Sunday, January 04, 2004
In August 2001, the New York FBI intelligence agent looking for al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi didn't have the computer access needed to do the job alone. He requested help from the bureau's criminal investigators and was turned down. Acting on legal advice, FBI headquarters had refused to involve its criminal agents. In an e-mail to the New York agent, headquarters staff said: "If al-Midhar is located, the interview must be conducted by an intel[ligence] agent. A criminal agent CAN NOT be present at the interview. This case, in its entirety, is based on intel[ligence]. If at such time as information is developed indicating the existence of a substantial federal crime, that information will be passed over the wall according to the proper procedures and turned over for follow-up criminal investigation."
In a reply message, the New York agent protested the ban on using law enforcement resources for intelligence investigations in eerily prescient terms: "[S]ome day someone will die—and wall or not—the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain 'problems.' Let's hope the [lawyers who gave the advice] will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Usama Bin Laden], is getting the most 'protection.' "
Baker properly calls this exchange of emails heartbreaking. Can you imagine what this guy must have felt like a couple of weeks after he wrote this, when Al-Mihdhar's ugly face was on every television screen in the world?
But it makes sense that neither the Bush-lovers nor the Bush-haters want to publicize this very real intelligence failure.
Bush-lovers are embarrassed by the fact that the adminstration tolerated the suicidal culture displayed by the FBI HQ above, because this culture enabled the 9/11 holocaust.
Bush-haters want to ignore it because it doesn't prove that 9/11 was the evil Republican plot that they insist it is.
In fact, it points to the exact reasons why the 9/11 plot succeeded: The Bureau's silly semantic distinctions between "intel" and "criminal" investigations; the zealously-patrolled fiefdoms that prevent sharing of intelligence; the distance with which the intelligence agencies hold themselves apart from the real world.