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Intelligence Lessons Learned From the Recent Osama Bin Laden Operation

Speaker: Mike Rogers, Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives
Presider: Ellen Laipson, President and CEO, The Stimson Center
May 11, 2011, Washington D.C.
Council on Foreign Relations



ELLEN LAIPSON: Good morning, everyone.

My name is Ellen Laipson, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this conversation with Congressman Mike Rogers.

The congressman is in his sixth term in Congress, representing the 8th District of Michigan, and he currently chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We have a former member of that committee in the front row, Jane Harman, so we can have a good intra-Congress conversation here, among other things.

But Congressman Rogers brings a wealth of experience to his chairmanship: He is a former special agent of the FBI; he served in the Army; he served in the Michigan legislature and he has also been in the private sector. So I think all of those issues may turn out to be relevant to our conversation today.

First, let me do the necessary, which is: Turn your gadgets off, and that means all the way off; not on beep or vibrate. And our meeting today is on the record. We have a number of members of the press. It's being recorded. And so I want everyone to be aware that the entire session is on the record.

The format will be as follows: The congressman will offer his remarks for about 15 minutes. Then he and I will engage in a Q&A together. And at about 8:30, we'll open the floor to all of you for your questions. When that's -- when that time comes, we'll ask you to wait for the mike, and please introduce yourselves and your affiliation.

Congressman Rogers will be talking to us today about this -- the implications, the lessons, the significance of the successful attack on Osama bin Laden for the intelligence business, and so we look forward to those remarks.

And we welcome you, Mr. Chairman.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS (R-MI): Well, good morning. It's great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity and the offer, Ellen. Thanks. And thanks for your work in the intelligence business, as well. I know you did some liaison work at the United Nations, and you now work on the PIAB. I want to call it the PFIAB, but that's no longer -- in this business, they change acronyms more than they change their underwear, I've decided. (Laughter.) So I appreciate the work that you do, and thank you very, very much for that.

Jane Harman, my former colleague, who is now at a think tank -- and so apparently, that makes you smarter than you were before, which I didn't think was possible. But thank you for being here.

JANE HARMAN (?): (You're very welcome ?).

ROGERS: Yeah, thanks. And it's always good when you walk up to give a speech, when Jane Harman, who is a good speaker and very knowledgeable on the subject, says, "Don't screw this up." (Laughter.) Thanks. Thanks, Jane, appreciate that.

My good friend, Bud Macfarlane, I'm honored to see you here this morning, sir -- the national security adviser for Ronald Reagan. Did some fantastic work for your country. Thank you, sir, for being there.

I see Paul Bremer in the audience, the former ambassador. And I don't know if you know that, Ambassador, my wife worked with you in Iraq for quite a while. And thanks for sending her back and all in once piece. We appreciate that very much. (Chuckles.)

I just thought I'd start today and talk a little bit about where we are. But before I talk about where we are, I want to talk a little bit about where we came from. You know, 10 years ago, on the date of 9/11, the intelligence community was very different than it is today, very different. It had suffered huge losses in the '90s. We had cut back. Some places of the world, we had no station, no coverage whatsoever. We closed down shop in a lot of places.

They used the intelligence community as the opportunity for the peace dividend after the fall of the Soviet Union. We see leading up to 9/11 what a serious mistake that was. And we saw that the problems that were inherent in a shrinking organization and its ability to want to survive and do good and continue to do its mission -- they became hunkered down. They hunkered down into a -- into a place where information sharing was a huge problem for them.

Some of the hurdles that were there were legal problems. I often heard, as an FBI agent, about the cultural problem between the FBI and the CIA about sharing information. And it wasn't personality based; it was legally based. The ability to share 6(e) information from grand juries was a crime. And as I have said often as an FBI agent, I don't look good in those orange jumpsuits with the numbers across the front. (Laughter.)

And so what that meant was the culture that was developed was developed because the lanes in the road and the rules in the road prevented those things from happening. And then over time, it became known, from the FBI to the CIA, you just don't really talk to each other, because it's a legal prohibition to do that. So that culture was ingrained in law and policies in the institutions.

So you had a shrinking intelligence community. We said human intelligence is not valuable; matter of fact, it's just too risky. We need to pull back. We're going to eliminate large numbers of our intelligence community. And really, it led to 9/11.

Once 9/11 happened, the whole machination of who was responsible and, "Well, who do we blame?" started. But at the same time, something pretty remarkable happened, as well. All of our intelligence agencies realized that they weren't prepared for what was facing them, and the integration started.

So we saw technology that didn't exist 10 years ago that is today absolutely critical to the success of those missions, and it is integrated, in a way that I've never seen before, between all of our services. And the case that we saw last week, to me, is a great example -- a great example -- of how it can work. But I caution this: It was one successful operation in what is a long and hard fight against al-Qaida, its affiliates and those who want to do harm to the United States. We've heard calls that this is the opportunity to do it just like that every time and dismantle other large parts of the intelligence business; we've won. Couldn't be further from the truth. And we need to caution ourselves and take the lessons from the '90s as we move forward.

So let's look at what happened. Ten years ago, the target was Osama bin Laden. Now, they had an Osama bin Laden unit in the CIA prior to this, and its function was to try to understand and study and make -- to see what lethality they really had. And of course, they had some events that were concerning to them: the East African bombings; the USS Cole certainly brought it to a height; the Khobar Tower bombings. All of those things had an impact, but none of it had stretched across the ocean and tapped the United States directly. So when 9/11 happened, it took a unit that was fairly obscure, didn't get all the resources, and made it incredibly important.

So what we realized is: Geez, we don't have enough human intelligence; we don't have the ability to touch people using the correct language in the correct place as often as we would like. Our ability to have signals collection in places where we need it was lacking. You know, it was very Washington, D.C.-centered to the rest of the world. We didn't really coordinate as well as we could with the NGA and all the other "ints" -- the intelligence collection platforms that we might have, or agencies. Just didn't really happen in that way.

So, something really pretty amazing started. And we started taking people off the battlefield, and we gave them interrogations. And think about why that was important to where we are today. I had an intelligence -- a senior intelligence official tell me a couple of years ago that about 70 percent about what the intelligence community understands about operations, recruiting, finance, weapons movement, how they raise money, how the -- what their propaganda unit looks like and all of those things, including what their relationship is with the Haqqani Network, or what their relationship is with the intelligence services of country "A" or "B," came out of those first years' interrogations -- all of them. So that's important because if you're going to get to the next place, you have to understand who they are and how they operate.

And then five years ago, through an interrogation, a small bit of information came out, a nickname applied to an -- an Arabic nickname applied to an alias name. Pretty difficult -- that's about all the information they had that may have been tied to one of the courier networks used by Osama bin Laden. That's really what they had, but it was more than they had in a long time.

So they started building on that case using every piece of intelligence technology and human intelligence we had. Sources became incredibly important to try to keep defining down who this might be or what a physical description was or what operational status they might have. Signals intelligence got better, and our ability to get signals intelligence got better. So small conversations ended up reaping big rewards over time to try to continue to help identify who, what, when and why.

Our ability to use overhead imagery that tracked patterns of life and other movements was integrated into the unit. Until about last August, that continued on. And I have to tell you, if you've ever seen a pin board on potential leads, you can imagine that thing lit up like a Christmas tree on Zawahiri or bin Laden. Many joked that they thought he was with Elvis at a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Guess what, there was a pin right there on that map.

They decided they were going to follow every lead at every time. I don't care how small or how large or how outrageous -- they were going to dedicate a little bit of time to try to figure out if there was any merit or any thread of truth in that particular lead.

They say that the largest grossing Starbuck's in the United States is at CIA headquarters. And there's a reason for that. It's open a lot, and there's a lot of people drinking a lot of coffee, following lots of leads, but most of them went nowhere. Most of them were dry holes. Most of them were -- actually took us away from where the target may be. And then that one lucky break, using all of the pieces -- and remember, every little piece got better. So one interrogation got you the nickname; the next interrogation got you maybe a hometown or a real family name, some -- (inaudible) -- piece identified where that person might be working. All of that led to a very lucky event when they were able to follow a particular individual to a certain compound -- happened back in August. And it didn't fit the characteristics. I -- some called it a mansion. Some called it other things. It clearly didn't fit the characteristics. I'm not sure I'd call it a mansion, but it clearly did not fit the characteristics of the town that it was in.

So then they set about -- they put a special unit, so an isolated unit even in the counterterrorism business, and decided that they were going to have something equivalent to a pursuit team analyze everything at the next level up and utilize the resources, all of the resources that we had with all of the agencies that we had to apply on that particular target. We wanted to know everything.

And by the next few months, they started to know everything: the complete patterns of life, all the things that you would hope that they would know so that somebody could make a very good decision to say yep, that's probably Osama bin Laden; we better go get him.

Now, here's the interesting thing. All of the things and all of the lessons and even the operation itself was built on something that came before it. Those Special Forces -- elite Special Forces teams do two and three raids a night when they're working in Iraq and Afghanistan, much like the same kind of compound, much -- the operation was very similar to many other operations, which gave them a high degree of confidence and a high degree of combat experience and operational experience to pull off something that was just a little bit trickier than the other ones. That was an incredible feat.

The agency's ability to keep getting closer and closer with sources of information or people who would either wittingly or unwittingly provide information about patterns of life, our ability electronically to pick up just the smallest thing that might benefit that whole operation -- and it all happened because we learned from the one that happened before.

So some notion that this was put together at the last minute based on a few months or even a few years of planning is ridiculous. And why that's so important is is now that this success, and albeit a very public success, the calls have started for changing the shape of the intelligence business, changing the mission in Afghanistan, changing how we do things; this is the only way that we should conduct operations as we move forward when we're trying to break the back of al-Qaida. And I couldn't disagree more.

We've got to take the lessons of the '90s and apply them today. We have all the tools that had been laid out -- the Patriot Act, the fact that this year we're going to do an FY '11 bill that provides the necessary authorization and ability for the Intelligence Committee to do proper oversight on the 17 agencies for the first time. The authorities and the leadership is important.

Leon Panetta has done a phenomenal job. Not only did he engage at the chairman or the big-eight level all through the process, but when resources were needed or not needed, when we needed to move resources in order to accommodate -- all of that became a working relationship. And in the past few years -- and I think Jane can certainly verify that -- the committee became almost dysfunctional in its ability to provide that leadership and assistance and help and oversight to the communities because of the intense partisanship that crept in.

