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March 9, 2005

Missing the Plot? The Politics of Intelligence Post 9/11

Moderator: Richard Ben-Veniste
Panellists: Juan Hidalgo, Jean Michel Louboutin, Aleksandr Kostin, Greg Treverton, David Wright-Neville

The panel Missing the Plot? The Politics of Intelligence post 9/11 drew on the experiences of senior members of the intelligence community from across the world. There was agreement that, while organisational adjustments, reform and improved co-operation between different agencies were vital, there also needed to be a change in the entire intelligence culture, including the analysts’ ability to ‘think outside the box’. The ability of intelligence agencies to predict every major terrorist event was an unrealistic expectation, one panellist argued, but the services could play a vital role in reducing the public’s fear of terrorism.

Transcription / Transcripción

Moderator: Richard Ben-Veniste
Bienvenidos. My name is Richard Ben-Veniste and I welcome you to this panel.

First I would like, on behalf of the 9/11 commission and families of victims of 9/11, to express our sympathies to the families of those killed and to those injured in the March 11 Atocha attacks. I would like to recognize that present with us this morning is Ms. Nikki Stern, whose husband was killed on September 11th and who is a leader of the Families of September 11th organization. I wish to convey my thanks to Jan Boyer and to Mike Perley [?] who assisted greatly in putting this panel together and helping me.

Let me start with a statement of this panel and what we are attempting to do here this morning. Whether September 11, 2001, or March 11, or Bali, or Beslan, the aftermath of large-scale terrorist attacks, the period of mourning, is often followed by a phase of investigation, critical self-reflection, and in some cases, political controversy. We will explore in this panel what is useful and productive, and what is counter-productive in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

We have an extraordinary panel of experts here this morning, representing firsthand experience in the investigation of the Atocha bombings, the Bali bombing, and the horrific loss of life in Beslan.

Let me start with a brief description of the organization of the work of the 9/11 Commission of which I was one of ten members. First, as you may know, this commission was organized in its inception without the support of the administration. That was the first thing that had to be overcome, which was creating a commission to investigate the facts of 9/11. In that regard, the families of victims of 9/11 play a critical role, as well as members of Congress from both political parties, as well as the media. A statute was passed, which provided for creation of a bipartisan commission –five Democrats and five Republicans– chosen by the president and leaders of both political parties in the Congress. The commission was granted subpoena power, that is, the power to compel the production of witnesses and important documents. Each of the members of the commission received the highest security clearances so that we were able to review and discuss all relevant materials. We determined that we would operate with the highest degree of transparency possible. We held many public hearings; we interviewed 160 witnesses in those public hearings; apart from the hearings, we conducted interviews of 1200 witnesses in the United States and ten foreign countries.

Based on a intensive investigation of the facts surrounding 9/11 and why it was that our nation was unable to prevent or disrupt that attack, we made a series of recommendations in a final report. We also produced a very extensive factual record of what we had found and published it without a single redaction or omission, in a public volume available to not only all Americans but interested parties throughout the world. Well over one million copies of this book have been sold to date.

As I say, we made recommendations and, in summary, those recommendations which went toward reorganizing our intelligence community within the United States received the most pubic attention. Within five months of the issuance of our final report, Congress passed, and the president signed, a reorganization bill, which called for significant change in the way our intelligence community is organized.

We’ll come back to the various aspects of the 9/11 commission example. We will have questions for our panel that I would put and then I will be calling on members of the audience for participation, which I hope will be robust so that we can have an interesting dialogue and maximize our time together.

Let me start by asking the members of the panel to introduce themselves in a short introduction and to explain very briefly their connection with the subject of terrorism.

First let me call on Mr. Juan Hidalgo.

Juan Hidalgo
Querido Mr. Chairman. Voy a hablar en español aunque pudiera hacerlo en inglés, para ser más preciso. Mi nombre es Juan Hidalgo. Soy Comisario del Cuerpo Nacional de Policía. Ingresé hace ya demasiados años, más de veinticinco. He estado ejerciendo y trabajando en toda clase de tipo de investigaciones. Hacia el año 88, empecé a trabajar en el tema de la planificación de seguridad de grandes eventos, y en tal función tuve el honor de ser jefe de sección de la oficina de seguridad olímpica que planificó la seguridad de la Olimpiada de Barcelona. Como consecuencia de ese trabajo, el Gobierno español y el Gobierno americano llegaron a un acuerdo y yo me trasladé a EEUU para ayudar en la planificación del Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol del 94 y en unos siguientes juegos olímpicos y universales, que se celebraron en EEUU, estuve asignado en el departamento de Defensa.

Al terminar dichos eventos, fui nombrado Consejero de Interior de la Embajada de España en EEUU y en tal función me encargué de la relación y coordinación con las agencias de inteligencia y de antiterrorismo norteamericanas con las españolas hasta el año 2001, poco antes de la fecha fatídica del 11 de septiembre, en que me trasladé a España, siendo nombrado Jefe de la Brigada de Investigación Tecnológica, posteriormente de la Unidad Central de Inteligencia Criminal y, finalmente, a partir de marzo del año 2003, fui nombrado Vocal Asesor del Secretario de Estado de Seguridad en materia de terrorismo, del anterior Secretario de Estado y del actual Secretario de Estado. He continuado, por tanto, y mi experiencia, como pueden entender, ha sido, he estado en esa función durante todos los ataques del 11 de marzo.

