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Rumsfeld says he wasn't aware of FBI hijacking memo

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CNN on Friday that he wasn't aware of an FBI memo last summer warning of people from the Middle East training at flight schools until it showed up recently in the media.

But he defended the way such warnings are handled and the manner in which President Bush has responded to global terrorism.

He elaborated on the issue in an interview on the "Today" show.

"I can't speak to how valid it might have been at that time. But it seems to me the information is collected, is collated, and judgments are made and warnings are issued" and many threats are thwarted, Rumsfeld said.

Disputes have arisen over revelations that the Bush administration received an intelligence briefing before September 11 that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network might attempt airline hijackings. The controversy raises the issue of what the Bush administration knew about al Qaeda's actions before September 11.

Rumsfeld said there is more heightened awareness and safer circumstances for Americans over the last year or two as threats have increased.

"Even that does not suggest that there cannot be a terrorist event somewhere, someplace in the world and I suspect there will be," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld was asked about U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's comments about the need for Congress to know more about the situation.

"Congress has overnight responsibilities and certainly that's perfectly appropriate," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld discussed reports that the Bush administration had been alerted about intelligence reports before the September 11 attacks that the al Qaeda terror organization was planning airplane hijackings.

He said that the United States receives many threat warnings from many sources and use procedures in place to review them. Most of the claims are eventually discounted.

"Every day there are numerous threat warnings," Rumsfeld said. "They are looked at, sorted and sifted."




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