WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Tuesday the CIA and FBI failed to communicate adequately before Sept. 11. Congress began extraordinary closed-door hearings into intelligence lapses with bipartisan promises to search for facts, not scapegoats.
"I think we're going to find that a lot of things were not done right by the CIA, the FBI, INS" and perhaps other agencies, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. said after the first day of closed-door hearings by a joint House-Senate intelligence committee. "Some of this is pretty serious" and "it will suggest ways we need to change."
The staff of the intelligence committee already has interviewed Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who says FBI headquarters ignored her office's pleas in the weeks before Sept. 11 to aggressively investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, now charged as an accomplice in the hijackings, Kyl said.
Hours before the joint committee met, Bush, in his most explicit criticism yet of FBI and CIA actions before the attacks, said: "I think it's clear that they weren't" communicating properly.
But, speaking at the National Security Agency, Bush also said there is no evidence that U.S. officials could have averted the attacks, even if agencies had worked together better.
The House-Senate intelligence committee will examine just that point, and others, as it seeks to uncover what clues might have pointed to the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and ensure such intelligence lapses don't occur again.
'We're working together'
The hearings aim to uncover "what the intelligence community knew prior to Sept. 11 about ... possible attacks against the United States .. and what was done with that information," according to a statement released by the committee.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said the committee, starting today, would have staff briefings on specific issues, then call witnesses in upcoming closed hearings. Open hearings will begin June 25.
"We will not be driven by outside pressures," said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as he stood next to Graham, the Senate Intelligence chairman with whom he will run the hearing on alternate weeks.
"We're working together, because this is in the interests of the American people," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.