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US Remains Vulnerable to Attack by Terrorists, say US Lawmakers - 2002-09-22

U.S. lawmakers said Sunday the United States remains vulnerable to attacks by terrorists, who, they say, number in the tens of thousands worldwide. Members of Congress say more needs to be done in the intelligence community to safeguard the United States.

Last week, the U.S. Congress held hearings on intelligence failures prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Lawmakers are trying to figure out why advance information didn't prevent terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Appearing on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Senator Richard Shelby, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there's no question the United States could be the victim of another massive terrorist assault both at home and abroad.

The reason, according to Senator Shelby, is the lack of coordination between America's top two investigative agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"We've made some adjustments, but the cultures have not changed between all the intelligence agencies making up the community," he said. "I don't believe they're sharing information. There's no fusion, sharing information yet. The FBI agent who testified behind a screen the other day, I thought it was rather poignant. He said 'somebody's going to die.' And what was he talking about? He wanted to go after a would-be terrorist who was found out to be a terrorist."

Also on the Congressional panel investigating failures leading up to September 11 was the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Congressman Porter Goss.

In addition to reforming America's intelligence agencies, Representative Goss told interviewers on the television program Fox News Sunday that the public will have to come to terms with changes in the way Americans go about their lives.

"There are some 70,000 terrorists we think out there now, some in this country unfortunately," We have to deal with that. So we're going to have this great debate on civil liberties and national protection now, as we should have it. This is how we do business in a democracy."

Congressman Goss agrees with Senator Shelby that the changes approved by lawmakers in the wake of September 11 do not go far enough to mend a hole in the intelligence safety net protecting the United States against terrorism.

Representative Goss would like to see Congress approve more money to take the burden off of agents who he says are "overwhelmed" by work.