CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the agency had learned of the change in hearing plans late Wednesday afternoon. "Director Tenet was looking forward to testifying in open session," he said.
Relations between the committees and the agencies have been strained since the committees' joint inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks began in February.
Lawmakers have complained repeatedly that intelligence agencies have been slow in providing information for the inquiry. The agencies say they have offered tremendous cooperation, providing thousands of documents and dedicating dozens of their personnel to the inquiry.
Most recently, members of the Senate panel have said intelligence agencies have not fully responded to requests for information about the threat posed by Iraq. The committee has also pushed for the declassification of some intelligence on Iraq. Some was declassified in a letter released Tuesday night, but the CIA declined to declassify additional material Wednesday.
Since the start of public hearings last month, inquiry staff have criticized agencies for failing to link clues that might have pointed to the Sept. 11 attacks. They included a rise in reports of possible terrorist attacks, a July 2001 memo by a Phoenix-based FBI agent warning that al Qaeda terrorists may be undergoing flight training at U.S. schools, and the August 2001 arrest of a suspicious student pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui, on immigration charges. Moussaoui has since been charged with conspiring in the attacks.
Also, staff and lawmakers accused the CIA of not doing enough to warn other federal agencies about two of the future hijackers after they were spotted attending an al Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000.
Former CIA and FBI officials have defended their agencies' efforts, saying they scored major gains against terrorism despite legal restrictions that hampered their work and inadequate funding for personnel and equipment.
Both the FBI and CIA have had lawmakers on the defensive in recent months. The FBI this summer investigated leaks from the committees. The investigation had been requested by inquiry leaders following White House complaints, but some lawmakers were bothered by agents' suggestions that they undergo lie detector tests.
—The Associated Press
Attorneys General Request More Nuclear Power Plant Protection
R A L E I G H, N.C., Oct. 10 — Attorneys general from 27 states, including North Carolina, are asking Congress to step up efforts to protect nuclear power plants from terror attacks.
The attorneys submitted a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday urging creation of a task force and a more aggressive timetable to update plant security standards.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper thinks that federal and state officials have done a good job improving security at the plants, said J.B. Kelly, his general counsel. But Cooper supports efforts to centralize those efforts in a task force run by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Office of Homeland Security.
The letter signed by Cooper and the others singles out risks posed by spent fuel pools at nuclear plants, where radioactive waste is stored. Those pools are a target of criticism by groups like NC WARN, which is critical of safety conditions at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Wake County.