And Dutch Ruppersberger, my ranking member, and I have committed early on from the day we both assumed our roles as the chairman and ranking member that we were going to take partisanship as much out of the intelligence committee as you possible can. After all, there's a benefit for not having a reporter sitting in that audience. Now, the reporters might not think so, but those of us in the committee know how important that is, that you have that dialogue and that debate and come to an agreement when we're moving forward.

So what does it mean for us as we go forward? We've had -- we're going to look at all the successes here on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, including catching Osama bin Laden. We've had some great ones. A.Q. Khan network, which was completely different -- and so we get so focused sometimes on the CT mission that we forget that the agencies are working lots of other very serious problem sets all at the same time -- the A.Q. Khan network in 2006 was a major (coup ?) for the intelligence community and stopped a serious problem for us and our national security interests and the world. That proliferation network was growing and growing rapidly. It was -- and it had a very different flavor from any proliferation you might see out of North Korea.

It was culturally based. It was pride-based. It was not necessarily cash-based. In some cases, they gave pretty bad actors, including Libya -- and -- which includes some of the failures we still have to pursue and understand why they happened.

In Iraq, the WMD assessment was wrong, but so was our WMD assessment wrong in Libya. Libya was far more advanced. They had a very robust nuclear weapons program. They had a very robust chemical stockpile. They have a very robust biological weapons program. We didn't know about any of it. I wouldn't say know -- any of it. We had a very, very, very limited view in analytical product about -- where Libya was, compared to what we found.

Wrong in Iraq, wrong in Libya, both for the wrong reasons. One we said had too much. One we didn't know they had hardly any at all.

So it shows you that if we -- we must continue to integrate, we must continue to integrate technology. One of the biggest problems we have today -- in the last 10 years we've developed a way to collect so much information, we can't get through it all. So we're going to have smart access for people who need to get access to materials, so that we don't have the WikiLeaks disclosure. And we're going to have technology applied to our databases that will allow us to have a software-based analytical product so that the -- when the human eyes take a look at it, it is already narrowed down, and it encompasses more information than they could possibly cull through in any short order.

And we're going to continue to get better. What does that do? It stops the ability to be wrong on Iraq -- well, it doesn't stop it; it decreases the opportunity to be wrong on Iraq and wrong on Libya. It increases our ability to be right on Iran and exactly right on North Korea. Lot of speculation in the last few years about where they were. I think we keep finding information every day that points to -- our more aggressive analysts were right about Iran's intentions and where they're at, and the same with North Korea. While they were making a deal with us to stop their program and take food aid, they were clearly engaged in pursuing weapons of mass destruction at a pretty aggressive rate.

So again, I -- one of the purposes that we agreed to do this today -- and thanks, Ellen, for the -- for the opportunity -- was to put it in context about where we came from history and how we got to where we were last week and renew the call for the continued oversight of the community, to continue work on policies and other things that made them successful. We're already seeing pressure on the Patriot Act, that maybe we don't need it now; the enemy is gone. Couldn't be further from the truth.

I think the great -- one of the great analogies I heard, actually on the way over, was, when the doctor gives you your regimen of medicine, if you take half of it and think you're better and go away, you're going to get sick again. This is about taking all of our medicine.

Al-Qaida is alive and well. They are hurt. They're damaged. Their inspirational and operational leader has been taken off the battlefield, which is a huge opportunity for us. The confusion with them is opportunity for us. And this is the time to step on the gas and break their back.

So we're going to get into a lot of the machinations. We're going into the political season. There's going to be lots of people disclosing information they absolutely shouldn't be talking about when we're continuing to pursue. But at the end of the day, we're going to take this opportunity, this 10th year, analyze from stem to stern are our analysts doing the right thing? I mean, what was the problem? Why did we miss the Times Square bomber, the Detroit bomber and Major Hasan when we knew that there were -- there were kettles of information that would have helped us in that. So we're still not there yet.

So we're going to continue the integration with our analysts. We're going to continue our ability to share information in a way that's smart -- again, smart access. We're going to continue to make sure that they're funded at the right level. This is the wrong time to back off on funding the Intelligence Committee -- community -- excuse me -- when they are very close to technological breakthroughs that will make our analytical products exponentially better by giving analysts access to far more information.

So our FY '11 bill makes that down payment. Our FY '12 intelligence bill coming out, probably next month, will continue to make the investment. So it's one of the few line items you'll see this year coming out of the House that will be a slight increase, because it's that investment in technology and people.

And lastly, I will say that through all the politics of interrogation and all of those things that crept into our political debates, it's important to understand that leadership on these issues was -- is -- from the top to the bottom was as equally important at an Osama bin Laden catch as anything else. Good on the president for taking the -- taking a look at the information and authorizing the operation itself. That was -- it was a good day.

At the same time, we need to make sure that all of the policymakers from the executive branch to Congress understand that all of the things that led up to Osama bin Laden have to be, A, improved on, and B, they need to have the leadership behind them, so they can continue to produce the kinds of information that will get us Zawahiri, the next number three in al-Qaida, and continue to break their back. This is our chance to break the back of al-Qaida. It's no chance or no opportunity for us to retreat.

And with that, I'm going to open it up.

LAIPSON: Thank you.

ROGERS: Ellen, if you want to --

LAIPSON: Please.

ROGERS: -- take some questions or whatever, that would be great.

LAIPSON: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Shall we -- (inaudible) --


MR. : Yeah. Thanks.

