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Spitzer’s mouthpiece has his own secrets to hide

by Peter Lance

As the sex scan­dal hur­ri­cane engulfed Eliott Spitzer last week, one of his clos­est advi­sors at the eye of the storm was Diet­rich “Dieter” Snell. An ex U.S. Attor­ney from the same office con­duct­ing the pros­ti­tu­tion probe, Snell is now defend­ing Spitzer in the “Troop­er­gate” scan­dal and report­ed­ly rak­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in legal fees for the inter­na­tion­al law firm he joined last year.

A for­mer South­ern Dis­trict pros­e­cu­tor who lat­er became Senior Coun­sel to the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, Snell is also one of the ex Feds who rewrote his­to­ry in the Commission’s “Final Report” by rely­ing entire­ly on the tor­tured “con­fes­sion” of 9/11’s pur­port­ed “mas­ter­mind” to pin­point the ori­gin of the “planes as mis­siles” plot.

He’s the same inves­ti­ga­tor who dis­missed as not “suf­fi­cient­ly cred­i­ble” the tes­ti­mo­ny of a dec­o­rat­ed Navy Cap­tain who was part of a secret data min­ing oper­a­tion that uncov­ered evi­dence of 9/11 hijack­ers in the U.S. more than a year before the attacks.

A for­mer Deputy Attor­ney Gen­er­al under “the Sher­iff of Wall Street,” Snell is now attempt­ing to quash the sub­poe­nas of inves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing whether Spitzer mis­used state troop­ers to inves­ti­gate his chief polit­i­cal rival, pro­tect­ing his ex boss and men­tor with a “sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers” defense wor­thy of Dick Cheney.

Despite Spitzer’s sud­den flame­out, there are cur­rent­ly three sep­a­rate probes pend­ing of Troop­er­gate, the scan­dal that erupt­ed when Spitzer’s aides report­ed­ly used State Police to inves­ti­gate the trav­el expens­es of Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

The New York Dai­ly News esti­mat­ed that while the ini­tial use of state resources to ben­e­fit Bruno was $72,000.00, the cost to the tax­pay­ers of defend­ing Spitzer, who refused to coop­er­ate with the New York A.G.’s office, could amount to $1.54 mil­lion. And $400,000 of that fig­ure will prob­a­bly go to Snell’s law firm.

But from this reporter’s per­spec­tive it is Dieter Snell him­self who ought to be in the hot seat answer­ing ques­tions, not about a pet­ty state cor­rup­tion probe but ques­tions that go to the heart of the great­est mass mur­der in U.S. his­to­ry: 9/11.

It was just four years ago Sat­ur­day, March 15th, 2004, when Snell led me into a win­dow­less con­fer­ence room at 26 Fed­er­al Plaza, the build­ing that hous­es the FBI’s New York Office (NYO). It was then the tem­po­rary New York quar­ters of the 9/11 Commission’s staff.

Months ear­li­er, Com­mis­sion Chair­man Gov. Tom Kean had read my first inves­tiga­tive book for Harper­Collins, 1000 Years for Revenge, which pre­sent­ed pro­ba­tive evi­dence that Ramzi Yousef, mas­ter­mind of the first WTC bomb­ing in 1993, had designed “the planes” oper­a­tion as ear­ly as the fall of 1994 in Mani­la and that his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had mere­ly car­ried out the plot after Yousef was cap­tured in Feb­ru­ary of 1995.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley (R‑IA), one of the top FBI over­sight law­mak­ers on the Hill, had read the book and pro­nounced it a “must read for the FBI, Con­gress, the 9/11 Com­mis­sion and any­one whose job it is to pro­tect nation­al secu­ri­ty,” so Gov. Kean direct­ed Com­mis­sion Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Philip Zelikow to arrange for my tes­ti­mo­ny.
Cher­ry Pick­ing the Evi­dence

But I was cau­tious. A source I had on the Com­mis­sion staff told me that Zelikow and staffers on both side of the aisle were “cher­ry pick­ing” the evi­dence, in an effort to remove Yousef, from the 9/11 sce­nario.

