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Commission Sensitive


Interview of

Vice President Albert Gore

April 9,2004

I Pre-1998

The Threat

• How big an issue was terrorism at the start of the Clinton Administration?
o Kansi attacks at CIA (Jan. 25, 1993)
o WTC bombing (Feb. 26, 1993) and foiled NYC Landmarks plot-who did you
think was responsible? Was al Qaeda already on your radar?
o Oklahoma City bombing (April 19, 1995)
o Tokyo subway gas attack (March 20,1995)

• Do you recall the first time you heard the name Usama bin Ladin being used?

—Were you aware of his August 1996 fatwa against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia?

• Do you recall the first time you heard the term al Qaeda being used?

• When did you first start getting briefed on UBL and his organization by the CIA? What were
you being told?

" How did this change over time (before 1998)? At what point did you recognize that Bin
Ladin was more than just a terrorist financier? At what point did you recognize that al Qaeda
was an international terror network?

• Were you aware of the attempt to render Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from Qatar in 1996?
Please tell us what you know of this incident.


• When did you first become concerned about the WMD terrorist threat?—and when was this
linked in your mind with al Qaeda and Bin Ladin?

• How worried were you personally about this threat?

• What did you do to actively address this threat?

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Organizing the USG for Counterterrorism

PDD-35: On March 2, 1995, President Clinton signed PDD-35, which listed terrorism as a
priority issue.

PDD-39: On June 21,1995, President Clinton signed PDD-39, by which terrorism was defined
"as a potential threat to national security as well as a criminal act."

• Did this redefine terrorism as a threat that should be handled differently than it had been
before, i.e. by some means other than law enforcement?

• PDD-39 also makes preventing terrorist groups from acquiring WMD our highest priority.
Was the administration envisioning a WMD attack on the homeland?

• PDD-39 also directs that the DCI and Director of the FBI shall personally ensure that their
agencies achieve maximum cooperation regarding terrorism, and that they are to share
terrorist-related intelligence and law-enforcement information expeditiously and efficiently.

—To what extent were you aware that cooperation and information sharing between the
CIA and the FBI was a problem?

—What mechanisms were put in place to ensure that progress would be made on CIA-FBI
cooperation and intelligence sharing?

—How successful was PDD-39 in coordinating CIA-FBI CT efforts?

PDD-62andPDD-63: On May 22, 1998, President Clinton signed PDD-62 (on coordination)
and PDD-62 (on critical infrastructure protection).

• PDD-62 was designed to integrate U.S. CT efforts. It created a national CT coordinator. Did
it achieve its objectives?

Homeland Defense

• Did you personally believe the homeland was threatened by international terrorism? By al
Qaeda/UBL in particular? If so, at what point?

• Do you recall the first time you were briefed on the domestic threat posed by al Qaeda? By
whom? What did they say?

• Were you ever briefed by the FBI on the threat of international terrorism in America, and/or
UBL/al Qaeda in particular? If not, why not?

• What did you actively do to address the domestic terrorist threat?

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Khobar Towers (June 1996)

• Was it Iran?

• Did you suspect al Qaeda involvement in the attack?

" Was the U.S. response adequate? What message was sent to UBL?


" How would you describe our diplomatic approach to countering UBL before August 1998?
What were the major obstacles in implementing a strategy?

• Did the Sudanese ever offer UBL to the USG?

« Were you aware of Saudi-Sudanese discussions regarding UBL's presence in Sudan? Did
you ever discuss UBL's expulsion from Sudan with the Saudis?

• Did we ever consider snatching UBL during his move from Sudan to Afghanistan?

• What was our diplomatic approach to al Qaeda after August 1998?

By the Summer of 1998

• Were you aware of Bin Ladin's February 1998 fatwa calling for any Muslim to kill any
American, military or civilian, anywhere in the world?

• If so, did you consider this a declaration of war upon the U.S.? Why didn't the U.S. respond

• Were you aware of the sealed indictment of Bin Ladin in June 1998? Was POTUS? Did this
make a difference on how you wanted to deal with the Bin Ladin problem?

• How big a network did you think Bin Ladin had by the summer 1998?

» Where was the USG in its overall counterterrorism strategy by the summer of 1998?

II East Africa Embassy Bombings and Aftermath

Operation Infinite Reach

• Were you surprised by the bombings? Did you personally suspect al Qaeda/Bin Ladin's
involvement (even without input from your intelligence advisers)?

