146905 stories

Cato Institute demands domestic investigation records in lawsuit against FBI, DOJ

1 Share

The libertarian Cato Institute sued the FBI and Department of Justice on Thursday, vowing to unearth records about whether and when the FBI has overstepped its bounds in targeting and investigating American citizens.

The battle is unfolding amid concerns that FBI is choosing to investigate people because of politics and ideology instead of wrongdoing, with critics pointing to charges that the bureau targeted a conservative group for a probe while simultaneously ignoring U.S. gymnasts’ allegations of sexual abuse by ex-Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.  

The think tank is seeking records to shed light on when the FBI thinks it has gone too far in investigating people who may not have been accused of a crime through various investigative activities such as so-called “assessments.” The sought-after records would reveal hidden details about whom the FBI investigated, in violation of its own rules and without producing evidence for doing so, Cato officials say.  

“If the FBI is allowed to continue to use assessments as a tool to investigate people without any kind of predicate, you’re changing the fundamental fabric of the country, you’re changing the fundamental relationship between the citizen and the government,” said Patrick Eddington, Cato Institute senior fellow. “And that’s the kind of insidious, creeping change that is the most difficult to try to deal with.”

FBI‘s assessments to probe individuals and groups’ actions do not require allegations of wrongdoing or a “factual predication,” instead only needing an “authorized purpose” and a clear objective, according to the FBI‘s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide updated in 2016.

A wide variety of politically oriented groups have already been swept up in FBI assessments, according to records obtained by Mr. Eddington, including the conservative Concerned Women for America, a New York chapter of the League of Women Voters, and the Muslim Justice League in Massachusetts. 

The Cato Institute asked the FBI last fall for records regarding when federal agents thought the FBI failed to follow its own requirements for conducting domestic investigations and operations. The FBI answered this summer that it had nearly 1,100 pages of such records and releasing the information would take approximately five-and-a-half years, according to the Cato Institute’s lawsuit. 

Mr. Eddington said Thursday’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit marks Cato’s 11th suit against the FBI or the Justice Department since 2019. He said he thinks the bureau is purposefully moving slowly to protect the FBI‘s reputation. 

“Almost 1,100 pages sounds like a lot until you realize that they told me via email that it only covers a period — 2013 to 2020, essentially,” Mr. Eddington said. “What about everything before that? What kind of supposed oversight was taking place? And I have to say the entire idea of internal oversight at any agency or department, I find laughable.”

The nearly 1,100 pages of records involve the FBI‘s internal discussion of its own methods and would not include instances of the FBI conducting assessments of groups that watchdogs and Americans may find objectionable. 

For example, the records may not include the FBI‘s examination of Concerned Women for America in 2016 conducted in part because of how Charity Navigator, a group that grades organizations, scored CWA, according to documents released to Mr. Eddington in response to a FOIA request. The FBI determined there was no reason to investigate the conservative women’s group further. 

The revelation that the FBI probed the conservative women’s group in the months before the 2016 presidential election spurred concern on Capitol Hill. Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, each wrote letters to the FBI demanding answers about the investigation of the conservative women’s group. 

While no answers have yet become public, Republicans are working with the FBI and expect them to cooperate, according to a House Republican source. 

Details about how the FBI chooses to launch investigations and which matters it prioritizes are receiving newfound scrutiny amid U.S. gymnasts’ testimony this week during a Senate hearing regarding the FBI‘s handling of sexual abuse charges against Nassar. Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified that she told an FBI agent in the summer of 2015 about the abuse she suffered but she said it was not documented until 17 months later. 

While FBI agents in one field office allegedly ignored Ms. Maroney, a different FBI field office probed Concerned Women for America and found nothing worth pursuing. 

Mr. Grassley referenced the Nassar investigation in his July letter to FBI over its examination of Concerned Women for America.

“Based on the unredacted information that’s been made public to date, I’m concerned about the basis upon which the FBI initiated an assessment of CWA and the authorities it relied on to do so,” wrote Mr. Grassley in the letter. “Unfortunately, as the country has witnessed in the recent past, including the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and the Larry Nassar investigation, the FBI has repeatedly failed in its mission and abused its authority.”

The FBI declined to comment. The FBI’s Washington Field Office previously declined to comment on its assessment of Concerned Women for America and directed The Washington Times to the information it released under the FOIA request to Mr. Eddington.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Read the whole story
11 minutes ago
Share this story

#FBI #NEWS #TNT FBI CIA #CIA The German-Russian involvement & management of 9/11 is so evident and so much in plain sight, that EVERYONE REFUSES TO SEE THIS ELEPHANT IN THIS CRIME OF THE CENTURY. Keep your eyes wide shut, maybe it will help somehow! Ah?!

1 Share
#FBI The 9/11 call from the old-new German-Russian Intelligence Alliance to US: Do not mess with our Moslems in Chechnya & elsewhere and with our regional dominance in the Balkans, und we will not mess with your Middle East Moslems whom we can train & use as our Arab soldiers.


 Российская Газета

В скором времени в России появится единая база номеров телефонов мошенников. Авторами инициативы выступили сразу три ведомства - МВД, Банк России и Роскомнадзор, их представители и займутся ее реализацией


 Российская Газета

Read the whole story
3 days ago
Share this story

Interviews - Tyler Drumheller | The Dark Side | FRONTLINE

1 Share
photo of Tyler Drumheller

Tyler Drumheller served as the CIA's top spy -- the division chief for the Directorate of Operations (DO) -- in Europe until he retired in 2005. Here, he discusses changes at the CIA during his career and after 9/11; his impressions of Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and his leadership; and Drumheller's attempts to warn about the dubious intelligence provided by an Iraqi defector, code-named Curveball. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on Feb. 15, 2006.

Give me a sense of who you are, what you did, what your career with the CIA was all about.

I served in the CIA for a little over 25 years. I applied in the late '70s, really started in 1980. I served all but the last few months of that undercover, and all but the last three years of that I was an undeclared officer. I spent a very short time in Washington.

My first part of my career, I served at a number of posts around Africa. I had grown up in Germany, so I spoke German, and then I got switched to Europe and spent the last part of my time in Europe. I can actually say what I did in some of those places. I was deputy chief of the Europe Division in the mid-90s, went and served as chief of the largest field office then -- Baghdad is now, obviously -- and then came back in 2001, and they made me the chief of the division. I served there until I left, which was Feb. 3 of last year [2005], so out one year. ...

In that arc of that career, what did you see happen to the Central Intelligence Agency?

The problem is the agency became larger, and the structure became more convoluted. In the beginning, when I started, they used to always say there was never more than two or three people between any case officer in the field and the director -- very short lines of command, fairly clear.

Obviously there were mistakes made, lots of excesses in the '50s and '60s, but very focused, short, direct lines of command. There was very little confusion about what we were doing and what we were to do and what our role was in the government. The policy-makers set the priorities, the things they're interested in, and we were to collect on those and then to report back, and then they make policy.

Over the time I was there, I saw it become increasingly -- "politicized" is a terrible word, but increasingly, where the policy-makers became more involved in saying, "Well, this doesn't fit with what I am interested in. I want some specific information," which is a very gradual process. ... Inside the agency itself, [this] is reflected in the fact that directors began to have padded -- not "padded"; that's the wrong word -- but more and more staff, more and more special assistants, more and more executive officers, more and more executive assistants, until in the end there were definite changes that needed to be made.

[Former Director] George Tenet started them in the mid-90s, but there were still some changes [that] needed to be made in the post-Cold War period as we adjusted. [This administration] really had an opportunity to do it, and instead, they became very much focused on politics. A lot of it centered initially around Iraq when they first came in, because they were very interested in Iraq, and then after 9/11, obviously the war on terror, rightly so.

There were a lot of preconceptions. A number of people in the administration have contacts in émigré communities in Iraq, Iran. They get a lot of information, so they come in with an idea of what they think it is, and when we report something that goes against that, it's no longer looked at as, "Well, why is this?," or "What's the problem?" In fact, it's looked at as, "You're being disloyal."

This is [former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz with the Iraqis, for example?

I don't know Wolfowitz, but that group, the people in the Pentagon, it's well known they had contact with Iraqi émigré community. I think a lot of the preconceptions about the weapons of mass destruction and all that were driven by the Iraqi émigré reporting, whether it was from the Iraqi National Congress [INC] or others.

ˆâ it's the way it happens in government. When things start building towards war, when there's all this emotion, you do things you wouldn't have done if you sat down and thought about it.

...Émigré reporting is notoriously unreliable, ... because they always have an agenda. They're trying to get back to their home. Sometimes it's reliable and you have to use it, but you really have to double-check. You can't base your whole view of what's going on on émigré reporting.

I think that drove a lot of it. There's some complications in the Curveball case. [That] is a good example of how, had that been an agency case handled by us, we would have vetted it much, much more before the reporting was put out and given the credence that [it] was given. [Curveball] came out as a defector, was handled by Defense Intelligence [Agency (DIA)] officers. But that's nothing against Defense Intelligence officers; [there are] great Defense Intelligence officers. But we have a certain way of doing things that's built up over 50 years. Some people look at that as being cautious. In fact, it's a professional standard that you really have to have. ...

Help me understand or place George Tenet in the firmament. When he arrives, what reputation does he come with? What is he?

George actually came to the job from the National Security Council [NSC], where he was the intelligence coordinator. Before that he had been the staff director on the Senate Select Committee [on Intelligence (SSCI)] and had served on the Senate Select Committee for a long time [and] was well known.

In those days, though -- and this is another thing that's changed -- it was very unusual for the staffers or even senators for that matter to have contact with individual case officers or reports officers or even analysts. That contact was usually done through the DDO's -- the deputy director of operations' -- office. You tried to protect the junior, the working officers from the politics or the issues.

I had only met George one time. I'm sure he didn't even remember me. I had to brief him on Angola one time back in the late '80s. But I always found him, when he was at the NSC, to be very helpful. He's a very smart guy. He understands the intel community. [Before] he came in, Dr. [John M.] Deutsch was -- strictly my opinion -- a disaster as DCI [director of central intelligence], sort of petulant and disorganized. George really straightened it out after that. Morale was just disastrous in 1994 and '95 because everybody just -- it was so confused. Everybody wasn't sure where we were going. He really did give purpose to it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Good friend for a long time.

I think he was truly dedicated to the idea of making an intelligence service. He's also, I think, dedicated to the institution of the CIA, and he wanted to make it better. ... I don't think he was ever completely comfortable with the Directorate of Operations [DO], because we cause problems for people. I think his staff tended to be analysts and people who came from the Hill.

But we had regular contact with him ourselves, and we could talk with him directly. You didn't have to go through one of these staffers. He was very dynamic. A lot of the things that we did in Europe in the war on terror -- we did some very good things with Europeans, and it was largely because I was able to call on him to sit down and talk to the leaders of these countries.

One of the things that I understand he does is he looks at the CTC [Counterterrorist Center] and other places, and he says, "Terrorism is a huge problem."

He did. Some people have been saying this for some time: Dewey Claridge, Milt Bearden, people like that. Tenet really said, "We have to change." And he was saying [this] back in '96: "This is a war on terror. We have to readjust our resources and the way we're structured and how we work." ... He was very -- I don't know this for a fact, but it seemed to me, as he was there longer, the Clinton administration became more and more -- until at the end they were extremely interested in terrorism and counterproliferation. They were driven by that, especially by [Osama] bin Laden. They were very interested in bin Laden.

And that was Tenet?

That was during Tenet's time. I never saw Tenet speak to the president, so I don't know. But you put the two together, it seemed like that was his focus with it. I think it was good for the agency. He really wanted to focus on these transnational issues, which is what we should do. But he was worried that if we kept the old structure in place, that that would draw away from it, because we'd always go back to doing what we knew we had to do from our early days.

The fact is, you can -- I think I convinced him of this at the end -- is you can do both. You have to have the structure to do the transnational issues. Transnational issues don't exist in a vacuum. You have to have some structure. What he was just getting started on when 9/11 hit was looking at new ways of structuring things. ... After 9/11, it was like from a fire hose. That distorted everything.

That summer before 9/11, all the alarm bells are going off everywhere -- at the FBI, CIA, everywhere. What was happening?

