The whole story is over at Truthout, but I wanted to highlight the main points, and explain why this has any importance right now.
I wrote the story because the information came across my desk, so to speak, and while the 2008 Defense Department Inspector General report has been in the public domain for over a year now (see this page at Secrecy News), it was never really closely analyzed, and hardly ever noted in the press. Not one major paper has ever mentioned it. But since it involves charges regarding intelligence agencies and Osama bin Laden, much in the news as regards what was known and not known about his location and movements, I thought it worth reporting.
In brief, the IG report details the allegations of a former member of the Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC), an intelligence group attached to U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM). The whistleblower, known only as “IRON MAN” (always all caps in the report), filed a complaint with the DoD IG in 2006, alleging that his agency (JFIC) had not truthfully answered questions submitted to it by the 9/11 Commission. Technically, the questions were sent to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which forwarded them to USJFCOM, which subsequently sent them down to JFIC. There was an even deeper layer: JFIC’s secret Asymmetric Threats Division, known by an obscure acronym, “DO5.” No one has ever written about DO5 until blogger-investigator Susie Dow mentioned it in a blog post earlier this month. (Note: DO5 was moved out of JFIC in the summer of 2001, not long, apparently, after it was ordered to stop tracking Bin Laden.)
Analysts at DO5, which was formed in 1999, had been tracking Osama bin Laden’s movements, as well as looking at Afghan “terrorist training camps.” Interestingly, when they weren’t doing this, they were helping out the Joint Task Force – Civil Support (JTF-CS) by “‘establishing fictional terrorist organizations that would mimic real world terrorist groups’ that were utilized as part of JTF-CS ‘exercises.’” JTF-CS, based in Fort Monroe, Virginia, was concerned with responding to terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. When asked, JFIC told the IG that DO5 was never involved in the development of “unilateral” intelligence collection in the U.S.
The core of IRON MAN’s allegations was that DO5 had produced original intelligence on terrorists that would link to 9/11, including identification of targets at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was only as an incidental comment about what Congress should have been asking in regards to JFIC’s work (see quote below), that the IG’s response brought up the issue of stopping the tracking of Bin Laden, something the IG report not only confirms, but narrates (bold emphasis added, spellings kept as in original):
The IG report, which does not explain the 18-month delay in opening an investigation, cleared JFIC of any wrongdoing and declared that the intelligence agency had “provided a timely and accurate reply in response to the 9/11 Commission.” In evident response, IRON MAN indicated to the IG investigating staff that “he had never seen the 9/11 Commission questions or JFIC’s response, but that Congress should have asked for files concerning the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin.”
According to the IG report, the 9/11 Commission “had not requested the direct submission of any files or requested information regarding the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin”….
According to the narrative in the IG report, a previous JFIC deputy director of intelligence said that the JFIC commander, identified elsewhere in the report as Capt. Janice Dundas, US Navy, “directed him to stop tracking Usama Bin Ladin. The Commanding Officer stated that the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin did not fall within JFIC’s mission.” At the same time, JFIC analysis of purported Afghanistan “terrorist training camps” was also curtailed, with an explanation that such activities were outside the agency’s Area of Operations and “that the issues where [sic] not in JFIC’s swim lane.”
As to DO5′s area of operations, according to the IG report, a former JFIC deputy director of intelligence told investigators that DO5 had “no theater specific mission.”
Okay… so why am I hashing over this 9/11 and Bin Laden business? It’s really quite simple. Here we are almost ten years out from 9/11, and you are just reading for the first time about a military intelligence unit that was pulled off from tracking a major terrorist wanted by the United States, and a whistleblower — who ended up writing to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence when the DoD IG wouldn’t move on his complaint for over a year — from within the IC (IRON MAN is apparently now at DIA, his career apparently not suffering for his whistleblowing) who is saying DoD components of the IC withheld information on Al Qaeda from Congress and the 9/11 Commission.
I don’t think the implications of this story are only about 9/11. I write primarily about the torture scandal, trying to uncover what I can about the actual parameters of the torture program. What strikes me is this: how very, very little we actually know — how much we are limited by access, secrecy, lies, and normative obeisance to a mainstream narrative (of which I’m as guilty as anybody) such that it’s not even clear that our investigations are headed in the right direction or not.
Another matter concerns the honesty of the Inspector General process itself. As documented in the original story, the IG report makes claims about the honesty of the questions JFIC answered for the 9/11 Commission that simply are not true. Even more amazingly, or brazenly (or perhaps just stupidly), the IG report reprints the questions and answers to the 9/11 Commission as an appendix, so anyone can easily see they are not telling the truth. (The IG report claimed JFIC told the Commission about DO5 in one of the answers to the questionnaire, but they evidently did not.)
One thing is clear: the Intelligence Community and its various components are, like the entire military-industrial complex, quite out of control. I don’t believe there is even one person today who has a decent overview of its entire breadth and stretch. While the scandals and defections from the CIA in the 1970s left us with some kind of idea about how that agency worked, military intelligence agencies, like the DIA or JFIC fly mostly under the radar of public perception. While some, like Jeremy Scahill, have given us a deep look into IC/DoD contracting agencies, like Blackwater, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds more of significance that are either unknown, or barely investigated. (The Truthout story mentions one of them, Ultra Services, which Susie Dow reported on.)
I’m well aware that writing anything on 9/11 exposes me to labeling as some kind of conspiracy nut, or outside of legitimate news discourse. But I don’t have to believe that airline passengers were spirited away to a secret site (like on the fantasy sci-fi TV show “The Event”), to know that U.S. citizens never got a clean story about 9/11. I realized this when it was pointed out a few years ago that many of the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission report relied upon tortured evidence.
It’s not just 9/11, or torture, or investigating BP, the Koch brothers, the mysterious deaths at Guantanamo, or any particular one thing: the public’s need-to-know groans under a burden of ignorance and over-reliance on leaks from governmental officials who themselves are sworn to secrecy, or are invested with spinning history in a particular fashion. I can’t know the ultimate significance of the JFIC/DO5/Bin Laden story. It might be important, or merely a small side note. But we literally don’t know enough. The Obama administration promised to be open and transparent, but it has erected a wall of “state secrets” to cover up the crimes of previous administrations, and intimidate those who would try to ferret out the truth.