“Everybody assumed that it was Al Qaeda, because the operation looked like Al Qaeda, quacked like Al Qaeda, seemed like Al Qaeda.” — Condoleezza Rice
On the morning of 9/11, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet was having breakfast with his long-time mentor, former United States Senator David Boren. According to Tenet’s memoirs, Boren had “plucked” him “from obscurity in 1987 to serve as Chief of Staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), which he chaired.” Tenet had actually served as the legislative director for Republican Senator John Heinz for several years and had joined the SSCI staff in 1985 before becoming the SSCI staff director.
Tenet certainly was not living in obscurity after getting Boren’s endorsement. He quickly moved from SSCI staff director in the Bush I era to join the Clinton transition team and was named a member of the National Security Council when the new president took over. This led to his appointment as Deputy Director of the CIA in 1995, under DCI John Deutch. After Deutch’s abrupt resignation in December 1996, Tenet became acting DCI and was officially appointed to the position in July 1997. He was one of the longest-serving agency directors in history, staying in the position twice as long as other DCIs with the only exceptions being Richard Helms (1966 to 1973) and William Casey (1981 to 1987).
David Boren was a Yale graduate and member of Skull & Bones, like George W. Bush would be five years later. After serving four years as Governor of Oklahoma and 15 years in the U.S. Senate, he became the President of the University of Oklahoma, a position he has held since 1994. Boren lives in the suburb of Norman, which is just outside of Oklahoma City (OKC).
There are many connections between the alleged 9/11 hijackers and the area where Boren lives. A motel just outside OKC was frequented by Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi (both alleged suicide pilots), and their alleged accomplice, Zacarias Moussaoui. Curiously, just a few years earlier, convicted OKC bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had stayed at the same motel, “interacting with a group of Iraqis during the weeks before the bombing.” Louis Freeh’s FBI didn’t seem to want this information which was repeatedly provided by the motel owner. In August 2001, the same owner testified that he saw Moussaoui, Atta, and Al-Shehhi at his motel when they came late one night to ask for a room.
Between February and August of 2001, Moussaoui lived in Norman and attended flight school there. According to Moussaoui’s indictment, Atta and Al-Shehhi had visited the same flight school in July 2000, but did not take classes.
FBI summary documents, prepared for the 9/11 investigations, state that Mohamed Atta was also spotted at nearby Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, Oklahoma within six months of the 9/11 attacks. An employee at private aviation company Million Air witnessed Atta flying at the airport along with two other alleged 9/11 hijackers, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Waleed Al-Shehri. Other FBI summary documents indicate that Saeed Al-Ghamdi was also seen flying in to Wiley Post Airport on an unspecified date and that Hani Hanjour had made inquiries to a company in The Netherlands that ran a flight school there.
These are startling revelations considering that Hangar 8 of that airport was the home of Aviation General, the aircraft company owned by KuwAm Corporation and run by Wirt Walker, the CEO of KuwAm’s subsidiary Stratesec. Walker and Stratesec had pre-9/11 security contracts with the WTC, United Airlines, which owned two of the planes that were destroyed on 9/11, and Dulles Airport where American Airlines Flight 77 took off.
According to a University of Oklahoma librarian, a ticket for one of the alleged hijackers on Flight 93 was purchased by a white American male on one of the University’s computers. It has been speculated that the white male was Nick Berg, the American who was supposedly a student in Norman and who was later the victim of a famous al Qaeda kidnapping and beheading. In an alarming coincidence, investigators discovered that Zacarias Moussaoui used Berg’s email account to send messages. An implausible story was concocted that Berg had let Moussaoui use the account and his laptop during a 5-minute encounter on a bus.
More on the OKC connection will be found in Chapter 12, which addresses Wirt Walker. But it is important to recognize that the hometown of George Tenet’s mentor, David Boren, appears to have been a center of activity related to the alleged 9/11 hijackers.
On 9/11, Boren went from his breakfast meeting with Tenet to join former DCI James Woolsey in producing the media story. Although the U.S. intelligence community claims to have been far from able to reveal and stop the 9/11 plot in advance, Boren seemed to know what the attacks were all about as they happened.
