Wednesday, Oct 8, 2008
The FBI has blocked two of its veteran counterterrorism agents from going public with accusations that the CIA deliberately withheld crucial intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
FBI Special Agents Mark Rossini and Douglas Miller have asked for permission to appear in an upcoming public television documentary, scheduled to air in January, on pre-9/11 rivalries between the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.
The program is a spin-off from The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by acclaimed investigative reporter James Bamford, due out in a matter of days.
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The FBI denied Rossini and Miller permission to participate in the book or the PBS “NOVA” documentary, which is also being written and produced by Bamford, on grounds that the FBI “doesn’t want to stir up old conflicts with the CIA,” according to multiple reliable sources.
Bamford, contacted by phone, said he could not comment because his publisher has embargoed his new book for release around Oct. 10.
The author of two other ground-breaking books on the NSA, Bamford also said his general policy is not to discuss his negotiations for interviews with intelligence agencies.
Pre-9/11 intelligence mishaps have been generally attributed to bureaucratic screw-ups — a “failure to connect the dots,” exacerbated by spy agency rivalries.
But Rossini and Miller, who were assigned to the CIA-run Counterterrorist Center during the run-up to the 9/11 attacks, are prepared to describe on camera how the CIA blocked them from sharing crucial intelligence with FBI headquarters – and then later pressured them not to tell the truth to investigators.
The first allegation is not entirely new, having been reported by author Lawrence Wright in his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, among other places.
But what is new is that Rossini and Miller — who still hold sensitive jobs in the FBI, and are identified here for the first time — are prepared to say publicly that, under pressure from the CIA, they kept the full the truth from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, which looked into the FBI’s handling of pre-9/11 intelligence in 2004.
“There was pressure on people not to disclose what really happened,” said sources close to the IG investigation.
Rossini, in particular, is said to have felt threatened that the CIA would have him prosecuted for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act if he told the IG investigators what really happened inside the CTC.
CIA officials were in the room when he and Miller, as well as a sympathetic CIA officer, were questioned.
The IG investigators showed them copies of CTC intelligence reports and e-mails.
But the FBI agents suddenly couldn’t remember details about who said what, or who reported what, to whom, about the presence of two al Qaeda agents in the U.S. prior to the 9/11 attacks,
The IG investigators were suspicious.
Indeed, their report, which used pseudonyms for the CIA and FBI agents its interviewed — Rossini and Miller were called “Malcolm” and “Dwight,” a CIA analyst was dubbed “Eric” — hinted at a cover-up.
“When we interviewed all of the individuals involved about the CIR [Current Intelligence Report] they asserted that they recalled nothing about it,” it said
The focus of the IG was what the CIA had witheld about the movement of two al Qaeda operatives, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, from Malaysia to the U.S. in early 2000.