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Declassify the NSA’s files on Iran and al Qaeda

Nine years after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government still hasn’t combed through its own files on al Qaeda’s rise.

4:39 PM, Sep 10, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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To this day, Iran still harbors one of the chief perpetrators of the embassy bombings, Saif al Adel, who is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders. Al Adel also received training from Hezbollah in the early 1990s.

None of this is difficult to piece together. It can all be found in publicly-available documents. (You can check the footnotes in Iran’s Proxy War Against America if you are interested.) The testimony of al Qaeda operatives given during the course of the embassy bombings trial in early 2001 also confirmed it.

But the lesson never sunk in. The 1998 embassy bombings were al Qaeda’s most lethal and most ambitious operation prior to the 9/11 attacks. And bin Laden’s minions pulled it off with help from Iran and Hezbollah. Yet, you will still find a good number of analysts who simply assume that the Sunnis of al Qaeda could never work with the Shiites from Iran. That is foolish, and contradicted by volumes of evidence.

There is much, much more to all of this. But the U.S. government’s bureaucracies haven’t shown much interest in it. So, why not declassify the documents reviewed by the 9/11 Commission, as well as documents the Commission didn’t get a chance to review? We don’t need “experts” inside the government to read them for us. They have had plenty of time to do that but, as Shenon reports, they chose not to.

Sources and methods can be obscured if necessary. Although, I think that is doubtful given that the intelligence is by now old and the government hasn’t made good use of it any way.

Declassify and release the NSA’s files. 9/11 Commission staffers say they didn’t get a chance to review them fully. It is about time someone did.  

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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