September 11 report to fault intelligence and policymakers

4.30pm

WASHINGTON - The September 11 commission's final report will fault intelligence agencies for a failure of imagination in not anticipating the 2001 attacks, and present and previous administrations for not making terrorism an overriding priority, United States officials said on Wednesday.

Members of Congress were briefed on the report, which will be made public on Thursday, but were not given copies of it.

The report will fault intelligence agencies for a "lack of imagination" in not anticipating that al Qaeda could attack the US using hijacked aircraft, a Senate source said.

The report will say that terrorism was not the overriding national security priority for the administrations of Republican President George W Bush and former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, the Senate source told Reuters.

And it will fault intelligence capabilities at that time as being more geared toward Cold War conflicts, and cite management failures including the lack of a single official responsible for counter-terrorism, the source told Reuters.

The commission's recommendations include creating a national counter-terrorism centre to address the failures of inter-agency coordination, congressional officials said.

It also recommends creating a new position of national intelligence director who would serve as the president's principal adviser on intelligence issues and have budget and management authority over all 15 spy agencies, congressional officials said.

That director would have three deputies -- for foreign intelligence, domestic intelligence and homeland security intelligence, the Senate source said.

The commission also recommends congressional reform and suggests increasing the power of congressional oversight committees by giving them the authority to approve programmes and appropriate funds, congressional officials said.

The report also suggests creating a joint House and Senate committee to oversee intelligence, rather than the present separate oversight committees.

A US official who has reviewed the report said: "Rather than finding that there was a failure at the presidential level, what they find though is that there are failings, 'deep institutional failings within our government'."

The commission discusses "institutional failures, failure of imagination and whether people should have connected different dots of al Qaeda's interest in attacking," the official said.

The report catalogues 10 missed opportunities within the CIA and FBI to uncover pieces of the September 11 plot.

"There were several opportunities to intercept various of the terrorists. Obviously -- and I don't think the commission concludes that we could have prevented it -- but there were certainly ample opportunities to have intercepted some of the activities that led to" the attacks, Jim Turner, a Texas Senator said.

- REUTERS

Herald Feature: September 11

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