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SLUG: 2-294306 Congress / Terrorism (L-ONLY)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=9/20/02

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=CONGRESS / TERRORISM (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-294306

BYLINE=DEBORAH TATE

DATELINE=CAPITOL HILL

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The U-S Congress has been told intelligence officials knew about some of the September 11th hijackers more than a year before the attacks. A Congressional investigator told lawmakers Friday the agency did not pass the information on to other agencies. The testimony came on the third day of public hearings before the joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee, as correspondent Deborah Tate reports.

TEXT: Committee staff director Eleanor Hill says the panel's probe into last year's September 11th attacks underscored that there were in her words 'many missed opportunities by the intelligence community':

/// HILL ACTUALITY ///

The C-I-A had obtained information identifying two of the 19 hijackers as suspected terrorists carrying visas for travel to the United States as long as 18 months prior to the time they were eventually watch-listed. There were numerous opportunities during the tracking of these two suspected terrorists when the C-I-A could have alerted the F-B-I and other U-S law enforcement authorities to the probability that these individuals either were or would soon be in the United States. That was not done, nor were they placed on watch lists denying them into the United States.

/// END ACT ///

Lawmakers were furious over the revelation. Senator Carl Levin is a Michigan Democrat called it a 'massive failure'.

/// LEVIN ACTUALITY ///

This is truly unbelievable, I have to tell you. This is extraordinary. This has nothing to do with information that cannot cross a wall. This has to do with leads which are not shared with the F-B-I (Federal Bureau of Investigation), just simple leads.

/// END ACT ///

/// OPT /// Staff director Hill said there was evidence of a lack of cooperation within agencies themselves.

/// OPT /// She said two weeks before the attacks, F-B-I headquarters blocked an agent's request to investigate Khalid al-Mihdhar, who would become one of the hijackers on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

/// OPT /// In denying the request, F-B-I officials said the man was not under criminal investigation. They also cited a separation or 'wall' - between intelligence and law enforcement.

/// OPT /// The unidentified agent who made the request testified before the panel, sitting behind a screen to protect his identity from the public:

/// F-B-I AGENT #1 OPT ACTUALITY //

I wrote on August 29, 2001: 'Whatever has happened to this? Someday someone will die. Wall or not, the public will not understand why we were not more effective in throwing every resource we had at certain problems.

/// END ACT ///

/// OPT /// The F-B-I agent says reforms made after September 11th have improved cooperation. But he said more needs to be done for the agency to become more effective. He called on lawmakers to among other things ease the restrictions on the F-B-I's use of foreign-gathered intelligence in criminal cases. /// END OPT ///

The joint intelligence committee is investigating intelligence failures prior to September 11th. Until this week, it had been meeting in closed session since June.

/// REST OPT ///

Not all lawmakers are pleased by the decision to hold open hearings. Senator Jon Kyl is a Republican from Arizona:

/// KYL ACTUALITY ///

We are revealing in open session today a lot of information about how we operate which will be very useful to our enemies. That is not good, and it is not necessary.

/// END ACT ///

Committee Chairman Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat, defended the public sessions.

/// GRAHAM ACTUALITY ///

I believe it is important, and that it is a right of the American people, to know what their government is doing. Those American people, also include our colleagues, who have a right to know and to assess the severity of the problems, to justify the reforms that I anticipate we are going to be recommending.

/// END ACT ///

The committee is scheduled to conclude its work in February. (signed)

NEB/DAT/RH



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