FBI Oversight Hearing Prologue to Expected Report Slamming Agency; ACLU Says 9/11 Failures Result of Mistakes, Not Lack of Powers

July 23, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – As Senators convened an oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union today pointed to a soon-to-be-released congressional report, which will be highly critical of the FBI’s actions immediately before 9/11, as evidence that the FBI’s missteps prior to the terrorist attacks were a result of institutional mistakes, not a lack of surveillance or law enforcement powers.

“”The Attorney General went to Congress after 9/11 and asked for broad new powers, citing them as necessary to fight the war on terror,”” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “”The congressional report will show that he did not need those new powers — he needed to effectively use those already at his disposal. Congress must resist additional attempts to curtail American freedoms in the name national security.””

Today’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee featured FBI Director Robert Mueller as a witness and comes just a day before the report on Congress’ investigation into 9/11 intelligence and lapses by law enforcement is expected to be released publicly.

According to news reports, the study’s findings will include several instances where the FBI received credible tips about possible terrorism, but failed to properly allocate resources to investigate them. More generally, the report is expected to show that both law enforcement and intelligence agencies failed to properly assess the terrorist threat and that no federal agency had sufficient intelligence to have advance, specific warnings of the attacks.

As rumors of a sequel to the now infamous USA PATRIOT Act circulate in the halls of Congress, the reported findings of the congressional study demonstrate the need for the more effective use of resources, and not an expansion of powers, the ACLU said. In fact, in previous testimony before Congress, the Attorney General frankly admitted that the tools of the PATRIOT Act would not necessarily prevent another 9/11.

The hearing also comes on the heels of an astounding repudiation of the PATRIOT Act and expanded surveillance powers. Late last night, by a broadly bipartisan vote of 309 to 118, the House of Representatives adopted a measure that would effectively prohibit the use of so-called “”sneak and peek”” warrants authorized by the PATRIOT Act. This is the first unequivocal move by Congress to restore American freedoms and liberties that have been curtailed since September, 2001.

The PATRIOT Act and rumors of PATRIOT II are fueling the rapid growth of a grassroots backlash across the country in support of civil liberties. To date, at least 142 communities and three states have passed pro-freedom measures, many of which call for specific fixes like last night’s floor action on sneak and peek.

“”Congress must resist attempts to pass PATRIOT Act II – either independently or piecemeal,”” Edgar added. “”As this report demonstrates anti-privacy or liberty measures do nothing to make us safer while making us less free.””

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