By Jon Gold
The main reason for this was because the 9/11 Commission barely looked at them, and the information they did come across tried to tie Iran to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. "[For executive director Philip] Zelikow and other staff on the commission, it was just more interesting—sexier—to concentrate on the CIA."
In late 2003, the NSA will allow the 9/11 Commission access to its archives on Al-Qaeda. "[P]erversely, the more eager [NSA director] General Hayden was to cooperate, the less interested [9/11 Commission executive director Philip] Zelikow and others at the commission seemed to be in what was buried in the NSA files."
Towards the end of the 9/11 Commission, "Zelikow would later admit he too was worried that important classified information had never been reviewed at the NSA and elsewhere in the government before the 9/11 commission shut its doors, that critical evidence about bin Laden’s terrorist network sat buried in government files, unread to this day. By July 2004, it was just too late to keep digging."
Interesting, since he seems to be the main reason the 9/11 Commission stayed away from the NSA.
"...both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission examine the NSA’s intercepts of various calls made by the hijackers to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen." The portion of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that touches on this "is heavily redacted so most details remain unknown. It states that, although the NSA intercepted the calls and disseminated dispatches about some of them, THE NSA DID NOT REALIZE THE HIJACKERS WERE IN THE U.S. AT THE TIME THE CALLS WERE MADE (emphasis mine)."
On 12/17/2005, George W. Bush says, "as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation’s inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al-Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn’t know they were here until it was too late."
"The 9/11 Commission Report contains a briefer section on the intercepts and deals with those which led to the surveillance of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia. In addition, it mentions that Almihdhar called his wife from San Diego in the spring of 2000, but fails to mention that his wife lived at an al-Qaeda communications hub and that the calls were intercepted by the NSA."
In her book "Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow," 9/11 Family Member Kristen Breitweiser states:
"Unfortunately, the NSA never checked to see where al Mihdhar’s calls were originating from— i.e., San Diego. The NSA’s oversight in not checking to see where the phone calls were being made from seems hard to believe. Nevertheless, the NSA’s negligence in this regard has been excused and overlooked. So for the nearly five months al Mihdhar was in this country and living with al Hazmi in San Diego, the NSA listened in to his phone calls back to Yemen. Notably, because NSA assumed that al Mihdhar was overseas, they passed all of their information regarding al Mihdhar solely to the CIA— not the FBI. If only the billions budgeted to NSA for intelligence had had room for caller ID. If they had just informed the FBI about the presence of al Mihdhar within our borders, the FBI would have been able to begin its investigation more than a full year before 9/ 11. " (pp. 181-182)
"[h]ad a line been drawn from the [communications hub] in Yemen to Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s San Diego apartment, al-Qaeda’s presence in America would have been glaringly obvious."
So basically, we are led to believe that the NSA was monitoring calls from San Diego to Yemen from the hijackers, but the NSA could not identify that the calls were coming from within the U.S. Meaning they had no idea the hijackers were in the United States.
"You know, this is the key. The NSA is all over this phone. And everybody, you know, that has any connection with it is drawing links from that phone. Now imagine eight lines from Yemen to San Diego. How obvious would it be that al-Qaeda is in America[?]"
On 5/14/2012, an article entitled "NSA Analyst: We Could Have Prevented 9/11" was released on HuffPo. In that article, NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake said:
"I can't say fully, because it's classified. But I showed that NSA knew a great deal about the 9/11 threats and Al Qaeda, electronically tracking various people and organizations for years -- since its role is to collect intelligence. The problem is, it wasn't sharing all of the data. If it had, other parts of government could have acted on it, and more than likely, NSA could have stopped, I say stopped 9/11. Later, it could have located Al Qaeda -- at the very time the U.S. was scouring Afghanistan."
Obviously, that tidbit of information further sparked my curiosity. I went to www.historycommons.org, and found every entry on the NSA that I could find, but could not see what Thomas Drake was talking about.
On 1/7/2014, in this article written by several NSA Whistleblowers, we get a clue about one of lies about 9/11.
"NSA knew the telephone number of the safe house in Yemen at least by 1996 and was, of course, keeping track of calls to it from the U.S. Would Mueller, Morell and Cheney have us believe NSA doesn’t know about caller ID? As William Binney has explained, automated systems take over when such calls are made and as long as you have one valid number you can obtain the other. Was it a case of gross ineptitude on NSA’s part; or was NSA deliberately withholding information linking al-Mihdhar to the known al-Qaeda base in Yemen?"
On 6/4/2014, Abby Martin has on two NSA Whistleblowers on her show "Breaking The Set." They are William Binney and Kirk Wiebe. During this interview, William Binney tells us:
"I know specifics… like six or seven phone calls from San Diego back to the Yemen facility. And by the way, BOTH ENDS WERE KNOWN. I MEAN BOTH NUMBERS WERE THERE. THAT'S HOW CALLER ID WORKS (emphasis mine)."
What do we learn from all of this? It seems the NSA lied, had BOTH numbers, and presumably knew the hijackers were in the United States and did not tell the FBI about it.
Is this what Thomas Drake was talking about? I don't know, but it is a pretty big lie. Personally, I would like access to all of the transcripts of the intercepts, and all other information the NSA had on Al-Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks.
###############NSA intercepts of hijackers' calls – update
I noticed this passage in the One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind (pp. 93-94). It is further evidence that the NSA intercepted some of the hijackers' calls to/from the US before 9/11:
“FBI investigators had been interviewing [FBI agent] Coleman and others throughout the winter, seeking context on several key NSA dispatches that had been discovered in the days after 9/11. Most notable among them were calls NSA had collected in 2000 from San Diego to a number in Yemen. The Yemen number was for the daughter of a man who, Coleman told investigators, “was the uncle of half the violent jihadists we knew of in the country.” This was the number—so familiar to Coleman from his work prosecuting al Qaeda that he knew it by heart—the 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar had called while he hid out in San Diego. In fact, Coleman and other FBI al Qaeda specialists had even placed an order with the NSA back in 1998—that any calls between the Yemen line and the US be passed to the bureau—that the NSA didn't fill. “For us,” Coleman said, “anyone who called the Yemen number is white-hot, a top suspect.”
I have some comments:
(1) If you hadn't already heard, the NSA intercepted some of the hijackers' calls.
(2) Al Mihdhar did not hide out in San Diego. Although he was a terrorist known to several intelligence agencies by this time he used a passport and visa in his own name, opened a bank account in his open name, rented an apartment in his own name, obtained a driving licence in his own name, etc.
(3) Dispatches! I would have thought that the NSA's first line of defence would be to claim the calls didn't meet its reporting threshold. If dispatches were drafted, then they can't use this argument.
(4) Dispatches! Would these dispatches not have been dispatched somewhere – for example to some Other Government Agency? Which one(s)? Would this Other Government Agency not then have a paper (electronic) trail related to them? I guess a paper trail like that would make it difficult for them to claim they didn't know Al Mihdhar was in the US.
(5) FBI agent Coleman indicates that in the calls Al Mihdhar talked to his wife (who was Ahmed Al Hada's daughter) as opposed, for example, to discussing operational information with her brother or father. The 9/11 Commission also made the same claim: “Mihdhar's mind seems to have been with his family back in Yemen, as evidenced by calls he made from the apartment telephone. When news of the birth of his first child arrived, he could stand life in California no longer.” (p. 222). Presumably, therefore, the Commission had some access to the NSA material. However, in the relevant endnote (No. 38 on p. 518) the Commission fails to reference the NSA dispatches (or transcripts of the calls). The relevant section only reads, “On Mihdhar's phone calls, see. e.g., FBI report, “Hijackers Timeline,” Nov. 14, 2003 (Mar. 20, 2000 entry, citing 265A-NY-280350-19426).” (Note: one of the calls was made on 20 March 2000, according to the FBI OIG report). Why would the Commission omit a story as important as the NSA intercepting the hijackers' calls? Surely it should have investigated this and found why they weren't disseminated (as Al Mihdhar was “white hot, a top suspect”) or, if they were disseminated, to whom?
(6) According to an edition of MSNBC Hardball broadcast on 21 July 2004, the calls did not end when Al Mihdhar returned to the Middle East in summer 2000 and “The final call from Yemen to the hijackers came only weeks before 9/11.”
Link: MSNBC Hardball