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Tenet furious over scathing CIA report

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Espionage and Intelligence
George J. Tenet

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Outgoing CIA Director George Tenet has fired off an angry letter to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, after the committee issued a scathing report criticizing the agency's human intelligence gathering as "dysfunctional" and averse to risk.

"Dysfunctional organizations do not perform the way the Directorate of Operations performed in Afghanistan and in support of the military in Iraq before and after the conflict," Tenet wrote to Rep. Porter Goss.

"Dysfunctional organizations do not take down or eliminate the most dangerous proliferators in the world ... nor do they aid in the disarmament of a country like Libya."

"To suggest that the organization that was key to all these victories, not to mention the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and more than two thirds of the al Qaeda leadership, is on the verge of being incapable of the 'slightest bit of success' is frankly absurd."

The criticisms of the CIA were contained in committee findings and recommendations attached to a bill authorizing the fiscal 2005 intelligence budget. Goss, the committee's chairman, has been frequently mentioned as a possible replacement for Tenet, who is resigning from his CIA post in July.

The report said the Directorate of Operations, which collects intelligence with agents in the field, is mismanaged and has a "dysfunctional denial of any need for corrective action." The committee also charged that too much emphasis is being placed on counterterrorism.

"Countering the threat from terrorism is, of course, and should be, at the top of the CIA's list of collection priorities," the report said. "But the Central Intelligence Agency must continue to be much more than just the 'Central Counterterrorism Agency' if America is to be truly secure, prosperous and free."

To that, Tenet responded in his letter that "I find it hard to accept that any serious observer would believe, as the committee apparently does, that there is an unhealthy emphasis on counterterrorism and counterproliferation efforts."

The report also criticized the Directorate of Operations of being adverse to change and having "a continued political aversion to operational risk." Unless that changes, it "will become nothing more than a stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success."

But Tenet responded that the process of rebuilding the clandestine human intelligence gathering service -- which he said was damaged by inattention during the first half of the 1990s -- has been going on for six years and "only patience, continued resolve and sustained support will see it to a successful conclusion."

"Just as the military cannot hire people off the street to become instant majors and lieutenant colonels, it takes years for the CIA to recruit, train and deploy experienced case officers," he wrote.

The committee's report also criticized the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, which collects and analyzes intelligence data, as having a culture in which rank-and-file analysts believe "senior DI managers do not want risk taking -- however calculated, caveated and warranted -- and that they will not stand by an analyst who has made the wrong prediction."

The report also said the intelligence directorate should spend less time on gathering information about current events and more time "on the longer-term, predictive, strategic intelligence forecasting that was once the strength of the DI."

"Instead of 'chasing CNN,' as the committee has observed in the past, the DI should be devoting much more of its resources to doing the kind of all-source, in-depth analysis that cannot, and is not, being done elsewhere in government or through media outlets," the report said.

But Tenet told Goss that the committee's criticisms of the Directorate of Intelligence were "ill-informed" and that "the suggestion that analysts are risk averse is simply wrong."

"It has been stressed to all our analysts that making hard calls is what we do," Tenet said. "Our work must be based on rigorous, well-reasoned and appropriately caveated analysis. Above all, we must take care not to create a chilling environment in which analysts are hesitant to make tough calls."

The committee's report also criticized the CIA's new "pay for performance" compensation plan, saying "it is a mistake to assume that money is the most significant employee motivator in the intelligence 'business.'"

But Tenet defended the program in his letter to Goss, saying that "being able to adequately and flexibly compensate our workforce would go a long way to helping CIA overcome the challenges we face in completing our essential mission."

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