Tom Wilshire’s Orchestrated Ruse
by Kevin Fenton source: Boiling Frogs Post Oct 13, 2011
In the first two parts of this series we saw how a group of officers at Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, concealed information about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit from their FBI colleagues in January 2000. In particular they hid information about a US visa in the possession of Flight 77 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. We also saw how this protection of Almihdhar, his partner Nawaf Alhazmi and al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash continued even after the involvement of Almihdhar and bin Attash in the October 2000 USS Colebombing became known to the US intelligence community. Concealing information about terrorists involved in seventeen homicides was bad enough, but things were about to get much worse.
Shortly after the CIA had failed to respond truthfully to a second formal request for information about the Cole bombing from FBI agent Ali Soufan in April 2001, the cables the CIA drafted about the Malaysia summit were reviewed at Alec Station. The review was conducted by Tom Wilshire, the station’s deputy chief and one of the key figures in the withholding of the information, and a female CIA officer whose name is not known. The two of them re-read cables from the previous year that said Almihdhar had a US visa and that Alhazmi had flown to Los Angeles with a companion, but neither of them took the appropriate action—watchlisting the Malaysia attendees and alerting the FBI.
After this review, Wilshire ordered another review of the same information. The review was to be carried out by Margaret Gillespie, a CIA detailee to Alec Station whose alleged memory loss regarding the events of January 2000 makes one suspicious of her motives. Wilshire believed, correctly as it turns out, that the cables contained the key to preventing the next major al-Qaeda attack—had they been handled properly, 9/11 would never have happened.
Three weeks before the attacks, Gillespie allegedly discovered a key cable, and this led her to tell the FBI about Almihdhar and Alhazmi. As you know, the FBI hunt for Almihdhar and Alhazmi was unsuccessful and this, as you probably don’t know, was largely due to Wilshire. Nevertheless, Wilshire received substantial praise from the post-attack investigations for getting Gillespie to do the review. Plenty of his other actions cast suspicion on him, but this review seemed to put him in the clear—if he really was trying to hide the information, why start a review?