- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The House and Senate intelligence committees are negotiating the terms of an investigation into the intelligence failures surrounding the September 11 surprise attacks on the United States.
Meetings between leaders of the House and Senate intelligence oversight panels so far have been unable to produce an agreement on the scope of the investigation, who will lead the probe and how long it will last, congressional aides said yesterday.
The Bush administration is set to cooperate with the inquiry but opposes open hearings and committee inquiries by panels other than the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the formal oversight bodies.
A meeting of the leaders from those committees failed yesterday to resolve the differences, said Paul Anderson, a spokesman for Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman.
"We had hoped to have an agreement in place by now," Mr. Anderson said in an interview. "But it looks like there are still some concerns about timing and staffing."
Another key issue is how much of the investigation can be done with open hearings and how much will be done in secret sessions, he said.
The investigation will be "looking at the intelligence failure and attempting to come up with recommendations for systemic reform," Mr. Anderson said.
The Senate committee's vice chairman, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, wants a comprehensive investigation of the numerous intelligence failures in recent years, not just the failure to detect and prevent the September 11 attacks.
"This has got to be a serious, thorough and comprehensive effort," Mr. Shelby said. "If we do any less, it will be a sham and the American people will perceive it to be a sham."
Mr. Shelby told The Washington Times he wants to "avoid arbitrary time limitations."
The initial candidate to head the inquiry was L. Britt Snider, a former Senate intelligence committee aide who worked closely with CIA Director George J. Tenet on the Senate panel and later at CIA headquarters and as CIA inspector general.
Mr. Snider stated in a memorandum last year that the CIA was in "good shape" but has failed to properly manage its money and work force.
The CIA has played a major role in the war on terror since September 11, sending officers to Afghanistan, including one who was killed in a prisoner revolt.
Mr. Snider is opposed by at least two members of Congress because he is considered too close to Mr. Tenet, according to congressional aides.
"The credibility of this investigation will depend on its thoroughness and its independence," Mr. Shelby said. "We need to ensure that whomever we ask to head the inquiry is free from conflicts, perceived and real."
Other members of Congress have questioned whether Mr. Snider is the right person to lead the inquiry since his actions as inspector general at the CIA could be part of the inquiry and would create a conflict of interest.
U.S. intelligence agencies have suffered a string of intelligence failures in recent years in addition to the September 11 attacks. They include:
The bombing of a U.S. military residence in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. destroyer in port at Yemen, and U.S. embassies in Africa.
1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan.
Several major counterintelligence debacles, including those involving FBI agent Robert Hanssen, CIA officer Aldrich Ames and recent spies uncovered in the Defense Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies.
According to congressional aides, an initial proposal by Mr. Graham and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican, called for holding a five-month investigation with a staff of less than 10.
That proposal was opposed by Mr. Shelby as insufficient.
A revised proposal calls for a staff of 30 and would look at the failures of the entire U.S. intelligence community, made up of more than a dozen spy agencies.

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