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Tenet, Mueller Address Intelligence Committee

Aired February 11, 2003 - 10:20   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a busy day on Capitol Hill now, as you see getting underway big time. There is CIA Director George Tenet, just beginning his remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: ... raises serious new challenges for the region and the world.

At the same time, we cannot lose sight of those national security challenges that, while not occupying space on front pages, demands a constant level of scrutiny, challenges such as the world's vast stretches of ungoverned areas, lawless zones, veritable no-man's lands like some areas along the Afghan-Pakistani borders where extremist movements find shelter; challenges as to the number of societies and peoples excluded the benefits of an expanding global economy, where the daily lot is hunger, disease as displacement that produce large populations of disaffected youths who are prime recruits for our extremist foes.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, the United States last week raised the terrorist level. We did so because of the threat reporting from multiple sources with strong al Qaeda ties. The information we have points to plots aimed at targets on two fronts, in the United States and on the Arabian Peninsula. It points to plots timed to occur as early as end of the Hajj, which occurs late this week, and it points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersal device as well as poisons and chemicals.

The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists or their associates. It is the most specific we have seen, and it is consistent with both our knowledge of al Qaeda's doctrine and our knowledge of plots in this network and particularly it's senior leadership has been working for years.

The intelligence community is working directly and in real time with friendly services overseas and law enforcement colleagues here at home to disrupt and capture specific individuals who may be part of this plot.

Our information and knowledge is the result of important strides since 9/11 to enhance counterterrorism capabilities and share with law enforcement colleagues -- and they with us -- the results of disciplined operations, collection and analysis of events inside the United States and overseas. Raising the threat level is important to our being as disruptive as we possibly can be. The enhanced security that results from a higher level threat can buy us more time to operate against the individual -- individual who are plotting to do us harm -- and heightened vigilance generates traditional information and leads.

This latest reporting underscores the threat that the al Qaeda network continues to pose to the United States. The network is extensive and adaptable. It will take years of determined effort to unravel this and other drift networks and stamp them out.

Mr. Chairman, the intelligence and law enforcement communities aggressively continue to prosecute war on terrorism and are having success on many fronts. More than one-third top al Qaeda leadership identified before the war has been killed or captured, including the operations chief of the Persian Gulf area who planned the bombing of USS Cole and the key planner who was Muhammad Atta's confidante and conspirator, a major al Qaeda leader in Yemen and key operatives and facilitators in the Gulf area and other regions including South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The number of rounded up al Qaeda detainees has now grown to over 3,000, up from 1, 000 or so when I testified last year. And the number of countries involved in these captures has almost doubled to more than 100.

Not everyone arrested was a terrorist. Some have been released.

But the worldwide rousting of al Qaeda has definitely disrupted their operations, and we've obtained a trove of information we're using to prosecute the hunt still further.

The coalition against international terrorism is stronger, and we are reaping the benefits of unprecedented international cooperation. In particular, Muslim governments today better understand the threat al Qaeda poses to them and, day by day, have been increasing their support.

Ever since Pakistan's decision to sever ties with the Taliban, so critical to the success of Operation Enduring freedom, Islamabad's close cooperation in the war on terrorism has resulted in the capture of key al Qaeda lieutenants and significant disruption of its regional network.

Jordan and Egypt have been courageous leaders in the war on terrorism. I can't say enough about what Jordan has done for this country in taking on this scourge.

A number of Gulf states like United Arab Emirates are denying terrorists financial safe haven, making it harder for al Qaeda to funnel money for operations.

Others in the Gulf are beginning to tackle the problem of charities that front for or fund terrorism. The Saudis are providing increasingly important support to our counterterrorism efforts, from arrests to sharing debriefing results. Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia with majority Muslim populations have been active in arresting and detaining terrorist suspects.

And we mustn't forget Afghanistan, where the support of the new leadership is absolutely essential. Al Qaeda loss with Afghanistan, the death and capture of key personnel and its years spent mostly on the run have impaired its ability, complicated its command and control and disrupted its logistics.

That said, Mr. Chairman, the continuing threat remains clear. Al Qaeda is still dedicated to striking the U.S. homeland, and much of the information we've received in the past year revolves around that goal.