" Please walk us through the decision-making process for responding to the embassy bombings
with Operation Infinite Reach.
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—How quickly did the administration decide to use military strikes?

—How did the administration choose its targets?

o Did the military have targets to offer?
o How and when did President Clinton make the final decision on striking al-Shifa?
o Why did President Clinton ultimately decide not to strike the tannery in Sudan?
o Were there any other targets that were under serious consideration?

—Were there any legal issues involved in the response?

—What were the objectives of Operation Infinite Reach?

• Did the political climate have any effect on President Clinton's decision-making?

—Did you discuss potential "wag the dog" allegations, and with whom?

• Did you achieve the objectives of Operation Infinite Reach?

• What do you think was the affect of the al-Shifa fall-out? Were there lasting consequences?

Operation Infinite Resolve and follow-on strike options

• Describe the initiation of planning order issued on August 20 for the preparation of follow-on

" What were the objectives of this follow-on military planning? Were they considered urgent?

• Was the administration inclined to launch further strikes sooner rather than later?

• Did you weight in?

• Do you recall being briefed by military advisers on available targets for follow-on strikes?
o How were these presented by Secretary of Defense Cohen?
o How were these presented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? (Zinni?)

• Why was Operation Infinite Resolve never carried out? Why was there no urgency about
reducing the threat militarily?

• If individual targets didn't have much value, why not go ahead with a campaign of regular,
small strikes, occurring from time to time whenever target information was ripe? Would it
have shut down the pipeline?

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III December 1998-May 1999, SOF and TLAM Opportunities against Bin Ladin

• Beginning in December 1998, the military began to draw up plans for using Special
Operations Forces against al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. Who initiated these planning

• Were these plans, and/or their updates, briefed to you? When and by whom? Were these
plans briefed to you as viable military options?

• Why were these plans never executed?

• Was it ever your impression that the military was unwilling to tackle the Bin Ladin and al
Qaeda problem?

• Were you involved in the decision-making surrounding any of the occasions when Bin Ladin
may have been sighted in Afghanistan and a decision had to be made whether to launch a
missile strike? Please walk us through any such episodes that you recall.
o Why didn't we take the shots? Collateral damage? Weak intelligence?
o Were these missed opportunities?

• Was using cruise missiles really the most effective way to solve the Bin Ladin problem?

• Did your military advisers ever discuss with you the problem of actionable intelligence?

IV The Millennium Threat

• How concerned were you about possible terrorist attacks surrounding the Millennium
celebrations, given the threat briefings you were getting?

• How often did you meet with terrorism and intelligence advisers during this period?
Approximately how many briefings do you think you had on the threat during December
1999? Were you getting briefed by the FBI?

• In your opinion, how did the USG perform during this high threat period?

-The CIA?

--The FBI?

• What lessons did you draw regarding al Qaeda's intent from this experience?

—How about the possibility of domestic attacks?

—Was this a watershed in your thinking about the terrorist threat, both at home and

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• If so, how did counterterrorism strategy change after the Millennium?

• To what extent was there increased focus on the possibility of a domestic terrorist threat?

—How were you kept up to speed on this new focus?

--Did you get FBI briefings? If not, why not?

—Did you ever discuss reforming the FBI? Or whether the FBI was up to the domestic

V Military Options

• Why did the administration never use force after August 1998 on al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

—How hard did you press the military to come up with serious, viable options?

—Was this a problem of military reluctance to support U.S. counterterrorism goals? Or a

failure of leadership on the part of the commander-in-chief and the principals?

• Was there discussion on hitting Taliban targets as well as al Qaeda targets? Why was this
option not pursued?

• Did past experiences with use offeree—such as Operation Desert Fox, "Black Hawk Down",
the Kosovo campaign, and the blow-back from the al-Shifa strike—condition future possible
use of force against al Qaeda?

—To what extent did worries about the U.S. being labeled as "bomb-happy" (after the
Kosovo campaign, Operation Desert Fox) cause you to be more reserved about use of
force in Afghanistan?

—To what extent do you think the military was more averse to using force after
experiences in Somalia?

• Could the U.S. have put boots on the ground in Afghanistan before 9-11?

—Could U.S. public and international opinion have been shaped—as it was for U.S.
military campaigns in Haiti and the Balkans—to prepare the ground for an invasion of

—Did the Clinton Administration push hard enough here, or was it the prisoner of
domestic constraints?

