— -- [Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan spoke Dec. 11, 2014 at a rare, public press conference at CIA headquarters to address a recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation practices post-9/11. Below is an unofficial transcript made by the Federal News Service and provided by the CIA.]
DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: It was 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11th, 2001, when the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by an aircraft commandeered by al-Qaida terrorists. Seventeen minutes later, the clear blue skies of Manhattan were pierced yet again by another hijacked aircraft, this one tearing into the adjacent South Tower.
At 9:37, the Pentagon, the proud symbol and heart of the nation’s military, suffered a similar attack. And at 10:03, a fourth plane shattered the serene landscape of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as its passengers refused to allow al-Qaida to use one more plane as a missile to strike our homeland.
In the short span of 77 minutes, four terrorist attacks would forever change the history of our country. They would rob us of nearly 3,000 lives. It would ultimately cost us trillions of dollars. And they would plunge us into a seemingly never-ending war against a globally dispersed collection of terrorists with a murderous agenda.
As deputy executive director of CIA on that morning of 9/11, I knew what it was like to belong to an intelligence agency that had been ringing the bell for many months about al-Qaida’s plans to attack. All of us at CIA were devastated that al-Qaida operatives were able to carry out such horrific attacks in near simultaneous fashion and on American soil.
And while I remember walking the halls of CIA that day to ensure that as many agency officers as possible had left the building, as our headquarters here in Langley, Virginia, was reportedly on al-Qaida’s target list, I also remember that the men and women in our counterterrorism center stayed at their posts despite the danger. They worked through that day and that night and the following days and the following nights to piece together the clues as to what plans were underway to carry out yet more attacks. Their CIA brothers and sisters who were dispersed around the globe, many in dangerous environments, did the same thing.
Only 15 days after 9/11, on September 26th, it was CIA that put the first American boots on the ground in Afghanistan. And less than two months after arriving, the United States suffered its first casualty in Afghanistan when a 32-year-old CIA officer named Mike Span (ph) was killed in action on November 25th in Mazar-e Sharif. Since Mike’s death, 20 other CIA officers have lost their lives around the world at the hands of terrorists.
The events of 9/11 will be forever seared into the memories of all Americans who bore witness to the single greatest tragedy to befall our homeland in recent history. Not only were our consciences shocked and our hearts and souls ripped open, so too our collective national sense of homeland security was shattered, much like the steel, concrete, flesh, bone and lives during those fateful 77 minutes.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our nation ached, it cried, and it prayed. And in our pain, we pledged to come together as one and to do what we could to prevent Osama bin Laden and his killing machine from ever carrying out another attack against our beautiful country. Never again, we vowed. Never again.