Testimony Before 9/11 Panel
New York Times
WASHINGTON, March 23 - Following is the the transcript of public testimony from
four high-ranking officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations before the
independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, as recorded by Federal News
ON THE COUNTERTERRORISM POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES
MARCH 23, 2004
THOMAS H. KEAN, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
LEE H. HAMILTON, COMMISSION VICE CHAIR
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, COMMISSION MEMBER
MAX CLELAND, COMMISSION MEMBER
FRED F. FIELDING, COMMISSION MEMBER
JAMIE S. GORELICK, COMMISSION MEMBER
SLADE GORTON, COMMISSION MEMBER
JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSION MEMBER
TIMOTHY J. ROEMER, COMMISSION MEMBER
JAMES R. THOMPSON, COMMISSION MEMBER
PHILIP ZELIKOW, COMMISSION EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR MICHAEL HURLEY, COMMISSION SENIOR COUNSEL
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
RICHARD ARMITAGE, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
KEAN: Good morning. As chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the
United States, I hereby convene our eighth public hearing. This hearing is going to run
over the course of two days, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, and from 8:30 to 5:30 tomorrow.
The focus of this two-day hearing will be the counterterrorism policy of the United
States. We will take as our principal focus the period between the embassy bombings of
1998 and the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks. In particular, this commission will
review how our government responded to the increasing threat from Osama bin Laden and Al
Qaida. We'll also examine the global war on terrorism today and seek from our witnesses
perhaps some recommendations now how today we can do things to make America safer.
Over the next two days, we'll hear from senior officials from both the Clinton and the
Bush administrations on the topic of terrorism, bin Laden and Al Qaida. We will hear from
former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; current secretary of state, Colin Powell;
former secretary of defense, William Cohen; current secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld;
the director of central intelligence, George Tenet; former national security adviser,
Samuel Berger; and former national counterterrorism coordinator, Richard Clarke.
This commission had invited current national security adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice to
appear today, but the administration has declined that invitation. We're disappointed that
she's not going to appear to answer our questions about national policy coordination, but
in her place the administration has designated Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
We have had extended private meetings with Dr. Rice. We have received a lot of information
from her and she's been a very cooperative witness in that circumstance. We reserve the
right today to ask each of our witnesses, as well as Dr. Rice, to appear before this
commission again and answer further questions.
It is not possible for this hearing to cover everything we've learned. We know more
than we are able to present to the public today. Yet we believe that we will be able to
bring before the American public a significant body today of new information. We'll
present more, of course, in our final report.
Just one additional word: Our hearing today is on policy issues leading up to 9/11, and
a number of our witnesses were also involved in the events of that particular day. We're
going to hold a later hearing in June that will address in detail how our government
responded to the attacks on that particular day of 9/11.
Our first panel today will examine how the U.S. government used diplomacy as an
instrument of national power to try and disrupt the Al Qaida network, and in particular,
what it did to persuade the Taliban regime to arrest and to hand over bin Laden and his
lieutenants, or at least to expel them from Afghan territory.
As we did in January, we will precede the introduction of panels with staff statements.
These statements are informed by the work of the commissioners, as well as staff, and
represent the staff's best effort to reconstruct the factual record. Judgments and
recommendations are for commissioners, and the commission will make those recommendations
during the course of our work and, of course, in our final report.
I would now like to recognize Dr. Philip Zelikow, the commission's executive director,
who will introduce the first staff statement. And he will be followed by Mr. Mike Hurley,
who directs the investigations that pertains to the topic of today's hearing. Mr. Zelikow?
ZELIKOW: Members of the commission, with your help, your staff has developed initial
findings to present to the public on the diplomatic efforts to deal with the danger posed
by Islamic extremist terrorism before the September 11th attacks on the United States.
(Page 2 of 83)
We will specifically focus on the efforts to counter the danger posed by the Al Qaida
organization and its allies. These findings may help frame some of the issues for this
hearing and inform the development of your judgments and recommendations. This report
reflects the results of our work so far. We remain ready to revise our understanding of
these topics as our work continues. This staff statement represents the collective effort
of a number of members of our staff. Scott Allan, Michael Hurley, Warren Bass, Dan Byman,
Thomas Dowling and Len Hawley did much of the investigative work reflected in this
statement. We are grateful to the Department of State for its excellent cooperation in
providing the commission with needed documents and in helping to arrange needed interviews
both in the United States and in nine foreign countries. We are also grateful to the
foreign governments who have extended their cooperation in making many of their officials
available to us as well. The Executive Office of the President and the Central
Intelligence Agency have made a wealth of material available to us that sheds light on the
conduct of American diplomacy in this period.
I'd now like to introduce Michael Hurley of our staff, noting that Michael is employed
by an agency of the United States government and did three tours in Afghanistan after
9/11. He will now present an abbreviated version of the staff statement, omitting some of
the historical background. Michael?
HURLEY: Counterterrorism and U.S. foreign policy -- terrorism is a strategy. As a way
to achieve their political goals, some organizations or individuals deliberately try to
kill innocent people, noncombatants. The United States has long regarded such acts as
criminal. For more than a generation, international terrorism has also been regarded as a
threat to the nation's security. In the 1970s and 1980s, terrorists frequently attacked
American targets, often as an outgrowth of international conflicts like the Arab-Israeli
dispute. The groups involved were frequently linked to states.
After the destruction of Pan-American flight 103 by Libyan agents in 1988, the wave of
international terrorism that targeted Americans seemed to subside. The 1993 attempt to
blow up the World Trade Center called attention to a new kind of terrorist danger. A
national intelligence estimate issued in July 1995 concluded that the most likely threat
would come from emerging transient terrorist groupings that were more fluid and
multinational than the older organizations and state-sponsored surrogates. This new
terrorist phenomenon was made up, according to the NIE, of loose affiliations of Islamic
extremists violently angry at the United States. Lacking strong organization, they could
still get weapons, money and support from an assortment of governments, factions and
Growing international support networks were enhancing their ability to operate in any
region of the world. Since the terrorists were understood as loosely affiliated sets of
individuals, the basic approach for dealing with them was that of law enforcement.
But President Clinton emphasized his concern about the problem as a national security
issue in a presidential decision directive, PDD 39, in June 1995, that stated the U.S.
policy on counterterrorism. This directive superseded the directive signed by President
Reagan in 1986. President Clinton's directive declared that the United States, saw
terrorism as a potential threat to national security, as well as a criminal act, and will
apply all appropriate means to combat it. In doing so, the U.S. shall pursue vigorously
efforts to deter and preempt, apprehend and prosecute, or assist other governments to
prosecute individuals who perpetrate or plan to perpetrate such attacks.
The role of diplomacy was to gain the cooperation of other governments in bringing
terrorists to justice. PDD 39 stated, When terrorists wanted for violation of U.S. law are
at large overseas, their return for prosecution shall be a matter of the highest priority
and shall be a continuing central issue in bilateral relations with any state that harbors
or assists them. If extradition procedures were unavailable or put aside, the United
States could seek the local country's assistance in a rendition, secretly putting the
fugitive in a plane back to America or some third country for trial. Counterterrorism and
foreign policy in practice: four examples from 1995 to 1996.
(Page 3 of 83)
The staff statements describes the first two examples, Ramzi Yousef in 1995 and Khalid
Sheik Mohammed in 1996, in more detail. Please turn to the middle of page 3 where I will
now discuss the third example, Osama bin Laden. In 1996, he was based in Sudan. Under the
influence of the radical Islamist Hassan Al Turabi, Sudan had become a safe haven for
violent Islamist extremists. By 1995, the U.S. government had connected bin Laden to
terrorists as an important terrorist financier. Since 1979, the secretary of state has had
the authority to name state sponsors of terrorism, subjecting such countries to
significant economic sanctions. Sudan was so designated in 1993. In February 1996, for
security reasons, U.S. diplomats left Khartoum. International pressure further increased
as the regime failed to hand over three individuals involved in a 1995 attempt to
assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The United Nations Security Council imposed
sanctions on the regime.
Diplomacy had an effect. In exchanges beginning in February 1996, Sudanese officials
began approaching U.S. officials asking what they could do to ease the pressure. During
the winter and spring of 1996, Sudan's defense minister visited Washington and had a
series of meetings with representatives of the U.S. government. To test Sudan's
willingness to cooperate on terrorism, the United States presented eight demands to their
The one that concerned bin Laden was a request for intelligence information about bin
Laden's contacts in Sudan. These contacts with Sudan, which went on for years, have become
a source of controversy. Former Sudanese officials claim that Sudan offered to expel bin
Laden to the United States. Clinton administration officials deny ever receiving such an
offer. We have not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim.
Sudan did offer to expel bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and asked the Saudis to pardon him.
U.S. officials became aware of these secret discussions certainly by March 1996. The
evidence suggests that the Saudi government wanted bin Laden expelled from Sudan, but
would not agree to pardon him. The Saudis did not want bin Laden back in their country at
U.S. officials also wanted bin Laden expelled from Sudan. They knew the Sudanese were
considering it. The U.S. government did not ask Sudan to render him into U.S. custody.
According to Samuel Berger, who was then the deputy national security adviser, the
interagency counterterrorism security group, CSG, chaired by Richard Clarke, had a
hypothetical discussion about bringing bin Laden to the United States.
In that discussion, a Justice Department representative reportedly said there was no
basis for bringing him to the United States since there was no way to hold him here absent
an indictment. Berger adds that in 1996 he was not aware of any intelligence that said bin
Laden was responsible for any act against an American citizen. No rendition plan targeting
bin Laden, who was still perceived as a terrorist financier, was requested by or presented
to senior policy-makers during 1996.
Yet both Berger and Clarke also said the lack of an indictment made no difference.
Instead, they said the idea was not worth pursuing because there was no chance that Sudan
would ever turn bin Laden over to a hostile country. If Sudan had been serious, Clarke
said, the United States would have worked something out. However, the U.S. government did
approach other countries hostile to Sudan and bin Laden about whether they would take bin
Laden. One was apparently interested.
No handover took place. Under pressure to leave, bin Laden worked with the Sudanese
government to procure a safe passage and possibly funding for his departure. In May 1996,
bin Laden and his associates leased an Ariana Airlines jet and traveled to Afghanistan,
stopping to refuel in the United Arab Emirates. Approximately two days after his
departure, the Sudanese informed the U.S. government that bin Laden had left. It is
unclear whether any U.S. officials considered whether or how to intercept bin Laden. The
fourth example, which I'll paraphrase from the staff statement, is Khobar Towers.
(Page 4 of 83)
In June 1996, an enormous truck bomb was detonated in the Khobar Towers residential
complex for Air Force personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The Khobar bombing began as a
law enforcement case, but Khobar bombing also was an intelligence case.
As we state in the middle of page five, the Khobar case highlights a central policy
problem in counterterrorism: the relationship between evidence and action. Secretary of
State, Madeline Albright, emphasized to us, for example, that even if some individual
Iranian officials were involved, this was not the same as proving that the Iranian
government as a whole should be held responsible for the bombing. National Security
Adviser Berger held a similar view. He stressed the need for a definitive intelligence
judgment. The evidence might be challenged by foreign governments. The evidence might form
a basis for going to war. Therefore, he explained, the DCI and the director of the FBI
must make a definitive judgment based on the professional opinions of their experts.
In the Khobar case, as in some others, the time lag between terrorist act and any
definitive attribution grew to months, then years, as the evidence was compiled.
I'll now discuss the Afghanistan problem, beginning with the fourth paragraph on page
six. After suffering some disruption from his relocation to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden
and his colleagues rebuilt. In August 1996, he issued a public declaration of jihad
against American troops in Saudi Arabia. In February 1998, this was expanded into a public
call for any Muslim to kill any American, military or civilian, anywhere in the world. By
early 1997, intelligence and law enforcement officials in the U.S. government had finally
received reliable information disclosing the existence of Al Qaida as a worldwide
terrorist organization. That information elaborated a command-and-control structure headed
by bin Laden and various lieutenants, described a network of training camps to process
recruits, discussed efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and placed Al Qaida at
the center among other groups affiliated with them in its Islamic army.
This information also dramatically modified the picture of inchoate new terrorism
presented in the 1995 national intelligence estimate. But the new picture was not widely
known. It took still more time before officials outside the circle of terrorism
specialists or in foreign governments fully comprehended that the enemy was much larger
than an individual criminal, more than just one man, OBL, and his associates. For example,
in 1996, Congress passed a law that authorized the secretary of state to designate foreign
terrorist organizations that threaten the national security of the United States, a
designation that triggers economic, immigration and criminal consequences.
Al Qaida was not designated by the secretary of state until the fall of 1999. While
Afghanistan became a sanctuary for Al Qaida, the State Department's interest in
Afghanistan remained limited. Initially, after Taliban's rise, some state diplomats were
-- as one official said to us -- willing to give the Taliban a chance because it might be
able to bring stability to Afghanistan. A secondary consideration was that stability would
allow an oil pipeline to be built through the country; a project to be managed by the
Union Oil Company of California, or UNOCAL. During 1997 working-level state officials
asked for permission to visit and investigate militant camps in Afghanistan. The Taliban
stalled, then refused. In November 1997, Secretary Albright described Taliban human rights
violations and treatment of women as despicable. A Taliban delegation visited Washington
in December. U.S. officials pressed them on the treatment of women, negotiating an end to
the civil war, and narcotics trafficking. Bin Laden was barely mentioned. U.N. Ambassador
Bill Richardson led a delegation to South Asia and Afghanistan in April 1998. No U.S.
official of this rank had been to Kabul in decades. Ambassador Richardson used the opening
to support U.N. negotiations on the civil war. In light of bin Laden's new public fatwa
against Americans in February, Ambassador Richardson asked the Taliban to turn bin Laden
over to the United States. They answered that they did not control bin Laden, and that, in
any case, he was not a threat to the United States. The Taliban won few friends. Only
three countries recognized it as the government of Afghanistan: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi effort and its aftermath: As we say on the middle of
page eight, Saudi Arabia was a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism. Yet the
ruling monarchy also knew bin Laden was an enemy. Bin Laden had not set foot in Saudi
Arabia since 1991, when he escaped a form of house arrest and made his way to Sudan. Bin
Laden had fiercely denounced the rulers of Saudi Arabia publicly in his August 1996 fatwa,
but the Saudis were content to leave him in Afghanistan so long as they were assured he
was not making any trouble for them there. Events soon drew Saudi attention back to bin
Laden. In the spring of 1998, the Saudi government successfully disrupted a major bin
Laden-organized effort to launch attacks on U.S. forces in the kingdom using a variety of
man-portable missiles. Scores of individuals were arrested.
(Page 5 of 83)
The Saudi government did not publicize what had happened, but U.S. officials learned of
it. Seizing this opportunity, DCI Tenet urged the Saudis to help deal with bin Laden.
President Clinton, in May, designated Tenet as his representative to work with the Saudis
on terrorism. Director Tenet visited Riyadh a few days later, then returned to Saudi
Arabia in June. Crown Prince Abdullah agreed to make an all-out secret effort to persuade
the Taliban to expel bin Laden for eventual delivery to the United States or another
country. Riyadh's emissary would be the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal.
Director Tenet said it was imperative now to get an indictment against bin Laden. A sealed
indictment against bin Laden was issued by a New York grand jury a few days later: the
product of a lengthy investigation. Director Tenet also recommended that on action be
taken on other U.S. options such as a covert action plan. Vice President Gore thanked the
Saudis for their efforts. Prince Turki followed up in meetings during the summer with
Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders. Employing a mixture of possible bribes and threats,
he received a commitment that bin Laden would be handed over. After the embassy bombings
in August, Vice President Gore called Riyadh again to underscore the urgency of bringing
the Saudi ultimatum to a final conclusion. In September 1998, Prince Turki, joined by
Pakistan's intelligence chief, had a climactic meeting with Mullah Omar in Kandahar. Omar
reneged on his promise to expel bin Laden. When Turki angrily confronted him, Omar lost
his temper and denounced the Saudi government. The Saudis and Pakistanis walked out. The
Saudi government then cut off any further official assistance to the Taliban regime,
recalled its diplomats from Kandahar, and expelled Taliban representatives from the
kingdom. The Saudis suspended relations without a final break. The Pakistanis did not
suspend relations with the Taliban. Both governments judged that Iran was already on the
verge of going to war against the Taliban. The Saudis and Pakistanis feared that a further
break might encourage Iran to attack. They also wanted to leave open room for rebuilding
ties if more moderate voices among the Taliban gained control. Crown Prince Abdullah
visited Washington later in September. In meetings with the president and vice president,
he briefed them on these developments. The United States had information that corroborated
his account. Officials thanked the prince for his efforts, wondering what else could be
The United States acted too. In every available channel, U.S. officials, led by State's
aggressive counterterrorism coordinator, Michael Sheehan, warned the Taliban of dire
consequences if bin Laden was not expelled. Moreover, if there was any further attack, he
and others warned, the Taliban would be held directly accountable, including the
possibility of a military assault by the United States. These diplomatic efforts may have
had an impact. The U.S. government received substantial intelligence of internal arguments
over whether bin Laden could stay in Afghanistan. The reported doubts extended from the
Taliban to their Pakistani supporters, and even to bin Laden himself. For a time, bin
Laden was reportedly considering relocating, and may have authorized discussion of this
possibility with representatives of other governments. We will report further on this
topic at a later date. In any event, bin Laden stayed in Afghanistan. This period may have
been the high-water mark for diplomatic pressure on the Taliban. The outside press
continued. But the Taliban appeared to adjust and learn to live with it, employing a
familiar mix of stalling tactics again and again. Urged on by the United States, the
Saudis continued a more limited mix of the same tactics they had already employed. Prince
Turki returned to Kandahar in June 1999 to no effect. From 1999 through early 2001, the
United States also pressed the United Arab Emirates, one of the Taliban's only travel and
financial outlets to the outside world, to break off its ties and enforce sanctions,
especially those relating to flights to and from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, these efforts
to persuade the UAE achieved little before 9/11. As time passed, the United States also
obtained information that the Taliban was trying to extort cash from Saudi Arabia and the
UAE with various threats, and that these blackmail efforts may have paid off. After months
of heated internal debate about whether this step would burn remaining bridges to the
Taliban, President Clinton issued an executive order in July 1999 effectively declaring
that the regime was a state sponsor of terrorism. U.N. economic and travel sanctions were
added in October 1999, in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267.
(Page 6 of 83)
None of this had any visible effect on Mullah Omar, an illiterate leader who was
unconcerned about commerce with the outside world. Omar had no diplomatic contact with the
West, since he refused to meet with non-Muslims. The United States also learned that at
the end of 1999 the Taliban Council of Ministers had unanimously reaffirmed that they
would stick by bin Laden. Relations with bin Laden and the Taliban leadership were
sometimes tense, but the foundation was solid. Omar executed some subordinates who clashed
with his pro-bin Laden line. By the end of 2000, the United States, working with Russia,
won U.N. support for still broader sanctions in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333,
including an embargo on arm sales to the Taliban.
Again, these had no visible affect. This may have been because the sanctions did not
stop the flow of Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban. In April 2001, State
Department officials in the Bush administration concluded that the Pakistani government
was just not concerned about complying with sanctions against the Taliban. Reflecting on
the lack of progress with the Taliban, Secretary Albright told us that, We had to do
something. In the end, she said, it didn't work. But we did, in fact, try to use all the
tools we had. Other diplomatic efforts with the Saudi government centered on letting U.S.
agents interrogate prisoners in Saudi custody in cases like Khobar. Several officials have
complained to us that the United States could not get direct access to an important Al
Qaida financial official, Madoni Al Tayid (ph), who had been detained by the Saudi
government in 1997. American officials raise the issue. The Saudis provided some
information. In September 1998, Vice President Gore thanked the Saudis for the
responsiveness on this matter, though he renewed the request for direct U.S. access. The
United States never obtained this access. The United States also pressed Saudi Arabia and
the UAE for more cooperation in controlling money flows to terrorists or organizations
linked to them. After months of arguments in Washington over the proper role of the FBI,
an initial U.S. delegation on terrorist finance visited these countries to start working
with their counterparts in July 1999. U.S. officials reported to the White House that they
thought the new initiatives to work together had begun successfully. Another delegation
followed up with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in January 2000. In Saudi Arabia, the
team concentrated on tracing bin Laden's assets and access to his family's money,
exchanges that led to further fruitful work. Progress on other topics was limited,
however. The issue was not a consistent U.S. priority. Moreover, the Saudis were reluctant
or unable to provide much help. Available intelligence was also so non-specific that it
was difficult to confront the Saudis with evidence or cues to action.
The Bush administration did not develop any diplomatic initiatives on Al Qaida with the
Saudi government before the 9/11 attack. Vice President Cheney apparently called Crown
Prince Abdullah on July 4th, 2001, only to seek Saudi help in preventing threatened
attacks on American facilities in the kingdom. Pressuring Pakistan: Please go to the
bottom of page 11. Secretary Albright hoped to promote a more robust approach to South
Asia when she took office, but the administration had a full agenda of concerns, including
a possible nuclear weapons program, illicit sales of missile technology, terrorism, an
arms race, and danger of war with India, and a succession of weak democratic governments.
The American ambassador to Islamabad, in most of the immediate pre-9/11 period, William
Milam, told us that U.S. policy had too many moving parts and could never determine what
items had the highest priority. A principle envoy to South Asia for the administration,
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, explained the emphasis on nuclear weapons both
because of the danger of nuclear war and because nuclear proliferation might increase the
risk that terrorists could access such technology. In May 1998, both Pakistan and India
had tested nuclear weapons. These tests marked a setback to nonproliferation policy, and
reinforced U.S. sanctions on both countries. But the tests also spurred more engagement in
order to reduce the threat of war. Bin Laden and terrorist activity in Afghanistan were
not significant issues in high-level contacts with Pakistan, until after the embassy
bombings of August 1998. After the U.S. missile strikes on Afghanistan, bin Laden's
network and their relationship with the Pakistani supported Taliban did become a major
issue in high-level diplomacy. After the strikes, President Clinton called Pakistani
President Nawaz Sharif, and he was sympathetic to America's losses. But the Pakistani side
thought the strikes were overkill; the wrong way to handle the problem. The United States
asked the Saudis to put pressure on Pakistan to help. A senior State Department official
concluded that Crown Prince Abdullah put a tremendous amount of heat on Sharif during his
October 1998 visit to Pakistan.
(Page 7 of 83)
Sharif was invited to Washington and met with President Clinton on December 2nd, 1998.
Tension with India and nuclear weapons topped the agenda, but the leaders also discussed
bin Laden. Pakistani officials defended Mullah Omar, and thought the Taliban would not
object to a joint effort by others to get bin Laden. In mid-December, President Clinton
called Sharif, worried both about immediate threats and the longer-term problem of bin
Laden. The Pakistani leadership promised to raise the issue directly with the Taliban in
Afghanistan, but the United States received word in early 1999 that the Pakistani army
remained reluctant to confront the Taliban, in part because of concerns about the effect
on Pakistani politics. In early 1999, the State Department Counterterrorism Office
proposed a comprehensive diplomatic strategy for all the states involved in the
Afghanistan problem, including Pakistan.
It specified both carrots and sticks, including the threat of certifying Pakistan as
not cooperating on terrorism. A version of this diplomatic strategy was eventually adopted
by the State Department. Its author, Ambassador Sheehan, told us that it had been watered
down to the point that nothing was then done with it. By the summer of 1999, the
counterterrorism agenda had to compete with cross-border fighting in Kashmir that
threatened to explode into war. Nevertheless, President Clinton contacted Sharif in June,
urging him strongly to get the Taliban to expel bin Laden. Clinton suggested Pakistan use
its control over oil supplies to the Taliban and its access to imports through Karachi.
The Pakistani leadership offered instead that Pakistani intelligence services might try to
capture bin Laden themselves. President Clinton met with Prime Minister Sharif in
Washington on July 4th. The prime subject was resolution of the crisis in Kashmir. The
president also complained to the prime minister about Pakistan's failure to take effective
action with respect to the Taliban and bin Laden. Later, the United States agreed to
assist in training a Pakistani special forces team for the bin Laden operation.
Particularly since the Pakistan Intelligence Service was so deeply involved with the
Taliban and possibly bin Laden, U.S. counterterrorism officials had doubts about every
aspect of this new joint plan. Yet while few thought it would do much good, fewer thought
it would do any actual harm. Officials were implementing it when Prime Minister Sharif was
deposed by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. General Musharraf was scornful about
the unit and the idea. At first the Clinton administration hoped that Musharraf's takeover
might create an opening for action on bin Laden. National Security Adviser Berger wondered
about a trade of getting bin Laden in exchange for softer treatment of a relatively benign
military regime. But the idea was never developed into a policy proposal. Meanwhile, the
president and his advisers were anxious about a series of new terrorist threats associated
with the millennium and were getting information linking these threats to Al Qaida
associates in Pakistan, particularly Abu Zubaida.
President Clinton sent a message asking for immediate help on Abu Zudaida and another
push on bin Laden, renewing the idea of using Pakistani forces to get him. Musharraf told
Ambassador Milam that he would do what he could, but he preferred a diplomatic solution on
bin Laden. Though he thought terrorists should be brought to justice, he did not find the
military ideas appealing. Administration officials debated whether to keep wrong with the
Musharraf government or confront the general with a blunter choice: to either adopt a new
policy or Washington will draw the appropriate conclusions. One such threat would be to
cancel a possible presidential visit in March.
U.S. envoys were given instructions that were firm, but not as confrontational as some
U.S. officials had advocated. Musharraf was preoccupied with his domestic agenda, but
replied that he would do what he could, perhaps meeting with the Taliban himself. Despite
serious security threats, President Clinton made a one- day stopover in Islamabad on March
25th, 2000, the first presidential visit since 1969. The main subjects were India-Pakistan
tensions and proliferation, but President Clinton did raise the bin Laden problem. The
Pakistani position was that their government had to support the Taliban and that the only
way forward was to engage them and try to moderate their behavior. They asked for evidence
that bin Laden had really ordered the embassy bombings a year and a half earlier. In a
follow-up meeting the next day with Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, President
Musharraf argued that Pakistan had only limited influence over the Taliban. Musharraf did
meet with Mullah Omar and did urge him to get rid of bin Laden. In early June, the
Pakistani interior minister even joined with Pickering to deliver a joint message to
Taliban officials. But the Taliban seemed immune to such pleas, especially from Pakistani
civilians like the interior minister. Pakistan did not threaten to cut off its help to the
Taliban regime. By September, the United States was again criticizing the Pakistani
government for supporting a Taliban military offensive to complete the conquest of
Afghanistan. Considering new policies toward Afghanistan and Pakistan: The civil war in
Afghanistan posed the Taliban on one side, drawn from Afghanistan's largest ethnic
community, the Pashtuns, against the Northern Alliance. Pashtuns opposing the Taliban,
like the Karzai clan, were not organized into a political and military force. The main foe
of the Taliban was the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Masood, a hero of the Afghan
jihad and a leader of ethnic Tajiks. The Taliban were backed by Pakistan. The Northern
Alliance received some support from Iran, Russia and India.
(Page 8 of 83)
During 1999, the U.S. government began thinking harder about whether or how to replace
the Taliban regime. Thinking in Washington divided along two main paths. The first path,
led by the South Asia Bureau at the State Department, headed by Assistant Secretary of
State Karl Inderfurth and its counterpart on the NSC staff, was for a major diplomatic
effort to end the civil war and install a national unity government. The second path,
proposed by counterterrorism officials in the NSC staff and the CIA, was for the United
States to take sides in the Afghan civil war and begin funneling secret military aide to
the Taliban's foe, the Northern Alliance.
These officials argued that the diplomatic approach had little chance of success and
would not do anything, at least in the short term, to stop Al Qaida. Critics of this idea
reply that the Northern Alliance was tainted by associations with narcotics traffickers,
that its military capabilities were modest, and that an American association with this
group would link the United States to an unpopular faction that Afghans blamed for much of
the misrule and war earlier in the 1990s. The debate continued inconclusively throughout
the last year and a half of the Clinton administration. The CIA established limited ties
to the Northern Alliance for intelligence purposes. Lethal aid was not provided. The
Afghan and Pakistani dilemmas were handed over to the Bush administration as it took
office in 2001. The NSC counterterrorism staff, still led by Clarke, pushed urgently for a
quick decision in favor of providing secret military assistance to the Northern Alliance
to stave off its defeat. The initial proposed amounts were quite small, with the hope of
keeping the Northern Alliance in the field tying down Taliban and Al Qaida fighters.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue with DCI Tenet. In early
March 2001, Clarke presented the issue of aid to the Northern Alliance to Rice for action.
Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley suggested dealing with this as part of the
overall review they were conducting of their strategy against Al Qaida. In the meantime,
lawyers could work on developing the appropriate authorities. Rice agreed, noting that the
review would need to be done very soon, but that the issue had to be connected to an
examination of policy toward Afghanistan. Rice, Hadley and the NSC staff member for
Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, told us that they opposed aid to the Northern Alliance
alone, contending that the program needed to include Pashtun opponents of the regime and
be conducted on a larger scale. Clarke supported the larger program, but he warned the
delay risked the alliance's defeat. The issue was then made part of the reviews of U.S.
policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. The government developed formal policy papers that
were discussed by sub-Cabinet officials, the deputies, on April 30th, June 27th and 29th,
July 16th and September 10th. During the same time period, the administration was
developing a formal strategy on Al Qaida to be codified in a national security
presidential directive, NSPD.
The Al Qaida elements of this directive had been completed by deputies in July. On
September 4th, the principals apparently approved the submission of this directive to the
president. The Afghanistan options debated in 2001 ranged from seeking a deal with the
Taliban to overthrowing the regime. By the end of the deputies meeting on September 10th,
the officials had formally agreed upon a three-phase strategy. It called first for
dispatching an envoy to give the Taliban an opportunity to expel bin Laden and his
organization from Afghanistan, even as the U.S. government tried to build greater capacity
to pressure them. If this failed, pressure would be applied on the Taliban both through
diplomacy and by encouraging anti-Taliban Afghans to attack Al Qaida bases, part of a
planned covert action program, including significant additional funding and more support
for Pashtun opponents of the regime. If the Taliban's policy failed to change after these
two phases, the deputies agreed that the United States would seek to overthrow the Taliban
regime through more direct action.
(Page 9 of 83)
ZELIKOW: Excuse me, Mike. We've been asked to wrap up the staff statements so that we
can proceed with the witnesses. Let me move immediately to the conclusion of the staff
statement from here. In conclusion, from the spring of 1997 to September 2001, the U.S.
government tried to persuade the Taliban to expel bin Laden to a country where he could
face justice and stop being a sanctuary for his organization. The efforts employed
included inducements, warnings and sanctions. All these efforts failed. The U.S.
government also pressed two successive Pakistani governments to demand that the Taliban
cease providing a sanctuary for bin Laden and his organization, and failing that, to cut
off their support for the Taliban. Before 9/11, the United States could not find a mix of
incentives or pressure that would persuade Pakistan to reconsider its fundamental
relationship with the Taliban. From 1999 to early 2001, the United States pressed the UAE,
one of the Taliban's only travel and financial outlets to the outside world, to break off
ties and enforce sanctions, especially related to air travel to Afghanistan. These efforts
achieved little before 9/11. The government of Saudi Arabia worked closely with top U.S.
officials in major initiatives to solve the bin Laden problem with diplomacy. On the other
hand, before 9/11 the Saudi and U.S. governments did not achieve full sharing of
importance intelligence information or develop an adequate joint effort to track and
disrupt the finances of the Al Qaida organization.
KEAN: Thank you very much. Our first witness today is Dr. Madeleine K. Albright,
formerly our secretary of state. She's, I believe, well-known to all in this audience, and
has a distinguished career in public service. We are very pleased to have her appear
before the commission this morning. So welcome to you, Madam Secretary. She is accompanied
by former Undersecretary for Political Affairs, and one of the great public servants this
country has, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who has had, as I say, a very distinguished
career in public service. Madam Secretary and Ambassador Pickering, we would like to ask
you if you could raise your hands so we may place you under oath. Do you swear or affirm
to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
ALBRIGHT: I do.
KEAN: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. A prepared statement will be entered into
the record in full, and we would ask you to summarize your statement, and please proceed.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Vice Chairman Hamilton, and members of the
commission. I'm very pleased to be here. As you've just mentioned, Tom Pickering, the
former undersecretary of state for political affairs, and one of our most experienced and
respected foreign service officers in U.S. history, is here with me. During my years as
secretary of state, if I were traveling or otherwise occupied, Ambassador Pickering was
the department's representative at White House meetings related to terrorism. We thought
it would help in providing the most complete answers if Ambassador Pickering were
available as appropriate to add his recollections to mine. I would also like to emphasize,
at the outset, my desire to be of as much help as possible to the commission. We can't
turn back the clock to before September 11th, but we must do everything we can to prevent
similar tragedies and we owe it to the families of the victims of 9/11 and to us all. Mr.
Chairman, we all know that history is lived forward and written backward; much seems
obvious now that was less clear prior to September 11th. But I can say with confidence
that President Clinton and his team did everything we could -- everything we could think
of -- based on the knowledge, we had to protect our people and disrupt and defeat Al
We certainly recognized the threat posed by the terrorist groups. Although terror was
not new, we realized we faced a novel variation. Instead of being directed by a hostile
country, the new breed of terrorist was independent, multinational and well-versed in
modern information technology. During our time in office, the transnational threat was a
dominant theme in public statements, private deliberations and foreign relations. This was
reflected in the administration's decision to expand the CIA's counterterrorism center,
intensify security cooperation with other countries, enlarge counterterrorism training
assistance, double overall counterterrorism expenditures, increase anti-terrorist rewards,
freeze terrorist assets, train first responders here at home, plan for the protection of
infrastructure against cyberattacks and reorganize the National Security Council with a
mandate to prepare the government to shield our people from unconventional dangers. As
early as 1995, President Clinton said that, and I quote, Our generation's enemies are the
terrorists who kill children or turn them into orphans, unquote. The president repeatedly
told the United Nations that combating terrorism topped America's agenda and should top
theirs. He urged every nation to deny sanctuary to terrorists and to cooperate in bringing
them to justice. Before Y2K, we undertook the largest counterterrorism operation in U.S.
history to that time. Cabinet members or their representatives met virtually every day for
the sole purpose of detecting and preventing terrorist attacks. I fully embraced an
aggressive policy before and especially after August 7th, 1998, when terrorist explosions
struck our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. This was my worst day as secretary of state.
Within a week, we had clear evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible. The question
for us was whether to rely on law enforcement or take military action. We decided to do
both. We prosecuted the conspirators we had captured, but we also launched cruise missiles
at Al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan. The timing of the strikes was prompted by
credible, predictive intelligence that terrorist leaders, possibly including bin Laden,
would be gathering at one of the camps. The day after the strike, the White House convened
a meeting to study further military option. Our primary target, bin Laden, had not been
hit so we were determined to try again. In subsequent weeks, the president specifically
authorized the use of force and there should have been no confusion that our personnel
were authorized to kill bin Laden. We did not, after all, launch cruise missiles for the
purpose of serving legal papers. To use force effectively, we placed war ships equipped
with cruise missiles on call in the Arabian Sea. We also studied the possibility of
sending a U.S. special forces team into Afghanistan to try and snatch bin Laden.
(Page 10 of 83)
But success in either case depended on whether we knew where bin Laden would be at a
particular time. Although we consumed all the intelligence we had, we did not get this
information, and instead we occasionally learned where bin Laden had been or where he
might be going or where someone who appeared to resemble him might be. It was truly
maddening. I compared it to one of those arcade games where you manipulate a lever hooked
to a claw-like hand that you think once you put your quarter in will actually scoop up a
prize, but every time you try to pull the basket out the prize falls away. The Africa
embassy bombings intensified our efforts to neutralize bin Laden and also to protect our
own people. Every morning that I was in Washington, I personally reviewed the latest
information about threats to our diplomatic posts. I was struck by the number of danger
signals we received and also by the difficulty of making a clear judgment about whether a
threat was credible enough to warrant closing an embassy. Even as we took protective
measures and looked for ways to use force effectively, we pressed ahead diplomatically.
Shortly after our cruise missile strikes, the Taliban called the State Department to
complain. This led to a prolonged dialogue during which we repeatedly pushed for custody
of bin Laden. The Taliban replied by offering a menu of excuses. They said that
surrendering bin Laden would violate their cultural tradition of hospitality and that they
would be overthrown by their own people if they yielded bin Laden in response to U.S.
pressure. Perhaps, they said, bin Laden will leave voluntarily. At one point they told us
he had already gone. In any case, we were assured that bin Laden was under house arrest.
