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Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s understanding of al-Qa’ida was hampered by insufficient analytic focus and quality, particularly in terms of strategic analysis. Analysis and analysts were not always used effectively because of the perception in some quarters of the Intelligence Community that they were less important to agency counterterrorism missions than were operations personnel. The quality of counterterrorism analysis was inconsistent, and many analysts were inexperienced, unqualified, under-trained, and without access to critical information. As a result, there was a dearth of creative, aggressive analysis targeting Bin Ladin and a persistent inability to comprehend the collective significance of individual pieces of intelligence. These analytic deficiencies seriously undercut the ability of U.S. policymakers to understand the full nature of the threat, and to make fully informed decisions. Discussion: Despite the recognition of the increased threat posed to the United States by al-Qa’ida, the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analytic focus on al-Qa’ida was woefully inadequate prior to the September 11 attacks. At the CTC, for example, there were only three analysts assigned to work on al-Qa’ida full time between 1998 and 2000, [page 63] and five between 2000 and September 11, 2001. Including analysts from elsewhere in CIA who were in some part attentive to al-Qa’ida, the total was fewer than forty. [In terms of “work years,” the equivalent of nine analyst work years was expended on al-Qa’ida within CTC’s Assessments and Information Group in September 1998. According to CIA, nine CTC analysts and eight analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence were assigned to UBL in 1999. This was only a fraction of the analytic effort that was to be devoted to al-Qa’ida in July 2002]. DCI Tenet acknowledged at the June 19, 2002 Joint Inquiry hearing that: I think that is correct. I think [the number of analysts in the CTC analytic unit working on Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida] was too small. . . . I think one of the things I would say is from a strategic analytical perspective we should have had more analysts than we did. . . . [At the FBI, there were fewer than ten tactical analysts and only one strategic analyst assigned to al-Qa’ida prior to September 11, 2001. The NSA had only a limited number of Arabic linguists, on whom analysis depends, and, prior to September 11, few were dedicated full-time to targeting al-Qa’ida. At the time, NSA’s Arabic linguists were TOP SECRET 59 TOP SECRET also being used to support other high priority targets in the region and to translate intelligence originating in the region and elsewhere]. Elsewhere in the Intelligence Community, other agencies dedicated varying numbers of analysts to the al-Qa’ida issue prior to September 11, 2001. The other two primary all-source analysis centers, DIA’s Joint Intelligence Task Force, Combating Terrorism, and State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR) focused on anti-terrorism and force protection analysis to protect overseas equities. INR dedicated one analyst solely to al Qa’ida, and, at Secretary of State direction, provided a daily summary of intelligence relating to Usama bin Ladin and his activities. DIA devoted 30 analysts to Sunni Extremism and, on any given day, several of them – augmented by Reservists – would be involved with Usama bin Ladin-related issues. [Page 64] Other agencies and organizations maintained at least an awareness of al-Qa’ida and performed roles such as financial tracking and training camp observation consistent with their charters. One non-Intelligence Community organization, the FAA, dedicated as many as five analysts at any one time to al Qa’ida. In late 2000, according to FAA officials, FAA offered CTC Chief Cofer Black the support of its nearly two-dozen analysts regarding transportation security issues in exchange for broader information sharing, but this offer was not accepted because of CTC concerns about protecting its sources and methods. The Joint Inquiry was told that a similar offer of analytic support was made to CTC Chief Black by DIA in 2000, but with similar results. FAA and DIA are both represented at CTC. The Intelligence Community’s focus was also far more oriented toward tactical analysis of al-Qa’ida in support of operations than on the strategic analysis needed to develop a broader understanding of the threat and the organization. For example, as mentioned earlier, the DCI’s National Intelligence Council never produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the threat to the United States posed by al-Qa’ida and Usama Bin Ladin. Active analytic efforts to identify the scope and nature of the threat, particularly in the domestic United States, were clearly inadequate. TOP SECRET 60 TOP SECRET As noted in an August 2001 CIA Inspector General report, analysts assigned to CTC only had time to focus on crises or short-term demands, and “did not have the time to spot trends or to knit together the threads from the flood of information.” These shortcomings, unfortunately, had an impact on areas that were directly relevant to the September 11 attacks. The Joint Inquiry record confirms, for example, that the Intelligence Community had devoted little or no analytic focus prior to September 11 to the terrorist use of aircraft as weapons or to the significant role in al-Qa’ida that was played by Khalid Shaykh Mohammed. This review also