Under a direct order from Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency has released the executive summary of a top-secret report detailing the agency's shortcomings leading up to the September 11 attacks:
While the report concluded that there was "no single point of failure," it was otherwise very critical of the CIA leadership, from former CIA director George Tenet on down, for failing to work as "effectively and cooperatively" as possible on counterterrorism.The Washington Post reports Tenet signed the "We are at war" memorandum in December 1998.
For example, the report found that while Tenet had signed a memo saying, "We are at war" against terrorists, he did not follow up on his warnings or create a comprehensive plan to guide counterterrorism efforts. The CIA's Counterterrorist Center, the report added, was also "not used effectively as a strategic coordinator" of efforts across the intelligence community. And the report also documents "significant differences" between how the CIA and the eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency viewed their respective authorities to conduct counterterrorist surveillance.
The Associated Press is harsh:
The CIA's top leaders failed to use their available powers, never developed a comprehensive plan to stop al-Qaeda and missed crucial opportunities to thwart two hijackers in the run-up to Sept. 11, the agency's own watchdog concluded in a bruising report released Tuesday.According to the New York Times, the report is reminiscent of the findings of the 9/11 commission:
That body concluded that “a failure of imagination” had made intelligence agencies unable to fully discern the growing peril of Al Qaeda, and that communication lapses within the C.I.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and between those agencies had hobbled efforts to “connect the dots” of intelligence data and effectively pursue Al Qaeda terrorists, even after some of them had entered the United States.Tenet quickly issued a statement criticizing the report and defending his performance. Tenet gets at least this much right:
The inspector general’s report said that, while its team differed with some findings of the Senate and House intelligence committees, which also probed the failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, “it reaches the same overall conclusions on most of the important issues.”
We did not obtain the tactical information which may have allowed us to thwart the 9/11 attacks. As I said to the 9/11 Commission: “No matter how hard we worked — or how desperately we tried — it was not enough. The victims and the families of 9/11 deserved better.”The executive summary is available here [pdf].
I don't have a lot of good things to say about the CIA. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that you can't fairly judge actions taken before 9/11 through a post 9/11 lens. September 11 changed everything.