Posts tagged Doug MacEachin
Key quote: “It wasn’t careless oversight. It was purposeful. No question about that in mind. It was purposeful.” Tom Kean, 9/11 Comissioner
In his recent book The Black Banners, former FBI agent Ali Soufan portrays a key 9/11 Commission staff member, Doug MacEachin, as believing the CIA deliberately withheld information from the FBI in January 2001. This is in contrast with the Commission’s final report, which states that the CIA failed to pass on intelligence to the FBI on multiple occasions, but puts it down to honest failings.
MacEachin was one of the best-known of the Commission’s staffers before its formation. He was a career CIA officer and even served as Deputy Director for Intelligence between 1993 and 1996.
According to Soufan, MacEachin believed that the CIA purposefully withheld information placing al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash at the Malaysia summit, a gathering of top al-Qaeda figures in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000 that was monitored by the CIA. This intelligence was especially significant because it linked bin Attash, then known to be a mastermind of the October 2000 USS Colebombing, to future Flight 77 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.
Had the FBI learned what the CIA knew of the Malaysia summit at this time, its Cole investigators would have focused on Almihdhar and Alhazmi eight months before 9/11, giving them plenty of opportunity to stop the plot.
In his book, Soufan describes a meeting between himself and some Commission staffers, evidently Soufan’s second interview with the Commission on September 15, 2003.
Soufan says he started the interview by discussing a source inside al-Qaeda that he and his partner Steve Bongardt had helped recruit some time before the Cole bombing. In late 2000, the source had been shown a passport photo provided by the Yemeni authorities of a person the FBI thought to be bin Attash, and had identified him as such to a CIA officer known only as “Chris” and FBI agent Michael Dorris. This was another plank in the case being built against bin Attash for the Cole bombing.
Shortly after, in murky circumstances Soufan does not discuss, the CIA sent pictures of Almihdhar and Alhazmi taken at the Malaysia summit for the source to try to identify. While Dorris was out of the room, Chris showed the pictures to the source, who said he did not know Almihdhar, but identified the photo of Alhazmi as bin Attash; the two men had similar facial features.
Although the photo was not actually of bin Attash, it simply caused the CIA to believe something that was, in fact, true. Bin Attash had been at the Malaysia meeting, the agency had photos of him there; it simply omitted to show them to the source.
Whereas Chris had had the previous identification, of bin Attash in the Yemeni-provided photograph, repeated for Dorris’ benefit, this second identification of bin Attash was not repeated. In fact, Chris kept completely silent about it.
Soufan quotes himself as telling the Commission:
After 9/11 we learned that the CIA went behind our backs and showed the pictures of the Malaysia summit meeting—the pictures they wouldn’t share with us—to the source. They didn’t tell us that they had shown him the pictures, nor did they share with us what he told them about the pictures. He didn’t know that the CIA wasn’t sharing information with the FBI; nor was he told why these pictures were important. …
… This shows that the CIA knew the significance of Malaysia, Khallad, and Mihdhar but actively went out of their way to withhold the information from us. It’s not a case of just not passing on information. This is information the FBI representative working with the source should have been told about. It was a legal requirement. Instead we were deliberately kept out of the loop.