Aleksandr Kostin
[En ruso, con intérprete en español. In Russian, with Spanish interpreter.]
Mi nombre es Aleksandr Kostin, vengo de Rusia. Durante 38 años he estado sirviendo en el ejército y mi último cargo en el ejército ha sido de militar en la embajada alemana, en Alemania.

Esto fue justamente cuando empezó la retirada del ejército soviético de Alemania, de Europa, como ustedes saben.

A partir del 97 he trabajado en el Ministerio de Interior, donde fui Jefe del Departamento de Cooperación Internacional del Ministerio de Interior de la Federación Rusa. Esta época fue marcada, como ustedes saben, por una guerra con Chechenia, lo cual nos exigió reunir esfuerzos y destinarnos también a la cooperación para llevar a cabo las medidas antiterroristas necesarias.

En el año 2002 fue creado el Foro Mundial Antiterrorista y Anticriminal, dirigido por el General Polikoff, que es a la vez diputado de la Duma, del Parlamento ruso.

Actualmente, soy su consejero en este foro y también soy su vicepresidente en el Comité que trabaja en la Duma y que se dedica a las cuestiones de seguridad y la lucha contra el terrorismo. Soy general y doctor en ciencias jurídicas.

Thank you, Mr. Kostin. Let me turn to David Wright-Neville.

David Wright-Neville
My name is David Wright-Neville. Until mid-2002, I was the senior terrorism analyst of the Australian intelligence community. I also served for much of that period as well also as the senior southeast Asia analyst for the Australian intelligence community, southeast Asia being obviously the principal focus of Australia’s intelligence efforts.

In that sense, I dealt quite extensively with the emergence of [...] terrorist groups across Asia, although I had left the service at the time of the Bali bombings. I subsequently was invited to participate in the investigations into those bombings and I returned to a close external relationship with the Australian intelligence community, now as a consultancy - I have been teaching since; I’ve returned to the university system.

Thank you very much, Mr. Wright-Neville. Let me turn to Jean-Michel Louboutin.

Jean-Michel Louboutin
Merci Monsieur le président, j’espère que la traduction fonctionne.

Je m’appelle Jean-Michel Louboutin et actuellement j’exerce les fonctions de directeur exécutif des services de police au sein de l’organisation internationale de police criminelle Interpol. C’est à dire qu’en fait je suis le numéro 2 de l’organisation : le numéro 1 monsieur [...] n’a pas pu venir, il s’en excuse car il aurait aimé participer à ce panel, c’est lui qui avait été annoncé mais il a été appelé sur une urgence et il doit partir cette après-midi vers les pays asiatiques.

Je suis un policier français, mon mandat actuel est contrôleur général des services actifs de la police nationale, je ne sais pas à quoi cela correspond dans les autres pays, mais c’est à peu près Général deux étoiles. J’ai plus de 20 ans dans la police française et je n’ai pas commencé évidemment à Interpol, je ne suis à Interpol que depuis 5 ans où j’ai exercé diverses fonctions. Avant cela et dans la police française bien-sûr j’ai exercé plusieurs fonctions à la tête d’unités liées au trafic de stupéfiants, a la lutte contre le terrorisme ou à la lutte contre le crime organisé dans différentes régions de France incluant la région des Caraïbes, qui est une merveilleuse région pour les vacances mais pas très merveilleuse pour travailler.

Simplement, je voudrais avoir l’occasion Monsieur le président à un moment de ce panel de pouvoir dire combien, depuis l’attaque du 11 septembre 2001 et celle de Madrid du 11 mars 2004, Interpol a énormément changé pour devenir une véritable organisation de police opérationnelle pour assister ces 182 pays membres puisque vous savez Interpol est la plus grande organisation internationale de police. Nous aurons l’occasion de voir que nous avons essayé d’organiser notre assistance et nos progrès dans trois directions fondamentales qui sont premièrement le développement d’un système de télécommunication globale pour l’ensemble des pays membres.

Le deuxième secteur que nous avons beaucoup travaillé est celui des bases de données et nous verrons combien les bases de données sont liées à la prévention du terrorisme notamment au niveau des points de contrôle « check point ». Et enfin le troisième secteur que nous avons beaucoup travaillé est celui du soutien opérationnel pour pouvoir apporter aux pays membres de l’assistance et de la coordination notamment dans l’échange d’informations. Merci Monsieur le président

Thank you very much. Now let me turn to Greg Treverton.

Greg Treverton
Thank you. My name is Greg Treverton. I’m now at the RAND Corporation, which as I think many of you know is a private, non-profit think tank. At RAND, I run RAND’s intelligence policy center, which is the work we do for the various intelligence agencies primarily in the United States.

I first began my interest in these matters in the 1970’s when I was a young staff member for the first investigations of intelligence in the United States by the Congress. I worked for the Senate intelligence committee, then often known as the Church Committee after its chairman, Frank Church. After that fascinating introduction to intelligence, I was later a consumer of intelligence while working for the National Security Council, and then taught and thought about intelligence matters at Harvard, and Columbia, and elsewhere. Most recently I was in the intelligence world at the National Intelligence Council where I oversaw the preparation of America’s national intelligence estimates.

Thank you.