That was a lie, since he continued to show up in the media threatening Americans. In 1999,
we developed a new strategy aimed at pulling all the diplomatic levers we had
simultaneously. We went to each of the countries we thought had influence with the Taliban
and asked them to use that influence to help us get bin Laden. One such country was
Pakistan, whose leaders were reluctant to apply real pressure to the Taliban because it
would alienate radicals within their own borders.
There was a limit to the incentives we could offer to overcome this reluctance.
Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998 had triggered one set of sanctions; a military coup in
1999 triggered more. Nevertheless, in our discussions with Pakistani leaders we were
blunt. We told them that, Bin Laden is a murderer who plans to kill again. We need your
help in bringing him to justice. Our ambassador delivered this message, so did Tom
Pickering. So did I. So did the president of the United States. In return, we received
promises but no decisive action. We couldn't offer enough to persuade Pakistani leaders,
such as General Musharraf, to run the risks that would have been necessary. It was not
until September 11th that Musharraf had the motivation in his own mind to provide real
cooperation. And even that has not yet resulted in bin Laden's capture, though it
apparently has led to several attempts on Musharraf's life. The other two countries we
went to were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and both agreed to deliver the
right message. The Saudis sent one of their princes to confront the Taliban directly. And
he came back and told us the Taliban were idiots and liars. The Saudis then downgraded
diplomatic ties with the Taliban, cut off official assistance and denied visas to Afghans
traveling for non- religious reasons. And the UAE did the same. Our diplomats, including
Ambassador Pickering, also met directly with Taliban leaders. We told them that if we did
not get bin Laden, we would impose sanctions both bilaterally and through the U.N., which
we did. We also warned them clearly and repeatedly that they would be held accountable for
any future attacks traceable to Al Qaida. In retrospect, we know that the Taliban and bin
Laden had a symbiotic relationship. The Taliban needed the money and muscle Al Qaida
provided; bin Laden needed space for his operatives to live and train. And there was never
a real chance the Taliban would turn bin Laden over to us or to anybody else. Mr.
Chairman, I would like to now offer briefly some of the recommendations for the future. We
must begin by thinking clearly about what it is we need to do.
(Page 11 of 83)
We were not attacked on September 11th by a noun, terrorism. We were attacked by
individuals affiliated with Al Qaida. They are the enemies who killed our fellow citizens
and foreigners, and defeating them should be the focus of our policy. If we pursue goals
that are unnecessarily broad, such as the elimination not only of threats but also of
potential threats, we will stretch ourselves to the breaking point and become more
vulnerable -- not less -- to those truly in a position to harm us. We also need to
remember that Al Qaida is not a criminal gang that can simply be rounded up and put behind
bars. It is the center of an ideological virus that has wholly perverted the minds of
thousands and distorted the thinking of millions more. Until the right medicine is found,
the virus will continue to spread, and that remedy begins with competence. Bin Laden and
his cohorts have absolutely nothing to offer their followers except destruction, death and
the illusion of glory. Puncturing this illusion is the key to winning the battle of ideas.
The problem is not combating Al Qaida's inherent appeal, for it has none. The problem is
changing the fact that major components of American foreign policy are either opposed or
misunderstood by much of the world. According to the State Department's advisory group on
public diplomacy, published recently, the bottom has indeed fallen out of support for the
United States. This unpopularity has handed bin Laden a gift that he has eagerly
exploited. He is viewed by many as a leader of all those who harbor anti-American
sentiments, and this has given him a following that is wholly undeserved. If we are to
succeed, we must be sure that bin Laden goes down in history not as a defender of the
faith or champion of the dispossessed, but rather as what he is: a murderer, a traitor to
Islam and a loser. The tarnishing of America's global prestige will require considerable
time and effort to undue, and that's why we need long- range counterterrorism plans that
advantage of the full array of our national security tools. This plan must include the
comprehensive reform of our intelligence structures; a vastly expanded commitment to
public diplomacy and outreach, especially within the Arab and Muslim worlds; a far bolder
strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan; revised policies toward the key countries of
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; expansion of the Nunn-Lugar program to secure weapons of mass
destruction materials on a global basis; a new approach to handling and sharing of
information concerning terrorist suspects; and a change in the tone of American national
security policy to emphasize the value of diplomatic cooperation.
And Secretary of State Powell has made a concerted effort to begin this. Let me close
by saying that I sympathize greatly with the president and others in positions of
responsibility at this time. Each day brings with it the possibility of a new terrorist
strike. The March 11 train bombings in Madrid remind us that, despite all that is being
done, our enemies have a broad range of targets. We should all expect and prepare
ourselves for the likelihood that further strikes will take place on our own soil, and we
must be united in making sure that if and when that happens it will do absolutely nothing
to advance the terrorists' goals. It will not cause divisions within and among the
American people; on the contrary, it must bring us closer together and make us even more
determined to fulfill our responsibilities. For more than two centuries, our countrymen
have fought and died so that liberty might live, and since September 11th we have been
summoned, each in our own way, to a new round in that struggle. We cannot underestimate
the risks or anticipate the final victories will come easily or soon, but we can draw
strength from the knowledge of what terror can and cannot do. Terror can turn life to
death and laughter to tears and shared hopes to sorrowful memories. It can crash a plane
and bring down towers that scrape the sky. But it cannot alter the essential goodness of
the American people or diminish our loyalty to one another or cause our nation to turn its
back on the world. Mr. Chairman, and members of the commission, thank you very much for
the opportunity to be here with you this morning. And I'd be very pleased now to answer
(Page 12 of 83)
KEAN: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Lead questioners for this panel are
Commissioner Lehman and Commissioner Roemer. They will each have 15 minutes for their
questions. Additional questioners on this panel will be held strictly to the five-minute
rule. And, Commissioner Lehman, I believe you're going to start the questioning on behalf
of the panel.
LEHMAN: Since my college Tim Roemer was one of the originators of this commission, I'll
yield the prime position to Tim.
KEAN: So yielded.
ROEMER: I want to thank the secretary for that gracious gesture. I want to start, Mr.
Chairman, by, I believe, underscoring something you said in your opening statement.
You said that we have invited Dr. Rice to talk to this 9/11 commission. Well, we have a
book issued by Richard Clarke which is a blistering attack on the Bush administration. We
have Dr. Rice on the airwaves saying that she strongly condemns and disagrees with Mr.
Clarke's assessments and analysis. I would hope that this discussion would not be for the
airwaves and would not be a partisan type of discussion that we have, but belongs in this
hearing room tomorrow in a substantive way so that the 10 commissioners can ask factually
based questions and so the American people have the access to those answers to try to make
this country safer. So I would underscore your comments, Mr. Chairman, that I hope Dr.
Rice will reconsider and come before our commission for the sake of the American people
Madam Secretary, I want to mention your book, if I may, Madam Secretary -- I don't need
to mention a bestseller. You say, in a chapter called A Special Kind Of Evil, that, the
African bombings -- our embassies there -- were the worst day of your tenure as secretary
of state. We lost 224 people, 12 Americans. The devil breathed down our neck that day, and
three years later, 19 hijackers drove us into the jaws of Hell, where we are today. trying
to resolve some of these tough questions. The Clinton administration launched 79 cruise
missiles 13 days after finding who did this. Had diplomacy run its course? Should we have
taken the same kind of action that we took after the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa with
the USS Cole?
ALBRIGHT: Congressman Roemer, let me say that, as you pointed out, when the embassies
were blown up, it was my worse day. I went to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. In Nairobi, I saw
the rubble and I saw the suffering of the African people, many of whom were in hospitals
as a result of what had happened, and obviously many were dead.
And I then brought the bodies home of the dead Americans, and sat with the coffins and
talked with the families when I came back. And so for me, this was a horrendous moment and
one that I was bound and determined to figure out why it had happened and what we could do
about it. I asked Admiral Crowe to form a commission to determine various actions that we
could take, and it was something that was on my mind constantly. I was very much in favor
of the attack with the cruise missiles, and was very much in favor, along with the rest of
our team, to try to do everything we could to have further military attacks if and when we
had predictable and actionable intelligence. And as I say in my statement, I believed
fully that we were prepared to go. President Clinton had issued all the orders. We had
kept armed submarines in the Arabian Sea. And we were ready if there ever was actionable
intelligence. And so I did favor military action. But at the same time, we had to continue
to act diplomatically. I have always believed that what is necessary is to use every tool
in the American national security arsenal, whether it is military, diplomatic or economic
or legal. And we tried everything at the same time. On the USS Cole, we were obviously
prepared to respond, but we did not have definitive evidence that it really was committed
by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida; that evidence came after we were out of office. But had
we had definitive evidence, I can assure you that we were prepared to act militarily.
(Page 13 of 83)
ROEMER: Let me ask you a question about that, Madam Secretary. There are three
investigations going on with respect to the USS Cole. The Yemenis are doing one, the FBI
is doing one and the CIA is doing one. In December, the CIA comes forward, hedges the
recommendation, comes forward with a preliminary judgment, and says they can't, through
command and control, prove that Osama bin Laden ordered it. Isn't it enough at this point
to say Al Qaida did it and respond in that kind of way, either in December or certainly in
the months that come after your administration?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the real question is to try to figure out what really did
happen. And when we left office, we did not have all the answers to it. And as you point
out, there were numerous investigations. I, myself, called the president of Yemen to help
us in this issue and to press for additional investigations. I think the results came
after we were out of office, and I would have hoped that action could have been taken. But
there was no definitive action of any kind at the time that we left office.
ROEMER: In terms of the time that you spent as a secretary of state on terrorism --
we'll have Secretary Powell follow you -- what percent of your time, if you can give us a
rough estimation, did you spend? You had Middle East peace. You certainly were one of the
driving forces in being a hawk with respect to Kosovo and using our military there. What
percent of your time can you best estimate that you spent on counterterrorism policy?
ALBRIGHT: It's very hard, Congressman, to give you an exact estimate, but I can tell
you what I did, which is every morning when I came into my office, I obviously read the
intelligence, but I also met with the assistant secretary for security. I had changed the
standard practice and named a law enforcement officer to that job, David Carpenter, who
was a retired Secret Service agent. And so I had a real expert dealing with it. We spent
whatever time was necessary in the morning in order to go over the threats. Then either I
or Ambassador Pickering, depending upon who was in town, went to the small meetings that
took place on counterterrorism issues. We talked about issues to do with terrorism, Osama
bin Laden, Al Qaida in so many meetings, whether they were official principals meetings at
the White House or the breakfasts that Mr. Berger and Secretary Cohen and...
ROEMER: ABC breakfasts, Albright... (CROSSTALK)
ALBRIGHT: No. The ABCs were lunches. The breakfasts were a little bit larger, with the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Mr. Tenet and the ambassador to the United Nations. But
we talked about this constantly and therefore it's hard to give you an estimate of the
time. But it was very much...
ROEMER: Can you guess at all? Twenty percent? Fifty percent?
ALBRIGHT: I would say probably somewhere about 35 percent, because it was something
that was constant and it was very hard to quantify.
ALBRIGHT: But I can tell you I started every single day trying to assess what the
terrorist threats were, and also how to direct the diplomacy in order to be able to make
sure that we were dealing with this. I think maybe Ambassador Pickering can also tell you
how much time he spent on it because our activities were seamless.
PICKERING: I think that secretary's judgment in this -- and she used to call me after
the morning meetings and give me orders to carry things out and get things done. Given the
number of meetings, particularly in crisis periods leading up to the millennium, for
example, sometimes most of the day would be occupied in dealing with this particular issue
until all the meetings that the secretary mentioned -- she had many internal meetings in
the State Department to plan for not only what she should do with the ongoing meetings at
an interagency basis, but also get us thinking about new ideas, thinking out of the hat on
this issue and trying to come up with new and different ways to deal with the problem.
ALBRIGHT: So some days, it was 100 percent. So I think it's very hard to give you a
(Page 14 of 83)
ROEMER: Let me, in my 15 minutes, move quickly through some things. I mentioned
Secretary Powell will be coming next. I imagine you briefed Secretary Powell as he came
into office in a transition. Did you let the secretary know that Al Qaida was going to be
the kind of threat that he would need to spend 35 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent, in
some days, of his time fighting this new fluid, dynamic threat to this country? And what
was his reaction or what was Dr. Rice's reaction to these types of briefings?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me explain a little bit of what happened in the transition in the
State Department as something that is done many times and is well put together. So I had
general meetings with Secretary Powell. Then, when he moved into his offices in the first
floor of the State Department, I arranged to make sure that every assistant secretary
briefed him on whatever the issue was. And Ambassador Sheehan, who was in charge of
counterterrorism, briefed Secretary Powell in detail about the kinds of things that we
have been talking about, in terms of Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden, et cetera. In my
general discussions with Secretary Powell, I did point out that this was a major issue
that had occupied a large portion of my time. But...
ROEMER: How did he react to that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think he understood that this was a serious issue. And I only know
what I've read in terms of Mr. Berger's conversations with Dr. Rice, but I believe that
Secretary Powell understood the dangers that were inherent.
ROEMER: Let me move on to a very complicated relationship that the United States has
with Saudi Arabia. I want to ask, very bluntly and very frankly, your opinion with regard
to their cooperation with the United States prior to 9/11. We were able to get the Saudis
to cooperate on issues such as having Ambassador Turkey go to yell at Mullah Omar in
Afghanistan, but we could not get them to access Al Qaida's CFO. What kind of relationship
was this? And did you personally press the Saudis hard in these kinds of instances when we
needed access to high-level people like Madoni Al Tayid (ph)?
ALBRIGHT: I think, as you pointed out, our relationship with Saudi Arabia is a very
complicated one and the Saudi record is a mixed one, frankly. I think that they were
helpful on a number of issues. I talked to Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as Foreign
Minister Saud, about a number of issues, obviously including bin Laden and Al Qaida. We
also spent a lot of time on Iraq, and we spent a lot of time in terms of issues to do
around the Middle East peace process. They always did say that they would press and push
on the bin Laden/Al Qaida front but, frankly, it's hard to say how effective it was at
ROEMER: Are you convinced they were pushing?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I was convinced when they told me they were pushing, but the bottom
line is that, in effect, as you look at the record, there were questions about some of the
financial aspects. And I do think that there is a mixed record. One of the things about
the Saudis is that they often do more things in private than is evident publicly, but I
would say the record was a mixed one. I would say we pushed as hard as we could.
ROEMER: Let me ask you, Madam Secretary, in your book, you say, and I quote, Sadly I
was not surprised that we were attacked, or even shocked that the airplane hijacking was
involved, unquote. You were not surprised by that September 11th event? Did you have
intelligence or briefings indicating that hijackings were possible on September 11th? Why
weren't you surprised? And did it include not being shocked that planes were used as
missiles and weapons, or that it was Al Qaida?
ALBRIGHT: A number of responses to that, Congressman. I think that we were operating
within an atmosphere where we were watching all kinds of potential attacks, and, in fact,
foiled a number of them in the years that we were in office. I, kind of, call them the
dogs that didn't bite or bark, because people didn't hear about them. So, I think that we
were always on the lookout, which is why I said I wasn't surprised, because we knew that
there were a variety of attacks possible and we foiled some. In various briefings, we were
told that there were all kinds of ways to do things: car bombs or suitcases or bio or
chemical. And among the various parts of what we were briefed, there would be sometimes a
mention of an airplane. But basically, we were looking at all kinds of potential ways that
there could be attacks. And so the sadness of this was that we were always on the lookout
for some terrible thing, and we were foiling many, many of the potential attacks.
ROEMER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much. I've been slipped a note that my time has
expired and I want to stick right to that so that other commissioners can get in. Thank
you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you, Congressman. Secretary Lehman?
LEHMAN: Madam Secretary, welcome.
(Page 15 of 83)
I would like to follow up on many of the same subjects here. One of the constant
refrains we've had in the over a thousand interviews that we've done and through the
documents that we have been studying, is that there was considerable dysfunction in the
intelligence community, particularly with regard to sharing of information. A lot of
people did not know about information that was in the government that was not shared,
stovepiped. And many people were not playing with a full deck. So I'd like to ask your own
view... (LAUGHTER) ... some even with intelligence -- about starting with your entry as
secretary of state. You'd been at the U.N. You were part of the inner circle, the NSC, the
Cabinet. What was the picture that you had when you took over the reins as secretary of
state as to the nature of the threat -- the terrorist threat?
ALBRIGHT: When I came in as secretary, which was February 1997, there was no question
that we knew about a variety of threats. I had, at the U.N., been involved with some of
the issues to do with Sudan, where we were very concerned about the web of terrorist camps
and support, et cetera, that were present in Sudan. If you remember, the Sudanese were
implicated in an assassination attempt on President Mubarak, and it was as a result of
that that we instituted or put in sanctions against Sudan. And so I clearly was aware of
issues and was briefed. And also briefed in terms of some of the investigations to do with
the World Trade Center. So one knew that there were various terrorist threats that we were
dealing with, but on, as I pointed out in my remarks, kind of, a whole new level of
problems. And I did see, I have to say, something that you alluded to, which was a lack of
communication already between the CIA and the FBI in terms of transmitting information to
each other. And so what we tried to do was to bring them closer together, with some
difficulty. I think some to do with the culture of both those agencies, and something that
I recommend finally that needs to be fixed.
ALBRIGHT: So I do think that there were issues in that regard. But on the whole, I
think there was a lot of intelligence available and the question is how it was read.
LEHMAN: Well, specifically on the '93 attack on the World Trade Center, we have been
told by some very senior officials that the complete picture, the evidence of the Al Qaida
links of the perpetrators, were really not made known until after -- shared within the
government until after the trial of the blind sheik. And the links of Abdel Rahman Yasin,
for instance, were not widely known within the government. When did you, if you could
think back, become aware of the close and many links between the '93 plotters and Al
ALBRIGHT: I can't remember exactly. I mean, I think that, you know, we began to know
more about Al Qaida sometime in '96, '97. We knew bin Laden was a financier that was
involved in a variety of activities. But I honestly can't tell you exactly when I became
aware of the various linkages.
LEHMAN: Did you know about Abdel Rahman Yasin and his fleeing to Baghdad and his
support and cooperation with Saddam's intelligence service? Did you see any significance
in that? He being, of course, one of the main plotters of the '93 bombing.
ALBRIGHT: I can't say that I remember that.
LEHMAN: Just on that theme, the fact that Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas were there along with
Yasin, would this have been a reason to begin to look a bit at what the Iraqi secret
service was doing with Al Qaida, with or without Saddam's knowledge?
