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Intelligence gaps reported by House panel

By MARK BENJAMIN   |   July 17, 2002 at 6:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- A House intelligence panel Wednesday announced findings in a new report on U.S. intelligence gaps prior to Sept. 11, recommending changes in strategy, technology, training and resources in U.S. intelligence agencies.

Authors of the report from the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security were also critical of the culture inside the U.S. intelligence community as passive and risk-averse, but focused their report on recommendations and not retribution.

"Our goal is to prevent the next 9-11," subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said. "There is no guarantee we can do this."

An unclassified summary of the report released by the subcommittee Tuesday indicates missed opportunities by the intelligence community to clean up its act, including a quote from a Sept. 11, 1998 report by undisclosed members of the intelligence community.

"Failure to improve operations management, resource allocation, and other key issues within the (intelligence community) including making substantial and sweeping changes in the way the nation collects, analyzes, and produces intelligence, will likely result in catastrophic systemic intelligence failure," the 1998 intelligence report is quoted as saying.

The summary of the House panel report recommends a series of recommendations -- from training agents on foreign languages to upgrading technology -- designed to put the U.S. intelligence capabilities in a more aggressive posture.

"I think this report is significant because it attempts to change the culture of the intelligence agencies, one that has been too passive, and make it more predatory," said Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind. "We must be more aggressive in going after these terrorist targets."

The 10-page unclassified summary reflects a classified report sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., with 140 pages of recommendations on fixes to the intelligence community.

Despite the criticism, Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the report does not contain recommendations to fire any individuals in the intelligence community. Chambliss said it is unclear if managers like CIA Director George Tenet could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks, and the intelligence community should be given a fair chance to react to the recommendations in the report.

"We don't know of any way this could have been prevented or one individual (in the intelligence community) that should have stepped forward and said, 'we missed this,' or, 'we should have vetted this,' or 'we didn't do something right'," said Chambliss.

Members of the panel also said that Congress shares some of the blame for failing to generously and consistently fund intelligence agencies over the years.

"Congress certainly needs to admit that we share some of the blame from a resource standpoint," Chambliss said.

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