I came back that summer from overseas, and we had heard the year before [about] the millennium threat. There were concerns at that time about planes flying into steeples in Europe. When I came home that summer, I ran into a very close friend of mine who was working at the CTC at the time. He said, "Something terrible is going to happen," and he just can't get anybody to focus on it. He said, "Tenet's been talking to the White House."

Then, by the end of July, he said, "It seems to have gone away." Then in early August, they did the PDB [President's Daily Brief] piece for the president on that. But there was a sense. I saw it in [Deputy Director of Operations James] Pavitt; I saw it in Tenet; I saw it in my friend -- [then-CTC Director] Cofer Black's a very close friend of mine. I saw it in all these guys, that they were desperately trying to get the people to focus on this. This was a real threat.

It wasn't that people were blasé about it. It's just that the new administration had a million different things, and this wasn't what they were -- it just didn't seem to be resonating.

But if you had to say there was a number one thing George Tenet was worried about?

Terrorism and counterproliferation as joint issues. Terrorism and the counterproliferation as an adjunct of that, as sort of the force multiplier.

He really desperately wanted somebody to pay attention.

Yes. And he really tried. I think he was supported by Pavitt and Cofer.

9/11 happens. How do things change?

It changed that afternoon. They sent everybody home, and they called us, all the division chiefs, back in [to talk about] how we were going to restructure, how we were going to address what happened. Now, what happened -- why it happened and what was amiss -- we didn't really get into. We were trying to look ahead.

My part of it was to try and go to our European allies. One of Tenet's real goals was to break down the barriers between the services, because you have very long-standing rules of engagement between foreign intelligence services. You work together, but you don't really trust each other. It's an interesting sort of dance in that every service wants to protect its sources, obviously, and information. We had been looking for ways to engage on this; they, [the] Europeans, were looking for ways to engage on it. But even among themselves, they had a hard time doing that.

Then after 9/11, there was increased interest in it obviously, and I think we actually had some success. Like I said, George was a great help on that. ...

He's a great salesman, I hear. So he's going around to the foreign services. He's going around to the president of Yemen. He's going around getting everybody kind of --

He had terrific energy. He recognized his role as the most valuable asset that I, as division chief, had: that I could deliver him to meet with the president of the country or the head of [a foreign intelligence service]. That means a lot to people. ...

I've seen him many times work all day, go to the 5:00 p.m. [CIA] meeting, come out, have another meeting at the White House, and then meet me in Georgetown for dinner with some head of some service and stay up until midnight, 1:00 a.m., and drive home. I said, "You must be really tired." He said, "I have a chauffer." Then he'd be back with the president at 6:00 a.m. It was exhausting --

Is he good at it, in the interpersonal, across the dinner table?

He's fantastic at it.

In what way?

He's just a regular guy, no pretension. He listened to other people, although he holds forth. But he was very good at listening to people and making people think that he was interested in what they were saying. Most of the time he was interested in what they were saying, because he was a curious guy. I think one of the things he probably enjoyed most about being director was learning all the things he learned over the years. He was genuinely, I think, liked by every senior official ... I ever worked with.

After 9/11, what did he want?

After 9/11, the main thing was this seamless sharing of intelligence and immediate sharing of intelligence, because I think everybody saw that there may be pieces out there that are being held, and someone says, "Well, this comes from such a secret source that only one person can see it ...," and that person may have said, "Oh, well, this is terrible," put it in their desk and forgot about it. This is the other thing I think he wanted to do -- this is what eventually became the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center -- ... get all the analytical people in one place.

[Former CIA Deputy Director John] McLaughlin used to say -- I say this all the time; I actually stole it from him -- this should be like the Manhattan Project: Get the very, very best analysts from the intelligence community, from the academic world, from business, whatever, bring them together in one place -- not 5,000 analysts, [but] a small, efficient group. Then they should have access to all the intelligence from all our services, all the American services, all the allied services, seamlessly, and really good computer systems.

If he could have done something, that was the direction he was certainly headed in, and that got bumped off by Iraq, in my opinion.

The vice president, [Dick Cheney], on Sept. 16, [2001], says: "We're going to have to go to the dark side. The American people are going to need to understand we're going to go to the dark side." What did he mean by that?

... I think they wanted to show the American people that we're going to fight back. ... If you look at the European services and you talk to them about the reason they didn't get all spun up over this in the beginning, [it] was because they went through the Red [Brigades terror attacks in Italy]. It was never a 9/11 type of thing, but in fact was much more devastating. It changed the whole way society worked in Europe. In Italy, people stopped going out at night. The IRA [Irish Republican Army] changed the whole way British society worked.

The way they finally got this under control ... was by turning some of their tactics on them: surveilling them, being very aggressive in going after them. Some of that involves things that people may not want to know about or care about if it's a war situation, and that's what I think they were talking about at that time.

You mean like assassinations and kidnappings?

Assassinations, that's still off the -- they shouldn't do that. And kidnappings -- you look at it as a kidnapping, or, as they call them, renditions. In many cases it's more of an extradition; it's more of a super-extradition, in a sense.

The other idea was, I think, they were definitely sure in September and October that we were going to hit [them]. People who knew how organizations like Al Qaeda worked realized at that point Al Qaeda had pretty much shot its bolt for that period in America, and it would take them a while to rebuild anything. To pull off an operation like that, where you have all 19 men show up -- nobody overslept, and nobody was in a car accident, and nobody chickened out and ran away -- it's unbelievable. You couldn't do it if you tried.

Then they were all killed, and I think the leadership of Al Qaeda realized that once those planes hit the tower, they were pretty much finished; that we were going to come after them. That's when they started dispersing around the world. But I think that's what the vice president was talking about. Now, I don't know what other tactics they had in their minds because they didn't confide in me, and a lot of this stuff was really highly compartmented.

Did you know about the "black site" prisons and all that stuff?

No. I knew there were discussions of what to do with the prisoners, and I knew about Guantanamo, obviously. They had prisoners captured in Afghanistan, and there was a debate about how [to handle them]. What was finally decided in the end, that was highly, highly classified. I would only have known about it if someone were taken from Europe to a place like that.

Even as head of Europe, you wouldn't have known if they were taking people?

If they're doing it in Europe, I would have known. But if they were taking people out of Europe, I wouldn't have known. ... No, the thing that we tried to do was to get the European services to focus on the terrorist groups in their country -- not only that, but the things that bred the terrorist groups, this dislocation of Palestinian communities and all that, to get better coverage of that.

We had a very hard time covering [that], because they just -- Europeans can't go in. If you go to the Muslim areas of Brussels or Paris, it's quite [like] the Middle East. They're more isolated. I think it's one of the things that's prevented a second attack here, that the Muslim community here is much more integrated into American society. In Europe, they really are a separate entity, ... so all their anger ... about what's going on in the Middle East is exacerbated by what's happening to them in Europe.

But in the black sites, you hear rumors about it, but they were very, very tightly compartmented, and that's as they should be.

I was talking to somebody yesterday, a general, who said that the CIA has it all wrong, that what actually happened in Afghanistan was CENTCOM's [U.S. Central Command's] plan, and the CIA helped here.

You should talk to Tenet about that, because I hope he would speak up on that. That's one of the frustrations I had with George: While these guys are saying, "It's all an intelligence failure," as a matter of fact he knows, "No, it was our plan; this plan was drawn up years before and was in place because of the relationship with the Northern Alliance." Tenet was able to put it on the desk at the White House [four days after 9/11]. I think the military never got over that.

It was a unique situation that we had a longtime relationship with ... the Northern Alliance and people that served in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the years. That plan was there because they were anticipating not attacking Al Qaeda, because Al Qaeda is relatively new, but dealing with the rise of the Taliban and eventual chaos in Afghanistan.

But no, I mean, the military didn't arrive for, like, six weeks or five weeks. The problem was that they had battle groups in the Persian Gulf and all the support -- that's the way they operate. They have to look at it for huge numbers of troops.

The people that we have to do this are very special guys that are willing to take huge, monstrous risks without a tremendous support structure. Many of them are former special forces guys who felt constrained in special forces, so they are very resourceful and smart and brave. We shouldn't take away from them because they did all the work, guys like Gary Berntsen and [Gary] Schroen, plus the guys under them that they had in the field.

How important was it to the CIA that that plan was taken on right at that time, that Tenet himself could somehow get it before the president in a way [former CIA Director James] Woolsey or somebody else wouldn't have been able to?

My opinion is that Tenet, Cofer and some of these others were, as we all were, upset by 9/11. They were personally shaken, like they had failed in their charge to protect America. They really wanted to do something, and because they felt that we had the ability to do this, on a political level, it catapulted Tenet from being just a holdover from the Clinton administration who basically kept the job because they couldn't find anybody else to take it ... into the inner circle of the president. In that sense, it was very important.

But it worked. It worked because some guys took some horrendous risks, and it worked because we had B-52s that could come in and bomb the Taliban into spaghetti. So the military played a role in it, but it was the Air Force. Then when they came in, special forces joined up with the paramilitary, and they worked together. They all know each other; it's that special forces world. So it's also wrong for them to say, "The military's here." It's all mixed up together.

You could see both the operational side -- ... [and] the politics, because of your experience in Washington. Help me understand the big politics: Cheney, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, Tenet, [then-National Security Adviser] Condi Rice, [then-Secretary of State Colin] Powell, that inner circle of the war cabinet. Where was Tenet in that mix, and what was going on?

After 9/11, and after the success of the initial battle plan, ... because of that, Tenet was right at the heart of the matter. He was in every meeting, and they depended on him because he could speak. He is articulate, and he doesn't equivocate a lot. I think the president liked that. He was able to say, "Yes, we can do this; yes, we can do this; we can do that." It got to the point, actually, that that became a problem, because it started to stretch us really, really thin. The Directorate of Operations, they always said, "Well, we never say no to someone." It did start to fray some of the fabric.

And his primary competitor, was it Rumsfeld?

That was always our perception, although I'll say that he always said, "Oh, I have a wonderful relationship with Rumsfeld." But that's Washington, I guess. But yeah, it's the Pentagon, and I think they want to beef up their intelligence work, which is fine. In fact, in Iraq, the tactical intelligence -- the people that are going and looking for a rocket in somebody's basement or something -- that should be done by military, by joint special forces command troops trained as intelligence officers. You don't want to bring the case officers down to do that, which is what was happening, because then they have to be guarded by the soldiers while they do that.

You have certain specific things that you need CIA-trained people to do: classic human collection against terrorist targets and to recruit agents and to run agents. The Pentagon, they want to get more into that area, and it's an area of natural conflict. The DHS [Defense HUMINT (Human Intelligence) Service], that had a lot of problems. They've tried to reorganize it, and they have a variety of the structures.

The problem is that intelligence seems very simple to people; ... it seems pretty straight. And it is. It's not physics, but it is a profession like anything else. ... It's a knowledge base and a set of professional traditions and standards that's developed over 50 years and that we inherited from the British 100 years before that. ... So there is a long-standing way that you have to work on it, and that's going to be the natural bone of contention for the military. ...

The military does what it does very well; I think we do what we do very well. When you start trying to mix the two, where you start crossing the lines with each other, that's where we have problems.

OK, Tora Bora -- what happened?

I think Berntsen is probably the best person -- I believe what he said, and I heard it from other people that were there, that they used the Northern Alliance troops. They could have used Americans. ... Whether they could have actually done anything anyway, even if they had sent the 10th Mountain Division in and combed the mountains, because it's pretty remote and desolate country, but they did make the conscious decision to use the Northern Alliance troops. Why they did that, ... it's not clear, but what I think Berntsen said is exactly true, in his book, [Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander], and he was there, so he's the best judge for that.

And its meaning inside the CIA? We have this tremendous success; the plan is executed; the president is paying attention; the press is saying, "Gosh, the CIA, things are shining." In that moment, here's Tora Bora -- maybe [bin Laden is] up in the mountains; maybe we've got him surrounded. But the military won't play. Inside the CIA, how does that feel? ...

