A document recently found in the National Archives shows that the CIA station in Yemen knew that al-Qaeda leader and USS Cole bombing mastermind Khallad bin Attash had attended the organisation’s Kuala Lumpur summit. However, other information proves that the Yemen station never communicated this to the FBI, even though it was working closely with FBI investigators into the Cole bombing. This raises questions as to why the CIA station in Yemen failed to pass this information on and whether this failure was part of a wider agreement to withhold information from the bureau.
The document, found at the archives by History Commons contributor Erik Larson (a.k.a. paxvector) and uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd, is a set of comments by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel on a draft section of the 9/11 Commission’s staff statement 10, Threats and Responses in 2001.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post saying that a whole bunch of people seemed to think former Vice President Dick Cheney was the driving force behind the Bush administration’s torture programme. I summarised the mindset of these people like this:
Vice President Dick Cheney was both shocked by 9/11 and saw it as an opportunity to implement radical elements of his own agenda. Therefore, he got the CIA and other elements of the government to step up its already active rendition programme, add a detention and torture programme of its own and, we now find, go around the world assassinating people. He also arranged legal cover for all this by getting mid-level people at the Justice Department like John Yoo to sign off on it, under pressure from Cheney’s counsel David Addington.
Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan was one of the people I had in mind when I wrote this and, in response to the recent publication of the CIA inspector general’s report he wrote the following:
What we now know is that immediately after 9/11, Dick Cheney decided that torture was going to be his principal weapon in waging the intelligence war on al Qaeda.
He knew this was illegal but believed he was saving the country and also believed that the constitution empowers the president to assume total, dictatorial powers in war-time. So he sabotaged the usual institutional checks, told the president everything was legal and “not torture”, took the US out of the Geneva Conventions, hired freelance goons to devise torture techniques, and began torturing the prisoners as they came in. He realized all along that this was illegal by the lights of every sane legal professional, and so then directed pliable fanatics, like John Yoo, to create legal memos to grant retroactive immunity – a golden shield – for all those involved in the torture. He then used the crudest politicking to brow-beat all defenses of American honor, decency and real interrogation as abetters of the enemy.
As those interested in the Detainee Abuse timeline may have noticed, a whole bunch of categories have been deleted from the timeline and no longer appear on the homepage. This was my idea, but BlackMax, one of the other project managers, signed off on it as well.
Basically, the reason was that every detainee in the timeline had his own category (as well as being an entity). This meant that the timeline’s homepage had a tremendous amount of links, many of which only led to one entry. To my mind, it makes sense to have a special category for a detainee when we have, say, five or so entries about him. Therefore, I have deleted all the categories for detainees who were only mentioned in one entry. The entries remain in the timeline and can be found in the Miscellaneous Detainees category, as well as in any other categories that might be relevant, like the ones for the individual torture techniques.
I think that the homepage looks better right now–there are less links that lead to little information–but there is more work to be done and we might carry on and delete more categories that don’t have much information in them.
Over the last few months, some of the contributors to the History Commons have been scanning 9/11 Commission documents recently made available at the National Archives (masterlist here). The vast majority of the work has been done by Erik Larson (a.k.a. paxvector), although Matt and I have helped with the analysis.
After scanning, the documents were uploaded to a dedicated site at Scribd. The name of this site was related to History Commons, but has now been changed to http://www.scribd.com/911DocumentArchive to reflect the fact that it only has documents related to the 9/11 part of what the History Commons does and that it is a semi-independent activity that just happens to be done by some of the contributors.
The URLs for files that have already been uploaded should stay the same, but if you’ve bookmarked the homepage, then you need to update your bookmark.
Meandering through reams of 9/11 Commission notes, I found the following about the Predator program:
Predator Case Study
No one would get hurt except the bad guys. Low and acceptable cost
Use technology as our answer
We rely on hi-tech, enemies rely on low-tech
This reflects just how much no one wanted to go to war
Predator Case Study
Typical American response, solution to a problem: throw technology at it, kill one guy. Was the answer for CIA and for DoD. Meant none of the good guys would get killed or injured. American answer, apply technology, solve the messy problem of terrorism with a magic bullet.
Started out as an intelligence collection platform, then became weaponized, was going to solve the problem
Big pissing contest b/w DoD and CIA as to who would pay. But, more importantly, who would have responsibility to pull the trigger, and make a mistake.
I think there is a lot of truth in that, especially the last line about the “Big pissing contest…”
I just went back and read some of the sections in the final report about the Predator (like “Covert Action and the Predator” starting on page 210 and a section about a meeting on 4 September 2001 on pages 213-214). I have to say that the notes convey extremely important concepts in pithy language, whereas the final report does not. Shame, they should have used the “pissing contest” line.
Okay, a little unwarranted bragging here:
I’m writing regular commentary and columns for the Raleigh version of Examiner.com. It’s an experiment in open-content civic journalism, which is right in line with what we do at the Commons, and I might even make a few bucks on my wordsmithing if it’s any good. 🙂
Come check it out and leave some comments, pro or con.
One of the more interesting things I have found going through the 9/11 Commission files is this extract, taken from an FBI summary of its investigation into the 9/11 attacks:
UBL can be directly connected to the attack on the USS Cole in October 12, 2000 (ADENBOM 265A-NY-277013). The 200578 telephone number which was originally identified as significant through the KENBOM/TANBOM investigation was also used during the planning of the attack on USS Cole. FBI investigators have learned the 200578 telephone number is subscribed to by AHMED AL-HADDA, whose daughter is married to KHALID AL-MIHDHAR (Flight 77). The ADENBOM investigation has also linked ALMIHDHAR to both NAWAF AL-HAZMI (Flight 77) and KHALLAD, now identified as TAWFIQ MOHAMED BIN SALEH BIN ROSHAYED BIN ATTASH.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately writing on the various events and issues surrounding the health care reform controversy. You haven’t seen any of those entries yet, though I’ve written (by my count) 54 so far, with plenty more coming. I haven’t posted any of them yet, and probably won’t for a few days yet. It is truly astonishing.
A couple of months ago, Newsweek had an interview with former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who was involved in the USS Cole bombing investigation and was taken off detainee interrogations after 9/11 due to the detainees being tortured.
I found this passage, about an argument Soufan had with CIA officials and contractors about (not) torturing Abu Zubaida in Thailand, to be most interesting:
As Soufan tells the story, he challenged a CIA official at the scene about the agency’s legal authority to do what it was doing. “We’re the United States of America, and we don’t do that kind of thing,” he recalls shouting at one point. But the CIA official, whom Soufan refuses to name because the agent’s identity is still classified, brushed aside Soufan’s concerns. He told him in April 2002 that the aggressive techniques already had gotten approval from the “highest levels” in Washington, says Soufan. The official even waved a document in front of Soufan, saying the approvals “are coming from Gonzales,” a reference to Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel and later the attorney general. (A lawyer for Gonzales declined to comment.)
I have found a photograph of Tom Wilshire, the CIA officer involved in pretty much all the pre-9/11 intelligence failings. It is here. I don’t reproduce it here for reasons of copyright, although I guess I could claim fair use. The photo was taken when he testified to Congress about the al-Qaeda threat in late 2001.
I have to say he looks a lot older than I thought he was, but I guess people never seem the way you imagine them.