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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Myers Testify Before 9/11 Commission
Aired March 23, 2004 - 15:32 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Thank you for joining us for our continuing coverage of today's special hearings by the 9/11 Commission. The commission an independent panel looking into the events leading up to the terror attacks in the United States on September the 11th, 2001.
We've just heard from former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen. We are just now about to begin to hear the testimony from the current secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He is raising his right hand, taking an oath, swearing to tell the truth. So we are going to move quickly to these hearings resuming at this hour here in Washington.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
... and we would ask to you summarize any remarks in the opening statement. Proceed. Thank you.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you very much, chairman and vice chairman, members of the commission. I thank you for undertaking this important work. I would just mention that General Myers and Paul Wolfowitz have been intimately involved in the work of the department prior to September 11th, on September 11th and subsequent to September 11th.
First, let me express my condolences to the people of Spain. The March 11th bombings will leave that nation changed. Certainly the families that lost loved ones on September 11th -- some of whom I'm sure are listening today -- must feel a bond with the families in other countries who have lost their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to terrorism.
They understand the pain and the heartbreak and the suffering of the families whose loved ones perished.
The recent attacks are deadly reminders that the world's free nations are at war.
I also want to thank the courageous men and women in uniform all across the globe who risk their lives so that all of us can live in freedom.
This commission has an important opportunity. Those in positions of responsibility in government are of necessity focused on dozens of issues. This commission, however, can focus on one important topic, get it right and provide insights that can be of great value to us. You've been asked to try to connect the dots after the fact, to examine events leading up to September 11th and to consider what lessons, if any, might be taken from that experience that could prevent future dangers.
It isn't an easy assignment. Yet the challenge facing our country before September 11th, and still today, is even more difficult. Our task is to connect the dots not after the fact but before the fact, to try to stop attacks before they happen. That must be done without the benefit of hindsight, hearings, briefings or testimony.
Another attack on our people will be attempted. We can't know where, or when, or by what technique. That reality drives those of us in government to ask the tough questions: When and how might that attack be attempted and what will we need to have done, today and every day before the attack, to prepare for it and to, if possible, to prevent it?
On September 11th, our world changed. It may be tempting to think that once the crisis is passed that things will go back to the way they were. Not so.
The world of September 10th is passed. We've entered a new security environment, arguably the most dangerous the world has known. And if we're continue to live as free people, we cannot go back to thinking the way the world thought on September 10th. For if we do, if we deal with the problems of the 21st century through a 20th century prism, we will most certainly come to the wrong conclusions and fail the American people.
I saw the destruction terrorists wreaked on September 11th. At the impact site, moments after the American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, one could see the flames, smell the burning fuel, see the twisted steel and the agony of victims.
And once the crisis passed, I asked the question posed to this commission: What, if anything, might have been done to prevent it?
First I must say, I knew of no intelligence during the six-plus months leading up to September 11th that indicated terrorists would hijack commercial airliners, use them as missiles to fly into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center towers.
The president said about forming what is today a 90-nation coalition to wage the global war on terrorist networks. He promptly set U.S. and coalition forces -- air, sea and ground -- to attack Afghanistan, to overthrow the Taliban regime and destroy that al Qaeda stronghold.
In short order, the Taliban regime was driven from power. Al Qaeda's sanctuary in Afghanistan was removed. Nearly two-thirds of their known leaders have been captured or killed. A transitional government is in power and a clear message was sent: Terrorists who harbor terrorists will pay a price. Those were bold steps. And today, in light of September 11th, no one questions those actions. Today I suspect most would support a preemptive action to deal with such a threat.
Interestingly, the remarkable military successes in Afghanistan is taken largely for granted, as is the achievement of bringing together a 90-nation coalition.
But imagine that we were back before September 11th and that a U.S. president had looked at the information then available, gone before the Congress and the world and said we need to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban and destroy the al Qaeda terrorist network based on what little was known was known before September 11th.
How many countries would have joined? Many? Any? Not likely.
We would have heard objections to preemption similar to those voiced before the coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. We would have been asked, "How could you attack Afghanistan when it was al Qaeda that attacked us, not the Taliban? How can you go to war when countries in the region don't support you? Won't launching such an invasion actually provoke terrorist attacks against the United States?"
I agree with those who have testified here today -- Mrs. Albright, Secretary Cohen and others -- that unfortunately history shows that it can take a tragedy like September 11th to waken the world to new threats and to the need for action. We can't go back in time to stop the attack, but we all owe it to the families and the loved ones who died on September 11th to assure that there loss will, in fact, be the call that helps to ensure that thousands of other families do not suffer the pain they've endured.
President Bush came to office with a determination to prepare for the new threats of the 21st century. The bombing of the Cole on October 12th, 2000, was seen both as evidence of the al Qaeda threat and the need to adjust U.S. policy.
The more one studies terrorism, the more one becomes convinced that the approach to fighting it that had evolved over several decades really wasn't working. Treating terrorism as a matter of security, combating it through national and international law enforcement techniques and taking defensive measures against terrorist against simply weren't enough.
After the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, the first World Trade Center attack, the embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on the Cole, reasonable people have concluded that the value of that approach had diminished.
A more comprehensive approach required a review not only of U.S. counterterrorism policy, but also U.S. policies with regard to other countries, some of which have not previously been at the center of U.S. relations, as Secretary Powell testified this morning. Dr. Rice has stated that she asked the National Security Council staff in her first week in office for a new presidential initiative on al Qaeda. In early March, the staff was directed to craft a more aggressive strategy aimed at eliminating the al Qaeda threat. The first draft of that approach, in the form of a presidential directive, was circulated by the NSC staff in June of 2001 and a number of meetings were held that summer at the deputy secretary level to address the policy questions involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan relations.
By the first week of September, the process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to principals and later became NSPD-9, the president's first major substantive national security decision directive. It was presented for a decision by principals on September 4th, 2001, seven days before the 11th, and later signed by the president, with minor changes and a preamble to reflect the events of September 11th, in October.
While this review of counterterrorism policy was under way, the Department of Defense was developing a review of U.S. defense strategy.
On February 2nd, less than two weeks after taking office, I traveled to Germany for a conference on security policy. Already we were focused on the problem of unconventional, or asymmetric, threats. On the flight I was asked about the principles that would drive our defense review. I answered that the 1991 Persian Gulf War had taught the world that taking on Western armies, navies and air forces directly was not a good idea.
It was, therefore, likely that potential adversaries would look for so-called asymmetrical responses, everything from terrorism to cyberattacks to information warfare, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles to longer-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
I won't repeat the long list of actions that Secretary Powell presented this morning in his excellent presentation.
During the last decade, the challenges facing the intelligence community have grown more complex. Director Tenet will testify tomorrow and will provide a description of the challenges facing the intelligence community.
We were concerned about the risk of surprise. In June of 2001, I attended the first NATO defense ministers meeting in the 21st century. I told my colleagues about Vice President Cheney's appearance before the Senate for his confirmation hearings as secretary of defense in March of 1989. During his hearings, a wide range of security issues were discussed, but not one person uttered the word "Iraq." And yet within a year, Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and that word was in every headline.
I wondered what word might come to dominate my term in office that wasn't raised by members of the Senate committee during my hearings. Three months later we learned the answer: Afghanistan and al Qaeda.
These were the kinds of threats that we were preparing to meet and deal with in the months before September 11th, and during those early months we made progress in the effort to transform for the error of surprise and unconventional threats.
Our actions included a congressionally required quadrennial defense review, completed just days before the 9/11 attacks, where we laid out the transformation objectives of the department, identified as our first priority the defense of U.S. territory against a broad range of asymmetric threats, in short, homeland defense.
We developed a concept for new defense planning guidance and new contingency planning guidance.
We found that many if not most of the war plans that existed were in need of updating and that the process for developing contingency plans was too lengthy.
In May of 2001, we began the process of streamlining the way the department prepares war plans, reducing the time to develop plans and increasing the frequency at which the assumptions would be updated.
I should add that for much of that period, most of the senior officials selected by the president had not been cleared or confirmed by the Senate. Nonetheless, the few new civilians and the many civilian officials who stayed on to help and the military leaders did a great deal of work.
Indeed, because we were doing these things in the department as well as in the National Security Council policy review, we were better prepared to respond when the 9/11 attack came.
The day of September 11th, the morning, I was hosting a meeting for some members of Congress. And I remember stressing how important it was for our country to be prepared for the unexpected. Shortly thereafter, someone handed me a note saying a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Shortly thereafter, I was in my office with a CIA briefer and I was told that a second plane had hit the other tower. Shortly thereafter, at 9:38, the Pentagon shook with an explosion of then unknown origin.
I went outside to determine what had happened. I was not there long because I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.
On my return from the crash site and before going to the executive support center, I had one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president.
I went to the National Military Command Center where General Myers, who was the vice chairman of the chiefs at that time, had just returned from Capitol Hill. We discussed, and I recommended, raising the defense condition level from five to three and the force protection level. I joined the air threat telephone conference call that was already in progress. And one of the first exchanges was with the vice president. He informed me of the president's authorization to shoot down hostile aircraft coming to Washington D.C.
