The C.I.A. has serious problems

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Maverick74, Feb 24, 2004.

  1. Maverick74


    February 24, 2004
    C.I.A. Was Given Data on Hijacker Long Before 9/11

    ASHINGTON, Feb. 23 — American investigators were given the first name and telephone number of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers two and a half years before the attacks on New York and Washington, but the United States appears to have failed to pursue the lead aggressively, American and German officials say.

    The information — the earliest known signal that the United States received about any of the hijackers — has now become an important element of an independent commission's investigation into the events of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said Monday. It is considered particularly significant because it may have represented a missed opportunity for American officials to penetrate the Qaeda terror cell in Germany that was at the heart of the plot. And it came roughly 16 months before the hijacker showed up at flight schools in the United States.

    In March 1999, German intelligence officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and telephone number of Marwan al-Shehhi, and asked the Americans to track him.

    The name and phone number in the United Arab Emirates had been obtained by the Germans by monitoring the telephone of Mohamed Heidar Zammar, an Islamic militant in Hamburg who was closely linked to the important Qaeda plotters who ultimately mastermined the Sept. 11 attacks, German officials said.

    After the Germans passed the information on to the C.I.A., they did not hear from the Americans about the matter until after Sept. 11, a senior German intelligence official said.

    "There was no response" at the time, the official said. After receiving the tip, the C.I.A. decided that "Marwan" was probably an associate of Osama bin Laden, but never tracked him down, American officials say.

    The Germans considered the information on Mr. Shehhi particularly valuable, and the commission is keenly interested in why it apparently did not lead to greater scrutiny of him.

    The information concerning Mr. Shehhi, the man who took over the controls of United Airlines Flight 175, which flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center, came months earlier than well-documented tips about other hijackers, including two who were discovered to have attended a meeting of militants in Malaysia in January 2000.

    The independent commission investigating the attacks has received information on the 1999 Shehhi tip, and is actively investigating the issue, said Philip Zelikow, executive director of the commission.

    American intelligence officials and others involved with the matter say they are uncertain whether Mr. Shehhi's phone was ever monitored.

    An American official said: "The Germans did give us the name `Marwan' and a phone number, but we were unable to come up with anything. It was an unlisted phone number in the U.A.E., which he was known to use."

    The incident is of particular importance because Mr. Shehhi was a crucial member of the Qaeda cell in Hamburg at the heart of the Sept. 11 plot. Close surveillance of Mr. Shehhi in 1999 might have led investigators to other plot leaders, including Mohammed Atta, who was Mr. Shehhi's roommate. A native of the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Shehhi moved to Germany in 1996 and was almost inseparable from Mr. Atta in their time there. Both men attended the wedding of a fellow Muslim at a radical mosque in Hamburg in October 1999 — an event considered an important gathering for the Sept. 11 hijacking teams just as the plotting was getting under way. American and European authorities say that Mr. Shehhi was actively involved in the planning and logistics of the Sept. 11 plot.

    "The Hamburg cell is very important" to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Zelikow said. The intelligence on Mr. Shehhi "is an issue that's obviously of importance to us, and we're investigating it," he added.

    Asked whether American intelligence officials gave sufficient attention to the information about Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Zelikow said, "We haven't reached any conclusions."

    The joint Congressional inquiry that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks was told about the matter by the C.I.A., but only a small part of the information was declassified and made public in the panel's final report in December 2002, several officials said. The public report mentioned only that the C.I.A. had received Mr. Shehhi's first name, but made no mention that the agency had also obtained his telephone number.

    Officials involved with the work of the joint Congressional investigation made it clear that the publication of a more complete version of the story was the subject of a declassification dispute with the C.I.A. A former official involved with the Congressional inquiry acknowledged that having a telephone number for one of the hijackers was far more significant than simply having a first name.

    Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A., F.B.I. and other government agencies have been heavily criticized for failing to put together fragmentary pieces of information they received from a wide array of sources in order to predict or prevent the terrorist plot. The joint Congressional panel that investigated the attacks concluded that American authorities "missed opportunities to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot by denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers; to at least try to unravel the plot through surveillance and other investigative work within the United States; and finally, to generate a heightened state of alert and thus harden the homeland against attack."

    Until now, the most highly scrutinized failure has related to the C.I.A.'s handling of information about a meeting of extremists in Malaysia in January 2000 that involved two of the men who would become hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi. Although the C.I.A. identified the two men as suspected extremists, the agency did not request that they be placed on the government's watch lists to keep them out of the United States until late August 2001. By that time, they were both already in the country. In addition, while the two men lived in San Diego, their landlord was an F.B.I. informant, but the bureau did not learn of their terrorist links from the informant.

