Exclusive: Failure to Investigate?

The FBI blew repeated chances to uncover the 9-11 plot because it failed to aggressively investigate evidence of Al Qaeda's presence in the United States, especially in the San Diego, California, area, where two of the hijackers were living with one of the bureau's own informants, according to the congressional report set for release this week.

The long-delayed 900-page report also contains new evidence suggesting that Omar al-Bayoumi, a key associate of two of the hijackers, may have been a Saudi-government agent, sources tell NEWSWEEK. The report documents extensive ties between al-Bayoumi and the hijackers. But the bureau never kept tabs on al-Bayoumi--despite receiving prior information he was a secret Saudi agent, the report says. In January 2000, al-Bayoumi had a meeting at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles--and then went directly to a restaurant where he met future hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, whom he took back with him to San Diego. (Al-Bayoumi later arranged for the men to get an apartment next to his and fronted them their first two months rent.) The report is sure to reignite questions about whether some Saudi officials were secretly monitoring the hijackers--or even facilitating their conduct. Questions about the Saudi role arose repeatedly during last year's joint House-Senate intelligence-committees inquiry. But the Bush administration has refused to declassify many key passages of the committees' findings. A 28-page section of the report dealing with the Saudis and other foreign governments will be deleted. "They are protecting a foreign government," charged Sen. Bob Graham, who oversaw the inquiry.

The report criticizes the Pentagon for resisting military strikes against Qaeda camps in Afghanistan prior to 9-11, and the CIA for failing to pass along crucial information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi at a terrorists' summit in Malaysia. But the FBI gets the toughest treatment. A few months after al-Bayoumi took them to San Diego, Almihdhar and Alhazmi moved into the house of a local professor who was a longtime FBI "asset." The prof also had earlier contact with another hijacker, Hani Hanjour. But even though the informant was in regular touch with his FBI handler, the bureau never pieced together that he was living with terrorists. The bureau also failed to pursue other leads, including a local imam who dealt with several key 9-11 figures. The report, one congressional investigator said, "is a scathing indictment of the FBI as an agency that doesn't have a clue about terrorism." Furious bureau officials say the report misstates the evidence. They say the bureau checked out al-Bayoumi--now back in Saudi Arabia--and concluded he had not given the hijackers "material support." As for Almihdhar and Alhazmi, "there was nothing there that gave us any suspicion about these guys," said one FBI official.

--Michael Isikoff

Adios: King of Son, Queen of Salsa

Though separated by the Florida Straits and an embargo for four decades, Compay Segundo and Celia Cruz were still the closest thing Cuba ever had to royalty. Segundo strummed and sang his traditional son throughout Cuba for most of his 95 years, only really stepping into the international spotlight after 1997's "Buena Vista Social Club." Cruz, who fled Cuba to the United States in 1959, never to return, spread the island's rhythms around the planet. Last week, thousands partook in Segundo's funeral procession after the cigar-smoking, lady-loving legend passed away. Two days later, Cruz died at 75 in New Jersey, and Afro-Cuban music aficionados the world over once again mourned in harmony.

--Malcolm Beith

Go-Go, Gum

After decades of stifling social rules, Singapore's government is finally letting its hair down. Dubbed "gum, gays and go-go dancing" by the locals, recent reforms include legalizing bar-top dancing--a popular but illegal tradition at local nightspots--ending discrimination against gays and lesbians and, yes, bringing chewing gum back to the mouths of the masses for the first time since it was banned in 1991. The reason for this madness? To goose the glum economy.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Singapore has recently seen players in key industries gobbled up by China. Lawmakers believe the authoritarian tendencies of governments past pushed many Singaporeans away from the island and scared off foreign professionals. The politicians decided societal reforms might be their only hope. So far, most Singaporeans are pleased, even if the expert jury is still out: "We may be changing symbolically, but it's just the tip of the iceberg," says political analyst Simon Tay. "I'm hoping there is fundamental change." There's little press freedom and the current government still enjoys a stranglehold on power. That doesn't mean they're clueless. Says trade minister George Yeo, who two months ago helped reverse the gum ban to close a deal with Wrigley's, "If you polled Singaporeans, many would want gum--until they get it stuck on their shoe." No one said freedom was easy.

