Secrecy News: 9/11, Info Sharing, and "The Wall"

911, Info Sharing, and The Wall

See the original post for links.

The rise of “the wall” between intelligence and law enforcement personnel that impeded the sharing of information within the U.S. government prior to September 11, 2001 was critically examined in a detailed monograph (pdf) that was prepared in 2004 for the 9/11 Commission. It is the only one of four staff monographs that had not previously been released. It was finally declassified and disclosed earlier this month.

In April 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft testified (pdf) that the failure to properly share threat information in the summer of 2001 could be attributed to Justice Department policy memoranda that were issued in 1995 by the Clinton Administration. That is an erroneous oversimplification, the staff monograph contends: “A review of the facts… demonstrates that the Attorney General’s testimony did not fairly and accurately reflect” the meaning or relevance of those 1995 policy documents. For one thing, those policies did not even apply to CIA and NSA information, which could have been shared with law enforcement without any procedural obstacles.

But if Attorney General Ashcroft was misinformed, he was not alone. The 1995 procedures governing information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence “were widely misunderstood and misapplied” resulting in “far less information sharing and coordination… than was allowed.” In fact, “everyone was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gather in intelligence channels.”

“The information sharing failures in the summer of 2001 were not the result of legal barriers but of the failure of individuals to understand that the barriers did not apply to the facts at hand,” the 35-page monograph concludes. “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information could not have been shared.”

The prevailing confusion was exacerbated by numerous complicating circumstances, the monograph explains. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was growing impatient with the FBI because of repeated errors in applications for surveillance. Justice Department officials were uncomfortable requesting intelligence surveillance of persons and facilities related to Osama bin Laden since there was already a criminal investigation against bin Laden underway, which normally would have preempted FISA surveillance. Officials were reluctant to turn to the FISA Court of Review for clarification of their concerns since one of the judges on the court had expressed doubts about the constitutionality of FISA in the first place. And so on. Although not mentioned in the monograph, it probably didn’t help that public interest critics in the 1990s (myself included) were accusing the FISA Court of serving as a “rubber stamp” and indiscriminately approving requests for intelligence surveillance.

In the end, the monograph implicitly suggests that if the law was not the problem, then changing the law may not be the solution. The document, which had been classified Secret, was released with some small though questionable redactions. See “Legal Barriers to Information Sharing: The Erection of a Wall Between Intelligence and Law Enforcement Investigations,” 9/11 Commission Staff Monograph by Barbara A. Grewe, Senior Counsel for Special Projects, August 20, 2004.

Active obstruction

Besides the false notion that legally mandated 'walls' between different federal agencies prevented detection of the 9/11 plot, there's also the matter of 'walls' within those agencies. Like the FBI's David Frasca's active obstruction of the investigative efforts of the bureau's own agents in Minnesota. Now there was a 'wall'! Any mention of that in the monograph cited above?

I probably should have highlighted this part

“The information sharing failures in the summer of 2001 were not the result of legal barriers but of the failure of individuals to understand that the barriers did not apply to the facts at hand,” the 35-page monograph concludes. “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information could not have been shared.”

At the very least, this contradicts Ashcroft's testimony. Add this to the lengthy list of reasons another investigation is necessary.


The implication is that SOMEONE should have been held responsible. SOMEONE did not "understand that the barriers did not apply to the facts at hand." Surely that SOMEONE is easy to identify based on the documentary trail.

A minor issue, perhaps; but every detail that contradicts the official 9/11 narrative counts.

Her name is Dina Corsi

There is no way she could have honestly misunderstood the rules. For example, she was asked for information about Alhazmi and Almihdhar in June 2001 by FBI agents Steven Bongardt and Russell Fincher (at the shouting match meeting). Some of the information was from the NSA and could be passed immediately to Fincher (an intelligence agent), but not to Bongardt (a criminal agent), but she failed to tell Fincher, claiming the wall prevented it, which was ridiculous. She was an FBI headquarters agent working on the Cole investigation and must have known Fincher was intel and could have the info. Then she did nothing for weeks. On 27 August she asked the NSA's permission to pass the info to criminal agents (incidentally, the info linked Alhazmi and Almihdhar to a senior al-Qaeda leader). The NSA wrote back the next day, saying she could give it to criminal investigators. On 28-29 August she had a major row with Bongardt because he had found out Almihdhar was in the US and wanted to help with the search. Corsi argued criminal investigators could not help with the search because it was based on intelligence information that he couldn't have, so must be handled by intel agents. However, she must have known that he could have the NSA information because the NSA had just approved, at her request, its passage to criminal agents like Bongardt. There's no way that was an honest mistake. Naturally, the whole time she was working with Tom Wilshire, the CIA officer who originally blocked notification to the FBI of Almihdhar's US visa in January 2000. The commission staffer, Barbara Grewe, who wrote the monograph knew all this, and gave her ability to disconnect the dots a good workout. For her pains, she was later hired by a CIA contractor.

Contradictions every step of the way

If any agent was truly concerned about red tape then they could have gotten clarification the same day. Yet we are to believe al Qaeda operatives roamed around the US planning a major terrorist attack while intel agents were too stupid to get clarification. What sort of counterterrorism agents are so worried about red tape that they would leave the country vulnerable to attack? That doesn't make any sense at all. For example, FBI agent Harry Samit warned headquarters something like 50 times about Moussaoui. That is what one would expect from a CT agent. Too bad headquarters hid their disgraceful conduct behind national security classification.

The Patriot Act. Increased CT funding. Torture. Domestic spying. Is the intel community proud of this police state garbage? Note that NARA is still sitting on the MFR's involving Alec Station and FBI RFU/UBLU agents. Where is transparency? Seven years later and it's still too secret to release?