THOM SHANKER: Good afternoon, and welcome to the third and final session of the Council on Foreign Relations symposium on "9/11: Ten Years Later." This session will be teleconferenced, so will -- there will be a number of members and guests joining us virtually and electronically.
My name is Thom Shanker. I'm Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. And in addition to thanking the counsel for hosting us, I wanted to point out there's a number of council materials on the back table exploring all of these exciting issues. They are there for free. If you want to stimulate the American economy, also out there is a book called "Counterstrike" by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker -- (laughter) -- Eric's my colleague here as well -- which explores the past 10 years of American counterterrorism strategy.
The title of our session this afternoon is: "Counterterrorism and Homeland Security: Does the United States Have the Right Strategy?"
But before we start, a couple of the usual housekeeping matters. Please turn off your cellphones and BlackBerries and all electronic devices not just to the silence mode but off because the signal interferes with the technology here. I'd also like to note for our panel and for the audience, both here and those joining us via teleconference, this session will be on the record.
The schedule will be we'll have a discussion from here, then I will welcome questions from members and guests here and electronically. And I've embedded often with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I've learned the most dangerous place a reporter can stand is between an audience and cocktails. So we will -- we will end promptly at 5 p.m.
All of the biographies of our guests are available here, but I'd like to just briefly introduce them, and also note that even if Standard & Poors downgrades the rating of the United States, the counsel's ability to achieve an absolute blue chip AAA panel is once again sustained this afternoon, as it has been throughout the day.
Our speakers are Fran Townsend, currently senior vice president, Worldwide Government, Legal and Business Affairs, with MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Incorporated. And she of course is former assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
We have Henry Crumpton, chairman and chief executive officer, Crumpton Group LLC. He is former coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State, has also held significant positions in other government agencies.
And John Lehman: currently chairman, J.F. Lehman & Company, a former U.S. secretary of the Navy. Thank you all for joining us.
Fran, I'd like to start with you, if I could. If the goal of our discussion this afternoon is assessing whether America has the strategy right, I think the best way to approach that is through a case study, and that would be this past weekend. Prior to Wednesday, there was really no specific or credible intelligence about a threat on the 10th anniversary. Suddenly on Wednesday, radars go hot, things pop up, the nation responds accordingly.
Use those examples, which I'm sure affected everybody in this room in their transportation around town here in Washington to -- use that as a (case aid ?) to assess. Do we have the strategy right and the underlying pillars of our counterterrorism work?
FRANCES TOWNSEND: Sure. I mean, let me start by what I think was right about what we saw. Ten years ago, would we have had the intelligence to have cued us? It's hard to -- it's hard to know -- you know, when I was in government, I didn't do hypotheticals -- but likely not.
And so, I mean, I think our human intelligence, our signals intelligence, our bilateral relationships with foreign services, that whole mix in the prevent category, are bigger, better, stronger and more effective.
And so the fact that, you know, 48 to 72 hours before a very significant national day, we could get that intelligence, and then that we had the capacity to turn quickly on that intelligence all speaks well, and I think we ought to be proud of that.
Second, you say, OK, once you get it, what do you do with and how do you handle it? Nine -- eight, nine years ago, we would have been going to orange and red, and we would have had duct on the windows, probably, right? We're not there anymore. I mean, I helped -- I co-chaired with Bill Webster, a former CIA and FBI director, a panel for the current secretary about how do you speak to the American people. We can argue about whether or not the words were exactly right, but they could say it was specific and credible but unconfirmed.
Now here is the problem with -- I would take issue -- I think what we learned in this last go-around was the order of the words was bad, right? In retrospect, I wouldn't say: Specific and credible, but unconfirmed.
I would say: We have unconfirmed intelligence. It is specific and credible, and we're running it down, because what happened was, when -- it was so funny, because they were very frustrated inside the administration. Once they said "specific and credible," everybody stopped listening.
And so I think we learned, right? People do. And -- but it was -- the fact that we could say that was good. People have asked me: Should they or shouldn't they gone public? Because of -- there's a couple of things going public achieves. One, you get the help of the American people, if they have something of value. Two, it's brushback pitch to the bad guys: We know you're out there, we're looking, and we're on alert. This would be a bad time to try it.
And in the end, I think that they handled it, in terms of the communications, about as well as you might expect.
Now all that said, we didn't have an event. So of course you then have to say to yourself: Well, was the intelligence not good? How costly?
I will tell you absolutely, because of reimbursements the federal government gives when they put out these alerts to state and locals, tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars were spent on countermeasures this weekend, and nothing happened. That's almost inevitable, because if -- of course if they hadn't reacted and something had happened, if they hadn't made it public, they would have been criticized.
But there is -- let me just talk now, for just a second, about what I see as the downside. We know from al-Qaida's statements when bin Laden was alive, we know it from Zawahri's statements, part of the objective of al-Qaida's core is to bleed us economically. It's not only to kill Americans, but it's to bleed us economically. And when you look at the cost of this and you realize that even intelligence that may turn out not to be valid or, in the case of a failed attack, the cargo planes, where you're literally shutting down all cargo movement for a couple of days -- what they learn is, they don't even have to be successful to have a impact. They can fail and have an impact. They can fail and have a propaganda victory when they see every boxcar -- box truck coming across the GW Bridge being stopped.
And so, look, we've gotten better. Our capability is better. Our ability to react is better. And we will continue to learn, I think, and get better at this as we move forward.
SHANKER: Hank, I'm just curious for your thoughts as you look back on the past 10 years. You've been in positions where you've overseen the implementation of hard power and soft power, intelligence and diplomacy as well.
At the strategic level, do we have that mix about right today? And where do you see places where the messiness of our government and the barriers between departments are still a detriment to our counterterrorism strategy?
