I want to begin by thanking those responsible for these important Hearings in Toronto, and commending them for their sensible guidelines, even though these were inevitably going to disappoint some people. After ten years it is indeed worthwhile to reassess what we know and do and do not know about 9/11.
Today, we can confidently say
- the most important truths still remain unknown, in large part because many of the most important documents are either unreleased or heavily redacted;
- the efforts at cover-up continue, if anything more aggressively than before;
- thanks to the collaborative efforts of many different people, we now understand 9/11 far better than before, along with relevant earlier events, and above all the post 9/11 cover-up;
In addition to the cover-up, there has been what 9/11 Commission Senior Counsel John Farmer has called either “unprecedented administrative incompetence or organized mendacity” on the part of key figures in Washington.94 These figures include President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, NORAD General Richard Myers, and CIA Director Tenet. They include also President Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Samuel Berger, who prior to testifying on these matters, went to the National Archives and removed, and presumably destroyed, key relevant documents.95 In his book, Farmer has in effect endorsed both of these alternatives.
Kevin Fenton’s New Book on Systematic Withholding of Information from the FBI
Farmer’s first alternative, that of “unprecedented administrative incompetence,” is in effect the explanation offered by the 9/11 Commission Report, to deal with a) striking anomalies both on 9/11 itself, and b) the preceding twenty months during which important information was withheld from the FBI by key personnel in the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit (the so-called Alec Station). But thanks to the groundbreaking new book by Kevin Fenton, Disconnecting the Dots, we can no longer attribute the anomalous CIA behavior to “systemic problems,” or what Tony Summers rashly calls “bureaucratic confusion.”96
Building on earlier important books by James Bamford, Lawrence Wright, Peter Lance, and Philip Shenon, Fenton demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a systematic CIA pattern of withholding important information from the FBI, even when the FBI would normally be entitled to it. Even more brilliantly, he shows that the withholding pattern has been systematically sustained through four successive post-9/11 investigations: those of the Congressional Inquiry chaired by Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby (still partly withheld), the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Justice inspector general, and the CIA inspector general.
Most importantly of all, he shows that the numerous withholdings, both pre- and post-9/11, were the work of relatively few people. The withholding of information from the FBI was principally the work of what he calls the “Alec Station group” — a group within but not identical with the Alec Station Unit, consisting largely of CIA personnel, though there were a few FBI as well. Key figures in this group were CIA officer Tom Wilshire (discussed in the 9/11 Commission Report as “John”), and his immediate superior at Alec Station, Richard Blee.
The post-9/11 cover-up of Wilshire’s behavior was principally the work of one person, Barbara Grewe, who worked first on the Justice Department Inspector General’s investigation of Wilshire’s behavior, then was transferred to two successive position with the 9/11 Commission’s staff, where she was able to transfer the focus of attention from the performance of the CIA to that of the FBI.97 Whether or not Grewe conducted the relevant interviews of Wilshire and other relevant personnel, Grewe “certainly drew on them when drafting her sections of the Commission’s and Justice Department inspector general’s reports.”98
Grewe’s repositioning from post to post is a sign of an intended cover-up at a higher level. So, as we shall see, is Wilshire’s transfer in May 2001 from CIA’s Alec Station to the FBI, where he began a new phase of interferences with the normal flow of intelligence, obstructing the FBI from within it.99
The pattern begins with intelligence obtained from surveillance of an important al Qaeda summit meeting of January 2000 in Malaysia, perhaps the only such summit before 9/11. The meeting drew instant and high-level US attention because of indirect links to a support element (a key telephone in Yemen used by al Qaeda) suspected of a role in the 1998 bombings of US Embassies. As Fenton notes, “The CIA realized that the summit was so important that information about it was briefed to CIA and FBI leaders [Louis Freeh and Dale Watson], National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and other top officials.”100
Yet inside Alec Station Tom Wilshire and his CIA subordinate (known only as “Michelle”) blocked the effort of an FBI agent detailed there (Doug Miller) to notify the FBI that one of the participants (Khalid Al-Mihdhar) had a US visa in his passport.101 Worse, Michelle then sent a CIA cable falsely stating that Al-Mihdhar’s “travel documents, including a multiple entry US visa, had been copied and passed ‘to the FBI for further investigation.’”102 Alec Station also failed to watchlist the participants in the meeting, as was called for by CIA guidelines.103
This was just the beginning of a systematic, sometimes lying pattern, where NSA and CIA information about Al-Mihdhar and his traveling companion, Nawaf al-Hazmi, was systematically withheld from the FBI, lied about, or manipulated or distorted in such a way as to inhibit an FBI investigation of the two Saudis and their associates. This pattern is a major component of the 9/11 story, because the behavior of these two eventual hijackers was so unprofessional that, without this CIA protection from the “Alec Station Group,” they would almost certainly have been detected and detained or deported, long before they boarded Flight 77 in Washington.
