The director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George
Tenet, has told an independent commission probing the September
11, 2001 attacks on the United States that al-Qaida will try
to launch new terrorist assaults on Americans. Mr. Tenet says,
however, U.S. officials have learned important lessons and
says the government can now respond faster and more comprehensively
to counter plans by terrorists in the future.
Mr. Tenet told the panel U.S. intelligence sources "lit
up" in the weeks before the terrorist attacks on New York
The CIA director says, however, the warnings were "maddeningly
short on actionable details."
He says intelligence indicated an attack would occur overseas,
especially against U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Mr. Tenet says he does not believe the September 11 attacks
could have been prevented if al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden
had been killed or captured before 2001 because plans for
the terrorist plot were already established.
He says the United States is now in a better position to
"As a country you must be relentless on offense, but you
must have a defense that links visa measures, border security,
infrastructure protection and domestic warnings in a way
that increases security, closes gaps and serves a society
that demands a high level of both safety and freedom. We
collectively did not close those gaps rapidly or fully enough
before September 11," said Mr. Tenet. "We have learned and
are doing better in an integrated environment that allows
us to respond faster and more comprehensively than three
years ago and much more work needs to be done."
Speaking before members of the commission, and with families
of victims of the September 11 attacks in the audience, Mr.
Tenet says he is concerned as years go by that some people
will believe the danger from future terrorist attacks has
The CIA director says terrorists are still plotting to kill
Americans and predicted more assaults in the future.
"As this thing fades my fear is that people are going to
say it's five years away," he said. "It is not. It is coming.
They are still going to try and do it. We need to, men and
women here that have lost their families have to know, we
have got to do a hell of a lot better."
Also testifying before the commission Wednesday is former
White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke.
Mr. Clarke has written a book alleging that President Bush
paid too little attention to al-Qaida before the September
11 attacks, and focused too much on a possible link with
White House officials have strongly denied the allegations.