The F.B.I. knew al-Qaida was going to hijack planes in the U.S. a year before 9/11.
June 4, 2004 3:44 AM   Subscribe

A missed clue. Niaz Khan walked into an F.B.I. office and told them that he had been provided money and training by al-Qaida with the aim of hijacking a plane in the United States. [more inside]
posted by rdr (22 comments total)
My apologies for the newsfilter type post. Normally, I'm not very interested in this type of story but this one seemed as if it would probably be interesting.
posted by rdr at 3:47 AM on June 4, 2004

From the article : But the FBI insists it investigated Khan’s allegations thoroughly, could not confirm them, and had no legal grounds to hold him. Federal prosecutors agreed. and later: There’s no evidence Khan was part of the 9/11 plot.

So I'm skeptical of this. Khan had a single contact in the US who he had never met. He literally had no information to give the FBI and I doubt his white capped contact decided to hang around the airport waiting for him to show up with the Feds.

Had the FBI acted on this probably every single Muslim/Middle Eastern male entering the US would have been taken in for questioning, not exactly something that goes down well here on MeFi.
posted by PenDevil at 3:56 AM on June 4, 2004

Not every person of middle eastern descent claims he was trained in a safe house, though.
posted by Keyser Soze at 4:34 AM on June 4, 2004

Tenet is going. Will Mueller be next?
posted by caddis at 6:25 AM on June 4, 2004

The FBI can't even match fingerprints properly and are way overconfident about their abilities.
posted by dabitch at 7:44 AM on June 4, 2004

Freeh was not interested since it had nothing to do with Clinton's penis.
posted by nofundy at 7:46 AM on June 4, 2004

The best part of this guy's story (heard on NPR this morning) was when he got off the plane in New York, headed directly to Atlantic City and promptly lost all of his Al-Quaida start-up cash at the roulette table. This was quickly followed by a "moment of conscience" and his confession to the FBI.

Note to CIA/FBI: slot machines in airports are a fun, effective way to counter terroism threats!
posted by junkbox at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2004

The FBI is worthless.

With the amount of fuckups they've had in the last 15 years, why are they still being funded? It's broken. And apparently not fixable.

Fire all of them, lock the doors, and start over.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:04 AM on June 4, 2004

y6y6y6 - I'm inclined to agree except for this :

Then, we'd have a huge, aimless mob of unemployed ex-FBI agents wandering around on the streets, looking for something to do.

Many would then turn to related fields - like crime.

It would be an awful mess.
posted by troutfishing at 8:09 AM on June 4, 2004

So let's fire half of them, then turn the remainder toward arresting the first half. That would be American bureaucracy at its finest!
posted by jpoulos at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2004

Obviously if you fire all of the FBI, you bring in the MPs to sort out the mess. Duh!
posted by bonehead at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2004

I know, why don't you idiots apply. You seem to have all the answers.

you can start with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the missing cave link. Ok fellas...hop to it.
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 AM on June 4, 2004

"I know, why don't you idiots apply. You seem to have all the answers."

How would I have all the answers? I'm a computer programmer, not a cop.

But I can still note the obvious - The FBI has an incredibly bad record over the last 15 years. Every high profile case has been bungled. Every. Single. One. If this was a police department they would have all been fired and many would be in jail.

And this isn't about the details. I understand there are no guarantees with this stuff. But the FBI has been screwing up the big stuff. Regularly. Written large.

If the FBI says they've captured a spy or terrorist, there's about a 100% chance that person will be fully exonerated. If a group of people are going to make a terrorist attack that will kill hundreds of people, there is about a 0% chance the FBI will stop them.

Sure, I don't have the solution, AND the FBI is worthless.

But I would lobby you that if we eliminated the FBI today, and just had more interstate police cooperation, we would be much safer than we are now. We have our trust in a messed up organization. Time to start over.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2004

NBC News has learned that Khan passed not one but two FBI polygraphs.

Why is this quackery still used as "proof" of anything? A few days ago I read that a WMD source had "failed" a polygraph, and this was presented as somehow significant. They may as well cast the runes for each person under investigation, or do a quick tarot. Is this some weird kind of full employment for witchdoctors and fraudsters masquerading as professionals? How have these hucksters become so embedded in the US justice and espionage system?

Why does the US media report so credulously about the use of polygraphs, without explaining how they have been discredited? It seriously baffles me. It seems that using nonsense rituals to "fight terror" is not restricted to military operations in Iraq.

After long deliberation, the NAS in the US has determined that polygraphs are useless but the Justice Department made a "finding" to continue using them because, basically, nothing else worked so why not stick with something known to not work? What an elegant "solution"!
posted by meehawl at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2004

y6y6y6 - The FBI had an agent succesfully embedded with the crew which tried to blow up the WTC the first time, in '93. The idea was to substitute some sort of inert material in place of the explosives.

Then, the agent was (inexplicably) pulled off the case. The plotters weren't arrested - the attempt was made.

That's what the news stories report, anyway.

One of the members of the WW2 German crew that landed in the US in 1942, with orders to sabatogue key war production facilities, went to the FBI to turn himself in.

Dasch - an American by birth - tried for about a week to get through to someone in the FBI who would take seriously his confession of being in a Nazi saboteur team.

"Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft cites the military tribunal that convicted eight Germans of plotting attacks on US soil during World War II as a precedent for the prosecution of foreign terrorists by secret US military courts, but the 1942 experience also shows how government officials can suspend civil rights, suppress facts and pervert justice to serve their agendas. George J. Dasch may have saved the lives of hundreds of American civilians when he tipped off the FBI that he and seven other Germans had landed in the US with instructions to sabotage.....

Dasch was a German-born legal resident of the United States and had an American wife but he was swept into the German army while visiting Germany when the war started, Kantor reported. Dasch claimed he always intended to betray the saboteurs, and within hours of being placed ashore with three others at Long Island Dasch phoned the FBI's New York office, according to the records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, but the FBI agent who took the call did not regard it as important. A few days later Dasch showed up at FBI headquarters in Washington with more than $30,000 in US currency and details on the plot, but still had to convince skeptical agents over five days of questioning before the agency rounded up the other seven Germans, along with explosives and $174,588 in cash found in Florida."

So - in other words - this pattern has throughout most of the FBI's existence :

Though the agency is staffed with many talented and dedicated agents, their efforts are often undercut by the actions of incompetent colleagues or thwarted from higher up in the agency, by bureaucrats in DC acting from murky, incomprehensible, and self serving motives.

Here's some more recent examples, via Judicial Watch :

"Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, represents “whistleblowing” FBI Special Agent (SA) Robert G. Wright, Jr., of the bureau’s Chicago Division, who said today that the FBI continues to dodge accountability and cover-up its negligence and dereliction of duty in pursuing terrorists who pose a direct threat to the United States. SA Wright is the only FBI agent to seize terrorist funds (over $1.4 million) from U.S.-based Middle Eastern terrorists using federal civil forfeiture statutes, prior to the September 11th attacks. The original source of the funds was Yassin Kadi, a Saudi businessman, who is reportedly a financier of Osama bin Laden."

Then - of course - there's Colleen Rowley.
posted by troutfishing at 12:58 PM on June 4, 2004

"Though the agency is staffed with many talented and dedicated agents"

I have no doubt this is true. It's the agency which is broken beyond repair. But it's silly to think you can take all the parts of such a malfuction and somehow rearrange things so that they work.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:37 PM on June 4, 2004

And don't forget translator Sibel Edmonds, who is going to be on 60 minutes again this Sunday.
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on June 4, 2004

So - in other words - this pattern has throughout most of the FBI's existence :

Four men, led by George John Dasch, age 39, landed on a beach near Amagansett, Long Island, New York, about 12:10 a.m., June 13, 1942. Accompanying Dasch were Ernest Peter Burger, 36; Heinrich Harm Heinck, 35; and Richard Quirin, 34. On June 17, 1942, the other group landed at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, south of Jacksonville. The leader was Edward John Kerling, age 33; with Werner Thiel, 35; Herman Otto Neubauer, 32 (no photo available); and Herbert Hans Haupt, 22. Both groups landed wearing complete or partial German uniforms to ensure treatment as prisoners of war rather than as spies if they were caught in the act of landing.Having landed unobserved, the uniforms were quickly discarded, to be buried with the sabotage material (which was intended to be later retrieved), and civilian clothing was donned. The saboteurs quickly dispersed. The Florida group made their way to Jacksonville, then by train to Cincinnati, with two going on to Chicago and the other pair to New York City.

The Long Island group was less fortunate; scarcely had they buried their equipment and uniforms, in fact, one still wore bathing trunks, when a Coast Guardsman patrolling the shore approached. He was unarmed and very suspicious of them, more so when they offered him a bribe to forget they had met. He ostensibly accepted the bribe to lull their fears and promptly reported the incident to his headquarters. However, by the time the search patrol located the spot, the saboteurs had reached a railroad station and had taken a train to New York City.

