Monday, September 14, 2015

'Blind Spots and Inefficiencies': The CIA Before and After 9/11

On a Friday night last June, the CIA quietly released an internal accountability report focusing on the lead-up to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The declassified report was not new. Titled "Office of Inspector General Report on Central Intelligence Agency Accountability Regarding Findings and Conclusions of the Report of the Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001," it had first been released in 2007 in a heavily redacted state. The version released last June, however, had far fewer redactions — and also included never-before-seen rebuttal letters from then-CIA Director George Tenet.

The new version of the report absolves Saudi Arabia for any complicity in the attacks. It also paints a fascinating picture of a corporate culture at the CIA in which backstabbing and turf wars were common. The relationship between the CIA and the FBI — specifically the one between the CIA's Usama bin Laden station and the FBI's New York Field Office, which was responsible for al Qaeda-related matters — was described as "troubled at best and dysfunctional at worst." Additionally, the "significant differences" found to have existed between the CIA and the NSA "remained unresolved well into 2001 in spite of the fact that considerable management attention was devoted to the issue, including at the level of the Agency's Deputy Executive Director."

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