- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

The CIA was tracking two of the September 11 hijackers for nearly two years and knew they had entered the United States, but didn't inform the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the State Department, key federal officials say.
In interviews yesterday on network news talk shows, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, confirmed a report in Newsweek magazine that said the CIA waited more than a year and a half after two al Qaeda terrorist suspects entered this country before sharing their names with other agencies.
The magazine reported that the CIA was closely watching Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that flew into the Pentagon when the two attended a "summit" meeting of al Qaeda terrorists in Malaysia in January 2000.
On CNN's "Late Edition," Mrs. Feinstein told host Wolf Blitzer this report was "not new news" for her or others involved in an inquiry jointly conducted by the House and Senate intelligence panels into mistakes leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"I gather the information [about the two terrorists being in the United States] wasn't transmitted until August between the CIA and the FBI," a month before the attacks, said Mrs. Feinstein, California Democrat. She said the matter will be a focus of a hearing by the joint intelligence committees that begins tomorrow.
"I don't think this is the only revelation that's going to come forward," said Mrs. Feinstein.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Mueller said, "I have not read the [Newsweek] article yet. I am aware that we were notified in August 2001 of two individuals who had links to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia]" in January 2000. Newsweek said that meeting was a summit of the al Qaeda terrorist network, which was responsible for the hijackings on September 11.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the report "goes right to the heart of communication between the various intelligence agencies, CIA, FBI, [National Security Agency], immigration, you name it. It has not been a flow of information when people needed it between all the agencies.
"We've got to do better. And, I believe, coming out of this hearing, you're going to see some specific recommendations," he added.
Mrs. Feinstein said yesterday she believed "racial profiling" was a factor in the "reticence of the FBI" to follow up on some leads that indicated young Muslim men with ties to al Qaeda were being recruited for U.S. flight schools. "I believe it played a role in the [agencys] reticence to move ahead" on a memo with that information submitted by an FBI agent in Phoenix in July, she added.
Mrs. Feinstein said she believed racial profiling was a "real issue here," noting that the FBI recognized it was not "going to be looking for blond Norwegians."
"I think the racial-profiling debate has created a kind of disservice in the terrorism area, particularly with respect to the FBI. I believe it has had a chilling impact," the California Democrat said.
Mr. Shelby has been a vocal critic of the FBI's mishandling of intelligence information that could have provided clues about the September 11 hijacking plans by followers of Osama bin Laden. "All along, however, the CIA's counterterrorism center base camp for the agency's war on bin Laden was sitting on information that could have led federal agents right to the terrorists' doorstep," the report in this week's issue of Newsweek says.
The Newsweek report by Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman said the two terrorists flew to the United States a few days after the Kuala Lumpur conference. But the CIA failed to inform the INS, which could have barred them at the border, or the FBI, which "could have covertly tracked them to find out their mission."
Instead, the article said, for a year and nine months after the CIA had identified them as terrorists, Alhazmi and Almihdhar lived openly in this country, used their own names, and took flight training. It said the State Department issued Almihdhar a new visa in June 2001, when his expired. Newsweek said State did not know the CIA had linked him "to one of the suspected bombers of the USS Cole" in Yemen in October 2000.
"This was probably the biggest intelligence failure of all" before September, Mr. Isikoff said yesterday in an interview on CNN.
In multiple talk-show appearances yesterday, Mr. Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft acknowledged intelligence agencies could have better analyzed information that pointed to September 11, but probably could not have prevented the attacks.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing from Mr. Mueller and Coleen Rowley, an FBI agent in Minneapolis who sent Congress a letter accusing the FBI director of misrepresenting the facts when he told Americans his agency did not have probable cause to search the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui. Officials believe Moussaoui, a French terrorist, would have been among the September 11 hijackers had he not been arrested in August by FBI agents in Minnesota. The field agents sought a search warrant to examine Moussaoui's computer, but were turned down by officials at FBI headquarters in Washington.
Mr. Ashcroft, interviewed on ABC's "This Week," pledged that Miss Rowley would not be fired for her congressional testimony.
But Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, who also appeared on that show, said Mr. Ashcroft needed to do more than say Miss Rowley would not be dismissed. "Most whistleblowers are not dismissed they are put off in the corner, their work taken away from them, and they go nuts, and they resign," he said. "I want to hear from the attorney general that she won't suffer economically or professionally."
On NBC, host Tim Russert pointed to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that recommended Mr. Mueller resign. Asked if he planned to do so, Mr. Mueller said, "No, I'm just getting started in the job. I don't feel embattled." President Bush and Mr. Ashcroft have made it clear they think Mr. Mueller is the right man for that job. Most lawmakers interviewed yesterday especially prominent Democrats agreed.
But Mr. Shelby indicated he was not sure. "I believe he's got a lot to learn. He's an able man. He's got to be determined to turn the bureaucracy around and make the FBI more agile, more analytical. I hope he can do it, but we have to see," he said on "Meet the Press."

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