This is a fascinating article by Peter Dale Scott which compares the flow of information about Oswald after the JFK assassination with the flow of information about the alleged 9/11 hijackers. He starts by citing the stats on Oswald that were immediately circulated, that the suspect was 5'10" 165 pounds. That height was close, but the weight was way off. According to Scott, the Dallas Police later reported Oswald's height as 5'9 1/2 " (Elsewhere, I have seen 5'9") and his weight as 131 pounds (which is the same as what Gerald McKnight told me). But, 165 pounds? Oswald was never that heavy at any time in his short life. But, do you know who was? The other Oswald; meaning the "Lee" of Harvey and Lee. Scott didn't mention the work of John Armstrong, but is it possible that that weight was obtained from the military file of "Lee" and mistakenly applied to "Harvey"? RC
The JFK Assassination and 9/11: the Designated Suspects in Both Cases
In support of this overall thesis I pointed to features of 9/11 which recalled similar deep events: the still not fully understood outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the JFK assassination, and the so-called Second Tonkin Gulf Incident of 1964 (an alleged attack on U.S. destroyers which we now know never happened).
The similarities between these deep events which have disturbed American history since World War Two suggest that they are not just a sequence of unrelated external accidents, but at least in part the product of some on-going deep indigenous force not yet adequately understood.
In this series of deep events, perhaps the most striking similarities are between the JFK assassination (henceforward referred to as “JFK”) and 9/11. Earlier talks and articles I have delivered on this topic are developed even further in my forthcoming much expanded reissue of my early book, The War Conspiracy. As The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War, it is due to be published by the Mary Ferrell Foundation Press in August 2008.
The following essay is the concluding section of the new book, and has never hitherto been published.]
I wish to summarize again the first striking similarity between 11/22/63 and of 9/11/01: the dubious detective work on those two days. Less than fifteen minutes after the President’s assassination, the height and weight of Kennedy’s alleged killer was posted.1 Before the last of the hijacked planes crashed on 9/11, the FBI told Richard Clarke that they had a list of alleged hijackers.2
In the case of Oswald, within fifteen minutes of the assassination and long before Oswald was picked up in the Texas Theater, Inspector Sawyer of the Dallas police put out on the police radio network, and possibly other networks, a description of the killer – “About 30, 5’10″, 165 pounds.”3 As noted, this height and weight exactly matched the measurements attributed to Lee Harvey Oswald in Oswald’s FBI file, and also in CIA documents about him.4
The announced height and weight were however different from Oswald’s actual measurements, as recorded by the Dallas police after his arrest: 5’9 1/2″, 131 pounds.5 More importantly, there is no credible source for the posted measurements from any witness in Dallas. (The witness said to have spotted him, Howard Brennan, failed to identify Oswald in a line-up.)6 This leaves the possibility that the measurements were taken from existing files on Oswald, rather than from any observations in Dallas on November 22. If so, someone with access to those files may have already designated Oswald as the culprit, before there was any evidence to connect him to the crime.
A similar situation pertains to the alleged hijackers on 9/11. For example, shortly afterwards men in Saudi Arabia complained that “the hijackers’ `personal details’” released by the FBI — “including name, place, date of birth and occupation — matched their own.”7 One of them, Saeed al-Ghamdi, claimed further that an alleged photograph shown on CNN (of an alleged Flight 93 hijacker with the same name) was in fact a photograph of himself. He speculated “that CNN had probably got the picture from the Flight Safety flying school he attended in Florida.”8
If the above information is accurate, then the details posted by the FBI and CNN about the alleged hijackers cannot have derived from the events of 9/11, with which the survivors in Saudi Arabia would appear to have been uninvolved. Once again this leaves the strong possibility that the details were taken from existing files, rather than from empirical observations on September 11.9
And some of the hijackers, like Lee Harvey Oswald, may have been in CIA files for a special reason: because the CIA had an operational interest in them.
Internal CIA Evidence of Operational Interest in Oswald and the Hijackers
I have speculated that Oswald, like the al-Qaeda trainer Ali Mohamed, might have been a double agent reporting to the FBI about the terrorist group (Alpha 66) with which some law enforcement officers associated him.
I would like now to discuss more unequivocal evidence, from internal CIA records, about an operational CIA interest in first Oswald and later two of the alleged al-Qaeda hijackers, Nawaz al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar. In 2001 as in 1963 the CIA inexplicably withheld information about the subjects from the FBI, which ought categorically to have received it. The anomalies are extreme.