While being interviewed on September 11, Boren said:
“I think you have to have bin Laden on the suspect list. You probably have some nation states that ought to be on the suspect list as well [Iraq, for example]. You know, looking at this, it’s very clear – and I think this hopefully will give us leads to trace back and find and affix responsibility – the training that had to have been there by those who took over the aircraft, the ability to pilot the aircraft. It appears that perhaps they were piloting the aircraft, the knowledge to turn off the transponders that would make it very difficult to trace these aircraft from the ground and through our air control system.
These were people that were highly trained; they knew what they were doing. It was all very carefully coordinated. So we’re dealing with people with a lot of sophistication here. Some of that training and some of that preparation is bound to have left clues that hopefully we’ll be able to thread through pretty quickly.”
There certainly were a lot of clues, and many of them seemed to implicate David Boren and his university. Boren had no intention of mentioning those clues, however. He didn’t mention that the airport run by the university where he was president had been training Zacarias Moussaoui to fly. He also failed to point out that Mohamed Atta and other alleged 9/11 hijackers had called, emailed and visited his airport in the two years before 9/11. Additionally, it might have been of interest to listeners that the FBI had showed up several times over the years to talk to the people at Airman Flight School, located at Boren’s airport, about the training of terrorism suspects.
Another relevant point of interest was that, just the month before, Boren had personally brought the former CIA Station Chief in Berlin to the university to teach in the Political Science department. David Edger, who had been involved in orchestrating another September 11th tragedy, the Coup in Chile, joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma at Boren’s invitation. Edger’s most recent responsibility at the CIA was the monitoring of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, which included Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ramsi bin Al-Shibh, and Ziad Jarrah.
According to George Tenet, he immediately understood what was happening, even as he was having breakfast with Boren. He claimed that he “instantly thought that this had to be al-Qa-ida” when he heard about the first plane. Boren recalled George “mentioning Bin Ladin and wondering aloud if this is what Moussaoui had been involved with.” Tenet “immediately thought about the Bojinka plot” and a subsequent plan to fly a small plane into CIA headquarters that was broken up in 1994. It wasn’t until he arrived at CIA headquarters that he learned about the second plane hitting the WTC.
In his book, Tenet wrote about how Pakistani ISI General Mahmud Ahmed was meeting with Congressmen Lindsey Graham and Porter Goss that morning as the first plane struck the WTC. Ahmed’s itinerary showed that Paul Wolfowitz was also meeting with Ahmed. Thirty minutes after the second plane hit, Ahmed was being chauffeured along Constitution Avenue in Washington when smoke from the Pentagon became visible. Goss showed up at the Pentagon too.
Tenet also wrote about how Shafiq Bin Laden, Osama’s bother, had been attending the Carlyle Group’s investor conference in Washington at the same time. Rounding out a series of stunning coincidences that morning, Tenet also remarked about Kirk Lippold’s meeting at CIA headquarters as the attacks began. Lippold, the captain of the USS Cole, had predicted at that very moment that a seminal event would be needed to raise awareness of the al Qaeda threat.
Tenet went on to describe what happened next.
“Although in our collective gut we knew al-Qa-ida was behind the attacks, we needed proof, so CTC [CIA’s Counterterrorist Center] requested passenger lists from the planes that had been turned into weapons that morning.” [After we got the passenger manifests] an analyst from CTC raced over to the printing plant. ‘Some of these guys on one of the planes are the ones we’ve been looking for in the last few weeks.’ He pointed specifically to two names: Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi. That was the first time we had absolute proof of what I had been virtually certain of from the moment I heard about the attacks: we were in the middle of an al-Qa-ida plot.”
Tenet was not being truthful about his agency’s search for Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi. The CIA was aware that the two suspects had come to the U.S. in January 2000 and it had been tracking their movements both before and after that time. As stated earlier, the two alleged hijackers had been sponsored by an FBI suspect and had lived with an FBI informant for months after their January 2000 arrival in the United States.
The best account of the CIA and FBI misdeeds related to Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi is revealed in Kevin Fenton’s book, Disconnecting the Dots. Fenton describes the problems with the official account in relation to known facts about the tracking of these two alleged hijackers.
Fenton wrote about several revelatory subjects, including the CIA’s attempts to hide from the intelligence community information about Al-Mihdhar having a U.S. visa. Before focusing on those late opportunities to capture two alleged hijackers, however, it is useful to examine how many early chances the CIA had to find out about the 9/11 plot.
