A bureaucratic maze kept the government from moving swiftly against the growing terrorist threat in 2001, the 9/11 investigating commission said yesterday. The Associated Press says a report from the panel disclosed that the FBI’s top al Qaeda hunters were excluded from the case at least once.
The report said diligent agents were on the trail of al Qaeda operatives, but they ran into a system that treated pressing matters as routine, prevented one side of the FBI from working with another, and kept the FBI and CIA from sharing vital information.
FBI agents experienced on al Qaeda were shut out of the search for two men who would turn out to be among the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. The investigation was handled as an intelligence matter; they were agents specializing in criminal cases, and the FBI maintained a strict wall between the two.
The report details missed opportunities in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested on immigration charges while attending flight school in Minnesota shortly before the attacks. Because of a dispute between FBI supervisors and field agents, no search warrant was immediately obtained to look through his computer, the commission said.