9/11 Commission Director: No Evidence that CIA Sought to Recruit Hijackers

Strategic View

In our continuing drive to spur healthy debate in the national security space, The Cipher Brief is sharing this op-ed from Philip Zelikow, the Former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, responding to a particular allegation about CIA information sharing with the FBI before the attacks of Sept. 11 on New York and Washington. We also invite you to join in the conversation, posting your point of view for submission at our new link at the bottom of this article, POV.

Recently, in September 2017, the History Channel aired an episode of a documentary on “The Road to 9/11” that repeated a disturbing allegation that CIA leaders, possibly including Director George Tenet, intentionally chose to withhold vital information from the FBI that might have prevented the 9/11 attack.

The allegation is that CIA leaders did this so that the agency could try to recruit al-Qaeda operatives whom they knew to be in the United States. I have been asked about this allegation from time to time over the more than thirteen years since the 9/11 Commission published its report. This most recent repetition shows the need to put the point on the public record: there is no evidence to support this serious allegation.

The background is that in January 2000, the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center had learned that two terrorist suspects, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, men whom they were attempting to track in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, had obtained visas to visit the United States. The Center also learned in March that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had apparently traveled from Bangkok to Los Angeles back in January.

No one outside of the Counterterrorist Center was told any of this. An FBI agent detailed to the Center attempted to share this information with his headquarters; a CIA desk officer at the Center told him not to. Several hours later, this same desk officer drafted a cable distributed solely within CIA stating, incorrectly, that the visa documents had been shared with the FBI. The desk officer later admitted that she had not shared the information with the FBI and did not recall who had told her that the information had been shared.  (9/11 Commission Report, pp. 181-82 and notes on p. 502; also Commission Staff Statement #2.)

Information and discussion about al-Mihdhar resurfaced in January, May and June 2001 in a series of investigative efforts that reopened examination of a terrorist meeting in Kuala Lumpur. For a set of complicated reasons that we detailed in our report, none of these discussions led to a focus on the presence of operatives in the United States or adequately alerted the FBI.

Finally, in yet another reexamination of the Kuala Lumpur material suggested by a CIA officer, an FBI analyst detailed to the CIA made the link that an al Qaeda operative might be in the United States, putting together the evidence during late July and the first weeks of August. By Aug. 24, a search effort for al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had begun in the United States. For reasons we detail in the report, the search within the United States did not bear fruit in time to disrupt the 9/11 attack. (Report, pp. 266-72, 353-57.)

Former senior White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke and a former FBI agent, Mark Rossini, alleged in the History Channel program that the CIA failures to share information with the FBI appear to have been deliberate. This was because, they say, the CIA had hoped to recruit al-Mihdhar or al-Hazmi to become agency informants, a plan approved by Director of the CIA Tenet and CIA leadership. This is obviously a grave allegation.

There is no evidence that this allegation is true. There is plenty of evidence that it is false. The Commission’s investigators interviewed all the relevant individuals (including Mr. Clarke and Mr. Rossini), in the course of the overlapping investigations conducted by the Commission and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. When those individuals were interviewed by the Commission and the Office of the Inspector General, they knew that if they lied they could face criminal prosecution. They also knew that we had access to the relevant internal CIA and FBI records, including electronic indications of who had accessed what records and all of the briefings prepared by the Counterterrorist Center every day for Director Tenet — so that we could check on what they were telling us. Although it is not cited in our report, the Commission also had access to the good work and interviews that had been conducted internally and separately by the CIA’s Inspector General.

If the “recruitment theory” posited by Clarke and Rossini were true, there would be evidence of a recruitment effort — some CIA attempt to locate and contact al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. There is no such evidence. Nor was there any evidence of a recruitment plan or even the consideration of one. Instead, the evidence showed – as we detail in our Report – repeated confusion about who was being sought and where. There were several occasions during the work in the first half of 2001 when the dots might have been connected but, due to particular circumstances in each case, unfortunately this did not happen.

The dots did start getting connected in July 2001. And, contrary to the premise of the “recruitment theory,” this breakthrough happened because a persistent CIA officer, a man involved in much of the earlier work, asked an FBI analyst to look at the Kuala Lumpur materials one more time. As mentioned above, the subsequent search for al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi barely got underway before 9/11, for reasons that had little to do with the CIA.

