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This section describes the initial development and dissemination of intelligence information concerning Hazmi and Mihdhar. This intelligence was obtained by the NSA in late 1999 and early 2000. The intelligence led to a surveillance operation in Malaysia in which it was discovered that Mihdhar had a valid multiple-entry U.S. visa and photographs of Mihdhar meeting with other al Qaeda operatives were taken. There were several ways the FBI could have acquired this information from the CIA – through a CIR from the CIA to the FBI, informally through conversations between a CIA employee and FBI Headquarters employees, and through the FBI employees detailed to the CIA reviewing the CIA cable traffic. We reviewed whether this information was in fact passed to the FBI by the CIA, and based on the evidence, concluded that while the CIA passed some of the information about Mihdhar to the FBI, it did not contemporaneously pass the information about Mihdhar’s U.S. visa to the FBI. We concluded it was not disclosed by the CIA until late August 2001, shortly before the September 11 terrorist attacks. We also reviewed whether FBI detailees to the CIA contemporaneously acquired this information and what action, if any, they took with respect to this information. Hazmi and Mihdhar Timeline – Part I 235 9/11/2001 Hazmi and Mihdhar and 17 other terrorists attack the United States. 8/29/2001 FBI New York opens an intelligence investigation to locate Mihdhar. 8/22/2001 CIA personnel inform FBI HQ analyst of Mihdhar's U.S. visa and July 4, 2001, entry in New York. 6/11/2001 FBI HQ analyst meets with New York FBI agents working on the Cole investigation. CIA personnel also attend the meeting. New York agents are not informed of identification of Khallad in photos. 5/15/2001 Some time in May, CIA personnel advise FBI HQ analyst about the Malaysian meetings and provide photos. FBI not informed of Mihdhar's U.S. visa or identification of Khallad in the photos. 1/4/2001 CIA shows joint source photos from Kuala Lumpur. Source identifies Khallad in photos. FBI ALAT is present for most of meeting with source but does not become aware of this identification. 12/16/2000 CIA shows joint source the Yemeni photo of Khallad. Source identifies him as mastermind of Cole attack. 10/12/2000 U.S.S. Cole is attacked in Aden, Yemen. Shortly thereafter, Yemeni officials provide FBI with photo of "Khallad," the purported mastermind of the attack. 6/10/2000 Mihdhar departs the United States. 5/31/2000 Hazmi and Mihdhar rent rooms in the residence of an FBI asset. 5/1/2000 Beginning in mid-2000, CIA and FBI begin debriefing joint source. Source provided significant information about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. 5/1/2000 9/15/2001 7/1/2000 10/1/2000 1/1/2001 4/1/2001 7/1/2001 Hazmi and Mihdhar Timeline – Part II 236 237 In addition, the CIA learned in March 2000 that Hazmi had boarded a United Airlines flight in Bangkok, Thailand, bound for Los Angeles, California, on January 15, 2000.168 We also reviewed whether the FBI was informed of this information, and concluded that it did not learn about this information until August 2001. 1. Background In late 1999, the Intelligence Community developed significant intelligence information regarding Hazmi and Mihdhar. At this time, the Intelligence Community was on high alert because of concerns involving possible terrorist activity planned in conjunction with the coming of the new Millennium. In addition to concerns about attacks at New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Intelligence Community was concerned that a terrorist attack was planned for January 3, 2000, which in the Islamic calendar is considered a “night of destiny.”169 There were additional concerns about potential terrorist attacks coinciding with the end of Ramadan, around January 6, 2000.170 Several of these planned attacks were uncovered in December 1999. For example, on December 1, 1999, in Jordan, a plot to disrupt New Year activities with explosives designed to kill thousands of revelers, including U.S. citizens, was uncovered and thwarted with the arrest of 16 people. On December 14, 1999, Ahmad Ressam was stopped at the United States/Canadian border in Washington state as he attempted to enter the United States in a vehicle loaded with explosives. It was determined later that he had intended to detonate the explosives at the Los Angeles airport. To be prepared for possible terrorist activity at the end of 1999, the FBI activated its Strategic Information Operations Center (SIOC). The SIOC is 168 Mihdhar was also on the same flight, but that fact apparently was not known within the Intelligence Community until much later, in August 2001. 169 During the course of the Cole bombing investigation, it was learned that an attack also had been planned against the U.S.S. The Sullivans in Aden, Yemen, on the same date. That attack failed because the attack boat sank before reaching its target. 170 Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan begins when authorities in Saudi Arabia sight the new moon of the ninth month. 