Ashcroft Says Government "Blindsided Itself" Against Enemies

APRIL 13, 2004 - Posted at 3:42 p.m. CDT

CAPITOL HILL - Attorney General John Ashcroft says the nation's intelligence community was "blinded" by government restrictions before 9-11.

Ashcroft told the 9-11 commission that "the single greatest structural cause" of the attacks was a "wall" separating criminal investigators from intelligence agents.

Ashcroft says previous administrations had spent nearly a decade essentially hampering efforts in the field to find terrorists.  He says "draconian restrictions" and "flawed legal reasoning" simply didn't allow intelligence agencies to connect the dots that may have prevented an attack.

Ashcroft says when he took office, there was a plan in place to capture Osama bin Laden, but not to kill him.  He says he moved quickly to push for a plan that would allow for killing the al-Qaida chief.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)