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Federal News Service - Hearing of the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee - Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service








REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for holding this hearing.

Mr. Pistole, in the addendum report that was released just this morning by the 9/11 Commission, it indicates three of the September 11th hijackers were carrying Saudi passports containing, quote, "a possible extremist indicator" which was present in the passports of many of the al Qaeda members. While it's not clear what the indicator was, the report added that it had not been analyzed by the FBI or the CIA or border authorities. Why was this the case, and has that indicator now been disseminated among the agencies charged with examining these documents? And are FBI agents now trained in how to detect such indicators?

MR. PISTOLE: Congressman, I think you've hit on a key point of the transformation both of the law enforcement and intelligence communities post-9/11, and that is the timely sharing of information and the actions taken in response to that information.

To address your specific question-I have not read the specific details of that, so I will have to get back with you on that. But as to the sharing of information of the indicators, I'm not aware of when the FBI received that pre-9/11. The issue that has been addressed in the post-9/11 environment is that there is a whole new paradigm of that information sharing and information such as that now through a number of different medium would be exchanged on a timely basis and acted on in a way that did not exist prior to 9/11. So if that's of any consolation in terms of changes that have been made, I'll be glad to go into detail if you'd like on some of those changes, both within the FBI and within the community, then we'll take that up now.

REP. CHABOT: Okay, thank you. Because we're so limited on time, I'd like to move on to another area right now. Would you please explain the distinction between a money remitter and a hawala? What characteristics of either of these allow criminal activity to flourish, lack of record keeping and oversight and that sort of thing?

MR. PISTOLE: Sure. Yeah, both a money remitter and hawala-different names depend on how you were defining them-could be for the same entity that uses a method of exchanging finances, money, currency, without extensive record keeping. And by that-for example, a hawala may be operating in Chicago and pre-9/11 could have money deposited with it from a person in Chicago sent to anyplace over the world, but the money is not actually sent, and there's simply a recognition at the receiving end that a person is entitled to X amount of money-similar to a wire transfer or money order that is being sent through any number of different entities. The change with the Patriot Act is that these money remitters, hawalas, if they are engaged in that business now have to be registered in the state that they are located. And what it does is provides a way of tracking money that was we believe some of the funding for the 9/11 hijackers. We did not have that system in place prior to 9/11, and it caused great difficulties in determining where the approximately four to five hundred thousand dollars the 9/11 hijackers used, where that all came from. So that's been one of the areas that there has been a legislative fix, if you will, to help us in our law enforcement efforts.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Let me continue with you if I can. What is the Al Barakat network, and why does the FBI and the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department differ as to whether this network has terrorist links?

MR. PISTOLE: In terms of Al Barakat, there is a fair amount of reporting, both intelligence and evidence of its support for terrorist activities. I would be glad to go into much more detail in a closed setting, if that would be appropriate, and be glad to provide that briefing. Suffice to say that there is both intelligence and evidence to indicate that it has provided funding to groups such as al Qaeda and other groups.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I note the yellow light has been on for some time, so I'll get to my following questions in the next round. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


MR. BRENNAN: I just would like to say that the study that the representative noted was a GAO study of April of '03, and since that time, as Mr. Pistole mentioned, the Homeland Security Presidential Directive the 6th of September gave two entities the responsibility for maintaining national databases. TTIC has responsibility for maintaining the national database on known and suspected international terrorists, transnational terrorists, to include U.S. persons operating on U.S. soil here. The FBI has responsibility for maintaining the national database on known and suspected domestic terrorists-abortion clinic bombers, animal rights activists and others. We have the combined responsibility then of feeding that information at the sensitive but unclassified level to the Terrorist Screening Center, which is the one-stop point within the U.S. government right now that can provide assistance to all those watch listers and screeners, whether they be at borders, whether they be at consular sections overseas. What we want to do is maintain a single database. People keep referencing sort of one watch list where you have different purposes that each be served. So, you have a no-fly list, which you don't want to have people get on the plane any way, any how.

REP. JACKSON LEE: And that's inaccurate with John Lewis and Ted Kennedy's name on it. That's not a very good list.

MR. BRENNAN: Well this-well, I think they were on the selectee list. The selectee list are those names that are suspected to be individuals involved in international terrorism. And so --

REP. CHABOT (?): I'm sure they're comforted.

MR. BRENNAN: -- there is a process underway to --

REP. JACKSON LEE: I don't want to besmirch their names, but go ahead, sir.

MR. BRENNAN: There are-there's a process underway to improve the quality of the information that has been collected over the past 20 years, and we're talking about 150,000 or so names that are in fact part of this Terrorist Screening Center database that provides that support to federal and non-federal entities throughout the government-through the country.

REP. COBLE: Thank you, Mr. Brennan. We have two gentleman who have been patiently waiting. I recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot.

