By now, we've all heard that turf battles in the intelligence community were partially responsible for the 9/11 plot being missed. But, according to Computerorld, a recent Congressional report also notes that creaky, outdated information technology played a big role, too.
That lack of IT capability was a major problem for the FBI's pre-Sept. 11 investigation into potential al-Qaeda plans, according to the report. In fact, when a Phoenix FBI field office agent drafted an e-mail in July 2001known now as the infamous "Phoenix Memo"he had no reliable way of querying a central FBI system to determine whether there were other reports on radical fundamentalists taking flight training in the U.S.or whether other FBI field offices were investigating similar cases. Another agent had expressed similar concerns.In addition, congressional investigators found that because of the limitations of the FBI's Automated Case File (ACS) system, a number of addressees on the Phoenix communication, including the chief of the FBI's Radical Fundamentalist Unit, weren't aware of the communication before the attacks occurred.The FBI deployed the ACS in 1995 to replace a system of written reports and indexes. However, FBI agents told congressional investigators that the system was limited in its search capacity, difficult to use and unreliable. The system was so difficult to use, in fact, that FBI officials informed Congress that as of Sept. 26, 2002, 68,000 counterterrorism leads dating to 1995 remained outstanding and unassigned. (emphasis mine)