ALBRIGHT: Again, my sense of all of this was that there were shadowy connections among
a variety of groups. But in terms of this kind of specificity, frankly, that was not
something that as secretary of state I would have been looking into.
LEHMAN: One of the questions, again, that have often been raised is, almost as soon as
the Clinton administration came in there was an attempt to assassination President Bush.
There was a very minor strike launched against the intelligence service of Saddam --
intelligence headquarters, and with the assurance that no one would be there so it would
be in the middle of the night. After the Khobar bombing there were many in the
administration who wanted to retaliate, but in fact nothing was done. After the '93 WTI
attack there essentially was nothing done, pending the five-year trial. LEHMAN: After the
embassy bombing, there was, again, an attempt to make cruise missile attacks against the
training camps and then against the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. As you recall, there
were criticisms at the time that this was a wag-the-dog scenario, that it was during the
various stages of the president's problems, and that there was no real evidence there;
that it was an innocent pharmaceutical plant. You were part of the inner sanctum at the
time. In your view, was there real evidence that this was part of a bin Laden network?
(Page 16 of 83)
ALBRIGHT: You've said a lot of different things. Let me just say that I do believe that
when we had evidence, we used force. And the response on the '93 -- on the attempted
assassination of President Bush, we reacted I think, very strongly. That's certainly what
the Iraqis thought. And I was the one that had the rather peculiar moment of delivering
the message to the Iraqi ambassador at the United Nations, while sitting in his residence
under a portrait of Saddam Hussein, that we were bombing Baghdad and then went to the
Security Council with the proof of it. So I think that we acted very well on that, and
should be a sign that we were prepared to use military force when it was appropriate and
we had intelligence in order to make it effective. I think on the issue of '98, we were
prepared to use force, and did use it immediately after the bombings of the embassies, as
I said earlier. On actionable intelligence, I believed, and continue to believe, that the
plant in Sudan was connected to this network that Osama bin Laden had had in Sudan and
that it was an appropriate strike. And as you point out -- and I think this is the very
hard part for all of us, Mr. Secretary -- is that we have to put ourselves into the
pre-9/11 mode, and it's hard, because we've been in our post-9/11 prism, where we should
be, and yet things were very different before 9/11. And as you point out, we were mostly
accused of overreacting, not underreacting. And I believe we reacted appropriately, and as
I said earlier, we would have acted more had we had actionable intelligence. And so, I
think we dealt very appropriately with the issue and I think our record stands well.
LEHMAN: The reports at the time and subsequently have appeared in various places that
the evidence involved with the pharmaceutical plant not only involved Al Qaida and
specifically Osama, but also the Iraqi -- various programs within the Iraqi government,
let us say. Did you see any significance in that as something to worry about, perhaps the
Iraqis' involvement with Osama might be a bit more than it might appear?
ALBRIGHT: I did not make the connection. But let me just say this, is that if you look
at the record, I was as hawkish on Saddam Hussein as anybody, made more statements and
took more actions, whether I was ambassador at the United Nations or secretary of state,
in terms of trying to contain Saddam Hussein and make sure that he proceeded in terms of
trying to live up to or fulfill the Security Council resolutions.
ALBRIGHT: And so, I did not or do not remember making a link between what was happening
in Sudan and the Iraqis. I don't know, Tom, whether you have anything.
PICKERING: Mr. Secretary, I also participated in the meetings leading up to that
decision. There were two pieces of evidence only that I was aware of that I thought were
very, very important and that helped, I believe, to crystallize the decision. One was the
report we had following chemical analysis of the actual sample of a precursor to VX nerve
gas that did not occur in nature. It was very unique and was not used for any other known
purpose. And the other was the connection that the secretary just talked to you about of
the plant with investments of activities of Osama bin Laden in Sudan. As you know, he
spent time in Sudan prior to the attack on the plant. And I was not aware of any Iraqi
connection until after the attack.
LEHMAN: Thank you. Let me shift to Saudi Arabia. As I'm sure you all know, it is a kind
of a, sort of, common wisdom, or in the State Department, one would say an urban myth,
that the culture of the department is ruled by pro-Saudi- pro-Sunni bent. And there are
things that certainly give credence to that in the record leading up to 9/11. The fact
that State never made any demarche to get after the Saudis had perhaps the second most
powerful man in Al Qaida in their possession from '95 on and didn't tell us for some time,
and to this day has not been turned over to us. The fact that the activities of the Saudi
Ministry of Religious Affairs have really never gotten even on to the scope of the agenda
between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The flow, this constant promotion of jihadist
ideology around the world. In your time -- and the fact, of course, that, which has
recently become an issue that, despite the fact that the priests and ministers are in jail
in Saudi for having Christian services, they are -- nevertheless, Saudi was never listed
on the annual list of State Department states who don't offer religious freedom.
(Page 17 of 83)
LEHMAN: In your time, did you find -- one last -- in our last hearing, Ms. Ryan, who
headed the Consular Service, explained that the reason special attention was not given to
Saudis seeking visas, even after Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for instance, was indicted and he
was given a visa, was because the State Department had Saudi Arabia in a most favored
nation status. And, indeed, when we had the officer who did stop one of the hijackers, he
said that he came under pressure from his colleagues because picking on a Saudi was very
much not acceptable. Do you find this was a problem? Is there a cultural problem, or is
this purely a myth? ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't think there's a cultural problem. I think that
basically there are those in the Department that are responsible for our relationships
with Saudi Arabia, and there are people in the department who are responsible for our
relationships with Israel and other countries. And I think that, as secretary, and as
undersecretary, we took all those issues under consideration, obviously. I do think, as I
said earlier, our relationship with Saudi Arabia is an incredibly complicated one. We had
forces stationed there. We were trying to figure out how to deal with Iraq. We understood
the role of Saudi Arabia within the Arab world. And we pressed them. I, personally,
pressed them on issues to do -- believe it or not -- on women's rights. I pressed them on
the religious issues. I pressed them on questions to do with how they were using their
charitable money. And we did push them at a variety of times. As I said earlier, the
record is mixed. But the relationship is complicated and there are divisions within Saudi
society, and I think it will continue to be a highly complex relationship for the United
PICKERING: Also, Mr. Secretary, on the visa case, as I know all of you know from your
own work and some of the work that has been done ahead of time, the State Department
officers issuing visas relied on something called a watch list. And in fact, the State
Department had taken the initiative to develop the watch list in connection with certain
criminal activities and then expanded it in cooperation with the intelligence community to
try to deal with terrorism, as we all saw terrorism becoming a much more serious problem.
PICKERING: And the tragedy of the issue is that apparently there was information
available to the intelligence community, but it did not get into the watch lists,
something every State Department officer in Saudi Arabia issuing visas had to consult
before even thinking about issuing a visa. And that, unfortunately, the intelligence we
had in our possession -- again some of the stovepiping problem you related earlier and
some of the compartmentation issue or some of the, I think, maybe uncertainty in the
intelligence community about the importance of getting that information to the visa
officers. Visa officers interview people often to determine whether they're going to
overstay their visa; become immigrants without going through the appropriate processes. I
don't know that visa officers, except by happenstance, have any particular ability to
detect terrorists. But maybe we have new profiles now that will help. But the watch list
was the basis for that. And unfortunately in that particular case, the watch list was not
up to date and, therefore, we missed those individuals that should have been caught by the
LEHMAN: Thank you very much.
KEAN: I just have one question. It seems to me that for years, at the end of the
Clinton administration and into the Bush administration, we seem to have a hope -- which I
don't quite understand -- that the Taliban somehow would agree, through diplomatic
pressure or through some other pressure, to give up Osama bin Laden in some way or other.
And it seems to go on for a few years, even though I can't find in anything I've read any
justification, really, for that hope. I understand trying for a while, but once you've
probably coming to the end of your rope on those attempts, recognizing that this was a man
who was the leader of the Taliban, was something who wasn't even talking to people because
they weren't Muslims, diplomatically?
(Page 18 of 83)
ALBRIGHT: I do think that we later learned about the very, kind of, as I said,
symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. And if you look at it,
it's hard to -- the vain hope is the way that I say -- as you review it, that you feel.
ALBRIGHT: But at the time, you have to realize what our options were, in terms of we
needed to have them cuff him up, so to speak, and basically we used every pressure point
that we could. There were a variety of meetings that we had with them. We thought that we
could either threaten or induce them to give him up. But even -- and I have to say the
options, let's say, of bombing them has not produced Osama bin Laden. So I think that you
do have to look at the options that you have. And if we did not have the leverage, then
perhaps the Pakistanis, for instance, who had closer relations with them, or the Saudis,
we had hoped would have that kind of relationship. But clearly, this very knitted
relationship was not something that was evident that we had good intelligence on.
KEAN: Senator Kerrey?
KERREY: Madam Secretary, first of all, it's very nice to see you again. It seems to me
during the Clinton administration there were two big mistakes and I wonder if you'd
comment on them. The first is that from 1993 through 2001, the United States of America
was either attacked or we prevented attack by radical Islamists close to a dozen times,
either where the attack was successful or whether we interrupted the attack. And that
during that period of time, not only did we not engage in any single military attack other
than the 20th of August 1998 -- there was no attack against Al Qaida during that entire
period of time. Indeed, the presidential directive that was -- the operative one of 62,
that was written and signed in May of 1998, didn't give the military primary authority in
counterterrorism. They were still responsible for supporting the states and local
governments if we were attacked and they were still providing support for the Department
of Justice and doing investigations. And it seems to me especially -- you cited the '93
case with Iraq, the bombing of Iraq -- it seems to me that that was a terrible mistake.
Indeed, the commission has seen evidence that people at lower levels of the Department of
Defense and Dick Clarke himself were preparing analyses suggesting more aggressive
military efforts and it went nowhere. So that's mistake number one that I think was a big
one. And the second one was after we had reason to believe that the Saudis were financing
terrorists who were at least indirectly connected, if not directly connected, with killing
Americans on the 7th of August 1998, that we didn't threaten to freeze their assets or
actually freeze their assets; something that my guess is would have a dramatic impact on
the kingdom's willingness to continue to behave in that fashion. So those are the two
mistakes that I think were made during the Clinton administration. The first one, I think,
is a really large one. Honestly, I don't understand if we're attacked and attacked and
attacked and attacked, why we continue to send the FBI over like the Khobar Towers was a
crime scene or the East African embassy bombings was a crime scene. You said we had
balance between military effort and diplomacy. And frankly, I've got to say, it seems to
me it was very unbalanced in favor of diplomacy against military efforts.
ALBRIGHT: I think, Senator -- or Mr. President -- is that it is...
KERREY: (OFF-MIKE) (LAUGHTER)
ALBRIGHT: ... very difficult to assess what the targets would have been. And in many
cases, some of the linkages that have been made now were not evident at the particular
time. And to bomb at random or use military force I think would have created a situation
that would have made our lives, American lives, even more difficult within the Muslim
world. These are judgments that have to be made. And I think I'm known well enough inside
and outside the government as somebody who was always willing to match diplomacy with
force. And so, I do believe that we used force when it was appropriate, and strongly. So I
KERREY: Madam Secretary, with great respect, after August of '98 you and I both know
what we did.
(Page 19 of 83)
We led the North Atlantic alliance to an effort against Kosovo and that was the choice
that was made; that was the threat that was considered to be the most important. And we
used a military force against Belgrade. I think it's a straw man to say that we're going
to have random bombing or indiscriminate bombing. That's not what we're proposing at all.
I keep hearing the excuse we didn't have actionable intelligence. Well, what the hell does
that say to Al Qaida? Basically, they knew -- beginning in 1993 it seems to me -- that
there was going to be limited, if any, use of military and that they were relatively free
to do whatever they wanted. ALBRIGHT: Senator, there never -- as far as I know -- was a
discussion as to whether there was a choice between using force in the Balkans and using
force against Al Qaida. That was not a choice that ever was discussed or made. It was not
one or the other. And I think that the executive orders that President Clinton put out
about using lethal force against Osama bin Laden, everything that we did in terms of the
structure that we put together to freeze various assets and to go after them with every
conceivable tool that we had -- you, Senator, I know, were the only person that I know of
who suggested declaring war. In retrospect, you were probably right. But we used every
single tool we had in terms of trying to figure out what the right targets would be and
how to go about dealing with what we knew to be a major threat. And I reviewed it, and I
am satisfied that we did what we could given the intelligence that we had and pre-9/11, if
I might say. We have to keep being reminded of that, because there were whole questions --
as Secretary Lehman said -- that we overreacted, not the other way around.
KEAN: Commissioner Fielding?
FIELDING: Madam Secretary, Ambassador Pickering, thank you both very much for being
here and for your service to our commission and to the country. I have a follow-up
question very similar to the two that have just been asked you. There was broad consensus
among officials -- in civilian and military -- prior to 9/11 that there was little or no
congressional support or even public support for a large scale U.S. military action
against Al Qaida in the Afghan territory. Likewise, there was skepticism that we've been
told about, frequently, within the U.S. government that the military really was reluctant
to engage in any military action against bin Laden in Afghan, and in fact, as Senator
Kerrey just said, but for the retaliatory strike after the East African embassy bombings,
there was no follow up.
FIELDING: So we have the State Department communicating threats to the Taliban, saying
that -- and I guess it was around 1999 -- that they would be held accountable and that
there would be military force, among other things, for any attack by Al Qaida against the
United States. Now, that leads to my question: Did the Taliban have a reason to believe
that we would make good on that threat, that it was a valid threat? And likewise, what
steps -- when you formulate a policy to make that kind of a threat, what steps did you
take to ensure that we, in fact, had a credible military force that could enforce that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, as I said, President Clinton had ordered that lethal
force be used. There were armed submarines in the Arabian Sea and a variety -- bombers on
standby and ready to go so that -- the orders were there. The president also asked for a
variety of options from the Pentagon in terms of special forces, a variety of -- as far as
I know, there was no option off the table and that there were questions about the Pentagon
saying that these were not viable. You will have Secretary Cohen here and you can ask him
these questions. But I do know that from the perspective of one of the members of the
principals' committee, I, as secretary of state, can assure you that the president asked
for a variety of military options. And so, I, again, think that you have -- from my
perspective, the Pentagon did not come forward with viable options in response to what the
president was asking for.
(Page 20 of 83)
PICKERING: I also think, Mr. Fielding, that the record is pretty clear on the intensive
looks that we were giving to the target lists, and what could be found, and how to find
Osama, and could we see him. And we found that we may have seen him, but he wasn't there,
or perhaps he was going to be someplace, but it never panned out. But there are very clear
indications -- using Afghan irregulars who were prepared to work with us, using the kinds
of strikes that we used against the camps, looking at all of the other alternatives --
this was a constant preoccupation that we had many times when I would have phoned the
secretary on the secure phone and say, We think it's about to happen, only to call her
back 24 hours later and say, No, it didn't work.
PICKERING: The intelligence wasn't secure enough to know that we would be there to hit
that particular target. It was Osama bin Laden obviously. So it was not something that
sort of was done once and put aside and never thought about again.
FIELDING: No, I appreciate that. But to get back to the second part of my question,
when you formulate a diplomatic policy, if you will, which says we're going to use force
against you and we're going to use our military if you don't resolve this in a diplomatic
sense. My real question is what process do you go through before that decision is made to
ensure that we really did have a credible military plan and force that could react to that
to make our threat to the Taliban credible?
ALBRIGHT: Well, we did -- and Ambassador Pickering participated in many of these
meetings -- we had interagency meetings to talk about what our various options were. And I
think we all felt it was appropriate to let the Taliban know that they would be held
responsible if further action were held. And as we made that -- the truth is that they
didn't do anything in between the time that we made that point to them. And it was a
threat that was out there, a Damocles sword. And we did have various options to deal with
them with the cruise missiles off the submarines and other ways of bombing. I personally
am not satisfied that we were able to get all the right answers out of the Pentagon. I
think that is a question. And one of the issues always in any interagency meeting, whether
it was starting when I was ambassador at the United Nations, I would ask for a variety --
although at that case not as appropriate as when I was secretary -- for a variety of
options in terms of what could be done militarily. And I think you will have to ask
Secretary Cohen, because we all dealt on this issue together. And I think that the thing
that is very hard to explain to people now is how much time we spent on all this and were
constantly debating what we could do given a pre-9/11 atmosphere. It really was very, very
different. And most people thought that we had made up the issues of terrorism, as
Secretary Lehman pointed out. So I hope very much that in considering all this, you do --
I know how hard it is for me, and I'm sure it's hard for you -- is to get back into the
FIELDING: Thank you. Thank you both very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you. Commissioner Gorelick? GORELICK: Madam Secretary and Ambassador
Pickering, thank you for being here and thank you for your service to this country.
GORELICK: I would like to probe a little bit further the issue of use of military force
in Afghanistan. You, I think, once famously said in a different context, What's the use of
having this state of the art military if we can never use it? So, I would like to know
what your reaction was when there was developed a plan to use special forces to invade
Afghanistan and go and get bin Laden post the '98 embassy bombings, when DOD opposed using
this plan as unworkable and unwieldy. What was your view on their posture?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, and as I said in my opening remarks, the embassy bombings
were something that was -- very deeply touched everything that I did at the State
Department and affected -- you know when Admiral Crowe presented his report, it was, I
think, devastating in many ways. And he blamed me personally. So, believe me, it was
something that, as secretary of state, I did feel responsible. These were people who
worked for me. And I felt very much that we needed to do everything we could to make sure
that there was a retaliation against those who had done it and that we had to pursue so
that this would not happen again. And I did press, as did others, for a variety of
options. And the explanation about the special forces that was always hard was, you either
had a very small group that was then not able to protect itself, or one that was so large
that would be detectable. And so the balance of trying to find the right special
operations group was very difficult. But you have to ask the military people this
GORELICK: Oh, we will.
(Page 21 of 83)
ALBRIGHT: ... because president Clinton and I and Sandy Berger, we all pushed and
pressed, as did Ambassador Pickering. Because I think that we did see the linkage between
diplomacy and the threat of force and the use of force. I spent most of my eight years in
office thinking and talking about the linkages between diplomacy and use of force, and
that one underlines the other. And so I did my best, in fact, to question on this.
GORELICK: Would you agree with the statement that Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz
gave us, that if the DOD had gone to Congress before 9/11 and asked to invade Afghanistan
that they would not have been taken seriously?
ALBRIGHT: I think I do agree with that, because it was very hard to get congressional
support for military action. We had a hard time in various other areas, whether it was
supporting peacekeeping operations or generally in terms of trying to get support because
I think there was a whole question about how serious this all was, despite the fact that I
think we made many statements to the effect, as I said, President Clinton and Ambassador
Pickering and I, and Sandy Berger and Secretary Cohen spoke very often about the
continuing danger of terrorism. But on this particular subject, I do agree with
GORELICK: I appreciate the caveat. (LAUGHTER) You issued a demarche, or a warning, to
the Taliban before the call, saying that you would hold or the U.S. government would hold
the Taliban responsible for any harm to Americans, is that correct?
ALBRIGHT: We did, yes.
GORELICK: And after the Cole, you, in answer to a question from Secretary Lehman, said
-- or maybe it was Congressman Roemer -- you said, We didn't know -- by the time you left
office, you didn't know that the attack on the Cole was the responsibility of bin Laden;
is that correct?
ALBRIGHT: That is correct.
GORELICK: But having made that threat, what is your view on the necessity for the U.S.
government to have responded to the Cole forcefully when that conclusion of responsibility
was in fact made?
ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said and you repeated, we did not have definitive proof. The
definitive proof came during the Bush administration. And they had repeated the threat. So
I think you have to again ask them in terms of how they saw, whether they reacted
appropriately once it was proven that the Cole was linked to Al Qaida. In our case, there
was not proof by the time we left office that it was and we stood with our threat.
GORELICK: Thank you.
LEHMAN: Just to set the record straight, however, our investigations have indeed proved
that the conclusion was reached in CIA at a much earlier time; in fact, as early as
November, and certainly by December. GORELICK: But not conveyed to decision-makers.
LEHMAN: But not conveyed to decision-makers.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that is a general issue that people need to look at, is how
material comes up the system and who knows what at what time. I think that is an issue,
how it is conveyed and at what time.
KEAN: Senator Gorton?
GORTON: Same general subject, Madam Secretary. I take from page six of your written
statement: There would have been reason to justify military action -- that is an invasion
of Afghanistan -- but without the megashock of September 11th, we would not have had a
local staging ground to support such an attack and diplomatic backing would have been
virtually nonexistent. Would you not say that exactly the same situation existed during
the first eight months of the Bush administration; i.e., prior to 9/11?
ALBRIGHT: I do think that clearly 9/11 affected them as it did us. And therefore the
question is, how they looked at the particular material. They seem to have felt also that
there was not a justification. I think the question comes down to one of the last issues
that Ms. Gorelick raised with us, is whether when there was proof that Al Qaida and Osama
bin Laden were connected with the USS Cole, the threat having been made, why there was not
a response at that time.
ALBRIGHT: I think that is a question...
GORTON: I'm asking this question. This question relates to an invasion of Afghanistan
to depose the Taliban and disperse Al Qaida.
(Page 22 of 83)
ALBRIGHT: I do think -- this is my personal opinion -- that it would be very hard
pre-9/11 to have persuaded anybody that an invasion of Afghanistan was appropriate. I
think it did take the megashock, unfortunately, of 9/11 to make people understand the
considerable threat. Plus there was not a staging area in Pakistan and the variety of
problems that we faced, I do think that this administration faced also.
GORTON: And pre-9/11, the only military response to any Al Qaida attack, whether
successful or one of the many that you said was frustrated during your period of time --
the only military response was the response in the immediate aftermath of the embassy
bombing. And while many other potential covert or cruise missile kinds of responses were
considered, all ran up against an objection that the intelligence wasn't actionable, that
you didn't know -- there was no appropriate target, or that there would be collateral
damage. So every such suggestion was frustrated and came to naught before 9/11; is that
ALBRIGHT: Well, I have no way of judging what happened inside the Bush administration
from January to September.
GORTON: Well, you do know that nothing happened. ALBRIGHT: Well, I do know that, but I
also do know that many of the policy issues that we had developed were not followed up.
And I have to say, with great sad sadness, to watch an incoming administration, kind of,
take apart a lot of the policies that we did have, whether it had to do with North Korea
or the Balkans, was difficult. So I think you have to ask people that were in the Bush
administration as to how they saw things on this particular issue. But I do think, in all
fairness, that 9/11 was a cataclysmic event that changed things and that they must have
had similar reactions. But clearly there are many issues and many questions now about how
they were responding to the terrorist threat and how seriously they took it. You are going
to have some other witnesses here who will be more capable of responding to that question
than I because I know nothing beyond what I read.
GORTON: So at least during probably the year 2000, if not earlier, and 2001, up to 9/11, a
rational Al Qaida could determine that terrorism was essentially cost-free, or only at a
cost so modest that it was well worthwhile?
ALBRIGHT: I don't believe that actually. I think that if you look at what we were
doing, we were on an upward trajectory of ramping up our dealing with terrorist
activities, whether it was putting the infrastructure into place that the Bush
administration is using on tracking finances, on trying to get more money into the CIA, of
developing counterterrorism centers and activities. So I think, no. I mean, it's hard for
me to get inside the head of Al Qaida, but no, I do not think they must have thought it
GORTON: Well, there we certainly disagree. I guess my time is up.
KEAN: Yes. Last question for this panel from Governor Thompson.
THOMPSON: Madam Secretary, thank you for being here today and thank you for your
service to our country. I must say that I am impressed with not only your record, but the
record of the Clinton administration, in its efforts to pursue and stop Al Qaida, to
provide appropriate responses on behalf of our country and for the vigor and determination
with which your administration acted in these affairs during the time that you were in
office. But I'd like to turn to a subject that everybody else in Washington is talking
about, so we might as well recognize the elephant in the room. (LAUGHTER)
ALBRIGHT: So to speak.
THOMPSON: Understanding, as I do, all the things that your administration did, I'm
perplexed that even though you followed many of Mr. Clarke's suggestions -- whether it was
frequent principals' meetings, frequent meetings of the small group, pressure on the
Saudis, pressure on the Pakistanis, preparation of the Predator for military action, going
after financing, issuing demarches, all of that -- and where you didn't follow his advice,
you had reasonable and logical explanations for it, some of which you've talked about
today and some of which you've talked about in your written testimony. For example, not
providing military aid to the Northern Alliance or putting boots on the ground in
(Page 23 of 83)
THOMPSON: But none of the years of the Clinton effort, as vigorous as it was, either
stopped the spread of Al Qaida, brought us Osama bin Laden or prevented September 11th.
And it's really hard for me to see how criticism can be leveled against the Bush
administration, which was brand new and had only seven months to try and look at, and in
many cases, continue the policy of the Clinton administration toward Al Qaida and Osama
bin Laden. This was not one of those things they blew up like the Balkans or North Korea.
Is that a fair conclusion?
ALBRIGHT: I think that fighting terrorism is a very difficult job, and it is clear from
our experience of eight years, I think it's very hard to find Osama bin Laden. We had a
hard time. I regret that they have not been able to find him. It is very difficult. We are
dealing with a brand-new threat in a way that spreads through these variety of groups
where people are given sanctuary and where, in fact, I think there is a question in the
long term how we deal with it in term of educational issues, in terms of trying to get the
moderate Muslims to help us -- some of the suggestions that I made. I think what I
consider -- if I may say so -- the great value of this commission is that you are asking
exactly these kinds of questions in terms of not just trying to place blame, but trying to
When I was first told about the mandate of this commission, that is what it is, and so
-- to get answers and learn lessons without, in fact, just trying to place blame. I do
think that it is important to understand how much attention was paid to fighting terrorism
in the Bush administration. I can only talk about what we did and that is that it was
constantly on our minds, that President Clinton spoke about it all the time privately in
meetings to foreign leaders, as well as publicly -- that we did, in fact, create the
national security system that allowed somebody like Dick Clarke in the job of being the
coordinator, and that I think our record in dealing with this is one that established a
variety of policies that I think were on the way toward helping us fight terrorism. But I
am not going to say that it is easy. And it is the threat of our time. And the devil's
marriage between these shady groups and the spread of weapons of mass destruction is
unfortunately the problem that we are all dealing with, that we cannot deed to our
children and grandchildren. So I am very glad that this commission is looking into this
because it's the lessons learned, not so much the blame placing.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you, again, for your testimony, very much. And thank you for all your
public service, Secretary Albright.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Governor.
KEAN: And thank you, Ambassador Pickering, for being here with us. We'll be submitting
a few -- perhaps if we could, a few more questions fro the record.
KEAN: And we look forward to your responses. Thank you very, very much.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you so much. Thank you.
KEAN: Our next witness, I think, is familiar to everybody in this room. He, too, has a
record of tremendously distinguished service to this country in a number of different
ways, both on the volunteer level as well as in the public service level. We welcome a
senior member of the Cabinet, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is accompanied by
distinguished Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Thank you very much for coming.
Mr. Secretary and Mr. Deputy Secretary, we would like, if we could, to ask you to raise
you right hand that we may put you under oath. Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
POWELL: I do.
KEAN: Thank you very much. Secretary Powell, your prepared statement will be entered
into the record in full. We would ask you, therefore, if you could summarize your remarks.
POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's a great pleasure to be before the
commission today. And I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you regarding the
events leading up to and following the murderous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
It is my hope, as I know it is yours, that through the hard work of this commission, our
country can improve the way we wage the war on terror and, particular, better protect our
homeland and the American people. I'm pleased to have, of course, with me today Deputy
Secretary Richard Armitage. Secretary Armitage was sworn in on March 26th of 2001, two
months into the administration. And he's been intimately involved in the interagency
deliberations on our counterterrorism policies. And of course, he also participated in
what are known as principals as well as National Security Council meetings whenever I was
on travel or otherwise unavailable. Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, I leave
Washington this evening to represent President Bush and the American people at the
memorial service in Madrid, Spain, honoring the over 200 victims of the terrorists attacks
of 3/11, March 11, 2004. With deep sympathy and solidarity, our heart goes out to their
loved ones and to the people of Spain. And just last Thursday, in the garden of our
embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, I presided at a memorial service in honor of two State
Department family members, Barbara Green and her daughter Kristen Wormsley, who were
killed two years ago by terrorists while they worshipped in a church on a bright,
beautiful spring morning. I know that the families and friends of the victims of 9/11,
some of whom are listening and watching today, grieve just as the Spanish are grieving and
just as we at the Department of State did and still do for Barbara and Kristen. Mr.
Chairman, I am no newcomer to the horrors of terrorism. In 1983, Secretary Armitage and I
were working for Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger, as was Secretary Lehman at that
time, when 243 wonderful, brave Marines and Navy corpsmen were killed in Beirut, Lebanon.
(Page 24 of 83)
POWELL: I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993 when the first bombing of
the World Trade Center took place. In 1996, I may have been out of government, but I
followed closely the events surrounding the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Khobar
and all the other terrorist attacks over the years were very much part of my consciousness
as I prepared to assume the office of secretary of state under President George Bush. I
was well aware of the fact that I was going to be sworn into office just three months
after the USS Cole was struck in the harbor at Aden, Yemen, taking the lives of 17 sailors
and wounding 30 others. I was well aware -- very well aware that our embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania had been blown up in 1998, injuring some 4,000 people and killing 220, 12 of
them Americans; the highest number of casualties in a single incident in the State
Department's history. As the new chief executive officer of the Department of State, I was
acutely aware that I would be responsible to President Bush -- he made this clear that
this was my responsibility -- for the safety of men and women serving at our posts
overseas, as well as for the safety and welfare of private American citizens traveling and
living abroad. The 1999 Crowe commission report on embassy security became our blueprint
for upgrading the security of all our facilities. Admiral Crowe had done an extensive
review and made some scathing criticisms on how lax our country was in protecting our
personnel who were serving abroad from terrorist attacks. One of my first actions was to
ask retired Major General Chuck Williams of the Army Corps of Engineers to come into the
department and head our building operation. We wanted him to move aggressively to
implement the Crowe recommendations and to protect our people and our installations, and
he has done a tremendous job of that. At the beginning of this administration, we are
building one new secure embassy a year. Today we are building 10 new secure embassies
every single year. As the president's principal foreign policy adviser, I was well aware,
as was the president and all the members of the new national security team, that communism
and fascism, our old foes of the past century, have been replaced by a new kind of enemy,
terrorism. We were well aware that no nation is immune to terrorism. We were well aware
that this adversary is not necessarily a state, and that it often has no clear return
address. We knew that this monster is hydra-headed, many tentacled. We knew that its evil
leaders and followers espoused many false causes, but have one purpose: to murder innocent
people. Mr. Chairman, President Bush and all of us on his team knew that terrorism would
be a major concern for us, as it has been for the past several administrations. During the
transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration, we were pleased to receive the
briefings and information that Secretary Albright and her staff provided us on President
Clinton's counterterrorism policies and what they had done for the previous eight years
before we came into office.
POWELL: Indeed, on December 20th, four days after President Bush announced that I would
be the next secretary of state, I asked for and got a briefing on our worldwide terrorism
actions and policies from President Clinton's counterterrorism security group headed by
Mr. Dick Clarke. In addition to Mr. Clarke, at this briefing -- my very first briefing
during the transition -- also present were the CIA's counterterrorism director, Mr. Cofer
Black, from the FBI, Dale Watson. Also present were representatives from the Department of
Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and from within the State Department, representatives
of our own Bureau of Intelligence and Research, as well as our acting coordinator for
counterterrorism. A major component of this briefing was Al Qaida's growing threat to the
United States, our interests around the world, and Afghanistan's role as a safe haven for
Al Qaida. As a matter of fact, that part of the briefing got my attention. So much so that
later I asked Mr. Armitage -- when he got sworn in -- to get directly involved in all of
these issues, and he did. In addition, in my transition book that was provided to me by
Secretary Albright, there was a paper from Mike Sheehan, Secretary Albright's
counterterrorism coordinator, and I read it very carefully. That transition paper, under
the rubric Ongoing Threat Environment, stated that, quote, In close coordination with the
intelligence community, we must ensure that all precautions are taken to strengthen our
security posture, warn U.S. citizens abroad, and maintain a high level of readiness to
respond to additional incidents that might come along. The paper informed me that, quote,
The joint U.S.-Yemeni investigation of the USS Cole bombing continues to develop new
information and leads, but that it is still too early to definitively link the attack to a
sponsor, i.e. Osama bin Laden. And under Taliban, the paper records that, We must continue
to rally international support for a new round of U.N. sanctions, including an arms
embargo against the Taliban. The paper further stated: We should maintain the momentum of
getting others, such as the G-8, Russia, India, the Caucasus states, Central Asia, to
isolate and pressure the Taliban.
(Page 25 of 83)
It continued: If the Cole investigation leads back to Afghanistan, we should use it to
mobilize the international support needed for further pressures on the Taliban. Let me
emphasize that the paper covered a range of terrorism- related concerns, and not just Al
Qaida and the Taliban. So the outgoing administration provided me and others in the
incoming administration with transition papers, as well as briefings based on their eight
years of experience that reinforced our awareness of the worldwide threat from terrorism.
POWELL: The deputies, in turn, reported to Cabinet-level principals committees, which
answered to the National Security Council, chaired by the president. These committees,
however, were not by any means the sum and substance of our interagency discussions on
counterterrorism nor do they represent all that was happening in the administration on a
day- to-day basis. In order to keep in constant touch on counterterrorism issues, as well
as all of the other items on our agenda, Secretary Rumsfeld, Dr. Rice and I held a daily
coordination phone call meeting on every morning that we were in town at 7:15. In addition
to our regular and frequent meetings at the State Department every morning at 8:30, I met
with my staff and immediately had available at 8:30, information from my I R section, my
intelligence people as well as my counterterrorism coordinator, as well as the assistant
secretary in charge of diplomatic security. We formalized regular luncheons with Dr. Rice,
myself, the vice president and Secretary Rumsfeld in order to make sure that we stayed in
closest touch with each other, not only on terrorism but on all issues. Above all, from
the start, the president by word and deed made clear his interest and his intense desire
to protect the nation from terrorism. He frequently asked and prodded us to do more. He
decided early on that we needed to be more aggressive in going after terrorists and
especially Al Qaida. As he said in early spring, as we were developing our new
comprehensive strategy, quote, I'm tired of swatting flies. He wanted a thorough,
comprehensive diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement and financial strategy
to go after Al Qaida. It was a demanding order, but it was a necessary one. There were
many other compelling issues that were on our agenda that a new administration has to take
into account -- a Middle East policy that had just collapsed; the sanctions on Iraq had
been unraveling steadily since 1998; relations with Russia and China were complicated by
the need to expel Russian spies in February; and the plane collision with a Chinese
fighter in April. There were many foreign leaders who were coming to the United States or
wanted us to visit them to get engaged with the new administration. Yes, we had to deal
with all of these pressing matters and more, but we also were confident that we had an
experienced counterterrorism team in place. President Bush and his entire national
security team understood that terrorism had to be among our highest priorities -- and it
was. Now, what did we do to act on that priority? Our counterterrorism planning developed
very rapidly considering the challenges of transition and of a new administration. We were
not given a counterterrorism action plan by the previous administration. As I mentioned,
we were given good briefings on what they had been doing with respect to Al Qaida and with
respect to the Taliban.
POWELL: The briefers, as well as the principals, conveyed to us the gravity of the
threat posed by Al Qaida. But we noted early on that the actions that the previous
administration had taken had not succeeded in eliminating the threat. As a result, Dr.
Rice directed a thorough policy review aimed at developing a comprehensive strategy to
eliminate the Al Qaida threat, and this was in her first week in her new position as
national security adviser. This decision did not await any deputies or principals
committee review; she knew what we had to do and she put us to the task of doing it. We
wanted the new policy to go well beyond tit-for-tat retaliation. We felt that lethal
strikes that largely missed the terrorists if you don't have accurate targeting
information, such as the cruise missile strikes in 1998, might lead Al Qaida to believe
that we lacked resolve. These strikes had obviously not deterred Al Qaida from
subsequently attacking the USS Cole. We wanted to move beyond the roll-back policy of
containment, criminal prosecution and limited retaliation for specific terrorist attacks.
