The leaders of the joint congressional intelligence committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are expected to recommend the appointment of a Cabinet-level intelligence czar in the committee's final report, parts of which may be released this week, according to government officials familiar with a draft of the study.
The final report also will likely recommend that the CIA and Justice Department conduct a one-year study of the creation of a separate domestic intelligence agency, during which time the FBI would be given a last chance to remake itself into a force capable of collecting intelligence on domestic terror groups. Growing sentiment on Capitol Hill and within the Bush administration that the FBI is failing to make the transition from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterror unit has led the president's top advisers to begin considering a new domestic intelligence agency.
CIA Director George J. Tenet is supposed to head all U.S. intelligence agencies, but in reality he, like his predecessors, effectively leads only the CIA. He has limited control over what has become a collection of separate intelligence fiefdoms with overlapping missions and often poorly defined priorities.
The idea of an intelligence czar, which would put one individual in charge of the 13 U.S. intelligence agencies and their collective $35 billion budget, has been rejected by the White House in the past. The Defense Department, which has nearly unilateral control over about 80 percent of the intelligence budget, recently added a new assistant secretary of intelligence, who gives the Pentagon even more clout.
The House and Senate intelligence committees met jointly for months this year, unearthing voluminous evidence of mistakes and missed cues by the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency prior to last year's terrorist strikes.
Last month, Congress created a separate commission that will again examine intelligence failures, as well as gaps in other homeland security systems. Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger will head that panel.
The Republican and Democratic chairmen and vice chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees have concluded that an intelligence czar is critical to waging the global hunt for terrorists and thwarting future attacks on U.S. soil, according to officials familiar with the report.
Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), its vice chairman, have long advocated a single intelligence director. Other intelligence experts concur. "If we were starting all over again from a blank sheet, I cannot imagine that we would create such a vast enterprise and have no one in charge, and that's what we have today," Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the former head of the House intelligence committee, testified before the panel in October.
The idea of centralizing intelligence under one person is opposed most vigorously by the Defense Department and the defense committees on Capitol Hill, both of which would see their influence drastically reduced over how money is spent and priorities are set.
The panel also intends to recommend that the CIA, FBI, NSA and other agencies hold individual employees accountable for the missed cues and bungled communications that, taken together, allowed 19 young men living in the United States, some of whom trained in U.S. flight schools, to carry out the most deadly domestic attack in U.S. history.
Though the report will adhere to the panel's initial promise not to assign blame for the Sept. 11 attacks, intelligence officials said its draft findings include harsh criticism of the principal intelligence agencies, mainly the CIA and FBI, that are responsible for tracking and thwarting terrorism.
The issue of personal accountability has divided the committee. At its last public hearing, on Oct. 18, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich), speaking for several other members, insisted that "people have to be held accountable."
He was particularly concerned that while the CIA identified two hijackers as suspected terrorists in early 2001, an agency employee failed to put the names on a State Department watch list until late August of that year. By then, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, both of whom would later take part in the attacks, were in the United States.
Tenet faulted "uneven standards, poor training and lack of redundancy" in the watch-listing system at the time. "The notion that I'm going to take her out and shoot her is ridiculous," he said of the CIA employee. " . . . I take responsibility."
The panel's investigators, headed by attorney Eleanor Hill, also found that U.S. intelligence agencies had considerable evidence before Sept. 11 that al Qaeda sought to launch attacks on U.S. soil, and that terrorists had frequently considered using airplanes as weapons.
Earlier, it was revealed that the FBI failed to seek a warrant to search the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested weeks before the attacks after raising suspicions at a Minnesota flight school, or heed the warnings of a Phoenix FBI agent that terrorists might be training at U.S. flight schools.
For several weeks, the four intelligence committee leaders -- Graham, Shelby, Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- have met behind closed doors to develop the report, some of whose details were first reported yesterday on the New York Times' Web site. They will meet again Monday. The full Sept. 11 inquiry panel -- which is made up of all members of the separate House and Senate intelligence committees -- will meet Tuesday in an attempt to produce a final report.
Congressional sources said the panel hopes to announce its recommendations on Wednesday. The inquiry panel is trying to get a special CIA declassification task force that was established for the probe to clear and publicly release many of the committee's findings.
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.