Fenton concludes with a list of thirty-five different occasions where the hijackers were protected in this fashion, from January 2000 to about September 5, 2001, less than a week before the hijackings.104 In his analysis, the incidents fall into two main groups. The motive he attributes to the earlier ones, such as the blocking of Doug Miller’s cable, was “to cover a CIA operation that was already in progress.”105 However after “the system was blinking red” in the summer of 2001, and the CIA expected an imminent attack, Fenton can see no other explanation than that “the purpose of withholding the information had become to allow the attacks to go forward.”106
Wilshire’s pattern of interference changed markedly after his move to the Bureau. When in CIA, he had moved to block transmittal of intelligence to the FBI. Now, in contrast, he initiated FBI reviews of the same material, but in such a way that the reviews were conducted in too leisurely a fashion to bear fruit before 9/11. Fenton suspects that Wilshire, assisted by his FBI colleague Dino Corsi, anticipated a future review of his files; and was laying a false trail of documentation to neutralize his embarrassing earlier performance.107
I believe we must now accept Fenton’s finding of fact: “It is clear that this information was not withheld through a series of bizarre accidents, but intentionally.”108 However I see a different explanation as to what those intentions originally were, one which is paradoxically much simpler, more benign and also more explicative of other parts, apparently unrelated, of the 9/11 mystery.
The Liaison Agreements with Other Intelligence Agencies
Initially, I believe, Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi were protected because they had been sent to America by the Saudi GID intelligence service, admitted under the terms of the liaison agreement between the GID and the CIA.109 Prince Turki al-Faisal, former head of the GID, has said that he shared his al Qaeda information with the CIA, and that in 1997 the Saudis “established a joint intelligence committee with the United States to share information on terrorism in general and on…al Qaeda in particular.”110 The 9/11 Commission Report adds that after a post-millennium review, the Counterterrorism Center (i.e., Alec Station) intended to proceed with its plan of half a year earlier, “building up the capabilities of foreign security services that provided intelligence via liaison.”111
This was a Blee specialty. Steve Coll reports that Richard Blee and his superior Cofer Black, excited about the opportunities presented by liaison arrangements, flew together into Tashkent in 1999, and negotiated a new liaison agreement with Uzbekistan.112 According to Steve Coll and the Washington Post, this arrangement soon led, via Tashkent, to a CIA liaison inside Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance as well.113
Speaking as a former junior diplomat, let me observe that a liaison arrangement would probably have required special clearances for those facilitating the arrangement and sharing the liaison information.114 This would explain the exclusion of the FBI agents who were not cleared for this information, as well as the behavior of other non-cleared CIA agents who proceeded to collect and disseminate information about the two hijackers. Alec Station needed both to protect the double identity of the two Saudis, and also to make sure that they were not embarrassingly detained by the FBI.
Almost certainly the CIA had relevant liaison arrangements, not just with the Saudi GID and Uzbekistan, but also with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, as well as the intelligence services of Egypt, and probably Yemen and Morocco. In particular there is reason to think that Ali Mohamed, the double agent who was protected by the FBI from being detained in Canada, thus allowing him to help organize the al Qaeda embassy bombings of 1998, was permitted under such arrangements to enter the US as an agent of foreign intelligence, probably Egyptian. According to Mohamed’s FBI handler, Jack Cloonan, “all that information came from Ali,” while the PDB itself attributes its key finding to what “an Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [—] service.”115 (Ali Mohamed was definitely EIJ, and this service was probably Egyptian.)
But when Mohamed, like Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, was inappropriately admitted to the US, it was reportedly not by the CIA, but possibly by “some other Federal agency.”116 This was possibly a Pentagon agency, because from 1987 to 1989, Ali Mohamed “was assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] in Fort Bragg, the home of the Green Berets and the Delta Force, the elite counterterrorism squad.”117 SOCOM, which includes JSOC (the Joint Special Operations Command), has its own intelligence division;118 and SOCOM is the command that first mounted the Able Danger program to track al Qaeda operatives, and then, inexplicably, shut it down.119
For this and other reasons, I would suggest reconceptualizing what Fenton calls the anomalous “Alec Station group” as an inter-agency liaison team (or teams) with special clearances, perhaps centered principally in Alec Station, but involving collaborating personnel in the FBI (such as FBI agent Dino Corsi, about whom Fenton has much to report), and possibly SOCOM. Corsi worked at FBI HQ, which as Fenton notes coordinated “liaisons with foreign services.”120
Background: the Safari Club and William Casey
These arrangements, in one form or another, dated back at least to the 1970s. Then senior CIA officers and ex-officers (notably Richard Helms), who were dissatisfied with the CIA cutbacks instituted under Jimmy Carter’s CIA director, Stansfield Turner, organized an alternative network, the so-called Safari Club. Subordinated to intelligence chiefs from France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and (under the Shah) Iran, the Safari Club provided a home to CIA officers like Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines, who had been marginalized or fired by CIA Director Turner. As Prince Turki later explained, the purpose of the Safari Club was not just to exchange information, but to conduct covert operations that the CIA could no longer carry out in the wake of the Watergate scandal and subsequent reforms.121
In the Afghan covert war of the 1980s, CIA Director William Casey made key decisions in the conduct of that war, not with his own CIA bureaucracy, but together with the Saudi intelligence chiefs, first Kamal Adham and then Prince Turki. Among these decisions was the creation of a foreign legion to assist the Afghan mujahedeen in their war — in other words, the creation of that support network which since the end of that war we have known as Al Qaeda.122 Casey worked out the details with the two Saudi intelligence chiefs, and also with the head of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the Saudi-Pakistani bank in which Adham and Turki were both shareholders.
In so doing, Casey was in effect running a second CIA, building up the future al Qaeda in Pakistan with the Saudis, even though the official CIA hierarchy in Langley rightly “thought this unwise.”123 In American War Machine, I situated the Safari Club and BCCI in a succession of “second CIA” or “alternative CIA” arrangements dating back to the creation of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) in 1948. Fenton himself invokes the example of the Safari Club in proposing the possible explanation that Blee and Wilshire used a “parallel network” to track Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi inside the United States. In his words, “Withholding the information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi only makes sense if the CIA was monitoring the two men in the US itself, either officially or off the books.”124 But a third option would be that the GID was monitoring their movements, a situation quite compatible with Saudi Prince Bandar’s claim that Saudi security had been “actively following the movements of most of the terrorists with precision.”125
Joseph and Susan Trento heard from a former CIA officer, once based in Saudi Arabia, that “Both Hazmi and Mihdhar were Saudi agents.”126 If so, they were clearly double agents, acting (or posing) as terrorists at the same time they were acting (or posing) as informants. In espionage, double agents are prized and often valuable; but to rely on them (as the example of Ali Mohamed illustrates) can also be dangerous.
This was particularly the case for the CIA with respect to Saudi Arabia, whose GID supported Al Qaeda energetically in countries like Bosnia, in exchange for a pledge (negotiated by Saudi Interior Minister Naif bin Abdul Aziz with Osama bin Laden) that Al Qaeda “would not interfere with the politics of Saudi Arabia or any Arab country.”127 Pakistan’s ISI was even more actively engaged with al Qaeda, and some elements of ISI were probably closer to the ideological goals of al Qaeda, than to Pakistan’s nominally secular government.
