RealNews

Spinning Terror's Rolodex

American intelligence agencies had known since 1999 that two of the 9/11 hijackers–young Saudis Khalid Almihdar and Nawaf Alhazmi–had ties to al Qaeda. But they didn’t put them on a watch list of potential terrorists until August 2001. By then, it was too late–the State Department had issued visas to the pair in April 1999. That’s why the hijackers blithely went about their deadly business–signing apartment leases in San Diego and taking flying lessons–while the FBI and local police remained mostly in the dark. How could it have happened? The answers have been more than a little unsettling. U.S. intelligence agencies were “neither well organized nor equipped” to prevent terrorist attacks, according to a report by Congress on 9/11. The General Accounting Office, the congressional watchdog, calls the government’s terrorist watch lists–there are 12 among nine federal agencies–“diffuse and nonstandard,” creating a dangerous enforcement gap. Notes Col. Patrick Lang, former head of Middle Eastern and counterterrorism intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency: “The more lists you have, and the less accessible they are, the more chances there are for somebody to slip through.” Full Story

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