Presidential Oral Histories

Frances Townsend Oral History

About this Interview

Job Title(s)
Deputy National Security Advisor 2003–04; Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor 2004–08

Ms. Townsend discusses her crossover from prosecution of crime to intelligence and counterterrorism concerns; her initial career-level service in the Clinton administration, then later service as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration. She provides examples of the challenge of reforming and improving systems and contingency plans to ensure the principals in government service, and the public, are best served. Her first-person accounts of frictions among branches and levels of government illuminate the responses to crises, from the September 11 (9/11) terrorist attacks to the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina. She describes how those lessons informed government structures and actions, including the evolving workings of the FISA Court, the handling of espionage incidents and terror threats, as well as her developing the Lessons Learned report on Katrina. Two overarching emphases mark Ms. Townsend’s government career: not just efficient processes but also secure productive information sharing.

Participants

Russell Riley, chair

Barbara Perry, University of Virginia

Chuck Jones, University of Wisconsin

Patrick Roberts, Virginia Tech

 

 

Presidential Oral Histories |

Frances Townsend Oral History

Transcript

August 26

Riley

This is the Frances Fragos Townsend interview as part of the George W. Bush Oral History Project. Thank you very much for coming to Charlottesville.

Townsend

Sure.

Riley

I know this is a busy time for you and we're trying to navigate through some scheduling issues later in the day, but it's really kind of you to come to Charlottesville. We talked before about the confidentiality of the interview. We need to do something to aid the transcriber. I'm Russell Riley, the chair of the Oral History Program, and I will be heading up the Bush project.

Perry

I'm Barbara Perry and I'm a senior fellow here at the Miller Center.

Roberts

I'm Patrick Roberts, assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

Jones

I'm Chuck Jones, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin in Madison. And I brought my cap. That W is not for "W" [George W. Bush]--

Townsend

I'm so disappointed.

Jones

--but for the Badgers. But I thought it was appropriate.

Townsend

And I am Frances Townsend. I was President George W. Bush's Deputy National Security Advisor from 2003 until 2004 and his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor from 2004 until 2008.

Riley

What we usually like to do is start getting a little bit of your own biography. As I mentioned before we got started, one of the things that we're particularly interested in is your experience with the [William J.] Clinton administration, because you really are in a historically unique position, having worked in an important role in these successive Presidencies. My sense is that an association with President Clinton was not a usual commendation for a position in the 43rd Presidency. But tell us how you got from New York to Washington. How did you move into the Washington community in the first place in the 1990s?

Townsend

I was a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York from 1988 until 1993. Earlier, I had been in the Brooklyn district attorney's office as an assistant district attorney from 1985 until 1988. My career has been a study in moving from one end of the political spectrum to the other. I was in the DA [district attorney]'s office--The DA at the time was Elizabeth Holtzman, a liberal Democrat--and then I went to the U.S. attorney's office, where the U.S. attorney was Rudy Giuliani, a conservative Republican.

I loved being a prosecutor. I went to law school knowing that I wanted to be a prosecutor. Having gone through college in three years and having gotten two degrees, I graduated cum laude. Then I completed law school in two and a half years. I was very focused on what I wanted and I loved it. I focused, toward the middle of my time in the U.S. attorney's office, on international law enforcement and the challenges that posed. I got to that because I was working on Mafia cases, Italian organized crime. Giuliani had really cut a path in terms of the use of the RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] statute against large-scale international organizations and conspiracies.

It was all sort of new then, looking at global criminal organizations. I wound up having the opportunity when Dick Thornburgh was the Attorney General. He was very interested in the prosecution of global criminal enterprises. He was also pushing the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] to think about more legal attach?s overseas, so there was an opportunity to go down to Washington and do a temporary assignment in the Attorney General's office. While I was down there, there was the establishment of the Executive Office for National Security. That was an opportunity for me to explore on a policy side what I had seen as a prosecutor on the organized-crime side. That was the first iteration of my Washington experience.

I then went back to New York and I was working on the investigation and prosecution of white-collar-crime cases. It was just not as interesting to me, so I was looking for another opportunity. One of my early trials had been a labor racketeering trial, using RICO, and the defense lawyers were Michael [Dowd] and Jo Ann Harris. We, the government, won at the trial level. There was an appeal. The convictions were overturned on appeal; it was a complicated technical legal issue about a jury instruction. The night the appeal decision was issued and the convictions were overturned, there was a Southern District U.S. Attorney's office event in the evening that everyone was leaving for. As I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang, and it was Jo Ann Harris and Michael Dowd, saying, "It's been overturned. We want to get our guys released on bail."

There is a process in the Justice Department for deciding whether you're going to do a retrial in these circumstances, but at least as to one of the defendants, who was in poor health, it seemed to me that regardless of the decision he should be released on bond, so I didn't go to the event. I stayed in the office. I got the release order done. We got the order in process for the defendant to be released pretty quickly.

Jo Ann Harris clearly never forgot. She was a former Southern District assistant and she was aware of the event that night--She never forgot that, in her mind, I did the right thing. President Clinton was elected in 1992, and in 1993 she became the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. She called me and said, "I'd like you to come down to Washington as my chief of staff." You can imagine, having been adversaries--and we were not personal friends--I was quite surprised, but I really liked and respected her. This was not a question of politics or political views. She wanted me because she really respected my integrity and my sense of fair play being a career prosecutor. It wasn't easy, by the way. I came to find out later that the chief of staff position is one normally filled by a Schedule C, a political appointee, and I was clearly not.

I went down and it turned out that they did let me fill the chief of staff position. At that point, I had never met the Attorney General, Janet Reno. I was introduced to her, after I arrived, by Jo Ann Harris. Neither of them ever asked me my political affiliation or views. I was not being hired for politics. Jo Ann Harris wanted me to help her run the Criminal Division, a big organization, so it was a wonderful, surprising opportunity.

It turned out that it was the first of several surprising opportunities during my Washington career. I pretty quickly found myself attending the Attorney General's daily senior staff meetings. The senior staff meetings at the Justice Department were all Presidential appointees. They were not just political people; they were all Presidential appointees. As the Criminal Division's chief of staff, I worked with Jamie Gorelick and Eric Holder, both of whom at various points served as the Deputy Attorney General. I worked with Ron Klain, who served as AG [Attorney General] Reno's chief of staff--He had worked for Vice President [Joseph A.] Biden when he was a Senator, Vice President Gore in the White House, and later he was Vice President [Albert, Jr.] Gore's campaign manager in the 2000 election. So it was very interesting--I was working with very political people, some of whom, I think, were skeptical--I won't say suspicious, but clearly skeptical--not that I was a Republican, but because they didn't really know what my politics were.

Riley

Were your politics Republican?

Townsend

I grew up in Nassau County, and you didn't get a county job if you weren't a registered Republican. This was the era of . For those in Republican Long Island politics--He was ultimately indicted for a kickback scheme, so you didn't get a public job in Nassau County without being a registered Republican. In high school I had campaigned for a local state assemblyman, Fred Parola. So, when I registered to vote at 18, I registered Republican.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

I have remained registered as a Republican my entire life. That was available to them and I assume they figured that out.

Because I went directly from law school into the federal government, I was, as a career government official, legally prohibited from engaging in any political activity. I was "Hatched" out of political activity [Hatch Act of 1939, An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities], named after Senator [Carl] Hatch, and have never been politically active. In my entire professional life I was barred from being politically active, so I didn't campaign, contribute, or attend any Republican Party events. I didn't donate money. I was just not politically active.

Jones

Associating with Jo Ann Harris, I assume that was the aura or the context within which people looked at you?

Townsend

That's right. Although I think that somebody like Ron Klain would have--You're not sitting in those meetings if they haven't run your background. He would have absolutely known I was a registered Republican, which meant they were skeptical.

But I think it's one of those things--If they asked me a question, they got a substantive answer. My legal advice was clearly not going through any filter of my personal political views. They spoke freely in front of me and it never got leaked. I demonstrated that I had no personal agenda. I equated it with being the house butler or the nanny. All kinds of things are discussed and happen in front of you, you were expected to be discreet, and how you handled it was how you were judged. I was discreet. I served them both competently and loyally, and respectfully recognized that these were their decisions at the Justice Department, and my advice--If they took it, that was great and if they didn't, that was what they were there to decide.

Jones

Is there something in your background that explains why you were so focused that you wanted to be a prosecutor? What explains that? It isn't obvious to me.

Townsend

I'm not sure there is anything obvious. I had a very strong sense of service. I had thought about becoming a police officer. I had thought about the military. I am the granddaughter of immigrants. My parents didn't graduate from high school and I really believed that education was my way out, and I just had a very law enforcement bent about helping to give back and protect other people. Like many of my generation, I was certainly inspired from watching Perry Mason on television. And my drive to become a prosecutor was influenced by having been a victim of a crime as a child, which was reinforced after becoming the victim of a crime in college. The prosecutors dismissed the college case without even speaking to me. I felt strongly that was wrong and never forgot it.

And that's how I viewed the role of the prosecutor--I remember saying this when I was in the DA's office--part of our job was being the victim's voice in the system, and somebody said, "You are not the victim's voice." I replied, "Well, that's bad news, because I believe that is part of our responsibility and that's why I think we are here." They said, "No, you are the voice of the state. You are advocating the state's interest and that's not always going to be the same thing." And I can remember thinking to myself as a young lawyer, Well, that's wrong. [laughter] OK, I'm just not going to say that again but my view is that I am the victim's voice, as well as the state's. I was clearly influenced and inspired by my own experience with the criminal justice system. For me, it was just a give back thing. It sounds hokey but it really was what drove me. Before joining the DA's office, I didn't know a prosecutor, had never met one, and there are no lawyers in my family.

Riley

Your portfolio within the Justice Department when you first went there was--

Townsend

I was in the Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney Jo Ann Harris's chief of staff.

Riley

You were her chief of staff, and her portfolio then was--?

Townsend

Jo Ann Harris's portfolio basically was the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She was responsible for everything from public corruption and ethics, international treaties, law enforcement cooperation treaties--It ran the whole gamut of federal criminal justice policy to enforcement of the federal criminal law under Title 18. Mine was very much like being the COO [chief operating officer]. There were lots of people reporting to the Assistant Attorney General. There were a lot of things she had to decide. She had to brief the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. At the time, she was responsible for the formulation and execution of a $600 million budget. We had hundreds of lawyers, plus she had to coordinate with the 96 U.S. attorney's offices, so it was a huge operation.

And there are very sensitive, urgent matters that came to the Assistant Attorney General for decision. I can remember one of the first things I looked at was the [Daniel] Rostenkowski investigation and, because he was a current Member of Congress, the Assistant Attorney General had to authorize the bringing of an indictment. Again, for a nonpolitical person--At the time, I could not have told you who he was. I got a whole box of material. I had to look through the grand jury evidence and make a legal judgment. Did we have sufficient evidence to support the indictment? Based on the strength of the evidence, were we likely to obtain a conviction? So it ran the gamut from your garden-variety personnel issues and the management of the Criminal Division to the resolution of sensitive prosecutions. I arrived in January of '94, and I did that until the end of 1995. Jo Ann Harris had left her position as Assistant Attorney General around that time.

After she left, there was an opportunity to become the Director of the Office of International Affairs and run that. I had been fascinated by the international work of that unit because, again, going back to my time in the Southern District of New York, working to prosecute global criminal enterprises, I really thought that sounded like a great job. I had worked Italian organized-crime cases and Colombian drug cases, so I understood the importance of the international exchange of evidence. I had come to Washington on that initial temporary detail to Washington to work on international enforcement. This was an opportunity to actually run the office responsible for international cooperation treaties and evidence exchange. I did that from late '95 until sometime in '97.

I can't remember why, but there was a vacant Deputy Assistant Attorney General position in the front office of the Criminal Division. Those positions were split evenly between career and Schedule C political positions. Somebody must have left and they asked me to fill the position temporarily, a promotion for me. Then I was overseeing the office I had run, International Affairs, and also our office called ICITAP, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, which was the international office responsible for police and law enforcement training. Remember when the U.S. trained the police force in Haiti? ICITAP was the office responsible for that. I served in that position for about a year.

That was really a political job that I was filling as an acting, so I wasn't sure what was I going to do next when they found a new political appointee. One evening when I was home, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Attorney General Janet Reno asking me to take a new position reporting directly to her--I should say, by that time, I had become very close to her on a personal level. She had come to my wedding in New York in 1994. She had been to my house when my first child was born in 1995. We knew, respected, and liked each other.

Jones

This is in '97?

Townsend

We are now in early '98. She asked me if I would run the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review, at the time a little-known office that did only very highly classified work. It had been run for many, many years by a woman named Mary Lawton, who was a legend in the national security legal community, who had passed away. While Janet Reno was Attorney General, it went through a number of people who were heading it, for example, Richard Scruggs, a fairly controversial figure. After Scruggs, there was an acting office chief for a while.

The office was also a source of real friction within DOJ [Department of Justice] with the Criminal Division, as well as, between the Justice Department and the FBI, who was the principal client of that office. That office was responsible for FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for national security wiretaps and there was real friction between what was the role of the office versus what was the role of the FBI. They were constantly at loggerheads. The FBI did not believe the office was aggressive enough. The office lawyers thought that the FBI agents were overly aggressive and didn't like being supervised. At that time, there was also friction between that office and the Criminal Division because that office controlled the flow of intelligence information to the Criminal Division.

Jones

Is it a sensitivity to jurisdiction?

Townsend

Yes, it was basically a fight for jurisdiction, although people were hiding behind legal arguments about why you could or could not share information between the intelligence and law enforcement communities. This became the infamous public debate, post 9/11, about "The Wall" between law enforcement and intelligence.

Jones

The Wall?

Townsend

Right. This was The Wall. It was in this context that Attorney General Reno asked me, "I'd like you to run that office. The Office of Intelligence Policy Review." I said, "I've never even read the statute." It's the FISA statute. "Let us hope there is somebody better qualified than me." I had no expertise in the area when she called. And she said, "Look, you can read the statute. You don't have to be an expert in the statute. You have many years of experience knowing what probable cause is and you will learn the statute." The Attorney General made clear what the job required was good judgment and the confidence of both the Attorney General and the FBI Director to make these judgment calls.

At the time, the FBI Director was Louis Freeh, for whom I had not only worked in the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney's office, but who had long been a mentor to me. Director Freeh guided me through the hiring process at the Southern District when he was running the Organized Crime Unit there. I knew him well, and had at that point never made a professional move in the federal system without talking to him first. So my response to her was, "Louis is a friend and I wouldn't think of making this decision without talking to him." She said, "No, I don't want you to do that." I said, "Well, then no." I didn't know what to say. She said, "Well, don't do it yet. Let me talk to him first and then you can talk to him."

The Attorney General and I hung up and agreed to speak again. I was at home that night and, you know, things stick in your mind: I was brushing my son's teeth, when the phone rang and my husband said, "It's the Director of the FBI," and handed me the phone in the bathroom. [laughter] When I said hello, Louis's first words were "You've got to do it." I said, "What?" He said, "Janet called and told me. I think it's one of the best ideas she's had. I think we need to take this issue seriously and stop fighting about it." They were fighting about special prosecutors and politically sensitive investigations at the time, and at this point it was already public that Director Freeh had a notoriously bad relationship with then President Clinton.

He said, "Look, we need to have somebody there that the agents respect, so we're not fighting about this. I think you should do it." I said to him, "I'll only do it if you'll be supportive." As I mentioned, the FBI and the Justice Department were fighting, so I said to him, "I don't want to get caught between the two of you." So I told Director Freeh that he had to commit to me that he would be supportive of me running OIPR [Office of Intelligence Policy Review], but that I understood that it didn't mean we were not going to disagree. Director Freeh replied, "Absolutely. You've got to do it." So I called Attorney General Reno and accepted the new position running OIPR.

In the end, I will say, she was right. The job did not require expertise in the FISA statute--I can also remember asking Director Freeh, "Is this a problem that I am not a FISA expert? I've not done this work before." He said, "You are really smart. It's not a hard statute. It really is a question of what's probable cause under the statute. You knew how to do that when you came out of law school and have been doing that the entire time that you've been a prosecutor, so you're going to be fine. And the FBI will support you."

When I walked into the job--I don't think there were 15 lawyers assigned to OIPR. The office was only just getting computers. I walked in and there was an IBM Selectric typewriter that they took the ribbon and ball out at night and put them in a safe, and this was '98!

Jones

Really, I thought I was behind.

Townsend

The way they would assign and keep track of cases was they had this big green cloth-covered book. They would write down the OIPR lawyers' names and put hash marks so you knew how many cases each lawyer was assigned--They did not even track assignments by case names. If you wanted to know which lawyer was assigned to a particular case, you went from office to office and asked each lawyer. I took one look at this on my first day and thought, What have I signed on for?

Another of my favorite examples of how antiquated the office was is they still used 11 x 14, the old legal-sized paper. At that time, no district court in the country accepted 11 x 14 paper. I said to them, "Where did you get this old legal paper? And why?" They said, "Well, when the district courts did away with it, we requisitioned it. There are boxes of it in the basement." They were all very proud and I was horrified. The first thing I did was go to the Chief Judge of the FISA Court and ask if he had any objection to OIPR using regular 8 ? x 11 paper. OIPR was a forgotten DOJ office. This is not a public story, but I quickly realized the office was in urgent need of modernization to meet its critical and growing mission.

This was like walking into a cloistered monk's abbey. These were people who believed their job was to safeguard the statute and not work cooperatively with the FBI. One of the lawyers running OIPR had helped write the FISA statute, Allan Kornblum, and he thought it was his job to protect the statute. It was like the Oracles of Delphi. If you had a question about the statute, you went to him. Whatever he said, that's the way it was done. By contrast, I grew up in a legal community of prosecutors where we debated legal issues. In the U.S. attorney's office, we talked to and challenged our colleagues. "What do you think this statute means?" It was an interesting job and those discussions challenged your thinking and made you a better lawyer.

Riley

How many people were there?

Townsend

I don't think there were more than 15 lawyers, if that, in OIPR at the time I arrived. By the time I left I had increased it, and there were probably 45 with a hiring plan to have many more. In short order, this was a legal staff that really responded to a new leadership and a new way of approaching their work. There were some struggles early on, but I think overall it was a very professional staff. They came to really appreciate that. And with a fresh new look, and an Attorney General who was willing to praise them for working hard and was willing to come down to their offices, they could be more successful. It was a brave new world for them that I think they were frightened of in the beginning but really responded over time.

Riley

I want to go back and ask you if you had any piece of the original 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Did you?

Townsend

No. In fact, I can remember being on vacation sitting in Palm Beach, Florida, seeing the images of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and calling the U.S. attorney's office and saying, "Let me come back. I want to come back. I'll get on a plane. I want to be involved." As you can imagine, it was breaking so fast--I didn't. The case was quickly assigned and I was out of it. I was so disappointed, because I would have loved to have been there and worked on that prosecution.

Riley

But, just tracking from there, my surmise in reading your record is that that must have been important as an entr?e into the international aspect of law and counterterrorism. I'm hearing a very different story from you, in that you're saying your interest in international mostly came from your experiences doing drug cases and the Mafia cases.

Townsend

That's right. My international interest developed much before the '93 World Trade Center.

Riley

Is there anything that we ought to talk about from the position that you had before in the Office of International Affairs? Were there any big developments in that? What was your approach?

Townsend

There were a number of big cases while I was chief of the Office of International Affairs. If it was a big and high-profile international case, I wound up getting personally involved, because it had other potentially political ramifications. There was a fugitive in Brazil who had been responsible for starting a fire in Seattle where a fireman was killed. The case was a big deal to the local community and to local politicians, so I supervised it personally to ensure that it was handled appropriately.

The other big one was a Philadelphia case then Senator Arlen Specter had been involved in when he was a criminal defense attorney before he entered politics. The defendant was a guy who dismembered his girlfriend in Pennsylvania, and stuck her body parts in a trunk-like suitcase. He was a fugitive who had fled to France, and had been convicted in absentia, so it was a matter of getting him back to the U.S. to serve his sentence. He had been tried in absentia and convicted. The French would not allow his extradition to the U.S. because he had not been present for his trial. I worked with the Pennsylvania DA and with the Governor. Senator Specter earlier in his career had been the defendant's lawyer. It wound up being a hugely controversial case.

I can remember talking frequently with the victim's family. The victim's first name was Holly [Maddux] and they had these little pins that looked like Holly that they gave me to wear. I became a voracious advocate about making sure that this family got justice. That case in particular reminded me about the importance of being the victim's voice, because sometimes they can't be that voice. And this was on an international scale, where they needed someone who had the ability to be a voice and an advocate internationally to speak for them.

Perry

What was Senator Specter's role?

Townsend

Before he was in the Senate, he had been a criminal defense lawyer and had represented the defendant before the defendant fled to France on the eve of trial. This is long ago, but I think he had been arrested, and whether the trial had started or not--I don't remember when he fled, but Senator Specter had been involved in his representation, as a defense lawyer.

Perry

Was he attempting to help him?

Townsend

In fairness, no, not when he was a Senator. He wasn't attempting to help him, and I think as a Senator the case was an embarrassment. It just added another Washington dimension to the politics of the case.

Riley

So most of what you were doing in the Office of International Affairs was extradition problems?

Townsend

That's right, as well as the exchange of evidence pursuant to the mutual legal assistance treaties. We were also responsible for negotiating these treaties.

Riley

There was not a terrorism or counterterrorism component?

Townsend

Well, extradition and mutual legal assistance, which is the exchange of evidence, ran the gamut from fraud cases to terrorism cases, all of it. In fact, the focus at that point had begun to be on combating terror finance, so working with my team who were focused on Switzerland was important. But there was not a particular emphasis or focus on terrorism cases at that time.

Riley

But by the time you got to the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, the next position, that is the core--?

Townsend

When I first got there, there was the huge Wen Ho Lee controversy, which was the case of the Chinese scientist at Los Alamos who had stolen sensitive nuclear data from Los Alamos National Laboratory. That case had actually been going on in OIPR before I arrived. The decisions in the Wen Ho Lee investigation had been made before I arrived, but the controversy erupted literally as I arrived. So I, who up until then, had assiduously avoided having any contact with Capitol Hill, was immediately in the crosshairs. I spent a lot of time briefing Congress. I went to Capitol Hill with Attorney General Reno. I prepared her for her testimony. And it very much colored my first eight or nine months there.

It also almost immediately put me at odds with the FBI, because the FBI had sought a FISA warrant and their request had been denied by OIPR, without even going to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. When the case erupted, there were numerous investigations on Capitol Hill. The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board was also conducting a review inside the executive branch, and every place we went the Justice Department and the FBI were each blaming the other.

I was defending OIPR, an office that I had only just taken over and a decision that I had no hand in. I found myself immediately at odds with the FBI and Director Freeh, exactly where I didn't want to be, and it was a pitched battle. This was what I now appreciate as a classic no-holds-barred Washington food fight. During the controversy, I got a back channel from the FBI telling me that I should stay out of this one because it had predated my tenure; someone's career was going to get hurt and no one at the FBI wanted to see it be me.

Riley

Is it possible for you to talk about--You said that the FBI wanted the warrant. I don't know enough about the law and enough about the office to know what the issues would be and how it would present itself. It would be helpful, I think, for you to discuss a little bit what the FBI wanted to do and why it was that your office felt it was inappropriate.

Townsend

Yes. Let me start with my conclusion about the case, once I looked at it. Looking back, I concluded that it wasn't that OIPR was wrong to turn down the FBI's initial request, which was indeed insufficient, but if OIPR and the FBI had had a good working relationship, the OIPR lawyers would have advised the agents what they could do to strengthen the case to make it legally sufficient. In a criminal context, when you are a very senior prosecutor, that's how the relationship works. You never just say no and send the agents away; you work together to successfully conduct and conclude an investigation.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

An agent may bring in a case and have a conversation with you about what he thinks, and you may say, "I need more of A and less of B. Have we tried C or D?" But you are very much a partner in an investigation, so the agent is never going to bring me a case and I would simply turn it down. If I think more is required, we talk about what is legally required and we talk about how to get it. I used to tell the lawyers I worked with, "You never just say no; you must always say, ?We cannot do it this way, but here are your options for how to make it legally sufficient.'" That was a different mindset for the OIPR and I brought that with me from my time in the U.S. attorney's office. I had worked for Louis Freeh there; he had been my direct supervisor. Looking back, I understood his frustration in the Wen Ho Lee case, and the cooperation that he expected between the FBI and OIPR was definitely lacking when I arrived.

When I got to OIPR, the FBI agents brought in the case to OIPR; the lawyer there said it was insufficient and sent them away and they never had another conversation. The OIPR lawyer assumed that when the FBI agent had more, he would bring the case back. Well, he didn't, because he felt like he had been turned down, and no one at the FBI raised it at the DOJ above OIPR to appeal the decision. So this was one of those cases when both sides failed. It would have been much easier if you could have said one side was right and one side was wrong. I just thought it could have been handled better on both sides. It was an unfortunate result that could and should have been avoided, but it was easily fixed. This was not some big legal issue or inadequacy; this was human error and failing to do business in the most effective way.

Perry

It's the process that was not working.

Townsend

Right. It's the old story: Welcome to Washington. You fix the last problem. So we did. We put in place a process where if OIPR turned down an FBI request for a warrant, they could appeal that decision to the Deputy Attorney General and then the Attorney General to ensure that the case would be considered and resolved. But that to me was a big eye roll; I was happy to put that process in place, but we should not have many cases that get to the appeal process, because the real point is, we ought to be able to talk about the cases and work cooperatively to ensure the best possible result. If we needed the safety valve of an appeal process, great, but we ought to commit to and ensure that we do business differently.

Riley

At what point does the court become involved in this process? Again, I'm asking very novice types of questions on this because I'm not an expert. Patrick, you may have some probing on this as well, since you obviously know more than I.

Townsend

The FBI would bring a draft affidavit to OIPR, alleging facts that must show probable cause pursuant to the FISA statute to support the issuance of a warrant. If legally sufficient, OIPR drafted the final affidavit and warrant for presentation to the FISA Court. The FBI agent and OIPR lawyer then presented the formal request for a warrant to the FISA Court, which after reviewing it could do one of three things: they could grant the request, deny the request, or return the package without a formal determination. The FISA Court judge would read the government's papers in advance before coming into the Court. There would be a group of agents and OIPR lawyers waiting to make presentations on the day of the proceeding. The judge will enter the court and swear the agents in. He might then proceed to ask questions of the agent for additional information on the facts alleged in the affidavit to clarify the legal basis for establishing probable cause. Rarely, in my experience, would a FISA judge outright deny an application, but he might say, "You know, I actually think the pleading needs more." In that case, the FISA judge would then return the package to the lawyer and agents, without a formal denial, and invite the FBI and OIPR to supplement or strengthen the package for resubmission. The statistics of the court are not very revealing for the uninitiated, for those people outside the process.

Riley

Yes, because it's like 110 percent accepted?

Townsend

Right. When I first arrived, not having been familiar with the process, the OIPR lawyers were very pleased to tell me, "We are 100 percent successful before the court," and I said, "Then you're not trying hard enough and not taking enough risk." If you're not ever losing, that means you're not being aggressive enough. This sort of terrified them, because it's very much a prosecutor's mentality. But with time I had come to understand and appreciate the strength of the FISA Court system. It was just very different from the traditional district court adversarial process.

Riley

The process that you were talking about before, where the staff can make decisions in advance of taking something; in other words, they can say, "This doesn't rise to the level to satisfy us even to take to the court."

Townsend

Right.

Riley

And this is what you were dealing with in the Wen Ho Lee case that you were talking about?

Townsend

Right. And this comes down to the fundamental view of the role of OIPR. Is their role supposed to be that of a gatekeeper to the court, or are they the FBI's advocate? That was the fundamental policy disagreement when I arrived there. Coming from a prosecutor's background, of course I thought my role was to oversee the FBI's use of the FISA statute, advise them on how to use the statute most effectively, and to be their advocate before the court.

All that meant was that OIPR had to ensure that all the legal hurdles and requirements were met. The role of the Attorney General was then to certify that the package met the standards of the statute before presentation to the FISA Court. So, DOJ was legally obligated not to take something to the FISA Court that they did not believe was legally sufficient. However, it was appropriate to determine a case to be legally adequate and then have the court disagree when the case was presented. That was what the court hearings were about.

Probable cause is one of those interesting things in the law that's not--It's sort of like the case in the Supreme Court decision that says, "What's pornography? Well, I know it when I see it." There is some element of that same sort of feel to probable cause. There is the legal standard that defines probable cause. You had to create an environment over time that said to the OIPR lawyers, "You are encouraged to be aggressive about what facts are necessary to meet the legal standard to establish probable case."

And, by the way, there is the further complicating factor that what facts are necessary to establish probable cause is affected by the potential consequence to national security. The legal standard moves. It's not a static thing, it's a living, breathing thing based on the facts. It's OK if you think it's a close call, but the consequences are tremendous. Take it to the court and let the court decide it. There is no harm and nothing inappropriate about that. You have not failed in your duty to certify. I think when we bring something like that to the Attorney General, we have to be forthright and warn her, "This case is really close and here is what our thinking is." But it needed to be a more vibrant process, as opposed to one where one lawyer can say, "This doesn't meet the probable cause test," and deny it. This more open, collaborative approach that I am describing was precisely what FBI Director Freeh was asking for and was entirely new to the OIPR lawyers.

Jones

I can see--because of the unsettled nature of the whole process, where there isn't an absolute clear answer--how that can be very frustrating to lawyers. You move it along, and the process is designed that way, to move it along and, as you said, at the court level the judge may still want it to move along more--some more expansion in the justification, and so forth.

Townsend

You can appreciate, because there is not a black-and-white answer in most instances. I came to appreciate why it really did matter that the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI trust the process and the judgment of the OIPR lawyers--I was there because they both trusted my judgment and my legal skill and they both felt like they'd get a fair shake. If I came to either of them and said, "I'm worried about this one," or, "This is close, but I think it's worth taking to the FISA Court," the two of them may not agree on how to handle the case, but the one thing they both always agreed on was, "I have respect for her judgment."

Roberts

In discussion with Members of Congress or congressional staff in preparing testimony or briefings, did you feel like some people wanted to frame the Wen Ho Lee case, or the role of the court, in relation to a bigger world view, rather than as a management issue or a legal process issue? Did you have to push back against that?

Townsend

Oh, absolutely.

Roberts

Was that a new experience?

Townsend

It was a new experience for me. The Wen Ho Lee case became very political. They took something that, to me as a career lawyer, was a simple bureaucratic failure and used it to further their political agenda. Bureaucrats often act like bureaucrats and that is to be expected. Every so often that leads to a bad result and you have to kind of smack the system in the head with a two-by-four and fix it, set it straight. That was all this was to me. What happened in the Wen Ho Lee case was unfortunate, but it was not nefarious nor malicious, as some in Congress had suggested.

Around this time, Congressman [Charles Christopher] Chris Cox issued a whole report on Chinese espionage, and this case played into all of that. The Republicans on the Hill--Senator Fred Thompson was chairing one of the committees. Gosh, I can't think of who the others were--but this became high-order politics. This case gave the Republicans an opportunity to go after the Clinton administration and say: They're weak on national security; they don't get it. She [the Attorney General]'s not competent. There were calls for Attorney General Reno's resignation over this. Having had almost no interaction with Congress when I began at OIPR, I walked in and again said, "Oh, my God. What have I gotten myself into?"

I will tell you, looking back, that rarely in the Justice Department do you send a career person up to Capitol Hill to testify. Rarely, especially when it is a political issue. I never questioned why the Department of Justice was sending me up to Capitol Hill. I went because I thought it was my job. OIPR was my office and I was going to tell the story and defend them, even if I would have handled it differently. I was going to help the Attorney General. She was in a crisis. I never hesitated, never even thought about any of this until much later.

The fact that I was a career person was tremendously useful to Attorney General Reno and the Justice Department. The fact that I was willing to be an advocate and push back made the Republicans furious. They treated me badly, harshly. It was clear that they felt that Attorney General Reno and the Justice Department were using me and they resented my being a shield. It was the fact that I was a career professional that was useful to the DOJ and difficult for the Republicans. I was not conscious of that at the time. I say that now, but I will tell you that I was not conscious of either dynamic at the time. I was focused on the facts and on what happened and putting together the timeline and the chronology of the case. All of the politics that swirled around me, I was just not conscious of it.

Jones

Was this true of staff as well as Members?

Townsend

The OIPR career staff were both frightened and horrified to see their work made into a political issue. For me, it wasn't until the change of administrations that I paid a price for this episode--that I became aware of, and appreciated, what had happened during this time.

Riley

Patrick, do you have anything else you want to follow up on that?

Roberts

No, except, what tools did you use to try to reframe the issue as much as you could when there are these big, high-level battles going on about Chinese espionage?

Townsend

I really wasn't in a position to reframe it. I can remember being at one closed-door congressional hearing with Attorney General Reno. I was the career technical expert. The Republicans' tactic was to put me in a box and limit what I was asked. They would ask her [the Attorney General], "Was there probable cause? What was the review process like?" And would not permit her to defer those questions to me. Then they would ask me: "What does she [the Attorney General] know about the FISA statute? But it is the Attorney General's responsibility to execute this statute. That's her responsibility. Why does she need you here?" The Republicans' approach was to try and keep me in that box, which was OK with me because I knew the legal substance about the statute. But there was this much bigger context and the Republicans were trying to use my expertise against Attorney General Reno to try and make her appear incompetent It was unfair and made me uncomfortable.

Riley

You mentioned The Wall earlier. I wonder if you could talk a little more expansively about your own perceptions of the existence of The Wall during the Clinton period, and your own perceptions about whether the press commentary on this has it right? Help us understand better what you saw of the existence of The Wall and, if you could, make some judgments about whether it was higher and firmer than it needed to be, or whether it was just right, or whether there were things that could have been done consistent with law that maybe weren't done during the course of the Clinton Presidency.

Townsend

It's so funny that you should ask--I'm delighted that you've asked me about it, because I think this is among the most misunderstood, misreported issues, and it's the best one that puts a perspective on my shift from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration. I did not talk publicly about this during my government service. I could have shed light on it, but was never asked, and never did. So it's a privilege to be able to clarify and set the record straight.

The Wall was a misunderstanding, a legal misjudgment on the part of OIPR lawyer Allan Kornblum, who later became a federal magistrate in Florida. He was the OIPR deputy I referred to earlier, who had helped in the drafting of the FISA statute and worked with the original OIPR chief, Mary Lawton. He had worked honorably and well on many espionage cases during the Cold War, but was perceived by the FBI, rightly or wrongly, as a dinosaur, who was both unable and unwilling to work with them cooperatively. Before I arrived, the FISA statute and how it was implemented by Allan and OIPR lawyers had become a static process that Allan felt honor-bound to defend how the law was applied, as though he were the only one who knew because he had helped write it. It meant that his opinions came with great weight. And it sort of metastasized to everyone in OIPR's view of that statute.

Kornblum absolutely believed it was legally required that there be a very high impenetrable wall between FISA-collected intelligence on one side and law enforcement investigations on the other. And because of his position inside OIPR, he had the authority and ability to prevent the sharing of intelligence with the criminal investigating agents.

Riley

He was in your office?

Townsend

He was my deputy when I arrived there in 1998.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

It became clear to me early on, in my conversations with the FBI, that Allan being there, and having that responsibility as the OIPR deputy, was part of the problem. I wasn't going to be able to fix the problem if Allan remained my deputy. Allan had served for four decades in OIPR. I can remember conversations with Attorney General Reno about Allan. I told her, "I can't fix this OIPR problem for you. I can't infuse this office with a new culture and mindset of Look at everything fresh. What is probable cause? if Allan is there saying he wrote the statute and he is the absolute authority." Attorney General Reno agreed and we moved him out of the deputy slot and into a senior counsel position. He was still in OIPR, but he felt himself being pushed aside and he was very resentful. He was an older gentleman. I was probably younger than any of his children. [laughter] But the change made clear to every OIPR lawyer in the office that the old dysfunctional attitude of simply dictating to the FBI, instead of working with them cooperatively, would no longer be tolerated.

Jones

That happens.

Townsend

But it did not make for a good dynamic. He had a long-standing relationship with the FISA Court judges. Just so you know, the deputy would meet with the Chief Judge and the judges outside of regular court proceedings. There was an ongoing, behind-the-scenes dialogue. Clearly Allan had shared with the court that he was being pushed aside as a result of my arrival. That also made the FISA Court, which was used to having this very cozy relationship with OIPR, very skeptical of me. I viewed the FISA Court as any prosecutor would the district court, that there needed to be appropriate boundaries. I'm the government, I am an advocate; you are the court, you render decisions. The court didn't like it. It made them uncomfortable. The FISA Court viewed Allan as the person who protected them from making a mistake. He would not send them any case he believed was even close, so the FISA Court didn't really have to worry about difficult cases or challenging legal issues. When I arrived, the FISA Court understood that there was now this whole shifting dynamic.

Jones

It's fascinating, isn't it? Allan become the personification of the statute.

Townsend

Right.

Jones

Not just within the office, but also outside.

Townsend

Which I regarded--I don't say that I was right, but because of my background, I regarded that dynamic, which had grown over time between OIPR and the FISA Court, as quite dangerous. There was a good reason that the Founding Fathers set up the system of checks and balances the way they did, and I think there is actually a special burden on the government to play it straight, especially in an environment like the FISA Court, where there is no advocate present on the other side. The notion that there was this cozy relationship, I was just not comfortable with it. I paid a price for this ultimately, as I can explain. So, Allan went from being OIPR deputy to senior counsel--

Riley

Senior counsel within your office?

Townsend

Yes. I took him out of the daily grind of how cases were assigned and assessed. He was still available to the OIPR lawyers who had questions, but he no longer had to review and approve every single case before they were submitted to the FISA Court. Allan didn't like it. He was very unhappy. He was clearly, unbeknownst to me at the time, talking to the chief FISA judge about his newly limited role. Shortly thereafter, Allan announced that he was leaving OIPR to become the first legal advisor to the FISA Court and its Chief Judge.

Perry

Who was--?

Townsend

Federal District Court Judge Royce Lamberth. And it was literally one of those, "Well, we've got good news and bad news." [laughter] Allan's not in OIPR anymore, but he is now going to look at every one of the OIPR cases submitted to the FISA Court and advise the judges who are deciding them. I realized I was going to pay a heavy price for having done what I believed was the right thing. I am Catholic; I was about to begin doing penance.

Jones

He's leaving, but to become God.

Townsend

As you might imagine, we went through a pretty miserable period of time with the FISA Court when Allan first went there.

Riley

The court has its own staff?

Townsend

Yes, before Allan's arrival at the court, it used to just be administrative clerks, until the FISA Court literally created a position for him and moved him there. They later hired additional legal advisors who worked for Allan. Right? You're shaking your head. Imagine how I felt. I just thought to myself, Oh, my God.

Jones

Where are we in time now? Ninety-nine, maybe?

Townsend

I got there in '98 and he was there. The reason I remember is that August of '98 was the Easy Africa Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The next big terrorism event was the '99 millennium threat, going into 2000.

Riley

Which was late.

Townsend

And I don't know if he was--

Riley

That's checkable. It may be a predicate for a question, but for the transcript we can put it in.

Townsend

I think you're right, it was in '99. Because I wanted to honor his service, I didn't push him out as soon as I got there, so it was not '98. It had to be '99, because I don't think he was still there when we had the '99-into-2000 millennium threat.

Anyway, Allan is a large part of the explanation of people's view of The Wall. This issue had long been a frustration between the Criminal Division and OIPR. When I was chief of staff in the Criminal Division, we fought with then OIPR chief Richard Scruggs, that the office's interpretation of the FISA statute, which prohibited sharing information with the Criminal Division, was wrong. Memos had been written and exchanged between OIPR and the Criminal Division debating this point about intelligence sharing long before I arrived.

I got to OIPR in March 1998, and in August 1998, you had the East Africa Embassy bombings. I became very conscious of the terrorism threat and the need for prosecutors and investigators on the criminal side to appropriately and legally get access to the relevant intelligence. We almost immediately began a fresh legal review of the issue. To be fair, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and Attorney General Janet Reno shared this sense that if there was a legal way to make sure there is appropriate access to the intelligence, then we had a responsibility to do it. So, it was not that during the Clinton administration the Attorney General and the deputy were guardians and putting bricks in and reinforcing The Wall. They were both concerned about the lack of intelligence sharing, because Allan had laid down the law before my arrival that intelligence sharing with law enforcement was not legally possible. Both were pressing the question: was there a way to do it legally? They were aware of the FISA Court's concern. It was a big issue for the FISA Court, so DOJ wanted to be careful about it. But both the Attorney General and the deputy were open and encouraged us to have additional sharing of intelligence. And by the way, at the same time, the FBI was also advocating for greater intelligence sharing.

I'm going to lose track of years here. OIPR did start sharing intelligence information memos from the FBI with the Criminal Division, so the Criminal Division began having access to synopses of intelligence cases, which gave them enough insight to then request additional information. The law enforcement side could then raise a concern with the Deputy Attorney General's office if they were denied additional information. There was a process overseen by the Deputy Attorney General's office to resolve any disagreement over access to intelligence. So it was not just the Criminal Division coming to OIPR and saying, "Mother, may I?" It was the Criminal Division and OIPR having a conversation, and those issues they could not resolve went to the deputy's office to look at and resolve.

There was, over the course of 1998 to 2000, far greater fidelity and legal sharing of intelligence between the two offices. Part of the process of getting OIPR comfortable with the sharing was having lawyers with criminal prosecutorial experience, and not exclusively intelligence background, reassigned and working inside OIPR. I began by having an assistant U.S. attorney detail from a U.S. attorney's office assigned to OIPR and that became part of changing the OIPR culture. I began having regular OIPR meetings with the FBI, including their general counsel's office, so that there was a legal advocate on the FBI's side making the argument on particularly difficult cases.

Riley

And Fran, the movement is mostly staff-driven, rather than any movement in the direction or the composition of the court itself?

Townsend

Oh, yes, it was driven by me and was inside OIPR. This did not involve the FISA Court. This was me pushing the staff probably beyond what they were entirely comfortable with, but they were doing their level best.

Riley

And you're doing that with the Attorney General--

Townsend

With the Attorney General, with the Deputy Attorney General, and with the FBI.

Riley

And Jamie Gorelick also, because as I recall, later on, there was a lot of finger-pointing that she was the person that was keeping the bricks in The Wall.

Townsend

That's right and that was unfair. I don't want to overstate it. There came a point when I advocated even more intelligence sharing, and they were not comfortable with that because of the potential reaction from the FISA Court.

Riley

"They," meaning the Attorney General?

Townsend

The Clinton Justice Department. The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General

Jones

And "more" being?

Townsend

More information from the intelligence side being handed over to law enforcement. One of the important backdrops here is that the FISA Court was fully aware of what was going on inside OIPR because of back channels I described earlier. Initially it was Allan. But later, it was my deputy, Jim Baker, who became the FBI general counsel in the Obama administration. And of course Allan, who was then working for the court, had relationships with all of the OIPR lawyers. But the FISA Court was kept fully apprised of the effort to invigorate intelligence sharing with law enforcement.

So the court had insight into the intelligence sharing and they were not comfortable with it. As a result, over time my relationship with the FISA Court began to deteriorate. I did not go and meet regularly with the Chief Judge. Usually my deputy would do that, and that was fine, but I kept them at arm's length. It's how I had been trained. Prosecutors were advocates and did not have ex parte discussions with federal judges. And, by the way, I continue to think that's right. I don't really think you ought to be having informal conversations with the court, including with the FISA Court.

There is a point in time where the court inserted itself in the information-sharing process, because the warrant applications and accompanying affidavits, would describe what intelligence sharing there had been. And the court--I don't remember all the details of this now. The court became aware that the FBI, through their internal information system criminal investigating agents could access certain intelligence information. I don't recall if the court shut that down or denied the warrant, but this went up to FBI Director Louis Freeh, who went to see the FISA Court Chief Judge, Royce Lamberth. Director Freeh invited the Chief Judge over to the FBI building to show him how the FBI case filing system worked.

