On Friday Newsday reported that the FBI was disputing Condoleezza Rice's testimony that the FBI was conducting 70 separate investigations of al-Qaida cells in the United States before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
WASHINGTON - The FBI on Friday disputed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony that it was conducting 70 separate investigations of al-Qaida cells in the United States before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks:The declassified PDB proves that Rice's testimony spot on. This is what Rice said:
But the FBI Friday said that those investigations were not limited to al-Qaida and did not focus on al-Qaida cells. FBI spokesman Ed Coggswell said the bureau was trying to determine how the number 70 got into the report.
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But Coggswell Friday said that those 70 investigations involved a number of international terrorist organizations, not just al-Qaida. He said that many were criminal investigations, which terrorism experts say are not likely to focus on preventing terrorist acts. And he said he would "not characterize" the targets of the investigations as cells, or groups acting in concert, as was the case with the Sept. 11 hijackers.
First of all, yes, the Aug. 6 P.D.B. was in response to questions of the president. In that sense, he asked that this be done. It was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about - about various aspects of al Qaeda's operations. Dick Clarke had told me, I think in a memorandum - I remember it as being only a line or two - that there were al Qaeda cells in the United States. Now, the question is: What did we need to do about that? And I also understood that was what the F.B.I. was doing, that the F.B.I. was pursuing these al Qaeda cells. I believe in the Aug. 6 memorandum it says that there were 70 full field investigations underway of these cells. And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this - the F.B.I. was pursuing it [Emphasis added].This is what is stated in the PDB:
Some answers may be forthcoming on Tuesday, when Freeh, the FBI's director until June 2001, and Pickard, who served as acting director until a few days before Sept. 11, testify publicly before the commission.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
Reuters reports that the FBI will be pressed to explain why 70 separate investigations did not uncover the 9-11 plot:
Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, seizing on the revelation that so many probes were under way weeks before the deadly attacks, also said former President Bill Clinton told the panel he was frustrated by his inability to give the FBI direct orders.
"The greatest surprise to me was that President Clinton said how limited the White House is in dealing with the FBI," Gorton, a Republican member of the bipartisan commission, told "Fox News Sunday."
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Clinton testified behind closed doors to the national commission on Thursday, following public testimony from Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.
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"It seems to me the FBI has more questions to answer than Condoleezza Rice or ... anyone who has testified before us so far."
According to Newsday, the FBI clearly believed something was afoot. On July 12 of that year, Assistant FBI Director Dale Watson, chief of the counterterrorism division, told the National Governors Association that a significant terrorist attack was likely on U.S. soil. "I'm not a gloom-and-doom-type person," he said. "But I will tell you this. [We are] headed for an incident inside the United States."
There is another line of questioning that FBI official should face. The New York Times reports that the inquiry into 2000 attack on the USS Cole missed 9-11 clues:
The lost opportunity, described by the officials for the first time in interviews this week, involved two of the eventual Sept. 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, who fell under suspicion by the C.I.A. early in 2000 but were not put on a watch list of foreigners barred from entering the United States until August 2001, after they were already here.
A reconstruction of events shows that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency failed to recognize the significance of the two men and to act in concert to intercept them because of internal miscommunications and legal restrictions on the sharing of C.I.A. intelligence information with criminal investigators at the F.B.I. Problems developed even though F.B.I. agents and C.I.A. officers were assigned to each other's operational and analytical units.
The reconstruction also shows that the importance of the two men, who have figured centrally in examinations of the government's failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, was misunderstood before the attacks because investigators thought the two were associated with only the Cole bombing. They were not linked with a plot to strike targets within the United States until after Sept. 11, 2001.
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The performance of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. in dealing with Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi has led to years of recriminations and finger-pointing between the organizations. Officials from both agencies, while still in disagreement over critical details, now say the evolution of the Cole investigation is critical to understanding the miscues before Sept. 11. The story opens in Malaysia in January 2000, when Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi attended a meeting of terrorists in Al Qaeda.
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The F.B.I., which took the lead in the investigation of the Cole bombing in Yemen, quickly began to focus on Khallad as a key figure in the plot.
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Less than a month after the Cole bombing, the F.B.I. got a break when a suspect named Fahd al-Quso told investigators about his dealings with Khallad. Along with one of the Cole bombers, Mr. Quso said that he had flown from Yemen to Bangkok in January 2000 for a secretive meeting in which he turned over $36,000 in cash to Khallad. F.B.I. agents, suspicious of Mr. Quso's account but eager to learn whatever they could about Khallad and whether the meeting was a Cole planning session, turned to the C.I.A. for help and sent a formal query in November 2000.
The F.B.I. investigators gave the C.I.A. Khallad's Yemeni passport picture and a phone number at a Bangkok hotel that seemed connected with the meeting with Mr. Quso, who is one of two men who were indicted in New York in the Cole bombing. In an interview, C.I.A. officials acknowledged that they had received the request from the F.B.I. But from that point on, through the summer of 2001, the accounts of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. differ on crucial details relating to the cooperation between them.
Both the FBI and the CIA have a lot of explaining to do about 9-11. The mainstream media could do the country an important service by focusing on what went wrong with connecting the dots prior to 9-11, rather trying to pin the blame on a president they make no bones about despising.