History Commons Groups

September 19, 2008

Cole Bombing: New FOIA Request Filed

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 2:30 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have filed another FOIA request regarding the bombing of the USS Cole. It is for an FBI document entitled “Source reporting on al-Qaeda” and is dated January 16, 2001. It is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report in endnote 132 on page 507.

The reason I want this document is because it is related to the identification of al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash in a photograph provided by the Yemeni authorities and in the Malaysia summit photographs in January 2001 by a joint FBI/CIA informer being used for the USS Cole investigation. Bin Attash was a key player in the 9/11 and Cole plots. The document should have mentioned his identification in the Malaysia photographs, which would have been a key link for the Cole investigators and an important piece of information that could have helped prevent 9/11. However, for some reason it is said to only mention the identification in the Yemeni photographs.

What makes this episode remarkable is that after the informer identified Khallad in a photograph provided by the Yemeni authorities, the CIA bizarrely speculated that Khallad and Pentagon hijacker Khalid Almihdhar were the same person, then passed photographs from the Malaysia summit to the CIA agent handling the informer. The informer said one of the Malaysia photographs showed Khallad, but the CIA managed to conceal this from the FBI, whilst simultaneously convincing itself it had done so and apparently taking no action to watchlist Khallad. It then mysteriously missed another two opportunities to tell the FBI Khallad had attended the Malaysia meeting. Had the CIA not made this bizarre series of missteps, the links between the Cole bombers and the 9/11 hijackers would have been obvious, and some of the hijackers would very probably have been arrested by the FBI before the attacks, disrupting the plot. Obviously, I hope this document can shed some light on how the missteps occurred.


The endnote is for the following passage in the 9/11 CR:

An FBI special agent recognized the name Khallad and connected this news with information from an important al Qaeda source who had been meeting regularly with CIA and FBI officers. The source had called Khallad Bin Ladin’s “run boy,” and described him as having lost one leg in an explosives accident at a training camp a few years earlier. To confirm the identification, the FBI agent asked the Yemenis for their photo of Khallad. The Yemenis provided the photo on November 22, reaffirming their view that Khallad had been an intermediary between the plotters and Bin Ladin. (In a meeting with U.S. officials a few weeks later, on December 16, the source identified Khallad from the Yemeni photograph.) 132

The FBI special agent is Ali Soufan, the source is actually known as Omar in the timeline, and you can find the Khallad entity here.

Presumably, this is the long memo about the debriefings mentioned in the DoJ IG report on 9/11, on pages 273-274:

In response, on January 16, 2001, Max wrote a 34-page EC summarizing the source’s debriefings and other information obtained from the source since mid-2000, most of which was based on the information that had been disseminated in the TDs by the CIA. Max explained in the EC that he merely was repeating what the CIA had previously reported in TDs, which had already been forwarded to FBI Headquarters. He noted the agreement with the CIA that there would not be duplicative reporting on the source’s information. He explained the CIA was doing the primary reporting on the source debriefings Max noted that the interview was conducted in the foreign language, and he would read the CIA’s report of the interview (the TD) once it was completed. Max then listed all of the CIA’s TDs that summarized what the source had said.

On page 29 of this January 16 EC, Max summarized the CIA’s reporting of what had occurred at the December 16, 2000, meeting with the source. The EC stated the source was handed a stack of many photographs and immediately identified the top photograph as a photograph of Khallad, the person the source had previously implicated in the attack on the Cole. The EC stated, “At that time it was the clear impression of [the Legat] and [the CIA officer] that both FBIHQ CTD and NYO were receiving all of the reporting above from CIA liaison in the U.S., as soon as it was being filed.”

In the next paragraph of the EC, Max summarized what the CIA had reported in the TD about the early January 2001 debriefing of the source. This summary is contained on pages 29 through 33 of the EC. Max reported at length about the source’s information, and the EC provided a lengthy description of the documents provided by the source. Again, there was no mention of any photographs from the Malaysia meetings or the identification of Khallad.

There are more new FOIA requests in the pipeline.



  1. […] reporting on al-Qaeda” dated January 16, 2001. The reasons for the request are explained here. Basically, I figured it should detail one of the occasions when the CIA wilfully withheld […]

    Pingback by Unsuccessful FOIA Requests (Updated, June 2009) « History Commons Groups — June 10, 2009 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  2. This FOIA request has now been rejected. See item 9 here: https://hcgroups.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/unsuccessful-foia-requests-updated-june-2009/

    Comment by kevinfenton — June 10, 2009 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  3. […] reporting on al-Qaeda” dated January 16, 2001. The reasons for the request are explained here. Basically, I figured it should detail one of the occasions when the CIA wilfully withheld […]

    Pingback by Unsuccessful FOIA Requests (Updated, June 2010) « History Commons Groups — June 24, 2010 @ 2:37 am | Reply

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