Director Freeh told Judge Lamberth, "You're going to make us not able to do our jobs." And somehow, in Judge Lamberth's mind, I caused the problem because I had encouraged and permitted intelligence sharing. Judge Lamberth and I had a very fractious relationship to the point that he claimed that the FISA work I had done on the East Africa Embassy bombings, should preclude me from reviewing any al-Qaeda FISA's thereafter. It was outrageous and interfered with my doing my job. I used to say, "My job is to straddle The Wall." In other words, to be able to see both sides, intelligence and law enforcement, in fast-breaking investigations. Someone had to know what was going on over on the intelligence side and understand it in order to know what intelligence might be relevant and appropriate to share with the criminal side, as well as be the person that the criminal prosecutors and agents could talk to. I continue to think that was right. I think it was a critically important role, as did Attorney General Reno.

I'm sorry this is a little technical. At the time, Jim Baker, who was my deputy, was reviewing all the warrants. I didn't have time to review every package. I looked at some of them, but Jim was the person ultimately deciding what was probable cause and what was not and therefore deciding which cases were legally sufficient to present to the FISA Court. If there was a disagreement with the FBI or a close call, he would bring those to me. In the end, Judge Lamberth decided that the fact that I had straddled The Wall during the East Africa investigation meant I could not have any part in the ongoing or future al-Qaeda FISA wiretaps. Well, you can imagine these cases were an increasing amount of OIPR's work and he effectively was going to prevent me from doing my job.

This culminated at the end of November of 2000. The Presidential election had happened and there was the controversy about who won the Presidency, but it was looking increasingly like it would be George W. Bush. Around this time, there was an annual meeting of the FISA Court, and Judge Lamberth refused to allow me to attend it. I was furious. I went to Attorney General Reno and said, "He can't do that. He may not like me, but the judicial branch of government cannot tell the executive branch who they can and can't send to court to represent them. Now, if you send me, you may pay a price." But she decided not to challenge him.

I was angry, I felt abandoned and betrayed. I had legally and appropriately pushed OIPR and the FISA Court to utilize the full power of their authorities, but I was now personally paying the price for it. Then it occurred to me there was going to be a transition to the new administration and I was left, as the quote from a movie goes, "alone and unprotected." It turned out that during the transition, I became pregnant with my second son. I was not feeling well at this point and it was just a very difficult personal time. I appealed to Attorney General Reno every day until her last day in office. "Challenge Judge Lamberth. Let me back in court." In fairness, at this point I recognized that if I could no longer go into court, I could not remain in the job, because then the government would not be effectively represented.

I realized that if I couldn't do my job, the new administration, with no understanding of the background, would simply move me. It was a very difficult time. I voted for George Bush, so I was in this odd conundrum. The guy I voted for looked like he was going to win and the first thing anyone in the Justice Department was going to do was fire me. [laughter]

Jones

Apart from that, how did you like the play?

Riley

You talk an awful lot about the Chief Judge. Is the court pretty much under his thumb?

Townsend

Well, absolutely, because the Chief Judge had always been resident in Washington; he was the one judge you had almost daily interaction with. As the terrorism problem grew, you had what we called emergency cases. Normally, the way the court reviewed cases was a pretty clean process. The FISA judge came into D.C. once every two weeks, he got a whole boatload of these warrants, and he went through and decided each one of them.

The problem was that in the world of terrorism, we prepared a warrant and needed it now to prevent an attack. I would have to get to a FISA judge right away. So the Chief Judge was there in the D.C. area. There was usually also one judge in eastern Virginia, but more often than not you went to the Chief Judge with emergency warrant requests. In fact, there was a concern on the FISA Court bench: "How come this huge percentage of your warrants are going to the Chief Judge? Are you judge-forum shopping?" As a result, the FISA Court judges, over time, began sitting in D.C. more frequently. I had positive interactions with all the other judges of the FISA Court. I had a perfectly good relationship with Judge [John F.] Keenan, from the Southern District of New York. I knew him from my time as assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District.

I remember going to see Judge Keenan and saying, "I've got a real problem with the Chief Judge, I need your advice." This was late 2000, during the USS [United States Ship] Cole investigation. The Cole had been blown up by al-Qaeda in October of 2000. We were doing lots of emergency warrants, and at one point I had to take an emergency warrant request up to him. I flew up to New York, he read the affidavit and warrant, and signed it. And he told me, "You've got a real problem with Judge Lamberth."

Riley

Again, you've probably just explained this and it went over my head, but what circumstances led you to take the case to the judge in--

Townsend

I can't remember. It may have been that Judge Lamberth was unavailable. But I think in this instance, a related wire had been signed by Judge Keenan, and we thought it was not appropriate to take this particular emergency warrant request, which he previously approved, to a different judge. This emergency case was another piece of a multifaceted intelligence investigation, with which Judge Keenan was more familiar, and we thought that in fairness we had to take it to the judge most familiar with the investigation.

Riley

But you're permitted to select which of the judges you--

Townsend

No, in the first instance, I would have gone to the Chief Judge and said, "I have this emergency wire," or "I've got this emergency warrant," and if the Chief Judge wasn't in town or wasn't available, I would have gone to the duty judge on call, but if the Chief Judge was in town, I would've advised the court, "This emergency request is related to an application that another judge already approved and we believe we should take it to him for review."

Riley

OK. And then the Chief Judge would say yes. Were there any women judges on the court?

Townsend

No, not at that time. These were typically judges in senior status, which meant they had a reduced caseload and additional time available. While I was there, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who makes the appointments to the FISA Court, appointed the first African American judge, but until then it had typically been older white male federal judges.

Riley

Right.

Townsend

The Chief Judge was not on senior status and kept a regular full district court docket. So at the time, Judge Royce Lamberth was obviously younger than his FISA Court colleagues. The FISA Court appointment was very sought after because it was prestigious, but it was also an additional responsibility, because it was on top of the judge's regular district court docket

Riley

Sure.

Jones

Did the 9/11 Report [Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States] get it right on The Wall?

Townsend

I'd have to go back; I don't remember exactly what it said, but yes, the Commission was right that there was confusion about the rules for sharing information and, as a result, there was less sharing. Frankly, that was what I was trying to solve and that was at the heart of my disagreement with Judge Lamberth, who thought I was too aggressive with sharing intelligence with law enforcement.

Jones

I don't either.

Riley

It sounds consistent; I've just been reading it over the last couple of weeks.

Townsend

My frustration, looking back, was that once again, in Washington, an important and substantive issue later gets played out as part of political theater. It was framed as the Democrats putting all these bricks in The Wall and then the Republicans knocking it down. Well, from my perspective, over time, there was an emerging understanding, both when Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and Eric Holder both absolutely saw and understood the need to look at this intelligence-sharing issue very seriously and find ways of legally permitting and encouraging sharing.

One of the greatest examples of that was the millennium bomber case, where we were doing a national security investigation. I convinced Attorney General Reno that we should permit a parallel criminal investigation to go on at the same time, and to the extent that I saw information that was legal and appropriate, we would share any intelligence that was relevant to the criminal investigation. I warned her that it was going to be litigated and challenged. I briefed her and FBI Director Freeh together. I said, "We're going to make law here. I am confident we are legally right, but I'm telling you that you both may get called to testify at a criminal case pretrial hearing on a motion to suppress. If that happens, I will prepare you, but you'd better know, we are pushing the legal envelope here." We all agreed it was both legal and the right position for the Justice Department to take.

By the way, the prosecutor responsible for the criminal investigation was Pat Fitzgerald, who was later appointed to independent counsel during the Bush administration, and when our legal theory was challenged, the district court in New York upheld it. The information I had shared and passed over to the criminal investigators, what I had collected on the intelligence side during the criminal investigation in New York, was later used in the criminal case as evidence. The prosecutors won the suppression motion and the evidence was admitted and that ruling was upheld both in the district court and the court of appeals. That happened, by the way, during the Clinton administration. Those were the first steps to a change in the legal approach and the dismantling of The Wall.

Riley

Yes.

Townsend

I don't know why the Democrats didn't make that argument, because it was theirs to make. And the Republicans, when they first came into office, understood that there was this problem with the FISA Court. There was a whole story behind my getting moved out of my position, but at one point I was briefing Bob Mueller, who is a dear friend whom I knew in the Attorney General Dick Thornburgh Justice Department, and was, at the time, Acting Deputy Attorney General before later becoming FBI Director. I remember sitting in his conference room briefing him about the problems with the FISA Court, saying, "We ought to look for the right case and take an appeal of Judge Lamberth's ruling. This has never been done in the history of the court." He said, "No, Judge Lamberth is about to rotate off the FISA Court. The time is not right."

Perhaps, you needed a 9/11 to get the FISA Court to be willing to permit intelligence sharing with law enforcement. There are shades of nuance here in terms of the historical facts of how we got to a place with the [USA] PATRIOT Act [Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act] and a knocking down of The Wall. Some of what happened during the Clinton administration in terms of intelligence and law enforcement sharing was important and necessary to prepare the legal groundwork for Congress, the Bush administration, and the 9/11 Commission [National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States] to be able to do it.

Riley

You're saying that you're looking at the intelligence and you're making a decision. Where does the intelligence come from when it is coming to you?

Townsend

Generally it came to me from the FISA collection authorized by the court for electronic surveillance or physical searches.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

While at OIPR, I got it mostly through the lens of the FBI or NSA [National Security Agency]. We had some access to CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] information, and we could request that, but it didn't routinely come to me. It came to me as a case-driven thing. If we were working on looking at a warrant for X organization, I could then go to the FBI and CIA and say, "Give me everything you've got on X, because I'm looking to build probable cause." But it didn't come to me routinely until I was in the White House, on the National Security Council, and then it came to me in due course. I got it all.

Riley

I will want to talk about that in a more organized fashion later, but I'm mostly wondering when you're still at the Justice Department how that comes to you and you've already identified that. I wanted to ask a question, and this is a little bit off of our brief here, but not so much out of the brief of the program. You've talked about having a very close relationship with Attorney General Janet Reno. In addition to there being stories about friction between FBI Director Louis Freeh and the White House, there are stories about friction between Attorney General Janet Reno and the White House. Did you witness this? Is that overstated?

Townsend

It was not overstated; it was not good. Remembering how she got there--She was by no means President Clinton's first choice, and not even his second choice. There had been two failed Attorney General nominees before Janet Reno was nominated and confirmed. I came to realize that, for all those reasons, the political folks--I'm referring to the White House--figured she ought to be grateful just to have gotten there, and not create waves. Who she was at her very core was wildly independent and strong willed. She was going to call balls and strikes as she saw them with no regard for the political repercussions. It didn't occur to her to maybe think she owed them any fealty, and if they expected that, then they didn't know her very well, so she got confirmed and plowed along in her very own way.

She also came from outside of Washington, and was not particularly personally skilled in the politics of Washington. She could handle the substance of the job, but there was more nuance, a charming way to get to your objective, as opposed to just doing it. Attorney General Reno had neither the time nor the patience for Washington nuance. The White House tried everything they knew to get a better handle on this and better control of her, but there was never a warm relationship between them. Attorney General Reno just did not have that with President Clinton nor with the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger.

When Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick was there, she had a real political adeptness to be able to run interference with the White House and explain, while Attorney General Reno charged along. Deputy Attorney General Gorelick was the liaison with the White House and political folks. Later, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder came in, and he was bright and he too was a former career DOJ lawyer. He was clearly politically ambitious, and not all that interested in Attorney General Reno. Reno shared a real warmth and affection for Gorelick, who had helped prepare her and got Reno through the Senate confirmation process. With Holder there was no real personal chemistry. And we haven't even mentioned the first Clinton administration Deputy Attorney General, Phil Heymann, with whom she has a disastrous personal relationship. Holder later became Attorney General under the Obama administration.

At one point Ron Klain was sent over from the White House, where he had had been serving as Vice President Gore's Chief of Staff. Ron Klain was one of the brightest political and policy guys I have ever met, and I liked him very much personally. Very charming, very smart, but he was sent over from the White House to try and get the Justice Department more in sync with the White House after the crime bill [Violent Crime Control Act and Law Enforcement Act of 1994] passed and in the run-up to the 2000 Presidential election. The White House had given up on a warm relationship with Reno at that point, but presumably thought that having Ron at DOJ could instill some political discipline.

Poor Ron probably wanted to throw himself off the fifth floor of the Attorney General's office building. I remember being at a meeting with him--I don't even remember what the policy issue was. It was a very small group with the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General in the AG's conference room; Ron; the head of the Criminal Division; myself; and a handful of others. It was a sensitive issue. I think it was a Criminal Division issue--It must have had to do with either an indictment or a policy position that was going to become public. Attorney General Reno was trying to make a decision and she was asking everybody for their candid advice, which is why this meeting was so small.

Ron Klain asked a question and said, "If you handle it that way," whatever Reno was asking about, "the political consequences will be disastrous. You can get to the same place in a different way, but you can't just decide without understanding the potential political consequences." I'll never forget it--We used to call it the "big paw" that came out. Reno would raise one hand and say "Stop right there. Listen, there will be plenty of time to discuss the politics of this later. That's not for this meeting. I'm going to decide the substance as I'm going to decide the substance. You can discuss the politics of this at a later time."

No one spoke to Ron Klain in that way, even in a small room of people. I can remember him just looking down at the conference table and shaking his head. What he had said, by the way, was not inappropriate. He was not trying to inappropriately influence her, he was just trying to make sure she was aware of the potential consequences, but that was absolutely her reaction to him, as if he had been wrong to even mention politics. I felt bad for him, because I didn't think what he was saying was wrong, but that gives you a sense of her tension with the White House and politics.

Riley

The campaign.

Townsend

Her tension with the White House was starkest in the run-up to the 2000 Presidential election. That was horrible. The TLAM [Tomahawk Land Attack Missile] attack in response to the USS Cole bombing was especially contentious. August of '98, Clinton was in the throes of Monica [Lewinsky]-gate and there was a decision to launch the missiles at the al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and a facility in Sudan, as well. I was with Attorney General Reno in all of the intelligence briefings and the entire lead-up to that missile strike, making sure she was getting her questions answered and access to all the intelligence she needed.

The Attorney General has a unique position in the executive branch and on these policy discussions. We reminded Attorney General Reno that all Attorneys General, in any policy discussion with the President, are the only Cabinet officials who get two votes, not one. The Attorney General could render two opinions, each of which was independent of the other, but he/she must be conscious to give the President both, not just one. First, the Attorney General gives the legal opinion: Is it legal or is it not? The Attorney General must be prepared to give the President that opinion. But if the Attorney General stops there, it is a disservice both to the Office of the Attorney General and to the President. I used to say that in all these big decisions it is a two-pronged analysis: Is it legal? and Is it stupid? Or to put it more positively: Is it legal? and Is it smart? But the way I used to say it was: Is it legal, and Is it stupid?

Riley

It's more memorable.

Townsend

That was the point. I would say to Attorney General Reno, "You get to say if it is legal, but you also have a policy vote. You are in a policy position. All of your other colleagues, by the way, are answering only the second ?Is it stupid/Is it smart?' question. You get to give both your legal and your policy view. Use it. Your Cabinet colleagues will often try to keep you solely to the legal opinion, but make yourself heard on both." This was where it became important. Because of the relationship between the White House and Attorney General Janet Reno, they were very clearly going to try and keep her in the "Is it legal?" box. They were not interested in what her policy view was. There may have been other instances, but of the things I had access to, nowhere was her fractured relationship with the White House more painfully or poignantly clear than this: the decision about the selection of available bombing targets.

I am hesitating because I feel I owe her a certain amount of privacy. To my knowledge, she has not spoken about this incident publicly, so I feel I owe her a certain duty of discretion. On the policy decision, she had very strong feelings regarding the target selection. I can remember the night before the actual bombing, as this was going to the President for final approval, she tried to have multiple conversations with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and the White House counsel at the time, Chuck Ruff.

Berger stopped taking her calls during the course of the night and, at one point, he screamed at her, then just slammed the phone down and hung up on her. I had been with her a lot, so I knew her very well. She was upset and clearly shaken by how he had spoken to her and how the call ended. Sandy was so frustrated with her that he decided the time for debate was over. In the midst of this, the U.S. military is loading missiles and entering target locations and coordinates. There came a time when the debate had to stop, and Berger clearly felt that time had passed now and, despite her policy view, President Clinton had made the decision. Berger had Chuck deal with Attorney General Reno after he had hung up on her. Ruff was a gentleman, very polite, and he listened to her, but it made not one whit of difference; Reno had zero influence.

I remember going home that night and it was a very long night. Attorney General Reno and I both went to our respective homes, literally showered, changed, then went back to the office and waited. We knew it was happening and nobody else in the world knew--and I sat with her. I remember sitting with Reno in the small private office of the Attorney General, staring at the television, waiting for the news reports, because we knew that it had happened. There was a huge controversy afterward about the Sudan target and Reno was very pained by that, because it was the one target she had argued against with Berger and Ruff up until the last possible moment. I was there with her, watching the television, when President Clinton came out at Martha's Vineyard and did the press conference announcing the strike.

I will say to you, not being a political person, I felt bad for President Clinton. Just so it is very clear, based on my observations, I had no reason to think that the decisions here were in any way influenced by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which the President was dealing with at the time. It was, as you would hope and expect, completely independent of that. The country was angry over the East Africa Embassy bombings. It had been a horrible attack and this military option was developed for the President's consideration. How it served him politically, I'd be the last one to make that judgment, but it was certainly not driven by that. The U.S. was within our legal rights to retaliate and we did. Whether or not it was the most effective way to react and whether or not the U.S. had chosen the right targets is open to debate, but I never had any reason to think that the motivations behind it were anything but pure.

Riley

The Attorney General's reservations on the policy aspect--?

Townsend

She thought the legal basis to retaliate was there and she had no problem with launching a strike; her problem was with the choice of targets. Attorney General Reno argued strongly that our intelligence was insufficient with regard to the Sudan target and that the President should not have approved that particular target.

Riley

The choice of targets. OK.

Townsend

It was not a legal reservation. She just disagreed on one target and there were those in the White House who made clear to her that target selection was beyond her remit. She had answered the question they had asked.

Jones

Quite apart from the relationship with the White House, was she typically motivated to answer the policy side, "Is it stupid?"

Townsend

Yes. And more often than not she felt it was part of her responsibility to answer both the legal and the policy questions. She hardly needed to be encouraged. She was interested. There was a whole host of things that are classified, but especially in regard to covert action, she took her role seriously on both the legal side as well as the policy side. As with the Sudan example, she may not have had legal reservations, but she might have had policy reservations, and she would not hesitate to make her policy views known. I cannot tell you how often somebody in the intelligence community, the Deputy Director of the CIA, the CIA Director, would call me, frustrated by her seemingly endless questions, and say, "Enough, now. Can't you get her to stop? Talk to her. She just doesn't understand what we do."

I would tell them, "I know it's frustrating. I may not agree with her, but she's entitled to ask these questions." Poor CIA Director George Tenet and his Deputy Director at the time, John Gordon, they would be so aggravated. Oh, my goodness, I would get these calls that were more cathartic than anything else. They would implore me: "Can't you do something?"

Perry

When you talked about encouraging her to raise those questions, did she say to you, "I feel uncomfortable," or "I have these strong opinions"?

Townsend

Oh, no. I think every Attorney General is a little taken aback when career staff come in and say, "You get two votes, one legal and one policy." Then when you describe it and talk them through it, they say, "Hmmm, yes." She was just naturally interested in it and conscious of it.

It would be fair to say that she was interested down to a tactical level, which was unusual. Cabinet members outside of the intelligence agencies do not generally get involved at a tactical level and ask tactical questions about an intelligence operation. When Cabinet members ask tactical questions, the intelligence community understandably finds it more than merely annoying. You can ask me, "Is it legal?" or "Is it smart?" but to ask me how I'm going to execute it--and Attorney General Reno would ask very detailed questions--that's what would cause the phone calls: "Why is she asking about this? What difference will it make in her judgment?" The briefing process slows the whole approval process down. I have to say, the CIA was not wrong. There were instances when Attorney General Reno was just way too far into the weeds of an operation and seemed to be asking questions, at times, as a means to delay or avoid making a decision altogether.

Riley

This does get addressed in a very oblique way in the 9/11 Commission report. I flagged this to ask you, but you've already answered the question very well. There were instances there, where the Commission says that the Attorney General had raised with President Clinton reservations about particular aspects of retaliatory strikes. I thought that was unusual. We've talked to a lot of Attorneys General, and I don't know how free they feel to talk about the "Is it stupid?" category.

Townsend

Yes, that is clearly a reference to the Sudan strike, which I explained earlier. Attorney General Reno raised it with President Clinton and with senior members of his staff, who were very angry that she had raised it at all.

Riley

Could you talk a little about what happens after the Embassy bombings, which I guess is the biggest thing that happens on your watch?

Townsend

When you say, "what happens on your watch," what do you mean?

Riley

From your perspective, are there any policy decisions, or are there things that you can talk about, that are your piece of the story in relation to what the Justice Department is doing in the aftermath of that event? I'm trying to think of the two or three or four big terrorism pieces as the bridge into the Bush years. There were the Embassy bombings in '98, the Cole, and then the millennium stuff--

Townsend

It's East Africa, millennium, then the Cole.

Riley

I'd like to hear whatever stories or observations you have about your experiences in relation to those things, as a way to get us into the next Presidency.

Townsend

After the East Africa Embassy bombings, a couple of things happened: Dick Clarke, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism during the Clinton administration, led a review. Clarke asked the interagency counterterrorism community some important questions: What are we not doing that we should we be doing to stop the next attack? Where do we need additional resources and/or new legal authorities? How do we sort of turbocharge the system? It was part of what led to my advocacy in the Justice Department for more lawyers to do FISA warrants. Remember I said that we took it from 15 lawyers to, I don't remember exactly, but roughly 40 or more. We went into a major recruitment and hiring initiative.

The OIPR computer system had been put in just as I was arriving. I then wanted to take the classified computer system and link it directly to the FBI and the NSA, so we could all draft and review applications without having to move paper. Imagine, in the 20th century, our systems aren't linked together. They said, "Well, at least we have computers now." But because the OIPR computers had no connection to the FBI or NSA, the approval process required a guy at NSA in Fort Meade to get in a car and drive the FISA package to D.C. And God forbid we reviewed it and, as is normally the case, it required changes, then we had to either completely retype it into the OIPR computer system, or the guy at Fort Meade had to change the page and drive it back down to D.C. Really? Again, it was a frustrating waste of time; seriously, al-Qaeda had a more efficient system than that.

I was outraged by this and the American people would have been angry if they knew, but this was what I was dealing with. When I arrived, I asked, "How many steps are there to the FISA process?" Just as far as our business process, from beginning to end, I wanted to know. So I hired a consultant to come in and map the process. When the consultant came back, he put a poster up on my office wall and it looked like a plate of spaghetti on the wall. So, I said, "Well, clearly, we can and will cut this down and clean it up." There followed a whole effort to streamline the FISA process, to better resource it, to ensure more effective and efficient intelligence sharing with the Criminal Division and the FBI. It really jumpstarted the changes that I had identified earlier when I had just arrived at OIPR, but I had been so distracted by the Wen Ho Lee crisis. In many ways, the East Africa Embassy bombings were a blessing bureaucratically because it provided the necessary imperative that bureaucracies require to change themselves. East Africa was an inflection point, in terms of the changing the system.

The USS Cole bombing caused a different kind of recognition. The East Africa Embassy bombing was not the first, but it had been the single largest deployment of federal law enforcement, the FBI, that they had ever done in their history. That came with a whole bunch of realizations for them about how to better organize themselves to accomplish a large-scale international multijurisdictional emergency deployment. It was also the first time that the FBI, in a crisis, had permitted prosecutors to deploy with the agency's investigators. Pat Fitzgerald, the New York assistant U.S. attorney, deployed to East Africa and worked with the FBI. So, for example, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Fitzgerald was involved in taking the statement from Odeh, one of the East Africa Embassy bombing defendants. The FBI--First of all, they were struggling with their largest deployment, and second, they had to adapt to having a prosecutor on the ground with them, advising them on evidence collection. This was all a new way of doing business as a result of the terrorism threat.

By the way, this threat and investigation also raised unique legal issues. For example, I can remember Pat Fitzgerald calling the U.S. for advice. The FBI, with local authorities, had a defendant in custody who was willing to talk to them. Odeh, the defendant, was in the custody of the Kenyan government. The FBI agents and Fitzgerald asked if they are required to give Miranda warnings. He was not in their custody, but was willing to speak to the FBI voluntarily. Well, you could debate whether the answer was yes or no. My response was, "If you want to be certain that you can admit the statement into evidence and potentially use it in federal court, you might as well just give him the Miranda warnings. Let's not hamstring ourselves right now. We can worry about it later." The team was making legal judgments and creating law as they went. This goes back to why you need competent people with good judgment and good skills who will do the best they can.

We got through that the East Africa investigation, but it was an awakening going forward that we needed to have the ability to pull prosecutors in very early on for an international criminal investigation. We had to have the ability for the intelligence we were gathering in real time--for example from FISA wiretaps--related to the same cell or terror group to be identified as relevant and be passed over urgently to the criminal investigators before anything else blew up. We were monitoring and working around the clock to get information to them, and the ability to move information from the intelligence side of the investigation to the criminal side was critical to prevent additional terror attacks. This is among the most important lessons we learned by virtue of the East Africa case.

When we get to the millennium case in December 1999, OIPR understood better how to work in a crisis. OIPR had never worked through a crisis, other than the occasional espionage case. Terrorism cases are fundamentally different from espionage investigations in the way they move. I had worked both. Espionage investigations build slowly and methodically over a substantial period of time. Terrorism cases are fast-moving, with many twists and turns and the identification of new targets for intelligence gathering happens as the investigation unfolds. It was just fundamentally different. We all understood that after East Africa, OIPR had to be organized to be successful at both. We had to be able to move as quickly as our enemies did.

And that brings us to the millennium bombing case. You could see the millennium case beginning to spin up. These investigations have a feel and a pace to them. You can feel when an investigation starts to get traction and moves along. We were approaching the Christmas holidays and, as you can imagine, government employees and their families were planning to take vacation. I recognized that, in a crisis, I would need additional staff, so I called an OIPR staff meeting, entered the meeting with a little Grinch doll and told them all, "I am canceling Christmas." As the case picked up speed, I felt like I was running a 7-11 store with four shifts. All of a sudden, OIPR clicked into shift work. My deputy and I covered the clock in 12-hour shifts. There were times when Attorney General Reno was sleeping on the couch in my office at the Justice Department, so I could nudge her awake to approve an emergency FISA warrant.

Until now, OIPR had never gotten an oral Attorney General authorization for a FISA warrant. I wondered if the statute required the laborious paper process, so we pulled out the statute. Things were moving too fast and we needed oral authorization or we would miss crucial intelligence collection, so I remember we created a form for oral approval. I said, "OK, what does the FBI need to take to the telephone company or the Internet provider?" "What does the paper need to look like?" They said, "Well, they need a piece of paper that is a warrant." We made it up--who the target was, what the authorized collection activity was, and that the Attorney General had authorized this warrant, and signed it. I said, "Get me her seal; they'll need something that looks official."

I had FBI Director Freeh call the Attorney General and present her the facts establishing probable cause for the warrant orally. He was across the street in the FBI Command Center and called on a secure phone. The Attorney General was in my office. Director Freeh went through the probable cause and the Attorney General looked at me. I asked him a couple of additional questions to strengthen the case and then the Attorney General authorized it. We proceeded to make up the form I described earlier, the Attorney General signed it, and we gave it to the FBI.

Of course, we then build a bureaucratic process around that to ensure we met the requirements of the statute and we notified the FISA Court. After getting an oral authorization, we filed the papers with the FISA Court--I think it was in 24 or 48 hours. This time frame was fine provided there were only a few oral authorizations to get on paper quickly. What we learned was with an increasing number of terror investigations, this was very difficult to manage. I had lawyers working around the clock and could not let them go home. We had food brought in because I didn't have enough lawyers to keep up with the workload. We got to a point where the FISA Court permitted us a little bit more time to file the formal written court papers. Again, we were forced to make legal judgments based on the circumstances of the threat. Under stress, we recognized that the FISA statute actually gave us the flexibility to adapt the legal authority to the threat. Prior to that, no one had ever seen it, used it, or tried to push the statute's limits to meet the needs of an emerging threat.

The neat thing about the millennium case was that it reinforced that this was a brave new world. The East Africa bombing was not an isolated incident. Welcome to the new world of intelligence gathering in the age of terror and we had to build a system that met that threat. After the millennium case, we set about ensuring that the new process was systematized. I felt responsible to have a system in place, so the next group did not have to reinvent the wheel.

You can imagine Attorney General Reno was concerned--I was pushing the boundaries of the statute, and even her, in some cases. There was no playbook. I told my staff and my deputies, "It can't always be me. It can't be that Attorney General Reno has to have me go to her office and tell her that the process or a particular case is legally sufficient." So I had my deputy, Jim Baker, occasionally go up to the Attorney General's office and walk her through an oral warrant without me. We had to ensure that over time she was comfortable with the OIPR staff.

The American people who hear about how the government fails, who think that the bureaucracy doesn't work very well--what they don't see is that, in a crisis, the bureaucratic process sheds itself and career public servants become entirely focused on getting the mission done. September 11 is the example the American people know, but it happened many times before that. Prosecutors and FBI agents went, at great personal risk, working long hours, to get oral warrants done and prevent other terror attacks. Imagine if we had been accused of having legally gone too far. My career would have likely been over. There would have been congressional investigations and public criticism. It could have turned out differently.

Riley

But in effect this did happen--the pushback from the FISA Court. In effect, you do become a victim of this, just not immediately. It happens a year after the fact.

Townsend

Yes, I guess that's right. Although I will tell you, while Judge Lamberth and I had real issues related to sharing intelligence, I have, with the benefit of distance and perspective, come to believe that our disagreement had more to do with Allan Kornblum. Judge Lamberth felt a real affection for Allan, and he felt like I had dishonored him in some way by removing him as my deputy when he refused to support the changes and modernization I was trying to make.

There was a particular technique that is classified, where the legal issue turned on a very technical point. In essence, when is a computer surveillance a physical search or an electronic surveillance? To tell you that I pushed the FISA Court beyond where it was comfortable is an understatement. I basically said to the FISA Court, "You must decide this and resolve the legal issue." The FISA Court didn't want to decide it. I got the FISA judges technical briefings and for those classified technical briefings, I petitioned them to sit en banc, which the FISA Court had never done. Judge Lamberth insisted, "What you're asking us to do was never contemplated by the statute." I acknowledged that and said, "That's right, but I don't have time to get the statute amended and the statute does not prohibit the court from sitting en banc. Furthermore, every day the court does not decide this issue, we lose intelligence that's critical to this country's national security. So you can either hear and decide this case or refuse to consider it."

The FISA Court was very uncomfortable about it and felt we were raising a legal issue that Congress didn't contemplate when they passed the statute. Judge Lamberth was irritated, "You're forcing this." "I am. I am forcing it because it is an honest-to-goodness, good-faith legal debate, even inside the executive branch. I need it decided by the court." The FISA Court did decide the issue and granted the government the necessary legal authority.

Judge Lamberth, to be fair to him, was kind of invigorated by these issues--the notion of oral warrants and these new techniques. In my judgment, this was the place to be at this time; it was transformative and became a whole different area of national security law. OIPR became a whole different office. It was exciting And I was thrilled to be at the center of it all. In some ways, I believe Judge Lamberth was also intellectually taken and challenged by all of that. Lamberth loved being chief FISA judge, but I think in other ways he felt that I had pushed him and the FISA Court too hard. He was not wrong. I was pushing him, but never disrespectfully nor too hard.

The FISA Court and Justice had done the same things in the same way for decades. When I arrived, the change was both sudden and dramatic and I was going to do it all differently. These were older, senior-status judges who were saying, "You want to what? Why?"

Riley

But in some respects, too, you were ahead of the curve on something that is about to become a colossal national problem. You see things that they're not completely seeing. Part of the thing that's interesting about this is that the court becomes a convert, too, eventually.

Townsend

Yes, they do.

Riley

They don't see the emergency in the beginning, and so they're happy to maintain their old ways. But when they detect the emergency--Does it take 9/11 for them to detect it?

Townsend

No. In fairness to the FISA Court--Judge Lamberth, I can tell you, recognized that East Africa was new. You got the sense that the FISA Court judges were wary, felt this was new and were very afraid of making a mistake for which they might be criticized later. Judge Lamberth was very proud of the role that the FISA Court played in the millennium investigation. The FISA Court judges made themselves available outside the normally scheduled sittings. We ruined Christmas that year for the FISA Court also. I think that Judge Lamberth believed that we had smartly addressed that crisis. He was proud of everyone's quick response to thwart the millennium attack. That was a very proud moment for him and I think the FISA Court began to understand the new terror threat.

But, after that, Justice Department continued to push very hard. In the heat of a crisis, it is OK to have a sense of urgency, but when the crisis is over, the FISA Court did not want us to get the impression that it was going to be that same pace and flexibility every day. Judge Lamberth felt everyone handled the crisis appropriately, but did not want to change the court's relationship with OIPR nor how the FISA Court was working, and that was where he and I fundamentally disagreed. I think the FISA Court felt pushed harder after that and perhaps you're right about the court having a narrower view. I was seeing the emerging terrorism threat clearly; it was a constant crisis in my eyes, and it was like I was looking at an oncoming train. I was acting every day like the crisis was imminent and that I had to help stop it and all they are seeing was individual warrant requests.

Riley

You've been a good sport to entertain our questions about this. Most of our last seven or eight years have been devoted to Clinton, and so Janet Reno came here--

Townsend

Oh, did she?

Riley

Yes. We had a very good interview with her.

Jones

I have a couple of questions before we go too far ahead. Why was it that you developed such a close relationship with Janet Reno? How do you explain that?

Townsend

It's a good question. A lot of it has to do with her. She was not a Washington political person, so the fact that I came with no politics, we had that in common. She recognized and had real respect for ability and hard work because that's how she saw herself. Also, some of this was just a matter of style.

Jamie Gorelick--I didn't know her very well at the time--said one of the nicest things ever said to me, early on in my time at OIPR. Attorney General Reno was about to go out to do a press conference in her conference room when I got a call to go see Jamie and then go up with her to speak with Attorney General Reno, and provide her some talking points before the press conference, and I had nothing written on the subject. As I got off the elevator on the fourth floor at the Deputy Attorney General's office, there was a private door that was open, and Jamie was waiting for me. That door was open because she and I were going to go up the private elevator between her office and the Attorney General's office. It's about 15 steps from where we were standing to the elevator and it was only one floor up. Jamie said, "OK, you have from here until just outside her door to brief me."

I had very little time and gave her only the most important points to make with the Attorney General. I gave it to her by the time we got to Attorney General Reno's office door, and Jamie looked at me and smiled--She had spent a lot of time working as the general counsel over at the Pentagon, and she looked at me and said, "I used to say the hallmark of a good general was if he could brief a principal on the elevator. You'll go places." [laughter] I don't even know if Jamie Gorelick will remember this story. We walked in; and having briefed Jamie, I assumed that she had planned to brief Attorney General Reno, and that was why I had to brief Jamie so quickly. Jamie was clearly sufficiently satisfied with my briefing, because when we get in there and Attorney General Reno asked Jamie about what to say at the press briefing, Jamie said, "Yes, Fran, go ahead."

I think both Reno and Gorelick really respected my ability, and neither thought that I had any personal agenda. Reno and I became friends. I really respected that Reno, especially, had given me a tremendous opportunity. Some of it would later hurt me with the incoming administration, but that didn't occur to me at the time. I never imagined as a middle-class kid with no family money or connections that I was ever going to be briefing the Attorney General of the United States. I was incredibly grateful and felt enormous affection for her having given me the opportunity. I would have literally walked through fire to serve her well, and did, as it turned out.

Jones

My other question is, when you were appointed to essentially take over the OIPR--It should have been a name where you could say it. "OIPR" doesn't quite work.

Townsend

It is now the National Security Division.

Jones

Right. You detected immediately what was necessary. What is it in your background that you were able to move into this essentially bureaucratic unit and identify what had to be done right away? That's a quick read.

Townsend

Well, it's very funny. On this issue, then Principal Deputy Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "If Fran comes into a job after you've had it, it will be your best indication that you've failed." [laughter] "Because when it's really broke, we send Fran in to do it." I was the "Mikey" from the Life cereal commercial. I was the Mikey of the Justice Department. If it was really broke, I loved the challenge.

I loved the challenge of that. My attitude was that if you got those assignments, because it was such a mess, you couldn't really fail. You would have the opportunity to go in and make some improvements, and even if you weren't entirely successful, it was still better than when you had arrived. So I loved those types of professional opportunities, and looked for them throughout my career. When I left government, I remember talking to a headhunter and he said, "What do you like to do?" I said, "I like to fix things that are broken. Big organizations." I don't know where it comes from, but I can look at something that's a real mess and say, "What can I do that will make this work better? Not because it was a reflection on the people that they were doing poorly, but if I put you in a different environment, if I understand you and what makes you tick, I can put you in an environment that actually makes you work better. And that's good for everyone." I like to think that it's my people sense that gives me that skill. I take both pride and satisfaction in my ability to do that.

I did things to reorganize the Office of International Affairs in the Criminal Division. I've learned a couple of things over the years about how to go about it successfully. I have never gone into any new job and made changes immediately. I have gone in and been quiet. I would listen. And I had to have the patience to do that for a while. The second thing I always looked for was the low-hanging fruit in order to make the easiest changes quickly to get some momentum going. Those first successful changes then inspired people and gave them confidence later when I asked them to do bigger, harder, more threatening things. I have just always enjoyed it.

At the White House, one of the greatest compliments National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Condi Rice gave me was "I wish you were here from the beginning." The first Homeland Security Advisor had been Governor Tom Ridge. When he left, it was General John Gordon, and when John Gordon left, I was promoted into the job. She and the President at different times both said, "When you came into it, that became a different job." I think what they meant was that the HSC [Homeland Security Council] had up until then been the stepchild to the National Security Advisor. It wasn't treated as a position of equal stature. The mission had not been clearly defined. We all understood what the National Security Advisor did. Both Condi and Steve [Hadley] said, "Fran, you defined that job. You made that job into something very important and something very important to the President."

I feel a little funny repeating the compliments of other people, but it is true; it was a different job. I had been offered and turned down the promotion to be the Homeland Security Advisor. I liked the international combating terrorism job that I was doing working as Condi's deputy. But Condi and then White House Chief of Staff Andy Card made it clear that you do whatever the President asks you to do. So, I was going to make sure that this job was important to him and that I did the job well. To do that, the job needed to be something that I believed was important to him and I was determined to make it that way.

Jones

I could be wrong, but I earlier asked you what was it that motivated you to be so focused, early on in your education even, and my guess is that whatever the personal dynamics are that explain that, also explain--

Townsend

Maybe so. You may be right.

Perry

You mentioned your Catholic background. Did you go to Catholic school?

Townsend

I did.

Perry

All the way through high school?

Townsend

No, I went through elementary school, through the eighth grade, and then decided to transition in the ninth grade to the local public school. I had been thinking about becoming a doctor, and the public high school in my town had a well-regarded science program where I could go and take advanced placement science classes, so I decided to start going there. It was a very difficult transition, much harder than I had expected. Ninth grade was the first time I started getting migraine headaches. It was very stressful for me because I was used to, in a Catholic school, a very structured environment of dos and don'ts of behavior and what was expected. In a public school there were far fewer rules and much less structure. I remember my freshman year some boy on the football team walked up behind me, grabbed me, and kissed me on the mouth in the hallway, at my locker. I frankly was shocked, distraught, and frightened.

Jones

Not at Catholic school? [laughter]

Townsend

Well, it was just the transition was not easy. I remember going back to see the Monsignor and saying, "I'm not at all sure I made the right decision." The most telling sign, looking back now, was that when I decided to go to law school, I very deliberately chose a Catholic law school. The fact that it was Catholic was important to me.

Riley

In California, right?

Townsend

Yes, the University of San Diego is a private Catholic school up on a hill overlooking the city, and at the center of the campus is the chapel.

Riley

I had seen that and I had wondered what had taken you to the West Coast.

Townsend

Well, I am embarrassed to admit it, but part of the reason I moved to the West Coast was a romance that quickly failed.

Riley

Not the football player?

Townsend

No, I had applied to law schools all on the East Coast. I'm an only child who wanted to be near my family. While I was getting my undergraduate degree, I met a man who had graduated from Georgetown Dental School, and he was from San Diego, so he convinced me to apply to a law school there. I applied, and, of course, the romance was long since over by the time I was admitted. I had been to San Diego to visit and thought it was beautiful. I had applied to Catholic law schools on the East Coast, but ended up deciding to go out there. Being so far from my family was another hard transition for me, as an only child.

Riley

Sure. Anything else on Clinton? Patrick, do you have anything?

Roberts

One question: Did you notice a shift in the nature of the intelligence that you were getting through the OIPR about state actors versus nonstate actors? And, in the beginning was it mostly about state actors?

Townsend

Yes, but it was a short window in the beginning. From March 1998 when I arrived, until August, my time was much more focused on espionage, the state-actor side, because of the Wen Ho Lee case. Espionage had been, for decades, the bread and butter of OIPR. It was a product of the Cold War mentality.

When I arrived, it was the Russians, it was the Chinese; we were chasing a whole bunch of state actors, but that began to shift. I don't know how accurate my memory is, but the caseload seemed to become significantly weighted away from state actors, unless they were state sponsors of terror. The caseload became more heavily focused on terrorist organizations--both international terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terror. But there remained a handful of very significant espionage cases.

In fact, the first briefing to the new Attorney General, [John] Ashcroft, was the Robert Hanssen case. Hanssen was an FBI agent turned Russian spy. The new Attorney General's reaction to that being his first briefing was shock. Imagine: you are the Attorney General, you've just arrived, you have few staff members around you--He was basically there alone as the sole Senate-confirmed person--and here was this Janet Reno Justice Department person briefing him on this espionage case, which was going to become public in his first few weeks as the Attorney General.

I told him "By the way, we have an FBI agent who's bad and it's going to come down first thing on your watch." His reaction was, "They left this for me?" [laughter] "Seriously? Who else knows about this?" You can understand his reaction. I explained to him, "You will find that these intelligence investigations are not like criminal cases, where you can decide, ?We're going to let this run and then take it down later.' It doesn't work that way. These investigations are, by and large, beyond your control. The case will be ready to come down when it's ready to come down, or when and if the target becomes suspicious of the investigation. And then nobody is going to ask the Attorney General. The FBI Director is just going to take it down."

Riley

And you'd been tracking that for how long?

Townsend

Well, in the beginning, I supervised the counterintelligence investigation myself. I was literally working on drafting the warrant applications. But by that point in time, because it was clear that the intelligence investigation would lead to a prosecution, I had an experienced criminal prosecutor from the Southern District of Virginia, Randy Bellows, sitting in OIPR and working independently. We had set up an office within our office so we could push intelligence to him as quickly as is possible, even in real time, as it was coming in where that was appropriate. You know, the Hansen case was another example of just how far the FISA process had come by 2000-01.

Riley

When was Aldrich Ames? Was that much earlier?

Townsend

That was much earlier.

Perry

The mid-90s.

Townsend

Ninety-five. Ninety-six?

Riley

So that's all well done with by the time you come in.

Townsend

Well, we were dealing with Plato Cacheris, who was Ames's defense lawyer, on whether or not to strike a plea deal. That case was unfolding when I was in the Criminal Division before I was at OIPR.

Riley

The Cole--That's a particularly interesting case because it's happening during a transition period, and of course a lot of the analysis and press commentary is critical of the Clinton administration for not reacting. I'd like to hear your take on that.

Townsend

The Cole bombing highlighted the challenge between international law enforcement and international diplomacy. That was a big takeaway. In such a case, it may not necessarily be one U.S. team, one fight, because the international construct challenged the historical prerogatives of the bureaucracies involved, and caused inevitable friction.

