Congress picks investigator for attacks

Sunday, February 17, 2002

WASHINGTON -- L. Britt Snider, who will run the congressional investigation into why the U.S. government didn't detect the preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks, frequently plays the outsider looking in.

He has served as the CIA's inspector general and the lawyer for the Senate's intelligence oversight committee. He has been a part of a number of government studies of the secretive intelligence community. He's not afraid to criticize people with whom he works closely.

"He's low-key, not an egotist in any way," said former Sen. Warren Rudman, an intelligence expert who recommended Snider for the job. "He always puts the interests of the institution he's working for ahead of his own."

Leaders in the Senate and House intelligence committees announced Thursday they had selected Snider as staff director of the joint investigative committee looking into the attacks. They are seeking a budget of $2.6 million for the inquiry, and hearings may start in mid-April.

Snider retired last year from his position as inspector general at the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the agencies whose conduct will be at the heart of the congressional inquiry.

"That is an assignment that is adversarial with CIA's leadership," Rudman said. "It's a tough role. They do a lot of investigations that never see the light of day."

Snider declined comment.

Working in the shadows

Little of his work at the CIA was made public. In one unclassified report, his office criticized CIA Director George J. Tenet, a longtime colleague, for not taking a more active role in investigating allegations that Tenet's predecessor, John Deutch, had violated security rules by keeping classified information on unprotected personal computers at his home.

He also issued a critical report of the CIA's role in the accidental U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the NATO war with Yugoslavia in 1999.

In other positions, Snider worked closely with Tenet. He served as the CIA Director's special adviser in 1997 and 1998, and he was a top legal adviser for the Senate Intelligence Committee -- for a time while Tenet was staff director there. While with the committee, Snider directed the oversight investigation into the Aldrich Ames espionage case.

In the 1970s he worked on the Church Committee, investigating the conduct of the CIA and other agencies during the Cold War. The committee's work led to increased congressional oversight of the U.S. intelligence activities.

Frank Gaffney, a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration, said Snider is too close to Tenet and others in the intelligence community to mount an effective inquiry. Gaffney's organization, the conservative Center for Security Policy, issued a statement saying the investigation will amount to a "whitewash."

Snider, 57, is a Vietnam veteran and a Democrat. He is married and has one son.

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