In making the allegation about a supposed recruitment scheme, Clarke offered no new evidence to support it. To be fair to Clarke, he was a committed public servant, committed to countering the terrorist threat; perhaps he is still straining for less banal explanations for what happened. Rossini had no new evidence either. And neither man made any such claims when they were interviewed, at length, by knowledgeable investigators from the Commission or the Justice IG who had access to relevant records. The credibility of Rossini’s statements in recent years are further suspect: In 2009, Rossini pleaded guilty to illegally searching FBI computers in order to help a Hollywood private investigator who was himself being prosecuted, and was later sentenced to a lengthy prison term for criminal misconduct.

The 9/11 investigation did find problems. In addition to larger problems at the level of national policy and institutional capabilities, the Commission’s report “detailed various missed opportunities to thwart the 9/11 plot. Information was not shared, sometimes inadvertently or because of legal misunderstandings. Analysis was not pooled. Effective operations were not launched. Often the handoffs of information were lost across the divide separating the foreign and domestic agencies of the government.” (p. 353).

But neither the 9/11 Commission nor any other of the investigations found evidence that would support the allegation that Clarke and Rossini are now making.

The Commission was charged to determine what happened; it was up to the rest of the U.S. government to determine what personnel actions should follow. The Commission was very critical of a number of policy and managerial choices. The U.S. government, and the National Counterterrorism Center created in 2004 at the Commission’s recommendation, have learned much since then.

Yet, while it is important to note the problems, it is even more important to put them in context. Among the many tragedies of 9/11, one was that the agencies that later received the most negative attention, like the CIA and the FBI, were also the agencies where dedicated sets of officials had spent years doing more than anyone else in the U.S. government to combat the emerging terrorism threat. Specifically at the CIA, many devoted public servants including the CIA’s leaders were doing what they could, as best they knew how, to combat the terrorism danger posed by groups like al-Qaeda. It is neither fair nor accurate to tar these men and women with unfounded assertions of deliberate misconduct.

Strategic View
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17 Responses

  1. Mark Rossini says:

    Dear Mr. Zelikow: I read with profound interest your missive, written with all the weight and authority of your role as the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission. I was taken aback by the factual inaccuracies you wrote about as to statements given by Mr. Clarke and myself. You could not be any more wrong.

    Speaking only for myself, I arrived at the theory of recruitment as a plausible reason why the draft CIR written by my FBI colleague, Special Agent Douglas J. Miller was purposely blocked from being sent to the FBI on or about January 6th, 1999 since no other logical reason could be determined.

    A canard has been floated that the FBI and CIA never shared anything prior to 9/11 and therefore, that was the reason why SA Miller’s CIR was never sent. As the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission you know that not to be true. You never drilled down as to why of all the 100’s if not 1000’s of CIR’s, IIR, LHM’s, etc., sent between the two agencies each year, that SA Miller’s memo was stopped. There are even instant messages between the person who told me not to speak with the FBI about the contents of SA Miller’s memo and Deputy Unit Chief of Alex Station at that time, in which it was decided that SA Miller’s CIR was not to be sent to the FBI.

    In your piece you seek to attack my credibility, as you are wont to do. The familiar tactic of “Shooting the messenger” instead of the message. Touche. Regarding your first attack of my credibility, you mention my testimony/interviews with 9/11 investigators and implied muteness on this subject. At the time of the interviews I had not yet come to the conclusions I made during the History Channel program. I first came to put the pieces together in 2008, and they were aired during the PBS NOVA Special “The Spy Factory” in January 2009.

    Secondly you bring up my departure from the FBI. Once again you get the facts wrong in seeking to discredit me. I never knew or ever met the “Hollywood private investigator” you refer to, and moreover, never, ever did searches for him or anyone on his behalf. You relied on gossip columns I am sure, rather than actual court records.

    One last note on your attempt to discredit me. You never mention the Hollywood Private investigator’s name, and your editorial sleight of hand in writing of the Private Investigator’s conviction, and lengthy prison sentence is perhaps a clever trick to induce the speed reader or the ignorant that it was I who went to jail. There are no pronouns to distinguish. For you, someone who prides themselves on getting the facts straight, whose integrity is beyond reproach, and that you are final authority on the issues surrounding 9/11, this piece by you shows that you do not always get your facts right.

