Remarks of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,
at the Chicago Council on Global
(as prepared for
October 30, 2007
I begin, I want to thank the Council for all you do to contribute to a better
public understanding of issues affecting national security. I also want to
thank you for giving me the opportunity tonight to talk about my Agency’s work,
and to answer your questions.
Last month marked a big anniversary
for any student of world affairs. It was the 60th anniversary of the
National Security Act of 1947, a defining moment in American foreign policy. From
that point on, America committed itself to project our strength in the world
not just as a last resort, but consistently and as a matter of doctrine, to
contain a predatory ideology that was a dire threat to our interests and an
affront to our founding principles. We no longer merely supported the cause of
freedom—we championed it.
my Agency was created by the National Security Act, September also marked CIA’s
60th birthday. It was a great way of giving all our new officers who
have entered on duty since 9/11 a better understanding of our history and
tradition—and a better sense of CIA’s unique spirit.
celebrated the achievements of some of our greatest officers. Our historians
gave detailed case studies of analysis, operations, and covert action. We
opened a new exhibit in our museum on the extraordinary Afghan campaign, and we
brought an actual A-12 OXCART reconnaissance aircraft to Headquarters for
permanent display—you might be more familiar with the Air Force version, the
the kickoff came on Family Day, our annual birthday celebration that’s always
held on a Saturday. More than 20,000
people—CIA officers and family members—attended this year. That’s a record, almost
doubling last year’s turnout. And no—attendance was not mandatory.
me, the retrospective brought out some fundamental truths about CIA and the
Intelligence Community, and reinforced other ideas I’ve held for some time. Tonight,
I’d like to share them with you in the form of five propositions on the state
of CIA and American intelligence at large. Some of the things I’m about to tell
you are virtually secret—not because they’re classified, but because they don’t
get nearly as much public attention as they should.
let’s open up with my first point: Today,
intelligence is more crucial to the security of our nation than it’s ever been.
a pretty sweeping assertion, so let me back it up with a historical analogy.
the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s most deadly forces—its ICBMs and tank
armies—were relatively easy to find, but hard to kill. Intelligence was
important, but overshadowed by the need for sheer firepower.
Today, the situation
is reversed. We are now in an age in which our primary adversary is easy to
kill, but hard to find. So you can understand why so much emphasis in the last six
years has been on intelligence.
Moreover, the moment
of our enemy’s attack may be just that—a moment, a split-second—the time it
takes for an airliner to crash or a bomb to detonate. There can be little or no
time to defeat him on the battlefield he’s chosen.
But behind that point
of attack is a trail of planning, travel, communication, training, and all the
other elements that go into a large-scale terrorist operation. This is where
there are secrets we can steal, operatives we can capture and interrogate,
plots we can and must disrupt.
know al-Qa’ida is as determined as ever to strike our homeland. Its aim is to
execute a spectacular attack that would cause mass casualties, massive
destruction, and economic harm. In recent years, it has protected or
regenerated key elements of its attack capability: safehaven in the Tribal Areas
of Pakistan, operational lieutenants, and a leadership engaged in plotting
Intelligence Community made each of those assessments with high confidence in a
National Intelligence Estimate released three months ago. The Estimate was less
certain about one crucial element in al-Qa’ida’s plotting—the presence of
operatives inside the United States.
Countering this threat—targeting those overseas who plan
and prepare for attack—is the unique domain of a clandestine
intelligence service. This is where the American people expect us to fight.
That raises an important fact, and my second point: The war on terrorism is an intelligence war
as much as a military one—maybe even more so. CIA’s core strengths—the
tradecraft we use to collect human intelligence and our concentration of
analytic expertise—are integral to this conflict. And it’s a form of
warfare unlike any other in our country’s history.
CIA is charged with prosecuting an expeditionary
campaign to help capture or kill al-Qa’ida operatives and their affiliates. The
American people rightfully expect us to use all our authorities and
capabilities to protect our Republic. It’s a responsibility we feel acutely
each and every day.
When I spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last month, I said that my Agency operates only
within the space given to us by the American people. That is how we want it to be, and that is how it should be.
space is defined by the policymakers we elect and the laws our representatives
pass. But once the laws are passed and the boundaries set, the American people
expect CIA to use every inch we’re given to protect our fellow citizens. When
all is said and done, that is our overriding mission.
last six years have shown us that the best sources of information on terrorists
and their plans are the terrorists themselves. That intelligence has been
simply irreplaceable. And if CIA, with all our expertise as the nation’s human
intelligence service, failed to take every lawful measure we could to gain
those secrets, the American people would be right to ask why.
irreplaceable nature of that intelligence is the sole reason we have rendition,
detention, and interrogation programs. They are small, carefully run
operations. Fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have gone through the
interrogation program since it began in 2002 with the capture of Abu Zubaidah. Of
those, less than a third have required any special methods of questioning.
the fewer than 100 detainees have generated thousands of intelligence reports. We’ve
shared that information not only with our colleagues in other national security
agencies, but with foreign partners as well. More than 70 percent of the human
intelligence reporting used in the National Intelligence Estimate I mentioned
earlier is based on detainee information.
programs are as lawful as they are valuable. They have been subject to multiple
legal and policy reviews inside and outside CIA, which brings me to my third
proposition: CIA is an instrument of
national security policy, subject—and responsive—to Congressional oversight.
