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Edwards Proposes New Agency To Pursue Terrorism

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator John Edwards said Tuesday that a new agency should be created to track down terrorist cells in the United States.

His proposed new agency would replace the Federal Bureau of Investigation's domestic intelligence operation that failed to detect terrorists before Sept. 11, 2001.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Edwards said he would introduce legislation later this week to create the new agency.

"For 17 months, we've learned about case after case where the FBI missed clues and didn't connect dots," Edwards told FBI director Robert Mueller. "The failure to follow up on the Phoenix Memorandum, the failure to get into Moussaoui's computer, the failure to track two of the hijackers who the FBI knew were in the United States.

"For 17 months, the FBI has had a chance to reform itself but failed to meet the challenge.

Independent groups that have studied the FBI in the aftermath of Sept. 11 also faulted the bureau's domestic intelligence operations.

"There is resistance ingrained in the FBI ranks to sharing counter-terrorism information," the Markle Task Force reported last October. "The FBI has not prioritized intelligence analysis in areas of counter-terrorism."

The Gilmore Commission in December concluded that "the bureau's long standing tradition and organizational culture persuade us that, even with the best of intentions, the FBI cannot soon be made over into an organization dedicated to detecting and preventing attacks rather than one dedicated to punishing them."

According to A Brookings Institution report issued in January, "there are strong reasons to question whether the FBI is the right agency to conduct domestic intelligence collection and analysis."

Edwards concluded that FBI reform efforts "are too little too late."

Separate from the FBI, the new agency proposed by Edwards would be dedicated to gathering and analyzing information about terrorists and share intelligence with other law-enforcement agencies.

The new agency, the senator emphasized, would not have arrest powers and would protect civil liberties through strong guidelines, internal auditing and an independent office of civil rights.

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