The joint congressional panel looking into possible intelligence agency shortfalls before Sept. 11 has named Eleanor Hill, former inspector general for the Defense Department, as its staff director.

Hill's selection comes just days before the panel, led by the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, is to begin both closed and open hearings on intelligence community actions before the terrorist attacks and problems that could have prevented better preparedness for those attacks.

Hill, a partner at the Washington law firm of King & Spalding, will direct a staff of about two dozen people with experience in intelligence collection, analysis and oversight.

She has also served at co-chair of the Intelligence Community Inspectors General Forum, was a member of the Attorney General's Council on White Collar Crime and was counsel to former Sen. Sam Nunn on the Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition.

Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that Hill's selection "will allow us to explain to the executive branch, to Congress and most importantly to the American people what happened, how it happened, and what we need to do within the government to reduce the risk of a reoccurrence of such horrific events." Goss co-chairs the investigating panel with Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Hill replaces L. Britt Snider, a former CIA inspector general who was forced to resign in April after failing to inform the committee of a potential security concern with one of his staffers.