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Transcript: Bush and Co-Chairs of the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities Press Conference

FDCH E-Media
Thursday, March 31, 2005; 12:57 PM

The following is a transcript of a joint press conference on Terri Schiavo anhd Weapons of Mass Destruction by President George Bush and Commission on Intelligence Capabilities Co-chairs Laurence Silberman and Chargles Robb.

BUSH: Thank you all. Please be seated.

Today, millions of Americans are saddened by the death of Terri Schiavo.

Laura and I extend our condolences to Terri Schiavo's families.

I appreciate the example of grace and dignity they have displayed at a difficult time. I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others.

The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak.

In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life.

The most solemn duty of the American president -- come on up, guys -- is to protect the American people.

Since September 11th, 2001, we've taken bold and vigorous steps to prevent further attacks and overcome emerging threats.

We face a new and different kind of enemy. The threats today are unprecedented. The lives of our citizens are at stake. To protect them, we need the best intelligence possible, and we must stay ahead of constantly changing intelligence challenges.

So last year I issued an executive order creating an independent commission to look at America's intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.

BUSH: I asked two fine Americans to chair this commission, Judge Laurence Silberman and former Senator Chuck Robb. They have done an excellent job.

I appreciate your service to our country.

I also want to thank the other members of the commission: Senator John McCain, Rick Levin, Harry Rowen, Walt Slocombe, Bill Studeman, Judge Patricia Wald, Chuck Vest and Lloyd Cutler.

I want to thank them for their hard work. They spent a lot of time on this project.

BUSH: I asked these distinguished individuals to give me an unvarnished look at our intelligence community, and they have delivered.

This morning the commission presented me with their recommendations, which are thoughtful and extremely significant.

The central conclusion is one that I share: America's intelligence community needs fundamental change to enable us to successfully confront the threats of the 21st century.

My administration has taken steps consistent with the commission's recommendations. In February, I named John Negroponte the first director of national intelligence, a post that was created to help ensure that our intelligence community works as a single, unified enterprise.

It's important for Congress to move quickly on John's confirmation, because he will have a key role in the continued reform and restructuring of intelligence capabilities.

Today I've directed Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend to oversee the interagency process to review the commission's findings and to ensure the concrete action is taken.

BUSH: The commission report delivers a sharp critique of the way intelligence has been collected and analyzed against some of the most difficult intelligence targets, especially Iraq.

To win the war on terror, we will correct what needs to be fixed and build on what the commission calls 'solid intelligence successes.' These include the uncovering of Libya's nuclear and missile programs.

In Pakistan our intelligence helped expose and shut down the world's most dangerous nuclear proliferation network.

Where we have had success, the commission reports we have seen innovative collection techniques and a fusion of interagency intelligence capabilities.

We must work to replicate these successes in other areas.

BUSH: The men and women of our intelligence community work hard, and the sacrifices they have made have helped protect America. And our nation is grateful for their hard work.

The work they are doing is critical. We need to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on the weapons of mass murder they would like to use against our citizens.

The work of our intelligence community is extremely difficult work. Every day, dangerous regimes are working to prevent us from uncovering their programs and their possible relationships with terrorists.

BUSH: And the work intelligence men and women do is, by nature, secret, which is why the American people never hear about many of their successes. I'm proud of the efforts of our intelligence workers. I am proud of their commitment to the security of our country. And the American people should be proud too.

And that's why this report is important. It'll enable these fine men and women to do their jobs in better fashion, to be able to more likely accomplish their mission, which is to protect the American people. And that's why I'm grateful to the commission for this hard work.

The president and his national security team must have intelligence that is timely and intelligence that is accurate.

In their report today, the commission points out that America needs to know much more about the weapons programs and intentions of our most dangerous adversaries. They've given us useful and important guidance that will help us transform our intelligence capabilities for the needs of a dangerous new century. In other words, we need to adjust.

BUSH: We need to understand the threats and adjust our capabilities to meet those threats.

We will work to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need.

Our collection and analysis of intelligence will never be perfect, but in an age where our margin for error is getting smaller, in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives.

And my administration will continue to make intelligence reforms that will allow us to identify threats before they fully emerge so we can take effective action to protect the American people.

I'm grateful for your hard work.