We wanted to destroy Al Qaida. We understood that Pakistan was critical to the success of
our long-term strategy. To get at Al Qaida, we had to end Pakistan's support for the
Taliban so we had to recast our relations with that country. But nuclear sanctions caused
by Pakistan's nuclear weapons test, and the nature of the new regime, the way President
Musharraf took office, made it difficult for us to work with Pakistan. We knew, however,
that achieving sustainable relations with Pakistan meant moving more aggressively to
strengthen and shape our relations with India as well. So we began this rather more
complex diplomatic approach very quickly upon assuming office, even as we were putting the
strategy on paper, and deciding its other more complicated elements. For example, in
February of 2001, Presidents Bush and Musharraf exchanged letters. Let me quote a few
lines from President Bush's February 16th letter to President Musharraf of Pakistan. This
is just a few weeks after coming in to office. Quote, the president said to President
Musharraf, Pakistan is an important member of the community of nations and one with which
I hope to build better relations, particularly as you move ahead to return to civilian
constitutional government. We have concerns of which you are aware, but I am hopeful that
we can work together on our differences in the years ahead. We should work together, the
president continued, to address Afghanistan's many problems. The most pressing of these is
terrorism, and it inhibits progress in all other issues. The continued presence of Osama
bin Laden and his Al Qaida organization is a direct threat to the United States and its
interests that must be addressed. I believe Al Qaida also threatens Pakistan's long-term
interests. We join the United Nations in passing additional sanctions against the Taliban,
to bring bin Laden to justice, and to close the network of terrorist camps and their
territory. The president concluded, I urge you to use your influence with the Taliban to
bring this about. President Bush was very concerned about Al Qaida and about the safe
haven given them by the Taliban, but he knew that implementing the diplomatic road map we
envisioned would be difficult. The deputies went to work, reviewing all of these complex
regional issues. Early on, we realized that a serious effort to remove Al Qaida's safe
haven in Afghanistan might well require introducing military force, especially ground
forces. This, without the cooperation of Pakistan, would be out of the question.
(Page 26 of 83)
POWELL: Pakistan had vital interests in Afghanistan and was deeply suspicious of
India's intentions. Pakistan's and India's mutual fears and suspicion threatened to boil
over into nuclear conflict as the administration got into the early months of its
existence. To put it mildly, the situation was delicate and dangerous. Any effort to
effect change had to be calibrated very carefully to avoid misperception and
miscalculation. Under the leadership of Steve Hadley, deputy national security adviser,
the deputies met a number of times during the spring and summer to craft a strategy for
eliminating the Al Qaida threat and dealing with the complex implications for Afghanistan,
Pakistan and India. So we began to develop this more aggressive and more comprehensive
strategy. And while we did so, we continued activities that had been going on in the
previous administration aimed at Al Qaida and other terrorist groups, including
intelligence activities. For example, during the summer of 2001, the CIA succeeded in a
number of disruption activities against terrorist groups. These are activities where our
agents create turmoil among those groups they know to be associated with terrorists, so
that the terrorists cannot assemble, cannot communicate, can't effectively plan, receive
any support or money, and are generally unable to act in a coordinated fashion. You will
hear more about these activities from Director Tenet tomorrow. But I want to emphasize
that, notwithstanding all these intelligence activities that were under way, at no time
during the early months of our administration were we presented with a vetted, viable,
operational proposal which would have led to an opportunity to kill, capture or otherwise
neutralize Osama bin Laden; never received any targetable information. Let me return now
to our diplomatic efforts. From early 2001 onward, we pressed the Taliban directly and
sought the assistance of the government of Pakistan and other neighboring states to put
additional pressure on the Taliban to expel bin Laden from Afghanistan and shut down Al
Qaida. On February 8th, 2001, less than three weeks into the administration, we closed the
Taliban office in New York, implementing the U.N. resolutions passed the previous month --
I must say with the strong support and the dedicated efforts of Secretary Albright and
In March, we repeated the warning to the Taliban that they would be held responsible
for any Al Qaida attack against our interests. In April, 2001, senior departmental
officials traveled to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, to lay out
our key concerns, including about terrorism and Afghanistan. We asked these Central Asian
nations to coordinate their efforts with the various Afghan players who were opposed to
the Taliban. We also used what we call the Bonn Group of concerned countries, to bring
together Germany, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, the United States to build a common approach to
Afghanistan. At the same time, we encouraged and supported the Rome group of expatriate
Afghans to explore alternatives to the Taliban. In May, Deputy Secretary Armitage met with
First Deputy Foreign Minister Trubnikov of the Russian Federation to renew the work of the
U.S.-Russia working group in Afghanistan. These discussions had previously been conducted
at a lower level. We focused specifically on what we could do together about Afghanistan
and about the Taliban. This, incidentally, laid the groundwork for obtaining Russian
cooperation on liberating Afghanistan immediately after 9/11.
KEAN: Mr. Secretary, we are going to run out of time...
POWELL: Yes, I will get shorter.
KEAN: Thank you, sir.
POWELL: I just wanted to make the point that in June, in July and August we took every
effort that was available to us to put pressure on Pakistan to cut its losses with the
Taliban and to take every effort possible to make sure that Pakistan understood the need
to bring Afghanistan around to eliminating the threat provided by Al Qaida and its
presence in Afghanistan.
(Page 27 of 83)
POWELL: We also put into play a number of other options that were available to us. As
we know, during this period, we looked at some of the ideas that Mr. Clarke's team had
presented that had not been tried in the previous administration. These activities fit the
long-term time frame of our new strategy and were presented to us that way by Mr. Clarke.
In other words, these were long-term actions that he had in mind and not immediate actions
that would produce immediate results. If these ideas made sense, we explored them. If they
looked workable, we adopted them. For example, we provided new counterterrorism aid to
Uzbekistan because we knew Al Qaida was sponsoring a terrorist effort in that country led
by the Islamic movement. We looked at the Predator. The Predator at that time in early
2001 was not an armed weapon that they used to go after anyone.
And Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Tenet will talk more about this. But by the end of that summer
period, as we entered September and October, it was a weapon that was usable and it was
used extensively and effectively after 9/11 when it was ready. Other ideas such as arming
the Northern Alliance with significant weaponry or giving them an added capability did not
seem to be a practical thing to do at that time for the same sorts of reasons that
Secretary Albright discussed earlier. The basic elements of our new strategy, which came
together during these early months of the administration, first and foremost, eliminate Al
Qaida. It was no longer to roll it back or reduce its effectiveness; our goal was to
destroy it. The strategy would call for ending all sanctuaries given to Al Qaida. We would
try to do this first through diplomacy, but if diplomacy failed and there was a call for
additional measures including military operations, we would be prepared to do it. And
military action would be more than just launching cruise missiles at already warned
targets. In fact, the strategy called for attacking Al Qaida and the Taliban's leadership,
their command and control, their ground forces and other targets.
The strategy would recognize the need for significant aid, not only for the Northern
Alliance, but to other tribal groups that might help us with this. It would also include
greatly expanding intelligence and authorities, capabilities and funding. While all this
was taking place, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, we did everything we could to
protect the lives of American citizens around the world. As you know, the threat
information that we were receiving from the CIA and other sources suggested that we were
increasingly at risk and the risk was -- looked to be mostly overseas.
POWELL: And, while that is my responsibility, others in our administration were looking
at the threat within the United States. But in response to these overseas threats, we
issued threat warnings constantly. Every time the threat level went up, we would respond
with appropriate threat warnings to our embassies, to our citizens around the world who
were traveling or living on foreign countries, warning them of the nature of the threat
and encouraging them to take the necessary caution. So, it is not as if we weren't
responding to the threat. We were responding to the threat in the way that we could
respond to the threat: with warnings, with emergency action committee meetings in our
embassies to make sure that we were buttoning down and buttoning up. Mr. Chairman, this
all continued throughout the summer. It reached a conclusion in early September, when all
the pieces of our strategy came together: the intelligence part, the diplomatic part,
military components of it, law enforcement, the nature of the challenge we had before us
which was to eliminate Al Qaida. It all came together on the 4th of September, at a
principals meeting, where we concluded our work on the national security directive that
would be telling everybody in the administration what we were going to do as we moved
forward. It took us roughly eight months to get to that point, but it was a solid eight
months of dedicated work to bring us to that point. And then, as we all know, 9/11 hit and
we had to accelerate all of our efforts and go onto a different kind of footing
altogether. I just might point out that, with respect to Pakistan, consistent with the
decisions that we had made in early September, after 9/11, within two days, Mr. Armitage
had contacted the Pakistani intelligence chiefs who happened to be in the United States
and laid out what we now needed from Pakistan. The time for diplomacy and discussions were
over; we needed immediate action. And Mr. Armitage laid out seven specific steps for
Pakistan to take to join us in this effort.
(Page 28 of 83)
POWELL: We gave them 24, 48 hours to consider it and then I called President Musharraf
and said, We need your answer now. We need you as part of this campaign, this crusade. And
President Musharraf made a historic and strategic decision that evening when I spoke to
him and changed his policy and became a partner in this effort as opposed to a hindrance
to the effort. Mr. Chairman, I have to also say that we were successful during this period
in rounding up international support. The OAS, the Organization of the Islamic Conference,
the United Nations, NATO, the entire international community rallied to our effort. To
summarize all of this, Mr. Chairman, I might say that this administration came in fully
recognizing the threat presented to the United States and its interests and allies around
the world by terrorism. We went to work on it immediately. The president made it clear
that it was a high priority. The interagency group was working. We had continuity in our
counterterrorism institutions and organizations. We kept demarching as was done in the
previous administration. But while we were demarching and while we were doing intelligence
activities to disrupt, we were putting in place a comprehensive strategy that pulled all
of these things together in a more aggressive way and in a way that would go after this
threat in order to destroy it and not just keep demarching it. We had eight or so months
to do that, and in early September, that strategy came together. And when 9/11 hit us and
brought us to that terrible day that none of us will ever forget, that strategy was ready
and it was the basis upon which we went forward and we could accelerate all of our
efforts. While I was warning embassies and taking cover in our embassies in response to
the threats, Secretary Rumsfeld was doing the same thing with military forces. Director
Tenet was doing the same thing with his assets around the world. And our domestic
agencies, the FBI, the FAA were also looking at what they needed to protect the nation.
Most of us still thought that the principal threat was outside of the country. We didn't
know while we were going through this procedure and through these policies in putting
together this comprehensive strategy that those who were going to perpetrate 9/11 were
already in the country, had been in the country for some time, and were hard at work.
Anything we might have done against Al Qaida during this period, against Osama bin Laden
may or may not have any influence on these people who were already in the country, already
had their instructions, had already burrowed in and were getting ready to commit the
crimes that we saw on 9/11. Nevertheless, we knew that Al Qaida was ultimately the source
of this kind of terror and we determined to go after it.
POWELL: As Secretary Albright said earlier, we have many other things we have to do in
the months and the years ahead. We have to get our message out. We have to do more with
public diplomacy. We have to do more with our allies and with our partners around the
world. We are working on all of these issues. But Al Qaida no longer has a safe haven in
Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are on their way to democracy. I was there last
week. There are going to be no more weapons of mass destruction or safe havens in Iraq.
The people of Iraq have been liberated and they're on their way to a democracy. And so, I
think we're trying to create conditions where we will bring the whole civilized world
together against the threat of terrorism. Mr. Chairman, I will end at this point and my
entire statement is available for your record.
KEAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your testimony. We'll begin this round of
questioning with Commissioner Thompson, followed by Commissioner Gorelick.
THOMPSON: Mr. Secretary, your testimony delivered here this morning in written form has
come close to this issue, but let me ask you directly. In the seven months between the
time the Bush administration took office and September 11th, to your knowledge did Mr.
Clarke ever present to the Bush administration a new plan for dealing with Al Qaida? Or
was he, along with the rest of the NSC staff and the counterterrorism group working on the
NSPD that was eventually produced in September without any complaint that things had to be
done before that time?
(Page 29 of 83)
POWELL: To the best of my knowledge -- and I'll ask Deputy Secretary Armitage to
comment on this because he was so intimately involved -- is that in the early part of the
seven-month period and then coming to sort of a climax in April, we started to pull
together the various threads of a new policy. But I'm not aware of a specific new plan
that had been put forward.
Dr. Rice had asked for a comprehensive study to be done of everything that we were
doing up to that point from the previous administration, any new ideas that would come
along. But I'm not aware of a specific new plan that was presented for consideration by
the principals for action by the National Security Council.
ARMITAGE: I did not see a plan either. But it's quite clear, Governor, that Dick
Clarke, who participated in most of the DCs -- deputies committee meetings in which I
participated, was quite impatient and was pushing the process quite well.
THOMPSON: Mr. Secretary, taking into account both your military background and your
present diplomatic position, in your opinion would military aid to the Northern Alliance
during the period February, 1991, to September, 1991, have prevented 9/11?
THOMPSON: Would more frequent principals meetings in that period or more small group
meetings in that period have prevented 9/11?
POWELL: No, and I'm not quite sure I followed the rationale between more meetings and
preventing 9/11. We met constantly. It wasn't always at principals level. But there was no
lack of communication between the principals. There was no lack of exchange of information
and data. I was briefed every morning by my intelligence people. So were all of the other
principals. The president got daily briefings from the director of Central Intelligence,
and we consulted with each other about all of these issues. So I don't think it was a lack
of meetings that resulted in 9/11, if that's the suggestion.
THOMPSON: In your opinion, would an invasion of Afghanistan, between February of '91,
and September of '91, prevented 9/11?
POWELL: I can't answer that, but I can say that those who were perpetrators of 9/11,
who were actually going to conduct the attacks of 9/11, already had their instructions,
had their plans in place, and they were in the process of infiltrating themselves into the
United States, or they were already here. And invading Afghanistan and cutting off the
head, if you succeeded in getting Osama bin Laden and disrupting Al Qaida at that point, I
have no reason to believe that would have caused them to abort their plans.
THOMPSON: In fact, NATO is in Afghanistan today, and yet everyone who has testified
before this commission or been interviewed by this commission still fears that we may yet
suffer another attack on our own soil. Is that not correct?
POWELL: That's correct. Al Qaida has tentacles in many different parts of the world.
We've been very successful. We've eliminated a significant portion of the senior
leadership that we knew about. This does not eliminate the entire organization, and it is
not the only organization that means us ill.
THOMPSON: Let me take you back to the time you took office, early in 1991. Would you
give us a summary version of the most pressing foreign policy issues that the nation, in
your opinion, faced -- how you rank them, and where counterterrorism fit into this order
POWELL: There's no question that counterterrorism was in the top tier on this list.
It's very difficult to rank order them because they just come rushing at you, and you have
to deal with them as they come. I would say the Middle East peace problem was right there,
one of the top ones. The discussions that President Clinton and Ms. Albright, Dr.
Albright, were having with the Palestinians and Israelis had essentially fallen apart just
before inauguration. In fact, President Clinton and I spoke about it on his last day in
his office that afternoon of January 19th and expressed his disappointment that it didn't
work. So that was a top one. Sanctions were falling apart with respect to Iraq, and we had
to arrest that collapse of the sanctions policy. We're interested in a new relationship,
what our relationship would be with Russia, with China. And so lots of things press in,
and you have to deal with all of them. But there's no doubt that counterterrorism and
terrorism was high on that list. The very reason the very first briefing I got was on
terrorism, and Dr. Albright, Secretary Albright, certainly made clear that she thought it
was a high priority. I was announced on Saturday the 16th and the very next day Sunday the
17th, I met with Dr. Albright at her home for the first time to start talking about these
(Page 30 of 83)
THOMPSON: In May of 1991, you testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee and
you said: In my first three months, I'm very satisfied with the level of interagency
coordination and cooperation. And you made specific reference to the FBI and the CIA. Now,
I realize you're only on the job three months at that time. But in light what we've all
heard since that time about the difficulties in getting the FBI and the CIA together on
the issue of Al Qaida, do you think you were being a little optimistic about the degree of
POWELL: I was getting a steady stream of information from Director Tenet. I read the
same thing the president ready every morning, and the PDD, as its known and you're well
familiar with it. And the PDD regularly talked about terrorist activities. My own
intelligence operation, I R, fed me with a steady stream. I met on a regular basis --
occasional basis -- regular basis with Director Freeh, had access to FBI information. So I
didn't feel that there was a lack of coordination or a lack of communications and
interchange between the principals.
THOMPSON: All of us, I'm sure, have the strong desire to prevent another Afghanistan.
And there are places in the world, are there not, Mr. Secretary, either in Africa or
Southeast Asia that present that threat?
THOMPSON: Would you tell us, please, what the administration and you are doing both
diplomatically and militarily to head off this threat of another Afghanistan?
POWELL: Right after 9/11, even before 9/11, we started to work with the countries of
Central Asia. Uzbekistan, we knew, would be an important nation in this regard. And after
9/11, we put a full court press on all of the nations of Central Asia not only for access
for our troops to do their work in Afghanistan, but to create new relations with them. And
all of them have expressed a desire to have a friendly relationship and, in some cases, a
partnership with the United States. And we did this very sensitive to Russia's concerns
about the United States being in that part of the world. But we were able to persuade the
Russians, over time, that we had a common enemy in terrorism, and they should not fear the
United States having these kinds of relations with Central Asian nations. We also looked
at some of the nations in Africa; for example, Somalia, which was without a government.
Secretary Rumsfeld, I'm sure he'll testify to this, has been looking at our footprint
around the world to see how best we can deploy our forces to deal with those nations of
the world and those regions of the world that have the potential as serving as safe havens
for terrorist activities. For example, we have a presence in Djibouti now that we didn't
have previously, because we're concerned about the possibility of terrorists finding safe
havens in that part of the world. And so I think we have, through our diplomatic efforts,
our intelligence efforts and our military footprinting, been very sensitive to the need to
get ahead of the terrorists and to dry up these fertile places. Part of our public
diplomacy effort goes to this effort as well.
THOMPSON: One last question...
ARMITAGE: If I may...
THOMPSON: Yes, go ahead, Mr. Armitage.
ARMITAGE: There's one other element that the Secretary has made a big part of our
policy at the Department of State. And that is that a big portion of our assistance
programs for almost every country is in good governance and democracy, because you're not
going to have a failed state, we feel, if you have good, transparent governance and
It's not that it's new. I think the amount of attention, the amount of money going to
it is new and it's raised.
THOMPSON: Prior to September 11th, would it have been possible either for the Clinton
administration or the Bush administration to say to either the Saudis or the Pakistanis,
as the President did after September 11th: You're either with us or against us. POWELL:
It's not clear how you would have communicated such a message and under what set of
circumstances. What would you have been saying to the Pakistanis at that point that would
have persuaded them that it was a choice they had to make? After 9/11, it was clear to the
Pakistanis that we were going to take action against Al Qaida. And if that included taking
action against the Taliban, if that included going into Afghanistan and removing that
regime, we were going to do it.
(Page 31 of 83)
POWELL: And what we were essentially saying at that point: You've got to be with us.
