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Despite the restrictions on air travel following the previous day’s attacks, one private plane is allowed to fly from Britain to the United States. On it are Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British secret intelligence service (MI6), and Eliza Manningham-Buller, the deputy chief of Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5. In his 2007 book At the Center of the Storm, CIA Director George Tenet will admit, “I still don’t know how they got flight clearance into the country.” Manningham-Buller and Dearlove dine for an hour-and-a-half with a group of American intelligence officials at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Tenet 2007, pp. 173-174; BBC 12/4/2007) In addition to Tenet, the US officials at the dinner include James Pavitt and his deputy from the CIA’s Directorate for Operations; A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director; Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center; Tyler Drumheller, the chief of the CIA’s European Division; the chief of the CIA’s Near East Division; and Thomas Pickard, the acting director of the FBI. Also part of the British delegation is David Manning, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, who was already in the US before 9/11. (Powers 7/2/2007) The British offer condolences and their full support. The Americans say they are already certain that al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks, having recognized names on passenger lists of the hijacked flights. They also say they believe the attacks are not yet over. (Tenet 2007, pp. 174; BBC 12/4/2007) According to Drumheller, Manning says, “I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq.” Tenet replies: “Absolutely, we all agree on that. Some might want to link the issues, but none of us wants to go that route.” (Hosenball 10/30/2006; Powers 7/2/2007; Norton-Taylor 8/4/2007)
FBI Director Robert Mueller launches a charm offensive to win over the 9/11 Commission and ensure that its recommendations are favorable to the bureau.
Commission Initially Favored Break-Up - The attempt is greatly needed, as the Commission initially has an unfavorable view of the FBI due to its very public failings before 9/11: the Phoenix memo (see July 10, 2001), the fact that two of the hijackers lived with an FBI counterterrorism informer (see May 10-Mid-December 2000), and the failure to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 16, 2001). Commissioner John Lehman will say that at the start of the investigation he thought “it was a no-brainer that we should go to an MI5,” the British domestic intelligence service, which would entail taking counterterrorism away from the bureau.
Lobbying Campaign - Author Philip Shenon will say that the campaign against the commissioners “could not have been more aggressive,” because Mueller was “in their faces, literally.” Mueller says he will open his schedule to them at a moment’s notice and returns their calls within minutes. He pays so much attention to the commissioners that some of them begin to regard it as harassment and chairman Tom Kean tells his secretaries to turn away Mueller’s repeated invitations for a meal. Mueller even opens the FBI’s investigatory files to the Commission, giving its investigators unrestricted access to a special FBI building housing the files. He also gets Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, to meet the commissioners and intercede for the bureau.
Contrast with CIA - The campaign succeeds and the Commission is convinced to leave the FBI intact. This is partially due to the perceived difference between Mueller and CIA Director George Tenet, who the Commission suspects of telling it a string of lies (see July 2, 2004). Commissioner Slade Gorton will say, “Mueller was a guy who came in new and was trying to do something different, as opposed to Tenet.” Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton will also say that the Commission recommended changing the CIA by establishing the position of director of national intelligence. It is therefore better to leave the FBI alone because “the system can only stand so much change.”
Change Partially Motivated by Fear - This change of mind is also partially motivated by the commissioners’ fear of the bureau. Shenon will comment: “Mueller… was also aware of how much fear the FBI continued to inspire among Washington’s powerful and how, even after 9/11, that fear dampened public criticism. Members of congress… shrank at the thought of attacking the FBI.… For many on Capitol Hill, there was always the assumption that there was an embarrassing FBI file somewhere with your name on it, ready to be leaked at just the right moment. More than one member of the 9/11 Commission admitted privately that they had joked—and worried—among themselves about the danger of being a little too publicly critical of the bureau.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 364-368)
Eliza Manningham-Buller, director general of the British domestic intelligence agency MI5, tells senior members of British parliament (MPs) that there is no imminent terrorist threat to London or the rest of Britain. This takes place less than 24 hours before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). Manningham-Buller’s comments are made at a private meeting of about a dozen leading MPs from the ruling Labour party at the House of Commons. Such meetings have been held on an irregular basis since the 9/11 attacks, although it was unusual for the head of MI5 to attend. The Guardian will later comment, “the disclosure that MI5 had been so completely taken by surprise on July 7 will fuel calls for a public or independent inquiry into the events leading up to [the 7/7 bombings].” (Cobain, Hencke, and Norton-Taylor 1/9/2007)
The newly released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq says that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the 9/11 attacks. The NIE is compiled from information provided by the 16 American intelligence agencies, and written by the US government’s National Intelligence Council. The NIE is released internally in April 2006, but portions are made public on September 24, 2006. It is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began. (Mazzetti 9/24/2006) Robert Hutchings, the council’s former chairman, says, "The war in Iraq has exasperated the global war on terror." (Toronto Daily News 9/24/2006) The White House has issued its own reports touting its successes against Islamist terrorism and predicting that such activities will dwindle in the coming months. (Mazzetti 9/24/2006) The NIE report says, "[T]he Iraq war has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists…and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives. …[T]he Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of al-Qaeda ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea. Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a stunning increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and civilian lives lost. Even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one third." Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the British secret service (MI5), agrees. She will say in early 2007, "Young teenagers are being groomed to be suicide bombers. The threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation." (Independent 3/1/2007) Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) says the report should "put the final nail in the coffin for President Bush’s phony argument about the Iraq war." (ABC News 9/25/2006)
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