NSA Drafted 'Retrospective' on 9/11 Failings after Attacks

The National Security Agency drafted a "9/11 Retrospective" following the 2001 attacks, according to a document recently released by the National Archives.

Although an unclassified version of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the FBI’s performance before 9/11 was published in full in 2006 and the executive summary of a parallel report by the CIA inspector general was released in 2007, this is the first known mention of any NSA review about its failings before the attacks.

The document released by the National Archives is an undated memo of an interview conducted by the 9/11 Commission of an unnamed NSA manager. The manager served as a congressional liaison in the late 1990s and then as a counterintelligence chief from 2000 to 2003. The memo was released last week and was also uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd by History Commons contributor Erik Larson.

According to the memo, the retrospective was drafted because, "They thought they may have been guilty of missing 'warning' information," and the agency wanted "to insure they knew everything they had."

The NSA intercepted several calls between the hijackers and their associates before 9/11. Some of these calls were between the hijackers in the US and al-Qaeda’s global operations centre in Sana’a, Yemen. However, the agency failed to prevent the plot or alert the FBI that US-based persons were communicating with al-Qaeda.

After the memo was published and the HC Groups blog summarised the contents of some 9/11 Commission documents concerning the NSA, a former government official with knowledge of the retrospective contacted the blog.

The official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said that the retrospective was about 50 pages long and that the reports it contained included NSA intercepts of communications involving the hijackers. Some of the reports--apparently around 33--had been published at the time, some of them had not. Some of the unpublished reports were contained in the retrospective itself, some in an addendum. In addition, some of the reports were from the NSA’s foreign partners.

According to the former official, the retrospective was drafted in the "immediate aftermath" of 9/11 and then formalised and submitted by NSA Director Michael Hayden to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. The official did not know whether the 9/11 Commission received the retrospective, but said it would have had access to it. The commission also had access to the Congressional Inquiry’s classified and unclassified reports, which incorporated information from the retrospective. However, although the commission knew the NSA intercepted the US-Yemen calls and mentioned the communications in its report, it did not remind readers the NSA intercepted them.

The official added that when drafting the retrospective he thought the NSA had gone back and listened to the recordings of the calls, although he was not certain.

Media reports have given the number of calls the NSA intercepted between the hijackers in the US and the Yemen centre as half a dozen between the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 and 9/11 (Josh Meyer/Los Angeles Times), a dozen (Lisa Myers/MSNBC), and eight during the time Khalid Almihdhar was in San Diego, which was January/February-June 2000 (Lawrence Wright/New Yorker). However, the official said he thought there were less, possibly only two or three.

The official did not know whether the NSA’s inspector general had also drafted a report into the agency’s performance before the attacks. In a question and answer session in February, author and NSA expert James Bamford said he had never heard of such a report by the NSA’s inspector general.

A Freedom of Information Act request that should have covered the retrospective was filed with the NSA in 2006 (see item 3). However, the NSA declined to provide any information.

Re-posted from here.

Good work...

Kevin and Erik. Do you know if this took place prior to 9/11?

2001-2002: Vice President’s Staff Read Unedited Transcripts of NSA Intercepts
According to one National Security Counsel staffer, I. Lewis Libby’s staff regularly reads unvetted transcripts of National Security Agency intercepts. Libby is the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 5] Policy makers are not supposed to have direct access to raw intelligence. The information is supposed to first be scrutinized and vetted by professional analysts in the intelligence community to ensure that the information is sound. This filtering process, which has been in place for some 50 years, is also intended to prevent intelligence from being used to service a particular political agenda. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003]


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? The facts speak for themselves.


Don't know, Jon. I guess I'll order the Isikoff and Corn book soon, though.

I own the book

The book deals with Iraq and pretty much starts off just after 9/11. However it's not really clear.....here's what it says...page 5....

"Libby may have been harder to please than Cheney. He was one of the most powerful officials in the Bush White House. As Cheney's top national security advisor, he oversaw a "shadow" National Security Council, with tentacles reaching deep into the foreign policy and defense bureaucracy. One NSC staffer recalled being stunned to discover, years after he began working at the White House, that his internal memos to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice had routinely been routed to Libby without his knowledge. A CIA official was surprised to discover that Libby's staff was reading unedited transcripts of National Security Agency intercepts." Page 5

Libby was also trying very very hard to link Al Qaeda and Iraq...."He wouldn't let go of the Al Qaeda-Saddam connection"-CIA veteran Page 6

Good Question since we know the NSA had tapped 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar's house way before 9/11 and is how they knew of the "malaysia summit".


The context doesn't seem to help, however, it reads as though that's what he did as soon as he got into office. Like he always did it. It doesn't say anything caused him to start doing it.

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? The facts speak for themselves.