And I think without that kind of imperative, 9/11 plus the fact that we were determined to
invade a country if that's what it took to get rid of this threat, I'm not sure you would
have gotten the kind of response from the Pakistanis that we got on the 14th of September.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
KEAN: Commissioner Gorelick? GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you,
Secretary Powell and Secretary Armitage for being here today. Secretary Powell, it has
been my pleasure over 25 years to have worked with you in two Democratic administrations.
Just to protect you, I will note for the record you were in uniform. (LAUGHTER) So it's my
pleasure to have the opportunity to question you today. I'd like to return to some
questions Governor Thompson asked you at the outset. And they have to do with the
appropriate role of the National Security Council in an area like terrorism and
particularly whether it is mostly a policy-making body as it seems to have been in the
policy-making process leading up to NSPD-9 directed to counterterrorism or whether it has
an operational role as well. And you have been, I would say candidly dismissive of the
notion that more meetings would have been helpful. But I would note that by putting off
until the perfect policy was in place a decision on flying the Predator, a decision on
arming the Northern Alliance, a decision on a response to the Cole, there were operational
implications to this, in fairness, prolonged policy-making process. There are gaps of six
weeks between deputies committee meetings as this process unfolds. And then during what
has been called the summer of threat where you have the CIA director running around with
his hair on fire, you all, the Cabinet, was never summoned to the White House to talk.
Now, as I take it, your view is it wouldn't have made a difference. And Dick Clarke has
said, well actually during the millennium process, it did make a difference.
So I'd like to ask you were you aware, for example, that within your department, visas
were being issued to the plotters of 9/11 when these individuals in your consulate had no
information from the CIA or the FBI that these were bad actors? Were you aware that your
tip-off list, which had lists of terrorists who should be prevented from coming into this
country, were not being given to the FAA so that the same people wouldn't fly on our
aircraft. Did you sit at a meeting with the attorney general and say to him, Have you
turned over every rock in your FBI so that I know how to respond as secretary of state to
POWELL: I wasn't being dismissive of meetings as not being useful. I was saying that
there are many ways to communicate besides just having principals meetings. I could see
the need for an almost daily meeting when I think of the Y2K situation just before New
Years Eve when the whole world was sort of abuzz as to what was going to happen. That
truly was a time that made me want to meet every single day. But we were not dismissive
and did not fail to deal with issues like Predator or Northern Alliance. The Predator was
not ready as a weapon during the early months of 2001. Toward the latter part of that
7-month period, more information became available as to the capacity and the capabilities
of the Predator as an armed weapon, and we all became more involved in it. And it was
moved along at very, very rapid speed through the development process, almost through a
Skunkworks process. And it was used as soon as it was available. So having lots of
principals meetings about whether the Predator was or was not armed wouldn't have served
any particular purpose, because that isn't the mechanism by which the Predator was being
examined for use. The best...
GORELICK: Let me follow up...
POWELL: ... if I just may, Ms. Gorelick. The NSC is principally a coordinating body,
coordinating the development of policy. And in a crisis atmosphere the NSC system also
becomes somewhat operational as it pulls people together to deal with a crisis.
(Page 32 of 83)
GORELICK: Well, I would note that it was operational, but only at the CSG level which
is, in most institutions and most organizations in the government, 2, 3, 4 levels down.
Let me just follow up very quickly on the Predator. The Predator had been used as a
surveillance technique -- well it hadn't been used, it had been tested up until the end of
the Clinton administration. And then it literally was sat on the ground until it could be
armed. Did you consider using it, as it had been used in Kosovo, to survey and then cue
laser guided missiles or other arms not on the Predator?
POWELL: You'll have to direct the question to Secretary Rumsfeld and Mr. Tenet, but my
understanding is that it was used for reconnaissance purposes in the fall of 2000. And
then during the winter season, it was brought back to the United States for work and to
start to determine its capability to handle a weapon.
.POWELL: There was a time lag between the ability of the Predator to find something on
the ground and then to deliver an ordnance from somewhere far away like a cruise missile
from one of the submarines or ships at sea. So there wasn't a direct action link in real
time between: There's a target; hit it. That's what the Hellfire did. It gave you an
immediate response. And it was not available until the fall of 2001.
GORELICK: I will direct that question to later witnesses.
POWELL: On the Northern Alliance, since you raised it, the opinion of our group in
whatever form it took this opinion was that the Northern Alliance only controlled a small
portion of Afghanistan at this point. It had been pretty beaten up. It was involved in
some activities that we had some serious reservations about. And we did not feel that at
that time during that period, it was ready for a massive infusion of American assistance
and what it would have done with such a massive infusion. We didn't think it had the
capability to march on Kabul or to take down the Taliban. And that was a judgment. It
wasn't a judgment deferred. It was a judgment made at that time. Things changed after 9/11
when were actually going to put people in with the Northern Alliance to give them the kind
of capability that they ultimately acquired with our people.
GORELICK: And in that regard...
POWELL: On visas, the 19 individuals who got into the United States, it was nothing in
the databases until the summer of 2001 when two of them were identified to us and we
immediately took action against the visas that had allowed them into the country. But
otherwise, these individuals would not have tripped anyone's database. There were
discrepancies on the forms they filled out. They were not the kinds of discrepancies that
said to you, This is a terrorist. And they easily corrected those errors on the
application forms and resubmitted them. And there was nothing in our consolidated database
that would have said, Don't let these individuals in the country because they're
GORELICK: And it's just those, sort of, gaps that I personally believe can be addressed
by having all the relevant parties in the room in a state where there is an emergency. I
do want to go on, though.
I was struck by your candid, very candid statement of the degree to which you were
apprised of the terrorist risk when you took office and really seized with it. But as I go
back and I look at what President Bush listed as his priorities for your department, I
think on the day actually that your selection was announced, there were Russia, NATO,
China, alliances in the Far East, our hemisphere, the Middle East and Iraq. And then when
I look at Condi Rice's piece in foreign affairs describing essentially the Bush campaign's
view of the world, it barely mentions terrorism. So I guess my question is: Are you saying
that your personal priorities were different from that of the administration's?
POWELL: No, I think the terrorism threat and counterterrorism was a priority of the
president. If you look at his Citadel speech, while he was still a candidate, in the
campaign he touched on it. And throughout the early months and increasingly as got to the
end of the year, he focused more and more on the intelligence information that he was
being provided by Director Tenet. I think you'll hear from Director Tenet that a
significant percentage of the items in the daily PDD dealt with terrorism.
GORELICK: What percentage of your time do you think you've spent on terrorism before
(Page 33 of 83)
POWELL: I really don't know that I can make such a calculation. It was embedded in
almost everything we were doing, but I don't know that I could tell you what percentage of
time I spent on that one issue and probably couldn't tell you what percentage of time I
spent on any other issue you ask me about.
GORELICK: I know it's a difficult question. Our staff statement notes that the national
intelligence estimate described our enemy, in terms of terrorism, as Islamic extremists
angry at the United States. And so I was struck by the fact that the national strategy for
combating terrorism, which was issued last February of '03, doesn't have a single word --
a single word -- about jihadists or Islamic extremists. And it looks at terrorism as the
enemy, but terrorism is a tool. It is not an enemy in itself; it's a tool. And really, our
enemy is quite distinguishable. And you have been in this business, the national security
business, for your entire life. So my question to you is: Doesn't a strategy which blinks
a reality like that doom us to failure? Don't we have to be focused on who the enemy is
and have a strategy focused on getting that enemy?
POWELL: The enemy is not terrorism; it's terrorists. They're individuals, real, live
people out there who mean us ill. And we have studied them, we've designated them, put
them on foreign terrorist lists, we've gone after them. We have gone after those countries
diplomatically and militarily that support these kinds of terrorist organizations. So I
think we have a clear understanding of what we are going after, whether it's Abu Sayyaf,
whether it's Hezbollah, whether it is Al Qaida. We have been working with friends around
the world who are participating in this campaign against terrorism, whether it's President
Uribe, who is here today, and the terrorist organizations he is fighting, or whether it's
with President Arroyo and the terrorist organizations she is fighting in the Philippines.
And so, it is not some esoteric term terrorism. It's people we're after, terrorists, and
they are the enemy.
GORELICK: And would you agree that our principal adversary right now is Islamic
extremists and jihadists?
POWELL: I would say that they are the source of most of the terrorist threats that we
POWELL: They fuel those individuals and organizations such as Al Qaida and Hezbollah.
But principally Al Qaida right now, I would say, continues to be the number one
organization we have to concern ourselves with.
GORELICK: Your predecessor, who testified a few minutes ago, said that she issued a
demarche, a threat, to the Taliban before the Cole, saying: If you permit people within
your borders to do us harm, you will face very serious consequences. By which, she
indicated she meant at least to consider military responses. And yet, after the Cole, all
we did was issue another demarche. Weren't you afraid that we would be viewed as having
issued an empty threat?
POWELL: We, also, issued demarches to the Taliban. One has to be careful on issuing
such threats, but one also has to be mindful that it's one thing to issue a threat, but if
you don't have something targetable to go after -- and it was not the plan in the previous
administration, it was not part of our early plans, to go after the entire Taliban regime.
We were focusing on Al Qaida and Taliban support of Al Qaida. We wanted to go after Al
Qaida. And so yes one has to be careful about issuing demarches and threats that you don't
have the ability to follow up on with a full range of actions. That's one of the reasons
that, as we went through this process of strategy developed throughout that 7-month
period, we came to the conclusion that the answer had to be the elimination of Al Qaida
and the threat posed by Al Qaida. But every...
GORELICK: But you had the -- pardon me, I'm sorry. You had the Cole hanging out there.
They had dome grievous harm to us, and we had previously threatened them with a response.
And yet there was no response. Did you consider what to do in that intervening period to
respond to the Cole?
(Page 34 of 83)
POWELL: We did not take under advisement, or take into account, during that period, the
kinds of actions we were prepared to take after 9/11, because we knew that Al Qaida was
responsible, but it wasn't clear how we could get at Al Qaida in a way that would destroy
Al Qaida. And we had not yet reached the point of saying we're going to have to take down
the Taliban regime. That came later.
GORELICK: One question. I was struck by your emphasis on the continuity from the
Clinton administration and the number of people you carried forward and, frankly, the
number of policies that you carried forward up until September 11th. And I found it to be
-- and I'd just ask you for a comment on this -- a marked contrast to the rather pointed
criticisms from Condoleezza Rice of the Clinton administration policies.
GORELICK: She has given speeches. She has been on the airwaves essentially saying that
the policies that she inherited and that you inherited were bankrupt, that they were
feckless, that there was no response. And yet, you have made, I think, a singular point
here this morning of saying that up until September 11th, most of them were continued at
least until you completed this policy review and then in my observation, the policies that
you, indeed, adopted as a principals committee on September 4th were actually following
the trajectory of where the Clinton administration had been. Would you care to comment on
POWELL: We took advantage of the expertise that existed with the individuals I listed
to include Dick Clarke. But, in fact, the policy of the previous administration had not
eliminated Al Qaida. It's a tough, tough target as Dr. Albright said earlier. And so we
came in, kept many of these people in place. Over time as we gained from their expertise
and realized it was time to make a change, we brought in new people in diplomatic
security, brought in a new director of I R, brought in new people in our counterterrorism
branch and in other parts of the administration. So we eventually brought in our people.
And I think that the policy that we came to and which was decided upon at that September
4th principals meeting does take us to a new level of engagement and then a new level of
determination to eliminate this threat. And it reflected the kinds of discussions and
judgments that were made by the deputies and the crisis group, the counterterrorism group,
early in the year. And it did take us to a new level that said not just rollback but
eliminate. And there is a clear distinction between what was going on at the end of the
previous administration and what we are now prepared to do on the 4th of September.
GORELICK: Well, if I had more time, I would pursue that with you, but I thank you for
your testimony today.
KEAN: Just one brief question. You've been around government a long time and a number
of administrations. Based on that experience, the period from March to August 2001, was
that an exceptionally long time to develop a new policy of the kind of complexity of the
president's policy on Al Qaida?
POWELL: Not really. It was a complex issue, and it's not as if we were not doing
anything but sitting around working on NSPD. We were reaching out to Uzbekistan. We were
continuing to work with Pakistan. We were engaged diplomatically. We were following up on
various U.N. actions that had been taken. And so there was work going on. Ms. Gorelick
made reference to visas. We were in the process of reviewing our visa policy. We had the
tip-off system, but it was not really serving the full intended purpose. It was going to
be the basis of the Terrorist Threat Information Center that came later.
POWELL: And so there were many things that were going on and not just everybody
standing still waiting for an NSPD to be finished. Keep in mind that we dealt with the
issue of what's the status of the Predator, what's the status of the Northern Alliance.
And you may want to add a word to that, Rich.
ARMITAGE: Thank you. The development of this, what we consider to be a comprehensive
policy, was one that the members who are sitting on the commission who served on Capitol
Hill will recognize the complexities of. Some of the things we had to do in order to move
forward with Pakistan involved removing an unbelievable number of sanctions, which are put
on by people with very strong views on Capitol Hill. We were already in the process of
working that out. That does not happen in a week. The same is true of India, who are under
sanctions. So as the secretary said, we weren't just sitting around. Now, the question of
the Northern Alliance has come up several times, and people wonder why it was so hard to
come to a decision. Well, beyond the drug dealing that they did, well, that caused us some
trouble. Beyond the human rights tragedy that they inflicted in the 1996 time period, that
took us a little time to get over. It's not sufficient to be the enemy of our enemy to be
our friend. To be our friend you have to share or be willing to at least embrace to some
extent our values, and that's why the question of the Northern Alliance wasn't an easy
one. It was a tough one.
KEAN: Commissioner Ben-Veniste?
(Page 35 of 83)
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Secretary Powell, for your
testimony here today and for your dedicated service to our country. As you know, I have
long been a personal admirer of yours, and thank you again for your commitment in service.
Secretary Armitage, the administration has asked that you be allowed to testify tomorrow
in place of Condoleezza Rice. No one could suggest that her role is not central to our
inquiry and that her knowledge is different from yours, as she was a direct liaison
between the president and the CIA and the FBI on issues directly relevant to our inquiry.
That is why the commission unanimously requested that Dr. Rice appear. The only reason the
administration has advanced for refusing to make Dr. Rice available is a separation of
powers argument, that presidential advisers ought not have to appear before the Congress.
I would call to your attention a report by the Congressional Research Service dated April
5th, 2002, well before the controversy arose about Dr. Rice's appearance.
BEN-VENISTE: In that report, there are many precedents involving presidential advisers.
Lloyd Cutler, counsel to President Carter, testified, came up to Congress to answer
questions. Zbigniew Brzezinski, assistant to the president for national security affairs,
appeared in 1980. Samuel Berger appeared to the president as a deputy assistant to the
president for national security in May of 1994. He reappeared in his function as national
security adviser in September of 1997. John Podesta, chief of staff to President Clinton,
and several others in the Clinton administration, have appeared before congressional
committees. And I may add that after this report was prepared, Governor Ridge appeared
before two committees of the Congress. So I would ask, Mr. Armitage, without any
disparagement of your service or of your knowledge, that when you leave here today, you
advise the administration of this report. I've got an extra copy for you to take with you.
(LAUGHTER) We ask again in all seriousness that Dr. Rice appear. (APPLAUSE) Secretary
Powell, let me ask you this, I'd like to turn your attention to the immediate events after
9/11. You were in Peru on that day. You flew back. It must have been a dreadfully painful
experience on several levels, not the least of which was your inability to communicate
during that long trip back. Thereafter, you met with members of the Cabinet and the
president at Camp David. And my friend, Secretary Lehman, has brought up the subject of
Iraq with Secretary Albright. You and I met with other members of the commission on the
21st of January of this year. On that occasion, you advised us of a full-day meeting on
Saturday, September 15th, in which the question of striking Iraq was discussed. You
advised us that the deputy secretary of defense advanced the argument that Iraq was the
source of the problem and that the United States should launch an attack on Iraq
forthwith. You advised us that Secretary Wolfowitz was unable to justify that position.
Have I accurately described your recollection of what occurred?
POWELL: There was a meeting of the National Security Council that Mr. Wolfowitz also
attended on that day at Camp David, as you describe. There was a full day of discussions
on the situation that we found ourselves in, who was responsible for it. And as part of
that full day of discussion, Iraq was discussed. And Secretary Wolfowitz raised the issue
of whether or not Iraq should be considered for action during this time. And after fully
discussing all sides of the issue, as I think it is appropriate for such a group to do,
the president made a tentative decision that afternoon -- I would call it a tentative
decision -- that we ought to focus on Afghanistan because it was clear to us at that point
that Al Qaida was responsible, the Taliban was harboring Al Qaida and that that should be
the objective of any action we were to take. He did not dismiss Iraq as a problem. But he
said: First things first, we will examine all of the sources of terrorism directed against
the United States and the civilized world, but we'll start with Afghanistan. Now, he
confirmed that over the next couple of days in meetings we had with him. And when he came
back down from Camp David and we met on Monday, he made it a firm decision and gave us all
instructions as to how to proceed. And then he announced that to the nation later in the
week. And so he heard arguments, as he should, from all members of his administration on
the different alternatives. I think this is what a president would expect us to do, and he
decided on Afghanistan.
BEN-VENISTE: Excuse me, you have characterized Secretary Wolfowitz...
KEAN: Last question.
BEN-VENISTE: ... Secretary Wolfowitz's position as whether or not we ought to attack
Iraq. Is it not the case that he advocated for an attack on Iraq?
(Page 36 of 83)
POWELL: He presented the case for Iraq and whether or not it should be considered along
with Afghanistan at this time. I can't recall whether he said instead of Afghanistan. We
all knew that Afghanistan was where Al Qaida was.
BEN-VENISTE: Was there any concrete basis upon which that recommendation was founded,
in your view, to attack Iraq for 9/11? POWELL: Secretary Wolfowitz was deeply concerned
about Iraq being a source of terrorist activity. You will have a chance to talk to him
BEN-VENISTE: I've asked for your view, with all due respect, Secretary Powell. POWELL:
With all due respect, I don't think I should characterize what Mr. Wolfowitz's view were.
BEN-VENISTE: No, I asked for your view. In your view, was there a basis?
POWELL: My view was that we listened to all the arguments at Camp David that day, and
Mr. Wolfowitz felt that Iraq should be considered as part of this problem having to do
with terrorism. And he wanted us to consider whether or not it should be part of any
military action that we were getting ready to take. We all heard the argument fully. We
asked questions back and forth. And where the president came down was that Afghanistan was
the place that we had to attack because the world and the American people would not
understand if we didn't go after the source of the 9/11 terrorists.
