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.
by Kevin Fenton, 911truth.org
Following the airing of allegations by former counterterrorism "tsar" Richard Clarke that the CIA deliberately withheld from him information about Pentagon hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, former CIA director George Tenet, former CIA Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black and Richard Blee, a mid-level agency official who occupied two key counterterrorist positions before 9/11, have responded with a joint statement.
Clarke said that information about the two men was deliberately withheld from him in January 2000, at the time of a key al-Qaeda meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which the CIA monitored. Clarke alleged that, based on his knowledge of how the CIA works, Tenet authorised the deliberate withholding. Clarke added that the information was clearly important in the summer of 2001, when the CIA knew that Almihdhar was in the country and, in the words of one of Blee's former deputies, was "very high interest" in connection with the next al-Qaeda attack. However, the CIA continued to withhold some information from both Clarke and the FBI.
Mark Rossini, one of Blee's former subordinates at Alec Station, the CIA's bin Laden unit, has previously admitted deliberately withholding the information from the FBI. According to Rossini, in early January 2000 he and a colleague, Doug Miller, knew they should notify the FBI that Almihdhar had a US visa and presumably intended to soon visit the US. Miller even drafted, but did not send, a cable informing the FBI of Almihdhar's visa. However, Rossini says he and Miller were instructed by a female CIA officer known as "Michael" and Blee's deputy, Tom Wilshire, to withhold the information.
Continue reading here
by Philip Shenon, the Daily Beast
In a new documentary, former national-security aide Richard Clarke suggests the CIA tried to recruit 9/11 hijackers—then covered it up. Philip Shenon on George Tenet’s denial.
With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks only a month away, former CIA Director George Tenet and two former top aides are fighting back hard against allegations that they engaged in a massive cover-up in 2000 and 2001 to hide intelligence from the White House and the FBI that might have prevented the attacks.
The source of the explosive, unproved allegations is a man who once considered Tenet a close friend: former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, who makes the charges against Tenet and the CIA in an interview for a radio documentary timed to the 10th anniversary next month. Portions of the Clarke interview were made available to The Daily Beast by the producers of the documentary.
In the interview for the documentary, Clarke offers an incendiary theory that, if true, would rewrite the history of the 9/11 attacks, suggesting that the CIA intentionally withheld information from the White House and FBI in 2000 and 2001 that two Saudi-born terrorists were on U.S. soil—terrorists who went on to become suicide hijackers on 9/11.
Continue reading here.
by: Jason Leopold, Truthout
With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 just a month away, the intelligence failures leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have started to attract fresh scrutiny from former counterterrorism officials, who have called into question the veracity of the official government narrative that concluded who knew what and when.
Indeed, recently Truthout published an exclusive report based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and an interview with a former high-ranking counterterrorism official that showed how a little-known military intelligence unit, unbeknownst to the various investigative bodies probing the terrorist attacks, was ordered by senior government officials to stop tracking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's movements prior to 9/11.
And now, in a stunning new interview made available to Truthout that is scheduled to air on a local PBS affiliate in Colorado tonight, former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, for the first time, levels explosive allegations against three former top CIA officials - George Tenet, Cofer Black and Richard Blee - accusing them of knowingly withholding intelligence from the Bush and Clinton White House, the FBI, Immigration and the State and Defense Departments about two of the 9/11 hijackers who had entered the United States more than a year before the attacks. Moreover, Clarke says the former CIA officials likely engaged in a cover-up by withholding key details about two of the hijackers from the 9/11 Commission.
Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn’t know they were here, until it was too late.
The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time.
-President Bush, December 17, 2005
In the aftermath of 9/11, reams of newsprint were given over to discussing the CIA and FBI failures before the attacks; the agency had some of the hijackers under surveillance and allegedly lost them, the bureau was unable even to inform its own acting director of the Zacarias Moussaoui case. However, the USA’s largest and most powerful intelligence agency, the National Security Agency, got a free ride. There was no outcry over its failings, no embarrassing Congressional hearings for its director. Yet, as we will see, the NSA’s performance before 9/11 was shocking.
I was introduced to Kevin Fenton sometime in 2006. We met on 911blogger.com where he was a contributor for many years. I respected his keen insight and appreciated the fact that he used mainstream media accounts and Government documents for his postings there. Kevin is a contributor to the Complete 9/11 Timeline available at www.historycommons.org, along with people like Paul Thompson.
Eventually, Kevin signed up on my site, and started posting his information there. In September 2007, I started work on something I called the Who Is? Archives that was based on the material of the timeline. Kevin was kind enough to write several of the introductions for people mentioned.
An FBI informant knew that one of the 9/11 hijackers breached the terms of his visa by working illegally, according to a 9/11 Commission document released by the National Archives at the start of the year. The document, a memo on the interview of the informer, Abdussattar Shaikh, was found in the archives by History Commons contributor paxvector and posted to the History Commons site at Scribd.
The memo shows that:
* Shaikh knew that one of the hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, worked illegally in the US. According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the job was at a gas station run by people who the FBI had investigated over terrorism links.
* He knew Alhazmi was interested in news about the war in Chechnya, and became angry when the Russians did well.
* Instead of using the apartment phone, Alhazmi and Almihdhar would drive to another neighbourhood to use a pay phone, apparently a vain attempt to avoid NSA surveillance.
Author James Bamford was recently interviewed by Amy Goodman about his new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. He talked about some issues that are covered in the 9/11 Timeline's CIA Hiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar and Yemen hub categories. The interview follows on from an article in the Congressional Quarterly and it is well worth reading the whole thing.
I have some comments on a couple of the aspects Bamford touches on. First, I'd like to say that Bamford is obviously a really good reporter and he's done a much better job on this than anyone who came before him (for example, Terry McDermott knew about the intercepts between San Diego and Sana'a, but relegated this information to the endnotes). Having said this, as far as I can see at the moment, he's making a couple of errors and missing some things out.
One large group of new additions to the 9/11 Timeline this week concerns London-based imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, a key figure in the global militant network and an informer for the British security services.
At the Pentagon, before 9/11 a clinic developed an emergency plan that helped the response to the attacks, and a fire five weeks before 9/11 further enhanced preparedness. The alert level was raised shortly before the Pentagon was hit, and people disguised as firefighters were arrested there the day after the attacks.
Regarding the World Trade Center, a structural engineer found evidence of extreme temperatures in the fires and criticized the decision to destroy the steel. In addition, an engineering journal recently published an article questioning whether the WTC was really destroyed by fire and impact damage.
Jon Gold has been kind enough to let me write an introduction to one of his Who Is? series. It deals with Margaret Gillespie, the FBI agent who discovered that two of the 9/11 hijackers were in the US shortly before the attacks:
Margaret Gillespie was an FBI agent who, while detailed to Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, was involved in the search for Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in the summer of 2001. She attended the stormy 11 June meeting between the CIA and FBI and, at the suggestion of CIA manager Tom Wilshire, performed a low-key review of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, where the CIA let two of the 9/11 hijackers slip through their fingers in early 2000. Because Wilshire only told her to perform the review in her “free time,” she did not find and realise the significance of CIA cables indicating Almihdhar and Alhazmi had entered the US until 21 August 2001 – even though the review started in May. However, she immediately called the FBI, alerting them they should look for the two, and had Almihdhar, Alhazmi, an alias for their associate Khallad bin Attash, and an Iraqi named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir watchlisted on 23 August.
I have written a summary of the 9/11 Timeline's CIA Hiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar chapter. It begins:
Parts of the story of the CIA’s knowledge of the 9/11 hijackers have trickled out over the years since the attacks, contained in three reports, of the Congressional Inquiry, 9/11 Commission and Justice Department, as well as in books, in particular the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, and evidence presented at the trial of Zacarias Moussoaui. When all the information is put together, two conclusions stand out: everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, and almost every time something went wrong, the same man was at the centre of the failure: Tom Wilshire, deputy chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, and later CIA liaison to the FBI.
A meeting in Malaysia
“A contributor to the History Commons has obtained a 298-page document entitled Hijackers Timeline (Redacted) from the FBI, subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act request. The document was a major source of information for the 9/11 Commission's final report. Though the commission cited the timeline 52 times in its report, it failed to include some of the document's most important material.
The printed document is dated November 14, 2003, but appears to have been compiled in mid-October 2001 (the most recent date mentioned in it is October 22, 2001), when the FBI was just starting to understand the backgrounds of the hijackers, and it contains almost no information from the CIA, NSA, or other agencies. This raises questions as to why the 9/11 Commission relied so heavily on such an early draft for their information about the hijackers.”
Summary of what the FBI document reveals:
I wrote a summary of the Yemen Hub chapter in the 9/11 Timeline. It is about the NSA listening to the hijackers' calls and how their explanation for why they didn't catch the hijackers based on the intercepts doesn't make any sense.
Yemen Hub: NSA was listening in on the 9/11 hijackers’ calls for years
And how this became the rationale for the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program
The “Yemen hub” was an al-Qaeda communications hub that fell under US surveillance in the mid-late 1990s and was also home to Khalid Almihdhar, said to have been on the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11. There are still many unanswered questions about the surveillance, such as why were the NSA and its fellow agencies unable to roll up the plot based on the intercepts? And how did it come to be used as the justification for the NSA’s current domestic warrantless program?
You can find it here: