(NYT) WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 – The director of central intelligence has asked the C.I.A.’s inspector general to modify a draft report on the Sept. 11 attacks to avoid drawing conclusions about whether individual C.I.A. officers should be held accountable for any failures, Congressional and intelligence officials said Monday.
The request by Porter J. Goss, the intelligence chief, would affect an 800-page report that is the result of nearly two years of work. Congressional officials said they were reviewing Mr. Goss’s request, spelled out in an Oct. 27 memorandum to the inspector general, John Helgerson, to determine whether it was consistent with a request by the joint Congressional committee that looked into the Sept. 11 attacks.
That panel asked in December 2002 that the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general determine “whether and to what extent personnel at all levels should be held accountable” for any mistakes that contributed to the failure to disrupt the attacks. Mr. Helgerson’s draft report is widely understood to identify officers and officials who should be considered for discipline because of breakdowns in the collection, analysis and distribution of intelligence before the attacks.
The draft report was completed in July, but it has not yet been shared with the individuals named in the document. That step has been delayed for the last 90 days to allow time for Mr. Goss, who took office in September, and his predecessor, John E. McLaughlin, to review the document. In recent weeks, members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have complained to Mr. Goss about the delay. The disclosure of the request from Mr. Goss represents the first indication of how he intends to approach the issue.
As the C.I.A.’s inspector general, Mr. Helgerson is an independent internal investigator, subject to presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. According to Congressional and intelligence officials, Mr. Goss wants to limit the report to findings of fact, deferring judgments about who should be held accountable to a separate inquiry by an internal C.I.A. panel known as an Accountability Review Board, which is typically composed of senior agency managers.
An intelligence official said that Mr. Goss had requested only that Mr. Helgerson “consider” making changes in the “formatting and presentation” of the draft report as he believed appropriate. “Ultimately, it is the call of I.G. to decide how to proceed,” the intelligence official said.
But any recommendation from Mr. Goss would carry significant weight, Congressional and intelligence officials said, because Mr. Helgerson, as an independent internal investigator, reports both to the intelligence chief and to Congress.
Congressional officials critical of Mr. Goss’s request said they saw it as inconsistent with Congress’s intent that the inspector general, not an internal board, determine who, if anyone, should be held responsible for errors related to the Sept. 11 attacks. Among the actions highlighted in previous inquiries by Congress and an independent commission have been the failure of C.I.A. and F.B.I. personnel to share information in summer 2001 that should have put some of the hijackers on a government watch list.
Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat who was co-chairman of the joint Congressional panel on the Sept. 11 attacks, said in an interview that he regarded Mr. Goss’s request as “reasonable” to protect “the due process rights of the individuals involved.” As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until this summer, Mr. Goss was the other co-chairman of the joint committee.
Representative Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was also a member of the joint panel. In response to a question about Mr. Goss’s new request, Ms. Harman did not comment directly, but issued a statement saying that “it’s past time for Congress to receive this report.”
The convening of an internal board to consider possible disciplinary action represents standard practice for the agency in matters of possible wrongdoing, intelligence officials said. They said such a board was usually convened by the C.I.A.’s executive director, the No. 3 official, customarily after the completion of an inspector general’s report.
Mr. Helgerson’s report is to be made final after he shares his findings with people named in the draft, who will be asked to submit comments, an intelligence official said. But Mr. Helgerson must now decide whether he or the panel of senior C.I.A. officials should draw conclusions about individual responsibility.
Mr. Goss informed the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees about his request in an Oct. 27 letter, according to the Congressional and intelligence officials. He also gave the committees copies of his Oct. 27 memorandum to Mr. Helgerson, the officials said.
The officials described both letters as unclassified, but neither the C.I.A. nor the Intelligence Committee leaders would make them public, saying that would violate the panel’s rules. The intelligence and Congressional officials who described the documents had all read the letter, and they included both supporters and critics of Mr. Goss’s request.
In a Sept. 23 letter to Mr. McLaughlin, Ms. Harman and the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said they were “concerned that the C.I.A. is unwilling to hold its officers accountable for failures to meet the professional standards we know the C.I.A. stands for.” Last week, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, wrote separately to Mr. Goss, expressing concern “about the appearance that the inspector general’s independence is being infringed.”
Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, did not sign Mr. Rockefeller’s letter. But a spokeswoman for Mr. Roberts said last week that “Senator Roberts has already made it clear to the agency that he expects to see the report upon its completion.”