My thoughts went to the pilots of the military aircraft who might be called upon to execute such an order. It was clear that they needed rules of engagement telling them what they could and could not do. They needed clarity.
There were standing rules of engagement, but not rules of engagement that were appropriate for this first-time situation where civilian aircraft were seized and being used as missiles to attack inside the United States. It may well be the first time in history that U.S. armed forces in peacetime have been given the authority to fire on fellow Americans going about their lawful business.
We went to work to refine the standing rules of engagement. I spent the remainder of the morning and the afternoon participating in the air threat conference, talking to the president, the vice president, General Myers and others and thinking about the way forward.
During the course of the day, the president indicated he expected us to provide him with robust options for military responses to that attack.
In my first weeks in office, I had prepared a list of guidelines to be weighed before committing U.S. forces to combat, and I shared them with the president back in January or February of 2001.
The guidelines included a number of points, including one that -- if the proposed action truly necessary, if lives are going to be put at risk, there must be a darn good reason, and that all instruments of national power should be engaged before, during and after any use of military force, and that it's important not to dumb down what's needed by promising not to do things, for example, by saying we won't use ground forces.
A few days after September 11th, I wrote down some thoughts on terrorism and the new kind of war that had been visited upon us. I noted it will take a sustained effort to root the terrorists out, that the campaign is a marathon, not a sprint, that no terrorists are terrorist networks such as al Qaeda is going to be conclusively dealt with by cruise missiles or bombers.
The coalitions that are being fashioned will not be fixed; rather, they'll change and evolve. And it should not be surprising that some countries will be supportive of some activities in which the U.S. is engaged, while other countries may not. And we can live with that.
And this is not a war against Islam. The al Qaeda terrorists are extremists whose views are antithetical to those of most Muslims. "There are millions of Muslims around the world who we expect to become allies in this struggle," unquote. In the following days, we prepared options to deal with the Taliban and Afghanistan. And the president issued an ultimatum to the Taliban. When they failed to comply, he initiated the global war on terror and directed the Department of Defense to carry out Operation Enduring Freedom against the al Qaeda and their affiliates and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that harbored and supported them.
This, of course, was a Department of Defense where the armed forces of the United States had historically been organized, trained and equipped to fight armies, navies and air forces, not to chase down individual terrorists.
In the aftermath of September 11th, the department has pursued two tracks. We've prosecuted the global war on terror in concert with our agencies of the government and our coalition partners. In addition, we've continued -- we've had to continue, and, indeed, accelerate the work to transform the department so that it has the ability to meet and defeat the threats of the 21st century, different threats.
There has been success on both fronts. The coalition has been successful in overthrowing two terrorist regimes, hunted down hundreds of terrorists and regime remnants, disrupted terrorist financing, disrupted terrorist cells on several continents.
We've also established Northern Command, a new command dedicated to defending the homeland.
We have expanded the Special Operations Command in significant ways and given them additional authorities, authorities they need today and will certainly need in the future.
We've established a new assistant secretary for homeland defense for the first time and an undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
The coalition's actions have sent a message to the world's terrorist states that harboring terrorists and the pursuit of weapons of mass murder carry with it unpleasant costs.
By contrast, countries like Libya that abandon the support of terrorism and the pursuit of those weapons can find an open path to better relations with the world's free nations.
In the period since September 11th, the administration, several committees of Congress and now this commission, have been examining what happened on that day.
A number of questions have been raised. Some have asked: When the administration came into office, was there consideration of how to deal with the USS Cole?
It's a fair question. One concern was that launching another cruise missile strike, months after the fact, might have sent a signal of weakness.
Instead, we implemented the recommendations of the Cole commission and began developing a more comprehensive approach to deal with al Qaeda, resulting in NSPD-9.
Some have asked: Why wasn't bin Laden taken out? And if he had been hit, could it have prevented September 11th?
I know of no actionable intelligence since January 20th that would have allowed the U.S. to capture or kill bin Laden.
It took 10 months to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and coalition forces had passed by the hole he was hiding in many, many times during those months. They were able to find him only after someone with specific knowledge told us precisely where he was.
What that suggests, it seems to me, is that it's exceedingly difficult to find a single individual who is determined not be found.
Second, even if bin Laden had been captured or killed in the weeks before September 11th, no one I know believes that it would necessarily have prevented September 11th.
Killing bin Laden would not have removed al Qaeda's sanctuary in Afghanistan. Moreover, the sleeper cells that flew the aircraft into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon were already in the United States months before the attack.
Indeed, if actionable intelligence had appeared -- which it did not -- 9/11 would likely still have happened. And ironically, much of the world would likely have called the September 11th attack an al Qaeda retaliation for the U.S. provocation of capturing or killing bin Laden.
Some have asked whether there were plans to go after al Qaeda in Afghanistan before 9/11, and if so, why weren't they successfully implemented.
I recently reviewed a briefing that I'm told was presented to me in early February.
The briefing I saw was not something that I would characterize as a comprehensive plan with al Qaeda -- to deal with al Qaeda and the sanctuary in Afghanistan. It was a series of concepts, or approaches.
I'm told that I asked the briefer many questions and that the team went back to work on refining it, and that the work they did in the ensuing months helped to prepare the department for the successful invasion of Afghanistan soon after September 11th.
The NSC was at work during the spring and summer of 2001 developing the new counterterrorism policy needed to inform new war plans. And we are at the same time in the process of overhauling U.S. contingency plans.
Some have asked: Could the developed of the armed Predator have been accelerated?
First, let me say that any suggestion that the Predator was delayed by policy discussions or debates would be inaccurate. I know George Tenet plans to talk about this tomorrow. But I'm told that when the development plans were presented, it was estimated that it would take several years. They were presented, I believe, to General John Jumper in one of his previous posts.
In fact, it was done in less than a year. And the armed Predator was deployed and played a role in the success of Operation Enduring Freedom, even before it had been officially certified as ready for development.
I've been asked to make a few comments about the future.
Today we face adversaries who take advantage of our open borders and our open societies to attack people. They hide in plain sight. They used institutions of everyday life -- planes, trains, cars, letters, e-mails -- as weapons to kill innocent civilians. And they can attack with handsful of people at a cost of a few hundred thousands of dollars, while it requires many tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars to defend against such attacks.
Rooting out and dealing with terrorist enemies is tough. It will require that we think very differently than we did in the last century.
The recommendations that this commission may make could help. For example, you might consider some of the following thoughts.
How can we strengthen the intelligence community and get better arranged for the 21st century challenges?
I've heard arguments in the wake of 9/11 that we need to consolidate all the intelligence agencies and put them under a single intelligence czar. In my view, that would be doing the country a great disservice.
There's some activities, like intelligence and research and development, where it's a serious mistake to think that you were advantaged by relying on a single, centralized source. In fact, fostering multiple centers of information has proven to be better at promoting creativity and challenging conventional thinking.
There may be ways we can strengthen intelligence, but centralization is most certainly not one of them.
A possibility might be to consider reducing stovepipes. It's true that the more people who know something, the morel likely that that information will be compromised. We know that. It's a dilemma. There's a tension there.
We need to weigh that risk of expanding access and thereby risking compromise against the danger of keeping information so tightly stovepiped that people who need to integrate it with other information are kept in the dark.
I should add that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between information that contributes to so-called national intelligence as opposed to information that is necessary for military intelligence and focuses on the battlefield.
I would say that just as it would be unwise to concentrate everything under a single intelligence czar in an effort to improve national intelligence, it would be equally undesirable to concentrate everything under the Department of Defense so that one could improve military intelligence. It seems to me that either would be an unfortunate approach.
How can we wage war not just on terrorist networks, but also on the ideology of hate that they spread?
The global war on terror will, in fact, be long. And I am convinced that victory in the war on terror will require a positive effort as well as an aggressive battle.
We need to find creative ways to stop the next generation of terrorist from being recruited, trained and deployed to kill innocent people. For every terrorist that coalition forces capture or kill, still others are being recruited and trained.
To win the war on terror, we have to win the war of ideas: the battle for the minds of those who are being recruited and financed by terrorist networks across the globe.
Can we transform the nomination and confirmation process so there are not long gaps with key positions unfilled every time there is a new administration? As I have indicated, for most of the seven months leading up to September 11th, the department's work was done without many of the senior officials responsible for critical issues.
We ought to consider whether in the 21st century we can afford the luxury of taking so long to put in place the senior officials for national security and try to fashion the necessary reforms for the clearance, nomination and confirmation process.
Another thought: Could our nation benefit from a Goldwater- Nichols-like law for the executive branch of the U.S. government. If you think about it, the Goldwater-Nichols Act in the 1980s helped move Department of Defense towards a more effective joint approach to war- fighting. It was a good thing.
But to do so, each of the services had to give up some of their turf, some of their authority. And today one could argue that the interagency process is such that the executive branch is stovepiped much like the four services were 20 years ago. And ask the question: Could we usefully apply that concept of the Goldwater-Nichols law to the government as a whole?
Let me conclude by saying that despite the work of the coalition, terrorist attacks continue, most recently in Madrid. It's almost certain that in the period ahead, somewhere more terrorist attacks will be attempted.
What can be done?