In CIA’s early years, the concept of
oversight was more or less a work in progress. Today, it’s central to
everything we do—but that fact tends to get inexplicably lost in the public
Congressional oversight committees have been fully and repeatedly briefed on
all our activities. They know what these programs are, and what they aren’t.
I’ll give you some
statistics—all of them are for calendar year 2007—that underscore our vigorous
support of the oversight process:
- CIA officers have testified in 62 congressional hearings and are responding
to 30 congressionally-legislated requests for
- We have answered 1,177 QFRs—that’s “questions for the record”—as well as 297 other letters, questions, and requests.
- Our experts have given more than 600 briefings to congressional members and
- And we have issued 121 congressional notifications on our sensitive programs.
Everything is on the table. I
personally have briefed the Hill nine times on renditions, detentions, and
interrogations, pointing out the great value of these programs to the
war on terrorism.
as I said, the programs themselves are a small part of our overall operations
and hardly the centerpiece of our counterterrorism effort. In fact, they tend
to overshadow what may be the most important dynamic behind some of our recent successes,
which is my fourth point: America’s
intelligence officers have internalized the decisive value of integration and are
putting it to use, with outstanding results for our national security.
Remember all the
commissions established in the aftermath of 9/11? If there was one recommendation
whose value and necessity was universally endorsed, it was the need for greater
cohesion and unity across not only the Intelligence Community, but the entire
national security and law enforcement sector. Information most definitely
needed to be shared, but the problem went deeper than that: our mission had to
I readily admit
there’s still plenty of work to be done, and DNI McConnell has made closer
integration our Community’s top priority. But I can tell you there’s already
been a sea change in both attitude and practice. And that goes for collaboration
at all levels, whether it’s within an agency, between agencies, between
communities—such as intelligence and law enforcement—or with allied governments.
spirit is strongest in the field, especially in the war zones. I’ve been to Iraq
and Afghanistan several times, and there is little if any partitioning or sense
of turf—everything is subordinated to the shared mission at hand. At any one of
our Stations or forward bases there, you not only find CIA analysts working
closely with CIA case officers, but both serve alongside Intelligence Community
colleagues and uniformed military.
Not surprisingly, Iraq and
Afghanistan are also where you’ll find the best examples of how integrated ops
can have a devastating effect on the enemy. You need look no further than the
operation last year that eliminated Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the former head of
al-Qa’ida in Iraq. It was the merging of many sensitive data streams—from human
sources, technical ops, intercepts, and more—that culminated in two smart bombs
gliding toward their target.
It takes the precision intelligence
you get from bringing together the expertise of different agencies to be able
to act precisely. And
operations like the one that took out Zarqawi aren’t limited to well-known,
high-value targets. They are used to kill and capture terrorists at all levels
with growing frequency—it’s just that the results don’t always make it into
print or the nightly news. And that’s by design, because it allows us to
exploit leads and gather information for the next strike.
I should add that the value of
integration extends well beyond kinetic strikes and capture missions. CIA
analysts serving in Iraq alongside the military played a key role in one of the
most promising recent developments in that country: finding common cause
against al-Qa’ida with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar Province.
The full potential of integrated ops
is realized when we conduct them with our foreign partners, extending our reach
and effectiveness. My deputy Steve Kappes and I have gone to dozens of
countries to strengthen our liaison relationships—many have been visited more
than once. I really can’t overstate how vital our
allies are to the overall effort.
The UK airliner plot and the
takedowns of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Mullah Dadullah, and many, many others
show what can be accomplished by close teamwork among allies. We’ve used that teamwork and every lawful
tactic at our disposal to protect our citizens from terrorist brutality. And it
continues 24/7, with the most recent and significant example being the CT
arrests in Germany and Denmark last month. From the start, our officers were
part of the process that took terrorists off the streets and saved lives.
One more point on the theme of
integration—it improves how we accomplish our entire global mission, not just
counterterrorism. My Agency covers a list of issues as long as the world is
wide: nuclear proliferation, emerging security threats, the rise of new
economic centers, the scramble for natural resources, and every other foreign
challenge or opportunity America faces, whether current or potential.