    Speaking of facts and truthfulness, please read this quote, which I am sure you have seen: “What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one of the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction”. — Thomas H. Kean & Lee H. Hamilton, January 2, 2008, Chair & Vice-Chair of The 9-11 Commission. What do you say to their statement? Did you make any further inquiries? You, I, and the Public know of what public officials Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton were referring to. Are the “government officials” too big to touch? What was your reaction when you read their joint statement?

    Lastly, here is a link to a document I wrote regarding the “Why” of 9/11.

    • Philip Zelikow says:

      The final question in Mr. Rossini’s comment was to ask what I had to say in response to a quotation about CIA obstruction from Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, a quotation published in January 2008. What I can say is that I shared their concern. I even assisted in the preparation of the op-ed piece he quotes.

      But that NYT piece, and our concern, had little to do with Mr. Rossini’s allegation of a deliberate ‘recruitment plan’ to explain CIA information sharing problems in 2000 or 2001. In that January 2008 essay we were reacting to a different matter, the 2007 disclosure that the CIA had destroyed videotapes made of the interrogations of suspects of interest to our Commission. That was an important controversy, but a different one. The CIA’s unique interrogation program, which I’ve publicly discussed and written about, had presented a very special set of investigative challenges.

      Also, to be clear, in his criminal case Mr. Rossini was reported in the Washington Post to have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to one year of probation and a fine. It was the Hollywood private investigator involved in the case, Anthony Pellicano, who had earlier been sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

      • Kathleen Owens says:

        My husband was killed in the World Trade Center and in my experience and opinion, it is Mark Rossini who should be believed. Philip Zelikow loves to say there was “no evidence” but he was instrumental in making sure of that. We are still waiting for thousands of documents to be declassified. The 9/11 Commission Report is not a complete or definitive resource. If you want to know more, read Philip Shenon’s “The Commission.”

      • kristen says:

        philip–what do you make of prince bandar’s comment on cnn back in 2007? http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/11/01/saudiarabia.terrorism/index.html

        Specifically when Bandar said: “Saudi Arabia could have helped the United States prevent al Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on New York and Washington if American officials had consulted Saudi authorities in a “credible” way.”

        Speaking to the Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya in 2007, Bandar said, “Saudi intelligence was “actively following” most of the September 11, 2001, plotters “with precision.”

        Bandar went on to say, “If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened.”

        Philip, I always fondly recall your thoughts on everything “being connected” when it came to 9/11. so i look forward to your response particularly since–according to you–there was no attempt to recruit the hijackers. well, at least by U.S. intelligence agencies.

        • kristen says:

          philip–what do you make of prince bandar’s comment on cnn back in 2007? http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/11/01/saudiarabia.terrorism/index.html

          Specifically when Bandar said: “Saudi Arabia could have helped the United States prevent al Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on New York and Washington if American officials had consulted Saudi authorities in a “credible” way.”

          Speaking to the Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya in 2007, Bandar said, “Saudi intelligence was “actively following” most of the September 11, 2001, plotters “with precision.”

          Bandar went on to say, “If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened.”

          Philip, I always fondly recall your thoughts on everything “being connected” when it came to 9/11. so i look forward to your response particularly since–according to you–there was no attempt to recruit the hijackers. well, at least by U.S. intelligence agencies.

      • Lorie Van Auken says:

        Philip, speaking as a 9/11 widow who fought for the 9/11 Commission, attended all of the Commission hearings, regularly submitted questions for the Commission, and often met with the staff and Commissioners, to be clear, I want to say that I believe Mark Rossini.
        Lorie Van Auken

      • Monica Gabrielle says:


        It’s been 13 years since the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report and you are still attempting to “set the record straight” regarding contradictions to it’s findings.

        Perhaps had not so many questions been left unanswered, the “treasure trove” of documents at the NSA looked at, allowing agencies, such as NORAD, to lie to the Commission, allowing New York City officials to grandstand, had the Commission subpoenaed early and often … maybe, maybe we could believe your assertions.

        Quite frankly, the 9/11 Commission’s mandate was to investigate and make recommendations. It would have thus been in the Commission’s purview to make personnel change recommendations. The fact that you decided to “not point fingers” keeps us a nation at risk. And, let’s be truthful, the decision to not assign blame was a political decision … it was after all an election year!

        We wanted a full investigation into the murder of our loved ones. Most importantly, we wanted accountability for those brutal, needless murders and to fix any and all problems unearthed to ensure that no one ever had to walk in our shoes.

