9/11 Watchdogs yank the ‘chop chain’- Book review by Erik Larson

The book The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski, with new insider interviews and documentary evidence, convincingly establishes that named people at the CIA and NSA actively prevented the FBI from learning information that could have disrupted the 9/11 plot. Principals at these agencies manipulated government investigations to cover up responsibility, and to exploit the public’s fear after 9/11 in order to justify the so-called ‘war on terror’, the Iraq invasion, torture, the NSA’s massive warrantless domestic spying programs, indefinite detention and extrajudicial killing even of Americans. The authors don’t claim to have proved that US government officials deliberately allowed or facilitated the 9/11 plot, but that’s what the actions and inactions of key people accomplished, and the Establishment has rewarded their incompetence or criminality. The authors quote Stafford Beer: “The purpose of a system is what it does.” While ‘serendipity’ for the Military-Industrial Complex may be in the range of theoretical possibility, official responsibility for 9/11 and it’s evil consequences remains an urgent issue for the People of the US and the world, along with establishing effective public oversight of government and elite power.

The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark — book by Duffy and Nowosielski

This case has been made effectively by others*, but the Duffy-Nowosielski Watchdogs book is significant, as it’s the kind of book that ‘serious people’ take seriously. So seriously, that when the authors posted their Richard Clarke video “Interview #7” in 2011, DCI George Tenet, CTC Director Cofer Black and CIA Alec Station (Bin Laden Unit) Chief Rich Blee released a joint public statement denying Clarke’s shocking allegations — that they had been running an illegal domestic CIA spy operation with Saudi help. So seriously, in fact, that the CIA threatened the authors with criminal prosecution if they revealed some of the names in this book (7–9, 239–245). Other journalists have declined to name these public officials, while reporting on their criminal involvement.

Watchdogs provides a great deal of new information gained from first-hand interviews with key government insiders with perspective on the 9/11 events and government investigations. The reader is given insight into their character and personality, which helps to assess their perspective, credibility and potential agendas regarding events, and into other persons named and alleged to have committed serious crimes. Some of these people, in particular Clarke, NSA Executive Thomas Drake and CIA Officer John Kiriakou, have exposed themselves to lawsuits for slander and defamation, and the authors for libel, if their allegations are false.

The book tells its story in a contextual chronology of events revolving around a number of federal employees in key positions. It begins in the years prior to 9/11, and documents and examines relationships, histories, characters and personalities, and the consequences of their actions and inactions in the years after. With government and mainstream media reports, and many first-hand insider accounts, the authors document what information was known by who and when prior to 9/11, and what they did or didn’t do with it. They let the words of these insiders and reports speak for themselves, and their words speak volumes. The authors also give their assessment — conservative, careful and understated, in my view — of what can be understood about these events from the public record, and about the perspective and motivations of those involved.

Most of the public information about pre-9/11 obstruction pertains to the FBI and CIA, and the CIA’s failures are a particular focus of this book. The CIA, for well over a year, frustrated the efforts of FBI agents to learn about and locate two wanted terrorists — Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi — who should have been caught. Rich Blee, his deputy Tom Wilshere, Alec Station officers Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and Michael Anne Casey, and other CIA officers had numerous opportunities to watchlist Almihdhar and Alhazmi and inform the FBI that they had US travel Visas and had travelled to the US, where they were using their real names and leaving paper/electronic trails everywhere they went. Not only did they not share the info with the FBI, they prevented others at the CIA from doing so, such as FBI detailees Doug Miller and Mark Rossini, while taking steps to create an appearance of having done so. After 9/11, the CIA attempted to use this ‘appearance’ to blame the FBI for failing to catch the hijackers before 9/11, and absolve themselves of responsibility during government investigations, while exploiting Congress’ and the public’s fear to accrue additional powers and resources for themselves, the CIA and the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC).

It remains unclear how much their CIA superiors Cofer Black and George Tenet knew prior to 9/11. The fact that we still don’t know — and that government investigators failed to ask pertinent questions and accepted incredible answers to others — is itself a dangerous condition in a supposed Constitutional and democratically-accountable Republic.

