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.
(1) Stacks of the MFR are not actually available. Either they have not been reviewed yet (pending), or have been withdrawn because they are very classified, or they have been made available, but have had the bejesus redacted out of them.
(2) Two of the two key MFR, of interviews of Tom Wilshire, a CIA officer involved in just about everything that went “wrong” before 9/11, and Dina Corsi, one of his most willing little helpers, are missing. Not pending, not withdrawn due to classification, not redacted to death. Just not there. You can tell this because there are no MFR that could be theirs for the relevant dates. For example, the MFR for former NSA Director Michael Hayden is still pending, as is the MFR for Ali Soufan, head of the FBI’s Cole bombing probe, and Hayden and Soufan’s names are not associated with the records at the Archives’ website. However, you can tell which MFR are theirs by the designation (NSA, FBI) and the dates of the interviews—which you can get from the small-type endnotes in the 9/11 Commission report. I have written to the National Archives to see what they are doing. I expect Wilshire and Corsi’s MFR are “lost.”
(3) The commission interviewed SunTrust employees about an alert they issued about alleged hijacker pilot Marwan Alshehhi when he tried to cash a check, but the bank would not let him. However, the alert was deleted from the system the next day for reasons that could not be explained. Here’s the relevant section from the MFR:
A companion computerized hold was placed that day on SunTrust’s electronic teller information system for one month, from June 11, 2001 to July. 11, 2001.2 Under SunTrust’s computerized system, any time a teller accessed Mr. Alshehhi’s account number, the teller would be instructed to contact “Lisa” at SunTrust’s Venice, Florida branch, where the account was opened. The computer instructions also indicated that there was a question about Mr. Alshehhi’ s identification. The alert was deleted from the computerized system on June 12, 2001. Over the past several days, we have been able to reconstruct both the computerized alert, attached as Tab B, and a record of its deletion, at Tab C. However, we are unable to determine who deleted the alert or why it was deleted.
Mr. (redacted) stated that at 7:30 (redacted) the crew chief for Flight 11 received a call from a passenger service representative, stating that a passenger had just boarded Flight 11, and the passenger service representative wanted to determine if the passenger’s two suitcases had arrived from US Airways. (redacted) told the passenger service representative, also known as a gate agent, that that the suitcases had arrived, but would not be put on Flight 11, because the baggage compartment had already been locked for departure. (redacted) noted that it was unusual for the passenger service representative to call the ramp crew, unless the affected passenger has asked about the baggage.
(5) There seems to have been something of a terror alert at Paris airport before the hijackings began.
(7) There is an MFR of the NEADS briefing after which the commission’s staff got so mad it even managed to prise a subpoena out of the commissioners. It is so bad it is comical. I mean, United 93 circling over Chicago??!!
(8 ) The US obtained videos of the 9/11 hijackers in a raid in Karachi in 2002.
(9) The flight school instructor who allegedly said Hani Hanjour passed a “challenging certification flight” and knew a military flying technique was a former Israeli paratrooper, so presumably he would have known about the military technique.
With respect to the reporting of Basnan’s having hosted a party in Washington, DC in 1992 for Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”), Basnan maintained (as in his final law enforcement interview in the US, on November 17, 2002) that this was a case of mistaken identity. Specifically, he claimed to have employed the services of a sheikh – selected at random from a list of over a dozen Al-Azzar graduates (all of whom dressed alike and wore dark glasses) – to preside at a party marking the 7th day of his son’s birth, and that the sheikh who performed the ceremony was not Sheikh Omar at all and could see. Basnan contends that a CIA agent came to his house shortly after the party and agreed with him that the sheikh who had attended was not Sheikh Omar.
One might reasonably ask what the CIA agent was doing discussing the Blind Sheikh with Basnan if the Blind Sheikh had not actually been there?
The interview was conducted by Dieter Snell, who did not think much of Basnan’s credibility:
The interview failed to yield any new information of note. Instead, in the writer’s opinion, it established beyond cavil the witness’ utter lack of credibility on virtually every material subject. This assessment is based on: the witness’ demeanor, which engendered a combination of confrontation, evasiveness, and speechmaking, presumably for the benefit. of his Mabahith audience; his repudiation of statements made by him on prior occasions; and the inherent incredibility of many of his assertions when viewed in light of the totality of the available evidence. Accordingly, this MFR contains only a general summary of his statements, and, in the writer’s judgment, should not be used the basis for any factual assertion by the Commission.
(12) I don’t see anything that could be the MFR for FAA administrator Jane Garvey. Neither can I see anything that could be the MFR for absentee General Montague Winfield. Their names are not on the list and I don’t see anything that would match up with the dates they were interviewed, as given in the endnotes to the commission’s final report.
(13) The interviews of people a Cleveland ATC, etc. tend to have statements along the lines of “XXX did not recall seeing any military aircraft near UAL 93 at the time it crashed.” I get the feeling the commission thought it might have been shot down and was asking about it.
“Marr noted that one of the chat logs presented to him by Commission staff ‘doesn’t look right’ (Commission staff noted this beforehand, but did not present to Marr as such.)”
Later, about why the military’s first timeline was off:
“Marr noted that the Dictaphone DAT times are off, and this led to a misconception with the time frame. He commented that NORAD asked for details to prove that they did not shoot down UAL 93 shortly after 9/11. He noted that Col. Speicher and Col. Khom worked towards putting the initial information together. But because of the damage that occurred to the tapes during the transcription process they did not re-examine the tapes until very recently.”
“Marr was emphatic that the mistakes in the data points were specifically made to show that they did not shoot down flight 93.”
What does that mean??!! It sounds like he is saying the tapes are doctored?
(17) On the day of the attacks, the NY Fire Department told the electricity company to cut of the power to WTC 7 at 4:15 p.m., as they thought it was going to collapse.
(18 ) Interview with Steve Usher of CONR (part of NORAD): “Usher noted that until the exercise was terminated, information was entered on the exercise chat log regarding the attacks as well as the real world chat logs.”
(19) Again from the Marr interview. It has been suggested that the hijackers were able to fly around the US for a total of almost two hours because NORAD was postured to deal with incoming aircraft from overseas, not domestic threats. That’s what Marr told the commission:
Marr commented that NEADS was using fourteen radar, and many radio sites. He noted that these sites are focused around the perimeter of the coast. He noted that the radar coverage varied by the sites themselves. He noted that the sites were optimized for their off the coast vision.
Howver, the commission wasn’t having any of it:
Commission staff presented to Marr that the flights that were hijacked on 9/11 were within the physical capabilities of the radar NEADS is linked to.
(20) The MFR for the Kevin Nasypany interview about NEADS’ response to the attacks also comments on the chat logs, describing what the problem with one of them was and that the real world and exercise stuff was in the same chat log:
Nasypany identified chat log information for Commission staff. He confirmed that some “real world” information was interjected into the exercise chat log, and did not know why there are disjointed time and day entries in the same exercise chat log.
OK, that’s all for now. If anybody lives in the Washington area and could go to the archives and get some of the interesting things that are not online, please let me know.