Jim Pavitt, Deputy Director for Operations
Address to Duke University Law School Conference
April 11, 2002
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. It's a great pleasure for me to join you this evening, to come down here to this wonderful part of the country and get an opportunity to chat about things I think are very important. I very much appreciate the invitation. I'm delighted to join you.
What I want to speak to you about tonight is a war that our nation, the United States, have not sought, but which all of us, whether we're in Washington or whether we're somewhere else in our country have the resolve to win.
In my travels through the U.S. and abroad, I travel frequently, I am reminded time and time again exactly what's at stake in our war against terrorism. [inaudible] We are waging a war against terrorism everywhere, not just Afghanistan. Our war is not against Islam. There is no alternative for us other than victory.
Though the profession I represent is known for its economy of words—that's a quality that keeps me in high demand [as a dinner speaker], I welcome the talk and to give you my perception on terrorism and talk just a bit about the CIA's role as it is in the fight against it.
The threat that we face today from global terrorism is real, it's immediate, and it is unlike any other we have faced before. I say this from 30 years of experience in an intelligence function.
Terrorism as we face it today does not confine its destruction to far off lands. The events of the 11th tragically make that clear to all of us. And this war will not end with a peace treaty or with the disappearance of a single state or a government. Nor will it in the end be a war which we conclude we have won. Rather, in my view, it's going to be a war which we will be fighting for a long time to come.
On September 11th our country, the American people and the entire world came face to face with a horrible truth. That truth is that the forces of terror are highly resourceful, they have a level of compartmentation seldom seen, they are extremely determined and they are utterly ruthless. If we allow them to continue what they started, they are going to kill us again.
For the men and women of CIA that truth is familiar. With our partners in law enforcement and our allies around the globe we have been battling terrorism for years.
I think it's important to note tonight that we did not discover terrorism on the 12th of September. For many of us the war commenced many many years earlier.
In 1986 when the Cold War was still a defining fact of political life in the United States of America the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency created something he called the Counter-Terrorist Center. Now more than 15 years since that the CIA's Counter-Terrorist Center known to us as CTC remains a model of America's war against terrorism.
Our task is to preempt, to disrupt and to defeat international terrorism. The guiding principle and that which has given us the success we've had to date is agility and flexibility. The Counter-Terrorist Center has become something of great value I think to our country and to the fight against global terrorism. It allows us to use the resources at CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, a variety of other federal agencies for a couple of specific purposes—to improve our collection and our analysis of intelligence.
In CTC what we do is bring expertise under one roof and then leverage all the other resources in the American and foreign intelligence communities with whom we have relationships to the end of attacking terrorism.
Today in CTC, in CIA we have FBI agents working side by side with CIA officers. And by doing so we improve the ability to get the right information to the right people so we can do something about the attacks to come.
Analysts in the intelligence world, in my field case officers as we call them, operations officers, combine their talents and their diverse experiences to the end of getting us a fuller picture of both the terrorist threat, the terrorist mentality, and they help us to create well-informed strategies for fighting it. We've had a number of significant successes over the years, but the fact remains, and I think it's important that I cite this, that we in the government of the United States as a whole could not neither prevent or precisely predict the devastating tragedy of the September 11th attacks. Why do I say that?
I believe the answer to the question lies in the very nature of the target itself. On September 10th we were devoting more and more resources against the terrorist target than at any other intelligence challenge we faced. Let me tell you what we knew on the 10th of September.
We had very, very good intelligence of the general structure and strategies of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. We knew and we warned that al Qaeda was planning a major strike. There need be no question about that. What didn't we know?
We never found the tactical intelligence, never uncovered the specifics that could have stopped those tragic strikes that we all remember so well. And as a reality of that difficult and often frustrating fight against terror, the terror cells that we're going up against are typically small and all terrorist personnel in those cells, participating in those cells, perpetrating the acts of terror, all those personnel were carefully screened. The number of personnel who know vital information, targets, timing, the exact methods to be used had to be smaller still.
Some of you out there may have heard bin Laden himself speak about this on that shocking videotape that we recovered in Afghanistan. On that tape when he was speaking to friends as he sat around in a little room, he talks about the fact that some of the hijackers, indeed, some of the most senior members of his inner circle had been kept in the dark about the full extent of that destruction operation that took place in New York and in Washington on the 11th of September. In my business we call that compartmentation. In his business, terror, killing of innocent people, he calls that compartmentation.
Against that degree of control, that kind of compartmentation, that depth of discipline and fanaticism, I personally doubt, and I draw again upon my 30 years of experience in this business, that anything short of one of the knowledgeable inner circle personnel or hijackers turning himself in to us would have given us sufficient foreknowledge to have prevented the horrendous slaughter that took place on the 11th.
