of Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John E. McLaughlin
at the Business Executives for National Security Annual Forum
23 June 2004
(as prepared for delivery)
Let me say
at the outset that for American intelligence, Business Executives
Security (BENS) is a strong and very much
appreciated source of sound advicewhether the problem is
finding better ways to track terrorist finances, check the spread
of weapons of mass destruction, or reform our own systems of pay
and promotion. You know the issues, and you have worked hard
to understand how the Intelligence Community really works. Thank
you for all that you do.
When I saw
the three questions I was asked to address this morning, my first
was to seek refuge in the economy of words for
which my profession is famous. But these times and this audienceposing
questions like: "Intel Reorganization: Now? How much? How fast?require
answers more extensive than: Maybe, some, and fairly.
So let me give it a try.
It is of course no secret that our nation is in
the midst of another debate about intelligencewhat we need and how
best to get it. The facts that led us herethe attacks of
September 11th and the war in Iraqare unique. The
debate itself is not. We have had several in our history. Let
me mention just two.
In 1975, around
the time I joined CIA, one blue-ribbon panelthe
Rockefeller Commissionand two Congressional committeesChurch
and Pikewere investigating American intelligence. Though
that period is remembered now for the damage done to our agencies,
their morale and capabilities, it also led to something positive:
a foundation for oversight that, at its best, has been constructive
for the Intelligence Community and connected us more closely to
the American people.
In the 1990s,
after the end of the Cold War, there were at least half a dozen
efforts to chart the future of intelligence,
ranging from university groups and Congressional committees to
the Aspin-Brown commission. Though that period is remembered now
for shrinking budgets and vanishing talent, it, too, had positives:
Austerity forced the Intelligence Community to work more closely
across organizational lines. And support to the militarydaily,
often tactical supportbecame a top priority as the United
States intervened in places like Bosnia and Kosovo.
As these brief
examples show, national initiatives to change intelligence tend
a mix of pain and gain. But there appears to be an
appetite for it again in both parties and among key segments
of the public.
Much of the
impetus for it comes from the impression that perceived shortcomings
in our workbe it on counter-terrorism before
9/11 or Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programsreflect
a broken system and a Community in disarray. That impression is
there wereand there were shortcomingswere
the result of specific, discrete problems that we understand and
are well on our way to addressing or have already addressed. And
the focus on where we are thought to have gotten it wrong has obscuredeven
more than usualthe successes we have had in the fight against
terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
This is an
important point, because as we weigh changes in our community,
it is important
to recall that we helped forge a global
alliance against al-Qa'ida and its sympathizers. Played a pivotal
role in flushing it from its Afghan haven. Have run to ground
two-thirds of the leadership al-QA'ida had in place on September
11th, and shattered a host of cells and conspiraciesbefore
As a Community,
we have run the sensitive operations and provided the accurate
to expose proliferation activities in Iran
and North Korea. And unraveled the WMD programs and networks of
Libya and of A.Q. Khan, one of the most dangerous proliferation
threats the world has faced.
Here's my point: Those are not the achievements of dysfunctional
to ask is not why an entire system broke downit
did not, and it has notbut rather why it did not perform
in every instance as well as it might have. And whether we, in
the Intelligence Community, are learning from the experience.
But if there is to
be changestructural changethe
goal we all share is to get it right, to improve intelligence.
But how? There is no shortage of ideas, opinions, critiques,
and proposals. I will not try to weigh them all herea task
that would demand more time than patience provides.
will share some personal thoughts on the issue. And
highlight considerations that may help you form your own opinions
on a topic vital to the security of all Americans.
As debate and
discussion unfolds in the months ahead, you can expect to hear
me and other leaders of our Intelligence
Community. You can expect our views to be refined even further
over time. And you can expect us to be active participantsfrom
start to finish.
I don't have
to tell this audience that before you can set about improving
you need to know its current condition and
the demands that are placed upon it. You need to know its present
shapeits strengths and weaknesses.
Louis Sullivan, a brilliant architect and builder with the good
sense to be in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, said
famously: "form follows function." It does in building, and it
does with us, too. Let's talk about that.
you may read or hear, despite the Cold War roots of most of its
this is not the same Community that helped
fight and win that conflict. The world obviously has not been
static, and neither have we. Our targets are differentand
so is the mix of methods and technologies we use to get at them.
when I started my career more than 30 years ago, the primary
was less in any given country, than in Soviet
influence on it. So much of what we didin Asia, Africa,
the Middle East, Latin America, and Europewent through that
prismas it had to. Life was more orderly back then.
world has long since given way to a fragmented world. We
still face a grave, overarching threat to the lives of Americans
and the physical security of our nation. But the similarities
- Back then,
we spoke of Soviet expansionism and the arms race. Now,
we speak of the twin dangers of terrorism and proliferationboth
of which work swiftly, globally, unconventionally, in the shadows.