238 located in a secure area within FBI Headquarters and contains several meeting rooms, conferencing equipment, communications equipment, computers, and other operational equipment. It allows the FBI to manage major investigations or other significant operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the Millennium period, the FBI operated its International Terrorism Operations Section from within the SIOC. In addition, the FBI detailed field supervisors with counterterrorism experience and other counterterrorism personnel to the SIOC for around-the-clock monitoring and response to possible terrorist activities. At the CIA, additional personnel were called in to work at the CTC and planned leave was canceled. In addition, personnel from the CIA and other Intelligence Community agencies were detailed to work in the FBI’s SIOC. During this period, personnel in the FBI’s SIOC prepared two daily briefings for the FBI Director and his executive staff, one at 7:30 a.m. and the other at 4:30 p.m. The daily briefings contained summaries of significant terrorism investigations and the latest intelligence related to counterterrorism. Accompanying the briefings were daily threat updates prepared each afternoon for the Director and his executive staff. The briefings and the threat updates were prepared by various people throughout the course of the day and night in the SIOC. 2. NSA provides intelligence regarding planned travel by al Qaeda operatives to Malaysia In the midst of the Millennium period concerns in late 1999, the NSA analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East linked to Al Qaeda activities directed against U.S. interests. The communications indicated that several members of an “operational cadre” were planning to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in early January 2000. Analysis of the communications revealed that persons named Nawaf, Khalid and Salem were involved. In early 2000, the NSA analyzed what appeared to be related communications concerning a “Khalid.”171 (continued) 171 The NSA had additional information in its database further identifying “Nawaf” as Nawaf al-Hazmi, a friend of Khalid. However, the NSA informed the OIG that it was not 239 The NSA’s reporting about these communications was sent, among other places, to FBI Headquarters, the FBI’s Washington and New York Field Offices, and the CIA’s CTC. At the FBI, this information appeared in the daily threat update to the Director on January 4, 2000. 3. Mihdhar’s travel and discovery of his U.S. visa A CIA desk officer working in the Bin Laden Unit who we call “Michelle” determined that there were links between these people and Al Qaeda as well as the 1998 East African embassy bombings. In addition, the CIA identified “Khalid” as Khalid al-Mihdhar. Mihdhar arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 5, 2000. Mihdhar was traveling on a Saudi passport. This passport contained a valid U.S. visa. Mihdhar’s passport was photocopied and sent to CIA Headquarters. Several CIA cables contemporaneously discussed Mihdhar’s travel and the discovery of his U.S. visa in his Saudi passport. CIA records show that a CIA employee, who we call “James”172 and who was detailed to FBI Headquarters during the Millennium period, accessed one of these cables approximately two hours after it was disseminated in the morning, and he accessed another of the cables about eight hours after it was disseminated on the next morning. James discussed some information about Mihdhar with two FBI Headquarters employees on the evening of January 5, which we detail in Section 7 below. 4. CIR is drafted to pass Mihdhar’s visa information to the FBI Dwight, the special agent detailed to the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, also read the cables discussing Mihdhar’s U.S. visa within hours of each cable being disseminated. CIA records also show (continued) asked to conduct research on these individuals at that time, and it did not uncover that information on Hazmi. It was thought at the time that Salem might be Hazmi’s younger brother, and this was later confirmed. 172 The CIA has asked the OIG not to identify the true names of CIA employees for operational reasons. 240 that Dwight’s immediate supervisor in the Bin Laden Unit opened one of the cables soon after Dwight. Dwight opened one of the cables, which reported that Mihdhar’s visa application had been verified and that he had listed New York as his intended destination. Around 9:30 a.m. on the same morning, Dwight began drafting in the CIA’s computer system a CIR addressed to the UBL Unit Chief at FBI Headquarters and an SSA in the UBL Unit at FBI Headquarters who we call “Bob.” Dwight’s CIR also was addressed to the FBI’s New York Field Office. The CIR first described the NSA information that had been received about Mihdhar, including the planned travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in early January. The CIR also discussed the potential links between the suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East and the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. The CIR stated that photographs of Mihdhar had been obtained and would be sent to the FBI under separate cover. The CIR detailed Mihdhar’s passport and visa information, including that Mihdhar had listed on his visa application his intended destination as New York and that he planned to stay three months. Dwight also wrote that the CTC was requesting “feedback” on “any intelligence uncovered in FBI’s investigation” resulting from the information in the CIR. Michelle, the Bin Laden Unit desk officer who originally had taken notice of the information about Mihdhar and his connections to Al Qaeda, accessed Dwight’s draft CIR less than an hour after Dwight drafted it at approximately 9:30 a.m. Around 4:00 p.m. on the same day, Michelle added a note to the CIR in the CIA’s computer system: “pls hold off on CIR for now per [the CIA