- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Congress held its first hearing yesterday on the intelligence failures surrounding the September 11 attacks amid finger-pointing by the CIA and FBI over what was known in advance of the terrorist strikes.
"We are off and running with momentum, and I think that our mission is very clear on behalf of the American people, and I think everybody in the room understands it," Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters after the first meeting of a joint congressional committee.
"We will be a fact-driven, witness-driven review. We will not be driven by outside pressures, and I think we certainly saw that by some of the decisions we made today, which regrettably I can't go into because it would be considered classified business," Mr. Goss said.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate committee, said in an interview that the first session was a "business meeting" to lay out the scope of the inquiry.
"It is the interest of the American people to have a thorough, a credible and a substantive investigation of our intelligence failures in the past and what will we do in the future to prevent terrorism," said Mr. Shelby, Alabama Republican.
The joint committee of House and Senate intelligence panels used the three-hour hearing to draft their initial scope of the joint inquiry.
Its first witness is expected to appear tomorrow and may be former CIA Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black, a congressional aide said.
The goal of the inquiry is "to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks; to honor the memories of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks by conducting a thorough search for facts to answer the many questions that their families and many Americans have raised; and to lay a basis for assessing the accountability of institutions and officials of government," the panel said in a statement.
The inquiry will address intelligence issues dating to 1986, when the CIA Counterterrorist Center was set up.
The first day of hearings was held inside a soundproof room of the Capitol known as S-407. Witness testimony and open hearings with CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III will be held later this month.
President Bush told reporters yesterday that one failing was that the FBI and CIA were not "communicating properly" before September 11.
However, the president said no intelligence was available that could have prevented the attacks.
"I've seen no evidence to date that said this country could have prevented the attack," Mr. Bush told reporters during a tour of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md.
Mr. Bush said he is worried the congressional probe might lead to "gossip and finger-pointing" that would be a distraction to U.S. intelligence efforts fighting the war against terrorism.
The FBI, which is responsible for counterterrorism in the United States, and the CIA, which is in charge of the overseas counterterrorism effort, this week traded charges that information about some September 11 hijackers was not disseminated properly.
FBI officials said earlier this week that the CIA failed to share in a timely manner information about two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The CIA sent a cable Aug. 23, 2001, stating that the two men should be stopped if they attempted to enter the country.
Both were already in the United States as part of preparations for the al Qaeda attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center that killed about 3,000 people.
CIA officials countered that a review of internal e-mail showed that the agency informed the FBI in January 2000 that one of the hijackers had attended a meeting of terrorists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was traveling on a visa that should have raised suspicions in the FBI.
Among the issues the joint review committee is investigating are:
Intelligence-sharing shortfalls between the FBI and CIA, which traditionally have avoided close cooperation because of bureaucratic differences.
A memorandum from the Phoenix office of the FBI prior to September 11, which warned that al Qaeda terrorists were taking flight-training courses in the United States. The information was not shared widely with other FBI offices.
Delays in seeking a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested a month before September 11 for immigration law violations and who U.S. officials say missed taking part in the September 11 attack because of the arrest.
Information on the al Qaeda attack provided by foreign intelligence services before the attack took place. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt's spy service warned U.S. officials about an impending attack in early September, but U.S. officials said there is no record of the warning.
The notification of the CIA by a foreign intelligence service that an al Qaeda terrorist involved in September 11 was in the United States in March 2001. The CIA failed to act on the information.


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