While we did not stop the awful carnage that day our years of preparation and our experience allowed us to respond to the challenges of war quickly and effectively. From the moment the second tower was hit in New York, CIA began to shift resources to both collection and analysis. We knew from the start that our key contribution would come not in now numbers but in expertise.
We've built new units and teams around seasoned officers and we drew heavily on the quality that describes clandestine service and the CIA as a whole—initiative and agility.
Teams of my paramilitary operations officers trained not just to observe conditions but if need be to change them, were among the first on the ground in Afghanistan. With a small logistical footprint they came with lightning speed. We were on the ground within days of that terrible attack. They also came with something else. They came with knowledge of local languages, whatever you heard to the contrary notwithstanding, terrain, and politics. Let me be clear. I am extraordinarily proud of my officers. Proud of their accomplishments. More proud still of their courage. In those few days that it took us to get there after that terrible, terrible attack, my officers stood on Afghan soil, side by side with Afghan friends that we had developed over a long period of time, and we launched America's war against al Qaeda.
None of this came easy. You cannot learn Pushtan overnight, and you can't truly understand the complexities of tribalism, regionalism, and personalism in Afghanistan by reading the newspaper or a learned book. My people learned about this by years of study and years of practice often in difficult, hostile places and yes indeed, on the ground in Afghanistan itself.
If you hear somebody say, and I have, the CIA abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets left and that we never paid any attention to that place until September 11th, I would implore you to ask those people how we were able to accomplish all we did since the Soviets departed. How we knew who to approach on the ground, which operations, which warlord to support, what information to collect. Quite simply, we were there well before the 11th of September.
But let's not make any mistake. This is very, very dangerous work–a fact that the best logistical support can never change. As all of you know, the first American to die by enemy action in Afghanistan was a CIA officer. Son from small town America with a wife and three kids, Micheal Spann, was working one of the front lines in the fight against terrorism. Exactly one year almost to the day of his death I shook his hand when I graduated him from our basic training program. His spirit, his talent, his courage won him a place as he went off to Afghanistan among my organization's elite. He went there where the risk was because that's where the intelligence was. He sought and collected, prior to his death, vital intelligence for our country. Sadly all his love, promise and service was cut short in a desolate, mud-walled prison. I know far more about that than anyone in this room, but in death, as in life, he embodies the best of our clandestine service, your clandestine service.
I happen to have the honor right now of managing and running it. And were Mike with us tonight he would be the first to tell you that there are hundreds more just like him. And that is good news for us all. Whether it's in the back alleys of some hell hole in this world, and there are a lot of those, and I have a lot of my officers operating them, to the dusty fields of Mazar-e-Sharif where Mike died, we go where we have to go, where someone has to go. The information we uncover has meant better security here at home and overseas. Let there be no question about that.
The challenges of running intelligence operations against a sophisticated and determined global foe, a foe that doesn't wear a uniform and flies no flag, those challenges are daunting but they can and they will be overcome.
In a run-up to the millennium celebrations the CIA warned the President of the United States of serious terrorism conspiracies around the world. We predicted, we told the President, that there would be between five and 15 serious attacks against on U.S. soil. But we did much much more than warn. With our allies and our partners around the world we launched immense efforts to counter those threats. Hundreds of terrorists were arrested, multiple cells of terrorism were destroyed. One terrorist cell planned to blow up a hotel, buses and holy cites in both Israel and Jordan. It had also planned to use chemical weapons. The moments of relevant peace we associate with the millennium were not the result of either chance or accident, they were the result clearly of great skill on the part of a good many people and very hard work. Good intelligence stopped terrorism. We knew then just as we know now that al Qaeda and those who would continue its mission of murder were nothing if they're not resilient. Remember, the World Trade Center was attacked once before.
Stripped today of their huge safe haven in Afghanistan, denied their sanctuary with their allies, the Taliban, driven from power, they are trying even as we sit here tonight in the splendor of this site, trying to recruit, recover and attack us again. And attack us again they will.
Before and after September 11th the CIA has pursued an elusive, deadly enemy. More than 1,000 extremists that we believe are linked to al Qaeda have been arrested in more than 70 countries since the attacks on the 11th. But despite what sounds like large numbers, staggering success, the fact of the matter is that we are far from finished. There's a good deal more to be done. There's much much more to be done.
Because the networks of terror are fluid and dynamic, because they learn from their past and from ours—from our past, from our action—I'm not at liberty tonight to describe to you every thing we've done against them. You would not want me to do that. But let me emphasize that what I'm telling you here tonight is just the tip of the iceberg of what American intelligence can do to protect American interests.
Today, the year 2002, I have more spies stealing more secrets than at any time in the history of the CIA. I'm proud of what we do and proud more of those who put their lives on the lines to protect the lives and freedom of others. I ask you to take me at my word. We're stealing more secrets, providing our leadership with more intelligence than we've ever done before.
