James Bamford On DemocracyNOW

James Bamford: “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America”


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AMY GOODMAN: Jim Bamford, can you talk about how the NSA picked up the very first clues about the 9/11 attacks well before the 9/11 attacks?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the very first clue to the 9/11 attack occurred in late December 1999, when the NSA picked up a message from a house in Yemen. The house was being used by bin Laden as his operations center. He didn’t have much capability to operate out of Afghanistan, so all the phone calls, all the messages, email and all that would go to this house in the city of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. NSA had been eavesdropping on that house for a number of years, and in late December 1999, it picked up a particular intercept, picked up a particular phone conversation.

And the phone conversation said that—send Khalid and Nawaf to Kuala Lumpur for a meeting. So, NSA picked that up, and they—first of all, they figured that Nawaf and Khalid had to be very important potential terrorists, because they were being assigned by bin Laden out in Afghanistan to go to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. That seemed like a terrorist summit meeting. NSA gave that information to the other intelligence agencies, and the CIA set up a surveillance in Kuala Lumpur, and then they lost them in Kuala Lumpur.

After they lost them, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi went to California. They got in without any problem. NSA, even though they had the last name of Nawaf al-Hazmi in their computers, they never bothered to check, so they both got in without any problem into the United States. They went down, and they lived in San Diego. And they began calling back and forth to that house in Yemen, the house that NSA was eavesdropping on. So NSA is picking up their conversations to the house in Yemen, translating them and then sending out the conversations to—or summaries of the conversations to the CIA without ever telling anybody that they were in the United States. And they were in the United States for almost two years. Al-Hazmi was there from January 2000 to September 2001. And again, they’re communicating back and forth; NSA is picking up but not telling anybody that they’re in the US.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain, Jim Bamford—

JAMES BAMFORD: And it got so bad—

AMY GOODMAN: You say that they set up their final base of operations almost next door to the NSA headquarters in Laurel, Maryland?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, that’s the ultimate irony, was they eventually travel across country from San Diego, and they set up their final base of operations—these are the—this is the crew that was about to attack the Pentagon—about a month before, they set up their base of operations in Laurel, Maryland, of all places, that happens to be the same city that NSA is headquartered. So they set up their base of operations in this Valencia Motel, and almost across the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is NSA headquarters. The director’s office is on the eighth floor, and, except for some trees, he could almost see the motel where they’re staying. So, NSA is over there trying to find terrorists, and here is the 9/11 terrorists sitting right opposite the NSA on the other side of the parkway making their final plans.

Mohamed Atta flew there for summit meetings. And they had to take three hotels at one point to put all the people there. So, as NSA is looking for them, they’re having their final summit meetings there, and they’re walking around the Safeway, they’re exercising in Gold’s Gym, they’re eating in the restaurants there, they’re mingling with NSA employees. That’s NSA’s company town. It’s just the ultimate irony that here you have the terrorists and the eavesdroppers living side by side in the month before the final attack.

AMY GOODMAN: You then say, after the attacks, the White House expanded massively surveillance, turning it inward on Americans right here. Can you talk about how they did it?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, first of all, looking back on the pre-attack, it was clear right after the attack that General Hayden, the Director of NSA, realized the big mistake he had made, that these guys not only were in the US, and he never told anybody they were communicating from the other side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and he never let anybody know. So, obviously, he was very chagrined at the fact that, you know, his actions were contributing factors to the whole 9/11 attack by not being more aggressive in going after their communications and telling people where they were.

So, after 9/11, to some degree to make up for it, he decided to not protest when the Bush administration, particularly Dick Cheney, began putting pressure on him to begin doing warrantless domestic eavesdropping or warrantless eavesdropping of Americans. And that was a big mistake. It would have been much better if he stood up like Jim Comey at the Justice Department did. He stood up, as well as the director of the FBI. And even Attorney General John Ashcroft stood up and threatened to resign over parts of this warrantless eavesdropping. But General Hayden decided to go along with it, and as a result, the NSA began this very intrusive program of warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens, both intrusive and largely useless.

There's more

This bit is relevant to 9/11:

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about this documentary that you’re making for PBS on NOVA and the news that was reported in the Washington Post a few days ago. FBI special agents Mark Rossini and Douglas Miller have asked for permission to appear in an upcoming public television documentary on pre-9/11 rivalries between the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency. It’s your documentary. The FBI has denied them permission, on grounds the FBI doesn’t want to stir up old conflicts. Talk about what they have to say.

