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911 inquiry bias
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CIA Director: Some 9/11 Inquiry Staff Show Bias
Fri Sep 27, 9:59 PM ET
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA ( news - web sites) Director George Tenet said in a letter that some staff members of the congressional probe into Sept. 11 intelligence failures had shown bias, animosity and an attempt to "poison" the atmosphere surrounding the investigation.
The letter was sent on Thursday to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees after a controversy over a staff notation in briefing materials for a hearing.
The notation said the CIA's witness would "probably dissemble" in responding to questions about the number of analysts working on Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network before Sept. 11.
The United States blames the network for the Sept. 11 attacks last year that killed 3,000 people. Many Americans hope the inquiry will explain how U.S. intelligence failed to prevent the hijacked plane attacks.
The number of analysts has become a source of fierce disagreement between congressional investigators and the CIA.
Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint inquiry, has said CIA's Counterterrorist Center had only five analysts assigned full-time to al Qaeda before last year's attacks. The CIA has said about 115 analysts were working on terrorism-related issues at that time.
Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, at Thursday's hearing made public the staff notation about how former CIA counterterrorism official Cofer Black would respond to the issue, and blasted the inquiry for having a slanted approach.
"There can be no doubt about the meaning of the words Senator Roberts read. Your staff predicted to your members that one of the most senior and decorated officers of the agency would not tell the truth," Tenet said in the letter.
Black, who is still with CIA in an undisclosed position, was former head of the Counterterrorist Center and is credited with helping catch the notorious "Carlos the Jackal."
"The issue of how best to fight terrorism is a complex one, and reasonable people can disagree," Tenet wrote.
But he said it was clear some staff members of the joint inquiry were "acting not out of genuine disagreement but with bias, preconceived notions, and apparent animus."
He asked Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham what steps were planned to "eliminate the misguided efforts of the joint inquiry staff to poison the atmosphere of what should be an exercise in objective and fair oversight."
A CIA spokesman declined comment on the letter, and a spokesman for Graham said the Florida Democrat was traveling.
Hill issued a statement on Thursday that said due to an oversight in the editing process, the briefing materials "contained a poor choice of words in one section."
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