- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Pressure mounted yesterday to fix intelligence shortfalls in the battle against terrorism after what is being termed one of the nation's worst intelligence failures.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment directly when asked if CIA Director George J. Tenet is to blame for what he called "a gigantic failure of intelligence."

"When you have an operation this big, this well-planned and executed that goes undetected and, of course, unstopped, that is a failure of intelligence," Mr. Shelby said.

"We have to do better," he said, noting that funds must be added to "rebuild the human intelligence element of the intelligence community."

Sen. Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for reforming weak U.S. intelligence analysis.

"I must tell you, I think in terms of the analytical side of the intelligence community we need a shake-up," Mr. Roberts, Kansas Republican, said in an interview.

The CIA and numerous other U.S. spy agencies had no warning that as many as 50 terrorists were planning the sophisticated operation to hijack four airliners and crash them into buildings in suicide attacks.

The CIA has said it had no warning of Tuesday's attacks and only vague indications that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was planning a major attack on U.S. soil. Bin Laden and his Islamic extremist group, al-Qeada, are the intelligence community's chief suspects.

Groups such as al-Qeada often avoid electronic communications such as telephones to prevent eavesdropping, according to intelligence specialists. They also maintain tight security for their groups by requiring members to commit crimes to prove they are not intelligence agents. There are also indications that terrorists use the Internet to communicate.

Mr. Roberts said he expected to carefully question Mr. Tenet when he appears before the committee to brief senators on the twin attacks in the coming days.

Asked if Mr. Tenet should be held accountable, Mr. Roberts said: "I think it's too early.

"There's going be a lot of speculation [about his future]," Mr. Roberts said. "He does have the ear of the president and he does have the trust of the president, so it's going to be pretty hard for people in Congress to do anything."

Mr. Roberts said the problem with U.S. intelligence analysts is that "they concentrate on the probable and what happened in the past instead of thinking out of the box and about the improbable."

Mr. Shelby said one key improvement would be the appointment of a Cabinet-level intelligence "czar" who could direct disparate U.S. intelligence agencies.

Former President George Bush said on CNN yesterday that U.S. intelligence agencies currently face too many restrictions.

"We have to free up the intelligence system from some of its constraints," Mr. Bush, a former CIA director, said. "I think we ought to take a hard look at whether we've gone too far in denying the intelligence community human intelligence capabilities."

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, said the surprise attacks are a "total indictment of our intelligence capabilities" against terrorism.

Mr. Weldon declined to point the finger of blame directly at Mr. Tenet. But he said there needs to be "a complete top-to-bottom review of our intelligence capabilities as it relates to terrorism."

"How can you not have any intercept; how can you not have any data that show that this plot was occurring?" Mr. Weldon said.

Mr. Weldon is proposing an intelligence-reform effort that would create a joint intelligence center combining the data and networks of some 32 U.S. intelligence agencies. The creation of a National Operations and Analysis Hub has been resisted by the CIA and FBI because they fear losing bureaucratic power, he said.

Mr. Tenet said in a statement to CIA employees on Wednesday that while U.S. intelligence failed to stop the latest mass attacks, "CIA and our intelligence community have done much to combat terrorism in the past."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide