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The NSA Spying and Lying Does Relate to 9/11

On March 7, 2001, during trial proceedings for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, an FBI agent read aloud in court a phone number that had been used by alleged al Qaeda plotters to plan and execute the embassy attacks.[6] This was the phone number of the “Yemen Hub,” which doubled as the home phone of Ahmed Al-Hada, the father-in-law of alleged 9/11 hijacker Khalid Al-Mihdhar. According to U.S. officials, the same phone was used for planning the USS Cole bombing and, later, the 9/11 attacks. The phone number was also published in the British weekly the Observer, just five weeks before 9/11. As author Kevin Fenton wrote: “Any of the Observer’s readers could have called the number and asked for a message to be forwarded to Osama bin Laden.”[7] This widely reported FBI gaffe should have alerted al Qaeda to U.S. knowledge of its secret Yemen operations center while also ensuring that anyone listening would know the exact al Qaeda phone number being monitored by the NSA. Despite this major tip-off, al Qaeda continued to use the phone to contact the alleged 9/11 hijackers until “only weeks before 9/11.”[8]

The NSA later claimed that, although it was listening in on the calls it didn’t want to dig into who the calls were going to in the U.S. because it did not want to be accused of spying on Americans. However, the NSA was already well aware of who was receiving the calls ― two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers. This is clarified by the second example.

According to former NSA director Michael Hayden, “In early 2000, we had the Al-Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salem, as well as Khalid Al-Mihdhar, in our sights. We knew of their association with al-Qaeda, and we shared this information with the [intelligence] community.”[9] The NSA knew about these suspects well before that, however, because an early 1999 NSA communications intercept referenced Nawaf Al-Hazmi, so it was clear that the NSA knew about him for more than two years before 9/11.

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