But in all cases the handling of illegal informants is not just dangerous and unpredictable, but corrupting. To act their parts, the informants must break the law; and their handlers, knowing this, must first fail to report them, and then, all too often, intercede to prevent their arrest by others. In this way, the handler becomes complicit in the crimes of their informants.
Such corruption is very widespread, perhaps inevitable. In the notorious cases of Gregory Scarpa and Whitey Bulger, agents in the New York and Boston offices of the FBI were accused of giving their mob informants information that led to the murder of their opponents. Agents in the New York office of the old Federal Bureau of Narcotics became so implicated in the trafficking of their informants that the FBN had to be shut down and reorganized.
Even in the best of circumstances, decisions have to be made whether to allow an informant’s crime to go forward, or to thwart it and risk terminating the usefulness of the informant. In such moments, agencies are all too likely to make the choice that is not in the public interest.
A very relevant example is the first World Trade Center bombing of 1993 — relevant because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, was one of the 1993 plotters as well. The FBI had an informant, Emad Salem, among the plotters; and Salem later claimed, with supporting evidence from tapes of his FBI debriefings, that the FBI deliberately chose not to shut down the plot. Here is Ralph Blumenthal’s careful account in The New York Times of this precursor to the mystery of 9/11:
Law-enforcement officials [i.e. the FBI] were told that terrorists were building a bomb that was eventually used to blow up the World Trade Center, and they planned to thwart the plotters by secretly substituting harmless powder for the explosives, an informer said after the blast.
The informer was to have helped the plotters build the bomb and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer, Emad A. Salem, should be used, the informer said.
The account, which is given in the transcript of hundreds of hours of tape recordings Mr. Salem secretly made of his talks with law-enforcement agents, portrays the authorities as in a far better position than previously known to foil the Feb. 26 bombing of New York City’s tallest towers. The explosion left six people dead, more than 1,000 injured and damages in excess of half a billion dollars. Four men are now on trial in Manhattan Federal Court in that attack.128 What makes the 1993 even more relevant is that Salem, according to many sources, was an agent of the Egyptian intelligence service, sent to America to spy on the actions of the Egyptian “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman.129 This raises the possibility that the F.B.I. supervisor who had “other ideas” about how to use Emad Salem, was a member of a liaison team, with special knowledge he could not share with other FBI agents. It may have been, for example, that the Egyptian intelligence service declined to let Salem’s cover be blown. This hypothesis is both speculative and problematic, but it has the advantage of offering a relatively innocent explanation for otherwise baffling behavior.
This explanation does not at all rule out the possibility that some officials had more sinister motives for allowing the bombing to take place and covering it up afterwards. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was at this very time a key figure in a sensitive Saudi program, signed on to by U.S. officials as well, of supplying mujahedeen warriors in Bosnia against Serbia.130 It is clear from both investigative and prosecutorial behavior that a number of different US agencies did not want to disturb Rahman’s activities. Even after Rahman himself was finally indicted in the 1995 conspiracy case to blow up New York landmarks, the US Government continued to protect Ali Mohamed, a key figure in the conspiracy.
Worse, the performance of the FBI in allowing the bombing to proceed was only one of a series of interrelated such performances, climaxing with 9/11. The first was in connection with the murder in New York of the Jewish extremist Meir Kahane. The FBI and NY police actually detained two of the murderers in that case and then released them, allowing them to take part in the WTC bombing of 1993. A key trainer of the two men was Ali Mohamed, whose name was systematically protected from disclosure by the prosecuting attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald. Then in 1994, when Ali Mohamed was detained in Vancouver by the Canadian RCMP, the FBI intervened to arrange for Ali Mohamed’s release. This freed Mohamed to proceed to Kenya, where he became the lead organizer of the 1998 Embassy bombing in Nairobi.
Following this atrocity, Ali Mohamed was finally detained by the Americans, but still not indicted. He was apparently still a free man when he readily confessed to his FBI handler, Jack Cloonan, that he knew at least three of the 9/11 hijackers, and had helped instruct them in how to hijack airplanes.131
We have to conclude that there is something profoundly dysfunctional going on here, and has been going on since before 9/11, indeed under both political parties. The conditions of secrecy created by special clearances have not just masked this dysfunctionality; they have, I would argue, helped create it. The history of espionage tells us that secret power, when operating in the sphere of illegal activities, becomes, time after time, antithetical to public democratic power.
Add to these conditions of unwholesome secrecy the fundamentally unhealthy, indeed corrupt, relationship of U.S. intelligence agencies to those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This has been profoundly anti-democratic both at home and in Asia. The US dependency on Saudi oil has in effect subsidized a wealth-generated spread of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world, while what ordinary Americans pay for oil and gas generates huge sums, which Saudis then recycle into the financial institutions at the pinnacles of Wall Street.
In like manner, America’s unhealthy relationship to the ISI of Pakistan has resulted in a bonanza in Afghanistan for the international heroin traffic. In short the bureaucratic dysfunction we are talking about in 9/11 is a symptom of a larger dysfunction in America’s relationship to the rest of the world.
Liaison Agreements and the Protection of Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi
Even without the suggestive precedent of the 1993 WTC bombing, it is legitimate to posit that liaison agreements may have inhibited the round-up of Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi. Let us consider first Fenton’s finding of fact: “It is clear that this information [about the two men] was not withheld through a series of bizarre accidents, but intentionally.”132 This finding I consider rock hard. But we can question his explanation: that “the purpose of withholding the information had become to allow the attacks to go forward.”133
I believe that in fact there are a number of possibilities about the intention, ranging from the relatively innocent (the inhibitions deriving from a liaison agreement) to the nefarious. Before considering these, let us deconstruct the notion of “letting the attacks go forward.” Clearly, if the hijackers were not detained at the airport gates, people would have been killed — but how many? Recall that in the Operation Northwoods documents, the Joint Chiefs wrote, “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign” in which “We could sink a boatload of Cubans.”134 Would the loss of four planeloads of passengers have been a qualitatively different tragedy?
Of course 9/11 became a much greater tragedy when three of the planes successively hit the two Towers and the Pentagon. But I suspect that the liaison minders of the two Saudis did not imagine, any more than we can imagine, that their targets were capable of such a feat. Recall that their flying lessons, even in a Cessna, were such a fiasco that the lessons were quickly terminated. Their instructor told them “that flying was simply not for them.”135
Let me suggest that there are three separable ingredients to the 9/11 attacks: the hijackings, the strikes on the buildings, and the unexpected collapse of the three WTC buildings. It is at least possible that the Alec Station liaison team, as a group, never contemplated more than the first. The video of the South Tower attack, in which Flight 175 does not even begin to slow down, persuades me that this flying feat was achieved by robotics. The robotics engineers need not be American; they could be from any group or country — though I very much doubt that Al Qaeda had a Robotics Command in the caves of Tora Bora.
A minimal, least maligning initial explanation for the withholding of information about two of the hijackers would be the hypothesis I proposed in the case of Emad Salem — the constraints established by a liaison agreement. But just as in 1993, the secret power created behind the wall of restrictive clearances may have been exploited for ulterior purposes. The dangerous situation thus created — of potential would-be-hijackers being protected from detention at a time of expected attack — may have inspired some to exploit it as a pretext for war.
One clue to this more sinister intention is that the pattern of withholdings detailed by Fenton is not restricted exclusively to the two Saudis and their CIA station handlers. There are a few concatenating withholdings — above all the Able Danger info at SOCOM and an important intercept, apparently by NSA, of a call between hijack organizers KSM and Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, apparently about the hijackers and Moussaoui.136
If the NSA was withholding information from relevant audiences, it would recall the role of the NSA at the time of the second Tonkin Gulf Incident in August 1964. Then the NSA, at a crucial moment, forwarded 15 pieces of SIGINT (signals intelligence), which indicated — falsely — that there had been a North Vietnamese attack on two US destroyers. At the same time NSA withheld 107 pieces of SIGINT, which indicated, correctly that no North Vietnamese attack had occurred.137 NSA’s behavior at that time was mirrored at the CIA: both agencies were aware of a powerful consensus inside the Johnson administration that had already agreed on provoking North Vietnam, in hopes of creating an opportunity for military response.138
We know from many accounts of the Bush administration that there was also a powerful pro-war consensus within it, centered on Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the so-called cabal of PNAC (the Project for the New American Century) that before Bush’s election had been lobbying vigorously for military action against Iraq. We know also that Rumsfeld’s immediate response to 9/11 was to propose an attack on Iraq, and that planning for such an attack was indeed instituted on September 17.139 It is worth considering whether some of those protecting the hijackers from detention did not share in these warlike ambitions.
