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Kevin Fenton's blog
Most of the new entries in the last week have concerned the "red herring" Delta 1989, which was a suspected hijack in the day of 9/11, but was never taken over by terrorists. Shortly after the hijacking of United 93, both Delta 1989 and other aircraft had to turn to avoid the hijacked airliner, and, shortly after the Pentagon was hit, Delta Air Lines ordered the plane to land in Cleveland, but did not tell the FAA. The pilot then changed course and failed to respond to an FAA message, causing the FAA to think it may be a hijack. However, when the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) told the FAA the Delta plane was a confirmed hijack at 9:45 a.m., an FAA controller disagreed.
I have found a photograph of Tom Wilshire, the CIA officer involved in pretty much all the pre-9/11 intelligence failings. It is here. I don't reproduce it here for reasons of copyright, although I guess I could claim fair use. The photo was taken when he testified to Congress about the al-Qaeda threat in late 2001.
I have to say he looks a lot older than I thought he was, but I guess people never seem the way you imagine them.
I also read a lot of articles about the testimony and found the transcript. They all refer to him as Tom Wilshere (with two "e"s), so perhaps this is the correct spelling of his name and the one we use is wrong. We got the spelling from Lawrence Wright, who mentioned Wilshire in his 2006 Pullitzer Prize-winning book The Looming Tower and a New Yorker article that accompanied the book, but was focused on FBI agent Ali Soufan.
The CIA assassination programme that was recently in the media was actually first partially revealed by the Washington Post in 2005, when details enabling his originator to be identified were published. The programme made news in the last few days as CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted that the agency withheld information about it from Congress, although the CIA never actually used it to assassinate anybody. Nevertheless, the programme’s “duties” seem to have been taken over by something journalist Seymour Hersh called an “executive assassination wing” that was run out of the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney, and this grouping did go on missions and kill people.
The programme was first mentioned in Dana Priest’s groundbreaking article that highlighted the existence of the CIA’s network of black sites, CIA Holds Terror Subjects in Secret Prisons, which was published in November 2005. Priest wrote of the programme:
"The CTC's chief of operations argued for creating hit teams of case officers and CIA paramilitaries that would covertly infiltrate countries in the Middle East, Africa and even Europe to assassinate people on the list, one by one.
Some of the recently added entries go into more detail about the 9/11 Commission, which discovered the FAA was withholding documents from it in September 2003 and issued its first subpoena for them a month later. Soon after, the commission also subpoenaed the Pentagon, despite a last-ditch bid to avert it by the commission’s Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, a good friend of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In addition, Commissioner John Lehman repeatedly told the White House of Saudi links to the 9/11 plotters, but the administration was uninterested.
The US military conducted a training exercise in the five days before the September 11 attacks that included simulated aircraft hijackings by terrorists, according to a 9/11 Commission document recently found in the US National Archives. In one of the scenarios, implemented on September 9, terrorists hijacked a London to New York flight, planning to blow it up with explosives over New York.
The undated document, entitled "NORAD EXERCISES Hijack Summary," was part of a series of 9/11 Commission records moved to the National Archives at the start of the year. It was found there and posted to the History Commons site at Scribd by History Commons contributor paxvector in the files of the commission's Team 8, which focused on the failed emergency response on the day of the attacks. The summary appears to have been drafted by one of the commission's staffers, possibly Miles Kara, based on documents submitted by NORAD.
An FBI informant knew that one of the 9/11 hijackers breached the terms of his visa by working illegally, according to a 9/11 Commission document released by the National Archives at the start of the year. The document, a memo on the interview of the informer, Abdussattar Shaikh, was found in the archives by History Commons contributor paxvector and posted to the History Commons site at Scribd.
The memo shows that:
* Shaikh knew that one of the hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, worked illegally in the US. According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the job was at a gas station run by people who the FBI had investigated over terrorism links.
* He knew Alhazmi was interested in news about the war in Chechnya, and became angry when the Russians did well.
* Instead of using the apartment phone, Alhazmi and Almihdhar would drive to another neighbourhood to use a pay phone, apparently a vain attempt to avoid NSA surveillance.
Several of the new entries in the past couple of weeks concern leading radical cleric and British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri and his activities in Yemen. Despite having been an informer for the British security services since early 1997, in around June 1998 he concluded a training and funding agreement with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), which by this time had already become irksome to local authorities. He issued a warning of an attack in Yemen in October, and a series of bombings was planned.
New details have emerged about minders who sat in on 9/11 Commission interviews during a fact-finding trip to Canada. Commission heads Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton mentioned the minders generally in interviews during the panel’s lifetime, but a memo recently found in the National Archives and blogged here a couple of weeks ago showed how prevalent they were.
Another document, again found by History Commons contributor paxvector, provides more details of how the minders worked during a trip to Canada. The commission, which eventually recommended taking part of the CIA director’s responsibilities away and giving them to a Director of National Intelligence, was considering changes to the intelligence community and sent a team to Canada to examine how its intelligence services were organised and report back.
Documents recently found in the National Archives cast doubt on the integrity of the 9/11 Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow. In an e-mail exchange with author Philip Shenon, Zelikow claimed that he first learned of a dispute on the commission over the investigation of false statements made by NORAD and FAA officials after it had been “percolating for a while” and was not involved in the initial stages of the argument. However, an e-mail chain (scroll down) found in the Archives by History Commons contributor paxvector shows that Zelikow had been involved in the issue from very near the beginning.
