A couple of weeks ago I submitted several questions to James Bamford, who was doing a public Q and A to mark the showing of a PBS Nova documentary he had helped make about an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, the hiding of two of the 9/11 hijackers from the FBI by the CIA and the warrantless wiretapping controversy.
Bamford answered one of my questions (as well as lots put by other people). It was:
Did the NSA’s inspector general write reports covering the NSA’s failures before (a) the 1998 embassy bombings, (b) the 2000 USS Cole bombing, (3) 9/11? In each case the NSA had intercepted calls to/from al-Hada that could have been exploited to prevent the attacks, but did nothing with them. If the inspector general did draft such reports, what do they say?
I know of no IG reports written on those incidents. In the past, most of the IG reports have dealt with employee complaints and not about failed policies.
Not a definitive answer, but helpful nonetheless.
Nevertheless, if this is true—the NSA’s inspector general did not examine these failures—then this is awful, as the NSA intercepted calls by the attackers before all three attacks that could have been exploited to prevent them, but were not. This is particularly bad in the case of the last two attacks, as the NSA was making the same mistake (if it was a genuine mistake) as it made before the embassy bombings. Had the inspector general written a report and its findings been implemented, then the last two attacks may have been prevented.
In any case, the NSA should certainly make a definitive statement saying whether its inspector general wrote the three reports I mentioned.
Although I obviously didn’t think Bamford would answer all the questions I asked, I was slightly disappointed he only got around to one – I would love to know how he found the house and where al-Hada is. Nevertheless, the answers to the other questions are interesting. I think I liked this one best:
Q: 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser wrote about the CIA’s withholding of intelligence from the FBI (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-breitweiser/enabling-danger-part-one_b_5951.html): “Once, twice, maybe even three times could be considered merely careless oversights. But at least seven documented times? To me, that suggests something else.” To her it was “purposeful.” One such instance at a June 11th meeting in NYC was a shouting match. Mustn’t we, in the search for the truth, at least consider the possibility that it was deliberate and search for an answer, or explanations, as to why?
A: I think that both the NSA and the CIA did deliberately—or purposefully—withhold key information, and this has never been properly investigated by the 9/11 Commission or any other body.
The question remains: why did the CIA and NSA officials withhold the key information. Was it simply interagency rivalry, as Bamford suggested in an interview with Scott Horton, or was there some other purpose?