PDDNI Speech

AFCEA – San Antonio, Texas
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thank you for that kind introduction. It's good to be back in San Antonio; actually it's great to be out of Washington.

There's a lot going on back there and intelligence and the intelligence community seem to be involved in more than its share of issues. Understand that's not a complaint—our involvement shows the importance of what we do, and how policy makers value intelligence and depend on it. And that's what I want to talk to you about.

Most of you are already aware that our office—the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—just celebrated its one year anniversary. A lot has been accomplished in just twelve months: we've set up an office and manned it with top quality people — in effect, we've built the headquarters the IC needs for the 21st century

We've enabled the National Counter Terrorism Center to step up to the role that the President and the Congress have laid out for it. Scott Redd and his folks hold video conferences three times a day with analysts across the intelligence, law enforcement, defense and homeland security communities. Data bases that were previously isolated are now co-located and shared at the NCTC and there is now one data base in the US government with the names of all known and suspected terrorists around the world. NCTC, in its information sharing role, makes every piece of disseminated terrorism analysis from all agencies available to over 5000 CT analysts around the world.

We've also established a host of structures and processes that set the conditions for future success: a National Security Branch at the FBI; a National Clandestine Service at CIA; mission managers for our toughest intelligence problems; a Chief Information Officer, who spoke to you this morning, already has engineered some big wins in information access.

Ambassador Negroponte talked about these and other steps at the National Press Club last Thursday.

About two weeks ago I was talking to a group of reporters about our first year and near the end of our session one of them asked me a tough question: "How will we know that you are being successful?"

That's a great question because it's not about collection inputs into the intel system or even about analytic outputs from that system. It's not about budgets, IT, organizational restructuring, or even about increased intelligence production. It's about national security outcomes. It's about protecting America and keeping it safe. How do we really know we're doing this right?

The answer I had was this: we have to be more right about the things that count.

And today the thing that counts most is the global war on terrorism. There surely are other issues—important issues. But the one that counts most right now is this one. So today—with your indulgence—I'd like to talk to you about how we are doing.

Let's start with where we are now and let me state clearly that U.S. led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa'ida and disrupted its operations. Over the past four and a half years, we and our friends and allies have denied al-Qa'ida safe haven in Afghanistan, killed or captured a significant portion of its leadership, disrupted its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, reduced the amount of territory in Pakistan from which they can operate, shaken the networks that fund them, forced them to devote inordinate effort and time to their own security and—most fundamentally—we have prevented any further attacks against the Homeland.

This didn't "just happen" and almost all of it depended on intelligence of an almost exquisite quality. When the history of this period is written, the world will learn of things that began in George Tenet's "five o'clock meetings" and have been continued and strengthened under today's leadership: how individual agencies like CIA have merged operations with analysis and how we have merged these activities across those big three letter organizations around the beltway—NSA, NGA, DIA and CIA.

When the history of today's activities is written, the world will see intelligence community professionals as far forward as one can imagine in direct support of US combat operations. You'll see the merging of data streams—from imagery, from communications intercepts, from the interrogation of detainees—into real time actionable intelligence, intelligence that puts a JDAM or a Hellfire or a special operations team on a target, but in ways that minimize harm to the innocent. It takes precision intelligence to be able to act precisely.

These are significant achievements—in and of themselves— and constitute success and increased safety for Americans. These successes do not, however, yet constitute victory.

The global jihadist movement is evolving in many ways. The movement is spreading and adjusting to our counterterrorism efforts, and it is also exploiting the communications revolution, the Internet, and media sensationalism. As the President pointed out last fall, today's dangers include not only al-Qa'ida but also affiliated and independent terrorist groups, as well as emerging networks and cells. The 2004 Madrid attack and the bombings in London in 2005 are harbingers of the dangers we could face here in the United States—attacks by those inspired by, but not actually connected to, al-Qa'ida.

Al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, including the now merged al-Zarqawi network, still pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by any single terrorist group. The terrorist surveillance program confirmed by the President last December specifically targets this threat. That's why the DNI and his deputy have been so visible in the past few months both explaining the program and defending its lawfulness, effectiveness and appropriateness.

