Report faults Tenet, others at CIA on 9/11

Former director criticized for failing to form, carry out plan to fight al-Qaida

August 26, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A long-awaited CIA inspector general's report on the agency's performance before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks includes detailed criticism of more than a dozen former and current agency officials, aiming its sharpest language at George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, according to a former intelligence officer who was briefed on the findings and another government official who has seen the report.

Tenet is censured for failing to develop and carry out a strategic plan to take on al-Qaida in the years before 2001, even after he wrote in a 1998 memo to U.S. intelligence agencies that "we are at war" with the terrorist group, they said, speaking about the highly classified report on condition of anonymity.

The report was delivered Tuesday to the Senate and House intelligence committees by Porter J. Goss, the current CIA director. Its preparation and previous drafts have provoked strong emotions at the beleaguered agency, which has borne the brunt of public criticism in a series of major studies of intelligence failures.

The inspector general, John L. Helgerson, intends to send to Congress additional materials, including a compilation of responses from Tenet and about two dozen others, the officials said.

The report describes systemic problems at the agency before 2001, the officials said. In addition to criticizing Tenet, James L. Pavitt, the former deputy director of operations, and J. Cofer Black, the former director of the agency's Counterterrorist Center, it offers praise for specific actions taken by them and other officials, they said.

The findings place Goss in a delicate position. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the years before the attacks, he influenced intelligence policies and monitored intelligence agencies. As a leader of the joint congressional investigation of the attacks, he joined other leaders in requesting the inspector general's inquiry nearly three years ago, in December 2002.

Now, as director of the CIA, he will have to decide whether to take disciplinary action against any of those criticized, risking a further blow to the morale of an agency still charged with protecting the country against future terrorist attacks.

The report recommends that Goss convene "accountability boards" to recommend personnel actions against those faulted in the report, who are identified by title rather than by name. Officials said the only action possible against Tenet and other officials who have retired would probably be to send them a letter of reprimand.

In a "message to the workforce" sent by e-mail after he delivered the report to the Senate and House intelligence committees, Goss said that during the preparation of the report, "much has been done at CIA and throughout the intelligence community to improve and reform the way we do business." He said he thought "the major changes to our agency are behind us."

"The bottom line is, I want you to continue to do what you do best - provide our country with close-in access to the plans and intentions of its enemies and provide decision makers with the information they need to make the tough decisions," Goss said in the message. The agency declined to release the message, but its text was provided by a former intelligence official.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment on the report or Goss' plans.

Tenet, who stepped down in July 2004 after seven years as director of central intelligence, has responded vigorously to the challenge to his record. In addition to writing a lengthy response, he asked former New Hampshire Sen. Warren B. Rudman, who served as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1997 to 2000 and was co-chairman of a major commission on terrorism, to review the report.

Neither Tenet nor Rudman would comment, and neither Pavitt nor Black could be reached for comment yesterday.

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