spacer image
Skip Nav Skip to Search
Contact  |  Subscribe to the Buzz by RSS
spacer image
RSS Feeds get adobe reader
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS

08-01-2004

Senior Intelligence Official: (already in progress) it's clear about al-Qaeda's intent, as well as their capability to carry out attacks both here and abroad, but the intelligence effort against al-Qaeda is a painstaking one, one that requires tremendous patience and tremendous effort on the part of many different government agencies and departments.  And we had a briefing here several weeks ago regarding the information that we had about al-Qaeda's plans to carry an attack in the homeland this year.

What we have are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and now we have some very specific, and as the Secretary said, specific and credible information regarding al Qaeda's plans to carry out attacks here in the States.  Today's news, today's intelligence, is both a cause for concern as well as, clear evidence of success in the war against terrorism.  Because of the tremendous detail and specificity that we've been able to acquire, the collection agencies have been able to acquire, about upcoming attacks.  We frequently get this type of information after attacks take place, but this information before these attacks are able to be carried out.

The new information is chilling in its scope, in its detail, in its breadth.  It also gives one a sense the same feeling one would have if one found out that somebody broke into your house and over the past several months was taking a lot of details about your place of residence and looking for ways to attack you.

When I went through the information over the past 36 hours the type of information that has been acquired about the target sets here in the United States demonstrates that al-Qaeda is meticulous in its efforts; it is patient in its efforts, and since 9-11 there has been an effort made to ensure that they have the information that they need in order to carry out attacks.

What I want to do is walk through briefly some of the types of information.  What we have now is extensive information about the activities that have taken place from a reconnaissance standpoint in terms of collecting information, also in terms of casing and surveillance as far as the types of targets to be attacked, the vulnerabilities, the perceived vulnerabilities, as well as the possible optimal ways to carry out attacks to bring down buildings.

There is detail now available regarding the types of security procedures at some specific buildings; the security checks that are required; the types of security personal at different posts; whether or not these individuals are armed or not; the presence of security officers at these posts at different times of the day; the types of uniforms that they wear; the number of pedestrians in the area, the number of employees in buildings; information regarding potential escape routes for perpetrators of attacks; different points of reconnaissance in order to ensure that they have the full breadth of information regarding the targets; different types of shops that are near by.

There is extensive information now available on the information they've been able to acquire regarding the other facilities in the area, whether they be religious establishments, schools, libraries, hospitals, police departments, fire departments; talks about the different access measures, as far as whether or not there's a physical desk or intercom systems; types of surveillance activities or counter-surveillance activities such as cameras; good places to go to meet employees; good places to go to acquire additional information; the types of traffic patterns that are near buildings; the different types of vehicles that in fact can enter different types of parking facilities; the incline that is used, that exists, as one enters an underground parking facility; the different types of materials that in fact should be brought into different types of vehicles and to address whether or not certain materials can, if detonated, cause, in fact, buildings to collapse; the placement of such devices and bombs to maximize the damage to the architecture of the building.

It identifies also the disadvantages of certain types of plans in terms of the possible dissipation of the force in terms of the size, the height of the building, the height of a ceiling where in fact a vehicle might in fact be detonated.  It talks about different means of ingress and egress; how one can get in side buildings.  It talks about the configurations of parking lots.  It talks about whether or not the parking garages and facilities are close the core of the buildings and near certain offices.  It talks about the different types of shops nearby that can provide cover for additional types of acquisition of information.  It talks about the number of cars passing different types of targets at particular times of the day.

It talks about the many types of procedures that employees themselves have to use for access to buildings.  It recommends the type of material to be used.  It talks about the types of techniques.  It talks about the types of trucks, vehicles, other types of means of bringing in and bringing close to the targets, explosive devices.  It makes reference to the extensive detail that individuals who have been involved in this have been able to acquire from publicly available sites, from various types of information that's available, as well as the types of personal reconnaissance and surveillance and casing that goes on.

So again, from the standpoint of intelligence availability on different types of targets and my experience, the amount of detail available here is such that really provides the different types of organizations involved tremendous insight into what, in fact, al-Qaeda is contemplating and what they already have identified in terms of means of attack.

Senior Intelligence Official:  I wanted to spend just a moment talking about a different piece of this puzzle.  You've talked about the, what do we know, what have we acquired.

There was a question earlier about where this came from.  Let me talk for just a moment about how we got here and we know what we know.  There's been commentary in the media over time about things like chatter, about acquisition of information off the internet.  This is not that kind of information.  What this is a result of is the offense we have taken in this war and the disruption of this al-Qaeda adversary.