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VIUSS Attack on the U.S.S. Cole, October 2000

• Did you ever doubt that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Cole? Were there any
other plausible candidates?

• What intelligence were you given about who was behind the Cole bombing before you left
office—by Berger? DCI Tenet? The FBI?

—How would you characterize the evidence that you were given: "tentative"?

—Did you prod the FBI or CIA to give you a more definitive response? If not, why not?

• In an October 13, 2000 Miami Herald article, you are quoted as saying "Something like this
[the Cole attack] will be met with a full and forceful and effective retaliatory response from
the United States of America. We will not leave this matter. We will defend our country."
Why didn't the administration respond to the attack? Why didn't you talk about the Cole
more on the campaign trail or during the debates?

• How involved were you? Did the drawn-out election results have an affect on your decision
as to whether or how to respond to the Cole?

—Before the inauguration, was the Clinton administration concerned about saddling the
new administration with a fight in Afghanistan?

• Impact of al-Aqsa intifada on Cole response?

VII Transition

• Did you give Vice President-elect Cheney, or any other members of the new administration,
any advice about the national security challenges they would face?

—Did you mention al Qaeda or Bin Ladin?

—Did you mention the Cole, Predator or the Northern Alliance?

• Was it your sense that President-elect Bush and his national security team took the al Qaeda
threat seriously?

VIII Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

• Some have said that the USG's Pakistan policy was "stick heavy" and that we could not
provide many carrots to Islamabad because of congressional sanctions. Did you ever
recommend going to Congress and seeking a waiver or removal of the sanctions? If not, why

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• What accounts for all the new diplomatic activity with Pakistan during the early part of
2000? Was Musharraf a better interlocutor on CT than Sharif?

—In your opinion, why didn't the meeting produce results?

• What new carrots and sticks were being offered to Pakistan? Without new
incentives/disincentives, how likely were you to get increased cooperation from Pakistan?

• Our records indicate that you attended meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
when he visited Washington on July 4/5,1999. To what extent was the Taliban and UBL

Our research indicates that you had a number of meetings and conversations with high level
Saudi officials including Crown Prince Abdullah.

» Given that terrorism was important, what in particular were you seeking from the Saudis?
Were you aware of problems related to information sharing and financial tracking? How
often were these issues brought to your attention? Were you satisfied with the level of Saudi
cooperation on al Qaeda? If not, what specifically did you try to do about it?

• In your discussions with Abdullah, and other Saudi leaders, how important was terrorism
(and terrorism financing specifically)? What were the other issues? Please order them by

• In 1998, the Saudis tried to persuade the Taliban to expel UBL. Our records indicate that
you discussed this with Riyadh and even thanked them for their attempts. In your opinion,
why were the Saudis not successful?

• Our records indicate that you called Crown Prince Abdullah on August 8, 1998. What did
you say to him? Could you sense any change in Riyadh after the embassy attacks?

• What percentage of your counterterrorism discussions with Saudi Arabia focused on Iran and
Khobar Towers, as opposed to al Qaeda?

• Did you feel the Saudis were reliable partners on efforts to press the Taliban on the UBL

• Describe your conversations with Riyadh on Saudi charities that were contributing to the
Taliban and al Qaeda. Can you recall which charities were of most concern? Roughly, how
much money was being funneled through the charities? What steps did Washington take stop
this problem?

• On or about August 25,1998, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger approved a working
level NSC request that letters should be sent from you to Crown Prince Abdullah and
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak regarding al Qaeda. But our records indicate that the

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State Department never sent the letters. Can you recall the contents of these letters? Why
were they not sent?

• In the mid 1990s, al Qaeda's senior financial officer was al-Ghazi Madani al-Tayyib, who
later turned himself into Saudi authorities. Tayyib has been described as the "CFO of al
Qaeda" and access to him may have yielded a treasure trove of information. Although the
USG starting asking for access to Tayyib in 1997, Riyadh never allowed the USG access to
him. Moreover, the Saudis provided extremely little, if any, information on Tayyib. The
lack of access to Tayyib has been described by some USG personnel as typical of the lack of
Saudi cooperation during this period. It was decided to elevate the request to the VP level.