Deputy Chief of Bin Laden Unit].” CIA records show that the same morning, the CIA Deputy Chief of Bin Laden Unit, who we will call “John,” also had read the cable indicating that Mihdhar’s visa was valid and that New York had been listed as his intended destination. Around 6:30 p.m. on the same day, John again accessed this cable and then another cable, the same two CIA cables about Hazmi and Mihdhar in 241 the CIA’s computer system that Dwight had used in drafting the CIR. CIA records do not indicate that John accessed Dwight’s draft CIR.173 CIA records show that the CIA employee detailed to FBI Headquarters who we call James and who discussed the Mihdhar information with two FBI Headquarters employees, also accessed the draft CIR on the day it was drafted. In addition, two other FBI detailees accessed the draft CIR: Eric, the other Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit, accessed it two hours after Dwight began writing it, and Malcolm, the New York Field Office’s detailee to the Bin Laden Unit, accessed it two days later. CIA records show that as of eight days later the CIR had not been disseminated to the FBI. In an e-mail to John in mid-January, Dwight had attached the draft CIR and wrote, “Is this a no go or should I remake it in some way.” The CIA was unable to locate any response to this e-mail. By mid-February, the CIR had not been sent to the FBI and was still in draft form in the CIA’s computer system. CIA records show that Dwight emailed a CIA contractor who handled computer matters and asked him to delete several draft cables in the computer system unrelated to this matter, but to save the draft CIR concerning Mihdhar. The contractor accessed the draft cable in the system the next day. When we interviewed all of the individuals involved with the CIR, they asserted that they recalled nothing about it. Dwight told the OIG that he did not recall being aware of the information about Mihdhar, did not recall drafting the CIR, did not recall whether he drafted the CIR on his own initiative or at the direction of his supervisor, and did not recall any discussions about the reasons for delaying completion and dissemination of the CIR. Malcolm said he did not recall reviewing any of the cable traffic or any information regarding Hazmi and Mihdhar. Eric told the OIG that he did not recall the CIR. The CIA employees also stated that they did not recall the CIR. Although James, the CIA employee detailed to FBI Headquarters, declined to 173 According to John, once CIRs were drafted the CIA’s standard operating procedure was for the drafter to “coordinate” the CIR in the computer system, which notified the persons designated by the drafter that there was a CIR that required their attention. He said that it was not standard operating procedure to access CIRs in draft form. 242 be interviewed by us, he told the CIA OIG that he did not recall the CIR. John (the Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit) and Michelle, the desk officer who was following this issue, also stated that they did not recall the CIR, any discussions about putting it on hold, or why it was not sent. 5. Mihdhar in Dubai On the same day that Dwight was drafting the CIR, the CIA reported in an internal cable additional information about Mihdhar. The cable stated that it appeared that, despite his multiple entry visa, Mihdhar had not yet traveled to the United States. The cable then stated that it was up to the CTC as to whether anyone should inquire with the INS to verify whether Mihdhar had traveled to the United States.174 The cable also reported additional information about Mihdhar while he was in Dubai. CIA records reveal that this cable also was read by FBI detailee Dwight. However, Dwight did not include in the draft CIR the additional information about the lack of any indication that Mihdhar had traveled to United States or the additional information about Mihdhar in Dubai.175 6. CIA cable stating that Mihdhar’s visa and passport information had been passed to FBI Also on the same day that Dwight was preparing the CIR, Michelle, the Bin Laden Unit desk officer who was following the issue of Mihdhar, prepared a lengthy cable to several stations summarizing the information that had been collected at that point on Mihdhar and three other individuals who also were possibly traveling to Malaysia. The cable began, “After following the various reports, some much more credible than others, regarding a possible [Bin 174 We did not determine whether the CIA actually contacted the INS pursuant to this suggestion. As we discuss below, we did determine INS records reflect that Mihdhar first entered the United States on January 15, 2000, and only entered again on July 4, 2001. 175 This cable also was read by James, the CIA employee detailed to the FBI’s SIOC. As detailed below, he later discussed some of its contents with an FBI Headquarters employee. 