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Kevin Fenton's blog

Zelikow’s ‘What Do I Do Now?’ Memo Found

We have found the famous "What Do I Do Now?" memo drafted by 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow on March 2, 2003. The memo advised staffers newly hired by the commission what they should do after starting work.

The memo was found by Erik at the National Archives and uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd.

Philip Shenon's The Commission highlighted the memo and one controversial section in particular. The section says:

Interactions with commissioners can be helpful to you and them. If you are contacted by a commissioner with questions, please contact Chris [Kojm, Zelikow's deputy] or me. Consulting with the Chair and Vice-Chair, we will be sure that the appropriate members of the Commission staff are responsive.

Shenon called this provision, channelling contacts between the staff and the commissioners through Zelikow and his deputy, "unusual" and "worrying to the staff." He added:

The Sabol-Corsi Consultation: FBI General Counsel’s Take

One of the documents Erik found at the National Archives and posted to the 9/11 Document Archive contains additional information about the failure to find alleged Pentagon hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The document, a memo of a 9/11 Commission interview of former FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson drafted by commission staffer Barbara+Grewe, concerns a consultation+on+August+28,+2001 between Dina+Corsi, an FBI headquarters agent, and Sherry+Sabol, an attorney at the FBI’s National Security Law Unit.

The Real Reason Only Five Detainees Are Coming to New York?

US Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that five detainees would be moved from Guantanamo Bay to New York, where they would stand trial for carrying out the 9/11 attacks. However, five other detainees will continue to be tried before military commissions, which have lower standards of evidence. The five detainees coming to New York have previously indicated they intend to plead guilty, although the five to be tried before military commissions have not.

The New York five are:

Khalid+Sheikh+Mohammed;

Ramzi+bin+al-Shibh;

Ali+Abdul+Aziz+Ali;

Mustafa+al-Hawsawi; and

Khallad+bin+Attash.

More Very Partial FOIA Success

The FBI has sent me a largely uninteresting cover letter in response to an FOIA request filed when your grandfather was a small boy. The letter was originally sent in 2003 with a report about an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into FBI abuse of the so-called “wall” procedures, which regulated information sharing between intelligence agents on one side and prosecutors and criminal agents on the other.

Together with the cover letter, the report totals 244 pages, but will not be forthcoming from the FBI. As it was done by the OPR, it should come to me from the DoJ. The bureau also sent me a six-page list of the other page numbers (3 to 244, understandably) and next to each number is the text “Referral/direct.” If you don’t believe they could do anything this pointless, see here.

9/11 Commission Passed on NEADS Tapes Month before Issuing Subpoena for Them

Documents newly found at the National Archives show that in the weeks before the 9/11 Commission issued a subpoena for tapes of events at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) on the day of the attacks, it told the military not to send some or all of them to the commission. The documents are internal commission e-mails and a memo, as well as communications between the commission and the military. They were found at the National Archives by History Commons contributor Erik Larson (a.k.a. paxvector) and posted to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd.

Amalgam Virgo: Document Reveals Details of Military Exercise Involving Suicide Pilot Three Months before 9/11

New details of a NORAD exercise called Amalgam Virgo 01-02 have been found in a document at the National Archives. The exercise involved a suicide pilot attacking a military installation in the US. It was run in early June 2001, just three months before 9/11.

The document was found in the 9/11 Commission’s files at the National Archives by History Commons contributor Erik Larson (a.k.a. Paxvector) and uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd. Some information about the exercise was revealed at the History Commons Groups blog in June, when we publicised a commission document summarising a group of military exercises designed to help the military deal with suicide hijackings. However, the newly-found three-page scenario provides more detail.

Destruction of Flight Controllers’ Tape, Day of 9/11 – Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of November 4, 2009

One of the main focuses at the 9/11 Timeline recently has been the destruction of a tape of FAA flight controllers' recollections. The tape+was+made at the FAA's New York Center about an hour and a half after the attacks ended, despite worries about the procedure by a union official and the controllers. However, when New York Center forwarded evidence about the attacks to the FBI the next day, it did+not+provide+the+tape, and its existence was not+reported+to+superiors.

Reaction to Coleen Rowley on Real News Network: Where’s Wilshire?

The Real News Network recently carried an interview of former FBI lawyer Coleen+Rowley by Paul Jay (part+1, part+2 and part+3), dealing with what it called the “unanswered questions about the lead up to 9/11.” Rowley was stationed at the bureau’s Minneapolis office during the Zacarias+Moussaoui case in August and September 2001, but later became a whistleblower and left the organisation.

While many aspects of the interview are good and interesting, it leaves out what is probably the most important known fact about the Moussaoui case: the identity of the most senior FBI headquarters official fully involved in the case.

Awareness of Military Cell at FAA Headquarters of Events on Day of 9/11

As people who follow the issue closely are aware, there has been some debate over the involvement of a group of military officers stationed at FAA headquarters--generally referred to as the "military cell"--in the events of 9/11. Although I don't mean to recap the whole debate here, the basic jist is that the 9/11 Commission claimed that the military were unaware of the hijacking of United 93 until a few minutes before it crashed, but what about the military cell--were they too unaware of what was going on?

