- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Lawmakers investigating intelligence failures before September 11 have not yet examined in closed hearings whether sensitivity to racial profiling prevented federal agents from pursuing Middle Eastern men.
"It's never been raised," said a lawmaker who has attended the secret joint hearings by the House and Senate intelligence committees. "I've never heard the issue raised once."
Several senators, including Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said in recent weeks they feared that FBI agents did not pursue terrorism probes aggressively enough because agents worried about being accused of racial profiling. Mrs. Feinstein and others said they intended to pursue the issue in the closed hearings.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican who also has expressed concern about the profiling issue, said this week he could not discuss it because of a furor about leaks to the news media from the congressional probe. A spokesman for Mrs. Feinstein did not respond to queries about the issue yesterday.
The lawmakers have heard testimony from CIA Director George J. Tenet, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and others in several weeks of closed sessions at the Capitol. A source close to the investigation said the committee will hold two more weeks of hearings in July, in which lawmakers intend to question field agents, so the profiling issue could be raised in those sessions.
President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have said they will not tolerate profiling, a practice in which some law enforcement officials use race as a factor in targeting individuals for investigation.
The FBI is trying to prevent further attacks without unfairly focusing on Muslim men from the Middle East. All 19 terrorists who committed the September 11 hijackings were Muslim men from the Middle East.
Mr. Mueller told lawmakers earlier this month that the FBI "is against, has been and will be against any form of profiling."
The lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the closed hearings said the joint panel has sorted through "a lot of players and a lot of information."
"That may be one of the things we end up targeting the volumes of information and the number of players involved," the lawmaker said.
Public hearings are expected to take place sometime in September.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney complained to the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, and Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican, last week about information leaked to the media about intelligence failures.
Among the disclosures were reports that U.S. authorities intercepted messages on Sept. 10, 2001, that the following day would be "zero hour." Owing in part to the volume of messages intercepted, that particular message was not translated until Sept. 12, the day after the terrorist attacks.
Mr. Roberts said derisively this week that he has proposed the committee members wear duct tape over their mouths when they emerge from the closed hearings. He and other lawmakers reject the need for a Department of Justice probe of the leaks, which the chairmen requested after Mr. Cheney's complaint.


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