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Bush Calls For Better Intelligence in Terror Fight

President Bush says federal law enforcement and spy agencies are changing to meet the new demands of the war on terrorism and that better intelligence is needed to confront the terrorist threat. There are accusations the FBI and CIA mishandled information prior to the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Criticism of the FBI and CIA has grown louder in recent weeks, and a congressional investigation is about to begin.

There are concerns the two agencies ignored warning signs and did not coordinate information in the months leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

President Bush acknowledges they could have done better, but says they are changing the way they do business in response to the terrorist threat.

"So when you read about the FBI, I want you to know that the FBI is changing its culture. The FBI, prior to September 11, was running down white collar criminals, and that is good. It was worrying about spies, and that is good. But now they have got a more important task, and that is to prevent further attacks.

The president endorsed the FBI reorganization recently announced by agency director Robert Mueller. And he stressed that since September 11, the FBI has been doing a better job of coordinating information with the CIA.

Speaking before a crowd of two-thousand in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mr. Bush said it is part of an all-out effort to promote coordination at all government levels to deal with the terrorist threat.

"My point to you is that whether it be at your airports, or at the border or law enforcement, the whole mission of the federal government, working in conjunction with local governments, is to protect the American people," he said.

Earlier, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about new reports that the CIA had vital information about two of the September 11th hijackers prior to the terrorist attacks which was never shared with the FBI. Mr. McClellan said the White House is focusing on reforming those two agencies and noted they are being investigated by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The committees open joint hearings on Tuesday.