HENRY CRUMPTON: I think we've made great progress on the hard-power side. We're more calibrated. We're more integrated, particularly if you look at the intelligence and the military bringing the sensors and shooters together. The best example, of course, was the bin Laden raid, and enormous progress, I think, in the last 10 years in that regard. We can -- we can find and fix and engage the enemy far better than we ever have. And I think that will continue. So on operational level, on the hard-power side, I think we're doing really well. It's not perfect, but it's certainly very good.
If you look at the nonhard power, the nonkinetic side of how we project power, particularly into these expeditionary environments where the enemy has safe havens, places like Yemen, the Maghreb, parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, I think we've done a very poor job there. And part of that is how we're organized in our national security community. The military, the CIA can project power into these areas, but we're not doing so well on the soft-power side. And you say that can trend into nation building and -- it's more about empowering the locals so they are able to engage and to provide an opportunity -- economic opportunity, some degree of hope and some degree of security.
The late speaker of the House Tip O'Neill talked about all politics being local. Well, so is counterterrorism. And I think a critical part -- the first part is the projection of force when and where needed. But you need to follow that up to secure the victory. And Afghanistan is an example. We failed to do that after the initial '01, '02 success. The president talked about the Marshall Plan, the international community said a lot of nice things, but basically nothing was done. And right now if you look at Yemen or other places, we can find and fix the enemy -- at what cost -- but the bigger question is, well, how do you secure that victory for the long term?
And John, I'd like for you join the discussion. I know it's a topic of great interest to you, which is sort of the infrastructure from barriers to bandwidth. The 9/11 commission made a lot of recommendations that simply have not been implemented. And I was just curious -- your assessment, you know, as you look at those parts of our nation that need to be strengthened and need to recover after an attack, whether the investment is in the right place, whether we have that piece right?
JOHN LEHMAN: Well, I think that a lot has been accomplished. It is more than a half-full glass. More of our recommendations in spirit and specifics have been enacted and implemented than those that have not, but there are still some glaring problems that need to be addressed. And you mentioned the waveband. The Block D issues are so obvious. And I mean, to have still today all the first responders confined to a tiny narrow band of bandwidth while there's a huge swath going unused because lobbyists in Washington want to keep it for future availability -- that's ridiculous. And there are -- there are troubling things also from -- I mean, I think most of us on the commission were not believers that you can fix things by moving organization charts around.
It -- we are safer today, and I agree with what Fran said about being much safer and much more effective. And I think that's because we've seen a surge of really first-class people into the government in -- particularly in the intelligence community, at State Department, military. And good people can make a huge difference no matter how unwieldy the bureaucracy that they go into is.
Nevertheless, I don't think we've done anything to improve the obstacle course that our bloated bureaucracy was so obviously in preventing effective action before 9/11. It's only gotten worse. It's gotten bigger. We recommended a DNI be established with a small staff with real power over budgets and personnel. Instead, the Bush administration turned this on its head and created a big bureaucracy with essentially a DNI with no power except hortatory and whatever the personality involved is.
And so the bureaucracy has grown bigger. It's harder and harder for good people to do things without breaking procedure and getting hotline calls made on them. Good people still do really good things. And -- but we have not improved the huge bloat in our bureaucracy that makes it so un-agile, except in extraordinary cases where extraordinary people do great things.
SHANKER: Well, on the specific case of the office of Director of National Intelligence, what is to be done? Should it be eliminated? Can somebody go in there and just start, you know, mowing the grass across the top and eliminating positions?
LEHMAN: Well, I think that it should either be abolished or given the power that we called for. I think we have the worst of both worlds now. We have yet another layer, another set of people that have to be on distribution lists, another group of people with at least the power to call people together in meetings, which just adds more (treacle ?) and more friction to what needs to be done.
A DNI given the power to really have the final say on budgets, where the allocation of money in the intelligence community should go, and the power to move people -- to bring people in from the outside, to promote people to see that the right kind of -- the right personalities are put into the 15 different slots to have a major say -- he doesn't have to - he or she doesn't have to have the final say, but they have to have real power, especially to veto top appointments in the intelligence community. If the president's not going to do this, then the job should be abolished, because it's yet another layer in the many-layered cake that has slowed down and interfered with the proper flow of intelligence.
SHANKER: We began this talking about infrastructure and its resilience. There's another kind of resilience that's become a popular topic to discuss lately; that's the resilience of the national psyche.
Before 9/11, the White House prepared some talking points for the anniversary that for the first time at the presidential level talked about how this nation needs to be resilient. A lot of senior leaders have been very reluctant to use that phrase, because if you unpack what resiliency means, it's a statement that we're going to get hit again. And in a polarized political environment, especially a Democrat couldn't say that, and even Republicans who predict that weakness would get in trouble.
So talk about -- any of you three -- what should our senior leaders be communicating to the American people. There's so much talk about strategic communications to the Muslim community in outreach and to adversaries and allies, but not as much about how our senior leaders 10 years after the attacks should be talking to the American people about what they need to do.
Fran, what do you think?
TOWNSEND: Well, look, I actually -- I do buy into the notion of resilience. But here's the problem. There's a difference -- it depends on who's saying it and who the audience is. Even -- the American people's a big audience, right? And so I think it's a difficult thing for the president of the United States to appear -- even if it's not his intention -- to appear as though he is resigned to the idea that we're going to get attacked again. Let's put aside the facts -- right? -- because we live in a kind of "gotcha" environment.
On the other hand, he's got an assistant to the president for counterterrorism, he's got a national security staff. I mean, I think -- you know, let's take -- you took this weekend as an example. Let's just talk about that for a second, because if you lay alongside the tragedy of 9/11 the notion, even if it had been successful, of three morons in a car with fertilizer, it says to me we've been incredibly successful over the course of 10 years. Could they have killed people? Yes. Could they have brought down the memorial or the -- no.
And so, look, not only are we stronger; they're weaker. But even a weak moron may have a good day. And so we need to have that conversation. Frankly, I think when you talk about what should the conversation with the American people be, it ought to include -- and I was an advocate during the Bush administration, I continue to be an advocate -- we need to have a public conversation about the balance between security and privacy and civil liberties, because if we don't have that conversation, what happens is those that we elect and those that they then appoint make that judgment to the best of their ability -- you know, I'm assuming good faith on everyone's part -- and you may not like the way they make those trades.
And so if you want to influence them, members of Congress, members of the administration need to engage the American people in that conversation, as opposed to what we do -- I won't say "we" -- what happens in Washington, which is the political "gotcha" game, which is not terribly helpful to advancing the substance, which is the president has not appointed the PCLOB, the president's Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. OK, he hasn't. Yes, he should. But even having that board is not the end-all-be-all to the answer. What you need is, if you care about the issue, is to engage the public in that conversation.
Hank, what is your sense of that? If terrorism is one of the primary threats to American national security, isn't it the job of the commander in chief to be forthright with the American people and say we're going to get hit again, deal with it?
CRUMPTON: Yes, and I think, sadly, we will. And it is about communication. It's about education. It's about leadership. And there have been some poor examples of that. And probably the most egregious is when the White House under the previous administration convinced the American public that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. This is about the American people, and they not only need to know, they are often the answer.
Yesterday 10 years ago, the only effective counterattack against those al-Qaida operatives was a group of American citizens, the passengers on United 93. It was the only effective counterattack that day 10 years ago. They collected intelligence on their cell phones from friends and family on the ground. They analyzed it. They knew what was going on. They knew what was going to happen. They organized and they responded.
And if you, again, look at John's point about how do you have a more resilient society, it's not about having a Washington-centric response, which has been primarily how we've reacted to 9/11, not only the DNI but the National Counterterrorism Center, you know, other examples, Department of Homeland Security -- is very Washington-centric, yet if you have more of a field bias, more of a network approach, it's not only more effective, but your society is more resilient. But that's also about communication, education and leadership.
SHANKER: As you look to the coming budget fight, where do you think the priorities, John, should be in counterterrorism spending? As you reflect back on the past 10 years, how much should the taxpayers have trusted, you know, Congress and the executive branch to spend their money, and was there a lot of painful waste?
LEHMAN: Well, sure, there was huge painful waste. Where the priorities should be is first, just as in the Defense Department, you have allowed the bureaucracy to grow to such a huge size and expense that that's the first place to look for cuts. You could save 40 billion (dollars) a year in the defense budget just by going back in size for the support bureaucracy to the pre-Iraq levels, and similarly in the intelligence community. We're now spending twice as much on the intelligence community as we were in -- when the 9/11 commission reported.
SHANKER: Aren't they twice as good? (Chuckles.)
LEHMAN: No. (Laughter.) The -- you'll note of the 41 recommendations, not one even hinted at spending more money. We didn't see that the intelligence community was short of money. It was just going all to the wrong places, driven mainly by Congress, you know. And we decried and railed against the fact that Homeland Security had to report to 88 different committees. Now it's up to 106. I mean, you know, in ancient days -- in days of iron men and wooden ships when I was SECNAV -- I reported to four committees, two in each house. And you could make coherent policy and compromise and deals, and the deals would stick.
Now it's just chaos in Homeland Security. I mean, there's -- every subcommittee chairman needs to get his constituency, whatever industry or special interest it is, a piece of the pie. And poor Homeland Security and its 22 agencies are just driven crazy trying to do anything in a coherent sense.
So the first thing would be, in my judgment, we have to cut budgets. We've allowed bloat, which soaks up so much. You know, we -- in the Pentagon we have to budget $484,000 for every MILPERS -- that is every active duty person per year -- to fund the huge expense of entitlements and so forth for that. It's a little less but not a whole lot less for civilian employees. And we've grown from 50 by law in 1947 to 750,000, while the fleet is now a quarter the size it was in 1947; the Army is about a quarter the size; the Air Force is half the size it was at the height of the Reagan years and is costing twice as much. So, you know, the intelligence community is all part of that phenomenon.
SHANKER: Fran, if you were a supercommitee of one, what would you do?
TOWNSEND: Let me -- I'd like to address -- I -- there is plenty of bloat that needs to come out. I agree with that. But I'd like to talk for a second at a little bit of peril, because my colleague and John McLaughlin is sitting in the front -- (inaudible) -- knows this even -- the numbers better than I.
I will tell you, in a post-9/11 world, I mean, so I'm going to make the case for the place I would not take it from is human intelligence. In a post-9/11 world, what we understood was how important it was to get inside our enemies' intentions, right? Because if you can understand their intentions, you can begin to then focus the rest of your capability to defeat them before they're like in the car driving it to the target.
And so -- and to -- that capability had atrophied seriously after the end of the Cold War and the peace -- the elusive peace dividend. After 9/11, you want to torque that back up. And we say, in the Bush administration, we're going to double the size of our human intelligence collection capability, to which they say: K, well, you give us the money and come to us back in, like, five years if you're lucky. And by the way, we can't -- we can't do all you want to do that quickly.
I mean, this is -- when you're making cuts, you have to understand the consequences of the cuts. It's not some -- this is not a light switch. When you turn off certain capabilities, you can't turn them back on when you need them. And so having lived through the absolute agony of seeing a capability that we had given away, given up and then have to rebuild it to get to the place where we are, if you think human intelligence collection is expensive, look at the cost of a 9/11. I'm just going to tell you, I am a ferocious advocate. That's a -- that's a piece -- you can cut technical programs. You can cut fat out of a bureaucracy. The place not to cut is from -- (inaudible).
LEHMAN: I totally agree. And the -- when we made our recommendations, human made up 2 percent of the $40 billion intelligence, and so that's being used all around Congress as why we had to double the entire 40 billion (dollars) to 80 billion (dollars), which is what it is today, so we could increase the 2 percent. Certainly human -- we should not be cutting human; in fact, we should not be making across-the-board cuts. What's got to be done is to go in and say, there should no longer be this function and that function and that bureau and that office. And you've got to do it intelligently rather than with a meat axe.
But human -- you know, the way the bureaucracy in Washington does human, compared to, say, the NYPD, is a perfect case study. The NYPD is, I think, the most efficient human organization that I've had any exposure to in the world. I think they make Mossad look like amateurs. (Laughter.) And that's because they don't -- you know, to try to clear somebody to recruit a human in CIA today, with all the regulations and congressional oversight, the only place they can go is to get corn-fed Aryans in Kansas that have never been out of the country, because trying to clear a kid who is -- who may have been born in Persia and traveled back and forth three or four times, it just takes too long, and so recruiters say, well, we'll keep your name on file. So there's a lot that needs to be done. But throwing money at it is not the way to do it.
Hank, one of the criticisms when the U.S. government shifted its attention from Afghanistan to prepare for war with Iraq was that a lot of important intelligence assets and special operations forces pivoted along with that. In this tight budget environment, are there opportunities, as forces pull out of Iraq by the end of this year and draw down in Afghanistan, to put capabilities against other problems, other safe havens you discussed earlier, and if you were to tick off the one, two or three priorities that you would use -- any, you know, freshly rediscovered intelligence assets -- where would you put them?
CRUMPTON: First let me address the earlier question, because it extends into that part of it. The value of HUMINT is not only about finding the enemy and stopping the threat. It's about mapping the human terrain so policymakers know which instruments of statecraft to select and employ, whether it's kinetic or non-kinetic, or some mixture.
And it's also about finding your best allies or potential allies. So when we think of HUMINT or intelligence more broadly, it's not just about the enemy, the threat; it's about all the variables out there that policymakers or war fighters or diplomats or law enforcement officers have to think about. That's part of the challenge.
To answer your question, if you look at the array of threats -- and we've focused on al-Qaida for obvious reasons, and their affiliates -- but there are many others related to this human terrain. Cybersecurity -- and it's not just technical. In fact, if you look at some of the most effective human operations, it's linked into cyberoperations. There's a very close direct blend. That would be near the top of the list, you know, given cyberspace and how it's growing and how it's reaching into these otherwise remote expeditionary environments, places like Somalia, places like Yemen.
The other piece I would focus on is building alliances among these nonstate actors in these areas of safe haven. Afghanistan in '01 -- which alliance was more effective, NATO or those local Afghani militia the CIA had on its payroll? I think that's going to hold true for the future, because, as I noted earlier, counterterrorism is local. So counterterrorism, building local alliances in terms of human assets, to understand how to build those alliances.
And a third area I would stress, of course, is going to be related to the WMD, which the panel earlier spoke about, a biochemical or nuclear/radiological threat, and particularly bio -- I don't know how you're going to find it without a human source. If you've got two smart guys in a kitchen with the right amount of material, you've got a problem.
SHANKER: Before I invite the members and guests to offer questions, I have one last for each of you. After bin Laden was killed, the scenes on Times Square were reminiscent of the end of World War II: Sailors were kissing nurses. People chanting at the White House. There was a sense that -- call it the war on terror -- was over, but we'd all agree that there won't be a wall coming down, there won't be an armistice signed aboard a battleship.
So for each of you, starting with John, tell me how this is going to end.
LEHMAN: Well, I know -- I don't -- it's -- I think it's going to be hard for historians to find a date where it ends. Again, back to the point of resilience we talked about earlier: I think the American people -- not so much in the leaderships and elites, but the American people have, I think, settled to a very good place in their attitude towards it. They put up with whatever they have to put up with at airports. They put up with roadblocks here in my neighborhood in Tribeca. They put up with a lot. They don't feel panicked. They know it's going to be a long pull. It's already been 10 years.
And so I don't think we're going to see an end to it. I think that it's -- it is going to gradually peter out. There will be new groups that come up, because Islamist extremism is a continuing phenomenon.
But I think that this is -- that we've achieved quite a bit over the last 10 years. And yes, the federal government's been part of it in -- particularly in what they've done militarily, but the American people themselves -- and the locals -- I mean, I keep returning to what's been done here in New York City. I mean, this -- New York City is a poster child for what local action can achieve when given, you know, clear direction and communication from the federal government.
So I'm fairly optimistic.
SHANKER: Fran, tell me how this ends.
TOWNSEND: Yeah, I tend to agree. I mean, this is -- it's an evolutionary process. And so I don't think it ends so much as what you hope you can do -- look, terrorism was around before 9/11. We had Hezbollah, the bombing on the Beirut barracks. You had -- and then you had al-Qaida in the '90s. So I don't think that there's a date that we're going to have on our calendar and know it ended.
What you hope it looks like is we have defeated, discouraged those targeting Americans to kill us, in the first instance here at home, in the second instance around the world, because they fear our reaction to it. And if you can get to that place, the fact that there will continue to be Islamic extremists who espouse hate, who hate us and disagree with our freedoms and our ideas is irritating, but it's not threatening. And so that's -- my vision is, you get to a point where they stop trying to kill us because we -- you've discouraged and defeated them.
