31 March 2005
Commission Co-Chairmen Call for Intelligence Changes
See "unique opportunity" to effect reform in intelligence community
The release of the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction provides “a unique opportunity” to make effective reforms to the U.S. intelligence community, say the commission's co-chairmen, former judge Laurence H. Silberman and former Senator Charles S. Robb.
Speaking at a briefing with reporters March 31, Robb said “the need the change is acknowledged” across the board within the U.S. intelligence community and the report provides a “starting point” for rebuilding confidence in U.S. intelligence.
“[I]t builds on the momentum that was created by the reports -- the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, the joint report, and several others,” Robb said.
Robb said the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq were the result of long-term flaws dating back to the 1990s.
Silberman said the intelligence community had operated on assumptions based on what it had seen in 1991 in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and continued with these assumptions and presumptions, fitting what new evidence was found into the existing framework.
Robb noted this was representative of an intelligence community that is “still, in some respects, fighting the last war.” He said, though, that “[t]he enemy has changed dramatically, and that the lapses discussed in the committee’s report “should have been addressed a long time ago.”
The former senator also noted that a “drumbeat” of intelligence presented the president with the commonly held opinion of all intelligence communities that Iraq either possessed or was in the process of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Silberman noted that the intelligence presented to the president daily was even “more alarmist” than that contained in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Silberman noted that the intelligence community had resisted connecting Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida, but "was absolutely uniform, and uniformly wrong, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.”
Robb said the commission had been sensitive to charges of the politicization of intelligence before the Iraqi war and had thoroughly investigated all charges leveled through means including the use of a hotline for tips, but had found “absolutely no instance” of such conduct.
Silberman said that there was no evidence of the political injection of false intelligence into the process, and he noted that the committee focused exclusively on the handling of intelligence and not on the president’s use of intelligence for policy matters.
Robb said he and Silberman had agreed to appear before a Senate Intelligence Committee April 5 and the House Intelligence Committee April 6.
In talking with member of Congress, Robb said, he found an “unusual congruence between the executive, legislative branch and the community that something needs to be done and that we need to work together to do it.”
Following is the transcript of the press briefing on the report:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
March 31, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING ON FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION ON THE INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITIES OF THE UNITED STATES REGARDING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Executive Office Building
11:39 A.M. EST
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I should just briefly like to thank our commission members, all who are sitting in the front row, for their magnificent support and work. I would particularly like to make note of Senator McCain, who, in an extraordinary display of zeal and conscientiousness, attended virtually every one of our meetings, spent more time -- Chuck said, more time than senators spend on committees. And we're very grateful.
I also would like to acknowledge our senior staff, which is sitting there, that has done such wonderful work. And I thought perhaps Senator Robb might mention the phone call we just recently had with congressional leaders on the Intelligence Committee.
SENATOR ROBB: Thank you. First of all, I'd like to echo Judge Silberman's compliments and thanks to the commissioners and the very professional staff. I have never worked with a more energetic group, or a more dedicated group that really put in some long, serious hours to produce this particular report.
Right after the entire commission had an opportunity to meet with the President earlier this morning, Judge Silberman and I made a call to the congressional leadership in the intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. And most of those members were not in Washington, but the White House was able to make connection with those that they could track down at this particular moment. And we had a good exchange, and we volunteered to come up and discuss the report with them. And as a matter of fact, we've got an acceptance from both committees. So we're going to be up meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, and the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday at their request. And we look forward to discussing that report. Obviously, we make reference to the need for a congressional oversight capability that is part of a genuine team, in our report.
In any event, you had an opportunity to at least take a look at the overview, if not all of the details of the report. We would be delighted to attempt to respond to whatever questions you'd like to --
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Just before that, we should note that a number of the congressmen and senators had read the report. They got it earlier this morning. And I think it's fair to say we understood them to express virtually uniform enthusiasm.
SENATOR ROBB: Those that were on the call, at least.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: That's right.