ROGERS: Thanks.

LAIPSON: If you'd like to settle in, I'll give you a -- get us started with a few questions. I thought one of the observations you made was that we don't catch all of them, and the examples you gave were the domestic terrorist incidents. So I -- we've talked a lot about integration across the agencies of the intelligence community. I wonder if we could focus for a minute on integration of the committee structure on the Hill.

So here, post-9/11, one of the other institutions that was created were new committees that had that homeland security responsibility, and they're the ones, I believe, that have the lead on some of these questions of domestic, the integration of FBI and national intelligence, et cetera.

So as chairman of HPSCI, how do you relate to the other committees that at least have in part an intelligence responsibility -- Armed Services, Homeland Security? What's working and maybe what still needs to be addressed in terms of Congress's organization to deal with intelligence matters?

ROGERS: Yeah, great question. The -- one of the big complaints coming out of the 9/11 commission -- and if you've ever been in the executive branch, one of your big frustrations is how many committees you have to come down and talk to, sometimes on the very same issue -- that is a long-term problem for Congress to fix. We're going to have to deal with it eventually, probably not any time soon. Turf battles are some of the most fierce fights I've ever seen. It makes other parts of politics look like child's play.

So what we've done in the committee is, I brought in -- I changed the rules this year, for the first time, to allow three members of the Appropriations Committee to be full partners, without a vote, into the committee. So they're -- they have the clearances. They sit on the committee. They participate in the briefings. And I argue that is one step getting closer to where the 9/11 had Commission intended.

And so far, so good. So they'll participate in any of our classified briefings at every level. We want them to do that. That way we can have a discussion with somebody that sits on appropriation about all of the information surrounding a particular issue or program in a way that gets us to a better conclusion. I think it's helped us already on the 2011 bill and it will help us in the 2012 bill.

So two Republicans in this case, because the majority ratio, and one Democrat: great members that participate fully. We have reached out and we are doing joint efforts with the Armed Services, which really hasn't been done before, in a sense to try to work out the military intelligence portion of the budget, which is huge. It's in some cases larger than the national intelligence budget or the civilian budget; so we have better integration and work out the issues.

Homeland security we don't deal with as much, but we have been working with the FBI on its transition, with its analytic corps primarily. It is a -- it's been a big switch to go from, I'm going to put somebody in jail to I'm just going to report on this person for 10 years. It's not the FBI's culture and it's -- there's still some bumps in the road on that. I think they've come a long way. They're doing great work. It's just something that we've been working with them.

So we've done our own outreach to try to solve that problem. It would -- I'm not sure exactly. I was going to say it would take an act of Congress to fix Congress, but I'm not sure that we -- I don't see we're ready politically yet to realign those committees in the way I think it should be done. I think Jane would agree with me that the way it should be done is probably not going to happen anytime soon.

LAIPSON: You talked about the successful integration across the intelligence disciplines that's partly inspired by the lessons of 9/11, partly by the intelligence reform legislation of 2004 and the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Do you think that integration is working well on topics other than terrorism?

ROGERS: I -- it has -- it -- boy, it had a rough start, I think, the DNI, and it had a rough assignment, to try to bring together all of the intelligence services.

Now, there's been some positive things that have come out of it. The president's daily brief now is removed from the CIA, and so now you have much more participation in the other intelligence services. So I do think you get a better product that the president has an opportunity to see. It's just more -- there's more input than there used to be. It used to be guided through the CIA lens versus the whole intelligence community lens. I think that's a good outcome.

I do think we've finally gotten -- and I've worked with Director Clapper and he -- I -- there was a lot of argument about how big it should be, and we've kind of gotten past, you know, how big this thing should be and gotten back to what is this -- what really is the mission of the Office of Director of National Intelligence. And if we can focus that mission on the nonsexy things of the intelligence world, it will be hugely successful. And so he gets it. I think the -- and when we get there, the size of it will come into line with what the mission is.

He's doing a review. He hopes to present that to us very soon. I support him in doing that. And I do think if anything came out of that, one of the things that Congress said was, you've got to share information better. And that clearly has happened. Directive 501, it said we're going to put this out there. We're going to -- we're going to share it. A little risky, as we saw with WikiLeaks. We think we can fix that problem. But it promoted information sharing across the intelligence community like it had never happened before. And that was -- I think if those two outcomes alone come out of the DNI, that part was very, very helpful.

LAIPSON: We're in an era where everybody's going to be expected to tighten their belts, and so we're in an era of resource constraints. You said at the end that you thought the intelligence budget could be stable, if not increase a little bit.

But one of the issues that affects, you know, the tolerance for budget increases when everybody else is cutting is the level of public support. And I know that on the diplomacy side, sort of funding for the State Department suffers, many people believe, because there's not a domestic constituency for U.S. foreign engagement and the role -- the work that diplomats do. Military officers are seen as very heroic, but sometimes the civilian side of our international engagement isn't necessarily popular.

I wonder, from a HPSCI perspective, is serving on the Intelligence Committee popular with constituents?

ROGERS: (Chuckles.)

LAIPSON: How do you think the American public cares about intelligence? And if intelligence were to be the only part of the national security budget that were going up, do you think the American public would support that?

ROGERS: Well, I do think the American public supports the intelligence services, and nothing more exemplifies that than when you see something like the Osama bin Laden success. And that's a 10-year success story, and we've invested a lot of money in the process of not just that particular event but the ability to do exactly that. I do think that Americans see that and interpret that for what it is, that we have a second-to-none intelligence service in the world and they're out doing very dangerous things.

Politically, it doesn't do much for you back home. It's pretty hard to go in a town hall meeting and say you're the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and, by the way, I can't talk about it. (Laughter.) Not very helpful. So it's -- very quickly we turn on to things like gas prices and the economy and jobs, as I should when I'm back home.

But I think Americans do see it for what it is and the value that it is. And it is the one place -- intelligence is playing a more important role in policymaker decisions than I think I've ever seen in my time in Congress or before. It has -- the real-time essence of what -- how the world is changing means that you have to make real-time changes here as a policymaker in Washington, D.C. And without good, accurate, well-analyzed intelligence, it makes our job that much more difficult, and it makes it likely you're going to make a mistake. So it is absolutely critical that we continue a robust intelligence service.

That being said, were there some things that we found? I actually brought in auditors for the first time on the committee to go through budget audits to try to find things that we thought that we could change, that we could get a little savings on. And it's been very effective. We think we've saved probably a couple hundred million bucks just this year alone in merging programs, in forcing programs to come together. And, you know, we get to peer over all of the silos, and so sometimes you can see what one silo's doing and the other silo's doing and it looks awful similar. They might not know it. So we've been able to merge some of that together and, we think, get some savings out. And that's where the DNI has been helpful as well.

LAIPSON: That's great. Thank you.

I'm going to open it up to you all. I'd ask you to wait for a mic and to please introduce yourselves.

And I think I'll start with Jane Harman.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Ellen.

Welcome, Mike, off the Hill to a bipartisan bastion, as is the Wilson Center, too.


QUESTIONER: I'm enjoying my new service here.

Two things. First, I -- in your -- in your remarks, you did not mention IRTPA, a wonderful acronym, the intelligence reform legislation of 2004, but Ellen asked you about it.

As you recall, it was passed over the implacable opposition of then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and then-chairman of the Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter. We had to make some compromises. But it was bipartisan legislation strongly supported and, in fact, originated in the House Intelligence Committee. And your predecessor, Pete Hoekstra, played a very courageous role in pushing it forward.

My question is this. Director of National Intelligence Clapper credits IRPTA for helping him leverage all of the "ints" and to create the seamlessness that was necessary to put the clues together that were the predicate for finding Osama bin Laden. I think you would agree with that.

ROGERS: (Inaudible.)

QUESTIONER: And I think you would agree that, going forward, we have to continue to do that and do other things.

My question is, we seem to be much better at doing that horizontally at the federal level. You're a former FBI guy and I think you get the fact that we also have to share intelligence vertically from the federal level down to our communities. And there I think we still have a lot of problems with overclassification and with less leadership than we might need, because if we're going to find the next attack and hopefully prevent or disrupt it in our country, we need fully informed law enforcement at the local level.

So my question to you is, how can we do better with vertical information sharing using the tools at hand and using the oversight that Congress can provide?

ROGERS: Yeah, that's something we wrestle with. Department of Homeland Security has -- their analytical unit has tried to take this role and take classified information, put it in a format which is readable and unclassified, and then get it out through Joint Terrorism Task Force, fusion centers, et al. And my only concern was that maybe we went too fast on -- you can -- you might have a Joint terrorism Task Force and a fusion center within a few miles of each other in some places in the country. And it's hard for local law enforcement to supply the people in these tight budgetary times to these task forces that some would argue do -- I'm not sure what I get out of it, right? They're judged by solving burglaries, homicides and other crimes, and this is a more nebulous concept, that we're going to help prevent something bad.

So it is -- I'm not sure I know the answer, other than we need to continue to take that information. I would argue we probably ought to re-look at how we do it and how we structure them. We could probably do it in a much more efficient way than we did right after -- you know, right after 2004, we were in a hurry to get things going. I think we ought to have a hard look at it, see if we can't consolidate it and find a better way to get information that's usable.

You know, the other thing is we had -- I used to call it the need to know with whom to share. And we got in a big rush that everybody had to know everything. And that's really not the right answer either. And so one of the systems that we're working on that we think can help at that end game is having the ability for smart access to systems. So that if I'm an analyst in -- fill in the blank -- I'm an analyst in South America, I probably really don't need to understand what's going on in Yemen unless there's a clear nexus. And if there's not that nexus, they won't have access to that information electronically. So that you couldn't get another WikiLeaks. You couldn't get somebody just dumping -- a massive data dump down and moving on.

That problem would go away, but it would still continue this notion that I have access to everything. Then you take that and try to find something that, yes, it's important to Detroit, not maybe necessarily important for Maine. I mean, we need to share information with where it can be of some value. And that's really, I think, that next phase where that goes. It will look more efficient, I think.

LAIPSON: Arnaud, Mr. de Borchgrave.

QUESTIONER: Chairman Rogers, Arnaud de Borchgrave, CSIS. Back in 2005, Sir Richard Dearlove was resigning from -- or retiring from MI6, and he told some of us that the time was now at hand for exchanges of intelligence in real time on a multilateral basis as opposed to the binational basis we do it today. I was just wondering if you shared that view or not.