Not long ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon, when the suicide bomb truck attacked the Marine barracks. And that blast killed more than 240 Americans.
Soon after that attack, President Reagan and Secretary of State Shultz asked me to serve as the Middle East envoy for a period. That experience taught me lessons about the nature of terrorism that are relevant today as we prosecute the global war on terror.
After the attack, one seemingly logical response was to put a cement barricade around the buildings to prevent more truck bombings -- a very logical thing to do. And it had the effect of preventing more truck bombings.
But the terrorists very quickly figured out how to get around those barricades, and they began lobbing rocket-propelled grenades over the cement barricades. And the reaction then was to hunker down even more, and they started seeing buildings along the Cornish that runs along the sea in Beirut draped with metal wire mesh coming down from several stories high so that when rocket-propelled grenades hit the mesh, they would bounce off, doing little damage.
It worked, again, but only briefly. And the terrorists again adapted. They watched the comings and goings of embassy personnel and began hitting soft targets. They killed people on their way to and from work.
So for every defense, first barricades then wire mesh, the terrorists moved to another avenue of attack.
One has to note that the terrorists had learned important lessons: that terrorism is a great equalizer, it's a force multiplier, it's cheap, it's deniable, it yields substantial results, it's low risk and it's often without penalty.
They had learned that a single attack by influencing public opinion and morale can alter the behavior of great nations.
Moreover, I said that free people had learned lessons as well: that terrorism is a form of warfare that must be treated as such. Simply standing in a defensive position, absorbing blows is not enough. It has to be attacked, and it has to be deterred.
That was 20 years ago.
When our nation was attacked on September 11th, the president recognized what had happened as an act of war and that it must be treated as such -- not a law enforcement matter.
He knew that weakness would only invite aggression, and that the only way to defeat terrorists was to take the war to them and to make clear to states that sponsor and harbor them that such actions would have consequences.
That's why we have forces risking their lives fighting terrorists today.
And to live as free people in the 21st century, we cannot think that we can hide behind concrete barriers or wire mesh. We cannot think that acquiesce or trying to make a separate peace with terrorists to leave us alone, but to go after our friends, will work.
Free people cannot live in fear and remain free.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THOMAS H. KEAN, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. Questioning will be led by Commissioner Kerrey, followed by Commissioner Gorton.
BOB KERREY, COMMISSION MEMBER: Well, Mr. Secretary, very good to see you again. You're still a terrific witness. My favorite witness ever.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
KERREY: First of all, I'd like to know how many cars it took to get all of you guys over here?
It's a big group.
Let me just read back to you what you said 20 years ago, Mr. Secretary, that simply standing in a defensive position absorbing blows is not enough, that terrorism must be deterred. And I say with great respect, it seems to me, up to 11 September, we were standing in a defensive position, taking blows. I mean, I'm going to give you the same line that I gave former Secretary Cohen when he was here earlier.
RUMSFELD: And I'm going to give you the same answers. I thought he did a good job.
KERREY: All right. Well, we'll see if they are the same answers. I mean, this was -- it wasn't just that we were attacked on the 11th of September, Mr. Secretary. It's the same group of people that hit the Cole on the 12th of October. Same group of people that tried to hit The Sullivans a few months before that. The same group of people that were responsible for millennium attacks that we had interrupted, and in Jordan. The same group of people that hit our East African embassy bombings on the 7th of August. And now we know believe the same group of people that were responsible for other attacks against the United States.
This was an army led by Osama bin Laden who declared war on us on the 23rd of February, 1998. And we had all kinds of reasons, I've heard them all, and they're all wonderful, as to why the only military attack we had was a single attack on the 20th of August, 1998, and other than that there wasn't anything.
And 19 men, as a consequence, defeated us utterly, with less than a half million dollars.
I ask you, wouldn't a declaration of war, either by President Clinton or President Bush prior to that, not just to go after bin Laden, but to say to the DOD, CIA and other agencies, you've got to work together, you've got to put together a terrorist list of radical Islamists that we believe are connected to these things to prevent from coming into the United States of America. You've got to make sure you consider all options and possibilities that might be used against us.
You said you received no specific intelligence about the possibility of a plane being used as a bomb.
Mr. Secretary, you're well-known as somebody who thinks about all kinds of terrible possibilities that might happen that nobody else is thinking about. I mean, that's what you do so well when you're going into a difficult situation.
I mean, it seems to me that a declaration of war, either by President Clinton or by President Bush, prior to 9/11 would have mobilized the government in a way that at least would have reduced substantially the possibility that 9/11 would have happened. Do you agree or not?
That's a different question than I gave Secretary Cohen. I'm getting better at this.
RUMSFELD: It is. I was going to use his answer and now I can't.
Possibly, let me put it that way. The problem with it -- it sounds good the way you said it. I try to put myself in other people's shoes. And try to put yourself in the shoes of a new administration that had just arrived. And time had passed. We were in the process of bringing people on board. And the president said he wanted a new policy for counterterrorism.
Making a declaration of war in February or March or April, for the sake of argument, without having fashioned the policy to follow it up, which they were working on, without having taken the kinds of steps in the Department of Defense to review contingency plans and get them up to date and get the assumptions current for the 21st century, without having tried to strengthen the Special Operations Forces, it seems to me might have been a bold stroke that would have sounded good. But when not followed up with the kind of capabilities that we were able to follow it up with on October 7th, when we put forces and capabilities into Afghanistan, might -- so it might not have been a great idea. I don't think it would have stopped September 11th.
KERREY: Let me put it this way to you. Let's say that the Federal Aviation Administration had heeded some warnings about the possibility of a hijacking and had altered the procedures in American airports to prevented these hijackers from being able to get on the planes in the first place; or had different procedures on the airports on the morning of 11th of September to make certain the pilots were locked up front and that the passengers didn't remained in their seats and cooperate.
Let's say that 9/11 hadn't happened. Would you have gone to the American people and carried out the strategy that you say you worked on all year long and came up with on the 4th of September? Because the president had to go to the American people and said, we're going to work to eliminate the al Qaeda network, we're going to use all national elements of the power to do so, diplomatic, military, economic, intel, information, law enforcement.
And we're going to eliminate sanctions for al Qaeda and related terrorist networks. And if diplomatic efforts fail to do so, we're going to consider additional measures. Earlier in your testimony, you said all the reasons why to do such a thing would provoke angry response. Would the administration have put this policy in place were it not for 9/11?
RUMSFELD: I believe we would have. One can't announce that for certainty, because 9/11 happened. But it had been worked on, developed and was ready to go into place.
KERREY: Well, then doesn't...
RUMSFELD: In June and July when the intelligence spike took place, there were a good number of steps that were taken. My responsibilities, as you know, were overseas and not domestically. But forces were alerted. Embassies were alerted, as Secretary Powell indicated today. There were a number of steps taken by the Transportation Department with respect to airlines and cautions and warnings there.
So it's not as though the intelligence that was gathering had not been understood and address and a great number of steps in addition to the development of the policy taken.
KERREY: I've got to say, Mr. Secretary, if that's the case -- and I trust you, I believe you on this point -- then I don't think it's a good argument to say that the American people wouldn't have accepted something prior to 9/11 that was unpopular, because you just said that absent 9/11 you would have recommended to the president to put in place a policy that would have been exceptionally unpopular and difficult to sell.
I believe he should have, by the way, regardless of whether or not 9/11 happened. But it doesn't work. The argument falls on its face if you say, "Please understand, we couldn't have done this before 9/11," if you say you would have done it absent 9/11.
RUMSFELD: I understand.
KERREY: All right. Dr. Rice has said that the national security team was briefed on the threat of al Qaeda in the transition and that it was well understood. This is what she said in The Washington Post yesterday: It was well understood by the president and his national security team, the principle.
In the interview that we did with you, you seemed not to be as clear as Dr. Rice was, or at least Secretary Powell was. And by the way, I'm very sympathetic to that given that the Department of Defense did not have that kind of authority over counterterrorism activity. So perhaps that would be the reason you were not. But in the interview, you indicated that you didn't recall that briefing. And in your testimony you also referenced -- I love to hear that even you have moments that you forget, you were at a briefing and people were telling you something. Do you recall the briefings on al Qaeda by Secretary Cohen and...
RUMSFELD: Secretary Cohen commented on it today. We did have a one or two meetings. He had a long list of items. There must have been 40- or 50-plus items. I have given it to the committee.
The first item was one that concerned him the most. And it involved a sensitive item that was very much on his mind that was terrorism-related, but to my recollection not Al-Qaida-related.
KERREY: It seems to me that Dr. Rice is overstating the case a bit in that statement saying that the threat of al Qaeda was well understood by the president and his entire national security team.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't think that's an overstatement.
RUMSFELD: Certainly the people in the administration who came in didn't arrive out of cellophane packages. They...
KERREY: But you didn't get a briefing by the counterterrorist and security group nor by SOLIC?
RUMSFELD: I did not get a briefing that Secretary Powell got, no. I was briefed by members of the joint staff and other people in the policy departments of the Department of Defense.
KERREY: Dr. Rice also said that she wasn't satisfied with the off-the-shelf military response options that were available after the Cole, the so-called tit-for-tat options that I think she was referring to 20 August 1998 against the camps in Afghanistan.
