Good morning and welcome to our witnesses and to our guests. Today we hold the second of four hearings designed to take a closer look at the homeland security reorganization plan proposed by President Bush and how best to merge it with legislation co-authored by Senators Specter, Graham, and myself, and voted out of this committee a little over a month ago.
As we create this new Department of Homeland Security, one of our priorities must be to address what clearly was the single biggest security shortcoming of our government before September 11th: The highly unintelligent way our government coordinated – or failed to coordinate – intelligence.
Suffice to say that a few infamous memos and warnings, and the picture they may have painted if they had been understood in relation to one another and in a broader context, are now a painful part of American history. And so, our challenge is to build a more intelligent intelligence system that synthesizes and synchronizes information from the field, then converts it, through analysis, into action that better protects American security here at home.
Last week, the Committee heard from Governor Ridge on how the administration’s plan would coordinate intelligence. Today, we will hear from distinguished alumnae from the intelligence community on their assessment of the best solution. And tomorrow we will hear from FBI Director Mueller, Central Intelligence Director Tenet, former FBI and CIA Director William Webster, as well as the Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Graham and Shelby.
Their expertise and candor will help us craft this legislation. Our fourth hearing on Friday will explore the President’s proposal to address the problem of weapons of mass destruction, and the relevant science, technology, and public health issues associated with detecting, protecting against, and combating these weapons.
With all that in mind, clearly the part of this reorganization that has drawn most public attention and thoughtful concern from members of the Committee is how to bring the intelligence establishment together with law enforcement to avoid the information breakdown that appears to have occurred prior to September 11th.
The president’s proposal to establish an intelligence analysis clearing house within the new department is a step in the right direction, although I think we still want to understand what was intended and to see if there is a way to strengthen the proposal. Under the President’s plan, as I understand it, the Department of Homeland Security would provide competing analysis.
But the FBI, the CIA, and a handful of other intelligence agencies would still have primary responsibility to uncover and prevent specific threats or conspiracies against Americans. In other words, no one office would be designated to pull the threads together.
Our Committee proposal takes a different approach, which I don’t argue is adequate to the threat at this point. Primarily at Senator Graham’s urging, we established an anti-terrorism coordinator in the White House with the statutory and budget authority to pull all the various elements of the anti-terrorism effort together. That would include not just the new Department of Homeland Security but the intelligence community, law enforcement, the State Department and the Defense Department, as well.
In short, the coordinator would be in a position to forge the kinds of relationships that would be necessary to get the information needed to connect the dots and have a chance to see a clear picture.
Today, we will hear other ideas. Several noted experts – Senator Rudman, former CIA Director Woolsey, and others – have suggested the creation of a Domestic Intelligence Agency along the lines of Britain’s famed MI-5 – which works closely with Scotland Yard and the foreign intelligence agency, MI-6 and reports to the home secretary. Their view is that the FBI’s law enforcement mission conflicts with intelligence-related tasks, and thus the counter-terrorism functions of the FBI and CIA should be merged into the new department. This domestic intelligence agency approach, however, raises important civil liberties questions that speak to our core democratic values. We must tackle these questions head on.
Our colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Specter, has presented another proposal that builds on the President’s plan. It would create of a National Terrorism Assessment Center within the new Department that would have the authority to direct the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies to provide it with all information relating to terrorist threats. The center would pull experienced intelligence analysts from across government to analyze, synthesize and disseminate information to law enforcement agencies. We will hear other ideas today from a superb group of witnesses.
What struck me last week at the first hearing we held with Governor Ridge and Senators Hart and Rudman is the intense desire of members of the Committee, across party lines, to figure out the best way to get this job done. This is not only a moment of challenge but a moment of opportunity and I think most of us haven’t yet found a comfortable place to conclude our quest, particularly with regard to intelligence and law enforcement coordination.
I look forward to today’s testimony with confidence that this distinguished panel of witnesses will help us in that effort.