2001 8:23 AM Subject: [piml] Secret C.I.A.
Site in NY Was Destroyed on Sept. 11 New York Times November 4, 2001
THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Secret C.I.A. Site in New York Was Destroyed on Sept. 11 By JAMES
RISEN WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 - The Central Intelligence Agency's
clandestine New York station was destroyed in the Sept. 11 attack on
the World Trade Center, seriously disrupting United States intelligence
operations while bringing the war on terrorism dangerously close to home
for America's spy agency, government officials say.
The C.I.A.'s undercover New York station was in the 47-story building at
7 World Trade Center, one of the smaller office towers destroyed in the
aftermath of the collapse of the twin towers that morning. All of the
agency's employees at the site were safely evacuated soon after the
hijacked planes hit the twin towers, the officials said.
The intelligence agency's employees were able to watch from their office
windows while the twin towers burned just before they evacuated their
Immediately after the attack, the C.I.A. dispatched a special team
scour the rubble in search of secret documents and intelligence reports
that had been stored in the New York station, either on paper or in
computers, officials said. It could not be learned whether the agency
was successful in retrieving its classified records from the
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.
The agency's New York station was behind the false front of another
federal organization, which intelligence officials requested that The
Times not identify. The station was, among other things, a base of
operations to spy on and recruit foreign diplomats stationed at the
United Nations, while debriefing selected American business executives
and others willing to talk to the C.I.A. after returning from
The agency's officers in New York often work undercover, posing as
diplomats and business executives, among other things, depending on the
nature of their intelligence operations.
The recovery of secret documents and other records from the New York
station should follow well-rehearsed procedures laid out by the agency
after the Iranian takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran
1979. The revolutionaries took over the embassy so rapidly that the
C.I.A. station was not able to effectively destroy all of its
documents, and the Iranians were later able to piece together shredded
agency reports. Since that disaster, the agency has emphasized rigorous
training and drills among its employees on how to quickly and
effectively destroy and dispose of important documents in
As a result, a C.I.A. station today should be able to protect most
its secrets even in the middle of a catastrophic disaster like the Sept.
11 attacks, said one former agency official. "If it was well run, there
shouldn't be too much paper around," the former official said.
The agency's New York officers have been deeply involved in
counterterrorism efforts in the New York area, working jointly with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. Many of the most
important counterterrorism cases of the last few years, including the
bureau's criminal investigations of the August 1998 bombings of two
United States Embassies in East Africa and the October 2000 bombing of
the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen have been handled out of New York.
The United States has accused Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist
network of conducting both of those attacks.
But United States intelligence officials emphasize that there is no
evidence that the hijackers knew that the undercover station was in the
World Trade Center complex.
With their undercover station in ruins, C.I.A. officers in New York
have been forced to share space at the United States Mission to the
United Nations, as well as borrow other federal government offices in
the city, officials said. The C.I.A.'s plans for finding a new
permanent station in New York could not be determined.
The agency is prohibited from conducting domestic espionage operations
against Americans, but the agency maintains stations in a number of
major United States cities, where C.I.A. case officers try to meet
recruit students and other foreigners to return to their countries and
spy for the United States. The New York station, which has been led
its first female station chief for the last year, is believed to have
been the largest and most important C.I.A. domestic station outside
The station has for years played an important role in espionage
operations against Russian intelligence officers, many of whom work
undercover as diplomats at the United Nations. Agency officers in New
York often work with the F.B.I. to recruit and then help manage foreign
agents spying for the United States. The bureau's New York office,
26 Federal Plaza, was unaffected by the terrorist attack.
The destruction of the C.I.A.'s New York station has added to the
intense emotions shared by many of its employees about the agency's role
in the battle against terrorism. For some, the station's destruction
served to underscore the failure of United States intelligence to
predict the attacks.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, morale suffered badly within
the C.I.A., some officials said, as the agency began to confront what
critics have called an intelligence failure on the scale of Pearl
But the terrorist attacks have also brought an urgent new sense of
mission to the agency, which has been flooded with job applications as
well as inquiries from former officers eager to return to work.
Congress is pouring money into the agency's counterterrorism operations,
and the C.I.A. seems poised to begin focusing its resources on
terrorism in much the same way it once focused on the Soviet Union in
the cold war.
The attacks were not the first in which the C.I.A. was directly touched
by terrorists. In 1983, seven agency officers died in the suicide car
bombing of the United States Embassy in Beirut. Among the others killed
was the agency's station chief in Lebanon, William Buckley, who died in
captivity after being kidnapped by terrorists in 1984, and Richard
Welch, the agency's Athens station chief, who was shot to death by Greek
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