Tomorrow, the independent commission charged with investigating the 9/11 attacks will focus its attention on the FBI and the intelligence failures in the months before the attacks. The commission will hear testimony from current and former FBI officials, as well as current Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The release of the president's daily intelligence brief from August 6th, 2001 has raised new questions about the FBI's handling of the terrorist threat leading up to 9/11. The main question — what was the FBI doing in the summer of 2001?
The Bush administration said there were 70 investigations conducted by FBI field offices looking for Al Qaeda in the U.S. But some commissioners said they could find no evidence to support that assertion.
"To date, we have found nobody — nobody at the FBI who knows anything about a tasking of field offices," said Commissioner Tim Roemer last week. Roemer is a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.
Sources tell ABCNEWS that senior FBI officials were 95 to 98 percent certain that an attack was coming, but not in the U.S.
Commissioners will want to find out why senior FBI officials were not aware of important information their field agents had developed, including:
A memo by Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams, describing suspected Al Qaeda members training at U.S. flight schools
Information that two known Al Qaeda members — and later hijackers — had been in the U.S. for over a year
Which raises another question for 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste. "Why was there not an effort to pulse the FBI, to send a message throughout the FBI: 'Tell us everything that you got.'"
It's expected that the FBI will acknowledge it did not keep track of its own investigations — an admision officials have made before.
"Unfortunately this is an age old and repeated problem in the FBI, where there is information somewhere in the agency, but it is not adequately shared with other parts of the agency, much less with agencies outside of the FBI,"said Michael Bromwich, former Justice Department Inspector General.
Commissioners plan to ask whether the FBI get the support it needed from the Bush and Clinton administrations? Agency officials have addressed that question before — during former FBI director Louis Freeh's testimony before a Senate hearing on October 8, 2002.
"I asked for a total of 1,895 special agents, analysts, linguists and others," Freeh told the committee."The final enacted allocation we received was 76 people over those three years."
And commissioners will surely ask current Attorney General Ashcroft — who oversees the FBI — if fighting terrorism was his priority.
Tom Pickard, the acting FBI director during the summer of 2001, has told the commission that Ashcroft rejected a request for additional counterterrorism funding — the day before September 11.
Ashcroft's aides note that at that point, he had already approved the biggest increase in FBI anti-terror spending in five years.
The aides said that when Ashcroft asked specifically if there were any evidence the U.S. would be attacked, The FBI said there was none.