243 Laden]-associated threat against U.S. interests in East Asia, we wish to note that there indeed appears to be a disturbing trend of [Bin Laden] associates traveling to Malaysia, perhaps not for benign reasons.” This cable then summarized the CIA’s information that indicated several individuals were planning to travel to Malaysia. In the paragraph describing Mihdhar, Michelle stated that Mihdhar’s travel documents, including a multiple entry U.S. visa, had been copied and passed “to the FBI for further investigation.” This cable –the fifth CIA cable to discuss Mihdhar’s U.S. visa – did not state by whom or to whom Mihdhar’s travel documents were passed. It also did not indicate how they had been passed, or provide any other reference to the passage of the documents. Because this cable was an internal, operational cable, it was not forwarded to or copied to the FBI. This cable was disseminated to various CIA stations approximately three hours after Michelle had noted in the cable system that Dwight was directed to hold off on sending his draft CIR to the FBI “for now per [the CIA Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit].” When we interviewed Michelle, she stated that she had no recollection of who told her that Mihdhar’s travel documents had been passed to the FBI or how they had been passed. She said she would not have been the person responsible for passing the documents. According to Michelle, the language in the cable stating “[the documents] had been passed” suggested to her that someone else told her that they had already been passed, but she did not know who it was. The CIA Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit also said he had no recollection of this cable, and he did not know whether the information had been passed to the FBI. Neither we nor the CIA OIG was able to locate any other witness who said they remembered anything about Mihdhar’s travel documents being passed to the FBI, or any other documents that corroborated the statement that the documents were in fact passed to the FBI. 7. The Malaysia meetings and surveillance of Mihdhar After he arrived in Malaysia, Mihdhar was followed and photographed in various locations meeting with several different people. These events are 244 referred to as “the Malaysia meetings.” CIA employees wrote several cables contemporaneously about the Malaysia meetings, which we discuss below. a. First cable regarding Mihdhar in Malaysia The CIA prepared an internal cable stating that Mihdhar had arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of January 5. The cable also described his activities with other Arabs who were unidentified at the time. This cable, which we refer to as the “first Malaysia meetings cable,” did not contain any information regarding passports or visas. b. January 5 FBI threat update It appears that this first Malaysia meetings cable was provided to the FBI. Sometime before the daily FBI executive briefing that took place on January 6 at 7:30 a.m., the January 5 threat update information concerning Mihdhar was edited in the FBI’s SIOC. This January 5 threat update reflected an almost verbatim recitation of portions of the CIA’s first Malaysia meetings cable, including the same spelling mistake in reference to a particular place in Malaysia, which indicates that the CIA provided a copy of the first Malaysia meetings cable to the FBI. However, we were not able to determine who in the FBI received this information from the CIA or who edited the January 5 threat update. No one we interviewed at the FBI said they recalled handling information related to Mihdhar or the January 5 threat update. The threat update contained no reference to Mihdhar’s passport information or his U.S. multiple-entry visitor’s visa. The January 5 threat update also was made part of the January 6 7:30 a.m. executive briefing document. This briefing did not contain any additional information about Mihdhar. The January 5 threat update was the only official document from this period located by the FBI that referenced the Malaysia meetings that were discussed in the first CIA Malaysia meetings cable. 245 c. Discussion between CIA and FBI employees about Malaysia meetings As noted above, computer records show that James, the CTC employee detailed to the FBI’s SIOC, read the cables and the draft CIR indicating that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. Contemporaneous e-mails show that James discussed the Malaysia meetings with two FBI Headquarters employees in the SIOC in the early morning hours of January 6. Below we detail the cables and the evidence about the discussions that took place between the CIA and FBI personnel in the SIOC about the Malaysia meetings. Contemporaneous e-mail messages among CIA employees show that during the night of January 5 James briefed the FBI SSA who we call Bob about Mihdhar’s travel. At the time, Bob was an SSA in the UBL Unit in FBI Headquarters, which was operating out of the SIOC during this period. James wrote an e-mail to several CIA employees in which he stated that he was detailing “exactly what [he] briefed [the FBI] on” in the event the FBI later complained that they were not provided with all of the information about Mihdhar.176 This e-mail did not discuss Mihdhar’s passport or U.S. visa. As previously mentioned, James told the CIA OIG that he had no recollection of these events. He declined to be interviewed by us. Bob told the OIG that he had no independent recollection of any briefing from a CIA employee regarding the Malaysia meetings. However, he was able to locate a scant contemporaneous note that confirmed he had been briefed regarding Mihdhar and his trip to Malaysia. This note contained no details as to the content of the briefing and no reference to Mihdhar’s U.S. visa. Bob told the OIG that he does not believe that he had been told in this conversation about Mihdhar’s U.S. visa. Bob stated to us that the presence of a 176 James wrote these e-mails in response to an e-mail from another CIA employee who was detailed to the FBI SIOC. That employee reported on the morning of January 6 that he had been asked by an FBI employee for the latest on Mihdhar. James responded in a series of e-mails that he had already briefed the FBI. The final e-mail by James sets forth the details of his briefings. 246 U.S. visa in Mihdhar’s passport would have been extremely important and would have triggered a more significant response than his minimal notes. Bob also told the OIG that he did not know why James chose to brief him about Mihdhar. Bob said that he was not a designated point of contact for the CIA while the SIOC was activated, although he also said that he did not know whether there was a designated point of contact in the SIOC. Bob said that he knew James because James had previously been detailed from the CTC to FBI Headquarters and had worked in ITOS with Bob. d. Second cable regarding Mihdhar and the Malaysia meetings The day after the CIA employee discussed the Malaysia meetings with the two FBI SIOC employees, the CIA sent another internal cable providing new information about the activities of Mihdhar. This cable, “the second Malaysia meetings cable,” provided information about Mihdhar’s activities once he left the Kuala Lumpur airport and his meetings with various individuals. e. Discussion between CTC officer and FBI employee about Malaysia meetings Shortly after 7:30 a.m. on January 6, James briefed another FBI SSA – who we call “Ted” – who was detailed to the SIOC from an FBI field office, about information contained in the second Malaysia meetings cable. Ted told the OIG he was working in the SIOC as an “assistant” to the day shift commander and the UBL Unit Chief, but that he had no specific duties. Because Bob had left FBI Headquarters on a trip to New York by this time, James briefed Ted to ensure that someone at FBI Headquarters had the latest information on Mihdhar. In the same e-mail in which he had detailed what he told Bob, James provided specifics of what he told Ted. The e-mail also stated that the CIA would “continue to run this down and keep the FBI in the loop.” The e-mail did not contain any reference to Mihdhar’s passport or U.S. visa. Based on this briefing by James, Ted prepared an update for the January 6 afternoon FBI executive briefing. Ted e-mailed the update to the ITOS Assistant Section Chief at 8:40 a.m. This update reflected the details of the 247 information Ted had received from James. It did not contain any reference to Mihdhar’s passport or U.S. visa. Like Bob, Ted told the OIG that he had no recollection of being briefed regarding the Malaysia meetings. Although he said he did not recall these events, Ted asserted he did not believe that he had received Mihdhar’s passport or U.S. visa information because if he had he would have unquestionably recognized their significance and documented such information in the update for the executive briefing. Ted told the OIG that he did not know why James briefed him about the Mihdhar information. Like Bob, Ted stated he was not a designated point of contact for the CIA while the SIOC was activated. Ted also knew James because of James’ previous detail to ITOS in FBI Headquarters when Ted served as an SSA in the RFU. f. Cables updating the Malaysia meetings information, including Mihdhar’s travel to Bangkok On January 8, the CIA reported in another internal cable that a new individual had joined Mihdhar and the others, and that additional surveillance photographs were taken. The cable did not state how many photographs were taken or what would be done with the photos. In another cable sent five hours later, the CIA reported in an internal cable that Mihdhar and two of the unidentified men – one of whom turned out to be Hazmi – departed Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur airport en route to Bangkok, Thailand. g. Cables regarding Hazmi’s travel to the United States On January 9, the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit prepared a cable asking that Mihdhar and his associates be identified while in Thailand. CIA records show that on January 13, the CIA was attempting to locate Mihdhar and his traveling companions. In addition, Mihdhar had been watchlisted at the airport in the event that he attempted to leave Thailand. Several weeks later, CIA officers in Kuala Lumpur followed up with their Bangkok counterparts for additional information about Mihdhar and his traveling companions. Approximately two weeks later, Bangkok reported that 248 there was a delay in responding due to difficulties in obtaining the requested information. In early March 2000, officials in Bangkok reported internally that it had identified one of Mihdhar’s traveling companions as Nawaf al-Hazmi. The cable reported that Hazmi had traveled to Bangkok on January 8 and had subsequently traveled on a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles, California on January 15. The cable also stated that Mihdhar had arrived in Bangkok on January 8 but that it was unknown if and when he had departed.177 In addition, the cable identified the third traveler as Salah Saeed Mohammed Bin Yousaf.178 CIA records show that none of the FBI detailees accessed this early March cable. The OIG found no documents or witnesses indicating that the information that Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles on January 15, 2000, was shared with the FBI at this time. Rather, as we discuss below, this fact was not shared with the FBI until August 2001. We found no indication that CTC personnel took any action with regard to the important information that Hazmi had traveled to the United States. For example, he was not placed on any U.S. watchlists. The day after Bangkok Station reported about Hazmi’s travel to Los Angeles, one office that received the Bangkok cable sent a cable to the CTC stating the Bangkok cable regarding Hazmi’s travel had been read “with interest.” Yet, despite this effort to flag the significance of this information, the cable was not shared with the FBI and did not result in any specific action by the CIA. As we discuss below, it was not until August 2001 that FBI Headquarters personnel learned that on January 15, 2000, both Mihdhar and Hazmi had left Thailand and traveled to Los Angeles, California, where they were both 177 In fact, Mihdhar had traveled to the U.S. with Hazmi on January 15, 2000. This fact was not discovered by anyone in the Intelligence Community until August 2001. 