History Commons Groups

February 20, 2009

Unsuccessful FOIA Requests (Updated, February 2009)

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 3:39 pm

This is a reposting, with one more failed FOIA request being added at the bottom (item number 8). For a list of succesful FOIA requests see here.


This is the list of FOIA requests I have filed that have been rejected and are now dead:

(1) Video of the an associate of the hijackers, possibly Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, collecting a package from Mohamed Atta in Dubai. I asked the FBI for the video in June 2006, requesting “a surveillance video taken of an Arab male made on or about September 8, 2001 at a Federal Express office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.” I also pointed out this was mentioned in the Zacarias Moussaoui indictment and a Newsweek article. The FBI wrote back in August 2006, saying that my letter “does not contain enough descriptive information to permit a search of our records.” After this I dropped it, figuring I would concentrate on the various other requests I had submitted.

(2) CIA report “Name Variants and Aliases of 11 September Hijackers and Associates.” I was interested in this because, according to the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph, it said the hijackers had a whopping 364 name variants and aliases. I filed the request in July 2006. In September I received a denial of fee waiver, which I appealed in October. I was granted a fee waiver as an act of “administrative discretion,” because fees “would be minimal,” and the first bit is free anyway. However, the CIA denied my request in April, stating the report was “properly classified and must be denied in its entirety on the basis of FOIA exemptions b(1) and (b)(3).” I decided not to appeal the denial, figuring that the CIA was not going to give it to me.

(3) I also applied to the NSA for “documents related to a call placed by one of the 9/11 hijackers, possibly Khalid Al Mihdhar, from San Diego to an Al Qaeda safehouse in Sana’a, Yemen on or around March 20, 2000.” I requested a transcript, etc., plus documents the NSA had for other calls made by the hijackers in the US (note: according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report, the NSA intercepted some of the hijackers’ calls to/from the US). That was in September 2006. In December they wrote back saying it was highly classified and I would have to prise it from Michael Hayden’s cold dead hand: “We have determined that the existence or non-existence of the material you request is a currently and properly classified matter in accordance with Executive Order 12958, as amended.” There was more of the same. Basically, it was so secret they wouldn’t even think about telling me whether they had it or not. I’m pretty sure this is going to get winkled out of them somehow, but it was above my capability as an occasional FOIA requester, so I didn’t appeal.

The next four requests that were rejected were all made to the FBI in the summer of 2006.

(4) I asked for Satam Al Suqami’s passport, found on 9/11 by the World Trade Center. I wanted this because I knew it said he had been to Malaysia, and I wanted to know when (which I would learn by looking at the immigration stamps). Even though the request was rejected, I got the information about his trips to Malaysia from the Moussaoui trial documents.

(5) Three documents related to the Flight 93 hijackers’ flight(s) from Florida to Newark on 7 September 2001, because they don’t make much sense. Based on the Hijacker True Name Usage Chart, I requested:

(a) Spirit Airlines Passenger Boarding List for Flt. 1460 from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark;

(b) Spirit Airlines passenger record for Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami;

(c) Passenger Name List from Continental Airlines for Flight 1700 from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark.

(6) Two ATM videos of Marwan Alshehhi on 7 September 2001, mentioned in a document called Chronology of Events for Hijackers 8/16/01 – 9/11/01 Marwan Al Shehhi. I was curious about these because there is generally little video of the hijackers available and the second video is during one of the periods Alshehhi is said to have been drinking in Shuckums.

(7) Documents related to a hotel stay by Nawaf Alhazmi just before 9/11 that was mentioned in the Hijacker True Name Usage Chart introduced as evidence at the Moussaoui trial. They were:

(a) A guest registration card for checkout on 9/11/01;

(b) A copy of Alhazmi’s USA ID card;

(c) A guest folio for Alhazmi;

(d) A registered guest ledger by name as of 10 September 2001;

(e) A taxi log showing destination of Dulles Airport for Nawaf Alhazmi on 09/11/01.

The reason the four requests were rejected was: “The material you requested is located in investigative files which are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Title 5, United States Code, Section 5552, subsection (b)(7)(A).” I appealed the rejection, pointing out that a whole lot of similar information had been made public, but the appeal was rejected and that was that.

(8) The final rejected FOIA was submitted to the Never-Say-Anything NSA. It was for a set of four e-mails about restrictions on sharing intelligence with the FBI around the time of the Millennium alert. They were:

(a) NSA email, William L. to Karen C., “distribution restrictions,” Dec. 10, 1999;

(b) NSA email, William L. to Anthony L., “doj restrictions,” Dec. 20, 1999;

(c) NSA email, William L. to Brian C. ,”dissemination of terrorism reporting,” Dec. 29, 1999.

(d) NSA memo, Ann D. to others, “Reporting Guidance,” Dec. 30, 1999.

I got the list from the 9/11 Commission report’s endnotes. The NSA wrote back claiming they were classified for a myriad of reasons, and the time limit for an appeal has now lapsed, so that’s it.

There are other FOIA requests still waiting for a resolution, including some very, very interesting ones, and I will post information about how they turn out when I get a reply.


  1. Hopefully this situation will improve with the new administration in DC.

    Comment by Max — February 22, 2009 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

  2. […] Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline, Document Collection — kevinfenton @ 2:57 pm This is a reposting, with one more failed FOIA request being added at the bottom (item number 9). For a list of […]

    Pingback by Unsuccessful FOIA Requests (Updated, June 2009) « History Commons Groups — June 11, 2009 @ 7:46 pm | Reply

  3. Hi there. Just wanted to ask you mate since you have experience with dealing with FOIA requests, do you happen to know if i am an Australian citizen and i send an FOIA request to both the ODNI and the NSA and get a denial of my request back for personal records on myself, would that seem a little “interesting” in your opinion? Im just curious. I even got a denial from the CIA due to the FOIA (b) exemptions, etc. Please reply back mate i’d appreciate it. Cheers.

    Comment by Nick — December 14, 2009 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  4. I don’t think it means anything, they always say something like that. The NSA basically never gives out anything anyway. AFAIK a few people have asked for records on themselves, but got nothing back. It’s pretty standard. Then again, you never know.

    I you want to get records, it is best to ask for specific government-produced documents you know exist, but are not yet public.

    Comment by kevinfenton — December 15, 2009 @ 10:42 am | Reply

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