The Honorable Kenneth L. Wainstein delivered this lecture to the Heritage Foundation on October 2, 2008.
September 11th of this year, President Bush spoke at the dedication of
the new 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, and he discussed our military
war on terror since 2001. Today, I will focus my remarks on the
non–military part of that war—in particular, on the agencies in the law
enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence communities and how
they have responded to the 9/11 attacks.
In describing our
country's response to those attacks, I hark back 60 years or so to
December 1941 and to the words that have been attributed to Admiral
Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese battle fleet, as he sailed back
from the surprise attack against Pearl Harbor. While his sailors and
officers were celebrating their success, the Admiral remained somber.
He recognized that, by provoking a country of such size and power,
Japan had actually just sealed its fate. And he reportedly rendered
that prediction by saying that they had “awakened a sleeping giant."
we all know, Admiral Yamamoto was right. Once awakened to the true
threat of Japanese and Nazi tyranny, America summoned her resolve,
mobilized her resources, built a dominant military machine, and fought
with grim determination until the Axis Powers surrendered.
attacks on September 11, 2001, similarly awakened our country to a
totalitarian threat—this time to the threat of violent Islamic
extremism. And it similarly stirred us to mobilize our will and our
resources to build the capacity to defeat that threat.
We are seven years into that building process now, and under President Bush's leadership we have seen some concrete results:
and our foreign partners have disrupted a number of high–profile
terrorist plots, including a plot to destroy the Library Tower in Los
Angeles, an attempt to blow up British airliners over the Atlantic
Ocean, and a planned attack on Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt
- We and our allies have
removed dozens of senior terrorist leaders from the battlefield,
including the architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
Abu Zubaida, and Abu Musab al–Zarqawi.
- We are seeing
hopeful signs in Muslim communities around the world, with mainstream
Muslim voices speaking out against al–Qaeda and recent polling showing
Muslims increasingly rejecting al–Qaeda's vision and its campaign of
indiscriminate violence—attacking mosques, bombing girls' schools and
wedding ceremonies, and killing the innocent.
have succeeded in making it harder, costlier, and riskier for
terrorists to raise and move money around the world, which is
complicating al–Qaeda's daily operations and hampering its global
- And most importantly, we have prevented another attack on our homeland for more than seven years.
Nature of the Enemy
we are making progress against the terrorists, this war on terror is
far from over. This war is not like World War II or any of this
nation's previous wars; it will not end at some defined time with the
passing of a sword or the signing of surrender on the deck of
This war is different because al–Qaeda is
different. Al–Qaeda is not like a nation–state whose power is defined
by its armies, its land, or its industry— tangible national assets that
are subject to destruction or capture by traditional military
conquest. Al–Qaeda's power is much more diffuse, much less tangible,
and therefore much more difficult to destroy.
Their power is in
their message of hate and the alluring but false narrative that they
are the defenders of a religion under assault from the West—a message
that resonates among some of the desperate and misguided throughout
It is in their clever use of modern communications,
with which they spread that message of hate and mobilize the operations
that turn that message into violence.
It is in the financial support systems through which they receive funding from extremist supporters and corrupted charities.
is in their network of cells and trained personnel that gives them a
presence and an operational footprint throughout the world.
is in their demonstrated ability to take advantage of weakly governed
areas of the world to establish safe havens and operational bases—just
as they did in the 1990s in Afghanistan; as they have done over the
past few years in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
as they are now trying to do in Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
is in their strategic affiliation with regional terrorist groups such
as al–Qaeda in Iraq, al–Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and potentially
others— a strategy that expands the group's reach into different
regions of the world and helps to ensure their survival.
finally, I would submit that the power of al–Qaeda lies largely in
their patience. Al–Qaeda and its affiliated networks are not fighting
for short–term political gains. They are prosecuting a long–term war to
eradicate values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
They want to remove Western influence and institutions from the Muslim
world and re–establish a totalitarian seventh–century caliphate from
Spain to Indonesia. And they plan to carry out this war over the course
of generations and centuries. For that reason, they can be patient,
methodical, and brutally precise in their operations, and that makes
them all the more dangerous.
For all these reasons, we long ago
recognized that al–Qaeda would not be defeated overnight. We also
recognized that this war would require building a new counterterrorism
apparatus with new approaches and relationships, new authorities and
tools, and a new organizational structure—in short, a fundamental
transformation of the government's counterterrorism architecture. The
9/11 attacks, and the horrific impact they had on our entire country,
produced a clear mandate for the government to undertake this
transformation and to build a whole new operational paradigm. That
building effort started while the fires were still burning on
September 11th, and it continues to this day.
