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November 18, 2008

Michael Hayden Caught in a Lie

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 4:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

Current CIA and former NSA Director Michael Hayden claimed to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in prepared remarks on 17 October 2002:

“Indeed, NSA had no knowledge before September 11th that any of the attackers were in the United States.”

I always suspected this was not true and here is the proof, evidence submitted at Zacarias Moussaoui’s trial in 2006. It’s documentation from August 2001 about the passage of information about two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, to criminal agents at the FBI. Due to restrictions related to the “wall,” the passage had to be approved by the NSA’s general counsel. The documentation, passed between the NSA’s representative to the FBI and the general counsel, states, “FBI would appreciate priority handling on this request, since al-Mihdar is already in the U.S.” It later goes on to point out that Almihdhar “arrived in New York City on July 4, 2001 on a B1 visa issued in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.”

Clearly then, the NSA did know that one of the attackers was in the US before 9/11.

It is hard to imagine that Hayden could not have been aware of this at the time he was interviewed by the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, as the NSA intercepted Almihdhar’s calls for years before 9/11, including when Almihdhar was in the USA, and Hayden discussed this with the inquiry (and also apparently the 9/11 Commission). However, for some unexplained reason the NSA failed to notify the FBI of the calls and this failure was later used as the justification for the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping programme.

Obviously, the question is why Hayden was lying. Presumably, it was not simply for the good of his health and he wished to conceal some wrongdoing. Given that both the NSA and CIA were concealing information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi from the FBI one has to wonder whether this was part of a coordinated plan of action.

I actually read the NSA documentation a couple of years ago when it was first published, but only realised it could be used to show Hayden’s statement about not knowing any of the attackers was in the US was false after I read James Bamford’s new book The Shadow Factory. I have a number of observations on the book and will start churning them out soon.


  1. (From the HC writeup) FBI agent Kenneth Maxwell will say: “Two al-Qaeda guys living in California—are you kidding me? We would have been on them like white on snow: physical surveillance, electronic surveillance, a special unit devoted entirely to them.”

    Yet we have a bizarre, confusing account that suggests Hayden worried about civil liberties (even though the FISA court was intended for this very purpose) and claimed it wasn’t possible to determine that one end of the calls was in San Diego. His story simply doesn’t make sense.

    Yet he kept his job after 9/11 and received promotions to DDNI then CIA Director. He supports both the enhanced interrogation program and the warrantless surveillance program. AFAIK, he has never explained his role in the pre-9/11 AT&T surveillance program which evidently started shortly after Bush was inaugurated. On the release of the CIA IG report executive summary he wrote “I thought the release of this report would distract officers serving their country on the frontlines of a global conflict. It will, at a minimum, consume time and attention revisiting ground that is already well plowed.”

    In recent news reports, he was the main source for intel related to al Qaeda resurgence in Pakistan and the concern that the US is vulnerable to an al Qaeda attack during the Obama transition period. Why is he considered credible on al Qaeda?

    Comment by Mike — November 18, 2008 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  2. Mike, you wrote that Hayden claimed it wasn’t possible to determine that one end of the calls was in San Diego. I don’t think that is exactly what Hayden is saying. The 9/11 Commission section on this (p. 87-88, based on an interview with Hayden) says, “later in this story, we will learn that while the NSA had the technical capability to report on communications with suspected terrorist facilities in the Middle East, the NSA did not seek FISA Court warrants to collefct communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries,” because it allegedly thought this was an FBI role. I’ve never seen Hayden explicitly claim they couldn’t have intercepted the calls.

    I don’t buy Hayden’s “worried about civil liberties” explanation, because of the other data he was collecting on Americans at the same time. I think the answer is that the NSA did not trace the calls because it knew somebody else was. Remember the surveillance of the Yemen hub was a joint operation and the CIA could also have obtained the information itself, for example from a phone company in Yemen.

    Comment by kevinfenton — November 19, 2008 @ 3:17 am | Reply

  3. I remember reading somewhere (I’ll try to track it down) that Hayden suggested the NSA wasn’t able to determine that one end of the calls was in San Diego. It fits with Hayden’s statement from the JI claiming the NSA didn’t know they were in the US before 9/11. After all, if he knew one end of the Yemen hub calls was coming from San Diego then he obviously he would have known they were in the US.

    It appears that Hayden has deliberately confused the issue to distract from NSA’s failure to get FISA warrants and/or notify the FBI so they could get the warrants. AFAICK, he is suggesting the choices were between illegal warrantless surveillance or nothing.

