of the Intelligence Community in the early 1990s. He had founded the al-Qa'id-a organization sometime in 1989 and moved to Sudan sometime in 1991 or 1992. During his time in Sudan, he was building a network of international Islamic extremists and allying with other Sunni terrorist groups. In 1996, Bin Ladin moved back to Afghanistan, where he was treated as an honored guest of the Taliban, then the dominant political and military group in Afghanistan.

Bin Ladin drew on a broader network of Islamic radicals fighting in the Balkans, Checbnya, and Kashmir conflicts in an attempt - in their eyes - to defend Islam against its persecutors. Individuals 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 often viewed as legitimate, indeed laudable, in much of the Muslim world.

In August 1996, after his move back to Afghanistan, Usama 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, Usama Bin Ladin and four other extremists publicly 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 the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The Intelligence Community confirmed very quickly that these attacks had been carried out by Bin Ladin's terrorist network. The attacks showed that Bin Ladin's network was capable of carrying out very bloody, simultaneous attacks and inflicting mass casualties.

Our review has confirmed that initially, the Intelligence Community focused on Bin Ladin 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 CTC created a special unit to focus specifically on him. Approximately 10-15 individuals were assigned to that unit at that time. Since that realization in 1996, the Community has been actively engaged - with mixed success - in operations to collect intelligence on Usama Bin Ladin and disrupt this network. On September 10, 2001, there were approximately 35-40 personnel assigned to the CTC's special Bin Ladin unit. Recognizing the danger posed by Bin Ladin, the FBI created its own unit in 1999 at FBI headquarters to focus on him. Approximately 17-19 individuals were working in that FBI unit on September 10, 2001.

Our Inquiry has raised questions about the adequacy of these resources with respect to the magnitude of the threat especially in light of the massive shift in resources and personnel to counterterrorism that occurred immediately following the September 11 attacks. Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units interviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload priorto September 11, 2001. We are continuing to examine such issues as the roles of these units in the counterterrorist effort, the numbers of personnel and levels of resources allocated to these units, and the extent of cooperation and coordination between them.

Compounding the resource problems, the staff has been told by numerous individuals that al-Qa'ida proved an exceptionally difficult target for U.S. intelligence. Details of major terrorist plots were not widely shared in the al-Qa'ida organization, making it hard to develop the necessary intelligence to pre-empt or disrupt an attack. In addition, senior al-Qa'ida officials were very sensitive to the need for operational security. They relied on personal meetings and said in media interviews that they spoke in code to avoid revealing details of operations. Many al-Qa'ida members also enjoyed the benefits of sanctuary in Afghanistan, allowing them to plan and prepare in relative freedom. Finally, we were told that senior members of al-Qa'ida were skilled and purposeful: they learned from their mistakes, and they were flexible in their organization and plans.

Nonetheless, particularly since the bombings in East Africa, the Intelligence Community did amass a body of information detailing Usama Bin Ladin's ties to terrorist activities against U.S. interests around the world, including Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf region, and Asia. Armed with that information, prior to September 11, 2001, U.S. Government counterterrorist efforts had focused to a substantial degree, on Bin Ladin and his network. In February 2000, for example, DCI Tenet testified that the Intelligence Community had "helped render more than two dozen terrorists to justice," half of whom were associated with Usama Bin Ladin. Along with those successes, there were also failures and frustrations. For example, there were the Community's unsuccessful efforts against a key al-Qa'ida leader involved in th September 11 attacks, whose identity the DCI has declined to declassify. By late 2000 and into 2001, the Intelligence Community was engaged with foreign intelligence and law enforcement partners 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.

Bin Ladin's war on the United States and the Intelligence Comnaunity's responsewere the prelude to the September 11 attacks.

Intelligence Reporting on Bin Ladin's Intentions
to Strike Inside the United States

Central to the September 11 plot was Usama Bin Ladin's idea of carrying out a terrorist operation inside the United States. It has been suggested, both in published reports and in interviews, that prior to September 11, 2001, information available to the Intelligence Community had, for the most part, pointed to a terrorist threat against U.S. interests abroad. The Joint Inquiry Staff therefore requested and reviewed reports the Intelligence Community had prior to September 11, 2001 suggesting that an attack within the United States was a possibility. Our review confirmed that, shortly after Usama Bin Ladin's May 1998 press conference, the Intelligence Community began to acquire intelligence information indicating that Bin Ladin's network intended to strike inside the United States. Many of these reports were disseminated throughout the Intelligence 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, generally, are not corroborated by further information. 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 information 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 individual reports, the totality of the information in this body of reporting clearly reiterated a consistent and critically important theme: Usama Bin Ladin's intent to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.

