source: Raw Story
by Muriel Kane
The super-secretive National Security Agency has been quietly monitoring, decrypting, and interpreting foreign communications for decades, starting long before it came under criticism as a result of recent revelations about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Now a forthcoming PBS documentary asks whether the NSA could have prevented 9/11 if it had been more willing to share its data with other agencies.
Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA in his 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, and found that it had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden’s satellite phone, starting in 1996.
“The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington,” Bamford told PBS.
PBS also found that “the 9/11 Commission never looked closely into NSA’s role in the broad intelligence breakdown behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. If they had, they would have understood the full extent to which the agency had major pieces of the puzzle but never put them together or disclosed their entire body of knowledge to the CIA and the FBI.”
In a review of Bamford’s book, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey wrote, “As the 9/11 Commission later established, U.S. intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda had held a planning meeting in Malaysia, found out the names of two recruits who had been present — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — and suspected that one and maybe both of them had flown to Los Angeles. Bamford reveals that the NSA had been eavesdropping for months on their calls to Yemen, yet the agency ‘never made the effort’ to trace where the calls originated. ‘At any time, had the FBI been notified, they could have found Hazmi in a matter of seconds.’”
Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told PBS, “None of this information that we’re speaking about this evening’s in the 9/11 Commission report. They simply ignored all of it.”