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Two Senators Blame State Department in Sept. 11 Attacks

Published: Dec 18, 2002

WASHINGTON(AP) - The Sept. 11 attacks would not have happened if the State Department had followed its own guidelines and denied visas to the hijackers, two top Republican senators said in a report issued Wednesday.

Sens. Jon Kyl and Pat Roberts said in a report that "the answer to the question - could 9/11 have been prevented - is yes, if State Department personnel had merely followed the law and not granted non-immigrant visas to 15 of the 19 hijackers in Saudi Arabia."

If U.S. laws had been followed, "most of the hijackers would not have been able to obtain visas and 9/11 would not have happened," they said.

They said the hijackers should have been denied visas as single young men with no visible means of support.

Many lawmakers have criticized the State Department's handling of visas for the hijackers. But the criticism by Kyl and Roberts was among the most blunt in tying the issuance of the visas to the failure to stop the attacks.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department. State Department officials have said previously they had no reason to believe the men were terrorists and that their visa policies have been improved since the attacks.

Roberts and Kyl are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which along with its House counterparts, conducted the inquiry into intelligence failures leading up to the attacks. Roberts, of Kansas, will likely be the committee's chairman next year; Kyl, of Arizona, will have a top position in the Senate leadership.

Their comments were included in a supplemental report to the inquiry's findings, which were completed last week. The committees found that intelligence agencies were poorly organized and slow to pursue clues that might have led to the attacks. They recommended creating a Cabinet-level national intelligence director to improve communications among agencies.

In a separate supplemental report, Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., also criticized the State Department, saying most of the hijackers were wrongly admitted "as a result of decisions made and errors committed by responsible State Department and Justice Department officers."

Roberts, Kyl and Castle all noted that State Department's actions was not part of the inquiry, which was limited to intelligence issues. A newly formed commission headed by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean will examine immigration and other issues related to the attacks.

Kyl and Roberts also criticized the recently completed congressional investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying it didn't dig deeply enough into intelligence problems. They said intelligence committee leaders excluded lawmakers from key decisions during the investigation.

AP-ES-12-18-02 1258EST

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