That’s gives us a very good overview of just how qualified and talented and experienced the members of the panel are. My day job is practising attorney so I don’t claim to have anywhere near the kind of credentials that my colleagues have, but I’ll try to struggle on and keep up with them.

Let me ask us our first question: how important are the lessons learned as an aspect of a post-terrorist attack inquiry? We made 41 recommendations in the 9/11 commission’s report. As I mentioned, the most attention was paid through the reorganisation of the intelligence community, which was accomplished by and large in rather quick order. There were 15 intelligence agencies that comprised the U.S. intelligence community. We found that the agencies were not sharing information. Many of them were not communicating with one another and in some agencies there was no vertical communication within the agency itself. We found that as a result of the failure of sharing of information and communication, that although the intelligence community as a whole had collected a great deal of potentially useful information about the 9/11 plotters, that information was not efficiently or effectively utilised. Had it been so, we can speculate as to whether it was possible that the 9/11 catastrophe could have been averted.

So our recommendations were directly toward breaking down the stovepipes, compelling the sharing of information and creating a new director of national intelligence to oversee the budget, set priorities, and co-ordinate the vast expanse of the intelligence community.

I would like to emphasise that the reorganisation is only a beginning and is not an end in and of itself. If it is efficiently and effectively implemented, we believe that America will be safer as a result.

Let me ask first of Mr. Hidalgo, what are the lessons learned from the inquiry just now being completed, I think even today, of the Atocha bombings?

Juan Hidalgo
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Quizá no sea yo el que tenga que hablar sobre esto, puesto que es el ataque más reciente e incluso la Comisión del 11 de marzo no está cerrada. El informe o recomendación, las recomendaciones que efectúa la Comisión tienen que ser aprobadas, enviadas al Congreso y posteriormente el Gobierno implementarlas. Desde luego, en mi posición de profesional no soy quien ni siquiera para juzgarlas, mi deber como profesional es obedecerlas, cuando me lleguen del Gobierno. Eso no quiere decir que no se hayan iniciado ya la detección de problemas o intentar resolver, con los datos que ya existían, problemas que ya se han podido detectar. Me refiero por ejemplo a lo que Ud. ha mencionado, que es el hecho de que la información fluya en columnas, incluso dentro de una misma agencia, o que cada agencia tenga información que no se comparte o que ni siquiera se cruza, es decir, una agencia no sabe que otra agencia tiene información complementaria que podría complementarla.

Éste es un problema grave, como dice Ud., en EEUU que es un país de 300 millones de habitantes, España sólo tiene 40 millones de habitantes y tres agencias o servicios de seguridad, dos de ellos dependientes del Ministerio del Interior, y otro de otro ministerio, que es el Ministerio de Defensa, el Centro Nacional de Inteligencia.

Efectivamente esa información que se intentaba coordinar a través de cierto nivel de jefes, pero como todos saben, el cerebro humano no es capaz de coordinar toda la información que existe. En realidad, lo que se hacía era coordinar operaciones en marcha, lo suficientemente importantes, no existía lo que usted mencionaba, el cruce de datos, no existía la conexión entre unas bases de datos y otras. Ello se intenta solucionar y de ello, a eso obedece.

Let me interrupt for a moment, if I may, to be a little bit more pointed in my question. Those who know me here know that I will never qualify for a diplomatic view, but notwithstanding that, let me ask, whether you in the course of this tortured path, in this time of investigation, have you found that there was information within the system, which was not communicated in an efficient way, much like what we found in ours...

Juan Hidalgo
Absolutely! ¡Totalmente! Había información en todos los sistemas y los sistemas no se compartían. Ese es el gravísimo problema que existe, pero eso es sólo un problema parcial, porque el que esté la información en los sistemas, que la información de los sistemas se comparta no quiere decir que se visione el problema. Ese es otro tema que deberíamos tratar después. El problema no es que todos los datos estén sino que se vea que lo que hay ahí es un problema. Que estamos hablando a veces de investigaciones a veces sobre delitos demasiado pequeños para llamar la atención de un analista, pero sí con un peso específico.

Richard Ben-Veniste
Thank you. I think we’ll come back to this issue, particularly in the context of the urban experience.

Let me ask David Wright-Neville to answer the question with respect to the Bali bombings. What were you able to find so far in the post-attack review that would indicate that there was, in fact, information that was not communicated accurately?

David Wright-Neville
Part of the problem with understanding the circumstances surrounding the Bali bombing, which I’m sure most of you know occurred on the 12th of October 2002, part of the problem in understanding how intelligence might or might not have helped avert that tragedy has been complicated by a resistance by the Australian government to an open inquiry, much along the lines has happened in the United States. What eventually did emerge was a Senate inquiry and that only emerged because the government did not have control of the Senate. It was controlled by the minority parties in conjunction with the main opposition party. This senate inquiry was limited because the government used its executive power to limit the types of people who could be called to give evidence, particularly from the intelligence community.

But what we did learn, and what I note from my own experiences, is that the main problem in the Australian context, and Australia pays very, very close attention to developments in Indonesia and in the Southeast Asian region particularly, was that it was not so much a problem of lack of information but the fact that that information wasn’t listened to. That information often ran up against ossified ideas within the intelligence community about how Indonesia, or Islam in Indonesia, or any political groups in Indonesia, would behave. I think we had long-term analysts, we had long-term people with very fixed ideas about the problems emerging in Indonesia, and any evidence that was discovered by intelligence collectors that didn’t gel with these preconceived ideas was often simply rejected. Many of our intelligence analysts sat in a kind of comfort zone and I think that was the principal problem.

In terms of not predicting about the attack, I don’t believe anyone could have predicted it, but in terms of being better prepared for an attack of this nature, this magnitude, I think it was the fact that the intelligence community had these ossified ideas, that it didn’t interact with others outside the community, there was no one to rattle their cages and prompt them to think outside the box, if you like.

Thank you. Let me ask Mr. Kostin if he can provide light on the Russian example in investigating Beslan. I understand that there is a commission whose work is underway and whether there are any preliminary findings which would indicate that there were lapses or failures sharing information, which might have somehow alerted the authorities to the imminence of that attack.

Aleksandr Kostin
[En ruso, con intérprete en español. In Russian, with Spanish interpreter.]
La pregunta tiene un carácter muy concreto y si me permiten quisiera decir dos palabras sobre la historia del terrorismo y de Rusia.

[Resto de la intervención en ruso sin interpretación.]

Of course, there are common characteristics in the aftermath of an event. After the shock, and horror, and a period of mourning, then there are recriminations and the question is whether we can learn from these attacks. In this regard, one would expect that the citizens of Russia would be concerned that the intelligence agencies need to do a better job.

Beslan occurred in the aftermath of Moscow, and so can you shed some light on whether changes have been made in the intelligence apparatus responsive to the shortcomings that are revealed in the failure to detect, much less prevent, these attacks?

[Resto de la intervención en ruso sin interpretación.]

Let me change the subject slightly to observe that one of the great challenges in democratic societies, in nations which have suffered terrorist attacks, is the question of finding a balance between preserving civil rights and liberties and privacy rights, and enhanced and evermore intrusive security and intelligence-gathering efforts.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s great founding fathers, observed that those who would sacrifice liberties for a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security. The 9/11 commission was a little less testy in its recommendations. We found that the choice between liberty and security is a false choice; that to sacrifice the openness of our society, the things that distinguish us as a democracy, because of terrorist attacks would be too great a sacrifice to make. If we were to do so, we would not be able to prevent all attacks because we’re a target-rich environment; but in the course of doing that, we would hand to the terrorists a victory without committing another terrorist attack. So we struggle with the question how to better protect ourselves, to enhance security, while at the same time preserving our fundamental liberties that define us as a democracy.

Let me ask Greg Treverton to comment on that.

Greg Treverton
Thank you very much. Let me answer in the following way, with a few comments about the past of 9/11, then what’s going on today, and then several comments about the future.

There are many reasons why we failed to anticipate September 11th. In the words of one reviewer of the very excellent commission report, which I commend to you, one reviewer said simply that it’s awfully difficult to predict things that have never happened to me before. But the most germane, I think, for our conversation, is people and the commission observed that cooperation among the major agencies was very poor. Particularly it was poor between the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. When people ask me why, my answer is substantially because we, the American people, wanted it that way. We didn’t really want the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. to cooperate too closely because we feared that combination of police and intelligence power in one place. That worked fine during the Cold War; it didn’t work fine before September 11th when we faced a very different kind of threat. So the first answer to why September 11th happened seems to me because we organised arrangements not to concentrate power, to protect civil liberties, that set us up to fail on 9/11.

Since then, a number of things have happened. We had, in addition to separating the F.B.I. and C.I.A., we even within the F.B.I. said law enforcement is one thing, intelligence is another, so it’s literally true before 9/11 that F.B.I. agents who were working on terrorism from the law-enforcement point of view, couldn’t, didn’t share information with their colleagues in intelligence. That’s the famous wall that you hear discussed in commentaries about the commission’s report. That wall we substantially demolished after 9/11, so now those who work in law enforcement and those who work in intelligence relevant to counterterrorism share information across agencies and within agencies.

The second thing that happened is the less celebrated recommendations of the Commission. Our chairman talked about their most publicised recommendation for a national intelligence director, and that’s important. But in this business probably more important is their other main recommendation, which says: let’s break down the stovepipes in the organisation by agencies instead of organise around problems or tasks. So they recommended and Congress created and the president signed the bill creating the National Counterterrorism Center. That’s meant to facilitate day to day cooperation in both operations and analysis about bringing together [...] the C.I.A., F.B.I., the military, indeed the whole range of agencies, with something to contribute to this problem.

The third thing that’s happened is beginning –our chairman emphasized these are all beginnings, hardly ends– but the third thing that’s happened is a very dramatic change in the nature of the F.B.I., which was before during the Cold War, very primarily a law enforcement organisation with a small intelligence and counter-intelligence tail. Now it’s endeavouring to become a prevention and intelligence organisation, a very dramatic change in its mission, and one that led the commission and the Congress to say, “let’s let that happen; let’s not create a separate domestic intelligence agency.” Having torn down one wall, why create another one by creating a separate agency. Time will tell. So at that level, we’ve in effect recalibrated the balance between civil liberties and security, hopefully, as the chairman indicated, by not thinking of this in critical tradeoff terms but trying to assure security while infringing as little on the rights of Americans and others as possible.