    But unlike the leads to Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi in San Diego, the earlier information about Mr. Shehhi could have taken investigators to the core of the Qaeda cell at a time when the plot was probably in its formative stages. According to testimony in Germany in December in a criminal case related to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Shehhi was one of only four members of the Hamburg cell who knew about the attacks beforehand.

    Mr. Shehhi and Mr. Atta traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to train at a Qaeda camp with several other Sept. 11 plotters. And after returning to Germany, Mr. Shehhi made an ominous reference to the World Trade Center to a Hamburg librarian, saying: "There will be thousands of dead. You will all think of me," German authorities said.

    Soon after, Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Atta and another plotter, Ziad al-Jarrah, began e-mailing several dozen American flight schools from Germany to inquire about enrollment, and they arrived in the United States later in 2000 to begin flight training.

    "For those who do not fear that the FBI will be handling future terrorist financing investigations, let's look at the agency's track record when it comes to protecting the United States from terrorist financing:

    Even after the September 11 attacks, the FBI failed to pursue obvious terrorist financing leads. In a hugely embarrassing moment, the FBI failed to do anything about Ptech, Inc., a company whose prime investor was a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, Saudi Yassin al-Qadi. In desperation, the vice president of sales at Ptech contacted the FBI and pleaded with them to look into the organization, as he saw in the news that Qadi was allegedly connected to funding al Qaeda. After repeated meetings with increasingly higher-ranking FBI officials where the employees beseeched the agency to look into the company, the bureau did nothing, despite knowing that Qadi was a primary financier of Ptech.

    Furthermore, the FBI was aware that Ptech provided computer software for several government agencies, including the FBI itself, the FAA, the U.S. Treasury, the Department of Defense, the IRS, and the White House, proving a visible and viable threat to national security. The FBI ignored the repeated requests of concerned employees. Frighteningly, when an employee told the President of Ptech he felt he had to contact the FBI regarding Qadi's involvement in the company, the president allegedly told him not to worry because Yaqub Mirza, who was on the board of directors of the company and was himself a target of a terrorist financing raid in March 2002, had contacts high within the FBI.

    After months of the FBI refusing to do anything substantive, it took the efforts of U.S. Customs, now a part of Homeland Security, to raid the business in December 2002 and jumpstart the investigation into the alleged terrorist financial network.

    Perhaps the FBI's biggest blunder was in ignoring the enormous alleged terrorist financial network of companies and nonprofit organizations mostly in Herndon, Virginia, named by investigators as the "SAAR Network." The FBI had been aware of the SAAR Network since the early 1990s, when the Bureau investigated alleged terrorist Sami Al-Arian, as the investigation revealed that the SAAR Network was funneling money to al-Arian. The FBI chose to ignore the case for unknown reasons, though some have speculated it was due to the SAAR Network's close association to wealthy Saudis who funded the network.

    It was not until Operation GreenQuest, a joint task force headed by U.S. Customs which sought to disrupt terrorist financing, picked up the scent of the SAAR Network that a raid occurred. In March 2002, GreenQuest, in a victory for Americans everywhere, raided the SAAR Network in 15 locations in the largest terrorist financial bust in U.S. history.

    In a well-publicized scandal, FBI Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz refused to tape record secretly the Muslim president of an organization suspected of funneling money that may have helped finance the 1998 U.S.-embassy bombings in East Africa. Abdel-Hafiz, a Muslim, defended his actions by stating, according to FBI Agent Robert Wright, "A Muslim does not record another Muslim." When offered protection by the FBI to wear a wire, Abdel-Hafiz, himself an FBI agent, stated, "The FBI can't protect me. The FBI, I don't trust them," according to an affidavit written by FBI Agent Robert Wright. Furthermore, another FBI agent, Barry Carmody, maintained that Abdel Hafiz refused to tape record a conversation with alleged Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian, who has since been indicted.

    How did the FBI respond to this outrage? They promoted Abdel-Hafiz to assistant legal attaché to the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and banned Agent Wright from giving interviews.

    Now, the FBI is attempting to wrest the SAAR Network investigation from GreenQuest and take all the credit for GreenQuest's dedication and hard work. The agreement between Ashcroft and Ridge is a crushing blow to GreenQuest, as it effectively dissolves the outstanding task force. According to the memorandum, "The Secretary [of Homeland Security] agrees that no later than June 30, 2003, Operation GreenQuest (OGQ) will no longer exist as a program name."

    GreenQuest, the most successful antiterrorist-financing task squad in the history of the United States, is being disbanded because of the FBI's lust for power and glory. At a time when al Qaeda is resurging, the more agencies we have sharing information and investigating terrorism, the better off this nation will be. Given the FBI's track record, the bureau should be punished, not rewarded for unjustifiably bullying a new department into giving it more power, especially after FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted the bureau does not have the analytical capability to provide effective counterterrorism.