- Back then,
we tracked big thingsmotorized rifle regiments,
bombers, missiles, and submarines. Now, we hunt for small thingsa
single individual in a city of millions or a lone piece of data
in the global communications network.
- Back then,
we worried more about governments and political partiesoften hostile, but with interests that kept their
actions within largely predictable bounds. Now, we have to pay
attention to those things and moreto towns, to regions,
to religions, to tribes. To the stresses on a society that might
make it a factory or refuge for terrorism. And the terrorist
enemy is predictable only in his aim: to kill, wound, and destroy.
- Back then, the
secrets we had to steal were shared by hundreds of individualsin
ministries and embassieswho formed a large pool for recruitment,
with communications networks that could be compromised. Today,
the secrets we most want and need to acquire are shared by a
handful or at most a couple dozen people, who practice the tightest
security and live outside the modern government structures we
were accustomed to penetrating.
- Back then,
our analysts faced a shortage of data. Now, they
struggle to keep up with itto sort and store it. To find
ways to share it with a host of partners, many of whom have come
to us since 9/11, when the walls came down between foreign and
domestic intelligence, and between intelligence and law enforcement.
- Back then,
we had to share information with key people in our own government
and with intelligence partners overseas. Today,
we must share with all of them but also with the highway patrolman
in the American Midwest, whoalong with other local officialsmay
have the best opportunity to spot suspicious behavior pointing
to a terrorist threat.
- Back then,
even during the first Gulf War, being able to talk to people
a combat zone by secure telephone was an achievement. Now,
we have instant messaging, secure video conferencing, communication
by lap top and much more with our ops officers and analysts throughout
of these missions and the capabilities of information technology
the Intelligence Community far more than the loose
confederation of agencies it once was. We have actually drawn
much closer together. In the old days, it might have been forward-thinking
to have a representative of the National Security Agency sitting
at CIA or vice versa. Change NSA to FBI and you had something
No more. We are way past that. You know about our centersthe
Counterterrorist Center being the most famouswith officers
from different intelligence disciplines and agencies working side-by-side. And
the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which has built new relationships
among analysts from agencies that did not always work as closely
the skills of analysts and ops officersas
CTC doesor synthesizing information from home and abroadas
TTIC doesthe goal is to bring together smart people with
different specialties and perspectives. To assemble their varied
talents into teams real or virtual, of long or short duration. This
has a lot to do with the successes we have had against our hardest
targets. Most people don't realize that to capture a terrorist
like Hambalithe killer behind the Bali nightclub bombing
in Indonesiaa lot of different pieces have to come together:
across disciplines, agencies, and continents. And they did.
Is there more
to do? Yes. Can we be better? Of course. But,
as our country ponders changes in the structure of intelligence,
there are three crucial considerations to bear in mind.
there is no formula for perfection in my business, any more
is a concept of profit and loss. How do
you match a hundred successes against a single failure?
this would be no academic exercise. It will be hardvery
hard. We are a nation at war. And one objective must be to
minimize disruptions in the day-to-day work of intelligence.
any reorganization must preserve the enormous gains we have
made and lay the foundation
Though it rarely
makes headlines, there has been a real revolution in intelligencefrom recruiting and technology to interagency
cooperation and morale. One effect of that revolution is that
knowledge about us has a shorter shelf life than ever. Experiences
and impressions that are just a few years old may be seriously
out of date. I would ask you to remember that when you hear peopleeven
former intelligence officerstalking about our problems. What
they may not know is that we have moved beyond the problems they
remember and are grappling with new ones they haven't even heard
For us, change
has been a constant and the challenge now is to build on that
transformation. To have form follow functionby
recalling our fundamental tasks, which are the nation's expectations
of intelligence. What are they? We must constantly strive to
protect Americans. To inform high-level policy through unique
insights about the world. To support our military. And, as the
President directs, to undertake covert actionthe ability
to not simply report on conditions overseas, but to change them.
those missions demand are equally daunting. Agility,
speed, flexibility, adaptability. A capacity for both unilateral
stealth and productive foreign liaison. For fusing information
from all sources. And for ensuring that our nation's clandestine
operations and analysis are mutually supportive, share data, and
are infused with professionalism and integrity. Against that backdrop,
we do need a true source of central intelligence. And someone
to run it.
