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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Excerpts: 9/11 commission hearings
Ground Zero
Thousands died in the 11 September 2001 attacks

The commission investigating the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US has resumed taking testimony from senior figures in public hearings, including Attorney General John Ashcroft. Earlier witnesses included White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former administration security chief Richard Clarke and CIA Director George Tenet.

Attorney General John Ashcroft on 13 April:

"When the Senate appropriations committee met... in the summer of 2001, I told the committee that my number one priority was the attack against terror - that we would protect Americans against terror.

"I wrote later to them a confirming letter saying that we had no higher priority...

"The simple fact of September 11 is this, we did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade, our government had blinded itself to its enemies.

"Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions and starved for basic information technology.

"The old national intelligence system in place on September 11 was destined to fail...

"There was a covert action programme to capture Bin Laden for criminal prosecution, but even this programme was crippled by a snarled web of requirements, restrictions and regulations that prevented decisive action by our men and women in the field.

"Even if they could have penetrated Bin Laden's training camps they would have needed a battery of lawyers to approve the capture."

Former Attorney General Janet Reno:

"The FBI didn't know what it had.

"The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh:

"We had a very effective programme... given the resources that we had.

"We can change the law, we can pass new statutes, we can add billions of dollars to the fight. We need to keep in perspective however what was the reality before September 11 and what was reality thereafter.

"At the end of the day, the FBI as a part of the Department of Justice has to obey the law - whatever that law is, it's one that protects us, it protects our constitution, it also protects our people."

Thomas Pickard, acting FBI Director during summer of 2001:

"The tragedy of 9/11 clearly demonstrates the high cost for the collective failure of the US government to penetrate the inner-workings of al Qaeda or to deal with terrorism, as it was then and is now a war against the United States intended to inflict as many American casualties as possible.

"For many complex reasons, we did not develop the necessary intelligence, either through our own resources or through foreign resources, to sufficiently understand and react to their planning, communications, control and capacity to do us harm."

"These 19 [hijackers] acted flawlessly in their planning and execution. They successfully exploited every weakness, from our borders to our cockpit doors."

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