This is now easy to show in the case of Oswald. On October 10, 1963, six
weeks before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, CIA Headquarters sent out two messages about Oswald, a teletype to the FBI, State, and Navy, and a cable to the chief of the CIA’s Mexico City station. Both messages contained false and mutually contradictory statements, and also withheld known facts of great potential importance.10 The teletype to the FBI withheld the obviously significant information that Oswald had reportedly met in Mexico City with a Soviet Vice-Consul, Valeriy Kostikov, who was believed by CIA officers to be an officer of the KGB.11
One CIA officer, Jane Roman, helped draft both messages. In 1995 she was confronted by two interviewers with irrefutable evidence that she had signed off on erroneous information about Oswald in the CIA cable to Mexico City. After much questioning, she finally admitted, “I’m signing off on something I know isn’t true.” One of the interviewers, John Newman, then asked her, “‘Is this indicative of some sort of operational interest in Oswald’s file?’ ‘Yes,’ Roman replied. ‘To me it’s indicative of a keen interest in Oswald held very closely on the need-to-know basis.’” She later repeated, “I would think there was definitely some operational reason to withhold it [the information at CIA headquarters on Oswald], if it was not sheer administrative error, when you see all the people who signed off on it.”12
Other CIA officers withheld important information from the FBI in January 2000, with respect to Khalid al-Mihdar, who would later be identified as one of the al-Qaeda hijackers on September 11, 2001. The NSA overheard on a Yemeni telephone about a meeting in Malaysia which al-Mihdar would attend, along with Tewfiq bin Attash, the mastermind of the fatal attack on the USS Cole.13 It notified the CIA but not the FBI. In consequence
[Khalid al-Mihdar’s] Saudi passport – which contained a visa for travel to the United States – was photocopied [in Qatar] and forwarded to CIA headquarters. The information was not shared with FBI headquarters until August 2001. An FBI agent detailed to the Bin Ladin unit at the CIA attempted to share this information with colleagues at FBI Headquarters. A CIA desk officer instructed him not to send the cable with this information. Several hours later, this same desk officer drafted a cable distributed solely within CIA alleging that the visa documents had been shared with the FBI.14
Lawrence Wright, reviewing this and other significant anomalies, reported in The Looming Tower the belief among FBI agents following bin Laden “that the agency was protecting Mihdar and [his companion, the alleged 9/11 hijacker Nawaz al-] Hazmi because it hoped to recruit them,” or alternatively that “the CIA was running a joint venture with Saudi intelligence” using al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi.15 Wright himself speculated in a companion essay he wrote for The New Yorker that “The CIA may also have been protecting an overseas operation and was afraid that the F.B.I. would expose it.”16
The Consequences of the CIA’s Withholding of Evidence
As just noted, the CIA, in its teletype to the FBI of October 10, 1963, withheld the information that Oswald had reportedly met with a KGB officer, Valeriy Kostikov. Former FBI Director Clarence Kelley in his memoir later complained that this failure to inform the FBI was the major reason why Oswald was not put under surveillance on November 22, 1963.17 In other words, the withholding enabled Oswald to play whatever role he played on that fateful day, even if it was only to become a designated patsy.
