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Justice Probed FBI on 9/11 Memo
Hill Panel Seeks IG's Report on Phoenix Agent's Warning

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By Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 6, 2002; Page A13

Shortly after Sept. 11, the Department of Justice inspector general conducted an investigation into why a Phoenix FBI agent's memo regarding flight schools had been ignored. Yesterday, two congressional committees looking into intelligence failures pushed to learn more about the newly disclosed report.

The IG investigation, congressional sources said, could be politically sensitive because it may reveal how widely the July 2001 memo -- which suggested a nationwide canvassing of flight schools to identify potential terrorists -- was distributed in the bureau at the time. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft were told about the Phoenix memo shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The IG office conducted seven interviews concerning the Phoenix memo in November and December of 2001. The department's inspector general, Glenn Fine, recently prepared a synthesis of events concerning the handling of the memo, which he will discuss with the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Meanwhile, as the joint House and Senate intelligence committee met privately for a second day yesterday in the secure fourth-floor conference room in the Capitol, heated exchanges broke out among members concerning the inquiry's direction, sources said. The joint panel listened to what Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) described as a staff-led "Terrorism 101" course describing well-known terrorists and terrorist groups dating to 1982. Some members, eager to move more quickly to the current terrorist threat, protested.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) demanded to know why the committee wasn't more focused on the anthrax threat, referring passionately to past and possible future exposure of postal workers, the sources said. Other members wanted to know why the Senate Judiciary Committee has a higher public profile than the intelligence panel, whose members have been particularly closed-mouthed about the proceedings.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," said one committee member who believed the subject was irrelevant, a source said.

Yesterday morning, the staff laid out for members how the various intelligence agencies conducted their own terrorism investigations and how each agency set up its own counterterrorism office and tried to coordinate information between agencies. The staff also began to work through a CIA-produced, 327-foot-long chronology of terrorist events and U.S. reaction to them.

The congressional staff members were joined by staffers from the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency who have been helping the new congressional panel staff sift through 100,000 pages of documents and the testimony of 200 witnesses.

"We want to have a good foundation and the same level of knowledge across the board," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), ranking minority member of the House committee. "We also have to lay a foundation of accountability. . . . There has to be accountability."

Among the first outside witnesses to answer questions from the committee will be Cofer Black, the recently retired head of the CIA's counterterrorism center, and Richard Clarke, the Clinton administration's senior counterterrorism official.

Also yesterday, several committee staff members interviewed Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley at FBI headquarters in Washington. Rowley wrote a 13-page letter to Mueller last month saying that headquarters obstructed efforts last summer by field agents to wiretap terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and search his possessions -- actions that might have yielded clues to the pending Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui had been arrested after raising suspicions at a Minnesota flight school.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said he wants to question FBI headquarters employees as well. "I think for us it's more relevant to talk to those people that she's making the allegations against," Reyes said. "Up to now, these are just allegations."

As a result of the handling of Moussaoui, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation yesterday that would make it easier for the FBI to obtain warrants allowing them to eavesdrop on people suspected of having terrorist ties.

2002 The Washington Post Company

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