Fighting Foreign Terrorism
John Deutch, Director of Central Intelligence
September 5, 1996
Nearly a year ago, I reported on the future of the US Intelligence Community. Since then, I believe we have made much progress--particularly in the area I want to discuss today--our fight against foreign terrorism.
I want to discuss this very serious subject in three ways:
- First, the increasingly dangerous threat of foreign terrorism.
- Second, the steps we have taken in the Intelligence Community to meet this threat--including the expanded role of human intelligence or HUMINT, in combating terrorism.
- Third, I want to tell you about our new initiative to increase our counterterrorist capability.
This initiative will:
- increase our ability to identify terrorists,
- increase our ability to thwart their acts of terror,
- and increase our ability to act forcefully and effectively against foreign terrorists wherever they are. I repeat, wherever they are.
We are taking these steps because--as this audience understands--foreign terrorism is a major and growing national security concern.
Events in the past year have driven this home to all of us:
- The suicide bombings in Israel this spring that led to the international terrorism summit at Sharm el Sheik.
- The OPM/SANG Military Training Center bombing that killed five US citizens at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last November.
- The truck bomb that killed 19 US service personnel at the Al Kohbar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in June.
There also remains a possibility that a terrorist act brought down TWA flight #800 in July with a loss of more that 200 lives.
Moreover, in March 1995 the use of SARIN nerve agent by the
Aum Shinriyko cult in Tokyo against the Tokyo subway system demonstrates the reality that terrorists can move beyond conventional explosives to the use of chemical or biological agents.
Not surprisingly, the American public wants to know more about this frightening threat to American lives, and what the government is planning to do to deal with it.
The Intelligence Community has been predicting growth in the lethality of international terrorism for some time. The principal sources of the threat are radical Islamic fundamentalist groups--Hizballah, al-Gamaat, Hamas, and others--who are willing to use terror to advance their goals in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
The reasons why the US is a likely target for these terrorists have been aptly stated by Senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska: we are uniquely positioned in the world both in terms of our foreign policy and economic leadership. Our forces in Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, Turkey, and elsewhere promote peace but are seen as threatening by these radical Islamic groups. We lead the global fight against international terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking.
Senator Kerry is, of course, correct. US leadership for peace and democracy around the world makes us the enemy to these small terrorist groups. And let me underscore that these are relatively small groups--certainly not all Muslim nations or peoples.
These groups use terror as their only way to combat the popularity of democratic institutions we espouse and our overwhelming military and economic strength. Their goal is to make the price of our leadership so high that we will stop what we are doing abroad and go home. We know they will ultimately fail, but we also know they are likely to keep trying.
The American people must understand that this foreign terrorist threat exists, and that we must anticipate new attempts against American citizens, against our troops and facilities, both here and abroad.
So, we face a growing threat for which the evidence is all too clear. But we also are a nation that is determined to meet this challenge--a government whose agencies are working together as never before to defeat this foreign terrorist threat.
And we are far from defenseless in meeting this foreign terrorist threat. Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire correctly said that an effective response requires the integrated efforts of our diplomatic, defense, intelligence, and law enforcement communities.
He is right. We can no longer afford the bureaucratic rivalries that marked the era of J. Edgar Hoover and Allen Dulles. The ability of US agencies to work together effectively has been growing for the past decade, with strong bipartisan support both under the Bush and Clinton administrations.
To give you some flavor of the change that has gone on, this year, for the first time ever, a series of meetings were held overseas between CIA Chiefs of Station and FBI legal attaches. Such cooperation is absolutely unprecedented but absolutely essential.
The chief example of effective interagency cooperation is the Intelligence Community's Counterterrorist Center (CTC) established in 1986. The CTC, which reports to me, was designed to bring all elements of the Intelligence Community together to collect and analyze information from all over the world about terrorist groups--how they train, how the operate, who supports them and where they may find sanctuary.
