April 20, 2009
by Kevin Fenton
History Commons Groups
Former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton recently made some bizarre comments about the Zacarias Moussaoui case in an interview for Vanity Fair. The interview was used for a wide-ranging and very interesting oral history of the Bush White House. Hamilton’s comments appear to show complete ignorance of a key aspect of the investigation of which he was vice chair.
Moussaoui was arrested on an immigration violation due to suspicions he was planning to hijack an aircraft by the Minneapolis FBI on 16 August 2001, nearly four weeks before 9/11. His personal effects contained evidence linking him to eleven of the nineteen alleged hijackers and the local FBI suspected that he was part of a wider plot. It correctly assumed a search of the effects would uncover his links to the other conspirators. However, due to obstruction by FBI headquarters, no warrant was ever granted to search Moussaoui’s belongings. Middle managers at headquarters also failed to properly inform their superiors of the case.
Here are Hamilton’s comments on the Moussaoui case:
We knew, for example–when I say we, I mean the F.B.I. in Minneapolis knew–that those guys in flight-training school were more interested in flying the airplane than they were in taking off and landing. They knew that. Who didn’t know it? The director of the F.B.I. didn’t know it. The director of the C.I.A. did know it. His response was that it was none of his business. Technically correct,… Continue reading
What is striking about agent Samit’s account, like the account of his office-mate Coleen Rowley, is the assumption of “criminal negligence” on the part of FBI headquarters, and RFU head David Frasca and Michael Maltbie in particular. Best I can see, criminal complicity has not been ruled out whatsoever.
I’m grateful for the testimony of Mr. Samit, and for Rowley’s whistleblowing, but how exactly can either know for sure that the RFU‘s obstructionism was the result of careerism or ‘criminal incompetence’ rather than something else? I don’t claim to know the reasons, but Samit and Rowley certainly cannot know for sure, either.
Remember, there is evidence that Frasca intentionally and without good cause (and thus not negligently) obstructed the flow of information up the FBI’s chain of command. You may recall the ‘Time’ magazine story early in 2002 which detailed agent Rowley’s charges. The story’s authors claimed that Ken Williams’ infamous “Phoenix Memo” was received by Frasca a couple of months in advance of 9/11:
Rowley’s letter lays out the case that the FBI made fateful miscalculations by failing to see a possible connection between the Minneapolis investigation of flight student Moussaoui and the hunch of Phoenix agent Kenneth Williams — posited in a report to HQ two months earlier — that al-Qaeda operatives were attending U.S.…