Did she ask for military options? Or were there military options requested during your term, because our investigation shows that there were no new military plans developed against al Qaeda or bin Laden prior to September 11th?
RUMSFELD: I think it's accurate to say -- General Myers, you may want to chime in here. But I think it's accurate to say that there were military options. And I characterize it as options and not a comprehensive plan to deal with al Qaeda and countries that harbor al Qaeda, but options to react -- response options, military response options to deal with specific terrorist events.
And I was briefed on them, as I indicated in my testimony. And I suspect that Dr. Rice was briefed on them. I can just say that I don't remember ever seeing, in the first instance, I don't remember anyone being briefed on military proposals to react to something where they were fully satisfied. Nor do I ever remember military people being fully satisfied with the intelligence available. That's the nature of the world we live in. Dick, do you want to comment?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Well, I would just add that we did, after the Cole, continue some of the planning that had gone on before, since '98 actually, and developed some additional options. I think we briefed the committee on those, or at least the staff.
KERREY: I'm confused when the national security adviser, in the Post, says that we didn't have an al Qaeda plan. No plan was given to the new administration on how to deal with al Qaeda.
And then she goes on to say that was not satisfied with the off- the-shelf options that were available. Especially in the second case, we don't see any evidence that during the Bush administration there were any new requests that came to DOD asking for new military options. If there was dissatisfaction with the national security adviser, you would think she would have sent a request over for alternative military options.
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, my recollection is that Sandy Berger has agreed with Dr. Rice that a plan for the al Qaeda was not handed from one administration to the other.
And second, my understand is that the joint staff, after I was briefed and asked a lot of questions, went back down and continued working on those response plans throughout that period, and that that was one of the reasons why we were in a position to respond so promptly after September 11th.
KERREY: Is that true?
MYERS: That's correct.
KERREY: I said to Secretary Powell earlier, but I'll say it to you as well, Mr. Secretary. I don't understand this "We're waiting for a plan" thing at all. I really don't.
I mean, we're dealing with an individual who's led a military effort against the United States for 10 years and has serially killed a significant number of Americans over that period of time. Why in God's name have I got to wait eight months to get a plan?
I mean, I'm very sympathetic to the problems that you've mention. Paul wasn't on board I guess till March. And your last appointment, I think you had in your testimony, wasn't there, your key appointment wasn't there until August or something like that.
I'm very sympathetic to all the difficulties of transition. But I still get in my head: Why do we need a brand new military, a full- blown plan like we're building a house or something here?
RUMSFELD: Well, let me just make one comment and maybe someone else would like to respond. Afghanistan was harboring the al Qaeda. Afghanistan was something like 8,000 miles from the United States. It was surrounded by countries that were not particularly friendly to the United States of America.
Afghanistan, as I said publicly on one occasion, didn't have a lot of targets. I mean, you can go from an overhead and attack Afghanistan, and in a very short order, you run out of targets that are lucrative. You can pound the rubble in al Qaeda training camps 15 times and not do much damage. They can put tents right back up.
The country has suffered for decades in drought, in civil war, in occupation by the Soviet Union. And trying to deal with them from the air, in my view -- and that is essentially what the courses of action were that I saw...
KERREY: I appreciate that, Mr. Secretary. But you said earlier that even absent 9/11 your strategy would have been to eliminate the al Qaeda network, to use all elements of national power to do so, to eliminate the sanctuaries for al Qaeda and related terrorist networks. I appreciate that.
Is it a tough mission? Yes. But your declaratory earlier was that you would carried that out even absent 9/11.
RUMSFELD: And I would say that that's one of the reasons that Secretary Powell and I and others in the department, in the government spent time connecting with countries in that part of the world in ways that were unusual and distinctly different than had been the case previously, from the very first day of the administration.
KERREY: My time's up. Off to Senator Gorton.
KEAN: Senator Gorton?
SLADE GORTON, COMMISSION MEMBER: Mr. Secretary, on page 10 of your written statement, you express what I think is justified frustration in the extended period of time it took you to get a team in place with which to make these decisions. You list nine of your senior staff, the earliest of whom was confirmed on the 3rd of May 2001, and the last of whom, interestingly enough, an assistant secretary for international security policy, not until August 6th. And you say that the confirmation system -- that kind of confirmation system and those delays just don't work in the 21st century. I can greatly sympathize with you on that, but you leave out one very important factor. When were those nine people nominated and actually sent to the Senate?
RUMSFELD: Well, I wasn't suggesting in this that I -- in fact, I hope I phrased it more elegantly than you did.
My point here, I hope -- my point, whether I made it well or not, my point is, not simply the Senate confirmation, but the clearance process, the entire process, finding them, putting them through the FBI, putting them through multiple ethics. It took weeks for people to fill out their ethics forms. It cost a fortune for some people to fill out their ethics form. Then you have to go from the one in the executive branch to the one in the United States Senate and have that filled out in different forms.
Some of you may have been through this. It's an amazing process.
And then some guy walks in and gives you a drug test.
It is not just the Senate, although the Senate can be a problem, with all respect.
GORTON: Thank you. Thank you for that clarification.
So in your view, it's the whole process.
RUMSFELD: Entirely, yes.
GORTON: From a new administration finding who they want, getting them through various clearances and then the Senate. But we don't know here how long the Senate part of that took in any one of these cases.
RUMSFELD: Well, I know. And I could give it to you if you're interested.
GORTON: I think I would be interested.
RUMSFELD: Well, we tried to parse it out to see how long each piece took. And the Senate is just a part of it.
GORTON: Thank you.
On page 16 of your statement, and you've referred to this in connection with Senator Kerrey's questions, you ask and answer the question with respect to why nothing was done with respect to the attack on the Cole in the Bush administration. And you say, "In fact, to do it four months later might have then sent a signal of weakness."
Now, were the reasons for no specific response to the Cole, one, that you were still uncertain about who was responsible to it; two, that by the time you were in office, say in February of 2002, it was simply too late to respond specifically to an incident that had taken place the previous October; or three, that there just wasn't anything to shoot at?
RUMSFELD: Let me respond this way: First of all, it was seven and a half months. Someone earlier had specified that it was all year, which is not really the case. It was 7.5 months between the day the president was sworn in and the day of September 11th, 7.75 months, for the sake of precision. You say nothing was done. A great deal was done. The Cole commission did a good job. They made a whole series of recommendations and the Department of Defense implemented those recommendations. In my view, that is not nothing.
You're right, as the time passed, two things were happening. Time was passing since the event of the Cole attack where 17 Americans and military personnel were killed. Time passed, and we became farther and farther away from that event.
And the other thing that was happening is that the policy was being developed to deal with al Qaeda and the country that was harboring them.
Last, and as you got closer to that, and you got farther away from the Cole event, it became logical, it seems to me, to look more toward the comprehensive approach than some sort of a repeat of what had happened after the embassy bombings or after some of the earlier events which, without criticizing the responses that took place then, the fact that they -- that had been all there was led us, me, I should say, to feel very deeply that the president ought not to simply fire off cruise missiles, that in the event he was going to make a response, he had to put people on the ground; he had to put people at risk; he had to show a seriousness of purpose or the administration would be seen as a continuum from the lobbying cruise missiles after an attack with relatively modest effect.
GORTON: Your statement, both oral and written in following up on that is quite impressive with respect to the preparation for a broader policy that took place in the seven months prior to 9/11. And on September 4th, there was a fairly definitive recommendation which you say would almost certainly have been adopted even in the absence of 9/11.
RUMSFELD: No, I think I said that I would have favored adopting it. I don't want to prejudge what would have happened.
GORTON: All right. I'll modify the question of that point. That program, as we understand it, had three parts. First, there would be one more diplomatic attempt with the Taliban to see if they would give up Osama bin Laden. Second, we would begin to arm the Northern Alliance and various tribes in Afghanistan to stir up trouble there and hope that perhaps they could capture Osama bin Laden.
And third, if those didn't work, there would be a military response that would be substantial, much more than, you know, lobbying cruise missiles into the desert. But as we understand it, this was seen as a three-year program, if we had to go to the third stage. My question is, given World Trade Center one, given the embassy bombings, given the millennium plot, given the Cole, given the declaration of war by Osama bin Laden, what made you think that we had the luxury of that much time?
Even seven months, much less three years, before we could cure this particular problem. RUMSFELD: Well, let me answer two ways. Number one, I didn't come up with the three years. I tend to scrupulously avoid predicting that I am smart enough to know how long something's going to take because I know I don't know. Where that number came from, I don't know.
In fact, dealing with the terrorism threat is going to take a lot longer than three years. And in fact, dealing with the Afghanistan piece of it took a lot less, as you point out.
It seems to me that the -- it's interesting that you cite that because in fact, the president and Secretary Powell made an attempt early on, one last try, to separate the Taliban from the al Qaeda, and it failed. Not surprisingly, they'd been rather stiff. But it failed flat.
GORTON: It even failed after 9/11, didn't it?
RUMSFELD: That's my point. After 9/11 it failed flat.
And the other concern we had was that we had precious little information about the groups in Afghanistan. We had enough information that there were people knowledgeable who were concerned that if all we did was help the Northern Alliance, as opposed to some other elements in the country, we may end up being quite unsuccessful, and that the goal was to try to get a broader base of support in the country. And that took some time.
