December 15, 2014
Recently, two articles written by former colleagues on the 9/11 Commission Staff have come to my attention. First, Team 8 Leader, John Farmer, wrote a guest column in the December, 12, 2014, edition of the Star Ledger, titled: “U.S. must decide what it stands for in wake of torture report, drone strike.” Farmer assessed that:
Both our treatment of individuals in confinement and our extensive use of drone strikes have undermined our efforts to project our values abroad, and contributed to an environment in which, 13 years after 9/11, American values — even freedom itself, in its American variant — are under assault all over the world.
He then concluded that:
We must no longer allow our tactics to stand as proxy for a national vision. We must redefine what freedom means and why it should prevail in a chaotic and dangerous world, and our discussion should engage the entire nation, not just officials in the most secretive department of government. The Senate Intelligence Committee Report, in demonstrating that we can look honestly and openly at past conduct and correct it, is a first step in that necessary direction.
Dan Byman, a colleague on both the 9/11 Commission Staff and the Congressional Joint Inquiry Staff, wrote an OpEd article for the Washington Post, also published on December 12, 2014. His view is that of a professor and the article is titled, “Teaching torture.” Byman is currently a professor in the security studies program at Georgetown University and the research director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Byman speaks to the challenge of teaching graduate students about the Senate release of its CIA interrogation report. He commented:
The report on CIA interrogations released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday is important not just because it forces us to grapple with right and wrong today, but because it can be used as a teaching tool for future military and government leaders, who will no doubt be influenced by its findings and the debates it sparks.
It is gratifying to watch my students wrestle with the dilemmas of counterterrorism policies in a free society. They don’t come up with all the answers, but by at least posing the right questions, they’ll be ready to make tough decisions when it matters most.
Interested readers may also find relevant my 2012 article, “Suddenly an Eagle, Tarnished,” published on my other web site, www.9-11revisited.org. That article was predicated on the killing of Afghan citizens by Army Sergeant Robert Bales in 2011. What prompted the article, however, was a 2011 statement by Ted Koppel, who said:
The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response.
The singular case of Sergeant Bales refines the theses of both Farmer and Byman to the individual level, not in the class room but on the battlefield, itself.
November 25, 2014
Janice Kephart has been appointed Director of the Americas Program as announced by BORDERPOL – The World Border Organization. According to the announcement:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Chairman and Executive Director of BORDERPOL, Thomas Tass, based in Ottawa, Canada, is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Janice Kephart as the Director of the Americas Program. Ms. Kephart brings her extensive experience in border security systems and her international credibility to BORDERPOL. Ms. Kephart is a border and ID security expert who served as counsel to the 9/11 Commission and was a key author of the Staff Monograph, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel, as well as the immigration-related facts and recommendations in the 9/11 Commission Report.
May 21, 2014
I just learned of a new policy concerning the routine release of 84th RADES radar data to the public. Here is what I have from an individual who received a recent response to a FOIA request.
Your requests have been reviewed by the Air Combat Command, Department of Defense/Department of Homeland Security Long Range Radar Joint Program Office and they have determined that the 84 RADES will no longer process FOIA requests to create a federal record for release to the public.
The radar data is jointly owned by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration. Even though the 84 RADES has been processing previous requests and providing records, they have never received or requested approval to release this information to the public. Also, in accordance with DoDr 5400.7 the
84 RADES is not obligated to create a record to satisfy a FOIA request. Creating these records are not considered minor operations for day-to-day operations because a trained radar technician must perform the radar data extraction and parsing of the radar data to create a usable product
It will be interesting to see how this plays our during due process. I will update as I learn more.
April 19, 2014
On April 12, 2014, Marc Ambinder posted an article, “When it’s OK to believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories,” on The Week website. He cites my work, specifically.
In Ambinder’s words:
Col. Miles Kara (Ret.), a highly credentialed member of the congressional joint commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks, is one of the most dogged and least ideological of those who believe that the ground truth of what happened that day has not been fully and faithfully disclosed to the public. In that sense, Kara wants the truth. But he is not a 9/11 Truther; he is not, so far as I can tell, an adherent to the discredited theories about who planned the attack, who carried it out, whether the U.S. government “allowed” the attacks to happen deliberately, or whether the attacks were a deliberate “false flag” operation to shock the world out of its post Cold War reverie.
Further, Ambinder provides an accurate, outsider, assessment of why I continue my work:
What he does believe is, frankly, what the 9/11 Commission’s report concluded: that the government’s response to the events of 9/11, to the intelligence they received beforehand, and to the questions they received after, were deeply flawed.
I was pleased to read that he included my reference to George Plimpton concerning how I perceived that the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) and the White House Situation Room operated on the morning of 9/11:
Concerning both the PEOC and the Situation Room, I can’t help but recall George Plimpton’s classic description of a golf swing. Time.com has it this way: “His mind invents a nightmarish fantasy in which a team of inept Japanese admirals, located somewhere in his brain, shout useless instructions through the imaginary voice tubes of his creaking body machinery in an effort to help him hit the ball correctly.”
Concerning that and other information Ambinder included in his post, he concluded:
This, I agree with. Almost entirely.
I thank Ambinder for his insightful and accurate characterization of my work and my purpose.
March 27, 2014
A Washington Times on-line article, with heading, “Panel to investigate handling of FBI mole; asset was close to bin Laden pre 9-11,” explains the genesis and membership of a panel looking into the FBI.
The language establishing the panel was crafted by Representative Frank Wolf, Virginia and the congressional mandate was signed into law by the President.