And now the chairman of the commission and the co-chair of the commission have agreed to answer your questions.

LAURENCE SILBERMAN, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION ON INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITIES: I shall just briefly like to thank our commission members, all who are sitting in the front row, for their magnificent support and work.

SILBERMAN: I would particularly like to make note of Senator McCain, who in an extraordinary display of zeal and consciousness attended virtually every one of our meetings, spent more time -- as Chuck said -- more time than senators spend on committees, and we're very grateful.

I also would like to acknowledge our senior staff which is sitting there that has done such wonderful work.

And I thought perhaps Senator Robb might mention the phone call we just recently had with congressional leaders on the intelligence community.

CHARLES ROBB, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION ON INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITIES: Thank you.

First of all, I'd like to echo Judge Silberman's compliments and thanks to the commissioners and the very professional staff.

I have never worked with a more energetic group or a more dedicated group that really put in some long, serious hours to produce this particular report.

Right after the entire commission had an opportunity to meet with the president earlier this morning, Judge Silberman and I made a call to the congressional leadership in the intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.

ROBB: And most of those members were not in Washington, but the White House was able to make connection with those that they could track down at this particular moment.

And we had a good exchange, and we volunteered to come up and discuss the report with them. And as a matter of fact, we got an acceptance from both committees, so we're going to be up meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday and the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday at their request. And we look forward to discussing that report.

Obviously, we make reference to the need for a congressional oversight capability -- that is part of a genuine team -- in our report.

In any event, you had an opportunity to at least take a look at the overview, if not all of the details of the report. We would be delighted to attempt to respond to whatever questions...

SILBERMAN: Just before that, we should note that a number of the congressman and senators had read the report.

SILBERMAN: They got it early this morning.

And I think it's fair to say we understood them to express virtually uniform enthusiasm.

ROBB: Those that were on the call, at least.

SILBERMAN: That's right.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I just wonder about Iraq, if I might ask both of you.

How do you think this administration got the intelligence wrong on Iraq. And it's not just this administration, the intelligence community dating back to previous administrations, as well.

But this administration went to war based on that information. And based on that, do you think ultimate responsibility for those failures rest with this president?

SILBERMAN: Want to take that?

ROBB: First of all, with respect to the intelligence on Iraq, as we make clear in the report and detail both in the overview as well as the main body of the report and in the classified version, as well, there's no question that the intelligence -- that came to the administration, the American people and was shared, for the most part, by a number of other intelligence agencies and others -- was deeply flawed.

ROBB: The fact that they got wrong the critical judgments with respect to nuclear weapons, with respect to biological weapons and with respect to chemical weapons and even with respect to missile systems and UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles as a potential delivery means for a possible nuclear/chemical/biological agent, they were wrong.

The only part of that part of the assessment with respect to Iraq's current status and capabilities had to do with one instance where the missiles were able to exceed the 150 kilometer range that was constrained. Beyond that, everything else about that intelligence assessment was given to the president.

It was also developed during the course of a long period of time. And as we point out in the report, it didn't just occur in the October 2002 NIE.

If you look at -- well, obviously you don't have an opportunity to look at the presidential briefs, but some of the other river of -- we did examine those that related to the whole question of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

And it's very clear that the message, the drum beat that started well before that the 2002 NIE and continued for some period thereafter, was that those weapons existed and that there was, in the judgment of the intelligence community, at least as presented to the senior policymakers, very little evidence of any doubt as to the characterizations that are made in that report.

QUESTION: But, Judge, what I'm getting at here is: How did it happen? How did they get it wrong? Did the administration not ask the tough questions, the right questions? Did they not challenge some of these assumptions? And doesn't ultimate responsibility rest with the president of the United States?

SILBERMAN: Actually if you read the Woodward book it would appear that the president did ask tough questions. Our job was to look at the intelligence that came from the intelligence community. And that was the responsibility we were directed to pursue pursuant to the executive order.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, but what went wrong? You're telling me that the intelligence was bad, so how did it get bad? How did that process break down?

SILBERMAN: Well, we wrote a long report. We wrote a long report to try to explain why. All right, the bottom line is the intelligence community operated on presumptions or assumptions based on what they had seen in 1991. And they continued on with those presumptions or those assumptions which (inaudible) into presumptions. And they had precious little evidence to support those presumptions.

