Congress Was Warned Two Months Before 9/11
CNSNews.com Capitol Hill -- The lead investigator for the joint
House and Senate inquiry said in the committee's first public
hearing Wednesday that Congress was warned that Osama bin Laden was
planning a large-scale attack against U.S. or Israeli interests two
months before Sept. 11, 2001.
Thursday, Sept. 19, 2002
There was "a modest, but relatively steady stream of intelligence
information indicating the possibility of terrorist attacks inside
the United States," according to the joint committee's staff
director, Eleanor Hill.
"They generally did not contain specific information as to where,
when and how a terrorist attack might occur and generally are not
corroborated by further information," she said in a prepared
Based on information gathered by the committee, there were a
total of 28 pieces of intelligence information gathered after June
1998 that hinted bin Laden wanted to strike the U.S., including 11
indicating an imminent attack after March 2001.
Additionally, 12 so-called "intelligence indicators" lead
analysts to believe that al-Qaeda would use airplanes to strike
targets in Washington, D.C., and New York.
Specific details were lacking from those "indicators," Hill said,
and the reports were frequently from sources with questionable
credibility and could not be corroborated.
That lack of corroboration did not stop intelligence officials
from issuing a sobering warning in a briefing to congressional
leaders in July 2001.
"We believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist
attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks,"
the warning stated. "The attack will be spectacular and designed to
inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack
preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no
Hill told the committee that adequate resources were not
dedicated to analyzing the bin Laden threat because of competing
demands within the government.
"The intelligence community responds to its "customers."
Customers being other parts of government that are tasking them to
come up with intelligence on certain items," she explained. "There
were customers that they had to satisfy, they felt they had to
satisfy and were told to satisfy on topics other than al-Qaeda."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee, echoed the feelings of many members of the
committee with her response to the disclosures.
"If it could have been prevented, that bodes well for the
future," she said, "but we'll all be haunted by the guilt associated
with that, and that's not even good enough punishment for us."
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking Republican on the Senate
Intelligence Committee, had opposed an independent inquiry into the
attacks. He now supports such a probe.
"Our inability to detect and prevent the Sept. 11 attacks was an
intelligence failure of unprecedented magnitude," said Shelby.
He noted that many members of Congress, who had been unwilling to
consider that an "intelligence failure" preceded the attacks, "are
now convinced of it."
The Bush administration and Republican leaders in both the House
and Senate are on record as opposing such an independent probe.
Shelby complained in television appearances Wednesday that the
committee was not getting the cooperation it needed from the
"Absolutely not," he told NBC's "Today" show.
Pelosi cautioned all involved with the government's intelligence
efforts that their full cooperation with the joint committee''s
investigation was non-negotiable.
"If any of these agencies of government in the intelligence
community are not dealing honestly with us, and by that I mean being
forthcoming with information," she warned, "I believe there will be
hell to pay."
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