September 11 alert was ignored, says FBI agent

ALEXANDRIA - An FBI agent testified in the sentencing trial of September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui that agency superiors blocked his efforts to flag a possible terror attack.

Harry Samit, who arrested Moussaoui three weeks before the airliner hijackings, said he tried to warn that a hijacking might be in the works.

Moussaoui was arrested on August 16, 2001, after raising suspicions at a flight school. Samit said after questioning Moussaoui he knew the Frenchman had "radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs" and thought he was part of a bigger plot. In an message to his superiors on August 18, Samit said he believed Moussaoui was "conspiring to commit a terrorist act."

Samit warned that Moussaoui had been taking simulator lessons to learn the basics of flying a jumbo jet and could be plotting a possible hijacking.

Samit said he was unable to get authority to seek a warrant in order to search Moussaoui's belongings.

"I am so desperate to get into his computer, I'll take anything," he wrote in an email to Catherine Kiser, an intelligence official, a day before the deadly attacks.

Her response was ominous: "You fought the good fight. God help us all if the next terrorist incident involves the same type of plane."

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