QUESTION: May I ask you? I just wonder about Iraq, if I might ask -- if I might ask both of you, how do you think this administration got the intelligence wrong on Iraq? And it's not just this administration -- the intelligence community dating back to previous administrations, as well. But this administration went to war based on that information, and based on that, do you think ultimate responsibility for those failures rests with this President?
SENATOR ROBB: First of all, with respect to the intelligence on Iraq, as we make clear in the report, and detail both in the overview, as well as the main body of the report, and in the classified version, as well, there's no question that the intelligence that came to the administration, the American people, and was shared, for the most part, by a number of other intelligence agencies and others, was deeply flawed.
The fact that they got wrong the critical judgements with respect to nuclear weapons, with respect to biological weapons, and with respect to chemical weapons, and even with respect to missile systems and UAVs -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles -- as a potential delivery means for a possible nuclear, chemical, biological agent, they were wrong. The only part of that part of the assessment, with respect to Iraq's current status and capabilities, had to do with one instance where the missiles were able to exceed the 150 kilometer range that was constrained. Beyond that, everything else about that intelligence assessment was given to the President.
It was also developed during the course of a long period of time. And as we point out in the report, it didn't just occur in the October 2002 NIE. It was -- if you look at -- obviously, you don't have an opportunity to look at the presidential briefs, but some of the other river of --
Q: I'd like to.
SENATOR ROBB: I know you'd like to. We did examine those that related to the whole question of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. And it's very clear that the message, the drumbeat that started well before the 2002 NIE and continued for some period thereafter, was that those weapons existed, and that there was, in the judgment of the intelligence community -- at least as presented to the senior policy makers -- very little evidence of any doubt as to the characterizations that are made in that report.
Q: But, Judge, what I'm getting at here is, so how did it happen? How did they get it wrong? Did this administration not ask the tough questions, the right questions? Did they not challenge some of these assumptions? And doesn't ultimate responsibility rest with the President of the United States?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Actually, if you read the Woodward book, it would appear that the President did ask tough questions. But we -- our job was to look at the intelligence that came from the intelligence community, and that was the responsibility we were directed to pursue, pursuant to the executive order.
Q: But I'm sorry, but I -- so what went wrong? I mean, you're telling me that the intelligence was bad, so how did it get bad? How does that process break down?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Well, we wrote a long report, we wrote a long report to try to explain why. All right, the bottom line is, the intelligence community operated on presumptions or assumptions based on what they had seen in 1991. And they continued on with those presumptions or those assumptions which hardened into presumptions. And they had precious little evidence in support -- to support those presumptions. What little evidence they did have, which was inconsistent, was tortured into those presumptions. So the bottom line answer is, they had very little collection, they had very little evidence collected. What little evidence they had, they pushed into assumptions based on the past behavior of Saddam Hussein, and although it was perfectly reasonable for them to speculate or to assume, what the intelligence community should have done is said, look, we don't have very little evidence of this; we really don't know. And that would have been justifiable.
Q: Could I ask an overall question about the tone and tenor of the report. Reports of presidential commissions are frequently written in formal, even dull language. The President called your report unvarnished. In places, it strikes one as harsh. You call intelligence dead wrong, worthless, debilitating turf battles. That kind of language just laces the report. I'd like to ask you why you thought it necessary to be this tough? Does this report operate as a kind of kick in the teeth to the intelligence community? Is that one of the things you want to do here?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I think we just wanted to be accurate.
SENATOR ROBB: Let me just say that it was not our intention to kick anybody in the teeth. Indeed, we have enormous respect for the community, for the very talented individuals that make up that community. But we felt we had an obligation to the President that appointed the commission and to the American people to point out where there were some very serious errors with respect to trade craft.
And we go into that in some detail. We would be happy to go into more detail here, but the bottom line is that the -- there was no real question raised about whether or not there was any doubt. And yet, with respect to at least three different agencies, they clearly had an opportunity to do a good job with respect to trade craft and didn't. And I'll -- we'll go into those if you like.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I might add, we had two university presidents on our commission who were insistent we just be accurate.
