The FBI missed at least five chances in the months before Sept. 11, 2001, to find two hijackers as they settled in San Diego, says a Justice Department inspector general report quoted by the New York Times. The document was made public yesterday after being kept secret for a year. Investigators were stymied by bureaucratic obstacles, communication breakdowns, and a lack of urgency, the report said.
The blistering findings mirror those of the Sept. 11 commission last summer but they provide significant new details about the many bureaucratic breakdowns before the attacks and are likely to fuel questions about the bureau’s efforts to remake itself. On the San Diego hijackers, the report saidt an FBI agent assigned to the Central Intelligence Agency wanted to pass on information to his agency about the two men in early 2000 – 19 months before the attacks – but was blocked by a CIA supervisor and did not aggressively follow up. “What we found were significant deficiencies in the way the FBI handled these issues,” inspector general Glenn Fine told the Times. “We don’t believe it was misconduct on the part of individuals so much as systemic problems, but we do recommend that the FBI review the performance of individuals on its own.” The FBI said it had taken significant steps since the Sept. 11 attacks to address the types of problems the inspector general identified.