The new book Watchdogs Didn’t Bark by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski, reports that former NSA executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake said that former NSA Signals Intelligence Director (#3 at NSA) Maureen Baginski told a group of more than 50 staff just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the worst intelligence failure in US history since Pearl Harbor, leaving almost 3000 dead: “You have to understand, 9/11 is a gift to NSA. … We are going to get all the money we want” (112–113).
Apparently Baginski’s statement made an impression on Drake; he recalled it while being interviewed by Duffy and Nowosielski more than ten years after 9/11, apparently considering it significant and revealing. They also quote him recalling the reaction of those who were there — witnesses who could be subpoenaed in a slander/libel/defamation lawsuit: “The staff took it as a betrayal. … They interpreted that management was in denial about the failure, denial that we did not keep America out of harm’s way. A couple of weeks after our inexcusable failure, you’re saying this is a gift to NSA?” (113).
Thomas Drake is a well-known public figure and has a page on Wikipedia. His actions as a whistleblower led to important reporting on multi-billion-dollar waste, fraud and abuse at NSA. The reporting was factual, so the powerful people responsible for it, including former General, NSA Director then CIA Director Michael Hayden, instead of being held accountable by IG’s, Congress, DoJ or the public, successfully used their power, privilege and a corrupted Justice Dept and Federal Court system to persecute and financially ruin Thomas Drake. They were ultimately unsuccessful in getting him on anything except a single ridiculous charge nobody except a whistleblower would ever have been prosecuted for.
It’s not the first time Drake has gone on the record claiming Baginski made a statement about ‘9/11 as gift to NSA’. In 2014, Thomas Drake was a guest on the YouTube series, “We Were Lied to About 9/11,” hosted by 9/11 truth and justice activist Jon Gold, a friend of mine. At that time, Drake told the same story about Maureen Baginski: “Here she is in a very powerful position at NSA saying: ‘Oh, no, 9/11 is a gift to NSA. We’ll get all the money we want and then some.’” Jon Gold collected over 30 show transcripts into the 2018 book, We Were Lied to About 9/11. The quote appears on p.274, and it made such an impression on Jon that he brings it up again later in the conversation:
DRAKE:[NSA Thinthread threat tracking program] was rejected because it made the corporate solution [Trailblazer] look bad; it was such a small program; it didn’t cost much money. I mean this was just one of a number of programs that were soundly rejected, or pushed aside by NSA. And, of course, what is happening after 9/11? Congress is coming to NSA effectively saying: “How big a check do you want us to write? And what number do you want to put on the left?”
GOLD: Which goes back to what that individual said on the day of 9/11.
DRAKE: Yeah, we’re going to get all the money we want and then some.(Gold, pp.279–80)
Drake humanized Baginski a bit when talking to Jon, saying, “I know in part she regretted it later — a very conflicted person, by the way, just given her history and the fact that she had been there as a career” (p. 274).
Drake brought up Baginski’s statement again in 2016, in the documentary film, A Good American. It seems to be one of the things that will haunt him forever — like the knowledge that 9/11 could have been prevented, if NSA executives had shared critical info — see below from Jon Gold’s book We Were Lied to About 9/11, and pp. 113–115 in Watchdogs Didn’t Bark.
As shocking and seemingly inhuman/sociopathic as Baginski’s statement is, it’s representative of the kind of thinking that goes on at the top of government and corporate America—among the captains of industry and their agents in the state, who socialize risk/loss and privatize advantage/profit.
Most human beings might wonder how other humans can possibly think like this. Drake’s comment shows he attributes some of this subversion of greater humanity to the nature of the state/government/society/human beings. And adults who vote keep voting for Democrats and Republicans who think like this, and once in office these ‘public servants’ serve the interests of their corporate and rich donors who think like this, and toward that end they hire and appoint people who think like this.
What Drake says on Jon’s show about the broad and deep insight NSA had into the 9/11 Al Qaeda plot closely tracks what he told Duffy and Nowosielski. There’s no public information that casts doubt on Drake’s credibility, and he was there at NSA — he had high-level access to records, he interacted regularly with highly-placed government executives, and he saw and heard things. What he told Jon in 2014 is worth quoting at length here, to highlight and memorialize it, in the context of the recent publication of Watchdogs Didn’t Bark, where it’s covered on pages 113–115.
I was a witness before, a material witness, a whistleblower, before two 9/11 Congressional investigations. I gave them everything I knew — and the worst part of it, for me, was discovering, as I found out right after 9/11 — I even confronted Maureen Baginski with a report that had been finished by NSA, finished report, many, many months before 9/11 basically breaking out the full scope of Al-Qaeda associated movements. And it was never shared with the rest of the intelligence agencies, nor was it ever given to the national command authority to take action. That was just one report amongst many of them.
… It exposed the full network. It showed how the network was operating; how it metastasized; who was associated with it. It was the best of NSA. This is the kicker. The very best that Americans would expect, that those in secret had a special obligation to their own citizenry to protect the nation, and here was the finest, the finest that I worked with — and I’d been in the system for a long time. Remember, I listened in on East Germany and Warsaw Pact countries back during the latter years of the Cold War and did electronic warfare. Yeah, I — and yet here I was, my own country, and I was taking on activities that not only did I object to, but were in violation of the law, but the law no longer seemed to matter.
The phrase that I kept hearing in those weeks and months after 9/11: “You don’t understand, Tom” — and it was all summarized by the lead attorney. The lead attorney said: “You don’t understand. We just need the data. We live in extraordinary times and exigent conditions apply.” Exigent. It’s a really interesting word in the English language. Exigent. Meaning, all means necessary to confront the threat. Yeah, all means necessary meant that the Constitution was in the way.
And I can tell you right here. I can tell your listeners right here, none of this was necessary. We never had to go to the dark side like Cheney said. The very best of American ingenuity and innovation had already solved this problem years earlier, knew — how do you make sense of and find meaning and large amounts of data, already solved that problem. It didn’t take billions to do it. It had been solved for $3 million dollars, $3.2 million on a program called Thin Thread that was rejected by NSA out of hand.
And, by the way, during this period Congress actually passed legislation, signed into law by President Bush in early 2002, directing NSA to employ Thin Thread to the 18 most critical counter-terrorism sites across the world. They never did so. They actually defied the law. No penalties.” (per Drake in Gold, 278)
What kind of world do you want to live in? Corruption of power is not inevitable — it’s a political, social and economic inefficiency, besides an urgent human rights and social justice issue. Corrupt people fear truth and justice so much that they live in fear of exposure. This means they live, work, move and invest inefficiently, in ways that stress their own world, in addition to the world we live in. Our technological society is becoming increasingly transparent, and at some point corruption might be so difficult to hide that discovery and consequences are functionally immediate and invevitable, such that the cost of corruption becomes too great for those in positions of power. Eventually — maybe even soon, technological evolutionarily speaking — no one that matters to liars will believe their lies. Or maybe climate change will get us all first. In any case — remember to vote — or remember to boycott it!
- Disclosure about my 3rd degree connection to the Watchdogs Didn’t Bark book — in 2009 I scanned a document at NARA, in which Disconnecting the Dots author Kevin Fenton found Rich Blee’s name carelessly and serendipitously unredacted. Duffy and Nowosielski have used Blee’s name and other info to get significant public officials to talk to them on the record about events leading up to and beyond 9/11. My review of Watchdogs Didn’t Bark is here: 9/11 Watchdogs yank the ‘chop chain’
- Minor edits 9/25 for clarity/context/sourcing, including the documentary film A Good American. Also added pics of Baginski and Drake. Human beings are complicated people.