New Documents Claim Intelligence on Bin Laden, al-Qaeda Targets Withheld From Congress’ 9/11 Probe
Stencil graffiti of Osama bin Laden in Bucharest, Romania. (Photo: Bixentro / flickr)
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On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, just as he has done in years past, a top military intelligence analyst identified by the US government only as “Iron Man” will hunker down in front of his television and watch a particularly gruesome scene of the carnage left behind on that fateful day.
“Although I try to avoid it, I glimpse a film clip, a scene, of people throwing themselves from a burning tower, people who deserved better protection from their country, from me and the men I worked with, and I hear the sounds of the lobby in the [World Trade Center] on tape,” said the man, whose alter ego chosen by the government appears to be paying homage to the flawed Marvel Comics superhero. “To me, the sights and sounds, the smoke of that day are not yet history. They are a knot, a silence, a facial tick, a missing friend in Iraq. They are not history yet.”
For many Americans, the emotional reaction to President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that a Navy Seal team had killed Osama bin Laden during a raid at his compound in Pakistan was celebratory. But for others, like the mysterious Iron Man, who has spent his career lurking in the shadows, the death of the al-Qaeda leader is a painful reminder of how close he and his colleagues in the intelligence community came to capturing Bin Laden before 9/11.
The intelligence failures leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are an issue the media – and lawmakers – put to bed years ago, despite the fact that new information continues to trickle out, undercutting the integrity of the official investigations into who knew what and when.
It was an exclusive story Truthout published May 23 in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, focusing on a little-known intelligence unit ordered to stop tracking his movements prior to 9/11, that led Iron Man to contact Truthout to share previously undisclosed documents he recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which appear to cast further doubt on the official narrative and suggests high-level military and intelligence officials withheld key evidence from Congressional lawmakers probing the attacks.
The materials Iron Man provided to Truthout stand as the most revealing information to surface in years regarding Bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s plans to attack the United States.
This is the first page of “Iron Man’s” complaint to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General related to intelligence work he did on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [Click here to download and read the documents.]
Five years ago, Iron Man, who requested Truthout conceal his true identity out of concern for his family’s privacy, lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General after he was accused of improperly handling classified material.
Iron Man filed a FOIA request in September 2006, seeking a declassified copy of the six-page complaint he filed with the inspector general’s office. He finally received a copy on April 8, just a few weeks prior to the raid on Bin Laden’s compound.
What he revealed in that letter, portions of which were redacted by the government because the information is classified, is the inner workings of an elite intelligence unit he headed at one point: the Asymmetric Threats Division, formed in 1999, and “charged with reporting on asymmetric threats, especially terrorism.”
The unit worked with Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS), also set up in 1999. According to the Defense Department (DoD), JTF-CS was charged with supporting “terrorist response operations in the continental US” and providing “military assistance to civil authorities.”
The Asymmetric Threats Division is referred to as DO5, a branch of the Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC), whose responsibilities included, among other things, vetting human intelligence sources on behalf of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). From 1998 to 2001, Iron Man was working as a counterterrorism/counterintelligence analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), assigned to JFIC.
The JFIC falls under the authority of the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) and “had a direct and assigned purview on international terrorism against the US, to include the operations of al-Qa’ida and the 9/11 attackers.”
The JFIC was also responsible for monitoring Bin Laden and other suspected terrorists who resided in Afghanistan between 1998 and 2000 and was charged with constructing likely scenarios that could be carried out by terrorists and possible government responses.
Iron Man noted that the “motivation for this complaint is multi-faceted.” He said the “purpose” of the letter he wrote “is to formally complain” to the inspector general that “JFIC, when instructed in or before May 2002 to provide all original material it might have relevant to al-Qa’ida and the 9/11 attacks for a Congressional inquiry, intentionally misinformed the Department of Defense that it had no purview on such matters and no such material.”
“JFIC’s role” and the DoD’s “role, in the pursuit of al-Qa’ida before 9/11 and timely analysis of the targets actually struck by the 9/11 attackers have remained unknown even to senior DoD officials,” the letter says.
Moreover, there has never been a public accounting of the work conducted by DO5. But Iron Man’s letter provides deep insight into the secret military intelligence group’s highly classified activities.
DO5 was “a fore-runner of current all-source fusion centers,” the letter Iron Man wrote says. Individuals assigned to the unit had “a wide mix of skills” in intelligence disciplines, including human and open-source intelligence, signals intelligence and imagery and signature intelligence.
DO5 drafted “numerous original reports … identifying probable and possible movements and locations of Usama bin Ladin and Mullah Omar,” including likely identification of the house where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed allegedly planned the 9/11 attacks.
From 1999 to 2001, the intelligence unit also “conducted imagery analysis of Jalalabad and Qandahar” and other parts of Afghanistan as they were “pulled into a community-wide initiative on al-Qa’ida.”
The letter further states, “DO5 was able to ‘scoop’ [the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency],” an agency which played a crucial role in identifying the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden had been hiding.
