The CIA inspector general has written a blistering critique of senior CIA officials' performance before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying they failed to direct more resources to counterterrorism and inadequately analyzed the threat from al Qaeda, according to several former agency officials who have seen portions of the report.
It says the CIA had an insufficient strategic approach to counterterrorism and that its counterterrorism center insufficiently fused analysis and operations.
The document singles out a dozen senior officials by title, not name, including former CIA director George J. Tenet; former operations director James L. Pavitt; J. Cofer Black, former head of the counterterrorism center, and a number of administrative chiefs.
Investigators found no criminal liability but said the officials did not live up to the standards of professional conduct required of them, according to several former officials who were asked to read portions of the report that applied to them.
It was requested by a House-Senate intelligence panel that examined the government's actions regarding al Qaeda in the years leading up to Sept. 11. It was completed last summer but has not been not delivered, and some congressional Democrats have said it was being suppressed before the November elections. There is no deadline for filing the report, which was detailed in yesterday's New York Times.
Former CIA officials interviewed yesterday expressed outrage at the inspector general's findings, saying the IG misunderstood the agency's budgetary process and the historical context of the agency's counterterrorism efforts. "It's a misreading and misunderstanding of how resources were being used," Pavitt said. "We warned and we warned and we warned."
Jamie S. Gorelick, who sat on the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, said, "The CIA and its leadership worked harder than anybody to alert the rest of the government to the threat. They were unable to identify how we would be attacked and, compared to other elements of the government, were quite aggressive." The commission reached the same conclusion.
However, Gorelick said, the administration wanted Tenet to allocate even more money to counterterrorism than he did, and "the analysis of the threat was not sufficient to force the government to face up to the threat."
A CIA spokesman said the agency would have no comment on the IG report.
Bill Harlow, who was Tenet's spokesman at the agency and continues in that role, said yesterday, "No one in the U.S. government was more aggressive in calling attention to and dealing with the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11 than was George Tenet." The CIA's counterterrorism budget increased 50 percent between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 2001, while staffing went up 60 percent.
The inspector general recommends that CIA Director Porter J. Goss convene an accountability panel to examine the appropriateness of disciplinary action. Goss may decide whether to convene such a panel, or decide whether disciplinary action is warranted.
In practical terms, however, there are few disciplinary measures that could be applied because most of the officials, if not all, have left the agency. One measure would be a public reprimand. A more drastic one would be revoking an individual's security clearance.
Officials aware of Goss's thinking, however, believe that neither he nor the administration is inclined to take any steps against individuals. President Bush awarded Tenet the Medal of Freedom last month.
Goss "wants to tamp this down," said one person knowledgeable about the debate.
In addition, the CIA is the only government agency to have found senior leaders at fault in dealing with the terrorist threat. Although Congress harshly criticized the FBI's counterterrorism efforts before the Sept. 11 attacks, an internal FBI review found only systematic weaknesses and culpability among some midlevel managers.
The CIA inspector general, like the Sept. 11 commission, found that the CIA leadership relied too heavily on budgeting through supplemental funding, which gives CIA officials more leeway in moving funds around. Some of the money earmarked for counterterrorism, the commission found, was spent on other things.
Tenet and other CIA officials, however, have argued in public testimony that supplemental funding -- an allocation that is not included in the baseline annual budget -- hindered the creation of a reliable, multiyear approach to counterterrorism because such funding is not guaranteed from year to year.
Besides raising the budget issue, the report criticizes the directorate of intelligence, which is responsible for analyzing threats, for lacking a comprehensive understanding of Osama bin Laden or his deputies. The directorate, for example, never produced a major study of Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Staff writer Walter Pincus contributed to this report.