Q: Chuck, may I ask that now that you've put this together, is it your feeling -- and Judge Silberman's -- that any of this can be put together in a workable organization? We now have a huge national intelligence apparatus, and soon perhaps an intelligence czar. Many people looking at Homeland Security say it's much too big to be effective. It's a huge bureaucracy and boondoggle. Is it your feeling that this amalgamation of intelligence is going to be workable, or again, just turf battles?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We think we have a unique opportunity now that Congress just passed legislation, and we have a nominee for the very important position of Director of National Intelligence and a deputy up for Senate confirmation in a short number of days. We think this presents an enormous opportunity to implement the notions we have in this report. Yes, we are very confident that real improvements can be made.
SENATOR ROBB: And it builds on the momentum that was created by the reports -- the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, the joint report, and several others. This comes at a fortuitous moment, where we believe that the confluence of this report, a brand new DNI who has been nominated by the President to take over -- it's a whole lot easier to instigate change when there is a major change in leadership taking place. And based on the feedback that we got, or the information that we received from many, many members of the intelligence community, across the board, all of the elements of the community, the need for change is acknowledged. There are some differences with respect to certain institutions that may or may not agree with our particular proposal. But I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't say that the need for change is very great.
We're still -- to use a military analogy -- we're still, in part, in part -- because they're doing some very good things that we're not talking about in any detail, and some of the best things that they're doing we can't talk about. But they're still, in some respects, fighting the last war. They're still structured. Some very capable people with some very sophisticated tools are still in an environment that is much like the Soviet-era where we were going against a very different enemy. The enemy has changed dramatically. And we have to be prepared to be effective in preparing the community for this new emerging threat that is going to be with us for a long period of time.
Q: You admit, though, that your mission wasn't necessarily to find out whether or not the policy makers -- but it was mostly about the intelligence -- the intelligence, not necessarily politics, how that played in. But you did say in the report that you did find that there was no instance of political pressure here. Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion? For example, there were reports that the Vice President went over to the CIA and, perhaps, were pressuring analysts to give him the kind of outcome that he wanted.
SENATOR ROBB: We looked very closely at that question. Every member of the commission was sensitive to the number of questions that have been raised with respect to the, what we'll call politicization, or however you want to describe it. And we examined every single instance that had been referred to, in print or otherwise, to see if there was any occasion where a member of the administration or anyone else had asked an analyst or anybody else associated with the intelligence community to change a position that they were taking or whether they felt there was any undo influence, and we found absolutely no instance.
And we ran to ground everything that we had on the table, and we also had an open hotline to the -- and we got a fair amount of information that didn't provide us anything more in this area. We -- if somebody has -- a member of the intelligence community, that can say to us, we changed our analysis based on a request or demand, or we believe we were improperly influenced to change it, we haven't heard from them.
Q: Isn't it possible that there was perhaps a culture created inside the intelligence community, knowing that this administration, in particular, was very eager to deal with Saddam Hussein?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Let me try to answer that question, if I can. The intelligence community was quite resistant to notions that there was an important connection between Saddam and al Qaeda or terrorism. They rejected that notion, even though they were questioned on it a number of times.
With respect to weapons of mass destruction, it's the opposite case, it's the opposite situation. The intelligence community was absolutely uniform, and uniformly wrong, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. And they pushed that position.
Q: But there is evidence, Judge, that some of the intelligence that was injected into the system here came from political sources. For example, you cited like the case here, of somebody who described it the INC defector, whose information was circulated or recirculated, got into Powell's speech, got into the NIE, and he turned out to be a fabricator. In fact, he'd been labeled a fabricator before his information got into the NIE. My understanding is -- and I've heard this from numerous sources, I think this has even been printed -- that the defector came to the intelligence community, was referred to the DIA by a process of "executive referral," which meant that, in fact, former CIA director Woolsey brought this guy into somebody at the policy level at the Pentagon, and they gave this guy to the DIA.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Which fellow are you referring to?