Hyping the Terrorist Threat While Facilitating Terrorism
After being appointed CIA Director, Tenet did exactly what Louis Freeh had done after his appointment as FBI Director. He began to cultivate close personal relationships with officials in Saudi Arabia. Like Freeh, Tenet grew especially close to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Bandar and Tenet often met at Bandar’s home near Washington. For unknown reasons, Tenet did not share information from those meetings with his own CIA officers who were handling Saudi issues at the agency. The CIA’s Saudi specialists only learned about Tenet’s dealings with the Saudi authorities inadvertently, through their Saudi contacts.
As Deputy Director for the CIA, in 1996, Tenet had worked to install one of his closest friends and confidants, John Brennan, as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. In this role, Brennan often communicated directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. At the time, as an apparent favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts were discouraged from questioning Saudi relationship to Arab extremists.
The unusual relationship that both George Tenet and Louis Freeh had with Saudi intelligence (and George H.W. Bush) recalls the private network that was created in the mid-1970s to accomplish covert actions though means of proxies. This private network included disgruntled CIA officers who had been fired by President Carter, as well as the group known as The Safari Club, and BCCI.
The Safari Club resulted from an agreement between Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Kamal Adham, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, the Shah of Iran, and French intelligence director Alexandre de Marenches. The BCCI network grew, with the blessing of CIA director George H.W. Bush, through the guidance of the Safari Club, which needed a network of banks to help fund proxy operations, including off-the-books operations required by the CIA. As discussed in Chapter 3, this private network was utilized in the arming of the Mujahideen, the precursor to al Qaeda.
Evidence suggests that this private network continued to exist twenty years later, when Tenet began leading the CIA, and that terrorist operations were among those which were funded.
Under George Tenet’s leadership, the CIA failed miserably to detect and prevent al Qaeda terrorism. This might make sense in light of British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s claim that al Qaeda was not originally a terrorist group but a database of operatives used by the CIA. In any case, it was almost as if Tenet wanted al Qaeda to not only remain viable, but to be seen as an ever-looming threat.
For example, in February 1998, Al Qaeda made public its second fatwah, repeating its declaration of holy war against the United States and its allies. It included the signatures of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of the Jihad Group in Egypt. What did George Tenet and the CIA do in response?
- According to CIA officer Michael Scheuer, “The Agency’s Bin Laden unit was ordered disbanded” in April 1998. Although Tenet rescinded the order later, Scheuer commented that “the on-again, off-again signals about the unit’s future status made for confusion, distraction, and much job-hunting in the last few weeks” before the embassy attacks.
- In May 1998, Tenet traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Tenet and Abdullah made a secret agreement that Bin Laden, if captured, would not be given to the U.S. for trial but instead given to the Saudis. Recommending that the Saudis bribe the Taliban to turn Bin Laden over, Tenet canceled the CIA’s own operation to get Bin Laden.
- Michael Scheuer claimed that, between May 1998 and May 1999, U.S. leaders passed up ten opportunities to capture Bin Laden. According to Scheuer, it was George Tenet and his deputies who rejected the proposals.
Apparently two declarations of holy war by al Qaeda were not enough to compel George Tenet to increase his agency’s focus on Bin Laden. Not only that, Tenet seemed to intentionally back off pursuing Bin laden in 1998 and 1999, obstructing U.S. attempts to capture al Qaeda’s leader.
The result was the August 7, 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. This was an attack “in which hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous truck bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capitals of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The date of the bombings marked the eighth anniversary of the arrival of American forces in Saudi Arabia.”
Just months before the bombings, the CIA had been warned by the Kenyan Intelligence Service that the embassy in Nairobi was going to be attacked by al Qaeda. But the CIA ignored the warning. Not only that, but the embassy bombings were “carried out by a cell that U.S. agents had already uncovered.”
After the 1998 bombing, the mainstream media began to acknowledge that Bin Laden’s early organization had been funded by the CIA. U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the SSCI, said at the time that if he had it to do all over again, he would still have armed, trained and supplied Bin Laden and his organization.
Late that year, in a memo to the CIA, George Tenet declared war against al Qaeda. He wrote that “Our work to date has been remarkable and in some cases heroic” but “we must now redouble our efforts against Bin Ladin himself, his infrastructure, followers, finances, etc with a sense of enormous urgency.” He said, “We are at war.… I want no resources or people spared… either inside CIA or the [U.S. intelligence] community.”
