(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)


From: "Peter Coyote" <>
Subject: Sen. Richard Shelby on Intelligence Failures. NYTimes
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 10:53:56 -0700

Senator Shelby Faults the Intelligence Agencies


WASHINGTON, Sept. 9---After months of work on a joint Congressional committee investigating the events of Sept. 11, Senator Richard C. Shelby said he feared that Congress would adjourn before all the facts are unearthed. As a result, he said, he would not oppose an outside investigating commission.

"Time is not on our side," warned Mr. Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. As he ticked off the few remaining months before Congress leaves for the year and the joint committee dissolves, he stopped just short of accusing intelligence agencies of slowing the flow of information to investigators as a way to beat the clock.

"You know," he said in an interview on Thursday, sitting at a conference table in his Senate office, "we were told that there would be cooperation in this investigation, and I question that. I think that most of the information that our staff has been able to get that is real meaningful has had to be extracted piece by piece."

Was he accusing the agencies of a deliberate slowdown? "I'll have to let you make that judgment call," he said, then added: "You're dealing with smart people. No one likes to be investigated."

Across his nearly eight years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, some of them as its chairman, the courtly but cunning Mr. Shelby, 68, has become known as one of the most blistering critics of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. The Sept. 11 attacks have only made him more outspoken.

He recalled the hurried evacuation of Congress as smoke wafted from the Pentagon, and said his instant belief was that this was a result of a monumental intelligence failure.

"I felt so then; I know so now," he said. "It seems that every week, every month, there are new revelations that support my basic conclusion that I came to early on, on September the 11th."

Mr. Shelby said the failures started in 1993 after the bombing of the World Trade Center. "That should have been, in my judgment, a wake-up call that terrorists would hit us on our own soil with devastating effect," he said.

He runs through other cases: the attack on the United States barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the explosions at the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000.

He then lists some recent revelations: the ignored memorandum from a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in Phoenix warning that Osama bin Laden's followers might be training for terrorist operations at American flight schools; the refusal by bureau headquarters to seek a search warrant that would have allowed Minneapolis agents to search a laptop computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, now charged with being a conspirator in the Sept. 11 plot.

Grimly, Mr. Shelby promised that the nation would someday learn of other lapses, which he could not yet divulge.

"There are a lot of other things that I believe we don't know," he said. "As a matter of fact I believe that there will be more =97 there will be more information coming out of this joint inquiry. Some, I know, will be very, very sensitive. Some should be brought to the attention of the American people."

He suggested that the information would prove explosive. "I think there are some more bombs out there," he said, adding, "I know that."

Mr. Shelby has ideas for what needs to be done to fortify intelligence agencies for a long battle against terror. He says the director of central intelligence should be elevated to a full cabinet post and be given more power to oversee the entire sprawling intelligence apparatus.

He says the government must do a better job at turning America's ethnic diversity and immigrant heritage into an intelligence asset by recruiting into its ranks Americans who speak Arabic and Farsi and can better meld into the byways of the terrorists.

"One of the solutions is there has got to be again emphasis on human intelligence," he said, "because we've got the people."

But Mr. Shelby does shy away from one idea being promoted by some in Congress, the creation of a new and powerful domestic intelligence agency to monitor potential terrorists inside the United States. "I have certain reservations involving the rights of the individual, constitutional rights," he said.

"We want the best security we can have for ourselves, our family, our co-workers," he mused, "but we don't want to give up everything because what's built this country, sustained us, I believe, is free markets, free people, freedom of press, freedom of thought. We never had, ever in this country, a police state."

He is still withholding judgment of Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director who was new to his job on Sept. 11. "I think the question is, will he actually break with the past," he said. "And we will have the measure of that in several years."

But the senator does not try to hide his dismay that the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration, has not resigned or been replaced. "I've said all along that that was the president's decision, you know," he demurred, "and I'm not the president."

But pressed, he says he thinks that "you could get somebody stronger," and adds, "I believe that you, that we need a strong, strong director of central intelligence that will assert himself and will have the power and the backing of the president to be the chief of staff, I mean, the C.E.O. of the whole intelligence community."

He still fumes that Mr. Tenet challenged the idea that there had been an intelligence failure and defended the Central Intelligence Agency's record on terrorism in a February appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee after the attacks.

Explaining how he had become a critic of the C.I.A., Mr. Shelby said he had a "real wake-up call" in May 1998 when India conducted three underground nuclear tests. He said Mr. Tenet, in a phone call, had told him that the agency "didn't have a clue" that such an event was on the horizon. The senator said he had thought: "My gosh, I wonder what else is going on. They had no clue on that."

He acknowledges that months ago, when the intelligence panels were beginning their investigation of Sept. 11, he believed that they would be able to carry out a thorough inquiry. But the lawmakers ran into problems, from an early staffing shakeup, to infighting, to an information leak. The joint panel has had long negotiations with the administration over obtaining some information. Public hearings have been delayed repeatedly.

Nonetheless, Mr. Shelby insists that the committee must try to do a thorough job. "We need to do everything we can, leave no stone that we know about unturned," he said. "And we won't. But I would not rule out or oppose subsequent investigations because I think they could build on what we are doing." Mr. Shelby is in his last months on the intelligence committee, which has an eight-year term limit.

"I think the failures in the intelligence are so widespread, so deep, that we owe the American people a searching job," he said.  ##

* * *



The Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address: