Thread: Senator: More 9/11 lapses found
06.05.02, 07:01 AM #1
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Senator: More 9/11 lapses found
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., briefs reporters Tuesday after a first hearing on intelligence issues. At left is fellow co-chair Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla.. At right is Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
June 4 -- The House and Senate Intelligence Committees held secret hearings Tuesday where top FBI officials explained why they couldn't deter the Sept. 11 attacks. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES
WASHINGTON, June 5 — Congressional investigators have unearthed more examples of U.S. intelligence failures before Sept. 11, a senior lawmaker told NBC News on Wednesday. Those cases will come to light during hearings over the next few months, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., told NBC’s “Today” show. The most prominent incidents revealed so far are the FBI’s handling of information about a suspected terrorist arrested in Minneapolis and botched surveillance of suspected terrorists who arrived in the United States from Malaysia.
June 5 — Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the investigation into Sept. 11 lapses is coming together like a jigsaw puzzle.
“I CAN tell you there’ll be more of a similar vein to come in the future,” said Graham, the co-chairman of the joint hearings that started Tuesday with a closed-door session.
Graham described the work by congressional investigators as putting together a “jigsaw puzzle.”
The goal, he said, is to figure out “what lessons are to be learned from this and how can we apply these lessons to reduce the chance of another September 11.”
After Tuesday’s hearing, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., said he was “heartened by the progress we made this afternoon.”
House members will chair the committee one week, followed by senators the next, said Goss, who is the other co-chairman of the joint hearings. “If anybody wondered whether 37 members of the House and Senate could get together, the answer is yes,” Goss added. “We’re going to have heavy member participation; we will not be driven by outside pressures.”
On Wednesday, lawmakers are to begin hearing staff analysis of some key internal FBI and CIA documents and begin working to develop a list of witnesses who will be called to testify at future hearings.
Before the hearing began, Graham criticized FBI and CIA officials for feuding through a series of leaks to news organizations, an unseemly display that he compared to a “children’s playground fight.” He called on officials of both agencies to “act like adults” as Congress tries to determine what went wrong and ensure that the problems are corrected.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he wasn’t interested in “a witch hunt” and wanted to “get beyond this sparring. This country doesn’t have the time for some kind of row between these agencies.”
Wyden hoped an outcome of the hearings would be “some kind of terrorist tracking system, which frankly should have been in place many months ago.”
Earlier, Goss said on NBC’s “Today” show that a key goal of the hearings is to get federal and local authorities to “work better together.”
At the federal level, he added, that’s not just the FBI and CIA, headed by Robert Mueller and George Tenet, respectively, but others like Customs, Immigration and the Federal Aviation Administration.
June 4 — The CIA and FBI had signals that al-Qaida was planning something big, but the agencies failed to coordinate their efforts to track down suspects. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.
The investigation has been compared to the government’s inquiry into how the United States missed preparations for Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The last large-scale investigation of intelligence matters was the commission set up by Sen. Frank Church in 1975, which led to new congressional oversight of the CIA.
Investigators zero in on 9/11 planner
Goss said Tuesday’s hearing was being held behind closed doors because lawmakers had to sort through “clandestine sources” and “classified materials.”
Sources told NBC News that the committee hoped to hold its first public hearings in late June and that 15 CIA officials were dedicated to the hearings and have already turned over more than 400,000 pages of information.
Among other things, lawmakers will try to determine why the FBI failed to connect the arrest of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, in Minneapolis to the warnings of a Phoenix field agent that followers of Osama bin Laden could be training at American flight schools.
FOCUS SHIFTS TO CIA
The CIA has also come under scrutiny after Newsweek magazine reported that the agency failed for months to alert the FBI that two suspected terrorists who participated in the attacks were in the United States.
Newsweek reported that the CIA tracked two suspected terrorists — Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi — to an al-Qaida summit in Malaysia in January 2000, then looked the other way as the two men re-entered the United States and began preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks. The Newsweek report said the CIA didn’t inform the FBI or the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS could have denied the men entry into the United States, or the FBI could have monitored them while they were in the country.
CIA officials on Monday challenged the account, saying FBI agents were briefed as the Malaysia meeting was taking place.
During a public hearing on Thursday, the committee is expected to hear from former FBI Director Louis Freeh and whistleblower Coleen Rowley, the Minneapolis FBI agent who has charged that bureau headquarters mishandled the Moussaoui investigation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also will hold hearings focusing on the FBI, including whether new FBI guidelines lifting prohibitions on certain types of domestic spying could violate civil rights.
BUSH: COMMUNICATION WAS LACKING
Before Tuesday’s hearings began, President Bush acknowledged that the CIA and FBI failed to communicate adequately with one another about possible clues that a terrorist attack was being planned.
“In terms of whether the FBI and CIA communicated properly, I think it’s clear that they weren’t, and now we’re addressing that issue,” the president said during a tour of the top-secret National Security Agency.
Bush renewed his support for the intelligence committees’ investigation, but again objected to calls in Congress for a separate, independent inquiry, saying that could hinder efforts to prevent future terrorist strikes and jeopardize U.S. intelligence sources.
Before Tuesday’s hearings, a CIA official acknowledged that both the CIA and FBI knew as early as January 2000 that Almihdhar, one of the eventual Sept. 11 hijackers, would be attending a meeting of suspected al-Qaida members.
Challenging an account that the CIA had withheld the information, the official told NBC News that the agency had notified the FBI that Almihdhar had a multiple-entry visa on Jan. 5, 2000, the night before Almihdhar arrived for the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
The CIA official called the FBI an “archivally challenged agency” for its inability to find the CIA cables. Reading extensively from cables and references to interagency phone calls from the CIA to the FBI, and from internal records memorializing such communications, the CIA official said the FBI was fully informed of the meeting, the reasons behind it and — perhaps most significantly — the information related to the multiple-entry visa.
The CIA official noted that his agency was “not blameless” in this matter, but insisted there was “shared responsibility” for the failure of the intelligence and law enforcement community to place Almihdhar on the State Department’s terrorist watch list. “Either one of us could nominate someone for the watch list,” the CIA official said. “Neither of us did.”
The CIA on Tuesday flatly denied that Egypt had warned the United States of an al-Qaida plot shortly before Sept. 11. In the unusual public statement, the CIA said through a spokesman, “We categorically did not receive such a warning.”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told The New York Times that his government had passed along information a week before Sept. 11 that the United States would be targeted. But he added that his sources had no idea as to how big the attack would be. “We thought it was an embassy, an airplane, something, the usual thing,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. To discover after the event that the terrorists were going to take airplanes and destroy buildings, “That is unbelievable,” he said.
A high-ranking Justice Department official told NBC’s Jim Popkin Tuesday that 23 known terrorists have been discovered living in the United States since November 2001. At least one is an al-Qaida operative, the official says. The official would not identify them but said the 23 have either been arrested, deported or are under surveillance.
The alleged terrorists were tracked by the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, a new intelligence center set up by the Justice Department and the FBI after the Sept. 11 attacks.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.
06.05.02, 07:19 AM #2
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