Even without an attack on the U.S. homeland, more than 600 people around the world were killed in acts of terror last year and 200 in al Qaeda-related attacks. Nineteen were U.S. citizens.

al Qaeda or associated groups carried out a successful attack in Tunisia, and since October, 2002, attacks in Mombasa, Bali, Kuwait and off Yemen against the French oil tanker Limburg. Most of these attacks bore such al Qaeda trademarks as entrenched surveillance, simultaneous strikes and suicide delivered bombs.

Combined U.S. and allied efforts have thwarted a number of related attacks in the past year, including European poison plots. We identified and monitored and arrested Jose Padilla, an al Qaeda operative who was allegedly planning operations in the United States and was seeking to develop the so-called dirty bomb.

And along with Moroccan partners, we disrupted al Qaeda attacks against U.S. and British warships in the Straits of Gibraltar. Until al Qaeda finds an opportunity for the big attack, it will try to maintain its operational tempo by striking softer targets. And what I mean by softer, Mr. Chairman, are simply those targets al Qaeda planners may view as less well protected.

al Qaeda has also sharpened its focus on our allies in Europe and on operations against Israeli and Jewish targets. Al Qaeda will try to adapt to changing circumstances as it regroups. It will secure base areas so that it can pause from flight and resume planning.

We place no limitations on our expectations on what al Qaeda might do to survive. We see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq.

In addition, we are concerned that al Qaeda continues to find refuge in the hinterlands (ph) of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

al Qaeda is also developing and refining new means of attack, including the use of surface-to-air missiles, poisons and air and surface and underwater methods to attack maritime targets.

If given the choice, al Qaeda terrorists will choose attacks that achieve multiple objectives, striking prominent landmarks, inflicting mass casualties, causing economic disruption and rallying support through shows of strength.

The bottom line here, Mr. Chairman, is that al Qaeda is living in the expectation of resuming the offensive. We know from events of September 11th that we can never again ignore a specific type of country, a country unable to control its own borders and internal territory, lacking the capacity to govern, educate its people or provide fundamental services. Such countries can, however, offer extremists a place to congregate in relative safety. al Qaeda is already a presence in many parts of the world, Mr. Chairman, and I'll stop my discussion on terrorism there, where I go on to a very careful discussion of our concerns about their acquisition of chemical and biological weapons and what the history shows.

I want to move to Iraq, sir, and then China and Iran, and I'll get out. There's a lot in my statement, and you can read it. Mr. Chairman, I would like to comment on Iraq, and I'll come back and answer Senator Rockefeller's questions as best I can.

Last week, Secretary Powell carefully reviewed for the U.N. Security Council the intelligence we have on Iraqi efforts to deceive U.N. inspectors, its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorism.

I do not plan to go into these matters in detail, but I will summarize some of the key points. Iraq has in place an active effort to deceive U.N. inspectors and deny them access. The effort is directed at the highest levels of the Iraqi regime.

Baghdad is giving clear directions to its operational forces to hide banned materials in their possession. Iraq's BW program includes mobile research and production facilities that will be difficult if not impossible for the inspectors to find.

Baghdad began this program in the mid '90s during a time when U.N. inspectors were in the country. Iraq has established a pattern of clandestine procurements destined to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. These procurements include but go well beyond the aluminum tubes that you have heard so much about. Iraq has recently flight tested missiles that violate the U.S. range limit of 150 kilometers. They have tested unmanned aerial vehicles to ranges that far exceed both what it declared to the United Nations and what is permitted under U.N. resolutions.

Iraq is harboring senior members of the terrorist network led by Abu Al Zarqawi, a close associate of al Qaeda. We know Zarqawi's network was behind the poison plots in Europe, and we discussed earlier as well, Secretary Powell discussed the assassination of U.S. State Department employee in Jordan.

Iraq has, in the past, provided training in document forgery and bomb making to al Qaeda. It has also provided training in poisons and gases to two al Qaeda associates. One of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.

Mr. Chairman, this information is based on a solid foundation of intelligence. It comes to us from credible and reliable sources. Much of it is corroborated by multiple sources, and it is consistent with the pattern of denial and deception exhibited by Saddam Hussein over the past 12 years.

Mr. Chairman, on proliferation, it's important to talk about this for a few moments. We've entered a new world of proliferation. In the vanguard of this new world, we are knowledgeable about nonstate purveyors of WMD materials and technology. Such nonstate outlets are increasingly capable of providing technology and equipment that previously could only be supplied by countries with established capabilities.

