A Wall Of Secrecy Between The FBI And CIA Might Have Paved The Way For 9/11

Both are federal agencies, but they're usually not on the same page. A Wall Of Secrecy Between The FBI And CIA Might Have Paved The Way For 9/11 Giphy

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When you think of the FBI and the CIA, you might imagine them as two sides of the same coin. After all, both are federal agencies tasked with collecting information in an ostensible effort to keep Americans safe.

But there are some big differences between the two.

Investigating al-Qaeda

The bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 represented the first major attack by al-Qaeda, and the FBI traveled to Yemen to investigate, honing in on a suspect known as Khallad and a phone number that rang at a payphone near Kuala Lumpur.

The bureau asked the CIA if its investigators had any relevant information and were told no … but that wasn’t true. In fact, the agency knew Khallad’s real name and had already sent its own investigators to the Malaysian condo building where the payphone was located (and where terrorists were plotting the 9/11 attack).

So what’s with all the secrecy?

The Fourth Amendment

While the Bill of Rights bans unreasonable search and seizure, intelligence agencies attempted to bypass that restriction via wiretaps. Those efforts were thwarted by Congress, however, and established clear boundaries for the FBI (domestic investigations) and the CIA (foreign surveillance).

The two agencies also have very different parameters dictating the types of warrants they can issue. Since the FBI needs solid evidence to support criminal convictions, it operates on a much shorter leash than the CIA, which is only focused on collecting information.

And thanks to the rigid separation between the two, the CIA is required to obtain permission from the attorney general in order to share information with the FBI.

This has resulted in the bureau being left out of the loop not only in the early days of the al-Qaeda threat, but in many other important cases dating back several generations.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 23rd, 2024
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