Although meetings were held, Tenet did not attend them and his deputy went to only one meeting despite Tenet having put him in charge. The meetings were attended by “few if any officers” from other agencies and quickly stopped discussing the fight against al-Qaeda. No other effort was made at the CIA or elsewhere in the U.S. intelligence community, as a result of this declaration of war by Tenet, to make a plan to defeat al-Qaeda.
In 1999, the CIA under the direction of Tenet began a new venture called In-Q-Tel. Through the CIA’s Directorate of Technology, this semi-private corporation sought to find and purchase companies with applications related to intelligence work. Among those working with Tenet at In-Q-Tel was:
- Paul Kaminski, the former Air Force colonel and undersecretary of defense who was associated with the RAND Corporation. Kaminski later worked with Hugh Shelton and Mike Canavan (See Chapter 7) at Anteon Corporation.
- Stephen Friedman, a senior principal with WTC impact zone company Marsh & McLennan and former partner at Goldman Sachs who later became George W. Bush’s top economic advisor. Friedman also had belonged to a Cornell University society called Quill and Dagger, the membership of which included Paul Wolfowitz, Clinton’s national security advisor Sandy Berger, George W. Bush’s Deputy NSA Stephen Hadley, and Jules Kroll, the founder of Kroll Associates.
- Norman Augustine, the CEO of Lockheed Martin. A director at the Center for Security Policy and at Riggs Bank, Augustine was also a member of a RAND Corporation taskforce led by Frank Carlucci that outlined “A Global Agenda” for incoming President George W. Bush. Augustine is now a senior advisor for the investment company Frontier Group, where he works with Carlucci.
Despite the attempts by Tenet and others to hype the threat from al Qaeda, as of August 1999 not even The Washington Post appeared to be convinced of the threat. Two reporters at the Post questioned the emerging legend of al Qaeda by writing, “for all its claims about a worldwide conspiracy to murder Americans, the government’s case is, at present, largely circumstantial. The indictment never explains how bin Laden runs al Qaeda or how he may have masterminded the embassy bombings.”
Behind the scenes, Tenet’s lack of action suggested that he was unconcerned. An example was given in March 1999 when German intelligence provided to the CIA the mobile phone number and first name of one of the alleged 9/11 hijackers – Marwan Al-Shehhi. The CIA did nothing with the information. Although Tenet later dismissed its importance, others said that the number could have been easily traced, leading to the capture of Al-Shehhi.
Additionally, the CIA appeared “to have been investigating the man who recruited the [alleged 9/11] hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” Although there is no evidence that the CIA took actions to stop the plot as it was unfolding, there were many interesting leads to follow.
For example, in the summer of 1999 Bin Laden was reportedly given $50 Million by a group of oil-rich sheiks. The New York Times reported on this gift which came via a single bank transfer: “The Central Intelligence Agency has obtained evidence that Mr. bin Laden has been allowed to funnel money through the Dubai Islamic Bank in Dubai, which the United Arab Emirates Government effectively controls.”
For unknown reasons, the UAE is often disregarded by 9/11 investigators despite the fact that it appears to have more ties to the accused terrorists than any other country. As will be discussed in the next chapter, the UAE had a good friend and representative in the one man in U.S. government who was specifically tasked with leading the fight against terrorism, Richard Clarke.
An example of the UAE links was that the alleged plot architect KSM was reported to be living in Sharjah, UAE as of 1999. Sharjah was reportedly a major center of al-Qaeda activity at the time. One of the alleged hijackers, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, was from Sharjah as was plot financier Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. All of the alleged 9/11 hijackers traveled through the UAE on their way to the United States, other than Mohamed Atta, Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar, the latter of whom was said to be the one to facilitate the travel of the others.
Accused hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah was detained and questioned in January 2000 at Dubai Airport. However, CIA and UAE officials failed to warn German intelligence about Jarrah, who traveled on to Hamburg.
Overall, the lack of communication and action taken by DCI Tenet regarding the men who would be accused of perpetrating the 9/11 attacks was reflective of the same attitude exhibited by FBI Director Louis Freeh. With the strong ties between Tenet’s good friend Clarke and the UAE, it would seem that much could have been done to stop the 9/11 attacks long before they happened.
The CIA’s tracking of two 9/11 suspects has been reported extensively. This began with the monitoring of a January 2000 meeting in Malaysia attended by KSM and several other alleged al Qaeda leaders. The meeting also included the two alleged 9/11 hijackers who did not travel to the U.S. via the UAE, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi. These are the two suspects who, in his book, Tenet claimed the CIA had been looking for only in the few weeks before 9/11. Chapter 4 covered the fact that these two had been living in San Diego with an FBI asset.
