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Barbara Grewe

Deconstructing the 9/11 Dot Disconnection: a book review by Erik Larson

Disconnecting the Dots: How CIA and FBI officials enabled 9/11 and evaded government investigations, by Kevin Fenton. Waltersville, OR: Trine Day, 2011. 416 pages.

“Enabling 9/11 was a job done at the office, with memos” (15).

It is a non-controversial fact that the NSA, CIA and FBI missed a number of opportunities to disrupt the 9/11 plot. Many, but not all, of these failures were documented by the four main investigations that dealt with pre-9/11 intelligence failures: those by the Congressional Joint Inquiry, the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Justice Inspector General and the CIA Inspector General. The best-known investigation, the 9/11 Commission, ultimately concluded that 9/11 was preceded by “four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management” (339). This is the narrative largely held to by mainstream politicians and media, but these explanations do not credibly account for what happened at the NSA, CIA and FBI in the years, months and weeks leading up to 9/11. This has been demonstrated by a number of researchers, but Kevin Fenton’s* book, Disconnecting the Dots, has the most comprehensive documentation and in-depth analysis to date. Primarily using the official reports, the available source records and some reporting by mainstream media and journalists, Fenton documents how specific CIA and FBI officials engaged in deliberate efforts to protect the 9/11 plot from discovery and disruption by FBI investigators, and that the most probable explanation is that this was done in order to enable the 9/11 attacks.

One of Fenton’s major strengths is that he limits himself to his area of expertise; Disconnecting the Dots is narrowly focused on the pre-9/11 intelligence failures and the official investigations of these failures. The book is a complex and dense compilation of interrelated names, dates, bits of information and sequences of events, a situation that is unavoidable due to the complex nature of the subject. Fortunately for the reader, Fenton’s style and presentation are simple and lucid, which helps make the complicated and often unclear nature of the subject more easily understood. Whenever possible, he names those responsible for the decisions and actions being examined, though this is sometimes impossible due to the limited amount of information that has been made public. Whenever a particularly complex set of issues or series of events have been examined in a chapter, Fenton provides a summary at the end of that chapter, and at a number of points in the book he summarizes what can be understood from the pattern of facts presented up to that point. His analysis considers the full range of available evidence, assesses the quality of individual pieces and does not go beyond the evidence. When he does draw conclusions they are generally conservative and understated, and he is careful to address other possible explanations for the evidence.

The Sabol-Corsi Consultation: FBI General Counsel’s Take

One of the documents Erik found at the National Archives and posted to the 9/11 Document Archive contains additional information about the failure to find alleged Pentagon hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The document, a memo of a 9/11 Commission interview of former FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson drafted by commission staffer Barbara+Grewe, concerns a consultation+on+August+28,+2001 between Dina+Corsi, an FBI headquarters agent, and Sherry+Sabol, an attorney at the FBI’s National Security Law Unit.