Office of Rep. Jane Harman
December 19, 2002
The Joint Inquiry report is a strong product from a strong staff and unprecedented Congressional collaboration. I strongly support this report. It provides the most complete and comprehensive assessment of the plot behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It identifies systemic and structural problems within the U.S. Intelligence Community that hampered the prevention of these attacks. And, most important, it looks forward: it applies lessons learned to make recommendations critical to prevent further attacks. Using the information in this report, the 108th Congress has a base on which to oversee, fund, reshape, and reform the intelligence functions of the federal government.
Harman Writes Additional Views for Joint House-Senate Intelligence Inquiry into 9/11
The additional views below supplement the report's findings and recommendations.
Director of National Intelligence
To date, the term "Intelligence Community" (IC) has been an oxymoron. The community is really a collection of stovepipes working separately - often in conflicting or self-interested ways.
Creating a real Community requires a coherent approach across agencies and overarching leadership. The recommendation aims to empower a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to lead the community by pairing authority with responsibility. The Director of Central Intelligence currently lacks the statutory authority to do this.
The DNI would also have the responsibility and accountability for bringing unity to the different intelligence collection and analysis functions. The Director would allocate budget resources to provide people and technology where they are needed most, regardless of which federal department houses the agency.
All agree that the Administration, Congress, and the IC leadership must act together to foster a more innovative and less risk-averse intelligence culture. The employees in intelligence agencies today are hard-working, capable, and dedicated, but often lack the resources and tools they need to gather, process, analyze, and use information in today's digital environment. In my view, these workers deserve the trust and appreciation of Congress and the nation, and should be encouraged and empowered to be imaginative, innovative, and collaborative in order to protect us from future attacks.
The investigation revealed that significant intelligence leads about some of the hijackers were available but did not get widely shared. This was less a willful refusal to share information than it was a failure to grasp its significance. For example, the CIA and NSA had collected information on hijackers al Hazmi and al Mihdhar that connected them to bin Laden, the East Africa Embassy bombings, and the attack on the USS Cole. The agencies also had information indicating that both men were in the United States. The al Hazmi and al Mihdhar story shows what many analysts had claimed for years-the raw databases of CIA and NSA contain extremely valuable information that does not get noticed, shared, integrated, or acted upon.
Entities within the agencies that collect signals and human intelligence guard their "raw" data; few outside analysts are allowed access. The NSA and CIA's Directorate of Operations typically insist that they alone, not even all-source intelligence analysts or other sophisticated consumers, possess the special expertise required to evaluate human or signals intelligence data. Before sharing information, these entities go through an internal analysis process that "filters" out everything that does not seem to the analyst sufficiently important or reliable to report. But as the al Hazmi and al Mihdhar cases demonstrate, analysts can fail to appreciate what might be important to potential consumers, who bring different perspectives and other sources of information.
There are powerful reasons why the entities within the CIA, NSA, and FBI that collect the raw data are so unwilling to allow access to outside analysts - even those within their parent agency. Compartmentation of classified information is sometimes needed to protect sensitive sources and methods. There is also a need to protect constitutionally-protected privacy rights. For example, NSA personnel are trained in "minimization" procedures to cordon off and protect the communications the agency intercepts. The FBI, historically, has been very concerned to protect the integrity of actual or potential legal proceedings, causing its field offices to restrict access to its unreported information.
These obstacles to full exploitation of intelligence information hinder our national security, and must be overcome. It should be feasible to clear all-source counterterrorism analysts to the same standards demanded of the human and signals intelligence collectors and train them in "minimization" procedures to protect the privacy of U.S. persons.
As intelligence agencies increasingly focus on homeland security, they must share information with state and local governments, first responder groups, private companies, and the American public. To the extent possible, the intelligence community should create unclassified products that provide guidance for the appropriate responder groups to prevent or prepare for terrorist threats. The IC must work with the Department of Homeland Security to match threat information with vulnerability assessments, and provide the new Department with the intelligence it needs to communicate to first responders what they should look for.
Domestic Intelligence Collection
The findings reflect problems in gathering and processing actionable intelligence about foreign terrorists on American soil. Problems also exist for gathering and handling intelligence on Americans who assist foreign terrorists or plan terrorist plots. The nature of the terrorist threat does not allow us the luxury of focusing abroad to learn of terrorist activity; we must recognize the existence of terrorist organizations within the United States and develop the capacity to uncover, infiltrate, and disrupt them while respecting the privacy and Constitutional rights of law abiding Americans.
The FBI is currently responsible for gathering intelligence within the United States, but is not adequately organized nor resourced to successfully meet this mission. Notwithstanding efforts by FBI Director Mueller, the FBI does not have a robust counterterrorism capability, and there are serious policy and legal questions in co-locating within one agency responsibility for domestic intelligence with law enforcement. Intelligence is fundamentally predictive, based on assumptions, hypotheses, analyses, and forecasts; law enforcement is responsive, based on credible evidence. These functions use different approaches and operating procedures and there is great risk that marrying the two will sacrifice one or both.
The report recommends further study and debate of a separate domestic intelligence agency, without law enforcement responsibility or authorization. Such an entity would be modeled on Britain's MI-5, but would be tailored to reflect the U.S. federal system and civil rights laws. Establishing a new agency is not a panacea; Congress must vest any new entity with authorities and safeguards following a national debate over the appropriate scope of domestic intelligence collection.
Privacy and Civil Liberties
Collecting information on U.S. citizens and foreign visitors in the United States raises serious civil liberty and privacy implications, and it is critical that Congress defend the freedoms and rights of Americans and others. The report recommends continuing Congressional oversight of domestic intelligence authorities, including a review of the implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and USA Patriot Act.
Within the Executive Branch, it is important that the position of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer in the Department of Homeland Security be filled promptly by a senior and well-respected official so that protection of civil liberties is an integral part of homeland security planning and strategy, and not as an afterthought.
Throughout the Joint Inquiry, I have expressed concern with what appear to be frequent leaks of classified intelligence information. The public disclosure of sensitive intelligence information can have devastating effects on intelligence sources and methods needed to fight terrorism. The report recommends the President and agency heads take specific steps to prevent and appropriately punish the unauthorized disclosure of properly classified intelligence. The 108th Congress should demand updates on the measures recommended by the Attorney General in a report to the Congress in fall 2002.
Intelligence remains the key to preventing terrorist attacks. The IC has had many successes in uncovering and preventing attacks that, by necessity, go unreported and publicly unappreciated. But terrorists need to be successful only once to kill Americans and demonstrate the inherent vulnerabilities we face.
We have learned that despite considerable attention and significant efforts across and throughout the intelligence agencies in the summer of 2001, crucial information was not exploited, and organizational barriers in the IC blocked preventive action. Solutions to these problems involve forging a true "digital" community of intelligence agencies with strong leadership, overcoming entrenched bureaucratic and risk-averse cultures, and empowering our intelligence employees.
This report and these additional views are a basis for action in the 108th Congress. It will be my priority to see these improvements made.