Excerpt of Testimony by Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet
Before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Hearing on
National Security Threats to the United States
February 6, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I skipped some things, and I'll end there, because I think we want to move to questions as soon as you can. I wonder, Mr. Chairman, if I can just respond for a minute to both of your opening statements on the whole terrorism issue and how we proceed ahead, because I think it's important. And you get to speak to the American people—so do I—and I think it's important that they hear us on this question.
We welcome the committee's review of our record on terrorism. It's important we have a record. It is a record of discipline, strategy, focus and action. We are proud of that record. We have been at war with al Qaeda for over five years. Our collective successes inside Afghanistan bears a reflection of the importance we attach to the problem, and a reflection of a demonstrated commitment to expanding our human assets, technical operations, fused intelligence, seamless cooperation with the military. These are things we have been working on very hard over the last five years.
During the millennium threat, we told the president of the United States that there would be between five and 15 attacks against American interests both here and overseas. None of these attacks occurred—primarily because of the result of heroic effort on the part of the FBI and the CIA inside the United States and overseas to ensure that those attacks were not successful.
A year later the Cole was bombed. We lost a battle there. Part of the problem that we need to address as you look at this is not only to assess what we can do unilaterally, or in conjunction with our military and law enforcement colleagues, but the countries out there who have often deflected us, or have not recognized there was a terrorism problem, who didn't help us solve problems that we could not solve simply on our own. In the last spring and summer we saw—in the spring and summer of 2001—again we saw spectacular threat reporting about massive casualties against the United States. These threat reportings had very little texture with regard to what was occurring inside the United States. We again launched a massive disruption effort. We know that we stopped three or four American facilities from being bombed overseas. We know we saved many American lives. We never had the texture that said the date, time and place of the event inside the United States would result in September 11th. It was not the result of the failure of attention and discipline and focus and consistent effort, and the American people need to understand that.
What Tom Ridge is doing today in protecting the homeland, in thinking about our Border Patrol policies, our visa policies, the relationship between all our organizations–-airport security–all of these things must be in place—intelligence will never give you 100 percent predictive capability on terrorist events. This Community has worked diligently over the last five years, and the American people need to understand that with the resources and authorities and priorities the men and women of the FBI and the CIA performed heroically. Whatever shortcomings we may have, we owe it to the country to look at ourselves honestly and programmatically. But when people use the word "failure"—"failure" means no focus, no attention, no discipline—and those were not present in what either we or the FBI did here and around the world. And we will continue to work at it. But when the information or the secret isn't available, you need to make sure your backside is protected. You need to make sure there is a security regime in place that gives you the prospect of succeeding—and that's what we all need to work on together.
The decision of the president to go inside the sanctuary and take the war to the Taliban and al Qaeda may be the most significant thing that happened, because all of this preparation has resulted in destroying that sanctuary, even as we chase everybody around the world. We have disrupted numerous terrorist acts since September the 11th, and we will continue to do so with the FBI. And we welcome the committee's review. It is important for the American people. But how we paint it is equally important, because they need to know that there are competent men and women who risk their lives and undertake heroic risks to protect them. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Vice Chairman