Why? Because as I’d report­ed in 1000 Years, the FBI’s NYO could have stopped Yousef in the fall of 1992 while he was build­ing the 1,500 pound urea nitrate-formalde­hyde device that he det­o­nat­ed on the B‑2 lev­el below the Twin Tow­ers on Feb­ru­ary 26th, 1993, killing six and injur­ing 1000.

It was a plot direct­ly fund­ed by al Qae­da and tied to the cell around blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rah­man. If the Bureau’s elite Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force had sim­ply done its job and stopped Yousef then, he would nev­er have exe­cut­ed the first attack on the Tow­ers or escaped New York the night of the bomb­ing to com­mence the 9/11 plot from Mani­la, half a year lat­er.

1000 Years For Revenge con­tained pro­ba­tive evi­dence sug­gest­ing that pros­e­cu­tors in the SDNY – includ­ing Diet­rich Snell – had received evi­dence from the Philip­pines Nation­al Police (PNP) in ear­ly 1995 that, if act­ed upon, would have tipped the Feds to the 9/11 plot six years ear­li­er.

Snell had pros­e­cut­ed Yousef in 1996 for Bojin­ka, a non sui­cide plot to blow up air­lin­ers over the Pacif­ic that was sep­a­rate from the “planes as mis­siles” sce­nario, and as I saw it, he should have been called before the 9/11 Com­mis­sion as a wit­ness, tes­ti­fy­ing under oath about what he and oth­er SDNY offi­cials knew of this sec­ond sui­cide plot involv­ing air­lin­ers.
The Fox and the Chick­en Coop

Instead, Snell was giv­en a senior Com­mis­sion lead­er­ship role and put in charge of deter­min­ing the sin­gle most impor­tant con­clu­sion in the Commission’s inves­ti­ga­tion: the ori­gin of the plot. With­out know­ing pre­cise­ly when the plot began, no U.S. offi­cials could be held account­able for fail­ing to stop it.

So four years ago, when I learned that Snell would take my “tes­ti­mo­ny,” I was prop­er­ly skep­ti­cal.

Also, my source had warned me that despite the tele­vised pub­lic Com­mis­sion hear­ings, and the appear­ance of trans­paren­cy, more than 90 per­cent of the wit­ness intake to the Com­mis­sion had been anec­do­tal and unrecord­ed.

So I pre­pared my “tes­ti­mo­ny” ahead of time.

In the pres­ence of an FBI agent assigned to the Com­mis­sion staff, Snell sat across from me at a con­fer­ence table. There was no stenog­ra­ph­er or record­ing equip­ment present. The sandy-haired for­mer AUSA took out a small spi­ral note­book and began to take notes as I read my state­ment.

Because I was writ­ing a sec­ond book on the fail­ures of the Feds on the road to 9/11, and because Snell had played such a key role in the pros­e­cu­tion of Yousef, I end­ed up ask­ing him as many ques­tions as he asked me.

I want­ed to know why he had flown over eleven PNP offi­cials to tes­ti­fy at the Bojin­ka tri­al but not Col. Rodol­fo B. Men­doza, the top PNP inves­ti­ga­tor who had inter­ro­gat­ed Yousef’s part­ner Abdul Hakim Murad, a pilot trained in four U.S. flights schools. It was Murad who was to have been the orig­i­nal lead pilot of the plot – the role lat­er assumed by hijack­er Mohammed Atta.

I want­ed Snell to answer why he and oth­er SDNY Feds had kept the hunt for KSM secret for more than two and a half years, only qui­et­ly pass­ing his name to the press in Jan­u­ary of 1998 when the plot was well under­way, when they had arrest­ed Yousef, his nephew, via a very pub­lic $2 mil­lion rewards pro­gram that had caused one of Ramzi’s cohorts to “rat him out.” Why not use the same method to cap­ture his uncle KSM who was exe­cut­ing the “planes oper­a­tion?”
“That’s Clas­si­fied”

But each time I asked a ques­tion, Snell would smile and say, “That’s clas­si­fied” or “I can’t dis­cuss that.” At the end of my tes­ti­mo­ny I told him I would send along the tran­script of my March 19, 2002 inter­view with Col. Men­doza, which doc­u­ment­ed Yousef’s cre­ation of the planes-as-mis­siles plot in 1994.

