Statement for Governmental Affairs Committee Business Meeting
Senator Joe Lieberman
As Prepared For Delivery
Thank you, Chairman Collins. I value your leadership and friendship in this effort and I am grateful we’ve been able to draft such consequential legislation in a totally nonpartisan manner, as is befitting a subject as deadly serious as the threat of terrorism. My thanks also to the other members of the Committee who offered wise counsel and advice and who cancelled or rearranged their schedules to attend the eight hearings we conducted in August and September. The fact is that the 9/11 Commission indicted the status quo in America’s intelligence community and recommended transformational reform so that we might never again wake up to a day like we did three years ago. The bill we are presenting for your consideration today embraces that transformational reform. It adopts two Commission recommendations identified by its leaders as the most urgent – the creation of the national intelligence director and the creation of a national counterterrorism center. One of the more arresting points to emerge from our 9/11 inquiries – including the eight hearings this Committee conducted over the last month and a half – is that the threat of terrorism will present us with future challenges we cannot even begin to imagine. Terrorists learn and adapt. They combine their zealous cruelty with changeability. It is not enough merely to keep up with them. We must stay at least one step ahead. With that in mind, Chairman Collins and I set out to create an intelligence network more powerful, agile, and creative than the enemy before us. To begin with, we agree with the 9/11 Commission that the network must have a powerful leader – not a titular head, but a motivating force with the authority to move money and people to prevent terror and adapt quickly to terrorist tactics. 9/11 Commission Chair Tom Kean and Vice Chair Lee Hamilton told our Committee they recommended a National Intelligence Director… quote…“not because we want to create some new ‘czar’ or a new layer of bureaucracy to sit atop the existing bureaucracy. We come to this recommendation because we see it as the only way to effect what we believe is necessary: a complete transformation of the way the Intelligence Community does its work.” End of quote. A powerful, independent National Intelligence Director would transform the way the intelligence community works. We put the NID in charge and designate that person as the President’s chief intelligence advisor. The NID would control and direct the National Intelligence Program – that is, all the national intelligence programs, projects, and activities of the intelligence community. He or she would have real power, which means power of the purse, over the CIA, the FBI’s Office of Intelligence, the Homeland Security Department’s Information Analysis agency, the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Geospatial Agency, and any program or project in other agencies within the community that collect or analyze national intelligence, for example, the Defense Intelligence Agency. The NID would develop and present to the President the annual budget for the National Intelligence Program. He or she would review, approve, and modify the budgets of each component agency and would have direct control over their appropriations. Significantly, the NID would have the authority to reprogram and transfer funds (with the approval of OMB), and to transfer personnel within the National Intelligence Program. In short, the NID would control the money. Let me assure you, in no way would this new arrangement prevent our warfighters from receiving the intelligence they need on the battlefield. First, the Secretary of Defense would retain control over tactical intelligence collection programs that benefit our military services. And second, as the NID takes charge and our overall intelligence becomes more effective, our warfighters will benefit. Under our proposal, if someone asks, who’s in charge, he will not be met with the same blank stares that met the 9/11 Commission investigators. Our proposal is clear: the National Intelligence Director is in charge. Moving beyond the NID, Senator Collins and I knew we had to dismantle the stovepipes that contain – or confine – each of our 15 intelligence agencies in their own universe, walled off from alternative points of view, reluctantly sharing information, and adjusting too slowly – or not at all – to new and emerging threats. It was a shock to hear during our hearings that no one person heads up the hunt for Bin Laden. 9/11 Commission Executive Director Dr. Philip Zelikow told our Committee he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to examine how the various agencies were conducting that hunt. Zelikow asked his hosts… and I’m quoting here…“Well, where is the joint strategic plan for the hunt for Bin Laden? Where is the person who is in charge every day of the integrated strategic plan, [who] updates that plan every day of how we’re hunting Bin Laden?” And he concluded… quoting again…. “There is no such joint plan. There isn’t a joint integrated planner for that hunt.” With our proposal, there would be a joint plan. Using the 9/11 Commission recommendations as our guide again, we would create, under civilian command, a National Counterterrorism Center combining strategic intelligence and joint operational planning. At the NCTC, intelligence collectors, analysts, and operators from foreign, domestic, and military intelligence agencies would each share their critical clues, their pieces of the puzzle, in order to view the enemy as a whole, and draw up plans to thwart the next attack. In this way, the stove pipes are smashed and all intelligence information – no matter what its source – flows to and is shared by the professionals assembled around a common table to deal with a common threat. Here’s what 9/11 Commission Chairman Kean and Vice-Chair Hamilton said about the NCTC: “Today, we face a transnational threat. That threat respects no boundaries and makes no distinction between foreign and domestic. The enemy is resourceful, flexible and disciplined. We need a system of management that is as flexible and resourceful as is the enemy. We need a system that can bring all the resources of government to bear on the problem – and that can change and respond as the threat changes. We need a model of government that meets the needs of the 21st century. We believe that the National Counterterrorist Center will meet that test.” End of quote. We would also create a series of National Intelligence Centers, organized by topic or geographic area – for example, weapons of mass destruction or North Korea. The Centers would integrate information from across the intelligence community, analyze it, and inform the policymakers. Two other elements of our proposal I would like to flag include our information-sharing provisions and the creation of a civil liberties panel. The 9/11 Commission report says: “The President should lead the government-wide effort to bring the major national security institutions into the information revolution. He should coordinate the resolution of the legal, policy and technical issues across agencies to created a ‘trusted information network.’” Our bill moves toward this goal by requiring the establishment of a network – consisting of policies and information technology – designed to ease information sharing across the federal government, with state and local agencies and, where appropriate, with the private sector. And finally, as recommended by the Commission, we would create a board to respect and protect privacy and civil liberties. This board would advise the President and the executive agencies, conduct investigations, and perform oversight to ensure that our efforts in the war on terror are not at odds with the rights of the American people. As Philip Mudd, deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center told the Committee, “We need clear, clean, short lines of command and control. Opportunities to roll up a terrorist or prevent an attack demand immediate action. This is a war of speed.” Senator Collins and I are confident that the proposal we put before you today meets that end. We have hewn very closely to the bipartisan 9/11 Commission recommendations. We are gratified that the Commission has announced its support for our proposal, and that the White House has issued a proposal adds to the momentum. In a Congress that has become increasingly partisan, at a time that is quite naturally partisan, we have, I think, worked successfully across party lines for the national interest. We are, after all, a nation at war; a war like none we have ever fought. We must both maximize and transform our ability to defend our nation. We cannot do that without the best intelligence possible and we will not get the best intelligence without the big changes Senator Collins and my proposal would bring about. Thank you all for your support.