    Secretary Ridge must fight for the Department of Homeland Security's right to investigate terrorism, as the law enables him to do. The FBI has stymied and fumbled terrorism investigations for far too long. Secretary Ridge has the right and the duty to provide this country with a safe environment that the FBI has hitherto been unable to provide. For the safety and benefit of the American people, this agreement must be destroyed. "
  3. ktm



    Do you have any idea how many "names and phone numbers" law enforcement gets every day?

    It's real easy to sit back and quarterback this stuff after the fact. Fact is, law enforcement has done an outstanding job since 9/11 to prevent anything else from happening, given all the nutcases (both domestic and international) out there plotting little things and big things.

    Did law enforcement fail to infiltrate these guys early on - or continuously as they should? Were there intel failures? Sure. They learn from it and move on. This muckraking over who knew what before 9/11 is just BS, and I have to question the motives of anyone going this far in this "reporting".
  4. If it puts blame on the prior administration, then Mav will quote here.

  5. AGREE 100%!!!! Im sick of people blaming Clinton, Bush CIA, FBI Immigration ect.........We were sucker pucnhed no doubt, but if we took the 'necassary precautions' based on every can forget about ever going to a Football game, a concert, an offcie building, NYC, LA, FLYING, ..i heard one former security guy from a past administartion on TV saying that if Americans knew how many threats per day and what types of theats we recieve......they would never leave their house!
  6. This is certainly true to an extent, but I believe it is useful to evaluate how well the system performed. We know for sure that there were several inter-related failures, including those listed above and the infamous Minnesota incident where the FBI's request for a warrant was denied by the Janet Reno Department of Justice. That ultimately led to the female agent, whose name escapes me, being named one of Time's ppeople of the year.

    There is also a controversy raging over the prosecution of a ring of suspected terorists in Detroit. The lead prosecutor has been removed by Justice, allegldy for testifying to Congress pursuant to subpoena, amid allegations of wrongdoing in an important anti-terror prosecution.

    This stuff is too important to get bogged down in the usual turf battles, inter-agency pissing matches and overly politicized agendas. Clearly the authorities have been intimidated by concerns over racial profiling and stereotyping. Clearly they have inconvenienced millions of Americnas who pose no threat whatsoever while tiptoeing around serious threats. Equally clealry, they have done something right, as terror activities inthis country have been almost totally stopped. My conclusion is the Ashcroft-led roundup of suspicious Arabs took many sleeper cells off the streets. For that AG Ashcroft deserves our gratitude.
  7. You would be surprised to learn how "backward" the FBI has been when it comes to information technology.

    About 2 years ago, a friend of mine that is a senior FBI agent told me that they finally upgraded their computers in his office from 486's ( yes, you read that correctly! ) to Pentiums. And this remark came from an agent that had an "aspect" of the "internet" as part of his law enforcement territory.

    In fact, I had to ask him 3 more times that he was sure that he meant that he had said 486!

    Thus, I am not surprised that the FBI ( or the CIA for that matter ) had botched several intelligence issues regarding the hijackers on 911.

    As one poster mentioned earlier, the Minnesota "incident" was truly unfortunate because it disallowed the warrant to get ahold of hijacker Moussoui's laptop hard drive. While this was a political and career advancement issue within the ranks of FBI members (they were afraid to get their "wrists slapped" by a secret tribunal intelligence judge when they needed to appear before him for the warrant, and had done so on previous occasions with "shoddy" evidence), I do believe that there was in fact a terrible lack of cutting-edge information technology that would have allowed for and FACILITATED the SHARING OF INTELLIGENCE across law enforcement agencies.

    Sad, but true.
  8. ktm



    20 years ago the FBI didn't have 486s, and they did their jobs didn't they? Sure, technology helps. It improves things greatly and makes people wonderfully more efficient.

    With all the pissing between all the agencies, the power struggles, the battles to keep from getting branded as racial profilers and all the other BS that goes on in the media, the understaffing, the poor technology and the general way the gov't works, they all deserve medals for doing as much as they do as well as they do it.

    We still enjoy remarkable freedoms with a high degree of safety thanks to a lot of stuff that we never hear about.

  9. Two and a half years? Let's see...2001...2000....1999.... Maverick, AAA, this happened under Clinton's watch and you guys are letting it go? Change of heart? :)

  10. Thats bull shit....I hated Clinton but you can't blame it on him....even if he was a 'bit preoccupied' in this those days:D
    #10     Feb 24, 2004