(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Ali Soufran, former special agent working with the FBI, was tracking Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden long before 9/11. He was in Yemen investigating the USS Cole bombing when he heard about the attacks on that day. His book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, has released which describes how missed opportunities to defuse the 2001 plot, and argues that other attacks overseas might have been prevented, and Osama bin Laden found earlier, if interrogations had not been mismanaged. It is an frighteningly, revealing picture of the dysfunctional and factional intelligence community.
Mr. Soufran spoke with Rachel Maddow discussing the CIA’s redactions to his book, his role with the FBI before and after 9/11 and, most importantly, what was known in the CIA before 9/11 that could have prevented the attacks:
From Jeff Kaye at FDL:
In at least one other case, crucial information was kept from Soufan and other investigators by CIA officials, information that would have helped break the Cole case, and, crucially, have led FBI investigators to identify Al Qaeda operatives who had entered the United States more than eighteen months before 9/11. These two operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, died on the plane that rammed into the Pentagon.
The controversies surrounding the CIA’s withholding of information about these two hijackers was told in Lawrence Wright’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, and was further explored in Kevin Fenton’s recent book, Disconnecting the Dots: How 9/11 Was Allowed to Happen.
Here’s how Shane described the moment when Soufan realized he’d been had. For some strange reason, the NYT refrains from actually giving al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi’s names.
[Soufan] recounts a scene at the American Embassy in Yemen, where, a few hours after the attacks on New York and Washington, a C.I.A. official finally turned over the material the bureau requested months earlier [from the CIA], including photographs of two of the hijackers.
“For about a minute I stared at the pictures and the report, not quite believing what I had in my hands,” Mr. Soufan writes. Then he ran to a bathroom and vomited. “My whole body was shaking,” he writes. He believed the material, documenting a Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, combined with information from the Cole investigation, might have helped unravel the airliner plot.
Yes, they let it happen. That leaves the elephant question in the room: Why?