Panel members mentioned are Tim Roemer; a member of the 9/11 Congressional Join Inquiry, and the 9/11 Commission; Ed Meese, former Attorney General; and Bruce Hoffman, Professor, Georgetown University.
Read the article at the link for additional details
March 25, 2014
Several months ago, I asked NARA to seek release of the infrared times for the impacts of all four hijacked aircraft on 9/11. Those times were recorded by the Defense Special Missile and Aerospace Center (DEFSMAC). On March 24, 2014, I learned that the request had been denied in full.
Here is what I received from NARA:
re: MDR case LL13-02
Earlier today I received the response from the National Security Agency (NSA) stating that the DEFSMAC information I sent them as a mandatory declassification review request on your behalf (from Team 8 Files, Box 8, folder: Kara/Hyde Work File (4)) is denied in full. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“Upon review, we determined that the documents contained equities of another agency, and we referred the documents to that agency for review. Because the agency has not responded to our referral, we are unable to make a complete determination concerning the releasability of the documents. Therefore, we are denying the documents in their entirety….We have also determined that certain information in the denied documents meet the criteria for classification set forth in Section 1.4 subparagraph c and remains classified SECRET….In addition, NSA/CSS functions and activities are exempt from release in accordance with the provisions of Section 6, Public Law 86-36 as provided for in Section 3.5c of E.O. 13526.”
According to the letter, you may appeal in writing within 60 days of this letter to:
NSA/CSS MDR Appeal Authority (DJ5)
National Security Agency
9800 Savage Rd.
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755-6881
It is the times that are important. I will file an appeal asking for a release of the times only, with the rest of the document(s) fully redacted, if necessary, to meet statutory and agency requirements.
March 22, 2014
(See March 1, 2012 entry, below, for continuity)
Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan posted an update on their Facebook page concerning their diligent and detailed work, together with Dan Christensen, Broward Bulldog, concerning the 9/11 Saudi issue as it pertains to Florida, and elsewhere. The word “bulldog” is an apt description of their work.
A page concerning that work, titled “FOIA Lawsuit” is must reading for anyone interested in the issue. In particular, the page contains an all inclusive list of 27 links to all related legal and other information. It is a one stop shop.
Highlighted as new is information that the Department of Justice will hear a mandatory declassification review request for “records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning the 107th Congress’ Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”
Also highlighted as new is information that the US District Court, Southern District of Florida granted that the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Miami Herald could file Amicus Curae briefs in support of the work of Summers, Swan, and Christensen.
June 6, 2012
Here is the Bradbury passage relevant to Chaos Theory.
“Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it can’t be. Not a little thing like that. No!”
Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.
“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.
It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”
Chaos is sensitive to initial conditions. A butterfly metaphor is one of the hallmarks of modern writing on Chaos Theory. No one has written that metaphor better than Bradbury. We are indebted to him in many ways; this way is important to my work.
March 1, 2012
“Ex-Senators Say Saudi Arabia May be Linked to 9/11.” ABC news reports that Senators Bob Graham and Bob Kerrey signed a sworn affidavit that “they believe the government of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the fight on terrorism, may have played a role in the terror attacks ten years ago.”
I am aware of the issue but defer to the Senators and their knowledge as members of the Congressional Joint Inquiry (Graham) and the 9/11 Commission (Kerrey). I was on the professional staff of both but did not work directly on this issue. I also defer to the current work of Robbyn Swan and Anthony Summers (The Eleventh Day) who are following events more closely than am I.
January 25, 2012
In doing research on the Team 8 Audio Monograph, “A New Type of War,” I found an article in which the Rutgers students who assisted on the project told their impressions of the work they did and of the Monograph. The Monograph received world-wide attention, as described by the students.
“Response to A New Type of War was global, immediate, and often quite personal. The Law Review received countless emails from around the world thanking it for making the information public. [Editor-in-Chief, Andrew]Gimigliano, senior managing editor Timothy D’Arduini, and articles editor Mark S. Heinzelmann did numerous print and radio interviews; news reports appeared on six continents; and the website received almost seven million hits within five days, with visitors from 173 different countries accessing the site in more than 100 languages.
It took nearly a year from the time I retrieved the Monograph from the National Archives to reassemble it and find a way to publish. Thanks to the National Archives, in particular Kris Wilhelm, for finding the separate pieces–the text and the audio files. Left to me, then, was the task of converting the individual clips to .mp3 format and reinserting them back into the Monograph.
Thanks to the Rutgers students for helping Dean John Farmer and I complete an important piece of our work on the 9/11 Commission. Without them and the Rutgers Law Review staff we could not have completed the necessary final steps–transcription and publication. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to host the final work session in our home.
January 5, 2012
My Commission Staff colleague, Janice Kephart has recented blogged and written about Iran and Hezbollah. She blogged for Alfero Group, Homeland Security Policy Group under the title, “Court has ruled Iran, hezbollah also responsible for 9/11.” Previously the Washington Times published her article, “What Now? Court: Iran, Hezbollah partly responsible for 9.11.” I worked on this issue while on the Joint Inquiry Staff. In the limited time available to us I recall that we determined there was a connection related to travel of the terrorists responsible for the attack on 9/11.
December 4, 2011
Today’s “Outlook” section, Washington Post, has a front page article by Daneil Byman, one of the principal drafters of the Congressional Joint Inquiry report and a member of the professional staff, 9/11 Commission. The article, “The Arab Winter,” has this explanatory introduction: “Middle East expert Daniel Byman explains why the Arab Spring’s optimism gave way to chaos and repression — and what Washington can do about.” (emphasis in original). The on-line version was published December 1, 2011, under the title “After the Hope of the Arab Spring, the Chill of an Arab Winter.”