Today, the CTC has professional officers from 10 different agencies, including CIA, National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the FBI, and State Department. They are working together to provide "strategic warning" about those international terrorist groups that are most likely to sponsor terrorism in the US and elsewhere. Expenditures for the CTC have approximately doubled since 1992 and have increased four times since its inception in 1986.
The CTC is undoubtedly the best organization of its kind in the world. When another country is better informed about a specific terrorist threat in its neighborhood, the CTC seeks access to this information through our liaison relationships. But, in general the CTC knows better than anyone else what is going on in the complex, international world of terrorism.
For example, CTC has a growing understanding of how Hizballah operates. We have tracked it through financial support from Iran, its training in the al Bekka valley in Southern Lebanon, and its operational cells that are functioning in Lebanon, the Sudan, and elsewhere.
The kind of information that the CTC gathers is effective in fighting terrorism:
- CTC has participated with law enforcement officials in numerous successful renditions of terrorists into the hands of US authorities for prosecution in US courts--on six occasions since 1993, including two individuals involved in the World Trade Center bombing.
- Direct assistance from the CTC has made it possible for foreign governments to seize terrorists--five times in the last two years.
- Working with the State Department, the CTC provides extensive counterterrorism assistance to allies worldwide, for example, states of the former Soviet Union, and a number of middle eastern countries such as Israel and Egypt. Over 18,000 individuals in 50 nations have been trained in counterterrorism over the past decade.
- The CTC issues warnings to counter possible terrorist threats. One prominent example is the foiling of the Ramzi Yousef plot in Manila in January 1995 to assassinate the Pope and destroy 10 US airliners. Defensive measures taken in response to these warnings have prevented a number of terrorist acts.
Once a terrorist act is committed, the Intelligence Community plays a crucial role in determining who is responsible. For example:
- It was Intelligence Community analysis that uncovered Libya's role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight #103.
- Intelligence information obtained by the CIA and FBI conclusively revealed that Saddam Hussein was behind the Iraqi plot to assassinate President Bush in Kuwait in 1993.
- CIA assistance was critical to determining who was responsible for the assassination attempt on President Mubarak in Addis Ababa in June 1995.
The American people should have reasonably high confidence that we can, with time and careful work, determine who is responsible for terrorist acts. For example, I am confident that the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Communities, working together, will eventually learn who was responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing.
Of course, we will strive to provide warning of all attacks before they occur, but this is an enormously difficult task. This type of tactical information depends upon access to dedicated terrorist groups who are well financed, skillful, and determined to commit atrocities. Such individuals have learned to keep their planning secret and confined to small cells.
One of the most critical elements in both warning of attacks and detecting those responsible is clandestine human collection or HUMINT. Intelligence collection of this kind is extraordinarily difficult to conduct successfully against terrorist organizations and against rogue states like Iran, Iraq, and Sudan.
I want to report to you today that, thanks to the dedication and incredible skill of our clandestine intelligence officers, we have developed--and are constantly improving--a considerable human intelligence capability against the terrorist target and the countries that offer them support or sanctuary.
Let me emphasize this and put it in context. Our clandestine service is supplying us with an outstanding and growing HUMINT capability against foreign terrorists and the states that support them.
I know that you all will recall a time when the clandestine service or the Directorate of Operations--the DO as it is known--was reeling from a series of shocking revelations. Chief among them was the Ames case in which the Agency itself was penetrated with catastrophic results.
I report to you today that we have taken a great many actions to restore the effectiveness and credibility of the DO. We have emphasized counterintelligence in all our operations. We have emphasized the need to evaluate the human rights and criminal records of prospective agents. And we have emphasized the need for good intelligence tradecraft.
One of the areas where increased resources and emphasis on HUMINT has really paid off as a result of these efforts is in the area of counterterrorism.
Such a capability is not acquired overnight by simply allocating more resources. It takes sustained attention and support from dedicated, trained intelligence officers. I have followed the development of this capability for the past six years, first as a member of President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and now, of course, as DCI.