According to US government officials, it was one of Bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom intelligence operatives identified about five years ago, that led the CIA to pinpoint Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.
But Iron Man’s 2006 letter states that DO5 worked closely with DIA and was instrumental in identifying “a likely financial courier” for al-Qaeda, one who may have led intelligence officials directly to Bin Laden before 9/11.
Early Intelligence Pointed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon
In 2002, following his departure to DIA, Iron Man returned to JFIC to teach two classes on asymmetric warfare, and he kept “numerous” slides related to DO5’s work on “pre-9/11 briefings.”
As Iron Man explained in his letter of complaint to DoD’s inspector general, “upon my arrival at DIA, I had these documents e-mailed from JFIC to my DIA account, so that I could use them as references for the asymmetric warfare course I was drafting for DIA, and as references for any future counter-terrorism work I might pursue at DIA.”
It appears that the allegation Iron Man mishandled classified material stems from a decision he made to email the briefing slides to his DIA account. Iron Man declined to elaborate about the circumstances of the allegations leveled against him. Still, what he reveals in his carefully worded letter in response to those charges is explosive.
“I kept the original classifications on the slides, as historical documents, although the fact that al-Qa’ida was likely to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was clearly no longer classified.” (Emphasis added.)
Iron Man further elaborated on this point by stating that high-level DoD officials held discussions about DO5’s intelligence activities between the summer of 2000 and June 2001 revolving around al-Qaeda’s interest in striking the Pentagon, the World Trade Center (WTC), and other targets.
In other words, the Bush administration was fully aware the terrorist organization had set its sights on those structures prior to 9/11 and, apparently, government officials failed to act on those warnings.
For example, Iron Man states in his letter that in the summer of 2000, DO5 briefed USJFCOM senior intelligence officials and staffers, including the deputy commander in chief, on the “WMD Threat to the U.S.”
Iron Man describes a “sensitive,” “oral briefing” that took place that summer “indicating that the World Trade Centers #1 and #2 were the most likely buildings to be attacked [by al-Qaeda], followed closely by the Pentagon. The briefer indicated that the worst case scenario would be one tower collapsed onto another.”
Furthermore, as he states in his letter, Iron Man was certain that such a scenario was part of a “red cell analysis” discussion that took place prior to the intelligence briefing and included a finding that the buildings “could be struck by a jetliner.” He wrote that there was a suggestion about alerting WTC security and engineering or architectural staff, “but the idea was not further explored because of a command climate discouraging contact with the civilian community.”
One official who attended the DO5 briefing was Vice Adm. Martin J. Meyer, the deputy commander in chief (DCINC), USJFCOM (Iron Man’s complaint does not identify Meyer by name, but notes the presence of the “DCINC” for USJFCOM). But despite the red flags raised during the briefing, Meyer reportedly told Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), and other high-level CONR staffers two weeks before the 9/11 attacks that “their concern about Osama bin Laden as a possible threat to America was unfounded and that, to repeat, ‘If everyone would just turn off CNN, there wouldn’t be a threat from Osama bin Laden.'”
Mayer retired from the Navy in 2003 and was hired by defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
Intelligence Withheld From Congress
Even worse, according to Iron Man’s letter, the information DO5 had collected about Bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the lead up to 9/11 was withheld from Congress after the House and Senate Intelligence Committees launched an investigation into the attacks.
“When the Justice Department requested all documents relating to 9/11 from DoD in May 2002, I notified [redacted] in the DIA Congressional Affairs office that I retained these documents,” Iron Man’s letter states. “I spoke to [redacted] JFIC DI1 [an individual who works in the command administrative staff], who informed me that JFIC had already submitted a response without any documents. I was surprised and disappointed when my successor at DO5 [redacted] notified me of the full JFIC non-response. I notified [redacted] in the Congressional Affairs office, and was told to submit the documents as DIA documents, with an explanatory e-mail. I did so on 29 May 2002, presuming (probably correctly) that the documents might be overlooked, since they originated at JFIC. I forwarded copies to [redacted] (who was departing JFIC that week), (his subordinate), and [redacted] (who was also departing JFIC that week).”
A DoD spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees also did not respond to calls for comment.
After raising his concerns, Iron Man, who from late 2000 to June 2001 was acting head of DO5, was told by his former boss that JFIC’s formal response to Congress’ inquiries was that “al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks had been outside JFIC’s purview and that JFIC consequently held no material on those issues,” which was a lie.
Iron Man’s boss said, “He insisted [to officials who responded to the Congressional inquiries] that such was not the case, but was told this was JFIC’s response.”
Iron Man wrote that “many people” working at government agencies were knowledgeable about JFIC’s “role in preparing original analysis” on al-Qaeda, including officials at the CIA, NCIS, USJFCOM, DIA and NSA, whose names were redacted in the letter he sent to DoD’s inspector general.
