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Sen. Bob Graham: 9/11 clues were there

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- Investigations continue into what the U.S. government knew or should have known in the days and weeks before the September 11 attacks. Wednesday's New York Times has details on an upcoming report by the Senate Judiciary Committee that criticizes the FBI's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected 20th hijacker. Among the allegations is one that FBI lawyers failed to approve search warrants for Moussaoui's computer because they were ignorant of federal surveillance laws.

CNN Inside Politics anchor Judy Woodruff spoke Wednesday with Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said he agreed with fellow committee member Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who told the Times that evidence available to the FBI would have provided a veritable blueprint for September 11.

GRAHAM: I do agree with that. There were many sources within the federal government collecting information. There was no single source that was looking at all that information to try to see if there was a pattern, a picture, a plot, that began to emerge. Had that happened, then I think another series of questions would have been asked, more information would have been collected, and with luck, it might have occurred early enough to have disrupted the hijackers before the horrific events of September 11.

WOODRUFF: Well, if that's the case, is it enough just that some heads are going to roll or does something much more drastic have to take place in the intelligence community?

GRAHAM: There needs to be a number of reforms. We are halfway through a major investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees of what happened before on and after September 11 and what should be done to reduce the chances of that occurring in the future. Some of those things are beginning to come forth and be acted upon, one of which is to establish within the new Department of Homeland Security an analytical capability where not only will the information from all of the federal intelligence collecting agencies such as CIA, FBI come, but also information from state and local law enforcement will be integrated. I think that will be a substantial advance in terms of our ability to see terrorist plots before they are played out.

WOODRUFF: Senator, another report [Wednesday], in the Washington Post, [says] two senior al Qaeda leaders [are] being harbored in Iran. [The article says] intelligence information points [to] several al Qaeda figures working out of Iran. What does it say about U.S. intelligence capabilities that it's taken this long to find this out, and it's coming from an Arab intelligence source?

GRAHAM: Well, we work very closely with intelligence agencies from other countries. They are an important part of our total intelligence collection capability. I don't know the specific facts of this case. We do know that Iran has been the place to which a number of al Qaeda members, including some of the leadership of al Qaeda, have fled in the aftermath of the war. So the fact that they are showing up in Iran is not surprising.

WOODRUFF: Senator, yet another report, this one in the New York Times that U.S. forces in Afghanistan working under the assumption that Osama bin Laden is still alive, that he's hiding out somewhere in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. What do you believe about where he is and in terms of how much information you have?

GRAHAM: What I believe is what I have been told by our intelligence agencies, which is that the best analysis is that bin Laden is probably still alive, living in that region between Afghanistan and the tribal territories of Pakistan, taking advantage of his knowledge of the territory and the support and sanctuary that he's able to receive from the residents in that very rugged, remote area.

WOODRUFF: And do you believe the U.S. military missed a major opportunity earlier to get rid of him?

GRAHAM: There's some speculation that in the battle of Tora Bora that we could have sealed off some of the mountain passes and maybe kept bin Laden inside. That is speculation, which at this point is without confirmation. One of the things, Judy ... that I think we need to be careful about. Bin Laden is an important figure. He brought charisma, money and a high intelligence to al Qaeda. But the really important institution is al Qaeda itself, and that our focus needs to be on dismantling al Qaeda so that it can no longer be the scourge that it was on September 11. I hope we get bin Laden. Knowing finally that he is either dead or in custody will make us sleep better at night. But that's not, by any means, the totality of our goal in Afghanistan and relative to al Qaeda.




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