9/11 Should Have Been Stopped
The U.S. government pretended that 9/11 was unforeseeable.
The fallback government position is that the problem was that intelligence agencies were prohibited by law from sharing intelligence, because there was a “Chinese Wall” put up between agencies focusing on foreign and domestic threats.
Washington’s Blog spoke with senior NSA executive Thomas Drake about this claim.
9/11 was Drake’s first day on the job at the NSA. Drake was tasked with investigating what intelligence NSA had on the 9/11 plot, in order to document that 9/11 wasn’t NSA’s fault. However, Drake discovered that NSA had a lot of information on the hijackers, and could have stopped 9/11 had it shared its data with other intelligence agencies.
Drake’s NSA bosses didn’t like that answer, so they removed Drake from his task of being the NSA’s investigator and spokesman regarding 9/11.
Here’s what Drake told us.
WASHINGTON’S BLOG: A lot of people blame a “Chinese Wall” between foreign intelligence activities and domestic intelligence activities for not sharing the pre-9/11 data.
THOMAS DRAKE: That is a completely false “wall.” It was essentially to protect the status quo, or what they call “equities.”
It’s not true at all.
WASHINGTON’S BLOG: Was it a turf war?
THOMAS DRAKE: Yes, it’s partly that. People have this idea that the government is all powerful, all-knowing, and everybody is in league with each other.
That’s not true. In fact – in this space – you more often than not find agencies at war with each other, effectively. Such that NSA is at war with Congress to keep them in the dark about what they’re really doing.
“I have knowledge, you don’t.” Information is power. “If I give it to you, then I’m giving away my power, and I’m not going to do it!”
Information is a currency. “Why would I give you my money. And I don’t know what you’re going to do with it. I don’t know how you’re going to spend it. I don’t know how you’re going to invest it. You may convert it, because money is fungible.”
Information is far more fungible even than traditional definitions of money.
I’ve never accepted the premise or the arguments. I’m aware that [9/11 Commissioner] Jamie Gorelick [who has potential conflicts of interest in the subject matter], for example, is a well-known defender who kept saying that the “wall” was there when, in fact, there wasn’t a wall.
And we had special procedures where you had known ways to go through the wall when it was necessary.
Here’s the hypocrisy … It is true that in terms of separation between [domestic] law enforcement and normal causal chain of evidence, and information that was collected for intelligence purposes. But that’s not a wall as much as it’s due process.
Remember, what’s now used is parallel construction. [Background.] So, what was the wall again?
Intelligence is always carefully vetted for that reason. But if you’re talking U.S. domestic law, U.S. judicial process, due process, you couldn’t just take [raw] intelligence.
But here’s the kicker … If you believed that the intelligence rose to the level someone who has a U.S. person was involved in acts or planning to harm the United States, then the wall disappears, and there are actual procedures for that.
When you’re dealing with U.S. persons, then you had these procedures in which you could actually present [evidence for the need to target terrorists or other actual bad guys.] That was the whole thing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
WASHINGTON’S BLOG: If they’re actual bad guys, then you can go after them.
THOMAS DRAKE: Yes! And you had mechanisms where you actually end up putting them on trial. You have mechanisms where you can introduce that as evidence.
It wasn’t like, “Oh, we can’t tell anybody.” That’s the reason they didn’t want to tell anybody … because they’re actually abusing the system.
There isn’t a “wall” … it’s because there’s due process. With foreign intelligence, we had standing procedures.
We’ve tried bad people … in Article III courts. You didn’t have to do the rendition stuff. And you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to be put on trial.
For a short, must-watch interview with Drake and other high-level intelligence officials on agency turf wars, check this out: