Questions and Answers with Kevin Fenton
I was introduced to Kevin Fenton sometime in 2006. We met on 911blogger.com where he was a contributor for many years. I respected his keen insight and appreciated the fact that he used mainstream media accounts and Government documents for his postings there. Kevin is a contributor to the Complete 9/11 Timeline available at www.historycommons.org, along with people like Paul Thompson.
Eventually, Kevin signed up on my site, and started posting his information there. In September 2007, I started work on something I called the Who Is? Archives that was based on the material of the timeline. Kevin was kind enough to write several of the introductions for people mentioned.
The following is a written interview with Kevin Fenton, answering questions that I asked him. Thank you Kevin for taking the time, and I hope everyone buys your book, Disconnecting The Dots: How 9/11 Was Allowed To Happen. The information in it is essential to understanding the 9/11 attacks, and gives several examples of people that should have been held accountable, but weren’t.
What prompted you to get involved with the cause of 9/11 Justice?
Several years ago, I read The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin after learning of it on the web and thinking it might be interesting. After reading, I felt some of it held up fairly well, and some of his arguments did not hold up so well. I started to read things about 9/11 on the net and to delve more deeply into some of the issues.
Who are some of your influences as far as your work goes?
My biggest influence is undoubtedly Paul Thompson, who was responsible for a lot of the material at the 9/11 Timeline, which is now hosted by historycommons.org (previously cooperativeresearch.org). Paul seemed to think that there was something wrong with what you might call the “official” account of 9/11, but never seemed to be sure exactly what had really happened and he encouraged research based primarily on MSM articles and government documents.
How did you become involved with www.historycommons.org, and updating the famous “Complete 9/11 Timeline?”
I met Paul at a discussion forum on the net. He invited me to help out a couple of times and I accepted, going over the various hijackers initially, but then moving on to other topics and also other timelines hosted by historycommons.org.
Without being specific about where, what kind of work do you do?
You mean “real” work? I’m a translator. I live in the Czech Republic.
The information in your book focuses on Alec Station, the Yemen Hub, the CIA, the FBI, individuals like Tom Wilshire, Harry Samit, and others. Why did you first become interested in this aspect of 9/11, and how did you decide that this would be your focus for a book?
It was in 2006. The Yemen hub had been mentioned cryptically in a couple of passages in the 9/11 Commission Report and the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report, but more information emerged after the warrantless wiretapping story was run by the New York Times. Specifically, President Bush mentioned the calls in his response and then they were the subject of an LA Times rebuttal-type piece by Josh Meyer. A few months later, an unredacted version of the unclassified version of the Justice Department inspector general’s report was published after the Moussaoui trial ended and Lawrence Wright published the Looming Tower, which gave a lot of details about the CIA aspect of the story.
If there was one moment that made me think “This can’t be right,” then it was when I started breaking down the Justice Department inspector general’s report for 9/11 Timeline entries. I had the report as a .pdf file and I searched for “John,” Wilshire’s alias. Although I had already read the report a couple of times, this was the first time I noticed that “John” was involved in both the withholding of information from the FBI in January 2000 and the summer of 2001. Previously, I had thought that a variety of officials had failed to pass information, but I now realized this assumption was wrong and that there was a central character.
I was working on this throughout 2006 and the first part of 2007. I hoped somebody who was an established writer would come along and take up the topic and give it a fair treatment. A guy named Bob Schopmeyer wrote a book that goes over the same ground as I do, but it had a different style and also contained a lot of information that was not relevant to what I thought needed to be said. After waiting a while, I realized nobody else was out there and I had to do it myself. The second draft, which was fairly similar to the finished version, was completed around January 2009. I still hope a more established writer will come along, find more information and write an improved version of Disconnecting.
Do you think it is more or less likely that individuals like Tom Wilshire, Dave Frasca, and others were acting on their own or under the direction of others?
There is a group of individuals that the book deals with where I was unable to come to a firm conclusion as to whether they knew they were doing wrong when they performed poorly, and Frasca is a member of that group. Maybe he was just a bureaucratic asshole who was not too hot in the competence stakes. Then again, maybe he knew he was doing wrong.
Wilshire is a different case. The number of times he withheld information from the Bureau and a number of other factors show clearly that he knew he was doing something he should not have been. However, Wilshire was deputy chief of a unit with a couple of dozen officers, so, in my opinion, he was too junior to orchestrate the whole thing. He reported to a manager named Richard Blee, son of Cold War hero David Blee.
