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Officials Fault Case Bush Cited

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Disagreeable

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Caught again. Excerpts; link below; my emphasis.

But some current and former high-ranking U.S. counter-terrorism officials say that the still-classified details of the case undermine the president's rationale for the recently disclosed domestic spying program.

Indeed, a 2002 inquiry into the case by the House and Senate intelligence committees blamed interagency communication breakdowns — not shortcomings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or any other intelligence-gathering guidelines.

The incident Bush referred to involved at least six communications between the hijackers in San Diego and suspected terrorists overseas.

The current and former counter-terrorism officials, who requested anonymity, said there were repeated phone communications between a safe house in Yemen and the San Diego apartment rented by Alhazmi and Almihdhar. The Yemen site already had been linked directly to the Al Qaeda bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and to the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen, several current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials familiar with the case said.

Those links made the safe house one of the "hottest" targets being monitored by the NSA before the Sept. 11 attacks, and had been so for several years, the officials said.

Authorities also had traced the phone number at the safe house to Almihdhar's father-in-law, and believed then that two of his other sons-in-law already had killed themselves in suicide terrorist attacks. Such information, the officials said, should have set off alarm bells at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Under authority granted in federal law, the NSA already was listening in on that number in Yemen and could have tracked calls made into the U.S. by getting a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Then the NSA could have — and should have — alerted the FBI, which then could have used the information to locate the future hijackers in San Diego and monitored their phone calls, e-mail and other activities, the current and former officials said.

Instead, the NSA didn't disclose the existence of the calls until after Sept. 11, according to these officials and U.S. documents produced in two independent inquiries.”

“The officials from U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies said they agreed to discuss the case — and Bush's reference to it — because they did not believe it supported the administration's position that the FISA court should be circumvented in certain high-profile and urgent terrorism cases.

"It's total hubris. It's arrogance by the people doing this," said a second senior U.S. counter-terrorism official. "This is a 24-hour thing, and you can get these kinds of warrants immediately. I think they are just being lazy.”


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-targets21dec21,0,1826102.story?coll=la-home-headlines&vote21053367=1
 

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