This war is different. In a very real sense, anybody who lives or works in a major city is just as much a potential target as the victims of 9/11, or the London subway bombings, or the strikes in Madrid , or any of the other operations we've seen in Morocco , Jordan , Indonesia , Algeria , Pakistan , Kenya , and elsewhere.
That's my take on the strategic threat we face, without the precise language of an estimate. The National Intelligence Council published its findings on the threat to the homeland this summer. Analysts from CIA and throughout the Community engaged in a careful, meticulous study of the issue based on their deep expertise and on both open and classified sources. I have tremendous respect for their work, and I'd like to draw from their judgments to the extent I can in a public setting.
I want to be as clear as I can about the danger we face for two reasons. First, I'm a CIA Director--warning about foreign threats to our national security is part of my job.
Second, in discussing the operational space available to my Agency, I want to explain exactly why we feel so strongly about using every inch we're given. We bear responsibility for standing watch on this threat. That fact alone has the distinct effect of focusing the mind.
But we bear an additional responsibility as well. CIA is charged with prosecuting an expeditionary campaign to help capture or kill those behind that threat.
And this is a form of warfare unlike any other in our country's history. It's an intelligence war as much as a military one--maybe even more so. In the post-9/11 era, intelligence is more crucial to the security of our nation than ever before.
That's a fairly sweeping assertion, so let me spell out what I mean with a historical analogy.
The Soviet Union's most deadly forces--its ICBMs and tank armies--were relatively easy to find, but hard to kill. Intelligence was important, but overshadowed by the need for sheer firepower.
Today, the situation is reversed. We are now in an age in which our primary adversary is easy to kill, but hard to find. You can understand why so much emphasis in the last five years has been on intelligence.
Moreover, the moment of our enemy's attack may be just that--a moment, a split-second--the time it takes for an airliner to crash or a bomb to detonate. There can be little or no time to defeat him on the battlefield he's chosen.
But behind that point of attack is a trail of planning, travel, communication, training, and all the other elements that go into a large-scale terrorist operation. This is where there are secrets we can steal, operatives we can capture and interrogate, plots we can and must disrupt. This is the theater of operations for a clandestine intelligence service. This is where the American people expect us to fight.
And, in this fight, we've leveraged every inch of the space we've been given to operate. I want to briefly discuss two important aspects of our post-9/11 operations to put them in proper perspective: first, our rendition, detention, and interrogation programs, and then our close collaboration with allied intelligence services.
The first thing you need to know is that CIA's programs--which are carefully controlled and lawfully conducted--are hardly the centerpiece of our effort. Nor are they nearly as big as some think. But the intelligence they've produced is irreplaceable.
That intelligence has been used not only by this nation's national security agencies, but by our fellow members of the Atlantic Alliance and other key allies. It has been crucial in giving us a better understanding of the enemy we face, as well as leads on taking other terrorists off the battlefield.
Intelligence is sometimes described as analogous to putting the pieces of a puzzle together--except that we rarely ever get to see the picture on the box. The individuals that have been detained by CIA always provide us with new puzzle pieces, and very often they have seen the picture on the box.