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Kevin Fenton's blog
Several of the new entries added to the 9/11 Timeline over the last couple of weeks focus on the issue of Londonistan--co-operation between radicals and British authorities. Shortly after 9/11, a Spanish judge named radical cleric Abu Qatada as al-Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe, although Abu Qatada was also an informer for British intelligence who had been convicted in the Millennium bomb plot trial in Jordan. In the early 1990s, imam Bakri Mohammed called for the assassination of British Prime Minister John Major and Bakri also worked for the British at some point, as did Abu Hamza, who linked up with an al-Qaeda recruiting sergeant in 1999. Meanwhile, the British had failed to act on intelligence that could have prevented a wave of attacks in France.
A couple of weeks ago I submitted several questions to James Bamford, who was doing a public Q and A to mark the showing of a PBS Nova documentary he had helped make about an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, the hiding of two of the 9/11 hijackers from the FBI by the CIA and the warrantless wiretapping controversy.
Bamford answered one of my questions (as well as lots put by other people). It was:
"Did the NSA’s inspector general write reports covering the NSA’s failures before (a) the 1998 embassy bombings, (b) the 2000 USS Cole bombing, (3) 9/11? In each case the NSA had intercepted calls to/from al-Hada that could have been exploited to prevent the attacks, but did nothing with them. If the inspector general did draft such reports, what do they say?"
"I know of no IG reports written on those incidents. In the past, most of the IG reports have dealt with employee complaints and not about failed policies."
Not a definitive answer, but helpful nonetheless.
I just watched PBS Nova’s Spy Factory with James Bamford and I have a number of comments about it, both good and bad.
Starting off with the good, having been writing about al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Yemen for the last two years, I was thrilled to actually see it on the screen. Bamford actually went to Yemen and filmed it from the outside, shame he didn’t go in.
The first and most glaring omission is Alec Station deputy chief Tom Wilshire, who was not mentioned at all in the programme. It went into some detail about the blocking of the cable written by Doug Miller, an FBI detailee to Alec Station, to FBI headquarters about Almihdhar’s US visa, but this was attributed merely to the CIA officer we refer to as “Michelle.” Wilshire was her boss, she blocked the cable on his orders, and Bamford knows this well—he wrote it in the book this programme was based on.
Alec Station Blocked Cable to FBI about Almihdhar – Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of January 25, 2009
Most of this week's new entries in the 9/11 Timeline are about one of the best-known pre-9/11 failures. After tracking alleged Pentagon hijacker Khalid Almihdhar from Yemen to Dubai in January 2000, the CIA learned he had a US visa. An FBI agent named Doug Miller on loan to Alec Station, the CIA's bin Laden unit, drafted a cable to the bureau warning them of the visa, and that Almihdhar would soon probably arrive in the US. However, another Alec Station officer, known only as "Michelle," said their boss, Deputy Station Chief Tom Wilshire, did not want the cable to be sent. Michelle then sent out a cable falsely stating that the information about Almihdhar's visa had been passed to the FBI. Miller complained to Mark Rossini, a fellow FBI agent on loan to Alec Station, and Rossini went to see Michelle, who told him the FBI would not be told of Almihdhar's visa because she knew the next al-Qaeda attack was going to be in Southeast Asia.
I made YouTube videos of three calls on the NEADS tapes (channel 7). They are calls by Boston Center military liaison Colin Scoggins to NEADS about "Phantom Flight 11." The first two are mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report, but the third one isn't, so I guess that's the one that's really interesting. ;)
(audio links below the fold)
I've been listening to the NEADS tapes again and I came across this:
At about 9:16 one of the operators says, "Be careful what we say on the loop, because these are being recorded and these tapes will be handed over."
This is from tape 15, about 38:00.
I finally found something interesting on the NEADS tapes and made it into a YouTube clip. It is when they learn of the second hijack. They think it's funny and make jokes.