And the part you left out was that we decided, I decided, the president decided, everyone decided quite early that we had to put U.S. forces in that country. And that was not a part of that plan. That was something that came along after September 11th.
GORTON: Well, Mr. Secretary, that's a good answer. But it isn't an answer to the question that I asked you.
RUMSFELD: My question is I don't know...
GORTON: The question...
RUMSFELD: The three years, I just don't know.
GORTON: The question that I asked you was: What made you think even when you took over and got these first briefings, given the history of al Qaeda and its successful attacks on Americans that we had the luxury of even seven months before we could make any kind of response, much less three years?
RUMSFELD: And my answer was on point. I said I didn't come up with three years, and I can't defend that number.
I don't know where that came from.
With respect to seven months, I've answered. My testimony today lays out what was done during that period. Do you have -- you phrase it, do you have the luxury of seven months? In reflecting on what happened on September 11th, the question is, obviously, the Good Lord willing, things would have happened prior to that that could have stopped it.
But something to have stopped that would have had to happen months and months and months beforehand, not five minutes or not one month or two months or three months.
And the counter argument, it seems to me, is do you have the luxury of doing what was done before and simply just heaving some cruise missiles into the thing and not doing it right? I don't know. We thought not. It's a judgment.
GORTON: Let me ask you the same question that I asked of Senator Powell. At one level, you could claim, but you're too modest and too cautious to claim, that your policies since 9/11 have been successful, that is to say there has not been another successful terrorist attack, you know, on -- you know, on the United States.
We all know, as Senator Powell pointed out, that that risk is still there, and it's going to be there for as long as any of us can imagine. But none the less, we've now gone two and a half years without any such attack.
What do you think or how do you evaluate our provisional success in that connection? How much of it is just luck? How much of it is hardened targets, the steps we've taken for homeland security? How much of it is more effective intelligence and that prevention, both through your department and elsewhere?
How much of it is due to the fact that we've attacked the source and to a large extent in Afghanistan at least eliminated it?
Give me your own views as to what you think we've done right, and the importance of those things that we've done right. And how much have we ended or reduced the amount of terrorism in the world itself?
And how much have we just displaced it and caused it to take place in other places?
RUMSFELD: As a former pilot, one of the things you always did was you never talked about the fact there hadn't been a flight accident for a long time.
GORTON: That's true.
RUMSFELD: And with good reason. You start doing that and something happens.
The fact is, a terrorist can attack any time, any place, using any technique. And we can't defend everywhere at every moment against every technique. And we could have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world tomorrow.
And we have to recognize that. This is a tough business that we're in. And it is difficult, and it's challenging. Now, to the good side. A 90-nation coalition is a big thing, the fact that all of those countries are cooperating, sharing intelligence, helping to find bank accounts, helping to put pressure on terrorists coming across their borders, helping to put pressure on things moving across their borders. Is it perfect? No. Are things still porous? Yes. Is money still getting there? Yes.
But everything is harder. Everything is more difficult to day. It's tougher to recruit. It's tougher to train. It's tougher to retain. It's tougher to finance. It's tougher to move things. It's tougher to communicate with each other for those folks.
Someone asked me if Osama bin Laden is masterminding all of this. And I said, you know, who knows. But if I were in his shoes, I think I'd be spending an awful lot of time trying to not get caught. Most of his time's probably spent trying not to get caught. And so he is busy, and that's a good thing. And there has been a lot of pressure.
How to put a value on that, I don't know.
What worries me is the last point I mentioned in my prepared remarks and that was this issue of: How many people are coming in the intake? How many people are being trained to go out and kill innocent men, women and children?
We've got a lot of good things going on, capturing and killing and putting pressure on terrorists today. And every day that cooperation within our government and between 90 nations gets better and better and better. The intelligence fusion cells that are taking place, the cooperative arrangements between the United States and other militaries, the cooperative arrangements between the Department of Defense and the CIA, every day they get better.
But at the same time, we know of certain knowledge that money is going to madrassas schools that are training people to kill people. And that's a problem.
GORTON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Commissioner Ben-Veniste?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, COMMISSION MEMBER: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. There are a number of different questions I'd like to ask, but my time is limited.
I'd like to first mention something that Commissioner Gorton brought up, and that is the question of transition.
And I think this commission ought to have a recommendation, particularly with respect to the intelligence community and those Cabinet agencies that are charged with protecting the safety of the United States in terms of the way the transition takes place.
It seems as though things are done on the fly. People have other objectives. They have many things to do coming in. It appears, from what we have heard, that the administration officials leaving government in the Clinton administration, they were willing to be generous with their time, but they didn't always connect up with the right people, it seems.
And I think we ought to have a recommendation with respect to institutionalizing transition in these times which require immediate response to issues.
I want to focus on two things, I guess. One, I'm astounded that this past week, a week ago, we saw on television a videotape of the Predator. Now, the Predator, we were told, was of such a high security classification that the classification itself was secret. We couldn't even mention the name of the classification. And I just don't understand how a videotape of the Predator comes into the public access in that way. I just make that as a commentary.
With respect to your comment about domestic intelligence and what we knew as of September 10th, 2001, your statement was that you knew of no intelligence to suggest that planes would be hijacked in the United States and flown into buildings.
Well, it is correct that the United States intelligence community had a great deal of intelligence suggesting that the terrorists, back since 1994, had plans, discussed plans, to use airplanes as weapons, loaded with fuel, loaded with bombs, loaded with explosives. The Algerians had a plan in '94 to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower.
The Bojinka plot in '95 discussed flying an explosive-laden small plane into CIA headquarters. Certainly CIA was well aware of that.
There were plans in '97 using a UAV. In '98, an al Qaeda- connected group talked about flying a commercial plane into the World Trade Center. In '98, there was a plot broken up by Turkish intelligence involving the use of a plane as a weapon. In '99, there was a plot involving exploding a plane at an airport. Also in '99, there was a plot regarding an explosive-laden hang-glider. In '99 or in 2000, there was a plot regarding hijacking a 747. And in August of 2001, there was information received by our intelligence community regarding flying a plane into the Nairobi embassy, our Nairobi embassy.
And so I suggest that when you have this threat spike in the summer of 2001 that said something huge was going to happen and the FAA circulates, as you mentioned, a warning which does nothing to alert people on the ground to the potential threat of jihadist hijacking, which only, it seems to me, despite the fact that they read into the congressional record the potential for a hijacking threat in the United States, in the summer of 2001, it never gets to any actionable level.
Nobody at the airports is alerted to any particular threat. Nobody flying the planes takes action of a defensive posture.
I understand that going after al Qaeda overseas is one thing. But protecting the United States is another thing. And it seems to me that a statement that we could not conceive of such a thing happening really does not reflect the state of our intelligence community as of 2001, sir.
RUMSFELD: A couple of comments. I quite agree with you, there were a number of reports about potential hijacking. I even remember comments about UAVs.
I even have seen things about private aircraft hitting something. But I do not recall ever seeing anything in the period since I came back to government about the idea of taking a commercial airliner and using it as a missile. I just don't recall seeing it. And maybe you do, Dick?
MYERS: No, I do not.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, the fact is that our staff has -- and the joint inquiry before us, I must say -- has come up with eight or 10 examples which are well-known in the intelligence community. My goodness, there was an example of an individual who flew a small plane and landed right next to the White House.
RUMSFELD: I remember.
BEN-VENISTE: Crash landed that. The CIA knew that there was a plot to fly an explosive-laden plane into CIA headquarters.
So we do, within our intelligence community, have very much in mind the fact that this is a potential technique. You put that together with the fact that there is a heightened threat level. People like Director Tenet, people like Richard Clarke, are running around, as they say, with their hair on fire, in the summer of 2001, knowing something big is going to happen. And yet everybody is looking overseas.
RUMSFELD: And I made two comments on that. One, the spike in that summer, you're correct. There was a good deal of concern about it. And you suggested that warnings did not go out. My recollection is a lot of warnings did go out.
Now, I have nothing to do with warnings inside the United States. We had to deal with warnings of force protection ex-U.S. And the State Department, Colin testified to that this morning, that the State Department had a whole lot of alerts. So there was attention to that.
The second thing I would say is, the -- how to put this -- in three years, since I've been back in the Pentagon, there have been people running around with their hair on fire a lot of times. It isn't like it's once or twice or thrice. We are seeing so much intelligence, so much information that is of deep concern, that we have scrambled airplanes. We have sent ships to sea to protect them. We have gone up to a high level of alert on a number of occasions because of these types of spikes in intel activity. In most instances when something does not follow, maybe because we went to high alert, maybe because they go to school on us.
BEN-VENISTE: Let me just follow it up briefly to say that we knew that terrorists had attacked us in '93 at the World Trade Center.
We knew in the millennium plot in December of '99 that al Qaeda had an operative sleeper in the United States, or coming to the United States, who planned to blow up LAX. That was interdicted. They were on high alert during the millennium plot, and they thought about domestic terrorism in that regard.