178 Yousaf left Bangkok on January 20 for Karachi, Pakistan. Some time after September 11, Yousaf was determined to be Tawfiq Muhammad Salih Bin Rashid al Atash, a/k/a Khallad, the purported mastermind of the Cole attack. We discuss the FBI’s discovery of information about Khallad and the Cole attack, and the FBI’s opportunities to connect Khallad to the Malaysia meetings, in Section III, C below. 249 admitted into the United States on non-immigrant visas and authorized to remain until July 14, 2000. 8. OIG findings regarding FBI’s knowledge about Mihdhar and the Malaysia meetings We discuss here our findings regarding the FBI’s knowledge of information about Mihdhar and the January 2000 Malaysia meetings, including whether the intelligence information concerning Mihdhar’s valid multiple entry U.S. visa and Hazmi’s travel to the United States in January 2000 was passed to the FBI. Several witnesses told the OIG that Mihdhar’s possession of a U.S. visa provided a clear domestic nexus that should have triggered the passing of this information from the CIA to the FBI. At the outset, we note that the CIA has acknowledged that it obtained information that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa and that Hazmi had traveled to the United States, and that the CIA should have placed their names on U.S. watchlists, but that this did not occur.179 The CIA OIG is reviewing this matter to determine why this failure occurred and who is responsible for it. a. Formal passage of information from the CIA to the FBI As noted above, the formal method of communicating intelligence information between the CIA and the FBI was an intelligence report called a CIR. CIA records show that between July 1999 and September 10, 2001, the Bin Laden Unit disseminated over 1,000 CIRs, most of which were sent to the FBI. CTC employees as well as FBI detailees to Bin Laden Unit had authority to draft CIRs, and the detailees collectively drafted over 150 CIRs to the FBI during this period. However, CIRs could only be disseminated by persons with authority to “release” the CIRs.180 In the Bin Laden Unit, only supervisors, 179 Mihdhar and Hazmi were placed on watchlists by other countries, including Thailand. 180 Once a supervisor approved a CIR for release, it was electronically disseminated by a unit in the CIA known as the Policy Community Action Staff. 250 including John and Eric as the deputy chiefs of the station, had authority to release CIRs.181 Dwight drafted a CIR in which he summarized the information that had been disseminated by the NSA about Mihdhar. He also provided detailed information about Mihdhar’s passport, visa, and visa application indicating that New York had been his intended destination. According to CIA records, this CIR never was disseminated to the FBI. A desk officer’s note on the draft CIR indicated that the Deputy Chief of the Bin Laden Unit, John, had instructed the draft CIR be put on hold, and Dwight contacted him through an e-mail about the disposition of the CIR a week later. Despite this e-mail, the evidence clearly shows that the CIR never was disseminated to the FBI. The evidence shows, however, that Dwight acted in accordance with the system that was in place at the time by drafting the CIR to formally pass the visa information to the FBI. In accordance with Bin Laden Unit policy, Dwight was not permitted to pass the CIR to the FBI without permission. All of the witnesses stated, however, that they did not recall the CIR or any communications about it. Other than the note written by the desk officer, we found no documentary evidence about why the CIR was not disseminated. Thus, we were unable to determine why it was not sent. The information in the CIR, which was documented in the appropriate format for passage to the FBI, was potentially significant to the FBI and should have been passed to the FBI. We believe it was a significant failure for the CIR not to be sent to the FBI. b. Informal passage of information from CIA to FBI We also considered what information that James, a CIA detailee to the FBI, informally passed to FBI Headquarters and whether he informed anyone of the visa information about Mihdhar. Based on the contemporaneous e-mails in which James documented in detail what he told FBI SSAs Bob and Ted, we concluded that he reported to the FBI the information regarding Mihdhar’s 181 CIA records show that Eric released five CIRs during his tenure at the Bin Laden Unit. 251 transit through Dubai, his arrival in Kuala Lumpur, his activities after his arrival, and his meeting with other suspected al Qaeda operatives. It is far less clear, however, whether he provided Mihdhar’s passport and U.S. visa information to the FBI. We do not believe that James briefed either Bob or Ted on Mihdhar’s passport or U.S. visa