Washington A top congressman said Sunday he would examine whether concern the FBI would appear to be using "racial profiling" led it to remove key details from a search warrant request whose rejection kept the FBI from learning more about a terrorism suspect before Sept. 11.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss also said he didn't think the FBI was capable at this point of the intelligence work needed to combat domestic terrorism and needed to reorganize. Goss' comments came as the Senate's leader disclosed that President Bush asked him not to seek an outside commission to investigate pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.
Goss, whose committee has an investigation under way, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the handling of the Minneapolis FBI office's application for a warrant to search terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui's computer troubled him.
"Because that basically is hampering an investigative tool which we need very badly right now," said Goss, R-Fla.
The Minneapolis office, after arresting Moussaoui at a Minnesota flight school last August, was concerned that he was seeking to hurt Americans and wanted to gather more information.
Goss, whose committee is joining with its Senate counterpart to investigate what the government knew and did to fight terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks, referred to a letter Minneapolis FBI counsel Coleen Rowley wrote May 21 to FBI Director Robert Mueller about the Moussaoui case.
The letter alleged that terrorism supervisors at FBI headquarters rewrote the Minnesota office's warrant applications and affidavit and removed key information about Moussaoui before sending them to a legal office that then rejected the paperwork as insufficient.
Goss said problems with the warrant application worried him most, adding that if the letter was accurate, "that people were reluctant there was a culture in Washington that said, 'No, we don't want to rock the boat. We want to we're too worried about profiling, those kind of things.' We've got to know about that and figure out as a society how we are going to react."
Asked whether he meant one reason the FBI may have rejected a warrant request was concern about racial profiling, Goss said: "I don't know the answer to that. But I'm surely going to ask the question, because it has been suggested."
The FBI declined to comment.
Also Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle continued to press for an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures leading up to the September attacks.
Daschle, D-S.D., said Bush asked him on Jan. 28 not to seek an outside commission; Vice President Dick Cheney made a similar request Jan. 24.
"They were concerned about the diversion of resources," Daschle said on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that the request was repeated on other dates.