Zelikow made the claim he was not involved in the initial stages of the dispute in response to an allegation made by commission staffer John Azzarello and relayed by Shenon. After the staff investigators drafted a memo for the commissioners in early April 2004 outlining why they thought NORAD and FAA officials had deliberately lied to them to overstate the military’s readiness during the attacks, Zelikow “just buried that memo,” according to Azzarello. In response, Zelikow claimed that he had not even known of the issue at the start. The implication was that, as he had not known of it, it could not be him that was orchestrating--or even involved in--a dispute between the staff investigators and the commission’s lawyers, Daniel Marcus and Steve Dunne.
However, the newly found e-mail chain shows Zelikow did know of the issue in April, raising the question as to why he falsely told Shenon he did not. Zelikow is not known to be linked to the FAA, but, if the commission had referred the matter to the Justice Department and it had started a perjury investigation against NORAD officials, this would certainly have had the potential to embarrass his friends at the Pentagon. Zelikow is alleged to have husbanded the issue to ensure a less potentially embarrassing referral to the inspectors general of the FAA and Defense Department, who in the end blamed the false statements on innocent mistakes and poor logkeeping.
Zelikow Failed to Mention Possible Criminal Referral of False Statements by NORAD and FAA in Memo to 9/11 Commission Heads
A document recently discovered in the National Archives shows that, in a memo to the 9/11 Commission’s chairman and vice-chairman on false statements made by NORAD and FAA officials about the failure of US air defenses, the commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow failed to mention the possibility of a criminal referral. This supports allegations that Zelikow “buried” the option of a criminal referral by the commission to the Justice Department for a perjury investigation. The document was found at the National Archives by HistoryCommons contributor paxvector and posted to the History Commons site at Scribd.
A new document obtained from the 9/11 Commission’s files shows that the DNA of one of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, presumed Flight 93 pilot Ziad Jarrah, was positively identified. A sample taken from the plane’s crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was matched with a sample taken by German authorities from the residence of his girlfriend. The document was found at the National Archives by History Commons contributor paxvector, and posted at the History Commons site at Scribd.
DNA samples of fourteen of the nineteen hijackers were reportedly found at the three crash sites after the attacks. However, it was previously thought that the DNA samples were only identified by a process of elimination–if a DNA sample at a crash site did not match that of a victim it was presumed to be from a hijacker. In addition, the FBI took DNA samples from places–such as hotel rooms–it thought the hijackers had been and matched them with the non-victim samples from the crash sites.
The 9/11 Commission, Karl Rove and Government Minders - Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of May 10, 2009
Most of the new entries recently posted to the 9/11 Timeline concern the 9/11 Commission, in particular contacts between its executive director Philp Zelikow and White House official Karl Rove. Rove called Zelikow at the commission twice in June 2003 and again that September. When the commission's staff found out about the calls, they were furious and Zelikow told his secretary to stop logging his calls. Zelikow also reportedly understated the amount of his contacts with Rove in an interview with a reporter.
A recently released 9/11 Commission memo highlights the role of government “minders” who accompanied witnesses interviewed by the commission. It was added to the National Archives’ files at the start of the year and discovered there by History Commons contributor paxvector.
The memo, entitled “Executive Branch Minders’ Intimidation of Witnesses,” complains that:
* Minders “answer[ed] questions directed at witnesses;”
* Minders acted as “monitors, reporting to their respective agencies on Commission staffs lines of inquiry and witnesses’ verbatim responses.” The staff thought this “conveys to witnesses that their superiors will review their statements and may engage in retribution;” and
* Minders “positioned themselves physically and have conducted themselves in a manner that we believe intimidates witnesses from giving full and candid responses to our questions.”
Most of the recently published entries at the 9/11 Timeline focus on the day of the attacks. The Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), which had been briefed on the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC at some time before 9/11, asked Langley Air Force Base to get a third plane ready to launch at 9:10 or shortly after, meaning that the unit there would have no supervisor of flying. It also took control of Washington airspace and directed the Langley fighters to the White House at 9:36, around the same time tankers refuelled jets launched from Otis Air Force Base near New York.
Former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Makes Bizarre Comments about Intelligence Failures before Attacks
Former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton recently made some bizarre comments about the Zacarias Moussaoui case in an interview for Vanity Fair. The interview was used for a wide-ranging and very interesting oral history of the Bush White House. Hamilton’s comments appear to show complete ignorance of a key aspect of the investigation of which he was vice chair.
Moussaoui was arrested on an immigration violation due to suspicious he was planning to hijack an aircraft by the Minneapolis FBI on 16 August 2001, nearly four weeks before 9/11. His personal effects contained evidence linking him to eleven of the nineteen alleged hijackers and the local FBI suspected that he was part of a wider plot. It correctly assumed a search of the effects would uncover his links to the other conspirators. However, due to obstruction by FBI headquarters, no warrant was ever granted to search Moussaoui’s belongings. Middle managers at headquarters also failed to properly inform their superiors of the case.
Here are Hamilton’s comments on the Moussaoui case: