- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005


CIA Director Porter J. Goss must decide whether to heed the recommendation of his top watchdog to hold disciplinary reviews for former CIA Director George J. Tenet and other current and former officials who were involved in faulty intelligence efforts before the September 11 attacks.

The proceedings, formally called an accountability board, were recommended by the CIA inspector general, John Helgerson, the Associated Press learned late Thursday. It remains unclear how many people beyond Mr. Tenet are identified for the accountability boards in the highly classified report spanning hundreds of pages.

Those who know Mr. Goss well question whether the director, who took over the agency last September, will commission the disciplinary reviews.

Despite public outcries for accountability, many in the intelligence community believe Mr. Goss would be loath to try to discipline popular former senior officials and cause unrest within the agency.

He may not want to go after less senior people still in the CIA’s employ. Intelligence veterans say these CIA employees are the government’s mostly highly trained in counterterrorism and, before the September 11 attacks, devoted significant amounts of time to trying to stop al Qaeda terrorists. The hearings would force them to defend their careers rather than working against extremist groups.

Mr. Goss personally delivered the report to Congress on Tuesday night.

Following a two-year review into what went wrong before the suicide hijackings, Mr. Helgerson harshly criticized a number of the agency’s most senior officials, according to people familiar with the report. Among those singled out for criticism were Mr. Tenet, former clandestine service chief Jim Pavitt and former counterterrorism center head Cofer Black.

The report, however, also offers some praise for actions of Mr. Tenet, who in December was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush for his response to the attacks.

Any accountability board is likely to focus on specific shortcomings of individuals. Board members could approve a number of actions, including letters of reprimand or dismissal. The proceedings also could clear the former officials of wrongdoing.

However, current and former officials have noted there are few options available to punish anyone who has left the CIA, other than letters of reprimand or a ban on future contracts with the agency.

Those who discussed the report with AP all spoke on the condition of anonymity because it remains highly classified and has been distributed only within a small circle in Washington.

Mr. Tenet and Mr. Pavitt declined to comment. Mr. Black could not be reached.

Mr. Goss was among those who requested the inspector general’s review as part of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

At the time, Mr. Goss, a Florida Republican, chaired the House Intelligence Committee. He was a CIA officer himself in the 1960s.

Some members of Congress, including California Rep. Jane Harman, the Intelligence Committee’s senior Democrat, are pushing for the CIA to produce a declassified version of the report so the public can debate these and other issues.

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