CRUMPTON: I think al-Qaida will be defeated at some point. I think their affiliates also will be defeated or diminished into irrelevance. But what is not going to happen is having a V-E Day. We won't necessarily know when it happens.
More broadly and more deeply, I think al-Qaida represents a fundamental shift in the nature of warfare. Terrorism has been around since the beginning of human conflict, and that's not going to go away. But what makes it different, I think, is the environment. The asymmetry of power has fundamentally shifted now where the targets, from a terrorist perspective -- they're more dense. I mean, for the first time in human history, more people live in urban areas than not. The migration is to these cities. These densities are becoming more complex; therefore less resilient, not more. They're juicy targets for a terrorist. But moreover, the weapons are becoming more powerful. We talked about WMD and others. So on both sides, the asymmetry is growing. That trend is not only growing, it's accelerating.
The second part is the role of nonstate actors. It wasn't very long ago, when we thought about threats and the enemy, we thought of -- in terms of nation-states. Now, more often than not, we're thinking of nonstate actors as threats -- and not necessarily just al-Qaida, but what's going on in cyberspace, what's going on south of our border with these proto-narco insurgents, many examples of nonstate actors that are populating this landscape.
And the third issue, too, is that it really is a global battlefield, and not just at a strategic level, but at an operational, even a tactical level. And we've never seen that in the history of human conflict, where a small cell can plot and plan on one side of the world and then execute on the other in days, hours, or if we're talking cyberspace, seconds.
And I see these variables emerging, converging, and it's changing the way we think about war -- more like managing disease. You'll eradicate one disease, but it may mutate, and you'll have other threats; which is even more reason to have outreach and education of the American public, and not just the American public, but the global community, because it is a global battlefield now.
SHANKER: Lots to think about. Thank you.
It's a pleasure now to invite members and guests to join the discussion. Please wait for the microphone, stand and state your name and affiliation, and please limit yourself to a concise question so we can get as many as possible.
Yes, sir, on the aisle here.
QUESTIONER: Thank you for this lovely panel. I agree with everything you've said. However, I wanted --
SHANKER: That was on the record, right? (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: (Chuckles.) We are on the record.
My question is more a geopolitical one, so I want you to put on State Department, White House, Defense caps. There were talks about reducing our troop presence in Afghanistan to 3,000. They're talking about leaving Iraq. I wonder how you all see this in terms of either allowing -- and keep in mind we've got Pakistan, too, but -- that's not where the troops are, but it's important that that be part of the equation. How do you feel about this reduction, and how do you think that might just affect our security?
SHANKER: Who wants first crack at that? John?
LEHMAN: Well -- (chuckles) -- I think the sooner we are able to get down to a very low-visibility advisory presence, the better.
We talked -- the first question was about: Do we have the right strategy? I think we do, as long as it doesn't include in the future nation building and counterinsurgency as a fundamental building block. I don't -- (chuckles) -- I don't think that is the right strategy. I think that the pace of withdrawal needs to be really set by the on-scene commanders.
We can't be pulling rugs. But to be -- trying to continue to pretend that we can create a democracy in Afghanistan I think is delusional, and that we should have another set of parameters for how we continue to deal with preventing Afghanistan from becoming a base of attack against the United States. And Iraq similarly. I think that, again, we should be guided by the on-scene commanders as how quickly we do it, but we should not maintain a force there that can -- that will appear to be an occupation force. And the sooner we get to that point the better.
TOWNSEND: Look, I tend to agree. I mean, it has to be conditions-based. I don't agree with setting -- it goes back to the Washington-centric comment. I don't think anybody in Washington is in any position, whoever they are, from the president to his staff, to be picking numbers out of thin air. I mean, I do think it's got to be conditions based.
And while I understand the concern about nation building and COIN strategies, what I would say to you, the most important piece to what you do when you have troops there is capability building, right? In the end what you want is a strong, capable military and law enforcement capability in these countries so that they can protect their own people and patrol their own borders. And then they're accountable for being able to do that and preventing it from becoming a safe haven. And so I think the key here is capability building as opposed to nation building.
SHANKER: Yes, in the third row here.
QUESTIONER: I'm Dan Sharp with the Eisenhower Foundation and also Resilience LLC, which leads me to ask you a question about resilience. I was struck by your saying that the government has been hesitant to talk about resilience because it implies that we're anticipating a terrorist attack. But resilience also is how we respond to Katrina, to tsunamis, to all kinds of violent weather. And if you don't think the most serious threat to the United States is not (sic) in the public-health area, go see "Contagion," which the CFR helped very much to produce. It's a terrific movie about the worst thing that could possibly happen. What about the economic collapse?
So if you're talking about national resilience, isn't the way to talk about anti-terrorism within national resilience -- is to say there are a lot of black swans out there that are going to hit us, sudden shocks; overall national resilience requires being prepared for a wide range of them, including terrorism. And therefore, you don't have to say that -- you don't have to avoid the subject, which is critical, simply because you don't want to acknowledge the likelihood of a terrorist attack.
LEHMAN: I would certainly agree with that. I think that resilience has been demonstrated. I mean, you know, my building was evacuated -- there wasn't a murmur -- because of the hurricane. American people adapt. They woke up in 9/11, and I think they're much more mature than the government itself in how they're going to deal with crises. Everybody I know has done their own planning of where they're going to meet their kids, and they're not depending on Uncle Sam to tell us where to meet the kids and how to communicate. So I think that, again, it's -- we've really grown a lot in maturity over this last 10 years.
