What we learned from the Report of the 911 Commission XXI.

The rising concern about terrorist attacks in Spring 2001 intersected a knowledge of Midhar’s travels in southeast Asia on the part of a CIA officer, called “John” by the Commission. On 15 May 2001 and in conjunction with a CIA superior, “John” milled through a lot of cables from early 2000 to discover what had become of Midhar. He figured out that Midhar had been in touch with Khallad, that Khallad was a “major league killer,” and that Midhar had come to the US over a year before.

The CIA superior dropped the issue at this point, but “John” contacted a CIA analyst, called “Dave” by the Commission, for help in analyzing what the cables might mean. “Dave” was involved in the investigation of the bombing of the Cole; one of his associates in this project was an FBI analyst, called “Jane” by the Commission.

“Dave” seems to have shared the concerns of “John” about Khallad with “Jane.” “Jane,” in turn, knew that Khallad had been in touch with Fahd al Quso, who had been interviewed by FBI agents from New York. “Dave” set up a meeting between himself, “Jane,” an FBI analyst detailed to the CIA’s Bin Ladin unit, called “Mary” by the Commission, and the agents. “John” gave “Dave” copies of the photos identified by the joint FBI/CIA source in Yemen as Midhar and Khallad to show to the FBI agents. The meeting, on 11 June 2001, was a disaster in the sense that “Jane” believed that she was not allowed to reveal any information about the reason the photos were taken (subjects linked to Middle Eastern terrorism) and “Dave” was barred from revealing CIA information to outsiders. (pp. 384-387.)

Undeterred when he learned of these failures to communicate, “John” persuaded “Mary” to review all the material herself. However, “John” had no authority to make this a real assignment, so he cozened her into doing it in her “spare time.” “Mary” agreed, but had no “spare time” until 24 July 2001.

In little snatches of time between 24 July and 22 August 2001 “Mary” discovered that the known jihadist Midhar had obtained a visa to come to the United States in January 2000, that he had listed New York as his destination, that the CIA had reported that Hazmi, another known jihadist, was flown to Los Angeles in January 2000, and that Midhar had come to the United States in January 2000, then left in June 2000, then re-entered the country on 4 July 2001. “Mary” and “Jane” conferred. “Mary” then got the CIA’s Bin Ladin unit to request that Midhar and Hazmi be placed on the State Department’s watchlist so that they would be spotted if they passed through Customs (24 August 2001).

“Jane” talked over the issues with “John” in an effort to decide whether the search for Midhari and Hazmi should be treated as an intelligence matter or as a criminal matter. This may have delayed the message being sent until 28 August 2001.

“Jane” asked the New York field office of the FBI to try to find Midhar and Hamzi if they were still in the United States; the agent bucked the request up the line to his supervisor; the supervisor immediately kicked it to an “intelligence” FBI agent (on one side of the “wall”), to the Cole investigators (on the other side of the “wall”), and to an FBI agent who had been hunting KSM (just in case it made a useful connection). (pp. 387-388.) NB: “It appears that no one informed the higher levels of management in either the FBI or CIA about the case.” (p. 389.) See what happened with the hijackings.

The Cole agents tried to follow up with “Jane” through direct communications in order to obtain more information, but she invoked the rules barring contact between “intelligence” and “criminal” investigators. This enraged the Cole investigators, who were obviously trying to by-pass the regulations in what is probably common practice, because it shut them out of the investigation.

The hunt for Midhar then fell to a single, greenhorn counter-intelligence agent in the New York field office. Unsurprisingly, he failed to catch up with them before 11 September 2001. (pp. 390-31.)

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s