Not clear-but what we do know...

It isn't clear....but I would imagine a Bush/Libby supporter would say it was after the attacks and was done to try and see a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, while we could say he was doing it before, but neither side would have proof. We just have proof he's a convicted liar and was reading raw NSA intercepts, and the NSA had Al Qaeda's communications hub under surveilance and is where future 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar came from.
This line...."A CIA official was surprised to discover that Libby's staff was reading unedited transcripts of National Security Agency intercepts." Page 5
So....who is this CIA official? Frankly he probably wouldn't know for sure either. But the NSA would know wouldn't they? He must have been getting this data from them.

I think the NSA knew allot....
"At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states, “The match is about to begin” and the other states, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Later reports translate the first message as, “The match begins tomorrow.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] The messages were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA will claim that they are not translated until September 12, and that even if they had been translated in time, “they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on.”

So who in Saudi Arabia knew the attacks were about to happen? Don't they need to face justice? I guess not. Seems like a reasonable question though.


"Apparently, the NSA listens in on a phone call between al-Qaeda figure Khallad bin Attash and hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, who is staying at the hub. Attash mentions Almihdhar’s full name, as well as the first names of hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi. He says he wants the three of them to come to an important al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia in January 2000"

Who is New NSA Mystery Woman???

Another good dig by Kevin and Eric and another excessively redacted document from our government.

I like the part where the memo states, “they (NSA) thought they may have been guilty of missing warning information.” Gee, they think! Given the NSA intercepted calls “from the US” to an infamous and well NSA wired al-Qaeda hub in Yemen, and the NSA does not investigate further or inform the FBI about these calls, I would say they are probably guilty of at least gross negligence if not criminal negligence. The NSA’s negligence in not following up on these calls cannot be overstated and is one critical reason why several known al-Qaeda operatives and 9/11 hijackers found a safe and comfortable home in the US more than a year before the 9/11 attacks.

Does anyone have any idea who this woman is who ran the NSA’s Counterintelligence and SIGINT Support to (Terrorism?) Operations group from 2000 to 2003 (maybe Bamford, Madsen, or the anonymous government official from the HC blog might know)? She is definitely one of a handful of key intelligence officials who failed America miserably on 9/11. Her name needs to be added to the Wall of Shame along with Tom Wilshire, Dina Corsi, David Frasca, Marion Bowman, Richard Blee, and other key intelligence officials, who through their critical and often multiple failures, contributed to the successful 9/11 attacks. This woman is definitely well connected within the military heavy NSA and worked as a DIRNSA Fellow under ex-NSA Director General William Odom in the 90’s, with then NSA Director Admiral William Studeman in 1992/93, and wrote a strategic study for NSA Director General Michael Hayden in 1999. Like we have seen with the other CIA & FBI intelligence officials who failed America on 9/11, I would not be surprised to also find a pattern of failures with this NSA mystery woman who was conveniently put into her critical position about a year before 9/11 attacks (i.e., coincidently, right around the same time several al-Qaeda operatives found their safe haven in the US).

Although it would be nice to get a copy of the NSA Retrospective, and Americans are definitely entitled to see it, it would probably be so ridiculously redacted that it would not be worth the paper it is written on (can it at least be determined if the 9/11 Commission saw it?). It is because of this terrible transparency on the part of our government, and the lack of accountability relating to the above NSA mystery woman’s failures, that over a third of this country believes our government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Hopefully this percentage will keep on growing as people like Kevin and Eric keep uncovering the many unanswered failures of our government around the 9/11 attacks.

Kevin, I hope you are writing a book with all this great information that you are uncovering, I’ll be the first to buy one.

The Biggest Job Promotion for 9/11 Failures

I have done a little research on the NSA official who may have been the individual interviewed in the above 9/11 Commission memo and the person responsible for the failures relating to the al-Mihdhar phone calls from the US to the al-Qaeda Yemen hub. It looks to me that this individual is probably Maureen “Mo” Baginski, who is noted as the Director (Chief) of NSA’s SIGINT on 9/11 in the following article from the Wayne Madsen Report (note: the 9/11 memo refers to the interviewee as Cheif of Counterintelligence and SIGINT Support and other historical job descriptions for Baginski in the below US News article also appear to track her resume from the memo):


As suspected, she was also involved in other failures relating to the two Arabic language phone calls on September 10, 2001 which were not translated in a timely manner (“tomorrow is zero hour” and “the match is about to begin”), and which indicated a potential al-Qaeda attack (out of curiosity, has anyone ever found any additional info on these two calls, did they possibly come from the US to known AQ operatives?).