What little evidence they did have, which was inconsistent, was tortured into those presumptions.

So the bottom line answer is: They had very little collection. They had very little evidence collected. What little evidence they had they pushed into assumptions based on the past behavior of Saddam Hussein.

And although it was perfectly reasonable for them to speculate or to assume, what the intelligence community should have done is said, 'Look, we don't have -- very little evidence of this; we really don't know.'

That would have been justifiable.

QUESTION: Could I ask an overall question about the tone and tenor of the report. Reports of presidential commissions are frequently written in formal, even dull language, that the president called your report 'unvarnished' in places.

QUESTION: It strikes one as harsh. You call intelligence, 'dead wrong, worthless, debilitating turf battles.' That kind of language laces the report.

I'd like to ask you why you thought it necessary to be this tough. Does this report operate as a kind of kick in the teeth to the intelligence community? Is that one of the things you want to do here?

SILBERMAN: I think we just wanted to be accurate.

ROBB: Let me just say that it was not our intention to kick anybody in the teeth. Indeed, we have enormous respect for the community, for the very talented individuals that make up that community.

But we felt we had an obligation to the president, who appointed the commission, and to the American people to point out where there were some very serious errors with respect to tradecraft. And we go into that in some detail. We would be happy to go into more detail here.

But the bottom line is that there was no real question raised about whether or not there was any doubt. And yet, with respect to at least three different agencies, they clearly had an opportunity to do a good job with respect to tradecraft and didn't.

And we'll go into those if you like.

SILBERMAN: I might add, we had two university presidents on our commission, who were insistent we just be accurate.

QUESTION: Chuck, may I ask that now that you've put this together, is it your feeling and Judge Silberman's that any of this can be put together in a workable organization?

We now have a huge national intelligence apparatus and soon, perhaps, an intelligence czar. Many people looking at homeland security say it's much too big to be effective, it's a huge bureaucracy and boondoggle.

Is it your feeling that this amalgamation of intelligence is going to be workable, or, again, just turf battles?

SILBERMAN: We think we have a unique opportunity now that Congress just passed legislation and we have a nominee for the very important position of director of national intelligence and a deputy up for Senate confirmation in a short number of days.

We think this presents an enormous opportunity to implement the notions we have in this report.

Yes, we are very confident that real improvements can be made.

ROBB: And it builds on the momentum that was created by the reports, the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the joint report and several others.

ROBB: This comes at a fortuitous movement where we believe that the confluence of this report, a brand new DNI who has been nominated by the president to take over -- it's a whole lot easier to instigate change when there is a major change in leadership taking place.

And based on the feedback that we got, or the information that we received from many, many members of the intelligence community across the board -- all of the elements of the community -- the need for change is acknowledged.

There are some differences with respect to certain institutions that may or may not agree with our particular proposal, but I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't say that the need for change is very great.

We're still -- to use a military analogy -- we're still in part -- in part, because they're doing some very good things that we're not talking about in any detail and some of the best things that they're doing, we can't talk about.

But they're still, in some respects, fighting the last war. They are still structured -- some very capable people with some very sophisticated tools are still in an environment that is much like the Soviet-era, where we were going against a very different enemy.

The enemy has changed dramatically and we have to be prepared to be effective in preparing the community for this new emerging threat that is going to be with us for a long period of time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (inaudible) necessarily to find out whether or not policy-makers (inaudible), but it was mostly about the intelligence, the intelligence, not necessarily the politics about that.

QUESTION: But you did say in the report that you did find that there was no instance of political pressure here.

Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion?

For example, there were reports that the vice president went over to the CIA and perhaps were pressuring analysts to give him the kind of outcome that he wanted.

ROBB: We looked very closely at that question.

Every member of the commission was sensitive to the number of questions that had been raised with respect to what we'll call politicization or however you want to describe it.

And we examined every single instance that had been referred to in print or otherwise to see if there was any occasion where a member of the administration or anyone else had asked an analyst or anybody else associated with the intelligence community to change a position that they were taking, or whether they felt there was any undue influence, and we found absolutely no instance.

And we ran to ground everything that we had on the table, and we also had an open hotline to the -- and we got a fair amount of information that didn't provide us anything more in this area.

We -- if somebody has a member of the intelligence community that can say to us, 'We changed our analysis based on a request or a demand,' or, 'We believe we were improperly influenced to change it,' we haven't heard from them.

QUESTION: Could it have been possible that there was perhaps this culture created inside the intelligence community, knowing that this administration in particular was very eager to deal with Saddam Hussein?

SILBERMAN: Let me try to answer that question, if I can.

The intelligence community was quite resistant to notions that there was an important connection between Saddam and Al Qaida or terrorism. They rejected that notion even though they were questioned on it a number of times.

With respect to weapons of mass destruction, it's the opposite case, it's the opposite situation. The intelligence community was absolutely uniform and uniformly wrong about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

SILBERMAN: And they pushed that position.

QUESTION: But there is evidence, Judge, that there was -- some of the intelligence that was injected into the system here came from political sources.

For example, you cited (inaudible) something described as the 'INC defector' whose information was circulated and recirculated, got into Powell's speech, got into the NIE.

And he turned out to be a fabricator -- in fact, he'd been labeled a fabricator before (inaudible) and I've heard this from numerous sources, I think this has even been printed, that this defector came to the intelligence community, was referred to the DIA by a process of, quote, 'executive referral,' which meant that, in fact, former CIA director Woolsey brought this guy into somebody at the policy level at the Pentagon and they gave this guy to the DIA.

SILBERMAN: Which fellow are you referring to?

QUESTION: The so-called INC defector.

SILBERMAN: Yes.

QUESTION: You don't mention this in your report...

SILBERMAN: It's not on...

QUESTION: ... but there is some evidence that this intelligence was injected into the system at a political level. So did you look at that at all? And also, did you question any policymakers about, you know, their desire to and their interface with the intelligence community?

SILBERMAN: We did question policymakers about their perception of the intelligence. That is true.

We did not see any evidence of false intelligence being injected by any policymaker into the intelligence community.

QUESTION: There's a situation now. There's a chapter that's classified on Korea, North Korea and Iran. And the report makes clear it's too sensitive to discuss publicly, but the administration is making public statements about those two countries.

And my question is: Knowing what those public statements are and you're privileged on what the secrets are, can the American people be confidant that the public statements, the pressure being put on these two countries is based on accurate information and is sound?

SILBERMAN: Isn't that just a clever way to try to get us to answer the question of what intelligence we have on Iran and North Korea? I admit it's clever, but I think we can't do it.

QUESTION: Judge, if I can follow on that without discussing the specific evidence you have on Iran and North Korea: There are trends that you mentioned here involving Iraq. For example, that purchases of goods were interpreted as an ability to produce and so forth.

QUESTION: As you looked at Iran and North Korea, did you see any evidence that it was following the pattern you had seen in Iraq or that it was following the pattern that you had seen in your other chapters on Libya and to some degree on Al Qaida, where you found that there was a better discernment of what was going on?

SILBERMAN: Either one of us could answer the same way. We simply cannot talk about those subjects.

ROBB: What we did say is that we found systemic problems throughout the community that related to the question that you asked, but that's as far as we're able to go on that particular question.

SILBERMAN: But not necessarily with respect to...

ROBB: Yes. Not...

SILBERMAN: ... Iran or North Korea.

QUESTION: Could we then assume from that, that some of the trends you also have concerns about...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBB: As far as systemic weakness throughout the community with respect to some of the matters that we did discuss, and that's as far as we can go.

QUESTION: How will these findings affect allied impressions and cooperation in the future? Can the U.S. ever fully restore its intelligence credibility?

And in your estimation, was the war against Iraq a waste?

SILBERMAN: Can we answer the first question and skip the second?

QUESTION: No, don't skip the second.

SILBERMAN: The second is a policy issue. We didn't deal with policy.

QUESTION: All right.

SILBERMAN: On the first question, if you read the report carefully, you can see some of the worst intelligence that we relied on came from foreign liaison sources.

Now, it's true we put our prestige on the line when Secretary Powell went to the United Nations.

SILBERMAN: But the truth of the matter is that every intelligence agency that we know of that cooperates with the United States in the world had the same views. And in fact, some of the worst bits of intelligence came from -- in hindsight -- came from foreign intel liasion sources.