—Our records indicate that in September 1998 — after the embassy bombings -- you
contacted the Saudis on this issue and thanked them for their responsiveness on the
matter; but you also renewed the request for direct US access. How would you describe
the cooperation on the Tayyib issue before your conversation? What were you thanking
them for? How did the Saudis react to your renewed requests?

—Abdullah met with you in Washington in the fall of 1996. What was discussed at this
meeting? To what extent was Tayyib covered?

—Why didn't we get access to Tayyib? How hard did you try? Should the fact that, even
after high-level intercession with the Crown Prince, the Saudis did not give the USG
access to Tayyib lead us to conclude that the Saudis were uninterested in terrorist
financing during your tenure?

» How should the U.S. - Saudi relationship be changed to reflect U.S. priorities today?

IX Aviation Security

• The Gore Commission's first recommendation in the aviation security chapter was "The
federal government should consider aviation security as a national security issue, and provide
substantial funding for capital improvements."

—What did the commission mean when it said aviation security should be treated as a
national security issue? What are the specifics of that in terms of funding, policies,
priorities, procedures etc?

• The Gore Commission report mentioned the terrorist threat shifting to the U.S. homeland.
How did you perceive the threat to civil aviation both domestically and internationally from
the intelligence you received in the course of the Commission's work and, in general, as Vice

• The Gore Commission focused heavily on the sabotage threat to aviation. Little was said
about hijacking. What was the Commission's view of the hijacking threat and given the
known shortcomings of our checkpoint screening operations, why wasn't this more of a
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Both the Pan Am Commission and the Gore Commission focused on the importance of
maximizing the use of technology to promote security. What advice do you have for this
commission about how to set an aviation security R&D agenda, to fund it and to deploy the

Will you share with us your recollection of the Gore Commission's deliberations about the
following key issues:

—Aircraft as weapons;

—The security consequences for passengers selected by the computer prescreening system
that the Gore Commission so strongly endorsed; for instance, was it the Gore
Commission's intent that prescreening be used only to identify those who may pose a
sabotage threat, or did you have in mind identifying those who might pose a hijacking
threat as well?

—The civil liberties aspects of CAPS and CAPS consequences; and

—The use of government watch lists to stop suspected terrorists from flying.

The Commission on Reinventing Government that you also chaired focused intently on
raising barriers to the imposition of new federal rules.

—How did the Reinvention of Government initiative relate to the Federal Aviation
Administration? Given that aviation security was a regulatory process that depended on
rulemaking to implement improved security measures, was there concern that the lessons
from the Commission on Reinventing Government might unwittingly frustrate reforms
contemplated in the report of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and

From you vantage at the time, what was your analysis of the civil aviation security system in
place leading up to and on 9/11? Why were the attacks able to succeed? How and why did
the system fail, in your view? In retrospect is there anything that you believe either the
Clinton or Bush Administrations could have done which would have prevented those

Commissioner Victoria Cummock filed a dissent to many of the Gore Commission's

recommendations, arguing that in some cases they lacked specificity, responsibility,
substance, accountability, applicability and timelines and deadlines. Further, her dissent
included what she thought would address those perceived gaps. Could you comment on that
dissent in terms of its validity and how the Gore Commission dealt with her views?

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Others Issues

• Did you ever establish a link between Iraq and al Qaeda? How much intelligence did you see
on this? What was your assessment?

• Your administration's CT policy relied to a large extent on disruptions and renditions to deal
with the international terrorist threat. How did you expect this piecemeal approach to stop
the flow of thousands of jihadis through terrorist training camps?

• Was the FBI up to the job of being lead agency on terrorism?

—If not, did you try to fix it?

—Did you ever make a sustained push to compel the FBI to share information more
formally with the CIA and the White House?

• What did you do to ensure the CT fight was properly funded?


We are considering a range of topics for making recommendations to fight the war on terrorism.
We are interested in hearing your suggestions, especially those relating to the following:
• defining our national strategy;
• cyber-security;
• using the instruments of policy more effectively;
• organizing our government; and
• living in a world of risk.

We are also interested in your recommendations relating to aviation security.

—What would you tell the Commission it should recommend to improve aviation and
transportation security in particular and homeland security in general? What steps can
we take to enhance the probability that our recommendations are duly considered and

—Threats and vulnerabilities to the nation's transportation system are many and varied.
They include not only aviation but maritime, rail, pipelines and other surface modes.
How would you advise that priorities be determined? How should cost be allocated
among stakeholders?

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