Skip to comments.Panel: FBI Hampered in Fighting Terrorism Pre-9/11
Posted on 04/13/2004 6:26:27 AM PDT by Momaw Nadon
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite increasing concern about terrorist threats to the United States, the FBI before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was hampered by a culture resistant to change, inadequate resources and legal barriers, the national commission investigating the attacks said on Tuesday.
"From the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, FBI and Department of Justice leadership in Washington and New York became increasingly concerned about the terrorist threat from Islamic extremists to U.S. interests both at home and abroad," said the report, presented at a commission hearing.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, his predecessor, Janet Reno, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard will testify at the hearing after revelations last week that the FBI was conducting 70 separate investigations related to al Qaeda before Sept. 11.
Significant FBI resources were devoted to investigations of major terrorist attacks that resulted in several prosecutions, but FBI attempts to strengthen its ability to prevent such attacks failed to make changes across the organization, the commission report said.
"On September 11, 2001, the FBI was limited in several areas critical to an effective, preventive counterterrorism strategy," the report said. It cited limited intelligence collection and analysis capabilities, limited information sharing, insufficient training, an overly complex legal regime, and inadequate resources.
IGNORANT OF DEGREE
The FBI worked hard on terrorist financing investigations, and before Sept. 11 agents understood there was a network of extremist organizations operating within the United States supporting a global Islamic jihad movement, the report said.
But they did not know the degree to which those extremist groups were associated with al Qaeda and it was unclear whether any of them were sending money to al Qaeda, the report said.
While many of the groups appeared to have some connection to either al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, FBI agents had little hope they would be able to make a criminal case or disrupt the operation because of rules making distinctions between gathering intelligence and building criminal cases, it said.
In the years before the hijacked airliner attacks, counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations that generally resulted in fewer prosecutions "were viewed as backwaters" because FBI agents were rewarded based on arrests, indictments, and prosecutions, the report said.
Agents developed information for their own cases, not as part of a broader effort, and the poor state of the FBI's information systems meant agents "usually did not know what investigations agents in their own office, let alone in other field offices, were working on."
"Nor did analysts have easy access to this information. As a result, it was almost impossible to develop an understanding of the threat from a particular international terrorist group," it said.
FBI agents and analysts were reluctant to share information and produce written records because the material could potentially be used to attack the prosecution's case at trial, the report said.
Although the FBI's counterterrorism budget tripled during the mid-1990s, its counterterrorism spending stayed fairly constant between fiscal years 1998 and 2001, the report said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, only about 1,300 agents, or 6 percent of the FBI's total personnel, worked on counterterrorism, the report said.
"Former FBI officials told us that prior to 9/11, there was not sufficient national commitment or political will to dedicate the necessary resources to counterterrorism."
The new Bush administration proposed an 8 percent increase in overall FBI funding for fiscal year 2002. This included the largest proposed percentage increase in the FBI's counterterrorism program since fiscal year 1997.
On May 9, 2001, Ashcroft testified that the Justice Department had no higher priority than to protect citizens from terrorist attacks.
The next day, May 10, 2001, the Justice Department issued guidance for developing the fiscal year 2003 budget that made reducing the incidence of gun violence and reducing the trafficking of illegal drugs priority objectives and made no mention of counterterrorism, the report said.
Before the attacks, the FBI did not have a sufficient number of translators proficient in Arabic and other languages useful in counterterrorism investigations, which resulted in a significant backlog of untranslated communication intercepts by early 2001, the report said.
We'll someday learn about the true facts of the blast in Oklahoma City and how many agents/contacts the FBI had involved who knew about what was going to happen. Had Willie been a, God forbid, Republican, the crap weasels would have demanded an investigation that would have brought out some of the facts.
Look at the FBI press reports while Willie was fouling the White House. The FBI was on the defensive almost all those years. They failed to stop the missle attack on TWA500 in NYC, for one. As dems, Freeh and Reno will lie, no question!
They still are!!
How many cities, mostly on the Left Coast, have passed ordinances calling for the local enforcement agencies to refuse to cooperate with the Feds.
We have some real sickos running some cities.