So far so good. The harder challenge, we found, it’s hard enough to deal across the executive branch of federal agencies involved in these matters. The still harder challenge before us is sharing information with state and local authorities, and with the American people, being transparent when we do have to protect the sources and methods of some information. We have, as you know, as an example of the codes here, we have a colour-coded warning system in the United States much like that in Britain. The problem is that the colours mean almost nothing to most authorities in the Unites States and to most Americans. So our challenge is to get as much information out without simply frightening people about things they can’t do anything about and be much more targeted in the kind of warning we’ve given. We've done a bit better.

The most recent warnings at Christmastime were specific at least with respect to financial sector and location, so we’re doing better, but the real challenge for us now is to find ways to get information out to those who need it, including the general public, in ways that don't simply frighten them and look like the government is simply trying to, as we say in the United States, cover their backsides in case something bad happens. Thank you.

Let me add to that some other aspects of enhanced authorities to law enforcement and intelligence-gathering agencies and that is our system, the critical role of Congressional oversight as a check and balance to executive power. We have made recommendations to reform Congressional oversight. For example, our Department of Homeland Security has some 88 different committees and sub-committees of Congress who have some responsibility for overseeing that one agency. Obviously that’s an inefficient and ineffective way of providing oversight. We believe that it is the role of Congress to ensure that these enhanced authorities do not go beyond the reasons for which they were intended - so-called “mission creep”. These enhanced authorities are not simply another part of the law enforcement arsenal, but rather are directed toward the specific reasons why they were created, that is terrorism. That may be much easier to state in theoretical terms than it is in practical terms and I’ll get into, I hope, the question of terrorist financing to any criminal activities.

I might add that although Congress was quick to reorganise the executive departments, the intelligence community has done virtually nothing to reorganise itself. Individuals who have power, including budgetary authorities, have been reluctant to give up that power in an effort to reorganise and make more efficient the very important role of congressional oversight. In addition, the 9/11 commission recommended the creation of a civil liberties and privacy board, made up of outside individuals who would have access to information within the executive department and make reports, transparent reports, to Congress and the American public with respect to specific issues of whether the operation of government agencies was transgressing the line between a proper balance of security and civil liberties. To this moment the president has not yet appointed the members of that board, but we are hopeful he will do so in short order.

Let me turn to the question of the difficulties of international cooperation. We have heard from Mr. Kostin on that subject very briefly as we have Mr. Louboutin. If it is so difficult within a country as large as ours in the United States to coordinate between and among the different agencies charged with intelligence-gathering and law enforcement, how in the world can we expect coordination on an international scale? I think we can all recognise that the greatest tool we may have to fight a common terrorist enemy is information. How do we go about sharing that information, protecting sources and methods of agencies that develop that information and encouraging them to share that information in a reasonable and effective way?

Let me turn first to our representative from Interpol, who I suspect would be very happy to address that question.

Jean Michel Louboutin
Merci Monsieur le Président. Vous avez dit en commençant que vous n’utilisiez pas la langue de bois, que vous n’étiez pas fait pour la diplomatie, moi non plus. Ce que je vais dire risque peut-être à froisser notre ego. Si je peux résumer un petit peu ce qui vient d’être dit, après le 11 septembre vous avez découvert dans votre pays une constellation d’agences, c’est à dire que vous avez découvert qu’en fait les informations qui ont été utiles pour lutter contre le terrorisme étaient fragmentées. Au niveau mondial vous avez exactement la même situation, ce que vous trouvez dans un pays vous pouvez le reproduire à l’échelle planétaire. Le globe c’est un village. Et bien souvent après une attaque terroriste, des décisions politiques ajoutent à cette fragmentation parce qu’on dit « on a découvert cela, on va aller créer tel organisme, on va créer tel centre » alors même qu’on ne regarde pas ce qui existe déjà et ce qui pourrait être amélioré.

Le deuxième point, on a parlé de liberté et de sécurité. Et l’une des premières libertés pour toutes les personnes, c’est celle d’aller et de venir. Or qu’est-ce que l’on constate avec le terrorisme aujourd’hui : lorsqu’une attaque est commise dans un pays ou dans plusieurs pays, les terroristes viennent d’ailleurs, les préparations de ces actes terroristes ont été faites peut-être sur un autre continent. C’est à dire qu’on est en face des organisations qui sont globales et qui ont un tendon d’Achille ou qui sont vulnérables parce qu’elles voyagent. Et je pense que la prévention du terrorisme pour nous, pour les démocraties, doit être le fruit que nous soyons forts à nos contrôles au niveau des voyages. Or quel est le pays aujourd’hui qui a décidé comme priorité numéro un de lutter contre les vols des documents de voyage ? Il y a 30 millions de documents de voyage volés actuellement. Interpole en 2002 a décidé de créer une base de données sur les documents de voyage volés. En 2003 il y avait 3000 documents volés dans cette base, il y en a près de 6 millions aujourd’hui mais notre objectif c’est de faire en sorte que ces 6 millions de documents de voyage volés rentrent dans cette base et que cette base soit accessible à tous les policiers, à tous les douaniers, à tous les coins de contrôle, de telle sorte que les personnes, les terroristes qui voyagent puissent être arrêtés ou même quelqu’un de suspecté de terroriste puisse être arrêté.

