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Former FBI Director Says Agency Limited in Ability to Stop Terror Threats - 2002-10-08


The former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louis Freeh, Tuesday defended the agency against accusations it did not do enough to fight terrorism before last year's September 11 attacks in the United States. Mr. Freeh testified before a Congressional panel investigating intelligence lapses prior to the attacks.

Mr. Freeh served as FBI Director for eight years before he stepped down, three months before the September 11 attacks.

In testimony before the joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Freeh rejected some of the conclusions reached by the panel's staff, including that the agency under his tenure was more focused on prosecuting terrorists than preventing attacks. "I am aware of nothing that to me demonstrates that the FBI and the intelligence community have the type of information or tactical intelligence which could have prevented the horror of September 11," Mr. Freeh said.

But he also argued that the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency are limited in their ability to stop terrorists who take refuge in foreign countries. "Al-Qaida type organizations, state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and the threats they pose to America are beyond the competence of the FBI and CIA to address. America must maintain the will in some cases to use its political, military and economic power in response when acts of war are threatened or committed against our nation by terrorists or their state sponsors," he said.

Mr. Freeh blamed Congress for not giving intelligence agencies the resources needed to fight terrorism.

For example, he said in 2000 he asked Congress for some 860 additional agents for counter-terrorism at a cost of $380 million. Instead, he received five agents at a cost of $7 million.

Mr. Freeh also said the agency's ability to investigate suspected terrorists was hindered by laws restricting its efforts. Congress eased many of those restrictions after the terrorist attacks.

Mr. Freeh said his agency did as much as it could with the resources it had. He noted he created a counter-terrorism center at FBI headquarters, expanded the size of the bureau's counter-terrorism budget and doubled the number of FBI offices overseas.

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