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Intelligence report wrangling persists

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2003


It has been nearly two months since the joint House-Senate investigation of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures completed its final report. And inquiry staff director Eleanor Hill is still wrangling with the administration over how much of the 800-page report can be made public.

In December the joint panel released a thin summary of its findings. The summary did little to advance public knowledge of what led up to the attacks, and Hill went to work negotiating with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency about disclosing more.

So far, the intelligence agencies have agreed to declassify about 20 percent of the report. That's not enough for the inquiry's co-chairmen, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Rep. Porter Goss, R-Sanibel.

When the joint panel's funding runs out at the end of this month, word is that Goss plans to put Hill on the payroll of the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, so she can continue her negotiations.

Goss' spokeswoman did not return calls requesting comment.

The buzz in intelligence circles is that the report contains more potentially explosive revelations about Saudi Arabia's funding of terrorism. With the United States leaning hard on the Saudis for assistance in a possible war against Iraq, this subject is, needless to say, a sore one for the White House.

Graham, McConnell get to have a heart to heart

Recovering from heart surgery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sen. Bob Graham has been walking the hallways to build strength and ward off blood clots.

Last week, the Florida Democrat was surprised to see fellow Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walking down the hall toward him, taking the same constitutional.

"It was like, "Hey, Mitch! Hey, Bob!"' said Graham's spokesman, Paul Anderson.

Turns out McConnell underwent triple bypass surgery Monday in the same hospital where Graham on Jan. 31 had his aortic valve replaced. He and Graham even shared the same surgeon, Dr. Alan M. Speir, who was recommended by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., himself a heart surgeon.

"It's really bipartisan out there at the Naval hospital," Anderson said.

Both senators were released on Friday.

Astronaut latest casualty among Va. school's alumni

The students of Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., have been learning some hard lessons this year. As a result, they know -- perhaps better than other American teenagers -- the price of living in our uncertain, modern world.

Last week, the school mourned the death of its fourth prominent graduate in a little more than a year. He was David M. Brown, one of the seven astronauts who died in the crash of the Columbia.

Among the other prominent graduates who have died during the past year and half: Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and his wife, Sheila, both of whom graduated from Yorktown in 1962; and David Charlebois, class of 1980, co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 77, the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

-- Compiled by Times staff writers Mary Jacoby and Sara Fritz.

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