U.S. Spy Chief: 9/11 'Could Have Been Prevented'

Director of national intelligence says the disaster could have been prevented.

ByABC News
September 18, 2007, 7:31 PM

Sept. 18, 2007— -- Six years after the deadliest attack on U.S. soil, the head of U.S. spy operations admitted to lawmakers that "9/11 should have and could have been prevented."

Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, told members of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that "it was an issue of connecting information that was available."

McConnell, explaining that the intelligence community was, at the time, very focused on foreign threats, said the community allowed itself "to be separated from anything that was potentially domestic," and that domestic threats were "not something we [were] supposed to be concerned with."

"Yeah, that translates to negligence," charged committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.

"Or interpretation of the law of how the culture had evolved," McConnell countered.

Given the vast resources of the intelligence community, along with the FBI's and CIA's knowledge that al Qaeda had an interest in flight training, and had sent 9/11 hijackers Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi and terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui to undertake such training in the United States, McConnell said, "For whatever reason, we didn't connect the dots."

A federal judge in Virginia sentenced Moussaoui, the only person indicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in May 2006. He is serving his time at a super-maximum security federal facility in Florence, Colo.

"We could have done a better job as a community," McConnell told the House panel.

McConnell's admissions before the panel took a statement he made on June 29 a few steps further.

In his earlier remarks, McConnell said, "The rules that were established during the Cold War and post-70s served us well, but it created seams. In my view, the 9/11 tragedy should have been prevented. It was preventable. But, I think the terrorists took advantage of the seams that had been created in the process for how we conduct our affairs, both intelligence and law enforcement."