The CIA inspector general's report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has finally been completed -- nearly two years after its congressionally set deadline -- but has yet to be sent to Capitol Hill because CIA Director Porter J. Goss is still deciding how to respond to its findings, according to administration and congressional sources.
Inspector General John L. Helgerson's voluminous report, triggered in December 2002 by a recommendation of the House-Senate inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, was completed in June and delivered last month to Goss for his review, according to a note sent by the CIA to members of Congress on July 22. It is expected to go to the House and Senate intelligence committees soon, according to one senior administration official.
Under the joint committee mandate, the CIA director is to report back to the House and Senate intelligence committees on the steps taken to assign responsibility for poor performance and to reward excellence.
One reason for the long delay in producing the report, according to present and former agency officials, has been the original requirement by the joint committee that Helgerson "determine whether and to what extent personnel at all levels should be held accountable for any omission, commission or failure to meet professional standards" in relation to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
When Goss received a draft of the report last October, he sent it back because performance failures were attributed to individuals without giving them the chance to respond to those findings or have the matter adjudicated by an accountability panel, according to an October letter sent by Goss to intelligence committee members. The communication was made available to The Washington Post.
Over the past months, individuals named in the report were given opportunities to respond to the sections that mention them, and a few were allowed to read the entire report, according to present and former intelligence officials. As a result, some changes have been made in the report, the officials said.
Goss, however, has yet to decide what if any steps he will take before he sends the report to the congressional intelligence committees, the officials said. The CIA director could create an internal panel to look at each case and submit recommendations to him. Such a group is typically made up of senior agency officials and chaired by the CIA's executive director, the third-ranking official in the agency.
Officials said Goss could establish additional procedures to deal with any systemic problems uncovered in the report. Or he could send the IG report to the Hill, noting the many changes that have already been made, and indicate that many of the senior officials at the time of the attacks have left the agency.
Some present and former agency officials have been upset that four years after the attacks, the CIA is still being criticized despite having been the loudest voice in government to warn Presidents Bill Clinton and Bush of the terrorist threat.
"What about Congress and the White House not paying attention, or even the Federal Aviation Administration?" one former agency official asked yesterday.
Inspector general reports for the Defense Department and the FBI had been delivered previously. The declassified version of the report of Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine noted a "significant failure" by the bureau, caused in large part by "widespread and longstanding deficiencies" in the way the agency handled terrorism and intelligence cases.
The FBI said that it agrees with many of Fine's conclusions and that it "has taken substantial steps to address the issues presented in the report."