Dasch's resolution to be a saboteur for the Fatherland faltered -- perhaps he thought the whole project so grandiose as to be impractical and wanted to protect himself before some of his companions took action on similar doubts. He indicated to Burger his desire to confess everything.

On the evening of June 14, 1942, Dasch, giving the name "Pastorius" called the New York Office of the FBI stating he had recently arrived from Germany and would call FBI Headquarters when he was in Washington, D.C., the following week. On the morning of Friday, June 19, a call was received at the FBI, Washington, from Dasch, then registered at a Washington hotel. He alluded to his prior call as "Pastorius" (of which Headquarters was aware) and furnished his location. He was immediately contacted and taken into custody.

During the next several days he was thoroughly interrogated and he furnished the identities of the other saboteurs, possible locations for some, and data which would enable their more expeditious apprehension.

The three remaining members of the Long Island group were picked up in New York City on June 20. Of the Florida group, Kerling and Thiel were arrested in New York City on June 23, and Neubauer and Haupt were arrested in Chicago on June 27."

The case was wrapped up in a week....

not quite the way you state the facts.
posted by clavdivs at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2004

...thought so.
posted by clavdivs at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2004

clavdivs - I was busy.

Here, you can listen to the same radio show as I did when I formed my impressions of that incident.

Your chronology is roughly correct, but not.....

It asserts that the FBI agent Dasch called on the 14th believed him. That does not seem to be the case though:

"On Sunday, June 14, Dasch called the FBI. [ from a Feb 2002 article in The Altantic, by Gary Cohen, on the incident ] Agent Dean McWhorter answered, and Dasch introduced himself as Franz Daniel Pastorius, "a German citizen who has arrived in this country only yesterday morning." Dasch told McWhorter that he had information so important to report that "the only person who should hear it is J. Edgar Hoover." McWhorter suggested that Dasch come to his office, but Dasch mildly replied, "I, Franz Daniel Pastorius, shall try to get in contact with your Washington office either Thursday or Friday, and you should notify them of this fact." McWhorter indeed made note of the call, but rather than sending a message to Washington, merely wrote, "This memo is being prepared only for the purpose of recording the call made by [Pastorius]."
On the morning of June 18 Dasch packed for Washington. He divided the money Kappe had given him into several envelopes bound together with a rubber band and attached a note that said, in part, "Money from German [government] for their purpose, but to be used to fight the Nazis. George J. Dasch, alias George J. Davis, alias Franz Pastorius." He paid his and Burger's hotel bills and left Burger a note.....

Dasch arrived in Washington late Thursday and checked into the Mayflower Hotel. After breakfast the following morning he phoned the Information Service of the U.S. government and asked the young woman who answered to explain the difference between the FBI and the Secret Service. "She asked me what the purpose of my visit was," he later recalled, "and I told her that I had to make a statement of military as well as of political value." Directed to phone the FBI, Dasch ended up speaking to Agent Duane Traynor, who listened politely as Dasch identified himself as George John Dasch, the leader of a team of eight saboteurs who had just arrived from Germany. Traynor told him to remain in his room so that FBI agents could escort him to the Justice Department. Dasch spoke with FBI special agents over the next five days"

But, there's more. John Dean, at FindLaw - reviewing a recent book on the incident by Nazi Saboteurs On trial, by Louis Fisher :

"Apparently, Dasch had mixed feelings about the mission. Indeed, he later claimed that he joined the saboteurs solely in order to escape Nazi Germany. After arriving in New York, he called the FBI. They dismissed him as a kook. So Dasch traveled to Washington, where he reported the plot to a disbelieving FBI agent.

By this time, there was a nationwide FBI alert, based on a report of the Coast Guard's discovery of Nazi uniforms and explosives buried on the Long Island beach on which the saboteurs had landed. Still, the FBI agent thought Dasch was a nut who has learned about the alert - notwithstanding a news blackout.

As Dasch was being shown the door, he took his suitcase filled with $84,000 cash and dumped it on the agent's desk. That finally got the FBI's attention."

The radio show I linked to describes the attempts by Dasch to get the attention of the FBI in even greater detail, I remember.

Here's another, more recent book on the subject - based presumeably on the recently declassified FBI archival material :

Saboteurs : The Nazi raid on America by Michael Dobbs (Knopf, Feb. 2004. )
posted by troutfishing at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2004

ok trout but I have a question to ask:

'What was the codename of the Russian scientist whom wanted to publish his "book" in 'The Russia House'
posted by clavdivs at 4:01 PM on June 5, 2004

Sibel Edmonds, who is going to be on 60 minutes again this Sunday.

Oh well, maybe next week.
posted by homunculus at 11:06 PM on June 6, 2004

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