- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

Moving on two fronts, Congress interviewed FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley about the events leading up to September 11 yesterday and prepared for her public testimony before a Democratic-controlled Senate committee.
The House and Senate intelligence committees met for a second day of closed-door hearings without calling any witnesses, while several staff members from their joint inquiry went to FBI headquarters to question Miss Rowley.
The focus was Miss Rowley's letter May 21, which said FBI headquarters blocked an aggressive investigation last summer of Zacarias Moussaoui, who is accused of being the 20th hijacker and who was indicted for conspiracy in the terrorist attacks.
Miss Rowley will give public testimony today to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is doing its own review of events leading up to the September 11 attacks.
Also testifying before the panel will be Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, who is investigating another pre-September 11 clue, the so-called "Phoenix memo" in which the FBI in Arizona alerted Washington headquarters in July that several Arabs were training at a U.S. aviation school to fly commercial jetliners.
The IG "conducted a preliminary inquiry in the fall of 2001 into the handling of the Phoenix" memo, Mr. Fine said in prepared testimony for today's hearing. Democrats plan to press Mr. Fine on when he knew about the memo.
Paul Martin, spokesman for the IG, said seven interviews on the Phoenix memo were conducted with FBI headquarters officials in November and December. In his prepared testimony, Mr. Fine said the IG then referred the matter to the congressional intelligence committees. The IG recently revived its review at the request of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.
The Washington headquarters agent to whom the Phoenix memo was addressed, David Frasca, told Judiciary Committee staffers Tuesday that he didn't see the document until after September 11, when shown it by the IG's office.
As for Miss Rowley, "I want her to tell me, as best she can, what is wrong at headquarters that so many important things like the Moussaoui investigation get stonewalled there," committee member Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said on CNN.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, urged questioning of FBI headquarters' personnel, too.
"I think for us it's more relevant to talk to those people that she's making the allegations against," Mr. Reyes said. "Up to now, these are just allegations."
The Bush White House favors the inquiry by the joint intelligence committees, but the Judiciary Committee's chairman said he will press forward because of the committee's constitutional obligation to ensure the FBI is adequately protecting Americans.
"We have the ultimate responsibility to report on whether there were mistakes made" and to correct them so they don't happen again, said committee Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer would not answer directly when asked whether President Bush adamantly opposes other commissions or congressional panels beyond the joint intelligence panel.
"There is an appropriate forum, and it is the intelligence committees, and they are doing their work," Mr. Fleischer said.
After yesterday's closed-door hearing by the joint inquiry, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, said Miss Rowley would be called as a witness in connection with the proposed reorganization of the FBI.
"Our focus is going to be on what she knows about the relationship between the field office in Minnesota and the central office in Washington. I think she would have some significant commentary," Mr. Graham said.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, will examine the FBI's reorganization plan, House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, announced yesterday.

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