ROGERS: Yeah, there was -- there have been some big changes in how we share multilaterally. Our liaison services -- just a lack of time -- would love to talk about the liaison service. We could probably do a whole hour on that and how we develop those services for better cooperation. We share information with people that you might be surprised, on counterterrorism targets, because we've been able to get buy-in on who a common enemy is. And so we try to do that as fast and as real as we can, because we have found over time that with good relationships, we get better information as well.

Our British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian friends are some of our best partners in the war on terror, and we have fairly seamless information sharing. But this is that part of leadership I talked about. When there are problems, you can see it manifest itself in these liaison services. We've had some experiences in the last year or so, because of relationships with certain countries, that it filters down to our ability to share information with liaison services.

So those -- it is a top-down leadership -- you know, you don't want to offend our British friends too often. They are important partners to the United States in the war on terror. You know, they have something like 300(,000) to 400,000 Pakistani males from 18 to 35 travel back and forth to the tribal areas and everywhere else in Pakistan every single year. So -- I know they're worried about it. That means we ought to be worried about it.

We need a very robust relationship. We've done some real time sharing now. They have access to some of our data systems, like I've never seen before, in real time. They're integrated here in the United States. We're integrated there in the United Kingdom. Works great.

Again, the problem is, it's got to be -- we have to be consistent up and down the (pike/pipe ?). Sharing information that shouldn't be shared means that people stop sharing information with us.

I'm trying to talk around it here best I can. But there have been instances where information was shared here that caused liaison partners to say, if you continue to do this, we will stop talking to you. Very dangerous.

LAIPSON: Barbara Slavin.

QUESTIONER: Barbara Slavin, the Atlantic Council. Hi, Chairman, Ellen.

ROGERS: Nice to see you.

QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask first, did you know about the Osama bin Laden raid before? Were you one of the select few?

REP. ROGERS (?): (Inaudible.)

QUESTIONER: I hope so, yeah. (Laughs.)

And secondly, I wanted to ask about Iran. What, in your view, has been the most effective set of tools against the Iranian nuclear program? Has it been sanctions? Has it been Stuxnet. Has it been other intelligence collection, assassinations? And where do you think they are? Thanks.

ROGERS: Wow. Look at the time. (Laughter.)

First -- on the first part, I will -- Leon Panetta, I think, has done an exceptionally good job at the CIA. Maybe it's a product of being a former member, but he is very good about understanding how valuable a partnership can be with the Intelligence Committee. And he has done that.

So when I became chairman, I had a -- we called it a dinner and a briefing, to come over and go over where we were back in January about what the possibilities were. And at that time, it was, you know, 40 (percent) to 50 percent shot that that was who it was. And you could see just over time -- and he was very good about keeping us in the loop and offering for suggestions -- and we had to move some money, and all of that then became a -- I thought, a well-done on behalf of the CIA director to do it that way. And I think it was much more effective at the end of the day.

I'll miss him at the CIA. I'm sure General Petraeus will do a great job, but I keep telling Leon I'm not sure I'm going to talk to him anymore now that he's secretary of defense. He'll do a great job there.

On the second part, this is one of those interesting areas where there early on were some policy differences at the very senior levels about how you approach Iran. So you had other countries with other equities who were far more aggressive, who were leaning far more aggressive, that maybe didn't line up with where the United States was a couple of years ago. There was some -- there was just some misalignment of how aggressive we wanted to be. And you can imagine where Israel was. And then go around the rim, and you'd get as many different opportunities and suggestions about how we go about this as you could possibly imagine.

And so some of what you have seen over time has been, because of -- there has not been one single focused plan on how we get there. I do think that's a lack of U.S. leadership on this particular issue. We have to lead this effort. We should be sitting at that -- head of that table discussing those ideas and then talking about it with our European allies, Iran's neighbors who are as equally terrified of a nuclear Iran as Israel is.

And so I think we can come to some common approaches to this thing. We haven't done that yet. I think that needs to happen. So yes, you're going to see these other things that may have not been as coordinated as well as probably they should have been.

LAIPSON: The second row, the gentleman in the middle.

QUESTIONER: Clayton Swisher with Al-Jazeera English and an Oakland County native.

ROGERS: All right. Welcome.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I want to be a little contrarian and just --

ROGERS: You're from Al-Jazeera and you want to be contrarian? (Laughter.) I find that -- find that --

QUESTIONER: A shocker. I wanted to ask you -- you singled out the experience that American Special Forces had gained doing repeated operations in Iraq that helped prepare for their success in last week's raid. And you also talked, I presume, about the enhanced interrogation methods that helped yield information that led to al-Kuwaiti, the courier, which led to the compound mansion where bin Laden was found.

But what if America hadn't pursued a war in Iraq that alienated so many Muslims around the world, and what if they had done the interrogations without laying a hand on the -- on the persons in custody? Do you think that maybe it wouldn't have taken the United States 10 years to find more information on bin Laden's whereabouts?

And throw on to that the policies of the United States that have been pursued over the last 10 years, whether it's the unbridled support for Israel and its very controversial policies in the region -- none of them have substantively been changed by the United States. How do you see your role in looking at American foreign policy and whether different approaches might have led to a better conclusion less than 10 years possibly?