Since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of this threat, I have watched Directors Webster, Gates, and Woolsey move to place greater priority on and allocate more resources to fighting foreign terrorism. They have received bipartisan support in this effort and it has borne fruit.
President Clinton has continued this support for human intelligence. In times of declining budget, the funding for human intelligence has been stable and the allocation for human intelligence collection against terrorism has been sharply increased.
These investments have paid off. The CIA has substantially increased the number of new sources reporting to us about terrorist groups. The gain in the past 18 months far exceeds previous achievements. This is a particularly important point. Let me repeat. The gain of new sources in the past 18 months far exceeds previous achievements.
This statistic is important for two reasons. One, we need the information to combat this terrorist threat. Two, there were those who said it couldn't be done because of the emphasis we have put in place for evaluating the human rights and criminal records of prospective agents. Those who say these rules are incompatible with effective intelligence gathering are just plain wrong.
We all know we must deal with unsavory characters in the intelligence business. The question is, will we do it in a smart and a discriminating way? The answer is yes, and our performance proves it can be done successfully.
What has been happening is that responsible officers in the CIA have been making judgments about the value of the intelligence gained versus the risk of dealing with these kinds of individuals. And I want to point out that obtaining prior approval from senior managers protects case officers in the field when they later work with these sources.
The rules we have put in place reflect higher standards for trade craft, agent validation and counter intelligence. The higher standards lead to better HUMINT which is exactly what the country needs.
So, your clandestine service is working effectively, and is working particularly effectively in counterterrorism. We are going to see to it that it gets better.
That brings me to my third point--what we are doing to increase our ability to combat foreign terrorism.
The President has instructed me to increase the intelligence efforts against the terrorist threat because we are the pointed end of the spear in the fight against terrorist overseas. We have developed a substantial initiative to do what the President has asked us to do. The principles that guide us are these:
- We need the best foreign intelligence collection against terrorists and the best ability to penetrate terrorist organizations.
- We need the best analytic effort on both the strategic and tactical level to support the efforts of all government agencies. We shall continue to work closely with and assist friendly nations around the world in collecting information about terrorist activities in their neighborhoods.
- We need to increase the capacity of the US Intelligence Community to act against terrorist organizations worldwide.
To fulfill the President's directive, we will be implementing a four-point program:
- First, we are creating a national-level foreign Terrorism Warning Group within the CTC. This highly expert group will have as its exclusive focus the review of intelligence from all sources to provide warning on possible foreign terrorist attacks against US and allied personnel, interests and facilities.
- Secondly, we are deploying a significant number of additional DO case officers overseas and increasing the number of officers assigned to CTC to work against foreign terrorism. I know you'll understand if I decline to be specific about numbers.
- Third, we are expanding our intelligence support for force protection for our military facilities, and we are expanding our effort to protect overseas government facilities.
- Finally, we are increasing the US intelligence communityÕs capability to act forcefully against terrorists worldwide.
Let me discuss this last point a little further. The US has retaliated against terrorists in the past. For example, you recall the 1993 cruise missile attack on Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters in response to the assassination attempt on former President Bush.
What we intend to do now is give the President more options for action against foreign terrorists to further preempt, disrupt, and defeat international terrorism. We want to increase the President's options to act against terrorist groups directly, either to prevent them from carrying out operations or to retaliate against groups we know are responsible for operations.
And let me emphasize that everything we do will be carried out in a manner consistent with this nation's laws, this nation's interests and this nation's values. But let me also emphasize that for those who would attack the United States or its people, there will be no guaranteed safe haven anywhere in the world.
Lastly, let me make the point that, for all of these efforts to be effective, the intelligence community will require the continued, strong bipartisan support that has marked that national counterterrorism effort up till now.
In sum, my report to you on the Intelligence Community's fight against terrorism is this: We have an effective counterterrorist effort today based on our actions and those of our predecessors. Our effort is integrated with the efforts of the broader national security and law enforcement communities. My pledge to you is that we will continue to improve it.