Je voudrais vous donner un exemple concret, tout le monde se souvient en mars 2003 de l’assassinat du Premier Ministre Serbe. Savez-vous que la personne qui est suspectée, qui a été arrêté fort heureusement mais qui est suspectée d’avoir tué le Premier Ministre Serbe a voyagé pendant deux ans en utilisant les transport publics avec un passeport volé vierge en 1999. Voilà l’intérêt je pense d’un premier acte pour des recommandations si véritablement on veut faire en sorte que ce problème de document de voyage volés soit pris en compte et que la base de donnée nouvellement créée par Interpole soit alimentée et donnée et rendue accessible à l’ensemble des forces répressives. Je vous remercie.

That’s a very useful and practical suggestion, and one that perhaps would be on the way. I want to, as I promised, leave time for participation from the audience, so I’ll put one more question.

That is the question of the public’s perception of the threat of terrorism; balancing public awareness with the possibility of fear-mongering, with the politics of fear. How much benefit is there in bombarding the public with information that may be of limited utility to them about loose nukes, about chemical and biological weapons? This colour-coded system, as Greg Treverton mentioned, there’s a certain tendency, I believe, for the “boy who cried wolf syndrome” to take effect. More times there are warnings without actual events, the less the public tends to believe the message and the more indifferent the public becomes, except for the small perhaps percentage of people who have live in constant terror of the next attack. So let me ask David Wright-Neville whether he has some insight on that issue.

David Wright-Neville
Thank you. The chairman is being diplomatic. I lost eleven months in the Australian diplomatic service and as to why might become abundantly clear in a moment.

I can only state about my own government, which in my assessment has been quite active in politicising terrorism for its own particular purposes. It has won two national elections by plying on the fears of the public, demonising certain elements of the Australian community, demonising asylum seekers from particularly Muslim countries, and so on. There are quite obviously ethical problems with this practice but also from a standpoint of a person whose career has been built on studying terrorism and counterterrorism practices, I also see very real practical dangers with this.

One the one hand, I think it can lead to unnecessary public panics. Public panics that are eventually not met or not matched by tangible terrorist attacks over time can contribute to a level of public ambivalence, a kind of comfort zone, where fear of terrorism becomes an everyday thing. People drop their guard, if you like.

I also think that at another level, the politicisation of terrorism leads to the demonisation and fear of demonisation of different elements of our community. It feeds public paranoias, the alienation of these allies throughout our community. We know from experience that even though the vast, vast majority of this community might have nothing to do with terrorism, the fact that they feel alienated, the fact that they feel the rest of society suspects them, the fact that they are targeted for official police and intelligence action, subject to harassment and so on, leads to a sense of insularity, and in that sense of insularity, those one, two, handful of militants can go about their business uncamouflaged of that sense of siege the community has.

I work quite closely with the state police in my own state in an attempt to try and overcome this. We have, for instance, in Australia what’s called the terrorism hotline and if you see a terrorist, you phone the terrorism hotline. Forty thousand phone calls, no arrests. Most of those phone calls have been tied with a particular community. The police are obliged to follow up all of these phone calls. The police say that the fact that they are constantly called out to go visit Muslim households who are celebrating Eid il-Fitr [?] or some other feasts because of a bigoted neighbour is effectively undermining their relationship with the Islamic community. And so I see very real dangers even in my own society stemming from this tendency to politicise terrorism, the instinctive urge that some politicians have to turn it to their own electoral advantage.

Thank you very much for that very nuanced and candid observation, David. I will be out of character and not fall upon Mr. Hidalgo to discuss the question of politicising the culture of investigation and report, but we can all read in the newspapers the fact that the conduct of that investigation by one political party has alienated the other political party.

I can speak to the 9/11 commission, which found great strength in the fact that the members of the commission were appointed on a bipartisan basis. We were all individuals who did not hold any position in government. The fact that we were able to come together and issue a unanimous final report gave great strength and credibility within the American public to our recommendations and the credibility of our factual findings. I can only say that that experience may hopefully provide a model but I would like to hear comments if you would so choose, Mr. Hidalgo, but I don’t want to put you on the spot.

Juan Hidalgo
Quizá Ud. ha levantado un tema, no hemos hablado de él, pero que es lo que dice la prensa, que no sé si lo que dice la prensa es verdad o no es verdad... Yo sí que le puedo decir que las investigaciones que hacen las fuerzas y cuerpos policiales en España, cuando ya está realizado el hecho, actúan como poder judicial. Por tanto, su jefe y al único que reportan es al juez. No hay ningún partido político, ningún gobierno que pueda decir: “ésto se investiga, ésto no”. Corresponde a la investigación y se hace, y se informa al juez. En ese sentido, le puedo garantizar que las investigaciones que se han hecho, independientemente de lo que digan o no digan los partidos políticos, y sobre todo lo que diga o no diga la prensa. Las investigaciones policiales se van haciendo de acuerdo con las instrucciones que se reciben de la autoridad judicial, y de acuerdo con lo que los investigadores van avanzando en cada momento.

Creo que he sido preciso, pero creo que el tema, Ud. mismo lo ha levantado, es cómo se ven estas investigaciones en la prensa y si eso tiene que ver con la realidad.

Well, let me leave it there for now because I have promised to take questions from the audience, and if I may, I would like to do so. This gentleman, here, yes?

No sé, un micrófono...


