by Scott Shane, New York Times, August 26, 2011
WASHINGTON — In what amounts to a fight over who gets to write the history of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath, the Central Intelligence Agency is demanding extensive cuts from the memoir of a former F.B.I. agent who spent years near the center of the battle against Al Qaeda.
The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript. And he gives a detailed, firsthand account of the C.I.A.’s move toward brutal treatment in its interrogations, saying the harsh methods used on the agency’s first important captive, Abu Zubaydah, were unnecessary and counterproductive.
Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new. In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director.
Continue reading here.
The key sentence is: “The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript.” Looks like Soufan is finally going to say publicly what I gather he has thought privately for some time.
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 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.)