As documented in the book with names and quotes, a significant number of intelligence community insiders don’t believe the CIA story that they thought they had passed the info to the FBI. In 2011, Richard Clarke, on video record with the authors, theorized that Tenet must have authorized an illegal CIA domestic operation, with help from Saudi agents, to infiltrate Al Qaeda and gain an intelligence source — an amazing slander, if not true. He stated he believes this is the only explanation for why Tenet never informed him about the hijackers being in the country, and why he never received this information through any other channels.

Richard Clarke had been in government since 1973, and occupied many high-level national security positions. He is responsible for launching Continuity of Government procedures on 9/11 — it remains in effect to this day, with Donald Trump having just renewed the 9/11 State of Emergency, 17 years after the events. Richard Clarke’s own history is filled with dubious activities and associations and his testimony, while highly significant, should not be assumed to be complete or truthful.

For instance, Richard Clarke was in the loop regarding the surveillance of the January 2000 ‘Al Qaeda summit’ in Kuala Lumpur. Incredibly, according to his own account, he failed to follow up with the CIA to find out what happened afterward. He told Duffy and Nowosielski, “I assumed these guys got on planes and went back to Saudi Arabia or Yemen” (231).

In fact, Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi flew to the US and were assisted here by suspected Saudi agents Omar Al-Bayoumi, Osama Bassnan, and Fahad Al-Thumairy, and Abdussattar Shaikh, who was supposed to be an FBI informant. It’s possible that, with his extraordinary public statements on this issue, Clarke is covering himself, and promoting a limited hangout or disinformation. The authors quote Clarke, and give important context and analysis that shows Clarke’s theory failing on a number of points. They are careful to not go beyond the evidence, leaving obvious and important questions unstated and open for the reader to consider.

In this book, the authors quote Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff at State, Lawrence Wilkerson, making statements that are even more disturbing than Clarke’s. Duffy and Nowosielski say “Wilkerson now claims he learned [before the Iraq invasion] from no less than three different executive-level CIA officers variations on the same story, that a domestic operation regarding Khalid al Mihdhar did take place,” and that, “These are very, very reliable people. … higher than Cofer. Serious people” (228). While Clarke was clear that he was speculating about an operation, Wilkerson addresses it as if the operation’s existence and Tenet’s responsibility are facts:

The people that the CIA were trying to turn — one of them was inside the United States, which is against the law. And that’s the reason they didn’t reveal that that person was here to the FBI, because then the FBI being bureaucratically competitive and stupid would have said, ‘God damn we’re coming after you, you’re breaking the law again.’

The CIA was trying desperately to ‘turn’ them, and they shouldn’t have been operating domestically,” says Wilkerson. “I got many things I blame George [Tenet] for, including that he lied to me and he lied to [my boss] the secretary [of state] — lied, not fudged things, lied. But I do understand his motivation here. The only way he was ever going to get real evidence on Al Qaeda was to turn somebody and get inside” (228). And, “What Clinton did with things like that was basically, ‘Do it. Don’t tell me’” (235).

Wilkerson’s account is incredible for a few reasons. First, the CIA doesn’t need “evidence”, as the FBI might for a criminal prosecution. The CIA’s role is to gather intelligence about foreign threats to US interests, and it has freedom from many US laws when operating outside the US. Also, there’s significant public evidence that the US had pre-9/11 windows into Al Qaeda through its own network of informants, in addition to receiving intelligence reports from the services of other countries. In fact, there were dozens of ignored warning signs in the years before 9/11 about an impending Al Qaeda plot to attack the US, including with planes on cities. In his role at State, Wilkerson should have been aware of this, especially at the late date of his interview.

Furthermore, there’s no indication that — in the 15 years since Wilkerson said he learned about an illegal CIA US operation that resulted in 9/11 — he reported this information to Congress, the CIA IG, the FBI or anyone else with oversight responsibility. In fact, Wilkerson is sympathetic to Tenet! His choice of words reflects that criminal behavior by people in powerful positions — event if it leads to thousands of innocent deaths, billions in property damage, illegal wars with hundreds of thousands of deaths, indefinite detention and torture of prisoners, and warrantless mass surveillance — is acceptable to those in the Establishment, if it has the right ‘motivation’, e.g. ‘God and Country,’ a term used by John Kiriakou.

Many other insiders believe the CIA’s failure to share the hijacker’s Visa information was intentional, and some also believe there was an illegal CIA operation in the US:

Mark Rossini, FBI Agent detailed to the CIA: “I believe it can be proven circumstantially the CIA was engaged in a recruitment operation within the United States (in didrect violation of every rule, regulation, and law), and that they (the management of the CIA, Alec STation, and the CTC) did not want the FBI, in the persona of John P. O’Neill Jr., to interfere in their effort” (228).

Jack Cloonan, FBI Counterterror Agent: “For whatever reason or reasons, the [CIA] makes the decision — it’s not an oversight, it’s a conscious decision — not to share the information. If you look at this, it’s really just a handful of people. I don’t know how they sleep at night” (228).

Pasquale ‘Pat’ D’Amuro, FBI Agent and Manager, ran the FBI’s 9/11 criminal investigation focused on Al Qaeda and the hijackers: “I had heard that Blee and Wilshere had the conversation in January 2000 and stopped it from coming over. … There’s no doubt in my mind that that went up further in the agency than just those two guys. And why they didn’t send it over. To this day, I don’t know why.” (227)

Duffy and Nowosielski write: “[NSA executive Thomas] Drake said that he had been told directly from senior sources in the intelligence community that the attempt had taken place to turn members of Al Qaeda. He specified his sources were close to a network that had developed around Vice President Dick Cheney” (229).

It is less well-understood what the NSA had prior to 9/11 and what they did with it. However, as Watchdogs documents, there is evidence, in the form of witness statements and withheld documents, that the NSA was monitoring calls made by the 9/11 hijackers in the US to a terrorist hub in Yemen that NSA had been monitoring since 1996 (113–115) and was well-informed about the impending 9/11 plot.

According to whistleblower and former NSA Sigint executive Thomas Drake, NSA reports on the activities of the 9/11 plotters were produced routinely, and senior management prevented those relevant to the US hijackers from being passed to the FBI. This is the so-called ‘chop chain’; prior to reports being shared with outside agencies, certain higher executives had the authority to stop it (113–115). Again, if FBI Agents had been informed — by CIA or NSA — that AlHazmi and AlMihdhar— known terrorists — were in the US, they would have soon been arrested, and the 9/11 plot disrupted. The authors note that, if the CIA had undertaken such an operation, they would have had to have NSA cooperation, as the NSA might discover the plot or CIA connections to it.

In another of the many shocking, sickening and potentially libeleous accounts in the book, the authors cite Thomas Drake as a source for some statements by NSA Sigint Director Maureen Baginski. Per the book, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, in an attempt to cheer up NSA staff traumatized by the 9/11 attacks and demoralized by the failure of the agency to prevent them, Baginski told a group of more than fifty that, “You have to understand, 9/11 is a gift to NSA. … We are going to get all the money we want” (112–113). Per Drake, faced with the failure of leadership to take responsibility for the failures and this callous intent to exploit the attacks, “The staff took it as a betrayal” (113).

The authors document many other examples of this kind of consienceless desire of people in power to exploit 9/11, such as President George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney, DCI George Tenet, NSA Director Michael Hayden, as well as many other lower-level CIA personnel including Blee, Bikowsky, Casey, CTC/NCS director/torturer Jose Rodriguez, and his protege ‘Bloody Gina’ Haspel, who was recently confirmed as CIA Director. They all used 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ to advance their own careers and gain professional and political power, which they then used to advance their worldview and personal agendas, which has included permanent war, torture, indefinite detention, mass domestic surveillance, and billions of dollars in unnaccountable funding for themselves and their cronies in the MIC.

It’s noteworthy that Duffy, Nowosielski and their sources are willing to go on the record claiming these powerful people said and did things that make them look like sociopathic monsters. Will there be lawsuits? Lawsuits could lead to discovery and witness depositions under oath. Guilty parties would find this inconvenient. When the Establishment’s image and and members are threatened like this, what it sometimes does instead is use the power of corporate media to diminish public attention or tarnish the credibility of witnesses and journalists. So far, it seems this book is being ignored by most ‘serious people’ in mainstream corporate media.