One of the questions I address in the book is whether Blee’s bosses, CIA Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black and CIA Director George Tenet, knew what Blee was doing at the time. The way it looks to me, based on the evidence we have now, is that Blee acted without Black and Tenet’s knowledge. For example, on two occasions in January 2000 Blee gave Black incorrect briefings about the whereabouts of alleged Flight 77 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and, given the amount of cable traffic into and out of Alec Station, it is hard to believe that Blee did not know what was really going on. Also, the CIA station in Malaysia made some small-to-medium-sized mistakes in January 2000, but on three occasions somebody there went above and beyond the call of duty to try and get something done. For example, the station chief there showed the photos taken at the summit to an FBI agent. If the CIA Director was on board with the plot to keep the FBI out of the loop, why was the CIA station in Malaysia not also on board? Obviously, none of this is to deny that Black and Tenet must have figured out a good portion of what Blee did after the attacks and then covered up for him.
Are there other areas of 9/11 that interest you? Things like the air response, intelligence connections to “Al-Qaeda,” foreign support for the hijackers, etc…?
I’m pretty much interested in all of it to a degree. However, I’m not a technical type and therefore focus on non-technical aspects. Obviously, some aspects of 9/11 skepticism are more credible than others.
What are your feelings about Philip Zelikow, the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission?
After the second draft of the book was finished, the National Archives made available a portion of the commission’s files. An associate, Erik Larson, went to the Archives and started to upload the commission documents to the web. I started writing stories based on the files Erik found, one of which was critical of Zelikow. This led to a brief exchange of emails with Zelikow, although he did not give me much new information and kept his cards close to his chest (it was mostly about the air defense on 9/11, not what Disconnecting is about).
My opinion of government officials in general is that they are intelligent, nice and incredibly straight people. They often have a hard time thinking that their colleagues, also intelligent, nice and seemingly straight people, would ever do anything intentionally wrong. This attitude was prevalent on the commission. For example, it’s crystal clear from Shenon’s book that a whole bunch of people on the commission thought CIA Director George Tenet was, at best, economical with the truth, but there’s not a word of this in the report. In addition, judging by what Shenon wrote, nobody ever stopped to ask themselves just why Tenet was lying, what, specifically, was he trying to hide. Also remember the list of chapter headings that Zelikow drafted in the first few months of the investigation and that Philip Shenon exposed in his book? Zelikow knew what he wanted to write more or less from the beginning and was predisposed to follow that course, not to go where the evidence took him.
If I were Tom Wilshire or Richard Blee I would have slept soundly in my bed at night knowing that Barbara Grewe (the DoJ IG and commission investigator responsible for the CIA/FBI issues) and Philip Zelikow were investigating me. Better, more thorough and more skeptical investigators would have got further. Here’s one example of how it should have been done differently: Tenet lied to the commission under oath about not briefing President Bush in mid-August 2001. He then sent out a press release saying he had momentarily forgot about it. OK, so call him back, put him under oath again and have him answer the question.
There are some who claim to be advocates for 9/11 Justice that have a problem with your book because it focuses on the hijackers. Because according to some, there either were no hijackers, or they were “patsies” and the planes were remote controlled. What do you have to say to these individuals?
Disconnecting is a narrowly focused book. It is about the intelligence failures before 9/11. It is pretty clear to me that Almihdhar and Alhazmi were real people and there is evidence they were on the planes (although not all evidence the government says it has is public and you might want to put a question mark over one or two things that are out there). There are lots of people who met them in the States and spoke about it afterwards; there is also a fair amount of documentation about them that was released at the time of the Moussaoui trial. It is also clear they were AQ operatives. Almihdhar lived at AQ’s operations hub—how much more connected could you get?
I’m not a pilot and I can’t really add any expertise to the question of whether the alleged pilots would have been able to fly the planes the way they did with only the training the FBI says they had. However, I don’t think much of the FBI’s investigation, so there is always the possibility that they had training the Bureau did not uncover, or even did uncover, but did not make public. In this context recall that the anthrax scare started a short time after 9/11 and that a lot of agents were diverted away from investigating the attacks to what became the Bureau’s attempt to fit up Steven Hatfill.
Finally, I would say that we don’t really know the half of it. Let’s keep an open mind on what really happened.
Do you think there will ever be real accountability and justice for what happened that day? What would that look like to you?
To answer the second part of the question first: We would have to know exactly what happened, which means making the relevant documents public (not just some investigators writing a report based on evidence that is then withheld) and having witnesses testify publicly and under oath for a credible investigation (meaning: non-partisan, international). Once we know what happened we could then proceed to impose sanctions on people who had performed poorly or engaged in intentional wrongdoing.
Do I ever think this will happen? No. On the brighter side, I do think the media (at least the international media) has become a lot more adversarial and skeptical since 9/11. Compare the response to the 9/11 Commission report (fawning admiration) to the response to the FBI’s claims about Bruce Ivins (downright skepticism in some cases). I think this was more powered by the fallout from the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find WMDs there than anything to do with alternative accounts of 9/11, but it certainly is positive. If 9/11 happened again, I think the response to it in terms of public skepticism of the government’s account would be different.
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