This article was originally posted at Boiling Frogs Post:
Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the numerous “20th hijackers,” was arrested ten years ago next Tuesday, outside the Residence Inn in Eagan, Minnesota. The arrest was one of the first events in a case that gave the FBI a chance to blow open the 9/11 plot, but resulted in abject humiliation for the bureau when its headquarters’ string of errors was exposed in the press.
The Moussaoui case is a poster boy for the state of our knowledge about the attacks: we have some of the details, but know some are missing. Also, two key questions remain unanswered. This despite the wealth of information that came out at the trial and the fact that Moussaoui, although largely ignored by the 9/11 Commission’s final report—partly due to the forthcoming trial—was a major topic of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the FBI’s pre-attack failings.
These are the bare bones of the case: Moussaoui had been a known extremist for years prior to his arrest. Before the bureau first heard his name on August 15, he had been under surveillance by French and British intelligence and the CIA, although the agency would claim it only knew him under an alias. He was sent to the US for flight training by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, possibly to participate in 9/11, possibly to participate in a follow-up operation. However, he was a poor student and dropped out of basic flight school before obtaining a licence and went to learn about flying a Boeing 747, which aroused suspicion.
Carry on reading here.
A July 2001 telephone call between alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 coordinator Ramzi bin al-Shibh was intercepted, apparently by the NSA. Prosecutors and FBI agents working on the Zacarias Moussaoui case later obtained detailed information about the call, and shared it with the 9/11 Commission.
The Real News Network recently carried an interview of former FBI lawyer Coleen Rowley by Paul Jay (part 1, part 2 and part 3), dealing with what it called the “unanswered questions about the lead up to 9/11.” Rowley was stationed at the bureau’s Minneapolis office during the Zacarias Moussaoui case in August and September 2001, but later became a whistleblower and left the organisation.
While many aspects of the interview are good and interesting, it leaves out what is probably the most important known fact about the Moussaoui case: the identity of the most senior FBI headquarters official involved fully involved in the case.
Thanks to the efforts of one of the people who comments on here, Noise, we have been able to obtain the testimony of Erik Rigler at the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. Rigler was a summary witness who described to the jury a chapter of the Justice Department’s inspector general’s report into the FBI’s pre-9/11 failings. The testimony concerned chapter 5 in the report, which detailed the problems with the 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.
The testimony was split over two days; you can find the first day here, and the second day here.
Some of the Moussaoui trial transcripts have been published around the web, mostly by Cryptome, but a lot of it is still missing, so we are happy to get this.
Those who are familiar with the issues here will not learn much new from the testimony, as it is only a summary of a chapter in a report that has been available to the public for a couple of years now. However, those who are not familiar with the issues might find it a good introduction.
Having said that, what I found most interesting was that Rigler did not summarise the declassified version of the report, but the classified version, which contains some really key points that don’t appear in the unclassified version (and is still unavailable, so you are getting a peek at what you are not supposed to know). These three points concern the badness of Tom Wilshire, the badness of Rodney Middleton and the badness of Dina Corsi (note: last two entries to be published soon).