WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 – A long-awaited C.I.A. inspector general’s report on the agency’s performance before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks includes detailed criticism of more than a dozen former and current agency officials, aiming its sharpest language at George J. Tenet, the former director, according to a former intelligence officer who was briefed on the findings and another government official who has seen the report.
Mr. Tenet is censured for failing to develop and carry out a strategic plan to take on Al Qaeda in the years before 2001, even after he wrote in a 1998 memo to intelligence agencies that "we are at war" with it, they said, speaking about the highly classified report on condition of anonymity.
The report was delivered to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Tuesday by Porter J. Goss, the current C.I.A. director. Its preparation and previous drafts have provoked strong emotions at the beleaguered agency, which has borne the brunt of public criticism in a series of major studies of intelligence failures.
The inspector general, John L. Helgerson, intends to send Congress additional materials, including a compilation of responses from Mr. Tenet and about two dozen other officials, the officials said.
The report describes systemic problems at the agency before 2001, the officials said. In addition to criticizing Mr. Tenet; James L. Pavitt, the former deputy director of operations; and J. Cofer Black, the former director of the agency’s Counterterrorist Center, it offers praise for some specific actions taken by them and other officials, they said.
The findings place Mr. Goss in a delicate position. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the years before the attacks, he influenced intelligence policies and monitored intelligence agencies. As a leader of the joint Congressional inquiry into the attacks, he joined in requesting the inspector general’s inquiry nearly three years ago.
Now, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he will have to decide whether to take disciplinary action against any of those criticized, risking a further blow to the morale of an agency still charged with protecting the country against future terrorist attacks.
The report recommends that Mr. Goss convene "accountability boards" to recommend personnel actions against those faulted in the report, who are identified by title rather than by name. Officials said the only action possible against Mr. Tenet and other officials who have retired would probably be to send them a letter of reprimand.
In a "message to the workforce" sent by e-mail after he delivered the report to the Senate and House intelligence committees, Mr. Goss said that during the preparation of the report, "much has been done at C.I.A. and throughout the intelligence community to improve and reform the way we do business." He said he thought "the major changes to our agency are behind us."
He said, "The bottom line is I want you to continue to do what you do best – provide our country with close-in access to the plans and intentions of its enemies and provide decision makers with the information they need to make the tough decisions." The agency declined to release the message, but its text was provided by a former intelligence official.
Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment on the report or Mr. Goss’s plans.
Mr. Tenet, who stepped down in July 2004 after seven years as director of central intelligence, has responded vigorously to the challenge to his record. In addition to writing a lengthy response, he asked former Senator Warren B. Rudman, who served as chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1997 to 2000 and was co-chairman of a major commission on terrorism, to review the report.
Neither Mr. Tenet nor Mr. Rudman would comment, and neither Mr. Pavitt nor Mr. Black could be reached for comment on Thursday. But a former intelligence official close to Mr. Tenet said Mr. Helgerson’s team had failed to interview policy makers and intelligence officers outside the agency or to note that the agency was more focused on Al Qaeda than any other arm of government was before 2001.
But the official who has seen the report said it appeared to be "thorough and professional." He said inspector general investigations usually were not authorized to interview people outside the agency.
Eleanor Hill, who served as staff director for the joint Congressional inquiry into Sept. 11, said the report had been requested to provide "accountability" for the failures that permitted the attacks.
"The families of the victims had repeatedly asked for some kind of accountability," Ms. Hill said. The Congressional inquiry did not have time to do "the kind of painstaking work necessary to assess individual responsibility," she said.
While agency morale is important, she said "the quality of its performance is even more important, given the nature of the threats the country faces."
One earlier draft of the inspector general’s report criticized the management of the Counterterrorist Center and the Directorate of Operations for focusing on Al Qaeda’s leadership, rather than looking for ways to attack the terrorist network at lower levels, according to a former senior agency official who read the draft. The former official said that by focusing on going after Osama bin Laden, the agency missed opportunities to recruit low-level agents on the margins of Al Qaeda who might have eventually provided access to its inner workings.
He also said the report took top officials to task for allowing thousands of pages of Arabic intercepts to go untranslated.