Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Report expected to blame CIA officials for lapses in pre-9/11 intelligence

AP , WASHINGTON

A report from the CIA's independent investigator is expected to conclude officials at the highest level of the agency are to blame for pre-Sept. 11 intelligence lapses.

The report by the CIA's inspector general, John Helgerson, which is nearly complete, concludes that senior leaders should be held accountable for failing to provide adequate resources for combating terrorism, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Among those who receive the most pointed criticism in a draft version are former CIA Director George Tenet and former Deputy Director of Operations Jim Pavitt, both of whom resigned last summer, the newspaper said. The report quoted current and former intelligence officials.

The report has been reviewed by select government officials. A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.

A former intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reporters that Tenet has reviewed a small portion of the report and was given an opportunity to respond. The official said the report discusses accountability for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- primarily based on the inspector general's review of a joint House-Senate inquiry into the attacks. In a statement, former Tenet spokesman Bill Harlow said no one in the US government was more aggressive dealing with the threat of terrorism before 9/11 than Tenet.

"The vast, vast majority of more than two-thirds of the top al-Qaeda leaders that have been killed or captured have been taken out through the efforts of George Tenet's CIA," Harlow said.

"Mr Tenet was correctly characterized by many as `running around with his hair on fire' prior to 9/11, when others in government -- including Congress and the executive branch -- were downplaying his concerns."

Some in Congress have been eager to see the report released since CIA Director Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida, took over in September.

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, wrote Goss in the fall about the report's progress and "the appearance that the inspector general's independence is being infringed."

The agency has said the report is not being stalled, and that Goss is carefully considering how to handle it, including what to do about forming an accountability panel.

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