However, after conducting at least 300 interviews and reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, the final report issued by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in December 2002, into “Intelligence Community Activities Before And After The Terrorist Attacks Of September 11, 2001” did not cite any of DO5’s work on al-Qaeda or Bin Laden or the fact that the intelligence unit was able to identify the terrorist group’s top two targets in the US. The later 2004 9/11 Commission Report did not mention DO5 or JFIC.
Flawed DoD Investigation
Although the inspector general acted on Iron Man’s complaint and launched an investigation, the findings of the probe, outlined in a report, declassified last year, previously reported by Truthout, was highly flawed and failed to address Iron Man’s charges that intelligence was withheld from Congress.
Indeed, it appears the author of the inspector general’s report confused Congress’ investigation into the 9/11 attacks with the independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, otherwise known as the 9/11 Commission, created in late 2002 by legislation passed by Congress. The inspector general’s report insisted it did not find any “evidence that the Joint Forces Intelligence Command misled Congress by withholding operational information in response to the 9/11 Commission.”
But Iron Man’s complaint specifically addressed intelligence withheld from Congress’ inquiries into the 9/11 attacks, not the independent panel’s probe, thereby dismissing an allegation Iron Man had never made.
Iron Man told Truthout the inspector general’s final report “was, shall we say, very incorrect, and intentionally did not address the full scope of the [his] complaint. “
The watchdog did not tackle another of Iron Man’s explosive claims about DO5 briefings that centered on “numerous examples and suggestions of how [Osama bin Laden] was being hunted by JFIC and could be hunted by the [intelligence community].”
One such briefing held for a “DIA senior intelligence officer on counterterrorism” was entitled “The Search (for Osama bin Laden) – A [commander in chief] Level View,” which included “a compendium of imagery of [a] suspected [Bin Laden] house dating from 23 August 1999 until 11 April 2000.”
At the briefing, intelligence officials were informed that “eleven special reports” by DO5 had been disseminated in the “Daily Intelligence Summary on [Bin Laden], Taliban leadership, Afghan military movements, UN locations, and the economic status of Afghanistan.”
Another briefing for the counterintelligence/counterterrorism chief at NCIS, and about 30 NCIS agents, “clearly stated the JFIC’s Asymmetric Threat Division monitored ‘worldwide [counterterrorism/counterintelligence] traffic’ and routinely prepared ‘analytic reports’ and ‘supplements national agencies with original intelligence on [Bin Laden] and Afghanistan.'”
Congress was kept in the dark about those discussions and was not shown the documents distributed to intelligence officials at the briefings. The inspector general never bothered to find out why. Remarkably, the watchdog stated in its report, “JFIC did not have the mission to track Usama Bin Ladin or predict imminent US targets.”
Iron Man told Truthout it was key intelligence withheld from Congress about al-Qaeda and Bin Laden’s pre-9/11 activities that also played a part in his decision to file a complaint with the inspector general.
“My concern was not only that the 9/11 commission had not been informed, but the larger Congress, in its larger oversight responsibilities, had also not been informed,” he said.
A Heavy Burden
What remains unclear is exactly what took place back in May 2006 that prompted Iron Man’s complaint to the inspector general, given that the issues he had raised centered on events that unfolded four years earlier.
The answer to that question can be found in these passages of Iron Man’s letter, particularly the last few sentences:
“I do believe that knowledge of the work done by DO5 would add to DoD’s understanding of its role in the events leading up to 9/11, and how to avoid future attacks,” Iron Man wrote. “I have been falsely accused of revealing classified information on DO5’s work, when I am certain that information is not and has not been classified since 9/11, and I do want to see myself cleared of that false accusation.
“In addition, I and the deputy of that team, [redacted], especially carried the burden of knowledge of how close DoD came to bin Ladin and perhaps being able to reduce the number of lives lost on 9/11 …”
The deputy whose name the government redacted from Iron Man’s letter, is believed to be Kirk von Ackermann, a former Air Force captain and intelligence analyst, who was working for the US Army as a contractor in Iraq and disappeared in October 2003 while traveling between Tikrit and Kirkuk. A computer, a briefcase containing $40,000, and other materials were found in von Ackerman’s vehicle after he went missing.
Because von Ackerman’s name was classified in the complaint Iron Man filed with the inspector general, he could not confirm whether von Ackerman is the individual he was referring to.
Just three months after Iron Man filed his complaint with DoD’s inspector general, in August 2006, the Army Criminal Investigative Service concluded that von Ackerman had been kidnapped and killed. His remains have never been found nor has anyone claimed responsibility for his death.
Von Ackerman’s tragic story has been previously reported by journalist-blogger Susie Dow on the web site e Pluribus Media, but has largely remained under the radar. In a May 6 article she published on her personal blog, Dow identified von Ackermann as a member of JFIC’s Asymmetric Threats Division. Iron Man’s complaint suggests he ultimately became deputy chief of DO5.