ROBB: But the bottom line is that our report, we hope, will provide the basis for a starting point to rebuild the confidence that has been shaken by the inaccurate intelligence that was delivered with respect to Iraq.

We recognize that the United States took a hit. The community recognizes it. Everyone that we've talked to recognizes it.

But we can't simply punt at that point. We're trying to put a constructive pathway, if you will, to restoring that confidence.

QUESTION: There are two things that strike me. One is you're talking about still fighting the last war. One of the major findings of the 9/11 Commission was a lack of imagination. And as we don't have the classified part of your report in terms of covert operations, I'd like you to give us an overview of whether you think imagination is being used now in terms of anticipating the kinds of threats that we might see, but that we haven't seen.

ROBB: I'll just start, if you like.

The answer is in those successes that we can't talk about, it's very clear that the things that were -- that underlie our basic report, including imagination and integration of the community, if you will, are critical to the successes that we see -- that we have enjoyed, that we see on the horizon, and that we encourage the community to use more innovative approaches and certainly to integrate fully so that the cross-pollination, if you will, can inform the entire process and make the likelihood that we'll be successful in the future greater.

ROBB: We cannot guarantee a result ever.

SILBERMAN: Let me add something to that.

In the war on terrorism, we have seen some zeal and imagination and some very successful operations.

QUESTION: The other piece of it was, in looking through just the overview, in terms of clarifying information that the president receives and the way the DNI will operate and others together, I have to confess to being completely confused by your recommendations, which are very clear, but are building on what already seems to be a system of confusion.

And you have recommendations with regard to covert operations, with regard to who gets what and with regard to not giving the president pieces of information he doesn't need, but it seems that we're operating from so much confusion initially that bringing just these changes into effect is going to be extremely difficult in the culture of non-information-sharing that we seem to have.

ROBB: Well, obviously, information sharing -- and we look upon it -- sharing implies ownership. And so we make a statement: Although information sharing is a term that is used and everybody understand it and it's in some of the legislation, the truth is we're talking about access.

And we're proposing that one of the principal deputies to the new DNI be charged with the dual responsibility of providing security as well as providing access and that that be a function of risk management.

We believe that that accurately brings together the two competing concerns that we have with respect to information sharing, all consistent -- and we try to point this out in each case -- with the attorney general's approval with respect to privacy rights in any matters that are of concern to civil libertarians.

SILBERMAN: But we've been very conscious of that throughout our proceedings.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, you said that you did have an opportunity to question policymakers when you formulated this report. Can you clarify exactly which policymakers you talked to? And, since you cited a journalist's book, does that mean that you did not have a chance independently to interview the president himself and the vice president?

SILBERMAN: We had discussions with the president. We didn't interview the president, nor did we interview the vice president.

We did interview various senior policymakers, in this administration and in prior administrations, to get a sense as to what they thought about the flow of intelligence, where they thought there were defects, where they thought there could be improvements. That was our purpose.

QUESTION: What is the distinction between questioning a president and interviewing a president?

SILBERMAN: Well, we had a session with the president last fall, in which we discussed, generally, what the nature of our inquiry was.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) consumer of the intelligence?

SILBERMAN: I'm not sure I understand, ma'am.

No, he did discuss with us his own views about being a consumer, particularly with respect to the presidential daily brief.

QUESTION: The vice president also?

SILBERMAN: The vice president was in that room, too, as I recall.

ROBB: He was in both of the meetings that we had with the president.

But again, I hope the distinction isn't lost. We were querying members of this administration and previous administrations as intelligence consumers and how they viewed the efficiency and the accuracy and the timeliness and the responsiveness of the intelligence community to meet their needs in formulating policy.

QUESTION: Could your report be read as an exoneration of the president's use of the intelligence, or did you not tackle that question?

SILBERMAN: We did not -- our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry.

QUESTION: Could either of you discuss something called in the report a new agent X, a particularly virulent strain of biological hazard?

QUESTION: How big is it? Where is it? How widespread?

ROBB: What you have in the report is the extent of what we can discuss with respect to agent X.

QUESTION: Could you discuss your proposal that the new DNI not be the one to do the daily brief at the White House, as the president has himself suggested he would?

SILBERMAN: Our concern about that -- and we've discussed it with the president a couple of times -- our concern about that is we think the essential importance of the DNI is to achieve an integration, a coordination and a leadership of the intelligence community.

Insofar as he is tasked with preparing the presidential daily brief, we have found from prior intelligence chiefs that that can consume so much time and energy that it leaves very little left for the leadership and management of the intelligence community.

QUESTION: Do you think the president will go along with that? Has he said?

SILBERMAN: He's considering that carefully.

ROBB: We had a good discussion. Anything that results would be, obviously, the president's prerogative to discus publicly.

QUESTION: Sirs, your report says that the intelligence community does not exist in any meaningful sense of the word as a community.

ROBB: As a community.

QUESTION: And you also say deep within the report, you cite the many commissions before you, going back to the Church commission, which have looked at intelligence lapses, and you're treading a well- worn path.

In as much as many of these lapses were pointed out as early as 2002, shouldn't this systemic failure, as you describe it, should have been addressed a long time ago?

ROBB: Yes.

QUESTION: And what does it say about the responsibility of the administration in this regard?

ROBB: Change within this community is going to be very difficult, even the changes that we're recommending now with the opportunity given to us by the confluence of events that will give this some momentum.

Nobody thinks it's going to be easy. We just think there is a much better chance now to enact those reforms than we've had previously.

But the question you ask, the simple yes is that they should have been addressed a long time ago. We are on basic agreement with most of the conclusions that prior commissions who looked at intelligence capabilities came to.

SILBERMAN: Excuse me. I'm sorry.

Strangely enough, in talking with representatives of prior administrations as well as this one, there is a certain reluctance on policy-makers to push the intelligence community as hard as they should for fear of an accusation of politicization. And we discussed that at great length in the report. It's very important for policymakers to question and push hard on the intelligence community to explore and to fill gaps in intelligence.

ROBB: We put that, actually, in the letter of transmittal that there needs to be clear pushing back to the community. We need to challenge the community, otherwise it will be very comfortable in continuing along ways that are predictable but no long responsive to the kind of challenges that we face now leading into the 21st century.

QUESTION: As the president said in his report (inaudible) knows disturbingly little about the weapons and the intentions of our most dangerous adversaries -- do any of the members of the commission or the commission as a whole have any worries or concerns about the U.S. policy of preemption?

ROBB: We did not get into policy matters, period.

ROBB: I think it's fair to say that everybody probably has private views on that, but we did not discuss them in the commission and that was not part of our mandate.

QUESTION: Based on your extensive look into this...

ROBB: And we're not going to go there now.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Yes, one state Homeland Security official that I spoke to this morning, he'd read the -- was reading -- the report said he was disappointed to see so little in it about the importance of state and local law enforcement, state, local and tribal law enforcement, as consumers but also producers of intelligence. Could you respond?

And, secondly, the FBI has already been briefing against the recommendations of your report. Could you talk a little bit about how important the changes that you recommend there are?

SILBERMAN: Can I take your second question first? The biggest single threat to the United States at the present comes from the use, or the potential use, of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. I think everybody recognizes that.

And that, in turn, requires cooperation between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence.

SILBERMAN: Our report seeks to enhance that cooperation and seeks to modify significantly the way the bureau is structured and organized to enhance that cooperation.

Now, as a long-time observer of the bureau, I recognize that the bureau has its own strong views about the way the world should be organized. But after all, in the last analysis, this will be up to the president.

QUESTION: You make a passing reference to the A.Q. Khan network. You don't deal with it in a separate chapter.

In the course of that, you say that some innovative human intelligence efforts gave the U.S. access to this proliferation web.

Can you tell us whether or not you believe that the intelligence community has now reorganized itself to deal with the Khan model or its successors, or whether or not you think this was sort of a one-off case of being relatively lucky or skillful in penetrating the network?

SILBERMAN: You may recall in our report we do recommend a center to deal with proliferation, a much more modest center than the NCTC.

SILBERMAN: But one of the reasons we recommend that center is we want the expertise in developing that black market in weapons of mass destruction to be focused.

Now, with respect to terrorism, the NCTC should have the primary role. But counterproliferation is important, too, and we want to see coordination of that within the intelligence community.

ROBB: We are trying to encourage the kind of innovation that we can only refer to as we did in the unclassified report. We believe that is the future for successful intelligence penetration and everything else that goes with it.

