CIA Report Points 9/11 Finger

Former CIA director George Tenet is held accountable for intelligence failures.

Aug. 21, 2007 — -- An internal CIA review recommends that former CIA director George Tenet face disciplinary action for failing to use more of his agency's resources against al Qaeda and for failing to develop a strategic plan against al Qaeda in the years before Sept. 11.

Tenet's successor, Porter Goss, declined the CIA inspector general's recommendation when the report was written in 2005 to convene "accountability boards" that would have recommended personnel actions against Tenet and a dozen other current and former CIA officials cited in the report who "did not discharge their responsibilities in a satisfactory manner."

In a statement issued today, Tenet refuted the inspector general's conclusions, calling them "flat wrong."

The CIA declassified the Executive Summary of the 2005 Inspector General's report today in compliance with recent congressional legislation that mandated its release.

In a statement, current CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden said he supports Goss' decision not to pursue punishments against the individuals cited in the report. He also notes releasing the report was not his preference and that its release could be distracting for CIA employees as it revisits "ground that is already well plowed."

The inspector general review found that though agency officers "from the top down worked hard against al Qaeda and Usama Bin Ladin targets," it also concluded they did "not work effectively and cooperatively."

While the report determines there was "neither 'a single point of failure,' nor a 'silver bullet' that would have enabled the Intelligence Community to predict or prevent the 9/11 attacks" it is also critical of failures. Namely, failures "to implement and manage important processes, to follow through with operations, and to properly share and analyze critical data... that could have developed a more informed context in which to assess the threat reporting" in the months prior to the attacks.

The report found that the intelligence community "did not have a documented, comprehensive approach to al Qaeda and that the DCI (Tenet) did not use all of his authorities in leading the Intelligence Community's strategic effort against Usama bin Laden."

Tenet is faulted for having identified the need to mobilize and maximize the intelligence community's efforts and resources to counter al Qaeda, yet he did not follow up. Tenet "by nature of his position bears ultimate responsibility for the fact that no such strategic plan was ever created, despite his specific direction that this should be done." At the time, the CIA director was in charge of all the intelligence agencies in the federal government.

In a statement, Tenet disagreed with that assessment, saying, "There was in fact a robust plan, marked by extraordinary effort and dedication to fighting terrorism, dating back to long before 9/11. Without such an effort, we would not have been able to give the president a plan on Sept. 15, 2001, that led to the routing of the Taliban, chasing al Qaeda from its Afghan sanctuary and combating terrorists across 92 countries."

He also faults Inspector General John Helgerson for not having interviewed "me or policymakers from either the Clinton or Bush administrations on this matter." He continued, "Had he done so he might have learned that I was relentless in seeking additional funding for the intelligence community in general and counterterrorism in particular."

In releasing today's documents, CIA director Hayden expresses concerns about the potential "chilling effect" the report's release could have on the IG's future work, which has always remained confidential.

Since Tenet and some of the other top officials had already left the agency by the time the report was finished they likely would have faced letters of reprimand. Not identified by name in the report, but identified by the positions they held at the time are James Pavitt, former deputy director of operations, and J. Cofer Black, former director of the agency's counterterrorist center.