9/11 Commission

9/11 Commission mission failure; withheld key documents are owed to the American people

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While nearly all of the more than 1200 memorandums for record summarizing the interviews conducted by the 9/11 Commission have been reviewed for classification, unfortunately three other key documents remain hidden — perhaps deliberately so as to avoid embarrassing officials — from the American people.

They are the 9/11 Commission’s: transcription of the ten Commissioners interviewing then President Bush and VP Cheney in the Oval Office in April 2004; 7000-word summary of a review of more than 300 related Presidential Daily Briefs to Presidents Clinton and Bush (43); and 78-page staff monograph on National Security Council work on counter-terrorism 1998 to 9/11.

Multiple FOIAs, declassification review requests, and appeals have been filed for them to no effect. We will keep trying.

— July 28, 2014 original post follows —

By January 14, 2009, only 35% of the 9/11 Commission’s staff documents had been processed by the National Archives. They are Congressional records not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. There are nearly 2,000 memorandums for record (MFRs) of the summaries and transcripts of interviews conducted by 9/11 Commissioners and staff, as well as the briefings they received.

117 MFRs are still pending declassification review. Key interviews among them illustrate the 9/11 Commissioners’ lip service last week to transparency. They briefly called for declassification on page 39 of their 49-page “update” to their original 2004 recommendations:

“The job of fully informing the American people is incomplete, however. The commission’s records, including summaries of our interviews and important intelligence and policy documents, are held by the National Archives. Some of those documents and records remain classified and are thus unavailable to the public. Authority to declassify those documents rests with the agencies that created them.”

On July 21, 2004, 9/11 Commissioners met to decide when to release this body of work. Richard Ben-Veniste asked: “Is the theory here the great cover-up of partisan differences?” The notes of the meeting do not show he received an answer. Regardless, the vote was 6 to 3 to kick the responsibility 4 1/2 years down the road. [1]

What motivated Samuel “Sandy” Berger in 2004 to steal classified documents from the National Archives while he acted as former President Bill Clinton’s designated representative to the 9/11 Commission? The answer may be within the 9/11 Commission interviews of Richard Clarke, George Tenet, and Sandy Berger held by the National Security Counsel. [See correction at Note 4].

Surely the Commission asked former CIA Director Tenet what efforts were made to alert the NSC and President Clinton on the movement of al Qaeda operatives immediately preceding and following the Millennium terrorist attacks plots.

On January 15, 2000, two known al Qaeda operatives, future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, arrived in Los Angeles. During December 1999, the CIA had tracked their movements in Southeast Asia, observed their meeting with Walid bin Attash (now at Guantanamo awaiting military commission trial alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), and covertly photocopied the open-ended U.S. visas within their passports. Beginning in March 2000 and before September 11, 2001, more than 50 people at the CIA knew they had entered the United States.

The 9/11 Commission staff also prepared a 78-page monograph of NSC counterterrorism efforts from 1998 to 9/11. Yet the 9/11 Commissioners have never publicly spoken of its existence which is not classified. I filed for declassification review of it in 2009.

In addition, there is the still classified (by the FBI) 9/11 Commission interview of former FBI Director Louis Freeh. Subsequent to my April 2009 request, a previously unheard of staff monograph was declassified in June 2009. [2] It was prepared by staffer (and former DOJ IG) Barbara Grewe on the intelligence sharing “Wall.” It concluded: “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information could not have been shared.” Indeed. A MFR declassified and released on January 15, 2009 of 9/11 Commission staff interviews of former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick states in part:

“Gorelick said she did not know anything about how the wall was structured within the FBI. She did not believe that the FBI was required to erect a wall between intelligence and criminal agents, particularly those on the same squad and working related intelligence and criminal cases. She said she was surprised that the FBI interpreted the provisions that way.”

Strangely, the 9/11 Commissioners reminded no one that Executive Director Philip Zelikow and Commissioner Jamie Gorelick had authored a 7,000-word summary [3] of presidential daily briefs (PDBs). It is in former President George W. Bush’s records. It has been subject to declassification review by the NSC since January 20, 2014 as federal statute mandates a 5-year delay after a President leaves office. And there is the still classified MFR summarizing the President Bush-Vice President Cheney interview conducted by all 10 Commissioners.

Massive finger pointing as the WTC Pile, Pentagon, and a field outside of Shanksville still smoldered would have distracted key government personnel then scrambling to rally our Nation’s defense, and it would not well serve us now. Yet the American people must know the rest of the story. 2,978 names and the face of a 9/11 firefighter on a funeral mass card that I’ve long carried in my wallet haunt me; we owe it to them and future generations.

The 9/11 Commissioners can finally raise their voices and fulfill their charter to provide a “complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness.” I pray they do.

Originally posted on July 28, 2014

Note 1: Also present were “PZ” Philip Zelikow and “GC” General Counsel Daniel Marcus.

Note 2:
Legal Barriers to Information Sharing: The Erection of a Wall Between Intelligence and Law Enforcement Investigations
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
Staff Monograph
Barbara A. Grewe
Senior Counsel for Special Projects
August 20, 2004

Note 3: Zelikow confirmed its existence in a 2011 Reuters report.

Note 4: Tenet’s interview remains pending declassification review by the CIA while Clarke’s and Berger’s interviews are being held back by the NSC.

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have vowed to override President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, S.2040, known as JASTA, and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have stated they would sign the bill into law if they were president. It would allow 9/11 family members to bring a lawsuit in federal court against Saudi Arabia. The lawsuit seeks justice; Islamists slaughtered 3,000 men, women, and children on our soil.

It is also a quest for truth. Here’s some: former Senator Bob Kerry refuted claims that the 9/11 Commission cleared the Saudi government of complicity in the September 11 attacks:

Stated most simply, our investigation found substantial evidence that one or more Saudi government employees located in the United States provided direct aid and support to the 9/11 hijackers. Those Saudi government employees were associated with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the same arm of the Saudi government that had primary responsibility for implementing the Kingdom’s global efforts to propagate the radical Wahhabi stream of Islam, and that was responsible for supervising Wahhabi proselytizing organizations that directly sponsored al Qaeda, like Al Haramain.

[See here and here for State Department terror designations of Al Haramain.]

Andrew J. Maloney, Liaison Counsel at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP for the plaintiffs, added (in response to our request for comment):

“While the International Islamic Relief Organization [the IIRO is Saudi Arabia-based] has been deeply involved with al Qaeda since the founding of al Qaeda in Pakistan in 1988, over the past few years our investigation has led us to the bigger picture role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs. While the MOIA has provided oversight of the al Qaeda charities, it has also trained and deployed al Qaeda members and supporters worldwide. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!”

Indeed, the plaintiffs’ 157-page complaint should easily meet JASTA’s litigation threshold requirements. Read it and, in small part, you will discover:

* “In 1993, [Saudi] King Fahd established a new “Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment (Waqf), Guidance and Da’awa” (the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa). … With its formation, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa assumed primary responsibility for supervising and directing the activities of Saudi Arabia’s charity alter-egos, including among others the MWL, IIRO, WAMY, and al Haramain, in keeping with the new ministry’s authority over all Saudi da’awa activities outside of the Kingdom.”

* “In addition to the support that flowed to al Qaeda from the Kingdom’s charity agents and alter-egos, investigations by the United States and its allies have confirmed that officials within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa collaborated directly with al Qaeda members, and that agents of the Saudi government, including representatives of the Islamic Affairs Departments in the Saudi embassy in Berlin and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, provided direct assistance to the September 11th plotters and hijackers, which was essential to the success of the attacks.”