I had evi­dence from the PNP that Yousef’s Toshi­ba lap­top, passed on to the CIA in Jan­u­ary of 1995, con­tained the full blown “9/11” plot, includ­ing sev­en tar­gets: the WTC, the Pen­ta­gon, the White House, CIA head­quar­ters, the Transamer­i­ca and Sears Tow­ers, and an unnamed nuclear facil­i­ty.

But as it turned out, that was evi­dence that Snell, as an alum­nus of the SDNY, did not want to hear. Why? Because it cor­rob­o­rat­ed the find­ings of the PNP that Ramzi Yousef was the archi­tect of the 9/11 attacks and that,
in turn, put blood on the hands of the FBI’s NYO for fail­ing to stop him back in 1992.

Giv­en Snell’s appar­ent bias, I sent the addi­tion­al evi­dence direct­ly to Com­mis­sion co-chair­man Tom Kean. In a cov­er let­ter, I asked him to make sure that it was a part of the per­ma­nent Com­mis­sion record.

But when the Commission’s final report was pub­lished, that evi­dence was flushed – reduced to a sin­gle foot­note that didn’t even men­tion Col. Men­doza by name, even though he was the inves­ti­ga­tor who had first uncov­ered Yousef’s sui­cide-hijack plot.
Rewrit­ing His­to­ry

In the Commission’s final Staff State­ment #16, large­ly authored by Snell, the Com­mis­sion removed Yousef from the “planes as mis­siles” plot and sup­port­ed the fic­tion that the plot didn’t even begin to ger­mi­nate until 1996, well after Yousef’s cap­ture. The new find­ing, per Snell, was that KSM mere­ly “pitched” the idea to Bin Laden in ’96 but it didn’t get a green light from the Sau­di bil­lion­aire until 1998.

Worse, Snell and the staffers based their evi­dence for the ori­gin of the plot entire­ly on the word of KSM, who we now know was sub­ject­ed to water­board­ing and tor­ture in his inter­ro­ga­tion.

Tak­ing the sole word of KSM on the ori­gin of the plot was a bit like tak­ing the word of David Berkowitz for when he com­mit­ted his first “Son of Sam” mur­der. But as the pri­ma­ry author of Staff State­ment #16, the Commission’s last word on the plot ori­gin, that’s what Diet­rich Snell decid­ed to do.

To this day, KSM’s ques­tion­able tes­ti­mo­ny has served to define the offi­cial record on the ori­gin of the 9/11 plot, even though Snell him­self admit­ted under oath, at the March 2005 Ger­man tri­al of an al Qae­da sus­pect, that he him­self had nev­er met Khalid Shaikh, that he’d mere­ly sub­mit­ted ques­tions to KSM’s inter­roga­tors, and that he (Snell) had no con­trol over how or even whether ques­tions were asked.

Back on the Ides of March, 2004, as I left 26 Fed­er­al Plaza, I had no idea that a group of Army inves­ti­ga­tors in the year 2000 had been on a par­al­lel inves­tiga­tive track to mine. But Snell would soon reject their evi­dence as well.
Dis­cred­it­ing the Able Dan­ger Find­ings

In the ear­ly win­ter of 2000, a mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar data min­ing oper­a­tion fund­ed by the U.S. Army uncov­ered evi­dence that Mohammed Atta and three oth­er 9./11 hijack­ers were present in the coun­try months before the 9/11 Com­mis­sion would con­clude they’d arrived, thus mak­ing a num­ber of U.S. agen­cies, includ­ing the FBI, cul­pa­ble for their fail­ure to stop them.

In the fall of 2003, Lt. Col. Antho­ny Shaf­fer, a key play­er in what had been termed Oper­a­tion Able Dan­ger, told 9/11 Com­mis­sion Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Philip Zelikow of the Operation’s stun­ning find­ings dur­ing Zelikow’s vis­it to Afghanistan, where Shafer had been hunt­ing bin Laden with Task Force 180.

By July 12th, 2004 as the Com­mis­sion was wrap­ping up its inves­ti­ga­tion on the ori­gin of the 9/11 plot, one of Shafer’s Able Dan­ger col­leagues, Capt. Scott Phillpott, met with a top Com­mis­sion leader to cor­rob­o­rate Shafer’s find­ings.

The senior coun­sel he met with was Diet­rich Dieter Snell.

Like Tony Shaffer’s account, Capt. Phillpott’s input about the al Qae­da con­nec­tions to the New York cell of Sheikh Rah­man would have defied the spin that Snell and the Com­mis­sion staff had decid­ed to sell.

Phillpott was a Navy vet­er­an who had pre­vi­ous­ly com­mand­ed three ships, a dec­o­rat­ed vet­er­an with immense integri­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty as a wit­ness. But after the meet­ing, Snell spurned Phillpott’s evi­dence on the hijacker’s U.S. pres­ence, and not a word of it showed up in the final Com­mis­sion Report.

Noth­ing more might have come of it until August of 2005, when the New York Times broke the sto­ry of how tens of thou­sands of pages of Able Dan­ger evi­dence had been ordered destroyed in March of 2000. The scan­dal grew, and by mid Feb­ru­ary 2006 the House Army Ser­vices Com­mit­tee called Snell to tes­ti­fy.
Spitzer KO’s Snell Appear­ance

But on the day of the hear­ing, Feb­ru­ary 15th, 2006, it was learned that Eliott Spitzer him­self had inter­vened with the Committee’s coun­sel to keep Snell from hav­ing to account under oath for his dis­missal of the Able Dan­ger evi­dence. Cit­ing Snell’s “heavy work­load” in New York, Spitzer got him a pass from hav­ing to tes­ti­fy.

Dur­ing his tenure on the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, push­ing the “ori­gin of the plot” for­ward to 1996 and ignor­ing the Able Dan­ger evi­dence weren’t Snell’s only laps­es.

As Lar­isa Alexan­drov­na point­ed out in a RAW STORY piece on Feb­ru­ary 28th, cit­ing Phil Shenon’s recent book, The Com­mis­sion, Snell also seemed to defy his own staffers who want­ed to explore the Sau­di government’s ties to Omar al-Bay­ou­mi.

Al-Bay­ou­mi was the San Diego based Sau­di defense con­trac­tor whose com­pa­ny had mul­ti­ple con­tracts with Prince Sul­tan, the father of Sau­di Arabia’s then U.S. ambas­sador Prince Ban­dar. The flam­boy­ant Ban­dar was so tight with the Bush fam­i­ly that over the years he’d earned the nick­name “Ban­dar Bush.”

As report­ed in Triple Cross, Bay­ou­mi played host to two of the 9/11 mus­cle hijack­ers, al-Midar and al-Haz­mi, who flew AA # 77 into the Pen­ta­gon on 9.11:

“…using their own names, al-Mid­har and al-Haz­mi jet­ted from Bangkok to Los Ange­les on Jan­u­ary 15th. There they were met by Omar al-Bay­ou­mi a Sau­di, sus­pect­ed of being an intel­li­gence offi­cer, who had vis­it­ed the Sau­di con­sulate in L.A. the same day. After three weeks the two would-be hijack­ers moved to San Diego, where they lived open­ly for the next five months. Dur­ing that peri­od al-Bay­ou­mi helped them get set­tled, find­ing them an apart­ment across from where he lived. It was lat­er report­ed by Newsweek and the Wash­ing­ton Times that al-Bay­ou­mi may have been the recip­i­ent of funds sent to his wife indi­rect­ly from Princess Haifa bin Faisal, wife of the then-Sau­di ambas­sador to the U.S., Prince Ban­dar.