FBI officials are even more bitter about the consequences of the withholding of information about al-Mihdar:
They didn’t want the bureau meddling in their business – that’s why they didn’t tell the FBI….They purposely hid from the FBI, purposely refused to tell the bureau that they were following a man in Malaysia who had a visa to come to America….And that’s why September 11 happened. That is why it happened….They have blood on their hands. They have three thousand deaths on their hands.18
But the CIA withheld information from the FBI about bin Attash (already the subject of a criminal investigation) as well, even when asked by an FBI agent, Ali Soufan, about bin Attash and the Malaysia meeting. According to Wright,
The agency did not respond to his clearly stated request. The fact that the CIA withheld information about the mastermind of the Cole bombing and the meeting in Malaysia, when directly asked by the FBI, amounted to obstruction of justice in the death of the seventeen American sailors.”19
In late August 2001, only days before 9/11, FBI agent Steve Bongardt, complaining about the CIA’s withholding of information about al-Mihdar, correctly predicted in an angry email to the CIA’s bin Laden unit that “someday someone will die.”20
The CIA’s Dishonest Efforts to Cover-Up
From the moment Congress, in the 1970s, began to evince an interest in the Kennedy assassination, former CIA officer David Phillips became a vigorous defender of the CIA’s performance. With respect to false information about Oswald in CIA cables both to and from Mexico City (where Phillips was in charge of Cuban affairs for the CIA station), Phillips’s first response was to dismiss Oswald as “a blip” of no interest.21
A similar defense of the CIA’s failure to act on al-Mihdar was offered to the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 by the Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Cofer Black: “I think that month we watchlisted about 150 people.”22 The same defense was offered by Dale Watson, the FBI’s former counterterrorism chief:
There were a lot of red flags prior to 9/11….So it’s a mass of information and it’s a sea of threats, and it’s like working against a maze. If you know where the end point of a maze is, it’s certainly easier to work your way back to the starting point than trying to go through the maze and sort out all the red flags.23
The problem with this excuse is that both Oswald and al-Mihdar were singled out for special CIA attention, not left floating in a sea of red flags. The cable to Mexico City which Jane Roman signed off on was not handled routinely, it was sent for signature to the CIA’s Assistant Deputy Director for Plans, Thomas Karamessines. And in the case of al-Mihdar in Malaysia, back in 2000
CIA leaders were so convinced about the potential significance of the al Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, they not only set up surveillance of it, but provided regular updates to the FBI director [Louis Freeh], the head of the CIA [George Tenet], and the national security advisor [Samuel Berger].24
That Freeh and Berger were being notified at the top about the Malaysia meeting (at the same time that the regular FBI bureaucracy was being cut out) is confirmed in accounts by Terry McDermott and Philip Shenon.25
CIA officials testified falsely to congressional committees with respect to both Oswald and al-Mihdar. James Angleton was asked by the staff of the House Select Committee on Assassinations about a memoir written by the CIA’s station chief in Mexico City, Win Scott, and later personally retrieved for the Agency after Scott’s death by Angleton himself. Angleton testified that Scott’s “manuscript was fictional and did not include a chapter on Oswald.” In fact, according to Jefferson Morley, “The only surviving manuscript is clearly nonfictional and does have a chapter on Oswald.”26
Both George Tenet and Cofer Black testified before the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 that the FBI had been granted access to the information linking al-Mihdar and Tewfiq bin Attash (alias Khallad), the mastermind of the Cole bombing. The 9/11 Commission, after a lengthy review of the matter, concluded “this was not the case.”27
The CIA, Oswald, and Al-Mihdar: Suppression of Vital Records
That the CIA regards its relationship to the suspects Oswald and al-Mihdar as sensitive is further illustrated by its suppression of vital evidence with respect to both. Although in the 1990s all government agencies were required by law to submit their Oswald-related documents to the Assassination Records Review Board, the CIA has been vigorously resisting pressure to do this in the case of former CIA officer George Joannides. In 1963 Joannides was the case officer for AMSPELL, the CIA’s operation in support of the Cuban exile group DRE (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil). In August 1963 the DRE was in contact with Oswald and participated with him in a radio broadcast which was later distributed with CIA help throughout Latin America.28
According to Jefferson Morley, “four decades after the fact, the most important AMSPELL records are missing from CIA archives – perhaps intentionally.” Monthly reports on DRE activities were filed by CIA case officers Ross Crozier and William Kent, and these records were declassified by the ARRB for the periods September 1960-November 1962 and after May 1964.