confirms that the FBI was performing little, if any, strategic analysis against al-Qa’ida prior to the September 11 attacks. The Chief of the FBI’s National Security Intelligence Section testified that the FBI had “no analysts” dedicated [page 65] to strategic analysis prior to September 11. In fact, as of that date, the FBI had only one strategic analyst working on al-Qa’ida matters. FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson testified that he could not recall any instance where the FBI Headquarters terrorism analytical unit produced “an actual product that helped out.” When the FBI did complete analytic products, the quality was inadequate. During the summer of 2001, the U.S. Intelligence Community was in a state of heightened alert, due to concern about an imminent al-Qa’ida attack. However, this concern was not reflected in the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Threat System (NLETS) reports, which are the means through which the FBI communicated terrorist threat information with state and local law enforcement entities. In a May 2001 NLETS report, for example, the FBI assessed the risk of terrorism as “low,” and, in a July 2, 2001 NLETS report, stated that the FBI had no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States, although the possibility of such an attack could not be discounted. Additional FBI notices that were issued later in July 2001 indicated that there was a potential for attacks against U.S. interests abroad, but again that the possibility of an attack in the United States could not be discounted. More focus on strategic analysis by the FBI and the CIA would have helped crystallize the threat, particularly within the United States, and perhaps spurred more immediate defensive action by U.S. Government policymakers. The Intelligence TOP SECRET 61 TOP SECRET Community was not, however, poised or equipped to deliver the kind of analytic products needed. The FBI, for example, was not even aware of the collective significance of information pertaining to al-Qa’ida that was contained within its own files. This fact is underscored by its failure to connect available information on al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, Zacarias Moussaoui, and the FBI Phoenix field office agent’s Electronic Communication in the summer of 2001. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis, recently detailed from CIA to improve the FBI’s analytic capability, testified that the Bureau “didn’t have analysts dedicated to sort of looking at the big picture and trying to connect the dots, say between the Phoenix memo and Moussaoui and some [page 66] other information that might have come in that might have suggested that there were individuals there who might be preparing to hijack aircraft.” One of the primary reasons that there was so little focus on strategic analysis in the Intelligence Community may have been the perception that operational personnel and matters were more important to agency counterterrorism missions and operations than analysis and analytic personnel. Consistent with its traditional law enforcement mission, the FBI was, prior to September 11, a reactive, operationally driven organization that did not value strategic analysis. While FBI personnel appreciated case specific analysis, for example, most viewed strategic analytic products as academic and of little use in ongoing operations. The FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism acknowledged in Joint Inquiry testimony that the reactive nature of the FBI was not conducive to success in counterterrorism: No one was thinking about the counterterrorism program what the threat was and what we were trying to do about it. And when that light came on, I realized that, hey, we are a reactive bunch of people, and reactive will never get us to a prevention and what we do. . . .Is there anybody thinking and where’s al-Qa’ida’s next target? And no one was really looking at that. He also testified about the difficulty of going beyond the FBI’s traditional case-oriented approach: We will never move away from being reactive. We understand that. And that’s what people want to talk about most of the time is how’s that case going in East Africa, or how’s the USS Cole investigation going? But if you step back and look at it strategically you need to have people thinking TOP SECRET 62 TOP SECRET beyond the horizon and that’s very difficult for all of us. It’s particularly difficult for law enforcement people. Other FBI executives acknowledged the FBI’s pre-September 11 analytic failings. Director Mueller testified that: I would be the first to concede that we have not done a good job in analysis. We have not had either the technology nor the analytical cadre of individuals that we have needed to perform strategic analysis. In Joint Inquiry testimony, the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis referred to strategic analysis as the FBI’s “poor stepchild” prior to September 11, 2001. As a result, our review confirmed that strategic analysts were often marginalized by the operational units and rarely, if ever, received requests from operational sections for analytical assessments of pending al-Qa’ida’s cases. In 2000, FBI management aggravated this situation by transferring five strategic analysts who had been working on al-Qa’ida matters to FBI operational units to assist with ongoing cases. According to a former Chief of the International Terrorism Analytic Unit, this “gutted” the analytic unit’s al-Qa’ida-related expertise and left the unit with little ability to perform