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IG Report Cover-up: Top Military Officials Hid Evidence of Pre-9/11 Al Qaeda Intelligence

Between the fight between differing camps of 9/11 Truthers, the incredulity, if not laziness, of many mainstream bloggers and the MSM press itself, and the apparent disinterest (if not collusion) of Congress, actual evidence of an important government cover-up must struggle to gain notice and credibility.

Such is the case with the story of how top military intelligence officials working at U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) lied to Congressional investigators about the work of one of its top secret intelligence components, which included tracking of Osama bin Laden, and identification of the World Trade Center and Pentagon as top targets of Al Qaeda, including briefings to military and intelligence figures in summer 2002 that such attacks could come from hijacked civilian aircraft.

As reported in a new story at Truthout, by myself and Jason Leopold, these top military officials censored the answers Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) gave to a questionnaire from the 2002 Joint Intelligence Inquiry of the U.S. Congress, meant to investigate the details behind how the different intelligence agencies performed prior to 9/11, what they knew, what might have went wrong, and what really happened.

The falsification was meant in particular to hide the work of the 9-person unit within JFIC, known as the Asymmetrical Threats Division, or DO5 in military lingo. DO5 had analysts with expertise in all areas of intelligence, including signals intel, humint (human intelligence), and geospatial mapping. They received reports from NSA and CIA, and had access to NSA databases. According to “Iron Man,” the government’s own cover name for the former deputy chief of DO5, his unit had been hunting Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda from late 1999 until early 2001, until it was shut down by higher ups in the months leading up to 9/11. This aspect of the story was reported in earlier articles.

As covered in continuing coverage of the story, particularly at Truthout and at Firedoglake, the former Deputy Chief (and later Acting Chief) of DO5 protested the suppression of his organization’s work, and tried to provide documentary evidence directly to the Defense Intelligence Agency Congressional Affairs Office. It’s not known if it ever reached Congress.

In any case, neither the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 or the later official 9/11 Commission ever published a word about JFIC/DO5’s work. In general, the entire story relating to military intelligence activities relating to Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and tracking the 9/11 terrorists has totally been suppressed, with no other reporting on this… until Iron Man’s protest to DoD’s Inspector General (he also complained to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) when the IG started dragging their feet) produced an investigation, and then a report by the Inspector General of Intelligence at DoD, finished in 2008, but not made public until last year.

The news briefly caught the attention of Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News, and Electronic Frontier Foundation, who posted a FOIA-released copy of the DNI letter to DoD’s Inspector General about Iron Man’s complaint. EFF noted that “High-level Pentagon officials gave false information (PDF) to Congress about al-Qa’ida and the 9/11 attacks.”

Interestingly, the story also surfaced in a Charlie Savage, Scott Shane article in the New York Times in December 2009, commenting on the DNI letter released to EFF.

Another memorandum disclosed that a Defense Intelligence Agency employee said that in May 2002, in response to a Congressional inquiry, the Joint Forces Intelligence Command provided false information about its activities related to Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks. The document offered few details.

The NYT never mentioned the subject again.

In the latest installment at Truthout of our investigation, Leopold and I released new documents that directly contradicted the assertions the Inspector General made about DO5’s activities. For instance, the IG report claimed, “The JFIC did not have the mission to track Usama Bin Ladin or predict imminent US targets.”

But a NCIS slide briefing in approximately 2000 stated, “”JFIC routinely supplements national agencies with original intelligence on UBL [Usama Bin Ladin] and Afghanistan.” (Emphasis added.)

The Truthout story continues:

The slide presentation further notes that the Asymmetrical Threats Division has “primary division focus” on both counterterrorism and military “force protection.” Moreover, the briefing slides state that JFIC’s “Primary CT/force protection concerns” as “UBL [Usama Bin Ladin] and associated terrorist groups,” adding that its goal was to determine when Bin Laden and other terrorists would strike, “How they will strike” and “Where they will strike”….

Another document Iron Man turned over to Truthout is a January 2001 confidential “Point Paper” that describes the Asymmetrical Threats Division as having “prepared numerous assessments of those cities most likely to be targeted by international and domestic terrorists,” confirming Iron Man’s claims that part of his unit’s work did consist of producing intelligence on domestic targets by terrorists.

The Inspector General report is probably one of the most ridiculous government documents I’ve ever read. It’s short, as if they didn’t take the investigation seriously. For one thing, it totally misrepresents the point at issue, i.e., withholding of information from Congressional investigators, and keeps referring to the 9/11 Commission, which was not even an entity until about the time the Congressional inquiry was winding up (late 2002).

Doctoring Documents

This negligent, or deliberate, confusion continues in other important aspects, not least in the representation of the documents finally sent to Congress themselves. In the appendices of the report, two scanned copies of the answers from JFIC to Congress about its operations are reproduced. One is the original set of answers, one is the actual copy that was sent to Congress after “review” by the Director for Intelligence at JFCOM. While the IG report never notes there were any differences between the original and the “reviewed” answers, in fact, the “review” copy sent to Congress had 4 of its 13 items deleted, and many other items were cut dramatically.

As the Truthout report describes it:

The missing portions largely relate to aspects of JFIC’s mission that had to do with the breadth and depth of its anti-terrorism work. For instance, in item one, JFCOM deleted the original JFIC reply that it conducted “in depth discussions about potential terrorist attacks since Dec. 00″….

One of the missing items in the version of the JFIC answers sent to Congress concerned the names and positions of JFIC counterterror personnel. This was not redacted for classification purposes, as they appear in the IG report, Appendix B. Instead, back in 2002, the lack of any such names meant there was no one identifiable from JFIC to call as a witness.

At other points in the edited version of the JFIC responses, descriptions of the unit’s analytic work, in particular aspects that seem pertinent to Asymmetrical Threats Division’s work, are left out.

The information that yet another intelligence component was pulled off of the tracking of the 9/11 terrorists in the months leading up to 9/11 — joining the controversies over the Army’s Able Danger program, the refusal of the CIA to notify the FBI of two key terrorists entering the U.S. in early 2002, the failure of the FBI to respond to field office reports about possible hijackers and terrorist pilots — makes it very unlikely that the drawdown of intelligence over Al Qaeda’s activities in the U.S. just at the time 9/11 was being planned was a matter of “luck.”

It is in fact the confluence of four different agencies having higher ups obstruct their investigations, all in these crucial lead-up months to 9/11, and the cover-ups and lies pertaining to these matters, that marks this issue for further investigation.

And we need that investigation more than ever, as both 9/11 and the “war on terror” are prime propaganda points used to fuel one of the greatest attacks on civil liberties this country has ever seen, in addition to militarist and spy program activity that even the mainstream media has begun to realize is out of control.

So like it or not, the drone wars, the assassinations and black-site prisons, the torture and renditions are all the bastard children of 9/11. Yes, U.S. militarist policy and CIA perfidy was plenty evident before 9/11, but the escalation of U.S. activity in this area is now back to Vietnam-era levels, or even higher.

I don’t know the “truth” about 9/11. But I know a lie when I see one. But unless the public speaks out — and that includes the couple dozen political bloggers who see themselves as a counterweight to the Establishment’s near-monopoly on “legitimate” political discourse — then we will all have to live with the bogus narrative around 9/11, and the consequences of these lies. I’d think that the 3,000 or so who died that day deserved a better fate than that.

What follows is an interview I recently did with The Real News’s Paul Jay on the Iron Man story:

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Jeff Kaye

Jeff Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist who has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, previously wrote regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter, as well as at The Guardian, Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record. He is the author of Cover-Up at Guantanamo, a new book examining declassified files on treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp.