CIA releases secret report identifying errors before 9/11

Julian Hattem The Hill

After a decade of secrecy, the CIA on Friday released a nearly 500-page inspector general report outlining multiple “systemic problems” in the nation’s spy agencies ahead of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

Those failures helped contribute to the country’s blindness about the terror attacks, analysts claimed in the 2005 report, and impeded the government’s work to track down Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders in the years before 9/11.

Senior officers told the CIA’s Officer of Inspector General that “no comprehensive strategic plan” was ever developed to thwart bin Laden “at any time” before 9/11, despite years of warning and commitments to respond to the threat of al Qaeda.

The CIA’s release of the report late on Friday afternoon comes years after the agency initially declassified part of the document, and was prompted by Freedom of Information Act requests for the full critique. 

The spy agency watchdog specifically criticized George Tenet, the former head of the CIA who oversaw the agency for years before and after the 2001 attacks.

While Tenet “recognized the need for an integrated, interagency plan” to combat al Qaeda, he “bears ultimate responsibility for the fact that no such strategic plan was ever created, despite his specific direction that this should be done,” the report claimed.

The CIA said that it was releasing the document — along with two responses from Tenet and two additional views on the subject — “to further contribute to the public record on these events.”

“The events of 9/11 will be forever seared into the memories of all Americans who bore witness to the single greatest tragedy to befall our homeland in recent history,” the CIA said. “The documents released today reflect differing views formed roughly a decade ago within CIA about the Agency’s performance prior to 9/11.”

The CIA inspector general report was prompted by a joint report from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees more than a decade ago. When it was released in 2005, then-CIA Director Porter Goss said that he would decline to follow its recommendation to create an accountability board to review individual CIA officers.

The new documents show that Tenet vociferously denounced the inspector general’s report at the time.

In a June, 2005 letter, Tenet called the analysis “nonsense,” “simply in error,” “devoid of any information” from senior policy makers and said that it “ignores” key facts.

“Your report does not fairly or accurately portray my actions, or the heroic work of the men and women of the Intelligence Community,” he claimed. “It is simply not fair to make judgments about my performance without having a complete understanding of the facts.”

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