This is taking place side by side with the continued weakening of the international nonproliferation consensus, controlled regimes like the NPT Treaty are being battered by developments, such as North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT and its open repudiation of other agreements. The example of new nuclear states that seem able to deter threats from more powerful states simply by brandishing nuclear weaponry will resonate deeply among other countries that want to enter the nuclear weapons club.

Demand creates the market. The desire for nuclear weapons is on upsurge. Additional countries may decide to seek nuclear weapons as it becomes clear their neighbors and regional rivals are already doing so.

The domino theory of the 21st century may well be nuclear. With the assistance of proliferaters, a potentially wider range of countries may be able to develop nuclear weapons by leap-frogging the incremental pace of weapons programs in other countries.

My statement on proliferation is far more extensive, talking about developments of chemical and biological weapons, threats from ballistic missiles, land attack cruise missiles and UAVs.

I do want to talk briefly about North Korea. The recent behavior of North Korea regarding its longstanding nuclear weapons program makes apparent all of the dangers Pyongyang poses to its region and the world. This includes developing the capability to enrich Uranium, ending the freeze on its plutonium production facilities and withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty.

If this seems likely, Pyongyang moves on to reprocess spent fuel at the facilities where it recently abrogated the 1994 IAEA monitored freeze. We assess it could recover sufficient plutonium for several additional weapon's.

North Korea also continues to export complete ballistic missiles and production capability as long with related raw materials, components and expertise. Kim Jong Il's attempt this past year to parlay the North's nuclear weapons program into political leverage suggests he is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with Washington, one that implicitly tolerates North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Although Kim calculates that the north's aid, trade and investment climate will never improve in the face of U.S. sanctions and perceived hostility, he's equally committed to retaining and enlarging his nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Mr. Chairman, I go through an interesting discussion of China, Russia and Iran. Perhaps, we can go back to those during the question and answer period. I would note, the one area of the world that continues to worry us as worry about all these other problems is South Asia, where we've averted a conflict but could soon return to one, and it's something that we may want to talk about that continues to bear careful scrutiny.

The statement goes through a number of transnational threats, Mr. Chairman, and I want to talk about something untraditional. You know, we recently published an open NIE (ph) on AIDS. I want to talk about HIV/AIDS because it has national security implications beyond health implications.

This pandemic continues unabated, and last year, more than 3 million people died of AIDS related causes. More than 40 million people are infected now, and in southern Africa has the greatest concentration of these cases.

That said, the intelligence community recently projected that by 2010, we may see as many as 100 million HIV infected people outside of Africa. China will have about 15 million cases, and India 20 to 25 million cases. And cases are on the rise in Russia as well.

The national security dimension of the virus is plain. It can undermine economic growth, exacerbate social tensions, diminish military preparedness, create huge social welfare costs and further weaken beleaguered states, and the virus respects no border.

We rarely talk about Africa, Mr. Chairman, but it's important. Sub-Saharan Africa's chronic instability will demand U.S. attention. Africa's lack of democratic institutionalization combined with its pervasive ethnic rifts and deep corruption render most of the 48 countries vulnerable to crises that can be costly in human lives and economic growth.

The Cote d-Ivoire is collapsing, and its crash will be felt throughout the region where neighboring economies are at risk from the falloff in trade and from refugees fleeing violence.

Mr. Chairman, I'll end my statement there. There's a discussion about Venezuela and Colombia we may want to pursue in the questions and answers. And I thank you for your patience.

And I've set a new standard for not reading my whole statement, sir.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), CHAIRMAN OF INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: It's an excellent standard and a marvelous present.

Director Mueller?

ROBERT MUELLER, DIRECTOR OF FBI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As we enter the second year of the global war on terrorism, the United States and its allies have inflicted a series of significant defeats on al Qaeda and its terrorist networks both here, at home and abroad.

The terrorist enemy, however is far from defeated. Although our country's ultimate victory is not in doubt, we face a long wear whose end is difficult foresee.

Accordingly, prevention of another terrorist attack remains the FBI's top priority. The bureau's efforts to identify and dismantle terrorist networks have yielded successes over the past 17 months. We have charged 197 suspected terrorists with crimes, 99 of whom have been convicted to date.

We have also facilitated the deportation of numerous individuals with suspected links to terrorist groups. Moreover, our efforts damaged terrorist networks and disrupted terrorist related activities across country -- in Portland, Buffalo, Seattle, Detroit, Chicago and in Florida to name but a few.