ROGERS: Sure. Well, that's -- that would be great if you dismissed everything that had happened before -- the 1993 bombing in New York; as I've said, the Khobar Towers; the East African bombings; the USS Cole -- the way we were operating then didn't work. And they were getting more aggressive and more bold, and they were (fielding ?) their oats, they were recruiting, they were using those successes -- the barracks bombing -- I know Bud McFarlane's spent a lot of time in and around that area trying to deal with that. All of those successes led them to be more bold, to recruit more people.

We didn't have -- there was no Guantanamo Bay. There was no interrogations. There was no -- really not much of anything going on against al-Qaida, bin Laden and his network. What we found was it was growing better, stronger and more sophisticated.

So 9/11 was a result of, I argue, not having an aggressive policy and not understanding the threat of al-Qaida and what their true intentions were to not only the United States. Al-Qaida has killed more Muslims than they have killed any Westerners. And they continue to do it in every country in which they reside.

So some notion that we're just going to go back to the way it was and somehow we're going to get -- this is going to all go away, I think, is naive at best. And that's why we have found such good partners in Muslim countries who say you're right; they got to go. They're dangerous -- as dangerous to a Muslim family as they are to an American family. And that's been our success.

And I didn't talk about enhanced technique -- interrogations. You brought it up. But all of the interrogations that were conducted over time -- you took somebody off a battlefield, you're going to talk to them -- I don't think you have to use torture to get information. I'm a former FBI guy. Obviously we had our ways. But all of those interrogations netted information that helped us get smarter about who they were and how they operated. And everybody that you talked to, you -- that gives you an opportunity to solve that next big problem for our effort to break the back of al-Qaida.

So yes, I think we should be interrogating people. I think having this policy that we're prosecuting the CIA officers who engaged interrogations lawfully and then celebrate the fact that -- all of that information may have contributed to the fact we got Osama bin Laden is confusing.

And so I argue we need to shake ourselves out of this and have a good interrogation policy. We do need to have a place to put them. If we get Zawahiri off the battlefield, where do you put him? The director of the CIA said if we got bin Laden, he would have to go to Guantanamo Bay, because that's the one facility that not only is protected from people inside getting out but also from outside people getting in, which we know has happened some 19 times around the world, where people have made escapes; as a matter of fact, the biggest one in Afghanistan, where they took 500 fighters out through a tunnel. Oh, and by the way, now they're back on the battlefield fighting.

So I just think we have to shake ourselves out of this notion about political cycles when we talk about information. This has been a decades-long problem. And we have seen how it worked under the old system, and we have seen how it has worked under this system. And under this system, Osama bin Laden is dead.

LAIPSON: I think there's a question in the very back row. The gentleman -- yes, right here. And then I'll come back to you.

QUESTIONER: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ellen. Jonathan Landay with McClatchy Newspapers.

Given that there's an investigation going on right now into whether or not there was official Pakistani complicity in the harboring of Osama bin Laden, and given the fact of who he was, do you think it's incumbent on -- (clears throat) -- excuse me -- the administration to publicly acknowledge if there is evidence produced of Pakistani complicity, that they -- that they should make that public, that the American people have a right to know that the man who was responsible for 9/11 was being harbored by another government? Should that be made public? Or given the nature of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, should that evidence remain classified and not released?

ROGERS: Interesting question. You know, Pakistan is one of the most confusing relationships we have with another country.

And as I talked about, those liaison relationships are incredibly important. So you have a country that sends its army into the tribal areas really for the first time since it became a nation. And the tribal areas, under their own constitution, are treated as a semi-autonomous area. So this was a big deal. And they've taken thousands and thousands of casualties in that fight, lots.

They've also helped us arrest some 600 al-Qaida and Taliban leadership, everybody from bomb makers to financiers to weapons dealers and the whole host, everything in between, in the settled areas. So that -- those are the days you think, this is a good ally. This is somebody we need to be a partner with.

At the same time, they hold a diplomat for 42 days against a sign -- a treaty of which they signed, who had immunity status. They interrogated him. I mean, just unbelievable for a country that wants to join the rest of the world as a law-abiding country.

You have at least the notion about bin Laden and why did -- why was he able to -- I mean, clearly he had a logistics network. Who knew and what they knew is something we're asking lots of questions about. We do know that the Frontier Corps is riddled with sympathizers to the Taliban, mostly because it's familiar. There's -- they have family ties that cross tribes even in the area. That's presented a huge problem.

We know that certain ISI members still have a sympathy toward the Taliban and certain al-Qaida elements, and the Haqqani Network, which I argue is more like an organized crime family than it is a tribe. You have all of those problems all going on all at the same time. It is a confusing place.

And our national interests haven't lined up. Pakistan has not really come to the conclusion that the Taliban and al-Qaida is as big a threat as India. They believe India is their problem. And so that has been, I think, the United States' struggle all along. So they look at this as, gee, we'd like to help. We're going to try to help. But have you looked at India lately? Boy, that's a real problem. And so that's the struggle that we've had with Pakistan.

I do believe that we're going to have to ask tough questions. We need to understand. I think it's inherent, as our relationship continues here, that we know who, what, when and why about Osama bin Laden being in this particular compound for as much as five years. We should all understand that.

And that's -- today, I will tell you today, from all the information I have seen, we can't conclusively say that somebody senior knew and promoted safe haven. Clearly there may have been elements that have -- that knew and looked the other way, but we can't say the institutions yet knew and looked the other way. But we're -- we'll get -- hopefully we'll -- we're -- we will know that, I believe.

