Senator Collins Delivers Keynote Speech At INSA Symposium

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins delivered the opening keynote remarks this morning at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) Symposium, “A Decade of Intelligence, Community Integration & the Challenges Ahead.”

Senator Collins’ remarks provided a brief history of the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), which she co-authored, as well as an assessment of how the reforms in the IRTPA have been implemented. Her speech also identified areas for further reform in the intelligence community to address emerging challenges.

Senator Collins’ full remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be read below:

“Thank you, John [Negroponte], for that kind introduction. I am delighted to kick off today’s events. This room is brimming with dedicated public servants and patriots, including the two other past Directors of National Intelligence, Admiral McConnell and Admiral Blair, and I understand the current DNI will participate later today.

“Let me begin by describing the all-consuming five months of legislative activity that led to the enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. That history has ramifications for the substance of the bill that was ultimately signed into law.

“When I reflect on those five months, there were three factors that led to the passage of the sweeping Intel Reform law.

“First, when the 9/11 Commission released its final report on July 22nd, 2004, the Senate leadership assigned Senator Joe Lieberman and me the task of developing legislation to implement its recommendations. I was chairman of the then-Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joe was the ranking member.

“Despite our party differences, Senator Lieberman and I shared two attributes that were notably absent in Washington then and now: we had always worked together on a bipartisan basis and had a solid record of actually passing legislation.

“So, rather than sending the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations to the Armed Services, Intelligence, or Judiciary Committees, all of which felt that they had jurisdiction but where the bureaucratic turf war we needed to rise above might be exacerbated, the Senate Leaders assigned to our Committee the job of translating the recommendations into legislation.

“The second key to producing a bill was an agreement that Senator Lieberman and I made the very next day, on July 23rd, 2004. We agreed to work out any differences we had in private, and to always present a united bipartisan front to our Committee, our respective caucuses, the White House, and the public.

“The third, and most important factor, was the support of the 9/11 families and of the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission – Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean.

“It is difficult to overstate the heightened atmosphere in which this legislation was being developed. One hearing coincided with the third anniversary of 9/11; other hearings took place during a time of an elevated terrorist alert in Washington and New York and overlapped with construction workers installing security barricades at the Capitol.

“Several hearings occurred during the sacred August recess as Joe and I cut short our time in our home states and returned to Washington.

“We heard from more than two dozen witnesses, including the directors of the FBI and the CIA, intelligence experts, field operatives, and members of the 9/11 families. I’ll never forget the words spoken by Mary Fetchet, whose son, Brad, died in the World Trade Center:

‘When American lives are at stake, indifference or inertia is unacceptable …When critical reforms are implemented to make our country safer, I will know that neither Brad’s life, nor the lives of nearly 3,000 others who perished on September 11th, were lost in vain’

“Those were the words that motivated me throughout the difficult negotiations. After much debate and consideration of some 300 amendments, the comprehensive, bipartisan bill that we had reported out of our Committee unanimously passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 96 to 2. It would be easy to misconstrue this overwhelming vote in the Senate as a sign that the legislation would have smooth sailing, but in fact, rocky shoals lay ahead of us.

“The key issues in the conference between the House and the Senate were the respective powers of the DNI and the Counterterrorism Center, and the relationship between the new DNI and the Department of Defense. The lead conferees on the House side, former Representatives Jane Harman and Peter Hoekstra, largely agreed with the Senate bill.

“Nevertheless, conference was like that arcade game Whack-a-Mole – just as one issue was resolved, another popped up. Many days I thought the bill was dead, but by November 20th, 2004, we thought we had all the moles whacked.

“Then, in the late afternoon, the House adjourned for Thanksgiving without voting due to objections from two powerful House chairmen who did not want a reform bill.

“We called that day “Black Saturday” because the conventional wisdom was that the bill was dead. Nobody would want to come back for a few days after Thanksgiving to work on so difficult a bill. But those of us who believed in the bill and who were inspired by the 9/11 families who refused to give up.