And now, as we get into 2001, it just seems to me like we're looking at the white truck that had everyone captivated during the hunt for the sniper. Everybody was looking in the wrong direction. Why weren't people thinking about protecting the United States?
We knew that there were two al Qaeda operatives in the United States. And yet that information does not get circulated. It doesn't get to the people at the airports. It doesn't go on "Most Wanted" on television where people could identify such individuals.
We know that a man named Moussaoui has been identified as somebody who took lessons on just how to steer an airplane, not how to take it off, not how to land it, just how to steer it.
So it seems to me when you make the statement, sir, that we didn't know that planes might be used as weapons in the summer of 2001, I just have to take issue with that.
RUMSFELD: Well, I didn't say we didn't know. I said I didn't know. And if I just was handed a civil aviation circular that people did know. And they sent it out on June 22nd, 2001.
BEN-VENISTE: They sent it out. But nobody did a thing about it. Nobody got anybody at our borders to identify individuals who might be suspect, to give them greater scrutiny.
RUMSFELD: Well, may I...
BEN-VENISTE: Somebody was found simply through the good works of a Customs agent who used his native intelligence and picked up probably the 20th hijacker in that way.
RUMSFELD: Let me put something into some context. The Department of Defense, as Senator Kerrey has indicated earlier, did not have responsibility for the borders. It did not have responsibility for the airports.
BEN-VENISTE: I understand that.
RUMSFELD: And the fact that I might not have known something ought not to be considered unusual. Our task was to be oriented out of this country...
BEN-VENISTE: I understand that.
RUMSFELD: ... and to defend against attacks from abroad. And a civilian aircraft was a law enforcement matter to be handled by law enforcement authorities and aviation authorities. And that is the way our government was organized and arranged. So those questions you're posing are good ones. And they are valid, and they ought to be asked. But they ought to be asked of people who had the statutory responsibility for those things. And it seems to me that you've had that opportunity.
BEN-VENISTE: The only reason I put them to you, sir, was because of your comment in your opening statement.
RUMSFELD: Right. I was confessing ignorance.
KEAN: Thank you very much, Commissioner.
All right, Commissioner Gorelick?
JAMIE S. GORELICK, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Secretary and your colleagues for being here today and for sharing your thoughts with us.
I'd like to start where Commissioner Ben-Veniste left off in his dialogue with you.
If one looks at the PDDs and the SEIBs that were available to you personally. If all you do...
RUMSFELD: What's a SEIB?
GORELICK: I'm sorry. It's the senior executive intelligence brief.
So these are the daily briefings that go to people at your level and just below you. If you look at the headlines, only the headlines of those in the period that has come to be known as the summer of threat, it would set your hair on fire, not just George Tenet's hair on fire. I don't think it is fair to compare what all of the intelligence experts have said was an extraordinary spike that plateaued at a spiked level for months with spikes that happen, come and go and are routine.
You were right...
RUMSFELD: ... the PDD and shared that concern.
GORELICK: Pardon me?
RUMSFELD: I was seeing the PDD each morning and shared that concern.
GORELICK: Well, I expect that you would.
So now I would like to talk about the aspects that were in your control. I had a conversation with Secretary Wolfowitz's -- one of his predecessors, when the 1996 Olympics were being planned about what do we do when an aircraft is being hijacked and is flying into a stadium at the Olympics? What is the military's response? What is it's role?
And it has always been my assumption that even though, yes, you were looking out, that you have a responsibility to protect our airspace.
So my question is: In this summer of threat, what did you do to protect, let's just say the Pentagon, from attack? Where were our aircraft when a missile is heading toward the Pentagon? Surely that is within the Pentagon's responsibility to protect -- force protection, to protect our facilities, to protect something -- our headquarters, the Pentagon. Is there anything that we did at the Pentagon to prevent that harm in the spring and summer of '01?
RUMSFELD: First let me respond as to what the responsibility of the Department of Defense has been with a hijacking. As I said, it was a law enforcement issue. And the Department of Defense has had various understandings with FAA whereby when someone squawks "hijack," they have an arrangement with the Department of Defense that the military would send an airplane up and monitor the flight, but certainly in a hijack situation, did not have authority to shoot down a plane that was being hijacked.
The purpose of a hijack is to take the plane from one place to another place where it wasn't intended to be going, not to fly it into buildings.
Second, with respect to the defense of the Pentagon, you're quite right. The force protection responsibilities do fall on the military. And just to put it right up on the table, we're in the flight pattern for National Airport. There's a plane that goes by, you know, how many yards from my window, 50 times a day. I don't know how far it is. But anyone who's been in that office has heard it roar right by the window. There isn't any way to deal with that at all. And force protection tends to be force protection from the ground.
Dick, do you want to comment?
MYERS: I would just say that since the Cold War, the focus of North American Aerospace Defense Command was outward; it was not inward. The hijacking agreement with the FAA was as the secretary described it. It would be a call and a response to the hijack, but certainly not with the thought of shooting it down. It was to monitor, try to get it to follow instructions and then follow it to its ultimate destination, if we could.
GORELICK: That is consistent with the story that we have been told throughout the military. I would just say that, to me, again, you know, 20/20 hindsight is perfect. But if I were sitting at the Pentagon and seeing the kind of threats that were coming in that summer, I would say to myself, "Is business as usual appropriate?"
I mean, the question I have is whether you thought to say: Should we have defenses pre-positioned in a way that we don't? We know that our forces that our aircraft from NORAD came too late to the Pentagon.
MYERS: Sure, we changed our whole air defense posture at the end of the Cold War. We went from about 22 sites to down about 7, I believe, between the U.S. and Canada, purposely and at direction of senior leadership.
Let me just mention one other thing. The threat spike that I remember and that I recall from that summer of '01 were -- and the things that I was reading -- and I was the vice chairman then so I might not have gotten all of the PDDs, but I think I probably saw the intelligence eventually -- were external to the United States. That's where the threat was, and that's where we took action. And we sortied ships, we changed force protection conditions, particularly in Central Command, but other places around the world based on that intelligence. But I don't remember reading those documents to an internal threat.
RUMSFELD: And it certainly was not business as usual. When we saw those threats, a whole host of steps were taken by way of force protection.
GORELICK: May I ask one more question, Mr. Chairman?
We can't go into the content of the PDDs and the SEIBs here. And I can't even characterize them in order to ask you the next question that I would ask. So let me ask you this: Was it your understanding that the NORAD pilots who were circling over Washington D.C. that morning had indeed received a shoot-down order?
RUMSFELD: When I arrived in the command center, one of the first things I heard, and I was with you, was that the order had been given and that the pilots -- correction, not the pilots necessarily, but the command had been given the instructions that their pilots could, in fact, use their weapons to shoot down a commercial airliners filled with our people in the event that the aircraft appeared to be behaving in a threatening way and an unresponsive way.
GORELICK: Now, you make a distinction there between the command and the pilots. Was it your understanding that the pilots had received that order?
RUMSFELD: I'm trying to get in time because...
MYERS: Well, I think -- my understanding, I've talked to General Eberhart, commander now of NORAD, and I think he's briefed the staff. And I think what he told the staff, what he told me, as I recall, was that the pilots did -- at the appropriate point when the authority to engage civilian airliners was given, that the pilots knew that fairly quickly. I mean, it went down through the chain of command.
RUMSFELD: It was on a threat conference call that it was given, and everybody heard it simultaneously. The question then would be -- the reason I am hesitant is because we went through two or three iterations of the rules of engagement. And in the end, we ended up delegating that authority to, at the lowest level, I believe, to two stars.
RUMSFELD: And the pilot would then describe the situation to that level. To the extent that level had time, they would come up to General Eberhart. To the extent Eberhart had time, he would come up to me. And to the extent I had time, I might talk to the president, which in fact, I did do on several occasions during the remainder of the day with respect to international flights heading to this country that were squawking "hijack."
GORELICK: I'm just trying to understand whether it is your understanding that the NORAD pilots themselves, who were circling over Washington, as you referred to in your statement, whether they knew that they had authority to shoot down a plane. And if you don't know, it's fine to say that. You mentioned them in your statement, and I would like to know if you know the answer.
RUMSFELD: I do not know what they thought. In fact, I haven't talked to any of the pilots that were up there. I certainly was immediately concerned that we did know what they thought they could do.
And we began the process quite quickly of making changes to the standing rules of engagement, Dick Myers and I did, and then issuing that. And we then went back and revisited that question several times in the remaining week or two while we were still at various stages of alert. And we have since done that in connection with several other events such as the Prague summit.
GORELICK: As you know, we were not intending to address the issues of the day of in this hearing. And it is the subject of a full additional hearing, and we may be back to you with these questions with a more precise time line for you to look at.
Thank you very much.
KEAN: Thank you.
TIMOTHY J. ROEMER, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to just start by thanking you, Secretary Rumsfeld, General Myers and Secretary Wolfowitz for your strong leadership for our men and women across the world in the armed services in the battles that they are fighting every day to protect us from this jihadist threat. We are very appreciative of your time and your statements and your recommendations here for the 9/11 commission.
Secretary Rumsfeld, my first question for you is a simple one. Did you consider al Qaeda to be a first-order threat? And particularly in the spring and the summer of 2001, how did you practice this priority?
