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Mr. Stephen E. Flynn
November 14, 2002
Senator Feinstein, Senator Kyl, and distinguished members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information. On behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Homeland Security, thank you for so quickly assembling this hearing on our recently issued report, "America Still Unprepared--America Still in Danger." I am honored to be appearing before you with one of our task force's co-chairs and a truly great American, former Senator Warren Rudman, and my fellow task force member, Mr. Phil Odeen.
Fourteen months after 9/11, America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil. In all likelihood, the next attack will result in even greater casualties and widespread disruption to American lives and the economy. This is the core finding of our task force for which I was privileged to serve as director and which was led by former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart--co-chairs of the now famous Commission on National Security that warned of such a terrorist attack three years ago. Our bipartisan Independent Task Force, which came to this sober conclusion and which makes recommendations for emergency action, included two former secretaries of state, three Nobel laureates, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former director of the CIA and FBI, and some of the nation's most distinguished financial, legal, and medical experts. It is a finding which we believe the nation must respond to with the same level of intensity that we are investing in our overseas efforts to combat terrorism. Stated succinctly, we believe we should be operating essentially on a wartime footing here at home--and we are not. Indeed, we fear that there are worrisome signs that the nation is already slipping back into complacency.
Jumping directly to the agenda of this hearing today--what should Congress be doing to make the nation safer--two immediate actions are essential. First, the pending legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security should be acted on without delay. Second, Congress needs to immediately act to approve the remaining fiscal 2003 Appropriations Bills. Quite frankly, it is a disgrace that so many important measures we should be taking to address our many serious vulnerabilities are stalled because so much of the government is operating under the budgetary restrictions associated with the spending limits imposed by the rules governing continuing resolutions. In addition, we hope that the House and Senate will take a serious look at many of the recommendations for urgent action contained in our task force report which I attach to this statement and ask that it be included as a part of the official record of this hearing's proceedings.
In my opening statement this afternoon, I would like to stress why we believe that the nation is entering a period of especially grave danger with regard to the threat of a second catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States.
First, there the lessons of 9/11: (1) The homeland of the United States is largely open and unprotected, and (2) there is a vast menu of civilian targets which if exploited will lead to mass societal and economic disruption. In short, what we witnessed on September 11, 2002 is how warfare will likely be conducted against the United States for the foreseeable future. We are the world's "Goliath," and our adversaries must become creative "David's" to challenge our power. Going toe-to-toe on the conventional military battlefield almost certainly would be a losing proposition.
Second, there is mounting evidence that al Qaeda is returning to an operational footing. In the words of George Tenet who testified publicly before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence a month ago:
"When you see the multiple attacks that you've seen occur around the world, from Bali to Kuwait, the number of failed attacks that have been attempted, the various messages that have been issued by senior al-Qaeda leaders, you must make the assumption that al-Qaeda is in an execution phase and intends to strike us both here and overseas; that's unambiguous as far as I am concerned."
Directors of Central Intelligence rarely use in public the word "unambiguous" alongside their intelligence assessments--this assessment deserves to be taken extremely seriously.
Third, there is the fact that we are poised to embark on a war with Iraq. Such a war will have at least two implications for the homeland security imperative. (1) It elevates the risk in the near term of an attack on the United States. We are preparing to attack a ruthless adversary who may well have access to weapons of mass destruction. Given Saddam Hussein's past track record, prudence requires that we assume he will resort to any means to hang on to power. This could well include sponsorship of terrorist operations against the United States, at home as well as abroad. (2) A war with Iraq will likely consume virtually all the nation's attention and command the bulk of the available resources, leaving little left over to address our many domestic vulnerabilities.
Against this backdrop, where are we today with regard to advancing the security of the U.S. homeland? Our findings include the following:
· 650,000 local and state police officials continue to operate in a virtual intelligence vacuum, without a workable means to routinely access terrorist watch lists provided by the U.S. Department of State to immigration and consular officials.
Our key recommendations include the following:
· Empower front-line agents to intercept terrorists by establishing a twenty-four-hour operations center in each state that can provide access to terrorist watch list information via real time intergovernmental links between local and federal law enforcement.
In conclusion, it is the belief our task force that quickly mobilizing the nation to prepare for the worst is an act of prudence, not fatalism. In the twenty-first century, security and liberty are inseparable. The absence of adequate security elevates the risk that laws will be passed immediately in the wake of surprise terrorist attacks that will be reactive, not deliberative. Predictably, the consequence will be to compound the initial harm incurred by a tragic event with measures that overreach in terms of imposing costly new security mandates and the assumption of new government authorities that may erode our freedoms. Accordingly, aggressively pursuing America's homeland security imperatives quickly and immediately may well be the most important thing we can do to sustain America's cherished freedoms for future generations.
President Bush has declared that combating terrorism requires a war on two fronts--at home and abroad. The Task Force believes the nation should respond accordingly. Preparedness at home can play an indispensable role in combating terrorism by reducing its appeal as an effective means of warfare. Acts of catastrophic terrorism produce not only deaths and physical destruction but also societal and economic disruption. Thus, as important as it is to try and attack terrorist organizations overseas and isolate those who support them, it is equally important to eliminate the incentive for undertaking these acts in the first place. By sharply reducing, if not eliminating, the disruptive effects of terrorism, America's adversaries may be deterred from taking their battles to the streets of the American homeland.
Thank you and I look forward to responding to your questions.