“In order to get a bill, we had to figure out how to satisfy the concerns of the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Duncan Hunter, who was convinced that a strong DNI would somehow compromise the intelligence that flowed to our troops in Iraq and undermine the chain of command. It would be an understatement to say that Secretary Rumsfeld was not a fan of the bill despite the President’s support for it.

“Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had testified that our bill would improve the quality of military intelligence, but we couldn’t convince the House chairman of that.

“On the evening of Sunday December 5th, I was working late, consulting with my staff and the White House. Without an agreement by the next day, time would simply run out as there were very few days left in the session.

“We proposed language saying that the bill shall “respect and not abrogate” the authority of the Cabinet Secretaries. The result was that the DNI would retain budgetary and personnel guidance for the intelligence community, while making clear that we were not seeking to alter the military chain of command.

“I sent a Blackberry message to Senator Lieberman who happened to be at the Kennedy Center that Sunday night. In the middle of Billy Joel playing a tribute to Elton John, he got my message and concurred with the change, without missing a beat. At 11:24 p.m. on that Sunday night, we finally had an agreement at the very last minute.

“Overall, I have no doubt that these reforms have made our country safer, although, of course, no law can make us completely safe, particularly in a world where we see the metastasizing of Islamist extremism.

“We implemented nearly all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including creating the DNI and the NCTC and several reforms identified in previous intelligence panels.

“To address intelligence failures regarding the extent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, we required the DNI to issue uniform Analytic Tradecraft Standards and to ensure that the input of every element of the community is heard when the most important intelligence assessments are produced.

“Let me describe in greater detail my view of the three organizational reforms made in the bill: the creation of the DNI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

“The Director of National Intelligence was intended to give our intelligence community what Secretary Powell called “an empowered quarterback.” Our concern with the structure at the time was that no one person has sufficient bandwidth to simultaneously lead the CIA and coordinate the activities of the broader community.

“This concern was validated by testimony from previous DCIs and from the conclusion of the 9-11 Commission which said that good people can overcome bad structures, but they should not have to do so.

“Today, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am more aware than ever of the constant challenges facing the CIA director. As a result, I believe strongly that one person cannot fully fulfill the responsibilities of that role as well as the duties that Director Clapper is now performing as a full-time job.

“Building upon the arduous work of the first three DNIs to establish an office from scratch, Director Clapper now budgets, coordinates, and manages the activities of the Intelligence Community in a manner that we hoped the DNI would when we first drafted the bill in these ways:

• “He servers the President as the nation’s top intelligence adviser.

• “He views the Community as a coordinated network that can increase value rather than as a forum to win and lose turf battles.

• “His influence is derived as much from relationships he has built during his five decades of public service as it is from the authority granted to him by the law we authored.

“When we created the National Counterterrorism Center, we gave it the following mission: “To serve as the primary organization in the United States Government for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States Government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism…”

“Talk about a daunting task. I remember visiting the Terrorism Threat Integration Center set up by President Bush and headed by John Brennan. John had five different servers under his desk and a very small staff that was eager and smart, but extremely young and inexperienced. What a difference NCTC has made since then!

“The progress at NCTC – whether measured in integration of intelligence, the expertise of its analysis, or the advances in technology -- is immense. The day after 9/11, few would have imagined that we would go 14 years without another catastrophic terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland. In this respect, more than any other institution established in the reform bill, NCTC has lived up to what we hoped it would be.

“Unfortunately, implementation of other reforms has been uneven. Such is the case of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, my biggest disappointment particularly since I fought hard for its creation.

“After 9/11, Senator Lieberman and I recognized that an overreaction in the aftermath of such a horrific attack could undermine the very values that we hold dear as Americans. We created the Board as a way to demonstrate our belief that we do not have to choose between security and protecting privacy and civil liberties.

“Both the Bush and Obama Administrations failed to nominate members in a timely manner. As a result, the Board was not fully constituted or staffed until May 7, 2013 – this date was nine years after the passage of the Intel Reform bill.

“Now that the Board is up and running, I found the Board’s second report regarding the implementation of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to represent the kind of oversight we envisioned the Board would perform.

