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How the FBI Let 9/11 Happen
Never mind Moussaoui, the smoldering gun was right there all the time

Do not linger on Moussaoui's bizarre suicide-by-testimony or the literal cheerleading for his executionHe knew. He lied. And 2,749 people died.

Neither of these is the real story of this case. Rather, the story is the definitive proof Moussaoui's case provides that the U.S. government—pre-PATRIOT Act, pre-NSA wiretaps and all—had and missed clear opportunities to stop 9/11. The FBI uniquely and repeatedly punted carefully gathered evidence of an attack in favor of adherence to bureaucratic hierarchies and power trips.

The testimony of FBI agent Harry Samit forever buries the quaint notion that 9/11 was unforeseen and unpreventable. Beginning with Moussaoui's August 16, 2001 arrest Samit mounted a global and indefatigable investigation of the man and concluded that an attack involving hijacked airplanes was imminent.

The flipside of Samit is Michael Rolince, former head of the FBI's International Terrorism Operations Section. Rolince is the man who previously deflected questions about the FBI's pursuit, or lack thereof, of pre-9/11 terror suspects with the line, "Would CNN have really aired their photos if we'd asked them?"

Rolince smugly insisted at trial that Samit's "suppositions, hunches and suspicions were one thing and what we knew" was another. Yet Rolince, in service of the government's desire to link Moussaoui to 9/11 and trigger the death penalty, also tried to argue that, had Moussaoui spilled his guts, everything would have changed. 9/11 might have been prevented. In short, Samit's investigation and leads were not enough; Moussaoui had to speak up for the FBI brass to hear anything.

When defense lawyer Edward MacMahon cross-examined Rolince, possibly the first and only time a government security official has been so challenged on 9/11, the disconnect between the official story and reality was plain. Rolince knew nothing of the August 18, 2001 memo Samit had sent to his office warning of terror links. In that memo, Samit warned that Moussaoui wanted to hijack a plane and had the weapons to do it. Samit also warned that Moussaoui "believes it is acceptable to kill civilians" and that he approved of martyrdom. Rolince testified he never read the memo.

On August 17 Samit sent an e-mail to his direct superiors at FBI headquarters recounting Moussaoui's training on 747 simulators. "His excuse is weak, he just wants to learn how to do it... That's pretty ominous and obviously suggests some sort of hijacking plan," Samit wrote.

Rebuffed by his superiors and ignored by Rolince, Samit still sought out more info worldwide and from sources as diverse as the FBI's London, Paris, and Oklahoma City offices, FBI headquarters files, the CIA's counterterrorism center, the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, probably the National Security Agency, and the FBI's Iran and OBL offices.

He was sufficiently alarmed by what he heard that Samit sent an August 21 e-mail requesting that the Secret Service be informed about Moussaoui's intentions to see the White House and that he was interested in flight training.

Samit testified that on August 22 he had learned from the French—the French!—that Moussaoui had recruited a fighter to go to Chechnya in 2000 to fight with Islamic radicals with previous links, so the CIA told Samit, to Osama bin Laden. The FBI brass remained unmoved.

Defense attorney MacMahon then displayed an August 30, 2001 communication addressed to Samit and FBI headquarters agent Mike Maltbie from a Bureau agent in Paris. It passed along that French intelligence thought Moussaoui was "very dangerous" and had soaked up radical views at London's infamous Finnsbury Park mosque. The French also said Moussaoui was "completely devoted" to bin Laden-style jihadism and, significantly, had traveled to Afghanistan.

Yet on August 31 Maltbie stopped Samit from sending a letter to FAA headquarters in Washington advising them of "a potential threat to security of commercial aircraft" based on the Moussaoui case. Maltbie said he would handle that, but it is not clear if he ever did.

"Minneapolis believes Moussaoui, [Moussaoui's roommate Hussein] Al Attas and others not yet known were...engaged in preparing to seize 747s," the aborted warning said.

Samit did directly tell FAA officials in Minneapolis of his concerns on September 5.

In total, the information Samit pulled together dovetailed with his belief that, based on interviews with the suspect, Moussaoui had been to Afghan terror training camps. Because he did not have proof of the suspected terror camp connection, however, Samit never passed this hunch on to the FBI headquarters. Maltbie and Maltbie's boss, David Frasca, chief of the radical fundamentalist unit at headquarters, were clearly pressing Samit for facts only, as Rolince's disdain for "suppositions" from far-off Minneapolis confirms.

So? The 9/11 Commission investigation detailed that British intelligence directly told U.S. officials on September 13, 2001, that Moussaoui had attended a training camp in Afghanistan. "Had this information been available in late August 2001, the Moussaoui case would almost certainly have received intense, high-level attention," the commission concluded. As it turns out, Samit had that info in late August 2001 and nobody cared. CIA Director George Tenet was briefed on the Moussaoui threat on August 23. The case received intense, high-level attention. Nobody cared.

Back in 2004, Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 commission, said he was troubled that Moussaoui's arrest never made it up to the top of the FBI hierarchy.

