Pace of Sept. 11 inquiry at issue

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Some lawmakers investigating intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks say their investigation is going too slowly -- or plans for a new Homeland Security Department may be advancing too rapidly.

The joint House-Senate inquiry is looking into law-enforcement and intelligence problems that preceded the attacks and making recommendations to fix them.

Its final report is not expected until next year, after the new Homeland Security Department has been set up to deal with the problems the inquiry is supposed to identify. Congressional leaders from both parties hope to create the department by the Sept. 11 anniversary.

"I do believe we will not be far enough along to provide the advice we'd like to provide," said Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

The inquiry by the House and Senate intelligence committees resumes Tuesday in secret session with CIA director George Tenet and FBI director Robert Mueller expected to testify. The two are likely to face questioning about their agencies' failure to share information before the attacks.

Some senators are beginning to express frustration with the inquiry's pace, after the first two weeks were consumed by reviews of U.S. counterterror efforts since the 1980s.

"There's a little impatience growing among the members," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said.

Durbin said he and other senators are eager to focus on specific problems that need improvement. "We want to start moving toward the kind of changes that can make us a safer nation," he said.

A potential problem

Durbin is not concerned about having the Homeland Security Department established before the inquiry issues findings, he said.

"I don't think that our reform proposals are going to run counter or in any way contradict the idea of homeland security," he said.

Other committee members are not so sure. Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., said the homeland security deadline could be a potential problem.

"Do we have to move faster because we have to make decisions about what's in the homeland security legislation? I don't know the answer to that question at this point," Castle said.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., questioned the haste to create the department.

"Everyone's getting on the bandwagon," Peterson said. "I'm uncomfortable with this. I clearly don't have a good picture yet of what to think about all this."

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