TCU Daily Skiff Thursday, April 15, 2004
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Tenet: More needed to fight terror
Intelligence chief concedes that considerable time is necessary to improve defenses against terrorism.

By Hope Yen
Associated Press

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 nation’s 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.
Tenet’s appearance was ironic to the core.

Several commissioners lavished praise on him for his foresight and efforts to restructure intelligence-gathering. Yet the panel’s 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 nation’s 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 of terrorism.”

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.”

Tenet’s 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.

George Bridges/KRT
George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, testifies before the 9/11 Commission on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
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