There was always an idea that the military moved in a different pace on these things, and they had a different way of doing things, so it was part of the ongoing frustration, but it wasn't a terrible, tremendous blow, outside of those paramilitary units and the Counterterrorist Center people that were driving it. I think they felt terrific anger and frustration, and Gary reflects that. But everybody else was so busy, literally working around the clock, trying to work in your own areas ... and coordinate with the Counterterrorist Center, that was very aggressive and getting out all over the place and keeping all that in front of you.

I was actually more focused on the battle for the city in the western part of Afghanistan; that was the big turning point.


Mazar-e-Sharif, because if Mazar-e-Sharif hadn't fallen when it did, we were already making plans for a winter siege, and we had meetings on the budget, like how we would budget for this and the military and our people and the Northern Alliance people [who] would be there through the winter. And it was actually the bombing the broke the Taliban, ... that broke the siege. And so I was much more focused on that, because it was going to affect me directly, than I was with Tora Bora.

When Tora Bora happens, another thing is beginning to become obvious that it's happening, and that is there's a turn toward Iraq that's been going on mildly in the fall, but we're swinging into January, February, March of 2002. When do you feel the turn?

In the late Clinton administration, in the middle '90s, there was a large push on Iraq. Then in the late '90s, as they became more concerned about the nuclear proliferation in Iran, there was a movement of resources from Iraq to Iran. I was in the field then, so I saw that. It was seen as [compared to] Iraq, with the inspectors and with the sanctions and all, that Iran presented a much more dangerous threat than Iraq. Right after the Bush administration came in in February of 2001, we got the word to start gearing up on Iraq, start gearing up [intelligence] collection on Iraq, resources back to Iraq, that these guys were focused on Iraq.

It didn't come as any surprise. I heard right after Sept. 11 this whole thing about the Prague meetings [between Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer]; that never happened. I had a friend of mine ... telling me that there were people at the Pentagon who were pushing in the spring for what they called an "Afghan solution" in Iraq, which was to send in British and American special forces to work with the peshmerga [Kurdish freedom fighters], and the peshmerga would play the role of the Northern Alliance. Finally, senior heads, I think both ... at the State Department and our people and [the] British, [explained] that Iraq's not Afghanistan, the peshmerga aren't the Northern Alliance, it's a whole different ballgame, and so they backed off. ...

And you have Mike Maloof [of the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG)] and the Office of Special Plans [OSP], and the DoD [Department of Defense] taking raw intelligence and retyping it and sending it up? ...

I don't know for sure, but I believe there was serious consideration, at least briefly, given to the "Afghanistan solution" for Iraq. Then by the summer, it was clear we were going to war with Iraq. There was no doubt about that. I mean, you could feel it. You're in Washington long enough, you could feel it.

Summer of 2002?

2002, and I think a lot of it was driven by émigré reporting. Also during that spring, Dr. Rice made a speech when she said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and the vice president said, "There's no doubt that they have [reconstituted their nuclear program]." That had to come from these émigré sources, because we weren't reporting that. Even the Pentagon wasn't reporting that, that I saw.

They always say, "Well, all these other European services and all these other countries around the world felt the same way." Well, no, it wasn't exactly the same way. They were all concerned; there was a general fear that Saddam was building [weapons] because Saddam was Saddam. ... It's the way he kept his enemies inside and outside the country off balance.

This general view developed that the inspectors were a bunch of clowns, which wasn't true. The inspectors are very serious guys, and they actually did an effective job -- not perfect, but they were pretty effective. But the intelligence that was coming in was saying that there aren't any weapons, the actual hard intelligence.

And you were seeing that? You would have been seeing it?

Yeah, and most of it's coming from the inspectors -- I mean, not intelligence reporting from the inspectors through the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], but we had other very sensitive stuff.

During that summer, the Silberman-Robb [commission] report and the SSCI report would say there was no direct political pressure [on the intelligence community], and that's true. Nobody ever came up and said, "Write this NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] in that way." But if you've been around Washington long enough, you know when there's pressure. These are bureaucracies: The CIA is a bureaucracy; the Pentagon is a bureaucracy. People want to get ahead, and the way to get ahead was to move ahead on Iraq. And there were a lot of people that were concerned.

It's six of one, half dozen of the other whether or not to destroy Saddam Hussein. You can't argue that's a bad thing to do. But ... if you're going to do it -- and this was always my concern as they built up through the summer and into the fall, and it became clear that we really were going -- was that you do it in the right way. [Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric] Shinseki was right, what he said about [needing] 450,000 troops. [Gulf War commander Gen. Norman] Schwarzkopf had 750,000 troops, and they didn't feel comfortable attacking Baghdad. I think this idea that we could overwhelm them with our technology really caught on.

...They could have built a Gulf War-like coalition, because what they did was almost without meaning. By sending all these troops out to the desert, they scared the heck out of all the people at the U.N., all the Europeans and everybody else, who said, "Well, the Americans are there; we'd better --" I'm convinced that if they had allowed the inspectors to finish the last three months of inspections, they could have gotten French -- never the Germans, but maybe the French and some other Europeans. If they came in, they would have brought in some of their Arab allies, but it would have meant waiting another year, probably, because of the weather. They just couldn't do that either, physically or politically.

So what was the NIE? What were those, basically just sales documents?

An NIE is a summary of supposedly all the intelligence. I didn't even know they had drafted the NIE. See, Curveball wasn't our source; he was a DHS source -- Defense HUMINT Service source. So we were not involved with Curveball at all until they came up. They wanted us to vet him.

Who asks you to vet him?

Tenet asked me. He started.

And what does he say?

This is all in the Silberman-Robb report. Late September, he asked me to see the guys who were handling [Curveball]. ... In fact, he said to Jim [Pavitt] -- Jim said it to me. He said, "Ask him about that defector, the biological weapons defector." I didn't know who he was, but I didn't want to say, "Well, I don't know who that is." So I went back, and I asked my executive officers, "Who's that guy who defected in '99, and Curveball?"

How did the name Curveball come up?

Curveball is a German term. It had nothing to do with him being --

It's not a baseball terminology?

No. They use "-ball" a lot for code names.

We did some research on it and found that as early as, I think it was September of 2000, the chief of the German service was warning that they couldn't confirm what this guy was saying. In the meantime, DIA had put out over 100 intel reports from this reporting. Now, these went to the concerned analysts and people in the community and became part of the war of Iraq, but were forgotten specifically in detail.

But what was he saying in the early [reports]?

That they had these mobile [biological weapons] labs, and that they were building these, and they had this accident, and he saw guys dying. It was very detailed stuff on the place where he was supposed to work. ...

What's very important -- and this is what I've told everyone I've talked to about this -- is that the way it's being portrayed now is that they have this reporting from the agency through the NIE. When they got that, they said, "Oh my God, we're about to be attacked by the Iraqis." Well, that's not true. ... If you look at what they said, the administration's statements about the danger of this all predated the NIE. The NIE came back because people said, "Let's pull everything together in one place and see what we have."

The other part of it is, there's all sorts of caveats in the NIE. INR [the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research] put a very strong caveat in. People said, "Well, policy-makers only have time to read the headlines." Well, if you're going to go to war, you'd better read more than the headlines in something like that. ... If you really are going to go to war and commit people's lives to that, you want to have a definite view of what you're doing, and you'd better think about how you're doing it. To me, that's the story of the NIE.

And why didn't they?

For whatever reason -- and I can't read their minds -- I think many of them really, honestly believed that defeating Iraq will bring democracy and stop terrorism. I think they really believed that. But for whatever reason, I think they wanted to go. The plan was to knock out Iraq.

But they didn't write the NIE --

No, it was written by WINPAC [Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center] and by the analysts at the agency. But again --

So why would the analysts, why would WINPAC --

Because it's a bureaucracy. We had one officer that was working on the Iraqi ops tell one of my chiefs of station, and this was in the fall, "Look, we've got information that contradicts this." This isn't about intel; it's not about WMD; we're into regime change now. ... They were gambling, too, that when they got on the ground, they would find these things. ... And the amazing thing was -- this makes me look like an idiot, but the fact was I really believed Curveball couldn't possibly be the only source they had on that, but it was.

Let's go back. You hear about this guy named Curveball. You're told to go, or you figure you'd better check him out, find out who he is?

No, to see if we can get access to him, because the Germans had never given us access to him.

So what do you do? ...

You talk to the guys that deal with him that said, "This guy's got a lot of problems; he's unstable." They never said he was a fabricator. The one fellow said to me personally -- he never said officially he's a fabricator; he said, "I think he's a fabricator." But he said: "We can't verify his reporting because we have no other sources, and nobody else has any other sources. We didn't know other sources that can verify what he's saying, so we can't vet what he's saying. All we can do is tell you this is what he said, and he says it consistently."

And how are they telling you this? Through a telephone conversation, or you're in person?

This is in person, but also later they sent a letter to Tenet, who came in and OK'd it. ... This is in January, or maybe late December [2002]. They said: "Go to them [German intelligence]; ask them if we can use this information. If we can use the information, can they assure that he won't contradict them; he won't come out after the president or Powell and say that's not true?" And the Germans were very consistent. They were very professional, and they said, "Only know what he's reported. We've told you what he's reported; we've told you there are personal problems; and we've told you we can't verify what he's telling you. But if you want to use it, go ahead."

"And we can't let you talk to him"?

"And we won't let you talk to him."


I think that case is just professional pride.

"He's ours"?

He's theirs. What he said is he hated Americans; that turned out not to be true. But I think we would do the same thing. We wouldn't let some other service have -- they said, "This is what we're telling you; why are you any smarter than we are?"

And what's your answer to that?

Well, that's our system. We really need to see, and we pushed and pushed. It took almost a year, and Tenet really weighed in strongly at the end to get them to let us do this, but even then they didn't want to do it. The actual officers who would handle him were furious, as I would be if I were them, because what you're implying is, "All right, Big Brother's here; [let's] sort this out." And in fact, they were right on the money the whole time. They did it just right. They said: "Here's what we have. We can't verify it. It sounds really important. You guys, you big, huge, powerful country, look at this and tell us if you can verify this." And nobody could. But then it took on a life of its own.

So here's this guy who's saying there's chemical and biological weapons. They're in mobile labs or something?

He said this plant was processing these weapons, and they were also building these mobile labs. No one had ever seen these, and it upset the inspectors, [Iraq Survey Group head David] Kay and the guys before [him], because they said: "How can we ever find it? They'll just drive around the country in these mobile labs."

Looking back on it, under a calmer moment, a guy at the agency told me: "I never did think they had anything, because after the first Gulf War, we destroyed tons and tons and tons. Yes, they did have it at the time of the first Gulf War, and they were far ahead on the nuclear program, but all that stuff was destroyed. The inspectors, whatever you think of them, they were around; they were harassment for them." So to think that the Iraqis ... could build Nazi Germany-style underground factories that would process nuclear and biological [weapons], he said, "It's just a huge stretch." But nobody stopped to make that connection at the time.

We were in a kind of craze. I mean, we were angry, and we were --

Oh, yeah. They wanted to strike, destroy an enemy. And legitimately, Saddam was a destabilizing factor. He violated all the treaties; there were plenty of reasons to go to war with Saddam. That's the tragedy of it, having done it this way now. Until they can come to grips with the real reason they went to war, they're never going to be able to get out of it. They have to come to grips with that before they can adjust to do the things they're going to have to do to get out of it without the country collapsing into chaos.

Let's go back to Curveball for a second. ... You probably believe -- tell me whether you do or not -- that there was more evidence to this stock of rolling things than just this Curveball stuff.

Absolutely. I said, this can't just be the only case, because this is kind of a silly -- it's not silly, but it was kind of a goofy case. Given the fact that there's already tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East, it can't be based on this one thing.

What's so goofy about it?

Just the whole thing about him, about how they handled it. They couldn't verify it; he himself was sort of an oddball. You know, for a [foreign intelligence] service to say, "We have this source, and here's where he reports, but we can't vouch for it one way or another," that should be a flag right there. They were saying, "We're being responsible because we don't want to sit on this, but here's the truth of the matter."

When I came back from that meeting, I told the chief of the group that dealt with Germany: "You'd better get right on top of this. Find out what's going on. There's more here." ... They dug into it and found all these details on it, and then they began this long debate through the fall of 2002 about Curveball. We were saying: "We don't know anything about the science of this. I don't know whether they can do this or not; I don't know if it makes any sense." ...

