WASHINGTON – The work of the CIA's in-house investigator who found fault with the agency's handling of the Sept. 11 attacks is being subjected to an internal review, published reports say.
The move, which is highly unusual, has raised concerns that CIA Director Michael Hayden is trying to squelch the investigations of Inspector General John Helgerson, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times reported Friday, citing anonymous officials.
Helgerson has been aggressive in his investigations of the CIA, criticizing senior figures including former Director George Tenet and officers involved in the agency's detention of terrorist suspects.
The CIA rarely comments on media reports but on Thursday night the agency sought to play down the newspapers' characterizations of the review. A CIA spokesman said in a statement that Hayden firmly believes in the work of the Office of the Inspector General.
"Director Hayden ... has, since taking the helm at CIA, accepted the vast majority of its findings. His only goal is to help this office, like any office at the agency, do its vital work even better," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. "That's why he asked a seasoned observer like Bob Deitz to take a look at the Office of Inspector General and, if need be, suggest specific improvements for consideration by the unit itself."
Deitz is a longtime adviser to Hayden, the former National Security Agency director, and now serves as his senior counselor at the CIA. "He — like everyone else involved — comes to this task with just one preconception: an absolute belief in the value of an independent, rigorous Office of Inspector General," Gimigliano said.
Gimigliano would not comment on what kind of improvements in the IG office might be needed or considered. He said that Helgerson was aware of the review and congressional aides have also been briefed.
Helgerson has been highly critical of the CIA. In a report in August, for example, he concluded that Tenet and other senior leaders never developed a comprehensive plan to stop al-Qaida and missed crucial opportunities to thwart two hijackers in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks. The agency recently declassified portions of the embarrassing findings under congressional orders.
Helgerson has also been highly critical, in classified reports, of the agency's treatment of detainees.
The papers said the review was focusing on complaints that Helgerson's office has not been impartial and has assumed guilt on the part of agency operatives, particularly those who participated in the agency's detention programs.