Under my Agency’s Strategic Intent,
our roadmap for the next decade or so, we’ve launched a series of initiatives
to enhance our core capabilities and integration in everything we do. For
example, in the past year we’ve begun to set up our Forward Deployed Analytic
Cells, one in East Asia and one in Africa. A third, in Latin America, will be
up and running soon, and we plan on having many more. These cells allow
analysts in the field to draft assessments with complete connectivity back to
Langley. They already are improving analytic collaboration between the field
and Headquarters, creating a more effective partnership between our analysts
Another critical program will revamp
how data is stored at CIA. The basic idea is to put it on one system, instead
of scattered around our Directorates and offices. We’re removing unnecessary
barriers to information that might restrict our officers’ ability to provide
complete, accurate intelligence.
The fact is, CIA has been
transformed since 9/11 in terms of breaking down internal barriers, moving our
center of gravity out to the field, and maintaining a fierce operational tempo.
Under our Strategic Intent, the rate of change should keep rising.
At the same time, the core traits that
CIA inherited from our forerunners in the Office of Strategic Services—America’s
espionage and commando service during the Second World War—have not only endured,
but grown stronger. And that leads to my final point: The qualities of our OSS founders—that unique combination of
capability, dedication, and spirit—are
embodied by the latest generation of CIA officers.
We call the prevailing attitude an
“expeditionary mentality”—going wherever the mission takes us, embracing smart
risk, and making a real difference in defending the American people. Our new
officers draw their resolve from 9/11, just as our founders drew theirs from
At about 130,000 applications a
year, we’ve had the opportunity to pick some exceptionally intelligent,
creative officers. Many of the men and women who have joined CIA in the last
six years have had formative experiences out in the war zones and elsewhere in
the field—and they’ve had steep learning curves. That goes for all four of our
Directorates—clandestine officers, technical specialists, support officers, and
The graduates of each new class of
case officers are conducting their first assignments under increasingly creative
forms of cover tailored for today’s high priority targets. Our Directorate of
Science and Technology sends its experts into the field to find technical
solutions to some very daunting operational challenges. Support officers—commo,
security, and logistics people—enable us to fulfill our mission anywhere on the
globe. And, as I mentioned earlier, being an analyst no longer implies sitting
at a desk in Langley.
I’ll offer a few examples of what some
of our new officers have achieved very early in their careers:
Within a few months of graduating
from training, one of our analysts went to Iraq for a 90-day tour, which he
extended to six months. He was assigned to a CIA base outside Baghdad, where he
supported the effort to target Zarqawi—whose demise I mentioned earlier. Our
Chief of Base was so impressed with the analyst’s skill and natural sense of
leadership that he made him acting Chief for several weeks while away at
Another officer identified agents
of a rival nation who had penetrated the intelligence services of some of our
allies. Those findings led to a series of joint operations with our foreign
partners that defused the threat.
And one young man served as deputy team leader for
paramilitary operations out of one of our bases in Afghanistan. He developed
agent networks that gathered intelligence on high-value targets and
OK—I won’t say these experiences are
typical. But the opportunity to make a real difference early on—whether it’s in
counterterrorism or any of our other missions—is definitely out there. And our
newest officers are rising to the challenge.
Very briefly, let me give you some
stats on who they are. Many are recent college graduates, but many others have
years of experience in the private sector, the military, or other government
agencies. About 40 percent have advanced
degrees. Our recruits are entering the Agency at all levels and all
ages—including some who are a decade or less from retirement. I’ve worked with
a lot of them, and it’s clear that some of our nation’s best and brightest are
coming to CIA.
fact, Chicagoland is a fertile recruiting ground for
us—we have strong relationships with more than a dozen schools in the area and
have one of our field recruiters stationed here. Hundreds of our officers hired
within the last five years are from the area.
Recruiting a diverse workforce is a
priority. I’m proud to tell you that for fiscal year 2007, 26 percent of CIA’s new hires were from ethnic minorities. Moreover,
20 percent claim at least some proficiency in a foreign language, including a
good number with Arabic, Chinese, or Korean—all mission-critical languages.
We’re putting a lot of time and
effort into education, training, development, and retention. Our attrition rate
has dropped to less than five percent. It’s even lower—less than three percent—for
our newest employees. Those
figures tell me the vast majority of our new officers are happy with their jobs
and their expectations are being met.
And that’s critical to my Agency, not
only because we have a large cohort of new officers, but because 20 percent of
our workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years. The most
important thing our leadership team can do is hire, train, and retain a strong
workforce, and prepare our new officers for leadership roles years from now.
I spent a little extra time talking
about them because they’re the future of CIA. And you should know about the
kind of men and women who will be standing watch on an enemy we can weaken and disrupt,
but whose threat we cannot completely eliminate—at least not for many years to
As I said last month in New York, we
haven’t just been lucky, and it isn’t as if the terrorists have been lazy. Those
notions fail to explain the lack of an attack inside the United States since
it comes down to is the quality of our people—experts
at CIA, the National Counterterrorism Center, and across the Intelligence
Community. It comes down to their skill and expertise,
certainly, but also to an exceptional level of dedication and lots of hard
work—something that’s well understood in this city.
Thank you all very much.