Public Statements on Terrorism
and Usama Bin Ladin since July 1997
Statement by DCI Tenet before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on the "Worldwide Threat 2001: National Security in a Changing World" (Feb. 7, 2001)
- President George W. Bush
The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving. State sponsored terrorism appears to have declined over the past five years, but transnational groups—with decentralized leadership that makes them harder to identify and disrupt—are emerging. We are seeing fewer centrally controlled operations, and more acts initiated and executed at lower levels.
Terrorists are also becoming more operationally adept and more technically sophisticated in order to defeat counterterrorism measures. For example, as we have increased security around government and military facilities, terrorists are seeking out "softer" targets that provide opportunities for mass casualties.
Employing increasingly advanced devices and using strategies such as simultaneous attacks, the number of people killed or injured in international terrorist attacks rose dramatically in the 1990s, despite a general decline in the number of incidents. Approximately one-third of these incidents involved US interests.
Usama bin Ladin and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain the most immediate and serious threat. Since 1998, Bin Ladin has declared all US citizens legitimate targets of attack. As shown by the bombing of our Embassies in Africa in 1998 and his Millennium plots last year, he is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning.
His organization is continuing to place emphasis on developing surrogates to carry out attacks in an effort to avoid detection, blame, and retaliation. As a result it is often difficult to attribute terrorist incidents to his group, Al Qa’ida.
Nevertheless, we and our Allies have scored some important successes against terrorist groups and their plans, which I would like to discuss with you in closed session later today. Here, in an open session, let me assure you that the Intelligence Community has designed a robust counterterrorism program that has preempted, disrupted, and defeated international terrorists and their activities. In most instances, we have kept terrorists off-balance, forcing them to worry about their own security and degrading their ability to plan and conduct operations.
The Taliban shows no sign of relinquishing terrorist Usama Bin Ladin, despite strengthened UN sanctions and prospects that Bin Ladin's terrorist operations could lead to retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan. The Taliban and Bin Ladin have a symbiotic relationship—Bin Ladin gets safe haven and in return, he gives the Taliban help in fighting its civil war.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by the DCI George J. Tenet at the Town Hall of Los Angeles (Dec. 7, 2000)
What US Intelligence Does for You
We have, since July 1998—in partnership with governments around the world—helped deliver to justice more than two dozen terrorists—more than half of whom were linked to Usama bin Laden. These actions have shattered terrorist cells and networks, disrupted terrorist plans, and—in some cases—prevented terrorist attacks from taking place.
Statement DCI George J. Tenet before the SSCI on "The Worldwide Threat in 2000: Global Realities of Our National Security" (Feb. 2, 2000)
Since July 1998, working with foreign governments worldwide, we have helped to render more than two dozen terrorists to justice. More than half were associates of Usama Bin Ladin's Al-Qa'ida organization. These renditions have shattered terrorist cells and networks, thwarted terrorist plans, and in some cases even prevented attacks from occurring.
Usama Bin Ladin is still foremost among these terrorists, because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat he poses. Everything we have learned recently confirms our conviction that he wants to strike further blows against America. Despite some well-publicized disruptions, we believe he could still strike without additional warning. Indeed, Usama Bin Ladin's organization and other terrorist groups are placing increased emphasis on developing surrogates to carry out attacks in an effort to avoid detection
Some of these terrorists are actively sponsored by national governments that harbor great antipathy toward the United States.
Mr. Chairman, to sum up this part of my briefing, we have had our share of successes, but I must be frank in saying that this has only succeeded in buying time against an increasingly dangerous threat. The difficulty in destroying this threat lies in the fact that our efforts will not be enough to overcome the fundamental causes of the phenomenon—poverty, alienation, disaffection, and ethnic hatreds deeply rooted in history. In the meantime, constant vigilance and timely intelligence are our best weapons.
Remarks of DCI George J. Tenet at the Oscar Iden Lecture, Georgetown University (Oct. 18, 1999)
International terrorism, both on its own and in conjunction with narcotics traffickers, international criminals and those seeking weapons of mass destruction. You need go no further than Usama Bin Ladin –the perpetrator of the East Africa bombings. He has declared the acquisition of weapons of a mass destruction a religious duty and identified every American as a legitimate target.
Statement of DCI George J. Tenet as Prepared for Delivery Before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats (Feb. 2, 1999)
Looking out over the next year, Mr. Chairman, let me mention two specific concerns. First, there is not the slightest doubt that Usama Bin Ladin, his worldwide allies, and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us. Despite progress against his networks, Bin Ladin's organization has contacts virtually worldwide, including in the United States — and he has stated unequivocally, Mr. Chairman, that all Americans are targets.
Bin Ladin's overarching aim is to get the United States out of the Persian Gulf, but he will strike wherever in the world he thinks we are vulnerable. We are anticipating bombing attempts with conventional explosives, but his operatives are also capable of kidnappings and assassinations.
We have noted recent activity similar to what occurred prior to the African embassy bombings, Mr. Chairman, and I must tell you we are concerned that one or more of Bin Ladin's attacks could occur at any time.
DCI George J. Tenet, Before the SSCI Hearing on Current and Projected National Security Threats (Jan. 28, 1998)
There has been a trend toward increasing lethality of attacks, especially against civilian targets.
A confluence of recent developments increases the risk that individuals or groups will attack US interests. Terrorist passions have probably been inflamed by events ranging from the US Government's designation of 30 terrorist groups to the conviction and sentencing of Mir Aimal Kasi and Ramzi Ahmed Yosuf as well as the ongoing US standoff with Iraq and frustration with the Middle East peace process.
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