Current and former leaders of the main Justice Department and the FBI should expect tough questions next week from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, says the New York Times. The hearings are likely to set the stage for a recommended overhaul of domestic counterterrorism programs, possibly through a new agency separate from the FBI. The Bush administration opposes such a move.
Commission chairman Thomas Kean told the Times he was concerned the bureau would “go back to business as usual” within a few years. “We’ve got to seriously consider whether our whole counterintelligence apparatus has to be changed,” added Kean, who has said that the U.S. may need the equivalent of MI-5, Britain’s domestic spy agency.
Next week, the panel will hear from the last two attorneys general, Janet Reno and John Ashcroft, and the last two FBI directors, Louis Freeh and Robert S. Mueller III. The toughest questions are likely for Ashcroft and Freeh. The commission may make public internal memorandums written by Thomas J. Pickard, the FBI acting director in the summer of 2001, criticizing what he perceived as Ashcroft’s disinterest in counterterrorism.
The Times quotes commission officials as saying Freeh will be harshly questioned about why the bureau had not been able to obtain basic computer and communications equipment that would have allowed agents to share information about terrorist threats. The system was so outdated at the time of the attacks that agents could not even share e-mail on their computers.