Critics of the FBI are saying agents may have missed some early clues that could have helped prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.
Weeks before the hijackings, the FBI received a CIA warning that two suspected terrorists had slipped into the United States. The FBI was unable to locate the two men, who ended up among the 19 hijackers.
They did, in August, arrest Zacarias Moussaoui, an Algerian man who aroused suspicions at a Minnesota flight school. But FBI headquarters denied the agents' request to obtain a warrant to search through the suspect's computer because before Sept. 11 the agents didn't have enough evidence he was part of a terrorist plan.
"If going into that computer would have helped to determine or detect what was about to happen, then it's absolutely essential that that goes forward, even if you end up forgoing a prosecution," former FBI Assistant Director Buck Revell said.
And what about sharing information? After the Sept. 11 attacks, police chiefs complained that they were given the FBI's terrorist watch list, but little more. The FBI was also criticized for what many viewed taking too long to conduct tests and interview witnesses in the first Anthrax cases in Florida and New York.
FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledges, "There were some missteps early on."
Mueller, a career prosecutor who is the FBI's new director, comes from outside the bureau to lead it in the most challenging time in the agency's history.
Sen. Charles Grassly, a longtime FBI critic, says the director faces a tough task.
"Director Mueller has two wars to win, one on the outside against the terrorists, the other is with his own bureacracy," Grassley said. — John Miller
Italian Police Probe Man Found in Box
An extraordinary stowaway is under investigation in Italy.
Italian police are trying to learn why Rizk Amid Farid, a 43-year-old Egyptian arrested near Rome, would have been shipping himself across the Atlantic Ocean in a furnished box complete with a bed and toilet.
Farid was discovered late last week in a shipyard in the southern port of Gioia Tauro, where his Canada-bound ship was docked for five days. Authorities on the ground say port authority personnel discovered Farid after hearing strange noises coming from his container.
Crammed into the suspicious stowaway's box with him were two cellular phones, a satellite phone, a computer, cameras, many documents, and even a drill for making airholes.
Police believe he boarded the ship in Egypt and planned to travel all the way to Canada. But Farid, who was holding a Canadian passport, also had a plane ticket to fly from Rome to Toronto to Montreal. His seat on the flight, scheduled to leave last Friday, was confirmed.
Italian investigators say everything about Farid — his documents and claims about himself — appear to be either false or obscured. They have checked his stories with police in other countries — including Egypt, Canada and the United States — and believe none has panned out. Canadian investigators are further investigating the suspect's background.
Though police have not said they have any direct evidence tying Farid to terrorism, he is the first person to be arrested in Italy on the basis of a new counterterrorism law passed last week in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the new law, he can be held for at least six months as investigators try to determine whether he is a terrorist.
A prosecutor said the stowaway had studied in Egypt and in North America to qualify as a commercial jet engine mechanic. Before leaving Egypt, however, he was believed to be working at a magazine distribution company. Investigators say he claimed to be "running away" from a powerful brother-in-law in Egypt and had traveled in the container for five days. — Ann Wise in Rome, Yael Lavie in London and Brian Hartman in Washington