In fact, new infor­ma­tion from declas­si­fied FBI files as reflect­ed in Ms. Alexandrovna’s account for RAW STORY shows that al-Mid­har and al-Haz­mi were liv­ing in a res­i­dence rent­ed by al-Bay­ou­mi from the day they arrived in Cal­i­for­nia; not weeks lat­er as report­ed in the 9/11 Com­mis­sion Report. With respect to Snel­l’s pos­si­ble knowl­edge of the Sau­di con­nec­tion, Ms. Alexan­dro­va writes:

Bay­ou­mi moved to Lon­don in 2001 and lived there until his arrest imme­di­ate­ly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Fol­low­ing his release, Bay­ou­mi returned to Sau­di Ara­bia, where he was inter­viewed in Octo­ber 2003 by the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, Philip Zelikow, and Senior Coun­sel Dieter Snell.

Snell did not respond to requests for com­ment; Zeilkow could not be reached.

Accord­ing to Shenon, sev­er­al staff mem­bers work­ing under Snell, “felt strong­ly that they had demon­strat­ed a close Sau­di gov­ern­ment con­nec­tion,” based on “explo­sive mate­r­i­al” on al-Bay­ou­mi and Fahad al-Thu­mairy, a “shad­owy Sau­di diplo­mat in Los Ange­les.”

Shenon recounts how Snell, in prepar­ing his team’s account of the plot, purged almost all of the most seri­ous alle­ga­tions against the Sau­di gov­ern­ment and moved the “explo­sive” sup­port­ing evi­dence to the small print of the report’s foot­notes. (The Com­mis­sion, pp. 398–399)

Two com­mis­sion inves­ti­ga­tors who were work­ing on doc­u­ment­ing the 9/11 plot, Michael Jacob­sen and Raj De, argued that it was “crazy” to insist on 100 per­cent proof when it came to al-Qae­da or the Sau­di regime. In the end, how­ev­er, and with a pub­lish­ing dead­line loom­ing, Snell’s cau­tion and Zelikow’s direc­tion buried appar­ent­ly promis­ing leads.

Enter­ing Pri­vate Prac­tice

On April 30th, Snell left his job as Deputy Attor­ney Gen­er­al to join the law firm of Proskauer Rose, which has offices in sev­en U.S. cities as well as Paris, Lon­don and Sao Paulo. With­in months, the firm had been retained by Spitzer’s office to defend him in the Tr
oop­er­gate scan­dal.

Last July, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Cuomo’s office issued a report find­ing that Spitzer’s staff had act­ed improp­er­ly but not ille­gal­ly. But the Sen­ate Committee’s probe is ongo­ing along with an inves­ti­ga­tion by the state’s Pub­lic Integri­ty Com­mis­sion. Also, after clos­ing his inquiry into Troop­er­gate last year, Albany Dis­trict Attor­ney David Soares has reopened it. On Thurs­day Snell charged Soares with con­tin­u­ing on a “fish­ing expe­di­tion” and act­ing as “grand jury and grand inquisi­tor.”

It was an iron­ic use of the term.

Elliott Spitzer pros­e­cut­ed Wall Street white col­lar crime with the same ven­om he used on call girl ser­vices and high-end pimps. Using the Attor­ney General’s office as a state-based strike force against local, state, even nation­al cor­rup­tion, he rede­fined the mod­ern day inqui­si­tion.

As Gov­er­nor, he appar­ent­ly saw him­self in the same role. Last year he report­ed­ly told Assem­bly Minor­i­ty leader James Tedis­co that he was “a fuck­ing steam­roller” who would “roll over” Tedis­co “and any­body else.”

Steam­roller or Sher­iff, we now know that Spitzer also rede­fined the term hypocrisy.

On Tues­day after the New York Times broke the call girl sto­ry, Diet­rich Snell, with a few key advi­sors, was report­ed­ly holed up in Spitzer’s Fifth Avenue co-op work­ing on the dam­age con­trol. In defense of Spitzer, and report­ed­ly billing the pub­lic for his hours, he con­tin­ued the spin in court on Thurs­day.

Dis­graced and out of office, it’s time that Spitzer made a full account­ing of his pub­lic sins along with his pri­vate ones. In the process, his loy­al retain­er and coun­sel Diet­rich Snell needs to come clean as well.


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