One of the
many proposals out therean intelligence czar
who would stand apart from CIA and oversee all aspects of American
intelligencewas first floated in 1955 and has come up several
I know the argument can be made for such a change, but in my personal
view, it is not the best answer to the real challenges American
intelligence faces in the 21st Century. In fact, I
believe the benefits of a position like that can be found without
the additional layers of command or bureaucracy such a change would
inevitably bring. The benefits can be found by modernizing the
structures we already have.
I said that
we need a true source of central intelligence. In
CIA, we have something closesomething that can be made even
closer. And, through the office of the DCI, we can deepen existing
trends toward interdisciplinary, interagency cooperation and, with
additional authority, achieve the greater agility and responsiveness
that the challenges of the world increasingly require.
with CIA, specifically the word "central."
There is a
tendency now to view CIA as "just another agency." It
is not. It is the only intelligence agency that has the following
four characteristics: It has Global focus. It is Multidisciplinary. It
integrates all intelligence sources. And, perhaps most
important, it is non-departmental: that is it does not create
or advocate policy. Nor is it a component of a department that
As such, CIA
can be a neutral meeting ground for intelligence. A
place where ideasoperational, analytic, and technicalare
created. And where the ideas of other agencies are heard, tested,
and added to the mix. CIA already does a lot of this. But I believe
it can do more.
that CIA is ideally positioned to draw from, coordinate with,
and fairly represent the entire Community.
That is why
Harry Truman asked Congress to create CIA back in 1947. That is why the DCI has also been the director of CIA. And
that is why the DCI belongs there still.
If CIA is to meet its special responsibility, and respond to the
requirements of today, here are four key changes that ought to
take steps to underscore CIA's non-departmental, nonpolitical
way would be to appoint the DCI to a fixed term.
increase the Director's authorities with regard to all national
agencies. This would be on condition
of close consultation with the Secretary of Defense but with
decision authority vested in the DCI, who would also have to
accept accountability for meeting military intelligence requirements. At
present, the DCI has allocational authority over about 10 percent
of the Intelligence Community budget, a figure that hardly qualifies
adopt a variant of the Goldwater-Nichols concept to build a
strong "Community officer" cadre. To reach senior rank,
you should have one or more full-tour assignments in another
Intelligence Community agency. The aim would be to create a
large group of people who can help CIA manage Community responsibilities
and cross-agency, cross-discipline teams on key substantive issues.
- And, finally,
shift more business toward Community-wide centers, building
approach that has been so effective in counter-terrorism. For
enduring issues of extraordinary importance to the countryweapons
proliferation, for examplewe need the quick, seamless fusion
of data, analysis, and operations that the centers can provide.
This is about
more than wiring diagrams. It is about flexibility
and authority, and adaptability to bring together the right mix
of people and the right mix of resourcesfrom inside government
and beyond. The flexibility to handle change routinely. To contribute
decisively to what will be a long fight against terrorism, without
losing sight of the other security priorities that lie before our
nation, each with its own demands.
Ideas for intelligence
reorganizations have been with us almost as long as modern intelligence
itself. One of the earliest was
from a pioneer in the field in the Second World War, General William
J. Donovan. With battles still raging in Europe and Asia, he sketched
out his confidential views of a peacetime intelligence service.
Andin a development that sounds all too familiar to us todayDonovan's
plan was leaked to the press, where it was pilloried as something
it most surely was not: a blueprint for an American Gestapo.
So much for
example of a "leak" brings to mind another requirement
for national security in this new era, and that is a renewed commitment
to security discipline in our government.
I will not
say that everything stamped classified should besecrecy
is a grant of trust, not power. And I know that the overwhelming
majority of American journalists are not only exacting, but courageous
and patriotic. And the American peoplethrough the press
and their representatives in Congressneed to understand what
we do on their behalf. What we do well, where we fall short, and
what we are doing about it.
But they also
need to understandand I believe they dothat,
taken to extremes, exposure of the nuts and bolts of our work undercuts
our ability to do that work. I just wonder sometimes if everyone
inside the Beltway or the media does understand this. Replacing
a collection capability lost to leaks takes both time and money. But
the real loss must be measured in a country that is less safe and
less well defended.
In factand this is one of the most important points I can
leave you withour adversaries, not possessing the conventional
power of the United States, search for ways to gain an asymmetric
advantage over us. Think about this. Their ability to keep a
secret is one of those ways. Especially now, when we have nearly
lost our ability to do so.
should be debates and discussions about intelligenceits
structure and activities. That is fundamental to who we are as
As vital as
secrecy is to intelligenceto our ability to
save American livesit must never become a wall that prevents
an open, honest dialogue with the American public. And it has
That is why
I am here today. And that is why I so appreciate
your invitation and your patience, and look forward to your thoughts
Thank you very