RUMSFELD: I and others in the administration did consider it a serious threat. The intelligence -- correction, it goes back through history, their prior behavior, the statements that had been indicated by Senator Kerrey and the intelligence threat reports that one would read as we went along drove one to a conclusion that they were active, that they had been successful in some attacks and that they were planning, talking, chattering and hoping to do various types of damage.
I tried in my remarks to lay out how we addressed the concern. One level was at the National Security Council level and the planning and the process there. A second was to address the department as a whole and see if we couldn't strengthen our special forces, strengthen our agility, develop the ability to move faster, to move with smaller elements rather than large footprints, to...
ROEMER: But the special ops were not used during that time period, correct?
RUMSFELD: Not against al Qaeda. They were used in some other things, as I recall.
ROEMER: So with reference to al Qaeda...
RUMSFELD: But the changes to special ops are still taking place.
It will take probably another year for the process -- for them to move from a supporting to a supported command requires them to develop the planning functions in key locations around the world and to rearrange themselves, both with respect to their organizational structure and their equipment.
ROEMER: Let me put this question this way. And you're one that likes metrics, and I like metrics to try to measure what kind of effectiveness we're having.
The Clinton administration, fairly or unfairly, used a metric to say during the millennium that they had a small group of the principals, secretary of defense, secretary of state, national security adviser, the president of the United States, Mr. Clarke, that would meet almost on a daily basis during that millennium and try to make sure that they were taking in intelligence, responding to the terrorist threat, trying to push from the top down to the bottom decision-making on how to counter al Qaeda.
What was your method of trying to fight al Qaeda from the DOD during the spring and summer when these spikes in this intelligence were coming in?
You've got some very capable people. I see Mr. Cambone sitting behind you that is really very proficient in this.
What were you doing? And how were you pushing that out to the different departments, as the Clinton administration, for good or bad, successfully or unsuccessfully. I'm not saying their model was the best one.
RUMSFELD: Well, we did it differently. You've mentioned the fact that they had a principals meetings that met frequently. Our arrangement, as Secretary Powell mentioned this morning, was Colin and Condi Rice and I talked every morning. We tended to talk after our intelligence briefings. We are able to discuss the items that we felt were important and needed action. We had lunch once a week, in addition to all of the principals committee meetings and the National Security Council meetings.
Internally, we did a great deal with respect to Paul Wolfowitz and General Myers and our team, as it came on board, in terms of focusing the department, but it was a different approach...
ROEMER: To the metric of the Clinton administration, and again, we'll be talking to Mr. Clarke tomorrow, probably grilling him on what the Clinton administration did right and did wrong. One of the metrics again for the Clinton administration was principals meetings and how many they had on a particular topic, right or wrong.
Were there principal meetings on al Qaeda and terrorism before September the 4th?
RUMSFELD: Well, there were certainly principals meetings where it was discussed. Whether it was the sole topic or not, you have those records and you would know. I left out...
ROEMER: Our records say no, that the first principals meeting on terrorism...
RUMSFELD: Just solely on that topic?
ROEMER: ... until September 4th.
RUMSFELD: I should add a couple of other things that were going on. In addition to meeting with the president in the National Security Council meetings, I was meeting with the president every week separately, and unquestionably, as General Meyers and I do it together, almost always, and often, Secretary Wolfowitz.
The other thing we did, was I made a decision early on that the single most important thing we could do that would benefit us in terms of these types of problems would be to develop an exceedingly close link with the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence community.
And as a result, George Tenet, who I knew and respected, and I started eating lunch with either Paul or Dick Myers or Steve Cambone and one or two of his key people, depending on the topic, and have done it consistently for the last three years. And we did it during that period. And it has, in my view, been critically important to link those two institution together. And I do believe they are as well linked together today as probably ever in history.
MYERS: I would say there was one other thing that the secretary did as well. That was when developing the QDR, which we had to start right after the secretary came into office, by law, was to develop, as part of our strategy, particularly for the first time, in my memory, that we had to set aside forces for homeland defense. And it's the first time we articulated that in our strategy, which set us up pretty well when we wanted to create NORTHCOM, Northern Command, because we thought about it up to that point. But that was just one example. There are lots of things we did in that area that were different.
RUMSFELD: Also, I forget the timing of it, but we worked to get the Congress to allow us to establish an undersecretary for intelligence that Dr. Cambone now sits in.
ROEMER: With respect to Dr. Albright's testimony this morning, some of us were critical of the Clinton administration's failure to respond to the USS Cole bombing. That took place -- as you know, 17 sailors were killed -- on October 12th, 2000. They had several months to deal with that. They had a CIA briefing in December, which was hedged, which wanted to try to point command and control to Osama bin Laden, although they said al Qaeda was responsible.
Why didn't we take action in the Bush administration? I know you said in your opening statement that it was old and stale.
The terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. And then they came back seven years later and attacked the same World Trade Centers. Stale and old and patience are words that I'm not sure -- at least patience is in the jihadist lexicon. Why don't we -- why didn't we adopt that kind of approach earlier, to say we are going to make you pay a price for this, four months from now, four years from now, we're going to go after your camps? We're going to tell terrorists that come from Morocco or Algeria or other places, we may not get bin Laden with a cruise missile, but we're going to maybe get some people coming from other terrorist organizations. They're going to think twice before they come to a sanctuary.
RUMSFELD: Well, I wish that were the case. You can hit their terrorist training camps over and over and over and expend millions of dollars in U.S. weapons against targets that are dirt and tents and accomplish next to nothing. From a cost-benefit ratio, it just doesn't compute.
Second, the bigger risk is that they will assume again that the United States is, basically, that's all they can do is to pop a weapon into a training camp, bounce the rubble another couple of times and then stop. And we've seen enough of the terrorists that they have gone to school on us. They have watched what happened in Somalia.
They have watched various reactions to their activities and come to conclusion about it. And to the extent they think you're weak, they'll go after you. And to the extent they think you're not weak and you put pressure on them, you complicate their lives.
And right or wrong, I and many of us were concerned that another missile attack after we get into office in February or March or April without having a policy, without having a plan that was different, distinctly different would be a mistake and indeed, a sign of weakness, not strength.
ROEMER: We've just heard, Mr. Secretary, from many people who have said that while these training camps may have been characterized as jungle gyms or playgrounds with swings, rope swings on them, that other people said that they were human conveyer belts of jihadists determined to kill Americans anywhere they could.
RUMSFELD: That's true.
ROEMER: So the cost-benefit ratio of a million dollar cruise missile to taking out some people that can come kill others was one we just didn't consider, I don't think, in the right kind of cost-benefit analysis in the long run.
One final question: Again, Secretary Wolfowitz, this is again to be fair, and I want to shoot straight with you on this. We have Mr. Clarke coming up tomorrow. And he has a reference in his book to an April 30th deputies meeting, where he claims -- and we want to know if this is accurate or not, so that we can ask him the direct questions tomorrow -- he claims that in this meeting, when they were talking about a plan to go forward to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda, that you brought up the subject of Iraq and that you put too much attention on Iraq as a sponsor, as a state sponsor of terrorism and not enough emphasis on al Qaeda as a transnational sponsor of terrorism.
I have just two comments or two questions on that. One would be: Is that fairly accurate? Is his portrayal of that deputies meeting accurate at all or accurate to some degree?
And secondly, in an interagency meeting, where dialogue and discussion of these things should take place, that's what the interagency process is about, isn't that where these discussions should take place, that opinions should be bounced back and forth and debate should be heated at times about the different threats to the world?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thanks for giving me a chance to comment.
Before I do that, let me just make a comment on the last exchange you had with Secretary Rumsfeld.
WOLFOWITZ: And it applies to quite a few comments, including Senator Gorton's question about the luxury of seven months. I think there's a basic difficulty of understanding what a plan really is. A plan is not a military option. Military option is to a plan what a single play in football is to a whole game plan. And this notion that there's a single thing that if we'd only done it, it would work, is like a Hail Mary pass in football, which is what a desperate losing team does in the hope that maybe they can pull things off at the end.
A plan has got to anticipate what the enemy will do next. It has to anticipate what the government of Pakistan will do. It has to anticipate what world reaction will be. It has to go down many pathways. And it's not a timetable. No one can tell you what's going to happen next. You have to be able to call plays and call audibles. And that's why to put a plan together in seven months wasn't a long period of time, even if we had everybody on board. It was actually rather fast.
And I give you as an illustration, in 2002, in January, when the president said, OK, I want to see military options for Iraq, it wasn't until nine months later, I believe, that he finally said, OK. I see that we have a military option against Iraq. And that still wasn't a plan, because that only allowed him to go to the United Nations and be prepared to use all necessary means. It wasn't a decision to use all necessary means. And General Franks' planning continued for another five or six months.
So I think there's, A, a failure to understand just how complex planning is. And we could get into this.
But to Senator Gorton, I fail to understand how anything done in 2001 in Afghanistan would have prevented 9/11.
And certainly, Congressman Roemer, the option you present of killing a few relatively low-level al Qaeda in some camp in Afghanistan might have been a worthy thing to do as part of a general plan, but it certainly wasn't going to affect 9/11 except, as the secretary said, to make 9/11 look a retaliation. So let's keep some clarity.