SHANKER: Is part of that the language to describe terrorism? Understandable in the hours after 9/11, the horror and the shock, but from the White House on down, al-Qaida was described as an existential threat to America, on a par with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. That's no longer the perspective today. Did that set our nation on a series of wrong strategies, until there was the self-correcting resilience that you're talking about?
LEHMAN: As we say in New York, you talking to me? (Laughter.)
SHANKER: I'm talking to all three of you, actually.
LEHMAN: Yes, I think -- I think it was not clear to anybody just how widespread the threat was, how many cells there were and what their capabilities were. And there were a lot of fears that they were getting access to nuclear weapons. There were credible reports of loose Soviet nuclear weapons that had gotten adrift into possibly terrorist hands.
There were -- it was reasonable right after 9/11 to use the term "existential THREAT." I don't think we need to use that anymore. But I think it is important -- now the success we've had is to reduce the probability of a major attack way low, but the consequences of what we know they're planning on, of a weapon of mass destruction going off, particularly in New York, is enormous. So it's, you know, low probability; high consequence of failure. And I think the American people realize that.
SHANKER: Hank, did you have something you want to say on the recalibration?
CRUMPTON: One point early on the resilience here in the homeland: The foundation for resilience is good intelligence. And I think we still have a long way to go in the homeland in terms of our intelligence here. Our conversation has been primarily about foreign intelligence. We've got thousands of different jurisdictions here. Some are very good, like New York; others are basically nonexistent. And how we link these local communities into the state, into the national, we're just beginning to do that, and I think we have a long way to go. And without that, you're not going to have a resilient society. So that's another discussion point.
In terms of the policy, it's pretty remarkable, if you look at policy prior to 9/11, when both Democratic and Republican administrations frankly did very little about the al-Qaida threat, despite the attacks on our embassies in East Africa in '98, despite the attack on the USS Cole, despite the averted millennium threat -- I mean, example after example -- strategic warning from the CIA repeatedly; and then, you see the response after 9/11. Thom, your newspaper projected total costs of more than $3 trillion. Al-Qaida spent maybe half a million on the 9/11; there were 19 guys with box cutters. I think that we did overreact, particularly related to Iraq. That was a mistake.
And, now, how do we calibrate this? How do we have the right kind of leadership and the right kind of discipline and intellectual rigor to look at threats and to make the right decisions, not based on fear but, you know, based on the threat?
LEHMAN: And could I just take one addenda to that? On the issue of domestic intelligence, I couldn't agree more. I think our domestic intelligence is very, very inadequate. And in the 9/11 commission, I think all of us were, as the weight of evidence grew, convinced that we should split the FBI, that a cop shop should not be a domestic intelligence agency. And we decided not to recommend that, because it was just too much going on. You couldn't -- that kind of major surgery right after 9/11, with all the new changes that had to be done, was just not very wise.
But I think absolutely we should relook at that and reopen that issue, because most of our effective intelligence allies have that split function. They don't let the intelligence, domestic intelligence, have prosecutorial powers, and they don't trust cops to be good intelligence tradesmen.
A perfect example was in our televised hearings -- which I'm sure you all watched -- which was when we asked the acting director -- we referred to the evidence that had been gathered during the investigation from the intelligence communities of the five operatives in Saudi embassies who were clearly enablers for the -- for the 19, and who were -- helped them, you know, find apartments, drove them from one place to another, got them into flight schools. And there were five named individuals that were clearly very friendly to these 19 people. And so we said: What has happened with them?
And the acting director said: We did investigate them, but we found insufficient evidence to get an indictment, so we terminated those investigations. Now, can you imagine an intelligence professional saying a thing like that? I mean, here were some of the most valuable targets in the United States after 9/11, and FBI dropped -- didn't -- so we followed up, said: Well, where are they now? Well, we don't know. We -- didn't I hear -- didn't you hear me? I said we terminated the investigation. That is the prosecutorial, law enforcement mentality which makes FBI such a fine law enforcement agency, and makes them unable effectively to do real intelligence tradecraft, in my judgment.
SHANKER: Interesting point.
There in the back, please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Rory Lancman. I'm a member of the New York State Legislature, and I try to participate in CFR's state and local government initiative.
A question was asked earlier from a geopolitical perspective. I want to take it down to the granular level and follow up on what Mr. Crumpton said, which is, I'd be interested in hearing what local government policymakers should be doing to make their local homeland security apparatuses more efficient, more effective, and any comments you have on -- I know you spoke glowingly of New York, but anything that we should be doing that we're not, and is what we are doing that is good replicable in other locations across the country?
CRUMPTON: Great question. It goes to local civic leadership and having outreach to different communities, different ethnic communities, different religious communities, and understanding what their needs and aspirations are, what their fears are, what their concerns are.
We talk about intelligence and we often think of some Orwellian surveillance, but the best intelligence is the local beat cop, with civic and religious leaders, understanding your communities. And to the extent that you can facilitate, encourage that type of communication and education, that's probably the best intelligence you can generate. And maintaining that takes hard work; it just doesn't happen. I would -- I would stress that.
And having discussions about what's going on in other parts of the world and how it impacts your community, because that's our great strength, because we are made up of all parts of the world, but we need to make sure that that cohesiveness that the panel earlier talked about -- that cohesiveness in our society remains strong and grows stronger.
TOWNSEND: The one thing I would add to that -- oftentimes when I was in the White House, I'd meet with local sheriffs and local police chiefs, who complained they didn't have -- I would agree with John; New York City is the gold-plated standard, but there are very few New York City police departments, and state and local little sheriffs don't have those sort of resources.
But what they can do, in addition to what Hank said, is leverage the big guys that are around them. The NYPD has a very active program where they try to help -- exchange information, training, all sorts of things with local police departments. And once you have those relationships, you're able to share information collected by the bigger guys, understand what patterns or threats that they're seeing, so you can target your limited resources. So sometimes it's about leveraging a larger capability by you and not necessarily the federal government but the local PDs around you.
