More needed to fight terror
chief concedes that considerable time is necessary to
improve defenses against terrorism.
WASHINGTON CIA director George Tenet predicted
Wednesday it will take another five years of work
to have the kind of clandestine service our country
needs to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist threats.
The same can be said for the National Security
Agency, our imagery agency and our analytic community,
Tenet testified before the commission investigating
the worst terror attacks in the nations history.
He said a series of tight budgets dating to the end
of the Cold War meant that by the mid-1990s, intelligence
agencies had lost close to 25 percent of our people
and billions of dollars in capital investment.
A needed transformation is under way, he said, and appealed
for a long-term commitment in funding. Our investments
in capability must be sustained, he added.
Tenets appearance was ironic to the core.
Several commissioners lavished praise on him for his
foresight and efforts to restructure intelligence-gathering.
Yet the panels staff issued a report as the hearing
opened that was sharply critical of the agency and apparatus
he has lead for seven years as the nations director
of central intelligence.
While we now know that al Qaeda was formed in
1988, at the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,
the intelligence community did not describe this organization,
at least in the documents we have seen, until 1999,
the report said.
As late as 1997, it said, the CIA Counter-Terrorism
Center characterized Osama bin Laden as a financier
The report said intelligence had recently received information
revealing that bin Laden headed his own terrorist
organization and had been involved in a number
of attacks. These included one at a Yemen hotel where
U.S. military personnel were quartered in 1992; the
shooting down of Army helicopters in Somalia in 1993;
and possibly the 1995 bombing of an American training
mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
It also noted several that threat reports
produced by the intelligence apparatus had mentioned
the possibility of using an aircraft laden with explosives,
such as the terrorists used on Sept. 11 in attacks that
killed nearly 3,000.
Of these, the most prominent asserted a possible
plot to fly an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S.
city, it said. Others included reports of a plan
to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower in 1994, and of
flying a plane into CIA headquarters.
The counter terrorist center did not analyze how
a hijacked aircraft or other explosives-laden aircraft
might be used as a weapon, the report said. If
it had it could have identified that a critical
obstacle would be to find a suicide terrorist able to
fly a large jet aircraft.
Tenets appearance was his second in three weeks
before the panel, which is charged with investigating
the lapses that permitted the terror attacks to succeed,
as well as recommending changes in the government to
prevent any recurrence.