Several of these reports are summarized below:

To date, in the course of reviewing intelligence products on Bin Ladin's terrorist network, the Joint Inquiry Staff has not found any similar comprehensive listing of Bin Ladin-related threats to the United States produced by the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001. We are still researching this issue.

Usama Bin Ladin's declaration of war in Febraary 1998 and intelligence reports indicating possible terrorist plots inside the United States did not go unnoticed by the Intelligence Community, which, in turn, advised senior ofecials in the U.S. Government of the serious nature of the threat. Many individuals in the National Security Council staff and at the DCI's CTC interviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff in the course of this Inquiry pointed to the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Africa as the moment in time when they recognized that Bin Ladin was waging war on the United States.

The Joint Inquiry Staff has also reviewed documents, other than individual intelligence reports, that demonstrate that, at least at senior levels, the Intelligence Community understood that Bin Ladin posed a serious threat to the domestic United States. Here are five examples of what we have found in our Inquiry thus far:

What is less clear is the extent to which other parts of the government, as well as the American people, understood and fully appreciated the gravity and immediacy of the threat. For example, officials at the NSA whom we have interviewed were aware of DCI Tenet's Decenaber 1998 declaration that the Intelligence Community was "at war" with Bin Ladin. On the other hand, relatively few of the FBI agents interviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff seem to have been aware of DCI Tenet's declaration. There was also considerable variation in the degree to which FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) prioritized and coordinated field efforts targeting Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida. While the FBI's New York office was the lead office in the vast majority of counterterrorism investigations concerning Usama Bin Ladin, many other FBI offices around the country were unaware of the magnitude of the threat.

There are also indications that the allocation of Intelligence Community resources after the DCI's December 1998 declaration did not adequately reflect a true "war" effort against Bin Ladin. In 1999, for example, the, CTC had only three analysts assigned full-time to Bin Ladin's terrorist network worldwide. After 2000 (but before September 11, 2001), that number had risen to five. On September 11, 2001, the international terrorism analytic unit at FBI headquarters had in place only one analyst to address al-Qa'ida.

On a broader scale our review has found little evidence, prior to September 11, ofa sustained national effort to mobilize public awareness and to "harden" the homeland against a potential assault by Bin Ladin within the United States with the possible exception of heightened focus on weapons of mass destruction. Consistent with his internal statements, DCI Tenet did stress, in some of his public speeches, the "immediacy and seriousness" of the threat from Bin Ladin. We have also found the following Presidential statements referring directly or, more commonly, indirectly to the issue of war against Bin Ladin specifically or terrorism generally:

Strategic Warning: Indications of a Possible Terrorist Attack
in the Spring and Summer 2001

In the last few months, the media has reported that the Intelligence Community had information in the spring and summer of 2001 that might have been relevant to the September 11 attacks, including: information about some of the hijackers, the so-called Phoenix memo, and the FBI's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. The Joint Inquiry Staff has examined those issues in depth and will be reporting in greater detail during the course of this inquiry, on that aspect of our work.

Our focus in this section, however, is on what we have found regarding the level and nature of threat information that was obtained by the Intelligence Community during the spring and summer of 2001. Our review has confirmed that, at least in the eyes of the Intelligence Community, the world did appear increasingly dangerous for Americans in the spring and summer of 2001. During that time period the Intelligence Community experienced a significant rise in information indicating that Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida intended to strike against United States interests in the very near future. Some individuals within the Intelligence Community have suggested that the increase in threat reporting was unprecedented, at least in terms of their own experience. While the reporting repeatedly predicted dire consequences for Americans, it did not provide actionable detail on when, where and how specific attacks would occur.

Between late March and September 2OOl,the Intelligence Community detected numerous indicators of an impending terrorist attack, some of which pointed specifically to the United States as a possible target:

Despite these indicators of a possible terrorist attack inside the United States, during the course of interviews the Joint Inquiry Staff was told that it was the general view of the U.S. Intelligence Community in the spring and summer of 2001 that an attack on U.S. interests was more likely to occur overseas. Individuals in the Intelligence Community interviewed by the Joint Inquiry Staff about this issue mentioned Saudi Arabia and Israel as possible targets. They pointed to intelligence information, 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 as factors in the spring and summer of 2001 that shaped their thinking about where an attack was likely to occur. In fact, the FBI agents working in Yemen on the USS Cole investigation were told to leave the country because of concern about a possible attack there. One FBI official we deposed said that, based on the intelligence he was seeing, he thought there was a high probability - "98 percent" - that the attack would occur overseas.

During the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community was also disseminating information through appropriate channels to senior U.S. Government officials about possible terrorist attacks. For example:

The Joint Inquiry Staff has also reviewed the Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs (SEIBs) distributed by the Intelligence Community in the spring and summer of 2001. A SEIB is a written intelligence briefing provided by the Intelligence Community to senior U.S. Government executives on a daily basis. Each SEIB consists of a series of short articles summarizing political, military, economic, and diplomatic developments around the world of particular interest to the U.S. Government officials. (A SEIB is not the same as the President's Daily Brief, though it often contains similar information. The President's Daily Brief is a more exclusive intelligence summary provided to the President and a small number of his most senior advisors while the SEIB is more broadly distributed.) Our review of the SEIBs from the spring and summer of 2001 confirms the rise in reporting on Bin Ladin between March and June 2001. That review, however, also demonstrates that, while reporting on Bin Ladin was rising, it was still a relatively small portion of the universe of items brought to the attention of policymakers through SEIB reports at the time. For example, the peak in Bin Ladin-related reporting came in June 2001, with Islamic extremists, including Bin Ladin or al-Qa'ida, referenced in 18 of the 298 articles in the SEIBs of that month.

The rise in threat reporting on Bin Ladin, though lacking details on when, where, and how specific attacks would occur, did generate various other government-issued terrorist advisories and warnings. These included:

Bin Ladin-related threat reporting began to decline in July 2OOl. Our review has confirmed that the Intelligence Community did, however, continue to follow up on some of the information in its possession at the time. For example:

The so-called "Phoenix memo," actually an electronic communication, from theFBI's field office in Phoenix to a unit within FBI headquarters in Washington is also of interest because it was dated July 10, 2001 and received at FBI headquarters later that month, during the same timeframe in which the Intelligence Community was detecting indications of an impending terrorist attack, some relating to airliners. The communication stands apart from the documents above, however, in that it did not contain information indicating an impending terrorist attack. Instead, it proposed that the FBI open investigations into named individuals of Middle Eastern nationalities who were attending flight colleges and universities in the U.S. because of their possible linkages to terrorist organizations overseas. In our view, the document is significant because an FBI agent on the ground in Phoenix had seen a pattern and laid out the prescient idea that foreign terrorists may use facilities and other resources inside the United States for training and preparation of attacks. We will report in greater detail on our review of the Phoenix memo in a future statement.

Intelligence Information on Possible Terrorist Use of Airplanes as Weapons

Central to the September 11 attacks was the terrorists' use of airplanes as weapons. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, there was much discussion about the extent to which our Government was, or could have been, aware of the threat of terrorist attacks of this type and the extent to which adequate precautions were taken to address that threat. We therefore asked the question: Did the Intelligence Conununity have any information in its possession prior to September 11, 2001 indicating that terrorists were contemplating using airplanes as weapons?

Based on our review to date of the requested information, we believe that the Intelligence Community was aware of the potential for this type of terrorist attack, but did not produce any specific assessments of the likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons.

Our review has uncovered several examples of intelligence reporting on the possible use of airplanes as weapons in terrorist operations. As with the intelligence reports indicating Bin Ladin's intentions to strike inside the United States, the credibility of the sources is sometimes questionable, and the information is often sketchy. Nevertheless, we did find reporting on this kind of potential threat including the following:

The CIA disseminated several of these reports to the FBI and to agencies that would be responsible for taking preventive actions, including the FAA. The FAA has staff assigned to the DCI's CTC, the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, and to the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service to gather relevant intelligence for domestic use. The FAA is responsible for issuing information circulars, security directives and emergency amendments to the directives alerting domestic and international airports and airlines of threats identified by the Intelligence Community.

Despite these reports, the Intelligence Community did not produce any specific assessments of the likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons. Again, this may have been driven in part by resource issues in the area of intelligence analysis. Prior to September 11, 2001, the CTC had forty analysts to analyze terrorism issues worldwide, with only one of the five branches focused on terrorist tactics. As a result, prior to September 11, 2001, the only terrorist tactic on which the CTC performed strategic analysis was the possible use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons (CBRN) because there was more obvious potential for mass casualties.

At the FBI, our review found that, prior to September 11, 2001, support for ongoing investigations and operations was favored, in terms of allocating resources, over long-term, strategic analysis. We were told, during the course of our FBI interviews, that prevention occurs in the operational units, not through strategic analysis, and that, prior to September 11, the FBI had insufficient resources to do both. We were also told that the FBI's al-Qa'ida-related analytic expertise had been "gutted" by transfers to operational units and that, as a result, the FBI's analytic unit had only one individual working on at-Qa'ida at the time of the September 11 attacks.

While focused strategic analysis was lacking, the subject of aviation-related terrorism was included in some broader terrorist threat assessments, such as the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) on terrorism. For example, the 1995 NIE on terrorism mentioned the plot to down 12 U.S.-owned airliners. The NIE also cited the consideration the Bojinka conspirators gave to attacking CIA headquarters using an aircraft loaded with explosives. The FAA worked with the Intelligence Community on this analysis and actually drafted the section of the NIE addressing the threat to civil aviation. That section contained the following language:

The 1997 update to the 1995 NIE on terrorism included the following language:

As a result of the increasing threats to aviation, Congress passed Section 310 ofthe Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, requiring the FAA and the FBI to conductjoint threat and vulnerability assessments of security at select "high risk" U.S. airports and to provide Congress with an annual report. In the December 2000 report, the FBI and FAA published a classified assessment that suggested less concern about the threat to domestic aviation:

In short, less than a year prior to the September 11 attacks and notwithstanding historical intelligence information to the contrary, the FBI and FAA had assessed the prospects of a terrorist incident targeting domestic civil aviation in the United States as relatively low.

After September 11, 2001, the CIA belatedly 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," states:

Despite the intelligence available in recent years, our review to date has found no indications that, prior to September 11, analysts in the Intelligence Community were:

A Key Al-Qa'ida Leader Involved in the September 11 Attacks

Information obtained by the U.S. Intelligence Community since September 11, 2001 suggests that a particular al-Qa'ida leader may have been instrumental in the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Joint Inquiry Staff therefore asked what the Intelligence Community knew about this individual prior to September 11, 2001 and what it did with that information. Based on our review to date, we believe that the Intelligence Community has known about this individual since 1995, but did not recognize his growing importance to al-Qa'ida and Usama Bin Ladin and did not anticipate his involvement in a terrorist attack of September 11's magnitude. Prior to September 11, 2001, there was little analytic focus given to him and coordination amongst the intelligence agencies was irregular at best.

The DCI has declined to declassify the information we developed on the grounds that it could compromise intelligence sources and methods and that this consideration supersedes the American public's interest in this particular area. We are therefore unable to present a complete description of what the Intelligence Community knew prior to September 11, 2001 about this individual.


Mr. Chairmen, our purpose this morning was to report on the information that the Intelligence Community possessed, prior to September 11, 2001, about terrorist attacks of the kind America witnessed on that fateful day. In closing, let me just say that for all of us who have been conducting this review, the task has been and continues to be not only a daunting one, but, in all respects, a sobering one. We are ever mindful that lost lives and shattered families were the catalyst for this Inquiry. We know, as I have heard Ms. Pelosi say many times, that we are on "sacred ground."

We also have come to know - from our review of the intelligence reporting - the depth and intensity of the enemy's hatred for this country and the relentless zeal with which it targeted American lives. We understand not only the importance, but also the enormity of the task facing the Intelhgence Community. As my statement this morning suggests, the Community made mistakes prior to September ll and the problems that led to those mistakes need to be addressed and to be fixed. On the other hand, the vengeance and inhumanity that we saw on that day were not mistakes or afterthoughts for Usama Bin Ladin and others like him. The responsibility for September 11 remains squarely on the shoulders of the terrorists who planned and participated in the attacks. Their fervor and their cruelty may be incomprehensible, but it is real, it persists, and it is directed at Americans. We are convinced that it is no longer a question of whether the Intelligence Community can do better - it must do better. America can afford no less.

Mr. Chairmen, the Joint Inquiry Staff intends to do its best to help you and these Committees achieve that goal. That concludes my statement.

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