SHANKER: Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Michael Skol, Skol & Serna. Having served 30 years in a federal bureaucracy, I agree completely with John Lehman about the DNI and about the FBI. My question is, can the same be said for the Department of Homeland Security, in your opinion?
LEHMAN: Well, I'm less familiar with the -- with Homeland Security. I think it's a different -- a different kind of a problem. I think that trying to put together 22 independent agencies with their own histories and culture so forth is a daunting task to begin with. We've had some very capable leaders that have done that. And certainly bureaucracy -- they've all, when I've talked to them, complained the too many people problem and not enough people of -- for what they need doing. But I wouldn't characterize that as the -- as the -- I can say without the slightest question the biggest problem of our national defense with the Defense Department is bureaucratic bloat. The staff's gotten impossible to have any effective operational capability in the -- in the -- in the department.
But that -- I would not say that about Homeland Security. I think Homeland Security -- biggest threat right now is the chaos in Congress and the pulling and tugging from 106 different directions for what the money gets spent on and what the oversight is. And that would be the top priority, in my judgment.
SHANKER: Thank you.
Yes, ma'am. All the way in the back row. Please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Laurie Garrett from the council again. Sorry.
Secretary Lehman, you mentioned that the 9/11 commission had considered the necessity of splitting up the FBI into two agencies. And in light of that, I wanted to ask you -- we never really had anything like the 9/11 commission to investigate the anthrax mailings.
We've actually never had any public assessment of any kind except the National Academy of Sciences' very narrow report, which ended up saying that they were not convinced that Bruce Ivins was, in fact, the culprit, and they felt that the FBI had prematurely closed down the possibility that al-Qaida was responsible for it. And there's a lot of circumstantial evidence supporting the idea that it was executed by the same people that hijacked the jets on 9/11.
So I wonder if there's some way -- would you advocate or think it was important to have some way of re-examining the possibility of the connection between the two events, and secondly, how government responded to anthrax?
LEHMAN: Well, I think that certainly that issue, since it is potentially an augury of possible future weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that it really is unsolved, regardless of what the FBI says, should -- it should be continued to be monitored. I wouldn't recommend setting up a commission to do that, but certainly the relevant agencies have to continue to keep that as an open case file. And it is very, obviously, worrying, those kinds of biologics and chemical weapons of mass destruction.
SHANKER: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Dick Garwin, IBM fellow emeritus.
My question is how we implement "if you see something, say something." If I'm driving in my car in the countryside and I see a wreck, I pick -- I call 911 on the cell phone, tell them what I know; just go on. I can't help very much.
If I see a package in the airport, maybe I can find somebody. But if I could twitter, whom do I twitter? And on the CIA's national resource division, whom do I communicate with on an anonymous website? My neighbor is acting strange. I don't know whether he's a foreign agent or he's a domestic terrorist. And you don't know whether I just have a peeve against my neighbor. But whom do I write?
When we proposed such things years ago, you know, people gave it up. They said it's too hard to winnow all this; there'll be too much possibility of deception and what not. But now that we've moved from months to weeks to days to seconds on signals intelligence and you can see the impact, what can we do to implement "if you see something, say something"?
LEHMAN: Well, I -- we had a local case. I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and there were some cell members who were reported by their neighbor to the local township police. And the police immediately talked to the liaison in the county office, the FBI liaison, and it led to an effective operation.
So, you know, I think education, as we've all been saying; constant communication about the nature of the threat without being alarmist. And I have to say, I don't find any fault with the way the Obama administration has been talking about threats. It's not been alarmist and it's not been fairy godmother. It's been fairly realistic. And the more you can communicate that there are real threats, there are people trying to get into Grand Central Station with a satchel charge, and that there's no other, you know, clever technological answer, I don't believe.
CRUMPTON: Let me underscore what John has said. You need a local response. It goes to my field boss; goes to your question about, you know, what can local authorities do. If you're in New York or if you're in Laramie, Wyoming, you want to go to the local cop if you have a problem, because he can do something about it, or the local fireman or the local emergency responder. It's not going to be the FBI. It's not going to be the CIA. So there needs to be a local response, because they can get there, whether it's 9/11 or something on the border.
Your question about national resources -- the CIA's national resources division writ is foreign intelligence in the U.S. So if you know something about the Iranian nuclear weapons program, call the CIA. But that's their focus, not on the domestic security side.
SHANKER: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Even I am a citizen. I love the thought about building capacity, especially on the domestic side. This is a notion that came out of the heart and spontaneous reactions to the 9/11 event. I personally took part of it with my bishop in the Bay Ridge-Bensonhurst area, along with the 68th precinct, back in September `01.
I'm disappointed that it never became a policy or a procedure or a way of life. But now that the conversation is about building capacity rather than building nations, how do we go about it? What are the forethoughts about these? What is the mechanism that needs to be in place to build these communities and to build a tolerance and to build so many other sophisticated issues, including those that were raised just now about who do I tell if I need to tell?
TOWNSEND: Yeah. You know, you remind me, as you were speaking, one of the things we had hoped would take hold were called CERT teams, citizen emergency response teams, the sort of thing out of your local -- not federally run, but out of local communities.
And the reason that we had -- we put emphasis on that was because if there's an emergency in your community, if the package is there or the disease is there, it's because it's some other not terrorism-related, you will most trust not the secretary of homeland security, if she comes out and tells you what to do, but your local fill in the blank; your local religious leader, your local community leader, your citizen board leader.
