WASHINGTON, July 23 — The Sept. 11 attacks were preventable, but the plot went undetected because of communications lapses between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., which failed to share intelligence related to two hijackers, a Congressional report to be released on Thursday says.
The report, by a joint committee of the House and Senate intelligence panels, found that for nearly two years before the attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency knew about the terror connections between the two men, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, who in 2000 moved to San Diego, frequenting Muslim circles that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had infiltrated.
Some people who have seen the report said its central finding was that if the intelligence agency had shared its information and that if the F.B.I. had used its informants more aggressively, the presence of Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi in San Diego offered "the best chance to unravel the Sept. 11 plot."
The report was described as a scathing critique of the two agencies in the months before the attacks, saying they failed to counter the threat from Al Qaeda even though they had known for years that its leader, Osama bin Laden, was determined to attack the United States. Parts of the report have been disclosed by various news organizations in the past week.
The report finds that neither agency acted forcefully enough to collect intelligence from informants here and abroad.
Both agencies say they have worked to overcome their communications failings by creating joint threat assessment units and by exchanging far more information than in the past.
After 9 public hearings and 13 closed sessions by the committee last year, the report is the most comprehensive account yet of lapses that allowed 19 Arabs to hijack four commercial airliners without being detected by intelligence or law enforcement authorities.
The Congressional inquiry has in effect set a higher standard for the broader investigation of the attacks that is being conducted by a bipartisan commission led by former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, a Republican. That panel is not widely expected to complete its review until next year.
Intelligence officials had said the inquiry, which started slowly, was quite unlikely to unearth fresh information. But it proved to be a significant irritant for counterterrorism officials, who frequently complained about the searching examinations of their activities before the attacks.
In private, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency have dismissed the report, saying it had few new facts along with conclusions that had long been known.
The report is a result of a behind-the-scenes battle between the committee and the Bush administration over classified information. One lengthy section, on the cooperation of foreign governments like Saudi Arabia, was deleted at the insistence of the administration.
While saying the attacks could have been stopped, the report does not blame either agency for overlooking specific information that would have thwarted the terrorism. Providing fresh insights into some pivotal events in the months before the attacks, the report repeats previously released findings like the criticism of the C.I.A. and F.B.I. for their handling of information on Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi. The two men, Saudis, lived in the United States undetected until after they boarded American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
Central Intelligence Agency officials did not alert the Federal Bureau of Investigation or place the names of the two men on a watch list until August 2001, weeks before the attacks. No F.B.I. informants, some of whom had contact with the two, were alerted that they might have belonged to Al Qaeda.
The report found that the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on worldwide communications, may have had the earliest knowledge of the extremist leanings of Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi from intercepted messages in early 1999 that were not disclosed to other intelligence agencies.
The report has a number of recommendations for changes, and the director of the F.B.I., Robert S. Mueller III, said today at a Congressional hearing that the bureau was making progress on 10 main changes. Mr. Mueller said he had made the prevention of terror attacks the top priority of the bureau and had doubled the number of agents and analysts assigned to counterterrorism, to 3,000.
Officials of the intelligence agency declined to comment on the report until its official release. One official referred to testimony by the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, in October to the joint committee in which he defended the C.I.A.'s performance.
"The record," Mr. Tenet said then, "will show a keen awareness of the threat, a disciplined focus and persistent effort to track, disrupt, apprehend and, ultimately, bring to justice bin Laden and his lieutenants."
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