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From: Otis Willie
Subject: Intelligence report rips outdated FBI bureaucracy
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 17:59:41 EDT
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 21:59:41 GMT
Intelligence report rips outdated FBI bureaucracy
(EXCERPT) Wed Sep 25, 7:28 AM ET
Kevin Johnson USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- The status of as many as 68,000 possible clues and other
leads related to FBI ( news - web sites) counterterrorism efforts
remains unknown because of a communications breakdown, authorities
Bureau officials say they believe most of the information was dealt
with properly, but they are attempting to make sure it wasn't
The communications breakdown, blamed on an outdated case-management
system, was one of several failures highlighted during a House-Senate
review of intelligence operations related to the terrorist attacks of
A detailed report delivered by Eleanor Hill, staff director of the
joint intelligence committee, singled out the FBI for having ignored
or dismissed a raft of potential clues about threats to the United
States before the attacks.
The 23-page report provided a particularly troubling account of
information available well before Sept. 11, and the FBI's initial
response to a 2001 memo raising concerns about Middle Eastern men who
were enrolled in flight-training school near Phoenix.
In its review of the so-called Phoenix memo, the committee found that
the FBI actually began receiving information as early as 1998 that
indicated terrorists planned to send students to the USA for aviation
training similar to the training received by the Sept. 11 hijackers.
On at least three occasions in 1998 and 1999, the report said, the FBI
was informed of terrorist-related interest in U.S. aviation. Included
in those briefings was information that terrorist leaders viewed
aviation as particularly important and that they ''approved an
open-ended amount of funding to ensure its success.''
The report said the FBI was aware in 1998 that ''individuals connected
to the (unnamed terrorist) organization had performed surveillance and
security tests at airports in the United States and made comments
suggesting an intention to target civil aviation.''
Although the FBI asked the Immigration and Naturalization Service to
track suspicious students enrolled in aviation schools, the INS
''never provided any information in response to the request,'' the
It concluded that the author of the Phoenix memo was never aware of
the earlier reports about terrorist groups sending people to the USA
for aviation training. The memo's author also did not know that the
FBI had attempted to identify Middle Eastern flight students in the
USA two years earlier.
The FBI has since discovered that one of the suspects named in the
Phoenix memo crossed paths in 1997 with Sept. 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour
when the two attended flight-training school in Arizona.
Investigators, however, say they don't believe the Sept. 11 plot
existed at that time.
''No one will ever know whether a greater focus on the connection
between these events would have led to the unraveling of the Sept. 11
plot,'' Hill told committee members Tuesday.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a vice chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, later described the bureau as having ''grossly
failed'' to recognize important clues at a time when U.S. intelligence
agencies were receiving information that terrorists might be targeting
In the case of terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, the committee
report outlined a series of frustrations encountered by federal agents
in Minnesota who sought a more aggressive investigation of the flight
school student when he was arrested on immigration violations about a
month before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Just two weeks before the attacks, in an attempt to get FBI
headquarters to take more notice of Moussaoui's potential threat, an
FBI supervisor in Minneapolis told colleagues in Washington he was
only trying to ensure that Moussaoui ''did not take control of a plane
and fly it into the World Trade Center.''
''The Minneapolis supervisor . . . had no reason to believe that
Moussaoui was planning an attack on the World Trade Center,'' the
report said. ''He was merely trying to get headquarters' attention.''
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