"If it had maybe there would have been some action taken and things could have been different," Kean was quoted by The New York Times.

Yet now it is clear that senior FBI officials Maltbie and Frasca did know about Moussaoui's arrest. In fact, they knew the case so well that they denied Samit's request for a warrant to search Moussaoui's computer and belongings. Samit also testified that he was told pressing too hard to obtain a warrant on Moussaoui would hurt his career.

This decision to deny a warrant gave rise to the myth that "The Wall" between overseas intelligence and criminal investigations made the PATRIOT Act necessary. To this day this myth is cherished among right-wing radio talkers and has, just now, morphed into a clumsy justification for the White House's sidestepping the FISA court and directing its own wiretap frenzy via the NSA. This is all pure fantasy.

Instead of clueless Carter-era restrictions on domestic spying or insufficient distrust of civil liberties, Samit cited "obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism" by top FBI officials as what stopped his investigation.

There is also the curious Bureau flip-flopping on Moussaoui and his laptop. Back in November 2001 the FBI dropped Moussaoui from the 9/11 plot. In his place the Bureau put Ramsi Binalshibh, as part of the hijacking team that crashed United Airlines Flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania.

FBI Director Robert Mueller back then also told prosecutors that there was no information on the computer seized from Moussaoui that linked him to the September 11 attacks. At that same time, Rolince himself was not convinced that Moussaoui was tied to 9/11, saying "Whoever that fifth person was is probably still alive. Clearly we are looking into the pool of people who crossed paths with the hijackers." Only sometime later did that someone become Moussaoui and his un-searched info.

While Samit was spending a solid three weeks trying to get Washington to act on his pre-9/11 terror fears, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour was raising suspicions with his flight training in Phoenix (suspicions Samit was not told about until after 9/11). Margaret Chevrette of the Pan Am International Flight Academy reported her worries to the FAA and somehow those concerns also made their way to CIA chief Tenet and into CIA memos of August 2001, but the FBI never acted on them. Yet on September 12, FBI agents interviewed Chevrette for more information on Hanjour—reflecting the fact that another local FBI agent (Arizona-based Kenneth Williams, author of the July 2001 Phoenix memo) had notified FBI headquarters of the danger posed by Middle Eastern terrorists training at U.S. flight schools.

There were also repeated attempts by the New York City FBI office to get follow-up on Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi and an August 2001 request from a New York FBI agent who warned that "someday someone will die" if New York did not win approval to launch a criminal investigation of al-Mihdhar. Al-Mihdhar was on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

Minneapolis, Phoenix, New York. Three different Bureau offices were hot on the terror plot in the days leading up to 9/11 and all were stiffed by Washington. If that is not institutional incompetence, Stalin purge-worthy stuff, heaven help the next 3,000 martyrs to J. Edgar Hoover's über-suits.

One exchange from the Moussaoui trial makes clear what happened in the weeks running up to 9/11:

More to read...

Physicist says heat substance felled WTC

Extremely hot fires caused structures to fail, BYU expert says

By Suzanne Dean
For the Deseret Morning News
      EPHRAIM — A Brigham Young University physicist said he now believes an incendiary substance called thermite, bolstered by sulfur, was used to generate exceptionally hot fires at the World Trade Center on 9/11, causing the structural steel to fail and the buildings to collapse.
      "It looks like thermite with sulfur added, which really is a very clever idea," Steven Jones, professor of physics at BYU, told a meeting of the Utah Academy of Science, Arts and Letters at Snow College Friday.
      The government requires standard explosives to contain tag elements enabling them to be traced back to their manufacturers. But no tags are required in aluminum and iron oxide, the materials used to make thermite, he said. Nor, he said, are tags required in sulfur.
      Jones is co-chairman, with James H. Fetzer, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a group of college faculty members who believe conspirators other than pilots of the planes were directly involved in bringing down New York's Trade Towers.
The group, which Jones said has 200 members, maintains a Web site at A 40-page paper by Jones, along with other peer-reviewed and non-reviewed academic papers, are posted on the site.
      Last year, Jones presented various arguments for his theory that explosives or incendiary devices were planted in the Trade Towers, and in WTC 7, a smaller building in the Trade Center complex, and that those materials, not planes crashing into the buildings, caused the buildings to collapse.
      At that time, he mentioned thermite as the possible explosive or incendiary agent. But Friday, he said he is increasingly convinced that thermite and sulfur were the root causes of the 9/11 disaster.
      He told college professors and graduate students from throughout Utah gathered for the academy meeting that while almost no fire, even one ignited by jet fuel, can cause structural steel to fail, the combination of thermite and sulfur "slices through steel like a hot knife through butter."
      He ticked off several pieces of evidence for his thermite fire theory:
      First, he said, video showed a yellow, molten substance splashing off the side of the south Trade Tower about 50 minutes after an airplane hit it and a few minutes before it collapsed. Government investigators ruled out the possibility of melting steel being the source of the material because of the unlikelihood of steel melting. The investigators said the molten material must have been aluminum from the plane.
      But, said Jones, molten aluminum is silvery. It never turns yellow. The substance observed in the videos "just isn't aluminum," he said. But, he said, thermite can cause steel to melt and become yellowish.
      Second, he cited video pictures showing white ash rising from the south tower near the dripping, liquefied metal. When thermite burns, Jones said, it releases aluminum-oxide ash. The presence of both yellow-white molten iron and aluminum oxide ash "are signature characteristics of a thermite reaction," he said.
      Another item of evidence, Jones said, is the fact that sulfur traces were found in structural steel recovered from the Trade Towers. Jones quoted the New York Times as saying sulfidization in the recovered steel was "perhaps the deepest mystery uncovered in the (official) investigation." But, he said, sulfidization fits the theory that sulfur was combined with thermite to make the thermite burn even hotter than it ordinarily would.

