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Thursday, January 22, 2009

9-11 Commission Memo on Phillpott Interview

Recently released by the National Archives:

Memorandum for the Record

Event: Interview - Commander Scott Phillpott
Location: Commission office - K Street
Date: July 13, 2004
Access Restrictions: None
Commission Participants: Dieter Snell, Bonnie Jenkins
MFR by: Dieter Snell

Commission staff interviewed Commander Phillpott at the Commission's K Street office. Also in attendance was Major Jeanne Meyer of the Chairman's Legal Office.

The interview was arranged at the request of Commander Phillpott, who wanted to provide the Commission with information concerning his involvement in a particular information operations segment of the Department of Defense's "Able Danger" program over an approximately 18-month span before 9/11.

According to Phillpott, documents he worked with in Able Danger - and that he sought to organize in a link analysis program - included material from February-April 2000 showing Mohamed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn. Phillpott's information on this subject was limited to his recollection of Atta's name and photo being part of an analyst notebook chart assembled by Lt. General Matt Gale (now retired and a DOD contractor). Phillpott saw the Atta material only briefly, before 9/11, at a point before it was redacted so as not to run afoul of posse comitatus restrictions, which Phillpott maintains were incorrectly imposed by DOD.

Phillpott contested the redaction of Atta (and other Brooklyn cell members) up his chain of command, to General Lambert, to no avail. According to Phillpott, General Schoonmaker was concerned about adverse publicity in the aftermath of Waco.

Phillpott's original assignment within Able Danger, in 1999, was to target Bin Ladin. His work initially was coordinated by a small group working in Tampa. The group, however, lacked adequate information access (lAC terminals), so Phillpott had to search for assistance elsewhere. He saw this need as particularly acute because, in his view, the nodal analysis being conducted by DIA, NSA, NRO and CIA was dysfunctional, focusing excessively on minor issues and not exploiting available subject matter experts.

Following a briefing at the Land Information Warfare Facility in Fort Belvoir (Information Dominance Center) on a data harvesting program, Phillpott became convinced that his program should use automated link analysis, which experts would then be able to work with. SOCOM, however, dismissed the link analysis as a "new toy", and Phillpott's pitch went nowhere. As a result, he had to create a link on his own terminal between Tampa and IDC, which ultimately enabled him to brief Generals Schoonmanker and Shelton between May and July 2000. Both were impressed.

In-fighting among DIA analysts, however, prevented the system from gaining a wider following. After IDC shut it down-due to "legal concerns" (E012003)-Phillpott was permitted to continue development of the system using Raytheon, receiving $750,000 in funding. The work continued in Garland, Texas, where the system was built almost from scratch. VIPs came down for tours.

To address concerns still being raised by Legal, Phillpott developed a spreadsheet to codify entries and trace searches, a control to make sure that searches were not conducted on U.S. nationals.

In c. October 2000, "circumscribed" briefings were planned for General Shinseki (sp?) and Admiral Jacoby (sp?).

Phillpott had a very good group of analysts, one of whom already was warning that Yemen represented a real danger point. The Cole bombing occurred two days later. After the bombing, Admiral Steffens (sp?) asked Phillpott to do forensic link analysis and generate a timeline hypothesis. Al Zandani was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, which Phillpott's database showed to be providing funds. In addition, the Aden Container Terminal-where the bombing took place-had a minority (49%) owner who was linked to UBL.

Phillpott sent his analysis to Centcom but nothing happened. He then clashed with his new boss, who was not cleared to see everything in Phillpott's program. The boss forced Phillpott to transfer back to Tampa, ending his involvement in the program, which Raytheon has continued to develop as "Genesis."

Phillpott thinks DIA is not exploiting all the data at its proposal, and especially is missing an opportunity to do language mapping. (Phillpott believes UBL has considerable influence over the French.)

Mitre Corp. (DOD contractor) now is in charge of the program, in which Phillpott no longer is involved.

Phillpott noted that the USG unwisely relied on the Political Security Agency in Yemen to provide reporting on political activity within Yemen. The PSA was prevented under Yemeni law from reporting on the activity of Yemeni national, so much information was missed.

Al Zadani is a religious leader in Yemen and advisor to President Saleh:

President performs Friday's prayer with Saada clerics

SANA'A, April 27 ( - President Ali Abdullah Saleh performed Friday prayer along with religious scholars from Saada governorate and other scholars at the Presidential House mosque in Sana'a City.

The Friday sermon was delivered by Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zandani in which he talked about the importance of the unification, lives of Muslims and their solidarity to face challenges surrounding the nation. He warned about plots aiming at breaking out sectarian disputes to wake the nation.

Sheikh Al-Zandani highlighted initiative presented by President Saleh to set up an islamic union to enable Islamic nations to defend their rights and future of their generations....

He prayed Allah to protect Yemen and Islamic nation from strife and crisis.

Of course, Al Zandani is also a spritual advisor to Osama Bin Laden:

United States Designates bin Laden Loyalist

The Treasury Department today announced that Shaykh Abd-al-Majid AL-ZINDANI, a loyalist to Usama bin Laden and supporter of al-Qaeda, has been designated by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under the authority of Executive Order 13224 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. His name will be submitted to the UN Security Council’s 1267 Committee’s consolidated list because of his support to bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

“With this action, the international community’s drumbeat against terrorist financiers continues to grow louder and the financial noose around al-Qaeda continues to grow tighter,” said Juan Zarate, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime.

The U.S. has credible evidence that AL-ZINDANI, a Yemeni national, supports designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.

AL-ZINDANI has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders. In this leadership capacity, he has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps. Most recently, he played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

Yemen Holdings was the company with partial ownership of the Port of Aden at the time of the Cole bombing, and it is owned and operated by the Bin Mahfouz family:

Yemen Investment & Development International (Yeminvest) is the consortium leading the redevelopment of Aden port under a three-phase programme involving investments of $580 million; 51% of the share in Yeminvest is held by Yemen Holdings. The Bin Mahfouz family of Saudi Arabia, whose ancestors migrated to the kingdom from Hadhramout in Yemen, are the sole owners of Yemen Holdings. The remaining 49% share in Yeminvest is held by the PSA Corporation (formerly Port of Singapore Authority).

According to Wikipedia's detailed entry for Khalid bin Mahfouz:

$225 million BCCI scandal fine

Bin Mahfouz was a non-executive director of Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a financial conglomerate later convicted of money laundering, bribery, support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and many other crimes.[5] Mahfouz personally owned a 20% stake in BCCI. He was indicted by a New York state grand jury for fraud but denied any culpability. The fraud charges were settled for $225 million in lieu of fines.[2]

Donations to Osama bin Laden in 1988

Craig Unger's book House of Bush, House of Saud claims that bin Mahfouz donated over $270,000 to Osama bin Laden's Islamist organization at the request of Osama's brother Salem bin Laden. Bin Mahfouz's lawyer stated: "This donation was to assist the US-sponsored resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and was never intended nor, to the best of Sheikh Khalid's knowledge, ever used to fund any 'extension' of that resistance movement in other countries."[6]

Alleged NCB funding of al-Qaeda

Khalid bin Mahfouz has denied that NCB, his bank, was involved in funding an al-Qaeda group. According to reports, high-placed Saudi businessmen transferred millions of dollars through NCB to charities operating as fronts for al-Qaeda. Mahfouz states that he could not have been aware of every wire transfer moving through the bank, and that he would not have allowed such transactions had he known they were taking place. There is no evidence that Mahfouz was personally involved in any of these transactions....

Muwafaq Foundation

Khalid bin Mahfouz helped set up a charity organization called the Muwafaq Foundation, Muwafaq being Arabic for "blessed relief". He funded this charity with $30 million, and put his eldest son, Abdulrahman bin Mahfouz, on the board of directors. In October of 2001, the U.S. Treasury Department named Muwafaq an al-Qaeda front organization. Neither Khalid nor Abdulrahman were accused of funding terrorism by the United States; however Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi national hired to run the charity, was named a supporter of terrorism by and had his assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department.[2]

Khalid bin Mahfouz claims that he was not aware of the charity being used to fund terrorists. He claims further that he has initiated an investigation of his own into Muwafaq's activities.[citation needed]