The intelligence panel's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which released an unclassified summary of its report last week, found that the NSA is "unable to identify" how it spends the money it gets from Congress each year "to any level of detail." A number of its projects duplicate one another, the report said. And while the NSA had listened in on "large volumes of phone calls from the part of the world [where] al-Qaeda was located," says Representative Saxby Chambliss, who chairs the terrorism subcommittee, "the problem was, they didn't focus on al-Qaeda," so that those messages could be identified and processed quickly.
Another problem is that the cash-strapped agency, which spent billions on cold war?era satellites, hired no new employees for "an extended period of time" before Sept. 11. That was a big mistake, the subcommittee believes, because the NSA was already chronically short of computer scientists, engineers and foreign-language experts. The NSA even established incentive programs to entice more employees to take early retirement. What's worse, the agency's overworked linguists and analysts were allowed to continue taking advantage of the early-retirement program even after Sept. 11.