President Bush says the United States and its allies have blocked at least 10 attempts by al-Qaida to carry out terrorist attacks around the world since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Wednesday, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency said he will not take action against individual officials for alleged lapses that left the country exposed to the surprise attacks.
In a major address designed to inspire more domestic support for the global war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, President Bush said most of the terrorist leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks have been either caught or killed. He said although attacks have continued in many parts of the world, some terrorist plans have been thwarted.
"Overall, the United States and our partners have disrupted at least 10 serious al-Qaida terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al-Qaida plots to attack inside the United States," he said. "We have stopped at least five more al-Qaida efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into our country."
In his wide-ranging speech, President Bush listed intelligence reform as a key component of his plan to prevent future terrorist attacks. He said the effort to gather information about terrorist plans is "incredibly difficult" and involves compiling information that comes in small fragments from widely scattered sources around the world.
President Bush's comments were made the day after the director of the Central Intelligence Agency announced he will not hold disciplinary hearings to try to hold individual officials responsible for alleged lapses that enabled terrorists to carry out the surprise attacks in 2001.
In a written statement, CIA Director Porter Goss says to single out individuals for blame and punishment would intimidate junior intelligence officers from taking risks - which he calls a critical part of their work.
Mr. Goss also says about half of the officials whose performance is mentioned in a secret report about the 9/11 attacks have retired. He calls those remaining among "the finest we have." Mr. Goss says he has spoken to all of them.
The CIA director says some of the agency's brightest officers were given difficult assignments in the period before September 11, 2001, without adequate resources to succeed.
Some members of Congress and some families of victims of the September 11 attacks criticized the decision not to hold intelligence officials accountable for the alleged lapses.
News reports have said the secret report criticizes the performance of several senior officials, including former Director George Tenet, who headed the agency from 1997 until last year. He and other officials have defended their actions, saying they issued terror warnings before September 11, but their concerns were not heeded.
Mr. Goss, who became CIA director a year ago, also says the agency is addressing all 20 problem areas mentioned in the report, which was compiled by the CIA inspector general following a lengthy investigation. The director says he has always intended to use the report to help guide further reform and to determine how to best reallocate resources within the CIA.
Mr. Goss says he will not make the inspector general's report public because it reveals the "who, what, where and when" of how the CIA works. He said the agency is already preparing to respond to a legal challenge to that decision under the Freedom of Information Act.
The U.S. intelligence community was sharply criticized after the September 11th attacks for not providing warnings in advance. President Bush has since re-organized U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, in effect downgrading the role of the CIA in favor of the new cabinet-level Director of National Intelligence.