And this is a good opportunity for Pakistan to say: Listen, this was -- this was embarrassing. Let's move forward. There's a lot we can do together, and let's talk about all the things we can do together to break the back of the counterterrorism (sic) threat emanating from the tribal areas and settled areas in Pakistan.

LAIPSON: Thanks.

QUESTIONER: Sir, in all due respect -- (off mic).

LAIPSON: OK. If we --

ROGERS: I think I -- I think I did. We don't know.

LAIPSON: Let's move quickly. We can --

QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)

ROGERS: This is Washington, D.C. When does anything not become public in this town? I mean, I -- clearly I think that information will be made public at -- if it's -- if it's true. I don't think you can contain it.

You know, you have -- the political side of Pakistan talks as much as -- (chuckles) -- as here. Most of the leaks on the some of the programs that happen over there came out of the Pakistanis, didn't come out of the U.S. government. So I clearly think that'll get out.

LAIPSON: Try to take a few more questions. I've got Charlie Stevenson and then the person in the back, and then we'll try to get to you, if there's time.

QUESTIONER: Charlie Stevenson, SAIS. Many years ago I helped write the law that requires the president to make a finding and notify Congress when there's going to be a covert operation. Do you think that law should be broadened to cover operations that are conducted, say, solely by Defense Department personnel?

ROGERS: Well, it's a great question and one that I said early on that we're going to take a look at. It's the Title 10 versus Title 50, you know, military operations versus intelligence operations, and all the ways that get reported.

I do believe that we're -- we need to do some work. And there's great examples -- I mean, you had a great example. This Osama bin Laden operation from stem to stern was a Title 50 operation, even though it used elite special forces units to carry out the final act.

There are other places in the world where there is some confusion about should it be a Title 10 operation or a Title 50 operation.

And so yes, I -- we're going to review that. We're going to have an opportunity to go pretty carefully over -- case by case, many of which we can't talk about, but some that we can, to try to get to a better place on that.

I do believe that you have to be very careful about empowering the military to do things under Title 50 without the same reporting and covert action. We watch that like a hawk. We have full-on quarterly briefings on covert actions-plus. I mean, we do it pretty frequently. I think Jay knows -- I mean, we -- this is something that we don't let get too far away, because it is the most sensitive and it certainly is fraught with the most opportunity for something to go wrong.

So we watch it pretty closely. That military piece seems to be missing. We're going to try to close that, that little -- that fine line and that gap by a review of Title 50 and Title 10 operations.

LAIPSON: In the back.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. I'm Iftehara Singh (sp). I work for Voice of America Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region Service. I come myself from that region, Peshawar, you might be familiar with. Thank you very much.

My question is, Pakistan is telling the government and the military is telling its people that they have shared information with the United States at some level leading to Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad. How much the United States think that the intelligence were shared? And if it were not, do you think there is a need for Pakistan to be sincere on that front with the United States? Number one.

And number second, how much the Pakistan tricky relationship with the United States make it difficult for the Congress now at this particular time that questions are raised on the Pakistan government at the state level sincerity that it is playing game with the U.S. and with the world? It is finding difficult to aid the military of Pakistan in the fight against terror.

Thank you very much.

ROGERS: Well, Pakistan has been helpful in the past, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that it would say that they believe that they have shared information in the past that may have ultimately led to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. I can't say, sitting here, I would dispute that. The problem has come with the fact that if they knew he was there and if they didn't pass along that little tidbit of information is a huge problem.

Again, they have been on again and off again. They've been helpful. Some detainees that they take into custody we get access to fully. Some we do not. And that's been this frustration with dealing with the ISI, the army and the government of Pakistan. I hope we look at this not as -- we're going -- we'll go back and do the forensics on all of this -- that will happen; how does this happen -- so we can have a full and complete picture. But I hope we don't spend a lot of time on that particular portion.

This is the time for Pakistan and the United States to say, all right, done deal, Osama bin Laden is gone, we have lots and lots of work to do. The Haqqani Network is still alive and well and producing suicide bombers and logistics and finance and soldiers in the fight both for Afghanistan and -- we believe that they may have some logistical role in helping in the bombings in India.

So all of those things are still going to happen. Taliban leadership is still a threat not only to our soldiers -- U.S. soldiers and our allies in Afghanistan, but, I argue, to the settled areas, as you saw when they invaded Swat. That was the first time that they had gone into a settle area of Pakistan.

And so our argument is, boy, when this happens, we want to be your friends, we want to help you, but you've got to - this has to be a transparent, open relationship where we both fully understand the threat of Taliban and al-Qaida elements. And that's where I hope we take this opportunity to get there.

We're going to have some of this that you -- I think you probably know better than anyone of the internal political debates that are happening in Pakistan today. And, you know, it's not one heck of a lot of difference than a very knockdown, drag-out presidential election season. Pakistan is suffering that same thing. So the smallest thing gets blown up to a bigger than proportioned event politically in Pakistan that causes them to make bad decisions about full cooperation with the United States. We're going to try to help them get through that if we can.

LAIPSON: Well, regrettably, we've run out of time.

The council's asked me to mention that on Friday, the next event will be the CEO of the Volkswagen Group, Jonathan Browning.

I would love to -- I want to thank the chairman for a fascinating hour. I think we all benefited very much. (Applause.)

ROGERS: Thank you so much.

LAIPSON: Thank you.











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