    Comment by Mike — November 19, 2008 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  4. There’s another angle to this that involves a fascinating piece of research being done at Maryland U (College Park).

    DHS set up a panel of the world’s leading social scientists whose mandate was to research the social and psychological conditions that either lead to or find support for terrorism. In a delicious irony, their research came to pay particular attention to the presence of right-wing conservative attitudes in a given society as paying a central role in terrorism. This isn’t all that surprising when one considers that Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are both considered to be members of that particular ideological classification. More specifically, they would likely be considered as being the Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) component or half of what is called a “dominance-submissive authoritarian embrace” or “RWA-SDO dance”. SDOs (Social Dominance Oriented) – the other component here – display a personality trait that might explain how Hayden could be saying such things and be doing so in good faith.

    The research I’m referring to points to another feature of the RWA/SDO personality as showing a strong tendency toward something they call “uncertainty avoidance” — a state of mind wherein they will “seize and freeze” on information that fits with their preconceptions on a given subject while actively freezing out any other facts or data that might upset this preconception. How that applies to this specifically is that his desire to tie Al Queda and/or Saddam Hussein together and in turn to the WTC attacks would make any information said, by anyone with reasonable authority to speak on such matters that confirms his suspicion, into information that he would the seize on as entirely believable while anything said that might upset that apple-cart would be dismissed at the conscious and unconscious levels both. The effect is to have him giving testimony wherein he states contradictory opinions while at the same time totally believing that he is giving truthful testimony.

    Clearly anyone displaying such poor judgment should not be in a position of leadership and for obvious reasons. But nevertheless, it seems quite clear that they are. Not only are they, it seems quite likely that these people have been major players in driving the historical narrative.



    Comment by Mycos — November 19, 2008 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  5. In fact I’m just sitting here watching CNN and they are showing the interrogation of that 8-year old child who “confessed” to killing his dad and another man. LE is full of people who display strong RWA or SDO personalities. It seems incredulous to us that anyone in their right minds can’t see how they are manipulating this child whether the child in fact did it or not. To them, all that’s important is obtaining information that confirms their preconceptions while blocking out everything that, to us at least, seems like common sense.
    Again, this research – if confirmed – should be integrated into our social fabric so we can set to correcting all the shortcomings that their presence creates for the rest of mankind re: war and oppression.

    Comment by Mycos — November 19, 2008 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  6. I might have remembered one of your write ups though it doesn’t appear that Hayden said it: “For example, in one newspaper a senior intelligence official will say that it was not technically possible for the NSA, which had a budget of around $3.6 billion in 2000, to trace the calls. “Neither the contents of the calls nor the physics of the intercepts allowed us to determine that one end of the calls was in the United States,” says the official.”

    The other explanation is that was possible but not done due to civil liberty concerns. That doesn’t make any sense.

    For example in The Shadow Factory:

    From page 27 (summarized points made by Bamford):

    1. NSA should have known right away that one end of the calls was in San Diego.

    2. This was never passed on to the rest of the intel community.

    3. Hayden secretly decided to pull the plug on intercepting international communications (including terrorism related).

    We have the weird interpretation of risk aversion. I would think Hayden would have been worried that his failure to at least alert the FBI could have led him to be blamed for failing to prevent a terrorist attack. Same with Alec Station and the FBI ITOS. Why weren’t they more worried about getting a bunch of people killed than possibly breaking bureaucratic rules? It’s bizarre.

    Comment by Mike — November 20, 2008 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  7. Mike, I’m pretty sure Hayden never said specifically that it was prevented by the law (you can find comments saying that it wasn’t authorised under a specific law, like Executive Order 12333, but not one that says it wasn’t authorised under any law). The claims are always phrased differently – to give you the impression they are saying it was prevented by the law without actually saying it. The NSA could have got a FISA order, or it could have alerted the FBI and the bureau could then have got a FISA order.

    Risk aversion makes no sense, agreed.

    The CIA must have been getting the numbers called by/calling the Yemen hub some other way, like from the telecom in Yemen. Therefore, it was better for the NSA not to trace the calls, otherwise it would have some ‘splainin to do if something bad happened. Plus, the FBI wanted that information. If you don’t want to give somebody information, not having it in the first place is a sure-fire way of not being made to give it up.

    Comment by kevinfenton — November 20, 2008 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

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