--Joe Cochrane

Corruption: Who, Moi?

Perhaps nothing epitomizes Africa's ceaseless battles against impunity better than the dilemma of Kenya's recently elected president, Mwai Kibaki. The country Kibaki inherited in January had been fleeced beyond recognition by rampant corruption during two decades of Daniel arap Moi's government's rule. Last month anticorruption police announced their intent to question Moi about his relationship with --the now defunct Euro Bank--from which $14 million of public money disappeared before the bank finally collapsed in February. At the same time, Kibaki chose a more diplomatic approach to examining Moi-era misdoings. He called for a commission to investigate the biggest scandal of Moi's era--a fraudulent import-export scheme known simply as Goldenberg--but to hold off on prosecuting anyone found responsible. "Unmask him and then leave him," as Kenyan political analyst Njuguna Ngethe puts it.

The longevity of Moi's career owed much to his foes' inability to unite against him. For years, Kibaki and Raila Odinga played political footsie, but never closed the deal. In the end, term limits pushed out Moi, but the once impotent opposition did crush his chosen successor. As a reward, Odinga was appointed Public Works and Roads minister, and he remains the front runner for the new prime-minister position likely to be created this year.

But last week Odinga, who told NEWSWEEK in January that the new government would hunt ill-gotten gains to the top echelons of power, declared that Moi should "be left to enjoy his retirement." This all puts Kibaki in a tight spot. Although the authorities are moving fearlessly against Moi, some observers speculate that the big question may not be whether there's enough evidence to tighten the noose around Kenya's former leader, but whether the new leaders should be pursuing the ex-president at all.

If the trickle of allegations turns into a flood, Moi's party may see the old man as a liability and acquiesce to a censure of some sort. But Moi's not likely to make things easier for Kibaki by fleeing the country. A Kenyan homebody, "the professor of politics," denying all charges of misdeeds, has vowed through his lawyer to stick around and face his accusers.

So times are likely to get tougher for Kibaki. He can acknowledge the allegations and pursue his predecessor--and risk splitting his country again. Or he can ignore the anti-impunity platform that helped get him elected. Heavy is the head...

--John Ness

HIV: Stopgap to Success?

Last year 800,000 children worldwide contracted HIV, and no signs pointed to an improved situation in the near future. But now, scientists with Stopping Infection From Mother-to-Child via Breastfeeding in Africa, or SIMBA, have announced a breakthrough that could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. SIMBA treated 397 infants in Rwanda and Kampala with a syrup containing either lamivudine or nevirapine--both powerful antiretroviral drugs--during a three- to four-month period of breastfeeding and the month subsequent to weaning. Expectant mothers were also treated with a cocktail of zidovudine and didanosine from week 36 of their pregnancies until one week after delivery. The results were staggering: The rate of transmission to babies born to HIV-infected mothers dropped from 15 percent to 1 percent.

As nearly all babies infected with HIV contract the virus though mother-to-child transmission, lowering the incidence rate through breastfeeding could have profound effects, especially in countries where culture and economics preclude breast-milk alternatives. But even the SIMBA scientists admit this is only a stopgap solution. Before the treatment is adopted more testing is needed. For instance, SIMBA's study focused only on mothers whose HIV was moderate and not highly aggressive. And for the developing world to benefit most, health infrastructure must improve so that drugs like nevirapine--which is already offered free to many developing nations--reach the right people in the right amount of time.

--Kristin Kovner

Emotions: Gendered Jealousy

Why does the green-eyed monster rear its ugly head? Apparently, it has something to do with nationality. While it's well documented that men are more jealous of sexual infidelity than women, Gary Brase of the University of Sunderland in England and his colleagues have found that the disparity between the genders varies across the globe. Using data from 12 countries, Brase found that men are comparatively more jealous than women in countries with higher fertility rates and where large chunks of the population live in cities. The most comparatively jealous males: Brazilians, who live in a country where fertility rates are extremely high. The least jealous: the Japanese, where the rate is relatively low.

