History Commons Groups

January 30, 2009

‘Information Activists?’

Filed under: community — Max @ 11:25 pm
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I’ve seen the Jimmy Wales “character” ad on the USA Network a couple of times lately. The commercial describes him as an “information activist.”

I think that moniker could apply to us as well. What do you think?

January 28, 2009

Tenet Misled Congressional Inquiry about NSA Surveillance of Hijackers


A recently released document shows that CIA Director George Tenet misled the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry about the intelligence community’s knowledge of the 9/11 hijackers. He claimed that a 1999 communications intercept of a conversation between one of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, and al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash only showed an “indirect link” between al-Qaeda, Almihdhar and fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, who was mentioned in the conversation.

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January 21, 2009

Questions for James Bamford

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 3:22 pm
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A new documentary by author James Bamford will soon air on PBS (website here). There will also be a Q and A with him and you can submit questions. I have been trying to get in touch with Bamford for a while, so I wrote a bunch of questions and submitted them. Here they are, a bit of a mixed bag:

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January 18, 2009

New Feature: ‘Sit Rep’

Filed under: 'situation report',community — Max @ 2:28 pm
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On all those military/criminal justice shows like NCIS (a favorite in the Max household, and I’m fully aware of the ironies involved in being fond of such a show), people are always demanding “sit reps,” or “situation reports.” It sounds like a good idea for us, too, though in a less military, “drop and give me twenty” sense. So here goes.

I thought that every month or so, I’d write a “sit rep” post inviting all the major contributors, including the grant recipients, to check in and let everyone know what they’ve got in the works for the next few weeks. I don’t envision anything binding, and no one will get stern e-mails holding anything over your heads because of something you post. It’s more of a way for us to keep each other posted on what we’re currently working on, and if the occasion warrants, work in tandem on a particular item or subject. Again, no one’s keeping score, and no one’s going to blurt out, “Hey, she’s doing more than he is!” We all contribute at our own pace, within our own parameters, inclinations, and time restrictions.

It’s also a good way for our community of readers and users to have a general idea of what they can look forward to in upcoming entries, and a way that the community can let us know what they’d like to see included.

I’ll lead off in the first comment. Follow up, if you would.

January 14, 2009

Summaries of 9/11 Commission Interviews Released

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 4:18 pm

The National Archives today released a set of records the 9/11 Commission gave it. It did so today because the commission told it it had to wait until 2009 to do so, presumably on the off chance that people would have forgotten about it all by then. The records are in two groups, Memorandums for the Record (MFR), which are available online, and other records, which are not available online.

I have been trawling through the ones that are available online and I have learned a few things of interest.

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January 11, 2009

Review: ‘U.S. Vs. Them’


U.S. Vs. Them, J. Peter Scoblic, 2008 Viking Press

When I checked out Scoblic’s U.S. vs. Them, I envisioned an interesting read and a few dozen entries or augments to existing entries. Instead, I ended up creating several scores of entries, particularly from the Carter and Reagan years, and almost all in the US International Relations project.

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January 10, 2009

Solved Redaction in ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US’ PDB

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 5:51 am

One of the most famous documents that emerged after 9/11 was the 6 August 2001 President’s Daily Brief item for George Bush entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” which you can find a copy of here (timeline entry here, timeline category here). I’ve been reading a few things about it for an update to the timeline category, and I’ve uncovered one of the three redactions in the released PDB item.

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January 7, 2009

Just tootin’ my own horn….

Filed under: community — Max @ 11:57 pm

This has nothing to do with anything Commons-related, I’m just blowing my own horn in shameless self-promotion. SitePoint printed my article on font stacks for Web design:

8 Definitive Web Font Stacks

I’m very pleased, naturally, but they cut the absolute hell out of it (by close to 80% — Kevin, they find me verbose, too!), to the point where a lot of the sense and info of the article was lost. Not sure whether to be pleased at being published or irritated at the heavy editing job…. Maybe some of both.

What have you done that you’d like to brag about? Make this thread worth its while by sharing.

Hi-Tech Memory-Loss Field Emitted by OIG Employees

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 3:53 pm

When I first read the report by the Justice Department’s office of inspector general (OIG) into the FBI’s failings in the run-up to 9/11, I was completely amazed by the number of people who could not recall how they blew literally dozens of opportunities to stop the 9/11 plot. I was reading it again recently for some new entries to be posted at the 9/11 Timeline about Doug Miller and Mark Rossini and this passage, about the blocking of a cable by Alec Station telling the FBI Khalid Almihdhar had a US visa, stuck out:

When we interviewed all of the individuals involved with the [cable], they asserted that they recalled nothing about it. [Miller] told the OIG that he did not recall being aware of the information about Almihdhar, did not recall drafting the [cable], did not recall whether he drafted the [cable] on his own initiative or at the direction of his supervisor, and did not recall any discussions about the reasons for delaying completion and dissemination of the [cable]. [Rossini] said he did not recall reviewing any of the cable traffic or any information regarding Alhazmi and Almihdhar. Eric [an FBI manager on loan to Alec Station] told the OIG that he did not recall the [cable].

The CIA employees also stated that they did not recall the [cable]. Although James, the CIA employee detailed to FBI Headquarters, declined to be interviewed by us, he told the CIA OIG that he did not recall the [cable]. [Tom Wilshire] (the Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit) and Michelle, the desk officer who was following this issue, also stated that they did not recall the [cable], any discussions about putting it on hold, or why it was not sent.

That’s a veritable flood of memory loss, remarkable even by the OIG’s standards. I just went through the .pdf file and the words “not recall” appear 56 times, plus “not remember” 3 times.

When I first read the report, it even occurred to me that employees at the the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general must be fitted with a futuristic device that projects a forcefield causing temporary memory loss in anyone within a 10-metre radius, but, thanks to James Bamford, now I know better.

Name of NSA Domestic Spying Programme: Stellar Wind

Filed under: Civil Liberties — kevinfenton @ 2:51 pm
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Just in case you missed it, the name of the NSA’s domestic spying operations was revealed in mid-December by Newsweek: Stellar Wind. The main article about it was actually focused on one of the Whistleblowers used for the famous New York Times pieces just over three years ago, Tom Tamm.

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