From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI Memo Withheld Until After 9/11
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 16:40:59 EDT
Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 20:40:59 GMT
FBI Memo Withheld Until After 9/11
(EXCERPT) Tue Oct 1,12:36 PM ET, by KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - A July 2001 FBI ( news - web sites) memo warning
that al-Qaida may be training terrorist pilots in the United States
was not turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration ( news -
web sites) until well after the Sept. 11 attacks, a congressional
investigator said Tuesday.
The failure to pass along the so-called Phoenix memo was one example
of intelligence agencies not passing along information about terrorist
threats to key governmental agencies, the investigator, Eleanor Hill,
said in a report to the House and Senate intelligence committees. The
committees are conducting a joint inquiry into intelligence failures
leading up to the attacks.
Because of the limited intelligence available, the FAA did not warn
airlines of the possibility that terrorists might try to hijack an
airplane and crash it into building. Intelligence agencies had at
least a dozen clues since 1994 that airplanes might be used as
weapons, Hill, the inquiry staff director, said in an earlier report.
Hill's report came as the committees began public hearings into how
the CIA ( news - web sites) and FBI shared information about terrorist
threats with other governmental agencies, such as the State, Defense
and Transportation departments and the Immigration and Naturalization
In three previous reports over the past two weeks, Hill has examined
what warnings signs intelligence agencies had about the attacks. She
has said no indication was found that intelligence agencies had
specific warnings pointing to the Sept. 11 hijackings. But she said if
some clues had been connected, they might have at least caused
authorities to go on a heightened state of alert.
One example was the memo by Phoenix-based FBI agent Kenneth Williams
warning that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden ( news - web
sites) might be attending U.S. flight schools. Hill previously said
the memo had limited distribution within the FBI and no action was
taken in response. In Tuesday's report, she said the FAA did not have
a copy of the memo until information about it became public in early
The CIA also did not provide the State Department with intelligence
reports that included the name of terrorist suspects until after the
In her report Tuesday, Hill said government personnel have complained
that "a range of political, cultural, jurisdictional, legal and
bureaucratic issues are ever-present hurdles to information sharing."
One obstacle, she said, is that non-intelligence agencies lack
personnel with security clearances to receive classified data.
Officials from the Transportation Department, INS and other agencies
told the committees about efforts to improve communications and
cooperation, especially since the attacks. But Baltimore's police
commissioner, Edward Norris, said local police chiefs are still not
being told of federal investigations in their communities, despite
being on the front lines of the fight against domestic terrorism.
"Who do we think needs to know more than the chiefs who protect the
cities' citizens?" he said. "We need to know more than anybody in this
country what's going on in our cities, yet we don't."
In her report, Hill said the FAA, INS and other agencies had
information about the 19 hijackers, but they did not know these men
had terrorist ties. The information they had included details of the
hijackers' travel, immigration and medical status.
Two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, had been
identified, By the CIA as attending a January 2000 al-Qaida meeting in
Malaysia. But they were not put on a State Department watch list to
deny them visas until less than three weeks before the attacks, after
they were already in the United States.
Hill said the watch list notice "was not accompanied by any specific
notation that indicated that the INS should use all means possible to
find these two suspects."
Officials from the INS, Transportation, State Departments and other
agencies were to appear before the committees later Tuesday.
Among the pre-Sept. 11 clues previously cited by Hill were a rise in
vague intelligence reports about possible attacks and the arrest in
Minnesota of a suspicious student pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui. He has
since been charged with conspiring in the attacks.
CIA and FBI officials have said they did the best they could given
legal restrictions and limited staff and money.
Lawmakers are trying to follow up on the congressional inquiry with an
independent commission to look into the Sept. 11 attacks. In the
Senate, though, the commission's fate is uncertain because it is
attached to the much-delayed homeland security bill.
In an attempt to bypass the homeland security debate, Rep. Tim Roemer
( news, bio, voting record), D-Ind., said Monday he will ask
House-Senate negotiators to include the commission as part of the
intelligence authorization bill they're considering this week.
The American War Library