I don't know what this means, but it just stood out for me, so I put it up.
The National Archives today released a set of records the 9/11 Commission gave it. It did so today because the commission told it it had to wait until 2009 to do so, presumably on the off chance that people would have forgotten about it all by then. The records are in two groups, Memorandums for the Record (MFR), which are available online, and other records, which are not available online.
I have been trawling through the ones that are available online and I have learned a few things of interest.
(1) Stacks of the MFR are not actually available. Either they have not been reviewed yet, or have been withdrawn because they are very classified, or they have been made available, but have had the bejesus redacted out of them.
(2) Two of the two key MFR, ...
9/11 Commission, ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US’ PDB – Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of January 11, 2009
Most of this week's additions to the 9/11 Timeline focus on the 9/11 Commission, in particular its treatment of the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) item entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Philip Zelikow, the commission's executive director, allegedly pressured one of the CIA analysts who wrote the PDB to accept the White House's interpretation of what it said, but this conversation was overheard by a staffer, who reported it through a back-channel network used to monitor Zelikow's behaviour. Zelikow tried to prevent a formal interview of the CIA analysts who wrote the PDB item, but was unsuccessful and they told the commission the PDB was neither "historical" nor ordered by Bush.
Most of this week’s new entries in the 9/11 Timeline again deal with the day of 9/11, shortly before which NORAD was preparing a major war game. On the day itself, the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) called an air defence unit in Atlantic City, just before the first plane hit the World Trade Center, but the phone was not answered. FAA manager Ben Sliney began responding to the crisis around the same time and the air space over New York was closed after the second plane hit.
Many of this week's new entries in the 9/11 Timeline again cover the day of 9/11. The control tower at Otis Air Force Base, from which fighters were launched to intercept the hijacked airliners, called Otis operations center shortly after 8:34 a.m. and the military liaison at Boston Center, Colin Scoggins, updated NEADS around the same time. After the first crash, FAA manager Ben Sliney failed to realize it was Flight 11 that had hit the WTC, but Scoggins wondered if it was.
The main area for new entries in the 9/11 Timeline this week is the day of 9/11. A sergeant at NEADS passed on news of Flight 11's hijacking to colleagues at 8:38 a.m., after which NEADS technicians attempted to locate the flight. Flight 175 entered New York Center's airspace, making radio contact, at 8:40 a.m., shortly after which the military liaison at Boston Center called New York Center about Flight 11's hijacking. The order to launch fighters from Otis air force base was given at 8:45 a.m., although New Jersey Air National Guard fighters on a training mission at the same time were unaware of the attacks.
Several of the new additions to the 9/11 Timeline this week concern the 9/11 Commission, in particular its executive director Philip Zelikow, who played a significant role in shaping the commission's take on assistance allegedly provided to the 9/11 hijackers by elements linked to the Saudi government. First, he blocked requests for interviews by commission investigators researching the allegations, then he denied them access to a key document, the 28 redacted pages from the Congressional Inquiry, and finally he fired one of the investigators.
All the new entries this week are about tracking of terrorists, in particular the 9/11 hijackers, as they moved between countries. Until the early 1990s, the CIA produced a Redbook that instructed immigration inspectors on how to spot terrorists by examining their passports. However, publication ceased just before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which was unfortunate because some of the 9/11 hijackers had the same indicators of terrorist affiliation in their passports as three of the WTC bombers. When a top al-Qaeda support site in Europe was raided in Italy in 1995, two copies of the Redbook were found there.
Over the last few months, former diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott has published a series of articles about one of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, and the parallels between his handling by Alec Station, the CIA's bin Laden unit, and events in the 1960s, such as an apparent CIA operation involving Lee Oswald, John Kennedy’s alleged assassin. They are Deep Events and the CIA's Global Drug Connection, The JFK Assassination and 9/11: the Designated Suspects in Both Cases and The Assassinations of the 1960s as “Deep Events”.