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Wiki Editor Helps Reveal Pre-9/11 CIA Mistakes 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-non-denial-denials dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Kevin Fenton was reading the Department of Justice's 2004 Inspector General report on pre-9/11 intelligence failures. Parts of it didn't make sense to him, so he decided to add the information in the report to Paul Thompson's 9/11 timeline at the wiki-style website History Commons. Eventually, Fenton's work led him to uncover the identity of a CIA manager who ran the Bin Ladin unit before 9/11, when agents there deliberately withheld information about two 9/11 hijackers from the FBI. That manager was named Richard Earl Blee and he is now the subject of a documentary by Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, of secrecykills.org, who confirmed his identity using techniques right out of the 70s film All the President's Men. Blee, along with Cofer Black and George Tenet, have found the work disturbing enough to release a joint statement denying some of the allegations."
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Wiki Editor Helps Reveal Pre-9/11 CIA Mistakes

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  • So what is new? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:20AM (#37589334) Homepage

    As far as I can tell, this is just one more example of how turf wars between the different agencies caused severe information gaps before 9/11. That was obviously a problem. However, after the last decade of the Patriot Act, I'm sufficiently worried by the government information sharing as part of a wider pattern, that part of me wants to go back to the silly turf wars as a de facto restraint on various government agencies becoming too powerful or having access to things they shouldn't.

    But there's no real evidence of any sort of high-level conspiracy. This is just low-level bureaucratic infighting at its finest. You can see lots of examples of this in the 9/11 Report which details the many intelligence failures leading up to 9/11. Some of them seem like intelligence failures mainly due to hindsight bias where what the evidence meant became obvious only if you knew what happened, but others are genuine failures. There's really not that much new here.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by bhcompy (1877290)
      Exactly, but this won't stop the truther derp brigade from donning their tinfoil hats, regardless.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by n5vb (587569)
      And if it were a conspiracy, it would still look like low-level bureaucratic infighting at its best. What better cover?

      I'm sure someone in the chain recognized the credibility of the threat they were analyzing, and given how compartmentalized info is in the intelligence community, it was probably only a handful of people at most. A tacit standing agreement here and there, no phone calls or emails on the record, just an understanding and a recognition of the value of such an event in certain circles, and
    • Re:So what is new? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:48AM (#37589650) Homepage Journal

      "no real evidence of any sort of high-level conspiracy"

      The CIA made lots of mistakes. The single worst mistake they made, was when they allowed the White House to influence their reports, and even to edit the data to support political agendas. The CIA could well have denied some of the bullshit gushing from the White House. While they couldn't get away with using the direct language that I tend to use, there are many ways to tell the world that the White House is lying, while making it sound like you really respect the wisdom of the Pres, VP, etc.

      I can forgive everything the CIA did and did not do - except for allowing Bush and Cheney to hijack the CIA's intelligence. They should have found a way to assert themselves, and to assert the real information.

    • Wrong (Score:4, Informative)

      by sycodon (149926) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:53AM (#37589704)

      This was not an example of turf wars.

      This was a deliberate policy established during the Clinton Administration by Jamie Gorelick to wall off [wikipedia.org] information between the CIA/other foreign intelligence sources and the FBI/Local law enforcement.

      • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DriedClexler (814907) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:50AM (#37590828)

        Right, and isn't this what most civil liberties advocates (who I count myself among) want? That is, the more that government agencies can cooperate with each other, the easier it is to arrest any one person.

        I'm not trying to blame anyone, just predict that future news will cycle between:

        "OMG! They missed the 9/11 attack because of stupid rules about info-sharing between agencies?"

        and

        "OMG! A totalitarian bill going through the Senate is going to let government agencies share their files on us, giving them unlimited power to raid your privacy."

        Folks, there are tradeoffs.

        • by gfxguy (98788)

          Good posts by both sycodon and DriedClexler. I was looking for it before posting, it's sad I had to go so far before finding somebody pointing out that it was policy not to "share."

          There are tradeoffs. The word is an imperfect place, and it will never be a perfect place. If you want freedoms and personal liberties, not only do you have to accept the fact that people will do things you don't want them to do (so long as they don't violate your rights), but there will be security risks, as it will necessari

          • by Bucky24 (1943328)
            On that vein I wonder what would happen if someone surgically implanted a bomb inside themselves, or swallowed it. X-rays for every single passenger? There's only so far they can go before it just becomes too ridiculous to fly anymore.
            • by sjames (1099)

              I almost want someone to try it so we can finally make the TSA admit that they can't protect us without obviously doing more harm than any potential terrorists.

              • I almost want someone to try it so we can finally make the TSA admit that they can't protect us without obviously doing more harm than any potential terrorists.

                That will never happen. They will do some more theater, and that will be the end of it.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  There's not much theater they can do if a terrorist body packs a bomb. Theyd have to use strong penetrating x-rays on travelers and the operators would necessarily be unqualified.

                  Ultrasound is right out since it requires actual skill to use that at all.

                  • There's not much theater they can do if a terrorist body packs a bomb.

                    The beauty of theater is that doesn't have to be effective. It just has to look good and nothing more. I have no doubt they'd come up with something to do.

        • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheSync (5291) on Monday October 03, 2011 @03:07PM (#37592998) Journal

          "OMG! A totalitarian bill going through the Senate...Folks, there are tradeoffs."

          Totalitarian governments kill millions of people (USSR, China, Germany, etc.)

          Terrorists so far only seem to be able to kill a few thousand at a pop...

          Put me down for prefers missing the occasional terrorist over totalitarian government.

          Now if the government was more open and actually publicized the fact that terrorists were planning on hijacking planes as missiles (which we knew years before), it is possible 9/11 may have only lead to a few hundred deaths, if that. Instead, we got security through obscurity...

    • Re:So what is new? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by joebagodonuts (561066) <cmkrnl.gmail@com> on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:53AM (#37589706) Homepage Journal

      But there's no real evidence of any sort of high-level conspiracy. This is just low-level bureaucratic infighting at its finest.

      Doesn't that make it even more tragic?

      We really screwed up. We panicked and essentially said "Bureaucracy is inefficient - lets add more!"

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:56AM (#37589734)

      As far as I can tell, this is just one more example of how turf wars between the different agencies caused severe information gaps before 9/11.

      The difference is that the people RESPONSIBLE for those turf wars are now being IDENTIFIED by NAME.

      Look at how many "mistakes" were made on critical issues ... without anyone being identified or fired.

    • When evidence is withheld from the public, that usually indicates a cover-up. But you did a very nice job of labeling any and all challenges to the official conspiracy theory as a bunch of loons. Good show!

    • by transami (202700)

      There's plenty, if you know where to look and how to interpret the information. Probably the most important thing to understand is that there are always two sides to a coin.

  • So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:22AM (#37589362)

    Deliberately screwing something up is still called a "mistake" when it leads to thousands of easily-prevented deaths?

    I guess if I intentionally sabotage a project I'm working on I can claim a mistake was made too. I am just as sure that I will get fired regardless.

    If just ONE person gets fired or becomes unemployable due to this it would be a sign that some kind of credibility still exists in our federal law enforcement/security agencies. But, I doubt it's ever going to happen.

    • Get with the times grandpa! Accountability is for little people!
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Which is the problem. Rather than focusing on increasing the quality of the information that they're processing, they've focused on increasing the volume hoping that something will rise to the surface. The problem is that even as they get more and more materials the number of people available to analyse it hasn't increased by a similar amount. Leading to the unfortunate situation where there's a lot of intelligence information out there that isn't analysed, and a lot of people losing privacy needlessly.

        Acco

    • credibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rjejr (921275) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:32AM (#37589476)
      I think you mean culpability. Nobody gets fired anymore. Colin Powell's huge WMD speech before the UN is still my favorite example. Oh sure, Clinton got impeached for getting a bj from a fat chick, but "Brownie" destroying New Orleans? Heckuva job there. Mission Accomplished in Iraq. On the bright side, cover-ups will soon be a thing of the past, all the evils of the world exposed and the perpetrators will simply say - "there ya go, do something about it", but nobody can, or will.
      • by w_dragon (1802458)
        Clinton almost got impeached for lying under oath about getting a bj, not for the bj itself.
      • Re:credibility? (Score:4, Informative)

        by LoyalOpposition (168041) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:34AM (#37590166)

        Clinton got impeached for getting a bj from a fat chick,

        That's not true. Clinton was impeached for two things, neither of which was the physical encounter with Monica Lewinsky. The first thing he was impeached for was Perjury before a Grand Jury. The act that spawned this article of impeachment was when he claimed under oath in Judge Susan Webber Wright's grand jury that he had never had intimate relations with any person who was subordinate to him. The second thing he was impeached for was Obstruction of Justice. That acts that spawned this article of impeachment was when he encouraged Lewinsky to file a false affidavit, when he encouraged her to lie under oath, when he plotted with his secretary to hide a box of gifts he had given to Lewinsky, when he attempted to get Lewinsky a job so that she would not provide truthful testimony, when he lied to White House staff, and when he allowed his attorney to make false statements on his behalf.

        ~Loyal

        • Re:credibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cwgmpls (853876) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:06AM (#37590464) Journal
          How stupid do you think we are? Everybody knows exactly what happened to Clinton. So edit the statement to read "Clinton got impeached for lying about getting a bj from a fat chick" and it still carries the same meaning. Clinton was impeached for an act that was of no consequence to the nation. Yet we have leaders destroy cities and nations through lies and incompetence and yet they face no consequences.
          • How stupid do you think we are?

            I had only suspicions before, but after reading your latest comment I'm pretty confident that you are quite stupid.

            Everybody knows exactly what happened to Clinton. So edit the statement to read "Clinton got impeached for lying about getting a bj from a fat chick" and it still carries the same meaning.

            To idiots, perhaps, but not in law. When some poor, hungry schmuck steals food and gets caught, he's not charged with "being poor"; he's charged with theft.

            Clinton was impeached for an act that was of no consequence to the nation.

            He was impeached for lying to a Grand Jury about "an act that was of no consequence to the nation." That was his own damn fault.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Nimey (114278)

              Wrong. He was impeached because he made the Republicans look bad during the government shutdowns, so they found an excuse to hurt him back.

              It was never about whether Clinton broke the law or not, it was simply low politics.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            So, obviously the situation was exploited a bit politically. However, the fact was that he did break the law.

            He was sued for sexual harassment. He offered testimony that he did not have a pattern of doing this. Clearly a pattern of sexual harassment is COMPLETELY relevant in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Then it became apparent that he had lied under oath.

            The issue wasn't that he slept with somebody. The issue was that he denied sexually harassing somebody in court, and relied in his defense on not havi

          • Clinton was impeached for an act that was of no consequence to the nation.

            That's not true. The president is the head of the executive branch of the government. The job of the executive is to carry out the laws of the United States. Instead of seeing to it that the laws were carried out, President Clinton violated those laws and suborned others to do so as well. This is the same level of consequences if the judiciary were to find for whomever paid them the most bribe money.

            ~Loyal

        • lying about a beej is far worse than lying about a war and torture.
        • by sjames (1099)

          In other words, the first count was for lying about a bj and the second was for asking someone to back up his lie about a bj.

          • In other words, the first count was for lying about a bj

            The first count was not about lying about a bj. In fact President Clinton went on national television and stated, "I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky." Were you aware that he was not impeached for doing that? The reason that he wasn't impeached for that is because it's probably not an impeachable offense. The impeachment was for lying about a material fact while under oath. In other words:

            • by sjames (1099)

              The impeachment was for lying about a material fact while under oath. In other words: Perjury.

              Right, he lied about a bj.

              The impeachment was for going to his secretary, after he was specifically instructed by the judge not to speak with anyone involved in the case about it, and trying to influence her testimony and get her help hiding the box of gifts.

              Right again, he asked someone to back up his lie about a bj.

              I'm not saying he was perfect by any means, he should have just kept it in his pants. At the end of the day though, he lied about a bj and got impeached. Since then, we've had a president lie about WMD's in Iraq in order to drag us into an expensive and pointless war (that we're STILL in) and as a result, nothing.

              At least he didn't conspire to lie about WMDs in order to drag us into a war somewhere.

              • Right, he lied about a bj. Right again, he asked someone to back up his lie about a bj.

                I see. And Nixon resigned rather than be impeached for a third-rate burglary attempt he didn't even know about and a simple lapse of memory?

                ~Loyal

        • by Nimey (114278)

          Clinton got impeached because he helped the Republicans make themselves look bad when they were having the government shutdowns. The BJ and perjury were merely excuses to hurt him back and thereby get more Republicans elected.

          A BJ is certainly worse than torture, illegal wiretapping, and starting a war on false pretenses, gods know.

          It was simply politics, as anyone with half a brain knows.

    • by poity (465672)

      I believe CIA were tracking al-Mihdha and buddies both inside and outside of the US in the months leading up to the attacks. FBI had other pieces of the puzzle, but since they were foreign nationals, they were the primary responsibility of the CIA, even when they were on US soil. Perhaps CIA thought they were on to something bigger and didn't want to compromise their surveillance op too soon, thus the rules on operational secrecy would demand continued compartmentalization.

      So it seems the failure here was a

    • by billcopc (196330)

      The problem is finding the source of that mistake. Either you accept the possibility that a series of individually inane omissions added up to a giant clusterfuck, or you choose to believe the theory that a handful of people acted strategically to trigger the "right mistakes", which sent the remaining players along a predictable path toward the desired outcome. Like a big meat-powered Rube Goldberg machine of doom...

      Given the level of stupidity inherent in any large enough organisation, I'm not quite read

    • by dbIII (701233)
      I agree, not even treason is enough to keep you can getting another job in the system once you are in as Poindexter could tell you. I wonder how he deals with anyone in the US Marines since he sold weapons to Hezbolla via Iran? They must hate him enough to want to shoot him on sight.
  • That manager was named Richard Earl Blee and he is now the subject of a documentary by Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, of secrecykills.org, who confirmed his identity using techniques right out of the 70s film All the President's Men.

    They had an FBI Associate Director feed them information?

    • by Pope (17780)

      I didn't say he looked like Alex Trebek, I said he was Alex Trebek!

    • by Heretic2 (117767)

      That manager was named Richard Earl Blee and he is now the subject of a documentary by Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, of secrecykills.org, who confirmed his identity using techniques right out of the 70s film All the President's Men.

      They had an FBI Associate Director feed them information?

      Well, if you listen to the interview @ http://secrecy-kills.s3.amazonaws.com/BleePodcast1.m4a [amazonaws.com] George Tenet--former CIA director--slipped up and gave the information necessary to identify Richard Earl Blee: His last initial and the fact he was a controversial son of former CIA officers. The last initial and the other information was enough to narrow it down to one person. So drop the "Associate," an "ex-" and change the acronym, and yes, exactly.

  • Which link in the /. story points at the detailed story which is being summarized? Are we supposed to read all of the government report?

Hold on to the root.

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