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Ex-CIA Official to Head Sept. 11 Probe in Congress
Wed Feb 13, 7:50 PM ET

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former CIA (news - web sites) official will head a congressional investigation into U.S. intelligence agency failures related to the Sept. 11 attacks, despite some objections he was too close to the spy agency to have an independent eye, congressional sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Former CIA Inspector General Britt Snider, who reviewed the agency's internal probe of the computer misuse scandal involving former CIA Director John Deutch, was selected to lead the congressional investigation, sources said. Snider retired from the CIA last year.

Snider's appointment and the joint investigation by the House and Senate Intelligence committees into why U.S. intelligence agencies failed to detect the plot that resulted in the hijacked plane attacks that killed about 3,000 people were to be announced on Thursday.

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted in a closed session on Wednesday to approve launching the investigation, but only after a contentious debate over whether a former CIA official could be impartial in investigating the spy agency's shortcomings.

Some senators, including committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, questioned whether a review into the failures of the intelligence community would be sufficiently independent if it were led by Snider who has close ties to CIA Director George Tenet, sources said.

Snider served with Tenet on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and then as special counsel to Tenet when he became CIA director, before getting the post of CIA inspector general in 1998.

In his 1999 report on the CIA's investigation of Deutch, who put classified material onto unclassified home computers, Snider said no one had intentionally impeded the review, but that Tenet could have been more aggressive.

Other senators, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat, pushed for Snider's appointment because of his long-term experience in the intelligence community and the recommendation of former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman who has held intelligence-related posts, sources said.

Those advocating Snider's appointment noted that he knew the CIA, had the requisite security clearances and could do a credible job, sources said.

Snider did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The investigation would look at what the intelligence community knew at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks and what it had since learned that it should have known beforehand, congressional sources said.

It would also look at the intelligence community's history of dealing with terrorism going back to the early 1980s, how it reacted to previous attacks and what could be done to improve its ability to uncover terror threats, sources said.

The investigation will have its own staff and the committees will conduct joint open and closed hearings. The time frame for the first hearing was uncertain, sources said.