Did Richard Blee Have an Ulterior Motive for Withholding Information?
As Fenton speculates, one of those seeking a pretext for an escalated war against Al Qaeda may have been Richard Blee. We saw that Blee, with Cofer Black, negotiated an intelligence-sharing liaison agreement with Uzbekistan. By 2000 SOCOM had become involved, and “U.S. Special Forces began to work more overtly with the Uzbek military on training missions.”140 In the course of time the Uzbek liaison agreement, as we saw, expanded into a subordinate liaison agreement with the Northern Alliance. Blee, meeting with Massoud, agreed to lobby in Washington for more active support for the Northern Alliance.141
After the Cole bombing in 2000, Blee was pushing to expand the mission still further, into a joint attack force in conjunction with the Northern Alliance forces of Massoud. There was considerable objection to this while Clinton was still president, largely on the grounds that Massoud was known to be supporting his forces by heroin trafficking.142 But in the spring of 2001 a meeting of department deputies in the new Bush administration revived the plans of Blee, Black, and Richard Clarke for large-scale covert aid to Massoud.143 On September 4, one week before 9/11, the Bush Cabinet authorized the drafting of a new presidential directive, NSPD-9, authorizing a new covert action program along these lines in conjunction with Massoud.144
Blee was no longer a minority voice, and six weeks after 9/11 he would be named the new CIA station chief in Kabul.145 Fenton reports that in this capacity Blee became involved in the rendition of al Qaeda detainees, and suggests that the motive may have been to obtain, by torture, a false confession (by Ibn Shaikh al-Libi) to Iraqi involvement with al Qaeda. This false confession “then formed a key part of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s embarrassing presentation to the UN before the invasion of Iraq.”146
Did SOCOM Have an Ulterior Motive for Closing Down Able Danger?
What ensued after 9/11 went far beyond Blee’s program for paramilitary CIA involvement with the Northern Alliance. The CIA component in Afghanistan was soon dwarfed by the forces of SOCOM: George Tenet reported that by late 2001 the US force in Afghanistan consisted of about 500 fighters, including “110 CIA officers, 316 Special Forces personnel, and scores of Joint Special Operations Command raiders creating havoc behind enemy lines.”147
In the Bush administration, Stephen Cambone, who earlier had collaborated with Rumsfeld and Cheney in signing the PNAC’s statement, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, became one of the active promoters of using SOCOM special forces to operate covertly against al Qaeda, not just in Afghanistan, but “anywhere in the world.”148
It is possible that anything Blee may have done in Alec Station to prepare the way for 9/11 was only one part of a larger inter-agency picture, in which an equivalent role was played by SOCOM’s shutting down of the Able Danger project. This might help explain a handwritten notation around 10 PM on 9/11 by Stephen Cambone, then a Deputy Secretary under Rumsfeld in the Pentagon, after a phone call with George Tenet:
AA 77 — 3 indiv[iduals] have been followed since Millennium & Cole
1 guy is assoc[iate] of Cole bomber
2 entered US in early July
2 of 3 pulled aside &interrogated?)149
The “guy” here is probably Al-Mihdhar, and the “Cole bomber” probably Khallad [or Tawfiq] bin Attash, a major al Qaeda figure connected not just to the Cole bombing but also to the 1998 embassy attacks. One wants to know why Tenet was sharing with a hawk in the Pentagon information that has apparently never been shared by anyone outside the CIA since. And is it a coincidence that Cambone, like Blee, oversaw a program — in this case staffed by SOCOM special operations personnel — using torture to interrogate detainees in Afghanistan?150
Just as Blee was reportedly a special protégé of George Tenet at CIA, so Cambone was notorious for his fierce loyalty to first Dick Cheney and later Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon. It is not known whether he was associated with the Continuity of Government (COG) planning project where Rumsfeld and Cheney, among others, prepared for the warrantless surveillance and detention measures that were (as I have argued elsewhere) implemented beginning on the morning of 9/11.151 Nor is it known if he was associated in any way with Cheney’s Counterterrorism Task Force in the Spring of 2001, which has been alleged to have been a source for the war games, including rogue plane attacks, which added to the disarray of the US response, on 9/11, to the four hijacked planes.
