Statement by CIA Spokesman Bill Harlow
There appears to be some misunderstanding about the nature and extent of CIA's efforts directed against terrorism in general, and Usama bin Laden and the Al-Qaida organization in particular, during the period prior to September 11, 2001. We believe it is necessary and appropriate to set the record straight.
The statement released yesterday by the Joint Inquiry Staff indicates that despite the Intelligence Community's recognition of the seriousness and immediacy of the threat posed by Usama bin Laden, there was no "massive shift" in budget or reassignment of personnel to counterterrorism until after September 11th. Actually, the number of people assigned to the Counterterrorist Center doubled during Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet's tenure at CIA in the period prior to September 11th, and, as the statement acknowledged, resources dedicated to counterterrorism increased during the 1990s even as overall spending on intelligence declined. As the statement noted, the increases also occurred when there were other serious threats to Americans that had to be addressed, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The number of officers assigned to CTC has more than doubled again since September 11th, and the number of analysts within CTC has quadrupled since the attacks.
Specifically, the Joint Inquiry statement reports that prior to September 11, 2001, CTC had "40 analysts to analyze terrorism issues worldwide, with only one of the five branches focused on terrorist tactics." This is incorrect. Prior to September 11, the CIA had about 115 analysts throughout the CIA, including those assigned to CTC itself, who were working terrorism-related issues or applying specialized skills to the overall terrorism problem.
The Joint Inquiry statement also reports that "in 1999, for example, the CTC had only three analysts assigned full-time to Bin Laden's terrorist effort worldwide. After 2000 (but before September 11, 2001) that number had risen to five." This also is incorrect. In 1999, CTC had nine analysts within its analytic group assigned to monitor UBL and Al-Qaida worldwide. Added to those nine, CIA had the equivalent of eight additional analysts devoted to UBL and Al-Qaida issues across the Agency's Directorate of Intelligence (DI). Moreover, about 20 additional DI analysts were assigned to operations issues within CTC to work various aspects of UBL and Al-Qaida from an operational standpoint.
Regarding resources directed at UBL, the statement says there were "approximately 35-40 personnel assigned to CTC's special Bin Laden unit," but does not point out that this unit tasked and directed about 200 Agency officers deployed worldwide to work the counterterrorism target.
The Joint Inquiry Staff statement correctly points out that Director Tenet told Agency officers in 1998 that we were in a war with Usama bin Laden. The CIA did devote great resources to that effort, the results of which, in part, can be seen in the fulsome reporting, some of which is covered in the Joint Inquiry Staff statement and in the aggressive worldwide efforts to combat terrorism.
We had no illusions about how hard that fight would be. As Director Tenet testified in an open hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in February 2000, "Everything we have learned recently confirms our conviction that (Bin Laden) wants to strike further blows against America. Despite some well-publicized disruptions, we believe he could still strike without additional warning." Again in February 2001 testimony before the SSCI, Director Tenet warned that Bin Laden "is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning."