[Congressional Record: July 6, 2011 (Senate)]
[Page S4387-S4388]                      

                      TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL E. LEITER

  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, today I wish to recognize Michael 
Leiter, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a good 
friend of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This is Mike's 
last week and I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very 
best in the next steps in his career.
  Director Leiter has been at the National Counterterrorism Center, or 
NCTC, for most of its existence. He was the principal deputy director 
from February 2007 to November of that year when he became the acting 
director. President Bush nominated him to be the Director on March 31, 
2008, and he was confirmed by the Senate on June 10, 2008.
  Mike has served in both the Bush and Obama administrations which 
speaks to his bipartisan and professional approach to the Nation's 
security, and the support that he has earned from the Congress and 
within the executive branch.
  His leadership at the NCTC has brought stability and continuity to 
our Nation's counterterrorism efforts, and he should take pride in the 
fact that under his tenure, there have been no successful attacks 
against the United States homeland by foreign terrorists. In this 
threat environment, that is an impressive accomplishment indeed.
  As is often the nature of the intelligence business, much of the 
successes of the National Counterterrorism Center go unrecognized. 
Terrorists plotting and carrying out attacks are captured through good 
intelligence and law enforcement work, and through strong cooperation 
with allies and partners around the world. Often, terrorist plots fail 
to proceed because of the barriers to recruit, travel, raise funds, get 
training, or gain access to destructive materials that have been 
erected through the efforts of the United States and other nations.
  Even in counterterrorism victories that become known, such as the 
cases of Najibullah Zazi in the United States or the identification of 
Usama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, the National Counterterrorism 
Center's important--sometimes absolutely critical role--is often not 
well known.
  So I am pleased today to be able to recognize Mike Leiter for his 
work in keeping our Nation safe for the past 4\1/2\ years.
  As a member, and now as chair of the Intelligence Committee, I have 
come to rely on Mike's analysis and judgment. He has been willing to 
admit that at times our counterterrorism policies or practices haven't 
been what they should be.
  He has appeared regularly before the committee and has been very 
accessible for the committee's staff as well. In addition to the 
regularly scheduled meetings we hold, I have received secure calls from 
Mike often, apprising me on new threats and the status of 
investigations. He is, without fail, available to provide updates and 
assessments, and I appreciate the importance he has placed on keeping 
the committee, and me personally, fully informed.
  Director Leiter has also worked tirelessly to achieve the goals set 
out for the National Counterterrorism Center in the Intelligence Reform 
and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The NCTC was established to bring 
together information and officers from across the intelligence 
community and from other parts of the government involved in the 
spectrum of counterterrorism, including counter-radicalization, 
detection, and prevention of attacks.
  Even after the experiences of 9/11 and the findings of the 9/11 
Commission, it was a difficult and enormously frustrating challenge to 
truly integrate the Nation's counterterrorism efforts. It speaks to 
Director Leiter's energy and dedication that he was, eventually, able 
to bring together analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the 
National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and 
military services to share the threat streams that each one collected 
and assessed.
  The result has been the ability to better connect the intelligence 
information that points to suspicious activity, to develop the case 
when a terrorist or a terror plot is identified, and to take 
coordinated action to disrupt that plot.
  The NCTC now produces, on a daily basis, its own counterterrorism 
analysis that provides Intelligence Community-wide assessments and 
warning. Analysts at the NCTC are among the finest we have, and 
Director Leiter has fostered a productive environment through 
analytical roundtables and weekly forums in which analysts share 
information, provide briefings, and develop improved analytic 
  In fact, I recently learned that as the CIA was developing its 
assessment that Usama bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound, it 
turned to NCTC analysts to ``red-team'' the intelligence case and give 
their assessments. And Director Leiter was involved in the briefings 
and discussions with the President that led to the decision to carry 
out the operation.
  Director Leiter has demonstrated leadership in hard times, as well. 
After the failed terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner on 
December 25, 2009, investigations uncovered significant failures and 
shortcomings in our counterterrorism efforts. The Senate Intelligence 
Committee's review found 14 specific ``points of failure'' across the 
government that enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to come so close to 
carrying out a major attack.

[[Page S4388]]

  While several of our conclusions and recommendations fell to other 
agencies, Director Leiter moved quickly to implement the changes that 
we and others suggested. Since early 2010, the NCTC has vastly improved 
its methods for screening counterterrorism data and watchlisting 
individuals who pose a threat to our Nation.
  In response to the finding that no agency in the government was 
ensuring that all terrorist leads were pursued, Mike implemented 
``Pursuit Groups'' at NCTC, teams of highly skilled analysts who sift 
through massive amounts of data to identify disparate pieces of 
intelligence and find linkages that identify terrorists, their plans, 
and their networks before they reach the point of plot execution.
  In addition to his service at the National Counterterrorism Center, 
Mr. Leiter helped establish the Office of the Director of National 
Intelligence as its deputy chief of staff, having previously served as 
the deputy general counsel and assistant director of the very well-
regarded WMD Commission led by Senator Chuck Robb and Judge Laurence 
  From 2002 to 2005, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern 
District of Virginia, one of the most active jurisdictions for national 
security cases. He clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer and for Chief 
Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First 
  Most people do not know that Mike was also a naval aviator, flying 
EA-6B Prowlers with action in operations in the former Yugoslavia and 
in Iraq.
  In short, he has served the Nation in a wide variety of capacities 
over the past 20 years
  I thank Mike for his exemplary service in keeping this Nation safe 
and for his very positive relationship with the Intelligence Committee 
as we have carried out our oversight duties.
  I expect that this will not be Mike's last service to the Nation, and 
I wish him all the best.