Needless to say, that lead-in caught my eye, given Ted Koppel’s thesis over a year ago (Sep 2010) that the chaos of 9/11 extended well beyond that day to the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Byman posed this question: “So what went wrong [with the Arab Spring] — and what will an Arab Winter mean for the Middle East, the United States and the rest of the world?” And the ‘what went wrong’ answer, in sum, is that “when dictators fall, their means of preserving power do not always fall with them.” Byman is not quite so clear as to what an Arab Winter means and to how the nation should respond. The author’s view is a bit grim. “The United States may end up with the worst of both worlds: scorned by the forces of democracy because of its ties to dictators, but disdained by dictators…for reaching out to democrats.”
Looking toward an outcome, Byman wrote, “The most dangerous outcome of the Arab Winter, however, is the spread of chaos and violence.” And here we have the extension of the events of 9-11 as posited by Koppel and now further articulated by Byman, with chaos as a common theme.
Byman further assessed that, “Distrusted and broke, the United States can do little to make the Arab Winter better, but it can do a lot to make it worse.” So what to do? Accordig to Byman, “The Arab Spring began without U.S. help, and the people of the region will be the ones to determine its future.” Therefore, “Washington should recognize that change is coming and support it…But inevitably it will play catch-up, managing crises where it can or must to keep instability from spreading.”
Byman then suggested the tools to use — refugee assistance, diplomacy to prevent intervention and escalation, and continued aggressive pursuit of “al-Qaeda affiliates so they do not threaten Arab nations or the United States.”
Byman concluded, “we must recognize that the Arab Spring may not bring freedom to much, or even most, of the Arab world. Even as the United States prepares to work with the region’s new democracies, it also must prepare for the chaos, stagnation, and misrule that will mark the Arab Winter.”
And therein lies the key question that Byman leaves for the government. How does one prepare for chaos, stagnation and misrule?
October 30, 2011
This is a bit belated but I need to document a comment Bob Woodward made during a March 22, 2011, interview with Neal Conan on National Public Radio. Woodward said, “I think that’s true. But I – you’re going into – when I interviewed Obama for “Obama’s Wars,” we talked about war, and the issue of what is war, well, it’s – as he said, it’s chaos. And the job of the commander in chief is to manage this chaos. Well, managing chaos is really difficult, and there’s no way to connect all of this with the future. You just don’t know what you’re getting into.”
Here, the context was Libya. However, the comment about chaos and its management is a direct extension to Libya of the Koppel thesis, articulated a little over a year ago, that the chaos of 9/11 extended well beyond to events in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Woodward related, the job of the commander in chief is to manage chaos. Woodward’s perspective is simply put: “You just don’s know what you’re getting into.”
September 12, 2011
My Team 8 colleague, Lieutenant Kevin R. Shaeffer, U. S. Navy (Retired) has published the story of his survival on September 11, 2011. Kevin was critically injured by the impact of AA 77 into the Pentagon. He survived by shear will power and he will “Never Forget.”
September 8, 2011
Today, the New York Times reported on the long-time effort of the Commission’s Team 8 to publish an audio monograph. That work was completed and uploaded by the Rutgers Law Review. Concurrently, Jim Dwyer of the Times published his article, “‘The Whole Building Just Came Apart,’ Vivid View of 9/11 Attacks, in Real Time, From Newly Published Audio Files.” Our purpose was to tell the story of the day of 9-11 in the voices of the day, the people who struggled to combat a deadly, surprise attack. Here is a link to the Dwyer article as it was published on line.
August 25, 2011
Today’s USA Today featured an article on the flight of Air Force One on 9-11. The pilot, Colonel Mark Tillman, in an article by Tom Vanden Brook titled: “Air Force one pilot’s 9/11 mission: keep president safe,” recounted essentially the same story he told a decade ago.
It is a reasonable article, a personal account that furthers an enduring myth of the day. Tillman’s recall then, and now, is that he flew the President out over the Gulf of Mexico. The actual track, according to Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) radar files as provided to the Commission by the U.S. Air Forces 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (RADES), was over the Florida peninsula. The view out of the cockpit to the left would have been of the Gulf but the actual track was over land.
The important point is that witness accounts and participant recall often do not square when lined up with primary source information. Tillman’s recall is a case in point.
Added August 30, 2011. Here is a link to a 2009 interview of Colonel Tillman by Wolf Blitzer, CNN. In that interview Tillman was explicit as to why he flew the President out over the gulf–less traffic. Further, Tillman stated that the Texas Air National Guard fighters joined up over the Gulf. They did not. They joined up shortly before Air Force One landed at Barksdale. Thanks to Brian Stark for calling attention to the CNN interview.
July 28, 2011
9/11 Symposium at Bismarck State College, Bismarck, North Dakota.
“Bismarck State College, the Bismarck Tribune, and the Dakota Institute of Lewis & Clark Foundation encourage North Dakotans to participate in ‘September 11 Ten Years Later: Impact on the Heartland’ Sept. 9-11 at BSC,” according to a Great Plains Examiner announcement.
Participants include a member of the Commission staff, Dr. Lorry Fenner [Colonel, USAF, ret.], Director, Conflict Research Center and senior research fellow under the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, and Major Dean Eckmann [Quit 25], North Dakota Air National Guard, 119th Fighter Wing (“Happy Houligans”).
June 17, 2011
“Publishers low key for 9/11 anniversary,” according to a timesunion.com article. There will be some updating of previous works and some new offerings. “Publishers are being more careful now,” and “the books being published now seem to have a real sense of purpose.” according to Hillel Italie, AP national writer, assessing that “A lot of the early books were rush jobs. There was so little perspective at the time.”
