Jul 25 2006

Did The CIA Block NSA Leads To FISA?

Wild speculation alert. We have seen that the NSA-FISA story was a complete hash by the NY Times since the only thing the Times reported accurately was that the NSA listens in on terrorists communications overseas. The NY Times inaccurately claimed the NSA was going around FISA, when in fact it was the completely opposite situation.

My position has been that there is plenty of evidence in statements and reporting that the big change post 9-11 was the flow of leads to the FBI from NSA overseas surveillance. There is plenty of indications that NSA leads on people in contact with terrorists overseas, once bottled up, were now flooding the FBI and the FIS Court. I had based this conclusion on information I found on the Church Committee and its view of the NSA during the time the committee was crafting the FISA statutes. My speculation was that the NSA never passed leads to the FBI because of some historic policy. I am prepared to say maybe I missed something, and it leads us back to the CIA.

My mistake was in forgetting which agency led the anti-Al Qaeda intelligence effort. The CIA was of course the lead and it failed miserably in that charter. Not only did it not capture or kill Bin Laden, it found and then lost 9-11 highjacker Mohamed Atta when he and his terrorists were in Hamburg (see this longish post on the Able Danger timeline). The German government had Atta and company in their sites and report CIA efforts to infiltrate the group there. The CIA knew of 9-11 pilots Midhar and Hamzi being in San Diego, but alerted no one. All these opportunities and the CIA kept quiet. What does that have to do with the NSA? Check out this IBD article on the CIA and 9-11 and phone calls:

Lawrence Wright, author of a soon-to-be-published history of al-Qaida, detailed in The New Yorker magazine this month how the CIA knew for more than a year and half before 9-11 that two of the hijackers were living in the U.S. The agency refused to share that information with the FBI unit investigating al-Qaida.

According to Wright, the concern then was about overly zealous FBI surveillance. In a recent interview, Wright said, “There was a fear in the Justice Department that FBI agents would be tempted to label cases as being related to foreign intelligence rather than as criminal cases because it would be far easier to gain permission to surveil suspects. So the Justice Department erected The Wall.”

This mutated into “a straitjacket” for FBI investigators, writes Wright. “Intelligence agents were warned that sharing such information with criminal agents could mean the end of their careers.” Even members of the same squad couldn’t share information.

The CIA embraced The Wall and kept information about international phone calls and al-Qaida meetings from the FBI’s al-Qaida unit.

Emphasis mine. Sorry folks, but it never occured to me there could be another agency in between the NSA and the FIS Court. I have been reporting on how NSA leads now go to the FBI, what I failed to appreciate is the NSA could have been passing leads to the CIA pre 9-11 since it was the CIA that would be in charge of interfacing to local law enforcement. It makes sense that the US will designate one center to be the prime interface the two domains. That way the NSA and DIA (Able Danger) and CIA don’t conflict in their interactions with the FBI and DoJ. Prior to 9-11 the CIA was the lead agency on Al Qaeda and all intel went through them. There are enough ex-spooks and military Intelligence out there to confirm my suspicions. The lead FBI and DoJ offices were in New York. And the Gorelick Wall barred them from comparing notes (on threat of being fired). Clearly it was the CIA’s decision whether to bring in the FBI.

I often wondered why the NSA seemed so non-plussed over all this mess. Why Hayden gladly discussed the fact that intel was shut off from the FBI if the terrorists made it here in the US. Why the NSA never detected Hamzi and Midhar in San Diego (which apparently they did) and felt like they dropped the ball. Now I see why. They didn’t drop the ball. The one agency at the nexus of all the leaks and attempts to throw elections against Bush has been the CIA. The CIA was the lead agency that allowed our defences to falter, ignored Able Danger and probably blocked the NSA leads from getting to the FBI. The picture may have just cleared up immensely. Because we know, being a military unit, the NSA probably won’t leak, but we all know the CIA does and does it regularly. We may be understanding how much a deterrant the CIA was – a deterrant to our protection. If the CIA was the organization that held NSA leads back and let 9-11 transpire, then it was not NSA, FBI DoJ and FISA which were dysfunctional. No, not at all. If the CIA was being pushed aside after 9-11 and now the NSA was interfacing directly with the FBI, the CIA agents who were losing their clout and authority would have plenty of axes to grind and have motive to leak to the NY Times. We all know the CIA has the access to the media. Was the NY Times leak payback from a now marginal CIA for being sidelined? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

More on the Lawrence Wright article here at The New Yorker.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Did The CIA Block NSA Leads To FISA?”

