by Kevin Fenton
May 27, 2009
History Commons Groups
New details have emerged about minders who sat in on 9/11 Commission interviews during a fact-finding trip to Canada. Commission heads Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton mentioned the minders generally in interviews during the panel’s lifetime, but a memo recently found in the National Archives and blogged here a couple of weeks ago showed how prevalent they were.
Another document, again found by History Commons contributor paxvector, provides more details of how the minders worked during a trip to Canada. The commission, which eventually recommended taking part of the CIA director’s responsibilities away and giving them to a Director of National Intelligence, was considering changes to the intelligence community and sent a team to Canada to examine how its intelligence services were organised and report back.
The three-page memo, entitled “Canada Trip Lessons Learned” and apparently drafted by staffer Gordon Lederman in the autumn of 2003, highlights how the minders behaved.
One minder “acted as a participant,” “responded to inquiries” and “consulted with” the interviewee. She took verbatim notes in all three interviews she attended, doing so while sitting next to the interviewees in two of them. In addition, in one interview she “sighed heavily repeatedly.” The memo-writer also points out, “She had an opportunity to coach/poison the well with [Redacted] at dinner the night before and with others before they arrived including with FBI attorney and Legat [legal attaché].” It’s not clear which agency this minder was from, although she said she was an intelligence community attorney.
Another minder attended commission interviews with the Privy Council Office, Solicitor General, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Security intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and Foreign Affairs International Trade Canada. The memo says, “I think at a maximum he should have only sat in on CSIS and RCMP and RCMP really would have been LEGAT [legal attaché] (He had never even met SIRC before).” As the legal attaché is a FBI employee, this minder cannot have been from the FBI and the fact that Lederman is not complaining he attended the meeting at the CSIS — an agency broadly equivalent to the CIA — indicates that he may have been an Agency employee.
The commission staffers were clearly annoyed with his behaviour, and the memo points out: “He sat next to the subjects in at least two. He responded to questions and even asked a question.” Worst of all, “He sought to describe Canadian system/organization while there were 3 Canadians there to talk to us.” As though there weren’t enough minders sitting in on the interviews already, he invited another minder to an interview the commission was to conduct the next day.
With this in mind, it is not hard to see why the commission’s staff became annoyed with the minders and tried to curb their influence.
Finally, given that this was a low-profile fact-finding trip to Canada, one cannot but wonder what the minders were doing in more sensitive interviews that had a bearing on the 9/11 plot itself and the US response to perceived threats.