WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. intelligence agencies initially failed to anticipate the threat posed by global terrorism and later missed general warnings before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed about 3,000 people, a congressional panel said Wednesday.
Lawmakers proposed a Cabinet-level intelligence office to better coordinate anti-terror efforts, even as the ranking Senate Republican dissented on parts of the report for not going far enough.
Panel co-chairman Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said reforming the intelligence services was critical as the United States, despite progress on the war on terrorism, continues to face threats that border on inevitable.
"It is almost a certainty that in the coming months, the American people will face another attempted terrorist attack that could be on the same scale as the one we saw on Sept. 11, 2001," he said.
"The question is only whether we can intercept and prevent it," he added later.
Over the course of nine months and 22 hearings, including nine public and 13 closed, the panel of House and Senate members interviewed more than 600 people and examined more than 500,000 documents related to the events of, and leading up to, the terror attacks. The panel was limited in scope to intelligence aspects and did not examine failures by immigration authorities or transportation security, a fact bemoaned by some panel members.
The report itself remains classified and unreleased but the panel leaders said they were pushing for the release of a declassified version of the report at a later date.
Graham did detail many of the findings, including a call for further reforms.
"Intelligence agencies had considerable intelligence before Sept. 11 that al Qaida was planning an attack," he said. "But they had no specific detail that could have helped them prevent the attacks themselves.
"They also had a series of steady warnings that al Qaida planned to attack the homeland and that they had contemplated using commercial airplanes as weapons of mass destruction."
Other findings included the belief that agencies did not "fully exploit the intelligence" they had on al Qaida and that the United States did not "properly position itself to marshal its resources to fight the new threat."
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he supported the findings of the report, but personally wanted it to go further in holding individuals responsible for failing to detect and prevent the plot by Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network.
"I believe the people who make decisions at the upper or middle levels of the intelligence agencies should be held accountable for what they did or did not do," Shelby said. "These leaders failed the country."
Shelby specifically cited CIA Director George Tenet for criticism.
"George Tenet -- whom I personally like -- (has presided over) the most massive failures of intelligence of any director in the history of the agency," he said.
He also cited former FBI Director Louis Freeh as having provided leadership during a "catastrophic era (during which) the FBI appears to have lost its way."
During a closed-door committee meeting Tuesday, Shelby pushed to have the report include stronger language in naming individuals he thought had failed to properly manage the anti-terrorism effort, committee staff said. While Shelby publicly endorsed the report itself, sources said he planned to release his own findings that went further than the committee's.
The single most aggressive finding in the report is the call for a Cabinet-level intelligence "czar," to coordinate all the intelligence-gathering efforts, both domestically and abroad.
Shelby also criticized unnamed agencies for failing to fully cooperate with the inquiry and said that he hoped the independent commission recently approved by Congress and the president was better able to get access to some information.