Over the course of the past three years since 9-11, we've taken out, this is CIA in concert with our law enforcement colleagues, our military colleagues, and our friends around the world, I'd estimate more than 70 percent of the al-Qaeda leadership.  And what we have found is a mosaic, an understanding of this adversary that is slowly and steadily coming into focus.  It's coming into focus again, not just because of chatter or because of internet information, but because we acquire information from disruptions that allows us to get behind the organization and understand exactly what they're trying to do in some respects just like someone else just described, and this information as I said is the result of disruptions of the organization. I'd make one more comment about this.

The adversary we saw and have seen since the 1990's, the adversary that conducted the operation of September 11th, put in place many plans.  It's a very strategic thinking organization.  The leadership of the organization, I think, it was very focused and committed to what they were doing.  What you're seeing in some cases is the remnants of what that leadership tried to set up years ago, and what you're seeing in response is the manifestation of our offensive disruptions.  We are seeing what they put together and seeing it as we take down people, and as we take down what we call documents and other document exploitation.

So as we take out the remnants, the mosaic is coming into focus, and in some sense we have a bit of a good news story today.  Disruption has allowed us to get a clarity that we have not had before.  So that's a quick picture.  I don't know if anyone else has comments to make.

Senior Intelligence Official: I'll speak very briefly, but the information that has been received over the last short period of time has really carved out a lot of work for us to do.  It's provided us a lot of veins that we are going in collectively.  As someone has already said, this is really a success story for all of us and the opportunity for us to be able to take advantage of the intelligence that has been developed and look behind the intelligence to expand and look in other directions is very valuable.

The last three years we've had some extraordinary partnerships that have been developed, not only among those of us agencies that are up here in front of you, but especially the state and local law enforcement agencies and our counterparts around the world.  And it's that partnership that's allowed us to get to where we are and that we can now take this information and put it to good use in the areas that Secretary Ridge has mentioned in New York, Northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

We've been speaking directly about this intelligence with Ray Kelly, Commissioner from New York; Chief Ramsey in Washington, D.C.; as well as other individuals in the homeland security law enforcement sectors in those areas as well as in New Jersey.  And we'll continue to do that and work in partnership to exploit this information.

Senior Intelligence Official:   I'd just like to echo the other official?s comments here that we are doing our best to get this information out to the state and local authorities and to the private sector here in the United States to inform them about the threat and to assist them in any way that we can and understanding it and dealing with it.

There are many people at work.  It's a large team.  All agencies of government are involved.  We're doing everything we can to clarify the situation and to inform people and you, of course, are a vital part of that and we appreciate that very much.  We would like to, kind of leave a thought with you today that Secretary Ridge mentioned, but I'd like to just reinforce before we take any questions you might have, and that is that this information we have now is still developing, and additional information is likely to come into our hands in the next few hours and days and weeks.

We think this is a long term set of problems that we're up against.  This is not a flash in the pan, so to speak. So all of us together, everyone who not only serves and supports the American people, but who are the American people, in fact, have to pull together on this one to secure our nation.

Thank you very much.

Senior Intelligence Official: Before we have questions I realize we've had a couple of people that may have joined us late.  I just want to reiterate that these individuals for the purpose of this briefing are senior intelligence officials of the administration.

Question:  Is Homeland Security taking charge of working with the private sector or is the FBI, or is it a combination?

Senior Intelligence Official: This is not an intelligence question.  I didn't give an intelligence presentation either in my remarks?But keep in mind, there's something we remind ourselves of all the time here, and that is that protection and response are local issues.

Senior Intelligence Official:  The private sector is the point of the spear, so we can't, you know, we can do so much with this information but at the end of the day it's got to be operationalized by the private sector working with the local cops and the local law enforcement community.  So the nexus is right there and we talk about, the Secretary had pointed out some of the specific buildings and the companies that we're interested in, well we're working directly with their directors of security, their CEOs to ensure they've got the right messaging, the right things to do in terms of operationalizing protection plans, you know coordinating with the local law enforcement community so that's really what this represents.

I mean this is a contextual approach toward, you know, identifying the threat, understanding protection methods that can correspond to that threat and ensuring that everybody's got the appropriate resources aimed at the right thing.

Question:  Can you give us justification of ?(inaudible).

Senior Intelligence Official:  I think the indications are that this has been a very long standing effort on the part of al-Qaeda, that it dates from before 9-11; it continued after 9-11 and based on what it is that we are concerned about, we know about in terms of al-Qaeda's plans and intentions that it probably continues even today, in terms of preparations and acquiring additional information that would allow them in their mind to optimize the chances of success.

So I think the scope of the information, the breadth of it, indicates it's been going on for quite some time and it was conducted over an extended period of time, probably by many individuals.

Question:  Is that what you believe or does that mean that you think since 9-11 (inaudible)

Senior Intelligence Official:  I believe that since 9-11 they have been able to acquire additional information on these targets here in the United States, yes, I do.

Question:    Have there been recent events that have not been reported that would be (inaudible) that you're talking about of this plot, this plan that would be where this information comes from?

Senior Intelligence Official:  I don't think I'll get into the details of where it came from.  Let me give you two perspectives.  The first is we have a strategic backdrop of disruptions that goes back to the take down of senior al-Qaeda leaders like (inaudible) Mohammad and Abu Zubaydah.  We have over time developed a clarifying picture of this organization and what they're trying to do to us, strategically understanding them as an adversary.  Within the past days, we've acquired additional information that give a remarkable level of clarity and that information is very fresh, but it comes against a strategic backdrop that we've been worried about for a long time.

Question:  (inaudible)

Senior Intelligence Official: I think that would be a stretch.  We have a lot of work to do here.  The way we operate is when you start looking at information like this, I guess sort of like journalists, the amount of information that we are going to develop from this and be able to act upon is going to be huge.  This for us is a potential treasure trove.

Question: (inaudible)

Senior Intelligence Official:  Someone else mentioned there is a treasure trove of information that has recently become available against a backdrop of a volume of information that provides insights into the types of people, the types of individuals and where they may be coming from and what they may be going about doing.

And so this is part of that jigsaw puzzle I mentioned about getting intelligence and law enforcement to piece it together to try to identify the actual individuals and it runs all the way, as we know from the 9-11 attack, individuals who were orchestrating it from far off lands to individuals who were in charge of different cells, to the actual operation of cells.  And so this is one of the things that we're trying to do is to make sure we feed all that intelligence in to law enforcement.

Question:  How many people do you think are involved in (inaudible) carry out the (inaudible) or is it a different group?

Senior Intelligence Official: There's really no way to determine how many people were involved in the actual reconnaissance and casing.  I think we know from other types of operations al-Qaeda has carried out overseas that sometimes individuals who do casing and surveillance are actually participants in the operations themselves, to include suicide attacks.  In other instances there are individuals who are facilitators only and are not the people who actually carry it out.

Question:  (inaudible) sleeper cells or individuals in the (inaudible)?

Senior Intelligence Official:  Not in my review of the information at all in terms of the information itself right now.  Law enforcement is picking up the intelligence and working with it as we speak.

Question:  So you're saying you have not identified specific individuals involved in these (inaudible)?

Senior Intelligence Official: At this point, as you can imagine, this is on-going intelligence case as well as law enforcement investigative case, and so what might be happening as we speak about specifics and specific individuals or whatever is something that we will not address.

Question:  (inaudible) come from the arrests Gadlani and as far as this (inaudible) talk about here today, did you have information on (inaudible) what you found in his pocket or his possessions?

Senior Intelligence Official: As I said, I think I would prefer not to discuss a specific source of information except to say that it was acquired pretty recently.

Question:  And how significant (inaudible)?

Senior Intelligence Official:  I've leave (inaudible).

Question:  (inaudible) you mentioned documents (inaudible) you saying you recently acquired additional documents related to this (inaudible)?

Senior Intelligence Official:  No, what I'm saying is as we've looked to understand the al-Qaeda organization, there's a variety of information that we use to understand it.  Someone referred to internet earlier.

We certainly try to understand the organization's motivation from public sources, but in addition to what is publicly characterized as chatter, we have a whole, we have a growing wealth of information, whether it be from human sources, technical sources, but also documentary sources that help us get a level of granularity over time that we've never had, and what we're seeing now as you neck down this organization is specificity that in the three years post September 11th we've been fighting this, we have never seen before.

Question:  Is it possible this information is tainted?

Senior Intelligence Official:   You can see the partnership here.  We're so closely linked that we're not certain who's going to answer the question.  I suspect that the motivations are other than being a partnership, we're trying to dodge the bullets.  Can you run that one by me again?

Question:  Is it possible this is old information (inaudible)?

Senior Intelligence Official:  I think I would refer to what an official said earlier.  We acquire over the course of time information that dates sometimes pre 9-11 sometimes post 9-11, but what I think what we've seen over the course of time indicates that al-Qaeda remains focused on the United States is what we call the brass ring, and what we have seen of late does nothing to tell us otherwise.

###