Nearly 13 years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, it’s pathetic that Congress actually had to create a law to force the nation’s intelligence agencies to once and for all share valuable information that can help foil a repeat.
It took another deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil—the Boston Marathon bombings—more than a decade later to push Congress to finally take action. It may seem inconceivable that little has been done over the years to improve the fragmented intelligence bureaucracy that essentially permitted Islamic jihadists to plan 9/11 from inside the United States.
When Chechen terrorists set off bombs at last year’s Boston Marathon, it jolted some lawmakers into making changes. The story was all too familiar; Homeland Security officials missed a number of opportunities to stop the attack—carried out by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—because they failed to properly investigate, coordinate and communicate. In fact the monstrous failure is documented in a congressional report issued earlier this year.
It reveals that the FBI and Customs and Border Protection (CPB), both Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies, could have intercepted at least one of the Boston Marathon bombers if they had done their job! A big part of this includes sharing information with other law enforcement agencies, including local police. The older Tsarnaev brother had quite an intel file, but the feds didn’t share the alarming details with local law enforcement officials.
A decade earlier we had heard a similar story involving 9/11. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the agency responsible for protecting the United States against foreign threats, also missed many opportunities to stop the 9/11 hijackers and failed to uncover important intelligence about the Islamic terrorists that murdered thousands of innocent Americans. It’s as if the Three Stooges are in charge of national security. For decades the various intelligence agencies simply don’t communicate with each other.
Now Congress has finally stepped in to try to force the various agencies to collaborate. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that aims to repair the lack of information sharing that crippled investigations into Tamerlan Tsarnaev months before he detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and hundreds were seriously wounded by the blasts. Massachusetts Congressman Bill Keating authored the bill in response to the bombings and it requires several intelligence agencies to review their practices for sharing information and report back to Congress within 90 days.
“It’s something that’s plagued us since 9/11, this lack of information sharing,” Congressman Keating, a Democrat, said in a Boston newspaper story on the measure. “This is why we have breakdowns. They’re not talking to each other, they’re not sharing information, they don’t have a prearranged agreement that they will share information.” Keating’s law has strong bipartisan support and has been co-sponsored by two Republicans, Tom Rooney of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York.
If the Senate approves the measure the FBI, DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must conduct a thorough assessment on the Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) signed between federal, state, and local law enforcement entities. MOUs serve as the foundation for Joint Terrorism Task Forces and other cooperative information-sharing structures associated with law enforcement. They assign appropriate roles and responsibilities to the officers operating within these structures, as well as provide the regulations governing the individual structures.
This didn’t occur in the months leading up to the Boston Marathon bombings, where intelligence gaps have been blamed for missing opportunities to foil the attack. Boston’s police commissioner at the time testified that federal agents kept local officials in the dark about their 2011 investigation into Tsarnaev or that the terrorist had traveled to Russia in 2012. Similar failures occurred before 9/11. In fact, a Justice Department Inspector General report disclosed that the FBI missed at least five opportunities before the 2001 terrorist attacks to uncover crucial intelligence about the perpetrators. The watchdog blamed the FBI for not knowing that two of the 9/11 hijackers lived in the U.S. and for failing to follow up on an agent’s theory that Osama bin Laden sending students to American flight schools.
A respected veteran federal prosecutor got fired for reporting government misconduct involving a terrorism fundraising operation run by 9/11 hijacker Mohamaed Atta, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court against the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The complaint, filed this month in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is downright chilling. It outlines an alarming retaliation plot at the upper levels of the DOJ to oust an esteemed prosecutor who had received numerous awards for outstanding performance. Scarier even is that the feds failed to act on evidence that linked domestic fundraising to the 9/11 terrorists because it was uncovered by the Assistant U.S. Attorney under fire for exposing government wrongdoing.
The ousted prosecutor, identified only as John Doe in the complaint, led an investigation dubbed Money Exchange that uncovered evidence that Atta was raising cash for terrorist missions in the U.S. before 2000. Rather than focus on his solid investigative work, his bosses at the DOJ retaliated against him for refusing to sign off on an illegal search and seizure in the terrorism fundraising case. His superiors, George W. Bush appointees, approved the illegal search anyways and the prosecutor blew the whistle on the wrongdoing.
“John Doe made additional disclosures regarding his supervisors’ misconduct from 2005 through 2008 which are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act,” the complaint says. “These additional protected disclosures included reports of misconduct by his superiors in disciplinary proceedings, in political hirings, and in mishandling of a terrorist investigation.”
Besides forcing the whistleblower out, the DOJ hierarchy continued punishing him by snubbing his topnotch investigative work on the terrorism financing case, which spanned several years. In fact, he came under fire for distributing a memo on the Money Exchange investigation to the DOJ counterterrorism division as part of an agency directive to promptly make disclosures of national security information to all law enforcement components.
Incredibly, authorities never followed through with the valuable evidence that the former federal prosecutor and his team provided, according to the lawsuit. “On May 23, 2008, John Doe urged the Acting United States Attorney to act upon the Money Exchange Memorandum because bank records underlying the terrorist funding would be destroyed after 7 years,” the complaint says.
