Friday, May 11, 2007

Why did everyone cover up Sibel Edmonds' 911 warnings?

George Tenet's new book has renewed attention on what warnings the US Government had in advance of the 911 attacks. Robert Parry wrote about Tenet's "special trip" to the Crawford Estate in late August "to get George W. Bush to focus on an imminent threat of a spectacular al-Qaeda attack..."

In Mark Levey's enormously popular diary on Monday, he noted that "Tenet committed perjury before the 9/11 Commission when he denied meeting with Bush in the month before the attack."

A number of people have asked me whether this frenetic activity, and the August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing, was the result of the same, documented, information that FBI translator & whistleblower Sibel Edmonds reported to the 911 Commission. Actually, the information that Sibel saw was much more specific than the info in the famous "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." PDB.

Apparently many people are unaware of the (documented, reported) details, so I'll tell you what I know downstairs - and I'll take a few potshots at the CIA, the US media, and the 911 Commission along the way.


In April 2001, a respected, long-term informant gave an interview to two FBI agents. The details of the interview are documented internally within the FBI (on so-called "302 forms"), and have been confirmed and reported in various respectable media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune.

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who has apparently seen the transcript of the interview, testified to the 911 Commission for more than 3 hours. When the 911 Commission report was released, Sibel was furious that significant, relevant information that she had provided had been excluded from the report, and she decided to share some of the details in an open letter to the Commission.

In the letter, among other things, she outlined some of the information that was provided by the informant in the April 2001 interview:
Through his contacts in Afghanistan, he received information that:
1) Osama bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States targeting four or five major cities;
2) the attack was going to involve airplanes;
3) some of the individuals in charge of carrying out this attack were already in place in the United States;
4) the attack was going to be carried out soon, in a few months.

This information was given to Thomas Frields, the Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism in Washington.

In July 2004, the Chicago Tribune reported, as fact:
"Five months before Sept. 11, a longtime informant for the FBI reported that Al Qaeda was planning a devastating terrorist assault in which the weapons were to be commercial airliners."

For our current purposes, I'm not going to argue about how credible the informant was, or whether the FBI should have reacted in any particular way to the information. For our current purposes, the only relevant issue is that the information was, in retrospect, mostly accurate.

In comparison, the August 6 PDB which garnered so much attention was significantly less specific (despite the title: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."):
"Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives."

Further, the Chicago Times article specifically states that the information that Sibel mentions was not the source for the PDB. (I'll come back to this article later)

At this juncture, I want to emphasize that the information that Sibel mentions regarding the attacks is quite specific (if not actionable), it is (mostly) accurate, it is documented, and has been verified. The translator present at the interview (Behrooz Sarshar, not Sibel) testified to the facts to the 911 Commission, and provided the Commission with the relevant documents (the '302 forms').

Hopeless US Media
On March 26, 2004, Eric Boehlert first (?) reported in Salon that Sibel told the 911 Commission the details of the advance warning of the 911 attacks. He wrote:
"Edmonds testified before 9/11 commission staffers in February for more than three hours, providing detailed information about FBI investigations, documents and dates. This week Edmonds attended the commission hearings and plans to return in April when FBI Director Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify. "I'm hoping the commission asks him real questions -- like, in April 2001, did an FBI field office receive legitimate information indicating the use of airplanes for an attack on major cities? And is it true that through an FBI informant, who'd been used [by the Bureau] for 10 years, did you get information about specific terrorist plans and specific cells in this country? He couldn't say no," she insists."

Boehlert ended his article thusly:
"That's why she felt it was so important to appear before the 9/11 commission: "It's the only hope I have left to get this issue added to the public domain.""

A couple of days later, Paul Sperry (who has done some good work on Sibel's case) reported on Behrooz Sarshar's testimony in (wingnut) World Net Daily

On April 2, The UK's Independent, arguably the best paper in the English speaking world, recognizing the real story where the US media had missed it, put Sibel on the front page - with the headline "'I Saw Papers That Show US Knew al-Qa'ida Would Attack Cities With Airplanes'
Whistleblower the White House wants to silence speaks to The Independent"

Sperry at WND followed up on April 6, adding: "Grassley, moreover, has called Edmonds "very credible.""

On April 14 in the Village Voice, James Ridgeway wrote:
"Despite the best efforts of the Jersey Girls, leaders of the 9-11 Family Steering Committee, no member of the 9-11 commission this afternoon asked FBI chief Robert Mueller embarrassing questions about two former FBI translators who claim to have knowledge bearing on the attacks. One of them says she is being suppressed and can't talk because Attorney general John Ashcroft has placed a gag order on her."

I accept that I haven't done a "full" accounting of the US media's reporting on this element of the case, and I may have missed a bunch of reports - but the picture is fairly clear. The story about the most specific warnings, by far, of the 911 attacks got front page attention in the 'best paper in the world' (The Independent in the UK), and in the US there was an article in Salon, two in WingNut Daily, and a mention in the Village Voice. WTF?

Three months later, the aforementioned Chicago Tribune article said:
"In February, Sarshar spent several hours answering questions in a secure conference room with staff members of the Sept. 11 commission. FBI Director Robert Mueller, who expected to be asked about the case during an appearance before the commission in April, was surprised when the commissioners never raised the question, according to aides."

I'm not surprised that he was surprised. We've got an apparent media blackout, and a blackout from the 911 Commission as well - even Mueller couldn't believe it!

Of course, when the 911 Commission report was released, in the "missed opportunites" section (or anywhere else) of the report, there wasn't a single mention of the fact that
"Four months prior to the terrorist attacks, the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific information regarding the "use of airplanes," "major U.S. cities as targets," and "Osama bin Laden issuing the order.""

It's a headscratcher.

You know, I could easily imagine that if a 'psychic' had said something like 'two (three, sic!) tall buildings in New York will disappear' they'd have got more attention than these particular claims.

As you hopefully know, we are trying to get Henry Waxman to fulfil a promise that he made to Sibel that he would hold hearings into her case when he became the majority leader (For the record, the 911 stuff is just a side issue in Sibel's case, see here and here for background of the key issues in her case.) For details of the campaign, see Let Sibel Edmonds Speak - in March we asked you to call Waxman's office and demand public, open hearings (and we'll be doing it again in the next few days) - and as part of that campaign, I did some radio interviews, and in a joint interview I did with Sibel on the Peter B Collins show, I mentioned the stuff that I've just outlined and said:
"I don't think that many Americans know that they had such a specific warning, and one of the reasons they don't know is because that particular piece of information didn't surface in the 911 Commission report in their "Missed Opportunities" section - which I think is outrageous. "

I was cringing for days after the interview because I had speculated, without evidence about what 'many Americans know' without really knowing the facts.

A few days later, Michael Scheuer was interviewed on Scott Horton's (awesome) show. Scheuer was the head of the Bin Laden unit, Alec Station, at the CIA. Scott asked Scheuer about the pre-911 warning that Sibel speaks of - and Scheuer said that he'd never heard of it... That made me feel a whole lot better about my "I don't think that many Americans know..." statement - but a whole lot worse for many other reasons. (some good folks have tried to console me by saying that the CIA and the FBI don't share information very well - dont even try it. a) Sibel scoffs at the notion, and b) ummmm, it's SIX years later, and even I know the facts, and they've been verified in the Chicago Trib and The Independent and elsewhere.)

Something is wrong with this picture.

I promised earlier that I'd get back to the Chicago Tribune article. The article deserves a good fisking, for a variety of reasons (and I have doubts about the motives behind the article) - and I'm not sure it's a good use of my time (or yours) right now - but this article was the first, and only (as far as I can tell), major US paper to print this:
"Five months before Sept. 11, a longtime informant for the FBI reported that Al Qaeda was planning a devastating terrorist assault in which the weapons were to be commercial airliners."

I'd argue that this should be relatively big news, given that it (apparently) hadn't been published before in a major outlet. For some reason, it is buried in the 33rd paragraph of an article called "As U.S. steps up investigation, Iran denies assisting Al Qaeda"

Given that I suspect that there are some not-entirely-honest motives behind the Tribune article (read it for yourself and tell me if you have the same suspicions) - I'm not entirely convinced that this kinda-denial should be read at face value, which would raise a whole bunch of other questions
"Despite the coincidence of timing, none of the Asset's (informant's) statements appear to have formed the basis for a controversial CIA briefing paper given to President Bush on Aug. 6, 2001.

"There was other sourcing for that," the law enforcement official said."

Maybe Sibel's information was the source for the PDB after all. That might explain the apparent cover-up.


noise said...

Tenet says in his book that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were not put on no fly lists (though we are told they were at the Malaysian summit also attended by terrorists linked to the African embassy bombings and the Cole attack).

Why didn't the CIA put them on no fly lists? Why didn't the FBI put them on no fly lists? The INS? Remember, these officials (like Scheuer and Clarke and Tenet) have told us that al Qaeda were the most dangerous terrorists on planet Earth and in the summer of '01 the system was blinking red. Afterwards, all they have really done is blame their superiors. Granted, that criticism is valid but these were not rookie agents with no clout...CIA Director and counterterrorism czar. At the time Scheuer was no longer head of Alec Station (replaced in mid '99) apparently by Rich B. (from Tenet's book).

Obviously, this isn't failure to connect the dots or the stupid Gorelick wall excuse...this is willful obstruction by somebody.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

Don't be at all reluctant to say it: the truth about 9/11 directly implicates Bush and Cheney, and ranking members of the executive branch, past and present. That's the reason for all the secrecy, smoke and mirrors, not national security. Unless and until the full press of justice is brought to bear, with the facts hauled into the light of day, we'll remain a world at war, thrust headlong into George H. W. Bush's glorious vision of a new world order.

World domination has been tried before. It didn't work. It still doesn't, and it never will. It won't matter what strategic advantage a nation has or believes it has.

steven andresen said...

This came up,

"George Tenet's new book has renewed attention on what warnings the US Government had in advance of the 911 attacks."

I thought the whole point of spending time on Pres. Clinton's having sex outside of his marriage was to show that a) he wasn't paying attention to the important business of government, and b) he wasn't the kind of guy we (the people they were playing to) would want to have running things.

Then, once Bush is in office, having run on the platform that he would pay attention and he was a morally upright fun kinda guy that you'd want in there, shit then happened, showing a) when it counted Bush wasn't paying attention, and b) he was playing footsie with the Saudis, major players on the planes, or supposedly on the planes.

I would suspect damage control involved shutting up anyone who would show the ruler was asleep at the switch.

The alternative idea would be worse, that his buddies planned the thing to go into Iraq. I further suppose that anything pointing that way is stepped on.

rimone said...

Uranus: 'Unless and until the full press of justice is brought to bear, with the facts hauled into the light of day, we'll remain a world at war, thrust headlong into George H. W. Bush's glorious vision of a new world order.'

this is me holding my breath here (but i'm an optimist sometimes, and i can hold my breath a long time).

lukery said...

rimone - don't turn blue

noise said...

Steven: The FBI/CIA/DIA/NSA issues show the coverup isn't about a clueless POTUS. That is the line Tenet and Clarke are selling. IMO, it's bullshit. Fake conflict.

Tenet lies a lot in his book (and I've only read the chapter on missed opportunities).

noise said...

Of course, Tenet thinks Bush is a great guy so he blamed Rice instead.