Foreknowledge and Failure
by William Norman Grigg
June 17, 2002
What was once unthinkable is now considered obvious: The federal government had advance warning of the September 11th suicide hijack plot and failed to prevent it.

Was it culpable negligence ? or something much worse ? behind the federal government?s failure to prevent the Black Tuesday atrocity? This question is now on the minds of millions of Americans following a stream of outrageous disclosures concerning prior knowledge of the attack. But a version of it had become office banter among agents in the FBI?s Minneapolis office in the weeks before 9-11.

In a memo written and hand-delivered to FBI Director Robert Mueller in May, whistleblower Coleen Rowley, chief attorney for the Minneapolis FBI office, described how the Bureau?s headquarters worked to "deliberately sabotage" the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspected conspirator in the September 11th attack. According to Rowley, "HQ personnel never disclosed to the Minneapolis agents that the Phoenix division had, only approximately three weeks earlier, warned of al-Qaeda operatives in flight schools seeking flight training for terrorist purposes!"

"Why would an FBI agent(s) deliberately sabotage a case?" wrote Rowley. After seeing their investigative efforts collide with roadblocks set up by FBI headquarters, frustrated field agents in Minneapolis bitterly joked that key officials in Washington "had to be spies or moles ? working for Osama bin Laden."

When THE NEW AMERICAN first examined the case for prior knowledge of the attack, there was little if any appetite on the part of the American public to examine the issues we raised. (See "Could We Have Prevented the Attacks?" and "Did We Know What Was Coming?" in our issues for November 5, 2001, and March 11, 2002.) Thanks to a series of dramatic disclosures, capped by Rowley?s breathtaking memo, what was deemed unthinkable mere weeks ago is now considered obvious: Washington had detailed advance warning of the suicide hijack plot ? and failed to prevent it.

The Long Train of Errors

In our March 11th report, we concluded: "[T]he feds knew no later than June [2001] that an attack from bin Laden was coming. By August it had identified several key co-conspirators, and had one in custody." One active counter-intelligence agent told us that detailed information about the planned attack "came from some of [the Bureau?s] most experienced guys.... In some cases, these field agents predicted, almost precisely, what happened on September 11th. So we were all holding our breath ? hoping that the situation would be remedied."

We described the case of bin Laden operative Hani Hanjour, who had come to the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while studying at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Phoenix. Concerned about Hanjour?s inability to speak English, the international language of aviation, flight school officials contacted the FAA. After sending an observer to Hanjour?s class, the FAA intervened ? by insisting that the flight school find an Arabic translator to help the terrorist understand his training.

Our cover story also pointed out that FBI agents in Minnesota asked for, but did not receive, a national security warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui?s residence. Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, was arrested while training at a flight school in Eagan, Minnesota. He had prompted misgivings on the part of his instructor by his evasiveness, belligerence, and complete unsuitability to be a pilot ? and for peculiar comments suggesting that he intended to use a jumbo jet as a bomb. His instructor called the FBI, warning that Moussaoui "wants training on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!"

Federal officials collected these substantial clues following pointed warnings that Osama bin Laden?s al-Qaeda terrorist network planned a spectacular attack on America. In our March 11th cover story we recalled Attorney General John Ashcroft?s warning last June that "Americans are a high-priority target for terrorists." This roughly coincided with a remarkably detailed warning issued to airline industry personnel on June 23rd that Osama bin Laden?s terrorist network posed an immediate threat to American civilian aviation.

These warnings came in the wake of a June 21st story carried by the Arabic-language MBC satellite television network in which a reporter who had interviewed bin Laden predicted: "a severe blow is expected against U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide. There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?"

Subsequent disclosures have validated our earlier reports ? and added some critical details:



Oliver Stone says September 11 movie not political

"World Trade Center"

But Stone, whose film "JFK" was condemned in some quarters for pushing the argument that the 1963 assassination of president John F. Kennedy was part of a plot, said there were no conspiracy theories in "World Trade Center".

"No, there's no mention of that because it's truly a 24-hour document of these men's lives," he said.

"They were right at the heart of the destruction ... right in the middle by an elevator shaft. They survived. It's about their rescue and their children at home," Stone added.

Stone said filming had finished two weeks ago, with the last four weeks proving difficult to work in as the set was filled with smoke.