CIA Director Porter J. Goss said today he has decided not to pursue disciplinary action against any CIA officers over failures associated with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In a statement released by the agency, Goss noted that a voluminous report issued this summer by CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson in no way suggests "that any one person or group of people could have prevented" the attacks.
"After great consideration of this report and its conclusion, I will not convene an accountability board to judge the performances of any individual CIA officers," Goss said.
The statement came in response to the classified report by the inspector general, who was directed by a joint House-Senate investigative committee in December 2002 to "determine whether and to what extent" CIA personnel at all levels should be held accountable for any shortcomings in failing to detect the Sept. 11 plot.
The inspector general's report, completed nearly two years after its congressionally set deadline, was sent to Goss for his review in July and forwarded to Congress last month. When Goss received a draft of the report in October 2004, he sent it back to the inspector general in part because it had attributed performance failures to individuals without giving them the chance to respond, Washington Post staff writer Walter Pincus reported in August.
The inspector general's report recommended that Goss convene an accountability board to judge the performance of certain CIA officials working against the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden before Sept. 11, 2001.
In a separate statement, John D. Negroponte, the national intelligence chief, said he fully supports Goss's decision "not to proceed with accountability boards to judge the performance of those named in the report."
In his statement on the report, entitled "CIA Accountability with Respect to the 9/11 Attacks," Goss said the purpose of the internal inquiry was to "identify systemic problems that needed to be addressed." He said the report "points to systemic problems within the Agency that existed during a snapshot in time" and that it "unveiled no mysteries." All 20 of the systemic problems that were identified have been addressed, he said.
Of the officers named in the inspector general's report, "about half have retired from the agency, and those who are still with us are amongst the finest we have," Goss said.
He said that during the period leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, "CIA resources were inadequate," and hiring was at a low point.
Some CIA "stars" had been asked to "step up" and take on some tough assignments, but "unfortunately time and resources were not on their side," Goss said in his defense of the officers.
"Risk is a critical part of the intelligence business," the CIA director said in his statement. "Singling out these individuals would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks -- whether it be an operation in the field or being assigned to a hot topic at headquarters."