Excerpts from yesterday's hearing by the federal commission investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001:
COMMISSIONER JOHN LEHMAN: That report that you heard this morning was a damning report . . . All I have to do is reread the (Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief) which the agency resisted so strongly our declassifying . . . All the king's horses and all the king's men in CIA could not corroborate what turned out to be true, and told the president of the United States almost a month before the attack that they couldn't corroborate these reports. That's an institutional failure . . .
CIA DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET: First of all, I want you to know that I have serious issues with the staff statement as it was written today . . . When the staff statement says the DCI had no strategic plan to manage the war on terrorism, that's flat wrong. When the staff statement says I had no program strategic direction in place to integrate, correlate data, and move data across the community, that's wrong . . . I think . . . if I failed or made a mistake, I've been evolutionary in terms of the community . . . I sit back at night and look at a war in Iraq, a war on terrorism, conflict in Afghanistan, and all the things I have to do and recognize, you know, no single human being can do all these things. I understand that.
COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY J. ROEMER: . . . And do you have the information at that point on (Zacarias) Moussaoui (attending a flight school)?
TENET: Yes, I was briefed on Moussaoui in late August. . . . I believe it's the 23rd or the 24th. . . .
ROEMER: Why not bring it up to the principals? This is the first principals' meeting in seven months on terrorism. Why wouldn't that be something that you would think would be interesting to this discussion?
TENET: The nature of the discussion we had that morning was on the Predator, how we would fly it, whether we . . .
ROEMER: But it's an overall policy discussion about Al Qaeda and how we fight Al Qaeda.
TENET: Well, it just wasn't -- for whatever reason, all I can tell you is just it wasn't the appropriate place. I just can't take you any farther than that. . . .
ROEMER: You don't see the president of the United States once in the month of August?
TENET: He's in Texas and I'm either here or on leave for some of that time, so I'm not here.
ROEMER: So who's briefing him on the PDBs?
TENET: The briefer, himself. We have a presidential briefer.
ROEMER: But you never get on the phone or in any kind of conference with him to talk at this level of high chatter and huge warnings during the spring and summer to talk to him through the whole month of August?
TENET: We talked to him directly throughout the spring and early summer almost every day.
ROEMER: But not in August?
TENET: In this time period, I'm not talking to him, no. . . . But I'm sure that if I wanted to make a phone call because I had my hair on fire, I would have picked up the phone and talked to the president.
ROEMER: It was just never made.
TENET: No. . . .
COMMISSIONER JAMES R. THOMPSON: Is there any reason why the domestic intelligence functions of the FBI could not be placed under the CIA?
TENET: Lots of good historical reasons, lots of privacy reasons. Just lots of reasons, sir. I think that this is not appropriate. I would not want to be in a position where the DCI, given our statutory framework, our laws, our privacy, our history -- I don't think it's appropriate. . . .
THOMPSON: Why is privacy more of a concern under the CIA than it would be under the FBI?
TENET: Well, sir, since -- I don't want to be flip about this, since we operate almost extensively in an overseas environment, we operate with a certain degree of impunity with regards to other countries' laws . . .
COMMISSIONER SLADE GORTON: I will ask you . . . as to whether or not your ideals in law enforcement and intelligence would be the two agencies that we have at the present time: one, law enforcement and domestic intelligence and one foreign intelligence; two separate entities, one law enforcement and one all intelligence, both domestic and foreign; three, one for each of these; or one in which foreign and domestic intelligence were united . . . with law enforcement itself.
FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER: . . . There are benefits to a separate intelligence organization where you have recruiting for intelligence and you focus on intelligence. . . . But then you look at the other side. And in order to deter attacks in the future, it cannot be one agency, particularly when you're looking domestically in the United States.