Dispatches from agents who infiltrated al-Qaeda and its
Taliban allies. The operatives could not crack the tightly
held secret of the Sept. 11 plot but helped underscore the
lengths al-Qaeda was willing to go to inflict pain on the
After two weeks of pummeling the FBI for
its failures, lawmakers are shifting their focus to the CIA.
"The enemy is overseas. The first place to stop the enemy is
overseas," House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss said in an
President Bush has avoided criticizing
the CIA and FBI. But on Monday, he suggested that they need to
improve. "In this new war, against this shadowy enemy, it's
very important that we gather as much intelligence as we can,"
One U.S. intelligence official describes
the clues collected before the attacks as needles in a
haystack. Others say the unheeded warnings add up to a
fundamental failure by intelligence agencies to alert the
nation to approaching danger from abroad.
The prevailing view on Capitol Hill is
that U.S. intelligence had the goods and blew it by failing to
recognize and connect warning signs. "If they had acted on the
information they had and followed through, maybe things would
be different," says Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking
Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The other, perhaps more worrisome,
conclusion is that despite all their resources, key agencies
had no clear warning of what was to come.
The hearings begin behind closed doors,
as the House and Senate Intelligence panels jointly discuss
what information can be aired. CIA director George Tenet and
FBI Director Robert Mueller are sure to face grillings later
this month. Other witnesses will include CIA and FBI field
operatives and analysts who handled some of the information on
the al-Qaeda threat.
The intercepts of conversations are in
13,000 pages of material from the National Security Agency,
the nation's eavesdropping service, U.S. officials say. Two
U.S. intelligence officials said some were translated and
analyzed before Sept. 11. Others went unread until later
because of a shortage of translators.
Contributing: Toni Locy, Kevin
Johnson, Barbara Slavin and Joan Biskupic