In October 2006, Dow wrote that von Ackermann was “assigned to a counterterrorism team.”
“You’ll find no mention of either Kirk von Ackermann or his team in the 9-11 Commission report…. Well before 9-11, Kirk von Ackermann predicted aircraft could be hijacked and used as weapons against the United States. He also predicted potential targets.”
Von Ackerman’s wife, Megan von Ackerman, has maintained a blog called “Missing in Iraq,” dedicated to her missing husband. In March 2006, she wrote that her husband had planned for such a catastrophic event, but his warnings were ignored:
“… When 9/11 happened everyone around us reacted as normal, civilians would – shock, horror, fear … but Kirk, isolated from the intelligence and military community of people who knew what he knew, felt what he felt, was essentially alone,” Megan von Ackerman wrote. “For a year he had spent his days imagining just this sort of scenario. He had come up with countless plans, evaluated targets, totaled up casualties and estimated political value. He had thought like a terrorist so he could stop them. Now he had to watch it made horribly real – the nightmare he had worked so hard to avoid … Kirk had tried to make the warning, he had worked endless hours to stop this very thing happening. He knew he had no guilt that he had been ignored. But he retained an enormous sense of responsibility – not only for what happened, but for dealing with the new world that 9/11 ushered in.”
Knowing exactly how close he, von Ackerman and DO5 came to capturing Bin Laden and possibly thwarting the attacks on 9/11 is a “burden” Iron Man said he “no longer wants to carry.”
“[Redacted] and I discussed this issue the last time we spoke,” Iron Man wrote in the final paragraph of his letter to the inspector general, likely referring to von Ackerman. “He remains the longest missing man in Iraq in this war, and I want, one day, to be able to explain to his children what their father foresaw.”
Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden
Smoke billows from the World Trade Center in New York, on September 11, 2001. (Photo: Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)
A great deal of controversy has arisen about what was known about the movements and location of Osama bin Laden in the wake of his killing by US Special Forces on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Questions about what intelligence agencies knew or didn’t know about al-Qaeda activities go back some years, most prominently in the controversy over the existence of a joint US Special Forces Command and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) data mining effort known as “Able Danger.”
What hasn’t been discussed is a September 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG) report, summarizing an investigation made in response to an accusation by a Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) whistleblower, which indicated that a senior JFIC commander had halted actions tracking Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. JFIC is tasked with an intelligence mission in support of United States Joint Force Command (USJFCOM).
The report, titled “Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission,” was declassified last year, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists.
The whistleblower, who the IG report identified as a former JFIC employee represented only by his codename “IRON MAN,” claimed in letters written to both the DoD inspector general in May 2006 and, lacking any apparent action by the IG, to the Office of the National Director of Intelligence (ODNI) in October 2007, that JFIC had withheld operational information about al-Qaeda when queried in March 2002 about its activities by the DIA and higher command officials on behalf of the 9/11 Commission. The ODNI passed the complaint back to the IG, who then opened an investigation under the auspices of the deputy inspector general for intelligence.
In a November 27, 2007, letter from Edward Maguire at the ODNI to Gen. Claude Kicklighter at the DoD’s IG office, Maquire identifies the whistleblower as “a DIA employee in the Defense HUMINT Management Office, Policy and Plans Division,” who was “personally involved in JFIC intelligence activities related to al-Qa’ida and the 9/11 attacks and had first hand knowledge of circumstances surrounding that alleged false reporting to the Secretary of Defense and Congress.”
Maguire also offered to send classified material to the DoD IG that was in possession of the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) inspector general. He also told Kicklighter that the DNI had not performed even a preliminary inquiry on the allegations.
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.” The report said the commission questions “were very specific,” and asked what the JFIC knew about “imminent attack” or “hijackers involved” in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Tracking Bin Laden had been undertaken by a secret unit within the JFIC, the Asymmetric Threats Division, formed in 1999 “to take a non-traditional approach to analysis.” Known by its DoD acronym, DO5, it was tasked with providing “current intelligence briefings and produced the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM Intelligence staff [J2].” Almost no public source material exists on DO5 activities, except what is in the IG report.
The IG report does not deny the tracking of Bin Laden, but notes that the JFIC was to provide general and direct intelligence support to USJFCOM and subordinate joint forces commands and that it did not have a mission to track Osama bin Laden or predict imminent targets of terrorism on US soil.
Nevertheless, DO5 was involved in intelligence concerns domestically. It provided assistance to the Joint Task Force – Civil Support (JTF-CS), which, like DO5, was formed in 1999 and based out of Fort Monroe, Virginia. The JTF-CS was tasked with assisting the DoD response to domestic terror incidents, including “managing the consequences of a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) situation.” At one point, DO5 assisted the JTF-CS by “establishing fictional terrorist organizations that would mimic real world terrorist groups” that were utilized as part of JTF-CS “exercises.”