I want to conclude with a little historical perspective on the dysfunction we have been looking at. In a sense, 9/11 was unprecedented — the greatest mass murder ever committed in one day on U.S. soil. In another sense it represented a kind of event with which we have become only too familiar since the Kennedy assassination. I have called these events deep events — events with a predictable accompanying pattern of official cover-ups backed up by amazing media malfunction and dishonest best-selling books. Some of these deep events, like the Kennedy assassination and 9/11, should be considered structural deep events, because of their permanent impact on history.
It is striking that these two structural events — the JFK assassination and 9/11 — should both have been swiftly followed by America’s engagement in ill-considered wars. The reverse is also true: all of America’s significant wars since Korea — Vietnam, Afghanistan (twice: once covertly and now overtly), and Iraq — have all been preceded by structural deep events.
In two recent books I have been reluctantly compelled, against my own initial incredulity, to list more than a dozen significant parallels between the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. Thanks to Kevin Fenton’s brilliant research, I can list a further analogy. The CIA files on Lee Harvey Oswald, more or less dormant for two years, suddenly became hyperactive in the six weeks before the Kennedy assassination. Fenton has demonstrated a similar burst of activity in FBI files on the two Saudis in the weeks before 9/11 — a burst initiated by Tom Wilshire, at a time suspiciously close when the hijackers settled on a final date for their attack.
America, I argue in my latest book, has become dominated by a war machine in Washington, a war machine that has been building incrementally since Eisenhower warned us about it in 1961. We should see the actions of Wilshire and Blee in the context of this war machine, and the secret consensus in 2001 — just as earlier in 1964 — that had already become settled on the need for further war.
- John Farmer, The Ground Truth, 288; quoted in Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, The Eleventh Day, 147.
- Summers, 383-84; cf. Farmer, 41. Although a Democrat, Berger was subsequently protected by the Republican Bush Administration from having to testify to Congress about his behavior (a condition of his plea bargain).
- Summers, 334.
- Fenton, 72-79. Grewe subsequently left government to work at the Mitre Corp., a private firm doing contract work with the CIA and another private firm, Ptech. Questions about Ptech and Mitre Corp’s work on FAA-NORAD interoperability systems were raised in 9/11 testimony presented some years ago by Indira Singh; see Scott, Road to 9/11, 175.
- Fenton, 78. Kirsten Wilhelm of the National Archives told Fenton (p. 78) that “It appears Barbara Grewe conducted the interviews with ‘John’ [Wilshire] and Jane [Corsi],” another key figure. Wilhelm could find no “memorandum for the record” (MFR) for the Wilshire interview, which Fenton understandably calls “about the most important interview the Commission conducted” (p. 79). Summers, also citing correspondence with Kirsten Wilhelm, disagrees, saying that the report of Wilshire’s interview exists, but “is redacted in its entirety” (Summers, 381, cf. 552). This is an important point to be focused on in future investigations.
- Fenton, 225ss.
- Fenton, 38; citing 9/11 Report, 181-82.
- Fenton, 42-45; summarizing Justice Department IG Report, 239-42; cf. Wright, 311-12.
- Fenton, 50; summarizing Justice Department IG Report, 242-43; cf. Wright, 311.
- Fenton, 45.
- Fenton, 383-86.
- Fenton, 48. Cf. Lawrence Wright, “The Agent,” New Yorker, July 10 and 17, 2006, 68; quoted approvingly in Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine, 199.
- Fenton, 371, cf. 95.
- Fenton, 239-42, 310-22. Fenton notes that Corsi worked at FBI HQ, which coordinated “liaisons with foreign services” (Fenton, 313).
- Fenton, 310.
- At first I suspected, as have others, that the two men were Saudi double agents. Another real possibility is that they were sent as designated targets, to be surveilled by the Saudis and the Americans separately or together.
- Summers, 396
- 9/11 Report, 184.
- Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, 456–57.
- Thomas E. Ricks and Susan B. Glasser, The Washington Post, October 14, 2001, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A55834-2001Oct13.
- I myself acquired a special, higher-than-top-secret clearance to access intelligence from NATO, a relatively overt and straightforward liaison.
- John Berger, Ali Mohamed, 20 (Cloonan); 9/11 Report, 261 (PDB). Cf. John Berger, “Mohamed was one of the primary sources for the infamous August 6, 2001, presidential daily brief (PDB)” (Scott, Road to 9/11, 158).
- James Risen, The New York Times, October 31, 1998; in Scott, Road to 9/11, 346-47.
- Raleigh News and Observer, November 13, 2001; in Scott, Road to 9/11, 347.
- Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, “‘Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command,” The Washington Post, September 2, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/top-secret-america-a-look-at-the-militarys-joint-special-operations-command/2011/08/30/gIQAvYuAxJ_story.html.
- Fenton, 168–69; Summers, 371, 550.
- Fenton, 313.
- Scott, American War Machine, 161; Scott, Road to 9/11, 62-63.
- Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, 129.
- John Prados, Safe for Democracy, 489; discussion in Scott, American War Machine, 12–13.
- Fenton, 104.
- Summers, 397.
- Joseph J. and Susan B. Trento, in Summers, 399.
- Wright, 161; in Summers, 216.
- Ralph Blumenthal, “Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast,” The New York Times, October 28, 1993, emphasis added. The next day, the Times published a modest correction: “Transcripts of tapes made secretly by an informant, Emad A. Salem, quote him as saying he warned the Government that a bomb was being built. But the transcripts do not make clear the extent to which the Federal authorities knew that the target was the World Trade Center.
- Scott, Road to 9/11, 145.
- Peter Dale Scott, “Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists,” Asian-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 29, 2011, http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/3578. Evan Kohlmann has described how a Zagreb office in support of the Saudi-backed jihad in Bosnia received “all orders and funding directly from the main United States office of Al-Kifah on Atlantic Avenue controlled by Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman” (Evan Kohlmann, Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe, 39-41; citing Steve Coll and Steve LeVine, “Global Network Provides Money, Haven,” The Washington Post, August 3, 1993).
- Scott, Road to 9/11, 151–59.
- Fenton, 310.
- Fenton, 371, cf. 95.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Courses of Action Related to Cuba (Case II),” in Scott, American War Machine, 196.
- The Washington Post, September 30, 2001; in Summers, 293; cf. 9/11 Report, 221-22.
- Fenton, 360-61, 385.
- Scott, American War Machine, 201.
- Scott, American War Machine, 200-02.
- Clarke, 30-33; Summers, 175-76; James Bamford, A Pretext for War, 287.
- Thomas E. Ricks and Susan B. Glasser, The Washington Post, October 14, 2001, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A55834-2001Oct13.
- Coll, 467–69.
- Coll, 534–36.
- Coll, 558.
- Coll, 573–74.
- Fenton, 108.
- Fenton, 110–14.
- George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, 255.
- Jeremy Scahill, “Shhhhhh! JSOC is Hiring Interrogators and Covert Operatives for ‘Special Access Programs,’” Nation, August 25, 2010, http://www.thenation.com/blog/154133/shhhhhh-jsoc-hiring-interrogators-and-covert-operatives-special-access-programs.
- Fenton, 127–30; Summers, 387–88.
- Jason Vest, “Implausible Denial II,” Nation, May 31, 2004, http://www.thenation.com/article/implausible-denial-ii.
- Peter Dale Scott, “Is the State of Emergency Superseding our Constitution? Continuity of Government Planning, War and American Society,” November 28, 2010, http://1/japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/3448.