Transcript: 9/11 Commission Hearings for June 16, 2004
If we're looking to see whether or not if someone decided whether it made sense to launch any, sort of, strike, we already conclusively established that al Qaeda had bombed the embassies in August of 1998. Part of that charge we had already laid out the attack in Somalia.
So by 1998, before the Cole ever happened, we already had established and had committed to it that there was proof beyond any reasonable doubt al Qaeda had already attacked Americans.
So I don't know why, if we focus properly, as we should, and as the team that investigated and prosecuted that case, to decide when you want to file a court charge that attributes the Cole bombing as being something that carried out operationally.
FITZGERALD: That's a different question than whatever policy- makers have to decide about how we deal with this threat. We have already established that al Qaeda had attacked Americans and attacked our embassies two years before the Cole ever happened.
LEHMAN: But both presidents told us that FBI would not tell them for sure that al Qaeda did it.
FITZGERALD: I wasn't part of the Cole investigation proper, and I wasn't part of what the FBI said, when they said, so I can't give you an intelligent answer as to, you know, why they said things or what people thought.
LEHMAN: Ms. Doran?
DORAN: all I can say is, I know the investigators were doing their job in putting together the case, and they would have passed that information up. And the things you're talking about happened at a higher, much higher level than where I am.
LEHMAN: Mr. Pistole, would you like to help us, which level the buck stopped?
PISTOLE: Be glad to attempt to, Mr. Secretary.
Obviously, the distinction between the criminal justice standard for proof beyond a reasonable doubt is different from the intelligence community standard of whether somebody was responsible for a particular act. And the standard of proof in a courtroom is not the requisite item for whether some type of retaliatory strike is made.
The issue was whether the information was made aware to both the law enforcement and intelligence community, and that clearly was the case. What the decision-makers did with that information, which I think is the gist of your question, was something that was decided within the National Security Council and...
LEHMAN: That's an important statement that we have not heard. It is your position that the White House was told that al Qaeda done it...
LEHMAN: ... quite apart from evidentiary...
PISTOLE: No. No, I didn't say that, Mr. Secretary.
What I said was that -- and what I'm trying to convey -- is that the information that was available through the law enforcement community, in particular the FBI, as to the standard of proof and the items of proof that would be used in any charging had already been outlined, as Pat mentioned, for the '98 embassy bombings.
PISTOLE: The intelligence community was aware of that information as well as the information that had been obtained, both overseas and domestically, on the Cole bombing, in terms of Nashiri's involvement, Galad's (ph) involvement. That information was where.
I don't know who specifically was briefed on what day. If that's your question, I don't have that information.
LEHMAN: Thank you.
My time's up, but it's a good little illustration of the MI5 debate. Thanks.
KEAN: Commissioner Ben-Veniste?
BEN-VENISTE: I may want to follow up on Commissioner Lehman's questions in a moment, but first I want to ask a question looking into the current moment.
We have heard from various sources that following our invasion of Iraq, recruitment for al Qaeda has increased substantially, such that al Qaeda is recruiting new members faster than we can kill the old ones. And I'd like to hear from "Dr. K" picking up on the observations made by Mr. FITZGERALD and Special Agent Doran, on the issue of hearts and minds, where we are in that respect.
KAY: If I may, I'm going to pass this, pass the buck here to Mr. Davis.
DAVIS: Sir, I think we have to look at it in terms of the al Qaeda leadership that we're focused on in South Asia, and are they able to actively recruit new members, bring them into a place where they can train and get them, indoctrinate them and then deploy and direct them in operations.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, let's stop with the first part of that, recruiting. Is it correct that there has been an infusion of willing recruits?
DAVIS: I believe that, as "Dr. K" talked about, the international jihad, there has certainly been an upsurge in radicalism and individuals willing to join that international jihad.
BEN-VENISTE: Can you quantify it?
DAVIS: No, sir. But we do see the evidence of increased individuals coming into Iraq. But it would be hard to say that that's the absolute limit on it.
BEN-VENISTE: And that's just Iraq. What about the rest of the world?
DAVIS: I think that you see, in terms of cells being taken down, for example, in Europe, that again, there is an uptick in the number of individuals willing to volunteer for jihad.
I think that is separate from the organization that existed in Afghanistan in terms of its ability to bring tens of thousands of recruits into a secure location, train them, vet them and bring the best and the brightest into an organization called al Qaeda, and then deploy and direct them. That is a very difficult task for al Qaeda to do today.
