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U.S. intelligence agencies next for 9/11 panel

Memo that figured into Rice testimony to be declassified



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Stay with CNN for ongoing updates from the campaign trail and analysis of reactions to the 9/11 panel testimony of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
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CNN's Jeff Greenfield reviews highlights of the testimony.

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Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that Rice left questions unanswered.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The performance of U.S. law enforcement and the intelligence community will come under scrutiny next week when the 9/11 commission holds another public hearing as part of its review of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"We want to understand what went wrong and what steps have been taken to make the American people safe and more secure," commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton said in a written statement.

Among those scheduled to testify at the two-day hearing, starting Tuesday: Attorney General John Ashcroft; his predecessor, Janet Reno; CIA Director George Tenet; FBI Director Robert Mueller; and former FBI Director Louis Freeh. Former acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard is also scheduled to testify.

Commission chairman Thomas Kean said the hearing will focus on four questions:

  • "How was our government structured before 9/11 to address the terrorist threat inside the United States?
  • "What was the threat in 2001 and our government's response to it?
  • "How did the intelligence community address the threat?
  • "What reforms have been taken since 9/11 to respond to the terrorist threat inside the United States, and what have these reforms achieved?"
  • Previous hearings, including a joint congressional probe, have focused on the performance of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement services, particularly the CIA and the FBI. Many lawmakers and administration figures faulted the agencies for not sharing information and tips before September 11, and since the attacks, the agencies have been told to cooperate more.

    Next week's session follows a high-profile hearing Thursday, when national security adviser Condoleezza Rice delivered an unyielding defense of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies in the face of occasionally sharp and skeptical questions from commissioners.

    A key memo that was cited repeatedly in Thursday's hearing -- titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" and given to the president August 6, 2001 -- is, according to the White House, in the process of being declassified. The commission called for the release of the document, known as a presidential daily briefing or PDB.

    "We have every hope that it will be declassified, every intention to declassify at this time," Sean McCormack, a National Security Council spokesman, said Thursday. (Full story)

    On Friday, the commission met in private with former Vice President Al Gore. In a statement after the three-hour session, the commission said he was "candid and forthcoming," and it thanked him for his "continued cooperation."

    Former President Clinton met in private with the commission Thursday.

    Commissioners are expected to look into what kinds of terrorism investigations were in place at the time of the attacks. Although Rice said Thursday that about 70 FBI investigations were looking into possible al Qaeda sleeper cells, John Lehman, a Republican member of the commission, told CNN the number was closer to 90.

    One line of inquiry next week will likely be the so-called Phoenix memo, a missive written July 2001 by a field agent in Phoenix, Arizona, who urged a broad review of Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons in the United States, and raised the prospect that Osama bin Laden was involved. Many lawmakers have criticized FBI headquarters for not following up on that memo aggressively enough.

    The case of Zacarias Moussaoui will also likely be revisited.

    In August 2001, the FBI's field office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, pursued an investigation of Moussaoui -- who had been arrested on immigration charges --but could not get approval from FBI headquarters in Washington to seek a search warrant for the man's computer.

    Moussaoui, a flight school student, later was charged as a conspirator in the September 11 attacks.

    Tim Roemer, a Democratic member of the bipartisan panel known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, told CNN that next week's session will likely follow up on some of the points raised by the earlier congressional probe.

    "Well, the joint inquiry did a fabulous job, actually a brilliant job, in finding and discovering some of the problems at the FBI, and there are many," he said. Roemer said there would be "new revelations" on that "theme" and the lack of cooperation between the FBI and CIA at next week's hearing.

    Congress created the commission -- initially opposed by the Bush administration -- in November 2002 and charged it with coming up with an authoritative account of the attacks of September 11, including any security and intelligence lapses.

    The panel is also required to issue recommendations on how to protect against future attacks.

    The commission's report is due by July 26, but it may not be released at that time because it is subject first to a security review by the White House.

    CNN's Kevin Bohn and Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.


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