The recent release of the 2009 interview with former Bush Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke includes his speculation that the CIA were trying to "flip" Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmih inside the US. It is the only reason he can come up with - concerning the behaviour of the CIA in keeping information about the hijackers' presence in the US for over a year:-
His theory that the CIA were trying to get a source inside the Al-Midhar\Al-Hazmih cell is not really plausible to me. These suspects were well-known to intelligence agencies, they had sworn allegiance to Bin Laden in 1998, and in 1998 Bin Laden had declared war against the West. These hijackers were among those being monitored at the January 2000 Malaysia summit - which was a sort of all-star event for Al Qaeda. Then it seems that the CIA purposefully kept the visa information for Al-Midhar from the FBI. When they arrived in Los Angeles, an FBI officer on loan to the CIA asked if he could inform his superiors but the CIA head-officer said that he could not. WHY? These were high-value terrorists who had been involved in actions against US interests abroad. To add insult to injury, the WhiteHouse had been warned over 40 times about Bin Laden's determination to strike targets inside the United States. Let us not forget the infamous August 2001 PDB "Bin Laden Determined To Strike The US" - that Condi Rice lied about being "old information". So, if the heads of the administration knew that Bin Laden and his top henchmen were a threat, and more importantly - since the CIA knew about the threat, why on earth were they letting these two terrorists wander around the United States for over 14 months??!
Richard Clarke thinks that the CIA may have been trying to "flip" them so that they could become infiltrated. But this is hard to believe. Firstly, this action for the CIA to "flip" them inside the US is illegal. Secondly, the CIA told some lower-level FBI agents about the hijackers but gave them very limited information so they ended up in a failed search for the two men in August. Why did they do this? Why did they send those FBI on a wild goose chase with the excuse that the CIA is trying to "flip" the hijackers? And let us say that they did penetrate this Al Qaeda cell in the US - there was an important Principles Meeting with George Tenet, Whitehouse Staff and Richard Clarke on September 4th. And during that meeting, the threat-level and risk from Al Qaeda was discussed. Yet - the existence of those two Al Qaeda terrorists was not brought up at all. The terrorists then hijacked the planes on the 11th of September. Now - is it plausible that the CIA's insider who had "infilitrated" that Al Qaeda cell was unaware of the fact that the terrorists had plane tickets for the 11th of September or were preparing for an operation very soon? If they were "playing" him - then clearly he should have realised that his attempt to get them to leave the United States had long failed given the amount of time he had to gain influence on the cell? The hijackers were using their own names, staying in hotels, and leaving very open paper trails as late as that date. And what about the hijackers' perception of the person/people who had attempted to infiltrate them? Did they not have any fears that the (hypothetical) CIA informant would realise that he was being played - especially given the time that had passed....? Wouldn't the hijackers then change their behaviour and stop living so openly or just abandon the plot?
Either way you cut it - the CIA are in deep trouble for allowing these men to even enter the United States without the FBI being informed. They are in deep trouble for having one of their officers claim her boss Richard Blee (at Alec Station) wanted to hold off on informing the FBI about Al-Midhar's visa - but then having her go and lie to her fellow CIA officers that the FBI had been informed of the visa, when it had not. Another CIA officer was also responsible for briefing the FBI about these two men - but without mentioning the visa and then telling his fellow CIA officers that there was no need to inform the FBI, because he had already informed them. Kevin Fenton writes in his article:-
"On the same day Miller’s cable was blocked, a CIA officer on loan to the FBI who we will call “Robert” briefed two FBI colleagues on what the CIA knew about the Malaysia meeting. Robert told the two FBI agents pretty much everything the CIA knew except the one key thing the Bureau needed to make it sit up and take notice—that Almihdhar had a US visa. Robert then told another CIA officer on loan to the Bureau there was no need to brief the FBI about Malaysia because he had already done so, ensuring this officer would not let slip the Almihdhar visa information."
So...there seemed to be an effort to prevent the FBI from knowing that the hijackers were planning to enter the country, and they were also not informed during their presence inside the US for over a year. The idea that they were trying to "flip" the hijackers inside the US, is simply not defensible given the numerous domestic and international warnings that existed at the time and the opportunities that the CIA had to infiltrate Al Qaeda before these men even entered the country. These Al Qaeda suspects were highly connected to the Yemen Hub that had been monitored independently by the CIA and NSA in the years prior to 9/11. Phone calls were monitored, the actual place in Yemen was bugged, comings and goings were very heavily monitored, etc. The idea that Cofer Black had no actual "source" inside Al Qaeda prior to 9/11, is just very hard to believe. This gets more incredible given that the hijackers were being monitored by the Saudi intelligence agencies as well as the numerous and disturbing Saudi connections to Al Qaeda at the time. Again, given the "close working relationship" between Tenet and the Saudi intelligence agencies (that Richard Clarke mentions in his 2009 interview) - and given that Tenet had allegedly been following Al Qaeda in "microscopic detail" - how could he not be aware of how much these terrorists had been monitored prior to 9/11?
A very interesting summary of the Saudi connection by the journalist, Julia Davis can be found here:-
As former federal crimes prosecutor John Loftus said “the information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence”.
We are looking at gross criminal negligence at the very least, concerning the behaviour of US intelligence agencies prior to 9/11. I don't think a rivalry outside the US with the FBI is relevant (as some have been suggesting). The CIA had one duty - to inform either the FBI, the Counter-Terrorism Czar's office, or the DoD - among others. They were not competing with the FBI here before the terrorists entered the US. There are suggestions that they were competing with the NSA. However, as 9/11 researcher Paul Thompson mentioned in an interview with BoilingFrogsPost recently - the CIA and NSA each independently had sufficient information so that they didn't need to access each other's data prior to 9/11 (particularly with the monitoring of the Yemen Hub).