However, Mo’s biggest claim to 9/11 fame may be that she received the biggest and best job promotion for her 9/11 failures. In May 2003, Robert Mueller named Mo the head of a new FBI office of intelligence unit, which has been regarded as the FBI’s third most powerful position behind only Mueller and his deputy. Following US News & World Report article describing Mo’s successes after her miserable 9/11 failures:


I love the part of the article that states, "That Baginski has become so crucial to the bureau's survival is a classic inside-the-beltway tale of talent, luck, and sheer chutzpah." Maybe the tale has more to do with helping friends in high places pull off the biggest false flag attack in the history of this nation.

What is USG Hiding on Mo Baginski and Kuala Lumpur?

A little further research on Maureen Baginski shows that she gave a 9/11 Commission Interview on 11/13/03. Although it appears that the interview was posted at the National Archive's 9/11 Commission website, it has since been withdrawn in its entirety. Her interview remains closed under provisions of a letter dated 8/20/04 from Commission Chair, Thomas Kean, and Vice Chair, Lee Hamilton.


Baginski’s interview transcripts were approximately 8 pages in length, and the above 2 ½ page 9/11 Commission memo link appears to include only the “Background” section of her interview. Thus, a large portion of her interview is missing and the other topics discussed are unknown.

Fortunately, I was able to track down a 9/11 Commission interview with Rich Taylor, the NSA Deputy Director of Operations from 1997 to February 2001 (note: appears that Taylor was Baginski’s direct superior). Taylor’s interview transcripts contain approximately 3 pages about Kuala Lumpur, of which approximately 90% has been redacted. However the following two sentences references Baginski’s involvement and knowledge of the KL meeting and intercepts:

“He (Taylor) does not recall whether [redacted] or [redacted] was head of Counterterrorism at the time of the (KL) meeting. His (Taylor’s) enforcer as Deputy Director of Operations (DDO) was Baginski, so she might know about reporting on KL but she was of course not familiar with every report produced by the DDO at the time – Baginski generally cleaned up messes and enforced standards for reporting (and was the legal compliance authority).”

A logical presumption would assume that other sections of Baginski’s 8 page withdrawn interview consists of her (NSA’s) involvement in the KL meeting / wire intercepts as well as to the failures relating to the NSA’s 9/10/01 intercepted phone calls indicating a potential AQ attack. Once again, atrociously poor transparency by our government is continuing to aid and abet the 9/11 cover-up.

The secrecy paved the way

The secrecy paved the way for torture and warrantless surveillance. A key advocate of both criminal policies was Michael Hayden. The secrecy enabled officials like Hayden to claim that police state policies were required to prevent terrorist attacks.

I read Bamford's interviews during his Shadow Factory book tour. He made it clear that Hayden's excuse for failing to track the hijackers made no sense. It would have been easy for the NSA to get FISA warrants or alert the FBI so they could get the warrants. This is what a government official acting in good faith would have done. This would have been consistent with the notion that government officials were truly worried about al Qaeda. Instead Hayden claimed that the NSA didn't track the al Qaeda operatives because he was concerned about civil liberty violations. And Congress promoted this guy to DDNI and later CIA Director. That is outrageous!

1) FISA was designed to protect civil liberties. That was the whole point of the legislation. Hayden's excuse is nonsense.

2) There are credible allegations that the NSA was using warrantless surveillance before 9/11. Wired magazine wrote about these allegations and they asked Bamford about them in an interview. Bamford said it didn't sound right but if true would have been inconsistent with Hayden's civil liberties risk averse excuse. Again we have the issue of secrecy. Agencies like the NSA are able to abuse national security classification procedures to conceal grotesque conduct. And then pathetic media cheerleaders will accuse whistleblowers (i.e. Thomas Tamm) of harming national security by leaking classified information. Are you kidding? The harm to national security occurred on 9/11/01. The officials who acted bizarrely in the lead up to that day have exploited secrecy laws to hide their conduct from the public.

the meaning of 'published'

Kevin's reply to my query at hcgroups:

"Published means disseminated to the intelligence community, unpublished means they wrote a report and sat on it. I guess the 33 published reports in the retrospective are the 33 warnings that have been mentioned. The way I’m looking at it now, the retrospective can’t have included everything. I wonder what they left out."

During the Joint Inquiry it was leaked to the press that the NSA had intercepted 30+ Al Qaeda messages in the months prior to 9/11 about an upcoming event:
September 10, 2001: NSA Intercepts: ‘The Match Begins Tomorrow’ and ‘Tomorrow Is Zero Hour’

"According to the memo, the retrospective was drafted because, "They thought they may have been guilty of missing 'warning' information," and the agency wanted "to insure they knew everything they had.""

Reasons for doing a retrospective might include reviewing what others knew they knew, to prepare themselves for possible inquiries by Congress, as well as questions other agencies might have about their performance.