Q: The so-called INC defector. You don't mention this in your report, but there is some evidence that these people -- that this intelligence was injected into the system at a political level. So did you look at that at all? Also, did you question any policy makers about their desires here and their interface with the intelligence community?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We did question policy makers about their perception of the intelligence, that is true. We did not see any evidence of false intelligence being injected by any policy maker into the intelligence community.
Q: Senator, there's a situation now, there's a chapter that's -- there's a chapter that's classified on Korea -- North Korea and Iran. And the report makes clear it's too sensitive to discuss publicly. But the administration is making public statements about those two countries. And my question is, knowing what those public statements are, and you're privileged with information on what the secrets are, can the American people be confident that the public statements, the pressure being put on these two countries, is based on accurate information and is sound?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Isn't that just a clever way to try to get us to answer the question of what intelligence we have on Iran and North Korea? I mean, it's clever, but I -- we can't do it.
Q: Judge, can I -- if I can follow on that? Without discussing the specific evidence you have on Iran and North Korea, there are trends that you mentioned here involving Iraq. For example, that purchases were -- purchases of goods were interpreted as an ability to produce, and so forth. As you looked at Iran and North Korea, did you see any evidence that it was following the pattern you had seen in Iraq or that it was following the pattern that you had seen in your other chapters on Libya and, to some degree, on al Qaeda, where you found that there was a better discernment of what was going on?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Either one of us could answer the same way. We simply cannot talk about those subjects.
SENATOR ROBB: What we did say is that we found systemic problems throughout the community that related to the question that you asked. But that's as far as we're able to go on that.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: But not necessarily with respect to Iran or North Korea.
Q: Could we, then, assume from that that some of the trends you saw, you have also have concerns about other countries --
SENATOR ROBB: You can go as far as systemic weakness throughout the community with respect to some of the matters that we did discuss, and that's -- it's as far as we can go.
Q: Senator and Your Honor, please, how will these findings affect allied impressions and collaboration in the future? Can the U.S. ever fully restore intelligence credibility? And in your estimation, was the war against Iraq a waste?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Can we answer the first question and skip the second?
Q: No, don't skip the second.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: The second is a policy issue, we don't deal with policy. On the first question, if you read the report carefully, you can see some of the worst intelligence that we relied on came from foreign liaison sources. Now it's true, we put our prestige on the line when Secretary Powell went to the United Nations. But the truth of the matter is that every intelligence agency that we know of, that cooperates with the United States, in the world, had the same views. And, in fact, some of the worst bits of intelligence came from -- in hindsight -- came from foreign liaison sources.
SENATOR ROBB: But the bottom line is that our report, we hope, will provide the basis for a starting point to rebuild the confidence that has been shaken by the inaccurate intelligence that was delivered, with respect to Iraq. We recognize that the United States took a hit; the community recognizes it; everyone that we've talked to recognizes it. But we can't simply punt at that point. We're trying to put a constructive pathway, if you will, to restoring that confidence.
Q: There are two things that strike me. One is you're talking about still fighting the last war. One of the major findings of the 9/11 Commission was a lack of imagination. And as we don't have the classified part of your report in terms of covert operations, I'd like you to give us an overview of whether you think imagination is being used now in terms of anticipating the kinds of threats that we might see, but that we haven't seen.
SENATOR ROBB: I'll just start if you like. The answer is, in those successes that we can't talk about, it's very clear that the things that we're -- that underlie our basic report, including imagination and integration of the community, if you will, are critical to the successes that we see that we have enjoyed, that we see on the horizon, and that we encourage the community to use more innovative approaches, and certainly to integrate fully, so that the cross-pollination, if you will, can inform the entire process and make the likelihood that we'll be successful in the future greater. We cannot guarantee a result, ever.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Let me add something to that. In the war on terrorists, we have seen some zeal and imagination, and some very successful operations.