Wait a minute. You said there's a debate in the fall. [But the Curveball intel] shows up in the NIE as one of the central pillars of the NIE?

Yeah. Actually, when they asked me to check on it, the NIE had already been drafted, or it was pretty much done. This was people saying, "We'd better find out about this source." I didn't know all that at the time. ... So the people that drafted the NIE of course had a very emotional stake in defending their analysis of it. I stayed out of most of it -- the operations chief and the group chief deal with it because it was at that level -- but it was as pugnacious and angry meetings as I've seen. WINPAC were very, very set on this; they saw us as throwing in unwanted complication. ... In our professional view, the operational part of this was extremely weak, and there's no validation of this source. No one's ever seen anything; no one's ever really talked to him at any length.

When you say angry or pugnacious, you mean literally people yelling at each other?

Yes, a very strident meeting. ... There was strong language. There was all --

Like what kind of language?

Cursing, and really angry and lots of implication: "Well, you guys don't know what you're talking about. It makes sense scientifically." And then, "How do you know it makes sense scientifically?" "Well, we've checked it on the Internet." "Well, don't you think he could have done that?" A lot of back-and-forth like that.

This is like true believers versus --

Yeah. And then we got our backs up, and we were angry, too. Then, in all of this -- I don't know the exact sequence -- ... all of the e-mails, the summaries, the work we'd done was sent up to the special assistant for McLaughlin so that they had it, because I wanted to make sure they really had it at this point. It dawned on me, even on me, that this was something; that this was a key element.

Did you by now know that he was the primary, the only source?

Yes, at that point.

How did you? When did you learn?

I learned it from McLaughlin's chief of staff. I was talking to him, ... and he said, "Man, I hope not, because this is really the only substantive part of the NIE." I said, "You've got to be kidding." And he said, "No, this is the only substance in the NIE." I said, "Oh my God."

You said "My God" because? What does that mean?

That means that if the NIE is the judgment that they're going to go to war on, and at that point ... there were just too many questions about the validity of the source, and to go to war on something like this -- and I said, "Man, we're going to be responsible for starting a war if they don't do something."

And you hang up the phone from this conversation with this guy, and you say to yourself, what?

Well, I called in the group chief who was working on it, and she said, "I've been trying to tell you that for two months." And I said, "Well, I assume[d] they had something else." [And she said,] "No, this is all there is, and this is why they're fighting so ferociously to validate this source."

That's like pit-in-the-stomach time, right?

Yeah. There was a meeting on the 19th or 20th of December [2002] where it was really fought out, and after that ... it sort of died out. Early January, we didn't really hear anything more about it.

You thought it was over?

We got caught up in other things. There was a lot going on in Europe on the terrorism front at that time. ... I knew it wasn't over. It hadn't been resolved; it was just hanging there. Then we started getting inklings that it might be used in the State of the Union; it might be used in a speech to the U.N. That's when they wanted this cable sent to the Germans saying, "Ask the Germans if they can guarantee these things," and they came back and said, "You can use it, but we can't guarantee anything." Then the president mentioned it in the State of the Union address, and the Germans called me and said: "What's going on? You promised us you wouldn't use it without telling us." I said, "He didn't tell us either."

You didn't know it was going to be in the State of the Union address?

Not the State of the Union address. That came as a surprise.

Wait a minute, the director of central intelligence?

He may have known. I didn't know. I'm sure WINPAC people knew, because they probably wrote that part of the speech. But then the next week, getting ready for the Powell [U.N.] speech in February, ... the fellow from the counterintelligence center who was responsible for verifying what's in speeches, he brought it down. He said, "These portions are for you guys." We went through and read it, and I said, "Well, this is all the Curveball stuff."

Who were you talking to at this point?

My executive officer and the chief of operations. I called this fellow that's McLaughlin's chief of staff, and I said: "I really am uncomfortable with you using this stuff. If you want to say you're overruling me and you want to use it, that's fine, but I have serious problems with it." And he said, "Hold on a second; I'll call you back." And he called me back, and he said, "Come on up; John wants to talk to you." So I go up, and we met in McLaughlin's little conference room. ...

At that point, I said, "I think this guy might be a fabricator." We rehashed everything, which they obviously knew, because they'd been in all the e-mails and everything that we'd been discussing, and John said, "Oh my, I hope not." I said, "Well, I think so." So he said to his chief of staff, he said, "Look into this; see if you can get to the bottom of it," which is kind of strange, because we'd been talking about it all fall. ... I thought, this is the first time you've heard this? It can't be the first time you heard this, because these guys are briefed constantly by the chief of staff, and their executive assistants are smart guys. ...

Why would he act like he didn't really know?

He may not have. Now again, he's a DDCI [deputy director of central intelligence]; he's got a million things on his mind. I think they may have convinced themselves at that point, "Well, we've made a decision; we're going to go with the WINPAC position." And they were surprised, maybe, that we hadn't given up yet. That really focused [him], because he knew me; we'd known each other for 20 years. So he said, "Get to the bottom of this."

So I went back to the office. I said: "Here's what we'll do. We'll line out the section of the speech that we don't think should be used and send it back up to him." And I said to the executive officer, "Stay in touch with the staff up there and make sure that they get the right copy." And so she said, "Yeah, they're going to take it out."

Then, the night before the speech, that's this famous phone call from Tenet. In fact, it's funny. After many years of friendship with Tenet, [it's] one thing I really think stressed our relationship, but the fact is that phone call was meaningless, because at that point the speech was written. They were already in New York; they were going to give it the next day. But I called to give the phone number of the European service chief, and while I had him on the phone, I said: "Boss, ... there's a lot of problems with that German reporting. You know that?" And he said, "Yeah, don't worry about it; we've got it." So I said, "OK, done," and I went to bed confident that they had taken it out.

The next day, my wife actually called me and said, "Powell's on; you may want to watch." I turned on CNN or whatever he was on, and he got to the part about that, and I said, "That's the Curveball stuff." I called the executive officer, and I said, "Did we send them the wrong speech?" That's the first thing I thought is, we screwed up; that it's a bureaucratic mix-up. She said, "No, they just went on." I don't know why, how they decided to use it, what they decided. I have no idea.

[Editor's Note: In his 2007 memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet disputes Drumheller's characterization of this phone call. "Drumheller and I did speak very briefly earlier in the event, but our conversation had nothing to do with Curveball; rather it involved getting clearance from the British to use some of their intelligence in the speech," he writes. Tenet denied FRONTLINE's request for an interview.]

So you say, "Let's line it out; let's send it up to him." She says, "It's done, boss." Up it goes. You go home; you think it's over?

I thought at least for this speech they're not going to use [it], because they had other things. ... The Germans themselves had questions; we had questions. It didn't fit in with anything. ... Later on, after the war, they found this thing for a day or two. They thought they had, and it turned out to be a thing for inflating garage balloons. ...

But they knew right away. The chief of counterproliferation was a close friend of mine. [He] called me, and he said, "This isn't a bio lab, but the inspectors say it looks like something used to make hydrogen blow up, helium to blow up garage balloons."

Why would it have been so heralded?

Because they were desperate to validate it at that point. When they got to Baghdad, they didn't find any of this stuff. ... They honestly believed they had all this stuff. A lot of people did. Europeans did, but they didn't have the evidence. Even Clinton believed it. ... I think they believed for sure they'd find these big warehouses full of this stuff, and when they didn't, then they really wanted to at least try and pin down what was going on with Curveball.

What's going on with Director Tenet? Is he on the side of the guys who want to go to war no matter what the information is? Where is he that fall, and what's going on? ...

It seemed to me ... he was trying to do the right thing. ... At that point, they had already decided to attack and everything, by the end of January, so there was tremendous pressure, and almost a fear, that something was going to happen to derail the attack. I think he just got sucked right along with it. He, in the end, was the guy that pushed the hardest trying to figure out if Curveball was fabricating. ...

What do you mean he pushed the hardest?

He's the one that said, "We have to get to the bottom of this," after the fact, after the speech. "We have to find out the truth about this." He very easily could have covered it up.

But before the speech?

Before the speech, they let it play out among the divisions. All they had to do was say, "We made a mistake." ... But I guess that's hard to say when the war started. ...

You know him. What was going on with him at that time?

I think he was just caught up in it. I think they were tired; they were all working around the clock. It's intoxicating to be around the president, to be in power. ... But I do think there was just incredible momentum, just a huge force, an irresistible force, for the war coming in. ... It's Washington; it's the way it happens in government. When things start building towards war, when there's all this emotion, you do things that you wouldn't have done if you sat down and thought about it. After the fact, like I say, he's the one that pushed very, very hard. He said, "We have to determine if this was real or not."


Because I think he really had to know; he wanted to know if it was real. ... In fact, it was only through his interest that we were able to finally force [the Germans'] hand.


We sent the guy I considered probably the best field case officer in the agency to talk to him, a fluent German speaker. He sat down with him for a period of days, went over everything in detail, came back and said, "The guy's lying." He said, "He can't account for why things are different in some photos and why they're in others, where he was." In the meantime, they captured his personnel file in Baghdad ... at the ministry. He hadn't worked there since '95; at one point, he was driving a cab. The Germans had told us from the beginning that one of their views was that he just wanted to get the equivalent of a German green card, and that was really probably what it was. ...

So he was singing for his supper, basically?

Yeah. So that was late March [2004]. There was a long study done. He did a long write-up; he went over in great detail, involving all sorts of other technical things. By early May, they withdrew all the reporting on it. It was called back. British held on [a] couple more months trying to double-check it, and then they finally called it all back to their side.

... Is it fairly common that something like this happens, or is it rare?

He was a very clever fabricator. There's even a whole science of denial and deception that the Soviets perfected. There are times when you're tricked, but at least you've gone through all the steps. This is one of the few times I can think of where basically the source was saying what people wanted to hear. If what he said fit what the hypothesis was, they went with it. ...

But no, I can't think of any other time. Usually it's the other way around. Usually they want to know, is the source a good source? You almost have to go and prove: ... "Well, who is this guy? How does he know this? Is this just stuff he's hearing in the cafeteria, or is this real?"

[Tenet has said that there should have been a burn notice put out that this guy might have been a fabricator.] ...

When that story came out and they said it was fabricated, I couldn't say it was fabricated because we'd never met him. What I was saying is there were doubts, and at least one of the guys who dealt with him felt he was a fabricator, and there was a lot of doubt about the way he was handled. ...

That he fell back on the sort of bureaucratic response, "Well, there should have been a burn notice, and why wasn't there a burn notice put out?," and [CIA Director from 2005-2006 Porter] Goss even instituted an investigation about why we hadn't put out a burn, and they quickly found out they didn't know what they were talking about. It's like, after 30 years, I didn't know what I was doing with this?

What I was saying is we need to establish this, and before we use it with anybody, we'd better establish the validity of the case. That's all there was to it. Once we determined he was a fabricator, yes, they did put out a fabrication notice just like it was supposed to be. But you would think if it was up in the air like that, then people would think twice about using it.

We interviewed McLaughlin, and I asked him about it, and he said: "I'm not going to talk about it. I've made a statement. I have no answer."

He doesn't want to do it. He is in many ways a great guy, and he was always very good to me. He may not remember it, maybe not. I mean, they had a million things; I just had Europe. And that's the only difference I had with either [Tenet or McLaughlin].

But it's not like you're some guy from downstairs who they've never met before.

Oh, no. They're friends of mine; they know me. ... I'd say it's the only time I've ever differed with them, but I cannot believe they don't remember. I can believe Tenet might not remember the substance of the phone call maybe, because they had really been up about three days without sleeping at that point, and it was in the midst of about five other things that they were talking about.

But the meeting with John is the one that bothers me most, because I respect John so much. I just can't believe he didn't focus on it; he didn't remember that. It's just speculating, but I would say that they wanted to check on it, and then they just got overwhelmed by the timing, the drive to get it out. The troops are in the desert; Powell's getting ready to speak to the U.N.; and these guys in Europe are saying, "Wait a second -- we have a question about this." ...

But let's go back just for one more second, because somebody's lying, right?

