Rumsfeld: We would have stopped 9/11

The United States would have stopped the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks if American intelligence had gotten inside information, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told sailors and Marines aboard the USS Essex warship near Singapore Friday.

Rumsfeld: We would have stopped 9/11

STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

June 4, 2004, 7:15 PM EDT

The United States would have stopped the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks if American intelligence had gotten inside information, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told sailors and Marines aboard the USS Essex warship near Singapore Friday.

Without directly assigning blame to the CIA, whose director, George Tenet, resigned on Thursday, Rumsfeld told a Marine who asked if Rumsfeld thought there had been enough intelligence information to prevent the attacks that the congressionally chartered 9/11 commission investigating the matter has not finished its work.

"We lacked the intelligence that might have prevented it," Rumsfeld said, citing testimony given to the commission. "That is to say, we did not have a source inside the group of people that had planned and executed those attacks. … Had we had a source inside there, we undoubtedly would have been able to stop it. We did not. It would have been terrific if we had."

Rumsfeld did not mention Tenet. He credited American intelligence with having collected enough intelligence to stop other terrorist attacks, and he said it would have been a "big order" for the intelligence agencies to penetrate every conceivable hostile group before Sept. 11, 2001.

Rumsfeld was in Singapore to attend an international security conference that opened Friday.

Later, Rumsfeld said any government hoping to "make a separate peace" with terrorists would be mistaken, but he denied the United States was pressuring anybody to join its war on terror.

Also Friday, James Pavitt, the dapper, white-haired spymaster who told a skeptical 9/11 commission that the CIA "did all we knew how to do" yet still failed to prevent the terror attacks, announced Friday he is retiring this summer.

The CIA said that Pavitt’s decision to step down after a 31-year career — the last five as deputy director for operations, also known as the clandestine service — is unrelated to Tenet’s resignation.

Pavitt’s appearance before the commission on April 14 marked the first time that a head of that service had testified publicly.

"We did all we knew how to do," Pavitt testified. "We failed to stop the attacks."

Sources said he will be criticized in the commission report. "He is not someone who was highly thought of within the clandestine service," said Melvin Goodman, a retired CIA analyst and frequent critic.

Knut Royce in the Washington bureau contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

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