by Dan Eggen
Washington Post, Page A02
Saturday, Apr 30, 2005
Link to Original
The federal judge overseeing the prosecution of admitted al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui has blocked an attempt by the Justice Department’s inspector general to release a report on FBI missteps prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a ruling unsealed yesterday.
Without explanation, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema denied the request by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, who completed the report last July but since has been unable to get permission to provide an unclassified version of the document to the public.
The report, titled “A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks,” provides an in-depth examination of three episodes considered potential missed opportunities to detect the Sept. 11 plot, including Moussaoui’s arrest in August 2001.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty April 22 to taking part in the conspiracy that resulted in the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that Osama bin Laden personally instructed him to fly an airplane into the White House on a separate date. Moussaoui has indicated he will fight the government’s attempt to sentence him to death.
Most of the inspector general’s report has no bearing on the Moussaoui case, officials said. The report also examines a memo by a Phoenix FBI agent that raised concerns about extremists at U.S. flight schools and the failure to promptly detect the entry of two of the hijackers into the United States, officials said.
A classified version of the report was provided to the independent commission that investigated the attacks, and was cited in that panel’s best-selling book. But Moussaoui’s defense team objected to the report’s release in a sealed motion filed earlier this year with Brinkema, a source familiar with the case said.
Frank Dunham, Moussaoui’s public defender, could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
Fine’s office could seek to release an abbreviated version of the report without references to the Moussaoui case. A spokesman for Fine’s office, Paul Martin, declined to say what options might be considered.