It was recently revealed that Tom Wilshire, a deputy chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, conspired with other officials at the CIA to withhold information from the FBI about Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, who attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit and went on to hijack with plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11 (blog, event, original). Previously, it was claimed that Wilshire had acted in good faith, but he was only able to come up with a dog-ate-my-homework excuse to cover his blocking of the information for the FBI. As two of his co-conspirators, Doug Miller and Marc Rossini, have confessed, we now know Wilshire was not acting in good faith. Had it not been for this conspiracy, it is highly likely the FBI would have arrested some of the hijackers before 9/11 and thwarted the plot.
A number of other officials connected to Wilshire withheld similar information from the FBI and came up with similar dog-ate-my-homework excuses for doing so. Given the recent revelations, it is highly likely that they were involved in the same conspiracy as Wilshire, Rossini and Miller. They are:
(1) Rich B, Wilshire’s boss and chief of Alec Station. Rich B falsely claimed to his superiors at the CIA that surveillance of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit was ongoing nearly a week after it broke up. During the surge in threat reporting in the summer of 2001 about a major al-Qaeda attack against US interests he briefed CIA leaders and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, but apparently failed to mention Almihdhar and Alhazmi. He was probably aware that Almihdhar would be part of the forthcoming attack, which he thought would be inside the US, but he took no action to prevent it. Other offenses to be taken into consideration include letting bin Laden escape during the battle of Tora Bora and having detainees tortured.
(2) A CIA officer known as “James.” James briefed the FBI about Almihdhar and Alhazmi in early January 2000, but failed to tell the FBI that Almihdhar had a US visa. This was the crucial piece of information the bureau needed.
(3) A CIA officer or officers in Yemen. After the USS Cole was bombed, the FBI began investigating the case and, discovering links between the bombing and an al-Qaeda meeting in Southeast Asia, repeatedly asked for information about the Malaysia summit. The CIA’s station in Yemen was aware of these requests and had assisted with surveillance of Almihdhar on his way to Malaysia from Yemen. The station showed photos of summit attendees to Yemeni authorities in January 2001, but withheld them from the FBI until after 9/11.
(4) A CIA officer or officers in Pakistan. The CIA officer was told by a joint FBI-CIA informer in al-Qaeda that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had attended the Malaysia summit, linking him to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. However, the officer failed to watchlist Almihdhar, Alhazmi and bin Attash and failed to inform the FBI of the identification. CIA headquarters also failed to inform the bureau and, a few weeks later, the officer missed another chance to tell them, during a discussion between the officer, the informer and FBI agents specifically focused on bin Attash. It is likely that this identification was merely a sting operation by the CIA to determine whether the informer could recognise a photo of Almihdhar if he were to be shown it by the FBI.
(5) CIA officer Clark Shannon. Shannon wrote a very poor report about responsibility for the USS Cole bombing, and later had an e-mail exchange with Wilshire leading to the passage of photographs of Almihdhar and Alhazmi to the FBI. Shannon attended a meeting with the FBI agents investigating the USS Cole bombing at which the photos were shown, but failed to disclose the relevant information and provided conflicting explanations later. Again, it is likely that this was a sting operation simply to determine if the FBI agents recognised Almihdhar and Alhazmi in the photos.
(6) FBI agent Dina Corsi. Corsi also attended the meeting with Shannon and refused to provide the FBI agents with the relevant information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi, although her job was to support them. Over the summer, she continued to withhold that information as well as information indicating bin Attash, the main target of the investigation, had attended the Malaysia summit. After she was informed Almihdhar was in the country and discussed this with Wilshire, she insisted the investigation be conducted as an intelligence investigation, rather than a criminal investigation, despite major opposition from field agents who pointed out this would make it harder to find Almihdhar. When a criminal investigator received a memo about Almihdhar by mistake, she forced him to delete it, withheld crucial information the NSA had cleared him to get about Almihdhar and apparently fabricated a legal opinion, despite his protests that ”someday somebody will die”.
It should be noted that, in addition to Wilshire and these six officials, information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi was also being withheld from the FBI by the NSA and the Pentagon. It is highly likely that people at the NSA and Pentagon were acting in concert with Wilshire and Rich B, although the names of these officials and the manner in which the information was withheld are not yet public.