strategic analysis. Concerns about protecting criminal prosecutions also limited the FBI’s ability to utilize strategic analytic products. In interviews, some analysts said they frequently were told not to produce written analyses, lest the analyses be included in discovery during criminal prosecutions. FBI analysts were further hindered because of the limitations of the FBI’s information technology. Due in large part to these cultural and practical issues, the Bureau has had little success in building a strategic analytic capability, despite numerous attempts before September 11 to do so. For example, in 1996, the FBI hired approximately fifty strategic analysts for counterterrorism purposes, many with advanced degrees. According to both current and former FBI analytic personnel and supervisors, most of those analysts left the Bureau within two years because they were dissatisfied with the role of strategic analysis at the FBI. TOP SECRET 63 TOP SECRET The lack of emphasis on strategic counterterrorism analysis was also an issue at the CIA. The former Chief of CTC testified that, at the CTC: We have under-invested in the strategic only because we’ve had such near-term threats. The trend is always toward the tactical. . . . The tactical is where lives are saved. [Page 68] And it is not necessarily commonly accepted, but strategic analysis does not . . . get you to saving lives. Analysts in the CTC also expressed concern to the Joint Inquiry that their opinions were not given sufficient weight. A manager in the CTC confirmed to the Staff that CIA operations officers in the field resented being tasked by analysts because they did not like “to take direction from the ladies from the Directorate of Intelligence.” Despite the need for increased analytic capability, CTC reportedly refused to accept analytic support offered by at least two other agencies prior to September 11, 2001. As mentioned earlier, representatives of both FAA and DIA informed the Inquiry that CTC management rebuffed their offers of analytic assistance in 2000 because those agencies wanted greater access to CTC information in return, and this raised CTC concerns regarding protection of its intelligence sources and methods. Analysts at NSA commented to the Joint Inquiry that CTC viewed them as subordinate – “like an ATM for signals intelligence.” NSA analysts say they attempted to accommodate CTC preferences by focusing on short-term operational requirements – sometimes at the expense of more thorough analysis -- and even altered NSA reporting formats because CTC did not like including NSA analyst comments in the text of signals intelligence reports. Several NSA analysts also described a definite perception that the DCI would always side with CIA and CTC operational personnel in any disagreements between NSA and CTC. Some of the shortcomings in analytical capability can be traced to the fact that analysts were often inexperienced, under-trained, and, in some cases, unqualified for the responsibilities they were given. At the CTC, the analysts were a relatively junior group prior to September 11 since CTC had traditionally relied on rotational assignments. An analytic career service was not created in CTC until about 1997. The average CTC TOP SECRET 64 TOP SECRET analyst had three years of analytic experience, versus the eight years for analysts in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence. [Page 69] A former counterterrorism analyst at DIA explained to the Joint Inquiry the consequences for analytic perspective of this shortfall in experience and knowledge: Coupled with this issue of experience comes the ability to place current intelligence reporting in the context of historical perspectives. In the period leading up to the 1998 East Africa bombings and the 2000 attack against the USS Cole in Yemen, terrorism analysts nearly across the board incorrectly assessed that a group would not conduct an attack in an area where it was able to operate with relative ease. Additionally, there appears to be a continued reluctance to correctly assess and evaluate the nature of cooperation between many [ ] and [ ] Islamic extremist groups. Both of these examples, and there are certainly others, occurred despite over a decade of credible reporting to the contrary. At the FBI, a January 2002 internal study found that 66% of the FBI’s 1200 “Intelligence Research Specialists” (strategic analysts) were unqualified. This problem was compounded by the fact that newly-assigned strategic and operational analysts received little counterterrorism training upon assuming their positions. As the Chief of the FBI’s National Security Intelligence Section testified: While there was no standardized training regimen, other than a two-week basic analytical course, training was available on an ad hoc basis and guidance was provided by both the unit chiefs of the analytical units and the FBI's Administrative Services Division. The development of a standardized curriculum, linked to job skills, and career advancement was being planned . . . , but it was never implemented. The quality of Intelligence Community counterterrorism analysis also suffered as a result of the fact that agency analysts often did not have access to important information residing at other agencies. DIA’s Associate Director for Intelligence at the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified about the extent of these problems: In my opinion, one of the most prolonged and troubling trends in the Intelligence Community is the degree to which analysts, while being expected to incorporate