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Senators Want CIA to Release 9/11 Report

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Thursday May 17, 2007 10:16 PM
By KATHERINE SHRADER
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation that
would force the CIA to release an inspector general’s report on the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The CIA has spent more than 20 months weighing requests under the Freedom of
Information Act for its internal investigation of the attacks but has yet to
release any portion of it.

The agency is the only federal office involved in counterterrorism operations
that has not made at least a version of its internal 9/11 investigation public.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and two other intelligence committee leaders – chairman
Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and senior Republican Kit Bond of Missouri – are pushing
legislation that would require the agency to declassify the executive summary
of the review within one month and submit a report to Congress explaining why
any material was withheld.

The provision has been approved by the Senate twice, but never made into law.

In an interview, Wyden said he is also considering whether to link the report’s
release to his acceptance of President Bush’s nominations for national security
positions.

“It’s amazing the efforts the administration is going to stonewall this,”
Wyden said. “The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence
Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11…. I am going to bulldog
this until the public gets it.”

Completed in June 2005, the inspector general’s report examined the personal
responsibility of individuals at the CIA before and after the attacks. Other
agencies’ reviews examined structural problems within their organizations.

Wyden, who has read the classified report several times, wouldn’t offer any
details on its findings or the conversations he has had with CIA Director Michael
Hayden, former CIA Director Porter Goss and former National Intelligence Director
John Negroponte.

But he did say that protecting individuals from embarrassment is not a legitimate
reason for protecting the report’s contents from public review. He also said
the decision to classify the report has nothing to do with national security,
but rather political security.

Hayden declined to be interviewed about the report. In a statement Thursday,
his spokesman Mark Mansfield said the CIA director wants the agency to learn
from any past mistakes, but doesn’t want to dwell on them.

“Given the formidable national security challenges our nation faces, now and
down the road, General Hayden believes it is essential for the Agency to move
forward,” Mansfield said. “That’s where our emphasis needs to be.”

The agency’s actions prior to Sept. 11 have gotten renewed attention with the
release of a memoir by former CIA director George Tenet. He has been criticized
for not doing more to warn Bush about the al-Qaida threat.

In interviews about his memoir, he has said instead he worked the bureaucracy
beneath the president by asking then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
and others for action.

Bond said some intelligence officials have dismissed the inspector general’s
report as “ancient history,” which he doesn’t accept. He said the report has
additional information which would be useful to the public.

“We have no desire to embarrass or throw cold water on the enthusiasm of the
great men and women of the CIA, but let’s just take a clear and open look at
what the IG found and see if we have all of those problems corrected,” Bond
said.

In an October 2005 statement Goss said the officers involved in counterterrorism
were “stars who had excelled in their areas” singled out by the CIA to take
on difficult assignments. “Unfortunately, time and resources were not on their
side, despite their best efforts to meet unprecedented challenges,” he said.

Goss rejected a recommendation from CIA Inspector General John Helgerson that
the agency form accountability review boards to examine any personal culpability.
Bond said that move was regrettable.

In his statement, Goss also noted that the agency had received a Freedom of
Information Act request for the report, and that a review process was ongoing.
But the CIA has not released any documents to The Associated Press or other
organizations that began requesting the information at least 20 months ago.

The law requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days, but officials
rarely meet those deadlines and often blame lengthy backlogs.

Groups including the National Security Archive have clashed with the agency
over its FOIA policies. Last year, the archive gave the CIA its prize for the
agency with the worst FOIA record. Called the “Rosemary Award,” it’s named
after President Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods, who erased 18 minutes of
a key Watergate conversation on the White House tapes.

The citation noted that CIA’s oldest FOIA requests could apply for drivers’
licenses in most states. “CIA has for three decades been one of the worst FOIA
agencies,” archive Director Thomas Blanton said this week.

Many of the individuals highlighted in the inspector general’s report are likely
to have retired. But some are believed still to be in senior government positions,
making the report’s findings even more sensitive at the CIA and perhaps elsewhere
within the intelligence community.

The AP has reported that the two-year review of what went wrong before the
suicide hijackings harshly criticized a number of the agency’s most senior officials.

That includes Tenet, former clandestine service chief Jim Pavitt and former
counterterrorism center head Cofer Black, according to individuals familiar
with the report, who spoke in 2005 on condition they not be identified.

Yet the report also offered some praise for actions of Tenet and others.

Pavitt is now a principal with The Scowcroft Group, an international business
advisory firm, and Black is vice chairman of Blackwater USA, an international
security firm whose clients include the CIA and other U.S. agencies.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6641625,00.html