BEN-VENISTE: Now, with respect to Commissioner Lehman's questions about the Cole bombing, something that interests me as well, and tying it to other information which we now have about what was going on in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, we now know, as a result of debriefings from KSM and others, that in the summer there was a dispute between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden about the external terrorist activity of al Qaeda, and that Omar was trying to put the brakes on Osama bin Laden and, obviously, he didn't succeed, witnessing the terrible events of September 11th.
However, has there been an analysis made as to whether, if the United States had followed through on the warning which was made during the Clinton administration to the Taliban that unless they curtail or dislodge al Qaeda, that the United States would hold the Taliban responsible for activities of bin Laden and al Qaeda against the United States or its interests -- and so, putting together the question of whether, if the intelligence community had been more robust or accurate in communicating its conclusions about the responsibility of al Qaeda for the Cole bombing, and if that had been communicated without this preliminary assessment and other qualifications which we know had been communicated to both administrations, is there not a realistic possibility that, had there been a strike against the Taliban, holding it responsible for al Qaeda's actions against the Cole, that the plot might have been disrupted, that bin Laden might have been given the assessment in no uncertain terms by the leaders of the Taliban that, "You can do no more against the United States operating from Afghanistan"?
FITZGERALD: Well, let me point this out again.
BEN-VENISTE: Actually, I directed it to "Dr. K" since this is...
FITZGERALD: I'm glad to pass.
BEN-VENISTE: ... this is more, I think, up the CIA's alley. But I'd be pleased to hear from you, Pat.
KAY: Well, first of all, I don't think any such assessment was ever done, at least nothing that I'm aware of. And I can only speculate as to what might have been the consequences.
I suppose what the Taliban response would have been would have depended to some degree on exactly the nature of what the U.S. did. And, again, I don't know what that might have been.
But we also need to -- I think we need to keep in mind that the Taliban and bin Laden had a relationship going, and the Taliban was very much under the spell of al Qaeda and bin Laden at the time. It was willing to put up with international condemnation, sanctions, because of its support for international terrorism at the time.
KAY: And, I mean, if you look at even after 9/11, after we did indeed threaten retribution on the Taliban if they didn't turn over bin Laden, I think, you know, they were willing to suffer destruction rather than hand over bin Laden. So on the basis of that, I can only speculate that not much would have changed the Taliban's support.
BEN-VENISTE: Do you not credit Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's statement that both Mullah Omar and the Pakistanis were putting pressure on Osama bin Laden not after the Cole, probably recognizing his responsibility for the planning of the Cole.
KAY: Right. It's true that they were putting pressure on them. It's also true that bin Laden defied them and they did nothing.
BEN-VENISTE: My question was, had we responded robustly with an attack against Taliban interests, that they would have gotten the message: "No more toleration for Osama bin Laden"?
KAY: It's certainly possible. But we just will never know, I suppose.
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Vice Chairman Hamilton?
HAMILTON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'm interested in al Qaeda today in the United States. And I'm particularly interested in what we know about their capabilities today.
I accept their intent, I accept the fact they're pursuing various weapons and all the rest. But what do we really know today about the capabilities, not the intent, the capabilities of al Qaeda today to attack?
(UNKNOWN): The short answer,...
HAMILTON: In the United States.
(UNKNOWN): Yes, the short answer is we know very little about their capability to attack. We know much more about their intent and know very little about their capability.
HAMILTON: Do we know anything about their funding in the United States?
(UNKNOWN): Yes, we have a number of ongoing investigations as well as some that have resulted in criminal prosecution of individuals who have been fund-raisers here in the U.S., who are supporting al Qaeda overseas. What we don't have is necessarily fund-raising which is supporting al Qaeda here in the U.S.
(UNKNOWN): But we do have a number of individuals who have been in the public, in terms of operatives who KSM has tasked with casing, for example, the Brooklyn Bridge...
HAMILTON: Do we know anything about their recruitment in the United States?
HAMILTON: They clearly have an active campaign of recruitment.
HAMILTON: Is that fair?
(UNKNOWN): That's correct.
HAMILTON: Do we know anything about their command and control in the United States system?
(UNKNOWN): We have...
HAMILTON: Can we identify a leader or leaders of al Qaeda in the United States?
(UNKNOWN): We have limited information on that.
HAMILTON: So to sum up then, we have almost no information with regard to their capabilities in the United States. We know a little bit about their funding in the United States today. We know a little bit about their leadership today in the United States. We know very little, if anything, about their command and control. Do I sum it up correctly?