“On May 27, 2008, the United State Attorney ordered John Doe to retrieve the May 5 Money Exchange Memorandum from all recipients. The Acting United States Attorney then criticized John Doe for “going outside the chain of command.” The Acting United States Attorney ordered John Doe to turn over the Money Exchange case materials to another AUSA. That AUSA never followed up on the Money Exchange Memorandum.”
If the allegations in the complaint are true, heads should roll at the DOJ for allowing a personal vendetta to interfere with a terrorism investigation. While the complaint doesn’t mention names, you can deduct that the Assistant U.S. Attorney suing the DOJ was pretty high up at the agency and probably has a boatload of evidence that authorities prefer to keep from going public.
Weak congressional oversight over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps the United States vulnerable to terrorist threats posed by small aircraft and boats, cyber attacks and biological weapons, according to a diverse panel of lawmakers and security officials.
This may be difficult to swallow twelve years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history but it’s the conclusion of a task force of Homeland Security officials and experts as well as current and former members of Congress from both political parties. The task force found that one of the key recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, the special panel that Congress created to investigate the terrorist attacks and prevent them in the future, has not been fulfilled.
After all these years one of the commission’s most significant recommendations to guard against future attacks has not been implemented. It’s the call for consolidated Congressional oversight of DHS, the monstrous agency created after 9/11. Jurisdiction over DHS is fragmented and that impedes the agency’s ability to deal with the three major vulnerabilities mentioned above, the experts found.
DHS has no oversight structure like other crucial agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the panel of intelligence experts and lawmakers reveal. Instead, more than 100 Congressional committees and subcommittees claim jurisdiction over it creating a seriously disintegrated oversight system and massive bureaucracy.
The new report indicates that, as a nation, we’ve learned little from the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. Here are some of the experts who helped put the report together; former Florida Governor Bob Graham, former Bush DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Obama DHS Undersecretary of Intelligence Caryn Wagner and California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
“The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission addressed problems that contributed to the United States’ vulnerability to attack” in 2001, the report says. Graham, who was co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on 9/11 offers an example: “We found among other things that there had been inadequate communication among the agencies with a responsibility to alert us to a security threat. The FBI and the CIA had information which, had it been brought together, might well have allowed us to have avoided 9/11.”
This lapse is attributed to the fact that Congress was not doing its job of oversight of the intelligence agencies, the report goes on to say, adding that it was one of the lessons of 9/11. A dozen years later it’s still a problem even though it was specifically laid out in the 9/11 Commission report. Most of its recommendations have been implemented, but it seems the most important one has been ignored.
The fragmented oversight negatively affects the nation’s well-being and security, the panel of lawmakers and Homeland Security experts found, because it hampers the agency’s functioning in three primary ways; redundant requests from committees drain valuable resources; the overlap of legislative roles complicates Congressional oversight and results in less Congressional control; and that same fragmentation prevents Congress from addressing pressing concerns in a timely fashion.
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received documents on March 4, 2013 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that raise new questions about close ties between Anwar al Aulaqi, the U.S.-born terrorist assassinated by a U.S. drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011, and Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, two of the five hijackers who attacked the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In the documents the FBI describes al Aulaqi as “The Spiritual Leader of the Hijackers.”
Judicial Watch received the documents in response to a June, 2012, Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and Federal Bureau of Investigations (No. 1:12-cv-00893). They are part of Judicial Watch’s ongoing investigation of al Qaeda in the United States, including its current operations and support network.
Materials received by Judicial Watch reveal the following information the FBI regarded as worthy of investigation in its probe of ties between al Aulaqi and the 9/11 hijackers:
- An FBI report dated 9/20/2011 notes that al Aulaqi made purchases at a Texaco in La Mesa, California, “several times a month” over the preceding two years. Reportedly this is the station where hijacker Nawaf al Hazmi worked, as did probable 9/11 co-conspirator Mohdar Abdullah (whose close association with and material assistance to al Hazmi and al Mihdhar is well-documented in the 9/11 Commission’s report).
- An undated FBI report indicates an individual received a check for $281.50 from al Aulaqi and wrote a check for $175 to al Hazmi on July 7, 2001. There is no additional information about the transactions. The FBI apparently found the transaction to be of investigative interest because, depending on the identity of the intermediary party, it could indicate direct assistance from al Aulaqi to al Hazmi.
- On 9/13/2001, FBI agents took possession of and searched the vehicle al Aulaqi rented in San Diego on 9/8/2001 (which he kept for one day and drove only 37 miles). While there is no report regarding the results of the search, the action highlights the FBI’s interest in al Aulaqi and suspicions about his trip to San Diego, home to both al Hazmi and al Mihdhar leading up to the attacks.
- An FBI report dated 10/24/2001 indicates that the Bureau became aware three days after the 9/11 attacks (9/14/2001) that al Aulaqi had rented a Mailboxes Etc. mail drop in Falls Church, VA. The mail box was the subject of a federal grand jury subpoena.
“The more we learn about Anwar al Aulaqi, the more questions arise not only about his activities before and after 9/11, but also about the al Qaeda operational and support network still active in the United States,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is now even more concerning that al Aulaqi was invited to the Pentagon after 9/11 and then let go by the FBI despite warrants for his arrest.”
