CIA: We could have stopped Bin Laden

We could have stopped him

The CIA has tak­en much of the blame for the secu­ri­ty laps­es that led to 9/11 and the false intel­li­gence on Iraq’s WMDs. But now one spy has bro­ken ranks to point the fin­ger at the politi­cians — and warn that the war on ter­ror could plunge the US into even greater dan­ger. By Julian Borger

These are not hap­py times at the CIA. In the space of a few short months, two offi­cial reports have found the agency prin­ci­pal­ly to blame for fail­ing to pre­vent the Sep­tem­ber 11 al-Qai­da attack and for claim­ing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruc­tion. There is no doubt there is a lot of blame to go round. The twin fias­cos rank as the worst intel­li­gence fail­ures since the sec­ond world war. But the two reports, by the Sep­tem­ber 11 Com­mis­sion and the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee respec­tive­ly, were also tes­ta­ments to polit­i­cal expe­di­ence. Both pan­els were made up of Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic loy­al­ists who reached a polit­i­cal com­pro­mise by going rel­a­tive­ly easy on both Clin­ton and Bush admin­is­tra­tions, and focused on insti­tu­tion­al cul­prits. The CIA, with­out a defend­er after the res­ig­na­tion in July of its long-serv­ing direc­tor, George Tenet, pre­sent­ed the eas­i­est target.

Yet most of the agen­cy’s rank and file believe they have done lit­tle wrong. They were the first to raise the alarm over the dan­ger posed by Osama bin Laden, long before the 1998 embassy bomb­ings in East Africa. In 1996 they set up a unit called the Bin Laden Issue Sta­tion, code­named “Alex”, ded­i­cat­ed to track­ing him down, only to have one oper­a­tion after anoth­er abort­ed as too polit­i­cal­ly dangerous.

Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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