* “As the 9/11 Commission correctly observed, the two hijackers [Hazmi and Mihdhar] were “ill prepared for a mission in the United States. Their only qualifications for this plot were their devotion to Usama Bin Ladin, their veteran service, and their ability to get valid U.S. visas. Neither had spent any time in the West, and neither spoke much, if any, English.” … The Commission concluded it was therefore “unlikely that Hazmi and Mihdhar – neither of whom, in contrast to the Hamburg group, had any prior exposure to life in the West – would have come to the United States without arranging to receive assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival.””

* “On February 1, 2000, Bayoumi and Caysan bin Don (a/k/a “Isamu Dyson”) got into Bayoumi’s car and drove nearly two hours from San Diego to the Saudi Arabian Royal Consulate in Los Angeles. Bayoumi had previously disclosed to friends at the ICSD that he had friends at the Saudi Consulate. Although the stated purpose of the trip was to resolve a visa issue and obtain Islamic religious materials and Korans, Bayoumi had told at least one other person prior to the trip that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors.”

* “Upon arriving at the Saudi Consulate, Bayoumi met for an hour with an official from the Consulate’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office, Fahad al Thumairy. U.S. officials have concluded that Thumairy and Bayoumi discussed the recent arrival of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar in the United States, and Bayoumi was tasked with getting them welcomed and assimilated into the San Diego Muslim community. … Thumairy, who was twenty-nine years old at the time of the meeting with Bayoumi, graduated with a degree in Islamic studies from the Imam Muhammad Bin Saudi Islamic University in the Kingdom and immediately joined the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs.”

* “Thumairy was an accredited diplomat at the Saudi Consulate from 1996 to 2003, and further served as a religious leader at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, CA, a mosque that had been built with financial assistance from the government of Saudi Arabia. As of January 2000, Thumairy acted as the Saudi Consulate’s liaison to the King Fahd Mosque, per the request of his superiors at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After arriving in the United States on January 15, Hazmi and Mihdhar reportedly spent time at the King Fahd Mosque until their move to San Diego a few short weeks later.”

* “Bayoumi (a/k/a “Omar Ahmad Mustafa Al-Baioomi”), was a long-time employee of the Saudi Arabian government … a top FBI official has stated that “We [the FBI] firmly believed that he [Bayoumi] had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them [Hazmi and Mihdhar] that day was more than coincidence.””

* “Evidence further indicates that an additional source of Saudi government funding used to support the activities of Hazmi and Mihdhar while in the United States came by way of Bayoumi’s relationship with Osama Yousef Basnan, another agent of the Saudi government who was being groomed to replace Bayoumi in San Diego. Basnan, known as a vocal al Qaeda sympathizer and further described by U.S. intelligence as an “ardent UBL [Osama bin Laden] supporter” who “has been in contact with UBL family members,” was a target of FBI investigations as early as 1992.”

* “… on October 17, 1992, Basnan hosted a party in Washington D.C. for Omar Abdul Rahman (a/k/a the “Blind Sheikh”) who is currently serving a life sentence following his conviction for his role in supporting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for plotting a “day of terror” in which he planned to attack the United Nations in New York City, bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and assassinate then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato. … FBI sources further report that in September 2000, Basnan was in phone and email contact with senior al Qaeda member and key facilitator for the September 11th attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh. Binalshibh himself confirmed his relationship with Basnan during interrogations by U.S. officials following his capture in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002.” [Binalshibb is alleged to be the 9/11 plot coordinator, then located in Germany, and is currently awaiting trial by Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.]

* “The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is further implicated in the September 11th terrorist attacks by virtue of the relationship between the 9/11 plot’s “Hamburg cell” and the head of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Muhammad Jaber Hassan Fahiki. The “Hamburg cell” consisted of key operatives in the September 11th attacks, including Mohammed Atta (the ringleader of the 19 hijackers who piloted American Airlines Flight 11), Marwan al Shehhi (piloted United Airlines Flight 175), Ziad Jarrah (piloted United Airlines Flight 93), Ramzi Binalshibh, Mounir el Motassadeq, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and others.”

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

9/11 family members deserve the opportunity to present their case in federal court. Yet every American needs to know if and when Saudi Arabia replaced Iran as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.