WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - A senior officer for the Central Intelligence Agency who led the unit that tracked Osama bin Laden has written a blistering letter to the Sept. 11 commission, attacking both the C.I.A. and the commission itself over what he sees as a failure to punish "bureaucratic cowards" in the intelligence agencies.
The officer, Michael F. Scheuer, has written a best-selling book under the pseudonym "Anonymous" that is sharply critical of the way the United States has pursued its global campaign against terrorism.
In a signed e-mail letter sent to the commission, he lashed out in angry and highly personal tones at the failure by the commission and the C.I.A. to hold anyone directly accountable for Sept. 11 failures and aimed sharp criticism at George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, without mentioning his name.
In the Sept. 11 commission's final report, "you never mention that the D.C.I. starved and is starving the bin Laden unit of officers while finding plenty of officers to staff his personal public relations office, as well as the staffs that handled diversity, multiculturalism, and employee newsletters," he wrote in a letter that was sent July 31.
He also said that the United States gave short shrift to protecting American lives before the Sept. 11 attacks so that it could pursue the sale of fighter jets to an unnamed Arab government, which other officials identified as the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Scheuer's e-mail, a copy of which was made available to The New York Times, was a dissenting note in what has otherwise been largely glowing reaction to the Sept. 11 commission's final report last month, which has set off broad debate about how best to restructure the intelligence community. His letter, which says restructuring is not the answer, is also extraordinary in that it comes from a current senior case officer at the C.I.A., where internal whistle-blowers are rare. From 1996 to 1999, he led the C.I.A. unit that tracked Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and he continues to serve in a senior counterterrorism post.
While some intelligence officials took issue with Mr. Scheuer's version of events, the C.I.A. and the Sept. 11 commission declined to respond to his specific accusations.
"A lot of people call and e-mail us with their thoughts," said Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission. "Some people criticize us, some people praise us and we don't respond. The report is out there for the American people to judge. "
In recent weeks, Mr. Scheuer has given numerous anonymous interviews promoting his book, "Imperial Hubris," including some television appearances in which his face was not shown. But the C.I.A. has now ordered him to curtail his public commentary sharply, and to get advance approval for future statements. A publicist for Mr. Scheuer's book said Monday that he could not comment on the letter to the commission because of the C.I.A.'s new restrictions.
While some Web sites and media outlets have disclosed Mr. Scheuer's identity before, The Times has previously referred to him only as "Mike" at the request of an intelligence official because of concerns about his safety. Now that he has signed his name in his letter to the Sept. 11 commission and the C.I.A. has sought to curb his public comments, the newspaper is using his name.
Some government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that they regarded Mr. Scheuer's latest accusations as exaggerated or unfounded.
On the question of whether Mr. Tenet put public relations staffing ahead of combating terrorism, for instance, an intelligence official said that the C.I.A. quadrupled the number of counterterrorism analysts and doubled the number of counterterrorism officers in the year after the Sept. 11 attacks and that these numbers have risen further since then.
A second intelligence official noted that Mr. Scheuer had testified privately at length before the Sept. 11 commission. "If they didn't buy what he had to say, that ought to tell you something," the official said.
Mr. Scheuer said in his letter that he found the commission's final report "disappointing in the extreme" and that it "seems to deliberately ignore those who were clearly culpable of negligence or dereliction" for failing to deal adequately with the bin Laden threat. "By finding no one culpable, you will allow the mindset that got America to 9/11 to endure and thrive in whatever new community structure is established."
He said human failings, not the organizational problems that have been so widely discussed in recent weeks, allowed the Sept. 11 attacks. "Perhaps most damaging, your report will accelerate the growth of cynicism among the men and women of America's clandestine service who risk their lives every day to collect the information which would allow America to be defended - if their leaders were not such bureaucratic cowards."
Mr. Scheuer had pushed for more aggressive covert and military action, but he says he was rebuffed. In his letter, he pointed with frustration to' failed American plans to assassinate Mr. bin Laden, saying that "there is much more to the failure to fire cruise missiles at bin Laden" in the late 1990's than the report suggested. And he said that "you know that on at least one occasion the sale of F-16's to an Arab government was considered more important than acting to protect American lives."
He did not elaborate on that accusation, but officials said his comments appeared to refer to the United States' approval of Lockheed Martin's pending sale of 80 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.
The Sept. 11 commission found that an American plan in early 1999 to launch a missile attack against a hunting camp in Afghanistan, which Mr. bin Laden appeared to be using, was postponed because three Emirates officials were also at the camp at the time. Policymakers "were concerned about the danger that a strike would kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with bin Laden or close by," and Mr. bin Laden moved on after the strike was put off, the report said.