Not sure why Madsen is putting out this hooey, which presents the hijacker story as the real truth, and the idea that it could have been stopped with better intel.
December 4, 2005 -- Current Deputy Director for National Intelligence helped lay groundwork for 9-11 intelligence failures. National Security Agency (NSA) insiders speak out about Hayden's and his NSA predecessors' climate of fear, retribution, and lack of priorities. EXCLUSIVE --
Much has been written about why NSA failed to report four important intercepts prior to 911 that would have alerted the United States that a major attack was to take place on September 11, 2001.
The intercepts of Al Qaeda communications were:
Sept. 10, 2001 - "The match is about to begin."
Sept. 10, 2001 - "Tomorrow is zero hour"
In addition, two other intercepts of Al Qaeda cells in the United States were also ignored:
Sept. 10, 2001 - "Watch the news."
Sept. 10, 2001 - "Tomorrow will be a great day for us."
WMR can report that because of poor management decisions made by then-NSA Director Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA did not have the expertise or ability to adequately identify key intercepts that, if known and understood in time, could have prevented the 911 attacks. These intercepts sat unread in an area of the NSA basement known as the "Carillon pool" until it was too late.
The reasons why NSA was caught unprepared for 911 essentially go back a decade before Hayden's arrival as director. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, NSA's Russian linguists and Soviet experts were considered the golden employees. Even though the threat changed and the Russian priorities were downgraded, the Russian experts were placed in top management positions in areas in which they had no experience. In what would be a fateful decision, Russian experts were put in charge of Middle East and Asian units, according to NSA sources. It was so bad, according to one source, that when an NSA branch manager, who only knew Russian, was placed in charge of China operations, he embarrassed himself and NSA when, during a Washington, DC briefing for old China hands from the CIA, DIA, and other agencies, he was unable to correctly pronounce Chinese names.
The decision to promote Russian experts to top management, rather than Arabic, Farsi, and other language experts, would eventually result in almost total ignorance of the warning signs that were developing in the Middle East in the early 1990s. Overworked, under-appreciated, and with no chance of promotion, many Arabic linguists began leaving NSA in the middle 1990s, just as a firebrand Islamic fundamentalist named Osama Bin Laden was making some disturbing comments from Sudan and later, Afghanistan.
By 1998, some 1000 top NSA specialists -- linguists, mathematicians, and computer programmers -- had left the agency. However, the old Russian experts remained and were promoted. One of them was Maureen "Mo" Baginski, a Russian linguist, who was appointed to head the NSA's important Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). She would later be blamed by Hayden and others for being partly responsible for the 911 failures at NSA. However, old NSA hands say that it was not fair to blame Baginski, since she "was out of her element" when dealing with the Middle East. Baginski is now a senior official of the FBI.
Making matters worse was the initiative to purposely drum out of NSA a number of experienced Middle Eastern and South Asian linguists as part of Hayden's reorganization program that emphasized outsourcing. One NSA linguist, fluent in Pashto (the language of the Taliban), Farsi, and 16 other languages was forced to retire a few years before 911. He was told by NSA managers that "minor languages" like Farsi and Pashto "never will be important to us." In fact, NSA paid little attention to "low density languages" that would later become critical. These included Uzbek, Urdu, Pashto, Dari, Farsi, and various Arabic dialects.
Attempts to convince Hayden that he had to beef up Middle Eastern language proficiency by training better instructors, concentrating on Middle Eastern dialects, and evaluating and upgrading language training programs went unheeded. Although Hayden paid plenty of lip service to these ideas, nothing ever happened. Eager to carry out his pet Groundbreaker and Trailblazer outsourcing projects, the NSA Director continued to sell the NSA store to private contractors.
Moreover, the NSA contracting firms, some of which were large Pentagon weapons system providers, convinced Hayden that China, not the Middle East, was the highest priority. As a result, by 2000, Groundbreaker/Trailblazer contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing had successfully seen to it that China, not the Middle East, would be the focus of NSA's re-engineered signals intelligence systems. By hyping the "China threat," intelligence could be used to justify large defense programs in which the contractors had a vested interest. Chief among these was the Ballistic Missile Defense system being pushed by Donald Rumsfeld, who was not yet Defense Secretary but who championed "Star Wars II" as the head of the Rumsfeld Commission on missile defense. Of course, China was high on Rumsfeld's mind when his commission's report rhetorically asked, "What if China gave North Korea advanced missile technology (or even a completed missile)?"
Meanwhile, intelligence from NSA raw intercepts were being leaked to the media, including Parade magazine, in order to justify expensive defense systems to counter the "China threat." NSA analysts were appalled at the lackadaisical way important intelligence was being leaked. Sources for COMINT on China and other countries involved in weapons proliferation -- targeted telephone numbers and fax, computer, and other telecommunications links -- literally dried up overnight and continued to stay dark, according to one source.
Hayden's predecessor as director, Air Force General Kenneth Minihan, did try to stress multi-skills and multi-lingualism for NSA analysts in his National Cryptologic Strategy for the 21st Century (NCS21) reorganization plan. However, Minihan never did much to launch his NCS21 initiative. Minihan's plan specifically stated that NSA would:
"Invest in our people through education, training and career development to achieve and maintain required skill levels. Our overall occupational structure will be skills-based and constantly tuned to mission requirements and achieve information superiority."
However, Hayden scrapped NCS21, replacing it with Groundbreaker and Trailblazer.
NCS21 would have also helped curb the problem with the "stovepiping" of intelligence, which prevented intelligence like the September 10, 2001 NSA Al Qaeda intercepts from getting to those decision makers who needed it. One of NCS 21's stated goals was to:
"Work with the intelligence community to develop interactive databases to enable the policy maker to initiate a single request, search all available community databases, and receive the requested data."
Rather than integrating databases, Hayden's programs were discontinuing databases, particularly those that concentrated on the Middle East and South Asia.
As a result of the interplay between Hayden, the contractors, and Rumsfeld, NSA's intercept priorities were focused away from the Middle East to Chinese missile and other weapons systems. Repeated urging to beef up NSA's Middle Eastern and African capabilities were ignored, even after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Many linguists were tossed out based on trumped up "security" problems. NSA Security is noted for running a virtual Gestapo-like operation at the agency. According to dozens of current and ex-NSA employees interviewed by WMR, anyone targeted for any reason by NSA management soon finds themselves the subject of interrogations, forced visits to the NSA psychologist, and finally clearance revocation and termination. The terminations of linguists with critical skills continued right up to September 2001.
Hayden's two reorganizations projects -- Groundbreaker and Trailblazer -- saw a number of NSA's language databases being terminated because of a lack of funding due to the outsourcing of critical operational responsibilities.
A few NSA analysts early on predicted that Islamic radicals encouraged by Saudi radical clerics would soon launch a major suicide terrorist attack on American soil.
The analysts based their prediction on a number of key events and dates. One was the September 12, 1994 suicide crash of a stolen Cessna plane flown into the South Lawn of the White House by Frank Corder. (President Clinton was then staying at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House). The other was the undetected flying of a Cessna aircraft through heavily-fortified Soviet air defense systems by 19 year-old German pilot Mathias Rust in 1987. Rust landed his aircraft in Red Square, within yards of the offices of the top Soviet leadership.
September 12, 1994 and May 28, 1987: they were key events for NSA analysts who predicted a suicide aircraft mission in the United States by Islamist radicals.
The other significant date pointed to by NSA analysts was September 11. This was the last day of the siege by the Palestinian terrorist group "Black September" of Israeli athlete hostages at the 1972 Munich Olympics, a day and month that NSA Middle East experts pointed out was significant throughout the Islamic world. Eleven Israeli athletes were killed by their Black September captors. Black September took its name from the September 1970 massacre by King Hussein of Jordan of thousands of Palestinians in Jordan who attempted to stage a coup.
NSA managers who did not understand the nuances of the Middle East claimed that since the "U.S. eliminated Black September," nothing connected to the group or the month of September could be taken seriously.
But two decades later, NSA began to obtain tapes of incendiary speeches by Wahhabi Muslim Saudi clerics in mosques throughout the oil-rich kingdom. When the contents of the transcriptions of these tapes were compared to classified COMINT [Communications Intelligence] and information in articles in various Arabic language newspapers, alarm bells went off in the Middle East branches at Fort Meade, particularly after the February 26, 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. A report never distributed outside of NSA reported that "Saudi extremists were contemplating 'kamikaze'-type attacks in the United States using aircraft." Ironically and eerily, the date of that report was September 11, 1993.
Also ignored were clear indications that certain Israeli elements were engaged in suspicious activities prior to 9-11. Although NSA has traditionally been skeptical about Israeli intentions -- ever since the 1967 unprovoked Israeli attack on the NSA ship USS Liberty and severe compromises of classified information from the Pollard affair and the DINDI/PIEREX joint NSA-Israeli activities in the 1980s -- by the late 1990s, NSA gingerly handled intercepts of Israeli communications. It is such a touchy subject that the name tags of NSA linguists that carry their language expertise in one case have been altered. Hebrew linguists tags are denoted as "Special Arabic," an obvious attempt to demonstrate to those NSA employees without special access that the agency does not listen in on Hebrew communications.
Israel was suspected by some NSA and CIA analysts of helping to beef up China's missile and other weapons systems with sophisticated technology. Some of this technology was used to make improvements to the Chinese Silkworm anti-ship missile, the C-801 sea-skimming missile, and the EM-52 rocket-propelled anti-ship mine. These weapons systems were then offered by China to Iran.
There were attempts at the analyst level to try to share intelligence prior to 9-11. This was done through the Tech Track program, an analyst-led initiative to identify various subject area experts, particularly in the non-Russian areas, who could be called on for assistance. This program was showing success before NSA management stepped in and took it over. An attempt to eliminate the stovepiping of intelligence was quickly ended due to senior management interference.
Analysts figured out other clever ways to meet with other experts, both within the NSA and at other intelligence agencies. Not necessarily knowing the names of counterparts in other intelligence sections, subject area experts figured out a way to organize dinner meetings at Washington area restaurants by sending out notices on secure networks to particular intelligence branches and sections at the NSA, CIA, DIA, and other agencies. The analysts would identify one another based on the color of the neckties they agreed in advance to wear.