But the board was unable to locate any monthly AMSPELL reports from December 1962 to April 1964. There was a seventeen-month gap in the AMSPELL records, which coincided exactly with the period in which George Joannides handled the group.29
With respect to 9/11, all that is known about suppression so far has to do with the public record. Here it is striking that the Report of the Joint Inquiry by Congress into 9/11 has one glaring redaction of twenty-eight pages, dealing with “sources of foreign support for some of the September 11th hijackers while they were in the United States.” Press reports have specified that this refers to Saudi money which reached al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi in 2000 while they were in San Diego. According to committee cochair Senator Bob Graham,
The draft contained a twenty-eight page passage that detailed evidence that Saudis in the United States – Saudi government “spies,” Graham called them – had provided financial and logistical support to [al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi] while they lived in Southern California.30
Similarly the 9/11 Commission failed to deal with the information on an FBI “hijacker timeline” that al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi were met at the airport on their first arrival in the United States by Omar al-Bayoumi, the transmitter of the Saudi funds, whom Graham claimed was obviously “a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent.”31 The FBI findings were leaked in an early story in Newsweek:
At the airport, they were swept up by a gregarious fellow Saudi, Omar al-Bayoumi, who had been living in the United States for several years. Al-Bayoumi drove the two men to San Diego, threw a welcoming party and arranged for the visitors to get an apartment next to his. He guaranteed the lease, and plunked down $1,550 in cash to cover the first two months’ rent.32
One month later, “In January 2003, Graham and the other members of the committee were …the focus of a criminal investigation by the FBI into whether someone on the panel had leaked classified information.”33
The 9/11 Commission avoided this sensitive area. It cited the FBI Chronology a total of 52 times in its footnotes, for example at 493n55, concerning al-Mihdar’s travel from Yemen to the Malaysian meeting. But it suppressed the FBI’s report that al-Bayoumi met al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi on their arrival; and it substituted what Shenon calls an “improbable tale” supplied by al-Bayoumi himself: namely, that he had run into the two men two weeks later by accident “at a halal food restaurant” near Los Angeles.34
It is clear that two members of the 9/11 Commission staff who redacted this part of the report – Dietrich Snell and Philip Zelikow – were concerned to tone down what junior staffers considered to be “explosive material” on the Saudis.35 Shenon tells how this section of the 9/11 report was rewritten by Snell and Zelikow, until the text “removed all of the most serious allegations against the Saudis.”36
But Snell and Zelikow may have been protecting the CIA as well as the Saudis. We have already noted how Lawrence Wright, looking at the extraordinary CIA record on withholding information about al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi, concluded, “It is also possible, as some FBI investigators suspect, the CIA was running a joint venture with Saudi intelligence.”37
It is clear, as everyone who has studied these matters closely and impartially concurs, that there have been cover-ups of the CIA’s relationships to first Oswald and later al-Mihdar – cover-ups which in both cases have not yet been adequately resolved.
A reasonable conclusion from the available evidence is that the cover-ups were in order to conceal prior CIA operational interest in the designated subjects, just as in the case of Ali Mohamed in the early 1990s. It could of course be a coincidence that people of operational interest to the CIA became designated subjects in the deep events of JFK and 9/11. Another, more disturbing possibility is that those responsible for these events knew of the CIA’s operational interest, and exploited it in such a way as to ensure that the government would be embarrassed into covering up what really happened on those days.
A lot of books about 9/11, including my own, have focused on the roles played by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld on that day. But it is clear that 9/11 involved a USG connection to at least one figure (Ali Mohamed) so sensitive that it had been covered up from the time of the Nosair murder in 1990 and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. It is probable that Oswald’s covert USG connections also dated back to the time of his strange release from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1959, enabling him to travel to the Soviet Union.38
In short there is a substratum of covert operations underlying both events that antedates the presidencies in which they occurred. Thus one should not expect the cover-up of 9/11 in the G.W. Bush administration to dissipate simply because the Democrats take over the White House, just as the Johnson administration’s cover-up of the Kennedy assassination did not dissipate with the election of Richard Nixon.39
This is said not out of despair, but out of belief in the ultimate resilience and good sense of the American people. The analysis in this book is that America’s involvement in two disastrous wars – first Vietnam and later Iraq – was not an outcome of the people’s will, but rather in large part because of deep events that were used to manipulate that will. Thus this analysis is not an attack on America, but on that manipulative mindset that has twice succeeded in maneuvering America into war.
This dominant mindset is not restricted to intelligence agencies, though it is largely rooted there. Over time it has spread into other parts of government, and has also corrupted large sections of the media and even universities. That the mindset is widespread does not however make it either omnipotent or invincible.
It is important to identify the dominant mindset clearly, if we are ever going to displace it. It is important also to recognize that the dark topics discussed in this book are not representative of America as a whole. In the half century since the CIA’s first adventures in Burma and Laos, America has continued to be, as in the two centuries before it, a source of life-enhancing innovations, such as the computer and the internet.
As Amy Chua has written in her book Day of Empire,
If America can rediscover the path that has been the secret to its success since its founding and avoid the temptations of empire building, it could remain the world’s hyperpower in the decades to come – not a hyperpower of coercion and military force, but a hyperpower of opportunity, dynamism, and moral force.40I have tried to suggest in this book that the key to this rediscovery is the identification and displacement of the manipulative forces that have maneuvered America, almost unsuspectingly, into two unnecessary and disastrous wars.
If there is any merit to my analysis, then, to isolate those forces, we must press for the truth about both the Kennedy assassination and 9/11.