Yesterday, I was reading through the commission documents we have posted at the 911 Document Archive at Scribd , and I came across a transcript of FAA communications on the day of 9/11. You can find the following at page 59 (approximately 9:45 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.):

MR. : Tactical Net--

MR. : And this is Cleveland Center. Who's up?

MR. : It is the Command Center with about five or six people listening.

MR. : Okay. Mr. [inaudible], the chief, just asked if we have any military up or not? Are we pursuing that? We'd like to be able to track this guy (United 93) so we know what's going on, especially when we lose a transponder.

MR. : We have been in contact with the military cell here in the building and they're working the issue. I'm not sure where they are with--

Gulshair Shukrijumah: Atta’s Able Danger Link?

As ABC+news confirmed yesterday, alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed+Atta attended a Florida mosque run by Gulshair+Shukrijumah, a radical Islamist imam. Although ABC revealed key new details, including that an FBI informer had been interested in Atta, but had been pulled away from him by his handlers, public information previously indicated Atta and fellow alleged hijacker pilot Marwan+Alshehhi had attended the mosque. Based on this, in early 2007 I wrote an entry in the 9/11 Timeline called “Atta+and+Alshehhi+Attend+Florida+Mosque,” which put together a comment in the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report and media accounts.

Atta-Shukrijumah Link Another Blow to KSM’s Credibility

Today saw the eighth anniversary of 9/11 and, as usual, there were a slew of articles. The most interesting was this+one on ABC, which probably requires three posts to digest fully. I have previously expressed extreme scepticism at some of the statements reportedly made by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under waterboarding and other torture, and this report further confirms my suspicions he told his interrogators a pack of lies, which they and then the 9/11 Commission believed to an unhealthy extent.

The ABC article is about an FBI mole who had penetrated a radical mosque in Florida. It begins:

Identity Of CIA Officer Responsible For Pre-9/11 Failures, Tora Bora Escape, Rendition To Torture Revealed

The name of the CIA officer who ran Alec Station, the agency’s bin Laden unit, in the run-up to 9/11 can be revealed. Known by a variety of aliases in the media until now, such as “Rich” in Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars, “Richard” in the 9/11 Commission report and “Rich B” in George Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm, his real name is Richard Blee.

Blee was a key figure in the pre-9/11 intelligence failures, the CIA station chief in Afghanistan when Osama bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora and instrumental in setting up the Bush administration’s rendition and torture policies.

I confirmed Blee’s identity in this document, notes drafted by a 9/11 Commission staffer, apparently in preparation of the drafting of the final report. The notes were found along with thousands of other 9/11 Commission files at the National Archives by History Commons contributor Erik Larson, who uploaded them to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd. I previously blogged other interesting aspects of the notes here and here.

Blee is mentioned several times in the 9/11 Commission’s files, but his name is always redacted, as it has been in the media until now. However, in one case the people doing the redactions let it slip past them.

Newly Found Document Indicates Bush Administration Knew Repeat Of 9/11 Unlikely By 2003

The title of a 2003 Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) item indicates that by late 2003 the CIA had concluded it would be hard for al-Qaeda to pull off another 9/11. The item was entitled “Terrorism Complexities Make Repeating September 11 Difficult” and was circulated to top policy officials on December 16, 2003.

The precise circulation of SEIBs varied from administration to administration, but they were usually seen by officials such as the secretary of state, attorney general, vice president and others of similar rank. SEIB items are often used as presidential daily brief items, so it is likely that President George Bush also saw the information in mid-December 2003.

The title of the SEIB item was found in a 9/11 Commission document at the National Archives by History Commons contributor Erik Larson, who uploaded it to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd. The document is 83 pages of notes by a staffer apparently brainstorming ideas for the final report. The SEIB item title can be found on page 27 of the notes.

Who Is the Mysterious CIA Interviewee?

One of the biggest pieces of news in the last couple of weeks has been the release of the CIA inspector general's report into the usefulness, or rather lack thereof of its torture techniques. It has been practically everywhere, but one thing that has been lost is that there were a whole bunch of supporting documents released from the inspector general’s investigation. One of these caught my eye in particular.

It is a memorandum drafted by an inspector general employee about a 16 July 2003 interview of a female CIA officer who appears to be very involved in the agency’s rendition and torture programme.

The officer said the agency judged the success of the programme by "the quality of the information" detainees provide. The report adds:

Newly Discovered Document: CIA Station in Yemen Knew of Khallad Identification

A document recently found in the National Archives shows that the CIA station in Yemen knew that al-Qaeda leader and USS Cole bombing mastermind Khallad+bin+Attash had attended the organisation’s Kuala+Lumpur+summit. However, other information proves that the Yemen station never communicated this to the FBI, even though it was working closely with FBI investigators into the Cole bombing. This raises questions as to why the CIA station in Yemen failed to pass this information on and whether this failure was part of a wider agreement to withhold information from the bureau.