- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

An FBI agent told Congress yesterday that days before September 11 he complained to FBI headquarters that "someone will die" because senior bureau officials refused to permit him to pursue one of the men who later took part in the Pentagon suicide attack.
The New York-based FBI agent told a joint House-Senate hearing on the intelligence failures of September 11 that he and other FBI agents were denied CIA intelligence information on Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi.
The two al Qaeda terrorists would end up aboard the aircraft that flew into the Pentagon in a suicide attack.
The CIA had identified the two terrorists from a meeting in Malaysia in January 2000 but never informed the FBI, officials testified yesterday.
The FBI agent said a bureaucratic "wall" prevented intelligence from being shared in a criminal investigation of the two terrorists.
"This resulted in a series of e-mails between myself and the FBI headquarters analyst working the matter," the agent said.
The agent sent an e-mail message to headquarters complaining about the information blockage on Aug. 29, 2001: "Whatever has happened to this, someday someone will die, and, wall or not, the public will not understand why we were not more effective in throwing every resource we had at certain problems. Let's hope the national security law unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, [Osama bin Laden], is getting the most protection."
The FBI agent's testimony is among numerous intelligence failures related to the September 11 attacks now being probed by Congress.
Earlier, Eleanor Hill, the staff director of the congressional panel, testified that numerous intelligence signs were missed.
Neither the CIA nor FBI was able to "see the potential collective significance of the information, despite the increasing concerns throughout the summer of 2001 of an impending terrorist attack," Mrs. Hill said.
The testimony made clear that legal restrictions that prevented sharing intelligence information that could be used in legal prosecutions were a major impediment in pursuing terrorists.
Mrs. Hill stated in testimony yesterday that Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi lived openly in San Diego after being linked to al Qaeda in Malaysia. The two used their names on an apartment lease, took flight lessons and obtained and renewed visas.
The two men were placed on the State Department's watch list on Aug. 23, 2001, and the FBI in New York was prevented from investigating the two men.
The FBI agent and a CIA officer testified at the congressional hearing from behind a glass enclosure to obscure their identities.
After learning that Al-Mihdhar was one of the September 11 attackers, the FBI agent said: "I was upset. I remember explaining this is the same Khalid Al-Mihdhar we had talked about for three months."
The FBI was faulted at the hearing for failing to pursue an FBI agent's warning in a memorandum from Phoenix that U.S. flight schools should be investigated for possible al Qaeda terrorists. It was also blamed for refusing to obtain a surveillance warrant for a computer used by Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged in the September 11 plot.
The CIA did fully share its intelligence about the January 2000 terrorist meeting in Malaysia with the FBI, which was investigating the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000.
The Clinton administration imposed new restrictions that prohibited sharing intelligence information with criminal investigators, according to U.S. officials. The restrictions were lifted after September 11.
Mrs. Hill, the inquiry staff director, testified that the CIA and FBI had no information linking 16 of the 19 hijackers to terrorism or terrorist groups before the attacks.
Al Qaeda terrorist leaders may have selected the terrorists because they were not well known to authorities, she said.
In addition to Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, U.S. agencies had information about Al-Hazmi's brother, Salim Al-Hazmi.
According to Mrs. Hill, the CIA was unaware that the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, had gathered information on Nawaf Al-Hazmi, linking him to al Qaeda.
The NSA failed to share the information with the CIA, she said.
According to testimony yesterday, the CIA learned in March 2000 that Nawaf Al-Hazmi came into the United States through Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 15, 2000.


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