QUESTION: Should Congress, in its oversight role here, be pushing the intelligence community as well the administration?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBB: Yes, we just had a session with the members of the Intelligence Committee. I think I made a reference to that. And there is a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the members of the Intelligence Committee to do just that, and we're going to work with them.

There is, at this point at least, an unusual congruence between the executive, legislative branch and the community that something needs to be done and that we need to work together to do it.

QUESTION: What should the role of Congress be in fixing things? Many of these things can be done only by executive...

ROBB: That's right. And we point out that there are a limited number of our recommendations that will require legislative action. We'll discuss those with Congress when we go up on the Hill.

ROBB: But it's not entirely contingent upon Congress taking action in many of these areas.

Again, remember, one of the most important recommendations that we make is to fully empower the DNI. The DNI has to take every legal and every power that he's given and he needs the full and unequivocal support and backing of the president or it won't work.

You've got some very distinguished, proud agencies whose culture will work against change no matter how good the intentions are with respect to those who might lead them or others who want to see change accomplished.

SILBERMAN: We have recognized -- if I may add to that -- we have recognized that congressional oversight has its plusses and its minuses, too extensive an oversight detracts senior executive branch officials from the work they have to do.

I think Chairman Roberts is particularly focusing on strategic kind of oversight, trying to look ahead at problems and we suggest that the president recommend that congressional oversight be focused more on a strategic basis rather than chasing the headline of the day.

ROBB: In both respect to the community and Congress, it's to establish units that have sole responsibility for strategic or long- term intelligence and don't get somehow eaten up by whatever is the intelligence challenge du jour.

SILBERMAN: We only have time for a few more questions.

QUESTION: I understand the limits on the scope of your inquiry, but isn't it inherently unfair to discount the role of policymakers? Because if you look at the NIE, for example, there were caveats in there and there were cautionary notes about the quality of the intelligence.

So should the policy-makers be held to account for not following up and asking questions about that, focusing instead on the assumption that fit their policy goals?

SILBERMAN: Well, actually, there's two points to be made in connection with that.

If you look at the NIE, the intelligence community came up with a 90 percent certainty of weapons of mass destruction, and that was pretty high, number one.

SILBERMAN: Number two, we looked at the flow or the stream of intelligence that came to the White House in the two years before that. And if anything, it was even more alarmist.

QUESTION: You also make some pretty dramatic recommendations for changes at the CIA, including creating a human intelligence director which would absorb the current clandestine service. I imagine...

SILBERMAN: No, I don't say 'absorb.' The DO would report to the HUMINT director in our proposal.

QUESTION: So it would be above the clandestine service.

SILBERMAN: Right.

QUESTION: I imagine you'll encounter some resistance to that idea at Langley, and I wonder what your thinking was.

SILBERMAN: That we would encounter resistance from Langley.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ROBB: And indeed, that matter was discussed at -- one of the few relatively detailed matters that was raised by the congressional leadership today as well.

QUESTION: Could you explain what your thinking was, in terms of why we need a structure above the clandestine services?

SILBERMAN: Part of the problem is the DO does an excellent job, and always has done an excellent job at exactly what it does. It's hard to take an organization that does an excellent job at what it does and try to get it to do other things. And we think other things are very necessary.

QUESTION: Who remains strongest in these turf wars? You've got this DNI (inaudible) you've got Rumsfeld, Rice, of course the president and Cheney. Who's strongest here?

SILBERMAN: I know the answer to that: the president.

QUESTION: All right, but underneath the president and the vice president, then, of the alphabet soup, who is strongest?

SILBERMAN: Certainly the congressional purpose there is to empower the DNI. As our report indicates, to a certain extent, his responsibilities outrun his authorities, and we're hoping that that can be brought, as much as possible through executive action, into congruence.

ROBB: Many of our recommendations are designed for that purpose.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do you think will take place quickly, or which ones do you hope will take place...

SILBERMAN: I think you'll have to ask the White House that question.

But we certainly had the impression from meeting the president, and he had a meeting with his Cabinet -- we weren't there, of course -- we certainly had the impression by his appointment of Ms. Townsend as the ramrod for this that he's quite serious.

I think we're through.


© 2005 FDCH E-Media