On the question of terrorism, the information that CIA collects and assesses deals with more than threats and potential attacks against our interests, decisive though that is. Like you, we recognize that terrorism has deep roots and multiple causes that we as a nation must examine thoroughly. It is not enough for us to understand the what and the how of terrorism, we must know why terrorism exists, why it's attractive to some, and why it can spread to others. Every day through unique clandestine reports and careful reasoned intelligence analysis we convey that essential context to our customers starting with the President and then going to the people around him who make American foreign policy.
The war in which our country finds itself now, a war which we did not seek but one we are determined to win, is not a war against a people or a war against a faith. It is a war against a terrible distortion of human and religious values. It's not merely a war to defend our way of life, it's a war to defend life itself. To be sure, despair and disappointment are the raw materials of terror, but it's building blocks are ignorance and intolerance. And it is those evils which are fostered by extremists who have nothing to do with genuine piety that produce the fanatical terrorists which can perpetrate the kind of action we saw on the 11th.
To those who preach hate and hopelessness, the murder of innocents is no crime at all. They falsely portray the massacre of ordinary men, women and children of every race and of every creed as a revenge of the powerless against the powerful. It is no such thing. But as we fight the terrorist groups of today we must be, and frankly we have been, careful to avoid the sort of indiscriminate response that would only add to the strengths of terrorists who will strike us tomorrow.
At the same time, the world must find a way to come to grips with the roots of terror. I'm an intelligence officer. That's a responsibility for someone else. But for those who do shape policy the challenge is not merely to attack terrorism but to attack the causes of terrorism as well.
As President Bush has said, this will be a long and difficult war. Some of the battles are very visible, others are not. But most are waged by a coalition of nations—Muslim and non-Muslim alike, for we all face a common threat, and all share a deep, deep revulsion for the teachings and tactics of terrorism. Alongside with military and diplomatic coalitions, there's something I think very important and that is a global coalition of intelligence services. From around the world, from our allies and our partners, we receive and we share information. We plan operations together and together in many instances we take terrorists off the streets.
The cooperation that I've just described is vital and it is growing. And it is, like so many other parts of my profession, ultimately founded on relationships of great competence and great trust.
Now for the hard truth. Despite the best efforts of so much of the world, the next terrorist attack—it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. With so many possible targets and an enemy more than willing to die, the perfect defense isn't possible. If I knew any society that would mount such a perfect defense devoid as it would be of the liberties that makes us great, is not worth defending.
So instead of intelligence perfection, I can promise only our greatest care and our fullest dedication. I promise that. That depends most of all on the men and women who do the work—operations officers (that’s a phrase you don’t understand). Newspapers describe operations officers as CIA agents. I recruit agents. I'm an operations officer. My operations officers, talented and bold enough to identify and acquire intelligence anywhere in the world is what we need. Analysts, intelligence analysts skilled and knowledgeable enough to see patterns and data where others do not, that's what we need. And finally, scientists, engineers, and support officers who are gifted enough to create the conditions and the tools and the technologies that let the operations officers and the analysts excel. I have those officers at CIA and I'm getting more.
After the deep, debilitating cuts of the 1990s, when any thought that the end of the Cold War would bring us a safer, more predictable world, one in which intelligence was not important, a world in which intelligence officers were no longer as necessary, we now continue to rebuild, back to essential strength where we can continue to do what you and others ask me to do. In the Directorate of Operations alone, since just five or six years ago, we are training more than 10 times as many operations officers. These are people with qualifications that we need today and tomorrow. They have the education, they have the background, they have the languages and they have the experience in this country and overseas to get this job done.
I can never before, however, focused tonight as I am on fighting terrorism because that's what you asked me to talk to you about. That as decisive and important as counter-terrorism may be to our mission, our country needs to focus on other things as well. From emerging powers and rogue states, to counter-proliferation, and narcotic trafficking. At the end of the day I don't get to pick and choose issues. My job is simply, as my boss tells me, cover them all.
In that and so much else CIA is fortunate to enjoy a tremendous amount of (inaudible) in a democracy like ours that's absolutely crucial to my getting the job done. The President has made a commitment to intelligence that in my mind is truly inspiring. Congress, too, has given us the support we need while exercising the oversight that the American people rightly demand. Equally impressed with the torrent of letters, phone calls and e-mails we've received at CIA daily from the public and around the world. I'd like to share just one of those with you.
One e-mail that we received that stands out came from an 11 year old girl days after the September 11th attack. She wrote, and I quote, "I'm very scared right now. Would you please tell me what you're doing to make things safe? And don't give me any of that crap about classified information." [Laughter] Unquote.
Many have volunteered to join the fight against terrorism and I’m honored to say we continue to bring in the best and the brightest our country has to offer [inaudible]. The outpouring of support has truly been for somebody as hardened as I am to this business, inspiring. Those people coming in are great men and they're great women. And they work in secret on behalf of the American people and in keeping with the highest values of our people. I hope you will always be proud of them. I certainly am.