For want of a better word, yeah. Or they're going to say they don't remember, and I can't do anything about that. As I say, I like both of these guys; I respect both of them; they were very good to me, professionally and personally. My mother was really sick; Tenet wrote her a letter, a really nice letter. It meant a lot to her. People make mistakes.

This is some mistake.

It's a big mistake, but at the point that this happened, ... it wouldn't have stopped anything. What it would have done is, at least you don't give them the out of just saying, "Well, intelligence told us to do it; we were just doing what intelligence told us to do," which is not true. That's not true, for sure.

Everybody I've talked to said the role of the DCI is to speak truth to power. The great thing that George Tenet did was he got face time with the president of the United States. The implications of that are he might be able to speak truth to power at a critical moment. ... If there was ever a fulcrum moment for George Tenet, that's the moment, isn't it?

Unfortunately, that's the case. Now, the person that you're talking to has to be receptive to what you're saying, but you have to try. It's the hardest thing I've ever had in my career to do, frankly, personally, ... because I really do like the guy. I admire the guy; I really do. But again, as you said, there's no way to get around it.

Around what?

Around [the fact that] if they had these doubts, they should have told the president. You know, I wish he'd come out and say it, because knowing him, I can't believe he didn't [say anything], because that would be his nature. But I wasn't there, so I don't know. That's the other part of the equation: Only George was there. To have a debate within the service, that's not unusual; that's part of what intelligence work is. ... It should have been figured in, and George is the one who should have done it. Or if it was done and it was ignored, then that's a different issue. But that I don't know. Again, that's the murky part of it.

But when he's standing there getting [the Medal of Freedom] from the president, what did you think? ...

I think at that time people felt what he had done for the agency, and who he was sort of validated saying it was our fault, that it was just an intelligence failure, and the war never would have happened.


I would have hoped that he would have come out of it and said, "Now wait a second; back off these guys." There were definitely failures in that we didn't have enough agents, and there are reasons for that. There were definitely failures, but the cause for the war wasn't that. There was plenty of debate inside the agency, enough to raise the issue of, "Is the intelligence strong enough to go to war?" That's what needed to be said. Nobody said it.

So he fell on his sword when he resigned around election time? And he took the agency with him?

Well, the agency certainly went with him. I think he resigned because he felt he was going to be hammered by the 9/11 report. Goss was really hammering him. The narrative for the budget markup was just a vicious attack on Tenet. I think he felt he couldn't defend himself. ... He'd been basically running the agency for 11, 12 years. That's a tremendous strain on him, and I think he just wore out. ... Give him his due that he was just burned out.

But yeah, the agency was certainly left holding the bag; that's for sure. ... In intelligence, intelligence collectors have a part of the job; the analysts have a part of the job; and the policy-makers have a part of the job. ... The policy-makers have the biggest part, because they're taking it and saying, "OK, here's what I do with what I have." In this case, there were some glitches down below, but there certainly should have been enough doubt in the minds of the policy-makers. Then to turn around and say, "We only did what we were told to do," -- if you really listened to all this, you would think that the NIE appeared, everybody said, "Oh my God, we're about to be attacked by Iraq," and then we went to war. It just didn't work that way.

Some people we've talked to [talk] about his resignation, and maybe in the year before, when the David Kay phone calls start and letters started coming from, when Tenet has to call Powell and say, "Those things I assured you, that one isn't true; that one isn't true."

He did do that. It's not easy. Powell is a wonderful guy. And I'm convinced Powell didn't know, by the way. I'm absolutely convinced, because there's no way he would have done that if he had known. I just can't imagine.

Well, he'd been assured by his friend George Tenet, his political ally George Tenet, that it was all kosher.

And they were the two sort of moderate voices.

People talked to us, and they say, "What's actually been going on is maybe the most successful covert action by the Central Intelligence Agency in years, and that is against this president of the United States."

There are certainly people who feel that, but if you knew what the people -- the sort of security practices and the polygraphs and all the other stuff -- that you put up [with] just to work there, and then you add to that the sacrifices these people make in the field -- diseases; they get killed; their families are uprooted -- the stresses on the people and the families for a CIA case officer are just unimaginable for normal people.

The people the agency hire, myself excepted, are really talented, smart. There are lawyers and doctors. I had a case officer that was an M.D., a great case officer. They do this certainly not for the money, ... and certainly not to get to live in suburban Washington when they retire. These people sacrifice for the country, and sometimes it is grating when you hear people say, "Well, we're going to support the troops." They forget these people are out there a little bit ahead of the troops.

Yeah, but I could see how you could sit there as one of these very people you're describing and say, "I've been badly used by this administration, and I'm now being blamed for a war even though there was a rush to judgment; there was manipulation of the evidence and information." ... There's lots of stuff that suddenly starts rolling out -- all you guys writing books now. ...

If it's a war, it's a defensive war. It's people defending themselves after the fact, about what the truth was of what happened. But as far as saying it was a political agenda to attack the administration, I don't believe it. If they were going to do it, they could do a lot better than this. You've got guys that are trained to do much more nefarious things, and if they were going to do something, it wouldn't be like this.

I know these guys. I think [Michael] Scheuer is a guy, if you ever talk to him, he really believes what he believes, and he really believes that [it's] important for people to know that. [Paul] Pillar is [the] same way now. I started out to do this just to do something, write the story of my past career up to this point, just to have something to do, and got caught up in this at the end.

I was very upset at the time of the election. As I said, I just couldn't stay on. But nobody did anything; nobody came out and gave a press conference -- ... Pillar going and making a speech to a group of guys in an outreach program, Scheuer writing his third book, whatever. There's nothing new in it; there's new information, but there's nothing new in the way Scheuer feels about things.

What about the whole yellowcake story? What did it mean to have been a covert operator, that Valerie Plame's name was released?

This is just my personal opinion. First off, for a bunch of guys who spent their whole careers sitting in offices in Washington and dining out on the public on the Washington circuit, to do that, if they did what they were alleged to have done, that's the worst thing of all, because they didn't earn the right to do that. And then to say, "Oh, she wasn't a case officer; she was an analyst," that's the worst, because she was a good officer. She did do good work; she did real sensitive things. They hadn't earned the right to do that. [If] people suspect this is covert action, if they did that, then that's the real covert action that was done.

You mean outing an agent?

Yeah. People say, "Well, she's in Washington." Yeah, but she travels to Europe, you don't know? There have been a number of agency people killed or attacked over the years. ... They ended her career, and she was a valuable asset.

Now, why did they do it?

I don't know. You'd have to ask them. [It] certainly looked like they were trying to send a message. I don't know the whole circumstances of [Ambassador Joseph] Wilson going [to Niger], ... but they were looking to try and verify it, because the yellowcake story in and of its own is ridiculous. I'm glad you didn't ask me about that. That to me is sort of the silly end of this. It is the idea you have either some sort of fraud going on in Italy, and if the guy's trying to make money --

You mean writing fake documents?

Yeah. ... The French were monitoring all those countries to see what was being shipped and what wasn't, and we knew they weren't shipping [yellowcake]. It just got caught up in the circle. It was a good story; it sounded cool. Rome fell into my jurisdiction. We never took it seriously. I mean, we looked at it, but there was never any real substance to it.

But then to feel threatened by it like that and have this come out of it, this is wrong. Of all the things that really made me angry, that really made me angry. The beginning of the war is sad and tragic, and you can let yourself get angry, but there's a sort of drama and tragedy to it. But this is just petulance from a bunch of inside-Washington guys.

Hardball from the vice president?

Yeah, tough guys. But they've got to live with themselves. But it's not right. And it is interesting; it does sort of push a button.

Going all the way to where we stand now: Iraq is a mess and pulling all kinds of resources; the Army may be broken; CIA is no longer the CIA you knew as a young man. Is it your sense that the war on terror, as we all thought it was probably going to be fought, has been lost, that we're not really doing it?

I think the problem is calling it war on terror. That gives people the sense that you can actually win it. Once you kill or capture every Al Qaeda guy in the world, there will be another one. Terror has been with us since the dawn of time. It is the tool of the underprivileged and the weak. If it's not Al Qaeda, it will be Sikhs; it will be Armenians.

But are we fighting that war now, or have we just been completely diverted?

So many resources are socked into Iraq. You can say Iraq is the centerpiece of the war on terror, but I don't think that's true. What it does, it does breed other terrorists. I think that it has taken away from the ability to do these other things. But the other problem is the idea that you can have a military solution for a terrorist organization. ...

The difference nowadays is terrorists travel, and the weapons they get are much more powerful. There are not more terrorists now than there ever were; there's always [been] terrorists. We're not even looking at all the right stuff. It's a matter of immigration control and travel of people. Europeans have the same problem we do: Once people get inside, they can go anywhere in Europe that they want. ...

You need to penetrate the terrorist groups; you need to penetrate the communities in which they live. I think the British did a good job after the attack in London. They went and called in all the leaders of the community and said, "You have responsibility in this, too."

Read the whole story
3 days ago
Share this story

The 9/11 Inquest: Now Americans Say Germans Bungled

1 Share

In the eyes of some American officials, the German police and intelligence agencies missed signals about the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, failed to push hard enough beforehand to unravel the plot and, more recently, refused to arrest men suspected of being accomplices of the conspirators.

The Germans, in response, say the Americans withheld information from them and sometimes still do -- most recently in the case of a German citizen born in Syria who was expelled from Morocco and then arrested in Syria last October.

The Americans instigated that arrest, Moroccan and American officials said, but never informed the Germans, who were meanwhile looking for the man because his family filed a missing-person report.

''We have always suspected that the Americans were withholding intelligence information and now we have proof,'' said Rolf Tophoven, a German counterterrorism expert with close ties to German officials.

As American investigators try to deflect criticism that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency missed clues, they are increasingly pointing to what some American officials see as even bigger failures in Germany, where Mohamed Atta and other hijackers were members of a group in Hamburg that was under some surveillance from 1999.

''The Germans were basically pretty much AWOL,'' said an American official who has seen intelligence data from both countries. ''They generally knew about these guys, but they were not doing anything to find out what they were up to.''

  • Did you know you can share 10 gift articles a month, even with nonsubscribers?
Share this article.

Mohamed Heidar Zammar, the German citizen now held in Syria, for instance, first came to the attention of American and German authorities in late 1998 during the investigation of Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, who is considered a founder of Al Qaeda and suspected of being the financial chief for Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Salim was arrested in Munich in September 1998 on suspicion of helping plan the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa that August. He awaits trial in New York on terrorism charges.

Reconstructing Mr. Salim's activities, investigators found that Mahmoud Darkazanli, another Syrian living in Germany, had power of attorney over Mr. Salim's Hamburg bank account and that Mr. Darkazanli's telephone number was programmed into Mr. Salim's cellphone. In an interview last month, Mr. Darkazanli, 44, a businessman who remains in Germany, denied all ties to terrorism.

The F.B.I. pressed for Mr. Darkazanli's arrest, but the Germans said there was not enough evidence. They did, however, put him under surveillance.

The monitoring led to the Al Quds mosque, a gathering place for militants in Hamburg. Along with Mr. Darkazanli, the police discovered that his friend Mr. Zammar was a frequent visitor at the modest mosque, German officials said.

American investigators say they view Mr. Zammar, 41, as a central figure in the Sept. 11 plot, and they were frustrated by Germany's contention that there was not enough evidence to arrest either him or Mr. Darkazanli.

''Darkazanli and Zammar were the recruiters working out of that mosque and bringing people into the Islamic extremist cell,'' said an American official involved in the inquiry.

German intelligence officials said today that they first noticed Mr. Zammar as early as 1997, when they received reports that he had once fought in Afghanistan and that he had ties to Mr. bin Laden. ''He became of more interest to us then, but there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing and we only kept watch on him,'' said a senior intelligence official in Hamburg.

In 1999 and early 2000, the police also kept watch on a nondescript apartment in Hamburg where Mr. Atta and his roommates are believed to have carried out much of the planning for the suicide hijackings.

Last week, the police detained another of Mr. Atta's former roommates and five other men in Hamburg on suspicion that they were planning unspecified new attacks. All of the men were associated with the Al Quds mosque.

Terrorism poses a unique challenge to law enforcement because the guilty parties often do not commit a crime until the actual act.

Germans say that post-Nazi laws intended to protect civil liberties are responsible in part for their failure to act more aggressively.

Before Sept. 11, moreover, Germany's limited antiterrorism resources were focused on neo-Nazis and other domestic threats, not Islamic extremists. Under German law, it was not even a crime to plan attacks to be carried out on foreign soil on behalf of organizations outside the country.

As in the United States, the post-Sept. 11 atmosphere prompted Germany to strengthen antiterrorism laws and to try to improve cooperation between their domestic police and intelligence agencies and with the Americans.

Despite the earlier misunderstandings, the C.I.A. and F.B.I. are still active in Hamburg and elsewhere, German police officials said. ''We have a good system for cooperation and good personal contacts with the C.I.A. and F.B.I.,'' Andreas Croll, a senior official with the Hamburg police, said in an interview.

In recent days, however, there has been a backlash against American criticism of earlier lapses, and German officials are accusing the Americans of turning cooperation into a one-way street.

The dispute was heightened by the discovery last month that the missing Mr. Zammar has been held secretly in Syria for months.

Mr. Zammar disappeared last October after flying to Morocco. Officials were unable to locate him until press reports last month said he was being held in Syria, perhaps with the collusion of the Americans.

Even after those reports, a senior German official said, the American government maintained that it had no information about Mr. Zammar.

New information from Moroccan and American officials shows that the United States orchestrated the steps that got him to Syria, a country with a poor human rights record that is on the American list of state sponsors of terrorism.

After learning that Mr. Zammar was headed for Casablanca, C.I.A. agents tipped their Moroccan counterparts to his imminent arrival and asked that he be detained and deported immediately to Syria, a senior Moroccan official said.

''We declared him persona non grata and put him on the next flight to Damascus,'' said the official, whose account was corroborated by an American official with access to intelligence reports on the episode.

In addition to having Mr. Zammar in detention, the Americans also could benefit by having him in Syria because Germany's Constitution prohibits extradition of its citizens.

Shortly before Mr. Zammar arrived in Syria, a top C.I.A. official traveled there to persuade Syrian intelligence officials to help investigate Al Qaeda. Since then, American officials said, the Syrians have provided intelligence information and shared the results of Mr. Zammar's interrogation.

Mr. Zammar, who weighs 300 pounds, often entered the Hamburg mosque with bodyguards and was described by associates as a charismatic figure. He claimed to have fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia and urged followers to take action on behalf of their faith.

After Mr. Salim's 1998 arrest, the German police tapped the telephones of both Mr. Darkazanli and Mr. Zammar. One of those taps led to three young Arab students.

On Feb. 17, 1999, Mr. Zammar visited the apartment on Marienstrasse in Hamburg where the students lived. There, he met with the residents -- Mr. Atta and two other men implicated in planning the attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji, according to the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

While there, Mr. Zammar received a telephone call in which the police overheard him referring to the three men by their first names. The police put the apartment on their watch list, but did not follow up and identify the three men mentioned by Mr. Zammar.

About this time, American investigators took matters into their own hands. An investigator familiar with the episode said the German police discovered that American agents had been questioning people in Hamburg about Mr. Darkazanli and Mr. Zammar without informing the German authorities.

The discovery drew sharp complaints from the Germans, the investigator said.

American investigators contend this was a critical period in the formation of the Hamburg cell, which provided three of the four suspected hijackers on Sept. 11. Mr. Shibh and Mr. Bahaji disappeared just before the attacks and have been charged with conspiracy by the Germans.

A senior German intelligence official said that the light surveillance of the Marienstrasse apartment suggested that Mr. Atta and the others were inconspicuous students. Early in 2000 a judge refused permission to extend the monitoring, ruling that the police did not have evidence of a crime.

But some Americans say the Germans may have had the opportunity to crack the plot.

''If you were on top of these guys you would have gotten quite a bit,'' an American official said.

Read the whole story
3 days ago
Share this story

Spitfire List | Memo to Merkel: Get a Grip!

1 Share

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: With the rhetor­i­cal firestorm of faux out­rage com­ing from the EU and Angela Merkel’s office over NSA spy­ing, it is impor­tant to recall some very impor­tant infor­ma­tion.

Much of what is pre­sent­ed below will be review for vet­er­an listeners/readers.

We call atten­tion to Ernst Uhrlau, chief of police in Ham­burg dur­ing the time peri­od in which Ger­man intel­li­gence had tak­en the Ham­burg cell of 9/11 hijack­ers under sur­veil­lance. In 1998, he was appoint­ed spe­cial advis­er to Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl on intel­li­gence mat­ters

(The son of Hel­mut Kohl’s chief of staff, Andreas Strass­meir, may well have been the mas­ter­mind of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing. See the pho­to at right and dis­cus­sion below. With Uhrlau as spe­cial advis­er to Chan­cel­lor Kohl on intel­li­gence mat­ters, and with Andreas Strass­meir appar­ent­ly hav­ing over­seen the OKC bomb­ing plot, there is ample rea­son to bug the Chan­cel­lor’s phone!)

In 2005, Uhrlau became head of the BND!

It should come as no sur­prise that the NSA would tar­get Ger­many as a “hot spot” for elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance. An overview of the most impor­tant ter­ror­ist inci­dents affect­ing the Unit­ed States over the last quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry reveals impor­tant evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries lead­ing to Ger­many:

  • The bomb­ing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Locker­bie, Scot­land, in 1988 was exe­cut­ed in Ger­many. The bomb was placed aboard the plane in Ger­many and the bombers were heav­i­ly infil­trat­ed by Ger­man intel­li­gence. One or more of the cell of bombers was a Ger­man intel­li­gence oper­a­tive. 
  • The financ­ing for the first World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing in 1993 came from oper­a­tives in Ger­many.
  • The actu­al mas­ter­mind of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, accord­ing to ATF infor­mant Car­ol Howe, was Andreas Strass­meier. Strass­meir was a “for­mer” Bun­deswehr offi­cer and the son of Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl’s chief of staff. Andreas’ grand­fa­ther was one of the char­ter mem­bers of the NSDAP under Hitler. The resem­blance between Strass­meir and “John Doe #2” is strik­ing.
  • Not only did the 9/11 hijack con­spir­a­tors coa­lesce in Ham­burg, but there is strong evi­dence that Ger­man intel­li­gence was involved with the attack. Many of hijack­er Mohamed Atta’s asso­ciates in South Flori­da were Ger­mans. Atta was moved around under the cov­er of the Carl Duis­berg Soci­ety (Gesellschaft). (See text excerpts below.) In Flori­da, he was asso­ci­at­ing with the sons and daugh­ters of promi­nent Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists. (See text excerpts below.) Of inter­est, also, is the fact that CIA pilots appar­ent­ly made a “run” to the Bor­mann ranch. (See text excerpts below.) This sounds like a reg­u­lar route. In our con­ver­sa­tions with Daniel Hop­sick­er, we have not­ed that the South Flori­da avi­a­tion milieu had been a focal point of covert oper­a­tions for decades, dat­ing back to the Sec­ond World War. The Bor­mann ranch was in the three-bor­ders area high­light­ed in FTR #457. Did the Ger­man asso­ciates of Mohamed Atta come up the oth­er end of that pipeline?
  • There are numer­ous evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries between the first World Trade Cen­ter attack, the Okla­homa City bomb­ing and the 9/11 attacks, as set forth in FTR #330.
  • The “vac­u­um clean­er” activ­i­ties of NSA/GCHQ have been known for a long time–we have done pro­grams about it dat­ing back many years. The for­mal, pub­lic attack on the ECHELON net­work began in 1998. That attack came from Ger­many and Under­ground Reich-asso­ci­at­ed ele­ments such as the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion. 
  • In August of 1998, sev­er­al things hap­pened almost simultaneously–as the German/EU/Free Con­gress Foundation/Underground Reich attack on ECHELON/Menwith Hill was gain­ing momen­tum, Osama bin Laden stopped using his cell phone and began using couri­ers for impor­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion. At this time, Ger­man intel­li­gence had the Ham­burg cell (of 9/11 hijack­ers) under elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance. Ger­man intel­li­gence did NOT alert the Unit­ed States. 
  • The chief of the Ham­burg police in this pre­cise time peri­od was Ernst Uhrlau. In 1998, Uhlr­lau was appoint­ed spe­cial advis­er to the Chan­cel­lor on intel­li­gence mat­ters. (The Chan­cel­lor at the time was Hel­mut Kohl. Kohl’s chief of staff was Gun­ther Strass­meier, father of the afore­men­tioned Andreas Strass­meier!)
  • In 2005, Uhrlau was appoint­ed head of the BND!
  • In an update, we learn that Ger­many is threat­en­ing to sus­pend the SWIFT agree­ment allow­ing the U.S. to track bank trans­fer data to mon­i­tor the flow of ter­ror­ist mon­ey. The Ger­man jus­tice min­is­ter said she fears the pro­gram is used to gath­er eco­nom­ic intel­li­gence. Not­ing the relatin­ship between the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft and Ger­man cor­po­ra­tions, it isn’t much of a reach to extrap­o­late that the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work is a focal point of that intel­li­gence gath­er­ing.
  • Mohamed Atta stud­ied Ger­man at the Goethe Insti­tute, wide­ly used as a front for the BND.
  • A fas­ci­nat­ing and impor­tant detail con­cern­ing the hijack­ers is the fact that Yeslam bin Laden’s SICO sub­sidiary trained its pilots at Rudi Dekkers’ Huff­man Avi­a­tion in Venice, Flori­da! Huff­man is the school at which Atta and com­pa­ny were “trained.” Although he denies it, there are pro­found indi­ca­tions that Yeslam and SICO are involved with the activ­i­ties of Al Qae­da. This sub­ject will be dealt with at greater length below. Note that there are numer­ous con­nec­tions between the milieu of Huff­man Avi­a­tion and the Iran-Con­tra-con­nect­ed drug smug­gling routes. Recall that SICO per­son­nel were involved with some of these Iran-Con­tra drug routes.
  • The co-chair­man of the board of direc­tors of SICO is Bau­doin Dunand a friend and pro­fes­sion­al asso­ciate of Fran­cois Genoud. He also was Genoud’s coun­sel.
  • Repris­ing an item of dis­cus­sion from FTR#357, the pro­gram cites the opin­ion of Ernest Back­es (one of Europe’s fore­most experts on mon­ey laun­der­ing) con­cern­ing the role of Fran­cois Genoud in the devel­op­ment of the events of 9/11. Genoud (who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1996) was very close to Al Taqwa per­son­ages, espe­cial­ly Achmed Huber. Bank Al Taqwa appears to have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the financ­ing of Al Qaeda’s activ­i­ties, as well as those of Hamas. Accord­ing to Back­es, Genoud was also a finan­cial advis­er to the Bin Laden fam­i­ly.
  • It is impor­tant, in this con­text, to review the Clearstream finan­cial net­work. The con­nect­ing links between Clearstream, Al Taqwa, the Ban­co del Got­tar­do (for­mer­ly the Swiss branch of the Ban­co Ambrosiano) and Bin Laden were fur­ther described by one of Clearstream’s founders, Ernest Back­es. Note the open­ing of 16 unreg­is­tered accounts by SICO in the spring of 2001. Is there a rela­tion­ship between the liq­ui­da­tion of the finan­cial enti­ties in ear­ly 2001 by Rochat, Dunand and Zuck­er and the open­ing of the Clearstream accounts at approx­i­mate­ly the same time?

“Embassy Espi­onage: The NSA’s Secret Spy Hub in Berlin” by SPIEGEL staff; Der Spiegel; 10/27/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . For­mer NSA employ­ee Thomas Drake does not see this as a con­tra­dic­tion. “After the attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, Ger­many became intel­li­gence tar­get num­ber one in Europe,” he says. The US gov­ern­ment did not trust Ger­many, because some of the Sept. 11 sui­cide pilots had lived in Ham­burg. . . .

“Ernst Uhrlau”; Wikipedia.

EXCERPT: . . . . From 1996–98, Ernst Uhrlau was the Chief of Ham­burg Police. In 1998, Uhrlau was appoint­ed a Coor­di­na­tor of the Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty in the office of the Chan­cel­lor.

