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Lawmaker: FBI needs 'serious rethinking'

| Monday, May 27, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss said Sunday that the FBI is incapable of doing the intelligence work needed to fight domestic terrorism.

"I think they've got to go through a big learning curve, a lot of readjustment," the Florida Republican said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're going to hear a lot more about that in the days ahead."

The agency, whose primary mission before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was to catch criminals after they committed crimes, needs to work on using the information intelligence agencies collect overseas to prevent terrorism at home, Goss said.

The FBI declined to comment yesterday.

Goss said the agency needs "some serious rethinking and retraining." Placing CIA personnel there for cross training, already under way, will help, he said.

Goss' remarks come as FBI Director Robert Mueller prepares to announce an overhaul of the agency to better fight terrorism. Mueller plans to create a new team in Washington to centralize terrorism fighting and ensure all intelligence is evaluated thoroughly, officials have said.

Goss also weighed in on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's call for an independent commission to investigate what the federal government knew and what it did to fight terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Goss said he believes the congressional intelligence committees are the appropriate venue for such a probe, adding that he worries there would be "egregious leaks" with an outside panel. Such a panel also would be tough to pull together, he said.

The first House-Senate intelligence committee hearing into the attacks will take place on June 4, but will be closed to the public since classified information will be discussed.

Daschle said President Bush asked him on Jan. 28 not to seek an independent commission to investigate the intelligence failures leading up to the September attacks. Daschle has said previously that Vice President Cheney made a similar request on Jan. 24.

"They were concerned about the diversion of resources," Daschle said on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that the request was repeated on other dates he did not specify. "That was the reason given."

Bush and Cheney said this past week they do not want an outside commission, and that Congress's intelligence committees — which can keep secret the classified information supplied by the administration — are capable of handling an investigation.

Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reinforced that position yesterday.

"I think the important thing here is for everybody to take a deep breath and recognize that we still have a very important and indeed dangerous war against terrorism under way," Rice said on Fox.

She said ongoing FBI investigations need not be jeopardized by information "spread to the first pages of the newspapers."

The administration worries "about anything that would take place outside of the intelligence committees and <#201> we think the intelligence committees are the proper venue for this kind of review," Rice said.

Daschle said lawmakers should explore why Bush and his team apparently were not given better information about terrorist threats prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

He laid part of the blame on a "stovepipe problem" — intelligence agencies not fully sharing information.

Daschle said he has confidence in Mueller but there must be real reform at the agency.

"Just shuffling the chairs isn't going to do it. There's got to be a change in attitude," Daschle said.

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