The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were preventable, but the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other US intelligence agencies failed to act, a US congressional investigation has concluded.
The report, by a joint committee of the US House of Representatives and Senate intelligence panels, found that prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA failed to act on intelligence it had about hijackers, the FBI was unable to track al-Qaida in the United States, and key National Security Agency communications intercepts never were circulated.
The CIA, for nearly two years before the attacks, knew about the terror connections between two hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, who in 2000 moved to San Diego, according to the 900-page declassified version of the report.
The report said that the CIA and FBI failed to counter the threat from al-Qaida even though they had know for years that its leader, Osama bin Laden, was determined to attack the United States.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
After 9 public hearings and 13 closed sessions by the committee last year, the report is the most comprehensive account yet of lapses that allowed 19 Arabs to hijack four commercial airliners without being detected by intelligence or law enforcement authorities.
While saying the attacks could have been prevented, the report does not blame either agency for overlooking specific information that would have thwarted the terrorism.
The report found that the National Security Agency (NSA), which eavesdrops on worldwide communications, may have had the earliest knowledge of the extremist leanings of Midhar and Alhazmi.
In 1999, the NSA intercepted the conversations in early 1999 indicating that two future hijackers were connected to a suspected al-Qaida facility in the Middle East, but that information was not passed on to other agencies.
The report spends substantial time discussing failures by the FBI to shift its priorities from crime-fighting, which had been at the heart of its mission for decades, to preventing terrorism before Sept. 11.
(Xinhua News Agency July 25, 2003)