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FBI Whistleblower to Testify on Alleged Security Lapses - 2002-06-05

A U.S. Congressional panel holds a hearing Thursday on allegations the Federal Bureau of Investigation hampered efforts to probe the background of an alleged terrorist. FBI Director Robert Mueller and an FBI whistleblower are to testify.

FBI Minnesota agent Coleen Rowley says bureau headquarters ignored her office's requests to aggressively investigate Zacarias Moussaoui in the weeks prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The terrorism suspect, a Morrocan-born French citizen, was in custody on immigration-related charges September 11, but has since been charged as an accomplice in the attacks.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has asked the Justice Department to investigate Ms. Rowley's complaints.

Both Director Mueller and Ms. Rowley will testify in a public hearing Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the committee, is eager to question Ms. Rowley.

"I would like to know from Miss Rowley what she feels was really the problem in the Moussaoui case, and why the superiors in Washington did not pay attention," he said. "I would like to know from Miss Rowley what she would do to correct it."

Mr. Schumer says he also has questions for Mr. Mueller, "With all the warnings we had about terrorism from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing on, why were we so ill-prepared? Why were we so ill-prepared? Why was the mentality so adverse to finding out these things? Why wasn't there a good computer system [in place]? Why wasn't there more coordination between the FBI and CIA?"

Mr. Schumer spoke to reporters Wednesday as he introduced legislation that would give the FBI new surveillance powers to watch foreign nationals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks.

Ms. Rowley appeared before a joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee meeting behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss intelligence lapses prior to September 11.

The joint committee continues its work for a third day Thursday.