The 9/11 Commission Report is being reissued. “W.W. Norton, which released the authoritative edition of the 9/11 study, will reissue it this fall, with an update from commission executive director Philip Zelikow on the status of the report’s recommendations.”
“Ballantine is publishing “The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11,” by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, advertised as “the first panoramic, accessible and authoritative look back at 9/11.” Tavani said the intention was to compile a single volume that told the full story, right up through Osama bin Laden‘s death in May.”
I was interviewed by and consulted with the authors. The book is a detailed, insightful account that is must reading for anyone interested in the events of 9/11 and aftermath. The research for the book left no stone unturned and led the authors to my website, especially the archives which they printed out and used.
May 9, 2011
This morning’s Washington Post, featured a front page article on Michael Hurley, a key member of the 9-11 Commission professional staff. The article, “The end of ‘the hunt’ is personal for many,” provides a look into the background of one staff member. The sub-title, “Ex-CIA officer found his life forever altered by quest after 9/11,” details Mike’s career post 9-11. “Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of government employees like Hurley have reshaped their careers and restructured their lives around the search for one man—a quest they sometimes referred to simply as’the hunt.'” That is a sample of the language of the author, Eli Saslow, as he tells Hurley’s story.
Added. CBS news.com also picked up the Hurley story
May 2, 2011
Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by a special operations team with Presidential authority to act. Among those cited in the several articles in today’s Washington Post is Dan Byman, director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Dan is one of three professional staff that were on both the Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission. Dan was a primary drafter of the Joint Inquiry report.
Dan was quoted by the Post as follows: “This is a man we have hunted with different degrees of intensity for more than 10 years. … His successful defiance was damaging to the United States.”
May 1, 2011
Author Jonathan Kay, the managing editor of Canada’s National Post, wrote an Opinion Page article in today’s Washington Post titled: “Who becomes a birther?,” subtitled, “Conspiracy researcher Jonathan Kay explains the paranoid fringe.” Kay provides a taxonomy of true fake believers, including a category, “The Midlife Crisis Case,” which includes 9-11 conspiracy theorist Richard Gage.
Kay is the author of a newly published book, Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.” His Post article is an essay adapted from that book.
March 31, 2011
On Wednesday, March 30, 2011, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs began hearings on the nation’s counterterrorism efforts. The first hearing, “Ten Years after 9/11: A Report from the 9/11 Commission Chairmen,” featured testimony by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton.
They testified that, “despite significant progress, several key recommendations remain unfulfilled. Among them are the central question of determining who at the federal level is ultimately in charge of preventing a terrorist attack; providing interoperable communications capability to first responders across geopgraphical and agency lines; and streamlining Congressional oversight of homeland security.”
Family members were in attendance.
January 12, 2011
The Rutgers School of Law and the Rutgers Law Review, in conjunction with the Institute for Professional Education, are presenting a seminar, “Unsettled Foundations, Uncertain Results: 9/11 and the Law, 10 Years Later”, on February 3, 2011, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, and on February 4, 2011, at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark. The non-credit registration fee is $50. Information and Registration link.
The opening address will be given by Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of the State of New Jersey and Chair, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The featured speaker is Michael Chertoff, former United States Secretary of Homeland Security. Janet Napolitano, United States Secretary of Homeland Security is an invited speaker.
The seminar thesis is: “The attacks on 9/11, and our nation’s response to them, have challenged both the structure and the substance of the law governing national security. This conference will highlight the unsettled foundations and uncertain outcomes of our ten-year struggle against transnational terrorism, and will point the way toward the emergence of a rule of law adapted to the new reality.” Discussion topics can be found at the link, above.
January 4, 2011
Warren Stutt has updated his website with additional information about the AA 77 Flight Data Recorder and his continuing correspondence with NTSB about the incomplete initial readout.
This is important information for the historical record and for historians. Warren is a serious investigator who has taken on the task of completely decoding the AA 77 Flight Data Recorder. Specifically, he has concentrated on the last four seconds, the so-called missing data.
Warren’s lead in his new post is: “I have now found the problem that caused the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to decode almost 4 seconds less data in the Comma Separated Value (CSV) file they produced from the raw Flight Data Recorder (FDR commonly called “black box”) file for American Airlines Flight 77 (AAL77)…”
Work such as Warren’s, which concentrates on the facts of the day, furthers the work of the 9-11 Commission and NTSB in an important and credible way.
December 20, 2010
Today, the Washington Post published the second installment of “Top Secret America,” titled: “Monitoring America.” The authors, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, begin this second report of their continuing investigation with these word: “Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.”
That got my attention. In my experience, and in the memory of many readers, that is eerily similar to events of the 1970’s when the U. S. Army was accused of spying on civilians. In that era the FBI was monitoring anti-Vietnam War activities and civil rights movements. It enlisted Army counterintelligence to assist because it needed additional resources; the task was too large for the Bureau.
Here we are 40 years later in an era when, according to Priest and Arkin, “…4,058 agencies work on counter-terrorism at the state and local level — most in addition to their regular responsibilities. So, what is the significant difference.?
Decades ago, the effort to monitor American citizens was confined primarily, but not exclusively, to the Federal level. Now, that effort has expanded–literally proliferated–to empower state and local authorities in a way they have never been used before. And, as Priest and Arkin describe, that includes massive resources and sophisticated technology to get the job done.
According to the authors: “The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.” And, to what end?
The authors tell us that, as well. “The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the county feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.”
