Oh George! You got some ‘splainin‘ to do!

Who at Alex Station knew what in August-September 2001?

By Kevin Fenton

tenetRecent allegations made by former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke against former CIA Director George Tenet and two other former CIA managers, Cofer Black and Richard Blee, have thrown one of the key unanswered questions of 9/11 into sharp relief. What happened at Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, after an officer there discovered that two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, had entered the US?

The officer, Margaret Gillespie, says she made the discovery on August 21 and the record indicates she began to notify the FBI and other government agencies on this day. However, while a substantial amount of information has been made public about how the news circulated around the FBI, almost nothing is known of how Alec Station dealt with it.

In an interview recently broadcast as a trailer for the forthcoming audio documentary “Who Is Rich Blee?” Clarke alleged that the CIA had deliberately withheld from him information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi—in particular the news that Almihdhar had a US visa—for over twenty months before 9/11. Clarke also highlighted the importance of the information, saying it was more important than, for example, any of the key pieces of intelligence discussed at a controversial meeting with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001.

According to a statement recently released by Tenet, Black and Blee, neither Tenet nor any other senior CIA official was told of the visa or of travel to the US by Alhazmi and Almihdhar before 9/11. This was also the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion, although this conclusion was hedged. If this is true, then one appropriate question would be: why not?

After the attacks, it emerged that the FBI had arrested one of the possible hijackers, Zacarias Moussaoui. However, it blew the case, failing to obtain a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings and even failing to inform its own director of what was happening. This later failure became a badge for the FBI’s general uselessness. And Thomas Pickard, the acting director whom the information did not reach, made matters worse when he suggested Tenet, who had been informed of the case, should have stepped in and done the job Pickard’s staff failed to do.

In his 2007 book At the Center of the Storm Tenet piled on the agony for Pickard (emphasis in original):

During the 9/11 Commission hearings, I was stunned to hear Tom Pickard, who was acting FBI director in August 2001, suggest that I had somehow failed to notify him about Moussaoui. Failed to tell him? Hell, it was the FBI’s case, their arrest. I had no idea that the Bureau wasn’t aware what its own people were doing.

However, the CIA’s failure to inform Tenet of the Almihdhar and Almihdhar information must be regarded as more serious than the FBI’s failure to inform Pickard of Moussaoui. While the local Bureau agents who arrested Moussaoui thought he may well be a terrorist, they did not even realise he was a bin Laden operative, let alone connected to a suspected forthcoming al-Qaeda attack. On the contrary, the CIA knew Almihdhar was linked to the next attack.

In a July 23, 2001 e-mail published following Moussaoui’s trial in 2006, one of Blee’s former deputies, Tom Wilshire, warned CIA Counterterrorism Center (CTC) managers of Almihdhar’s link to the next attack: “When the next big op is carried out by UBL hardcore cadre, Khalad will be at or near the top of the command food chain—and probably nowhere near either the attack site or Afghanistan. That makes people who are available and who have direct access to him of very high interest. Khalid Mihdar should be very high interest anyway, given his connection to the (redacted).”

Khalad (usually spelt Khallad) was a known al-Qaeda leader, currently in Guantanamo. The redaction is probably a reference to al-Qaeda’s global operations hub in Yemen, to which Wilshire knew Almihdhar was linked. The e-mail appears in none of the relevant reports published by the Congressional Inquiry, 9/11 Commission and Justice Department inspector general. It was a follow up to one sent ten days earlier that Blee is known to have read. Wilshire, who was on loan to the FBI at this point, is one of the officials who failed to pass on notification of the Moussaoui case towards Pickard.

The scenario that Tenet, Black and Blee are selling is this: Gillespie found that Almihdhar and Alhazmi had entered the US and notified multiple other agencies. Four weeks previously, Wilshire had informed his former CTC colleagues that Almihdhar was “very high interest.” Yet, nobody at the CTC was able to put this together. Indeed, the significance of the two militants’ presence in the US would usually necessitate prompt notification to Tenet, even without Wilshire’s e-mail. Yet this was not done.

Here, then, is a very simple question: If Tenet did not know that Alhzami and Almihdhar had entered the US after August 21, who failed to tell him?

# # # #

Kevin Fenton is the author of Disconnecting the Dots: How CIA and FBI Officials Helped Enable 9/11 and Evaded Government Investigations.