For females, long-held theories indicate that jealousy is linked to emotional infidelity, and stems from a fear that her mate will divert resources away from their children or leave altogether should he fall in love with someone else. (Not all females fit that mold. In Sweden, for instance, nearly 40 percent of the women expressed greater concern over cheating than emotional unfaithfulness.) The only country to enjoy equality in gender jealousy? Romania, where low fertility rates have doused the flames for men and women alike.

--Kristin Kovner

Night Life: An Itch For Kitsch

From the nursing home to... the nightclub? Bingo is being co-opted by a younger generation of Americans, and a racier version has popped up at bars from New York to Los Angeles, complete with drag queens and spankings for calling false bingos. "It's not your mama's bingo," says Judy Maeda, owner of New York nightspot Global 33, which offers weekly games. Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn started its game for older neighborhood ladies, and drew a hipper crowd by accident. Now the young and old play together. John Jeffcoat--director of the documentary "Bingo!"--spotted "all these giddy high-school couples on dates" while filming in Seattle's bingo halls.

Like its sister sports shuffleboard and canasta, bingo is so unhip, it's hip. It's also easy to play and, let's face it, winning comes down to pure luck. Jeffrey Bowman of Legendary Bingo in L.A. says that the game is a distraction from the club scene: "You can be whoever you want to be, and you can go home feeling fine that you didn't score." And, according to Bowman, the best thing about bingo still holds true, no matter how old you are: "You always get really close to winning."

--Meredith Sadin

Movies: Will Thai Flicks Stick?

Everyone's had a taste of Thai food, but what about Thai film? The international release of "The Legend of Suriyothai," a 2001 hit in Thailand, is sure to tease our palates. Directed by Thailand's Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol and mostly paid for by Queen Sirikit, the epic costume drama has the widest distribution ever for a Thai movie. With overseas backing from Sony Pictures Classics, "Suriyothai" is expected to hit movie theaters across the United States, Canada and Russia this summer.

Traditionally, Thailand has been regarded as a Hollywood backdrop--the Thai government has long marketed the country as a cheap shooting location to foreign film crews, rather than pushing its own talent. Nevertheless, Thailand is now enjoying a domestic film boom: it is expected to produce as many as 50 films in 2003, compared with some 20 films in 2002 and 15 in 2001.

So, will Bangkok be the next Hong Kong in the celluloid world? Not so fast, say critics. For the foreseeable future, Thailand will still lag behind South Korea and Japan in film exports. However, says Asian film expert Andy Klein, "Suriyothai" is sure to raise its profile. "It tells people in other countries that there is the ability to produce up-to-date, beautifully shot, beautifully designed films here," says Klein. Which means Thai films may one day be ashot as its curries.

--Jonathan Adams and Colum Murphy

Paul Taylor

Nearly 50 years ago, American modern-dance choreographer Paul Taylor began developing vivid, style-hopping works that now lie at the heart of the U.S. dance tradition. His works have been performed in more than 60 countries. NEWSWEEK's Tara Pepper recently talked to the still-touring 72-year-old:

Why is U.S. modern dance still No. 1?

We don't have the strong tradition of classic ballet that Europe has. The originators were freer to start their own points of view.

How did dance develop in your generation?

Choreographers like me began to use music that was more in the popular vernacular as well as using an older tradition of music. We weren't afraid to step into more accessible areas.

What aspects of U.S. culture and history have inspired you?

That dichotomy between Puritanism [and] the free spirit in our culture. You see it all the time. In [my dance] "Speaking in Tongues," the community has a religious leader who's a creationist, there are people under the thumb of this religious leader, and they burst out with all this energy. A lot of my work is dual.

What kind of reaction does your work get from international audiences?

You never know what to expect. But I like to think dance is an international language that all people can appreciate. All societies have some form of dance as a form of communication.

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