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Art Buchwald

A Closer Look at Intelligence Reveals Little at the CIA and FBI

June 11, 2002

The question everyone in Washington is asking about the terrorists who crashed into the Pentagon is, "When did the CIA know about them, and when did the FBI find out?"

It appears the CIA was tracking Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, members of Al Qaeda, who were linked to terrorism involving the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole.

Almihdhar came in and out of the U.S. on visas to meet with other suspects. The CIA kept track of him through 2000 and 2001.

Originally the CIA denied it had information on Almihdhar after he was listed as one of the suicide bombers. Rumor has it the CIA keeps its information secret to save their necks.

There are two sides to every story. First I went to the CIA and talked to Mr. X.

"Why did you not tell the FBI before Sept. 11 that you were tracking down Almihdhar?"

"Ever since the traitor Robert Hanssen turned out to be a spy for the Russians we haven't trusted the FBI," he said.

"But at least you could have dropped off an e-mail to tell them you were on to something important."

"The FBI's computers are so old they would never have gotten it. Besides, Almihdhar was our terrorist and not theirs. They are always taking credit for everything we do."

"Almihdhar entered and left the country many times. If you had told the FBI, they would have told the Immigration and Naturalization Service to look out for him."

"We didn't want to tip our hand. Besides, Almihdhar might lead us to Bin Laden."

"Rumor has it that the head of CIA ordered his people to shred all the papers so no one would find out about the fiasco."

He said angrily, "Go take a flying lesson."

I then went over to the FBI to hear its story.

Agent 342 told me, "The first time the FBI found out about the CIA's tracking is when we read it on Yahoo. It was squeezed in between an advertisement for suntan oil and a trip to Jamaica. It took us three weeks to break the code. When we found out it was from the CIA, we went ballistic."

"Why didn't you go over to the CIA headquarters and find out what was going on?"

"The CIA is in Virginia and we're in Washington, so we have no jurisdiction over them."

"Are you planning to have better relations with the CIA?"

"It's up to them. After all, they have all the secrets. There is talk that the White House wants the agencies to work together, but it's not easy after they stuck it to us."

"What is the difference between the CIA and the FBI?"

"They have rogue agents and no one knows what they're doing. We have whistle-blowers, so everyone knows what we're doing."

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