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Sept. 11 Panel Unsure How to Enact Reform
AP ^ | April 15, 2004

Posted on 04/15/2004 1:49:23 AM PDT by Leroy S. Mort

WASHINGTON (AP) - The reasons behind the pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures just kept growing. Yet after two days of hearings examining flaws and searching for solutions, members of the Sept. 11 commission said they have yet to reach firm conclusions on what reforms are necessary.

The bipartisan panel is scheduled to issue its final report in July.

``Everybody speaks of reform,'' said the panel's Democratic vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana. ``It's very easy to come out for reform. The task of the commission is going to be to put specificity to that, and that's going to be a major job.''

The 10-member commission is reviewing proposals on how to prevent future domestic terror attacks, including expanding the powers of the director of central intelligence, establishing a domestic intelligence agency or endorsing more limited measures embraced by the heads of the CIA and FBI.

On Wednesday, CIA Director George Tenet testified that intelligence-gathering flaws exposed by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will take five years to correct. He said that in the 1990s the CIA had lost 25 percent of its staff and was haphazard in training undercover officers who worked overseas to penetrate terror cells and recruit secret informants.

In a preliminary report, the commission also found that Tenet, like his predecessors, had limited authority over the direction and priorities of intelligence agencies, hampering his ability to devise a more comprehensive defense strategy.

``By no stretch of the imagination am I going to tell you that I've solved all the problems of the community in terms of integrating and in lashing it up,'' said Tenet. ``But we've made an enormous amount of progress.''

He noted that the National Security Agency, which handles electronic surveillance, and U.S. mapping and analytic intelligence agencies need time and continued funding to improve.

But the commission's chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said he was concerned by how long it would take to rebuild. ``It scares me a bit that we dismantled the CIA to the point that it now takes five years to rebuild it,'' he said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller recounted a range of steps the FBI has taken since the Sept. 11 attacks to improve its intelligence capabilities, sharpen its focus on terrorism and replace outmoded technology. He urged the panel to let those improvements continue and not to risk derailing them by recommending creation of a new domestic intelligence agency outside the FBI.

``We don't want to have historians look back and say, 'OK, you won the war on terrorism but you lost your civil liberties,''' Mueller said. ``We have become, since Sept. 11, a member of the intelligence community in ways we were not in the past.''

The commission report on the CIA credited the agency with collecting a vast array of intelligence on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, which resulted in thousands of individual reports circulated at the highest levels of government. These carried titles such as ``Bin Laden Threatening to Attack U.S. Aircraft'' in June 1998 and ``Bin Laden's Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons'' in February 2001.

Despite this intelligence, the CIA never produced an authoritative summary of al-Qaida's involvement in past terrorist attacks, nor did it fully appreciate bin Laden's role as the leader of a growing extremist movement.

The commission cited a briefing presented to Tenet and other top agency officials in August 2001 about the arrest that month of Zacarias Moussaoui because of his suspicious behavior in a Minnesota flight school.

But the briefing titled ``Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly'' had ``no evident effect on warning,'' the commission report said. Moussaoui is the only U.S. defendant charged with terrorism related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report also said the CIA didn't recognize al-Qaida as an organization until 1999, even though al-Qaida had been formed in 1988 after the Soviet Union abandoned Afghanistan.

``Before the attack we found uncertainty among senior officials about whether this was just a new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat America had lived with for decades, or was radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced,'' the commission statement said.

Tenet strenuously disagreed - ``That's flat wrong,'' he said, adding that the CIA put in place a plan to combat al-Qaida in 1999 that included clandestine intelligence inside Afghanistan using 25 people and movement of a spy satellite to increase coverage of the terror training camps.

The staff statement also said several threat reports produced by the intelligence apparatus had ``mentioned the possibility of using an aircraft laden with explosives,'' such as the terrorists used on Sept. 11 in attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Yet the CIA counterterrorism center ``did not analyze how a hijacked aircraft or other explosives-laden aircraft might be used as a weapon,'' the report said.

``It makes your heart almost stop, the degree of some of the institutional and systemic problems in the FBI and the CIA. We have to fix them,'' Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former congressman from Indiana, said on CNN. ``And we have to do it quicker than five years.''

On the Net:

To view commission statements, witness testimonies and a hearing transcript:

TOPICS: Extended News; Government; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 911commission; hamilton; keene
the commission's chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said he was concerned by how long it would take to rebuild. ``It scares me a bit that we dismantled the CIA to the point that it now takes five years to rebuild it,'' he said.

What's this "we" sh_t, Kemosabe?

1 posted on 04/15/2004 1:49:24 AM PDT by Leroy S. Mort
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To: Leroy S. Mort
There was one exchange at the end of Dr. Rice's public testimony that I found very troubling and this article refreshes my concern:

THOMPSON: Last simple question. If we come forward with sweeping recommendations for change in how our law enforcement and intelligence agencies operate to meet the new challenges of our time, not the 20th century or the 19th century challenges we faced in the past, and if the president of the United States agrees with them, can you assure us that he will fight with all the vigor he has to get them enacted?

RICE: I can assure you that if the president agrees with the recommendations, and I think we'll want to take a hard look at the recommendations, we're going to fight.

(emphasis added) source

It is bad enough to have to endure the partisan attacks from this bunch. I assume the pubs thought the truth was on their side and Condi et al could hold their own during questioning - They have. But when I look at the make-up of this commission, the first question I ask is: 'what is their competence to come up with "sweeping recommendations" and how immense will the political pressure be to implement these recommendations?' That is the real problem; we can endure the hearings and the Rats will show their true colors as partisan hack jobs - They have. But for them to write policy and gin up sweeping changes? Please, not that bunch!!! At least there is comfort in Dr. Rice's answer that the administration will not cede power to the commission and that adults will review the commission's homework.

And now to hear that they are having trouble coming up with recommendations? Please don't let "commissioner" Jamie write a memo!

2 posted on 04/15/2004 2:28:56 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (He says "Bring it on!!" Then when you do, he says, "How dare you!! ")
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To: Leroy S. Mort
By the standards of this commission, Julius Streicher should have been a judge at the Nuremberg trials, not a defendent.

3 posted on 04/15/2004 3:45:37 AM PDT by samtheman
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To: Leroy S. Mort
I sometimes wonder if this commission has a huge staff like senators do. Do they staffers do all the real work, including writing the questions and recommendations for the ten inquisitors?

I ask this because it would influence whatever recommendations they produce.
4 posted on 04/15/2004 3:49:20 AM PDT by Puddleglum (The Dems seem to have no problem in outsourcing America's oil production.)
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To: Leroy S. Mort
The 9-11 commission has been outted, thanks to the open hearings. It is political, partisan, discredited, and will have no historical value. Democrats have to be disappointed that the Commission won't the hurt the Bush Administration, and we never expected it would expose the failures of Clinton.

Kean and Hamilton are blind, idealistic idiots.

Thank God President Bush is forcing the July deadline on this comic collection of incompetents and political pukes. By August, the damn thing won't even be late night joke material for Jay and Dave.

One side benefit of these hearings is watching Chris Mathews' head explode. The man will never have credibility again, not after the shameful way he has used the 9-ll widows and misrepresented the findings for dramatic effect.

5 posted on 04/15/2004 4:00:07 AM PDT by YaYa123 (@T he 9-ll Commission
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To: Leroy S. Mort
Then in the next breath, he tells citizens to "stay out of 'their' business." Kean might wear the (r) after his name, but he's as bad as the dems.
6 posted on 04/15/2004 6:12:53 AM PDT by MizSterious (First, the journalists, THEN the lawyers.)
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