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the documentary I’m doing is—it’s going to be very interesting. It’s going to air January 13th. And what it does is it sort of takes a large part of the book and translates it into imagery, into video. So we actually go to that house in Yemen. We actually located that house in Yemen and did video there. It was fairly hazardous, but we got video of the house. And we traced the path of these 9/11 hijackers from basically the moment the message came in to the time when they were living opposite NSA in Laurel, Maryland.

As part of this program, we’re looking at what happened when they were in Kuala Lumpur. And what happened was, in their flight from Yemen to Kuala Lumpur, the CIA was able to get a copy of the passport, of Khalid al-Mihdhar’s passport, and the passport had a visa in there for the United States. It showed that they weren’t just going to Kuala Lumpur; they were going to Kuala Lumpur and then to the United States. Well, that was very important information for the FBI.

And at the time, the CIA had this very small unit within its Counterterrorism Center; it was called Alex Station. And that was the bin Laden unit. Those were the people whose sole responsibility was trying to find Osama bin Laden. And the center was made up mostly of CIA officials, but there were also two FBI agents there that were assigned to that unit. When that message came in indicating that Mihdhar had a visa to the United States, the two FBI agents protested that they should send a message to the FBI headquarters and notify them. Mark Rossini was one of the FBI agents, and Doug Miller was the other.

Doug Miller actually wrote up a memo to FBI headquarters saying, we’ve got to notify FBI that these guys are probably headed towards the United States; they’ve got a US visa. And Mark Rossini also said, we should send this message to the FBI headquarters. And I interviewed Rossini, Mark Rossini, on—for my book, and I quote him in the book as saying that he was told by the two people in charge of Alex Station at the CIA that he couldn’t send the message to FBI headquarters. He was forbidden to send it to them. And at one time, when he protested, the deputy—I think it was the deputy head of that station—I couldn’t reveal her name in the book, because she’s still at the CIA, but she put her hands on her hips and said, “Look, the next attack is going to take place in Southeast Asia, not the United States. So when we want the FBI to know about it, we’ll tell the FBI about it.” And under the rules that existed, they weren’t allowed to notify the FBI headquarters without CIA permission, since that was a CIA document that contained the information on the visa, on Mihdhar’s visa. So, I interviewed Mark Rossini, and he was very angry that he was never allowed to send that message. Had that message been sent to FBI headquarters—

AMY GOODMAN: And the story goes beyond that.

JAMES BAMFORD: —the FBI would have put a—I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to say, the story goes beyond that. I was saying this was in the Washington Post; it was actually in the Congressional Quarterly, that they were prepared to say publicly that under pressure from the CIA, they kept the full truth from the Justice Department’s inspector general, which looked into the FBI’s handling of the pre-9/11 intelligence in 2004.

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, not only that, the 9/11 Commission, which did a pretty poor job on a lot of this, they never looked at any of the information that I’m reporting on the National Security Agency, and they also never interviewed either Rossini or Doug Miller, the two FBI agents in there. I mean, it seems incredible to me that the 9/11 Commission never interviewed the two FBI agents who were assigned to the bin Laden unit. So that’s part of the story that’s never been told, that the American public just has no idea of some of these things that took place leading up to 9/11.


What else?

"So, NSA is over there trying to find terrorists, and here is the 9/11 terrorists sitting right opposite the NSA on the other side of the parkway making their final plans." -- Just goes to show ya the government can't get anything right. They're so incompetent!

To call this “IRONIC” is to be blind to the cynical pattern...

James Bamford: “It’s just the ultimate irony that here you have the terrorists and the eavesdroppers living side by side in the month before the final attack.”

“Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained At U.S. Bases”, Newsweek Sep 15, 2001, http://www.newsweek.com/id/75797

See also http://patriotsquestion911.com/#Butler These people within the pentagon and among the media were very quickly instructed to stay silent after they started speaking immediately after the attacks. (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/offi-j21.shtml )

A Tennessee driver’s license certifier, Katherine Smith, who apparently had given several of the highjackers a driver’s license, died in a mysterious car crash 1 day before she was to testify who had instructed her to do so: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/SakherHammad_WTC_9-11.html

To call this “IRONIC” is to be blind to the pattern of government/US criminal involvement.

"unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory. If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man." (Harold Pinter)

Who are we kidding?

We are not fools.

Inside Job pure and simple. Just say it.

NSA is as guilty as hell as is the White House, the Terror Masters in Tel-Aviv, Islamabad, Riyadh etc.

Business as Usual for the highly profitable (at least for now) Military Industrial Complex.

Miss Amy Goodman should start being more DIRECT AND FORTHRIGHT.

Let's stop beating around the bush.

We have enough of the Bush Lies to last over 3000 thousand lifetimes.

Even over those 50 Thousand Dying First Responders' Lifetimes.

"AMY GOODMAN: You say that they set up their final base of operations almost next door to the NSA headquarters in Laurel, Maryland?"

Gee what a Fairy Tale Bamford is spinning.

Who believes this? The NSA just like Bush was clueless?

Jet impact and Jet Fuel Kerosene Fires are Just Perfect for Pulverizing Concrete and Smashing Steel-ReInforced Buildings collapsing them into their own footprint. Right? Mr Bamford?

Yes, the story of those 19 Boxcutter Terrorists should make in the New York Times Best Seller List for FICTION.

I don't trust Bamford and am not going to FALL for that SPIN OF LIES no matter how he tries to buttress it with FAKE "intellectual" rhethoric.

Amy Goodman is coming over to our side but its time for her to me MORE DIRECT.

Its been seven years.

ENOUGH OF THIS SPIN. Inside Job. This yarn of those patsies is a sick joke making mockery of the dead.

The CONSTITUTION is NOT going to "collapse" into pulverized dust no matter how much thermate/explosives or planes they throw at it

Bamford and Goodman

While I feel your pain, I am glad this is getting out at all. Every time a story like this appears, it gets a few more people thinking.

Amy Goodman needs mail.

Amy Goodman obviously needs our help. I suggest we all send her the information she apparently lacks. I'm not sure about her really. Send her some mail and let her know what we already know.

Amy Goodman is a gatekeeper.

Amy Goodman is a gatekeeper. We are lucky any real info got out at all.

Thanks to Banford for laying out the nuts and bolts of what happened. He is not going the extra step of calling it TREASON.

If he would just consider the possibility of TREASON that would be a step forward.

He has this "good faith" assumption about US high officials that is unwarranted and at odds with a lot of history.

70 Disturbing Facts About 9/11

John Doraemi publishes Crimes of the State Blog

johndoraemi --at-- yahoo.com.

Paul Thompson...

Sent this and some other stuff out tonight...

Late August 1998: US Intelligence Community Begins Joint Surveillance of Al-Qaeda Communications Hub
The investigation of the East Africa embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) led to the discovery of the phone number of an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see August 4-25, 1998). The hub is run by an al-Qaeda veteran named Ahmed al-Hada, who is helped by his son Samir and is related to many other al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and elsewhere. He is also the father in law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, whose wife, Hoda al-Hada, lives at the hub with their children. [Newsweek, 6/2/2002; Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002; MSNBC, 7/21/2004; Suskind, 2006, pp. 94; Wright, 2006, pp. 277, 309, 343, 378] Several of Ahmed al-Hada’s relatives die fighting for al-Qaeda before 9/11, a fact known to US intelligence. [Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; Guardian, 2/15/2006] The NSA may already be aware of the phone number, as they have been intercepting bin Laden’s communications for some time (see November 1996-Late August 1998) and, according to Newsweek, “some” of bin Laden’s 221 calls to Yemen are to this phone number. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002; Media Channel, 9/5/2006] The US intelligence community now begins a joint effort to monitor the number. The NSA and CIA jointly plant bugs inside the house, tap the phones, and monitor visitors with spy satellites. [Mirror, 6/9/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 343; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file] US intelligence also learns that the communications hub is an al-Qaeda “logistics center,” used by agents around the world to communicate with each other and plan attacks. [Newsweek, 6/2/2002] The joint effort enables the FBI to map al-Qaeda’s global organization (see Late 1998-Early 2002) and at least three of the hijackers use the number, enabling the NSA to intercept their communications and find out about an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia (see December 29, 1999 and January 5-8, 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001). It appears al-Qaeda continues to use this phone line until Samir al-Hada dies resisting arrest in early 2002 (see February 13, 2002).

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?