History Commons Groups

July 29, 2008

Main Core Can Be A Key to 9/11

Salon recently published an article entitled Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power about a database known as Main Core. The article was focused on domestic surveillance in the US and connected up with a lot of other threads I have noticed swirling around 9/11. It strikes me that this could be the key to uncovering how the intelligence agencies, in particular the NSA, failed in the run up to 9/11 (and a lot more besides), and I will try and explain here how and why I think Main Core could be linked to the attacks.Given that the article also said that lawmakers are considering the launch of an investigation modelled on the Church Committee into the programme, as well as other aspects of surveillance, this represents a very decent chance of getting to the bottom of what actually happened.The Salon article followed others in the Wall Street Journal and Radar, and, if you haven’t already read them, it would be well worth your while.

NSA Failures

One thing that made very little sense to me about the intelligence community’s performance before 9/11 was the story of the NSA’s intercepts of calls between the hijackers in the US and al-Qaeda’s global communications hub in Yemen. The NSA intercepted and analyzed multiple such calls between February 2000 and 9/11 (see here, here, here and here), but, for some reason never adequately explained, never bothered to trace the calls, even though the FBI had specifically requested it be notified of all calls between the hub and the US. There was also a lot of weirdness generally surrounding the calls (see here, here and here), and the failure to exploit them to prevent the attacks was used justify Bush’s warrantlesss wiretapping programme after 9/11.The calls clearly could have been exploited to prevent the attacks—some of them were made from phones registered to Nawaf Alhazmi in San Diego, and the NSA knew he was a terrorist and had begun intercepting his calls in other countries in 1999, at the latest. All they had to do was trace them, and then tell the FBI there was a major-league terrorist living openly in San Diego. All the FBI would have had to do was follow him, and he would have led them to all the other hijackers; the hijackers’ operational security was awful, the various teams lived and banked together, as well as obtaining ID cards together.

Official Explanation Makes No Sense

NSA Director Michael Hayden said that after 9/11 he realised ”there are no communications more important to the safety of this country than those affiliated with al Qaeda with one end in the United States.” Think about this-he’s telling us he didn’t realise this before 9/11. Do you believe that?Before 9/11 the NSA knew that al-Qaeda’s main global communications hub, which was involved in the 1998 embassy bombings and, reportedly, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, was calling people in the US, and knew the FBI wanted information about this, but failed to identify the party in the US and inform the FBI because, according to what Hayden told the 9/11 Commission, “it believed this was an FBI role,” (page 87-88 of the final report).How could the FBI have got a warrant to trace the US end of the call—a call they did not know about? This is a Catch 22 situation. The NSA wouldn’t trace the US end, because, allegedly, it thought this was the FBI’s job. But it wouldn’t tell the FBI about the calls so the FBI could investigate them either.If this were indeed NSA policy before 9/11, then that would mean the NSA systematically failed to trace the US end of all communications between top al-Qaeda leaders and operatives in the US–and presumably all such calls between members of other terrorist organisations as well. This is despite the fact that the NSA could legally have done so.

What Is Really Going On

Hayden’s post-9/11 implication that the US intelligence community failed to trace the US end of all such calls is incredible and cannot be true. However, what may really be going on here is that the NSA did not officially trace the US end of the calls because this was being done elsewhere—in some sort of shady semi-legit, off-the-books type operation—and the NSA knew this. One reason for this could be that the NSA (or someone else?) did not want the information to get to another element of the US intelligence community, such as the FBI, because it was worried that such element might disrupt a sensitive intelligence operation involving the surveillance targets (i.e. the FBI might have arrested the hijackers before they could fly a plane into the Pentagon).This is where Main Core comes in. From where I’m sitting, it, or one of the programmes it was used to support, certainly fits the description of the off-the-books programme that must have been used to monitor the hijackers. The existence of such a programme would also explain why the CIA took a series of measures to conceal information about the hijackers from the FBI. And it would of course explain why a government document dated 11 September 2001 states, of the Flight 77 hijackers, “3 indiv have been followed since Millennium + Cole.”So, if there was additional surveillance of the hijackers (or perhaps something more sinister?) that we haven’t heard about, the odds are that it is here, closely linked to Main Core. And there is talk of a Church Committee-style investigation into it. Such investigation could, but not necessarily would, expose a lot about 9/11 that is still under wraps.


  1. Main Core Can Be A Key to 9/11…

    The article was focused on domestic surveillance in the US and connected up with a lot of other threads I have noticed swirling around 9/11. It strikes me that this could be the key to uncovering how the intelligence agencies, ……

    Trackback by Conspirama — July 29, 2008 @ 2:51 am | Reply

  2. I get sense that Hayden simply wasn’t being honest. Like Tenet, it seems he was throwing out nonsense and it was accepted for a variety of reasons. One being the lack of effective oversight on NSA performance in the lead up to 9/11.

    Main Core seems designed to take advantage of US citizens naivete whereas one would assume al Qaeda operatives would be highly aware of the possibility of being tracked by US intel (thus necessitating physical surveillance). I remember some “cynical” people suggested that Bush was upset about the NY Times story because it made US citizens aware of the warrantless surveillance program. After all, the argument went, al Qaeda operatives had no illusions that US intel would attempt to track them, before or after 9/11. Sounds like a logical argument except for the fact that that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar didn’t seem to have a care in the world and evidently the hijackers purchased tickets using their real names (which is suggestive of rather impressive terrorist tradecraft).

    Comment by Mike — July 29, 2008 @ 2:54 am | Reply

  3. Hayden’s honesty: OK, he could just be lying, which would hardly be surprising in Hayden’s case.

    However, it seems highly likely to me that there was some sort of shady operation going on involving the hijackers. This is why the NSA and CIA (and DoD) failed to notify the FBI of the relevant information about the hijackers. Plus, think of the way intelligence operations were oursourced in the 1970s and 80s (like the Safari Club). Why have an official operation (which would very probably be illegal from the get-go) to monitor/whatever the hijackers, when you can have a semi-unofficial one using Main Core that is only illegal because of what it does (like letting them crash a plane into the Pentagon)?

    That’s what I’m thinking. There must be some operation doing something with the hijackers, and Main Core is a lead that could take investigators to this operation.

    Comment by kevinfenton — July 29, 2008 @ 6:05 am | Reply

  4. Please advise Kevin Fenton that I would be pleased to communicate with him about Main Core and PROMIS.

    Comment by williamahamilton — August 10, 2008 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  5. William, I will make sure he sees this comment.

    Comment by Max — August 11, 2008 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

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