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The Detroit News.
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FBI fails to
uncover key clues into 9-11
Lack of hard
evidence, paper trail hurts efforts to ward off new
Lichtblau and Josh Meyer / Los Angeles
-- For more than seven months, U.S. authorities probing the Sept. 11
attacks have scoured everything from caves to credit cards in the
expectation that they would ultimately discover how the 19 hijackers
plotted their brazen scheme.
But the global search
has produced virtually nothing in the way of hard evidence about the
terrorists' planning, and authorities said Monday that they now face the
growing realization that they may never know many key details.
That sobering conclusion underscores the skill and
sophistication of the al-Qaida terror network in its ability to conceal
its activities -- and the equally daunting difficulties that authorities
face in heading off another attack, officials said.
The hijackers "left no paper trail," FBI Director
Robert S. Mueller III said in the text of a speech the FBI released
Monday. "In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of
paper -- either here in the United States or in the treasure trove of
information that has turned up in Afghanistan and elsewhere -- that
mentioned any aspect of the Sept. 11 plot."
remarks offer the FBI's most comprehensive and detailed assessment to
date of its investigation, remarkable as much for what investigators
have not found as for what they have.
revealed that investigators believe the Sept. 11 plan may have been in
the works for as long as five years, and that the hijackers used
"meticulous planning, extraordinary secrecy and extensive knowledge of
how America works" to conceal their scheme after entering the United
States legally from the Middle East.
have found no computers, laptops, hard drives or other storage media
that may have been used by the hijackers, who hid their communications
by using hundreds of different pay phones and cell phones, coupled with
hard-to-trace prepaid calling cards.
wire transfers to fund the attacks, they were also careful to send money
in small amounts, avoiding large cash transactions that would have
triggered a government report, Mueller said, adding: "The hijackers did
all they could to stay below our radar."
and other U.S. intelligence agencies have come under intense scrutiny
since Sept. 11, and some analysts suggested that Mueller's comments,
made in a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on April 19,
may reflect an attempt to rationalize the intelligence community's
failure to pick up on any signs that an attack was imminent.
The White House is deeply concerned about the lack
of any evidence that could have foreshadowed the events of Sept. 11, and
that is one reason why U.S. counterterrorism authorities intend to keep
the nation on an indefinite state of heightened alert, according to a
Bush administration official.