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Government Report Finds FBI Missed Clues About Terrorists Who Planned 2001 Attacks

A new government report says the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, missed some key clues about some of the terrorists who planned the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

The report on the FBI was produced by the inspector general for the Justice Department, Glenn Fine.

He found that the agency missed at least five chances to find two of the September 11 hijackers in the months leading up to the attacks.

In one case, a supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency prevented an agent from sending information on one of the hijackers to the FBI.

The report also says the FBI did not adequately follow up on a memo from one of its agents in Arizona, who warned a few months before the attacks that Osama bin Laden appeared to have initiated a coordinated effort to send al-Qaida operatives to flight schools in the United States.

The criticism in the latest report is similar to other reports that have come out in the years since the September 11 attacks about the FBI's role.

"The FBI response was very, very lethargic, and not very aggressive," said Neil Livingstone. "And as a consequence, no action was taken," said Neil Livingstone, a security consultant and terrorism expert in Washington.

U.S. law enforcement officials contend that the FBI has made great strides in recent years to improve its focus on counterterrorism.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told CBS television that information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence agencies is now vastly improved.

"One of the highlights of the report is the fact that we were unable to share information, and, as a result of certain laws, such as the Patriot Act, the law enforcement community is now able to share information with the intelligence community, and we are able to connect the dots, and have put ourselves in a much better position to effectively protect America against another similar attack," Mr. Gonzales said.

Members of the independent commission that investigated the September 11 attacks agree that the FBI has improved its ability to cooperate with intelligence agencies, and shift its focus from criminal activity to stopping terrorists.

Richard Thornburgh
Former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh was a member of the 9-11 Commission.

"Simply stated, we believe that the FBI has improved substantially in both areas, but much remains to be done," he said.

The panel has recommended that the FBI upgrade its computer system, and take steps to hire more qualified terrorism analysts and translators, as it shifts focus to counterterrorism efforts as part of the war on terror.