Civil Liberty and Citizen Safety
In my staff work with the Congressional Joint Inquiry the subject of civil liberty vs. citizen safety was often discussed and the staff level and among members of the Inquiry. The Inquiry Report speaks to the issue. Eleanor Hill, the Staff Director, succinctly distilled the issue under the heading “Respect for the Rule of Law.” as follows:
“Notwithstanding differences on particular proposals, many witnesses joined in the conviction Congressman Hamilton voiced that “[r]eforms in the Intelligence Community must not come at expense of the rule of law and respect for civil liberties.” As Judge Webster put it: “I hope that in the rush to judgment, we will remember who we are and [that] the methods we choose, both for intelligence and for law enforcement, will be consistent with who we are in this country.” Congressman Hamilton described the challenges ahead: “Intelligence work requires that our government obtain information, and obtaining that information requires surveillance of people who have committed no crime — the challenge is to facilitate information-gathering about suspicious people, while insulating legitimate personal and political activity from intrusive scrutiny.”” (p. 353 of the Inquiry Report) (Joint Inquiry Report)
The operative question for “Monitoring America” is the challenge posed by Eleanor Hill. Does the system described the Priest and Arkin “facilitate information-gathering…while insulating legitimate personal and political activity from intrusive scrutiny?”
Here are the key points that the Post makes. “Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields…have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.” “The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information…of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer of fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously.” “Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FMI and U.S. intelligence agencies.” “The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.”
It is on that last point, inappropriately reporting on lawful meetings, that links back to the U.S. Army spying on civilians fiasco decades ago. Information obtained was then, and is now, stored in a retrievable data base. In its current form that data base supports the “Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.”
Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SAR)
Priest and Arkin describe the SAR initiative in their article. It comes with a database, “Guardian.” According to the authors, “[it] stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.” Interested readers will find a detailed discussion of the SAR in the Post article, to include a list of what constitutes suspicious activity.
What is suspicious activity?
Here is the list, as articulated by the Post: “Eliciting information, Testing security, Recruiting, Photography, Observation/surveillance, Materials acquisition/storage, Acquisition of expertise, Weapons discovery, and Infrastructure Incidents.” The Post prefaced the list, in part, with these words: “Because most of the described activities are protected by the First Amendment, authorities are asked to explain in detail why the observed behavior qualifies as suspicious. The government also says that race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation cannot be considers a reason for suspicion.”
Priest and Arkin cite the example of Ramon Montijo, “a former Army Special Forces Sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant.” According to the Post article, “What [Montijo] tells [classes on terrorism and Islam] is always the same, he said: ‘Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.'” Montijo is further quoted as saying, “They want to make this world Islamic. The lsiamic flag will floy over the White House — not on my watch! My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.
Top Secret America
According to the Post, “Top Secret America is a project two years in the making that describes the huge security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Today’s story is about those efforts at the local level, including law enforcement and homeland security agencies in every state and thousands of communities.” One hopes that the Priest/Arkin choice to cite the Montijo example is atypical of what the project is actually supposed to accomplish. Safety comes at a price, but is mistaken personal conviction articulated to others from a podium authorized by this new initiative what we are buying? I, for one, hope not. As a nation, we have been down this road before.
October 29, 2010
Recent news and media accounts report that in President Bush’s new book, Decision Points, he thought that UA 93 had been shot down under his orders. A few blog sites have suggested this is evidence that UA 93 was, in fact, shot down. There is no primary source or secondary material evidence supporting that speculation. So what is the story?
President Bush’s recall is an excellent example of the national level’s lack of situational awareness of either the attack or the nation’s response to the attack. As John Farmer (Ground Truth) and others have argued, the national level, specifically the National Command Authority (NCA), was at best poorly informed and at worst simply out of touch with reality. I have and will continue to develop the thesis that the NCA descended into chaos.
In the aftermath the NCA and the Air Force (specifically the Air National Guard) tried to glamorize and glorify a role they did not play in the battle that morning. It took the Commission Staff considerable time to get the story straightened out. To this day some, including people who hammered out the Government’s story afterwards, do not believe the Commission Report. That believe denies the reality of the primary source information.
Concerning UA 93, the fact is that the Presidential shoot down authority was passed after UA 93 crashed, as reported by the Commission. There is no correlation between the two events. Further, that authority was not passed to the air defense pilots until Operation Noble Eagle began.
At 10:03, the time UA 93 plunged to earth, the Langley fighters had just established a combat air patrol over the nation’s capital. One of them was directly overhead the Pentagon at 10:00. No Andrews fighter was airborne until well after the UA 93 crash and no fully armed Andrews fighter was in the air until after 11:00.
There are two necessary conditions for a shoot down, a launch platform and an air or ground controller. There was no launch platform. FAA and NEADS controllers were still trying to figure out the configuration of the Langley combat air patrol and, in fact, thought a Langley fighter over the White House at 10:07 was an unknown.
October 18, 2010
Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at the age of 85. According to the print version headline of a Washington Post obituary he was a scientist who “gave order to chaos theory.”
October 17, 2010
Here is a link to pictures taken at the occasion of the the release of the Commission’s final report.on Thursday, July 22, 2004. They recently came to my attention via a Google alert.
Here is a link to a photo of the staff that assembled that day. I am in the back row framed between the two women to Philop Zelikow’s immediate left, for those that might be interested.
September 23, 2010
Here is a link to an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Book Company. National is the sole order-taker and distributor for W. W Norton, the publisher of the 9/11 Commission Report. The article provides interesting details on the delivery of the report under a tight schedule.
In order to get the report published and distributed in a timely manner its page count was set at a finite limit. The Commission overcame that restriction by reducing the font size, particularly for the end notes.
September 13, 2010
Here is a link to a CSPAN article concerning a Lynn Spencer-hosted panel at the University of Texas, Dallas, on 9/11 and aviation. Overall, I thought the panels, there were two, were well done. Spencer is a forceful presence, articulate and well-spoken. She may have a new calling.
Here is the CSPAN blurb about the event. Note the chaos reference. “Pilots and air controllers responsible for clearing U.S. airspace in the hours following the 9/11 attacks gather at the University of Texas at Dallas Saturday to share their behind-the-scenes experiences and explain how their decisions helped to mitigate loss of life through the day’s chaos.”
The air traffic control panel had the right people–Ben Sliney, Colin Scoggins and Dan Creedon (DCA TRACON). The pilot panel was well balanced with two civilian pilots and two military pilots, one from Andrews and one from Otis. The military pilots spoke primarily to Operation Noble Eagle, neither was on air defense alert that day.
I will separately pass along to Lynn Spencer a couple of fine-tuning comments, presuming she may be asked to do a similar panel next year.
September 10, 2010
Here is a bit torrent link to last night’s History Channel special: “9/11: State of Emergency.” I found the special to be informative, but not definitive in any particular. The producers chose to focus on individual voices to tell the narrative, among them Condoleezza Rice.
I will re-watch the special and perhaps provide a more in-depth review. For now, readers should be aware of two things.
First, the overlay of audio files with video content is inconsistent and at times misleading. It is clear that the producers did not run the audio in conjunction with radar files to establish the spatial relationship between the two primary sources of information. As a result the viewer is sometimes led astray as to what is actually happening. For example, the air traffic controller communications concerning AA 11 and UA 93 (and perhaps the other two hijacked aircraft) are sometimes ahead of or behind the story line.
As a result the producers superimposed the story of the Andrews fighters onto the shoot-down story in a way that implies the Andrews fighters were part of the nation’s response. They were not. Further, the use of footage of the DC Air National Guard planes implied that they were active earlier than was the actual case.
Second, Condoleezza Rice’s narrative is fascinating in terms of the insight it provides. It caught my ear that she said they “had to stop the chaos.” But, as she clearly narrates, the PEOC (President’s Emergency Operations Center) had no situational awareness. For example, she was consistent in her insistence that the President must not return to DC. I wrote about the national level situational awareness in an earlier article.
Further, her narrative shows how confused the national level was when reports came in the UA 93 was down. Absent any situational awareness of friendly forces the PEOC furthered the false story that UA 93 might have been shot down.
I will continue a discussion of her narrative when I finish work on an article on the “National Level; Descent into Chaos.”
September 9, 2010
It is two days until the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attack against the country. Typically, interest in the events of 9-11 peaks during September; my website is no exception. Therefore, I will be adding links of general interest that catch my eye as I find them.
Here is a link to magnum photos; it leads to an excellent pictorial essay about events in New York City.
Here is a link to a USA Today forum article by Nikki Stern. “An enduring legacy of 9/11: our hardened world view.” I was not previously aware of Stern, a 9-11 family member. One of her observations, in particular, caught my eye.
“Nine years out, what comes to mind when we read about or talk about or even think about 9/11 is anger or fear or mistrust; all the failures and grievances that have hardened our worldview. We’ve retreated to our small groups of like-minded people whose absolute certainty enables our own; we see nothing in common with those “others” whose politics, faith, background, or outlook don’t match ours. We see no reason to make an effort.” (Emphasis added) Her words capture what I see when I visit the blogosphere world of 9-11.
August 22, 2010, an interesting link
My Google Alert surfaced an article on the website TPM. The author, Josh Marshall, asked his readers to recommend the best book on the 9-11 attacks, “looking for works of serious narrative non-fiction, as free of polemical approach as is possible in such things.”
Marshall got “a lot” of responses and the overwhelming majority of respondents mentioned just two books: Wright’s The Looming Tower, and the 9-11 Commission Report.
It appears that just two other books were mentiond: 9/11: American Underground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, by William Langeweische; and Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers, Who They Were, Why They Did It, by Terry McDermott. The former dealt with the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, the latter looked specifically at the 19 hijackers.
Marshall commented: “And while whole book publishing houses have been kept afloat by books about torture, the Iraq War, scary Arabs and Muslims, threats to civil liberties, terrorism and counter-terrorism, at least in relative terms there seems to be a certain eye at the center of the storm as it were. I stress ‘relative’, but there seems to be a relative paucity of books about the key event itself and what led to it, even as there are vast rivers of writing on various topics related to it and spawned by it.”
Marshall concluded: “And to a degree the Report and the Wright book are probably just so good that they’ve driven others from the field. (I know a bit about book publishing. And while there’s probably good civic purpose to there being a dozen or more big fat books on the 9/11 conspiracy, it’s much less easy for a publisher or author to get up the enthusiasm, time and resources to write what will just be yet another book about the same basic subject.) So in addition to your giving me a couple really good recommendations, it’s got me thinking of this other question: why this epochal event seems to have garnered so relatively little direct treatment.”
August 17, 2010, an interesting news day
Co-chair of the 9-11 Commission, Lee Hamilton announced that he was stepping down as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Hamilton is widely regarded across the political spectrum and has served the nation well over the decades spanning nine administrations. He was an active, enlightened, and responsible leader of the 9-11 Commission.
Coincidentally, the Associated Press announced that video tapes of the interrogation of 9-11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh had been found under a desk at the Central Intelligence Agency. Binalshibh was interrogated at a Moroccan-run facility in 2002, according to the report. He has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2006, also according to the report. The discovery of these tapes will have implications for any trial of the 9-11 suspects.
August 9, 2010
The Hamburg, Germany mosque associated with some of the 9-11 hijackers has been closed by Germany authorities, according to a “U.S. Today” news article. Authorities believed that the mosque was again being used as a meeting place for Islamic radicals.