(UNKNOWN): That's fairly accurate. We know, I would say, a little bit more than what you've said. But without going into more detail, it's our duty to describe.
HAMILTON: Any other comments from the other panelists?
OK. Thank you.
KEAN: Commissioner Roemer?
ROEMER: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the panelists for their time here.
I know, Mr FITZGERALD, you're busy on a case of great importance to the country and to policy makers looking for a source of a leak. Is there anything you want to tell us here this morning?
No? I won't push the swearing in on you.
It is absolutely staggering to me the twisted cost-benefit ratio of what al Qaeda pulled off in September 11th and what happened to the United States.
They had 19 suicide hijackers. We lost 3,000 people; we're still mourning their deaths. It cost them slightly more than $400,000. Estimates indicate that it is probably going to cost us well over $100 billion. They continue to float and spread like mercury across the mirror, all over the world. We have many of our resources, intelligence, military resources going to two places, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We need to take this enemy on and defeat this enemy.
"Dr. K" we've put your boss in the hot seat a couple times asking him some tough questions about accountability.
ROEMER: I want to ask you some of those questions.
You were at the CTC in a very critical time during the last seven years, one when we had an opportunity to get some of these terrorists in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and we didn't get them.
I want to ask you specifically about two myths that have been out there in terms of my take on this: one, that we didn't have enough knowledge about a domestic attack, that we didn't think it was likely; and two, that al Qaeda had compartmentalized this information and held it very, very close.
In our Staff Statement 16, we say the following, and I want you to comment on it, "Dr. K", quote: "According to KSM, he was widely known within al Qaeda to be planning some kind of an operation against the United States. Many were even aware that he had been preparing operatives to go to the United States, as reported by a CIA source in June of 2001."
Operatives to the United States in June, this is KSM, top of the rendition list for the United States sending people to the United States.
You were at CTC. Did you get that information that KSM was sending operatives to the United States for a possible domestic attack?
KAY: Not that I recall.
ROEMER: Not that you recall.
So you are -- your title is -- and I'm trying to understand it -- is the chief of the Strategic Terrorism Assessments alternative Analysis Group, Office of Terrorism Analysis at the DCI Counterterrorism Center at CTC.
ROEMER: So CTC -- the chief here does not receive any type of information in June, a cable or information coming...
KAY: Well, first of all, I'm not the chief of CTC.
KAY: I'm one unit within...
ROEMER: Chief of the Strategic Terrorism Assessments alternative Analysis Group. OK.
KAY: And I can't comment on what other people within the center might have received, but I myself did not.
ROEMER: So you did not receive any kind of a cable or warning or message or anything else talking about KSM possibly sending in operatives to the United States?
KAY: That's correct.
ROEMER: And you're categorically saying you don't remember it, you don't recall it, or you didn't see it?
KAY: I don't recall ever receiving such information.
ROEMER: Well, we'll get more into this maybe with Mr. Davis on the next panel, as we drill down here a little bit more into what the CIA did know and maybe what should have been shared in different departments there.
Let me ask you a question about human intelligence. Mr. Tenet said to us about a month ago that we needed to rebuild human intelligence. I think he's absolutely right. He said it will take us five more years. We don't have five minutes, five days; we need to do it now.
Mr. Fitzgerald has pointed out in his statement very eloquently about a man by the name of ali Mohammed, who helped train the top leadership for al Qaeda on all kinds of security codes, ciphers, surveillance. He comes to the United States and applies for jobs as an FBI translator and at a Defense contractor.
Now, they seek to penetrate us. We have not done a very good job penetrating them.
Mr. Fitzgerald, and then Ms. Doran and "Dr. K" how do we rebuild this human intelligence that we vitally need in this country, with diversity and language skills and capabilities, so we are going after them and getting them?
FITZGERALD: That's not my area of expertise, but I'll tell you, the hard part is -- we need it badly, but the hard part for "Dr. K" and his folks is we have to watch out that the people who don't apply for the job as translators and don't walk in the door to be human sources aren't looking for al Qaeda. One of the classic intelligence techniques is the people that come in and pretend to work for you and gather information and feed it back. And we've seen indications that al Qaeda will do that.
So the hard part for us is to make sure that we build up our human source capability, but we have to choose human sources very wisely, so that they gather for us, that they don't walk in and by our questions learn from us what we're interested in, what we know and what we don't know.
And that's the real challenge that faces us.
© 2004 FDCH E-Media