information. First, nothing in Bob’s contemporaneous notes or Ted’s e-mail or briefing update referred to Mihdhar’s passport or visa information. Bob and Ted also stated forcefully and credibly to us that they would have recognized the significance of a U.S. visa in the hands of a suspected al Qaeda operative and at a minimum would have included such information in their notes or reports. Moreover, James wrote a detailed e-mail to document the contents of his conversations with Bob and Ted. Since the stated purpose of James’ e-mail was to prevent the FBI from later claiming he had failed to brief them on some important details, he had every incentive to include all relevant details in that email. At the time he wrote this e-mail, he had read three of the CIA cables indicating that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa, as well as the draft CIR. Yet, James’ e-mail contained no mention of Mihdhar’s passport or visa. We found only one piece of evidence suggesting that the FBI was made aware in January 2000 of Mihdhar’s U.S. visa – the early January cable by the desk officer who we call Michelle which stated that Mihdhar’s travel documents, including a multiple entry U.S. visa, had been copied and passed “to the FBI for further investigation.” We could not, however, find any evidence to corroborate that this information actually had been passed to the FBI. This cable did not state by whom or to whom the documents were passed or make any other reference to the passage of the documents. The cable was an internal cable, which means it would not have been forwarded to or accessible to the FBI. In addition, Michelle, the CIA desk officer who wrote the cable, had no recollection of who told her that the documents had been passed or how they had been passed. She said that she would not have been responsible for passing the information but instead would have been told by someone else that the documents had been passed. We were unable to locate any witness who said they remembered anything about the documents being passed to the FBI, as Michelle’s cable 252 asserted. Even if her cable was accurate, and she had been told by someone that the documents had been passed to the FBI, there is no evidence that such information was correct. The CIA and FBI witnesses we interviewed described this period as very hectic and said they were flooded with information. Several witnesses suggested that these hectic circumstances could have created an environment where unintentional misunderstandings might have occurred about whether information was actually passed to other Intelligence Community agencies. We also searched ACS for any FBI record of the travel documents having been provided to the FBI, since this cable indicated that a physical copy of the documents, not merely information about the documents, was passed. We found no reference to the documents. Aside from this cable, we found no other evidence that the information or documents about Mihdhar’s passport or visa information was in fact provided to the FBI during this time period. c. FBI detailees’ handling of information on Mihdhar As discussed above, five FBI employees were detailed to the CTC to work on Bin Laden matters during 2000 and 2001, and all had access at their desks to CIA internal cable traffic. Four of those employees – the supervisor who we call Eric, the IOS who we call Mary, and the agents who we call Dwight and Malcolm – were at the Bin Laden Unit in January 2000 when the Malaysia meetings occurred.182 We considered how each handled the intelligence information concerning Mihdhar during this period. After reading two of the cables indicating that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa, Dwight prepared a draft CIR to officially notify the FBI about that information, since the U.S. visa presented a nexus between Mihdhar and the United States. But the CIR was not provided to the FBI. However, we also examined whether any of the detailees took any other action to notify FBI Headquarters or, in Malcolm’s case, the New York Field Office, about the information concerning Mihdhar. 182 The fifth detailee – the manager who we call Craig – did not arrive at the CTC until July 2000. 253 The evidence shows that each FBI detailee reviewed some of the cables about Mihdhar’s U.S. visa. Dwight accessed several of the cables that indicated Mihdhar had a U.S. visa, such as the cables stating that Mihdhar had transited through Dubai and had a U.S. visa, the cable stating that Mihdhar’s visa application listed New York as his intended destination in May 1999, and the cable stating that based on a review of Mihdhar’s visa, it did not appear that he had actually traveled to the United States. Malcolm also accessed the cable stating that Mihdhar’s visa application listed New York as his intended destination in May 1999, and the cable stating that it did not appear that Mihdhar had actually traveled to the United States. Malcolm also accessed the two cables stating that Mihdhar had arrived in Kuala Lumpur and that surveillance photos showed him meeting with others in Malaysia. Malcolm also accessed Dwight’s draft CIR indicating passage of the visa information to the FBI, including the New York Field Office. Mary accessed the January cable stating that Mihdhar’s travel documents, including a multiple-entry U.S. visa, had been passed to the FBI, but she did not access the previous cables reflecting the visa information or Dwight’s CIR. She also accessed the two cables stating that Mihdhar had arrived in Kuala Lumpur and that