An earlier release of FBI documents obtained by a Judicial Watch FOIA and reported by Fox News suggest that the FBI was aware on September 27, 2001, that al Aulaqi had purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. Subsequent to the FBI’s discovery, al Aulaqi was detained and released by authorities at least twice and had been invited to dine at the Pentagon.
In 2010, President Obama reportedly authorized the assassination of al Aulaqi, the first American citizen added to the government’s “capture or kill” list, describing the radical Muslim Cleric as “chief of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” The Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department has reportedly determined that targeting and killing of U.S. citizens overseas was legal under domestic and international law.
The radical Islamic imam behind the controversial Ground Zero mosque used donations to his nonprofits—created to combat anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S.—to live the high life with his wife and mistress, according to a lawsuit filed recently in New York court.
Feisel Abdul Rauf, head of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, is accused of swindling donation funds intended for the Ground Zero mosque to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle with a New Jersey gal pal and his wife, according to a New York newspaper report. Some of the cash was spent on a luxury sports car, lavish vacations, personal real estate and entertainment. Rauf fleeced the Malaysian government for $3 million and a Westchester County couple for $167,000, according to a lawsuit cited in the article.
Rauf is the figure behind the proposal to build a massive mosque and Muslim community center in the shadow of Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Manhattan. Back in 2010 Judicial Watch obtained records from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office that show the mayor was instrumental in helping Rauf obtain approval for the contentious project. The documents, which JW had to sue to get, show that Bloomberg’s office was working hand in glove with the Muslim activists driving the unpopular Ground Zero mosque project.
The mayor’s support may seem unbelievable considering Rauf is a radical Islamist, who blames America for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The imam has made a number of controversial statements regarding Islamic extremism, particularly the 2001 attacks. For example, during a 60 Minutes interview about 9/11, Rauf said: “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened…we have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.”
Rauf has also compared the Declaration of Independence to Sharia law, the authoritarian doctrine that inspires Islamists and their jihadism, and he claims that Islamophobia in the U.S. is driven by racism. “There are individuals who are working very hard to promote fear and antagonism towards Islam and Muslims in this country,” Rauf said just a few months ago. “It’s fueled, in part, by the first African-American president that we have. Obama’s father was a Muslim and people have used this to arouse hostility against him.”
The mainstream media insists, however, that Rauf is a leading moderate Muslim leader in the U.S. A 2010 Time Magazine story says he’s the kind of Muslim leader “right-wing commentators fantasize about; modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents…” A piece published by National Public Radio last May refers to Rauf as a moderate voice in America. A more realistic assessment seems to be outlined in a New York paper’s series about Rauf’s rise and fall.
Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Judicial Watch client and 9/11 widower “John Doe” in his “conspiracy and wrongful death” lawsuit against the Islamic State of Afghanistan (John Doe v. Usama bin Laden, et. al., Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, also known as the Islamic State of Afghanistan, (No. 09-4958-cv)). The State of Afghanistan filed an appeal after the district court refused to dismiss the complaint. According to the appellate court ruling issued November 7, 2011:
Defendant-Appellant Afghanistan appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denying without prejudice its motion to vacate entry of default and to dismiss the complaint…we agree with the district court that Plaintiff-Appellee John Doe’s suit is properly considered under the noncommercial tort exception to foreign sovereign immunity provided by 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5).
Because factual issues persist with respect to whether the Taliban’s actions in allegedly agreeing to facilitate the attacks of September 11, 2001, are properly considered to be the action of Afghanistan and as to whether any such actions were “discretionary” under § 1605(a)(5)(A), we remand the case for jurisdictional discovery…
The “noncommercial tort exception” to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides that a foreign state shall not be immune from liability in any case “in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury…occurring in the United States and caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state….” Lawyers for Afghanistan argued that a country can only be held accountable for terrorist acts if the country is on the State Department’s list of terrorist supporting countries, an interpretation of the “noncommercial tort exception” the district court said would lead to an “absurd” result Congress could not have intended. (Afghanistan had not been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism on 9/11.)
“We are pleased the court was not persuaded by the State of Afghanistan’s ridiculous interpretation of the law. The State of Afghanistan is certainly responsible for the attacks of 9/11 and the murders of nearly 3,000 innocents, including the wife of our client. After nearly 10 years, we look forward to finally being able to make the case for our client in court. It is beyond belief, frankly, that Afghanistan has yet to be held accountable in court for 9/11,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“John Doe’s” wife was attending a meeting on an upper floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when United Airlines flight 175 struck the tower several floors below. “Jane Doe” was 47 years old at the time of her death and was survived by her husband and their two children.
In December 2001, Judicial Watch filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of “John Doe” with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Bin Laden and the State of Afghanistan “for conspiracy and wrongful death under the noncommercial tort exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).” In 2003, the court clerk filed a default against Afghanistan for failing to respond to the lawsuit. Afghanistan eventually did respond in 2004, moving to vacate the default and filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In September 2008, the U.S. District Court “denied without prejudice” Afghanistan’s motion to dismiss, leading to the appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.