The Taiba mosque was formerly known as the al-Quds mosque when it was frequented by hijacker pilots Muhammed Atta (AA 11), Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175), and Ziad Jarrah (UA 93).
August 7, 2010
The Obama administration announced that David Buckley is the new CIA Inspector General-designate. That is an excellent choice even though Buckley comes from outside the agency. He has lengthy experience in the investigative and oversight business, including intelligence oversight.
Buckley is a protege’ of Eleanor Hill, the second Director of the Congressional Joint Inquiry staff, and was her executive assistant while she was the Inspector General, Department of Defense.. I worked with Buckley during the 1990’s when, at Eleanor Hill’s direction, he took a direct interest in our work at the Office of Intelligence Review, Department of Defense, Inspector General.
Under his guidance we prepared Hill for her testimony about the Guatemala Review before the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Similarly, he guided us for briefings to Senator Richard Shelby on the Zona Rosa Massacre, and to Representative Dan Burton on the Cuban air force shoot down of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft. The Zona Rosa and Guatemala projects were joint efforts with office of the Inspector General, CIA.
Synopses of those projects are available in my archived resume‘ submitted to the 9-11 Commission.
July 25, 2010
Today the Post published solicited comments on “Top Secret America” in “Sunday OPINION, TOPIC A, Is the intelligence community out of control.” (free subscription required for access). Those commenting include my Team 8 colleague, John Farmer Jr.
Other notables commenting were Michael Hayden, Reuel Marc Gerecht, John McLaughlin, and Jane Harman. Harmon was a member of the Congressional Joint Inquiry that preceded the 9-11 Commission. She argues that “the intelligence community is not out of control,” but “Congress is still not a full partner.”
Farmer argues that “what hasn’t changed is bureaucractic culture: Overlapping missions and unclear lines of authority and accountability (emphasis added) still plague the intelligence mission.” Concerning the purse strings, Farmer concludes that “reposing all budgetary authority in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence remains a necessary first step.”
My assessment is unchanged. A necessary next step by the Washington Post is the same detailed investigation of the Congressional oversight process.
(Note: additional comments to the Post by John Negroponte and authors Ronald Kessler and Janice Wedel are included in TOPIC A ONLINE.)
July 21, 2010
Today, the Post concluded its series, “Top Secret America.” The more interesting aspect of this series to me is its timing. Concurrently, the DNI-designate James Clapper was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the two intelligence oversight committees, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is the other.
Clapper testified, according to the Post, that the “[Intelligence Community] is under control,” and that ultimately “the common denominator is the money that is appropriated.” Further, Clapper testified that he believes “strongly in the need for congressional oversight.”
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Clapper to be “a strong leader,” otherwise the “‘balkanization’ of the 16 agencies that make it up will continue.”
Her republican counterpart, Senator Chris Bond (R-Mo), told Clapper “we need someone who can throw some elbows and take back control of our intelligence agencies from Justice, White House ‘bureaucrats’ and the Defense Department.”
So we come full circle to my comments on the first article in the Post series. We have a designated Director of National Intelligence who will not control the purse strings engaging in a contest of words–“I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt”– with the members of one of the two congressional oversight committees, neither of which can appropriate funds.
It is now on the Post’s plate to complete its investigative series and come to grips with the paralysis of the purse that stymies both the Intelligence Community and the congressional oversight committees.
July 20, 2010
Today, the Washington Post continued its series, “Top Secret America.” Two comments caught my eye, directly related to my article of yesterday.
First, Priest and Arkin mentioned their interviews with Gates and Panetta, the holders of the purse strings. The predicate important to my comments is; “whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities. ” Both Gates and Panetta, according to Priest and Arkin,” said they agreed with such concerns. Therefore, we can establish that Gates and Panetta are unsatisfied with the status quo.
Second, Priest and Arkin said they “uncovered …a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight (emphasis added) and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.” Here, Preist and Arkin do leave the door open to examine oversight in detail in a future investigation.
July 19, 2010
This morning the Washington Post unveiled “Top Secret America, A Washington Post Investigation,” by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. Dana Priest was the lead Washington Post reporter during the Congressional Joint Inquiry into events of September 11, 2001. It was Priest who agreed during a TV analysis in the immediate aftermath of the joint statements by Eleanor Hill, Staff Director, Congressional Joint Inquiry, and Kristen Breitweiser, Co-Chair, September 11th Advocates, that the Inquiry was the “little engine that could.”
Priest’s credentials on the subjects of Top Secret America and 9-11 are impressive. However, also today, the Acting Director of National Intellligence, David Gompert, said of Priest’s work; “the reporting does not reflect the Intelligence Community we know.” Gompert’s credentials are equally as good as Priest’s. So who are we to believe?
Priest and Arkin are more right than Gompert would like and they have pushed him beyond his comfort zone. On the other hand, Priest and Arkin, viewing things from the outside, have made the situation more complicated than it really is, primarily by double counting agencies. On my part, the opportunity to view the matter using the lens of Chaos Theory is one not to miss.
Priest and Arkin describe “A hidden world, growing beyond control,” and that is chaos, much as the nonlinear growth of the attack on 9-11 grew beyond the control of existing government processes. So, it seems logical to use what we have learned about chaos and the control of chaos to take a brief, first look at the work of Priest and Arkin.
Using the lens of chaos theory the one thing that stands out in the work presented by Priest and Arkin is the cascading bifurcation of organizations, ancillary organizations, and supporting mechanisms. We saw this same bifurcation in the attack of 9-11 and the national level awareness of the attack.
We also learned that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Herdon Center knew how to combat chaos. The actions of Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager on 9-11, are instructive.
Dealing With Chaos
Chaos is deterministic and can be controlled. On 9-11, Sliney and FAA used three specific tactics to control chaos: ground stop, airborne inventory, and grounding. Sliney’s tactics bounded the situation (ground stop), assessed the situation (airborne inventory) and reduced the vulnerability (grounding). If “Top Secret America” is anywhere near what Priest and Arkin describe then the same tactics can be used.
Simply put, the sequence of actions would be the lessons learned from Sliney. First, bound the situation by stopping inventory growth (ground stop). Second, assess the situation to determine what is problematic in the inventory and what is not (airborne inventory). Third, reduce the inventory to essential components (grounding). As simple as that might sound the practicalities of doing just that have overwhelmed every Director of National Intelligence since the inception of the office and are poised to consume the heir designee, the fourth Director in five years, General James Clapper. Clapper’s charter, however, does not include holding the purse strings.
The Purse String Holders
There are just two individuals who have any real clout, at the end of the day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Those two individuals are intelligent, knowledgeable, and have the gravitas to effect change. They have not done so, according to Priest and Arkin, which leads to two conclusions. First, they are satisfied with the status quo, or second, they are unsatisfied, but understand that they cannot change the status quo as a first order of business.
Managers such as Gates and Panetta do not rise to the level of their current positions without learning and practicing the “art of the possible.” That art includes the practicality of playing the hand they have been dealt and the vision to understand that there is a better hand to be played. Getting to that better hand, however, is not a first order of business at their level of executive responsibility. Oversight is required to help managers such as Gates and Panetta get to that better hand; that oversight is as chaotic as the system which Priest and Arkin describe.
If there is anything more chaotic than the situation Priest and Arkin describe it is the Congressional oversight of that system. Both the 9-11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry before it recognized that Congressional oversight was diffuse, convoluted, and ineffective. Given that the “hidden world, growing beyond control” means jobs and spending in a multitude of states and Congressional districts, it is highly unlikely that Congress will get itself organized anytime soon.
Priest and Arkin would do us a service as a next order of business to describe Congressional oversight to the same level of specificity as they have described “Top Secret America.” That effort is not part of their current three-part series. It is the next logical step to inform the public that elects the overseers. If that public expects its elected representation to effect change then it needs to know how dysfunctional that representation is.
I, for one, look forward to future Priest and Arkin work on the oversight of “Top Secret America.”
July 11, 2010
I took my grandson to see the Spy Museum and noted a couple of things of interest concerning 9-11.
First, 9-11 is addressed in the section on terror and counter-terror. It is logically treated, in sequence, as one of a series of terrorist attacks against American interests around the world. Video footage of the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center and the collapse of the towers is included.
Second, the ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is displayed. The report card for 2009 lists 15 infrastructure systems. The typology is a useful discrete list of national systems that need protected. In an earlier article I considered the terrorist attack on 9-11 to be an attack against one infrastructure system, the national airspace system.
July 7, 2010
While at the bookstore with my Grandson I picked up a copy of Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence to see how he described the events of 9/11. Rove’s individual facts are reasonable enough, but his narrative is a mess. As with most writers–Richard Clarke and Lynn Spencer come to mind–Rove compresses time and conflates events in a way that subtracts from not adds to our understanding of the events of the day.
And that is unfortunate. Rove’s inability to keep his narrative on track and consistent spatially in time and sequence denies us a clear narrative of the critical exchanges between the President and the Vice President concerning shootdown authority.
On the plus side, Rove clearly demarcates the line that separates the duties of the President and Vice President and those of the Secret Service. The Service prevailed.
On the negative side, the one fact that I found immediately wrong was Rove’s description of the route of Air Force One. According to Rove, Air Force One flew North and only turned West when it was over the Atlantic. According to the 84th RADES radar files, Air Force One hugged the Western coast of the Florida Peninsula and turned West at 10:10 to fly the length of the Florida Panhandle.
The confusion about the route is understandable given that Air Force One flew hurriedly to altitude. The pilot, himself, is on the public record that he flew the President out to the Gulf of Mexico. That is likely what he saw out the window from his altitude. The ground trace (contained in slide set at this link) depicts the actual track.
June 6, 2010
It is not new news, but is new to me. I just read the statement of Penny Elgas for the first time. Hers is an eloquent recounting of the events she witnessed on the morning of 9-11, an excellent summation of all the eye witness accounts of that morning concerning the Pentagon.
The statement is an accurate, first-hand account of the impact of AA 77 with the Pentagon. Her description of the immediate aftermath dovetails with what I witnessed. The thick black smoke she describes is what I saw when I looked out the 7th floor window of my office at 400 Army-Navy Drive in Arlington, overlooking the Pentagon.
I wish I had read her statement long ago.
May 13, 2010
Here is a link to Susan Ginsburg’s book Securing Human Mobility in the Age of Risk; New Challenges for Travel, Migration and Borders. Susan was a colleague on the 9-11 Commission Staff; she is an expert, and her book is a valuable addition to the bookshelf of researchers and historians interested in 9-11 and its aftermath.
February 8, 2010
Here is the link to a February 7, 2010, Wall Street Journal article, “The Intel Committees Need the Power of the Purse,” content preview, by Russ Feingold and Lee Hamilton. The full article requires subscription; the preview is sufficient to get the gist. Both the Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9-11 Commission recognized the need for Congressional Reform. Congress has proven itself incapable of reforming itself. The Feingold/Hamilton argument is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are powerless as long as they remain authorizing committees, not appropriating committees.
Here is a link to the New York Times article concerning a review of the current CONUS air defense posture.