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Intelligence Officials Warn Threat as Great as Before 9-11

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2002 – The terrorist threat today is as great as it was in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, CIA Director George Tenet told Congress Oct. 17.

Tenet told the Joint Committee on Intelligence that al Qaeda has reconstituted. "They are coming after us," he said. "They want to execute attacks. You see it in Bali, you see it in Kuwait. They plan in multiple theaters of operations. They intend to strike this homeland again, and we better get about the business of putting the right structure in place as fast as we can."

Tenet said the CIA's current evaluation of al Qaeda is based on the number of attacks around the world and the number of attempts foiled.

"You must make the assumption that al Qaeda is in an execution phase and intends to strike us both here and overseas," he said. "That's unambiguous as far as I am concerned."

FBI Director Robert Mueller and National Security Agency director Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden joined Tenet before the committee. The men answered questions about the changes their agencies have made since the terror attacks on the United States.

Mueller told the senators and representatives that the CIA and the FBI are working together better. A valid concern over the year has been that America has treated its domestic intelligence and law enforcement as separate from foreign intelligence, Mueller said.

"In other words, we have a CIA that looks overseas; we have the FBI that looks within the United States," he said. That division worked in the past, he continued, but it doesn't work in countering terrorism, which floods across borders.

"So when we look at the threat against the United States now, we take into account issues such as the bombing in Bali," the director said. "That is significant with regard to the threat within the United States. We did not always do that."

Hayden noted that Tenet "declared war" on al Qaeda in 1998. "There's a big difference between George declaring war on al Qaeda and America declaring war on al Qaeda," he said. He alluded to football in describing that difference.

"Prior to Sept. 11, ... your intelligence community was playing American football with the opposition on the two- yard line, and it was forever first and goal," Hayden said. "They would run a play, and our measure of merit would be if we stopped them from getting into the end zone on that particular play. And if we did, some metaphorical official would take the ball, put it back on the two-yard line, and declare it to be first and 10 again.

"What has changed is that we are delaying, denying, disrupting and destroying portions of the al Qaeda network," he continued. "Prior to Sept. 11, time was infinite for them. It was always on their side. They could take whatever steps they needed to take in order to be secure. They can no longer do that. Things are going bump in their night now, and that puts us at a great advantage. That's the big difference."

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