WASHINGTON – Contrary to recommendations from his own internal watchdog, CIA Director Porter Goss (search) will not order disciplinary reviews for a former director, George Tenet (search), and other officials criticized for their performance before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Goss said in a statement Wednesday that the report from the CIA's inspector general, John Helgerson, did not suggest "that any one person or group of people could have prevented 9/11."
"After great consideration of this report and its conclusions, I will not convene an accountability board to judge the performances of any individual CIA officers," Goss said.
Half of those named in the report have retired from the CIA. "Those who are still with us are amongst the finest we have," Goss said.
Lawmakers investigating the attacks asked the inspector generals of the CIA and other agencies to review whether any officials should be held personally accountable for failures before the suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001 (search).
After a two-year review, Helgerson's report recommended that Goss convene formal panels to investigate specific actions by Tenet and other current and former officials. The panels, known as accountability review boards, could suggest disciplines.
In his previous job as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (search), Goss helped lead the congressional inquiry into the attacks and was among those who requested Helgerson's investigation.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, said he has asked Goss and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to appear before his committee to discuss the decision on the review boards.
In a statement, Roberts, R-Kan., said he was "concerned to learn of the director's decision to forgo this step in the process."
Some intelligence veterans say that disciplinary reviews would drain energy from the focus on current threats and create significant ill will for Goss as he tries to lead a work force battered by a series of reports about Sept. 11 and the botched prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Current and former officials have also 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.
Along with Tenet, others singled out for some of the harshest criticism include the former clandestine service chief, Jim Pavitt, and the former counterterrorism center head, Cofer Black, according to individuals familiar with the report. They who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the report it remains classified.
Through an associate, Tenet declined comment. Efforts to reach Black were unsuccessful.
Pavitt said the agency needs to keep focusing on its mission. "This removes a burden and will allow these extraordinary people to do the extraordinary work that is critical to national defense," he said.
In a series of Sept. 11 reviews, the CIA has been faulted for being risk averse, failing to share crucial information with other agencies and not executing a thorough plan to go after al-Qaida.
Yet the Sept. 11 commission also said no agency did more to attack the terrorist group than did the CIA.
Goss indicated he will make little — if any — of Helgerson's report public, saying now is not the time to reveal how intelligence is collected and analyzed.
But California Rep. Jane Harman, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, said "Goss must persuade the public that he has dealt fairly with his agency's past mistakes"
The families of some Sept. 11 victims want to see the report — and punishments.
"We need transparency, and we certainly need accountability," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of the most outspoken advocates among Sept. 11 families.
In his public statement, Goss said Helgerson's report "unveiled no mysteries." He said that all 20 of the systemic problems that the report identified are being addressed by internal reforms or changes mandated by President Bush.
Before the attacks, Goss said, resources were inadequate and hiring was at historic low. Some officers who excelled in certain areas were asked to take tough assignments. "Unfortunately, time and resources were not on their side," Goss said.
In a statement, Negroponte supported Goss's decision against forming the disciplinary boards.