“Unlike the Board’s first divisive report issued last January on the NSA phone records program, the second report included findings that were unanimous among Board members, careful in its recommendations, and valuable in its contributions for policy-makers and the public alike.

“Ten years after the passage of the intelligence reform law, it may seem appealing to ponder whether the DNI has sufficient authority to match the corresponding responsibilities Congress assigned to the Director ten years ago.

“While I have my own views on this subject, it is a distant priority in my mind compared to the urgency of implementing reforms to address the rapidly emerging cyber threats our country faces today.

“Other nations cannot match the strength of our military, our economy, and they likely cannot duplicate the sophistication of our intelligence gathering or offensive capability in the digital domain.

“It is equally true, however, that no other country is as dependent as we are on the security of vulnerable networks for survival, the conduct of intelligence activities, and to project the very military power upon which our national security rests.

“The cyber thefts and attacks against government and business targets in the last two years should leave no doubt that we have not begun to bring this problem under control: Anthem/WellPoint, Sony Entertainment, Home Depot, Target, the U.S. Postal Service, NOAA, and Nieman Marcus to name just a few of the red flags. The Department of Defense fends off literally millions of scans and probes each day.

“As one former official told the 9/11 Commission last year in preparation of its valuable 10th anniversary report: “We are at September 10th levels in terms of cyber preparedness.”

I consider the Senate’s failure to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 that Senator Lieberman and I wrote to be the one major piece of unfinished business before our tenure as the heads of the Governmental Affairs and Homeland Security Committee was over.

“Let me share with you my view of the major reforms that should be made immediately to address this threat:

“First, Congress needs to pass legislation to make it easier for public and private sector entities to share cyber threat vulnerability information. That means some liability protections for the private sector. I expect the Senate Intelligence Committee will mark up such a bill as early as next week.

“Second, owners and operators of the country’s most critical infrastructure should be required to report significant cyber intrusions that could compromise their industrial control systems.

“Nearly all states already require companies to notify consumers if certain personally identifiable information is breached, and national security contractors already must report intrusions of information systems that hold classified information pursuant to recent provisions in the defense and intelligence authorization bills.

“If the loss of classified information and consumers’ personal information warrant reporting of cyber incidents, cyber attacks that can disrupt the life-sustaining systems that our country depend upon warrant equal or greater reporting to the federal government.

“Another urgent need is to address zero-day vulnerabilities. The Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, Joe Demarest, testified before Congress that the malware in the North Korean cyber attack on Sony would probably have gotten past “90 percent of the defenses that are out there today both in industry and in government."

“Simply put, intrusion detection systems like the Department of Homeland Security’s Einstein system cannot identify signatures they are not unaware of.

“Now more than ever, the Intelligence Community can benefit from the very type of private sector innovation that In-Q-Tel seeks to foster. The risk posed by insider threats, the challenge of securing information systems, and the exploitation of social media by terrorist groups are a few of the challenges where the creativity and insights of American high-tech companies could contribute to the extraordinary work already being performed in the Community.

“Finally, no discussion about the integrated intelligence community would be complete without addressing the challenge posed by insider threats aided by digital technology.

“Edward Snowden, and Private Manning before him, did not enjoy special access as a result of their high-rank or seniority; they did not have to rely upon unique computer tools, and I have seen no public evidence that they required any foreign assistance in stealing the information they took.

“How is it possible, then, that an intelligence community capable of extraordinary cyber operations in the digital space failed to stop Edward Snowden in his tracks before he caused irreparable damage?

“The hard truth is that it was a failure to implement basic security, rather than a failure of the “need to share” culture, that allowed Edward Snowden to walk off with so many of the Community’s digital secrets.

“Acknowledging this reality is crucial because some advocates of stove-piping and the “need to know” culture of old have pointed to the Snowden theft as proof that a “need to share” culture is incompatible with the security necessary to carry out intelligence activities.

“Working together, Congress, the Intelligence Community, and industry can and must work together to prevent the cyber 9/11 that we know will happen if we do not take action now.

“As Mary Fetchet reminded us more than a decade ago, indifference or inertia is unacceptable. Thank you, I am happy to take your questions.