CIA had “no lack of focus” on Bin Laden

The director of the CIA, George Tenet, has today said that there was “no lack of focus” in dealing with al Qaeda in the run up to 9/11.

Earlier this week the Bush administration came in for criticism from Richard Clarke, the former White House anti-terrorism adviser, who claimed that President Bush had ignored the al Qaeda threat, significantly raising the temperature in which the commission is working.

But Mr Tenet said: “Clearly there was no lack of care or focus in the face of one of the greatest dangers our country has ever faced.”

The CIA boss explained that a special unit was created to track Osama Bin Laden in 1996, before President Bush came to office. It was a “dedicated component with a mission of disrupting his operations”.

Additionally he told how, in 1999, the CIA created a network of agents in Afghanistan to deal with Bin Laden.

“We disrupted terrorist attacks that saved lives. There were actions in 50 countries, involving dozens of suspects, many of who were followed, arrested or detained,” Mr Tenet said.

But things were not perfect.

In the summer before 9/11, intelligence sources “lit up” with warnings of imminent and “spectacular” attacks against US interests, he explained.

But Mr Tenet added: “The reporting was maddeningly short on actionable details. The most ominous reporting hinting at ‘something big’ was also the most vague.”

A CIA report given to President Bush in August 2001 had no “specific, credible information about any threatened attacks in the United States,” he said.