The obscurity of DO5’s mission was summed up by a former JFIC deputy director of intelligence, who told investigators that DO5 had “no theater specific mission.” According to the answers the JFIC provided to the 9/11 Commission, the JFIC received over 2,200 messages daily “from other agencies, JFCOM components, or services.” It did “not conduct any unilateral collection” of any intelligence domestically.
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.”
According to the report, the Asymmetric Threats Division was “realigned” in summer 2001 under the “Intelligence Watch Center.” The Intelligence Watch Center may be the Combined Intelligence Watch Center associated with NORAD, which is an “indications and warning center for worldwide threats from space, missile and strategic air activity, as well as geopolitical unrest that could affect North America and US forces/interests abroad.” This would be consistent with the work DO5 did with the JTF-CS.
The order to stop tracking Bin Laden, therefore, came sometime between the origin of DO5 in 1999 and its realignment just prior to, or right after 9/11. In 2005, the JFIC itself was renamed the Joint Transformation Command-Intelligence, still subordinate to and serving USJFCOM.
According to the IG report, IRON MAN claimed that the JFIC had “original material created by DO5 relevant to al-Qa’ida,” and that the JFIC had constructed “numerous original reports.” But the IG investigators found that interviews with other JFIC personnel and a review of historical DO5 briefings did not support these allegations. They claimed that DO5, which “recruited JFIC personnel from the command based upon their counterintelligence and counterterrorism expertise,” merely “monitored and compiled intelligence reporting” from other agencies.
IRON MAN told IG investigators that he believed that his agency, JFIC, would deny the existence of the Asymmetric Threat Division and its analyses. But the IG report authors claimed, “JFIC correctly identified the DO5 in its response to question 8” from the 9/11 Commission and explained, in addition, that the JFIC noted that “D05’s emphasis was on force protection for the USJFCOM components.”
But in the reply to question 8 reproduced in the IG report, there is no mention of either DO5 or the Asymmetric Threat Division. The answer states, “JFIC’s Counter-terrorism focus has changed over the years,” and that from fall 1999 until September 11, 2001, the JFIC’s counterterrorism focus switched to “Asymmetric Threats OCONUS [outside the continental US] to include terrorism and CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] issues,” with the aforementioned emphasis on USJFCOM force protection. Nowhere does it indicate the existence of DO5 and there is no reason to believe that 9/11 Commission members were ever aware of its existence. The JFIC was never mentioned in the subsequent 9/11 Commission report.
In addition, IRON MAN’s allegations also included charges that the JFIC and specifically DO5, had developed information that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the most likely domestic targets of an al-Qaeda attack. The IG report disputes this and claims, with less than definitive assurance, “Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11 or specific 9/11 hijacker operations.”
The IG report indicated that IG investigators spoke with a number of key ranking JFIC personnel, as well as the previous USJFCOM director of intelligence, the JFIC Commanding Officer and personnel from the Asymmetric Threat Division.
Earlier this year, a blogger, Susie Dow, who has been following the story of Kirk von Ackermann , a US Army contractor in Iraq who disappeared on the road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in October 2003, asserted that von Ackermann had earlier belonged to JFIC’s Asymmetric Threat Division. Von Ackermann’s vehicle was found by the side of the road with a computer and a briefcase containing $40,000 in cash. An Army Criminal Investigative Division investigation later concluded that he was the victim of a probable kidnapping, while rumors persisted that he was possibly going to blow the whistle on DoD corruption.
An associate of von Ackermann, Ryan Manelick, a former Air Force Intelligence officer, was shot and killed outside a US military base near Baghdad two months later. Manelick had earlier told various people that he was in fear for his life. Both von Ackermann and Manelick worked for the contractor Ultra Services, based in Turkey. No particular link between von Ackermann or Manelick and the IRON MAN allegations has ever been proposed.
Dow has written on the two contractors for the website e Pluribus Media. In a May 6 posting at her own web site, “The Missing Man,” Dow noted the IG report’s conclusion: “The analysis completed by the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, specifically the Asymmetric Threat Division, was not applicable to the questions asked by the 9/11 Commission.”
“Which leads me to believe the 9/11 Commission did not ask the correct questions,” Dow said.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, many questions remain unanswered. One of the big ones, of course, is: just what and when did senior White House officials know about what took place? Now investigative work done by Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold at the independent news site Truthout has uncovered that there was a special division within the Joint Forces Intelligence Command known as DO5 that had developed intelligence prior to 9/11 that likely targets of a terrorist attack would be the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those attacks would be conducted by air, even went so far as to say one tower might collapse, falling into another. The intelligence also developed was the tracking of Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. And that tracking, according to a whistleblower, was stopped. And three, when congressional investigators asked JFIC what they knew, we’re told that none of this actually had been developed, none of this intelligence. And we know all this because a whistleblower that was part of DO5 claims that in fact all this is true. And that whistleblower was known as Iron Man. Now joining us to talk about his investigative work and what they found is in fact Jeffrey Kaye. Jeffrey is a psychologist practicing in San Francisco. He’s done psychological assessments and works with torture victims at Survivors International in San Francisco. And he works with Truthout. Thanks very much for joining us.