But let me...
ROEMER: Perspective. The point is we're not saying that you could have prevented or should have prevented with that particular one action, 9/11.
WOLFOWITZ: Let's be clear, the retaliation...
ROEMER: We're saying that there's no silver bullet. There are a host of options that could have been out there.
WOLFOWITZ: The retaliation for the embassy bombings did nothing to prevent the attack on the Cole, right?
ROEMER: There are a host of things. We're not just saying, you know, a cruise missile going into Afghanistan. We're talking about the breadth of policy here, Northern Alliance, covert operations...
WOLFOWITZ: And Congressman, that's exactly what took seven months.
ROEMER: ... cruise missiles.
WOLFOWITZ: We started in April with the notion of attriting (ph) the Taliban by assisting the Northern Alliance.
ROEMER: OK, good enough.
WOLFOWITZ: By September, we said the goal is to eliminate Afghanistan as a sanctuary for al Qaeda, much more ambitious thing.
With respect to Mr. Clark and let me say, I haven't read the book yet. I was called by a reporter on the weekend with a quote from the book attributed to me. I tried to get the book. It wasn't available in book stores. It was only available to selected reporters. And I got it yesterday, but I did not have time to read it in the last 24 hours. I'll get to it at some point.
But with respect to the quote that the reporter presented as having been put in my mouth, which was an objection to Mr. Clark suggesting that ignoring the rhetoric of al Qaeda would be like ignoring Hitler's rhetoric in "Mein Kampf," I can't recall ever saying anything remotely like that. I don't believe I could have.
In fact, I frequently have said something more nearly the opposite of what Clark attributes to me. I've often used that precise analogy of Hitler and "Mein Kampf" as a reason why we should take threatening rhetoric seriously, particularly in the case of terrorism and Saddam Hussein.
So I am generally critical of the tendency to dismiss threats as simply rhetoric. And I know that the quote Clark attributed to me does not represent my views then or now. And that meeting was a long meeting about seven different subjects, all of them basically related to al Qaeda and Afghanistan.
By the way, I know of at least one other instance of Mr. Clark's creative memory. Shortly after September 11th, as part of his assertion that he had vigorously pursued the possibility of Iraqi involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he wrote in a memo that, and I am quoting here, "When the bombing happened, he focused on Iraq as the possible culprit because of Iraqi involvement in the attempted assassination of President Bush in Kuwait the same month," unquote.
In fact, the attempted assassination of President Bush happened two months later.
It just seems to be another instance where Mr. Clarke's memory is playing tricks...
ROEMER: You're doing pretty well for not having read the book, Paul.
WOLFOWITZ: I read the quote.
ROEMER: Let me just say...
KEAN: To the Congressman, we have to move on to the next commissioner.
ROEMER: OK. Let me just say in conclusion, thank you for those remarks. And we do have Secretary Armitage in the private interviews with us saying that he thought that the committee process had not moved speedily before or after 9/11, the deputy meeting process and the process on a seven-month or nine-month plan.
WOLFOWITZ: The government doesn't move fast enough in general. I agree with that.
RUMSFELD: Mr. Chairman, may I make a comment also? I want to make certain there's no misunderstanding. I would have supported missile attacks on training camps anywhere, had I believed that we could have achieved the goal that you suggest of killing jihadists. And the issue is that what happens is frequently, we know that people are posted and they know when things are going to happen. And people empty those camps from time to time. In fact, we've seen reactions when ships or planes or missiles begin to go someplace, that they go to school on that and move out.
So the fact that a weapon costs a lot more than a training camp is no reason not to do it. The only reason for not doing it is if you, as I indicated, are working on a plan that you think is more comprehensive and you believe you can do a better job a different way.
ROEMER: Thank you.
WOLFOWITZ: In case I wasn't clear, I was not dismissive of al Qaeda as a threat. The whole meeting was about al Qaeda. I also believed that state support for terrorism was a problem. But I have never been dismissive of al Qaeda, and I think precisely because I think terrorism is such a serious problem, as I testified as early as my confirmation hearing.
ROEMER: Thank you.
KEAN: The last questioner from the commission is Secretary Lehman.
JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSION MEMBER: Thank you.
Mr. Secretary, I hesitate to cite Mr. Clarke as an authority after the last exchange.
But he is extremely critical, as has been reported, about successive responses or lack of responses over the prior eight years from the Pentagon when options -- not plans, but options -- were requested by the White House to retaliate against Khobar, against various options.
You yourself are reported by another of about the same the credibility author as being particularly unhappy about the options presented to you by the chiefs after 9/11.
I assume from what I read in the press that what is underway now in planning and moving SOCOM from being a supporting to a supported staff moves in the direction of somewhat institutionalizing the flexibility and the agility that you all demonstrated so brilliantly in the Iraq war.
And that leads to the question that our staff has been looking into and others have recommended to us that perhaps the dichotomy that we have between the Title 50 responsibilities of CIA and the Title 10 responsibilities of your building is obsolete and the really probably SOCOM or what it evolves into may well be -- should be designated as the chosen instrument for transnational counterterrorism particularly, and that the Title 50 issues be dealt with head on and CIA be gotten out of the covert and special operations missions and have all of them under the authority of SOCOM.
RUMSFELD: Let me make a couple of comments, Secretary Lehman. First, the reports that I've been unhappy about military plans, Dick Myers will agree with me that that is probably due to the plans and partly due to my -- the fact that I am genetically impatient. And you can be sure that the men and women in the Department of Defense, in the combatant commands and in the joint staff do a superb job. They really do a wonderful job.
When they bring up something to Dick Myers or to me, we do not accept it. We question it. We push it. We probe it. We challenge it. We test it. And we force them to go back and answer 50 other questions.
And so it's not surprising that people say we're unhappy. I think that the result of the superb job General Franks did with his team is an example of the product.
And it was truly remarkable, what he did and what the Special Forces people did when they were put in there in small numbers all across that country to work with the local militias in Afghanistan and accomplish what they accomplished in such a short period of time, with such precision and such skill and such courage.
The question you ask, I don't feel that I've spent enough time thinking about it to know how to answer your question. It's a question that is probably fair to ask. The way we've solved our problems is that if you take the agency and the Department of Defense, what we have done is recognize there's a seam between us, just as there's a seam between our combatant commands in the areas of responsibility, and that we have to address the seam.
How do you do that? And very often we do it where George Tenet will say, "Look, we're going to do X, and we need X number of your people to join our team. We don't have those competencies." And we'll use the authorities that he has and some of our skill sets. It might be radio people, it might be medical people, it might be something else. And they then execute an activity with people on loan to them, functioning under their authority, and the reverse. There are times when we do things under our authority and they second people to our activity.
Now, that's how you get around the problem. And it seems to me that it is imperfect, but life is imperfect. There are always going to be seams, no matter how you organize or how you arrange yourself. And you can have a lousy organizational arrangement, and you can have authorizations that date back to the industrial age, and you have good people. And you can find ways to solve a lot of those problems. And you can have a perfect organizational arrangement and people that aren't working together well, and it's terrible.
Dick, do you want to comment on it?
MYERS: Well, you know, I probably haven't finished my thinking on this either, but you're correct in terms of SOCOM, it was essentially a fifth service -- organize, train, equip. What the secretary has recommended to the president and what the president has done is made them operational. And so now they have the operational responsibility. It will take some years for them to grow into that, but they're being pushed very hard to do that.
In terms of the relationship between the Department of Defense and the CIA in operations, I don't view it as a zero-sum game. I think there's room in the battle space for lots of players with different skills. The question is how do we put them together, I think was what the secretary was talking about, and that teamwork.
I can only speak for the time that I've been here, but the teamwork is pretty darn good, actually.
LEHMAN: Thank you very much.
WOLFOWITZ: I would make one other comment on that, Secretary Lehman. The Special Operations Command, besides having the operational responsibilities is also being provided special authorities.
MYERS: And I will just stop there.
KEAN: Thank you very much. Thank you General Myers, Secretary Wolfowitz, Secretary Rumsfeld.
I might say this, Secretary Rumsfeld, I think people ought to know, has been extraordinarily helpful to this commission from day one. The time he spent with us, the time he spent with members of the commission, the time he spent with members of our staff is very deeply appreciated. And I hope you allow us to come back to you as we move toward the recommendation stage as we need your help and your wisdom.
RUMSFELD: Indeed we will. And thank you very much. What you're doing is enormously important, and we wish you well.
KEAN: Thank you very much.
Tomorrow, we'll turn our attention to the topic of clandestine and covert action in furtherance of counterterrorism policy goals and national counterterrorism policy coordination.
It was a long day today. It's going to be longer tomorrow; 8:30 the gavel will fall.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Governor Thomas Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, the chairman of the 9/11 commission, closing day one. Testimony leading up to the events of 9/11. What U.S. officials knew, when they knew it, could 9/11 have been avoided? More than seven hours of testimony today, more tomorrow.
You heard testimony coming from the CIA Director George Tenet. Tomorrow from Sandy Berger, the former national security adviser for President Clinton. And Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser not only for president Clinton but also for President Bush. That testimony will begin tomorrow morning, special coverage.
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