REP. CHABOT: Once again, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kojm, let me turn to you, if I can. On page 367 of the 9/11 Commission report, it recommends that, quote, "The U.S. government must identify and prioritize actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries. For each, it should have a realistic strategy to keep possible terrorists insecure and on the run, using all elements of national power." Unquote. This recommendation was made with regard to working with other countries. Do you believe that this recommendation should apply to providing sanctuary to terrorists in the U.S.? In other words, for example, should Congress restrict law enforcement from using court orders to receive terrorism-related information from libraries and effectively create a sanctuary for terrorists to use for research and communication?

MR. KOJM: Congressman, we did not really look into the question of court orders with respect to libraries and terrorism. We did not look into every aspect of the Patriot Act. For example, our attention really focused on the law, because we found that question to be directly relevant to the 9/11 story.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Would any of the other witnesses --

MR. NOJEIM: -- yes --

REP. CHABOT: -- I figured you would like to, Mr. Nojeim. We'd also like to hear from the other folks as well but go ahead.

MR. NOJEIM: Section 215 of the Patriot Act set a very low standard for judicial consideration of records request and under Section 215, if the FBI asserts that a record or an object is sought for-that's the language of the statute-is "sought for" an intelligence or counterterrorism type investigation, and it gets an order just based on that mere assertion. It can require you, me, any business to turn over any record or anything. That's a very low standard of proof. What the Safe Act would do, and that's legislation that's been introduced, to fix some of the parts of the Patriot Act would be to slightly raise that standard. We believe that it needs to be raised because the current standard is just too low for the kinds of access that would be given and the kind of information that would be available.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Mr. Pistole or Mr. Brennan, if you'd like to --

MR. PISTOLE: Yes, I think a vigorous public discussion about these issues is appropriate, and we, in the FBI, welcome that from the perspective of being able to articulate with some specificity, and that may have to be in a closed area because of the sensitivities of it, the uses of the Section 215, for example, of-or indications of how does the Congress and the administration and the American people-how do they want us to investigate the possible terrorist activities here in the U.S., and we welcome that because we have very good guidelines that we work by-and just to say on Section 215, there has been a lot of discussion about that. Without giving the exact-let's just say it's been used very, very infrequently. We have not employed that as a general tool, but we do look at it as one of the tools that we have in the fight against terrorism here in the U.S., and I did not want to be the person who is in a situation where I have to tell an agent out in the field that, "No, you cannot go get this record, because we don't have authority," if Section 215 is repealed, and Mohammed Atta was the person-or his equivalent-had access to record or use something that we could have obtained under 215 but for that we are not able to obtain that, and so we miss that key link that we're charged with responsibility of connecting the dots; that we collect the dots, and we can't connect them.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you. Mr. Brennan, I don't know if that's been adequately covered but before you answer, I should probably mention-your name is the same as my father-in-law, John Brennan, also, and before I ask you any questions, I was going to ask you are you or have you ever been my father-in-law?

MR. BRENNAN: No, but I'm pleased to be related to you if possible.

REP. CHABOT: Thank you very much. Before my time runs out, Mr. Kojm mentioned before, he was talking about the Kuala Lumpur meeting and the fact that if changes had been made, perhaps other things could have or could have not resulted, and I noticed that you were perhaps subtly but somewhat vigorously shaking your head, and I thought perhaps I might give you the opportunity to address that.

MR. BRENNAN: Well, there's been a lot of discussion over the past several weeks about if only the FBI and CIA shared information-if we had a culture of sharing. Well, I can tell you that my experience since TTIC has stood up, there was a strong culture of sharing. It's not a question of willingness, it's a question of ability, and that's where you have to have in place a national system whereby you can get information into the system so that it can be accessible to all those government departments and agencies, both federal and non-federal, that need that information. It's a tremendous, tremendous challenge, and just moving boxed around within the government will not do that. There is tremendous engineering as far as the wiring, the plumbing, that is required. So I fully subscribe to the notion that we need to have a better system in place to allow this information to be shared securely so that you can take information that's collected clandestinely overseas and move it at the speed of light so that it can be accessed by analysts at CIA headquarters, at FBI headquarters, at the JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Los Angeles, and even by the local police departments and first responders. But that's a tremendous engineering challenge that requires interoperable systems that we, as a government and as a nation, I think, need to move forward. And it's not sufficient just to say "CIA and FBI need to learn to share information better." That's not it.

MR. CHABOT: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I note that my time is expired. I would just like to comment by saying that I think all four witnesses have been extremely helpful this morning and very good. So thank you for your time.


REP. CHABOT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be very brief.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has come out with a plan very recently and I'm sure that not everyone has had an opportunity to fully understand or read about this and digest it, but if any had any comments that they'd like to make very briefly I'm sure some probably would like to comment, so I'll open it to the floor.


REP. CHABOT: Thank you very much to all the witnesses.

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