On 1 Decem­ber 2005, he was appoint­ed to the post of the head of the BND. . . .

“Ger­mans Were Track­ing Sept. 11 Con­spir­a­tors as Ear­ly as 1998, Doc­u­ments Dis­close” by Desmond But­ler; New York Times; 1/18/2003; p. A10.

EXCERPT: . . . . Three years before the Sept. 11 attacks, Germany’s domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vice was track­ing promi­nent mem­bers of the Ham­burg ter­ror­ist cell that planned and exe­cuted the air­craft hijack­ings, accord­ing to new­ly obtained doc­u­ments. The doc­u­ments, includ­ing intel­li­gence reports, sur­veil­lance logs and tran­scripts of inter­cepted tele­phone calls, appear to con­tra­dict pub­lic claims by the Ger­man author­i­ties that they knew lit­tle about the mem­bers of the Ham­burg cell before the attacks.

As ear­ly as 1998, the records show, the Ger­mans mon­i­tored a meet­ing between men sus­pected of plot­ting the attacks. The sur­veil­lance would lead a year lat­er to the Ham­burg apart­ment where Mohamed Atta and oth­er main plot­ters were liv­ing while attend­ing uni­ver­si­ties. While the records do not indi­cate that author­i­ties heard any men­tion of a spe­cific plan, they depict a sur­veil­lance mis­sion exten­sive enough to raise anew the polit­i­cally sen­si­tive ques­tion of whether the Ger­mans missed a chance to dis­rupt the cell dur­ing the ini­tial stages of plan­ning the attacks. Some Amer­i­can inves­ti­ga­tors and offi­cials have argued that the Ger­mans in the past missed evi­dence that could have stopped the plot. The Ger­mans have main­tained stead­fastly that the infor­ma­tion they had was too scanty to war­rant seri­ous alarm, and that their police and intel­li­gence agen­cies were not focused on Al Qae­da at the time.

The doc­u­ments come from the files of var­i­ous Ger­man police and intel­li­gence agen­cies. They detail how close an inves­ti­ga­tion of Qae­da con­tacts in Ham­burg begun in 1997 by the Con­sti­tu­tional Pro­tec­tion Agency, Germany’s domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vice, came to the main cell mem­bers. They were pro­vided to The New York Times by some­one with offi­cial access to the files of the con­tin­u­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into the events lead­ing to the Sept. 11 attacks. When the doc­u­ments were described to offi­cials at the Ger­man Inte­rior Min­istry and the con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion police, they declined to answer any ques­tions about them but did not dis­pute their authen­tic­i­ty . . .

. . . . Mr. Motas­sadeq admit­ted that he knew Mr. Atta and oth­er plot­ters and had attend­ed Qae­da train­ing camps in Afghanistan. He has main­tained in tri­al tes­ti­mony that he did not know that his friends were plan­ning to attack the Unit­ed States. No evi­dence has been pre­sented at his three-month tri­al that would reveal when the police first opened an inquiry into Mr. Motas­sadeq. But the intel­li­gence agency doc­u­ments show that by August 1998 he was under sur­veil­lance and that the trail soon led to most of the main par­tic­i­pants in the lat­er attacks. [It was in August of 1998 that Pres­i­dent Clin­ton ordered the cruise mis­sile strike against Bin Laden and the same month that Bin Laden went to a couri­er sys­tem instead of using his cell phone. Note, also, that the head of the Ham­burg police at the time the sur­veil­lance of the Ham­burg cell was in place became head of the BND in 2005!–D.E.]

Accord­ing to the doc­u­ments, the sur­veil­lance was in place on Aug. 29, 1998, when Mr. Motas­sadeq and Mohamed Hay­dar Zam­mar, who had already been iden­ti­fied by police as a sus­pected extrem­ist, met at the Ham­burg home of Said Baha­ji. [Ital­ics are Mr. Emory’s] The police mon­i­tored sev­eral oth­er meet­ings between the men in the months that fol­lowed, the doc­u­ments said. The record of the meet­ing shows that police had iden­ti­fied Mr. Baha­ji, anoth­er per­son sus­pected of being a cell mem­ber and believed to have been inti­mately involved in the plan­ning and logis­tics of the plot, who fled to Pak­istan days before the attacks. Mr. Baha­ji lat­er moved in with Mr. Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh in the now-infa­mous apart­ment at 54 Marien­strasse in the Har­burg sec­tion of Ham­burg[There are pro­found indi­ca­tions of a link between Mohamed Atta and the BND–D.E.]. . .

“Europe Mulls Sanc­tions Against U.S. over Spy­ing” by Frank Jor­dans and Cia­ran Giles; Ohio.com; 10/28/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . As pos­si­ble lever­age, Ger­man author­i­ties cit­ed last wek’s non-bind­ing  res­o­lu­tion by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to sus­pend a post‑9/11 agree­ment allow­ing the Amer­i­cans access to bank trans­fer data to track the flow of ter­ror­ist mon­ey.

Ger­man Jus­tice Min­is­ter Sabine Leutheuss­er-Schmar­ren­berg­er said Mnday she believed the Amer­i­cans were using the infor­ma­tion to gath­er eco­nom­ic intel­li­gence apart from teror­ism and that the deal, pop­u­lar­ly known as the SWIFT agree­ment, should be sus­pend­ed.

That would rep­re­sent a sharp rebuke to the Unit­ed States from some of its clos­est part­ners. . . .

Mohamed Atta; Wikipedia.

EXCERPT: . . . . In 1990, Atta grad­u­at­ed with a degree in architecture,[15] and joined the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-affil­i­at­ed Engi­neers Syn­di­cate organization.[8] For sev­er­al months after grad­u­at­ing, Atta worked at the Urban Devel­op­ment Cen­ter in Cairo, where he worked on archi­tec­tur­al, plan­ning, and build­ing design.[16] In 1990, Atta’s fam­i­ly moved into an 11th floor apart­ment in Giza.[15][17]

Upon grad­u­at­ing from Cairo Uni­ver­si­ty, Atta’s marks were aver­age and insuf­fi­cient to be accept­ed into the Uni­ver­si­ty’s grad­u­ate pro­gram. His father insist­ed he go abroad for grad­u­ate stud­ies, and had Atta enroll in a Ger­man lan­guage pro­gram at the Goethe Insti­tute in Cairo.[18] [Ital­ics added.] In 1992, Atta’s father invit­ed a Ger­man cou­ple over for din­ner while they were vis­it­ing Cairo. The Ger­man cou­ple ran an exchange pro­gram between Ger­many and Egypt, and sug­gest­ed that Atta con­tin­ue his stud­ies in Ger­many. They offered him a tem­po­rary place to live at their house in the city. Mohamed Atta end­ed up in Ger­many two weeks lat­er, in July 1992. . . .

Inside Wik­iLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dan­ger­ous Web­site by Daniel Dom­scheit-Berg; Eng­lish trans­la­tion copy­right 2011 by Crown Pub­lish­ers [Ran­dom House imprint]; ISBN 978–0‑307–95191‑5; p. 58.

EXCERPT: . . . . Using the WikiScan­ner, one can trace what changes have been made to Wikip­dia entries from any giv­en IP address. Employ­ees of the BND had made changes to the entries on mil­i­tary air­craft, nuclear weapons and the BND itself.

 Even more amus­ing were the “cor­rec­tions” made to the entries made to the entries on the Goethe Insti­tute,  the Ger­man government’s pre­mier insti­tu­tion for pro­mot­ing Ger­man lan­guage and cul­ture around the world. Orig­i­nal­ly, the entry had stat­ed that many Goethe Insti­tute offices had served as unof­fi­cial points of con­tact by the BND. BND employ­ees had altered it to say the exact oppo­site: “For­eign branch­es of the Goethe Insti­tute are not used as unof­fi­cial homes for the BND.” . . .   

“His­to­ry of the Carl Duis­berg Soci­ety”

EXCERPT: In the 1920’s, Carl Duis­berg, Gen­er­al Direc­tor of Bay­er AG in Ger­many, envi­sioned send­ing Ger­man stu­dents to the Unit­ed States on work-study pro­grams. Duis­berg was con­vinced that inter­na­tion­al prac­ti­cal train­ing was crit­i­cal to the growth of Ger­man indus­try. Many of the return­ing trainees lat­er rose to promi­nent posi­tions at AEG, Bay­er, Bosch, Daim­ler Benz, and Siemens, bring­ing with them new meth­ods for mass pro­duc­tion, new ideas, and new busi­ness prac­tices. Fol­low­ing World War II, alum­ni from the first exchanges found­ed the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft (CDG) in 1949 to help engi­neers, busi­ness­men and farm­ers gain inter­na­tion­al work expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary for the rebuild­ing of Ger­many . . . .

Excerpt from the Descrip­tion for FTR #484

. . . . Daniel also notes that some of Atta’s Ger­man asso­ciates in Flori­da were sons and daugh­ters of promi­nent Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists. . . .

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Man­ning; p. 292.

EXCERPT: . . . A for­mer CIA con­tract pilot, who once flew the run into Paraguay and Argenti­na to the Bor­mann ranch described the estate as remote, ‘worth your life unless you entered their air space with the right iden­ti­fi­ca­tion codes. . . .

Wel­come to Ter­ror­land: Mohamed Atta & the 9–11 Cov­er-Up in Flori­da by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad­cow Press [HC]; Copy­right 2004 by Daniel Hop­sick­er; ISBN 0–9706591‑6–4;. p. 178. Be sure to vis­it Daniel’s web­site for order­ing infor­ma­tion about this book.

EXCERPT . . . Swiss police ques­tioned Yeslam [bin Laden] because one of his com­pa­nies, Avcon Air Char­ter, had offered flight train­ing to clients at the Venice flight school attend­ed by some of the hijack­ers. As a result of what Le Monde called ‘a still unex­plained coin­ci­dence,’ the pilots of Yeslam bin Laden’s com­pa­ny trained at Huff­man Avi­a­tion in Flori­da, the paper stat­ed. ‘I didn’t chose that flight school,’ Yeslam protest­ed. ‘I don’t have con­tact with my half-broth­er since over 20 years ago.’ . . .

In the Name of Osama Bin Laden; by Roland Jacquard; Copy­right 2002 [SC]; Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press; ISBN 0–8223-2991–3; pp. 17–18.

EXCERPT:. . . .This com­pa­ny, estab­lished by the bin Ladens in 1980, is the flag­ship for the group’s activ­i­ties in Europe. It is head­ed by Yeslam bin Laden, and the board of direc­tors is made up almost exclu­sive­ly of mem­bers of the fam­i­ly clan, except for a Swiss cit­i­zen, Bau­doin Dunand. This well-known lawyer from French-speak­ing Switzer­land, who is on the boards of sev­er­al dozen com­pa­nies, came to pub­lic notice in 1983 when he agreed to rep­re­sent the Swiss banker Fran­cois Genoud, a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure who had been a dis­ci­ple of Hitler and sole heir of Goebbels’s copy­rights before becom­ing one of the financiers of the FLN dur­ing the Alger­ian War. The friend­ships of the bin Ladens some­times seem sur­pris­ing, but they are log­i­cal: Fran­cois Genoud has always been pro-Arab. . . .

“Insid­ergeschäfte vor den Ter­ro­ran­schlä­gen in den USA? [Insid­er Trad­ing Pri­or to the Ter­ror Attacks in the US?]: Spec­u­lat­ing on Terror—Who Prof­it­ed from the Attacks?” by Rolf Bovi­er & Pierre Matthias; Bay­erische Rund­funk Online (BR-Online); 9/25/2001.