The Counterterrorism Transformation
are seven years into that effort now, and great progress has been made.
As we prepare for transition here in Washington, I would like to take
a few moments to step back, take stock of these changes, and assess how
they will equip the next President to carry on the fight.
1. Strategy of Prevention
the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a first order of business was to
articulate the strategy that would guide this transformation. It was
clear once the towers were attacked that we were at war and that our
paradigm had to change.
The President established the core
principles to ensure that we were preventing further attacks on the
homeland. Faced with fanatics who were willing to die for their
perverted cause, we could no longer rely on the traditional enforcement
paradigm of deterring terrorism largely through prosecution and
punishment after an attack. Instead, we had to focus all our national
assets and international relationships to detect and neutralize
threats abroad before they matured into terrorist attacks at home. The
President also called on all countries to counter the hateful ideology
of our enemy with a message of tolerance and liberty, and he declared
that those who harbored or supported terrorists would be treated as
enemies. The President's message was clear: We were facing a new type
of enemy that required a new type of counterterrorism.
2. Transformation of the Counterterrorism Architecture
pursuit of that mission, we have overhauled our nation's
counterterrorism architecture to a point that it is virtually
unrecognizable from that which governed our operations for decades
prior to 9/11.
a) New Organizations and Agencies
we have stood up a number of new departments and agencies, each
representing a new or enhanced counterterrorism capability. These
- The Department of Homeland Security
(DHS), which integrated 22 agencies that have a role in the protection
and defense of our homeland and our people.
position of the Director of National Intelligence, who is responsible
for leading a more closely integrated intelligence community and
ensuring that the President has the most timely and accurate
- The National Counter Terrorism Center,
which serves as the government's primary agency for integrating and
analyzing intelligence on terrorism, and also conducts strategic
planning to better integrate our counterterrorism efforts.
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), which was established in DHS
to coordinate our nuclear detection architecture, and is part of a
broader mosaic of organizations and programs across government
designed to build a layered defense to prevent al–Qaeda and
like–minded terrorists from acquiring, developing, or deploying weapons
of mass destruction.
- NORTHCOM (Northern Command),
which was established as a new Combatant Command to focus military
resources on the homeland defense mission.
- The Homeland Security Council at the White House, which was created to coordinate the homeland security policy function.
Terrorist Screening Center, which is the joint FBI/DHS entity that
consolidates the various terrorist watch lists and provides 24–hour
information and guidance to police officers, consular officials, and
other government personnel for use when they encounter potential
- The Office of Terrorism and
Financial Intelligence, which is a new division in the Treasury
Department that spearheads the effort to deny terrorists the financing
they need to run their operations.
- These new
entities, along with the numerous other counterterrorism offices and
agencies that have been established since 2001, have gone a long way
toward institutionalizing our critical counterterrorism functions.
b) Improved Capacities in Existing Agencies
In addition to establishing new counterterrorism institutions, we have worked hard to strengthen existing ones.
Federal Bureau of Investigation has undergone a fundamental overhaul
and re–orientation of its operations. In addition to investigating and
prosecuting terrorists after the fact—as it has historically done quite
well—the FBI is developing into a true national security organization
that uses its investigative and intelligence assets to detect and
disrupt terrorist plots before they happen. The FBI has vastly
improved its preventive capacity with establishment of a National
Security Branch; development of an intelligence process that has
greatly increased its capabilities to collect, analyze, and report
intelligence; and its implementation of recruitment criteria, training
programs, and career tracks that are designed to build a strong
intelligence–focused workforce. While Director Robert Mueller and the
FBI are the first to say there is more work to be done, the Bureau has
clearly made significant strides toward its goal of building a fully
matured intelligence capacity.
- The Central
Intelligence Agency has restored operational and analytical cadres and
capabilities that were depleted after the collapse of the Soviet
Union, and has effectively prioritized the mission of collecting
intelligence on the plans and intentions of al–Qaeda and other global
- Even the U.S. Attorneys'
Offices—which is where I spent much of my career—have re–oriented their
outlook and their operations to support the prevention strategy. Each
office has specially trained national security prosecutors, and they
now recognize that prosecution is no longer the be–all and end–all of
any investigation, but is rather simply one tool among many tools that
can be deployed in the effort to neutralize terrorist threats.
c) New Authorities and Investigative Tools
have also worked with Congress to develop new statutory and regulatory
authorities that give our operators the tools and capabilities they
need to investigate and neutralize terrorists. There are a number of
new authorities, including:
- First and
foremost, the Patriot Act, which was passed only six weeks after 9/11
and reauthorized in 2006. That statute provided a number of critical
investigative tools and it lowered—once and for all—the legal “wall"
that had prevented our intelligence and law enforcement personnel from
sharing information and coordinating operations against terrorist
- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
or FISA, which allows us to monitor communications between terrorist
suspects overseas and here at home. We are very grateful to Congress
for revising the FISA statute earlier this year and bringing it into
line with modern communication technologies and with the threat we
face from terrorists who make use of those technologies.
Order 12333, which was first issued by President Reagan, spells out the
priorities and the lanes in the road for the intelligence agencies.
This summer, President Bush amended that order to reflect the new
responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence and to
emphasize the priority of prevention through integrated and
collaborative intelligence work.
- Finally, there are
the new Attorney General Guidelines that are scheduled to be issued in
the near future. These guidelines will harmonize and consolidate the
internal rules for the FBI's intelligence and criminal investigations,
and they will clearly articulate both the investigative authorities and
the civil liberties limitations that govern the FBI's intelligence
- These guidelines are an important step
in the evolution of the FBI. To date, FBI agents have had to learn and
operate under a complicated set of five different guidelines that
provided different rules for intelligence investigations and for
criminal investigations. This was a legacy of the wall that had
cleaved the FBI in two between intelligence and criminal operations.
applaud the FBI and the Department of Justice for their ongoing
efforts to merge the two sides of the Bureau and for getting these
guidelines done. With these guidelines in place, the FBI will be much
better positioned to maximize its operational advantage as a
counterterrorism agency that can bring to bear both intelligence
authorities and traditional law enforcement tools in the effort to
investigate and disrupt terrorist plots.
d)Improved Integration Among all Counterterrorism Partners
addition to working on the institutions and the authorities, we have
also taken important steps to integrate our efforts across the federal
government and beyond. As we all know, terrorism prevention requires
the full participation of everybody in the national security apparatus—
from the cop on the streets to the FBI analyst at Headquarters to the
CIA officer overseas. We have pushed hard to foster coordination among
all these players, and we can see it taking hold across the spectrum of
We see it in the coordination we now have between our intelligence and law enforcement professionals:
example, in the way that the FBI, the CIA and the other intelligence
agencies now work threat investigations jointly, fusing information
collected overseas with that collected in the United States.
the fact that the CIA and the FBI—which had previously limited the flow
of information to each other for legal, operational, and cultural
reasons—are now sharing threat information on a real–time basis through
daily threat briefings, more extensive co–location of personnel, and
joint participation in the NCTC and other fusion centers.
the way that the FBI and federal prosecutors are now sharing with the
Intelligence Community that gold mine of intelligence that resides in
their criminal investigations and criminal case files—information that
had historically been utilized primarily for evidence in criminal
prosecutions and underutilized as intelligence about the plans and
capabilities of our enemies.
We also see this integrated
approach in our partnership with the roughly 700,000 state and local
police officers, who are our eyes and ears on the street. By tripling
the number of the Joint Terrorist Task Forces—which are the FBI's
federal–state operational task forces around the country—and
establishing 66 fusion centers in 48 states, we have gone a long way
toward integrating our state and local partners into the national
We see this integration in our enhanced
coordination with our international partners. This international
coordination includes taking new approaches like the Proliferation
Security Initiative and its cooperative effort among 90 or so
countries to mount a global program to interdict the shipment of
weapons of mass destruction. It involves using existing mechanisms like
the U.N. Security Council and the Financial Action Task Force to focus
attention on shared responsibilities to address terrorism. Finally, it
involves enhancing the mechanisms for regular operational coordination
with our international partners, as reflected by the increase in the
number of FBI Legal Attaché offices in foreign countries.
enhanced coordination is helping to generate strong counterterrorism
efforts around the globe. In addition to the stalwart support and
cooperation of our traditional counterterrorism allies, we have seen a
number of other foreign partners step up their efforts against
terrorism over the past few years—including the Saudis, who have
developed a comprehensive and effective counterterrorism program; the
Filipinos, who have waged an aggressive campaign against terrorists in
the southern part of the archipelago; and the Indonesians, who have
brought to justice more than 100 members of Jemaah Islamiya and other
groups since the Bali bombings in 2002.
Finally, we see this
integration in our growing partnership with the private sector—a
partnership that is best exemplified by the important and patriotic
role that a number of companies in the communications sector have
played in the government's effort to monitor terrorist communications
over the past seven years.
The importance of this integrated
approach cannot be overstated. In fact, I can actually speak personally
to this integration—and particularly to the integration of law
enforcement and intelligence operations—from my experience in my
previous position as the first Assistant Attorney General at the newly
formed National Security Division in the Department of Justice.