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  1. the “broken covenant” of Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 is an essential factor in 9/11 and the cover-up of culpability for it.

    This a claim that is falsifiable. See http://www.broken-covenant.org

  2. theepitbull says:

    Lets put this tread in perspective:

    Dick Destiny


    Posted in War On Terror at 9:53 am by George Smith

    Richard Clarke crawls back to the edge of the limelight

    That fan of 80 buck white wine, celebrity natsec expert Richard Clarke, officially joins the world of 9/11 conspiracy today.

    Broken by The Daily Beast, Clarke granted an interview for some 9/11 tenth anniversary radio documentary, one in which he avers the CIA “intentionally withheld information from the White House and FBI in 2000 and 2001 that two Saudi-born terrorists were on U.S. soil—terrorists who went on to become suicide hijackers on 9/11.”

    The rationale: They were trying to “recruit” the al Qaeda men living in southern California as informants.

    The decision to do the alleged cover-up was made by George Tenet, it reads.

    The Beast shoots itself and Clarke in the foot a bit, mentioning way down in the story that the interview in which ol’ RC dropped this bomb was back in 2009.

    The question arises: If this is so important why have we had to wait two years to just before the big tenth anniversary outpour on 9/11 to find out?

    The answer is fairly obvious. Show business. It’s not really important whether it’s true. It’s just important it achieve maximum impact in the media for the benefit of the radio show’s producers.

    Clarke became a hero — if that’s what you want to call it — for his 2004 book, “Against All Enemies, [and] testimony on Capitol Hill about the Bush administration’s alleged absence of diligence in the war on terrorism.”

    In famous television footage Clarke told the victims of 9/11 from Congress, “Your government failed you.”

    All of this, and 60 Minutes, made Clarke the darling of Democrats who thought, for sure, he would help bring down George W. Bush.

    My brief experience with the frivolity is documented here, in a cover story at the Village Voice entitled I, Vermin from Under Rock.

    It made Clarke a fortune in book contracts, magazine articles and consulting/speaking fees.

    But the Democrats were thrown to the dogs in the Presidential election, anyway.

    A radio documentary isn’t nearly as big a deal — although — if the story is repeated enough, it might become one.

    Clarke’s last book was on cyberwar and while it gets its mentions on that beat it’s trivial business compared to the daily news of despair, national paralysis, economic collapse and mass unemployment.

    But 9/11 outrage timed right for the anniversary media splurge, now that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. There will be many many people who dearly want to believe in another story of cover-up and betrayal.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to make another pass through the rotunda again with renewed book contract?

    Tin foil hat time sez one commentator at Philly News.

    Hat tip to Frank.


    PS: Link of the week: http://livinglovingbreathingboys.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/marketing_101_basics.jpg

  3. The makers of the film interviewed Richard Clarke in 2009 for a movie they were working on called “Footnote 44,” of the 9/11 Report.

    Here is Footnote 44…

    44. CIA cable,“Activities of Bin Ladin Associate Khalid Revealed,” Jan. 4, 2000. His Saudi passport—which contained a visa for travel to the United States—was photocopied and forwarded to CIA headquarters.This information was not shared with FBI headquarters until August 2001. An FBI agent detailed to the Bin Ladin unit at CIA attempted to share this information with colleagues at FBI headquarters. A CIA desk officer instructed him not to send the cable with this information. Several hours later, this same desk officer drafted a cable distributed solely within CIA alleging that the visa documents had been shared with the FBI. She admitted she did not personally share the information and cannot identify who told her they had been shared.We were unable to locate anyone who claimed to have shared the information. Contemporaneous documents contradict the claim that they were shared. DOJ Inspector General interview of Doug M., Feb. 12, 2004; DOJ Inspector General interview of Michael,Oct. 31, 2002; CIA cable, Jan. 5, 2000; DOJ Inspector General report,“A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the 9/11 Attacks,” July 2, 2004, p. 282.

    The makers of the film could not get the money to finish the film, so they are releasing it at their expense for free. Along with an audiocast to be released in September. The makers of the film are also responsible for creating the best 9/11 documentary around called “9/11: Press For Truth.”

    There is nothing nefarious about the release of this information now. In fact, it also coincides with the release of Kevin Fenton’s book on the subject.

    Whatever anyone’s opinion on the timing of this information, it doesn’t detract from how important it is that we finally have a real criminal investigation into 9/11.

  4. And… to help REALLY put it in perspective…


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