And so resilient communities really need community leadership to empower citizens so that, if there's an emergency on your block, it's your neighbor who knocks on your door. And you all understand that if that neighbor's not there, it's the guy next door who's going to go around and knock.
And I don't know the answer to the question about why that didn't take hold. There are some places where it's a very strong -- I remember meeting with some community leaders up in Harlem, and it may be that because New York was so directly affected, there are more pockets of that here. But it didn't take hold as a national effort.
And frankly, you know, when I think of resilience, to Hank's point, communities and local efforts are what will make this nation resilient. And so more people are talking about "if you see something, say something." And I wish that that would translate into more communities talking about citizen emergency response teams participating and supporting local law enforcement and first responders.
QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)
SHANKER: Yes, please.
QUESTIONER: The notion is not -- I'm sorry. The notion is not simply resiliency only. The building capacity, it's like -- you just reminded me of the school system, our education policy, the education policy being focused on building capacity for the teachers and the principals.
Hank started down -- his thought line started down, yes, empowering, and it was systematic from the state down to the local. You started down from with the -- you started up, actually, with the civic leaders and the community building up the commands. And it's not only about seeing a package. It could be a tornado. It could be --
QUESTIONER: -- a natural thing that I'm going through. This is the support system that is missing in here in this link. That's what I think. How do we go about building it? How do we make it a policy? That's a socioeconomic opportunity, I think.
TOWNSEND: I don't disagree with you. The question then becomes one of resources. Inevitably all these things boil down to is somebody willing to invest resources in building that, whether that's your local police department, your state and local legislature. But somebody's got to be willing to invest in that.
And it's interesting; there's been real talk, in this time of budget constraints, about the federal grant program that would -- you could apply to get funding for it. I think those are likely to go away in the current budget environment. But that's the sort of thing that could have been applied for for a grant. But somebody's got to invest resources to get it started in communities, I think.
QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)
LEHMAN: Yeah. I mean, I don't think that -- I would not accept the fact that this doesn't exist around the United States. I mean, if you look at the reaction in neighborhoods around New York City right after 9/11, if that wasn't community, I don't know what was.
Look at particularly in Queens and Brooklyn and the neighborhoods that lost high numbers of firemen and cops and traders. You look at the way those communities have come together. And certainly, you know, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania there is a sense of community. And when -- now that we get flooded every year, it's very much visible.
So I think it varies around the country, but I wouldn't accept the fact that this is a major national problem that has to be dealt with. I think those communities do exist, are real, and even right here in River City.
SHANKER: Thank you.
Before we move to our last question, a couple of final housekeeping things. One, our sincerest thanks to all of you members and guests for joining us; to our panel members for such an enlightening discussion; to the council, who will be hosting a reception after this.
And also, just on a much more personal note, earlier I gave a somewhat -- a bumper-sticker view of Admiral Mullen's comments on the economy. He routinely speaks about the importance of economic strength to our national security, but my summary should in no way be viewed as a reflection or be cited as anything that Admiral Mullen might have said in a private discussion.
And with that, the last question, please.
QUESTIONER: I'd like to return to the question of bandwidth for emergency and first responders. This is a very specific recommendation that has emerged time and time again. And to my knowledge, it has not been improved. Police and fire can't communicate with each other across the country. People can't communicate across county and state lines.
And it seems like it would be a relatively simple question to address on a national level that would be in everyone's self-interest. What is the obstacle beyond lobbyists, who should be obliged to recognize the national interest?
SHANKER: Fran, do you want to talk to this?
TOWNSEND: Let me say, this is -- I spent all of last week in a series of anniversary events. I must have talked about this a dozen times, including raising it with John Brennan, my successor at the White House.
There is a bill before Congress that the president supports and has publicly said he supports. There is no good reason for this bill not to pass. You know, my question to John Brennan was, but will the president put his personal capital behind getting it passed? That's a more difficult question when he's got a budget and all sorts of other things he's got to put his personal capital behind. It is -- I regard it as absolutely shameful.
There is -- in addition to lobbyists, I would say to you, in all candor, that there's also an element of politics being played with this. The question that has been debated is whether or not the available bandwidth goes directly to the first responders or goes to the telecom companies to manage on the first responders' behalf. That is an ideological question. But it won't matter if they can't communicate and they're dying, right?
So the bill before Congress, if I remember this right, gives it directly to the first responders to manage. The president supports it. It ought to pass. And everybody in here ought to become an apostle when they have the opportunity to advocate for it.
LEHMAN: No, no. I was going to say the same thing, except I kind of like the other version. (Laughs.)
The problem with the bill that's before Congress now -- there are several bills. I mean, John McCain's introduced a bill every year for the last six years. But if it goes to the control of the federal government, then it's going to take a lot of investment of federal funds, which are not exactly flowing these days, to build the infrastructure for the locals, whereas the advocates of the other point of view are that this should be allocated with very strict requirements that the first responders in every area have the first call whenever and however they want to use that extra bandwidth. So it's one or the other, but one of the systems has to be implemented. It's just crazy.
I mean, here in New York they have the money, and very few people have the kind of money available revenue that New York has. But they have spent -- invested close to a billion dollars now on a much more sophisticated radio system that can -- where the firemen can talk to the cops.
But they're still restricted within that narrow bandwidth, so they've got a much more expensive and sophisticated technology to do frequency hopping and other more sophisticated techniques, because it wasn't so much the bandwidth as the fact that the bandwidth was so saturated that there were 300 people talking on every single channel that was available to them on 9/11. That's why the firemen died.
SHANKER: Hank, a final thought before we adjourn this evening?
CRUMPTON: No. Just thank you for the opportunity. I enjoyed seeing my friends again, and wish you all the best.
SHANKER: Thanks to the council and to all of you for joining us today. (Applause.)
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