Delegate from the floor
Sr. Moderador. Vengo de un país, de la Argentina que no tiene mucha autoridad para hablar de terrorismo puesto que hemos sufrido dos actos tremendos, la destrucción de la Embajada de Israel y posteriormente de una asociación de cooperación judía, y hasta ahora, después de varios años, nada se sabe al respecto, es decir, no es que no haya una información que no se pasa de una central de inteligencia a otra, sino que cunde una desorientación absolutamente patética.

Pero el señor moderador ha hablado muy interesantemente del tema de preservar la democracia, los derechos civiles, la privacidad –hizo mención a ello–, para combatir al terrorismo, que desde luego no puede combatirse con actos terroristas, porque eso sería legitimar al terrorismo. En consecuencia, a mí me interesa mucho conocer, porque tengo entendido que está por vencer, algunos artículos, por lo menos de la Ley llamada Acta Patriótica, si se está en condiciones de evitar que la misma sea renovada en este tiempo, como lo quiere el Sr. González, el Fiscal General, que creo que tuvo bastante que ver en su momento con la sanción de esta ley, y si además me interesaría mucho conocer si se considera que es eficaz el nuevo organismo de seguridad que dirige con cargo ministerial el Sr. Negroponte, que se dice que tiene 70.000 agentes –no sé si será así bajo su cédula. De tal modo, mi pregunta, Sr. Presidente, nada más.

Thank you, señor presidente. I would like to respond by saying first that with respect to the Patriot Act, I think there’s much misunderstanding about the Patriot Act. There are some elements of the Patriot Act, which as Mr. Treverton has pointed out, removes certain barriers between cooperation of agencies that becomes necessary to deal with a transnational and stateless enemy. So from a personal point of view, those elements of the Patriot Act should be renewed. By its terms, the Patriot Act expires and then must be voted on.

There are other aspects of the Patriot Act that are more controversial and the burden should be on the government to establish that those controversial aspects of the Patriot Act, such as access to library records and the like, are justified by the experience of the law enforcement and intelligence community in the time since the Patriot Act was enacted until now. So I think we must look at it on a provision by provision basis.

Unfortunately many of the post-9/11 actions by the administration, including the roundup and detention of legal immigrants within the United States, has been, in public perception, associated with the Patriot Act and therefore there has been sort of a tendency to look at the Patriot Act as a catch-all for a number of anti-civil libertarian measures.

With respect to the question of Mr. Negroponte and his role as director of National Intelligence, the answer is no, he does not and will not have the authority for 70,000 agents or any remotely associated number. His function is to coordinate the 15 intelligence agencies which comprise the United States intelligence community, to smash the stovepipes that existed before, and to ensure that the agencies share intelligence, prioritise intelligence, and operate more efficiently and effectively for if we are to preserve our pluralistic society with its privacy and civil liberties rights, we must be smarter [...]


All of the acts that each of the nations here have dealt with have presented a profound challenge to people’s perception of how they thought the world worked, about people’s imaginations. None of them could have been imagined the day before they occurred. Perhaps in general terms but certainly not in specifics. Yet with each act that occurred, Atocha, 9/11, Bali, and on and on, and the Moscow theatre incident, it was a question that some of us wondered, about after all of these events that certainly allowed us to understand what was possible, how it was that the response to Beslan seemed, at least to the international community, to be so disorganised and chaotic. It seemed like the imagination might have come around by that time. Do you agree with me or can you explain to me how it was and do you feel that there was any case to be made that this was something that could have been predicted, given the extent to which previous incidents had prepared our imagination?

Aleksandr Kostin
[En ruso, con intérprete en español. In Russian, with Spanish interpreter.]
Sí, yo he comprendido bien su pregunta. Le puedo decir que, lamentablemente, en nuestra lucha contra el terrorismo en Chechenia, le puedo decir que casi casi ha sido nula la ayuda internacional, no la hemos visto casi.

Sí, sí, únicamente pensábamos que a raíz del 11 de septiembre, y sobre todo porque el presidente Bush declaró y anunció la creación de este órgano destinado a la lucha antiterrorista, pensábamos que también tendríamos cabida, que tendríamos cabida en este organismo.

Sin embargo, hemos visto pasado algún tiempo que la comunidad internacional nos dijo claramente: “Señores, Chechenia es un problema suyo, pues así deben defenderse y hacer por sus propios medios.”

Y realmente llevamos mucho tiempo, muchísimo tiempo, sin poder convencer que en Chechenia no se trata de una lucha del pueblo checheno contra nosotros, sino que se trata de acciones de terrorismo internacional y de hecho en esas acciones participan mercenarios, participan representantes no sólo de países así tradicionalmente de tradición totalitarista, etc., sino también están entre ellos representantes de algunos países europeos.

Sí, hacemos conclusiones, y queremos reformar nuestros organismos de información, inteligencia y seguridad, orientándoles a la lucha contra el terrorismo.

También queremos adoptar leyes que reflejasen la situación actual, tal y como está.

También queremos recibir ayuda, teórica y práctica, proveniente de otros países que también dedican sus esfuerzos a la lucha antiterrorista.

Sí, también somos, y de modo permanente, somos diana de todas las críticas provenientes de la opinión pública y de muchas fuentes, que nos acusan a los órganos de seguridad de ser torpes, de ser obsoletos, de no poder reaccionar de modo adecuado frente al terrorismo.

