“Agency officers from the top down worked hard” against Al Qaeda but “they did not always work effectively and cooperatively,” the investigators concluded. While finding no “silver bullet” or single intelligence lapse that might have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks, the report identified numerous “failures to implement and manage important processes” and “follow through with operations.” The report said (George) Tenet bears “ultimate responsibility” for the CIA's lack of a unified, strategic plan for fighting al-Qaeda. The intelligence community “did not have a documented, comprehensive approach” to al-Qaeda, the document said, and Tenet “did not use all of his authorities” to prepare one.
Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, “CIA Finds Holes in Pre-9/ll Work,” Washington Post, August 22, 2007, AI.
According to Seymour Hersh in Chain of Command, it unleashed the CIA to undertake covert action against terrorists with no restrictions but deniability for the president. The support for the Northern Alliance led to the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and ended safe sanctuary for bin Laden and the other leaders of Al Qaeda. But bin Laden and most of Al Qaeda’s and the Taliban’s leaders were able to escape. Part of the reason for the escape was the reluctance of the Bush administration to commit American forces until it was too late.
In the middle of the hunt for bin Laden and the wiping out of Al Qaeda’s leadership, the Bush administration decided that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction were greater threats. Even prior to September 11 it was known in the CIA that the Bush administration was eager to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Their reasoning was that deposing Hussein and establishing a favorable government in Iraq would produce a base of support in the Middle East for the United States, because it was apparent that there was no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Extreme pressure from the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, for the CIA to produce intelligence justification to go to war with Iraq resulted in widespread dissatisfaction among CIA analysts. Many of them believed that an Iraqi war would hinder the hunt for bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. They believed that the United States should concentrate exclusively on Afghanistan and the Al Qaeda network. Those analysts who were too vocal with their dissatisfaction were fired, transferred, or severely criticized. Despite warnings from these CIA analysts about the lack of concrete intelligence, Tenet assured President Bush and his advisers that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The failure to find these weapons of mass destruction ended Bush’s confidence in Tenet. In the meantime, the rank-and-file of the CIA had become critics of the Bush administration. They issued a series of intelligence reports that contradicted or were critical of the premises of the Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq. Many of these reports were leaked to the news media.
After Tenet’s resignation, Bush appointed former Florida congressman Porter Goss to head the CIA. He had worked for the CIA in the 1960s, but most of his knowledge of the CIA came from his seven years as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. President Bush gave Goss a mandate to bring the CIA back to Bush’s political team. A short time after Goss came into Langley headquarters, senior CIA officials began to leave in droves. In April 2005 the CIA inspector general’s report surfaced that presented detailed criticism of the performance of more than a dozen former and current CIA officials. Goss quashed the recommendation that there be accountability boards to recommend personnel actions against those charged in the report. Despite this action, the clash between Goss’s team and CIA veterans reached epic proportions. In the long run, however, it was Goss’s inability to work with his nominal boss, John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, that led to his dismissal. President Bush asked for and received Goss’s resignation on May 5, 2006. His successor was U. S. Air Force four-star general Michael Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the number two person under Negroponte.
Stephen E. Atkins
See also Alec Station; Counterterrorism Center; Goss, Porter J.; Tenet, George See Documents 13 and 33 Suggested Reading
Dreyfuss, Robert. “The Yes-Man: President Bush Sent Porter Goss to the CIA to Keep the Agency in Line; What He’s Really Doing Is Wrecking It.” American Prospect, November 2005, 18.
Drumheller, Tyler, and Elaine Monaghan. On the Brink: An Insider’s Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2006.
Hersh, Seymour M. Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.
Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. Hearings before the Select Committee on Intelligence U. S. Senate and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence House of Representatives. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 2004.
Miller, John, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell. The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It. New York: Hyperion, 2002.
Naftali, Timothy. Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
Risen, James. State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.
New York: Free Press, 2006.
Tenet, George, and Bill Harlow. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.