A relationship between Alec Station, a CIA unit tasked with monitoring Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his associates, and two 9/11 hijackers leading up to the attacks has been called into question by a newly-released court filing, which also suggests that there was a cover-up at the highest levels of the FBI regarding the matter, according to The Gray Zone.
SpyTalk has obtained a 21-page declaration by Don Canestraro, a lead investigator for the Office of Military Commissions responsible for overseeing the cases of 9/11 defendants. The filing summarizes classified government discovery disclosures and private interviews conducted by Canestraro with anonymous high-ranking officials from the CIA and FBI.
The interviewed agents, who led Operation Encore, the Bureau's discontinued, extensive investigation into the Saudi government's ties to the 9/11 attack, shared their insights with Canestraro, the site notes.
Operation Encore, which involved conducting numerous lengthy interviews with various witnesses, producing hundreds of pages of evidence, formally investigating multiple Saudi officials, and launching a grand jury to investigate a US-based support network for the hijackers allegedly run by Riyadh, was suddenly terminated in 2016. The cause of the termination was purportedly a complicated internal dispute within the FBI over investigative methods, the report continued.
When the document was initially released in 2021 on the Office's public court docket, every part of it, except for an "unclassified" marking, was redacted. Given the document's explosive contents, it is not that difficult to understand why.
As per Canestraro's investigation, at least two 9/11 hijackers had been recruited, whether knowingly or unknowingly, into a joint CIA-Saudi intelligence operation that might have gone wrong, The Gray Zone report noted further.
The CIA established Alec Station in 1996 as a joint investigative effort with the FBI. However, FBI operatives assigned to the unit discovered that they were not permitted to share any information with the Bureau's head office without the CIA's authorization, and they faced severe penalties if they did so.
Additionally, their attempts to share information with the FBI's equivalent unit, the I-49 squad based in New York, were repeatedly obstructed, said the report.
"As 'the system blinked red' in late 1999 with indications of an imminent large-scale Al Qaeda terror attack within the US, the CIA and NSA were actively monitoring an 'operational cadre' within an Al Qaeda cell that comprised Saudi nationals Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. These two individuals were later believed to have hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, resulting in the crash into the Pentagon on 9/11," the site said.
Between January 5th and 8th, 2000, al-Hazmi and al-Midhar attended an Al Qaeda summit held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Local authorities secretly photographed and videotaped the meeting at Alec Station's request, although no audio recording was captured. While en route to the summit, al-Midhar transited through Dubai, where operatives working for the CIA broke into his hotel room and copied his passpower, which showed that he had a multi-entry visa to the US.
An internal CIA cable at the time stated that this information was promptly conveyed to the FBI "for further investigation." However, in reality, Alec Station not only neglected to inform the Bureau about al-Midhar's US visa but also explicitly prohibited two FBI agents assigned to the unit from telling their supervisors.
“[I said] ‘we’ve got to tell the Bureau about this. These guys clearly are bad…we’ve got to tell the FBI.’ And then [the CIA] said to me, ‘no, it’s not the FBI’s case, not the FBI’s jurisdiction’,” Mark Rossini, one of the FBI agents in question, has said.
“If we had picked up the phone and called the Bureau, I would’ve been violating the law. I…would’ve been removed from the building that day. I would’ve had my clearances suspended, and I would be gone," Rossini noted further.