all sources of information into their assessments, TOP SECRET 65 TOP SECRET have been systematically separated from the raw material of their trade…. At least for a few highly complex high stakes issues, such as terrorism, where information by its nature is fragmentary, ambiguous and episodic, we need to find ways to emphatically put the “all” back in the discipline of all-source analysis. [Page 70] Intelligence Community analysts had particularly limited access to “raw material” contained in the FBI’s counterterrorism investigations, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)-derived information, and to unpublished NSA information. The former acting head of the FBI’s Usama Bin Ladin Unit informed the Joint Inquiry that, prior to September 11, the FBI would generally only provide the CIA with FISA-derived information when the FBI wanted it passed to a foreign government. Primarily due to the FBI’s technological problems, the FBI’s analysts did not even have access to all relevant FBI information. The FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Analysis testified that “the FBI lacked effective data mining capabilities and analytical tools, it has often been unable to retrieve key information and analyze it in a timely manner—and a lot has probably slipped through the cracks as a result.” There also was, and apparently continues to be, a reluctance at CIA to provide raw data to analysts outside the Agency. DCI Tenet testified that even analysts at the Department of Homeland Security will not be allowed access to CIA raw data: There was a headline today that said raw data provided. Well, actually that's not what's envisioned. They will get all of the finished product, the finished analytical product, the finished intelligence that NSA, CIA and FBI issues, and on a case-by-case basis, depending on what kind of an environment we're in, we actually may give them a piece of raw data. Discussions of access to “raw data” or “raw traffic” raise objections from CIA, since it immediately equates the term to internal operational traffic, and from NSA. Both agencies are concerned with protecting the sources and methods they use to collect intelligence, a responsibility that has been specifically placed upon the DCI by the National Security Act, and NSA is also concerned about its legal responsibilities to “minimize” U.S. person data in the information it collects. TOP SECRET 66 TOP SECRET A significant portion of the communications collected by NSA involves U.S. persons as parties or contains information about U.S. persons. NSA is responsible under law and Attorney General procedures for ensuring that information of this type that does [page 71] not have intelligence value is eliminated before intelligence is disseminated to persons outside the NSA production chain. NSA does allow analysts from other agencies to have access to raw intercepts on a case-by-case basis, typically at NSA and after the analysts have been trained in the minimization rules. Analysts, for their part, maintain that there is intelligence information of potential significance embedded in the raw CIA and NSA data. Much of this, they believe, is filtered out during the CIA and NSA processes that determine what information analysts receive in disseminated form. The CIA has implicitly recognized this by integrating its counterterrorism analysts into CTC where they have full access to raw traffic, an access that most CIA analysts do not routinely enjoy. [As an example, the Joint Inquiry found numerous operational cables relating to the meeting in Malaysia that was attended by al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in January 2000 containing information that could have enabled all-source analysts to assess that meeting more completely. DIA identified four specific leads its terrorism analysts could have pursued had this information been shared with it in early 2000, and three leads in the critical August 2001 timeframe that DIA believes would have allowed additional action to be taken concerning the arrest of Moussaoui and the watchlisting of Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. However, DIA did not learn of this operational traffic until informed of it in the course of the Joint Inquiry in April 2002]. Intelligence analytical personnel told the Joint Inquiry that they are not seeking access to operational details or the identification of sources and methods. The DIA Director, for example, observed that he has tried to convince CTC that DIA does not want operational details, but only important intelligence buried in the operational traffic. The inadequate quality of the Intelligence Community counterterrorism analysis impacted not only the Intelligence Community’s strategy and operations, but also the TOP SECRET 67 TOP SECRET ability of the U.S. Government’s policymakers to understand the threat and to make informed decisions. Several current and former U.S. government policymakers provided [page 72] testimony to this effect before these Committees. For example, Richard Clarke, the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure and Counterterrorism at the National Security Council (“National Counterterrorism Coordinator”) explained to the Joint Inquiry that: FBI did not provide analysis. FBI, as far as I could tell, didn't have an analytical shop. They never provided analysis to us, even when we asked for it, and I don't think that throughout that 10-year period we really had an analytical capability of what was going on in this country. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State complained that Intelligence Community analysis tends to provide policymakers with only one view, and that dissenting opinions are rarely expressed: I am the consumer. It’s very rare that we get the one off voice or the dissident voice . . . . For a policy maker, the dissident voice is very helpful to either confirm what you think or really open up a new area, and this is not generally done. If I had to say the one biggest weakness in the analysis area, I would say that’s it. Second, it’s the way analysis in the Intelligence Community is generally put forth, and it’s related, and that is consensus…I really would just enforce this observation about the need to get alternative views up, because almost everything that’s important here is shrouded in ambiguity and uncertainty. There is a tendency to want to get things scrubbed out to get the differences eliminated. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger implied in his testimony that the U.S. Government has often relied too heavily on analytic expertise within the U.S. Government, and that he believes that the best analytic expertise is often found elsewhere: I think we live in a world . . .in which expertise increasingly does not exist in the government. It’s a very complicated world. And the five people who know Afghanistan the best or Sierra Leone the best are probably located either in academia, think tanks or in companies, not to devalue the people of the government. So we have to find a way in my judgment to integrate the expertise that exists on the outside with the information that exists on the inside. A former DIA counterterrorism analyst told the Joint Inquiry hearing on October 8, 2002: [page 73] TOP SECRET 68 TOP SECRET The single most important issue that will affect future performance is the experience level of the analyst. While this certainly applies to all intelligence analysts regardless of subject area, it is even more critical for those trying to prevent the next terrorist attack. In the case of an analyst responsible for tracking a Middle Eastern terrorist group, this person will need to have an expertise or at least a good working knowledge of terrorism itself, the group that they have for an account, regional and country issues present in the group's operating area, which can be quite extensive, and Islamic history, culture and the sects thereof. This . . . required level of expertise is rarely going to be found outside the Intelligence Community and is instead going to be recruited from academia and then developed in-house through training programs and mentors. Former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Lee Hamilton noted in his testimony to the Joint Inquiry on October 3, 2002 that the Hart-Rudman Commission had concluded that the U.S. Government’s personnel system has become a national security issue. As he stated: There is too much rigidity in the system. There is not enough allowance for incentive. And it is an exceedingly serious problem in our government. And it has national security consequences. We've got to work through this matter so that managers can manage more effectively. . . . . I would absolutely assure you . . . that you would not tolerate in your office the kind of management restrictions that operate today in the federal government. . . . Now I know the importance of this to employees, so it's a tough problem, but the only thing I want to say here, Senator, when you talk about personnel we are now approaching this national security review and we have to look at the civil service system and we have to find ways and means of getting more flexibility into it. If we don't, we're going to choke ourselves to death. During the same hearing, former CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz discussed a number of actions that might be taken to enhance the quality of the personnel employed by the Intelligence Community agencies. These included the idea of establishing an intelligence reserve corps that could be activated at a time of particular need, an intelligence reserve officer training corps, and more internships to introduce young people into the agencies. While he recognized that some of these ideas are not new, he did not believe they had been vigorously pursued. In sum, prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s analytic components failed to understand the collective significance of the information in their possession. TOP SECRET 69 TOP SECRET This failure is attributable not only to the factors discussed above, but also to a basic lack of creativity and imagination in evaluating the intelligence that was at hand. Ironically, the best example of the creative, imaginative and aggressive analysis of relevant [page 74] intelligence that this review has found was not a product of Intelligence Community analysts, but, instead, of an FBI field agent in Phoenix. The Phoenix agent, in reviewing his office’s case files, went beyond the facts of those individual cases to focus on a larger, and far more serious, picture of the potential, long-term threat. By putting together various pieces of information, he became convinced that Usama Bin Ladin was sending individuals to aviation-related training in order to put al-Qa’ida in a position to target civil aviation. His July 2001 Electronic Communication to FBI Headquarters was a strategic analytic product that correctly identified at least one critical element that was to be used in the plot that unfolded on September 11, an element that apparently eluded far more seasoned analysts elsewhere in the Intelligence Community.