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FBI 'missed chance to uncover 9/11 plot’

By James Kirkup | Telegraph | Mar. 28, 2012

US intelligence agencies used “closed” court hearings to suppress information about how a row between the CIA and FBI could have prevented them from uncovering the 9/11 terrorist plot, the House of Commons has heard.

David Davis, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, disclosed details of the “extraordinary” case to illustrate why the Coalition should abandon plans to allow similar secret hearings for intelligence cases to be held in British courts.

He said that the American authorities had “sealed” a case in a US court relating to a dispute between two British businessmen and an Afghan billionaire over the setting up of a mobile phone network in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

Lord Michael Cecil, a British aristocrat, and his business partner, Stuart Bentham, claimed they were cheated out of shares in the mobile phone firm by Ehsan Bayat.

According to reports, US intelligence agencies had privately backed the venture, hoping to be able to monitor calls made over the new network. Mr Bayat was an FBI informer, Mr Davis said. Progress on the network was slowed by “bickering” between the FBI and the CIA, meaning that it was not fully operational until 2002, the year after the al-Qaeda attacks on Washington and New York.

“We cannot say for certain that if US intelligence agencies had tapped the Afghan phone network sooner, we would have intercepted evidence in time to stop the 9/11 attacks. But it seems likely,” Mr Davis said. “It looks like a huge opportunity was missed.”

The businessmen’s dispute was heard in a New York court. In November 2003, Mr Davis said, an American judge sealed the case under national security laws after a request by the US Justice Department.

“The US intelligence agencies feared the consequences if the truth about their infighting emerged, and they were determined to stop this happening,” he said.

In 2009, the two British businessmen returned to the UK and began a High Court action over their dispute. According to Mr Davis, the US court order prevented them discussing some details of their dispute in the London court.

The MP said that the case illustrated the danger of Coalition plans to hold “closed-material procedures” where judges would hear national security cases in secret.

Jeremy Browne, a Foreign Office minister, insisted that the Government’s plans would not lead to situations like the one Mr Davis described.

“This is not about covering up embarrassments. It is about putting more information before the courts than is currently possible,” he said.

 


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Tags

CIA, FBI, 9/11, Intelligence, Terrorists

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