JEFFREY KAYE, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Hi, Paul. Thanks.
JAY: Start us off with the story. But before we get into the details of the story, how did you, a psychologist, get into this, and how did you come in contact with Iron Man?
KAYE: Well, because of my work with torture victims, I–some years ago–and this work goes back pre-9/11–as the information came out about the United States being involved in torture, I began doing–reading about it, writing about it, ultimately doing my own research and writing articles at Truthout, Firedoglake, and other sites. As part of this research, I came across an inspector general report by the Department of Defense that was released last year, and this report had to do with the tracking of Osama bin Laden by a little-known (in fact never really written about) intelligence agency known as the Asymmetric Threats division, which belonged to the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, which itself was part of a huge US–one of the major US commands from the Pentagon, the Joint Forces Command itself. I was very surprised to read–again, this was right after Osama bin Laden was killed–that there were allegations by a former acting chief of this division within the military that was complaining that they had been stopped in the spring, actually, of 2001 from tracking Osama bin Laden and other–gathering information on other terrorist groups in camps in Afghanistan, and essentially were shut down, and that when congressional investigators came around in the year after 9/11 looking to find out what in the world had happened, trying to put it all together, the information about the work his group had done was deliberately kept from congressional investigators.
JAY: So you wrote a piece about this. And then what happened?
KAYE: Well, a few weeks after I wrote the piece I received an email from a man within the inspector general report who had made the original complaint, who the inspector general themselves dubbed “Iron Man”–that was not his own name for himself; that was the name the government gave him as a whistleblower who worked in a classified–still works, in fact, for the intelligence community, and at the time of the IG complaint and the report, apparently was working for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He sent me sent me a copy of his original complaint, and to show that in fact what the work was that he had done, and to give me some context in which I could look at the inspector general report and make a thorough examination of its claims.
JAY: Now, he has a copy of this complaint through a Freedom of Information Act request. What’s in this complaint of his?
KAYE: Well, the complaint goes through exactly who this man is. He was from–a human intelligence analyst from the Naval NCIS, which people may know from the television show, who had been detailed to this special unit which was formed within Joint Forces Command’s intelligence component as an all-source fusion and analysis group. It had nine members, about half military, half civilian, to work on tracking terrorism worldwide and to create original analytic material about where these people would strike, when they would strike, how they would strike, as the document he recently sent me indicates and which I’m writing up a new article for Truthout to be published around 9/11.
JAY: This Joint Forces Intelligence Command, it’s under the roof of the Department of Defense or under the CIA?
KAYE: Well, it’s part of the Department of Defense.
JAY: So at some point, all this reports to Donald Rumsfeld.
KAYE: I imagine who it reports to is the Joint Chiefs of Staff is my reading. I’m not from the military, but it seemed that up the chain of command is the way this information goes. It went from Iron Man in his group up to United States Joint Forces Command briefings, and then, presumably, they would have briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, of course, the office of the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
JAY: Okay. So let’s go through. What are the big points of what was in this complaint, which reveals–Iron Man reveals what he says was known?
KAYE: Well, I think the major point is this, that by the summer of 2000, Iron Man’s group, the Asymmetric Threats Division, had developed a number of reports, and they were briefing a number of different agencies, not just United States Joint Forces Command, but also members, personnel from the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and they were telling them that they had derived, by using intelligence from NSA and CIA reports, from geospacial imagery data, from open-source information, and from human intelligence that al-Qaeda terrorists were planning attacks, primarily against Washington, the Pentagon, Wall Street area, in particular World Trade Center buildings 1 and 2, and at the time, Los Angeles. And they indicated that they wanted to in fact notify civilian security people at the World Trade Center, but they could not do that, because, as Iron Man put it, the command environment wouldn’t allow such communications.
JAY: Then the other big point was that they were tracking bin Laden around this time and were told not to, according to Iron Man.
KAYE: Yes. I’m not sure when the tracking began. That could go back as far as 1999. But it was continuing into the early months of 2001 when a new commander, apparently, of intelligence at Joint Forces Intelligence Command essentially shut them down, telling them that such work was outside the area of responsibility for Joint Forces Command, and subsequently it was shut down.
JAY: Now, to put this into context, at the time this happens, when they’re closed down, Osama bin Laden is number one on the FBI Most Wanted list. So it’s not like there isn’t some interest in him.
KAYE: Right. Absolutely. In fact, he had been indicted. And furthermore, in October 2000, the USS Cole had been attacked by al-Qaeda. I believe some 17, or more Navy personnel were killed and others wounded in this attack. It had certainly made al-Qaeda, in attacks against US forces–and remember, JFCOM’s mission is to protect US forces, among their other–among their central missions. And to pull back from this hunt for bin Laden and other al-Qaeda terrorists and what they were planning makes absolutely no sense when you consider what JFCOM’s mission actually was.
JAY: Okay. Now, there’s a briefing that takes place with a guy named Meyer, who’s a, what, vice admiral, who’s a–and is he the deputy commander of DO5? Tell us about who he was and what the briefing–what happened at this briefing.
KAYE: Right. There was a briefing in 2000, probably late July of 2000, on the WMD threat to the United States. And at this meeting was, so far as I can tell, the highest official to whom this information was briefed to, and that was the deputy commander in chief of US Joint Forces Command Vice Admiral Meyer.
JAY: We know it was Meyer, because in Iron Man’s complaint he says it’s the deputy commander, and then you’ve put two and two together and you come up with Meyer. At the very least, it is the deputy commander, and as far as you know, Meyer is the deputy commander when this meeting takes place.
KAYE: Yes. Meyer’s own biography from the Department of Defense states that at this time he was the deputy commander in chief of JFCOM. And Iron Man’s complaint says that at the briefing was in fact what–he abbreviates it again, of course, the DCINC. But [crosstalk]
JAY: So who does Meyer meet with, and what happens at the meeting?
KAYE: I don’t know who Meyer talks to after this occurs, but one person he talked to was the commander of NORAD, who he told–and this was written in a book by the commander of NORAD subsequent to 9/11. And he, according to this NORAD commander, is told by Vice Admiral Meyer that al-Qaeda is, you know, not–is way overblown and that it’s something CNN talks about to get ratings and just don’t worry about bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
JAY: So up the food chain, then, goes information that in fact there is no threat from bin Laden, at least as far as we know about this meeting.
KAYE: That’s certainly what Meyer said. Of course, other–you know, I’m sure they were getting other information from other people, but it is certainly interesting that Meyer knew what was being planned, or had been briefed by this by Joint Forces Intelligence Command, and then subsequently is telling people at NORAD that al-Qaeda is not a threat.
JAY: Now, just to be clear, was the information or intelligence that they actually thought this was being planned? Or this was a hypothetical scenario that if terrorists were planning something, this is what they’re likely to do?
KAYE: Right. I don’t believe that they had knowledge of the specific–at least I have not been told that, and it is not written in Iron Man’s complaint that they had knowledge of the specific 9/11 plot. Instead, they had developed intelligence that said that this was the type of plot that the terrorists were looking at and that these were the targets that the terrorists were after. I don’t believe they had–at least, I have no knowledge that they had more specific information developed. However, I did ask Iron Man if he was aware of the original–excuse me–of the recent allegations on a video interview by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that the CIA had let two terrorists, al-Qaeda terrorists, into the United States in January 2000. They knew they were coming, but they refused to inform the FBI or the State Department no-fly watch list, and that these people came–one of them in particular went in and out of the United States, probably being tracked by the CIA, and nothing was ever said to law enforcement personnel. And, of course, those terrorists ended up being two of the 19 terrorists who blew up the Pentagon [crosstalk]
JAY: Right. And Richard Clarke went public with this just recently.
KAYE: Well, he wrote about it in his book about a year ago or so. And then a video that was made, I think last year, was–just recently went public, yes. [I] asked him if he could comment as to whether or not any of the CIA officials who they briefed or whether or not information on Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was one of the terrorists, had shown up in the kinds of all-source intelligence gathering that their department was doing, and he indicated that he couldn’t speak of it, but that they would like to speak about it to Congress if, you know, they were to be asked by the government.
JAY: This is Iron–you’re still talking about–”he” being Iron Man.
KAYE: Yes. They have a lot more that they would like to say but they feel they can’t say because the information is classified.
JAY: So, I mean, the restrictions Iron Man is under in talking to you is he can’t talk outside of what came out through this request for information document, his complaint. He can speak about that, but when he goes past that, he’s violating Official Secrets Act.
KAYE: Correct. I think he’s walking a very fine line and he’s trying to get what information out he can. He recently sent me–and this will go into the news story at Truthout–copies of slides of briefings that were made while he was the deputy chief of DO5. He wasn’t just a member; he was the actual deputy chief and later acting chief of this unit. And that slides demonstrate that DO5 was, in fact, and their parent agencies were, as the slides make quite clear from this 2000 briefing, specifically tasked with tracking Osama bin Laden and with counterterrorism analysis, which is precisely what the IG report said they were not.
JAY: Yeah, just to be clear–and I’m not sure we’ve talked about that–there was an inspector general report responding to this complaint, and it cleared JFIC of everything, saying that they in fact had not been involved in this kind of work. And so the importance of these slides is that it shows that they in fact were. Have I got that correctly?
KAYE: Yes, yes, yes. He gave other information that he had requested via Freedom of Information Act, and now those records have been declassified and we can write about them and disseminate them in the press to show that in fact the inspector general report, which is one of the most amazing pieces of obfuscation that I have ever read–.