Congress established this new division to take advantage of the Patriot
Act provision that lowered the wall that had kept criminal terrorism
investigations completely separate from intelligence counterterrorism
operations. This division institutionalized the end of the wall by
consolidating the criminal attorneys who prosecute terrorists with the
intelligence attorneys who help the Intelligence Community get the
authority to surveil and collect intelligence about terrorists.
consolidation means that we can now take a coordinated and
comprehensive approach to every investigation and every terrorist
suspect. It means that every morning, I was able to sit down with my
chief prosecuting attorney and my chief intelligence attorney and we
could look at each terrorist suspect from every angle—as a focus of
surveillance so that we can collect intelligence about him and his
plans and confederates, but also as a potential criminal defendant who
could be arrested and prosecuted. This allows us to pursue intelligence
collection against a target while at the same time building the
criminal case that we may well need in the event we learn he is getting
ready to strike and we need an arrest warrant to take him off the
street. This is the kind of real–time coordination that allows us to be
quick, agile, and effective in our threat investigations, and it is
exactly what we need if we are going to prevail in today's war against
I have watched this integrated approach play out in
any number of threat investigations over the past few years. It gives
me no small satisfaction and pride to see agencies buck the
turf–conscious, territorial stereotype and work as a team for the
common goal of countering the terrorist threat.
It is also worth
noting that, while this coordination is most evident in the
investigative and threat disruption stages of our prevention
effort—which is the primary focus of my remarks here today—it has also
extended into the defensive, homeland–protection side of our
operations. The best illustration of this is the successful disruption
of al–Qaeda's plot to blow up transatlantic flights with liquid
explosives in August of 2006. After we obtained the intelligence about
the liquid explosives plot, it was shared among our agencies and our
British and Pakistani counterparts, who then used it to orchestrate the
plot disruption. At the same time, that intelligence was also channeled
to the Transportation Security Administration, which used it to devise
new security measures to thwart the use of liquid explosives. Once the
plot was disrupted, TSA was then prepared to act immediately— to
educate and sensitize the public, to work with the airlines and the
airports, and to implement those measures literally overnight. All in
all, this was an exceptional example of preventive action across the
spectrum of government operations, and one that simply would not have
been possible a few years ago.
e)Protection of Civil Liberties
discussing this transformation, it is worth noting that the innovations
and reforms I have just described have all been subject to a fairly
intense national debate about the civil liberties implications of their
implementation. This debate has been healthy, and it has helped to
ensure that the reforms were designed with ample civil liberties
safeguards—from the privacy protections built into the Patriot Act and
the updated FISA statute, to the limitations imposed on government
officials and agencies by the Attorney General Guidelines and
Executive Order 12333, and to the new privacy watchdog entities like
the evolving Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and the new
FBI Oversight Office at the Department of Justice. We welcome such
measures, as we recognize that meaningful safeguards and oversight are
critical to the continuing legitimacy of our counterterrorism efforts.
The Upcoming Transition
that completes my overview of the counterterrorism changes we have
implemented under the President's strong leadership over the past seven
years. These changes have been comprehensive and deep, and they have
established a firm foundation for our ongoing counterterrorism efforts,
one that is strong and lasting but also flexible enough to allow our
successors to adapt and meet the constantly changing terrorist threat.
I am very proud—and America can be proud—of the effort that led to
these changes, we all recognize that there is more work to be done. I
also recognize that we are approaching a time of transition, which
carries with it an additional responsibility: the responsibility to
make sure that the functions of government, and particularly those
relating to our national security, are passed along to the next
Administration with a minimum of operational disruption.
9/11 Commission concluded, it is critical that all parties focus on an
orderly and expeditious transition: that the new Administration plan
ahead to ensure that candidates for critical positions are quickly
identified and up to speed; that the Senate quickly proceed through the
confirmation process for the national security positions; and that we,
the outgoing Administration, make sure that our successors have a
clear–eyed view of the terrorist threat and a comprehensive
understanding of our capacity to meet that threat. As part of that
understanding, it is important that they appreciate the thinking that
went into the counterterrorism infrastructure that has been established
over the past seven years, so that they can continue the process of
building and strengthening our defenses against the terrorist threat.
It is my hope that these remarks will, in some small way, assist in
that transition process.
I can assure you that, from now through
the balance of the transition, my colleagues and I will do everything
we can to ensure that our successors are fully equipped to accept the
responsibility of protecting our country and our citizens when they
walk into the halls of government on January 20, 2009. It is a
responsibility that I have been honored to share these past seven
years, and one that I know our successors—whoever they are—will
shoulder with pride and with honor.