Panel: '98 meeting foresaw 9/11
By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Three years to the day
before the attacks that leveled the World Trade Center and
damaged the Pentagon, U.S. spymasters concluded they must
improve surveillance on terrorists or the nation would face a
catastrophic assault, a congressional panel will report
The eerily prophetic account of a meeting
on Sept. 11, 1998, among the unidentified U.S. intelligence
officials is cited in Congress' first official postmortem on
September's terror attacks. Members of the House Intelligence
Committee's terrorism subcommittee will release a 30-page
executive summary of a 9-month investigation into the state of
the nation's counterterrorism defenses. The full report,
which runs to several hundred pages, will stay classified.
Sources familiar with the document
confirm that it criticizes the CIA, FBI and National Security
Agency for failing to devote enough attention and resources to
counterterrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks. The sources said
the CIA is criticized for spending too much money on its
Virginia headquarters and not enough on spies in the
Among the problems the panel identified
at the three agencies:
Too few linguists capable of translating and interpreting
Too little sharing of information among the agencies.
Too little flexibility for the CIA to recruit informants
with the kind of connections that might help the United States
obtain information about terrorist plans.
"We've had ... systemic problems in each
different agency that participated in the deficiencies ...
that did allow Sept. 11 to happen," said Rep. Saxby Chambliss,
R-Ga., who heads the subcommittee.
Congress already has passed legislation
to remove some restrictions on CIA recruitment. The
Intelligence subcommittee recommends other changes, including
the hiring more translators and the development of an improved
"watch list" to track potential terrorists.
The report is far from Congress' final
word on the terrorist attacks. The Senate and House
intelligence committees are in the midst of an unusual joint
investigation into what went wrong Sept. 11.