It was recently revealed that two FBI agents conspired with Tom Wilshire, the deputy chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, to protect 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi from the FBI while they were in the US. This has several complicated ramifications, but first I would just like to point out what Wilshire knew in the summer of 2001.
(1) First, there was a tremendous amount of threat reporting in the summer of 2001 indicating that al-Qaeda would strike against the US. Wilshire, who by this time had gone on loan to the FBI, was aware of this reporting. For example, in his 2006 book The Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright writes that at this time Wilshire was “privy to he reports that al-Qaeda was planning a ‘Hiroshima’…” (p. 340). Wilshire also sent an e-mail on 23 July discussing the “next big op” by “hardcore UBL cadre.”
(2) He knew that Almihdhar, one of the hijackers he was protecting, was probably going to be involved in this “major op.” In the 23 July e-mail he wrote: “When the next big op is carried out by hardcore UBL cadre Khalad will be at or need the top of the command food chain–and probably nowhere near the attack site or Afghanistan. That makes people who are available and who have direct access to him of very high interest. Khalid Mihdar is very high interest anyway, given his connection to the (redacted).”
(3) He knew that Almihdhar was in the US, as he was informed of this by FBI agents Margaret Gillespie and Dina Corsi on 22 or 23 August, which is reported on page 301 of the Justice Department Inspector General’s report into the FBI’s pre-9/11 failings.
(4) He knew Almihdhar was involved in the USS Cole bombing. For example, on August 23 Corsi sent him an e-mail saying “I am still looking at intel, but I think we have more of a definitive connection to the Cole here than we thought.” Clearly, this shows that Wilshire and Corsi had previously discussed Almihdhar’s connection to the Cole bombing.
Wilshire worked on the hunt for Almihdhar at the FBI starting in late August 2001. He failed to point out to any of his colleagues that Almihdhar, who was in the US, would soon be involved in a major al-Qaeda attack, and supported a procedure that would deprive the investigation of resources, ensuring that Almihdhar was not found before 9/11.
When you put (1), (2) and (3) together you can see that Wilshire must have known that it was likely that the next al-Qaeda attack would be in the US-because that was where one of the probable attackers was. However, his reaction was to continue protecting this likely attacker. I really don’t know how much worse things could look for him. If that’s not damning, then what is?