EXCERPT: . . . . Finan­cial expert Ernest Back­es of Lux­em­bourg has [stud­ied] white-col­lar crime in the field of bank­ing for many years. Accord­ing to him, there are indi­ca­tions of unusu­al trans­ac­tions with which the groups [asso­ci­at­ed with] bin Laden could have earned mon­ey. ‘You can, for exam­ple, exam­ine whether, with­in a cer­tain time peri­od there’s been an attack against the secu­ri­ties of a giv­en air­line com­pa­ny. Since these secu­ri­ties are safe in a ‘clear­ing sys­tem,’ you can’t get an over­all view, who the own­er was at a giv­en time.’ . . . Accord­ing to Back­es’ infor­ma­tion, the trail leads to Switzer­land, to the accounts of an orga­ni­za­tion that was found­ed by the late lawyer Fran­cois Genoud and evi­dent­ly still sur­vives. Says Back­es, ‘One of the grounds for accu­sa­tion is that this Swiss attor­ney had the clos­est con­nec­tions with the Bin Laden fam­i­ly, that he was an advi­sor to the fam­i­ly, one of its invest­ment bankers. It’s known for cer­tain, that he sup­port­ed ter­ror­ism and was the estate execu­tor for Hitler and part of the ter­ror milieu.’ [Empha­sis added.]”

“Bank­ing with Bin Laden” by Lucy Komis­ar [side­bar to “Explo­sive Rev­e­la­tion$”]In These Times; 3/15/2002.

EXCERPT: . . . .In Novem­ber, U.S. author­i­ties named some banks that had bin Laden accounts, and it put them on a black­list. One was Al Taqwa, ‘Fear of God,’ reg­is­tered in the Bahamas with offices in Lugano, Switzer­land. Al Taqwa had access to the Clearstream sys­tem through its cor­re­spon­dent account with the Ban­ca del Got­tar­do in Lugano, which has a pub­lished Clearstream account (No. 74381). But Bin Laden may have oth­er access to the unpub­lished sys­tem. In what he calls a ‘spec­tac­u­lar dis­cov­ery,’ Ernest Back­es reports that in the weeks before CEO Andre Lus­si was forced to leave Clearstream last May, a series of 16 unpub­lished accounts were opened under the name of the Sau­di Invest­ment Com­pa­ny, or SICO, the Gene­va hold­ing com­pa­ny of the Sau­di Bin­laden Group, which is run by Osama’s broth­er Yeslam Bin­laden (some fam­i­ly mem­bers spell the name dif­fer­ent­ly.) Yeslam Bin­laden insists that he has noth­ing to do with his broth­er, but evi­dence sug­gests SICO is tied into Osama’s finan­cial net­work. [Empha­sis added.] SICO is asso­ci­at­ed with Dar Al-Maal-Al-Isla­mi (DMI), an Islam­ic finan­cial insti­tu­tion also based in Gene­va and presided over by Prince Muhammed Al Faisal Al Saoud, a cousin of Sau­di King Fahd, that directs mil­lions a year to fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ments. DMI holds a share of the Al Shamal Islam­ic Bank of Sudan, which was set up in 1991 and part­ly financed by $50 mil­lion from Osama bin Laden. Fur­ther­more, one of SICO’s admin­is­tra­tors, Gene­va attor­ney Bau­doin Dunand, is a part­ner in a law firm, Magnin Dunand & Part­ners, that set up the Swiss finan­cial ser­vices com­pa­ny SBA, a sub­sidiary of the SBA Bank in Paris, which is con­trolled by the bin Mah­fouz fam­i­ly.”

“World Brief­ing | Europe: Report On U.S. Spy Sys­tem” by Suzanne Daley; The New York Times; 9/6/2001.

EXCERPT: [Notice when this was published–9/6/2001.–D.E.] . . . The Unit­ed States-led spy­ing sys­tem known as Ech­e­lon can mon­i­tor vir­tu­al­ly every com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the world — by e‑mail, phone or fax — that bounces off a satel­lite, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment was told. But in report­ing on a year­long study of the sys­tem that was prompt­ed by con­cern that Amer­i­can com­pa­nies were using data from the sys­tem to gain a com­pet­i­tive edge, Ger­hard Schmid, a Ger­man mem­ber of the Par­lia­ment, said that many Euro­pean coun­tries had sim­i­lar abil­i­ties . . .

Read the whole story
4 days ago
Share this story

20 years after 9/11, 'fusion centers' have done little to combat terrorism

1 Share

In early February, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office in California came across a Snapchat post from a man saying he planned to be “shooting up” the Westfield Valley Fair mall, approximately a 45-minute drive away, in Santa Clara.

“I swear I’m literally seconds from snapping and going on a mass homicide,” wrote 21-year-old Hunter Tital.

The sheriff’s office quickly tracked down Tital’s cellphone provider and his phone's location. When they confirmed that Tital was at the mall, they called in the Santa Clara Police Department and the nearby San Jose Police Department. Officers quickly confronted Tital at gunpoint and eventually arrested him outside a Nordstrom store before most mall workers knew what had happened. Tital had a pistol and an assault rifle on him, according to the San Jose police, and later pleaded guilty, court records show.

One law enforcement group saying it worked behind the scenes to stop this potential tragedy was the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, or NCRIC (“Nick-Rick”), one of 80 “fusion centers” — nearly all created after the Sept. 11 attacks in response to the threat of terrorism. Now nearly 3,000 people work at these fusion centers nationwide tracking down and monitoring these types of cases. In the February case, Mike Sena, the president of the National Fusion Center Association and the director of NCRIC, said the center made sure local law enforcement agencies worked together.

“We called each of those agencies and made sure that they had what they needed,” Sena said. “At the time, I knew that there was a lot of confusion between the folks at Seaside and Santa Cruz and Monterey over who had the jurisdiction on the threats and the filings on the case, and the search warrants.”

But Officer Steven Aponte, a San Jose Police Department spokesperson, the agency that arrested Tital, said that NCRIC actually did little to help with this case.

“We don't have any information showing that NCRIC was involved,” he said, noting that his department relied on information that came from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office to find the suspect, like the fact that Tital had shoulder-length, purple hair.

That confusion has raised concerns among government watchdog and civil liberties groups for years. They point to cases going back over a decade that they say show fusion centers, which cost federal and state taxpayers over $330 million a year, at best waste money and at worst often violate civil liberties. Either way, fusion centers, in the two decades since 9/11, have become a quiet part of the modern American criminal justice landscape, for better or worse.

“The practice of DHS fusion centers are, in large part, humming in the background,” said Brendan McQuade, a professor of criminology at the University of Southern Maine, and the author of a 2019 book about fusion centers, "Pacifying the Homeland." McQuade has publicly advocated to shut down the fusion center in Maine. He wrote in a June 2020 op-ed in The Bangor Daily News that “fusion centers have also been implicated in the surveillance of constitutionally protected political activity across the spectrum.”

Raising concerns

Twenty years after the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the creation of these centers, these criticisms do not seem to be waning. According to a July report by two immigrants’ rights groups and the Boston University School of Law, the fusion center in the Texas capitol, known as ARIC (Austin Regional Intelligence Center), “collects and disseminates vast quantities of data about Austin residents with minimal limitations or oversight.” But its purpose is unclear.

“Surveillance and policing and patrol does not actually prevent crime,” said Bethany Carson, an Austin-based immigration policy organizer, and one of the co-authors of the new report on ARIC. “It’s not something that can prevent crime.”

ARIC did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Political officials have raised similar criticisms for nearly a decade. In October 2012, a Senate subcommittee found that after a two-year investigation there had been “little, if any, benefit to Federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts.” Then in July 2013, a House Homeland Security Committee found that there were no “tracking mechanisms in place to provide a complete picture, even quantitatively, of how fusion center-gathered information affects Federal terrorism or criminal cases or other homeland security mission areas.”

Jake Weiner, who is a law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group, and an expert in fusion centers and domestic surveillance, pointed out that it’s practically impossible for outsiders to figure out what fusion centers do.

“There’s no public oversight, functionally and there’s no information coming out other than the BlueLeaks,” he said. “I think one of the questions we should be asking is: Is it worth the price tag?”

In recent years, particularly as defund the police efforts have gotten some traction in some liberal American cities, fusion centers have received even more scrutiny.

When Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy was asked if he fully understands what the Milwaukee-based Southeastern Threat Analysis Center does, his answer was blunt.

“The short answer is no, and it’s not for a lack of effort,” he said. “To have any organization operating with the opacity that the fusion centers do — it’s kind of the Wild West. They’re operating in almost a complete lack of oversight.”

Long history

Fusion centers sprung out of the fact that, even before 9/11, few state and local law enforcement entities were able to share information and intelligence across regional and state lines, much less national ones. One common criticism by the 9/11 Commission itself was that the federal government was hampered by its own rules and regulations, concluding that the FBI specifically “was limited in several areas critical to an effective preventive counterterrorism strategy.” Pre-9/11, such federal law enforcement integration largely only existed through Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

In some ways, fusion centers were the state and local version of these task forces, but with one key distinction. While the initial wave of early 2000s-era fusion centers focused on counterterrorism, nearly all have expanded their mission to include “all-crimes and/or all-hazards.” In 2007, the Congressional Research Service found that several fusion center leaders were “more concerned with issues such as gangs, narcotics and street crime.”

Today, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, fusion centers serve as “focal points” to “lawfully gather and share threat-related information” among all levels of law enforcement, from local police to the FBI. Every state has at least one, along with 27 major urban area centers and three spread across U.S. territories — California alone has six centers.

According to Sena, the Valley Fair mall incident is a clear example of how fusion centers help different agencies advance everyday criminal investigations.

“Rather than trying to find the usual suspects, we are trying to identify the people that are the small number of folks in the communities that are causing the disproportionate amount of harm to the community,” he said.

Structural challenges

But critics of fusion centers say they have even more problems than the fact that nearly all of them have moved beyond aiding terrorism-related investigations.

Each fusion center is run independently and exists within what the American Civil Liberties Union called a “no man’s land between the federal government and the states.” Also while fusion centers gather vast quantities of purported suspicious activity, this data gathering rarely results in criminal prosecutions, much less convictions.

A spreadsheet published as part of the BlueLeaks trove, the 2020 publication of internal fusion center documents from around the country, for instance, showed that the fusion center found some troubling and potentially criminal incidents.

For example, in March 2020, a female employee at a Victoria’s Secret store in Barton Creek Mall in Austin, who posted on Facebook that she was upset about her hours being cut and wrote: "so my job just going to cancel employees shift so they don't have to pay us...this is why ima blow up the f---ing store." But the log states: “No device was located and the subject's employment was terminated.”

Another November 2019 incident describes a student who apparently told a teacher: "Do you know what the 2nd Amendment is? It's what gives me the right to bear arms, and bring them to school. I'm going to kill as many people as I can. I'm going to be more famous than nikolas cruz."

This student was arrested for having made a “Terroristic Threat,” the log added.

But there are also plenty of reports not tied to a specific crime. As part of the BlueLeaks document dump, in a file pertaining to ARIC, the Austin fusion center, one person recorded that a Metro Rail passenger in Austin had “changed his dress from traditional westernized clothing to ‘tunics with an Arabic style hat,’” adding that this new outfit made the person appear to be “‘tense and sweaty, and that his fists are always clenched’ while ‘mumbling’ what the caller describes sounds like Arabic.”

Another was a report from a person on a Swift Airlines flight from Nevada to Austin. That person said he saw a “Middle Eastern male in his thirties” who was looking at photos on his phone. This passenger then watched this fellow passenger as he “viewed photo of a female and kissed the screen,” and then saw a “photo showing the male having a very long beard then in the next picture he was clean shaven,” and finally a “photo showing the male wearing a black mask covering most his face then wearing a silver mask.” Based on these reports, it is not clear what, if any action was taken in Austin.

“Part of the problem post-9/11 was that information sharing was seen as the solution and there wasn’t a discussion about what information was appropriate to collect and share,” said Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, and a former FBI special agent who wrote the 2007 ACLU study.

“All they started doing was collecting and sharing more dots.”

Sena, the president of the National Fusion Center Association, said that gathering these reports doesn’t suggest that a potential suspect is nefarious.

“Anyone can report something through the (suspicious activity reporting) process,” he said. “But that doesn't mean that it gets inducted into our environment unless it meets the threshold,”

At the same time, even Sena says there’s not an obvious way to know how successful his fusion center, NCRIC, or any other fusion center actually is, in practice.

“It’s really hard to connect a specific report to an arrest or a specific conviction,” he said.

Breaking news emails

Be the first to know about breaking news and other NBC News reports.

Read the whole story
6 days ago
Share this story
Next Page of Stories