The authors focus their account on certain failures and particular parties and agencies — the CIA and NSA. These failures are their area of expertise, and their most important sources worked at these agencies. This book does a tremendous public service in documenting and explaining a complex set of evidence and lines of questioning. This book alone proves the official 9/11 story — and the case for surveillance and permanent war — to be a dangerous fraud, and it gives honest people cause to call for a full investigation of 9/11 and its consequences.

However, there is a great body of public evidence implicating other agencies and people in incredible ‘failures’ surrounding and intersecting the 9/11 events, contributing to the success of the attacks. This shows the problem is much deeper and bigger than two intelligence agencies with rogue officers covered for by corrupt executives. In the Duffy-Nowosielski book the FBI comes out looking better than the CIA, though attention is called to some of the many well-publicized pre-9/11 ‘failures’ involving FBI HQ and field offices in DC, Minneapolis, Phoenix and, more recently and less well-covered, Miami. The record does reflect that some FBI Agents tried to discover and thwart the plot, and blow the whistle on wrongdoing, while others in management positions at the FBI thwarted investigative efforts before and after 9/11, including former FBI Director and current #Russiagate Special Counsel Robert Mueller. These issues are noted in the Duffy-Nowosielski book, but not examined in depth.

Likewise, it’s noted in the book that the Bush Administration had Iraq War ambition before taking office and ignored numerous warnings, but the authors do not attempt to make the case that ‘Bush knew’ or was used to make 9/11 happen. What Bush and Cheney knew has never been adequately investigated by any of the official 9/11 investigations. The 9/11 Commission was the only one to interview them, they were together, it was in private, not under oath, and without notes or recordings. The scope of questioning was limited, and apparently did not delve deeply into their strange behavior before, during and after 9/11. If the Watchdogs book does prompt an official inquiry that actually goes somewhere, Bush and Cheney, along with NSA Condoleezza Rice, Def Sec Donald Rumsfeld and many other Bush administration officials and federal agencies including DoD, NORAD, NEADS and the Secret Service, would need to be properly investigated. The Complete 9/11 Timeline at HistoryCommons.org is a massive compilation of public evidence, including on these entities and their actions. The mosaic picture produced by the timelines proves the falsehood of the official 9/11 story, and the premise for the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Duffy and Nowosielski expose the inadequacy and limitations of the four official government 9/11 investigations. They show how highly-placed people are able to work the system to shield themselves and others from accountability, turning ‘failures’ into a vehicle for accomplishing evil agendas, such as mass surveillance, permanent war, torture and indefinite detention. The 9/11 attacks succeeded, and the CIA officers most directly involved in obstructing the FBI were subsequently promoted to positions of some prominence in the so-called ‘war on terror,’ where they made other catastrophic decisions — such as torturing prisoners, and letting Bin Laden escape at Tora Bora — while being given aid and cover by agency heads and the President.

The authors document government lies about the state of intelligence prior to 9/11, lies about the extent and oversight of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, and lies about the effectiveness and legality of ‘enhanced interrorgation’ aka torture. These lies were used to justify these and other crimes against humanity, including the ‘war on terror’ itself, and the use of it to subvert the US Consitiution and manipulate US voters and world public opinion into supporting or accepting endless war and an undermined Republic captured by corrupt and possibly sociopathic elites. Hopefully, The People will wise up and there will be a revolution at the ballot box. Hopefully, society will evolve some kind of defense against parasitic, predatory elites using state power to commit crimes against humanity. If Artificial Intellgence (AI) becomes consious before humanity, it will read books like this, and understand us and our society better than we do. It will not believe the lies corrupt elites tell, and they will not be able to operate in an environment of transparency where their lies are ineffective. Hopefully, humanity will develop a symbiotic relationship with AI, and create a more just and sustainable society.

This article was updated 9/22/18 to included Abdussattar Shaikh’s name as the Saudi-connected FBI informant who assisted Alhazmi and Almihdhar.

Corrected this Thomas Drake quote attributed to Maureen Baginski; I mistakenly added “the” not in the text:— ““You have to understand, 9/11 is a gift to the NSA. … We are going to get all the money we want” (112–113).”

Share on These Popular Social Networking Websites


From the Podcast Archive