Furthermore, we have successfully disrupted sources of terrorist financing, including freezing $113 million from 62 organizations and conducting 730 investigations, 23 of which have resulted in convictions.

But despite these successes, nature of the terrorist threat facing our country today is exceptionally complex. International terrorists and their state sponsors have emerged as the primary threat to our security after decades in which the activities of domestic terrorist groups were a more imminent threat.

The al Qaeda terrorist network is clearly the most urgent threat to U.S. interests. The evidence linking al Qaeda to the attacks of September 11th is clear and irrefutable. And our investigation of the events leading up to 9/11 has given rise to important insights into terrorist tactics and trade craft, trade craft which will prove invaluable as we work to prevent the next attack.

There is no question, though, that al Qaeda and other terrorist networks have proven adept at defending their organizations from U.S. and international law enforcement efforts. As these terrorist organizations evolve and change their tactics, we, too, must be prepared to evolve.

Accordingly, the FBI is undergoing substantial changes, including the incorporation of an enhanced intelligence function that will allow us to meet these terrorist threats.

I'd like to briefly outline these changes, but first, Mr. Chairman, I would like to address the most significant threats facing this country today.

We start with the al Qaeda threat. The al Qaeda network will remain for the foreseeable future the most immediate and serious threat facing this country. Al Qaeda is the most lethal of the groups associated with the Sunni and jihad has cause, but it does not operate in a vacuum. Many of the groups committed to international jihad offer al Qaeda varying degrees of support. FBI investigations have revealed Islamic militants in the United States, and we strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al Qaeda.

The focus of the activities centers primarily on fundraising, recruitment and training. Their support structure, however, is sufficiently well developed that one or more groups could be mobilized by al Qaeda to carry out operations in the United States homeland.

Despite the progress the United States has made in disrupting the al Qaeda network overseas, and within our own country, the organization maintains the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the United States with little warning.

Our greatest threat is from al Qaeda cells in the United States that we have not yet been able to identify. Finding and rooting out al Qaeda members once in the United States and have had time to establish themselves is the most serious intelligence and law enforcement challenge.

But in addition the threat from single individuals sympathetic or affiliated with al Qaeda, acting without external support or surrounding conspiracies is increasing. Al Qaeda's successful attacks on September 11th suggest the organization could employ similar operational strategies in carrying out any future attack in the United States, including those cell members whose avoid drawing attention to themselves and minimize contact with militant Islamic groups in the United States.

They also maintain, as we have found in the past, strict operational and communications security.

We must not assume, however, that al Qaeda will rely only on tried and true methods of attack. As attractive as a large scale attack that produces mass casualties would be for al Qaeda and as important as such an attack is to its credibility amongst its supporters and its sympathizers, target vulnerability and likelihood of success are increasingly important to the weakened organization.

Indeed, the types of recent smaller-scale operations al Qaeda has directed and aided against a wide array of Western targets outside United States could readily be reproduced within in the United States.

I tell you, Mr. Chairman, my greatest concern is that our enemies are trying to acquire dangerous new capabilities with which to harm Americans. Terrorists worldwide have ready access to information on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons via the internet.

Acquisition of such weapons would be a huge morale boost for those seeking our destruction while engendering widespread fear among Americans and amongst our allies.

Although the most serious terrorist threat is from nonstate actors, we remain vigilant against the potential threat posed by state sponsors of terrorism. Seven countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba and North Korea -- remain active in the United States and continue to support terrorist groups that have targeted Americans.

As Director Tenet has pointed out, Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community.

Our particular concern is that Saddam Hussein may supply terrorists with biological, chemical or radiological material. Let me turn, if I could, Mr. Chairman, to some of the changes that we've brought about within the bureau in the last year.

For nearly a century, the FBI has earned well-deserved reputation as one of the world's premier law enforcement agencies, and for decades, the FBI has remained flexible in addressing the threats facing the nation at any given time, whether it be gangsters, civil rights violations, racketeering, organized crime, espionage and, of course, terrorism.

And since September 11, 2001, the men and women of the FBI have recognized the need for change and have embraced it.

I can assure this committee and the American people that, just as the FBI earned its reputation as a world-class law enforcement agency, so is it committed to becoming a world-class intelligence agency. As evidence of that commitment, Mr. Chairman, I would like to spend a moment outlining some of the specific steps we have taken to address the terrorist threats facing the United States today.

