'Systemic' CIA failures blamed for deadly attack on Afghan base

The deadly suicide bombing at a remote CIA base in Afghanistan last December was the result of "systemic failures", including basic security lapses and ignoring a prior warning from Jordanian intelligence that the bomber might be an al-Q'aida double agent.

This was the harsh verdict of Leon Panetta, the agency's director as he presented the results of an internal investigation of the attack in which seven CIA officers were killed – the deadliest such incident since the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, in which 17 agency operatives died.

But no individuals, not even the CIA officer in Amman who failed to pass on the warning from a Jordanian counterpart, are being singled out for censure. Instead, Mr Panetta announced a series of internal CIA changes, including tighter security procedures, a new advisory board to improve agent training for combat zones, and the establishment of an analytic team to identify double agents.

The refusal to make scapegoats reflects the fact that several of the individuals who made mistakes were themselves killed or badly wounded in the attack. Mr Panetta said only that "judgements were clouded" by the desire to capture a top al-Q'aida target, and that "if anything, all of us bear some responsibility." In fact the bomber, a Jordanian doctor named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, managed to make his way to the heart of the base at Khost because he promised to lead them to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Q'aida's second in command.

The mission was considered so important that President Obama had received a personal briefing. Because Balawi was considered such a high-value and trustworthy source, he was not subjected to standard security procedures, and was met on his arrival by a large group of CIA officers.

In addition to the seven agency operatives, a Jordanian intelligence officer and an Afghan driver were killed, and six other CIA personnel were injured when Balawi detonated his vest stuffed with explosives. The blast would have been deadlier still had not Balawi's car stood between him and other Americans.

Balawi had been brought to the base to establish whether he was as close to al-Zawahiri as he claimed. The plan was for him to be trained in "tools of tradecraft" – most notably how to communicate the al-Q'aida leader's location back to the CIA. Consumed by the prospect of getting to the closest lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, Balawi's handlers brushed aside the warnings.

But the disaster, intelligence specialists here say, also suggests that despite every effort at reform, some CIA failings revealed by the 11 September attacks have still not been eliminated, including a lack of experienced personnel, and a tangled chain of command that saw different divisions of the agency competing to control the operation.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate