Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Intelligence policies questioned

National security reform is needed, especially after Sept. 11 attacks, senator says

November 21, 2001


A "major shakeup" is needed at U.S. intelligence agencies, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said Tuesday during a visit to the Lawrence American Legion post.

Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said that the Senate Intelligence Committee is reviewing what happened Sept. 11. He predicted significant changes will come in the way the government gathers intelligence.

Roberts, a member of that panel, said the committee doesn't want to assign blame for the failure to detect the terrorists who killed thousands of people by hijacking planes and crashing them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

But, he said, "what is needed is reform."

Roberts serves as the ranking Republican on a subcommittee that deals with threats to national security.

He said his concerns about intelligence were heightened after the Oct. 12, 2000, terrorist bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. He said shortly before the bombing there were "enough red flags raised" that the United States should have been on alert.

Roberts said the various intelligence agencies need to improve their ability to analyze data. "We need our people to think outside the box," he said.

But, he said, trying to anticipate terrorist attacks is difficult. He said the government could make a list of 100 concerns, and the terrorist "will probably do the 101st thing."

Roberts' comments about intelligence gathering came in an interview after his luncheon talk before the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. About 70 people attended the luncheon, which was at the American Legion Post No. 14, 3408 W. Sixth St.

Roberts said he has long sounded the alarm about terrorism, to the point that some have called him "Paul Revere."

He said prior to Sept. 11, "we really didn't step up to that issue like we should have in the federal government."

Since the attack, the nation has become more focused on security.

"I think we're doing a better job of detection," he said.

He praised President Bush's execution of the war in Afghanistan, but he warned that even if Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network are demolished, terrorists are still plotting in other countries to harm the United States.

Protecting sources

Roberts, who served in the Marines, also said he agreed with Bush's decision to use military tribunals to try foreigners charged with terrorism. Some liberals and conservatives have denounced the plan, saying it will reduce judicial rights for the accused.

But Roberts said the tribunals were needed to preserve intelligence sources used to bring evidence against those suspected of terrorism.

Roberts didn't focus solely on international events. He kidded the pro-Kansas University gathering about KU's opening round loss Monday to Ball State at the Maui Invitational basketball tournament. During that game, several KU players suffered leg cramps.

Roberts, a Kansas State University graduate, said there were three major Biblical plagues pestilence, famine and Hawaiian leg cramps.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.