Report Blames Agencies Over Prewar Intelligence

Published: June 4, 2004

WASHINGTON, June 3 - George J. Tenet's resignation may have been hastened by a critical, 400-page report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that was presented to the Central Intelligence Agency for comment last month.

Government officials and people close to Mr. Tenet said the classified report was a detailed account of mistakes and miscalculations by American intelligence agencies on whether Iraq possessed illicit weapons before the United States invaded last year. An unclassified version of the report is to be made public this month. Some close to Mr. Tenet said the report was among the factors that led him to resign from a post he had considered leaving for several years.

A senior intelligence official said Mr. Tenet had neither read nor been briefed on the Senate report. The official described as "bunk" the idea that his departure had been related to the Senate findings.

Officials who have read the report described it as presenting a broad indictment of the C.I.A.'s performance on Iraq. They said its criticisms ranged from inadequate prewar collection of intelligence by spies and satellites to a sloppy analysis, often based on uncorroborated sources, that produced the conclusion that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons.

"There are some things that are indefensible," said a recently retired intelligence official who had seen the report. "There are some real errors, of omission and commission, and it's not going to be a pretty picture."

A Congressional official declined to comment on the tone of the report or its specific content, but said, "Our intention has been to be as detailed and as thorough as possible, and we've been very specific."

The version of the report that was shown to the C.I.A. included only factual findings. Separate conclusions are still being drafted by Democrats and Republicans on the Republican-controlled panel, government officials said. But the findings alone were portrayed by three officials as likely to be particularly embarrassing to the C.I.A., whose analysts were the main proponents among those from various intelligence agencies of the view that Iraq possessed illicit weapons.

Mr. Tenet and his agency have insisted that it is too soon to say whether the C.I.A. made mistakes in its prewar assessment. But even before Mr. Tenet announced his resignation, the committee chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said at a meeting on Thursday that he believed intelligence agencies were still "in denial."

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence who has been leading the C.I.A.'s internal review of its performance, said in an interview on Thursday that he had not read the Senate report. But he said he believed that it had been a factor in Mr. Tenet's decision to resign.

"This has been a very rough go," he said, citing the criticism during Mr. Tenet's tenure of the agency's performance on other issues, including the Sept. 11 attacks, the subject of another report, by an independent presidential commission, which is to be released next month.

The reports by the Senate panel and the Sept. 11 commission will be "very critical" of Mr. Tenet and his agency, Mr. Kerr said. "I think he was at a point where he thought maybe it was better that he was no longer the person up front on this."

Until early this week, Congressional officials said, Mr. Tenet had been tentatively scheduled to appear before the Senate committee on Thursday in a closed session, in what would have amounted to a final rebuttal before the report was released. The officials said Mr. Tenet had canceled that appearance, citing other commitments but giving no hint that he was preparing to resign.

A senior intelligence official said the C.I.A., which has the power to decide how much of the classified report will be released in unclassified form, was expected to complete its review soon.