We're also bolstering how we deal with intelligence right here at home. We're training FBI analysts and collectors to think like intel officers. We're mapping areas of concern that haven't been covered before—the spaces between cases as my friends at the Bureau have put it. And we're doing it with a full view of the need to protect essential civil liberties.

Although al-Qa'ida will continue to pose a threat, activists identifying themselves simply as jihadists, although a small percentage of the global Muslim population, are increasing in both their number and in their geographic dispersion.

Countering the spread of the radical jihadist movement and making us, our friends and our shared values truly safe will require long term, coordinated and multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

There are clear underlying factors fueling the spread of this movement. Entrenched grievances—corruption, historic injustice, even fear of Western domination—leave many in parts of the Islamic world with feelings of anger and a sense of powerlessness. The slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations fuels this alienation which jihadists exploit.

Identifying and explaining this kind of problem has always been a challenge for intelligence. It is one thing to map trend lines in Soviet missile production or even to estimate the depth of unrest in Eastern Europe. Now we must address and project subtle societal trends in a culture that is not our own and on topics that have more to do with the human psyche than with production rates, deployed military forces or resource availability.

This is one of the reasons that Ambassador Negroponte has put such an emphasis on improving the language skills and cultural sensitivities of our community. Through the DNI's chief for Human Capital, we have mandated higher levels of language proficiency, invested millions of dollars in expanded training, and assigned analysts and other IC personnel to overseas "immersion" assignments. We are assisting primary and secondary schools to develop language programs to increase the supply of language-capable recruits in the future. We are employing scholarships and other recruiting incentives to compete for our nation's top language talent from universities and heritage communities. And we have increased the pay and career opportunities for employees who can meet our stringent foreign language requirements.

Today's challenges also explain why we have established and expanded an Open Source Center to track overseas public expression in the media. The DNI's Open Source Center treats open source material the same way we treat HUMINT, SIGINT and GEOINT and we are using this material in unprecedented ways with our customers. This bears fruit in this war as we extensively monitor jihadist use of websites to gauge trends in their thinking.

Even with this increased effort, gauging these trends remains difficult work and the occasional and inevitable shortcoming has prompted continued introspection about our analytic tradecraft. The DNI's new Analytic Ombudsman performed what we in the military would call a "hot wash" of our tradecraft and our analytic assumptions on the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, and lessons learned from that exercise are already being put into place.

We also must do a better job of explaining the limits of intelligence. There are secrets, which we can uncover and connect, and then there are what my good friend John McLaughlin has called mysteries—things that are inherently unpredictable, like human nature and human behavior.

Even more so than in the past, we believe that the global jihadist movement is decentralized and is becoming more diffuse. This fragmentation, especially when combined with our efforts against the al-Qa'ida center, has clearly affected the enemy's ability to conduct the kind of spectacular attack we saw on 9-11.

But it also means that new jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine these jihadist groups. This means that—if this trend continues—threats to the US at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide.

Left to themselves, some of the more "mature" Sunni extremist groups around the world, like Jemaah Islamiyah, may expand their reach and become more capable outside their traditional areas of operation. Such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al-Qa'ida but they will still pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad.

And we cannot forget the centrality of Iraq. Recall the letter we posted on the ODNI website last fall from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi in Iraq. Zawahiri underscored the centrality of Iraq to the global jihad, congratulating Zarqawi for fighting a "battle in the heart of the Islamic world…and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era." That centrality continues.

These developments—the centrality of Iraq and the simultaneous diffusion of radical Islam—reinforce each other. The war in Iraq calls for our best analysis. We must understand the deep underlying realities there since the conflict there and (more importantly) how it is routinely portrayed in Islamic media continues to cultivate supporters for the global jihadist movement.

The operational threat from self-radicalized cells will also grow in importance. The Homeland will not be immune to such cells but the threat will be especially acute abroad. It should come as no surprise that jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.