Q: The other piece of it was, in looking through just the overview, in terms of clarifying information that the President receives, and the way the DNI will operate, and others, together, I have to confess to being completely confused by your recommendations, which are very clear, but are building on what already seems to be a system of confusion. And you have recommendations with regard to covert operations, with regard to who gets what and with regard to not giving the President pieces of information he doesn't need, but it seems that we're operating from so much confusion, initially, that bringing just these changes into effect is going to be extremely difficult in the culture of non-information sharing that we seem to have.
SENATOR ROBB: Well, obviously, information-sharing -- and we look upon it -- sharing implies ownership, and so we make a statement, although information-sharing is a term that is used, and everybody understands it, and it's in some of the legislation, the truth is we're talking about access. And we're proposing that one of the principal deputies to the new DNI be charged with the dual responsibility of providing security, as well as providing access, and that that be a function of risk management. We believe that that accurately brings together the two competing concerns that we have with respect to information sharing, all consistent -- and we try to point this out in each case, with the Attorney General's approval, with respect to privacy rights and any matters that are concerned -- are of concern to civil libertarians. And we've been very conscious of that throughout our proceedings.
Q: Gentlemen, you said that you did have an opportunity to question policy makers to formulate this report. Can you clarify exactly which policy makers you talked to? And since you cited a journalist's book, does that mean that you did not have a chance, independently, to interview the President, himself, and the Vice President?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We had discussions with the President. We didn't interview the President, nor did we interview the Vice President. We did interview various senior policy makers in this administration and in prior administrations to get a sense as to how -- what they thought about the flow of intelligence, where they thought there were defects, where they thought there could be improvements. That was our purpose.
Q: What is the distinction between questioning a President and interviewing a President for the report?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Well, we had a session with the President last fall in which we discussed generally where -- what the nature of our inquiry was.
Q: But not --
SENATOR ROBB: But let me --
Q: -- not how he was a consumer of the intelligence?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I'm not sure I understand, ma'am. No, no, he did discuss with us his own views about being a consumer --
SENATOR ROBB: Yes.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: -- particularly with respect to the President -- the presidential daily brief, yes.
Q: And the Vice President, also?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: The Vice President was in that room, too, as I recall.
SENATOR ROBB: He was in both of the meetings that we had with the President.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Yes, yes.
SENATOR ROBB: But again, I hope the distinction isn't lost. We were querying members of this administration and previous administrations as intelligence consumers, and how they viewed the efficiency and the accuracy and the timeliness and the responsiveness of the intelligence community to meet their needs in formulating policy.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Yes, sir.
Q: Should your report be read as an exoneration of the President's use of the intelligence, or did you not tackle that question?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We did not -- our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policy makers, and all of us were agreed that was not part of our inquiry.
Q: Could either of you discuss something called in the report a new Agent X, a particularly virulent strain of biological hazard? How big is it, where is it, how widespread?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Rather not.
Q: Is it the new anthrax?
SENATOR ROBB: What you have in the report is the extent of what we can discuss with respect to Agent X.
Q: Could you discuss your proposal that the new DNI not be the one to make -- do the daily brief at the White House, as the President has, himself, suggested --
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We are concerned about that, and we've discussed it with the President a couple of times. Our concern about that is we think the essential importance of the DNI is to achieve an integration, a coordination, and a leadership of the intelligence community, in so far as he is tasked with preparing the presidential daily brief. We have found from prior intelligence chiefs that that can consume so much time and energy that it leaves very little left for the leadership and management of the intelligence community.
Q: Do you think the President will go along with that? Has he said?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: He's considering that carefully.
SENATOR ROBB: We had a good discussion. Anything that results, would be, obviously, the President's prerogative to discuss publicly.
Q: Sirs, your report says that the intelligence community does not exist in any meaningful sense of the word as a community.
SENATOR ROBB: As a community.
Q: And you also say, deep within the report, you cite the many commissions before you, going back to the Church Commission, which have looked at intelligence lapses. And you say -- you're treading a well worn path. In as much as many of these lapses were pointed out as early as 2002, shouldn't this systemic failure, as you've described it, should have been addressed a long time ago?
SENATOR ROBB: Yes.
Q: And what does it say about the responsibility of the administration in this regard?
SENATOR ROBB: Well, change within this community is going to be very difficult, even the changes that we're recommending now with the opportunity given to us by the confluence of events that will give this some momentum. Nobody says it's -- nobody think it's going to be easy. We just think there is a much better chance now to enact those reforms than we've had previously.
But the question you ask, the simple yes, is that they should have been addressed a long time ago. We are in basic agreement with most of the conclusions that prior commissions who looked at intelligence capabilities came to.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Strange -- excuse me. I'm sorry.
SENATOR ROBB: Go ahead.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Strangely enough, in talking with representatives of prior administrations, as well as this one, there is a certain reluctance on policymakers to push the intelligence community as hard as they should for fear of an accusation of politicization. And we discuss that at great length in the report, that it's very important for policymakers to question and push hard on the intelligence community to explore and to fill gaps in intelligence.
SENATOR ROBB: We put that actually in the letter of transmittal, that there needs to be clear pushing back to the community. We need to challenge the community, otherwise it will be very comfortable in continuing along ways that are predictable but no longer responsive to the kinds of challenges that we face now, leading into the 21st century.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Yes, ma'am.
Q: As the President said and as the report says, the United States knows disturbingly little about the weapons and the intentions of our most dangerous adversaries. Do any of the members of the commission, or the commission as a whole, have any worries or concerns about the U.S. policy of preemption?
SENATOR ROBB: We did not get into policy matters, period. I think it's fair to say that everybody probably has private views on that, but we did not discuss them in the commission. And that was not part of our mandate.
Q: Based on your extensive look into this --
SENATOR ROBB: And we're not going to go there now. (Laughter.)
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Yes, sir.
Q: Yes, one state homeland security official that I spoke to this morning, who had read the -- who was reading the report, said he was disappointed to see so little in it about the importance of state and local law enforcement -- state, local and tribal law enforcement as consumers, but also producers of intelligence. Could you respond? And secondly, the FBI has already been briefing against the recommendations of your report. Do you have -- could you talk a little bit about how important the changes that you recommend there are?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Can I take your second question first? The biggest single threat to the United States at present comes from the use, or the potential use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. I think everybody recognizes that. And that, in turn requires cooperation between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence. Our report seeks to enhance that cooperation, and seeks to modify significantly the way the Bureau is structured and organized to enhance that cooperation.
Now, from a -- as a long-term observer of the Bureau, I recognize that the Bureau has its own strong views about the way the world should be organized. But after all, in the last analysis, this will be up to the President.
Q: Okay, you make some passing reference to the A.Q. Khan network. You don't deal with it in a separate chapter. But in the course of that, you say that some innovative human intelligence efforts gave the U.S. access to this proliferation web. Can you tell us whether or not you believe that the intelligence community is now -- has now reorganized itself to deal with the Khan model, or its successors, or whether or not you think this was sort of a "one-off" case of being relatively lucky or skillful in penetrating the network?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: May I?
SENATOR ROBB: Go ahead.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: You want to -- should I go?
SENATOR ROBB: Go ahead, I'll follow up.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: You recall that -- you may recall in our report, we do recommend a center to deal with proliferation, a much more modest center than the NCTC. But one of the reasons we recommend that center is we want the expertise in developing that black market in weapons of mass destruction to be focused. Now, with respect to terrorism, the NCTC should have the primary role, but counter-proliferation is important, too, and we want to see coordination of that within the intelligence community.
SENATOR ROBB: We are trying to encourage the kind of innovation that we can only refer to as we did in the unclassified report. We believe that is the future for successful intelligence penetration and everything else that goes with it.
Q: Should Congress, in its oversight role here, be pushing the intelligence community as well as the administration -- for more questioning?
SENATOR ROBB: Yes, we just had a session with the members of the Intelligence Committee. I think I made reference to that. And there is a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the members of the Intelligence Committee to do just that. And we're going to work with them.
