Key lawmaker says FBI reform necessary

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The FBI -- whose director is preparing a plan to overhaul the agency -- must go through a "big learning curve" to be adequately equipped to fight terrorism, a key congressman says.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss' remarks Sunday came as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle disclosed that President Bush asked him not to seek an outside commission to investigate pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.

Goss, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said he doesn't think the FBI is capable at this point of doing the intelligence work necessary to fight domestic terrorism.

"I think they've got to go through a big learning curve, a lot of readjustment," said Goss, R-Fla.

The FBI said Sunday that Director Robert Mueller will soon announce his plan to reorganize the agency to better combat terrorism. It will include a new team in Washington to centralize anti-terrorist efforts and ensure all intelligence is evaluated thoroughly, officials have said.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said more than two dozen agency analysts and at least one senior manager from its Directorate of Intelligence will assist Mueller's reorganization.

In addition, CIA analysts will be sent to several major U.S. cities to review FBI terrorism cases and examine information in the larger context of international terrorism, Harlow said.

"The FBI's focus in the past has been on fighting crime. Analysts at the CIA have probably got a broader experience in dealing with international terrorism," Harlow said.

Also Sunday, Daschle continued to press for an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures leading up to the September attacks.

Daschle, D-S.D., said Bush asked him on Jan. 28 not to seek an outside commission. He said previously that Vice President Dick Cheney made a similar request Jan. 24.

"They were concerned about the diversion of resources," Daschle said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Bush and Cheney said last week that Congress' intelligence committees -- which can keep secret the classified information supplied by the administration -- are the proper panels for an investigation.

Bush national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reinforced that position Sunday, saying the administration worries "about anything that would take place outside of the intelligence committees."

Ongoing FBI investigations shouldn't be jeopardized by information "spread to the first pages of the newspapers," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday."

The first House-Senate intelligence committee hearing into the attacks will take place June 4. It will be closed to the public because classified information will be discussed.

Goss said he will examine whether concern the FBI would appear to be using racial profiling led it to remove key details from a search warrant request whose rejection kept the FBI from learning more about a terrorism suspect before Sept. 11.

Goss referred to a letter Minneapolis FBI counsel Coleen Rowley wrote May 21 to Mueller about the Zacarias Moussaoui case.

The letter alleged that terrorism supervisors at FBI headquarters rewrote the Minnesota office's warrant applications and affidavit and removed key information about Moussaoui before sending them to a legal office that then rejected the paperwork as insufficient.

The Minneapolis office, after arresting Moussaoui at a Minnesota flight school last August, was concerned he was seeking to hurt Americans. Rowley wrote that some of the revisions "downplayed" the significance of intelligence linking Moussaoui to Islamic extremists, and blamed the changes on a flawed communication process.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," Goss said problems with the warrant application worried him most.

He said if the letter is accurate, "that people were reluctant -- there was a culture in Washington that said, 'No, we don't want to rock the boat. We want to -- we're too worried about profiling, those kind of things.' We've got to know about that and figure out as a society how we are going to react."

Asked if he meant one reason the FBI may have rejected a warrant request was concern about racial profiling, Goss replied: "I don't know the answer to that. But I'm surely going to ask the question, because it has been suggested."

The FBI declined to comment.

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