To effectively wage this war against terror, we have augmented our counterterrorism resources and are making organizational enhancements to focus our priorities. On top of the resource commitment to counterterrorism we made between 1993 and 2001, we have received additional resources from Congress. We have, as well, shifted internal resources to increase our total staffing levels for counterterrorism by 36 percent. Much of this increase has gone toward augmenting our analytic cadre.

We have implemented a number of initiatives, including creating the College of Analytical Studies, which, in conjunction with the CIA, is training our new intelligence analysts. We also created a corps of reports officers. These officers will be responsible for identifying, extracting and collecting intelligence from FBI investigations and sharing that information throughout the FBI and to other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

I have taken a number of other actions, which we believe will make the FBI a more flexible, more responsive agency in our war against terrorism. To improve our system for threat warnings, we have established a number of specialized counterterrorism units.

These include: a Threat Monitoring Unit, which, among other things, works hand-in-hand with its CIA counterpart to produce a daily threat matrix; a 24-hour Counterterrorism Watch to serve as the FBI's focal point for all incoming terrorist threats; two separate units to analyze terrorist communications and special technologies and applications; another section devoted entirely to terrorist financing operations; a unit to manage document exploitation where the documents come from Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere around the world; and other such units. And to protect U.S. citizens abroad, we have expanded our legal attache and liaison presence around the world to 46 offices.

To strengthen our cooperation with state and local law enforcement, we are introducing counterterrorism training on a national level. We will provide specialized counterterrorism training to 224 agents and training technicians from every field division in the country so that they, in turn, can train an estimated 26,800 federal, state and local law enforcement officers this year in basic counterterrorism techniques. To further enhance our relationship with state and local agencies, we have expanded the number of joint terrorism task forces from a pre-9/11 number of 35 to 66 today. The joint terrorism task forces partner FBI personnel with hundreds of investigators from various federal, state and local agencies in field offices across the country and are important force multipliers aiding our fight against terrorism within the United States.

The counterterrorism measures I have just described essentially complete the first phase of our intelligence program. We are now beginning the second phase that will focus on expanding and enhancing our ability to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence. The centerpiece of this effort is the establishment of an executive assistant director for intelligence who will have direct authority and responsibility for the FBI's national intelligence program.

Specifically, the executive assistant director for intelligence will be responsible for ensuring that the FBI has the optimum strategies, structure and policies in place, first and foremost, for our counterterrorism mission. That person will also oversee the intelligence programs for our counterintelligence, criminal and our cyber divisions.

Lastly, in the field, intelligence units will be established in every office and will function under the authority of the executive assistant director for intelligence. If we are to defeat terrorists and their supporters, a wide range of organizations must work together.

I am committed to the closest possible cooperation with the intelligence community and with other government agencies, as well as with state and local agencies. And I should not leave out our counterparts overseas.

I strongly support the president's initiative to establish a terrorist threat integration center that will merge and analyze terrorist-related information collected domestically and abroad.

Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by saying that the nature of the threats facing the United States homeland continues to evolve. My complete statement, which has been submitted for the record, emphasizes that we are not ignoring the serious threat from terrorist organizations other than al-Qaeda, from domestic homegrown terrorists and from foreign intelligence services.

To successfully continue to address all of these threats, the FBI is committed to remaining flexible enough to adapt our mission and our resources to stay one step ahead of our enemies.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to make this statement.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Director. Let the record show that all members of the committee have been provided a list of FBI entities that have been created to address the terrorist threats since 9/11, 2001 and certainly recommend that to my colleagues and to all present. Admiral, you're next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

HARRIS: We've been listening so far this morning to CIA director George Tenet and FBI Director Robert Mueller there beginning their remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee there, laying out their priorities and different things that their agencies have done to better streamline the flow of intelligence information, and getting it to the proper authorities quickly to avert any -- and to neutralize any threats to -- to the country. We did hear this morning that, according to the CIA, they believe that al Qaeda is and will remain for the foreseeable future the No. 1 threat to the U.S. Did have some, also, words about Iraq there as well this morning, saying deception efforts in Iraq now are in place, programs that are in place and they involve highest levels there, so there is still some concern about Iraq there, if not as the No. 1 threat.


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