BEN-VENISTE: I'm out of time. And I'm just going to listen to my chairman.
KERREY: Well, Mr. Secretary, to both of you and Secretary Armitage, I would prefer that
Dr. Rice would be here tomorrow, but Dick you would be a fabulous national security
adviser. You would be a dynamite one. So that said, let me say that, with great respect,
I'm having difficulty with, you know, we spent eight months developing a plan because I
don't think that's the central problem here. And my recollection of the presidential
campaign, and by the way, my history, my actions in presidential campaigns were kept
intact in 2000. I supported the loser in the primary so my memory may not be very good.
But I don't recall terrorism being much if even an issue at all in the 2000 campaign, in
part, even though it was on the policy- maker's minds, they were aware of the threat, they
were aware of what's going on, but I just don't recall it being a driving force in either
one of the campaigns. Maybe I've got that wrong, but I don't think so. And I think the
central problem, Mr. Secretary, is something that all three of us have dealt with from
time to time and that was the use of military force in dealing with Al Qaida. I said
earlier to Secretary Albright, I think it was one of the big mistakes of the Clinton
administration. In fact, I think it was also a fault of the Bush administration. Although
I'm sympathetic that the secretary of defense was not a primary actor in the war on
terrorism. Indeed, striking, his recollection of the briefings on Al Qaida were
considerably different than yours. His recollection may be different when he's testifying.
But it wasn't as clear and shouldn't be because under presidential directive 62, which was
signed by President Clinton in '98, that presidential directive didn't give the Department
of Defense a primary role in the war on terrorism. It just didn't in counterterrorism
activity. And I've read the cautionary concern that General Zinni had, who was CINC of
CENTCOM at the time and other military leaders. I've had, in twelve years experience in
the United States Senate, many times I walk out wondering if I voted the right way. And
among those moments was Desert Storm I, where I'm relatively certain today that I did vote
the wrong way. But it came from a concern for bodybags coming home and would we be able to
sustain the political effort. And I was likewise concerned about Bosnia, ended up
supporting the effort in Bosnia and Kosovo. But those who say we shouldn't be skeptical or
concerned about use of military force, I think have got it wrong. We should be. We should,
it seems to me, always wonder. But I wonder if you see it that way. I mean I wonder if you
see that if you look at from '93 when World Trade Center I was hit the first time and
through September of 2001, Al Qaida never suffered a military response from us, never --
other than on August 20th, which was a relatively small military attack, a very limited
military attack with absolutely no anticipation of boots on the ground of being involved.
And I'm just wondering, I appreciate that I'm asking a question as if you were secretary
of defense, secretary of state, national security adviser and perhaps even president, not
just secretary of state. But I wonder if you see it that way, as well, that our reluctance
to give the secretary of defense and the military a more prominent role in
counterterrorism efforts contributed to our lack of preparation.
(Page 37 of 83)
KERREY: The bottom line for me is it just pains me to have to say that on the 11th of
September that 19 men and less a half a million dollars defeated every single defensive
mechanism we had in place -- utterly. It wasn't even a close call. They defeated
everything we had in place on 11 September, with hardly, it seems to me, any doubt about
their chance of success. And I'll just stop there and give you a chance to tell me what
you think went wrong.
POWELL: Let me speak to our administration, and I'll speak more generally to get to the
heart of the question. I think, in our deliberations and our meetings -- and Mr. Armitage
may wish to speak to this -- the Pentagon was starting to develop plans. It was looking at
contingencies that it might have to deal with. And you can pursue this with Secretary
Rumsfeld this afternoon. But in this whole period, to say that use military force to get
Al Qaida when it wasn't going to be a surgical strike -- anybody who thinks that Osama bin
Laden might just be laying around somewhere and you can go pick him up; well, maybe. Good
luck. But that's a wish, not a strategy or not a military action. So you would have had,
really, to go after Al Qaida by going after the Taliban, and that meant invading another
country. And it meant invading another country without the support of any of the
surrounding countries where you would need some access to get there. And so I don't know
that in this period from '93 through the summer of 2001 you had a sufficient political
base and sufficient political understanding, both here and in the international community,
that would have given you a basis for saying that we know enough about Al Qaida, we know
enough about the Taliban, that we are going in to invade this country and remove this
KERREY: Can I respond to that?
KEAN: Just a minute response.
KERREY: Yes, just a minute response -- because Secretary Albright said the same thing.
And I was there in '91 when you and former President Bush and Secretary Cheney went to the
world and persuaded the world that we needed to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Public opinion
wasn't on your side either when you began. Public opinion wasn't on the side of President
Clinton when he suggested that we needed to intervene in Bosnia. It wasn't on the side of
the administration when they decided to intervene in Kosovo. It's rare that public opinion
is on the side of a president or political leader when it comes to using military force,
except after the fact. So, it does seem to me to be in many ways sort of a straw man
position to say: Gee it would have been exceptionally difficult. Yes, it would have been
exceptionally difficult. But, history's replete of examples where political leaders made a
decision in spite of public opinion being on the other side, and saying, I've got the
persuade people because I see it being an urgent necessity.
POWELL: I don't think that, in the case of Al Qaida and Afghanistan during this period,
it rose to that level of urgent necessity, that the people thought that we've got to go do
this now, even if it includes major invasion of a country without the support of any of
the surrounding countries. Do we have a sufficient cause and justification to undertake
such action? And previous administration can speak for itself. They've spoken for
themselves, they said they didn't see it. And frankly in our first 7 months in office, as
we looked at this we realized that it might come to that. That's the realization that we
come to. And you come to these kinds of realizations after a great deal of study and
debate. You don't walk in on the first day and say we have decided this is what has to be
done. So we discussed it with all of the experts who were in the previous administration
and stayed over. We then brought in our new people. Mr. Armitage came in after 2 months.
General Taylor came over after a while. A lot of people came in, and we put together a
more comprehensive policy and we reached the conclusion in early September that it might
come to that and we have to understand that we might have to go in and take this kind of
large-scale military action if that was the only way to eliminate this threat.
Congressman Roemer -- I'm sorry.
(Page 38 of 83)
ARMITAGE: The record I have of our discussions in the deputies, in the July time frame
where we began to discuss actually using military measures if all the rest was not
successful, that's a long way from having a plan, a military plan, but these were things
that as the secretaries indicated, we talked about, we debated, and we realized eventually
we were going to have to have in our quiver.
KEAN: Congressman Roemer?
ROEMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to both of you, Secretary Powell and Secretary
Armitage, thank you again for your service and your time. I join in the wide chorus of
praise for you, Mr. Secretary, and your career, both in public service, but also in the
private sector when you were trying to get the American people more engaged in volunteer
service. Let me pick somebody else who joins in that praise of you that is widely
condemning almost everybody else in the Bush administration for not acting quickly enough
on terrorism. Richard Clarke in his new book, on page 228, says, Colin Powell took the
unusual steps, during the transition, of asking to meet with the CSG, the Counterterrorism
Security Group, took notes, and was surprised at the unanimity of the recommendations and
the threat of Al Qaida. He paid careful attention and asked Mr. Armitage to follow up on
it. Very blunt, very praiseworthy, very complimentary of your understanding the problem.
In that PowerPoint presentation that he made to you, he in fact said, they're here. One of
the slides said that Al Qaida was in the United States. Doesn't that in fact say two
things: one, that nine months is too long to act. You have to take some immediate steps.
And two, if you're going to go from a rollback strategy to an elimination strategy, if
you're going to go from swatting flies to exterminating the flies, you've got to have
something to exterminate them with, whether it's Predator, Northern Alliance, aid to
Uzbekistan, covert operations -- you have to be taking some of these actions.
ROEMER: The USS Cole, why didn't we take at least some of those actions in the meantime
as this nine-month bottom-up review took place?
POWELL: I don't remember the specific PowerPoint slide. I didn't turn to Mr. Armitage
because he wasn't there yet. He didn't show up for another two months. And if Mr. Clarke
ROEMER: Well, just to clear the record, he later asked Rich Armitage to...
POWELL: Thank you. Yes.
ROEMER: ... to get involved.
POWELL: But there were others working for me at the time that I asked. And the time
that he gave me the briefing, I was not the secretary of state. This administration was
not in office. And if, according to this slide, Mr. Clarke and the members of the previous
administration who were briefing me that day -- this was the 20th of December, a month
before inauguration -- if they were aware that Al Qaida representatives were already in
the country running around and knew that, and knew that these 19 -- if that's the
reference in that passage -- they were running around inside the country, the obligation
frankly is on them, not why didn't we do something beginning a month later. Why hadn't
they done something while they were preparing the PowerPoint presentation? And so I
haven't read that section of the book.
ROEMER: That's certainly in our questions to Mr. Clarke tomorrow. Because he's a sworn
participant tomorrow for over two hours, we intend to ask him many of those questions.
Today, as the Bush administration moved forward from January on, why not exercise some of
POWELL: The options were not options. There was no option for an armed Predator. The
armed Predator did not exist.
ROEMER: Recon Predator.
POWELL: The recon Predator -- it was analyzed very carefully -- and I think Director
Tenet will be speaking about this -- that it was a waste of the asset at that point to
have it fly around and become identified and its pattern of operation, method of operation
become known to those on the ground who it was looking for. And the Taliban did have some
aircraft that might have been capable of going up and taking the Predator down. A judgment
was made that since we couldn't use the reconnaissance information from the Predator to
immediately target that which the Predator found, let's not give away its signature and
other aspects of its operational capability until we could do that.
(Page 39 of 83)
POWELL: And it was a crash effort all during 2001, the first seven months of this
administration, to get it armed. And it was armed in September. And as soon as it was
armed, as soon as it was tested, we knew what it could do, it was used. And it was used
effectively, and it was used repeatedly. The Northern Alliance question we've answered.
This was not a force that had the capability to take down the Taliban or to remove Al
Qaida's presence in Afghanistan. And as Secretary Armitage just described, we had
significant issues that we had to work our way through. And it took time to work our way
through these issues and to do it in a way that did not offend other tribes or other
groups within Afghanistan, that might have taken a dim view of what we were doing with the
ROEMER: But, Mr. Secretary, then this elimination of Al Qaida was a three- or five-year
process. It was not anything that was going to take place anytime soon.
POWELL: I think Mr. Clarke says that he saw it as a three- to five-year process. It was
not a matter of, okay, fine, I want to eliminate Al Qaida, so tomorrow morning I'm going
to go do it. Al Qaida does not quite present that kind of a target to you. You have to
work diplomatically, politically, law enforcement, get inside the financing of Al Qaida
and similar organizations, ultimately to bring them down and to put them on the run.
ROEMER: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
KEAN: Thank you, Congressman. Senator Gorton.
GORTON: Mr. Secretary, you weren't able to read your entire statement, but I think your
conclusion, which was both thoughtful and frightening, deserves to be on the oral record
as well as in the written record, and it does lead to my one question. You say, the
fundamental is this: Sometimes you can do almost everything right, and still suffer
grievous losses from terrorist attacks. The recent train bombings in Spain demonstrate
this tragic but inescapable fact. Spanish authorities were well prepared. Spain's highly
capable security forces were on high alert, and security had been increased across the
country. In fact, several weeks earlier, they had apprehended terrorists with a truck load
of explosives. Nonetheless, and despite all their best efforts and precautions, Spain
still suffered these horrific attacks that produced such terrible casualties. Before this
war is won, there will be more such attacks. Now, the fact that we don't like to talk
about, in public, for fear of what consequences it might have, is the fact that we have
now gone for 2.5 years in the United States without an Islamic extremist successful
terrorist attack here. We have prevented some, but in a sense, nothing has happened. I'd
like you to give me your opinion, to the extent that you feel able to do so, of the
reasons for that. How much of it is blind luck? How much of it is the fact that we've
hardened targets? How much of it is the fact or the proposition that we have more
effective intelligence and prevention than we did before 9/11? How much is due to the fact
that we have attacked the sources, the physical sources? And how much of it is due to the
fact that all of these things together may simply not have ended terrorism, obviously it
did not, but simply displaced it, to Indonesia, to Morocco, to Turkey, to Saudi Arabia, to
Spain, to places in which the targets are easier and softer?
(Page 40 of 83)
POWELL: Sir, we are still vulnerable, and we should accept that, and we'll always be
vulnerable as long as we are a free and open society. But we have done a number of things
that I hope have deterred attacks, made it harder for people to plot against the United
States and have perhaps scared them into thinking, Well, we wouldn't be as successful as
we might have been a couple of years ago : the creation of the Department of Homeland
Security; the manner in which we took the tip-off database that Ms. Gorelick spoke about
and have now used it to create a much larger database, and we're pulling all the FBI, CIA,
State Department databases into one system; the fact that we have changed our visa
policies significantly -- we're now starting to fingerprint people coming into the country
and getting a better ID on them; the fact that we have done a lot of work on our borders;
the fact that we have the Transportation Security Administration, does a better job of
looking at who's coming into the country at our airports and other places of entry and
points of entry. So I hope that these defensive measures we have taken are deterring
attacks and are giving people who might come after us pause. Is there not a better place
that we can go and conduct one of these terrible attacks and make the same point to the
world about our philosophy and our evil intent. And maybe that's why they have gone
elsewhere. I think it also illustrates why nobody is immune and we all have to work
together. And so I hope that as a result of the attack in Spain, the attack in Bali, the
attack in Riyadh the attack in so many other places in the world will pull the civilized
world together and cause us to do a better job of sharing intelligence information, law
enforcement information, financial cooperation and direct action against terrorist
organizations. But I can't give you a measure for each one of these steps, Mr. Gorton.
It's just not possible. And we're still vulnerable. A nation as large as ours, fairly
open. And we can't shut down our openness. We cannot be so afraid that we don't let
anybody into our country. It's costing now. We don't let students come to our universities
because we're concerned, or they don't want to come to our universities because they are
afraid of the difficulty of getting a visa even if they're fully qualified for a visa, or
the harassment they sometimes feel at our airports. So we have to secure the homeland, but
we also have to remain a open nation, or the terrorists win. But I hope that all of the
efforts the president has taken over the last couple of years have contributed to our
deterrent effect against terrorist activity.
GORTON: So you feel that to a certain extent there has been genuine deterrence, a
reduction in it, but also a significant degree of displacement.
(Page 41 of 83)
POWELL: Well, deterrence for sure. We have made it a lot harder to people to come and
move freely about our country. And they knew we're looking for them, and we know that the
policies the president has put in place are for the purpose of finding these folks before
they get us. With respect to displacement, we know we have pretty much crippled their
ability to work in Afghanistan.
POWELL: I can't say that we've gotten them all. There may be some remnants left. We
also know they're trying to re-create themselves elsewhere. That's why what Secretary
Rumsfeld is doing with his footprint of our military forces and what Director Tenet is
doing and will speak to you about are so important. We got to chase them and find them
wherever they surface in these other places in the world. Rich?
ARMITAGE: Probably the best deterrent, Senator, in addition to those that the secretary
has mentioned, is about the 500 Al Qaida that have been wrapped up by Pakistan and the
dozens who have been killed and arrested by the Saudis, particularly after the May 12th
bombings. That's part of deterrence, too. You've got to have the sharp edge or the pointy
edge of the spear.
POWELL: Just to put a P.S. on that, some of these organizations, particularly Al Qaida,
thought they were getting a free ride in certain places. They have now discovered there's
no free ride in Saudi Arabia. And you see what President Musharraf has been doing in
recent days in that battle that's taking place up in the tribal areas. They know they're
going to be engaged. And you can be sure they're going to be engaged by Spanish
authorities. And so they know there's no longer any impunity associated with their
actions. The world, hopefully, is coming together. We must not let the success of some of
these actions, such as the Spanish disaster, cause us to back away from the campaign
against terrorism. It should cause us to redouble our efforts.
KEAN: Thank you very much Secretary Powell, Deputy Secretary Armitage. Thank you for
being with us. We would like to submit you a few more questions for the record. And we
look forward to your reply on those. We're now going to adjourn until 1:30. I would ask
the audience, by the way, before you leave, the Capitol Police have asked us to announce
that as people leave the room for lunch, please do not leave bags, packages, unattached
things in the room because the Capitol police may take them away and they won't be here
when you get back. So thank you all very much. We'll reconvene promptly at 1:30, audience,
and please, the commissioners, be here at that time.
KEAN: OK. I hereby reconvene the hearing. Our next panel will consider the extent to
which the U.S. military was used to address the threat of terrorism against the United
States during both the Clinton and the Bush administration. We'll begin with a staff
statement on the role of the military, presented by our executive director, Philip
ZELIKOW: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the commission, with your help, your staff
has developed initial findings to present to the public on the use of America's armed
forces in countering terrorism before the 9/11 attacks. These findings may help frame some
of the issues for this hearing and inform the development of your judgments and
recommendations. This report, like the others, reflects the results of our work so far. We
remain ready to revise our understanding of these topics as our investigation progresses.
The staff statement represents the collective effort of a number of different members of
our staff. Bonnie Jenkins, Michael Hurley, Alexis Albion, Ernest May (ph), and Steve Dunn
(ph) did much of the investigative work reflected in this statement. The Department of
Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency have cooperated fully in making available both
the documents and interviews that we have needed for our work on this topic. I am going to
skip briefly over the role of the military in counterterrorism strategy, simply noting
that in George H.W. Bush's presidency and the early years of the Clinton administration,
the Department of Defense was a secondary player in counterterrorism efforts, which
focused on the apprehension and rendition of wanted suspects, and move directly to the
narrative account of Operation Infinite Reach. After the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar
es Salaam were attacked on August 7th, 1998, President Clinton directed his advisers to
consider military options. He and his advisers agreed on a set of targets in Afghanistan.
Let me go to the paragraph on the Sudanese choice: More difficult was the question of
whether to strike other Al Qaida targets in Sudan. Two possible targets were identified in
Sudan, including a pharmaceutical plant at which the president was told by his aides, they
believed VX nerve gas was manufactured with Osama bin Laden's financial support. Indeed,
even before the embassy bombings, NSC counterterrorism staff had been warning about this
plant. Yet on August 11th, the NSC staff senior director for intelligence advised National
Security Adviser Berger that the bottom line was that we will need much better
intelligence on this facility before we seriously consider any options. By the early
morning hours of August 20th, when the president made his decision, his policy advisers
concluded that enough evidence had been gathered to justify the strike.
. . . . . . go to pp. 42-83