Goss Rejects Discipline For CIA 9/11 Failures

CIA Director Porter J. Goss said yesterday that the officers cited by its internal accountability board as being most responsible for the 9/11 failures “are amongst the finest we have.}

CIA Rejects Discipline For 9/11 Failures (WaPo, A1)

The CIA will not seek to hold any current or former agency officials, including ex-director George J. Tenet, responsible for failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, CIA Director Porter J. Goss said yesterday, despite a recommendation by the agency’s inspector general that he convene an “accountability board” to judge their performance.

Goss’s decision, coming four years after hijackers commandeered four jets and killed nearly 3,000 people, appeared to end the possibility that a high-level official will be held responsible for what several investigations found to be significant failures throughout the government. The inspectors general of the departments of State, Justice and Defense completed their own investigations without publicized disciplinary actions taken against anyone.

The CIA’s report, which severely criticized actions of senior officers, will remain classified, Goss said in his announcement, which was welcomed by some former officials mentioned in the document but assailed by families of victims of the attacks.

Goss said in his statement that the voluminous report by CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson “unveiled no mysteries,” and that making it public would only bring harm to the agency when it is trying to rebuild. Goss said the report in no way suggests “that any one person or group of people could have prevented 9/11.” “Of the officers named in this report,” he said, “about half have retired from the Agency, and those who are still with us are amongst the finest we have.”

While I understand Goss’ reluctance to create a climate in the Agency that makes keeping a low profile the most effective way to career advancement, it’s quite odd to think that no one there is responsible for any of the series of bunders that took place. Of course, four years after the fact is a bit late to send much of a message, anyway. Or, at least, any good ones.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    So lemme get this straight… the exact same people who were absolutely, unforgivably, 180-degrees wrong about pretty much every single piece of intel regarding Iraq are “among the finest we have”?!?

    If I had had any confidence in PG’s competence before, this would certainly kill it. Can one have negative confidence in something?

  2. Jonk says:

    The culture of non-risk taking in the intelligence community is what led us to 9/11. Make one mistake, kiss your career goodbye…what do you get…groupthink. No original ideas, no thinking outside the box.

    What PG has done signals to me the actual implementation of fixes to a mostly broken intelligence system. Not a popular move to those out for blood, but it has to happen to protect us all in the long run and ensure quality people stay in the Agency. Who wants to work in an office culture of fear?

  3. McGehee says:

    Can one have negative confidence in something?

    Yes. But then, I’ve been reading your comments for a while. 😉

  4. legion says:

    Touche, McG 🙂

    But to address Jonk – yeah, a one-mistake workplace is a bad way to run an organization, but seriously, failing to recognize the various signs leading up to 9/11, failing to work with other parts of the gov’t to prevent it, failing to make the right people aware of the threat, failing to put the proper level of importance to the intel we did have… all of that adds up to one hell of a lot more than ‘one’ mistake.

    Not to mention the fact that whitewashing the responsibility for that tragedy this way means that whatever was ‘broken’ to have allowed 9/11 in the first place won’t ever be fixed. And _that_ guarrantees it’ll happen again.

    _That’s_ why I can’t abide Goss’ decision.

  5. Rob M says:

    Of course Goss has been cleaning house since he got in.
    And he got ripped in the press for doing it. What do people think he was doing?

    He has already taken care of this. Half the people are no longer working for the CIA and the other half owe their butts to the new boss. Sounds good to me.

  6. Jonk says:

    It is not a single mistake my any ONE person, but a series of refusals by teams of people to take chances on intelligence information and formulate that into useable intelligence. Thus everyone backs up everyone else in a game of “cover thy @$$” and groupthink.

    Non-cooperation between agencies has been a huge problem in the intelligence community for 50 years. Hoover was angry that the CIA became the big dog during the cold war and the bad blood has been there ever since.