        It has been 16 years … and we are no safer. Adding more layers of bureaucracy to a system without holding anyone accountable for their failures seems to have resulted in more people walking in our shoes. I am deeply saddened.

        Monica Gabrielle
        9/11 Widow

      • Mark Rossini says:

        Dear Mr. Zelikow: Thank you for your follow up comment. I noticed in your response above, that you did not attempt to address the stifling of SA Doug Miller’s draft CIR. Curious. Perhaps you may deem it unworthy of your time and dignity to read the PDF attached to my last statement, but I encourage you to do so. I also address the meaning behind the statement given my Mr. Kean, and Mr. Hamilton. As you wrote in your response, the issues surrounding their statement “had presented a very special set of investigative challenges.” Yes. I know why as do you. Some people or organizations are just to big to fail in the overall political arena.

        Your work and that of the entire 9/11 Commission should be lauded. It was and will remain an incredible educational tool for the American people and generations to come to understand “What Happened”. The document attached to my first writing sought to understand “Why It Happened”. Two distinct methods of inquiry and mindset.

        Lastly, glad you admit that you consulted a Washington Post article as part of your “Shoot the Messenger” effort. Thank you for the pronoun and clarification. Whilst I read the Washington Post daily with admiration, you and I both know how reporters sometimes get things wrong.

    • Mindy Kleinberg says:

      44. CIA cable,“Activities of Bin Ladin Associate Khalid Revealed,” Jan. 4, 2000. His Saudi passport—which contained a visa for travel to the United States—was photocopied and forwarded to CIA headquarters.This information was not shared with FBI headquarters until August 2001. An FBI agent detailed to the Bin Ladin unit at 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. She admitted she did not personally share the information and cannot identify who told her they had been shared.We were unable to locate anyone who claimed to have shared the information. Contemporaneous documents contradict the claim that they were shared. DOJ Inspector General interview of Doug M., Feb. 12, 2004; DOJ Inspector General interview of Michael,Oct. 31, 2002; CIA cable, Jan. 5, 2000; DOJ Inspector General report,“A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the 9/11 Attacks,” July 2, 2004, p. 282.


      I find it curious that you would feel the need to refute Mark Rossini’s supposition. And so emphatically, at that.

      In Footnote 44 of your 9/11 Commission Report you tell the public that an FBI agent detailed to the CIA Bin Laden unit (sounds like agencies working together, but I digress) was told to purposefully withhold information regarding two known terrorists to the FBI. This information had it been shared could have possibly thwarted the 9/11 attacks. That’s how important that information was. And it was not withheld due to a “wall” between agencies or lack of information sharing but rather purposefully, criminally withheld. And yet the Commission Report just leaves it at that. No further discussion on why that critical piece of information was withheld, no further investigation of who committed that obstruction and no consequence for the person that committed that crime. Were they left in their postion at the CIA? Could the Nation be safe with someone like that in that position? Was that not the purpose of the 9/11 Commission to begin with? To make recommendations that would make us safe?

      So if what you posit in your article is true, then what was the reason for this withholding of evidence and what have you done about it?

      Mindy Kleinberg 9/11 widow

      • Rodney Faraon says:

        I thank Philip Zelikow for taking the time to set the record straight on the unproven allegation that CIA senior leaders such as George Tenet had deliberately blocked the sharing of information with the FBI about al-Qa’ida. Let’s be clear: this allegation has always been the idle speculation and imagination of Richard Clarke who himself has said he has no evidence to believe this was the case. Yet he persists in pushing this, which in today’s parlance can only be called “fake news.” The biggest problem is that he never raises alternative competing hypotheses for the mistakes that CIA officers had made and focuses only on the most sensational scenario, which ascribes the most base motives to honorable men and women on the 7th floor. Who, ironically, were Clarke’s only friends and allies in the war against al-Qa’ida during the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

        • Mindy Kleinberg says:

          Dear Rodney,

          What record has Phillip Zelikow set straight?

          Let’s be really clear, it was in fact his job to do that in his 9/11 Commission report. He was supposed to flesh out the who, what, why, and how. And quite frankly, this particular incident does not need to lend itself to theories or “fake news”. It is rather uncomplicated. One agent told an underling to purposely withhold information from the FBI. Not hard to determine who that agent was and interrogate them to determine whether this was a rogue act or something worse. Zelikow’s investigation and report fails to make clear whether this interrogation took place and the result from it.

