John McCaslin

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was among a congressional delegation scheduled to visit Iraq this week, but the trip was axed by the Pentagon, which cited a need to maintain critical troops and resources in combat operations.

Snowe (R-Maine) and the others were slated to have face-to-face meetings with U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials to assess the situation in Iraq. The delegation also intended to meet with military members from their respective U.S. states.

Given this past week's bloody uprising by Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters against U.S. troops, including successful attacks on military convoys and aircraft and the kidnappings of foreigners, one military source says it's too risky for lawmakers to be touring the war-ravaged country.


Nobody likes pointing fingers when addressing the numerous intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, but it's difficult not to revisit the 8-year reign of FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, who resigned four months before al Qaeda attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

"The first thing (Freeh) did was tell the bureau to get rid of the computer on his desk," Ronald Kessler, author of "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI" (St. Martin's Press, 2003) tells this column.

"And he did not use e-mail. He had no concept for the need of computers."

In fact, Kessler says, FBI computers during the Clinton administration were so outdated no one in their right mind "would even take them as a donation to a church."

"If an agent wanted to send a photo, he or she would have to send the photo to his home computer or a police station because the bureau could not even handle the transmission of a photo," the Washington-based author and intelligence authority tells this column.

In contrast to Freeh's reported aversion to modern technology, one of the first initiatives undertaken by current FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was to equip the bureau with new computers.

"Robert Mueller took over one week before 9/11, and during that week he started the process of ordering thousands of new Dell computers," says Kessler. "He also started a program to expand the FBI's analysis capability, which was the other major problem the bureau faced."

Prior to Sept. 11, the author notes, "a large portion of the bureau's records were paper-based."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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