The Jamie Gorelick, 911 Commission, Mohammed Atta scandal. If you don’t know the story you should, and everybody soon will. It is complicated and involved, so here is a simplifying chronological timeline of events cut and pasted from across the vast reaches of the universe, er, internet:
Jamie Gorelick worked in the Justice Department during Clinton’s presidency. During that time she created and reinforced a policy creating a wall between the CIA and FBI regarding anti-terrorist intelligence. Or, as Wikipedia puts it:
…in 1995, she (Gorelick) was the number two person at the Justice Department. Gorelick essentially decreed that, because terrorism was to be tried as any other crime, and information between organizations cannot be disseminated during investigations, a “wall” was set up…
(The following 3 bullet-ins are from this article at National Review Online. I’m quoting because I can’t say it any better..)
* In 1999, the Pentagon established an intelligence unit called Able Danger, assigned to seek out and identify al-Qaeda cells and members for U.S. Special Operations Command. This group reportedly used data mining from open sources.
* Approximately August or September 2000, Able Danger identified an al-Qaeda cell in Brooklyn. An intelligence official and Rep. Curt Weldon claim that the AD unit identified Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and included a photo of Atta. (Weldon claims that he has spoken to four persons involved with the program.) At least two of those men were pilots on the hijacked flights.
* Able Danger analysts recommended the information be passed on to the FBI so that the cell could be rounded up. Accounts in Government Security News, the New York Times, and the Associated Press indicate that Pentagon lawyers decided that anyone holding a green card (as it was believed the cell members did) had to be granted essentially the same legal protections as any U.S. citizen. Thus, the information Able Danger had gathered could not be shared with the FBI, the lawyers concluded. This is in keeping with “the wall” philosophy and policy established in 1995 by Assistant Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, in which intelligence and law enforcement were directed to go beyond what the law requires to keep intelligence-gathering and criminal law enforcement separated.
September 11, 2001-
No need to explain the importance of this date, obviously.
In late 2002, then Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle appointed Gorelick to serve as a commissioner on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The commission’s job was to figure out why US intelligence agencies didn’t know about and prevent 911.
A group briefed at least 4 members of the 911 commission staff, including its director Phillip Zelikow, about Able Danger when they visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in October 2003. The group giving the briefing EXPLICITLY mentioned Mr. Atta as a member of an Al Qaeda cell in the United States. (A former spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, Al Felzenber, will later deny Atta was mentioned at this briefing, but one of the intelligence agents at the briefing specifically remembers mentioning Atta by name, and Felzenber will later be proven a liar. Just keep reading.) Source- New York Times article.
July 12, 2004
A member of the US military urges the commission to include the fact that the military knew of Atta’s cell, wanted it rolled up, but was blocked by Gorelick’s wall, 10 days before the commission publishes its report. (Al Felzenberg, will try to deny this meeting happened, but will be caught in the lie, and admit it did happen later. Sourced below, just keep reading.)
July 22, 2004
Via Wikipedia, again:
The Commission’s final report was a very lengthy book, based on extensive interviews and testimony, but its primary conclusion was that the failures of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted the terrorist attacks to occur and that had these agencies acted more wisely and more aggressively, the attacks could potentially have been prevented.
The commision DID NOT MENTION that Able Danger wanted the FBI to round up Atta’s terrorist cell BEFORE 911, nor that Gorelick’s “wall” was a big part of the reason it didn’t happen.
August 9th, 2005
The New York Times breaks the story:
In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military’s Special Operations Command that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the congressman, Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and the former intelligence official said Monday.
The recommendation was rejected and the information was not shared, they said, apparently at least in part because Mr. Atta, and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas. Under American law, United States citizens and green-card holders may not be singled out in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Mr. Weldon and the former intelligence official said it might have reinforced a sense of discomfort common before Sept. 11 about sharing intelligence information with a law enforcement agency.
Here’s where things get juicier. We’ve already got Gorelick, who should never have been on the commission in the first place, on the commission. We’ve already got evidence that Gorelick was a principle reason for the failure of intelligence agencies to stop 911- and the fact that that was NOT INCLUDED in the commission’s report. But we’ve also got this, from the same article:
A former spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, Al Felzenberg, confirmed that members of its staff, including Philip Zelikow, the executive director, were told about the program on an overseas trip in October 2003 that included stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Mr. Felzenberg said the briefers did not mention Mr. Atta’s name.
This screams coverup, right? Plausible deniablility, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? But it gets worse for Mr. Felzenber.
August 11, 2005
Again from the New York Times
The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday.
The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission’s staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger.
The meeting, on July 12, 2004, has not been previously disclosed. That it occurred, and that the officer identified Mr. Atta there, were acknowledged by officials of the commission after the congressman, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, provided information about it.
In short, the commission knew. They knew Atta had been identified. They knew the military tried to pass the information to the FBI so the FBI could take out Atta’s cell, a YEAR BEFORE 911. Rather than investigate, they chose to bury the information. When asked about it, they lied to try to cover their lie of omission. This commission was a complete failure. We need a new 911 commission, and we need a commission to investigate the original commission.
Believe it or not the above truly is the short version. The LONG, EXCELLENT version is here at Captain’s Quarters. When you get to where that link takes you you’ll find a series of links. They are in chronological order, starting at the top post and ending at the bottom. It is kind of cool because you get to read that story as it was written, as it broke. The above is really just a summary of that set of links.
(Written, by the way, without permission of the Captain. I'll email him to inform him. Not sure of the blogger ethics involved in this situation.)