          The biggest problem is that Zelikow fails to give any hypotheses for the mistakes the CIA officer makes. The fact that Rossini, an agent involved in this incident, and Clarke, a former National Security advisor, choose to give us a possible reason is due to the fact that Zelikow does not do that at all. And just whining and complaining that someone is offering an opinion without offering another real reason does nothing to set any record straight.

          So we agree, “poor intelligence analysis is made worse by lazy tradecraft and intellectual dishonesty” … by the executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

          Mindy Kleinberg and Monica Gabrielle

          9/11 Widows

        • kristen says:

          Rodney—First and foremost, regarding your sly mention of “competing hypotheses,” to be clear, the CIA takes its orders from someone. The 9/11 Families are all ears. We do not besmirch the work of the many hardworking, patriotic Americans who serve this country and have risked their lives (spending time away from their families) for the right reasons. Such people have nothing to fear from the truth, transparency, accountability and justice we seek.

          Second, please understand that Philip does not set “the record” straight on what you consider an “unproven allegation” merely by writing what amounts to a minor blog entry for this website.

          Notably, Zelikow is now a private citizen—he holds no position of authority to set any record, let alone the “story” of 9/11 that Zelikow, himself, painstakingly contrived nearly 15 years ago. Indeed, plenty of new information has been brought to light and will continue to be made available that will very likely utterly dismantle Philip’s “version” of what happened on 9/11.

          Third, please be aware that there is an agenda here that has nothing to do with telling the truth. When Zelikow makes comments that “there was simply no evidence” found by the Commission to warrant “blah, blah, blah,” you must recognize that it was Zelikow’s job to ensure that the Commission would never find the evidence it needed to make a full assessment and provide a full accounting of the “how” and “why” of 9/11. If an investigator got to close to some malfeasance on behalf of a foreign government? Philip fired them. If an investigator asked a too pointed question about an agency? Philip reassigned them. If too much damning information found its way into the Commission’s Final Report? Philip re-wrote it. Funny how, as a self-described historian, Philip fails to comprehend that you don’t rewrite history—you report it, straight.

          Fourth, why do you question the veracity of Clark’s statements—calling them speculation or imagined? Clark certainly has his own exposure on things especially wrt UAE. Nevertheless, have you read the classified version of the Joint Inquiry of Congress’ Final Report regarding same? Or the CIA Inspector General’s report? Or the classified source documents from the 9/11 Commission? Or, perhaps, you have access to the NSA’s documents surrounding Midhar, Hazmi, Khallad, and the Yemen Switchboard? Fake news? Not so much.

          Finally, we want to be crystal clear when we say this: the withholding of the information discussed herein was deliberate and purposeful. 3,000 people were murdered in cold blood as a result. And since the withholding of this information happened AFTER the Cole bombing, there is simply no room for excuse—any reasonable person would have foreseen and concluded that death or injury would result by not sharing this information. And that’s a problem when a federal grand jury is impaneled for mass murder.

          The truth will out.

          Lorie and Kristen

  2. Adam JH says:

    Its hard to make sense out of Philip Zelikow’s version of events.

    There is no real explanation for why any information on these two jihadis was not sent. We are asked to accept the admission of someone working in national security that what they said they did they never really did do.

    The FBI of course got to investigate the USS Cole bombings and the US embassy attacks. It would not be difficult for the FBI to learn about these people themselves. Why were the CIA breaking into their hotel rooms in 1999 after all?

    We still dont know why the CIA Bin Laden unit hated John O’Neil at the FBI, could that have factored into any decision not to share information with the FBI, if indeed that story is the true version?

    How did hijackers come to be living in what was effectively an FBI safe house in Lemon Grove?

    Were their details shared with ICE instead? with the NSA? with any other agency?

    There was an al-Qaeda attack planned on LAX for the Millennium. Officially these two jihadis arrived shortly after that. Could that operation have something to do with this continued confusion over who didnt tell what to whom?

    Abu Zubaydah appears to have been a Saudi agent inside Al Qaeda and that raises questions what role might the Saudis have had in this, which is another issue being ignored.

    It seems to me that the 911 Commissions approach was to take the word of those who carried out the attacks and report it as history. Without objective evidence to support claims about random meetings in Mediterranean restaurants or 7-11 car parks, there is no real way to know any of these things with any assuredness.

    Maybe Zelikow is right that CIA did not attempt to recruit these two, but saying that hardly goes any way to answer any of these questions.

    Chapter 7 of the 911 Commission report contains this statement:
    “After the pair cleared Immigration and Customs at Los Angeles International Airport, we do not know where they went.”
    Which goes some to getting at why some people are wary.

    And by the way, is it not considered significant that Anwar Aulaqi appears to have been in the Yemen at the time of the Cole bombing? Or that these two hijackers were in contact with Saudi military officers stationed at US naval facilities while in the USS, people who could have had access to ship information? Or did i just miss that.

    • MSB says:

      Looks to me like the CIA didn’t want anybody bothering the hijackers.

      • Bill says:

        Just a little copy and paste from the above — sadly, with broader implications — from “Lorie and Kristen”

        “And that’s a problem when a federal grand jury is impaneled for mass murder.”

        The truth will out.

        Lorie and Kristen

  3. Alexa O'Brien says:

    Richard Clarke raised an interesting question in a 2009 interview that isn’t addressed in this piece or subsequent comments: vis. Why didn’t the CIA raise the information (regarding Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmire that was reportedly resurfaced in July 2001) at the September 4 Principals Meeting at the White House?


    Alexa O’Brien

  4. Ronald Stoddard says:

    Mr. Zelikow asserts that if the recruitment theory was accurate, that there would be evidence of it. Perhaps the evidence has not yet been discovered? Perhaps the CIA is actually not an incompetent agency and that its officers are actually skilled in the art of deception, misdirection, and subterfuge. Mr. Zelikow also asserts that there is evidence that the recruitment theory is false, yet he fails to offer any evidence to that effect. One must always consider the source of information/analysis to judge its veracity. There is a significant amount of information publicly available which would indicate that Mr. Zelikow’s analysis lacks credibility. He initially concealed from the 9/11 commission director’s the extent of his involvement with the Bush administration including his authorship of the intellectually flawed “national security strategy” regarding preventive war. His extensive involvement in the transition of the Bush NSC in particular his recommendations regarding changing the structure of the CSG within the NSC should have disqualified him from serving on the 9/11 commission report. There is clear conflict of interest here. The re-structuring of the CSG based on his recommendations probably had a significant impact on the response of the NSC in the summer of threat (2001). His actions degraded the capability of the senior NSC director of the CSG Richard Clarke to respond appropriately to the threat by calling for a principles meeting of the NSC when the intelligence indicate that a terrorist attack was imminent in the months before 9/11. Mr. Zelikow could most accurately be described as a de facto member of the Bush administration, and therefore it was highly inappropriate for him to serve on the commission since the worst terrorist attack occurred on their watch. Mr. Zelikow’s personal and professional relationship with NSC adviser Rice clearly placed him in a natural position of seeking to minimize criticism of her performance on the NSC regarding terrorism. Mr. Zelikow’s reported firing of staff on the 9/11 commission for seeking to issue subpoenas to government agencies could almost be viewed as obstruction. I work in law enforcement and I can tell you with 100% accuracy that nobody takes you seriously if you are reluctant to issue subpoena power. The Americans who died on that day deserved better than to have a man like Zelikow sabotage the investigation by a desire to shield the Bush administration from being held accountable for their gross ineptitude. He was a part of that failure. Mr. Zelikow was present when NSC CSG director Richard Clarke briefed Dr. Rice on the terrorism threat (A fact which he probably concealed from the 9/11 directors before he secured the job as executive director). In fact Mr. Zelikow had so many conflicts of interest that he had to “recuse” himself from any issues regarding the transition. Isn’t that hard to imagine? An executive director for a congressional mandated commission “recusing” himself from a central part of the investigation. There is a good reason why Richard Clarke forbade Zelikow from having access to his book before his testimony. Mr. Clarke knew that all the information would automatically be communicated to the Bush administration. Phillip Shenon portrays Zelikow as a spy for the Bush administration. This description was probably accurate. The real reason why Mr. Zelikow reacts so strongly against the idea that the “recruitment” theory might be correct is because it will discredit his work on the 9/11 commission by re-writing the history of what occurred. If true, it will show that he failed to portray the story of 9/11 accurately. Unfortunately it appears that Mr. Clarke was correct when he said, “they got away with it.”

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