surveillance photos showed him meeting with others in Malaysia. Eric did not access these cables, but he accessed Dwight’s draft CIR which detailed Mihdhar’s visa information and which summarized the NSA information. However, Dwight, Malcolm, Mary, and Eric all told the OIG that they did not recall anyone from the CIA bringing to their attention the fact that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. In addition, despite the records of their access to the cable traffic or the CIR, they all told the OIG that they did not recall discovering at the time – such as by reading a cable – that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa.183 As discussed above, Dwight told the OIG that he did not even recall 183 The detailees also told the OIG that they did not necessarily read all of the cables they accessed. They explained that they often skimmed cables to determine if any action was required on their part or to find specific information in connection with a particular assignment or issue. 254 writing the CIR or even being aware of the Malaysia meetings or of the fact that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. Eric told the OIG that his CIA counterpart – John, the CIA Bin Laden Unit Deputy Chief – mentioned the Malaysia meetings and that surveillance photos had been taken, but Eric did not recall ever hearing anything about Mihdhar having a U.S. visa. Mary told the OIG that she did not recall even being contemporaneously aware of the Malaysia meetings.184 Mary explained that she did not have reason to be made aware of the Malaysia meetings at the time because the matter had been assigned to another CIA desk officer – Michelle (the one who wrote the cable indicating that Mihdhar’s travel documents had been passed to the FBI). Malcolm said he was not aware of the fact that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa until after September 11. He stated that he recalled being shown the Kuala Lumpur photos, but he could not remember whether that was before or after September 11. He said that it was not until he was shown the Kuala Lumpur photos that he became aware of the Malaysia meetings. Yet, the evidence shows that all had accessed contemporaneously cables indicating that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa, which was important intelligence information that was never provided to FBI Headquarters. They did not violate any specific policy or procedure in their handling of the information, and they did not have the authority to unilaterally pass CTC information to the FBI without permission. This restriction included any informal passage of the information, such as by telephone call or in-person discussions. However, none of them, particularly Dwight, ensured that the information was provided to the FBI. Dwight drafted a CIR that would have provided the FBI with the important information about Mihdhar, but the CIR was not released by the CIA. Although Dwight followed up a few days later to ask whether the cable was going to be sent or whether he should remake it in some other way, there is no record of a response to his request, and no one could explain why the cable was not sent. We believe it was critical that the information be sent. We found no indication that this ever happened. 184 When we showed Mary copies of an e-mail written by the CTC officer who had briefed SSA Bob and Ted, which indicated that she was copied on the e-mail, she said that she did not recall having read the e-mail. 255 This failure to send the information to the FBI, in our view, was also attributable to problems in how the detailees were instructed and supervised, and that these problems significantly impeded the flow of information between the CIA and the FBI. We discuss these systemic problems in detail in our analysis section later in this chapter. d. OIG conclusion In sum, the evidence shows that in January and March 2000, the CIA uncovered important intelligence information about Mihdhar and Hazmi: • They were al Qaeda operatives who had traveled to Malaysia, where they were photographed meeting with other suspected al Qaeda operatives; • They traveled to Bangkok with a third person; • Mihdhar had a valid, multiple-entry U.S. visa; and • Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles in January 2000. Yet, we found that the CIA did not share significant pieces of this information with the FBI – that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa and that Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles. An FBI detailee at the CIA drafted a CIR to share this information with the FBI, but that information was not released by the CIA to the FBI. We were unable to determine why this did not occur. No one we interviewed said they remembered the CIR or why it was not sent to the FBI. We consider it a significant failure for this CIR not to be sent to the FBI. In addition, the evidence shows that the limited information that was provided to FBI Headquarters – that Mihdhar traveled to Malaysia and met with other suspected al Qaeda operatives – was never documented by the FBI in any system that was retrievable or searchable, thus limiting the usefulness of the information that was shared. The FBI’s only official record of having received this information was in the hard copies of the January 5 threat update, which was attached to the January 6 executive briefing, and Ted’s e-mail summarizing information from his discussion with the CIA employee. We discuss this and other systemic problems in our analysis section below. 256