Second, as I mentioned, there was some debate in August of '98 about President Clinton's motive for the retaliatory strikes, and then it was October of 2000. We were in the heat of a Presidential campaign and that affected whether or not the U.S. was going to respond, and if so, how? The retaliatory strike after the East Africa Embassy bombings in 1998 was controversial and now it was October of 2000. Given the timing, there was a concern that another retaliatory strike was going to look like an "October surprise."

Then, of course there was the question, "What are we going to attack?" The USS Cole was bombed in Yemen, but during the immediate aftermath, there was insufficient evidence to quickly attribute responsibility to al-Qaeda. The FBI was trying to look at the evidence and the intelligence they had very quickly, to answer, Who is responsible? In the meantime, OIPR was doing all the FISA intelligence warrant applications in real time and were working with the intelligence community. Teams of FBI agents were deployed to Yemen. The CIA deployed folks. People were working very hard in what was a hostile, very dangerous, environment with a very unhelpful Yemen government, in the capital of Sana'a.

We knew that Yemen, and the Yemeni government, was a problem. Yemen is a democracy but [Ali Abdullah] Saleh had been in power for many years and he maintained strange alliances with Yemeni tribal leaders. We knew Saleh was not always honest with us. The Yemen chief of the public safety ministry was sometimes dishonest, sometimes honest, and sometimes he was just downright obstructionist. All of that, on foreign soil, where we didn't have a recognized and accepted bureaucratic construct for working out these issues with the host nation.

The State Department, the FBI, and the CIA were all working the investigation, oftentimes at odds with each other in Washington, and sometimes at odds in Yemen. Remember, when I say the FBI was working the case, they are a component of the Justice Department, to the extent that if the State Department is in a disagreement with the FBI, they refused to deal with the FBI Director; they insisted on dealing with the Attorney General, because she was political, and a Cabinet member. The State Department and the FBI had a big disagreement about how to handle the Yemen government, and therefore, the entire investigation. No political person in the Clinton administration wanted to deal with FBI Director Freeh because of his fractious relationship with the President. And while Reno and Freeh were very professional, their relationship was also strained and distrustful. I think on a personal level they liked each other, but Attorneys General have little ability to command and control the FBI about how to handle investigations.

All of this came to a head in a battle of titans between FBI agent John O'Neill, who was the lead FBI investigative commander on the ground in Yemen, and Barbara Bodine, who was the State Department's ambassador there. In fairness, O'Neill and I had worked very closely together. He had been the lead investigator in the 2000 millennium attack. He was one of the people that I worked most closely with in the FBI. O'Neill had run the New York counterterrorism division and he was both a confidante and ally in changing the FISA process. He was someone that, outside of the normal channels, either of us would pick up the phone if there was a case problem and we needed to talk it through. In fact, I had introduced John directly to Attorney General Reno to give her another FBI perspective outside the usual Director-of-the-FBI channel.

Riley

And they would have conversations occasionally off--?

Townsend

Off-line, right, much to the consternation, as you can imagine, of FBI headquarters. O'Neill was sort of a sounding board for Attorney General Reno in the lead-up to the Sudan TLAM missile strike after East Africa. So after the USS Cole bombing, he was deployed to Yemen, and Ambassador Barbara Bodine was there in Sana'a. It was a very dangerous environment for the FBI agents there. They were getting shot at while trying to conduct an investigation. We had to have an emergency exfiltration plan that involved air support helicopters choppering them onto a nearby aircraft carrier until it just got too dangerous.

Riley

They're in country or--

Townsend

They were in country. They were in Yemen. And, even in that environment, Ambassador Bodine refused to permit the FBI investigators to carry sidearms to protect themselves, and she refused to ask for permission from the Yemen government. The notion of some pinstriped diplomat telling the FBI agents, who are getting shot at, that they couldn't carry weapons was egregious and beyond the pale.

Riley

"She" being the ambassador?

Townsend

Right. At one point, the disagreement became so heated, and so personal, that Ambassador Bodine ordered O'Neill out of the country, and when he tried to return to Yemen, she wouldn't let him back in. This incident became a personal manifestation of what was really a bigger policy problem: In a foreign country, which U.S. official is in charge? How do these disputes get resolved and decided?

We realized that we needed clearly articulated, understood, and accepted protocols in place before an incident happened. Everyone involved had to understand their roles and responsibilities. In this case, it was very difficult to sort out and fix it because the personalities involved had become so crazy, and their positions entrenched, so that the entire system ground to a halt. I remember hosting a meeting for Attorney General Reno and Tom Pickering, the Under Secretary of State, in my office, and they were meeting to resolve the Bodine/O'Neill dispute because, at this point, the two would not even talk to one another.

Riley

In country?

Townsend

In Yemen. Because of an interagency, bureaucratic squabble, the Cole investigation had come to a halt and they would not get to the business of the country. That was really an unfortunate case. And then, to add to the dynamic, it was the end of the Clinton administration. In terms of a potential military response, we still didn't know who to target and even if we had a target, the administration knew they would be criticized, and were worried about the potential impact on the Presidential election. For lots of reasons, my judgment was that the military retaliatory option was never seriously considered after the USS Cole bombing. It was just too close to the Presidential election.

Riley

I had one follow-up on that and it just jumped out of my head. This puts you then on the path toward the transition, and you've already talked about your sense of certainty that with Bush coming in, you were going to be on the outs. Tell us how then you get to the Coast Guard. I mean, did you think about leaving Washington at that point?

Townsend

No.

Riley

You're expecting?

Townsend

Yes. My second son, Patrick, was born August 29th of 2001. Let's back up for a moment. I voted for President Bush and, at the time, I held out hope that, having known people in the Thornburgh Justice Department from my time there on a temporary detail, some of the goodwill from that period would carry me forward and that I might be able to stay. I was hiring new lawyers into OIPR, and continuing to transform that office, and that was not yet completed. My fear was that the FISA Court would be my downfall, and that even if I could personally navigate the new administration, I would not be able to survive the court putting its finger on the scale.

I later found that that was exactly what happened. Chief FISA Court Judge Lamberth had an initial meeting with Attorney General Ashcroft, during which Judge Lamberth told the new Attorney General: "She's got to go. OIPR is not functioning. The FISA Court doesn't have confidence in her, and she's got to go." Now, Judge Lamberth never had the decency to speak with me directly, but I came to understand that was what happened.

Riley

Is that an expected kind of meeting for them to have?

Townsend

Well, because there is this strange relationship between the Justice Department and the FISA Court, yes, you would have expected the new Attorney General and the Chief FISA Court Judge to have a courtesy meeting.

Riley

A briefing meeting. But personnel would--

Townsend

The notion of one branch of government offering their opinion on personnel in a separate branch was, in my judgment, totally inappropriate. In fairness to Judge Lamberth, Attorney General Ashcroft may have already decided to make a change. There were Republicans on the Hill, as I mentioned, like Senator Fred Thompson and others, who were still very irritated with the role I had played during the Wen Ho Lee hearings. They viewed me as a Democrat. There was press that referred to me as a Democrat. In retrospect, it was unrealistic to think I could have survived the transition. It was coming, and it was only going to be a matter of time before I had to move.

Also, under the civil service rules, there is a cooling-off period when a new administration comes in, during which they cannot move senior career public servants. After the cooling-off period, there is a window in which they can move you without cause, after which that window closes again and then they must have cause to move a career official. I was at the most senior ranks of the senior executive service at that time, so the key time for them was going to be during that one window when it opened up.

I had positive interactions with the new Attorney General, Ashcroft, in that initial period when he first arrived. I did not know him from his time in the Senate, so the relationship certainly did not begin as a problem, but as for all Attorneys General, what OIPR does is very different from the rest of the Justice Department. FISA was not anything the new Attorney General had ever seen, or heard of, or understood. No one told him that he would be doing this kind of legal work and that it could not be delegated to someone else. The new Attorney General does not typically have anyone in their immediate staff who is familiar with the FISA process. Attorney General Ashcroft did. He put somebody between OIPR and him, so he had someone he knew and trusted looking at warrant applications before he signed them, which was fine.

Riley

And that was?

Townsend

I'm trying to think if that was [David T.] Ayres or [David] Israelite. I don't remember. I think it was Ayres. My attitude was, put in anybody you want. As long as it did not slow down the process, I was fine with it.

I briefed Attorney General Ashcroft on the Hanssen investigation. I also had some emergency FISA warrant applications for him to sign. Unfortunately, there were some press accounts of this. By this time, I was really pregnant. I don't know when this was, but the Attorney General still didn't have a Senate-confirmed deputy. Bob Mueller was Acting, but under the FISA statute, it must be a Senate-confirmed political appointee who signed the warrants when the Attorney General was unavailable. So Attorney General Ashcroft was the only person at the Justice Department who could sign the warrant application certifications. On one occasion, the Attorney General happened to go back to his home in Missouri for the weekend and I needed an emergency warrant signed. Nobody was happy. Mueller, Ayres--They said, "Do you really need to go out there?" The answer was absolutely yes, but I said, "Look, I can send somebody else, but the FBI is saying the warrant has got to get signed." So, Mueller said "OK. You take it to him."

Two FBI agents met me at the Missouri airport when I land. They were really great. They picked me up and took me out to Attorney General Ashcroft's home. The next week, there was a snide Washington Post blurb about how I was treated by the Attorney General when I brought the warrant out there. I had not talked to the press.

Riley

Oh, boy.

Townsend

I suspected that it was the FBI agents, who knew me well, knew I was pregnant, and thought I could have been treated more kindly. The warrant had gotten signed. The Attorney General was not in any way mean to me. He was fine. He signed the warrant and I immediately flew back to D.C. But you can imagine, when the press article appeared, the political people at DOJ, who were not comfortable with my going to Missouri in the first place, were really unhappy. They immediately suspected that I had spoken to the reporter, which I was irritated about, because if it had been me, I would have put all the details in there. [laughter] The article was just a snotty two-liner.

Dan Levine on Mueller's staff called me and said, "You need to correct it. You need to go out and fix it." I said, "Look, you can tell me a lot of things. You can give me direction at work on a lot of things, but I won't lie for anybody. The best option you've got is for me to say nothing, because if you want me to speak to the press, then I'm going to speak to the press, but I'm going to speak to them honestly." That was the end of that conversation. And it went away. Frankly, it had been the right approach, because the story died. It was just a snotty two-liner by Al Kamen in the Washington Post.

Riley

Nobody pays any attention to it.

Townsend

Right. Exactly. And it was over. Sometime after that, I got called up to Acting Deputy Attorney General Mueller's office, soon after the personnel window had opened. I knew it wouldn't be a good meeting, because Assistant Attorney General for Administration Steve Colgate, who was one of the only other career officials who was a direct report to the Attorney General, was standing there outside Mueller's office. Having done enough of these myself, if Colgate was there for the meeting, we were not going to talk about my budget; we were going to talk about me. And Colgate was clearly uncomfortable as we waited to see Mueller.

We went in and Mueller said, "We're going to move you from OIPR." Having had enough time to think about it, I was smiling to myself because I knew I could make this easy or I could make this difficult. Assistant Attorney General Colgate was uncomfortable and none too pleased.

I basically said, "Look, the position is really important and it's most important that the Attorney General have complete confidence in that person, because it's too important to the country. It must be someone that the Attorney General can confide in and whose judgment they respect. I perfectly well understand if, for Attorney General Ashcroft, that's not me." I was pregnant. When this came up, I didn't look pregnant. I was not sure that they knew that. I said, "Let me suggest this: I'm pregnant. The last thing you want is to be seen as pushing a pregnant woman out. It can't be good for you. Why don't we just wait? I'm going to have this baby in August." Actually the baby was supposed to come in September. "I will just go out on maternity leave, gracefully, and agree not to come back. I'll be one of 10,000 women who do this." They said no.

I said, "What do you mean, ?no'?" Colgate pulled me aside later and explained, "Because of this window, they must act now." I said, "Well, I'll sign papers. I'll sign whatever you need me to sign now." And he explained "No, because you can fight it. After this window closes, they don't have the ability--It's not their unilateral decision anymore."

Jones

There is no Wyoming.

Townsend

I resigned myself to the idea that I had no bargaining position. I asked "What are you going to do with me? Where are you going to put me?" They didn't really know. They just knew they wanted me out of the OIPR job so they could, presumably--I thought at the time--fill it. As it turned out, my deputy filled the position temporarily and was later promoted to fill it permanently. They didn't have someone in mind to fill it. They just wanted me out during this personnel window.

They assigned me down to the Criminal Division. Mike Chertoff, interestingly enough, was the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, and he clearly was told, not asked, that I was returning to the Criminal Division front office. I was an SES [senior executive service]; I was going to be on his personnel books. By this time it was May 2001. I was increasingly pregnant and they gave me nothing to do. For somebody with my personality, there was no greater form of torture than to sit in a little office with no staff and have no mission. There were senior FBI agents coming to the office to talk to Chertoff as the head of the Criminal Division about terrorism cases and I was not in those meetings. It was very frustrating and humiliating for me. The senior FBI agents would come talk to me after meeting with Chertoff; they were incredulous about my removal and reassignment out of OIPR. I knew right away that I would not stop working. I was not going to leave Washington. My husband was a lawyer in Washington. But it was not good for me to just be sitting in this office.

I decided to use these last months of my pregnancy to figure out what I wanted to do next. I found a senior civilian position at the Coast Guard open. I put the papers together and applied and a good friend said, "You know, it doesn't matter what job you go to. You'll make it a job that suits you. Just find another place to land."

I went to the Coast Guard for an interview. The Coast Guard, at this point, really had no senior civilian women. I went in and there was a woman, I think, in the interview. They sat me on a low-seated couch for the interview; I was eight months pregnant, and I thought, I'm not going to be able to get out of this seat. [laughter] The admiral who interviewed me saw that I was pregnant and didn't want to ask an inappropriate question, so the aide who was walking me in said, "When is the baby due?" Because, of course, they couldn't ask that in the interview. It was very funny. I thought, because I was so pregnant when I went on the interview, They're never going to offer me this job.

The Coast Guard is not, as someone pointed out to me, a tier-one agency. It is not on the National Security Council. And I would be moving from the Justice Department, a tier-one agency. Friends of mine were concerned that I was going to feel very out of the loop. I wasn't really worried about that. The Coast Guard had no real intelligence capability. Back to why I was attracted there: They had a need. It was broken, but was also a blank slate. There was no substantive strategic intelligence program there. I recognized the opportunity to build a new program from the ground up. And I was going to go from a legal job to an operational job. I had been giving advice to intelligence operators for years, some of which they followed, some of which they didn't, and now I was going to get to run operations. I decided it would be a good experience for me. I thought it was a good--I was going to run something again.

Jones

Plus, a hell of a title. I would do anything to be Assistant Commandant.

Townsend

As it turned out, I didn't realize I was entirely, I won't say "overqualified," but by comparison to who was applying--I had extraordinary national security experience that the Commandant of the Coast Guard didn't have. I had connections in my Rolodex to get him into meetings and get him access to information that the Coast Guard never had. I never thought of it that way when I applied, but if you had the opportunity to pull someone like that into your agency, you don't much care why they want to come. The Coast Guard was delighted to hire me.

My baby was due in September and I start at the Coast Guard on August 27. On August 29th I didn't show up for work, because this baby decided to arrive three weeks early. When the Coast Guard offered me the job, I said, "I'm not on your payroll, why don't you wait and let the Justice Department pay me through my maternity leave?" They said, "No, no." They had a personnel issue and believed just announcing my hiring would calm the situation down. Little did they know, 48 hours after my arrival I would have the baby.

Less than two weeks later, September 11 happened. O'Neill and I, and his deputy, a guy named [Pasquale] Pat D'Amuro, were all very close. The baby had gone through some health issues, so I was only home from the hospital a week. And, given what I did at OIPR, when the first plane hit, I knew immediately that it was terrorism.

Riley

When the first plane hit?

Townsend

Oh, yes.

Riley

That's unusual.

Townsend

If it had been a little plane, it would have bounced off the side of the World Trade Center building. Any commercial pilot of a plane that size would have put the plane down in the Hudson, and done everything to avoid a building. There is no version of this that is explainable by a professionally trained pilot. I immediately handed the baby off to my mother and I start dialing. O'Neill had just retired and started as the head of security at the World Trade Center. It was a very difficult retirement for him, with criticisms of him, alleged ethics violations and all sorts of ugliness in the press. He had started this new life, maybe August first.

The night before the attacks, on September tenth, he and a bunch of guys, mutual friends of ours who worked in government, had been out drinking. I had been up late feeding the baby. O'Neill called me at like 2:30 in the morning. These were all guys that I had worked with and they all had a little too much to drink, and they must have decided that I was going to be up anyway with the baby, so O'Neill called me. They were in New York and I was in Washington, and so we were all laughing. That was the last time I ever spoke with O'Neill.

The minute I saw the first plane go into the building, I realized John worked at the World Trade Center. I hoped, because he was out late, maybe he hadn't gone in yet. I knew he would want to know what was going on and I assumed that he was probably not feeling great. I thought he might still be at his apartment, so I called his cell phone and got voice mail. I called again and got voice mail. I called Pat D'Amuro, O'Neill's deputy, on his cell phone. On the tenth, Pat had been in Washington and we had had lunch. I knew Pat was at FBI headquarters. He had just walked out of FBI headquarters when I got him on his cell phone. He couldn't understand what I was telling him and he couldn't find a cab. I said, "Don't go to the airport. The airport is closed. Go back in the building to find out what's happening."

D'Amuro couldn't get through to his wife on his cell phone, so he went to the airport, rented a car, and began driving up to New York, because ultimately, he was going to lead the New York investigation. While Pat was driving north, I got through to his wife to said, "He's fine, but he's not coming home. He's going to the FBI office in New York."

In the meantime, Pat and I start to worry about where O'Neill was. I told D'Amuro that I had tried numerous times to get him on his cell phone. I kept trying and I kept getting voicemail. This was before the age of Blackberries and iPhones. We were dealing with pagers. O'Neill and I had a series of numeric codes we used to send messages. I left John a voicemail message and said, "Look, I want you to know what's going on. If you're at the office, I get that you're busy; you don't have to call. Let me know you're OK." Sure enough, he sent me a page. By this time, the first tower had fallen. He sent me a page that said, "I'm OK." I realized he was at work, but OK, and would call me later. His page basically said, "I'm OK, don't worry." This was the last contact that I had with O'Neill.

Then, I saw the second tower fall, so I dialed him again, but by this time his voicemail was full. We later came to find out that O'Neill was killed in a stairwell when the second tower fell. An FBI agent saw John in the courtyard between the World Trade Center buildings after the first tower fell. He saw John on his cell phone, and based on his cell phone records, we believe that was when he was putting this beeper message in to me that he was OK. The FBI agent saw John close his cell phone and walk toward the second tower. He was the last one to see John. John was going up the stairwell and he was killed by falling debris. After that, I spent the next few weeks dealing with John's family and the FBI. I quickly cut short my maternity leave and went back to work.

The images that are seared in people's memory, beyond the towers falling, are of the water evacuation of lower Manhattan. Among the many immediate security concerns post 9/11, the big topic immediately became port security. Of course, there wasn't any agency who managed port security but the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard did not have an intelligence capability to cue and direct their resources inside the U.S. What intelligence they had was focused on Caribbean and Pacific drug interceptions. So, it was after 9/11 that the Coast Guard Intelligence Program was born. I immediately returned to work, began working with CIA Director George Tenet, and on Capitol Hill with Congressman Porter Goss, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and later Director of the CIA.

Remember, I had a newborn, so I had to express breast milk during the workday and bring it home at night to feed the baby for the following day while I was back at work. This was rare in 2001. I went to NSA to meet with its Director, General Mike Hayden, and my aide, who was discreetly carrying a breast pump, said, "Ms. Townsend needs a private room." These mothers' rooms are now all over federal buildings, but in 2001 at the Pentagon and NSA they were not. That was what I needed to be able to return to work and, God bless, if you demanded it of someone, or some agency, they were quick to accommodate you.

By the end of the year, despite Director Tenet's objection and a White House veto threat, Congress passed legislation admitting the Coast Guard as a full member of the intelligence community. This meant the Coast Guard had complete access to three separate budget accounts, which was unique. While it was not the largest, Coast Guard intelligence was the most complicated organization I ran. It had what I call "civilian white world" budget funds; it had access to the "black budget," that is, intelligence community funds; and it had DoD [Department of Defense] intelligence community money, DDIP [Defense Department Intelligence Program]. So, each year, we planned and executed three separate budgets at any one time, not all of which was transparent to the other budget providers. We built the Coast Guard a world-class intelligence capability, a full-service intelligence capability, from human and technical collection, to analysis and dissemination.

After that, I worked to insert the Coast Guard into the national security policy community. The Coast Guard had never played a significant role at the NSC [National Security Council]. At this point in time, the Coast Guard was an agency inside of the Department of Transportation, not a tier-one national security agency--

Jones

You're building a staff along the way--

Townsend

Yes, I began building an analytical staff and creating a new specialty in the enlisted corps of the Coast Guard for an intelligence specialty. I was creating a new personnel specialty and rules for promotion, because there had to be a way for both officers and enlisted people to be attracted to the intelligence specialty and then get promoted within it. Both must see a military career path for themselves or you will not attract the necessary talent. At the same time, the Coast Guard was going through their "Deepwater" [Integrated Deepwater System Program] acquisition, so I am also advocating for space to be set aside on cutters, now late in the acquisition process, for intelligence-collection equipment.

Jones

You're moving people who are in the Coast Guard? Not bringing in people from outside?

Townsend

That's right; we could hire civilians from outside, but we needed to get Coast Guard uniformed personnel trained. The National Defense University has an intelligence education program, so we took advantage of that to get some Coast Guardsmen policy and technical training. I worked with General Mike Hayden at NSA, who had made the Coast Guard a full SIGINT [signals intelligence] member. The Coast Guard needed his help to get people trained to do signals intelligence and then equip the cutters with electronic surveillance equipment. It was incredibly interesting, exciting, and fun because it was a blank slate and I got to build as we went.

Jones

But you're also acquainting yourself with the organization of the Coast Guard and what is related to how you're defining the new intelligence operation in the Coast Guard.

Townsend

That's right. When I arrived, I don't think I fully appreciated that the Coast Guard view themselves as the Boy Scouts of the water: We save people's lives. It was post-September 11 and I had seen the intelligence, so I acted like the mother hen. When I said, "You don't understand that there are bad people in the world. When you pull up alongside what you think is a recreational boater, we need for you to be trained in what to look for, because he may have an explosive device that when you get close, he detonates it and he blows you all up." The Coasties thought I was crazy. Boaters loved them and, at the time, what I was suggesting was unimaginable to them. But Admiral Thad Allen, who later became the Commandant, immediately understood that this was a new world and that we needed to be thinking like this to help the Coast Guard transition to where they are training Coasties for their own safety.

Between 2000 and 2002, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism was General Wayne Downing. When General Downing left the NSC, General John Gordon, a name I've already mentioned, then assumed that role. When I was in the Clinton Justice Department, General Gordon was the Deputy Director of the CIA. By 2002 or 2003, he had moved over to the White House. Governor Tom Ridge, who had been President Bush's first Homeland Security Advisor at the White House, was leaving to go run this new Department of Homeland Security. General Gordon was then promoted to Homeland Security Advisor and National Security Advisory Condi Rice asked him, "Can you identify people that we should consider for the Deputy National Security Advisor job?" The National Security Council has a long, very proud, history of bringing in career people on temporary assignments, known as a detail.

I had worked with John when I was at the Coast Guard and he was the Deputy National Security Advisor and he invited me to attend meetings at the White House. Just prior to John's promotion, he invited me to the White House for lunch and said, "I'd like to give Condi your name for the Deputy National Security Advisor post." I laughed because I was imagining Attorney General Ashcroft, who really didn't want me in the Justice Department, and I was thinking that probably hasn't changed at all. Imagine how he would feel having me at the White House? At the time, Former Attorney General Janet Reno had decided to seek the Democratic nomination to run against the current President Bush's brother Jeb [John Ellis Bush], who was the sitting Governor of Florida. There could not have been a more unlikely and undesirable time for me to decide to take this shot, so I laughed at him and I said, "Yes, go ahead. OK." I never expected to hear another word about it; I was confident that my name would be dead on arrival.

But it is a great story, and Condi enjoys telling this story as well. I was at the Coast Guard in the officers' mess having lunch and when I returned to my office, there was a voice message: "Please call Dr. Rice." As many working moms having hastily returned to work after 9/11, I had not been good about postchildbirth follow-up doctor's appointments, and just the night before, my husband had said to me, "You need to take time to go to the doctor. You need to do this." I just yes-ed him to death, but when I got the message, I immediately called my husband's office and laid into him, "You have some nerve, to have some strange doctor call me at work to come into her office. Are you kidding?" [laughter]

My poor husband was obviously clueless and said, "Read me the number." The White House exchange is unique; the first three numbers are 456, and when I read it aloud, I said, "Oh my God, it's that Dr. Rice!" You can well imagine that years later when I ultimately worked up the nerve to tell Condi this story, she said, "That's great. I've never been mistaken for somebody's obstetrician."

I went to that first White House interview and I was sure it would be a one-off. Condi and I had a long conversation and then her Principal Deputy, Steve Hadley, joined. It was a good meeting. She was everything that the press built her up to be. She was incredibly bright and charming. She was beautifully dressed and immaculately turned out. It so happened that I was wearing a suit by the same designer as the suit she was wearing. This was not lost on her, so we had a whole conversation about women's suits, in front of poor Steve Hadley.

Perry

Here's the most important question. Who was the designer?

Townsend

It was St. John, because at the time, you could pick one color, stick it all in the suitcase, everything matches, and they are knits, so they never wrinkle. It's so funny because I almost never wear it now, but at the time it was very convenient.

Riley

Thank you for that.

Perry

That's my role here today.

Townsend

The other thing that I remember about that first meeting in the spring of 2003 was that the television in Condi's office was on; the meeting was interrupted when we stopped and watched, in silence, as the huge statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down when U.S. troops entered Baghdad. As I was leaving, I said to Condi, "You know, no one has asked me my political affiliation." And she said, "That's right." Of course, she didn't ask. I was afraid she wasn't allowed to ask, so I decided to give her the opening. But I gave her the opening and she didn't take it. I tried again in a different way and said to her, "You do understand that I worked for Janet Reno, and she's seeking to dislodge the President Bush's brother in the Florida Governor's race? I want to make sure you know that."

It became the first of my many learning moments with Condi. She turned to me and said, "Of course I understand that. It doesn't matter to me. There is only one question that really matters and that is: You understand that the President makes the decisions. Are you willing to give the President the benefit of your advice and experience, understanding that ultimately he makes the decisions?" I replied, "Well, of course, or I wouldn't be here." She said, "That's the only question that matters to me." I left her office even more impressed by her than when I arrived. Of course, then I got my hopes up, Geez, I really hope I get this. But I started to worry, because I said to myself, Gosh, Ashcroft didn't want me at the Justice Department. He can hardly want me at the White House.

As the Deputy Attorney General, Bob Mueller had been the one who delivered the bad news to me at the Justice Department that I was going to be moved out of OIPR. At one point before the move, Bob was in my OIPR office on a case and we were alone, so I took the opportunity and said to him, "I'm going to ask you a question. It's only you and me, and you can deny we've ever had the conversation, but I won't rest without an answer." He had known me from the President [George H.?W.] Bush 41/Attorney General Thornburgh administration and he clearly felt bad about being the one who had to deliver the news to me.

So he said to me, "OK, what?" I said to him, "I am not being moved for substantive reasons based on my performance, am I? I don't believe that there is a single thing wrong that I have done, substantively, that you can point to. I understand this town, so if it's a political decision, I can live with that, but I deserve a straight answer. You need to tell me. I need to hear from you whether or not this is a political or a substantive decision." He said, "No, it's absolutely not substantive. You know that. It's nothing you've done. You've done a very good job. It's not that. I wish there was something else I could tell you or do about it. I can't."

Because of this previous conversation with Mueller, I was worried that if that was a purely political decision, I was going to have to get vetted for the White House job. Condi was going to have to talk to Cabinet members with whom I was likely to have to work, and this was really an opportunity for a second bite at the apple--a chance for me to prove myself, but also a second opportunity for Attorney General Ashcroft to deny me the chance, if he wanted to.

As it turned out--I learned this later--Condi did check with Attorney General Ashcroft. When Condi called him, he said, "You know, I haven't had a whole lot of experience with her. The person who has really dealt with her more directly is FBI Director Bob Mueller." Bless him, because that was true and Mueller, given the chance, would not hurt me again. This was his opportunity to make it right. Mueller told Condi that he worked with me and he liked working with me, that he respected me and had no problem with me. Director Mueller never mentioned anything about our interaction at the Justice Department, nor did I. To the best of my knowledge, neither Attorney General Ashcroft, nor Director Mueller, nor I, ever shared with Condi or the White House or the President my Justice Department transition story.

In fairness to Attorney General Ashcroft, while I was at the White House and he was Attorney General, we worked together magnificently well. We were most often allies in the policy process, and I came to both like and respect him. And when Attorney General Ashcroft announced that he was leaving DOJ, he invited me--He wanted to host a lunch for me in his private dining room. I called my husband and I said, "Well, this is a turnaround. What do you figure this is about?" I went and he could hardly have been more gracious. The lunch, to my surprise, was to honor and thank me for working so closely with the FBI and the Justice Department during his tenure. He had Jim Comey, who was the Deputy Attorney General, and FBI Director Bob Mueller at the lunch and he made the point at lunch that he wanted to do this before he left to thank me for how supportive I had been and how much he had enjoyed working with me.

Years later, when I was leaving the White House, I made an appointment to see Attorney General Ashcroft and talked to him about how I should think about my transition from the public to the private sector. While he never came out and said he was sorry--I'm not sure he owed me that and he probably didn't; it was politics in a very political town--in the end, he was as much a gentleman and as gracious as one could be and today I consider him a friend. I have told this story to young people learning about Washington. You will be judged, and successful, depending on how you know to keep your head up and just worry about the substance. You are judged by your resilience and how you handle adversity. And to remember one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes: Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.

Jones

Before we move beyond the Coast Guard, I have a question. Did it occur to you at the time, in putting this intelligence operation into effect, that this was going on elsewhere throughout the government in other agencies? That there were adjustments being made in agendas, and shifts were occurring, in other words, simply the effect of 9/11 in an organizational way? And that what you were doing was, if not necessarily a model, if things were moving too fast for people to work on, but that what was happening was a major shift? You talk about the brave new world, but did that occur to you at the time?

Townsend

It did. I was particularly conscious of it. FBI Assistant Director Pat D'Amuro, after running the 9/11 World Trade Center investigation, was brought down to Washington by FBI Director Mueller to run the new FBI Counterterrorism Division. He and I spoke regularly. He was moved down to Washington to set up a whole new division in the FBI. The Justice Department continued to add people to what was the OIPR office that I ran during the Clinton administration, and that office later became the National Security Division. I was conscious that there was a real impact on the way government would function going forward because of 9/11.

It's funny, something you said earlier, Russell, about my seeing it before it happened--One of the things about being an experienced bureaucrat and in this area understanding the threat--About six months or maybe a little longer before the 2000 Presidential election in November, when I was still running OIPR, I started a process to say, if you were the new administration--whoever they would be--Gore or Bush coming in, you would want a transition brief from every office. I wanted to think through legal and bureaucratic changes we might recommend and what we should suggest being their agenda.

I said earlier, I always look for low-hanging fruit. What kinds of things can we give them to enable their administration to have a meaningful impact on the justice system? I had begun a process to look at how I would change FISA. What were the legal changes? I had someone on my staff pull together a working group with the FBI to talk about modifications. Although I wasn't at the Justice Department when they passed the PATRIOT Act, lots of that work had been done before the 2000 election had even been decided, because we understood that there were legal deficiencies in the statute, based on the terrorism cases we had worked on.

Riley

Not just in the execution of the statute?

Townsend

That's right; there were both. There were legal deficiencies that we looked at and talked about with the FBI.

Jones

But also, clearly, it was not only that things were happening in other agencies, but a network was developing--Is that the case?--among the people who were making these organizational adjustments to suit a post-9/11 world?

Townsend

I think that's right. It was actually a small group of public servants, when you consider the size of the federal government. When you look at the East Africa bombing investigation, we had all moved around, but we knew each other and we had been through, in the civilian world, the equivalent of military battles together. And so we did talk to each other and we were conscious of the changes that were going on across the federal government and how the Feds worked now with our state and local partners.

Jones

I ask these questions, presuming to speak for scholars decades ahead, because they're going to be very interested in people like you who were pivotal in what was an enormously pivotal time. Tracking your own career is going to be absolutely vital for understanding what had gone on at this time.

Townsend

I also think, when you look at The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned--I actually used that document as an attempt to try to memorialize some of what I think we've learned as a country. Not all of those recommendations were ever implemented, but I was unique, come 9/11. I had worked as a lawyer and an operator. I had worked in civilian, diplomatic, and military bureaucracies; intelligence; and law enforcement. I had worked at both the federal and local levels. I had all these different experiences with the various tools of national power. So, for me, just following my own interests, I accidentally had a skill set that was unique, but it turned out to be really useful experience and background in the policy process post-9/11.

What I say in the document is, "We ought to deliberately build people who know and understand how government works outside of their own agency and area of expertise." It's not that I was so great. Rather we should not rely on people's unique interests; we, as a country, ought to build people in this way at all levels of government. We ought to make it a requirement for promotion, that broad base of experience outside of your home federal agency. I call it the [Barry] Goldwater-[William] Nichols for the civilian world [Goldwater?Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986]. I think we all need to have that--what the military calls "purple experience"--so that a public servant understands that he or she may not have the necessary tools or legal authorities, but knows where in the government they reside and how to use the tools of others.

In some respects, I think my real value to President Bush was--If you imagine him making a decision and putting the penny in at the top of the federal government, my job was to make sure the decision he made came out at the bottom how he intended it and where he meant for it to come out. You can only do that if you have worked inside that machine: the federal bureaucracy.

Jones

In the Coast Guard position, did you have much contact with Members of Congress?

Townsend

Only in the very beginning.

Jones

This position did not require Senate approval?

Townsend

No.

Jones

Did you ever have a position that required Senate approval?

Townsend

No. Truthfully, the whole Wen Ho Lee investigation and congressional hearings sullied my view of dealing with Congress. After that, my attitude was the less I dealt with Capitol Hill the happier I was going to be. Interestingly, over the course of my White House service I had a lot more interaction with Congress and got much more comfortable with it. In the beginning at the Coast Guard, I dealt with Porter Goss and the House Intelligence Committee, because I was trying to get the intelligence legislation passed.

Later, once I was inside the White House, because of the Presidential privilege, I had much more control over when I did and didn't deal with Congress. I had a lot of informal interaction with Members of Congress, whether it was briefing them on intelligence reform, or Katrina: Lessons Learned--the government affairs committees, the intelligence committees. And I spent a tremendous amount of time on Capitol Hill working on FISA reform and later on comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, Senator John McCain became a mentor, close friend, and, frankly, a surrogate family member as a result of our work together.

Riley

I want to ask a general question. We're going to break for lunch in just a couple of minutes, but you had talked about your own departure from a pivotal position in the Justice Department. If you read Richard Clarke's book and other accounts, there is a sense that, because of the timing of the transition before 9/11, there is a period when, arguably, the government sort of takes its eye off the ball. With the Clinton people, [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qaeda had been a pretty concentrated focus and then, for a variety of reasons, the focus is lost from January until September. Can you comment on that? Do you think that is a fair assessment? Were there other people like yourself who were in crucial positions, who, for completely understandable reasons, would have been drawn out of them? And accordingly, there were posts that weren't--You didn't have the same set of eyes and ears on the problem that you had before.

Townsend

It's hard for me to say. That January to September 2001 I was not at the White House, so I can't really speak to whether there was a policy focus or not, because I was not really in a position to have a view into what they were talking about or doing at that point. I can't really speak to that.

I will say--I can remember talking to very senior FBI counterterrorism agents, with whom I maintained my friendships and relationships, who could not understand why they were going over for a DOJ meeting with Assistant Attorney General Mike Chertoff and I was not at the meeting, given my long experience. The FBI agents thought it was perfectly ridiculous not to have me in the terrorism meeting. You can imagine, a few years later, Mike Chertoff's surprise when he showed up to the White House for his nomination announcement to become Secretary of Homeland Security--He walked into the Oval Office and when President Bush said, "Let me reintroduce you to a friend whom I rely on," it was me. Suddenly Chertoff was reminded that he was going to work with me and he's working for the President, with whom I enjoy a close, warm, working relationship. Washington is a funny town in the way people move around.

Riley

More funny for you than most. That's the remarkable thing, sitting here at the table with you--

Townsend

Well, I think the secret to this is that not once when I had the ability to play your hand, did I ever play it. I never exploited when I had the upper hand, not once, so I think initially people assumed I was stupid. Over time, I hope, they came around to realize, not so much. It was discretion, grace--Call it anything you want. I really believed it didn't need to be that way; there was no point in vindictiveness. For me, I handled both the positive and negative things with the same equanimity. It was simply a matter of self-survival.

Riley

So it's not Forrest Gump written over again?

Townsend

Right. Exactly.

OK, where were we?

Riley

Just the general question about whether there was any loss of focus.

Townsend

Losing the focus. What the FBI agent said to me at the time--The senior FBI agents came to me for advice, just before I left Justice for the Coast Guard. Apparently, Attorney General Ashcroft had issued his initial draft budget. They said to me, "Nowhere does he mention terrorism." I don't remember now, but he must have cut back on some of their resources. He may have shifted resources to other law enforcement priorities and not put much or even any focus in his new budget on terrorism.

The FBI agents in the summer of 2001 were frantic. These were very senior guys that I had worked counterterrorism cases with, all of whom reported to the Director, and they said, "What do we do? Look, you know this town. How do we work this?" They were thinking of doing all the things senior bureaucrats think about doing. "Do we go to the press? Do we go to the Hill?" I counseled them, "Don't go to the press. The new administration will resent you, be suspicious, and become defensive. That's what bureaucracies do. But don't. That's not what I would do. I think you've got to try to work within the system and persuade them that what you are asking for is not just the right thing to do but is also in their best political interests. After all, you've got people in political positions here at Justice who should understand."

Mueller was not yet FBI Director, but people like Bob Mueller are really fundamentally career folks, who understand and can persuade the new political team. By way of background, when Clinton got elected, Bob Mueller had left the Justice Department and gone into private law practice. I was the chief of staff to the Criminal Division, and another irony of our relationship was that, at that time, he wanted to come back to Justice, and his request came to me. He asked if he could come back as an assistant U.S. attorney in the D.C. U.S. attorney's office. He just wanted to be a line assistant trying cases, and not a supervisor. He didn't want to be a public person; he just missed the work that he loved. I approved that, got the paperwork done, so the irony of, years later, him being the guy who delivered the news to me that I was being moved out of OIPR--You know, it was just another one of these crazy twists.

Anyway, I advised the FBI agents not to go to the press. But there was no doubt in my mind that the FBI--especially when John Collingwood was there as the head of legislative and public affairs--had the best legislative affairs machine in the federal government. They were unbelievable. It has been a frustration to every Attorney General across political parties that the FBI would go up to Capitol Hill, without DOJ, and be their own advocates on budget, despite being told no, by either the DOJ or in the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] process. There was no doubt in my mind that they were going to work the Hill and try to get the budget issue fixed to their satisfaction. Now I can't remember sitting here what happened. I think 9/11 happened and the budget gets changed to even more than they had been originally asking for.

Riley

Of course, then everything changes. Did you have any--I'm assuming that you had networks outside Justice, but you weren't--I'm detecting that you don't readily embrace Clarke's assertion that--

Townsend

I did not readily embrace it, but I don't really feel like I know well enough to give you specifics. I just don't really feel like I've got a good enough sense because I was not yet at the White House.

Riley

Fair enough. And did you know Clarke from your time?

Townsend

I did. I had worked with Dick when I was in the Clinton Justice Department and had gone to numerous counterterrorism group meetings he chaired at the White House. I knew him. I respected him. He understood the terrorism threat and related issues. He was very focused on it. Agree or disagree with Dick, there was no question that he was seized by this issue. He was also very close to John O'Neill, so we had mutual friends and colleagues.

Riley

OK. He was the kind of person, though, who was inclined maybe to feel like he had to rattle some cages in order to get their attention?

Townsend

Yes. He is very bright, very strong-willed, and does not suffer fools gladly. If he has a weakness, it is in his personal style, which can, at times, be abrasive and off-putting. If you are on the wrong end of that in a room full of people in Washington, you can be left feeling humiliated. Again, Dick is very smart, but I suspect that his style, now knowing my colleagues from the Bush administration, was not how business got conducted there. It was a much more collegial and collaborative environment. You hear stories about how, when you've got that many triple-A-type personalities in a room, it can be very competitive. That may be, but in a post-9/11 White House, what I saw and experienced was a real sense of mission when it came to the national security and counterterrorism issue. Everyone was, "How can I help you? What can I do for you?" from the day that I arrived.

I had worried about it when I began at the White House. In the materials here [motions toward briefing book]--I had to laugh--you have the Bob Novak article. I will never, as long as I live, forget how that whole thing unfolded. It was my first few weeks at the NSC and the President and Condi were on his trip to Africa, so they were on a plane. They could not have been further away or more difficult to reach and, at this point, I had yet to have a simple, substantive meeting with President Bush. He had not interviewed me before I was hired. The NSC press person called me and said, "This guy's writing a column about you and he's saying a lot of very negative things." I was very upset and said, "Let me talk to him." He said, "Well, I have to talk to Hadley," and that was because Steve, Condi's deputy, was running the NSC in her absence. He spoke to Steve, and Steve said no. I literally had not been there three weeks, and in fact I don't think I had met the President, or if I had, it had been once in passing.

Riley

All right. This is the article where Novak says that--

Townsend

The article was titled "The Enemy Within." There is an afternoon where there is much to-ing and fro-ing about how we should respond to Novak's call. I went over to speak with Steve and said, "Please, let me talk to them." But understood, I was new and a little bit of an unknown quantity to Steve and he was hardly looking to taking any risk. His job was to mind the store while Condi is traveling with the President. I think Steve again advised that the press office would handle it.

After that, I didn't hear anything else about it. I provided some background to the press people that afternoon. I came in the next day and there was a column with huge print on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. "Bush's Enemy Within" was what it was titled--and it was an entire column about me. I was a career person unaccustomed to any press, so I was furious and embarrassed--What the hell? This guy's got nothing better to write? I was blindsided and tried talking to anybody at the White House who would listen. I was all over the West Wing, trying to find someone to talk to about it.

There was a deputies meeting in the White House Situation Room that morning on one of my topics. I arrived early for the meeting and was purple with rage. I was sitting in the Situation Room, arms crossed, waiting for the interagency Deputy Secretaries to arrive. In walked Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage, a big, burly guy with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. He had read the article, took one look at me, and laughed, and said, "Come here." He took me outside the room, put his arm around my shoulders and said, "Well, kid, welcome to Washington." I looked at him and said, "And what is that supposed to mean?" He said, "You know you have arrived in the major leagues when they pitch at your head." He was laughing and I could not even manage a smile. I had no sense of humor about it.

Next, in walked Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, with whom I'd had a brief, only-passing interaction at the DOJ, as I was leaving for the Coast Guard. Larry had always been very gracious and kind. When I was still at DOJ, he had had a meeting with the FISA Court, which I was not invited to, and during the meeting, Larry had somebody come down to my office to get me to join the meeting. He thought it was only fair that I be there if the FISA Court was going to discuss my tenure. I had never forgotten that, and that he had been very gracious.

So, Larry walked up to me in the Situation Room the day this article came out--He clearly had not read it--and he said, "Hi, Fran, how are you?" I turned to him, sort of snarled, and said, "I've been doing better, thanks to my former friends at the Justice Department." Larry looked stunned and couldn't imagine what I was talking about. The aide who was with him, a young political person who had clearly seen the Novak article, leaned forward and whispered to him. Larry, God bless him, turned and said, "You have many admirers at the Justice Department. I don't know where it came from, but if that came from the Justice Department, I am very sorry and we will correct it." Larry Thompson was a real class act.