JAY: We don’t know whether Meyer for some reason–one would have to presume he sat on this information or blocked it all on his own–or, if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, for some reason didn’t think it was worth pursuing, which seems hard to believe, again, because bin Laden is number one on the FBI Most Wanted list. But other than that, is there any evidence this information ever got higher, like, for example, either worked its way up to Joint Chiefs, to Rumsfeld? It’s supposed to all have gone to Richard Clarke, but he’s never, certainly, acknowledged in any way that he got this information. Am I correct?
KAYE: Yeah, that’s right. And I did a long search and could find almost no information about this group in any writings on 9/11, no matter, you know, how conspiratorial or whatever. Nothing. We do know that when Iron Man heard that the information was being withheld from congressional investigators, he went to the Congressional Affairs Office of the Defense Intelligence Agency. That was actually the office that was coordinating with Congress between military intelligence and congressional investigators. And he said, hey, I heard that you didn’t get this info, and I’ve got it and my own copies; let me give them to you. And the guy said, okay. And he in fact sent the copies of materials, like his original complaint, the slides of briefings, etc., to the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Congressional Affairs Office, and presumably that would have been passed on to Congress. But, unfortunately, we don’t know whether it was or not. It certainly never turns–that information never turns up in Congress’s Joint Inquiry report published in December 2002, nor in the 9/11 Commission, nor anywhere ever [crosstalk]
JAY: Right. So the significance of all this, at least one piece of significance, is that if you then take the memo that Condoleezza Rice reads that says Osama bin Laden plans to attack America, and if someone at a senior level, whether it’s Rice or someone else, or even a lesser level, puts this together with the intelligence developed by JFIC, then one would say there’s some kind of foreknowledge that something’s coming, and they actually did have some sense of what the targets are. I’m not suggesting right now there’s a direct line that conclusion could be drawn, but one would think it should be at the very least investigated. Is that the point here?
KAYE: Yes, that’s exactly the point. I can’t certainly say I know what went on in all details in the leadup to 9/11. However, more than enough has come out over the past years, going all the way back to Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower, other recent books by authors Kevin Fenton and–on how–about the Richard Clarke material, in terms of not–the CIA withholding information on terrorists entering the United States. There of course was information about screwups or perhaps of obstruction happening at high levels of the FBI in terms of information about terrorists trying to learn to fly in the United States. I’m sure many of the listeners have listened or heard or read about this. And so now we have what we have, and the significance of this story is we have from within the world of military intelligence somebody standing up–and, in fact, military intelligence has been left totally out of the 9/11 narrative. It’s quite amazing when you consider that 80 percent of the intelligence budget of the United States goes to military intelligence–now, a lot of that to spy satellites and the NSA, but military intelligence that nobody appears to have been interested or curious about what the Defense Intelligence Agency or other defense intelligence units, such as Joint Forces Intelligence Command, was doing around 9/11, or looking at al-Qaeda terrorists, particularly since they were targeting military targets–the USS Cole, the Pentagon. That’s their job. And yet nobody asked and no report has yet come out, with the exception, oddly, of this inspector general reply to Iron Man’s complaint, that even addresses this issue.
JAY: As far as you know, Iron Man’s still working in the defense intelligence establishment. This document that we’re referring to was released under the Freedom of Information Act. So the obvious question is: why? Why did they release the document? And why are they letting this guy communicate with you?
KAYE: Well, Iron Man has shown that he’s not going to give up. Maybe he’s not called Iron Man for nothing. When the inspector general got his original complaint back in 2006, they ignored it, they dropped it, they didn’t reply. And Iron Man went to the office of the new director for national intelligence office, who then wrote back to be inspector general, said, hey, are you going to do something about this? And only at that point did the Department of Defense Inspector General take up their, quote, “investigation”. I think that there are also a number of people within the military intelligence establishment who know what went on, whatever exactly that was, and they would very much like to talk. But Congress apparently doesn’t seem interested in listening. Certainly, Barack Obama’s administration isn’t interested in investigating. And, in fact, I had contacted the former congressional leadership of the Joint Inquiry, with the exception of Porter Goss, after this information came to me–and that would be Nancy Pelosi, senators Richard Shelby and Bob Graham. And none of them got back to me. None of them. In fact, Congresswoman Pelosi’s office told me, don’t even bother sending us an email. So, amazingly, these people seem very disinterested in the fact that information that was meant for them in 2002 was withheld from them about 9/11, about this tragedy that has truly terribly affected the course of history in the United States and, until the truth about it is really known, will be continued to be used as propaganda fodder for antiterrorism and attacks on civil liberties that have been going on under the Bush and Obama administrations.
JAY: Well, I guess all this is just one more reason why there needs to be an independent inquiry. Thanks very much for joining us, Jeff.
KAYE: Okay. Thanks very much.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And you will see more of this in future Real News reports. We’re going to post the documents related to this story here. And you can obviously–and will want to go to Truthout to see the next story that Jeff’s working on. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
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