With regard to the CIA’s failed communications, author Kevin Fenton lets Tenet off the hook, saying that there is “no evidence of [Tenet] doing anything intentionally wrong before the attacks. Fenton acknowledges that Tenet lied extensively in testimony to the Joint Congressional Inquiry, and that he gave “a string of evasive answers” to the 9/11 Commission. Yet Fenton’s premise is that low-level CIA and FBI officers kept a secret plan [the hiding of evidence about the two suspects] from their superiors.
The facts presented, however, suggest that senior level CIA leadership was behind the orders to hide the evidence about Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi. Examples include the failure of the CIA station in Bangkok to communicate that the two suspects had left Thailand for the U.S., and the order referenced by the CIA station chief in Kuala Lumpur when he said “I’m not supposed to show these photographs.” Although that order was disobeyed, and the surveillance photos of the Malaysia meeting were shared with FBI officers, such an order to a CIA station chief could not have come from low-level officers. Control of multiple CIA stations could only come from the top.
While the CIA withheld information about Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi living in the United States, Tenet simultaneously kept the threat hype going. A month after the Malaysia meeting, he told the U.S. Senate that OBL was planning “to strike further blows against America.”  Despite this presumed threat, Tenet had not ordered a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism in his entire tenure, the last one having been produced in 1997. Finally recognizing this need in late 2000, according to the 9/11 Commission, Tenet charged the CIA’s CTC with making a strategic assessment. But as with so many other coincidences, the person who was to lead the assessment didn’t start work until the day before 9/11.
U.S. intelligence officers later said they were told to back-off investigation of Bin Laden and the Saudis. After the Bush Administration took over in January 2001, there was a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency in that OBL could still be investigated, but they could not look at where he got his money.
This was the environment which led to Tenet having breakfast, as the attacks began, with David Boren, whose university and hometown had so many links to the alleged hijackers. Four days later, on September 15, 2001, Tenet presented the Worldwide Attack Matrix, a blueprint for what became known as the War On Terror.
As the new war was implemented, George Tenet failed to cooperate with the official investigations into the events of 9/11. Moreover, during the Joint Congressional Inquiry proceedings, he lied to representatives of the U.S. Congress, which means that he is another suspect who can be brought up on 9/11-related charges today.
Tenet also failed to cooperate with the 9/11 Commission while, at the same time, his CIA was lying about and then destroying videotapes that constituted a major part of the evidence upon which the official account was built.
Failure to Cooperate, Destruction of Evidence, and Other Hints
Tenet began being uncooperative when he refused to be interviewed by the Joint Inquiry. As the Joint Inquiry later reported, it had “attempted to schedule an interview of DCI George Tenet in order to solicit his recollections, understandings and opinions regarding a host of questions relating to policy, resource, organizational, authority, priorities, and other issues that had been developed during the Inquiry. Such an interview was at first delayed and then made conditional on further discussions with DCI staff. Ultimately, the DCI testified at length in closed and open sessions before the Joint Inquiry and the interview was denied on that basis.”
The Joint Inquiry also noted that the CIA refused to allow investigators to receive important cables that would later form the basis for the Inquiry’s findings. Instead, “CIA took the position that so-called ‘operational cables’ from the field and certain other documents it deemed to be sensitive could be subject to Joint Inquiry review at CIA Headquarters, but that no copies could be brought to the Joint Inquiry’s office.”
Nine months after 9/11, one major assumption about the leaders of al Qaeda was questioned in the mainstream press. KSM, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, was reported by the Los Angeles Times to have spent years engaging in behavior that was far from that of a devout Muslim. “He met associates in karaoke bars and giant go-go clubs filled with mirrors, flashing lights and bikini-clad dancers. He held meetings at four-star hotels. He took scuba-diving lessons at a coastal resort.” No one suspected him “of being dangerous to anything but his bank account.” Unfortunately, this contradictory information did not make it into the official reports.
Investigative reporter Daniel Hospicker contributed a considerable amount of evidence showing that the lifestyles of many of the alleged hijackers were far from Islamic. Furthermore, these suspects associated with drug-traffickers and frequented an area in Florida that was known for CIA operations. In fact, the evidence gathered from witnesses in Florida where the suspects trained indicated that Atta, Al-Shehhi and company appeared to be drug-abusing, alcohol-consuming gangsters who spent a lot of time in nude bars. Obviously, this evidence didn’t fit with the official account.
In December 2002, the Joint Inquiry concluded that certain high-level people in U.S. government were guilty of significant failures with respect to stopping the attacks. Senator Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Inquiry, said these people had “failed in significant ways to ensure that this country was as prepared as it could have been.” The people cited were DCI Tenet; former DCI John Deutch; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; NSA Director Michael Hayden; and former NSA leaders Lieutenant General Kenneth Minihan and Barbara McNamara. The Inquiry report clarified, however, that these people were not responsible for 9/11, which was caused entirely by “the 19 alleged hijackers and the terrorist infrastructure that supported them.”
However, Senator Shelby continued to be highly critical of George Tenet. In fact, Shelby publicly called for Tenet’s resignation, saying “There have been more failures on his watch as far as massive intelligence failures than any CIA director in history. Yet he’s still there. It’s inexplicable to me.” When Tenet did resign in 2004, Shelby commented “This is not a surprise to me at all. What was a surprise was that he held onto the job as long as he did.”
Shortly afterward, Shelby was accused of leaking classified information related to the 9/11 investigation. Vice President Dick Cheney threatened termination of the White House’s cooperation with the congressional inquiry unless its leaders pushed for an investigation of Shelby. Although Shelby denied it, the investigation suggested that he had revealed classified information to Carl Cameron, a correspondent for Fox News. The information consisted of two messages intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, but were only translated the day after the attacks — “the match is about to begin” and “tomorrow is zero hour.”
Senator Orrin Hatch, who was a big supporter of both Tenet and Freeh and who was involved with arming al Qaeda’s precursor organization, was known to have leaked information in a similar way but was not referred to the Justice department. Observers saw the hidden hand of George Tenet in the accusations against Shelby.
Tenet had less trouble with the 9/11 report from the CIA’s Inspector General (IG). The IG report originally suggested a need for accountability but, in 2004, it was revised at request of Porter Goss, to remove accountability. Instead, “accountability boards” for further assessment were recommended. These accountability boards were to be focused on Tenet and several others including CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard, CTC chief Cofer Black, Alec Station chief Richard Blee, and Blee’s deputy Tom Wilshire. In the end, the accountability boards were dropped too and Tenet was let off the hook entirely.
The 9/11 Commission investigation was also not a challenge for Tenet or the CIA. When the agency refused to cooperate, for example by not allowing the Commission in to interview the alleged al Qaeda detainees, the Commission acquiesced and did not issue subpoenas. When the CIA suspected that other witnesses might accidentally reveal information that would threaten the agency, it forced the Commission to accept the use of witness “minders.” That is, the CIA insisted that agency representatives – usually legal counsel – be present to monitor all interviews of agency personnel. The minders would intimidate the witnesses and, in some cases, the minders actually responded on behalf of the witnesses.
The Commission ultimately built much of its account on testimony obtained through the torture of alleged al Qaeda operatives, including KSM, Ramsi bin Al-Shibh, and Abu Zubaydah. This was despite the fact that the Commission was denied the ability to interview the suspects, or even the interrogators.
It was Zubaydah who was first captured, and his reported torture testimony led to the capture of KSM and Bin Al-Shibh. The CIA moved these victims to secret “black sites” around the world in order to stay ahead of international authorities and continue the torture. The Commission simply received summaries of the torture testimonies from the CIA and used them over 440 times as sources to support the 9/11 Commission Report.
Tenet and his deputies, including John Brennan, were instrumental in driving the torture policy. And despite the detainees’ torture testimony forming a large basis for the Commission’s work, Tenet, like Donald Rumsfeld, did not want the detainees to be interviewed by the Commission. In fact, the CIA refused to let the Commission speak with them or the interrogators. What was used to form the official account was taken third or fourth hand.
The CIA also failed to tell the Commission that its agents had told Abu Zubaydah during his interrogation that they discovered he was not an al-Qaeda fighter, partner, or even a member. In 2009, this fact was confirmed as the U.S. government stated officially that it no longer considered the suspect Abu Zubaydah to have ever been associated with al Qaeda in any way. The result was that after years of imprisonment and brutal torture, Zubaydah began to be airbrushed out of history, despite his having initiated the accusations against supposed 9/11 architect KSM. In his 2007 book, Tenet went further, claiming that “interrogating Abu Zubaydah led to Ramsi bin al Shibh.” The torture testimony of KSM and Bin Al-Shibh was cited hundreds of times by the 9/11 Commission to frame the myth behind the 9/11 attacks.
It was later revealed that the CIA destroyed its videotapes of the interrogations of al Qaeda operatives, many of which featured Abu Zubaydah. Kean and Hamilton wrote in a 2008 article for the New York Times that “Those who knew about these videotapes – and did not tell us about them – obstructed our investigation.” They clarified that Mr. Tenet, in a December 2003 meeting with the Commissioners, alluded to “several documents he thought would be helpful to us, but neither he, nor anyone else in the meeting, mentioned videotapes.” In a January 2004 follow-up meeting, Tenet again failed to mention the existence of the videotapes.
June 2004, just weeks before release of the 9/11 Commission Report, Tenet resigned. Supportive reactions came from Porter Goss and Senator Hatch, who said “When the dust settles, I think people will recognize the many contributions George Tenet made to the war on terror. I understand why the president had confidence in him.”
In 2006, Tenet joined the board of Viisage Corporation, a security products company that had been flagged for 9/11 insider trading by the SEC but was never investigated. Shortly thereafter, Louis Freeh joined the board of Viisage as well. Although the two men most responsible for the intelligence failures that led to 9/11 had both joined a company suspected from having profited from the attacks, there was still no investigation into the SEC concerns.
That same year, Tenet also joined QinetiQ, a company partly owned by the Carlyle Group and run by Duane Andrews. A former protégé of Dick Cheney, Andrews is reviewed as a 9/11 suspect in Chapter 15. Donald Rumsfeld’s protégé Stephen Cambone also joined Andrews and Tenet at QinetiQ.
The facts show that, as DCI from 1997 to 2004, Tenet was responsible for an agency that had, at the very least, failed miserably to perform its duties related to counterterrorism. Overall the evidence suggests that, as with Louis Freeh and the FBI, some of those failures were intentional. Concerns that Tenet and Freeh had developed secret paths of communication with Saudi authorities, and that they might have disrupted plans to capture or investigate al Qaeda suspects, were never addressed. Therefore, areas of inquiry for an ongoing investigation into George Tenet’s 9/11-related activities should include the following.
- His relationship to David Boren and the OKC area where several 9/11 suspects had trained or visited, and where the aviation companies of Wirt Walker were located
- His role in the CIA’s tracking of Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, and the communications failures related to that tracking
- His relationship to Saudi Prince Bandar and any part he had in discouraging CIA officers from questioning Arab extremism
- His role in the decision to disband the CIA’s OBL unit in April 1998, just two months after al Qaeda’s second fatwah against the United States
- His role in rejecting or cancelling more than ten opportunities to capture OBL in the few years before 9/11, as described by Michael Scheuer
- Any foreknowledge he had of the 1998 embassy bombings, including any warnings or pre-bombing investigations of the suspects who were accused
- His lack of actual action against terrorism, including the absence of a National Intelligence Estimate on the threat
- His failure to cooperate with the official investigations and his lying to members of Congress during the investigations
- His part in the concealment and destruction of the videotape evidence that formed the basis for the official account
- His relationship to suspected 9/11 insider trading and Viisage Corporation
In the next chapter, Tenet’s good friend Richard Clarke will be reviewed. The CIA’s collaboration with the United Arab Emirates, and its failure to investigate that country’s possible role in 9/11, is something that should be kept in mind throughout that review.
Notes to Chapter 5
 PBS Frontline, Interview: Condoleezza Rice, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/campaign/interviews/rice.html
 George Tenet with Bill Harlow, At the Center of the Storm: The CIA During America’s Time of Crisis, Harper Perennial, 2007
 Jim Crogan, The Terrorist Motel: The I-40 connection between Zacarias Moussaoui and Mohamed Atta, LA Weekly, July 24, 2002
 Kevin R. Ryan, Two Oklahoma Airports: David Boren, KuwAm, and 9/11, DigWithin.net, October 28,2012
 Kelli Arena, Berg’s encounter with ‘terrorist’ revealed, CNN, May 14, 2004
 Transcript of PBS NewsHour show, Intelligence Investigation, September 11, 2001, PBS.org
 Peter Finn, Hamburg’s Cauldron of Terror, Washington Post Foreign Service, Washington Post Foreign Service
 George Tenet with Bill Harlow, At the Center of the Storm
 Pakistani General Mahmud Ahmed met with Goss and Graham, along with Wolfowitz and several others. The itinerary was released via FOAI request: http://911blogger.com/node/21978.
 James Risen, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Free Press, 2006
 James Risen, State of War
 Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11, University of California Press, 2007, pp 82-84
 Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network, Basic Books, 2006
 Robin Cook, The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means, The Guardian, July 8, 2005
 PBS NewsHour, Al Qaeda’s Second Fatwa, February. 23, 1998
 The Atlantic Monthly, How Not to Catch a Terrorist (reprinted letter from Michael Scheuer), December 2004
 James Risen, State of War
 Ned Zeman, David Wise, David Rose, and Bryan Burrough, The Path to 9/11: Lost Warnings and Fatal Errors, Vanity Fair, November 2004
 Wikipedia page for 1998 United States embassy bombings
 John J. Miller, The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It, Hyperion, 2010
 Michael Moran, Bin Laden comes home to roost: His CIA ties are only the beginning of a woeful story, MCNBC, August 28, 1998
 George Tenet, memorandum to his staff entitled “Usama Bin Ladin,” December 4, 1998, accessed at Scribd
 OIG Report on CIA Accountability With Respect to the 9/11 Attacks, page viii
 Frank Carlucci, Robert Hunter, and Zalmay Khalilzad, A Global Agenda for the U.S. President, RAND Corporation, March 2001
 Colum Lynch; Vernon Loeb, Bin Laden’s Network: Terror Conspiracy or Loose Alliance?, The Washington Post, August 1, 1999
 Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers, HarperCollins, 2009, p 73
 Ibid pp 278-279
 James Risen and Benjamin Weiser, U.S. Officials Say Aid for Terrorists Came Through Two Persian Gulf Nations, The New York Times, July 8, 1999
 Paul Thompson, The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11–and America’s Response, HarperCollins, 2004
 Kevin Fenton, Disconnecting the Dots: How CIA and FBI officials helped enable 9/11 and evaded government investigations, TrineDay, 2011, p 104
 Ibid pp 121-125
 Ibid p 376
 Ibid pp 115-119
 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Statement by Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet Before the SSCI on the Worldwide Threat in 2000: Global Realities of Our National Security, 106th Congress, 2nd Session
 9/11 Commission Report, pp 342-344
 Greg Palast and David Pallister, FBI claims Bin Laden inquiry was frustrated. The Guardian, November 7, 2001
 Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Penguin, 2003
 Wikipedia page for George Tenet
 Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata, Government Printing Office
 Terry McDermott, Early Scheme to Turn Jets Into Weapons, The Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2002
 Kevin R. Ryan, Muslims did not attack the U.S. on 9/11, DigWithin.net, March 17, 2012
 Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, p 135
 Paul Thompson, The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11–and America’s Response, HarperCollins, 2004, p 520
 Wikipedia page for Richard Shelby
 Gregory C. McCarthy, Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: 9/11 and the Iraq War, ProQuest, 2009, p 170
 Kevin Fenton, Those 9/11 Commission Minders Again, History Commons Groups, May 27, 2009. See also another post from Kevin Fenton in the same venue entitled “Newly Released Memo: Government ‘Minders’ at 9/11 Commission Interviews ‘Intimidated’ Witnesses,” dated April 27, 2009
 Peter Finn and Julie Tate, CIA Says It Misjudged Role of High-Value Detainee Abu Zubaida, Transcript Shows, The Washington Post, June 16, 2009
 Kevin R. Ryan, Abu Zubaydah Poses a Real Threat to Al Qaeda, DigWithin.net, October 15, 2012
 George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: The CIA During America’s Time of Crisis, Harper Perennial, 2007
 Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, Stonewalled by the C.I.A., The New York Times, January 2, 2008
 USA Today, Reactions to the Tenet’s resignation, June 3, 2004
 Kevin R. Ryan, Evidence for Informed Trading on the Attacks of September 11, Foreign Policy Journal, November 18, 2010
 Business Wire, Former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis Freeh Joins the Viisage Board of Directors; Freeh Brings 26 Years of Experience in Federal Law Enforcement to Viisage, July 24, 2006
 Reuters, Ex-CIA chief Tenet joins ‘James Bond’ firm, October 24, 2006