Book Excerpt: 'The Bureau'

"A crime practically had to be committed before you could investigate," Weldon Kennedy, the former FBI deputy director, said. "If you didn't have that, you couldn't open an investigation."

After September 11, Ashcroft pushed through the legislation that the FBI had been requesting for years, along with some additional measures. Now grand jury information can be shared with the CIA. Judges can approve roving wiretaps that follow a suspect to each phone he used.

In December 2001, Moussaoui was indicted. According to the indictment, the September 11 plot began in early June 2000, when Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who would pilot the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, arrived in the States. Soon, money for the operation started coming in. Because another hijacker, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, could not obtain a visa to enter the United States from Germany, Moussaoui, an understudy who was to replace other hijackers if needed, was to take his place as the twentieth hijacker. All the planes except the one that crashed in Pennsylvania had five hijackers. The Pennsylvania plane had four.

The indictment, which named bin Laden as an unindicted coconspirator, said Moussaoui was trained by al-Qaeda and received $14,000 from one of the terrorists in Germany. He allegedly bought knives and flight training materials and received wire transfers of money from abroad at about the same time as the other hijackers.

If Moussaoui was to be the twentieth hijacker, the FBI had placed him out of commission. Unfortunately, even if the FBI had been able to find out what Moussaoui was up to, it would not necessarily have been able to uncover the plots against the other planes.

I n retrospect, despite the wiliness of the hijackers and the difficulty of penetrating al-Qaeda, the FBI, with the right focus and commitment, could have done far more. Under Freeh, Congress increased the FBI's budget to combat both domestic and foreign counterterrorism from $118 million to $423 million a year. The number of agents assigned to counterterrorism increased to 2,650. After September 11, that seemed a ridiculously low number.

Robert M. Blitzer, who was over terrorism prior to the attacks, said the bureau simply did not have the resources to deal with the problem. Bureau officials like Buck Revell and Bill Baker, who early on recognized terrorism as a problem, had long gone. Many who remained did not have the intellect to devise new strategies for dealing with the threat or, if they did, found that Freeh would not listen.

"I don't think Freeh ever trusted any of us," Blitzer said.

Under Freeh, the infrastructure for combating terrorism — computers, analysis, and translators — disintegrated. Blitzer recalled being inundated by threats and leads coming in from the CIA, State Department, NSA, and DIA. The FBI could not analyze it all, much less follow each lead to its logical conclusion.

"The FBI, because of lack of resources, was not able to analyze and exploit all of the intelligence on bin Laden," Blitzer said. "I would have reams of stuff on my desk. It was frantic. I came in on weekends. There was an ocean of work. We got thousands of threats every year. I would ask myself, `What should we do with this? Is it real or not? Where should I send it?' We were trying to make sense of it. I don't think we ever came to grips with it."

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