After the deputies meeting, I went up to Steve Hadley's office to see him and I offered to resign. I was horrified to have drawn such negative attention to myself and the White House. Hadley looked at me like I had three heads. Condi was traveling, as was the White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card; no one was even at the White House to accept such a thing. Hadley told me to forget it and go back to work. I think Steve chalked that off to my being overly emotional about the article. Unsatisfied, I sent a message to Condi on Air Force One that I wanted to speak to her, and I sent the article to the plane. The message I got back from her was that she would speak with me on her return. When they got back and I went to see Condi, again I offered to resign. She asked, "And why?" I said to her, "Because the President has a very important agenda and doesn't need me to be a distraction. He has much bigger things to be dealing with than me and my bad press." She said, "Don't be ridiculous. I won't hear of it."

Next, I went to Andy Card; I insisted on seeing him. I brought him the article, went through the same thing, and offered to resign. Andy asked, "Have you talked to Condi?" "Yes." "What did Condi say?" "No." He said, "Look, if everybody in the West Wing of the White House who reports to the President resigned each time there was a negative article about them, there would be nobody working here, including, I might add, the President of the United States. You just need to let it go." Andy then asked me a little bit about it. "Where do you think it came from, and why would somebody do this?" I could only speculate that it may have been my former Justice Department colleagues. Of course, at the time, I knew nothing about Karl Rove and Bob Novak's telephone conversation the evening before the article appeared. Karl Rove was a stranger to me at this point and I had no idea that the press office had him return the Novak call about me. Nobody had said anything to me; I knew nothing about that.

Unbeknownst to me, someone must have felt the need, I am embarrassed to say, to tell the President of the United States that I kept offering to resign over the negative article. So one morning, after the regular terrorism threat briefing in the Oval Office--at the time, it was every morning--the President asked to speak with me. It was never a good sign if that meeting was breaking up and the President asked to see someone privately; it was probably not good news.

The President was walking out of the Oval Office and toward his private office and said, "Fran, I'd like to speak with you." I thought, Oh, my God. He's going to fire me. As I said to you, I didn't have a personal relationship with him yet. He then pulled me over to the side of the Oval Office, put his arm around my shoulders, and he said, "Listen to me. You only have to please one person in the entire government, and that's me. And I think you're doing a great job. That's all you need to care about and all you need to know. Now go back to work and let it go."

"Yes, sir." [laughter] And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It's an important story because it's a story of his kindness, compassion, graciousness, and leadership. The President didn't owe me that. He didn't know me. He didn't have to do that. But he wanted me to stay and he didn't want me to be distracted. And he did it, not because anyone had asked him to do it; that was who he was and is, and I never forgot it. He was not a guy given to lavishing effusive praise, and, over time, I came to appreciate what an extraordinary thing it was that he had done that.

Riley

Well, it's a great story.

Townsend

By the way, the Karl Rove thing? I learned about it one day in the newspaper months, no, maybe years, later. It was a National Journal article. Someone called me and said, "Have you read this article about you and Karl Rove?" and I said no. By then, he was a trusted colleague and friend. They said, "Did you know how Karl ended up on the phone with Novak, defending you?" "I don't know what you're talking about." They said, "It's about you." At the time, Karl was caught up in the Valerie Plame Special Prosecutor probe and I said, "It has nothing to do with me. I know nothing about that. I was not involved." And they said, "You've got to read the article."

As I mentioned, I was afraid when I came to the White House that being an outsider would be a problem. I had no political credentials; I was concerned that my West Wing colleagues would keep me at arm's length. I had never met Karl Rove when he got on the phone with Novak that day. Never. It was only clear to me later that the talking points about my background that I provided to the press office to use with Novak the day before the article had been given to Karl, and that Karl used them to get on the phone with Bob Novak. I was stunned when I read this National Journal article. I felt bad; I felt in some way responsible that Karl wound up on this crazy phone call because of me, which unbeknownst to me was when Novak raised the Plame case with Karl. After reading the article and realizing the connection, I decided to write Karl a note.

You can imagine--I am a lawyer and knew that there was an ongoing grand jury investigation. I knew it was a risk and that the last thing I should do is write a note to Karl that might be subpoenaed. But I decided that I didn't care and I wanted to thank him for having done that for me. I was obviously horribly sorry the way it turned out, but I think it says a lot about Karl that he defended me, a new colleague, who at the time he had not yet met. When I first started at the White House and voiced concern about being an outsider, Andy Card had said to me, "It won't matter. Once the President has appointed you, that's all that matters to any of them, because they are serving him. You don't have to please them, and you shouldn't spend time worrying about it." I thought that was nice, but I wasn't sure I believed it until I learned the Karl Rove story, and I thought, You know what? That was right. It didn't matter who I was to Karl Rove. It mattered that President Bush appointed me and the President needed someone to defend me in that moment.

Riley

Well, this has been a fabulous start, but we're going to give you a little bit of a break and go have some lunch and come back, and we are teed up very well for the afternoon.

[BREAK]

Riley

All right, we're just back from lunch, and we had an interesting discussion over lunch that I'd like to touch on before we proceed, and that is about your own recordkeeping habits. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that. This mostly relates to the White House years, but it's something we like to ask people about anyway.

Townsend

It's funny, because all my professional years--I was a notetaker. I have always been a notetaker, going back to my time at school. I am naturally a writer, and I was, all throughout my career until I got to the White House. I can't remember what meeting it was when I arrived, but I was reminded, "You understand that everything, all of your notes, as a matter of law, have to be kept as Presidential records, and they wind up in the National Archives." When we were working, it was hard to remember that, but you had to be conscious of that when you were writing. The caution did not dissuade me, but I was careful about what I wrote and when it was appropriate to take notes. I simply kept occasional lists, and even then, in a shorthand only I could decipher.

It was sometime shortly after I arrived where it became clear that in meetings with the President, in meetings of the principals of the National Security Council, people did not take notes. And they did not take notes very consciously. The White House counsel's office instructed you about what records must be kept and that they could be subpoenaed. Before I arrived at the White House, I thought, Oh, my goodness, I don't know why these people don't keep a diary, and once there, I immediately thought, Well, now I know why they don't, and I'm not going to either.

One of the things you could do was to-do lists, which were not so much notes of a meeting, if you had to write something down to remind yourself. Steve Hadley and I were both big list people. As I checked things off my list, there was not a need to keep the record. That was not considered a note of a meeting that needed to be maintained. So, we became big list people to remind ourselves what to do and what follow-up was necessary. As a consequence, there were very few documents that I had to send to the National Archives when I left the White House. Mostly it was just intelligence reports, things I had kept because I couldn't take notes.

There were very few, with one exception. I did have notes of the HSC principals meeting on the weekend before the President's reelection in 2004, because I chaired that meeting and I knew at the time it might be historically important. I knew I was going to have to brief the President and it was just incredibly important that I be absolutely accurate. The only way I could do that was to take some notes, but even then, I took them in a careful and very discreet way. So those notes are in the National Archives, but they will be meaningless to anyone but me, because I did it in a way that is not transparent about what I was trying to memorialize.

Perry

Is it a shorthand that you used?

Townsend

Yes.

Perry

Your own idiosyncratic shorthand?

Townsend

Well, it was hardly codebreaking, but I simply used symbols to record each principal's recommendation to the President. Usually principals meetings are on weekdays, and they are only called on a weekend if there is an emergency. Also, principals meetings are generally chaired either by the President or Condi, but I chaired this HSC meeting. This particular meeting went on for an extended period of time because people would get up, use the bathroom, and come back, or go out of the room to make a phone call and come back, so the meeting went on for a while.

Frankly, the heart of the discussion was about whether or not the terrorism threat was sufficient to require the raising of the terror threat alert level. There were a series of things leading up to this meeting. Bin Laden had issued a videotape threat, and ["Azzam the American"--Adam Yahiye] Gadahn had also issued a videotape threat. The tapes threatened that American streets would run with blood if President Bush was reelected, that Americans would suffer the consequences of their decision to reelect President Bush, and that they would be held responsible for his reelection.

As a consequence, there were real concerns about security at U.S. polling stations. The President was campaigning; the Vice President was campaigning. Condi was with the President. The Chief of Staff, Andy Card, was with the President. Secretary of State Colin Powell was not in Washington. The Vice President, Condi, Andy Card, and Secretary Powell all participated via a secure video link. Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin was in the Situation Room, and John Brennan, who was the head of NCTC at the time--the National Counterterrorism Center. The Director of the FBI, Bob Mueller; the Attorney General, John Ashcroft; Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; and Steve Hadley were all present in the White House Situation Room. Condi, Andy, Secretary Powell, and the Vice President were up on the video screen.

The purpose of the meeting was to make a recommendation to the President about whether or not to publicly raise the terror threat alert level. While it is in the power of the Secretary of Homeland Security to raise or lower the alert, the way the process worked was the Homeland Security Secretary would ask that I call a principals meeting and we would, as a group, discuss it and come to a consensus after the Secretary made his recommendation to the group. After a principals meeting, but before any actual decision was made, I would take that to the President of the United States and say, "This is the recommendation of your Homeland Security Council and the Secretary of Homeland Security plans to make the announcement unless you disagree."

Ultimately it was my belief that the President would bear the consequences, right or wrong, of any decision to raise or lower the threat alert--whether it was this time or any other time, but particularly this time. I made it perfectly clear that the Homeland Security Secretary was not to make a public announcement about the terror threat alert level until I had gone to the President, and he indicated that he was comfortable with the group's decision. I always believed that the President had the right to override any recommendation made to him, and never was that more important than this time, when it might arguably affect the outcome of the election. We all believed that a decision to raise the terror alert, three days before Election Day, over security concerns at polling stations, could adversely affect voter turnout and therefore affect the outcome of the election.

Rarely when you had one of those meetings were you ever in a circumstance where the Cabinet principals were split and disagreed. Typically, they came to some consensus. However, that was not the case this time. I have not ever spoken about nor explained this to anyone.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

I convened the meeting on the Saturday morning before Election Day 2004. The President was on the plane on the way to a campaign stop, and called me basically to ask me, "What is the plan for the meeting?" I clearly got the impression he was uncomfortable about the meeting. The President was explicit that he did not believe it was in the nation's best interest to raise the threat alert and he very clearly shared his thought process with me. Although it would not have been, he said, "It will be perceived as political."

In addition, the President did not think it was necessary to raise the alert level in order to raise security precautions at polling stations. And in the end, the President was clear that regardless of any potential political consequences to him, his concern was that he did not want people to be afraid to go to the polls. He wanted all Americans to vote and in no way be frightened away from polling stations. The President wanted everybody to go, and he was afraid that this would frighten people away from the polls. He made really clear to me how he wanted and expected this meeting to come out.

As soon as I hung up with the President, Condi called me, and we basically had the same conversation with the same message. If Condi had been there, she would have been part of running the meeting, but now she was not, and she had to let go of control of this meeting to me, on a critically important issue. She was incredibly supportive and recognized both the difficulty and the importance of the meeting. Condi assured me that she would participate by video.

Riley

Now, to be clear, she's expressing to you the same sentiments the President was?

Townsend

Right. And it was clear to me when I spoke with her that she had already spoken with the President, because their message was identical: the threat level should not be raised.

Riley

That's what I expected to hear, but I wasn't sure.

Townsend

The way Air Force One is set up, the President and Condi had clearly either been in his office in the front of the plane, or in the President's conference room. I suspect they were in the conference room, because as one hung up, Air Force One put through the next call, which was from the Chief of Staff, Andy Card. Either Condi and Andy had been with the President and he was not still in the room, or they were still with him and were calling me one at a time, just as I am about to walk into the Situation Room to run this meeting.

Jones

Had you advised him at this point?

Townsend

All I had advised him was that I had called the meeting, as Chair of the Homeland Security Council, both at Secretary Ridge's request and because there was strong disagreement among Cabinet members. There were a number of ways a meeting of principals could get called. One of the principals could ask for a meeting, or I could decide we needed to have a meeting. Having spoken to several Cabinet members of Friday, I could see some serious differences of opinion among Cabinet officials.

Homeland Security Secretary Ridge did not want to raise the threat alert level, but there were others in the Cabinet who were pushing very hard. Because the President did not want to raise the alert level, he asked me "Why are you having the meeting? Tom doesn't want to raise the alert level either." I explained to him, "I have to have it because there are other members of your Cabinet who disagree with Tom and who are calling for it. They have a right to ask that I call a meeting and have their views heard." In my judgment it was actually dangerous not to have the meeting. If we hadn't had the meeting and hadn't raised the alert level, then something blew up, the President would have been criticized. My advice to the President was, "You need to have confidence here. Let me work to get this where it needs to go and where you want it to go. Everybody needs to at least feel heard."

Jones

And it was better for you to call the meeting than--

Townsend

Well, just in the way this process works, you want to leave the President the ability to, in the end, overrule everybody. But from a practical point of view, it would have been very politically dangerous for me to deliver to him the decision, "Your Cabinet has come to the conclusion that we need to raise the alert level," and then leave him in the uncomfortable position of overruling them and saying no, in which case he would bear sole responsibility for the decision.

That was just an untenable--and I think he knew that. He wanted to make sure that I knew that was untenable. It's funny because the President often had strong views, but on my issues, he was never one to put his thumb on the scale to ensure a particular outcome. And that remained the case here. He did not put his thumb on the scale. He had a vision of what was best for the country; he wanted me to know his view and that he was not going to let some bureaucratic process do harm to the country. In the end, he was OK overruling the Cabinet if they recommended raising the alert level. I just felt strongly that we should not put that sole responsibility on him if we could avoid it. My final point to him before we hung up: "Let me manage this. I get it. I understand all that. I really do think this is important."

I walked into a crowded Situation Room with Cabinet Secretaries and their staff, along with a half dozen participants via secure video. Steve Hadley sat off in the corner. I typically called Homeland Security Council meetings, and it was always very difficult. Don Rumsfeld didn't believe there should ever be a Homeland Security Council, so he usually wouldn't show up, but both he and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs participated at this one.

Riley

We'll get to more of that.

Townsend

Secretary Powell was wonderful. He would always come to Homeland meetings if he was in town. The Vice President rarely came. He would if I went to him and it was an important issue that I needed his input on, but rarely did he come on his own. So, it was the Saturday before the election. To have every one of the principals there, including the Vice President, and I was sitting at the head of the table running the meeting--It was a heavy burden.

I knew it was really important. I knew what the conclusion needed to be, and that getting there was not going to be easy. These Cabinet Secretaries were all smart, opinionated, strong-willed, outspoken people and no one was going to give an inch. Each of them knew where I wanted the meeting to go; they were not going to make it easy and, in fact, they had the ability to make it uncomfortably difficult.

Riley

Recognizing that you can hold on to this, can you tell us who was giving the countervailing pressure?

Townsend

Yes, this is why I took the notes, because I knew I wouldn't be able to remember exactly how everybody came out, but there were key pieces that have stuck with me. For example, FBI Director Bob Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft disagreed quite pointedly in this meeting.

Riley

They disagreed with each other?

Townsend

Yes. Very unusual.

Riley

OK.

Townsend

Mueller did not believe the threat level should be raised, and Ashcroft believed quite passionately that it should, and read from the transcript of the Adam Gadahn tape. Attorney General Ashcroft said, "How will we later explain to the country that we got this tape from a guy saying, ?The streets will run with blood,' and then something blows up and we didn't raise the threat level?" Attorney General Ashcroft has got a preacher in him. He was very eloquent and he felt strongly. Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge wound up on the same side of the issue and agreed that we should not raise it.

Also, understand that there was an important concern about race. What will be the effect of raising the terror alert, and will it have a disproportionate effect on the voter turnout in the African American community? What was the potential political impact and fallout? It was a concern for some of the people in the room. Claude Allen, at the time, was the Deputy Secretary at HHS [Health and Human Services]. He's an African American. It was clear in our discussion that both Claude and Condi were conscious of and concerned about this. Allen ultimately wound up being the Domestic Policy Advisor in the second term.

So, Secretary Ridge and Secretary Powell were on the side of not raising the threat level. Attorney General Ashcroft and Secretary Rumsfeld are on the other and favor raising it. And I can remember thinking at the time, Why is Rumsfeld, of all the times, now deciding to weigh in?

Riley

You rolled your eyes a little bit just--

Townsend

Right. It was just going to make it more difficult.

Riley

The Vice President?

Townsend

The Vice President was typically only in these meetings if the issue was of particular sensitivity, or of importance to him, and as always, he was very quiet in this meeting. He listened very carefully. He took in where everyone was coming from. He did not need to speak up in that meeting, although my memory is that he did favor raising the alert level. But he did not need to affect the outcome of the meeting. All he needed to do was hang up from the meeting and call the President in order to influence his decision. So, to my recollection, he did not really weigh in, other than to make his opinion known to the group. He did not try to influence the conversation. He asked questions about the threat because, in addition to the video statements, there was other classified intelligence that was part of the conversation.

So the meeting went on longer than expected. My goal, once I saw how far apart the positions of the Cabinet members were, was to just not let the meeting end where we put the burden of the decision solely on the President. My first goal then was to keep them together long enough for me to figure it out. What happened was they realized what I was doing. The meeting and discussion went for longer than planned. Attorney General Ashcroft got up, went into the Situation Room, to a separate room, and placed a call to Air Force One. He called Andy Card and I believe he also spoke with Condi. People were walking in and out of the meeting to have separate conversations. That's why I say to you, this was a mess. This was a mess and I would have to force a conclusion.

I finally took a vote. You don't typically take votes in Council meetings because generally the discussion results in a consensus, but I had to have some sense of--one-by-one, going down the list--where was each Cabinet member and what did each think? After the vote, they were clearly almost evenly divided. Hadley just looked at me. I was now frustrated, and I said to the assembled group, in an uncharacteristically chastising way, "This is an abrogation of your responsibility, because if you are split and I have to take this to the President, then what we are saying to him is, ?It's too hard for us. We're going to leave it to the President of the United States on Air Force One. This problem is too hard for your Cabinet. We can't decide. We don't know what to do. You do it.' I don't think so. That's unfair. You have an obligation." That chastising kept them talking, yammering, running outside to call Condi and call Andy Card on Air Force One.

Riley

Is this where your Catholic education comes into play?

Townsend

Guilt. I was hoping Catholic guilt might prompt a resolution, but it didn't, so in the end, I made the ambiguity an asset. REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT I had basically ended the meeting ambiguously on purpose, and said, "Well, I'm going to have to take this to the President." Tom did not remember what the ultimate Council recommendation to the President was because there never was one. As I said, I never told the Cabinet members what I reported to the President, and it wasn't obvious from the way the meeting ended. By the way, I told Tom that I could not answer his question because it was a conversation between me and the President.

Rightly or wrongly, I felt strongly that it was wrong to put the burden on the President, so when I picked up the phone and called him, I took it upon myself to say to the President that the recommendation of the Homeland Security Council was not to raise the level. He said, "Good job." Next, I called Secretary Ridge and simply said that the President agreed we should not raise the threat level. Thankfully, he did not ask for any details, nor did anyone else who was present at the meeting. After that, I held my breath through Election Day and just prayed that nothing blew up. In the end, for right or wrong, I did what I thought was best for the country and best to protect the President. I did not believe it was fair that they could not meet their responsibility to give the President their recommendation, and I thought it was incumbent on me to throw my body on that hand grenade. I thought the President's judgment was right, but if it had turned out to be wrong, I wanted to be the one held accountable, not him.

Generally, Condi, Steve, and I had a very similar view about our White House roles. Some of this now comes down to what is your vision of your role and responsibilities inside the White House? Steve and I agreed: we were not Senate confirmed. We were not part of the Cabinet. We were staff. Our job was not to put our thumb on the scale when presenting something to the President for a decision. Our job was to run an effective process that best served the President. The President might ask me my opinion, but that was separate from what I was communicating to the President from his Council. My duty was to be an honest broker, and this was the one time that I was not, because I thought the Council had served him poorly.

I never talked to anybody about it. I never said anything to Condi or Steve. I never said anything to the President. If it was wrong, it was my decision. I made it on my own. I was going to live with it. I did that, understanding that the Cabinet would not be able to reconstruct how we arrived at the decision not to raise the alert. It was a private conversation between the President and me, where I said it, and he said, "Good," and I went back to Tom and said, "We're not going to raise it."

Tom got the answer he wanted, so he didn't question it. No one else really else knew what happened because no one ever came back to me. I never had to be dishonest with any Cabinet member or colleague about it.

Jones

How was that handled by the press?

Townsend

The press never knew about it. They never knew about the meeting. They knew there had been videotapes and terror threats. There had been rumors that there had been a meeting, but the threat level never got raised. The press was distracted by the election, which was only days away and it was a very tight race.

Jones

But I knew that at the time the issue was covered, wasn't it?

Townsend

Yes. It was very public and it was very criticized when the bin Laden videotape became public. I remember calling Jamie Rubin, who was Senator [John] Kerry's spokesperson for the campaign. Jamie was with Senator Kerry on their campaign bus between stops. I told Jamie that the bin Laden threat tape would become public before their next public event and that I didn't want them to be surprised. I offered to get them a secure phone, so they could get the classified briefing or to send someone to them as quickly as possible. Jamie declined after checking with Senator Kerry that night, but thanked me for the call.

That weekend before the election, both Senator Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards, received the classified briefing from John Brennan, then the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. But the night the bin Laden tape became public, Howard Dean and other prominent Democrats were very critical and basically accused us of a political stunt. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and to Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards's credit, I do not recall them being so critical once they received the briefing.

Riley

It was a nonissue?

Townsend

The press and public had known about the threats, and there had been rumors that we had a meeting, but then they didn't see anything happen, so it was disregarded. The issue did not come up again until Tom wrote his book. I was not forthcoming with Tom. Later, the press alleged that some of the Cabinet members had tried to pressure Tom to raise the threat level, for political reasons to raise it. I was just furious, so I went out publicly very strong, and the President and I were in touch. The President was very kind and grateful that I went out publicly and defended the fact that the decision had absolutely not been politically motivated. It was quite the opposite. The President cared about protecting the process from politics that close to an election.

I didn't tell the President at the time of the decision because I didn't want him to be party to what I had done. My attitude was that if it all came out OK--I thought the President's judgment was correct, so I viewed it as my way of supporting his judgment and getting to the place he believed necessary and in the country's best interest. If the judgment had been wrong, by virtue of the way I handled it, then it was my wrong and he could fire me. But I felt the duty to protect him from a Council that failed to get its job done, as far as I was concerned.

Riley

Just to sort of bring this full circle--This is a very important spoken record of this, because historians looking back--the first thing they'll check is the press accounts, which don't show anything, evidently, so there is a silence on that. And the most proximate written account by one of the participants is flawed.

Townsend

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Riley

Of course. Well, you've got five years to do it at least. Was this the kind of thing where, if the Vice President had vigorously disagreed with you on this, it would have been even more complicated?

Townsend

Yes, perhaps, but we don't know. The Vice President absolutely made his view known to the President. The thing was, he had a very masterful way. He would never have taken me on in that meeting. He didn't have to. If he wanted to put his thumb on the scale and win, that was easy. He just picked up the phone and called the President.

And I knew--This was one of those meetings where I was not in any way worried about the Vice President's view. Whether he agreed or disagreed with the Council's recommendation, the President of the United States had his own viewpoint. I knew where the President came out on this issue. If the Vice President disagreed and called the President, the President was going to tell him just as clearly what his view was. So the Vice President being quiet at that meeting--I think he was interested to see where the Cabinet was coming from, and I am certain that he gave his private advice to the President.

Riley

Let's move back to the beginning. You gave us an account of leaving the Coast Guard. Is there any other piece of the Coast Guard stuff that you guys are interested in that you wanted to ask about?

Roberts

It seemed important to you in the Coast Guard to establish an intelligence analysis and dissemination portion, rather than simply collection. But some people would say that the Coast Guard or some other agencies should just focus on collection and send that elsewhere. Was that a debate?

Townsend

No. Actually, the Coast Guard had an analysis and dissemination capability. Jointly with the Navy they had the NMIC, National Maritime Intelligence Center, and they used that to cue drug operations in the Caribbean and the Pacific. What they didn't have was a collection capability, and I wanted them to, because we had a Captain of the Port presence and authorities. What I really wanted was to build the collection capability across all the intelligence functions, human and signals. I knew the Coast Guard had at least basic analysis and dissemination capability that I could build on. And we did. We built two centers of analysis out in the field in the commands to give them a more hands-on, tactical capability.

I had something at least to start with on that piece. The collection was the really new idea. That was what other intelligence agencies did, while the Coast Guard saved lives. To them, that was a real question--Do we really want to do that? My attitude was yes, you really do want to do it if you want to get access to the intelligence that the other agencies collect.

Riley: You told us a little bit about getting into the White House. I don't know whether there is any more of that story you want to talk about.

Townsend

After, my interview with Condi and Steve Hadley, I got called back for an interview with Andy Card, the President's Chief of Staff. I walked around his office, hoping he did not notice that I was touching the drapes, because I truly could not believe I was there. You know what I mean? Because I was quite sure I was never going back there again. No one could have been more surprised than I was to be offered the job. I was thrilled.

The one other point that's worth making, and this is a Condi point that I made at my farewell, when leaving the White House. Before my arrival, in that position had been Dick Clarke, who left and was a vociferous critic, frankly, of Condi and the White House.

Riley

He's already gone by the time you come in?

Townsend

Right. After Dick, there had been Rand Beers, another outspoken critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, who left the NSC job and became the National Security Advisor to Senator John Kerry, President Bush's opponent in the '04 reelect.

Condi enjoyed a very close personal relationship with the President. Two of my four predecessors in this job had become outspoken critics and political liabilities for President Bush. Condi was vulnerable to criticism by those in the President's orbit who were jealous of her relationship and her influence with the President. She was also vulnerable, having had two career people go bad on her, and more importantly to the story, bad on the President. I don't think that President Bush believed I knew nor understood this background when, in 2003, Condi wanted to hire me, who had worked for Janet Reno, who was in the Clinton Justice Department, whose former boss was then trying to beat the President's brother for the Florida governorship, and on and on and on.

Riley

Right.

Townsend

In 2003, people I knew working in the Vice President's office in particular, but others in the political offices of the White House, told the President, "There is no way. Absolutely not. Look what we have been through. Look how badly we have been criticized. National security is our strength. We're going to make it our issue in '04. The last thing we need is one more career person of Condi's to go bad." It was that attitude that led to the Novak article, "The Enemy Within."

Condi, to her credit, went to President Bush. My understanding of that was she was then told to vet me; hence, the conversation with both Mueller and Ashcroft, among others. Then after that, despite her experience with Clark and Beers, she decided to take a risk. I was a risk. I was an unknown and so I was a risk. I think it was to her tremendous credit, and her very strong relationship with the President, but despite that, you can imagine he could have said to her, "Look, I think the world of you, but the answer is no. We're not doing this again."

That I was hired at all should tell you something about their relationship and about their commitment to getting advice, honest substantive advice, without regard to politics. The President always said to me, "You do your job. There are plenty of people here to worry about the politics of it. I want you to do your job. We will do the politics."

So, when I was leaving, in my farewell remarks--He and Condi were standing next to one another, and I said, "I want to thank Condi for taking a risk. Because she had gotten burned twice, and there were those who thought that hiring me was a mistake, some of whom are here in the room." I said, "It's testimony not only to Condi but to her relationship with the President." And the President, when I finished and I walked back to his side--There is a picture where he is giving me a hug--that was when he said to me, "It was good of you to acknowledge that. And it was on her. I told her, ?OK, but this is on you.' She was determined with you." That's my only other story.

Riley

All right. You said in response to one of Chuck's questions earlier that you think that one of your strong suits is to be able to come into a place and sort of survey it and figure out why it works and also to make a determination about an individual's personal skills in a match for a position. I'm going to ask you to apply that in this case.

Townsend

OK.

Riley

You come into the National Security Council in this particular position. Describe for us what it looks like from your perspective. Does it look like a functional or dysfunctional organization? Do you have to go about defining or redefining your job in any way that suits well what it is that you're going to do? Or is it the case that Condi's vision was right, that you were the perfect peg for that hole, and you didn't have to do any adjustments?

Townsend

Well, every National Security Advisor organizes the NSC both according to what their preferences are and to the issues of the day. The first level of political appointee, working from junior to senior in the NSC and HSC, is the Special Assistant to the President. Now there are people without that title, but that is the first political-level appointment. All those people tend to be political people who have deep, substantive expertise--Elliott Abrams, served in the [Ronald] Reagan administration NSC--a big, strong personality. [Zalmay] Zal Khalilzad, who worked on Afghanistan policy and was later the U.S. Ambassador there, was another huge personality, but very policy grounded.

I remember walking around, thinking, Oh, my goodness, how do you get all of these incredibly bright, talented people to put aside personal preferences? Or do they? The answer was that they don't really put aside personal preferences nor substantive knowledge, but they do look for policy allies. It was like watching magnets either attract or repel each other. In the policy world, at that level, as issues are prepared for decision, it became clear to me that they work diligently to identify Who is my policy ally? And Who is my policy opponent? They were very smart and all had a natural ability--They had not gotten there without having that skill and the ability to do that really well.

The NSC is structured much like the State Department, geographically. Then there are some crosscutting substantive units. But it seemed that those were viewed with some skepticism because the crosscut directorates were often putting their noses into others' areas of geographical expertise, and that was not always welcome. So, counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and democracy. Those issues tended to come up in numerous geographic regions. The regional experts would then say, "What do you know about my region?"

I realized that because I ran a crosscutting section that post 9/11 was very prominent, the NSC Counterterrorism Directorate, I had much more access to President Bush than most of the other senior directors. I was also more senior, the next political level up. It goes: Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Assistant to the President, and Assistant to the President. As a Deputy Assistant to the President and a Deputy National Security Advisor responsible for counterterrorism, I wound up on Day One with daily access to the President because I was responsible for an issue he cared deeply about. I realized after I started, Boy, did I get lucky. Most in the NSC labored over in the Old Executive Office Building and did not get the opportunity to interact with the President very often. I was fortunate because he really cared about my issues and what I did.

I was very conscious of managing both my policy area and my access to Condi and the President in a very inclusive way, so that when I needed to get things done, I had partners and allies to help work through those issues and to help me. But it was important to be conscious of it. There were lots of very smart and very ambitious people, who were also naturally competitive. We were also outside the West Wing, over in the Old Executive Office Building, and with that little bit of distance--Everyone was always looking for a reason to be over in the West Wing, at Condi's office.

Having lived in the government long enough, I had understood the inherent danger of pushing too hard or seeking unnecessary attention. Condi is very smart. When she needed me, she knew and would call for me. And she understood the importance of the occasion when I did ask to see her. It was infrequent enough that she would realize it was serious, because I was not over there all the time. It became a joke in the West Wing, not only with Condi and Steve Hadley, but with Andy Card and President Bush. When I showed up outside any of their doors, they stopped what they were doing. I never had to ask, "When can I get in?" I always got told, "C'mon. What is it? Can't be good." So, on the rare occasion when I picked up the phone and said, "I need to talk to the President or I need to see him," or "I need to see Condi," it was never an issue.

Riley

Sure. Were there often staff meetings within the Council itself? Did you have deputies meetings frequently?

Townsend

Condi--I'm trying to think. I think there was a weekly staff meeting of senior directors and Special Assistants to the President.

Riley

That would be people at your level and the level below.

Townsend

That's right. We would meet with Condi and Steve and we would talk about what we had coming up. I don't remember how often those meetings were. Condi would be there each time for a period, then she would have to leave for travel and Steve would run them. Steve ran them more often than Condi did. I just can't remember how often they were. After I was promoted to be an Assistant to the President, the Chief of Staff held a daily early-morning meeting of only the most senior appointees who were direct reports to the President, which was called the senior staff meeting. Each morning at around 7:30 A.M., we met in the Roosevelt Room before the President got to the Oval Office, to go through what was happening that day.

Roberts

What were the competing frames to combating terrorism in your portfolio, to how national security should be organized? Did you have competing frames that you ran up against in combating terrorism? Who could be against that? Other people have other ways to frame the national security issue, and you had to describe them in your portfolio.

Townsend

Right. Condi and Steve were rightly concerned, and before I got there, we had the conversation that it could not be that all foreign policy would be driven through the prism of counterterrorism. You're inclined to do that after a crisis like 9/11. There was an understandable inclination to put everything through that lens, and Condi wanted to be very conscious about how that might negatively influence how we looked at a policy problem and its solutions. We had to be careful to step back from it and not let the counterterrorism agenda drive the entire foreign policy agenda. There was and had to be more to it than that.

In a post-9/11 world, we actually had to deliberately work on making sure that that tragedy didn't drive everything. The further we got from 9/11, the better we were about that. It wasn't that anyone was against fighting terrorism, but we had to keep it in perspective. That was not the only thing driving foreign policy, but it was one element of it.

Jones

When did you first meet the President?

Townsend

I found out I was being hired--Gosh, when was this? May of '03?

Jones

I think so. Yes.

Townsend

Here's a funny story: After I was hired, but before my first day--the President won't remember this--he and Laura [Bush] were hosting what I think was his 25th reunion from Yale University, at the White House. My husband went to both Andover and Yale and was in the President's class. I had never mentioned this to anyone at the time. During the entire interview process, I never said one word to anyone. My husband, by the way, is a liberal Democrat and has contributed to Democratic Presidential campaigns.

Riley

He didn't "pants" him at some point and tie him upside down to a tree?

Townsend

No. That was about the only thing--So, I didn't know if the President knew my husband's politics or would even remember him. I think most people in Washington would have mentioned, "By the way, my husband and the President were college classmates." I decided not to say anything because I wanted to get the job, or not, on my own. So, I never say anything. But then I find myself hired. I had never mentioned this connection to anyone, and my husband and I are going to this barbecue in the White House, where I am going to meet the President on the receiving line and have the awkward moment in the receiving line of saying, "Hi, we haven't met yet, but I work for you." [laughter]

I thought to myself, This is a mess. I didn't know what to do. I called Steve Hadley, who I didn't realize, also knew my husband from Yale. I called Hadley and said, "I don't know. What do I do? I'll do anything. If you tell me not to go--I'll do anything you want. I just don't know what to do." Hadley was nonplussed, and said, "You'll go and you'll introduce yourself. He's going to meet a hundred people. He'll never remember this."

OK. So we go through the line, and the President of course remembers my husband. They say hello and have a quick conversation. My husband introduced me and I smiled and I basically pop off a "Yes, I've just been hired to work for you. Nice to meet you." Thankfully, it didn't register with him. He was in a long line with lots of pictures being taken. Later, I thought how silly it was that that was how I was first introduced to the President. Shortly thereafter, I started at the White House and he went off to Africa. I don't think I saw him again between that reunion party and his trip to Africa.

The next time I saw the President, he was back from the trip to Africa, and we've already had this blowup over Novak's article "Enemy Within," after which I was trying to resign. I thought, Great, the first time he lays eyes on me, I've got some horrible article. This is not going well, from my perspective. Anyway, he was, as I explained earlier, very gracious about it. We had a series of morning meetings, so it was not the first one after he got back, and he knew what I was working on when he pulled me aside and we had that conversation.

Footnote to this: Oh, six months later, I was sitting in the Situation Room with Clay Johnson, who is a very close personal friend of President Bush's from Texas and was also at Andover and Yale with both my husband and the President. Clay had been the head of Presidential Personnel and was, at this time, the Deputy Director of OMB. I said hello to Clay Johnson, but I didn't know him very well. He said, "Hey, can I ask you a question?" I said sure. He said, "Your last name's Townsend?" I said yes. He said, "You're not married to John Townsend, are you?" I said yes. He said, "John Townsend who was at Andover and Yale with the President?" And I said yes. He said, "Does the President know that?" I said no. He said, "You've been working here six months and the President does not know you're married to John Townsend?"

I didn't think anything of it. I laughed. And he said, "It's very un-Washington." When Clay was heading Presidential Personnel, everyone would always lead with the person or political connection to the President. So Clay was surprised and just shook his head and we went on to whatever the meeting was about. The next morning, when I walked into the Oval Office, the President said, "Townsend, I have a bone to pick with you. I am horrified. I have known your husband longer than I've known you." And he quickly jotted John a note, saying, "I'm so sorry I hadn't made the connection." But it is one of those funny stories. It just didn't occur to me. It wasn't relevant, as far as I was concerned. What difference did it make?

Jones

Mr. Roberts's story: "Who are you?"

Townsend

That's exactly right.

Riley

Well, from that point tell us how you learned to work for this President.

Jones

And with some comparisons with Janet Reno. Obviously, he's come to rely on you.

Townsend

No, but the President would sort of playfully say, "Fran has got to be the only thing that Janet Reno and I will ever agree on." It became a real curiosity in the press because, over time, I did more and more public appearances explaining the administration's policies: what we were doing and why we were doing it. More and more, the press saw me with the President. It was clear that we shared warmth and affection that the press corps just didn't understand because they knew me from my earlier time at the Justice Department. They knew I was a career person, and the press couldn't get their heads wrapped around how someone so close to him, that he clearly trusted and cared for, came out of the cold and into his inner circle. It was very counter to the narrative of the Bush White House as a closed group, tight and always on message. It just made no sense to the press corps, so the relationship between us became something of a curiosity.

I mentioned earlier that I found the caricature of President Bush in the press to be so off. He is incredibly warm, charming, and engaging. He is very bright and a voracious reader. In my world, in the world of terror threats and classified briefings, you had these unbelievably long, complicated Arabic names. The targets often had four names and they may be in different orders in order to evade our intelligence and detection. The President had an incredible memory for detail and the al-Qaeda narrative. We would go into a briefing with him and he would say, "Isn't that the guy--Six months ago, didn't we have a threat?" Terrorism was my sole responsibility and even I couldn't keep the names straight. I would say, "Yes, that's right."

President Bush was interested, very engaged, and he cared about what I did. I too was very detail-oriented, so in briefing him about a threat, it was important to give him the facts. I had to be able to sift wheat from chaff. I never had a lot of time. I had to quickly decide what things he most needed to know. What decisions will he need to make, or was I just telling him for information? How and what I communicated was critically important, so I had to understand the person I was briefing and how that person analyzed and evaluated information.

For this specific skill, having been a trial lawyer was a blessing: I had to persuade people and I had to know what facts were important. My background and training helped me. I was never afraid to deliver bad news; in fact, the President would tease that I seemed to enjoy it. I used to say I was at my best when everybody else was at their worst: in a crisis. I learned quickly what information the President needed. It was equally important what I needed to tell him and what he needed to know. And I had to ensure that I got that information to him in the way that was best for him.

Jones

It's critical, it seems to me, for effective staff people. How did you come to know that? Know what was important to him, and what kind of language was necessary, or stories to be told? In essence, how did you come to effectively communicate with the President?

Townsend

I obviously didn't know it when I started, but I quickly discovered that we had a very similar style of thinking through these kinds of problems. We thought and approached things similarly--He's very decisive. Hyperbole is a distraction to him. Being worried or nervous, all the flowery stuff, is not only unnecessary but is a distraction. He and I shared that view. Some of these are horrific threats and the potential consequences are tremendous, but he knew that. He really didn't need to be reminded that hundreds or thousands of people were going to die if we got it wrong.

"Talk to me about what I can do." His sense of a pragmatic urgency: OK, what do we know? What don't we know? What can we do about it? And how effective is that? In a threat, you're going through that thought process every single time: What do we know? What don't we know? What are we doing to find out what we don't know? How important is that? What are we doing? He wanted to be sure somebody was making sure what we said we needed to do was getting done, and that we were constantly measuring the effectiveness of what we were doing, so we could adjust. That was what I did for him. I knew where to go to get those answers.

I was also never afraid to say when I didn't know the answer to President Bush's question. I found, in the Cabinet, no one wanted to say that they didn't know when he asked a question. The President was incredibly bright, which meant that if he knew when they didn't know, they would immediately lose credibility with him, so everyone was very careful about saying that they didn't know. If I didn't know, I said I didn't know, and was sure that I got back to him quickly with the answer. Now, in fairness, it was easier for staff to say, "I don't know and I'll find out." But I think Cabinet members most often didn't want to disappoint the President, so it was important to understand that about him, that it was OK to say you didn't know.

So, I spend a year, 2003-04, working for Condi. General John Gordon, who was Homeland Security Advisory after Tom Ridge, decided to leave the White House to retire. I think it was Andy Card who first spoke to me. "The President would like to promote you to be the Homeland Security Advisor and work side-by-side with Condi as an Assistant to the President." I said, "I'm very flattered, but I really like what I'm doing." Andy Card looked at me and said, "Why don't you think about it?" I went back to my desk. It was pretty clear to me what I wanted. It was no longer about promotions; it was about doing right, and after 9/11, I really liked combating terrorism.

Jones

Was this before or after the election? I've forgotten.

Townsend

Actually this was before the election. This was May of '04. I started at the White House in May of '03. It was spring of '04, and it was not at all clear that the President was going to get reelected. From '03 to '04, I was still in my career status while serving on the NSC, so if President Bush wasn't reelected, I was an SES 6; I was good to go back to the Coast Guard. But over the course of my first year, it became clear to me, as a practical matter, I could never go back. Career people often go to the NSC and then return to their home agency, but not at this level. It would have been really hard for me to go from being at meetings with the Attorney General, advising the President, to then go back to running a unit at the DOJ, so, it became pretty obvious to me. I didn't really have time to think about it, but it was clear to me that I would, at some point, need to transition out of public service, which I loved.

Andy Card talked to me twice more. It was Easter, and I took my children away on vacation to Florida. Andy said, "Think about it while you're away. And you need to talk to Condi when you get back." Andy was frustrated that I hadn't moved forward and when I came back from vacation, Condi called me into her office. She said to me, "You've spoken to Andy?" I said yes. She said, "You've got to do this." I said, "What do you mean?" She was smiling, but impatient with me, "Look, you don't get asked. The President of the United States decides where he needs you, and while you think you can do better for him someplace else, that's not your decision to make, it's his."

Jones

That's a question that has been answered, actually.

Townsend

Right. So she said to me, "I'm telling you you're going to do this. You'll be fine. If you want to take the counterterrorism role with you, you'll take it with you and we'll work together." At this point, Condi and I had become friends and were very comfortable together. She said, "We'll make it work. You can retain the international terrorism piece." Under normal circumstances, sharing responsibility in this way would be unthinkable, but we worked well together and she was not the least bit concerned.

She said to me, "You need to tell Andy that if that's what the President wants you to do, you'll do it." She was clearly unhappy with the way I had handled it up to then. I trusted Condi and she mentored me in the White House, so I marched my way down the hallway and told Andy, "OK, I'll do it. I've talked to Condi." Andy was relieved. I explained that we would work out the counterterrorism responsibility and that I had decided to give up my career status. My career status had never been discussed with anyone at the White House. Andy said, "No. You understand that's not a requirement of the President, of mine, or of anyone. You don't need to give up your career status. Whenever the administration ends--That way you can go back. No, I want you to think about that, because I don't think that's a good idea."

I did think about it, and I went back to him and was headstrong about it, "I'm going to give up my career status and go into a political position." Andy agreed to consider it, but directed me to talk to [Alberto] Al Gonzales, White House counsel at the time, so he could talk me through what that would mean. It actually cost me. While there was a very slight bump in terms of my salary in a political position, I stopped accumulating vacation time and sick time, which career folks get paid cash for when they leave government.

Al Gonzales walked me through what would change. He warned me, "It's going to cost you financially to do it that way. You can switch, but the President has made clear that you will still be forbidden from political activity. You're not going to participate in the campaign; you're not going to attend political events; you're not going to go give political speeches to political groups. For whatever reason you think you're doing this, the President believes your value to him is in your substantive expertise. He will not permit you to diminish that by allowing you to engage in political activities. So if that's what you have in your mind, you're not going to get that, and it's going to cost you money. Are you sure you want to do this?" I said yes. So, Al finally asked me, "Can you explain to me why?"

Jones

That was my question. [laughter]

Townsend

I explained to him, "It's a leadership issue." It was May of 2004. "You've asked me to report directly to the President and lead what is essentially--Unlike the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council is largely a political staff, all of whom will lose their jobs in November if the President is not reelected. For you to put a career person in there, to go in there and say, ?I'm going to run this,' it's going to be really hard to motivate and lead them. In career status, I have nothing to lose in November and they do. It seems wrong to me. So I really think you've got to let me do this, if you want me to effectively lead this staff."

Al was great. He said, "Well, that's the only answer that works. You've persuaded me. I hope you've thought about it, because it's not clear he's going to win, and you may have to live with this. And, by the way, you understand that you're not going to get credit from anyone, other than maybe gaining the respect of your subordinates. The political people here are always going to think of you as a career person. You're not really going to gain any additional--" I said, "That's not why I'm doing it. It's really about my subordinates. The rest doesn't matter to me."

I was glad I did it. I still think it was the right thing to do. You know, there are certain civil service revesting rights. Having taken a political position, I could have, even in the end, notified the Office of Personnel Management that I wanted to revest back into the career status and they would have had to find a place for me, but that was not going to happen.

Jones

It represents considerable organizational savvy on your part, it seems to me.

Townsend

You'd have to talk to my subordinates. My first staff meeting I announced to them that it was a privilege to lead them, and because I thought it was necessary, that I had given up my career status.

Perry

In additional to being organizationally savvy, it just seems to be such a key element of leadership.

Townsend

And I hope that was at least partly what motivated them.

Perry

Do you feel that you got that element from the positions of leadership you'd had up to that time, or had you ever studied it? How did you come to that wisdom?

Townsend

I had not studied it. I don't know. When the whole Wen Ho Lee case blew up at the DOJ, I could have easily started and ended every paragraph with, "I wasn't here when this happened." Not that I never said that; I did, but I made up my mind that my responsibility was to make the best case that the facts would allow me to make for the office I was leading at the time. It wasn't an option to walk away from them and say, "I would have done it differently"; I would have, but it just wasn't right. As my mother would say, it was just the right thing to do.

Riley

A lot of us hear our mothers' voices.

Townsend

And that's not always a bad thing, as my mother has pointed out.

Riley

No, it's not. I want to go back to the question about your working for President Bush. Did he prefer to get from you written briefings or did he prefer oral briefings?

Townsend

Oral. It is presumptuous of me to say, but in my judgment, he seemed to prefer a Socratic exchange. He enjoyed having a conversation, a give-and-take. He wanted to ask questions and poke at the argument you were making to test it. He was making judgments not just from what you said to him, but how you fared in that debate with him. It was easy for folks to say anything they wanted to the President of the United States, but could they defend it? Did they believe in it? Did they have the facts to defend their position and persuade him? He was making judgments from the interaction about your level of confidence based on how you handled his questions.

Great story: The first day after my promotion in my new position reporting directly to the President was, from my perspective, near disaster, although it ended OK. I had been promoted. Condi had reassured me. That first morning, there had been a terror attack in Saudi Arabia on the oil facilities in Dhahran. It was a whole complicated scenario that played out. As a consequence of the attack, the State Department convened the process by which the ambassador led the Embassy security committee meeting. The Embassy then decided what their security posture should be, and they decided to immediately send home all dependents. They drew down to only essential personnel and concluded that, because of the attack, Saudi Arabia was no longer safe for diplomatic dependents.

At the White House, we had our regular morning briefing with the President. It was my first day in the new job, and because of the attack, after the regular morning meeting we, in a smaller group, briefed him in the Situation Room. We had been upstairs in the Oval Office; we talked, but then the President asked a smaller group to convene in the Situation Room. It was the President, the Vice President, Condi, the Attorney General, the Director of the FBI, and me. It was not a big group. This is one of those moments that I remember where I was sitting because of what happened. We briefed the President about the attack and about our response.

Before I finished speaking, I could tell he was unhappy. Spurred along by the Vice President, the President angrily said, "We don't turn tail and run. We're the United States of America. We pull dependents out like this and we hand a win over to the enemy that they could not have gotten on their own. Whose stupid idea--?" This was one of those moments--It was like getting punched in the head and my head snaps back.

I was sitting next to Condi. I thought, What have I done in taking this promotion? I looked at Condi and thought to myself, Well, Condi knows better. There's a legal process that dictates that the decision on dependents rests solely with the ambassador in country--It isn't my decision. But I was literally dumbstruck. I froze and didn't know what to say--I was embarrassed in front of the others, so I just got quiet, and looked plaintively at Condi, hoping she would speak up. But Condi was looking down and the rest of the group was just watching me get grilled. I tried to explain and I finally stopped, because he had a head of steam up. I thought to myself, OK, we're going to have to take another turn at this. I took a deep breath and tried to explain to him the State Department's rules and process.

The President said, "Well, then it's a bad process. How come they get to decide? How come this doesn't come to me?" Condi finally interjected and said, "No, it needs to be that way. You can't be deciding the security posture in Riyadh from Washington." That finally ended the conversation. We walked out of the room and Bob Mueller was smiling and teased me; he said, "Great first day."

I wanted to cry and run away. I was completely humiliated. I didn't know what to do next, so I went up to see Condi and I told her, "OK, listen, the President hates me; he has no confidence in me. This is not going to work. I'm going to go back to being your deputy; that will be just fine. You can deal with him. This is just not for me." Impatiently, she said, "Oh, don't be ridiculous. He'll get over it. In five minutes after this thing happened, he was over it." She then dismissed me to get back to work and walked away, so I went down to my new West Wing office and sat there dejectedly.

The President was going to make a phone call to the King of Saudi Arabia from the White House Residence later in the day, so I was busy writing talking points. I walked them upstairs to Condi, because I wanted her to take a look and see what she thought. She was going out to a meeting, so I walked with her. She was going out to West Exec [West Executive Avenue Northwest] and I was not done. It was bad timing all around, but I had this issue and I needed to deal with it. So I stopped her again, and this is what I call my Condi moonstruck moment, because she got very impatient with me. I said, "I'm serious about what I said earlier. It is important to me that he is well served and that he is confident and comfortable with the person in this position. If that's not me, that's OK, but it is most important for him that it work."

Condi spun on her heel and looked me in the eye. I could see that she had had it with me now. She said to me, "You need to get over it. This is not about you and you need to know that and you need to get over it. This is about him." My eyes must have been the size of watermelons. I looked at her. She had never spoken to me in such a stern voice before. But she now is impatient and is pointing her finger at me. She said to me, "He's the President of the United States. People tell him things all the time that they don't believe and they're not sure about and they don't know, but they tell him anyway. He has a right to test that in any way that's good for him. The fact that it wasn't good for you is tough. And, by the way, you don't have a job to go back to. You can't be my deputy, so you need to go back to your office and get it together and get over it." Again she turned on her heel and she was gone. I was standing in the vestibule thinking, Oh, my God. What have I done? I went back to my desk and sat down. I remember sitting at the desk thinking, All right, pick yourself up by the bootstraps. It can hardly get worse, so let's go.

That afternoon I had to go over to the President's White House Residence because the President was going to make the Saudi call. I again went up to get Condi. She told me to just go ahead over to the Residence. I said, "I'm not going over alone after this morning." She said, "Oh, for goodness' sake, you're being ridiculous." I said, "Look, I get it; I got what you said. I'm going to do better. Just come over with me. It's a call to a head of state, for God's sake. You'd think the National Security Advisor might need to be there." Condi rolled her eyes and we walked over together. Truthfully, I had never walked over and gone to the private part of the Residence where I needed to go. I would have been lost without her. I had no idea where I was going.

So off we went. We went to the President's upstairs Residence office. I walked in with Condi and in walked the President. He was getting ready to go for a bike ride, so he had his running shorts on. He looked at Condi, and the first words out of his mouth were, "What are you doing here? I thought Fran was arranging the call." Condi looked at me, smiled, and said, "Ask Fran." So he looked at me, but I moved on to the substance and just prepped him for the call. Condi didn't stay for the whole thing and left us to place the call. I never said anything to the President about that morning or that call and as Condi had said, the President acted as if it had never happened. He was quickly over it. But it was the best early lesson about how to deal with him. He could have a combative way of testing ideas, and you had to be very careful not to be intimidated by it. Absent Condi bucking me up, I might have been.

I used to say, "When I have to deliver bad news, I brace myself. I always put one foot behind me so that if I don't duck fast enough, I'm braced for the hit and I'm ready to come back." There were instances during the course of the Presidency where we had pointed conversations, but I had the confidence to do that because I grew to understand his style. He needed that. He needed all of us to be up for that.

Jones

Also clearly, part of the answer to my question is that savvy of Condi's as well, both about him and about you.

Townsend

Absolutely.

Riley

This show of--"anger" doesn't seem to be exactly the right word.

Townsend

No, it's not anger, because he was not--He did not have an explosive temper. Frustration? He would get frustrated when the government didn't work the way he thought the government should work. He wanted to fix it.

Riley

But it would get his blood pressure up, and presumably that meant that everybody in the room's blood pressure would go up.

Townsend

Yes.

Riley

That was a standard fixture of his operating style?

Townsend

No, I don't think so. Standard would have been--We would have what was called "policy time" with the President and staff, at the Special Assistant to the President level, who would do all of the preparation work. When meeting with the President, they would be in the room, so they had time to see him and get a sense of his style, his questions, and his vision. But rarely did they sit in the hot seat.

Policy time was around the long oval table in the Roosevelt Room. The President would be seated in the middle on one side of the table, width-wise, and the person leading the policy discussion sat directly across the table from him. Others--White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten would be on one side of the President; the Vice President would be on the other. The relevant Cabinet members would also attend--maybe it was Mike Chertoff or Don Rumsfeld. If it was my policy time, I would walk them through the brief. It was the hot seat because you were right across the table, face-to-face with the President. It was like your PhD dissertation defense. There was no one to help you and there was an audience, so you'd better be prepared.

I can remember a young doctor, Rajeev Venkayya, who worked for me on health security issues, biodefense and all that. I had his group work on the pandemic flu strategy. There was a rollout, a strategy, and an implementation plan. This had been months of work with numerous policy meetings. He would usually sit behind me, but not at the table, during policy meetings. One time, the President asked a question and I said, "Oh, Rajeev should answer that." I leaned out of the way and the President asked him a question. Without asking permission, I just got up. The President said to me, "And where are you going?" I said, "I am going to sit behind him, because you ought to ask him the question directly." This poor young doctor about died.

After that, every policy time I did on that issue, I always put Rajeev in the chair, and I sat behind him. But it was important, and the news spread like wildfire through my staff. If I thought you were up to it, I was not the least bit shy about saying to those on my White House staff, "I have plenty of time with the President. He knows me and my family very well. Part of being here at the White House is that you ought to learn and see what that feels like. Now you can understand that if I come back from a briefing with the President and I am upset that he kicked the crap out of the briefing because we weren't well enough prepared and you want to know why am I upset, why am I disappointed--I want you to know what that feels like--to sit in front of the President ill-prepared." It was an awful feeling.

Riley

Was he partly resistant to doing this because there was a sense of the proper pecking order of things?

Townsend

Actually he wasn't resistant to it at all. He enjoyed it. He liked the interaction with bright, young people. He seemed to take energy and enthusiasm from that. The President's staff was naturally protective of him; suppose he asked a question that somebody thought betrayed that he had not read a briefing paper or something like that. In a small, tight group, you could control that. If that happened, it didn't matter, because we all loved him. But the more people you bring in, the more risk you run that someone will misunderstand or misinterpret some off-the-cuff comment, made by the President. I just was never worried about that.

Frankly, the President is and was incredibly bright, incredibly well prepared, and more often than not was asking questions that somebody in the room didn't have the answer to. I thought it was a wonderful thing both for him and for them. It was also how, in the second term, we put intelligence analysts in the room with him. Josh Bolten, Steve Hadley, and I talked about it. An air of suspicion around the President's and White House's relationship with the CIA had developed, so I said, "You know what? My answer to that is they ought to sit in the room with him if they think he's trying to influence their outcome." That was nonsense and not at all what was happening. He was intellectually curious. He wanted to understand how they collected intelligence and the basis of their analytic judgments. He was not resistant to it.

The question you asked me, about what was his steady state? His steady state was a Socratic debate style. I used to laugh when I would bring in young people to brief him and would try to prepare them by saying, "OK, when we are briefing the President, I am going to sit next to you. If it goes badly, I'll throw my body in front of you. Don't worry, but be prepared. If you get off the second slide, you're doing well. He's going to engage you. He's not going to sit quietly through a PowerPoint presentation. It's just not who he is and it's not how he engages." Maybe I understood it because that's the way I prefer to learn, as well. I do better that way. So I appreciated--I kind of intuitively understood how to most effectively get the President the information he needed to make a decision.

Riley

Did you routinely provide him with written briefing materials before you would do these things?

Townsend

No, not for threat or plot disruptions, because generally those investigations were fast-breaking. But yes, for scheduled policy time.

Riley

So his preferred method of learning was basically for you to come cold at him with whatever presentation or material--?

Townsend

This was a frustration for his briefers. The CIA would come in with intelligence--a threat piece. If we were in the middle of something like the 2006 airplane threat, by the time that piece of paper got put in his PDB [President's Daily Brief] book, it had been overtaken by events. The President found that incredibly frustrating. He would come into the Oval Office and the briefer would go through the briefing process. Finally, in the midst of it, he would say to the briefer, "I've read this. I want to hear from Fran what we are doing about it." Because he knew, without having to tell me, that what I did was I had gotten up in in the middle of the night, looked at the PDB piece, and then called each agency head involved to find out--"OK, there's this threat. What are we doing about it?"

He wanted to know operational details. "It's all interesting, what's written, but I have to know what we are doing to prevent it, because that's my responsibility." From the President's perspective, his responsibility was to prevent another terror attack. He wanted to know what we were doing and where we were having a problem. So if I said, "The Brits don't agree on the timing of the takedown," he might ask, "OK, what have you done? Who have you spoken to?" He might then direct Condi to call someone at 10 Downing Street or ask if he needed to call Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was my job to take what was on the page and make it relevant to him, to tell him clearly, "Here's what the problem is. Here's what we're doing about it. Here's what we need from you. Here are the decisions we've made, and here is where we need your direction or decision."

In that case, one of the things we did several times a day was decide whether or not to let U.S. airlines fly from Heathrow to the U.S. As I have said in speeches, the airplanes took off during a several-hour time frame, so that once the planes were up in the air, we believed that the al-Qaeda plot was to get them all up in the air with liquid explosives on them and then blow them up. Once one blew up, they were all going to blow up. There wasn't going to be time to safely land other planes because they were all going to be over the Atlantic.

Each day when we decided we were going to let the next day's group of airplanes take off, we realized we might be making life-and-death decisions. Steve Hadley's daughter was on one of those planes returning from a summer-abroad program; Dana Perino and her husband were coming back from Scotland on one of those planes; my great-aunt was returning to the U.S. on one. We were prohibited by law from telling anyone. We couldn't tell our families. We couldn't get our loved ones to reroute or delay because there was a "no double standard" rule. We could not act on the intelligence personally or on information not available to the general public. It was excruciating. During that period I would go over to a small executive gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Once those planes were all up in the air, I would get on a treadmill and run off the stress and anxiety. I was so worried. I would tell my assistant, "Call me. You know where to find me." Because I thought, Oh, my God, if one of these planes blows up, it's going to be horrible.

Ultimately, we gathered as much intelligence as we could. But those were the sorts of decisions on which the President could have overruled us. Each morning he would ask, "What is the judgment of my national security team?" And I would report, "Everybody agrees we should let the planes fly."

Roberts

How did you make that call typically?

Townsend

I was hosting secure video conferences and meetings. The intelligence was coming in. It was a completely dynamic situation, so it was changing constantly. We would get additional information--It was primarily a British investigation, so we were largely at the whim of our allies. We were in the unenviable position of questioning their judgments and picking holes in their investigation. We were relying on them and yet we were asking tough questions that betrayed the vulnerabilities in their investigation, so our British friends were very frustrated with us, especially when we were asking questions like, "Are you doing this? Have you considered that?" although it was their case, their investigation, and both the U.S. and the UK [United Kingdom] wanted to stop the attack.

We had differences of opinion about how to do that. Our view was that these were American airline carriers and the plot was targeting Americans coming back from Europe on vacation. It was very clearly intended to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the UK, if it had gone off. It was intended to cause a real rift between us, just as 9/11 had between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. In the end, and this has been the subject of some controversy with the British, we did put pressure on the investigation and caused them to pull the case down.

There is a whole complicated story about how that happened. We had been talking to the UK about taking the case down. They were resistant. They were annoyed with us. They thought we were overly cautious. My judgment was we would let the investigation continue with Americans flying on planes and not being public about it for only as long as was necessary and safe. I was willing to take that decision on my own shoulders, along with the relevant agency heads: FBI, CIA, DNI [Director of National Intelligence], NSA, and NCTC. There was a Pakistani angle to the threat, but we were working with the British. Both American and British intelligence services were working with the Pakistanis, in Pakistan. Together with Pakistan, we were searching for someone that the investigation had uncovered as important and relevant to the case. The Pakistanis found him in a little village, on a bus.

The investigative question was what to do when they found him? If the Pakistanis followed him and lost him and a plane blew up, the Pakistani view was that they were going to get blamed for this. If they found him and took him into custody, because we knew he had been in contact with other people in the UK who were part of the plot, then it was going to become apparent to the UK targets that the British authorities were on to them and were aware of the plot. In that case, the UK would have to take the investigation down and make arrests.

The Brits made clear to the Pakistanis that they wanted the investigation to continue, and we made clear to the Pakistanis that we wanted the guy arrested as soon as they found him. In the end, the Pakistanis ultimately made the decision to arrest him. All of a sudden, we stopped debating with the Brits about the case; we all now agreed that the investigation had to come down. It was as a result of this investigation that overnight we instituted the three-ounce liquid ban. While the investigation was unfolding, we had given enough information to TSA [Transportation Security Administration], which allowed them to prepare for the liquids ban and the new three-ounce limit. So while it was bad the next day for a couple of hours at American airports, we had the small clear plastic bags out there at the security checkpoints, and we had people explaining the sudden change.

The delays at British airports went on for days, while we recovered in hours. I was surprised and I couldn't understand why it was their investigation and they hadn't shared the information with their transport authorities sooner. The British view was that, by virtue of our sharing information inside our government, there were press leaks and that made them very angry, but in the end, everyone let it go and moved on. We had disrupted the plot and gotten the intelligence.

Jones

I'd like to switch to a different topic, that is, in regard to your relationships. Once Condi became Secretary of State--Can you talk about your relationship with her and what that meant, and with Hadley and how that changed your role?

Townsend

My role didn't change. I can remember when it was announced. I was delighted for her. She was a mentor and a friend and we would have dinner together quarterly. Condi wanted to take me to dinner at the time of my promotion when I became Homeland Security Advisor, while she was still at the National Security Council. Somehow her secretary made a typo when adding the dinner to Condi's calendar. It was on her calendar as "dinner with Frank." I happened to be standing there just outside her office and I was looking and I said to her secretary, "Who's Frank?" We were laughing about it when Condi came out of her office. She happened to pick up the calendar and when she looked at it, she said, "Do I have a blind date tonight?" The funny thing about it was that after that, our dinners always went on her calendar as "Dinner with Frank." [laughter]

Jones

For interpreting records in the future.

Townsend

Right, I'm "Frank."

Riley

That clears that up.

Townsend

We continued having dinners after she was Secretary of State. I can remember having dinner with her just shortly before the 2004 election; it may have been the week before. Having dinner, I remember we were saying, "Have you imagined what the day after the election will be like if the President loses?" We talked about it. She's a dear friend and there was nothing in this world I wouldn't do for her. I missed having her there at the White House every day, but it didn't affect the friendship.

Steve Hadley was like a big brother to me and he was somebody I would go to and ask for advice. I trusted his judgment. Steve never had his own agenda. You could have complete confidence that whatever advice he gave you was in the President's best interest. It was not colored, or shaded, by anything else. Much has been said about Karl Rove having dual email accounts, political and White House, but the one thing nobody has ever talked about are Blackberry PIN [personal identification number] messages. Do you know what a PIN was? It is what was called "peer-to-peer," which meant if I sent you a PIN message, it went from my handheld to your handheld via satellite, but it didn't go through a server like an email would, which meant it was not saved.

Perry

Is it the same as text?

Townsend

No, it was different, because text messages can be retrieved. This raised the whole question of document retrieval and archives. When I erased it from my handheld and you erased it from yours, it was gone. OK, so one of the easy ways, if you had to communicate, during a Presidential motorcade for example, and somebody wasn't checking their email, you could PIN somebody in another vehicle. Ultimately, the White House counsel did put rules in place about forbidding PIN-ing, because we had to keep records, Presidential records, for the National Archives, and there was no way to retain and archive PINs.

But back to my working relationship with Steve Hadley after he succeeded Condi as National Security Advisor. I would talk to him about some important issue and we would come to some conclusion and that was it. Once he and I had decided that it was a difficult or sensitive issue, I would say, "We're going to go off the edge of the cliff together, but God knows we'll be smiling." It was about the ethos: We're in this together. So Hadley was a big brother to me. He was a friend and a wonderful mentor. Our styles are very different and I learned a lot from him.

Jones

Sounds like it.

Townsend

He was a very good balance for me. For example, I can remember in the beginning when I started at the White House over in the OEOB [Old Executive Office Building], I would have some urgent issue. I thought I needed a decision right away, so I would run across West Exec Drive, up the West Wing stairs, and get to Steve's office, panting, saying, "I need this right away." The answer was inevitably, "Leave it. You go back to your office and I'll call you." And I would get frustrated.

After that, when I came flying over and got to the top of the stairs, I learned to wait, catch my breath, and say, "You can get to this when you need to, but I've got this issue and I need a decision." It was very funny, you couldn't give Steve a document and say, "I need you to sign this." He would always take it and walk away. He was meticulous and wanted to read it carefully. By the end of the administration, I would say to his EA [executive assistant], "I need Steve to sign this document. Will you please take it to him?" But his EA said, "If I take it to him, it's going to go in a pile. Fran, you're the only person who can walk anything in there and if you've read it and you signed it, Steve will sign it." That was a level of trust that we had established over time. I wouldn't put it in front of Steve unless I was willing to sign it myself and put my name to it. Steve knew very well that, if I thought there was something controversial in the document, I would say to him, "I want you to read this paragraph." We became close friends. I just have tremendous respect for him. He is one of the smartest, most thoughtful people I have ever known.

Jones

And his relationship with the President contrasted with your style of relationship?

Townsend

I think everybody wondered--The President and Condi were so close--how would that change with Steve? Steve is, by personality, very reserved, very cautious in terms of his approach, deliberate, very cerebral. He is just incredibly quiet and self-effacing. No ego at all. So the President couldn't resist the urge--The President has a great sense of humor and is an incredible tease, so ribbing Steve Hadley became sport. But the ribbing by the President of the United States was a sign of affection. It was a badge of honor. Steve couldn't help himself. The President would do it, Steve would blush, and we would all laugh. It was just the way it went.

The President adored Steve; it was clear that he loved Steve. Steve's manner and how he viewed himself and his position--It was almost like if you would imagine the most loyal house staff. It was his job to serve the President, selflessly, whatever that required. It was never about Steve. Steve had viewed himself as having absolutely no authority on his own, other than to serve the President. People really respected him for that and really admired him--I saw Steve at times get frustrated, but I have never seen him get really angry; it was just not who he was. Steve took the responsibility of being on the President's staff at the White House very seriously.

You never wanted to disappoint Steve and, as a result, he made everybody around him better. You wanted to work tirelessly to meet Steve Hadley's standard. While it seemed virtually impossible, there was not a person in the White House who did not want to rise to Steve Hadley's standard. He really was that fundamentally decent, smart, and committed a person. He was a really wonderful colleague.

Perry

I have a question about public outreach, particularly on these very complicated issues, about crafting messages for the public and media outlets, and which media outlets to use at which time. In the "Ask the White House" segments, or going on Jim Lehrer, or you and Stephen Hadley publishing an editorial, op-ed piece, how did that process work?

Townsend

There was tremendous support from the White House communications shop, but it was interesting because I always felt like however we did, we could have done it better. I'm not sure what that means, in terms of how I would have done it better. It was really difficult, because you could not talk to the nation about the terrorism issue without being accused, by the press, of trying to frighten the public. I found that incredibly frustrating. I used to try to say, "We underestimate the American people. What they want is information. They want data, and they'll decide whether or not they need to be scared or they need to do something about it, but we owe them information." The reporters squelched that, oddly enough, by intimidating us into questioning our motives and our message. It became very political. You had to make up your mind: I'm going to communicate what I think is necessary to communicate. People are going to say what they're going to say, and as long as I think it is right, that's what is going to guide me.

I did over time, and the White House always appreciated the importance of regional and local media, talking to the American people in places that they care about, as opposed to being held captive by the national and White House press corps. In the "Ask the White House" segment, you're reaching a very different set of people. I found that fun. It was kind of like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Anybody could ask you anything. It was cool. That was my first foray into new online media. You were otherwise a captive of cable, network, and major press outlets. I will also say I found the national press frustrating; there would have been many more op-eds from me, but you couldn't get the Washington Post and the New York Times to take them.

Jones

Is that right?

Townsend

It was very difficult. You could if you were Colin Powell or Henry Kissinger, but even sitting in a White House position, they would decide they were not interested. Even getting your voice in the public debate was frustrating.

Perry

Did you make the call on when to do the "Ask the White House" segments?

Townsend

No.

Perry

You would be asked?

Townsend

The communications office in the White House would decide. I will say, interestingly enough, when I got there, at one point somebody in the press office confidentially said to me, "I keep telling them they should use you more." She said to me, "You can't repeat this, but I'll tell you; the sort of snarky press response is, ?We don't want to create another Condi. We don't want to make Fran another Condi.'" I said, "Is that a bad reflection on me or Condi? I don't know what that means. There's never going to be another Condi. So I'm not sure what that means." Her take on it to me was "No, it was not wanting to create another big personality on its own outside the White House," in other words, separate from the President. Condi had become a media figure and force in her own right, in her own voice--not that she wanted it, or not that she used it for her own good, but she was a separate sort of brand, if you will.

Jones

Who was saying this?

Townsend

This was a woman who worked in the White House press office.

Jones

I see.

Townsend

It didn't matter to me--

Perry

She was saying that about media? The media did not want to create--or the press office?

Townsend

The press office. You can understand if you're the President's press office; you want the focus to be on the President. I think Condi did use her public presence for his benefit, but she was also an independent voice. Over time, while nowhere near the degree of Condi, I did end up with not only a public presence that benefited him but I had a public presence, less than hers, of my own.

I actually think it was to the President's benefit to have a White House team that was signed on to the same agenda, but then there was a risk if there was a rift or ego or personality involved. On this team, this was just not an issue. My voice, as the President used to say, had a unique quality to it because of my perspective. That was why--I can remember there was one point in the '04 election--I don't know what the President was attacked on--and I was with him, and I said, "Let me go out. I can push this back. This is crazy." He said, "Absolutely not. I've got dozens of people who can go out and do that, maybe not as effectively as you, but I've got people who can do that. If you do it, then I have nobody who can do what you do and speak in a public, but not political, voice that is entirely substantive."

I will be honest, I think that was the mistake that John Brennan made with President Obama. Brennan was also a career voice, very much out of the mold that I had come from. Then, he went and worked on [Barack] Obama's campaign, but when he went into the White House position--He was my successor--he was basically a career guy, a career intelligence officer. He was very effective for President Obama, but then he went out and took a swipe at Republican Senator [Christopher] Kit Bond after the attempted Christmas Day bombing.

He decimated that career patina. He became--in the minds of the media and in the minds of Capitol Hill, where he had been so effective--one more political voice. I think that's too bad. President Bush was right about me, and I thought it was very smart on Obama's part, at least initially, to take that same tack with Brennan. I think in a crisis they let themselves react and they devalued John's voice. That doesn't mean you can't get it back, but it's harder.

Riley

Did you have trouble with leaks? You're rolling your eyes and throwing your head back.

Townsend

I am.

Riley

So you did have trouble with leaks? I actually knew the answer to that question before I asked it. Do you have any recollections about the aggravations expressed within, including by the President himself, and any efforts to try and reel it in? What was your observation about the problems leaks created, and the prospects for solving them?

Townsend

Well, there are two sets of problems I associate with this: One is the national security harm that it does: sources and methods, people, operatives in place. There's a whole substantive problem with it. It became particularly problematic in the lead-up to the '04 reelection, where intelligence was leaked. From inside the White House, it felt an awful lot like it was being leaked for political purposes. The leaks at that time were related to Iraq. It really was a problem on the substantive level, but I think it also plays in the politics.

What you find is that people frequently leak classified information to influence policy makers, which means, by the way, that the people doing the leaking are senior enough to have either participated, or be on the periphery of those who are participating, in the policy process and don't like the way the debate is going, so they leak selectively to try to influence the process. It was maddening, because if you're one of the stewards of the policy process, like Steve and I were, you want to create a no-fire zone so all those participating can honestly get in the room and debate with one another, because that's what produces the best advice for the President. To the extent you can't do that because Cabinet members do not trust that what they say won't be leaked to the press, the President is poorly served. It was really frustrating for Steve and me.

Riley

Do you usually know where the source is coming from when you read a piece?

Townsend

You may be able to tell from what agency. From the way the policy debate is going, you may be able to figure out, if not one agency, the agencies, that this was coming from. You know who is making what arguments, and when you look at the leak, you can get a sense of who benefited from that. But it is just very hard; I've always been a firm believer that you've got to convict somebody to stop it. You've got to be willing to convict a very senior-level person if you're going to stop the leaks.

Riley

Did you ever make the argument in your own councils that you ought to go after somebody?

Townsend

I did during the Clinton administration; I did during the Bush administration. I had made the arguments, not about a specific individual. I had to make the argument before identifying a specific individual.

Riley

Sure.

Townsend

You've got to say to yourself, Yes, we're going to do it this time. We're going to go wherever this leads me. I can remember--going back to the Bush '41 administration, in the Justice Department--where this was a frustration. But because of the way the law is written, these are among the most difficult cases to prosecute.

Jones

Can you say more about how a leak affects policy? You mentioned that it affects the agenda of conversation and discussion and so forth.

Townsend

It's a little hard to measure because--

Jones

It's hard to back it up and do it without a leak.

Townsend

Yes. Once you've had the leak--I can remember there was a covert, classified program, highly classified. There had been an extended discussion about what we should and shouldn't do in that classified program. We had been very careful with documents and numbered each copy. We made it perfectly clear to everybody in this process we were not going to tolerate a leak. Well, ultimately such a program then got briefed to Capitol Hill. After that, it leaked. You didn't know where it came from. You didn't know whether it came from the participants or whether the leak came once we had briefed Capitol Hill. Here you have an incredibly important classified program. It was not all blown, but the mere existence of it now will make the target suspicious. It will make it harder to do our job.

When you come back in the room after that happens, how can you know if Secretary Condi Rice and Secretary Bob Gates won't say things they otherwise would have said in the next principals meeting because there had been a leak? I can't measure that. But I think it's true. When Condi was National Security Advisor, she and Steve would have weekly meetings, separate and apart from the principals meetings, in the National Security Advisor's office with the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, because it was a smaller meeting. One of the virtues of that was that it was a very tiny meeting and there was no paper and no staff involved. They controlled who was there and what the agenda was. So it is hard to measure what doesn't get said in the next debate after a leak.

Jones

I would expect that the suspicion about either an agency or a person would influence then the communication and what would happen in a meeting.

Townsend

And I think there was much concern--Given the lead-up to the '04 election and the leaking of some classified Iraq War information, there was real concern in the White House about the President's relationship with CIA. I actually think that concern was shared on the CIA's part. The CIA was really worried, "Will we have less access? Will he say less to us in his daily brief?" Having had his father run the CIA, the President was a very sophisticated consumer of intelligence and had tremendous respect and admiration for the intelligence community.

The answer was that he was angry at the individuals leaking, but not at the CIA. He felt betrayed by the individuals who thought that leaking was appropriate or would have some public influence, but it didn't affect his view of the CIA. It didn't affect his relationship. In fact, Josh Bolton and Steve Hadley then instituted having CIA analysts come in and talk to the President to do in-depth briefings on a particular subject. We called these "deep dives," and they were in addition to the daily briefings. In the second term, we actually had more people in midlevel positions at the CIA with access to the President than we did in the first term. The President really enjoyed hearing and engaging directly with the analysts and operators.

[BREAK]

Riley

You're a fabulous teacher.

Townsend

Oh, aren't you kind.

Perry

This is a fabulous seminar.

Townsend

That's great.

Riley

We're learning such a great deal. We talked about leaks before we took the break, and of course the [Valerie] Plame [Wilson] case happened. We touched on this earlier. I guess I'll just throw that out as a topic for conversation. Beyond the original purpose of the conversation between Karl Rove and Novak, did that ever cross your plate again? Did you have any reason to pay any attention to it, and more directly, did it have any kind of influence on the way that business was conducted inside the White House, as best you can recall?

Townsend

This is the Plame investigation?

Riley

Yes.

Townsend

Understandably, the White House's public face of this was business as usual. But people wouldn't have been human if there were not tensions inside the West Wing. Every morning the Chief of Staff holds a senior staff meeting. Andy Card did it in the first term. Josh Bolton did it in the second term. It was at 7:30, if my memory serves. Karl was on one side of the table and Scooter [I. Lewis Libby] was on the other. As the Plame investigation dragged on, it became uncomfortable. Both had lawyers. Both were appearing before the grand jury, and in the press, there was lots of finger-pointing. You could ignore it, but that didn't mean that it didn't exist.

I suppose what I'm trying to say to you is it's one thing to put a public face on: "It's business as usual." That was accurate. There were policy meetings. The President was working hard and making decisions, but that didn't mean there wasn't tension. And by the way, Rove and Libby were not the only ones making grand jury appearances. Other West Wing colleagues were getting pulled and pushed into the investigation. There were document demands and press pressures.

Pat Fitzgerald, the investigating special counsel, and I had previously served together in the Southern District of New York. We knew each other very well. When I left the Southern District, Pat took over my major Mafia case at that time. By the time I was at the White House for a while, colleagues were not shy about asking me, "What makes this guy tick?" And that included the President, who was understandably frustrated by it, and the distraction that it became. There was also some suspicion, "Why did Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey feel the need to give the inquiry to his former New York Attorney's Office colleague, Fitzgerald?"

When I left the Southern District, the team that got my Mafia case was Comey and Fitzgerald. They were a trial team in the Southern District of New York, so these guys were very good friends. We all came out of the Southern District together. It was an elite club. It was a small, tight community, and that was known to my colleagues in the West Wing. The very people that they were suspicious, resentful, and angry about were all people that I knew. Now, to be fair, they never treated me as "one of them." But they did understand that I must have had insight into who these people were and how they operated, so colleagues would ask me. The senior White House communications team, Dan Bartlett and Nicolle Wallace, asked. There were private conversations with the President about what was my take on how the investigation was proceeding. What was driving Fitzgerald?

It would be easy to ascribe in Washington, and people do, personal ambition as the driver. I said, "Look, you may hate him. You may disagree with him. But that's not what drives him." He was a guy like me, from a working-class Irish-Catholic family, who came from nothing and took the responsibility very seriously. He was also not the kind of guy who thought people with money or power should get special privileges. He would react to nothing so badly as to people acting as though they are above or beyond the system. Pat represented the system, and would not tolerate being trifled with or toyed with, because he was being viewed as beneath them. I said, "That will inspire him to be all that much more aggressive to show that nobody is beyond the law." And I said, "To the extent people are going to play ?too cute by half' with him, it's a mistake."

Riley

Did you feel that there were some missteps--I mean beyond the original missteps--that perhaps politically the relationship could have been handled better in any way?

Townsend

No. I didn't really. Pat made document demands. White House counsel produced what was asked for. I didn't say what I did about Fitzgerald because I thought the case was being handled poorly; I was not close enough to it to know. It was just fair warning to my colleagues, "Look, I don't know what your approach is to him. I can tell you which one would be, in my judgment, dangerous." To the extent they were looking to ascribe some malice to Comey in his decision, that too didn't make sense to me. He was another very Christian, decent, honorable man. Again, you may disagree with what he did, but, at that time, to my knowledge, he wasn't driven by personal ambition or malice. I had never seen that in him.

Riley

Bob Woodward wrote four books out of--Did you ever talk to Woodward?

Townsend

Nope.

Riley

You get the sense that there was a very high level of cooperation all the way to the top with him. Was it ever communicated to you that this was just business as usual, and we're happy to have Woodward around, or was he treated as radioactive?

Townsend

Well, as that was starting--I'm trying to think where I was. When I was over in the first job for the first year, '03 to '04, I was too junior and too new, even as a Deputy National Security Advisor. Nobody would have sent him over to me.

Riley

Of course.

Townsend

In fact, how I met Bob Woodward was because of his wife, Elsa Walsh, who was doing an article on [Maureen] Mo Baginski over at the FBI. She was told that I was somebody to talk to, so the way I ended up actually meeting Woodward--with whom, of course, I had much more basis for conversation as a reporter--was through his wife.

Again, the White House press office controlled Woodward's access. He was doing a book and he would ask for access to people and the press office would decide who to make available to him. It was coordinated through the White House communications office.

Riley

But he wasn't just wandering the halls--

Townsend

No, God no! And Woodward's relationship with the White House seemed to change over time. In the beginning, I had the impression that they decided he was a credible, well-respected voice. They wanted to cooperate with him. Over time--They couldn't then all of a sudden, toward the end, turn that off. It became a sort of necessary evil to deal with him, even after their view changed. They had to manage it. They couldn't just shut him off without suffering a price.

Riley

You may very well not have read the books. If you have, are his accounts accurate?

Townsend

By and large. Look, he made some mistakes, but by and large--He uses this very interesting technique, where he will act like he knows a fact and he will get one person to confirm it, and then when he talks to a second person, he will state it as a fact and say he's got it confirmed. Then he will add to that fact and try to get the next person to confirm something new without you realizing what he has done. In trying to weave a narrative that he is not a firsthand part of, it was an incredibly effective way of writing and researching. He is very good and he has real access. Because he's such a credible and respected voice, he has access, because people just want to be with Bob Woodward.

Riley

Of course.

Townsend

They don't realize they are actually dumping things to him along the way, because he's very conversational and very charming.

Jones

It's interesting that his first book was criticized because it was too in favor. I always had the impression that that influenced him in writing his subsequent books, because in town, so to speak, he was not used to being criticized, and that probably influenced him some. I don't know for sure.

Riley

Chuck, you're not going to be with us tomorrow and I'd like to look to you, because you may very well have some questions that we want to get into. I'm happy to let you take the lead for the remainder of our time today.

Jones

OK. Back on press relations: It struck me, at the time, that you had quite good relationships with the press, personally. How do you explain that? Because not everybody did, in the administration. Did you have any press relations when you were in the Clinton administration?

Townsend

I did, but very little. They had me talk to the press a couple of times--mostly on background in the context of the Wen Ho Lee case--but very rarely. I didn't have much press interaction at Justice. I had none at Coast Guard. In fact, when I first started to do some press at the White House, I asked for media training. They said, "Absolutely not." I said, "Why?" And they said, "Because you talk like a normal person and we really don't want to gussy you up. We don't want to polish your edges off. To the extent you don't speak perfect TV [television], it's a good thing, because you sound authentic and credible. You sound real."

The President used to tease me, "If you tied her hands down to her sides, she couldn't talk." Because you could see the bar where they would put my title up and you could see my hands going. When I left government and I went to CNN [Cable News Network], I asked, "You know, can we polish me up and get me media trained?" Again, they said, "No, not really. The White House was right not to give you professional training."

I really just always attributed it to what the professionals said, and that was, speak in short regular sentences just as any normal person would. I was just a normal person in an extraordinary job at an extraordinary time. But I got it. I got why it was important to them.

You know, during the London liquid bomb threat, when we took the investigation down and created the three-ounce rule, I did a whole round of media interviews. It was the afternoon, and it was Chris Matthews, Hardball with Chris Matthews. Chris decided to ask me something that no one in the dozens of interviews up to that point in the day had asked me. He said, "What about sippy cups? You've been on innumerable times and said, ?I'm the mother of two young boys.' You have children. What happens when the kid comes through the security line and he's got a sippy cup? Are they going to take it away because it's more than three ounces of liquid?" The truth at that moment was, we didn't have a policy on sippy cups. We had not thought of a sippy cup policy, so we didn't have one. I decided, while standing there on live television, that this isn't brain surgery. It's just got to be common sense, right? So I said to him, "Of course not."

Mind you, Secretary Mike Chertoff, out at DHS [Department of Homeland Security] headquarters was watching his television. There was no policy and it was clear that I made it up on national television. I said, "Of course they're not going to take it away." He said, "Well, then what's the policy?" I said, "Look, if a kid's got a sippy cup, the screener is going to give it to the child, tell him to take two or three long drags on the juice. If the kid doesn't keel over, he can take it through. If the kid keels over, then we know we've got a problem and we'll take it away from him." Chris said, "Well, it's nice to see there is a common-sense approach." I thought to myself, They're bound to have a clip of some guy taking a sippy cup away. Sure enough, he runs that clip for me, so I said, "Yes, we shouldn't be taking sippy cups away. We should apply common sense."

I came off the White House North Lawn, where we had the press assembled, and I had just completed the interviews. I came running in, and I went down to my desk to call Chertoff and said, "Look, I'm really sorry. I had to make it up on the fly. Please issue a policy statement." And we both laughed about the sippy cup policy. Mike had kids and I had two kids. We knew what made sense and we just did it.

Jones

Were you concerned at all about an unintentional leak? How were you able to manage that, to make certain that something didn't slip?

Townsend

I worry to this day. I talked about it before I came in here. I worry about it every day I go on television. Today in the press, when I go on, one of the things--There was a press report saying that President [Hamid] Karzai is alleged to be an asset and paid by the CIA. And CNN then wanted to know if I could talk about it. You go through 36 questions in your mind: Well, do I know the actual, honest, straight-up answer to the question? How do I know that? Depending on what the answers to those questions are, What can I say? You begin to live a life that's constantly going through that filter.

Jones

Sensitivity training.

Townsend

But it's a constant filter. It's a filter telling stories at the dinner table. It's a filter here. It's a filter when the camera comes on. But it's not a filter I've got to turn on. You come to live in this conundrum because you've got to do it constantly.

Jones

Did you find there were journalists, whether TV or the print people, where you really felt comfortable and these are people who are credibly working at the old-fashioned journalism, and if so, who?

Townsend

Well, I will say, and you all brought up Woodward--He's a guy who's got so many good sources. When I found myself in a conversation with him, I was very careful. Even something as innocuous as saying to him, "How do you know that?" you might inadvertently confirm to him that he had gotten it right. You really had to clamp down your ability not to blink with him. Print guys tended to be really good, because they had more time to invest in it--David Sanger of the New York Times. Great sources. He cares about a handful of issues that he has deep knowledge and expertise on and he focuses his time on that, which means he does it very well.

It was a rarer thing in television. We used to laugh, common sense ought to be able to get through the usual three-minute interview, because the three-minute or four-minute interview means whoever is asking the questions has a typed page in front of them from a producer. They are generally not listening to your answer; they are reading the next question. They have little ability, and no time, to catch you out if you make a mistake. In a three-minute interview you can deflect; you can never answer a question; you can pivot to make some other point. Somebody who is bright enough on their feet can move through a three- or four-minute interview without getting hurt. It's a question of your own confidence, your ability to project that confidence and your substantive expertise. If you can project that confidence, you can easily push your way past the person asking the question.

The greater challenge is in the long-form interview. Careers have been lost in long-form interviews. You have in your books what I have routinely said is the best interview of me ever done, which was the Jim Lehrer interview. There is a great story to this interview: The President and White House announced that we were proposing major intelligence reform. Condi, Andy Card, and I did the White House press briefing in the briefing room, and were going to do television. Lehrer's producer called the press office and said, "Lehrer wants Fran Townsend." This went to the press office. People frequently came in asking for Condi. Rarely did they ask for me by name, so the press office went to Condi and said, "Jim Lehrer wants Fran."