Y en el plan internacional lo que pretendemos demostrar, y lo hacemos ya de modo continuo, es que no se trata de un pueblo que se rebela así contra la dictadura de Rusia.

Y debo decir, a título personal, que yo hace 15 ó 20 años he vivido aquella zona, y conozco muy bien a los chechenos, la ciudad de Grozny la conozco muy bien, visitaba mucho aquella república, y sé de que hablo, conozco este pueblo, si es que ésto puede servir también para la recepción de [...] Sí y [...]

In order to accommodate one more question. It’s difficult to make a selection – the gentleman in the back who is near the microphone.

Delegate from the floor
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, it’s my luck to be near the microphone. I have a question, perhaps a personal question, I would like to pose to all of you as somebody who has lived half his life in Europe and half in America.

It seems to me that this continent dealt with terrorism in the 60’s, and 70’s and early 80’s in a successful way. Besides Spain in general not much, but Germany, Italy and France, and the way the term was won during those years, I think is now history, so to speak, to a large extent. The way it was won, as we all know, is probably through a most successful and usual instrument and that was infiltration. Infiltration allowed the Italians, the Germans, and the French to beat terrorism during those years.

The problem today, of course, is exactly this, the new kind of terrorism that the world is facing has never properly been infiltrated. The question that the title this panel has is “Missing the Plot? Politics of Intelligence,” I wonder if it comes down basically, of course, to many aspects for which I’m aware, some of which I’m not being myself in Beirut two times [...] during a long time ago but my question is: is the key for you in dealing with present terrorism, Chechnya to bin Laden to the rest, the topic of infiltration, is this a major problem we’re facing today? Because if it is, I understand the difficulties that attend. Bin Laden has set out a virtual organisation the infiltration of which is not as easy as in the Red Brigades with the Italians. Thank you.

Let me observe that the 9/11 terrorists, as we know, came all from overseas. None of them were members of resident U.S. cells, as it was. The question of infiltrating terrorist organisations itself one of the changes that has been underway in the United States is to direct far more manpower and funds for the collection of human intelligence. Saying that funds are directed in that area carry it does not make it happen, however, this is a long-term process. We’re behind the curve, but it is something which is absolutely necessary in order to safeguard our homelands. Intelligence is the one indispensable quality that is necessary, and so in order to anticipate attacks rather than simply being lucky, we need to have intelligence and that means infiltrating the organisations to the greatest extent possible.

This leads me to put forward the question of the European experience. Represented by the Atocha bombings where you have a different character, if you will, of the individuals who allegedly were responsible for this horrific act. Perhaps we could hear a little bit on the issue of infiltration and the character and financing of urban terrorists, living within the population for some period of time.

Juan Hidalgo
Bueno, mire, en España desde hace 40 años sufrimos la lacra del terrorismo. Quizá por eso desgraciadamente y digo desgraciadamente, tenemos la necesidad de tener cierta experiencia en el tema de la lucha antiterrorista y una de las armas que efectivamente más se usan, que más usaban los grupos de los años 60, 70 y 80, y si me apura incluso en los años 90 es la infiltración. Pero no es el único arma, ni mucho menos, ese arma ahora es puramente difícil, por una razón fundamental, y es que casi ni llegamos a entender muy bien cómo están organizados, si es que están organizados, estos grupos, que ése es el gran tema. El gran tema es que nosotros, en nuestra mentalidad, necesitamos organizarnos de alguna manera, y poco a poco lo vamos poniendo en nuestra forma de entender las cosas, pero no es así como funciona.

Ellos funcionan incluso en otro tiempo, se retrotraen incluso al año 623, que dicen que es el periodo en el que quieren vivir. Entonces, en la experiencia además, si vemos, hay un estudio maravilloso hecho por un escritor que se llama Mark Sason[?], que anda por aquí, en el que él hace un estudio de la personalidad de los que han sido detenidos. Si Ud. ve eso, verá que la mayoría de los operativos que han sido detenidos son licenciados universitarios, además de carreras técnicas, en un porcentaje de un 70%, cuando en sus países de origen son un 6% los que tienen estudios superiores, y esto quiere decir que no estamos lidiando con gente de baja cultura, de baja extracción, que no salía o de familias pobres. El problema que tenemos es otro.

Pero es que en España en el ataque del 11 de marzo se ha producido algo diferente, algo diferente, y es que si Ud. se da cuenta no ha habido un ataque suicida, sino que estos señores habían decidido llegar al martirio pero causando muchos, numerosos ataques. Se produjo el primero y conseguimos parar los dos siguientes. ¿Cómo han funcionado? Mire Ud., si los analizamos, verá Ud que ya no coinciden ni con el perfil que describe Mark Sason. Se ha producido otra iteración, un cambio, pequeños delincuentes que de pronto se radicalizan y, movidos por alguien, deciden llegar al martirio. Es algo que tenemos que estar viendo y estudiando continuamente, e intentar aprender y predecir, en este caso, a través de la infiltración si fuera posible, que ya le digo que es difícil. Si fuera posible, pero con otros muchos métodos.

I think we’re going to have to leave it there to be faithful to the instructions. People have other places to go, I know. I think this was very informative and I thank the members of this panel for their candour and for their expertise.


Complete audio of the conference


Richard Ben Veniste, chairman on the 'Missing the Plot? The Politics of Intelligence Post 9/11' Panel. (Photo: Club de Madrid)

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