This underscores the need to cooperate with like-minded governments. Ambassador Negroponte has said that international terrorism cannot be defeated without international cooperation. Consistent with the legislation that created his office, he is aggressively overseeing our relationships with foreign intelligence services to help detect and prevent attacks against ourselves and our friends and allies.

As the head of our intelligence community, he routinely meets with foreign intelligence leaders, and he has visited many of our major allies. There is an important subtext here: as we need our Allies, they also need us and they look to us to exercise global intelligence leadership.

And most of them are looking at our establishing the DNI with more than just curiosity. They clearly must understand our structure to maintain critical linkages but they are also "going to school" on what we are doing to improve our integration.

These partnerships comprise what is essentially a good news story but more needs to be done. Our Chief Information Officer is working with DoD to enable what will be a dramatic increase in the sharing of CT information with our closest Allies by directly connecting them electronically with their American counterparts.

But let me add a caution. Nations will not work with us on sensitive matters if they believe that we cannot keep secrets and this is one of the primary motivators for the strong stand taken by the DNI against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

I mentioned earlier that our successes to date in the war on terrorism do not yet constitute victory. But the actions that we and our allies have taken, and even the responses that the enemy has made to these actions, have exposed weaknesses that we can exploit to slow and reverse the spread of the jihadist movement.

The centrality of Iraq to the jihadists cuts both ways. Just as the war there seems to currently inspire or at least motivate jihadists, their failure in Iraq would weaken the movement globally. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we believe fewer fighters will step forward to carry on the fight. The loss of key leaders like Bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi, especially if they were lost in rapid succession, could cause the jihadist movement to fracture even more into smaller groups and would probably lead to strains and disagreements.

But the jihadists' greatest vulnerability is more fundamental: their ultimate political solution—an ultra-conservative, shari'a-based governance spanning the Muslim world—is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists' propaganda will divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by notable clerics should help the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This could also lead to the broader Muslim community rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

Not unlike the Cold War, today's struggle is more than just an armed conflict and we risk prolonging that conflict if we focus on just that aspect of it. The operational successes in the war on terror I noted earlier were built on an IC well configured to support operations and produce tactical CT intelligence. We must do more—producing strategic intelligence on mid-to-long range threats and especially on broader trends, drawing on CT information from inside and outside the Intelligence Community.

The DNI has recognized that—as successful as we have been with a community organized in pockets of excellence designed to support the immediate customers of each pocket—we now must build on such successes and create an analytic framework beyond any one Department or Agency that better enables us to take a more global and longer-term view of the threat.

To do that he has directed the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) to expand its analytic force by moving 75 billets across the community and plan for further expansion to better enable us to support all the elements of national power (economic, political, military, informational) in this long war.

We've also instructed the NCTC to develop in the next 60 days what we have been calling "Lanes in the Road." Four plus years into this war we need to step back and make sure everyone in our analytic community is playing position and not crowding the ball. There's plenty of work to go around and all of it must be tended to. The NCTC will make these calls for the entire IC. And the NCTC is developing the Nation's integrated strategic plan—encompassing all of our efforts and resources for the war on terrorism. Plans on terrorist mobility and their use of the internet are already in place.

The terrorists are right about one thing: the current struggle is a war of ideas. Recall that Zawahiri told Zarqawi last year that "more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma." A friend of mine—a strong advocate of information operations—told me last week over dinner that al-Qa'ida had slaved their combat operations to their information operations. We cannot win this war by strength of arms alone.

The growth of pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would certainly alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress will erode support for the jihadists as political participation drives a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives.

This is a long struggle. It is one that we can and will win. We and like-minded peoples have the power to do so.

But we must use our power wisely…not only protecting ourselves from current dangers and those who cannot be dissuaded and must be disabled…but also looking to the longer term, to mitigating those causal factors that seem to be creating our enemies. In the crudest of terms, the rate at which we capture and kill our enemies must be greater than the rate at which they are produced and we need to tend to both halves of that equation.

Intelligence is critical to all of this. We recognize what is expected of us. And we will continue to deliver. Thank you.