Jones

I've forgotten what the date of that was.

Townsend

This is just before--August '04. I believe it was before the election.

Jones

OK.

Townsend

The date was significant, because the press office said to Condi, "We want to offer you to Lehrer." As rare as it was that anybody would come asking for me, it was inconceivable that they could ask for me, be offered Condi, and say no. But that was exactly what Lehrer did. PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] said, "We don't want Condi. We want Fran." Now the press office was sure there was a problem. It was a long-form interview. I had never done one, and I was going to do my maiden voyage with a journalist that they regarded as among the best in the business, and it was August before the President's reelection in a very tight race.

Jones

You've been in the Homeland Security job for about three or four months?

Townsend

Right. There was no love nor enthusiasm in the West Wing for this whole idea. But Condi and I did intelligence reform together, and I had done all of the substantive work--the Hill, all of it; interagency--and I knew the subject best. So I thought, You're going to ask me about something I know. You're going to ask me about something I've written. This shouldn't be too bad. I was getting ready to leave to go to the interview; I really admired Jim Lehrer, so I thought, I'm feeling pretty good about this.

Condi called me as I was leaving and said, "Look, Jim Lehrer has interviewed me. I know you will do fine, but I want you to take a minute and think about this. You're really smart, and getting through the three-minute interview is not a challenge for you. You do it very well. But careers have been lost. Careers have ended in a 20-minute, long-form interview with a really well prepared, very experienced journalist. His job is to make news with you. He's really not interested in your regurgitating our talking points for him. That's why it's 20 minutes, because you can't do that for 20 minutes. I'm not going to kid you; the White House press people are worried. This is election season and everything about it is hyperpolitical. This is going to get played back to the President. The last thing you want is something you say quoted to the President in the form of a question during an interview or a debate." I hung up with her and then I was really worried. [laughter]

Riley

Thanks, Condi.

Townsend

She began and ended with, "You're going to do great." But 20 minutes is a lifetime in television. It's is a long time.

I went, and I was really--It was the only time I really thought to myself, Oh, my God, let me not make a mistake here. Before the Lehrer interview, as I was entering PBS, Jamie Gorelick was coming out. Oddly enough, Jamie Gorelick had also been there for an interview with someone else. She was leaving and we said hello, and I, for some reason, found that reassuring. She smiled and said, "Gosh, I remember you when." We had a nice conversation. After that, I had time alone in the green room. I thought to myself, Just listen. The key here is to not get inside your own head. Listen to him. Listen to the question.

I equated this to dancing. He was going to lead. I was going to make up my mind to follow him, and if I didn't like the question, I would try to manage it in a different direction. But more or less I had to be willing to go with the flow of this thing.

The interview turned out--not by my judgment, but by others' in the press and political offices--It went so well that when they were subsequently pulling tapes of journalists' prior interviews who were going to be asking questions in the Presidential debates, they had the President watch Jim Lehrer's interview of me, to understand Jim Lehrer and understand how best to deal with Jim Lehrer.

Jones

Geez, I'm glad I asked the question.

Townsend

Yes. I didn't know that. Gary Edson, who was responsible for the President's debate prep, told me, "We pulled your Lehrer interview tape. We had him watch it, because it was that good of an interview."

During the interview, we were sitting across from each other, sort of as you and I are, at the catty-corner of the table, and I could see his notes. It was not a typed set of questions. It was handwritten; he had prepared his own notes to himself with prepared follow-up questions in the margins. Lehrer listened to me very carefully. What I learned was that he didn't seem to care if he got through that whole page of questions. What he cared about was the conversation, and what made me comfortable was that it was a conversation. Yes, there were TV cameras and lights on, but he was so comfortable with himself and so well prepared on the subject, I didn't have to educate him before getting to my answer. He is smart and was very well prepared, so it was a real conversation.

The only other one that came even close to that--and it was not nearly as good--was a Charlie Rose interview. And that was more because, over time, Charlie had gotten less conversational and made it more about Charlie. Charlie now has a point of view on things, and thinks he has the gravitas to have that point of view. You can feel that. I can remember when Charlie and I did a shorter interview. I knew what Charlie thought of my answers and I knew what Charlie thought of the subject. That was the defining difference with Jim Lehrer. I had no idea what Jim Lehrer thought about intelligence reform, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was really interested. He wanted to understand my point of view. He was sincerely interested in knowing the answer to his questions and was an exceptionally good listener.

Jones

So he was engaged and without an agenda--seemingly without an agenda--apart from finding out how you--

Townsend

Right. And he had clearly spent significant time and effort preparing. He had read the bill; he had read the press releases; he had talked to other people before he talked to me, so he had a context for the conversation, which was unusual.

Jones

Just one other question on that: Any appearance was cleared through the press office?

Townsend

Yes.

Jones

Including print?

Townsend

Yes. There was a whole process by which the press corps came onto the White House compound. They couldn't get onto the compound without getting cleared through the White House press office, so I couldn't have invited a journalist in for a cup of coffee without approval, because he would have press credentials and the press office would know.

Riley

Unless they are members of the press corps, right?

Townsend

That's right. But even they are restricted to where in the White House they could go, so they couldn't wander around the West Wing. It was all very carefully orchestrated. It didn't prevent someone from getting on a telephone or meeting a journalist outside the White House if they wanted to.

Jones

Was that true with Cabinet Secretaries as well?

Townsend

There were two ways that worked: The Cabinet Secretary could have what's called a hard pass, which lets them come and go from the White House as they please, and it was recorded when they would come and go into the White House's 18 acres. Or they could come on with their security detail, who brought them in, and in that case, the detail members have the hard passes.

Jones

I really mean as far as the clearance--

Riley

Journalists getting access to Cabinet members.

Townsend

Oh, I'm sorry, I misunderstood. No, because access to Cabinet members was different and it was handled by their respective department's press office. Some press was directed by the White House. The White House press office might direct journalists to them, but mostly, the Cabinet Secretaries had their own press officers and controlled it themselves. They heard about it from the White House if they stepped off message. The one thing that the White House absolutely, uniquely controls for the Cabinet is the Sunday morning shows. That was a White House decision each week about who would be available to appear. Cabinet Secretaries could not do that on their own. If the Cabinet Secretary wanted to go on a Sunday show, that was not without somebody in the White House approving it.

Jones

My other area of questioning is something that would have been better for tomorrow morning, but since I'm not going to be here, I'm going to--just because of the complexity associated with it. As I look at your career, you have been involved almost from the start, at least working in the federal government, with what I might label "planning for the unanticipated." I'd like to have you reflect on that some. It's come to be such a critical area.

The whole Katrina thing, that this guy's very interested in, too, is a natural-cause matter, but certainly the terrorist attacks, where is it going to come from--all that--How do you go about thinking ahead to what is yet unanticipated, in a specific sense? Clearly, we know there are natural disasters; clearly, we know there are possibilities of terrorist attacks; but how do you design policy and how do you get in a mood of thinking in that manner, especially in a bureaucracy?

Townsend

I smiled when you asked the question because--I used to say this was a tailor-made job for me because I am a worrier. My husband says, "If everything is going fine, you'll find the thing that you're worried about, that you're going to cogitate about." It's true. I am not a pessimist--

Jones

I think that's general. You just described my wife.

Townsend

It's not that I am a pessimist. I say to my children as I give them advice, "If you can imagine yourself in a bad situation and imagine yourself dealing with it, then if it does happen, you will be better prepared and better able to handle." Part of this is having the presence of mind, because if you've imagined it, then you've lived through it. And if you've lived through it, you've survived it, even if it didn't go well. So you then have the luxury of thinking, Well, with a little bit of time, here are the other things I would have done to have handled it better.

While that's sort of a sloppy way to describe it, it's accurate in terms of personally who I am and how I view things. I brought that with me, that baggage, if you will. But boy, it was uniquely suited to this type of work, when you look at the national preparedness goals and you look at what the scenarios are that I wanted to protect against. Someone asked me, "Why haven't we been more successful against the potential for a nuclear attack?" The current President has said it's a likely scenario. Congress has said it, when they were asked in the '08 and even the '04 campaign, the most likely terrorism scenario, and while the country's made lots of progress, we haven't made as much as we might, because in some regards there is this part of the brain that nobody acknowledges that says, "I put that in the too-hard category."

That's the part of the bureaucracy that I think you're talking about. That was really hard, to force the bureaucracy to get into a disciplined mindset of saying, "Yes, this is a really hard problem that we probably cannot totally solve, but I can reduce the likelihood of it happening and I can mitigate the potential consequences by doing things against pieces of it." And that is good. That is OK. But we can never again allow ourselves to put anything in the "too-hard" box in a post-9/11 world. Bin Laden warned us what he was going to do to us. And we said, "Oh, he's crazy. He doesn't have the capability." And the answer is he did do it. So when our enemies threaten us, we no longer have the luxury of saying, "Oh, well. They can't; they won't."

Bin Laden said that there is a fatwa, a religious edict, that says it is OK to use a weapon of mass destruction against a civilian population. That had been out there probably for about ten years. That was not out there because it was just hyperbole. They intended to do it. They may not have had the capability when he said it, but we can't write it off just because it's ten years old. And I do worry about it.

The problem for people inside the government is that they always have too much to do, not enough time to do it, and never enough resources. I had to prioritize, and the way things tended to get prioritized was, what is the threat du jour? What is the thing that the Cabinet Secretary is getting criticized for, blamed for, or pressured on at the moment? Not, necessarily, what's the greatest threat? The entire bureaucracy gets pulled in a direction by its leader, depending on what the crisis of the moment is.

Steve Hadley and I talked about this when we were in the White House, and Steve had a staff devoted to strategic planning, a small team walled off from the daily grind to think long term. His was on the foreign policy side. I had a preparedness director who thought about these sorts of things, but it was very difficult to get the agencies themselves to do it. There was a policy office in DHS that did important work, but getting a team focused to look over the horizon was very hard.

When I left government and began giving speeches, people would ask, "What did the President want you to do?" I said, "Well, what he really wanted me to do is to be able to see around corners." No one can really do that, but based on our experience, I was able to anticipate better than most. Based on what we had lived through and what we knew, I could better anticipate what was around the next corner, and that was of real value, whether it was to the President or now to the CEO [chief executive officer] of a company. The innate ability to anticipate around a corner, if you can see around it, is a gift, is a talent, if you are good at it.

Jones

Can you relate that to a policy or, in a sense, a preresponse, that is, preemption? What is required for knowing enough to justify preemption? Because it struck me that the President determined--Correct me if I'm wrong--that 9/11 would not happen again and that the most obvious thing on the horizon was Iraq, so that justifies preemption, which requires an enormous amount of intelligence, I would think.

Townsend

He and the prior administration, the Clinton administration, thought our intelligence on Iraq was better than it was. After the [Laurence H.] Silberman-[Charles S.] Robb Commission [Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction], the President had me conduct a review of the report and the recommendations. I worked with the Commission and then made a presentation to the President on the need for implementation of those recommendations.

The current context in which I think of preemption is Yemen. Yemen was a problem going back to my time at the White House, that I know well. Everyone is now acting like Yemen is new, and even the current administration talks about how they have turned their attention to this. Well, the Clinton administration and the Bush administration and now the Obama administration--We have been dealing with Yemen for many years now.

To your question, "When is enough, enough? When does it justify preemption?" I will tell you I think there is no more specific basis that you could ask for than Anwar al-Awlaki, who is an American-born, Yemeni cleric who has been behind both the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing, and his history goes back to his connection to the 9/11 bombers. Awlaki made not only his intentions clear, but he has manifested capability over time, so there is no reason not to believe that he is going to act again. You asked me about preemption. I think he is a classic example where preemption is justified.

Having said that, that doesn't answer the question, "What does preemption mean?" Do I mean that we ought to level Sana'a? No, I don't think every preemption has to be a military preemption. It was in Iraq. We've got to ask ourselves, what are the options other than a full-scale military response?

Look, I had to smile when recently there was another Afghanistan debate and Vice President Biden was saying we should use Predator, a more at-a-distance approach, where we would just use Predator. The Clinton administration tried with the TLAM strike, and it did not destroy al-Qaeda. It just didn't. The Predator program during the Bush and Obama administrations had been much more effective, not because the Bush administration and the Obama administration were better than the Clinton administration; it was the fact that our intelligence was better.

In the Bush administration, over the course of two terms, we doubled the operational resources of the CIA, so we gathered more intelligence. Not all of it was great, but it was a lot better information, so that made the strikes much more effective. When you put the politics to the side and look at the investments in dollars, it has gotten to be more effective.

I do think with Yemen it is another example of a weak, ineffective central government that has alliances with people who support our enemies, tribes in a dangerous part of the world where the host government's only objective is to sustain itself--to survive. [Ali Abdullah] Saleh just wants to survive, which means he is not a very reliable partner for us. That must be a component of the calculus in the decision of when to use preemption. Can you persuade the host nation to be a trustworthy, reliable partner, so it is not us acting alone, but us acting with him?

Jones

In your experience, and can you give some examples, what is learned by an unanticipated event? Katrina was a natural disaster and there was a report, of course, that you were in charge of, that is truly helpful for another unanticipated event, given the nature of the problems of anticipating what's going to happen. The 9/11 Report, I suppose, as well.

Townsend

I viewed these, and you can tell from the way I wrote Katrina: Lessons Learned--There is only limited utility in the backward look at what happened, when, and by whom. There is much greater value in the strategic look: What did I learn about our capabilities and weaknesses that ought to inform how we prepare ourselves for future events? REDACTED TEXTREDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT

That said, if you don't want to spend every dollar to get the capability to prevent or respond to the hundred-year storm, then you must ask, "How can I mitigate the consequences, not just of that?" You don't serve the government or the people very well if you're just "fighting the last battle." But there are strategic capabilities we now know that we need that will be useful in responding to or preventing any number of catastrophes--whether it is a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, and that is what I really tried to focus on.

The Washington Post editorial really irritated me--I saw it in your prep book. It called the Lessons Learned report a White House "whitewash." It is an unfairly harsh characterization. No one expected when they asked me, including the President when he asked me to do a lessons learned, that I would come back with 170 recommendations. When I did, folks in the White House thought I was kidding. There were some White House colleagues who were not happy about that. But in the 170-some-odd recommendations were not just things that fixed the problem or addressed the problem of the Katrina response. What I wrote was a road map toward building a stronger, more capable government to anticipate and respond to any crisis, regardless of the cause. Unfortunately, the report is no doubt collecting dust somewhere.

Roberts

When you have these things in the too-hard category: disasters, a terrorist or a natural disaster, or an industrial accident, and you say we can mitigate damage or we can reduce the likelihood, does that work, politically? Or do you get pushback from people politically or from the media, who want to say we can do this, or we can't do this? It seemed that maybe Chertoff, because of the media, got into some of these frames or debates.

Townsend

He did. I can understand that Secretary Chertoff felt very snakebit by the entire Katrina experience. It was humbling in the sense that he realized, even if his department had worked perfectly, the response would not have gone well. There was value in preparing the American people, and acknowledging, "We can't protect you all the time, from all harm." We, the U.S. government, needed to be honest about that.

There was also an element, and I had long believed this, of instilling in people a sense of personal responsibility. It is not just the government's responsibility to protect you. You have a responsibility to provide for yourself and your family to the extent you are able.

I use the example when I talk about Katrina: If you are healthy and you fail to take care of yourself in a crisis, in a natural disaster, it means that, for the limited number of first responders we have, you become a burden on that system, which means the first responders are not getting to the paraplegic, the elderly, the ill, who cannot do for themselves, and that's wrong. Healthy, capable individuals must take personal responsibility. The first responders ought to be able to get to and focus on those who cannot do for themselves. We don't ask our first responders to make those judgments, and I am not suggesting that we should. But it is this whole idea of instilling in people a sense of personal responsibility and the whole notion of getting communities to say, yes, that's right, we will not wait for the federal government to get here, because we can and must do for ourselves and our community. I thought that there was much to be learned in what incentives the federal government can and should provide to people to motivate them to do just that.

In hurricane season each year in Florida, residents can buy, sales tax-free, their hurricane-preparedness kits. That is just one small example, but there are many good models. That is one good model of public and private partnership. The government, at all levels, has tremendous power that it often doesn't use very effectively to encourage good behavior that reduces the burden on government emergency services.

I think we should provide tax incentives to businesses to do better about preparing their business and their employees. We should work with the insurance industry on what insurance rates are charged to businesses that are well prepared and meet certain minimum standards. But none of this is particularly sexy in the policy world, and it's all very hard to get to when you're contending with imminent terror threats like al-Qaeda and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Roberts

I wonder if you might say something about how you came to be assigned to take the lead on this report, and then why the vehicle of a report was chosen, as opposed to some other response?

Townsend

The President had traveled to New Orleans to give a speech in Jackson Square. I was in Washington dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. I was not at all dealing with his speech or any of that. I was back in Washington, and there were political concerns. There would inevitably be congressional hearings. In fact, Congress was threatening to appoint a 9/11-type commission to look into the Katrina response. The way to get in front of this was for the President to actually say, "I want to know what happened here." So, there had been initial discussions at the White House about conducting a lessons learned review, so we could better understand what went wrong and how to strengthen the federal response.

If nothing else, it would allow us to get a fuller understanding before having to answer to Capitol Hill. That was the tenor of the conversation. Clearly, once you have decided that, then the next question is, well, where does he announce it? The President was going down to Jackson Square. Although I was not consulted, the decision was made that he ought to announce the lessons learned review in Jackson Square. But the minute the President announced it, someone better have a plan for who was going to do it. And that was apparently the thing that was left to the last minute. Who was going to do the review?

Andy Card, the President's Chief of Staff, was the guy who needed to have the answer to that question. I was sitting in my office the evening of the President's speech, working and waiting to watch the President's speech, when I got a phone call.

Andy called me and said, "Are you going to watch the President?" "Yes." He said, "You saw the last draft?" I said yes. He said, "He's going to announce the lessons learned." I said, "Right." He said, "The press corps is going to ask and we are going to tell them that the President has assigned you to do it." I said, "Me? Really?" He said, "I've talked to the President and he wants you to do it." I said, "Well, you recognize, I and my staff were involved in monitoring the response." I had no operational responsibility, so that wasn't going to be the issue, but there was going to be someone who objected to my doing it. Andy replied, "Look, let us worry about the politics of this, or what's going to be said in the media. He wants you to do it." I said, "Fine."

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Jones

Would that she had talked to you earlier. [laughter]

Townsend

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The lessons learned was also an issue Mrs. Bush cared about deeply. She was determined that the President get an honest report. Clay Johnson came to speak to me about it. Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush's Chief of Staff, came to speak to me, privately as well, both with the same message. Anita said, "Mrs. Bush really cares about this, and if anyone tries to interfere with what you want to tell the President--She wants the report to be honest, and if anyone tries to interfere with you, you are to use one of us to get to her. If people poorly served him, and she thinks they did, she wants an honest report. No kidding." Every couple of weeks, one of them would come to me and say, "How's it going? Mrs. Bush wanted me just to check in and see how you were doing." Clay and Anita both made clear that if I needed to speak privately with her or the President, they would arrange for me to see them in the Residence on a weekend. God bless her. I would never have presumed to jump the chain of command, but boy, what a reassurance to know I had this "In Emergency Break Glass," back channel if I needed it.

I'm assuming there had to be conversations between the President and the First Lady about this, because the President would call me up, and rarely did staff meet completely alone with him. I mean, I did, but it was more unusual than not because generally you were having some substantive conversation that another staff member had an interest in. But the President too would check in with me every so often, and call from the Oval Office to say, "Come on in. Shut the door." He wanted to know exactly what I was finding. He would ask me about particular people. How did they perform? Was he misserved? And he would question me about his own performance.

Cabinet members and the President's most senior staff really worried. I had been given the power of the pen in this circumstance, and there were those afraid that I would use it. Without malice, just based on the facts, the report could have destroyed people professionally. When I say "destroyed," there were plenty of people who could have gotten really hurt professionally. I was mystified that people were really worried about my doing that, because it was not at all my personality or style. What good would that have done the President? I didn't go into it with the notion of hurting anyone or assigning individual blame; this had been a systemic failure. All I went into it with was the notion of writing an honest report that could be useful to the country, so we could do better the next time.

REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT I wanted to write a document that was going to leave the country better prepared. That was my sole goal, and it was going to be honest. And I didn't want anything edited out. As we came to the end of the process, some folks got irritable and concerned about what was included in the report. Did some folks try to get me to change things in it? Yes, but that never happened.

Then there were people unhappy about the fact that the Lessons Learned report had as many recommendations in it as it did, or that it was too long. One senior White House person chided me, "The President didn't need for you to write a book." But I said, "Look, nobody gave me a page limit. I wrote the report I wrote. If it's too long, then they should have had somebody else write it. It's written now." The President was great. He never questioned the substance nor the length of the report.

Jones

What's the likelihood, whatever the report, however it turned out, that the Washington Post editorial would have been headlined anything other than "White House Whitewash"?

Townsend

That's exactly right and that is precisely what I feared. But I didn't hear any of that from the Washington Post. That was not lost on me.

Jones

Actually, there are positive things in the editorial.

Townsend

Yes, there are. And that was my hope as long as I wrote it straight and was entirely honest. The interesting thing is that the night before the President released the report, the White House communications team went over a whole public rollout plan. The morning of the release I went into the Oval Office and was photographed presenting it to him. Of course, I had already briefed him about the content of the report. We then went from the Oval Office into the Cabinet room, and the whole purpose was for me to present the report to the Cabinet. I presented it and walked them through the dozens of findings. After that, the press pool was ushered into the room. Later that day, I walked into the White House press briefing room and did the press briefing.

As little as I am, I had probably lost ten pounds in this process. I had dark circles and I looked like hell. That evening my mother called and was my harshest critic. She said, "Oh, my God, you looked awful." I had been sick. The night before releasing the report, the press and communications team, Nicole Wallace and a whole bunch of other people, sat with me for three hours and took me through a mock press briefing. They were the press corps. The communications folks warned me, "They are going to tear you limb from limb because you are a White House insider having written this report. Just make up your mind this press briefing will be miserable, but it is an endurance test. Eventually it's going to be over and eventually you're going to come back to your office, but we have to do this so you are prepared, and you don't wilt."

Of course, it's not my personality to wilt anyway. The harder I got punched, the stronger I always stood. But they did it, and I went home that night in dread of what the press briefing was going to be. Remember, at this time, Scott McClellan was still the press secretary. He had been getting his head kicked in every single day. He looked like the kid on the school blacktop, you know, the little kid that gets bullied every day, and it was painful to watch.

Scott too was absolutely certain I was going to get destroyed. We released the report to the press corps while I was in the Cabinet room so that they would have a chance to look at it before I came out to the podium. Scott introduced me. I stayed at the podium for about 45 minutes or an hour until the press corps was out of questions. No one asked an uncharitable question; the press corps was tough and asked hard questions, but could not have been nicer or more respectful, and I walk out on cloud nine, like, "That wasn't so bad." McClellan was aggravated. He said, "I don't believe that. They do worse to me every single day."

I think some of that was that the press corps was stunned. There are 170-some-odd recommendations in there. Whatever the criticisms were, you could not say that I didn't think there were ways the federal government could have done it better, and that there were things we needed to do to improve. It was an absolutely unvarnished view of the many things the federal government needed to do to improve itself.

Riley

Was there a concern about the opportunity costs in time and attention in directing your shop to do this, as opposed to keeping your eye on the external threats that are the other part of your portfolio?

Townsend

Yes. I was also worried about that. Part of what we did to mitigate that was I built up a separate staff to do the lessons learned work. Steve Hadley agreed to let me bring people over from the NSC side. I took some of the people off the HSC side. I also hired independent contractor support. While there were a number of things I had to do personally, such as visit the Gulf Coast region, talk to the Governors--Those were things only I could do. I held meetings with businesspeople, first responders, health care professionals, and nonprofits. But the writing of the report, based on those meetings and the review, I could give my team guidance and send them off to bring back a first draft. I lost count of the number of drafts. They would give me the report in chapters like a book and I would rewrite them and send it back to them with questions and edits.

I had help with the graphics. By and large, we did most of the writing over the Christmas holiday that year, which was a pretty quiet time, to the extent that there was any quiet time at the White House. And so, yet another lost holiday, but we got a lot of the writing done so that by the time everyone else came back from holiday, I was in the final drafting and polishing stage to ensure the report was complete by February. The goal was to get it out before the National Governors Association meeting with the President in February and in time to prepare before the next hurricane season.

Roberts

Insurrection Act.

Townsend

In the midst of the Katrina crisis, the President had made a statement about possibly invoking the Insurrection Act. After Katrina, the President thought that maybe we should look at it and maybe change that to make it easier for the President to invoke. During Katrina when President Bush first mentioned the Insurrection Act, his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, said publicly, "Absolutely not." [laughter] So we had this uncomfortable disagreement and I was dispatched to go down to Florida to speak with Jeb about his views and understand his position.

Riley

Can you tell us about that meeting?

Townsend

Yes, sure. The bottom line with the Insurrection Act was we wanted to get the Governors comfortable that we're not looking to invoke it as a means to usurp their authority, nor to politically embarrass them. Governor Bush ran the best preparedness and response capability of any state in the country, because it was Florida and they had lived through Hurricane Andrew. This happened to be an area that was Governor Bush's sweet spot. He held strong views and he spoke very credibly on the subject. I would have gone and talked to him about hurricane preparedness and response regardless of his disagreement with the President.

So I went to Florida, and there was no going there and not talking to him about his point of view on the Insurrection Act. He understood. Governor Bush said, "Look, the reason I came out so strong against invocation of or changes to the Insurrection Act is you cannot set the rule based on the lowest common denominator. The President is right that Louisiana failed to exercise their own responsibility and authority, but if you set the rule based on Louisiana's failure, you disincentivize the rest of us from spending money on preparedness and learning how to manage these crises." And he said, "You don't really, nor does he, want to do that." He was right. He said, "Look, the President reacted in a moment of frustration. You need to step back and look at it."

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It will be interesting for me to see what the President says in his book about it. This was a tough issue about whether or not he should have federalized the National Guard and triggered the Insurrection Act. He and I spent a lot of time talking about it when I was doing the lessons learned review. In hindsight, the President believed he should have invoked the Insurrection Act. I strongly disagreed; I believed that he was right not to do it. I don't know that I convinced him. He was concerned that I was reluctant to criticize him, but that wasn't the case. I just thought he was right. The President and I debated this several times during my review.

Roberts

Were you involved during the actual Katrina event in these discussions? And did you field calls from--Michael Brown still maintains that he tried to convince the White House to invoke the Insurrection Act and thought--

Townsend

Brown had a relationship with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, and also with Andy Card. Brown didn't think that he had to deal with me. He went directly to them. REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT So, some communications went through the White House Situation Room and sometimes, if you knew how, calls would go directly to the ranch. Deconflicting and making sure all the information got put together in one place was a challenge.

The other thing was, at this time, during the initial crisis, you had Claude Allen running the Domestic Policy shop, and there was an inclination on the part of Andy Card to think, Well, this wasn't a terrorist attack; it was a domestic event. This was a domestic incident that had a long-term implication in terms of rebuilding. So, Andy initially decided that the Domestic Policy staff should lead it and the Homeland Security Council would support them.

Riley

And you've got an African American--

Townsend

Yes, and I get to all that, but of course, he and they had no experience managing a crisis. That was not what the Domestic Policy Council cared about. They were responsible for things like education and health care policy. This was not what they did. The Homeland staff went through a period of thinking: If it's their decision to have Claude Allen lead this, then we will be the best support he has ever had until he fails. It was just that he was not really up to this game because he lacked the experience. The White House was not asking him to do what he knew. By and large, his support came from the HSC staff pulling together the interagency and feeding him the necessary information.

Ultimately, I finally at some point went up to Andy Card and said, "You know what? This is not about me. I don't care, but I just don't think we're serving the President very well to pass the updates through Claude, who then has to come back to us with follow-up questions that he can't answer. He is not value-added in this instance. Let the HSC take more ownership of this thing," so the responsibility shifted to the HSC over time.

Riley

I think in fairness to you, we'd better call it quits today. I hate to do this for Chuck's purposes, since he'll not be back, but you had your shot.

Jones

I did. Yes.

Riley

Again, thank you. It's been absolutely fascinating.

Townsend

Oh, good. I was saying to Chuck, I care that you get what you think you need from me, and I'm happy to spend the time however is best for you.

Riley

Oh, absolutely. We'll pick up tomorrow on further stuff on Katrina and march back and try to deal with some things there.

Jones

Actually, I told her, it's one thing to get answers to the questions. It's another to actually understand the question.

Riley

This is true.

[BREAK]

August 27, 2010

Riley

One of the things that we always insist on with each of these projects is that we maintain editorial control, and the projects work best when you get dissenting voices, too. With the Clinton project, we were sure to find some opposition Members of Congress, the guy who wrote the "Harry and Louise" ads, and things like that, which sort of set Clinton's teeth on edge. But they know that you've got to have that if you're going to get the whole picture, so I appreciate your saying that. You had said that there were some things that you thought you wanted to be sure to get to. Why don't we start with those if that's OK?

Townsend

Sure.

Riley

Obviously, we have other things we want to bore into as well.

Townsend

And you may, in the course of your questions, get to some of this. One of them was--I think it is important for people to appreciate, whether you agree or disagree with some of the policy decisions that were made, Condi and I both said it: For those who were part of the Bush White House, every day that they were there post-9/11 was September 12th, and every decision, every crisis, all went through that filter. I couldn't have agreed with her more. It was even more poignant for those who had been in the White House on September 11th, like Condi and Steve, but it was true for all of us. Everything had this incredible sense of urgency and we all bore the weight of responsibility for the lives lost on 9/11. From the President on down, we felt a personal responsibility to make sure that never happened again.

Other than to say those words, I don't know how to better convey that sense of urgency, but it was palpable and it was very real. Every threat--whether it was the 2004 financial centers threat, the 2006 planes threat, it was all through that lens and the notion that if we failed, we failed not simply the President or ourselves but we failed our fellow citizens. It was just unacceptable; it was impossible to fathom, so we were going to do everything that needed to be done that was legal, ethical, appropriate, and within our power to prevent another attack.

Riley

Sure.

Townsend

I just don't know that anybody who wasn't there will ever fully appreciate it, but it is worth noting for history the impact that 9/11 had. We were a product of our experience and it certainly colored how we viewed the threat.

Riley

I think it helps interpret actions that are taken across the board, especially in foreign policy then, things that you look back on and you ask, "How in the world did this happen? What was the rationale behind this happening?" The easiest way to explain it is the mindset of the kind of emergency--of 9/12. In what you saw, was there much time spent reflecting on personal culpability for these things, or was it just too forward-moving?

Townsend

Remember, I got there in early 2003, and the President and the national security team were very focused on Iraq. The U.S. seized Baghdad the day that Condi interviewed me, so there was not a sense of looking back. And I will tell you that was not the President's mindset. He used to say that his MBA [master of business administration degree] served him well in the sense that he believed he was the CEO, so it meant that he was responsible for picking good people, giving clear direction, and then holding people responsible for implementing his direction. I found that to be a great strength. I understand that there are times and people where someone might say that was a weakness. But the President's confidence in his people was very inspiring. You always wanted not just to meet his expectations but to outperform his expectations.

Even when I looked at Katrina--He and I both were of the mind that there were, across the board, many people who could have and should have performed better at all levels of government. It was not merely a federal thing. When I reviewed the response, it was not going to be productive for the country for me to point fingers at state and locals, as deserving as they were. And then for me to decide to only point fingers at those in the federal system would have skewed it. They weren't the only people responsible. In the end, although he and I didn't discuss that specifically, his mindset was never one of, who are we going to pin this on? His mindset and mine--and this may explain how I wound up being asked to do it--were exactly the same: How can we make this better so the next time there is a tragedy of this consequence, the country performs better at all levels?

That meant, as we would say, all God's children had to put their arms around one another and make up their minds they were going to march forward and improve the system. There was no notion of looking back.

Riley

Right.

Townsend

If there had been someone who had been particularly egregiously at fault, I don't think the President would have hesitated to fire them or hold them accountable. I didn't mean to suggest that, but that was not--All of these issues where the government failed, or didn't perform as it should have, were viewed through the lens of our responsibility to make sure it works better. And the President made clear I was to focus only on the federal response; he did not want us to lay the blame on state and local officials, who clearly had also failed, even worse than the federal government.

Riley

Right, but part of my question was about the personal reflectiveness of the individuals that you came to know very well, Condi Rice, for example. I would just think it would be human nature, after an event of the magnitude of 9/11, for people--maybe this had already happened before you came back in the orbit--to sit down and think, This is terrible.

Clearly there were signals in the system. If you go through the 9/11 Report, you see the accumulation of these things. I don't think that they hold anybody culpable there, either. But, by the same token, because of the gravity of what had happened, and the sense of personal responsibility that I think is a feature of people who rise to high levels in public service, I'm just wondering if you had had any experience with people who were in a reflective moment thinking, Gosh, I wish I had done this. Or I missed the signal on this. I'm going to redouble efforts so that will never happen to me again, rather than a sort of generic, We've got to get better next time.

Townsend

If that happened, it happened before I arrived. I can't say for certain, but the crushing pace of everyday business in the White House doesn't permit it. You were working 20 hours, seven days a week. In the other four hours, you were trying to sleep, exercise, get clean underwear. We were down to real basic things. Those are not jobs that permit you the luxury of introspection. Speaking for myself, it wasn't until I left--and it took me time, physically, to recover from the sheer exhaustion of it--that you have moments where you can think back and reflect like that.

Riley

How long did it take you to get it out of your system?

Townsend

I'm smiling because before leaving I said to myself, "Oh, I do transitions really well. I've got a plan. I've got a list. That won't happen to me." Everyone warned me it would, including people like Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Rich Armitage, and I said, "Not me." The answer is, I went through it just like everyone else. Just to give you an idea: I used to get up around four o'clock in the morning so I could exercise before I went to work. I had to get in very early because the senior staff meetings and the President's briefs started very early, so I couldn't sleep until a normal hour in the morning after leaving the White House. I could not get my sleeping pattern back to normal for months.

Riley

You mean afterward?

Townsend

After I left the White House. It took a really long time. I'd be up in the middle of the night padding around the house. I wasn't upset about anything; I just couldn't get my body to adjust to a new routine. Then I went through a series of, also not unusual, health problems. I told my doctor, I had received perfectly good health care while I was in the government. He said, "You know, adrenaline is toxic, but it is also a protectant. You were not conscious of the symptoms because you, by necessity, just kept moving forward."

It took me maybe three or four months to sleep normally. Then physically it took me probably eight months before I was sleeping, I was exercising and I had a schedule. It took a while, longer than I expected. I was really surprised.

Roberts

And the Lessons Learned report was not one of those reports that just sat on the shelf; it was something that people relied on and read. And there were other reports, the Senate report, and other reports going on. Did you know how you were going to structure that report from the beginning, and were you of one mind with the President? Were there different alternatives? Did you have to go back to the drawing board?

Townsend

It's interesting because, consistent with what I said, I got the mandate, but the President didn't ask me how I was going to structure it. I put together a staff to help me. And I had a deputy who helped lead the team. Before I could talk about policy and recommendations, we had to all agree on what the facts were, which was going to be no small matter. I also wanted to make Lessons Learned readable, which meant it couldn't look like just one more government report. It had to be readable in the 9/11 Commission report sense, so it needed graphics to explain the findings, and it needed to be well written so it could hold the reader's attention through the end.

I picked a woman on my staff who had her PhD [doctor of philosophy degree] from Tufts, Michele Malvesti. We worked very hard on the narrative and making sure that the narrative was one that conveyed the facts, but also engaged the reader. It was also important to me that the report honored, and was worthy of, Katrina's many victims. I got no direction about the structure. I gave the staff some general guidance about my vision and how to frame it around particular topics. I wanted the facts, and then what were the buckets we were going to organize the recommendations into. We had to organize the report in some logical way. But getting the facts right was first. That took more time than I expected.

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My reaction to this draft was important. If I had overreacted to the first draft, I feared that they would take from that that I wanted to hide bad news. That was not at all the case, but my concern was if that was the tone of the fact section, no one would ever read the recommendations part. I said to them, "This is an opportunity for us to change the nation's preparedness. If we write the facts this way, nobody will ever read the recommendations. The headlines are going to be about the facts. We've already had misleading and incorrect headlines about the facts. People basically understand the tragedy that took place. We must write this differently if we are going to get people to read the recommendations and make a real difference."

The staff was great. They immediately understood the point that I was making. I think the more senior folks on the team put it in front of me with some trepidation because they didn't think that was what I wanted, but they rightly wanted to give me the option to write the report that way.

Riley

Were the fingers mostly pointed at the state and local folks?

Townsend

They did some of that. Now it's too long ago and I spent no time on that one, so it is hard for me to remember. REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT

So we went back and we worked on it. That's why I say we spent time working on the narrative. It was really important to me to make sure, in honoring the people who were killed or hurt, and their families, that we got it right.

Another driving objective for me was to get a 360-degree perspective in the way that federal government perspectives rarely do. I didn't want to just talk to people in government: federal, state, local officials. I wanted to talk to all the people who had played a role. That meant first responders, nonprofits, religious groups, doctors, businesspeople who had tried to help. In the course of Katrina, I would be at my desk and a CEO would call me and say, "We want to get blue tarps to Mississippi and I can't get through the security barricade. Your folks in FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] tell me, ?Give it to us and we'll move it,' but we can move it faster and more efficiently." Because of those observations and complaints, I wanted to talk to businesspeople about how we could do better. I spent time with the Business Roundtable.

I wanted to discover where the private sector centers of excellence were for the different tasks we had to accomplish, and how I could then make recommendations to pull support in from the private sector. In the example of the blue tarps--Bob Nardelli was the CEO of Home Depot at the time. Bill McDermott was still the CEO at SAP. Both were leaders of the Business Roundtable. I asked them to make recommendations to me. These companies run supply chain management, either for their business in the case of Home Depot, or systems in the case of SAP. "You guys make a living at supply chain management. Can you help me think through how the federal government can improve our supply chain management?" So they made recommendations.

I will tell you, there was a real sense of frustration because when the private sector offered to actually provide assistance, there were government regulations about denying them information that they needed to assist us because they might theoretically benefit from the information later in a bid process. It became clear that the procurement rules worked against the kind of public/private partnership I thought would be most useful. In the end, I believed that you could get CEOs to take midlevel rising stars in the private sector, and detail them into the government for a year. The government would benefit from applying their knowledge and experience, and in turn the private sector would learn about the government and how it works. After the one year, the private sector folks would get transferred back to their companies and get promoted. In the long term, private sector executives would understand government requirements better and it would be great for the government to have imported expertise that we didn't have.

We have these kinds of arrangements with academia, where a professor can serve in government for a year or two without losing tenure, and government officials can study or teach for a year. Both sides benefit, but getting such an arrangement with the private sector was impossible given the rules and restrictions to manage it.

Perry

Can I ask about the drafts of the report? We talked yesterday about availability or nonavailability of written materials in this day and age. Are those available? Will they be available? Did all those drafts go off to the archives? I think folks will be interested in knowing, as years go by, how these reports came together.

Townsend

It's a good question. What would happen is, in the editorial process, I would get a draft in hard copy, just because it was easier for me if I was sitting in a car or on a plane. I would mark them up and give them back to my staff. I'm quite sure I did not archive them, because I made edits and changes and returned the marked-up draft to the team to make those changes. Hopefully, they ended up in someone else's archives, because there were lots of drafts. They won't be in my record, because as I said I had hard copies that I edited and returned to my staff.

Riley

Is it a good idea to join the natural disaster component with the antiterrorism component in a single organization?

Townsend

You mean about the FEMA/DHS?

Riley

Presumably within your portfolio you've got two of them within the Homeland Security Office, although that may be a function of the agencies.

Townsend

Yes, I think it's easier at the White House policy level, because both involve preparation, readiness, mitigation, defense, and recovery. Both involve crisis management. At the operational level, there are good arguments on both sides. Again, if you take away what the cause of the crisis is, once you have the crisis to deal with--the disaster, man-made or otherwise--there are certain response capabilities that are required, regardless of what caused the crisis. So it is better to have them in a single place where they are practiced and easily accessible.

Within DHS, there were understandable concerns about budgeting, but those trade-offs would be made regardless. Today is the fifth anniversary of Katrina's landfall, so this morning I was up watching morning television and saw Mike Brown make a number of statements. He was genuinely concerned about FEMA budgeting and trade-offs inside DHS. I understand that. But to presume that you wouldn't have suffered the same budget problems if FEMA was outside DHS is just not accurate. Across the government and federal budget process, OMB is making trade-offs. Those trade-offs would have been made somewhere. Brown seemed to believe that if he had been his own budget advocate directly, he would have done better. Maybe, but not necessarily. I don't know that there is a good argument for having FEMA as a freestanding, independent agency.

I did look at this when I did the Katrina: Lessons Learned, because I thought, if there was an honest-to-goodness benefit, we should consider it. But this was not an option that anyone in a position to do so was even considering. However, Senator Hillary Clinton asked to speak with me on this issue during the review. She was incredibly well prepared when we met. She knew I had worked in the Clinton administration, and knew I was doing the lessons learned. She took the meeting, was exceptionally well prepared, knew in detail the arguments on both sides, and the meeting went longer than planned. She was eager to have this policy conversation, knowing I was writing the report.

She felt strongly that FEMA should be separated from DHS and be an independent federal agency. She felt that with James Lee Witt running FEMA during the Clinton administration and having it as a separate independent agency it had worked better. I was not persuaded because, in a post-9/11 world, I didn't believe the cause of the incident should drive the response, nor where it sat organizationally, so I did not recommend moving FEMA out of DHS. But to be fair, I took it seriously enough as an argument that I did look at it in the course of the review.

Roberts

You were involved in important debates defining what Homeland Security should be. Some people in the Bush DHS and elsewhere thought that the department should remake its component agencies around certain functions like preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery. Some other people thought the department should be more of a holding company with maybe some new personnel rules, but leave its component agencies to define their own missions. Where did you come down on what the DHS should be?

Townsend

I never really bought that you had to make a static either/or decision. I actually believed you could evolve over time to the substantive preparedness/response piece as part of your move to integrate its components. I do know that DHS has left its component agencies independent, in terms of defining their own missions, for too long. That's part of the explanation for why you haven't seen the level of integration and efficiency that was intended.

Having said that, I am sympathetic to the idea that you've got to be careful about how you go about that integration. There are some very rich, proud agency histories, and for good reason, in places like Border Patrol. You want them to retain their pride in their agency and their mission. So I believed that you wanted to migrate, over time, to the preparedness and response, substantive areas of responsibility, but I thought it was a delicate balance about how you were going to do that.

The DHS procurement system--I thought there was much they could learn, given their size, from DoD, in terms of personnel and procurement and all of the support and supply chain functions. Frankly, I was frustrated by the tension between DHS and DoD; I think that relationship improved over time, but it was not always particularly productive.

Roberts

Could you talk a little more about the relationship between DoD and DHS, and your role on the Homeland Security Council in negotiating that before, during Katrina, or in general? Did that fall to your position?

Townsend

Let me step back. Some of this requires an understanding of DoD's view of the Homeland mission writ large. There is a legendary memo from Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld to Wayne Downing when Wayne is the Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. This was when the President signed an Executive order establishing the Wayne Downing position, which was my first job at the White House, and calling him the national coordinator for counterterrorism. This was before 9/11 and the establishment of the Homeland Security Council. Rumsfeld wrote a memo to Wayne Downing that basically said--and someone else could quote the exact language to you, it is in the archives somewhere--"I don't recognize this position. You are not a constitutional officer. You certainly don't coordinate me."

That memo got handed down to each person as they came into that NSC office, to warn them about the working relationship with DoD. Downing gave it to [John] Gordon and Gordon gave it to me. That was the starting point. It went from there. Over at the Homeland Security Council, Rumsfeld was perfectly clear, polite but perfectly clear, that he didn't believe there needed to be a separate council. Homeland security was a subset of national security. It was too many meetings and he just wasn't going to deal with it or me. So we all had our own ways of dealing with that.

In my first year or so, I once approached Rumsfeld, and he was very open about it. It wasn't like he was sniping. He was perfectly clear about what his view was. I said, "Nothing would please me more. It wouldn't be the first time that I did a job so well it was done away with. I'm happy to work myself out of a job." Truthfully, there was a point in time when I was half persuaded myself. I thought he had a point.

At one point after being promoted, I went to Condi and said, "You know, I was your deputy before. Why don't we think about merging the two councils?" In fact, when I first took the Homeland job, when I was reluctant about it, I said, "Here's what we'll do. I will take the Homeland job, but I will still be Condi's deputy. We will merge the councils."

Andy Card's reaction was, "This is very un-Washington. We've offered to promote you and you're going to find a way not to do that. What does Condi say?" I said, "Well, it never occurred to me; I haven't asked her. Let me go back and talk to Condi." And Condi said, "Absolutely not. There are not enough hours in the day for me to do what I currently do. We're at war in two theaters; we have all sorts of other foreign policy issues. You need to report directly to the President on this issue. No." So that was the end of that.

I revisited it when Condi went to the State Department as Secretary of State and Steve became the National Security Advisor. I decided to take another shot at it. I got no further the second time. Steve said, "It's not like we have more than 24 hours in the day now." And the answer was again no. In the end, I testified before Congress when the Obama administration came in and they merged the two councils. I had to smile. I said, "Look, I tried this myself twice and didn't get anywhere."

There are only two important factors and it otherwise doesn't matter how you organize these White House functions. The Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor must have direct access to the President in an emergency without having to go through anyone else, whether that is the Chief of Staff or otherwise. You can't use that emergency access very often, and I rarely did. I typically called Andy or Steve, "I need to get to the President," before I went to him, so they were aware. But you must have a clear mandate to have direct and immediate access to him without asking anyone's permission.

The second thing you need is, depending on what your areas of policy responsibility are, you must have the resources that are required to do the job. You can't be given responsibility and not the resources to implement it. I was concerned because the Homeland Security Council always had fewer resources, fewer people, than the National Security Council, so it was a constant struggle for resources. But Condi, Steve, and I worked so closely together that we shared resources. In my opinion, if you meet those two criteria, how you organize the White House staff doesn't really matter.

Roberts

And during the disaster that is crosscutting across agency responsibilities or departmental responsibilities, does it take someone in your position or some similar position to go to the President to get these agencies or departments to cooperate?

Townsend

Yes, absolutely. Typically what would happen is you would call a Homeland Security Council meeting and you would have the principals, the Cabinet Secretaries, around the Situation Room table. To the extent there were problems, probably 95 percent of the time you could break past the bureaucracy at a principals meeting, which I chaired. Often, just scheduling the meeting got the issue resolved before the meeting even took place. You would have Cabinet Secretary A who was having a problem that they couldn't resolve with Cabinet Secretary B. If I or another White House colleague picked up the phone and got involved, the Cabinet Secretaries knew that if we couldn't deal with it among ourselves, it was going to the President. That alone was real incentive to resolve the issue. But it often did require someone at the White House with access to and the confidence of the President to resolve these things.

Riley

Is there an example of this? Other than Katrina, were there any other major natural disasters where you could use that as an illustration of what you were doing?

Townsend

There was friction between DoD and DHS. Mike Chertoff is a friend. I have known him a long time, going back to our days as prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Chertoff had real frustrations with Don Rumsfeld, when there were points where Rumsfeld would not return a phone call from Chertoff, or me, for that matter. So it was difficult. Now the other option, before you go to the President, was going to the Chief of Staff. So oftentimes I would engage--back in those days it was Andy--to help with DoD.

Riley

I don't want to get too far removed from this, but this is an add-in for me to ask this question, which I've had on my sheet here for a while. You served under two Chiefs of Staff. I wonder if you could talk a bit about their respective strengths and weaknesses and how you dealt with them. Then I'd like to get a longer reaction from you about the role of the Vice President in all of this, in your dealings in the White House.

Townsend

Styles were very different between Andy and Josh. Andy had the affectionate nickname of Uncle Andy and he was very much uncle to everybody. He talked to staff at all levels, the assistants to the President, the deputies, everyone. You couldn't allow yourself to be offended if Andy had spoken to somebody at a much junior level on your staff about how things were going, because that was who he was and how he managed, kind of the old "manage-by-walking-around" thing, which was fine.

Josh, on the other hand--not that he didn't do that, but Josh was crystal clear. There was never any ambiguity. When Josh gave you direction or Josh had an expectation, it was clear what it was and he was equally clear if you had not met that expectation. Josh also has a wicked sense of humor. I am from New York, so sarcasm is OK with me, but you had to be willing to roll with it. Josh could dish it and he was also good-natured about taking it. Josh was very smart, very loyal, but equally demanding. He was my kind of boss; you always knew where you stood. Andy, on the other hand, was a much more fatherly, gentle soul. Their styles were very different.

I talked yesterday about Steve's and my view that we didn't get a policy vote unless we were asked specifically. It was to be the honest broker and run the policy process. Likewise in the Chief of Staff's job you have to decide what your responsibilities are. At one end of the spectrum it can be to protect the President. That can mean anything from trying to deal with things in advance so he doesn't have to, and that is important. It can also be keeping information from him that you think it is better for him not to have. Most times the Chief of Staff does some of both in an effort to ease the President's workload and ensure the best use of his time. Mostly the Chief's job was to make the trains run, to make sure policy was implemented, whether it was dealing with Congress, dealing with the executive branch, or solving personnel issues. Josh was very much the COO--I'm going to make the trains run. I'm going to keep the staff focused--and it's a tough group of people. You have a team of Type-A players, all of whom are very driven. That was Josh's idea. He was going to make the trains run.

Andy had, equally with the President as he did with us, a much more Uncle Andy view: I'm going to make sure everybody is OK. I'm going to control the information flow. That was not Josh at all. It was very interesting. Having worked for both, it would not have occurred to me--If it was possible to get to Andy, I would never have gone to the President without going to Andy first, because Andy would not have been happy. And, by the way, if you did try, the Oval Office staff would have sent you back to Andy first. That was never an issue for me. There was never a crisis where I couldn't get to the President, because I had clear instructions that I could.

Josh, on the other hand, I can remember early on in his tenure we had some crisis, and because that was what I was used to doing, I called Josh. Josh said, "If you need to talk to him, why are you calling me?" I said, "I just thought I'd let you know." I hung up and called the President. It was very different. I don't know if I ever really adjusted, because I would be preparing to call the President and stop to ask Josh first. Josh had lived through a couple of these crises that I dealt with and I took it as a sign of his confidence when Josh said, "I don't want to slow you down. You can call me after you talk to him." But if it was possible for me to call him first, I would, just because, frankly and on a personal level, Josh always asked good questions, after which I was better prepared to speak with the President. But Josh was very OK with it. You knew if he had confidence in you, and if he did, it was, "Go and do what he has hired you to do. You don't have to come to me for everything." It was just a very different feel in the West Wing.

I also think people took Andy's gentle, fatherly manner as a comfort. He was not typically confrontational in his style. With Josh, everybody was a little more on edge. Josh clearly had the President's confidence and the ability to say, "You don't work here anymore." Josh came in, and in short order people who had been sitting around the senior staff table were no longer working there. If you want to get people's attention, that will do it. I can remember going into Josh's office when he had first gotten the Chief of Staff job, early in the President's second term. I had gone to Steve first and said, "Hey, look, it has been an absolute privilege to be here, but I want Josh to have all the flexibility he needs, and I don't want him to ever have to ask me, so I'm thinking of going in to him and offering to resign." Steve said, "You know, I think it's the right thing to do. I'm going to do the same thing."

I remember going in to talk to Josh, and I did it more than once, because he had made a couple more changes, and I never wanted him to have to ask me to resign. When I would offer to leave, Josh, in typical humor said, "Why is it that the people you don't want to leave offer to go, [laughter] and the other people you've got to actually call in here? It's unbelievable." It was very funny. I can remember the second time he said, "Stop. Trust me, if I want you to go, you're not going to have to come in here." I said, "I know, and I don't want to ever have that conversation."

So it was just very different. Their management styles--I'm not being pejorative one way or another, but their management styles were very different.

Riley

And from your perspective the President seemed to be equally happy with the two different kinds of styles?

Townsend

There was such a long friendship with and affection for Andy, going back to the President's father's Presidency. They had been together so long. I said earlier the President's delegating to people can sometimes be seen as a fault. I think that there are people--If the President had a weakness, it was loyalty to a fault. If he loved you and had an affection for you, it was very difficult for him to see your weaknesses. I have to tell you, I say that with a great deal of love and affection. I can't fault him for that; to me it was most often a strength. I really admired the President's deep sense of devotion and loyalty. Whether it was Andy, or it was Don Rumsfeld, or Al Gonzales--Were there folks who could have moved on sooner? The President never would have done that. If he loved you and was devoted to you, even if it wasn't good for the Presidency, or it wasn't good for his political capital--If he believed in you, there was nothing like it and he didn't care what the press or those in Congress thought.

Riley

And the Vice President, tell us about--This is a person who, from the exterior portraiture, has a very prominent place in the administration. I'd like to get your take on it.

Townsend

Sure. Understanding how I arrived, I am given to understand, true or not, that those who were not enthusiastic about my White House arrival were in the Vice President's office. Whether or not I rose to his attention, I have no idea. That didn't hurt my feelings. My attitude was it was perfectly understandable. I kept saying to everybody when I got hired, "Do you know I worked for Janet Reno?" No one seemed to care. Finally, in the Vice President's office, there was a group that seemed to really care. It seemed to bother them. My attitude was "Well, that makes perfect sense to me." I didn't take that at all personally.

As in most times in my life when I have had to confront that kind of challenge, I thought, I just have to persuade them. I have to convince them that they can have confidence in me. Once I was there, I really didn't have any problem with the Vice President's office. The Vice President had a staff that was very actively engaged. It was clear to me that any memos that came up to Condi should be shared freely with the Vice President's office, that they were our complete partners in the policy process. I continued that same approach when I chaired the Homeland Security Council. I invited the Vice President's staff to every policy meeting on every level in the policy process. I sought their input. They were very actively engaged in my issues, which were of particular interest to the Vice President. As policy was being developed, if there was some concern in the Vice President's office at a more senior level, most of my interaction was with Scooter Libby, who was incredibly knowledgeable, incredibly helpful, and very much engaged in my issues and cared about them. He was more than available and a helpful advocate.

I always said that the outcome of a White House meeting was determined by your preparation and work before the meeting. If you were waiting to see how it turned out at the table, you had already lost. So you always worked the issue before you got into the room. Because the Vice President's office was such a force in the policy-making process, particularly in my area, if I needed help on a particular issue, I would talk to Scooter Libby or David Addington before the meeting. And there were times, although it was rare, where I thought, I need the Vice President in the room. His mere presence at a principals meeting, that he would personally come to a meeting--I can't remember what the issue was--sent a signal to the principals, and had an impact.

More often than not, given my area of policy responsibility, the Vice President was an ally. I cannot think of a single instance where he was an opponent to something I was trying to accomplish.

Riley

So you weren't the victim of any sort of back-channel communications or anything like that from the Vice President?

Townsend

No, not that I was aware of. In fact, when I was getting the Katrina: Lessons Learned report ready, we were coming into the last stages, getting ready to roll it out, and I went and did a briefing of the President, who wanted to ensure that I briefed the Vice President, as well. I wanted to do a personal briefing of the Vice President because he was likely to be asked about it and what he thought. In addition, given the Vice President's long government service, it was important to solicit his perspective and advice. I will never forget the day that I briefed the Vice President. It was the day he left for the hunting trip in Texas, where he had the shooting incident. It was the Friday before he was leaving.

The Vice President spent an incredible amount of time with me, and we went through the report in detail. He made important and substantive suggestions. He looked at the recommendations and would tell me, "You need to talk to So-and-So. We did a report--" He was a walking encyclopedia of these policy issues, and was incredibly supportive. He was nothing but helpful and supportive.

Having said that, I should say that it is not widely understood that there were many policies and programs that were put in place before my arrival at the White House that he controlled access to, and that I was not read into. I don't say that to distance myself, but I say it as a factual matter. The enhanced interrogations program, the warrantless surveillance program. There is an article in my binder that recounts the Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey story. I just realized there had to be another classified program, which, if correct, I was not a part of either--this notion of taking individuals to secret prisons, known as black sites, or putting them in Guantanamo. Somebody in the press said, "Well, you would know if that happened." I said, "If it happened, I wasn't read into it. I wasn't part of it." I only knew about it, when there was an announcement from the President.

Riley

It's not clear to me why you would have a piece of it anyway.

Townsend

Well, most folks thought, These are all counterterrorism-related policies and you are his point person on CT [counterterrorism]. How could you not know?

Riley

I understand.

Townsend

I frankly think that because those policies were in place before I arrived, the policy debate had taken place and the decision made--Whether they were good or bad decisions, or whatever the potential consequences or benefits were, those decisions had already been made. Reading one more person like me into those programs, who might offer a different opinion, would not have been particularly helpful. They were also worried, for very obvious reasons, about leaks. It was not particular to me, but these programs were very tightly held. In the wiretap program in particular, I had been an expert in national security wiretaps, having run that Justice Department office that reviewed those warrant applications. There was a substantial risk in bringing me into the program. I did not think it was a risk, but I could understand their concern, given my expertise. Suppose I had a different legal view? There had already been a DOJ legal review of this program. It was working, so they hardly needed me.

In the enhanced interrogations program, I stumbled across intelligence that caused me to suspect there was a program. I remember being told, "Yes, there is a program. You're not read into it and you don't need to be." I remember going to Condi and Steve, because I was the person responsible for countering terrorism threats. We came to understand that they were getting real intelligence out of the interrogations program, and I was then helping to coordinate the response to that intelligence.

It was hard to imagine why you would want me to pick it up at that point and not want me to understand more about the source and credibility of the intelligence, so I went to Condi and Steve. I said to them, "Look, I've been in Washington long enough not to be offended by not being invited to certain meetings or being read into restricted programs, so it's not about that, but you have to know I tripped over this program. I just want to ask you straight up, ?Do you want me involved or not?' And I need to know that, whatever your decision, if I'm not read into it, that it's not because you don't trust me. Because if that's the issue, I shouldn't be working here."

Riley

Sure.

Townsend

They were very kind. They were together and Steve asked, without confirming it, "You know there's an enhanced interrogation program?" I explained that I had a sense of who was being interrogated and generally the kinds of intelligence being gathered, but nothing more. Steve's view was that I had as much information as I needed. "You don't need the rest of it. You just don't need it." REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXTREDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT It was an incredibly selfless, generous act. I didn't really understand it at the time. He said it to me and I said, "Enough said. It's fine. Whatever you need from me, I'm here if you need me. In the meantime, I've got plenty to do." I didn't ask about it again.

In a similar way, I had tripped across the wiretap warrantless surveillance program. You could not have the legal experience and background that I had, and see the intelligence come in, without tripping over it. Analysts and briefers who knew my background assumed that I had been read in and had been consulted. That was how I tripped across that program. Again, I can remember going to Condi and saying, "Is this something I need to know about?" And she said, "No, and please don't mention it to anyone else. Whoever it was shouldn't have said anything to you."

Riley

And you were getting actionable information out of these sources?

Townsend

Yes, out of both programs. Think what you will about the morality and legality of the enhanced interrogations program, but we were certainly getting information that painted a picture of al-Qaeda that we didn't otherwise have at that time. The wiretap program--I think Bob Mueller had a different view. We got actionable intelligence, but the question then became, How valuable was it? Did it lead to actual cases? Mueller's view was This is a nuisance. The FBI gets all these leads and they don't go anywhere. It just creates more work and distraction. I think that was an overstatement. We got actionable intelligence and I think it was helpful in terms of understanding connections between bad actors.

Riley

Did you develop a sense about whether the chaff that was created in these sorts of forces was outweighed by the wheat?

Townsend

I don't know that I remember, given that I was at the White House. I was only getting the wheat; I didn't see most of the chaff.

Riley

You're getting what is perceived to be the wheat.

Townsend

Exactly.

Riley

I'm trying to find out from your perspective--You're getting information that Mueller's got to run down, which evidently he didn't believe was actually leading to results that he valued in relation to the effort that he was having to put into it. I guess I'm trying to get a sense about the relative merits, again from a historical perspective. You've already said that every day was 9/12, and the problem with 9/11 was that there were bits and pieces of things that didn't get put together in a whole pattern. So it's understandable that people would be hypersensitive to the individual pieces of evidence. I'm just asking you to reflect back on whether it was your experience that there were enough fruitful leads out of this that it compensated for the amount of unfruitful stuff.

Townsend

I'm smiling, because this was an issue that I saw exactly as the Vice President saw it. Relative weights, wheat and chaff--I don't care. What was a burden to Bob Mueller, I saw as an opportunity, because if it only made that connection one time, it was worth sifting through all the chaff in the world if it prevented even just one attack. That was the Vice President's view--I don't mean to speak for him, but that was my clear impression of his view, and it was certainly mine, so I was a little impatient with the whole wheat/chaff argument.

The one time that I can point to where this came up was in the 2006 airplanes liquid bombs threat. The Director of NSA was not typically included in the daily briefings, but because Keith Alexander had a role to play and something to contribute, I included him. He would brief us on the surveillance information that was accessible to him and Mueller would roll his eyes, because that then generated leads for the FBI to run down. But there was, at one point, very valuable NSA-contributed material that led to developments in the case and that led us to a significant point in the takedown of the investigation. So if the FBI complained, after that, that there had been a lot of unhelpful intelligence, it didn't matter to me, because there was that needle in the haystack. Even if there was only one, it was a useful one, so we were going to have to deal with it until we developed some better system for discerning what was important.

Riley

Let me phrase it differently, from a historical perspective. There wasn't another 9/11. There was one, and I think if you had surveyed both the American public and people serving in positions of public authority on 9/12 or 9/13, within the next month, we would have expected there to have been another one. Were we just lucky, or is it the case that the reason we didn't have a follow-up was that there were exceptionally talented people devoted to an enterprise that paid off?

Townsend

You've reminded me--It's probably a longer story than you want.

Riley

Impossible.

Townsend

After I left government, I was asked to give a speech by Ray LaHood, who later became the Transportation Secretary. He was still in Congress then. He was having a district day with a group of his constituents in Washington. It was in the heat of the Presidential campaign; in fact, it was toward the end of the Democratic primary. I got to the room at the Library of Congress very early, and there was no air conditioning, so it was very hot. I was sitting listening to the speaker before me, who I didn't recognize, but he had this wonderful melodious voice. He was handsome, and he was giving a speech about how he believed in the impossible.

He went on at some length: "I believe in the impossible. Frederick Douglas had gotten the right for African Americans to vote, and Barack Obama is going to get the nomination. Susan B. Anthony fought for suffrage, and Hillary Clinton nearly got the nomination. We can do the impossible." He had turned this into very much a political campaign speech for Barack Obama. He said, "We can do this, and I believe in the impossible."

I was slated to follow him to talk about terrorism, which would not be nearly as inspiring. I looked over at the Congressman and he gave me a big shrug of the shoulders. It was one of those moments when you say, I'd better put my speech down, because this is no longer going to work. It turned out that the person speaking was Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. He was the impassioned preacher and must have gotten it from his dad, the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The answer to your question was in my speech. I stood up and I said to the audience, "You know, we have something in common, the Congressman and I. I, too, believe in the impossible. But here is where we are different: I, with the help of tens of thousands of people who you will never know, actually did the impossible, because on 9/12, if I had asked you if there would be another attack, you would have all said, ?Absolutely.' And we prevented that."

I went on to explain that--and I think this answer is also the answer to your question--no, you can't chalk it up to luck; that was just not possible. When you look at the number of threats that came at us, and the amount of time, effort, and money we put against that--Even with all of that, it never was guaranteed that we would be successful. You have heard the now old adage, "They only had to be right once; we had to be right every day." We, in the executive branch, put in so many different layers, so many different nets, that even if one of them failed, it was much more likely that the next net would catch it. Everyone walked away from 9/11 with a sense of personal responsibility.

The FBI needed to do things better. The CIA needed to do things better. The CIA was horribly underresourced after the end of the Cold War. The Bush administration doubled the size of both agencies' operations, officers, and resources. When President Obama came into office, he increased our military and intelligence activities in the tribal areas, and was very successful at it. I don't take any of the Obama administration's success away from them, but they were able to do that because over the course of eight years the Bush administration doubled the size of the CIA human intelligence-collection capability, so they had the necessary intelligence to accomplish what they wanted.

I am not trying to give President Bush undue credit, but it is important to see this effort as part of a continuum. We tend to view the history of each President in distinct boxes. This happened with President Clinton; this happened during Bush's Presidency; and this happened during the Obama administration. Much of it is connected, and we should not permit Presidents to take all the credit for the good parts and blame the bad parts on their predecessors. The success in the tribal areas was part of that continuum, just as the problems with the economy are part of the continuum, and both crossed multiple Presidencies.

Roberts

Future scholars and White Houses will want to know about different options for organizing intelligence information flow to the President. Could you talk about your views on different ways to organize information flows to the President?

Townsend

Before the 9/11 Commission report came out, there was a Saturday morning when I was still in the Deputy National Security Advisor job. I went to Condi and said, "I think we need intelligence reform." I did a presentation for her and Steve that I had worked on. She said, "This looks good, but this is a big undertaking. We have to go to the Chief of Staff and the Director of OMB." Josh was Director of OMB. We went in on a Saturday several weeks later; Saturdays were an easier time when people could sit and listen. Also, if you didn't want it to get leaked, you had a smaller group on a Saturday.

We went into the Chief of Staff's office and walked through it. Andy's response at the time was "This is very interesting, but the President is in a dogfight for reelection. Assuming we get a second term, this is a second-term project." Then a few months later in August 2004, lo and behold, out comes the 9/11 Report. Congress was working on intelligence reform and the Prevention of Terror Act, and suddenly the work I had done became pretty useful and immediately relevant. It helped frame our thinking. It didn't drive it, but it framed our thinking in terms of how to interact with the congressional overseers: Porter Goss, Jane Harman, [Susan] Collins, and [Joseph] Lieberman. How should we work through this? There was by no means a uniform view inside the executive branch, nor even inside the President's Cabinet, on the subject.

Initially, the CIA didn't like it; they liked being the Director of Central Intelligence and having oversight over the entire intelligence community through the community management staff. You had to get them to acknowledge that the community management staff at the CIA had been the stepchild. It had been off to the side and only an ancillary duty for the CIA Director. That was not a reflection on the community management staff nearly so much as it was a natural reflection on the time constraints and priorities of the Director of the CIA. The CIA Director was responsible for operations and covert action. So, cross-community standards and budgeting were not nearly as urgent of a priority for him. It therefore got less of his time and attention.

The Director of the CIA had never really shown significant interest in that responsibility; the CIA just didn't like the idea of losing it. My point was, let somebody else do that, so the CIA can focus solely on operations and analysis. Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin came around to being OK with it, but then the question became What was the DNI job beyond the community management job? I really did believe there was value in running the intelligence enterprise. But then you had to ask, What's in the enterprise? Most of the intelligence budget, without talking numbers and percentages, was in DoD. So what do you put in this enterprise for the soon-to-be Director of National Intelligence to have responsibility over?

To say there was a dogfight in the policy process about the three military intelligence components--National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency [NGA], NSA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]--would be an understatement. It was a dogfight. Interestingly enough, General [James R., Jr.] Clapper, who was running NGA; and General Hayden, who was running NSA at the time, had tried to go to the Secretary of Defense, and he was very unhappy to hear them say, "We should consider moving into the proposed new single enterprise."

After Secretary Rumsfeld shut them down, they came to me. You would have to talk to Clapper and Hayden about the consequences of going outside the DoD chain of command and stepping off message from DoD. On the other hand, DoD also spoke with congressional Members on Capitol Hill. They went to Representative Duncan Hunter. Secretary Rumsfeld and DoD made clear to Duncan Hunter that they didn't believe military intelligence components should be pulled into this new enterprise. DoD objected to the dotted lines of authority between those components, a Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and the proposed DNI. Another big issue was whether or not the Director of National Intelligence would have budget authority and personnel authority. DoD's position was that the DNI could look at it and give guidance. If the DNI disagreed with DoD, he could go to the President. On personnel issues, the DNI would have an opportunity to review who was going to get appointed to these intelligence positions, but he could not fire them.

But each of those cuts at the authority of the DNI had an impact on his overall ability to be effective. It worked better in some respects after Bob Gates became Secretary of Defense, because Gates came from an intelligence background. He had run the CIA. He understood the importance of the intelligence enterprise. Having him at DoD was a real benefit. But now what we have seen, across administrations, is because the authorities given to the DNI in the original legislation were not clear, the success of the DNI position became way too dependent on the personalities.

President Obama's first DNI, [Dennis] Denny Blair, had a horrible time, because he and CIA Director Leon Panetta had friction. In addition, at that time, you had John Brennan in the White House, who was a former CIA officer who had a deep understanding and knowledge of the intelligence community and the ability to direct the intelligence community from completely outside, which also undermined the DNI.

The President has to decide what he wants the DNI to do. It must be clear, and once that has been decided, the DNI must be given absolute authority to meet those responsibilities. Truthfully, I don't think we, in the Bush administration, ever got that right, and I don't think President Obama wanted to take that issue on. I have tremendous respect for Jim Clapper, but if you leave the authorities as they are and you leave the position as it is, all you can expect from Jim Clapper is his ability to influence, at the margins, across the intelligence enterprise, whether it is standards for training, standards for dissemination, or analytic assessments. The DNI can set standards, but without real authority, his ability to really move the enterprise is severely limited. The center gravity and power remain with the CIA and, at the time, Director Leon Panetta. The good news is, he did a phenomenally good job. In fairness, I should say that I sat on his external advisory board.

Panetta is a man who served ably and well for decades. No one knew how long he was going to stay at the CIA. We went through another upheaval in the intelligence community when Leon Panetta chose to move to become the Secretary of Defense. Bob Gates said he was not going to stay at DoD through President Obama's first term. Each one of these--Each time you move one of these people, it has a dramatic effect on how the enterprise runs, and that should not be the case. The government is an institution and it should not be about particular individuals. It is an enterprise. Unfortunately, the way the DNI is structured, I don't see the political will to fix it.

Roberts

Could you talk a bit about what kind of information about intelligence is best for the President's valuable time? And then the debate over whether the President is best served by having multiple competing sources of intelligence and analysis, or whether the President is best served by having one digest of that and then going beyond that at his discretion?

Townsend

When I first arrived at the White House in a post-9/11 world, the President and the senior White House staff were getting what we used to call the terrorism threat matrix. Oh, my goodness, it included every walk-in and unsubstantiated threat and it was going in a flap in the back of the President's Daily Brief book. So my first order of business when I became the Deputy National Security Advisor was to pull that out of his Daily Brief book, because it was not a good use of his time.

That level of tactical detail, most of which had not been vetted, was not useful to the President and did not distinguish the important from the unimportant. I had to build people's confidence that I would sift wheat from chaff. That was my responsibility. If it was important, he needed to know that I would get it to him. And that they, at such a senior level, had to let go of this and stop looking at every walk-in, every shred of raw intelligence, threat reporting.

Riley

The President hadn't requested that?

Townsend

When I arrived, he was still getting it.

Perry

When you say you had to get beyond that, you meant the people bringing it to him?

Townsend

No, post 9/11 the intelligence community would not have presumed to stop bringing the threat matrix to him. The President, the Vice President, and others--I told them, "You don't need the threat matrix in your book. I will get it, and if there is something important in there, you need to have confidence in me that I will make sure you get it. But this is not useful and the format is not useful. With all of this unvetted intelligence in the matrix, you learn nothing. If something blows up, the intelligence community and Congress will say that you were told, so actually, there is a danger in you getting it. Not only do you not need it but there is also a downside to you getting it. You want me to get it. That's what you hired me to do, to sift through this and bring only what really requires your attention."

They were great. It took a little time. Andy Card wouldn't let go of it. Andy kept getting it for a while. I was used to the calls, with Andy saying to me, "Item 23 on the threat matrix." I would eye roll and say, "Yes, yes, we're on it." Over time, everyone became more comfortable.

Also, with the establishment of the TTIC, Terrorism Threat Integration Center, and ultimately the National Counterterrorism Center--That was first run by John Brennan--we then developed terrorism and intelligence products that integrated those threats that were most important. We began to build the infrastructure that was needed over the longer term going forward to get the policymaker the intelligence they required. It was interesting; I came to the conclusion that there was not a set answer to the question, "What does the President need?" Some of it has to do with the President and his own style. Bill Clinton was a notorious reader; George W. Bush was more of an interactive learner.

As we began preparing for the Presidential transition, talking to the intelligence community, they wanted a playbook of what they should prepare for the new President. I said, "You are going to have to get used to the new team. They will be different, and that's OK. You've got to adjust to them and their needs, not the other way around."

The intelligence community views the President and the President's staff as the consumer-in-chief of the intelligence community. Having a DNI to help the President set the intelligence priorities and then push that out to the intelligence community helps them really understand the policymakers' priorities, which was the whole idea behind establishing mission managers. If what you're concerned about is Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia, then you have teams of people who are devoted to those issues.

I also think there was real value in having what we used to call "deep-dive sessions." We had them across an array of policy issues. In the first term we would come in on a Saturday morning and we might do a deep dive on the tribal areas of Pakistan, with three-dimensional maps and tabletops. We could go into any level of detail that the President wanted. He had the luxury of the quiet of a weekend to be able to do that. In the second term, we did twice-a-week deep dives across a whole host of important policy issues. The President, through his National Security Advisor, Steve Hadley, would set the agenda. He would decide this week he wanted deep dives on topics that were most important to decisions he was considering or policy issues that were most pressing.

But also Steve, Josh, and I might decide which issues to brief on, knowing either where the President was traveling or what policy issues were coming up. Most often the analysts would come to the White House to do the deep dive. I can remember in one instance--I can't mention the country--we had CIA covert operatives who had been inside an enemy country undercover and the operators themselves came into the Oval Office to talk to the President about what that was like and how they operated.

Riley

I would think he would love that.

Townsend

Who wouldn't? It was fascinating. All the press stories about this incredibly contentious relationship he had with the CIA could not have been further from the truth. He was the son of a former CIA Director. He was fascinated and incredibly grateful for the effort, particularly of the operatives. But he also understood and appreciated the challenges the analysts faced in getting the information they needed to make judgments.

I spent a lot of time on the road, particularly in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and got to see many forward operating bases. I traveled to places where people didn't think it was smart for me to go. I went to Khowst. I went to Jalalabad. I had been to not just military outposts but CIA outposts, and saw the conditions that they had to operate in, which were both difficult and dangerous. We had CIA officers working in war zones that we would normally associate with military service. The American people did not see nor understand the risks these civilians were taking on their behalf. I went there and told them, "Look, the intelligence you collect ends up in the President's daily briefing book, and he wants you to know how important it is in terms of the decisions he makes in the War on Terror."

I really think that how much detail is right to give to the President is unique to the personality and decision-making style of that particular President. You asked me a second part of that and I've since forgotten it. I apologize.

Roberts

The second part was there is one view that the President needs a lot of competing sources of intelligence and analysis and conclusions and then he can decide. But you suggested earlier that maybe that doesn't necessarily serve the President best.

Townsend

That's right. In fairness to the President, the burden of the office is tremendous and unrelenting and time is finite. I think the President needs and deserves a single, integrated product, which includes competing and alternative views. But if you want, as I suggest, a single, integrated product, then the obligation is on the intelligence community to highlight dissenting points of view. And I mean highlight them, no kidding, not simply dropping a footnote in a print size that no one over the age of 20 can read. It must be real and you must clearly flesh out, in the body of the document, what the debate is. That then allows the President to say, "This dissent--what underlies this and why? Are there additional underlying documents that I can read?" Only then have you provided him an integrated product that is in essence a menu that he can pull from.

Riley

Fran, what was the decision rule for which intelligence gets channeled to you, and who made those decisions? Did the Director of National Intelligence do that? You're talking about going out and meeting these guys in these outposts.

Townsend

The President would tell you nobody seemed to have a handle on my travel itinerary, but that was mostly because I might change it while on the road because I determined there was an additional place or people that I needed to see.

Riley

I actually would like to hear about that too. I'd like to hear about a couple of the trips. Saudi Arabia is mentioned in here. But this is more of a question about information flow. I don't have a very good picture still of--The guys in these outposts pick up something that is useful. Obviously, they're reporting back through their chains of command and at some point--You're much more involved in that intelligence-collection process from abroad than I had envisioned. Did you have disputes at any point about whether you were getting the intelligence that you needed?

I would have expected--I'm sure this is just because I've been dealing with Presidents before now who didn't have this position--that that is routinely the kind of stuff that would go to the National Security Advisor. But I don't think the National Security Advisor, based on what I'm hearing, is the person who is making the decision that you're then going to be in the loop on some of this.

Townsend

That's right. Yes, the DNI and the Director of the CIA--I was part of the President's PDB process, so I was one of the people for whom a book was prepared, just like the book the President got. Because terrorism and threats were such a big part of the issues we were dealing with, there was not a day that there wasn't something in the PDB about terrorism and threats.

Riley

Of course.

Townsend

So part of what I would do--I did not direct what went in that book, no one in the White House did. I received the book that had been prepared. Now, I would get all sorts of additional intelligence because I would ask my briefer to include additional reporting and products in my book. In addition, the DNI and CIA had "customer relations"--people who would come in and say, "How are we doing? What do you need?"

Riley

Like your Buick dealer.

Townsend

Kind of. The DNI would periodically send someone like that in, who would ask, "What else do you need?" I had access to the classified computer systems, so I or someone on my staff could log on and pull particular reports off that system that I wanted to read. There is a Senior Director on the National Security Council staff that was a dual report to the NSC and the Homeland Security Council. I might ask that person, "I want more information on X or Y." There were multiple points at which you could push into the intelligence community and pull the intelligence reporting that you needed.

Riley

Sure.

Townsend

The intelligence community was very responsive. In terms of the PDB process, the book would come in before dawn. In fact, when I worked for Condi, I would come in early enough to take the prebrief. Condi, Steve, and I would take that together before the President's briefing. We would read the book together. We would benefit from hearing each other's questions; it was incredibly valuable. That way, when we were in front of the President, we were not interrupting his briefing.

Riley

And Condi is in the meetings for the morning intelligence briefing?

Townsend

Yes, she was.

Riley

And that was done by Tenet?

Townsend

Yes.

Riley

Was that a good idea? Having the Director do the brief? Clinton had discontinued that.

Townsend

Tenet would be there, but the President had an actual briefer, in addition to the CIA Director. The Director was not the President's briefer. There was a briefer who was up all night, but the Director of the CIA was there because the most important part of this process is the time with the President.

There's such mystery about the PDB book. The book itself is not nearly the most important part of the process. The most important part of this process is the discussion that happens following it in the Oval Office with President, because inevitably it has policy ramifications. And then it is critically important that someone follows up on the questions raised during that discussion. Those of us who ran the policy process heard the President's questions and that was an important indication of what he cared most about, what he was concerned about, and where his priorities were. That was an incredibly important part of the PDB process. We would get in early and take that brief hours before the President's brief. We had a briefer who would come in and brief us because the briefer knew that we could read it and that helped the briefer better anticipate what the President's questions would be. It was incredibly helpful to the CIA briefer, who was then better prepared to go in and brief the President, because he had a chance to think through our questions and run down answers that he didn't know.

Also, in the terrorism area, one of my frustrations had been--As we tried to integrate the counterterrorism community by establishing the National Counterterrorism Center, inevitably what happened over time was individual agencies would try to get their intelligence product in the PDB book instead of, or in addition to, a fully integrated piece. All of a sudden, without any coordination, you would find a single-agency product in the PDB book. It inevitably happened, to my irritation, on a Saturday morning. I had an agreement with the President; I didn't come in on Saturday mornings because my kids were young, unless there was a threat, and then of course I was working seven days a week. But I didn't come in for the intelligence brief on Saturday morning. The briefer would leave my book for when I came in the following Monday morning.

Inevitably some terrorism piece would be put in the Saturday-morning PDB book, which I wouldn't know about in advance, and then I would get a phone call that the President was asking, "Why isn't Fran here?" I would then have to race down to the White House and this was a source of tremendous irritation for me. I would ask, "Why did that go in on Saturday? It was not urgent and didn't have to," so the briefer learned that they either had to tell me it was urgent and go in on Saturday so I was there, or hold it until Monday. The President came to realize that it wasn't that I had not shown up; it was that no one had told me about the piece. Oftentimes those intelligence products were single-agency pieces. For example, the CIA's counterterrorism center would have put a product in the book and it was missing the FBI, or the DHS, information that told the President what was being done to mitigate or disrupt the threat. That was a real frustration. Over time the integration got better, but it was hard to get there.

You asked me something else about my role. I was a voracious consumer of intelligence because it helped me get a better sense of context for terrorism threats. I never traveled overseas without spending time with the CIA Chief of Station. In terms of going to overseas forward bases, Steve was very good about coordinating with the DoD and CIA if he was going to visit someplace. My view, much to everyone's irritation, was that I did not want the field discussions and presentations to be rehearsed, as they would have been for a senior White House official if they had advance notice. I wanted the unvarnished version; I didn't want the command version. If I was going to get the command version, I could have stayed in Washington to do that. I wanted to get the field operator's perspective that they do not normally have the opportunity to say to very senior White House policy makers.

Oftentimes there might be a kerfuffle, if you will, over--"Fran had no permission to ride on the CIA plane and go to Jalalabad. What in the world was she doing in Jalalabad?" Secret Service would have a fit. It all worked out fine and nobody got hurt, but I really believed in my heart of hearts that it was part of my getting an unvarnished understanding of the challenges we were facing in the fight against terrorism. The President understood and even indulged it. He realized that my unplanned travel caused some consternation, but he obviously didn't have a problem with it, because he never told me to stop. I dealt with the kerfuffles it caused after the fact.

As a result of these visits, I came to appreciate the challenges of coordination between the intelligence operatives in the field and the military, as well as the targeting challenges between traditional military and the Special Operations Forces. I came to understand that there was ambiguity about who was in charge in the War on Terror when you got all the way to the very front line. These were the sorts of issues that don't get served up in Washington unless the Cabinet Secretary raises them. You can imagine Cabinet Secretaries are not always anxious to reveal the conflicts they have between them. The Cabinet Secretary's attitude would be, "Thanks very much, but we don't need your help."

I really viewed it as part of my job to be able to come back and say to Steve Hadley or to the President, "Look, we were not hearing this at the White House before I went out there." I would have to convince people that their first reaction to that should not be, "Well, what were you doing there?" The first reaction ought to be, "OK, what do we need to do about that?"

Riley

Tell us about your trip to Saudi Arabia, at least the one that gets mentioned in the--

Townsend

I'm not sure I remember which one that is.

Riley

You made multiple trips to Saudi Arabia?

Townsend

I was in Saudi Arabia probably three to four times a year, every year that I was there, starting when I was Condi's deputy. The first one comes--There is this controversy over the 9/11 Report and there are some 28-odd pages related to Saudi Arabia, 9/11, and terror finance, which were classified. The Saudis wanted those pages declassified. There was a meeting held with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal [Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud], in the Oval Office with the President and Vice President, but there was significant tension in the bilateral relationship. The Saudis felt strongly that the longer the 28 pages remained classified, people would believe that the information it contained was damaging to Saudi Arabia. The President felt just as strongly that it needed to remain classified for a whole host of national security reasons.

This was 2003, my first summer at the White House. Condi, as National Security Advisor, insisted that we all take two weeks of vacation--I can remember thinking, Is she serious about that? But when I asked Condi, she said, "You've got to go. You've got small kids. This is a marathon; you can't sprint this whole time." Normally, my husband and I would take our boys to France for vacation. But because I was nervous about being too far away, we decided to go to Boston and Martha's Vineyard, where I could easily and quickly return to D.C., if necessary. Plus, I had to take the CIA briefers with me, as well as secure communications. Nothing was easy.

I was on vacation when the Saudi Arabia meeting took place in the Oval Office, and it went very badly. The Foreign Minister and Saudi delegation walked out in a snit. It was not good. I got a phone call--it may have been from Steve Hadley--asking me to please return to Washington. I had no idea why, but I returned immediately. I went in to see Steve Hadley, who told me, "The President would like you to go to Saudi Arabia." This was another one of those conversations where I thought to myself, There's got to be somebody better than me. Seriously. Obviously, I didn't say that, but it is what is going through my mind. I asked, "Really? Why?"

Steve explained, "This is an incredibly important bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, for a whole host of reasons. And we certainly cannot find ourselves in a ditch in a serious rift over these 28 pages. You need to go and you need to try and set this right."

I locked myself in my office for three days and reviewed every report of the intelligence community of every meeting that anyone had had with the Saudis, going back to President Bush 41, all through the Clinton administration--memorandums of meetings, both from the White House and from the intelligence community, and diplomatic reporting on U.S.-Saudi relations. I wanted to get a sense of who this was that I was going to speak with. I spent a whole weekend reading through reams of reporting. After that, I arranged a series of briefings, from the CIA, State Department, and protocol.

The one thing that came up again and again was, "You should not go. Yes, there is a serious problem with the Saudis, but sending a woman is a mistake. They're going to perceive this as an insult. Things are bad and we hardly need to be making them worse." I had never been to Saudi Arabia and had never even traveled in the Middle East, so, I had no sense if this judgment was correct. But I remember thinking, God, this is important and I don't want to make this worse. At the end of one of the morning PDB intelligence briefings, I asked the President if I could speak to him privately, something I had never done before.

I said to the President, "Look, I understand you have asked me to go to Saudi and I'm absolutely willing to go. I'm prepared to do it, but I feel an obligation to tell you, ?Maybe it shouldn't be me.'" He said, "Why?" So, I explained to him that I had gotten these briefings and there was concern about sending a woman. The President was more than a little irritated with me and told me very directly, "I'm really disappointed that you've raised this." I was stunned. "That you, as a woman, would raise this with me, I'm sort of surprised. I have to tell you that whoever said this to you has sorely underestimated the Saudis." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "This is not about you. This is about me and the bilateral relationship. All the Saudis care about is that you're going there as my representative. It wouldn't matter--Boy, girl, it doesn't matter to them. It matters that I sent you. You can't fail. This has got to be successful."

"Yes, sir," and I walked out of the Oval Office, wholly sorry that I even raised it. Before leaving, I tried one last time. I said to him, "It doesn't have to be that you changed your mind. We can just say that I decided that I didn't want to go." I was trying to make this easy for him and he wanted no part of that.

I traveled to Saudi for the first time in August 2003, more than a little nervous. There was an important moment with then Crown Prince Abdullah [Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud] during that trip that set the tone of my entire relationship with Saudi Arabia. I mentioned earlier that I'm Catholic and, as reference to this story, I always used to carry my rosary with me. When I got off the plane in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi security detail, all the men in their security service, had these beads and they were swinging them around or playing with them. I am also Greek, so I'm familiar with worry beads. I did not really know what these beads were, so I finally asked someone. I was told, "Oh, they're prayer beads." So, I asked, "Can I see them?" So one of the men handed his to me. I was communicating through a translator and I asked, "How many beads are there?" He told me, "Thirty-three." I asked, "What are they for?" He replied, "It's the 99 names of Allah and you just go around three times."

I smiled, but I didn't say anything. I went on with my meetings and I end my trip with a meeting with the Crown Prince and later King Abdullah. The other piece of context that is worth knowing is that having religious objects inside the Kingdom that are not Islamic is a stoning offense. I was in my meeting with the Crown Prince, sitting next to him, and I heard him jiggling these beads in the pocket of his thobe. We were speaking through a translator and we were talking about putting the relationship back on the right footing. I tried to explain, "When it comes to our national security agenda, we have a common vision. We have a common goal here. Al-Qaeda is as much of a threat to the leadership and the Kingdom as they are to the U.S. I really believe we will only be successful if the Kingdom is successful in your fight against terror."

It seemed to be going OK, but I was not sure that I convinced him and all I could think about was the President telling me that I must not fail. The Crown Prince continued to jiggle his prayer beads in his pocket, at which point I pull out my rosary beads. Well, you can imagine, the ambassador was shocked and worried about how he might quickly get me out of the country without being arrested. The poor ambassador. I had discussed this with no one, but was trying to convince the Crown Prince of our common interests. I pulled out the rosary beads and it was a conversation stopper. I explained to the Crown Prince that I'm Catholic, and I said, "It's interesting, in order to do a complete rosary, you must go around three times meditating on the life of Jesus. I can hear your prayer beads and I now understand that you go around three times and meditate on the 99 names of Allah. You know, we have more in common than we have differences, and if we concentrate on what we have in common, it is the only way we are both going to succeed."

The entire meeting changed. The Crown Prince smiled and completely warmed up. He was very taken by the analogy. At the meeting, I had delivered a letter from the President, but from then on, I went often and carried numerous private messages between the President and the King. The King came to trust me as an honest broker, an honest messenger. Prince Bandar [bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud], who had been the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. for a long time, seemed to be working his own agenda, which made both the King and the President uncomfortable. I became what both regarded as a clear, totally trustworthy, channel.

In fact at one point toward the end of my tenure, on my last official visit to the Kingdom, the Crown Prince who had become King handed me his prayer beads, and said to me, "There is no greater trust that you have as a messenger than to be faithful in delivering messages, and there's no more precious thing I could give you as a token of my trust in you than these prayer beads. I want you to bring them to the President." So when I returned to the White House and delivered the King's prayer beads to the President, we took a picture in the Oval Office, of me handing them to President Bush and sent the photo back to the King so he knew that the President had received the prayer beads. It was an extraordinary relationship.

Most of my working time in Saudi Arabia was spent with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was the Assistant Minister for Security Affairs, which was the Saudi version of the FBI, their internal security service. Post 9/11, the intelligence community will tell you, our counterterrorism intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia was second to none. If it was second, it would only be to the British. The volume was extraordinary. We shared common threats, whether it was in Iraq, Iran, or Yemen. There is tremendous bilateral work being done to this day on Yemen. I continue to go to Saudi Arabia, and I see the King or Prince Mohammed, as a private citizen.

Riley

What about other countries? Did you have relationships with the counterintelligence apparatus in other countries?

Townsend

Yes, I traveled all over the Middle East, mostly the Middle East and North Africa. I spent a lot of time with President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh in Yemen, in Bahrain with the Crown Prince, the UAE [United Arab Emirates] with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed [Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan]. I had been to Kuwait and throughout North Africa. I spent a lot of time with President [Abdelaziz] Bouteflika in Algeria. I went to Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt where I met with [Omar] Suleiman, who was the head of their internal intelligence service. I also spent a lot of time in Israel and in Jordan with King Abdullah [Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein] as well.

Riley

I was wondering if you were going to get to that.

Townsend

Interestingly, I spent a lot of time in both Israel and Jordan, but especially Israel. I would stop in Israel either on my way in or out of the Persian Gulf, to talk with Mossad [HaMossad leModi?in uleTafkidim Meyu?adim] and Shin Bet [Israel's General Security Service]. REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT It provided valuable insights to the U.S. and I was able to speak to both sides and be an honest broker when they weren't speaking directly with one another. The interesting thing was Israel and Saudi Arabia shared a common enemy and threat from Iran. So we saw an opportunity in that, if we could get them to a place where they were comfortable with each other.

Riley

You were doing this when Condi was at the State Department?

Townsend

It started when Condi was National Security Advisor and it continued after she left that role. I can remember when Condi went to State. I said, "If you're not comfortable with my doing this from the White House--" and she said, "It's too valuable, both for the intelligence community and for the diplomatic reporting." I assumed she was saying that because my access was unique.

Riley

Did you get any other pushback from the Embassies or from State?

Townsend

Not from State. It made no sense for them, from Washington, to push back. And I think most U.S. Ambassadors recognized that there were a handful of countries where U.S. policy was really handled from Washington, and less from the Embassies. My commitment to the ambassadors, who tended to be frustrated in those situations, was "Look, I'm not going to keep from you what I'm doing. You're going to know when I'm coming; you're going to know what my agenda is; and you'll be in my meetings unless they are of such classified nature that the intelligence services want to keep it separate."

I had very good relationships with the ambassadors. In fact at one point the station chief in Saudi observed that I had been going there so often, and for so long, that I had worked my way through three station chiefs and two ambassadors. I had more continuity in the country than many who were assigned there, just because I was there so much. In these countries, there are long-standing and proud cultural traditions. So, for example in Saudi Arabia, they wanted me to be a guest for at least two nights. As a result, these were not short trips. I had to set aside a week. I had to travel there, do my work in country, and then I typically used the opportunity to stop at two or three other countries on my way back to the U.S.

Riley

The bombings in London--Presumably, you're following threat reports up until that point in time. Did that come as a complete surprise to you?

Townsend

It did, actually. This was another one of those moments that I will never forget. My home phone rang in the middle of the night and it was the President. He was over in London at the G8 [Group of 8].

Riley

Yes, that's right.

Townsend

The President was already midsentence as I was turning on the light. He asked, "What do you know and what can you tell me?" To which I said, "I don't know what you're talking about." He was incredibly frustrated. He said, "All right, there has been a bombing here on London transportation; figure it out and call me back." Click. So I got up, turned on the television, and picked up the phone. I had no sooner gotten downstairs and turned on the TV to see what was happening when Andy Card called me and asked, "Have you talked to Secretary Chertoff?" I told him, "I need to get off the phone with all of you in London." It was the odd circumstance that they happened to be in the time zone where the attack happened, so they actually knew more quickly than I did, which was never a good thing. I hung up with Andy and I called Chertoff, and the Situation Room told me, "Chertoff is on the phone with Andy." So, I instructed them to keep me on hold and put me through when they were done.

What we were immediately trying to do is make sure we were ready for morning rush hour in places along the East Coast of the U.S., like New York, that depended on train transportation. In that moment, I did not have time or the luxury to worry about who had launched the attack nor what the modus operandi was. I immediately had to ensure that we were taking protective measures inside the U.S. I could worry about all the other details later, when I got into the White House. We were worried because al-Qaeda was known for multiple simultaneous attacks, so the natural concern was Are we going to get hit? Has al-Qaeda planned additional attacks where there would be a wave of bombings on transportation targets across the U.S.? The immediate concern was the cities on the East Coast, but we worried all across the U.S. and got the information out to all the Governors, and state and local officials. And remember, prior to the London attack, there had been the Madrid train bombing.

Riley

That's right.

Townsend

This was part of a continuum to us. We understood that this might not be a snapshot: a single isolated incident. We could not assume this was a single event that was then over. There was a continuing intelligence concern, as we saw later that month in London.

Riley

You end up going to London after this. How soon afterward were you--?

Townsend

You know, I don't remember. My vague recollection here is that Chertoff went first, because we wanted him to go and get whatever operational detail about the attack that could be useful to him in terms of sharing with federal, state, and local transportation officials. I was in London frequently and I went after Chertoff. Again, during my travel in and out of the Middle East, I would use the opportunity to stop in London and talk about terrorism and intelligence with folks like John Scarlett, who had been the head of their JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee, before he was named the head of MI6 [British Secret Intelligence Service]. I had a long-standing relationship with British intelligence. In fact there was a hotline on my desk to my counterpart in Number 10 [Downing Street]. The U.S.-UK bilateral relationship was a real partnership. That does not mean it was never without some disagreement or friction, but it was a real partnership.

Riley

Was there anything that you picked up after either Madrid or London that had any material effect on preparedness at home? I guess the question is whether these were treated as isolated events to the countries that they had happened in or whether there were networks and methods that you were examining in other countries. Were there quick lessons learned?

Townsend

What we had always been concerned about was open versus closed transportation systems. The airport is a closed transportation system, where you can better control the security. If you tried to apply that same level of control over trains, it would render trains useless as a means of mass transit. You cannot close the train system, so you must look at ways to mitigate the security risk. You will never completely negate the risk, so you look to security measures that diminish the risk, like the random screenings New York does at subway stations.

There was a real push to say to the states and locals, "This is, at its core, a state and local issue. These transit systems are not closed. All the federal government can do is share the intelligence and look to you to review your security systems, offer best practices, and encourage you to apply for federal grant moneys to invest in mitigation strategies." I have always worried that this is the easiest type of attack for a terror group to pull off successfully. I worried about buses, trains, and ferries--ferries in particular--because al-Qaeda had launched a successful attack in Africa. I can remember discussing with the NYPD [New York Police Department] Commissioner Ray Kelley that I worried most about this. Terrorists want the pictures of their attacks to use to instill fear in the affected population. Imagine a ferry attack in the dead of winter with people coming from Staten Island or New Jersey into lower Manhattan. You would have the tragedy--You would have people drowning and freezing to death in the water off lower Manhattan, and you would have the ability to get that picture out to the world.

Using their harbor police, New York City put measures in place to mitigate the transit threat. For example, we saw the Najibullah Zazi case in New York, where he had gone to Colorado to make the backpack explosive mix and was planning to bring it back to New York for an attack on the subway system. I think terrorists will come back to those targets. They've done it successfully in Madrid and London, so I think that a U.S. transit attack is just a matter of time. It is very difficult for law enforcement to prevent.

Riley

Is there a reason why they would have elected to do it in London and Madrid as opposed to New York? Those were homegrown?

Townsend

Yes, in London and Madrid, those people were homegrown. That was why I mentioned the Zazi case. I know terrorists have thought about it here in the U.S. The only question is, how do they successfully plan and execute this kind of attack without getting caught? Such an attack requires multiple backpacks on multiple trains, and the more material and operatives an attack requires increases the likelihood that law enforcement will detect and prevent it. We have, in mitigating against these kinds of threats, put controls in place that will send up flags to law enforcement when individuals buy certain materials. I am trying to be a little bit oblique here, but some of those mitigation measures make it harder to successfully launch that kind of attack here.

Riley

Of course.

Roberts

Some of these other countries give less authority or deference to state and local entities in some of these matters. Did you go back and forth over how much authority you wanted to give states and localities, either in security terrorism-related issues or disaster-related issues? Who controls the National Guard, or sets standards, or controls information?

Townsend

I'm glad that you asked about information sharing because I want to speak about that. We did talk about it. This came up specifically during Katrina and the use of the National Guard. Governors always want the federal government to pay for their deployment of the National Guard, but they also want to retain command and control. We ultimately came to the conclusion that you want the Governors, in 99.9 percent of the cases, to control their state National Guard troops. You want the Governors to take responsibility and be held accountable for it. But there will always be that 1/10 of 1 percent where the attack or disaster is so devastating and overwhelming that it's better for the federal government to take control. We realized that the best thing to do was strengthen the relationships with Governors and ensure they were well prepared. We figured that if we strengthened those relationships, then during those rare instances they would possibly cede operational control of the National Guard to the federal government. The real concern for the Governor was always that if he or she gave up control of the state National Guard, it would be perceived as an indication of their ineffectiveness, which would likely have political consequences for them later.

The best we could do was hope that we could strengthen our relationships with the Governors and give them a level of comfort that, if they needed help, we would help them. We wanted the Governors to have confidence that, regardless of being a Democrat or a Republican, the federal government would work with them in the most effective way without causing any damage to them politically. We tried to create a political-free zone, if you will, around crisis management. It was really hard. This idea of creating such an environment is hopeless at the moment because everything seems partisan. But perhaps na?vely that was the idea, and President Bush was very clear that we would not go after Mayor [Clarence Ray] Nagin or Governor [Kathleen] Blanco politically nor in the press. We could have, and we could have unleashed on them for their unbelievably poor performances. It was President Bush who said, "We will not do that," which was against the advice of some of his political advisors.

Riley

Why?

Townsend

Because President Bush really believed that if we did that, the lesson learned by the other Governors would be not to trust any offer of assistance from the federal government, even if they needed it, because it would be used against them later. We learned that you don't choose your partners in a crisis. The crisis determines who your partners are going to be, so whoever they are, you must create a relationship based on trust, because you are in it together. Everyone must put their oars in the water and row in the same direction. We could not point at or blame one another, because we didn't have that luxury in a crisis. President Bush was concerned of the lessons others would take and how that might adversely impact a future crisis response, if we permitted that to happen during Katrina. He just would not tolerate it, and he personally paid a political price for it. Years later, when those of us who served during the Katrina crisis would speak out and say, "We didn't talk about it at the time, but there was a burden of responsibility to be borne by Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco for their own poor response," the narrative had already been written. When that was first said many years later, it did not mean very much.

I have tremendous respect for the President for taking the high road. He was right. But boy, I have to tell you that in the heat of the battle it was not easy. At that time, none of us would have spoken out contrary to the President's clear direction, but, as a result of that, history will never recognize that the Katrina response was a failure across multiple levels of government.

Riley

Fran, did Iraq appear on your agenda at all?

Townsend

Yes. In fact I went to Iraq in early November of 2003, not realizing that I was going just before the President's first surprise trip that Thanksgiving. I cared about Iraq for a number of important reasons. It was clear that al-Qaeda was taking advantage of our engagement there and they had formed al-Qaeda in the Mesopotamia. They had a whole command structure there. In fact, I went because we had seen the violence inside Iraq escalating in the fall of 2003 and the downward spiral was alarming. That was when I decided to go.

I flew to Jordan, and from Jordan we flew on a CIA plane into Baghdad. The day that I was leaving Baghdad to come home was the same day that the DHL plane had one of its engines shot off as it was coming in to land at Baghdad International Airport. We didn't know whether or not my plane should take off because I was flying on a tiny plane that had no missile countermeasures on it. The pilot said to me, "You're going to have to make this decision; nobody can make it for you." I decided that we were going to take off, and when we did, everyone stared at the altimeter until we knew were out of missile range.

As I said, I went because I cared about a whole list of issues. One of them was that the U.S. was taking people into custody, and I wanted to understand the system by which they were gathering intelligence. Who did we interrogate and who didn't we? How were they deciding who to release? How were we sharing information with the intelligence community and interagency? Information sharing was an obsession for me. I found the American people to be actually quite forgiving, post the 9/11 Commission report. The U.S. government had failed in certain respects, like information sharing, and the American people understood that. It didn't make it right, but it seemed understandable and the government seemed committed to fixing the wrongs that had happened. The American people were, I thought, pretty forgiving.

But I also believed that the American people had a right to demand competence, and that their government not make the same mistakes twice. My view was that if the government failed a second time in the same areas, then people needed to get fired. The one thing that I worried would be a consistent failure between 9/11 and the next attack would be a failure to share critical threat information. I will come back to it, because I spent a fair amount of time on that issue.

In the context of Iraq, it occurred to me that we had collected fingerprint data and often intelligence during the First Gulf War. I wanted to ensure that we continued that practice and that when we took someone into custody in Iraq, we were searching against the information that we had previously collected. Prior to traveling to Iraq, I remember holding a White House meeting and people said, "I don't even know how we access that historical information. I don't know if the systems are compatible with what we use now to be able to do that." It also occurred to me that the FBI has the largest fingerprint database in the federal government and that the U.S. military should also have the benefit of that data. If you were responsible for preventing an attack, wouldn't you want to know if any of the guys in Iraq that we were finding and taking into custody had ever been in the United States, or had any prior contact with the U.S. military or law enforcement?

I wanted to understand our thinking and process in the war zone. So I made up my mind that I needed to go to Iraq and talk to those on the ground to understand how the military, CIA, and FBI interact while in country. We found that the mortar attacks that they were setting up were not only the same methods, but were done by some of the same people, both from the First Gulf War and earlier attacks in the current war. The mortars would be placed and set to go off, then the bad actors would run away before the launch. But there were fingerprints to be collected from the scene if you got the FBI in there, and trained the military to lift and enter the latent fingerprints into the database.

I went to General Pete Pace, then the Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs, and he agreed to support a whole fingerprint-collection initiative. I taped a video that went out to military units in Iraq that said, "You need to take this training seriously about how to preserve evidence, because here is how we can find the person responsible for the mortar that killed your colleagues. We can actually track and prosecute these guys better." Pete Pace was completely supportive of this initiative. He thought it was a great idea.

I had all these ideas about how we could better understand who our terrorist enemies were in Iraq. At the same time, there was some tension between Condi and Secretary Don Rumsfeld. Condi created the Iraq Security Group. There were four lines of effort for the ISG: I had counterterrorism; Gary Edson had economics; Bob Blackwill had political; and Frank Miller had military. Rumsfeld refused to have DoD participate in these groups that each of us at the White House were chairing.

Riley

All right.

Townsend

We began holding ISG [Iraq Security Group] meetings and DoD would not attend. In the end, we moved the process along into a more traditional deputies-and-principals policy process, but it was in that context that I decided to go to Iraq. DoD took many of the ideas that the ISG counterterrorism group recommended and implemented them, working directly with the FBI to make sure that they were sharing information. DoD did extraordinary work, both with NSA and the larger intelligence community, in understanding terrorist patterns. They evaluated telephone traffic, physical movements, and financial flow using classified intelligence methods to understand the terror cell structure of bomb makers and key leadership.

It ultimately ended up with the capture of Saddam [Hussein], the killing of the two sons and the killing of [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi. In fact, at one point, we arranged for the President and Vice President to go out to NSA to thank them for their extraordinary intelligence collection and interagency information sharing. But in the early fall of '03, it was only the beginning of the rising violence.

Perry

Could I ask if you had a role in the administration's debates over the Guantanamo Bay prisoners?

Townsend

Not really. Again, when I arrived at the White House, Guantanamo existed and was an ongoing operation. I took a trip down to Guantanamo very early after I arrived, with Ambassador Pierre [-Richard] Prosper, who was the ambassador at State who had this responsibility. Guantanamo was already operating and, by that time, had become a legal issue more than anything, so it was dealt with by the White House National Security Council staff and White House counsel's office dealing with the Justice Department. I was frequently asked about it, but it was not really my policy issue or responsibility.

Riley

Following on from that, with the changes at the Justice Department there were some internal debates, that there had been press accounts about, over the legal bases for interrogation. You already said that you weren't there for the first round of things, but were pretty upset. Were you a party to any of those ongoing discussions, particularly with respect to reauthorization of things out of Justice Department?

Perry

Or the military commissions? Ultimately, if not those, where to try them, especially given your own legal background and your experience in government?

Townsend

Again, I had no involvement in the discussion or decisions related to the interrogation program nor on military commissions. I do remember attending a meeting about military commissions, but it's not clear to me. The subject of military commissions would come up in the morning meeting with the President. The President was incredibly frustrated by how slow the process was moving. He often got pressure from other heads of state, the British Prime Minister and the Canadians, about the status of their citizens awaiting trial. They would ask him, "When are you going to try these people? I've defended your right to use military commissions; we just don't ever seem to have one."

The President and the National Security Advisor were both incredibly frustrated. The Justice Department was in an awkward position. They provided support to DoD, but they did not really run the military commission process; that was a DoD process. I was present for some of those discussions, but I wasn't running that policy process and only knew that it was a real source of frustration and concern for the President. The Justice Department was very frustrated because they were defending the military commission process in civil litigation, and how they were going to fare in the courts was dependent on the facts and what DoD would allow them to say.

I can remember multiple Attorneys General expressing frustration to the President or the DoD and say, "We're not in a very good position to make the best case in court if DoD hasn't done more to move the process along." While the burden of responsibility was really on DoD, it was a source of frustration across departments.

Perry

And presumably the frustration heightened after the Supreme Court's decision started coming down in '05 and '06.

Townsend

Absolutely.

Roberts

Could you talk about information sharing in another context, the context of your relationship with the DHS, and then maybe states and localities? Also, how much did that relationship depend on the structure? How much did it depend on your personal relationship with Chertoff?

Townsend

The White House issued a National Security strategy, a Homeland Security strategy and a national information-sharing strategy because I thought it was that important that there be attention and high-level direction from the President to his Cabinet members that this is what he expected. I was concerned that without the President's direction, information sharing would not happen. In the event there was a terrorist attack and information wasn't shared, I wanted it to be perfectly clear, in writing, that the President's expectation was that terrorism threat information should be shared. If there was a failure in that area, then it was clear that it occurred somewhere beneath him, not as a result of his lack of attention or priority given to this issue. I wanted all federal agencies to have clear guidance.

When we rolled that strategy out, we included state and local officials in the White House Situation Room--Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington Police Department [Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia], I remember her being there. The President came down and thanked them, because we wrote the strategy working directly with state and local officials. Having been a local assistant DA and worked with cops, I had a unique appreciation for the importance of information sharing, not just horizontally across the federal government, but vertically down to state and local law enforcement, who could actually do something with it.

The question was always, where do you vest responsibility and accountability for information sharing? While there was [Thomas] McNamara in the DNI's office, who had some responsibility, that was an imperfect solution, because this was not merely an intelligence issue. And there were problems across the interagency of the federal government. I can remember when Tom Ridge was DHS Secretary, FBI Director Mueller would come to me and say we're not sharing a piece of information with DHS. I would say, "You have to, because he's the guy who can actually do something about it." But there were instances, to be fair to Bob Mueller, where the FBI would share a piece of sensitive operational information and it would leak to the public. An entire investigation would dissolve as a result of the leak and an informant might have been endangered.

Over time DHS got better about protecting sensitive information, so the FBI got better about sharing information with them. But I think it's fair to say that there continued to be imperfections in the system, across the federal government, including to this day. One of the more recent examples is the Fort Hood shooter. There was clearly information over at DoD that didn't make its way to the FBI and DHS. When the Obama administration came into office, I was invited there to talk to John Brennan. There had been some consideration to eliminate the information-sharing position on the HSC staff and transfer that entire responsibility over to the office of the DNI.

I implored him, "You can't--this requires your involvement and attention. It requires the White House. It won't get done unless somebody at the White House cares about it, and it absolutely requires Presidential leadership." Brennan was persuaded and kept the position. I remember, during my White House tenure, finding out that NCTC wasn't getting information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The two agencies had been trying to solve this on their own. I then came to find that they were running a disk of information once a week between them and NCTC would then upload the week-old stale data. I said, "This is the 20th century; there is a better way to do this. You should have brought this to me sooner."

The Homeland Security Advisor, just like everybody else in that White House, has many things that they are responsible for. I worry, sitting here to this day, that absent Presidential leadership, interagency information sharing reverts back to when there was little sharing--not because people are malevolent, but that it just takes a conscious effort to ensure that it happens. We don't have the technical systems in place to make it easy. This is another one of those issues. It's not sexy, so it falls to the bottom. You say, "Well, if I don't get to this today, nothing blows up." Well, maybe. But if you don't get to it today, something may blow up tomorrow. This is one I continue to be concerned about.

Roberts

Could you talk about the relationship of the Council to the DHS, the degree to which there is a structure or there is a personal relationship between you and Chertoff?

Townsend

I had a very good personal relationship with Mike Chertoff because we had worked together, back to our days as prosecutors in New York. I also enjoyed a good relationship with Tom Ridge. But there was always some tension between the HSC and DHS. In the National Security Council, the National Security Advisor coordinates across several big agencies: State Department and DoD. The Department of Homeland Security has the HSC, which is focused largely on the activity of that department. I also dealt with the NSA, CIA, HHS, and the FBI. Bob Mueller got calls from me; the Attorney General got calls from me; I worked across a bunch of agencies. HHS would have been happy during the pandemic strategy not to have to deal with me.

I wasn't solely focused on DHS, but the relationship between the Council and any department does very much rely on the relationship between the President's advisor and the Cabinet Secretary. That was true not just for me as Homeland Security Advisor, but also for the National Security Advisor. The relationship you develop with your Cabinet Secretary counterpart must be one of respect and trust. You must not be perceived as the Advisor checking the homework of the Cabinet Secretary, or that you are the tattle to the President, because that doesn't make for a very good partnership.

Steve Hadley once said to me, "You go through periods where you're frustrated, as a Presidential advisor, with the Cabinet Secretary that you are working with." I don't remember when this was, but he went on to say, "Look, you've got to keep in the front of your mind that you're only successful to the extent the Cabinet members you are working with are successful in running their departments. It can never be perceived as a competitive relationship: ?I look good, so he looks bad.' It's got to be, ?If he looks good, I look good.'" As ever, Steve was absolutely right. As long as the relationship between the HSC and DHS was working well, it all worked out. I used to tell my staff, "It doesn't matter who gets credit. As long as it's working well, we all get credit."

The one time that there was understandable friction was in the run-up to the 2004 election. The White House had become very active, very protective of the President. The White House wanted to see things accomplished quickly. We would push DHS to get things done. Not in any inappropriate way, but I think that it's fair to say that Tom Ridge felt additional pressure. Tom got a lot more direction, as opposed to conversation, about "What are we doing on--[Name your policy]?" "How is this going?" There was much more interaction and tasking during that campaign period. I expect that to be true when President Obama went through his reelection campaign, because you don't want to have any Cabinet agencies causing you a problem during a campaign. You would want to make sure they were focused and just doing what needed to be done without creating news that distracted from the President and the campaign.

Riley

You had some things on your list.

Townsend

No, we got to them.

Riley

I saw one sort of checked off over there. I wanted to make sure that the others were equally checked. Continuity of government was something that fell under your province and we haven't talked about that. Did you spend a lot of time in continuity-of-government studies or exercises? Were there actually exercises?

Townsend

There were. One of my many titles was the National Continuity Coordinator.

Riley

Probably worked well on a sweatshirt.

Townsend

There are multiple levels of crisis management. At the absolute top of the pyramid is continuity of the Presidency. Then you work your way down, continuity of government. This is another one of those issues: when you have a lot of things to do, playing out the "What-if?" game can seem like a tedious added responsibility. But we realized, Joe Hagin in particular, had been at the White House on 9/11, and spent a lot of time suffering through ill-prepared departments and agencies trying to put continuity plans together on the fly.

Riley

Sure.

Townsend

The President wanted it to be absolutely clear that someone was responsible for making sure that if there was another catastrophic event, that we were not doing it on the fly again. The President wanted to ensure that departments and agencies knew where they were going and what they were doing to ensure that they could continue to function and meet their responsibilities. There needed to be a single person to coordinate this who also understood what was in that box at the top called "continuity of the Presidency." You had to understand that the continuity of the government that we were building was intended to support the continuity of the Presidency.

Continuity of the President, while I was fully briefed, was really Joe Hagin's responsibility as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. Continuity of the President worked with the Secret Service to ensure the President's safe movement and with the White House Military Office to ensure the President had adequate communications capability. After that, continuity of the President relies on everything beneath him to function and that was continuity of government.

I had a very good relationship with Joe Hagin. There had been an old Presidential directive on continuity written during the Reagan administration. You can imagine, in a post-9/11 world, it needed to be completely reworked. The most important point to understand of what the President will need in a crisis, you must have spent time with the President and watched him make decisions. In order of priority, you need to know what he will need and how can you get it. The President can't have to articulate those requirements in a crisis. He needs you to understand how he works and what he will require.

Once you have clear requirements, then you went to the government agencies, and required that each had a single point of contact who was going to take responsibility for their Cabinet Secretary and agency. The military understands and plans for crisis. That made DoD the easiest to deal with and to use as a model for the other agencies. DHS, on the other hand, was brand-new and still getting organized, so asking them to prepare and operate during a crisis was a larger task.

One of the biggest shocks to me was related to the hurricane that came through Washington shortly after we had begun the continuity-of-government planning. As a result of the hurricane, we had flooding on Pennsylvania Avenue. The office at DOJ that I used to run, which is now the National Security Division, used to prepare FISA documents on an independent classified network in the basement of DOJ and they had no continuity or contingency plan. Well, my head almost exploded. How could that be? You had all these national security wiretaps. In a crisis it is the one system we were absolutely going to need to function. During the flood, DOJ had guys carrying the hard drive systems on their backs, across Pennsylvania Avenue, to set up their continuity operation inside FBI headquarters.

I use that as an example, a not-proud example, of where we started and the effort it took to get the interagency to focus resources and take this seriously. It was important to have continuity plans despite, as they always said in the military, "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." We had to practice the continuity plans to ensure we could function. Someone in each agency had to go to these continuity facilities, turn the lights on, fire up the computers, and make sure that everything worked, so we did that. We would run exercises. We took advantage of national security special events, like the State of the Union, to do a dry run.

We went out to the classified facilities that the President or his successors would be brought to, to make sure they would have whatever materials there that might be required. For example, what are the lawyers going to need to do an Executive order, to have and understand the President's authorities? What documents do they need to have second copies of out there? Do we want to back up certain things onto a hard drive and put it out there and then update it so you've got the ability to turn a computer on and get access to information? Things like, if the President was in a secure facility, he's probably going to need to address the nation. Do we have a working teleprompter? Who knows how to operate the teleprompter? Literally down to that level of detail, saying, "Specialist So-and-So in the military generally runs the President's teleprompter." And saying, "Why don't Condi and I, or Steve and I, learn to do it, just as a backup. It won't be pretty, but we know at least one of us is going to be there with the President."

Riley

So you're trained up on the teleprompter?

Townsend

That was the level of detail. OK, how do we work this piece of equipment? Because you just don't know who is going to make it there, and the most important thing is to be able to serve the President. If it meant taking cooking lessons, I suppose I would have done that. You really wanted to know that you could reduce, as much as possible, any unnecessary burden on him because he was going to need to be talking to the American people and reassuring them. You wanted to have everything at hand that he was going to need.

I worried about this constantly, and so did Joe Hagin. We talked about it. We had to come to grips with the President's staff. Not everyone was going to be with him at his continuity location. Not everyone would be on that first helicopter out. During the crisis is never the time to argue about it, so we needed to brief the President's advisors about what to expect.

There was a whole emergency communications plan with individual cards that indicated extraction points. It stated where each person was to go and who else would be with them. We determined who would be on which helicopters. We also determined the order of priority for the staff. This was just a practical decision based on the President's needs. Someone had to go through the disciplined process of deciding how this needed to happen, and that fell to Joe Hagin and me.

Initially, there was a secure facility where some staff could be for some period of time. Depending on where they were when the crisis happened, they might have to go to the predesignated location. The type of attack would determine the process that they would go through before entering the facility. We decided to physically walk the White House staff through this--Because in certain kinds of attacks you must be decontaminated, and it is not a modest process--rather than have people in a crisis be told for the first time, "We're going to take a big knife, start at the back of your neck and rip everything, all of your clothes, off of you in groups of three in a decontamination shower." It's not as if there was a girls' and a boys' section. We were planning to save lives.

So Joe and I walked through this process and I said to Joe, "We'd better get their heads wrapped around this." We had told people to have a go bag so they could change their clothes. We had told them where to put the go bags. We had chem/bio protection hoods to get them out in a bio attack. But you have to imagine a bunch of very senior and accomplished policy folks--These are not people who think like Joe Hagin and I think.

We scheduled to walk through the process with the White House staff. There was a funny moment on the decontamination line. The shower decontamination is done three people at a time. I knew exactly what was going to happen and how this was going to be briefed. REDACTED TEXTREDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT REDACTEDTEXT In the next room we were given something to wear. These were hardly designer duds. They were large-size blue hazmat-looking jumpsuits. That was what you were going to get unless you had your go bag.

The capability of ensuring the medical health and safety of the President, and those immediately around him, is an extraordinary task. It had to be tested and people had to be familiar with the equipment and the process. We didn't want them walking into it the first time during the crisis. Also, part of this responsibility was to ensure that the President's Cabinet understood that if they got word from Joe Hagin that they had to go someplace, that someone was coming to get them and they were going, that this was not a question; it was a command.

Riley

Yes.

Townsend

Even if it didn't come from the President, there were those of us responsible for continuity of the government who were going to begin to click in and start moving Cabinet members, and they were not going to take their families or their pets. They were going to go and do. It required both the President's leadership and commitment and the trust of the Cabinet that the people who were doing this on the President's behalf had studied it and understood the consequences.

Riley

The Vice President had experience in doing some of this before, and I can't remember in what context.

Townsend

During the Cold War, both Cheney and Rumsfeld had participated in continuity exercises. As a result of his experience, the Vice President's leadership on this issue was very helpful. A Cabinet member who was assigned as the designated survivor might object about not going to the State of the Union, for example, and all you had to do was mention this to the Vice President's staff and he took care of it. Because the Vice President had personal experience with the issue and understood the importance of continuity, he took a personal interest in making sure, no kidding, that we had programs and processes in place that would serve the President and the country. We really did worry about the unthinkable: a nuclear or biological attack where we would not be able to come back to Washington for an extended period.

Vice President Cheney wanted to be absolutely certain that we had appropriate options, including, as people made much of on the late-night comedy circuit, that he had his own facility, a classified facility that had been built for him. Great thought had been put into that. I was none too pleased when I learned that Vice President Biden had spoken publicly about where that facility is, which of course defeats the whole purpose of it.

Riley

Exactly.

Townsend

Lots of time and money went into having contingency facilities where the current capability around continuity of the President and continuity of government is now entirely changed from before 9/11. It is just extraordinarily more sophisticated now.

Riley

What are we missing out of your experience? Were there near misses that you can talk about or make reference to, as a flag for us? I know there are all kinds of things that are still classified.

Townsend

In my judgment, the closest we had come was the 2006 planes out of Heathrow. This was a sophisticated, well-planned, wide-ranging conspiracy and plot. It had a tactical objective in terms of multiple and simultaneous attacks, and for the first time it had a strategic objective, which I don't believe we had really seen since 9/11. It was not an accident that 15 of the 99 hijackers involved in 9/11 were Saudis. That was meant to drive the wedge that it drove bilaterally between the countries. The 2006 plot was clearly the first plot that had the element of a strategic objective, which concerned me, because that was clearly meant to drive a wedge between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair--between the U.S. and our closest ally, the UK.

Prime Minister Blair was suffering in the polls. There was the whole controversy over his support for the Iraq War. It would have been horrible to have had a breech in our bilateral relations. I really did worry; that was probably the most serious attempt that we faced during my time at the White House, but it was by no means the only serious plot that we disrupted.

Roberts

Could you talk a bit about what you think contemporary press accounts misunderstood or overlooked the most, that historians will have to go back and piece together?

Riley

Chuck had said that you'd had a brief conversation with him, too, about the press animus, after we got off tape yesterday. He suggested that maybe I ask you about that.

Townsend

God bless that President Bush refused to react to inaccurate or unfair press accounts. He not only refused to react to the press, but I think it made him more determined to be his own person. He was not going to cower to the press. It was interesting. He was a voracious reader and he would read all kinds of stuff, like--Oh, gosh, Aquariums of Pyongyang, the book about North Korea. We all read it. And there was a book about the war in Algeria; we all read it. I laugh, I sort of have the George W. Bush section of my home library, because it became like a reading or book club.

If he read something that had particular policy ramifications--He loved biographies, and many of us read many of the same biographies he had read, of past Presidents. It was also the thing that reaffirmed in his mind that his Presidency would be judged by history, so what was said now in current press accounts--We should not be distracted and go after every silly thing that they got wrong. We would be judged by historians and, by that measure, we would be OK.

Despite being publicly criticized during his Presidency, President Bush never cared about responding or trying to persuade the media. For example, President Bush was notorious for being punctual, if not early, and I found there to be only one consistent exception that was never reported. Whenever the President traveled domestically, there would be an effort to identify any gold star families in the area. After his public event, the press corps and staff would get on Air Force One and wait. It was odd to me, because we had been together with him in the motorcade, so he was there, but not yet on the plane. After seeing it happen several times, I asked a Secret Service agent, who explained that the President would meet privately with gold star families, who were grieving. The President did it to comfort and thank them because it was the right thing and was adamant that there be no press.

I watched him meet individually with families of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting and 9/11 families. His empathy and compassion were extraordinary. He would put his arm around a grieving mother, take time to look at family photos, and listen to each story patiently. He gave those families however much time they wanted or needed. He never rushed them. I could see in him the burden and exhaustion of sharing so many other people's grief and sadness, but he never complained. Frankly, when he left those meetings, I do not recall him ever sharing anything of what had been said. Given the many pressures and responsibilities of the President, I found this to be incredibly gracious and an extraordinary act of kindness and humility.

It has now been well reported, he and Karl Rove had this reading race and the President's secretary kept a list of who had read more books. It was really funny. You could not get on Marine One with the two of them--Karl, in particular, would take a book everywhere with him and he would be reading another three pages to get ahead, so he could beat the President. It was incredible. But the President never talked about that, and the press of course never painted him as an intellectual. But the President had an incredibly sharp and curious intellect that was wildly misunderstood and misreported.

The picture painted of the Vice President as the Darth Vader of the policy process, I found comical. He, again, had a very sharp intellect and did not suffer fools gladly. But he was by no means the malevolent force that he was painted out to be.

Al Gonzales--a gentler, decent, kind human being you can hardly imagine. A great Al Gonzales story: The President was reelected in 2004, but Secretary Kerry didn't concede until the next morning, so none of us had slept that night. We were all bedraggled. The next day we were going to go to this the election victory rally. We got in the motorcade and when we arrived, there was a rope line for the President's staff up toward the front. I was not near the front of the motorcade, so by the time I got inside, I was far back in the staff area. I am petite and I was looking at the back of the people's heads from where I was standing. I was just thrilled to be there, but could not see very much. I had a small disposable camera that I wanted to use to take pictures to show my children later.

Al was in front of me with his wife, Becky, and Harriet was in front of them. I was pretty far back. Al must have felt the flash from my camera going off behind him, taking pictures of the back of his head. Al turned around and saw me. This was obviously, as the President would say, "not Al's first rodeo." This was not Al's first political campaign event. He had been with the President a long time, going back to their days in Texas. Al could see the tears in my eyes; I was really proud of the President and honored to be there. For me, this was a pinch-myself kind of moment.

Al, in this crush of people, and with the Cabinet Secretaries in the same area, turned his body sidewise, reached behind me and pulled me through the crowd toward him and Becky. Then, after he got me past him, he started pushing me forward. He tapped Harriet on the shoulder. This was not her first time either, because she had also been with the President since Texas. Al pushed me in front of Harriet, all the way to the front of the rope line, so that I could take a picture, and see what was happening. When I turned around to thank Al, he was gone in this sea of people.

I took pictures and when I returned with everyone back to the White House, the first thing that I did was send him a thank-you note about his generous act of kindness. I could never--I would never have pushed my way to the front. I was just thrilled to be there. But Al saw something in my expression and recognized that I had never done this before. I thought it spoke volumes about Al's character.

Al didn't have a great tenure at the Justice Department. Part of it was he was such a decent, gentle person. Al trusted in people around him who didn't serve him well. He was unfairly maligned. Politicians in the Democratic Party and otherwise played politics and painted him out to be malevolent in a way that he was not. He was misserved. I don't think it was a successful tenure as Attorney General for him or for the President. And I know that pained the President.

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When Al went through a very difficult period as Attorney General, I spoke privately to the President at Camp David and said to him, "I have to tell you, I feel really bad for Al. It's not that I'm so good, but I spent my career in the Justice Department, unlike Al, and I wonder if I could have been a help if I had gone over to DOJ with him. Maybe I should go over now." But the President said, "No, it was right that you didn't go and I'm glad that you didn't go, because you simply would have been destroyed with him. You could not have changed it. You have a longer career to serve."

There are all kinds of people like that who are horribly misunderstood in the press, who get caught up in this vicious Washington political game. Oftentimes it's not that they are bad people. It may be that they were poorly served by their staff, or that they didn't rise to the occasion in terms of their own performance, but they are not malevolent or unethical. Washington has a way of painting things in black and white, on a good-versus-evil basis that is not accurate. What you hope is that looking back, even if you are not praised by history, you may be better understood in terms of your time, tenure, and the context in which you served. I felt that way.

Harriet Miers--Oh, my God, your heart had to break for how horribly she was treated in the whole Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process, regardless of whether you thought she was the right person to sit on the Supreme Court. The process did not treat her fairly. Scooter Libby was also treated unfairly. I could go on and on. The press has been reasonably good to people like Colin Powell and Condi Rice and Steve Hadley. I have been blessed not to have been horribly maligned by the press along the way. But we are in the minority. The majority, at some point, has gotten their clocks cleaned, oftentimes unfairly.

Riley

Looking back on it, what were your best moments? What are you proudest of that you've accomplished?

Townsend

One of my proudest moments is one of those that was never seen publicly. In the midst of the 2006 plot when those planes in London took off each day, I would have these interagency meetings with agency heads. We would sit around a conference table much like this one in my office and say, "OK, I've got to give advice to the President every 24 hours about whether these planes should take off." The easy answer would have been to say, "No, let's take the case down." Nobody would have risked getting hurt, fired, or criticized for saying no and taking the case down. And no one outside would have understood or been capable of measuring the intelligence we would have lost by taking the case down too early.

As is typical, the right answer is the hard answer. The right answer was that as long as we could satisfy ourselves on the security side, we needed to take the risk and let the investigation continue to run. So my proudest moment was sitting around my conference table with DNI John Negroponte, and DHS Secretary Mike Chertoff, Steve Capus from the CIA, and FBI Director Bob Mueller, and saying, "You know what? We've made this decision that we will make this recommendation to let the planes take off from Heathrow another day. If we are wrong, the best we can hope for is to be fired and maligned. At the worst, we may get indicted, because people are going to think we were negligent in permitting the deaths of dozens of Americans."

If we were right and we let the investigation go, nobody was ever going to know, and nobody was ever going to say, "Gosh, you make me proud." But I was proud, given the personal and professional risk, that people around that table did not do the easy thing; they did the hard thing, the right thing. As I think I mentioned yesterday, imagine, Steve Hadley's daughter was coming back, and Dana Perino, who is a dear friend, and her husband were coming back from the UK at that time. We could not act in our personal interest. The law required us to act only in the country's interest. It is called the "no double standard" rule, so we could not act on information ourselves that was not public. What was required of us at that moment was to act in the country's interest. The notion that public servants can rise to that--It was certainly not for the pay, and it was not for the glory. They did it because they were committed. So it was things like that that I was proudest of.

When I traveled to someplace like Jalalabad or Khowst, and saw the conditions--Many of these were young people, newly married, who were separated for extraordinary periods of time from spouses and children, in very dangerous conditions. Years later, when I saw the tragic attacks at the Khowst facility, where these people were mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and spouses, sacrificing their lives--I don't know if the American people fully appreciate it. They understand that men and women in uniform do that, but what they don't see and really appreciate is the size of the civilian force, who work at CIA, DHS, FBI, who serve in war zones and who suffer these same risks. These are the demands of public service. You are criticized when you make a mistake, but rarely recognized for your commitment and success. Being able to be a part of that, to be a part of that sort of a team in those circumstances, is really inspiring.

Riley

I can tell you that although the detailed contents of the interviews is obviously confidential, one of the things that I take away from these interviews is the sense of public spiritedness of the people who serve, the people that we talk with as well as the accounts that they offer. It really is quite a useful lesson to be able to communicate to my students when I teach a course on the Presidency every year. They often ask me, "What do you learn?" And I say, "Well, it gives you an enormous degree of confidence in our political process, that people of such high quality are serving in these positions. Everything you rely on is what you hear from the newspapers and press accounts, which is very jaded, for understandable reasons. Really it leaves you with a misperception. One of the things that I can tell you, genuinely, as a firm, unshakable conclusion from the interviews, is just how public-spirited people are in their positions."

I'm glad for us to bring this to a conclusion on that note. I always say at this stage that we never exhaust all the possible topics we could talk about, but we do a pretty good job of exhausting the person. We could go on forever, but you have really done us a huge favor by doing this.

Townsend

I'm delighted. I feel like it was a blessing to have the opportunity to serve, especially for someone like me, who had no role in politics, and to have the ability to make sure that historians ultimately understand at least what our intentions were. They can judge the execution. I think it is important. It was really a pleasure to come down and do it.

Riley

As I said yesterday, you're a natural-born teacher. The stories are all very acute and on point with things, and you left us laughing an awful lot and maybe even crying inside with some of them, but it was enormously useful. We probably would have done a better job interviewing you two years from now, but the knowledge base that we're developing is enormously helpful. Thank you very much.

Townsend

You're welcome. Thank you.