There is, at this point at least, an unusual congruence between the executive, legislative branch and the community that something needs to be done and that we need to work together to do it.
Q: What should the role of Congress be in fixing things? Many of these things can be done only by executive --
SENATOR ROBB: Well, that's right, and we point out that there are a limited number of our recommendations that will require legislative action. We'll discuss those with Congress when we go up on the Hill. But it's not entirely contingent upon Congress taking action in many of these areas.
Again, remember, one of the most important recommendations that we make is to fully empower the DNI. The DNI has to take every legal and other power that he's given, and he needs the full and unequivocal support and backing of the President, or it won't work. You've got some very distinguished, proud agencies that -- whose culture will work against change, no matter how good the intentions are, with respect to those who might lead them, or others who want to see change accomplished.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We have recognized -- if I might add to that -- we have recognized that a congressional oversight has its pluses and its minuses. Extensive -- too extensive of an oversight detracts the senior executive branch officials from the work they have to do.
I think Chairman Roberts is particularly focusing on strategic kind of oversight, trying to look ahead at problems. And we suggest that the President recommend that congressional oversight be focused more on a -- in a strategic basis rather than chasing the headline of the day.
SENATOR ROBB: And both respect to the community and Congress to establish units that have sole responsibility for strategic or long-term intelligence and don't get, somehow, eaten up by the -- whatever was -- is the intelligence challenge du jour.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We only have time for a few more questions. Yes, sir.
Q: I understand the limits on the scope of your inquiry, but isn't it inherently unfair to discount the role of policy makers? Because if you look at the NIE, for example, there were caveats in there, and there were cautionary notes about the quality of the intelligence. So shouldn't the policy makers be held to account for not following up and asking questions about that and focusing, instead, on the assumption that fit their policy goals?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Well, actually, there's two points to be made in connection with that. If you look at the NIE, the intelligence community came up with a 90 percent certainty of weapons of mass destruction. And that was pretty high, number one. Number two, we looked at the flow, or the stream of intelligence that came to the White House in the two years before that. And if anything, it was even more alarmist.
Q: You also make some pretty dramatic recommendations for changes at the CIA, including creating a human intelligence directorate, which would absorb the current clandestine service.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Well, I don't say, absorb. The DO would report to the human directorate in our proposal.
Q: So it would be above the clandestine service?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Right.
Q: I imagine you'll encounter some resistance to that idea at Langley, and I wonder what you're thinking was.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: That we would encounter resistance from Langely.
SENATOR ROBB: Resistance at Langley. (Laughter.) And, indeed, that matter was discussed in our -- one of the few relatively detailed matters that was raised by the congressional leadership today, as well.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Yes, ma'am.
Q: Could you explain what the thinking was in terms of why we need a structure above the clandestine service?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: We think -- we think the -- part of the problem is the DO does an excellent job, and always has done an excellent job, at exactly what it does. It's hard to take an organization that does an excellent job at what it does and try to get it to do other things. And we think other things are very necessary.
Q: Who remained strongest in these turf wars? You've got the DNI, the NCI, you've got Rumsfeld, Rice, of course the President, Cheney. Who's strongest here?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I know the answer to that: the President.
Q: All right, but underneath the President and the Vice President, then of the alphabet soup, who is strongest?
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Certainly, the congressional purpose there is to empower the DNI. As our report indicates, to a certain extent, his responsibilities outrun his authorities. And we're hoping that that can be brought, as much as possible, through executive action, into congruence.
SENATOR ROBB: Many of our recommendations are designed for that purpose.
Q: What executive actions do you think will take place quickly or which ones do you hope will take place --
JUDGE SILBERMAN: I think you'll have to ask the White House that question. But I -- we certainly have the impression from meeting the President, and he had a meeting with his Cabinet -- we weren't there, of course -- we certainly had the impression, by his appointment of Miss Townsend as the ramrod for this, that he's quite serious.
END 12:15 P.M. EST
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