  1. kathie says:

    I think you are right. And Rick Santorum and the other guy, I don’t remember his name has said that the CIA is at war with this country. Not only is the CIA misleading the President, they are keeping him in the dark re Iraq, and hot spots in the rest of the world. Could they be that corrupt? It seems so impossible!

  2. MaidMarion says:


    It was not the case that CIA was “lead” agency on the anti-al Qaeda effort pre-9/11. What you are missing is that the CIA wore two hats at the time: a CIA hat and a DCI hat.

    Tenet wore those two hats. As DCI, he was “supposed” to “integrate” intelligence from all the disparate agencies. In reality, that dual role was never effectively split in the bureaucratic sense. In reality, the CIA staff was the workhorse (i.e., doubled) as the DCI staff.

    Thus, DCI policy inputs to the President on al-Qaeda didn’t actually originate from a separate “DCI” analysis of multi-disciplined inputs, as the bureaucratic chart of integrated US intelligence would suggest.

    In actuality, the DCI’s positions were crafted by the single-disciplined CIA staff.

  3. topsecretk9@AJ says:

    I have no idea about this, but what caught my eye was the CIA’s practice of “monitoring” vs. acting…it’s only tangentially related

    But “monitoring” or “acting”, the CIA basically never passed things on so nothing is ever really acted on…seems to fit ( especially given all the failures).


    F Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Defence Secretary, writing in the Washington Times recalls that his office frequently monitored efforts by Dr Khan’s worldwide network to divert technology to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development programme.

    “We also sought Central Intelligence Agency assistance. The CIA has close ties with Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

    Indeed, my office would often work with US Customs to track down some of Khan’s US technology acquisitions to halt them before they were exported to Pakistan.”

    Maloof wrote that a former Dutch prime minister has recently contended the CIA knew of Khan’s nuclear acquisition efforts from the early 1970s.

    Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers in a recent interview, asserted that the CIA had even intervened to halt any Dutch court action against Khan.

    According to Lubbers, the CIA had urged that the Pakistani scientist be allowed to continue his activities so they could be monitored.

    “The CIA request to the Dutch strongly suggests it may have known of Khan’s efforts to assist North Korea and Iran in their nuclear development programmes. It also suggests the CIA helped facilitate such diversions and may have been aware of Khan’s liaisons with al Qaeda and other terrorist elements,” he suggested.

  4. MerlinOS2 says:


    Gorelick is a pivot player here, gonna do some reasearch on this lady.

    She replaced Webster Hubbel at Justice, she clamped down on the FBI about the TWA800 investigation, She erected the wall, She was the lead lawyer for FanneyMae leading up to the 6 billion dollar restatement scandal, She was on the 9/11 comish to do retrohistory fabrication.

    It is amazing that one person can be in so many places where all the crap starts and ends. Jessica Fletcher led a more sedate lifestyle.

    To much smoke , very few mirrors.

    PS she was also one of the lawyers for Boeing in their misconduct investigation, so much to do , so little time.

  5. ivehadit says:

    My sixth sense tells me that all this leads to Bubba who cuts deals with many devils for his “legacy”…

    Look the other way for this devil..

    Lie about downed airplanes for that devil…

    Give US secrets to this devil…

    I was always concerned during his administration about what he was doing internationally because we had so little info on the subject…

    Now….the blogs!

  6. carol johnson says:

    Ivehadit –

    “My sixth sense tells me that all this leads to Bubba who cuts deals with many devils for his “legacy”…

    I highly suggest you get ahold of Barbara Olson’s book “The Final Days, The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House”. Barbara, as you may or may not know, was a Congressional investigator during most of the Clinton scandals…and sadly also on the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept 11th. Her book was printed two days after her death and should be required reading for anyone even considering putting another Clinton in the White House. The things in this book will rock you to your core and it SHOULD! I’m not kidding!


  7. Eye on the Watcher’s Council…

    As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.
    The Watcher’…

  8. topsecretk9@AJ says:

    The CIA embraced The Wall and kept information about international phone calls and al-Qaida meetings from the FBI’s al-Qaida unit.

    Hmm.. I hadn’t thought about this, but MMarion’s comment made me think.

    Did embracing the wall protect the CIA? Put this way, was the wall and “embracing” it a convenient necessity, that protected or insulated “knowledge of” CIA rogue like operations ever seeing the light of day?

    I say this because if so, reminds me of why “Able Danger” was scrapped…certain people popped up.

  9. topsecretk9@AJ says:

    Rogue operations to be interpreted as rouge operations officers running their own rouge operations, that would be counter Bush administration and political.

    If so, explains for me why the NSA leak happened. These guys are masters at damage control and using gullible US new media to define the story the way they want it.