The CIA is ignoring calls from members of the House Intelligence Committee to release an internal report on whether agency employees should be held accountable for intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. We speak with Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer who broke the story. [includes rush transcript]
The ranking members of the House Intelligence Committee have called on the CIA to turn over an internal report on whether agency employees should be held accountable for intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
An intelligence official told the New York Times that the report was not finished and that "the matter is still under review."
Some Democratic lawmakers have questioned whether the report is being withheld to avoid embarrassment for the Bush administration in the final weeks before the presidential election. So far no agency employee has been fired or faced other disciplinary measures in connection with Sept. 11.
The review, by the CIA’s inspector general, was sought in December 2002 by the joint Congressional committee that investigated intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 attacks.
In a written statement, Democratic Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey said the CIA report concludes that senior intelligence officials "failed to do all that they could have to prevent the attacks, and that White House officials were not as focused on the al Qaeda threat as previously asserted."
- Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times columnist and co-author of "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq." His latest column is titled, "The 9/11 Secret in the CIA’s Back Pocket"
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Robert Scheer, the L.A. Times columnist who’s written about the story and co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Robert Scheer.
ROBERT SCHEER: Hi.
AMY GOODMAN: Your latest piece is called, "The 9/11 Secret in the C.I.A’s Back Pocket." Please explain.
ROBERT SCHEER: Well, what happened here is that the report was done, as I understand it, in May and June, and turned over to the inspector general in July. Now, the inspector general — it was finished, and the inspector general is supposed to hand it over to Congress. And my sources, what I reported, was that there’s no national security reason for withholding the report from Congress. That’s the only grounds in which the inspector — inspector general and the Justice Department, State, C.I.A, Defense Department, is supposed to act as an independent auditor. They’re supposed to be check on the agency. And so, if the C.I.A director doesn’t want to turn over the whole report to Congress he has — legally has seven days to notify Congress that there’s a national security concern then Congress can act on that. They can demand to see the report, they can meet, or what have you. In this case, the inspector general has been stalling, and — been stalling since July; and what I reported was people who have knowledge of this saying they’re stalling the report until after the election, so, it won’t adversely affect Bush’s chances. And Porter Goss who’s the — was the head of the House Intelligence Committee is the new C.I.A Director — Republican — former Republican congressman — is the one who is currently stalling it. So, here is a study on what happened at 9/11 demanded in December of 2002 — 2001 by Congress — 2001 by Congress. An eleven-man committee at the C.I.A worked on that question for almost two years; and it hasn’t been turned over. And my understanding, and what I reported in The Los Angeles Times, is that this is dynamite. It’s the first report to really fix the responsibility by naming names. Remember, both reports that we’ve had, the Senate Intelligence Committee — joint committee — intelligence committee — and the 9/11 Commission managed to be bipartisan by holding back on the question of accountability, particularly accountability of the Bush administration. My understanding is that this report is explosive because it says the Bush administration was asleep at the wheel before 9/11 and it fixes responsibility on individuals quite high up, and that it says the administration covered up after 9/11 by not holding these people accountable. So there it is.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Bob, the current inspector general of the C.I.A — Was the I.G. appointed by the Bush administration, or was he a holdover?
ROBERT SCHEER: Yeah. It was a holdover. And — But the main thing is the I.G. is supposed to, as I say, be an independent auditor. They’re supposed to operate in a professional manner; and the director isn’t even actually supposed to — he’s not supposed to comment or respond to the report when it’s requested. No inspector general has ever been overruled by the C.I.A director in the history of the agency in a matter of this sort. Not one report has been held up by the director of the C.I.A, ever, in the history of the agency. This is the first time. I know it’s difficult for people to understand, but the C.I.A actually, in order to preserve the democracy, the State Department, the C.I.A, the Justice Department, Defense Department have this independent auditing arm that’s supposed to keep the thing straight. And what happened here is that the system broke down. And, as I say, since July, there’s been a report that they’ve been sitting on that does what has not been done. After all, this is a nation that’s been traumatized by 9/11. This is a president who demands to be re-elected primarily on the basis of 9/11; and the public opinion shows that without 9/11, this president would be incredibly weak. That’s his one issue, is: How did he handle the attacks — respond to the attacks on the United States? And what this report says is that this administration bears responsibility on the highest level for being unprepared before 9/11 and not doing — holding people accountable after 9/11. I mean it’s amazing. You know, if you have an automobile accident, or something, people want to know who’s accountable. Here you have this horrible event happen, and we still do not have a single individual in this country who has been held accountable for: How did these people get into the country? Why were our defenses down? Why didn’t the agencies coordinate? Why didn’t they act on the information? So, it is — it’s a major scandal. This is the first report that names names, breaks open this controversy, tells us what really happened, and what didn’t happen on the part of the administration; and they’re afraid of this report, and that’s why they’re suppressing it. And now you have the House and Senate — the chairman of the committee — the Democrat and Republican of the House saying: "Where’s the report?" It’s been fifteen days since they wrote their letter (and I wrote about it in the — in my column in The Los Angeles Times). They demanded to know where is this report, and Jane Harmon, the ranking Democrat on the committee, has said, you know, I’ll quote her, she said: "We believe that the C.I.A has been told not to distribute the report. We are very concerned." And so she is finally — you know — she’s raising the issue, and she said, I’ll quote again, Jane Harman, she said: "It fuels the perception that no one is being held accountable. It is unacceptable that we don’t have the report. It not only disrespects Congress, but it disrespects the American people. And then in my column, I said: "The stonewalling of the Bush administration and the failure of Congress to gain release of the report [here [inaudible] intelligence reports that I quote] 'led the management of C.I.A to believe it can engage in a cover-up with impunity. Unless the public demands an accounting, the administration and C.I.A's leadership will have won and the nation will have lost.’" So, my question there would be: Where are all these people who say 9/11 has to be the focus of this election, has to be the focus of our policy? Why aren’t they demanding the first report that lays out the responsibility, holds people accountable?
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Scheer, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Los Angeles Times columnist who broke the story of this C.I.A pre-9-11 accountability report that the C.I.A refuses to release. And you are listening to and watching Democracy Now!