TIL in 1995 a policy known as “the Wall” was created. It discouraged info sharing between the CIA and FBI, playing a critical role in the inability to stop 9/11. It got so bad agents played a CD with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” into the phone as they were told their access was denied.

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Hulu’s “The Looming Tower” is a pretty good 8 part drama series dealing with the lead up to 9/11. It covers no sharing policy really well too.


What was their reasoning for it?


The person who wrote the memo about the Wall, Jaime Gorelick, went to work for Fannie Mae after leaving the Justice Department. They then had a 10 billion dollar accounting scandal and started to invest in subprime loans which set up the great recession in 2008.


Everybody acts like this was stupid now, but putting obstacles on the ability of the FBI to get information from the CIA ensured that they couldn’t just get warrant-free access to the private information of American citizens. It was hugely important for the preservation of a bunch of civil liberties we subsequently lost after 9/11.


Few of these comments are even remotely correct. FBI is a civil law enforcement agency. Its function is to investigate and enforce US law and it is authorized to collect and store information on US persons within the scope of an investigation after being legally vetted by warrant. CIA is an intelligence agency. Its function is to collect information and data, and create intelligence on primarily foreign threats–no warrant required. This intelligence drives policy and military matters. I say primarily foreign threats because the CIA and various military intelligence agencies cannot operate within the bounds of the US borders except in very few circumstances. The CIA and other military intelligence agencies are expressly prohibited from holding US persons information except in some circumstances. CIA is afforded a lot of autonomy in their collection because their targets are typically ones that are not afforded the same protections as a US person. You do not want the CIA to have the ability to gather information and create intelligence on you, and you do not want civil agencies sharing US persons information with military and state agencies. I am reminded of the times that the CIA gathered information and created intelligence on Vietnam war protestors, civil rights advocates, and other US persons who were expressing their First Amendment rights and who were not threats to the United States. While I agree that it is rather dysfunctional for the agencies to flop in detecting the 9/11 attackers, there was a very good reason that “The Wall” was put in place. The CIA and other agencies, without stricter oversight from such programs, would have run as rampant and as rogue as they had in the few decades after their founding in which they targetted progressives, socialists, and people who were advancing civil rights who were all acting in accordance with their First Amendment rights. I would also argue that the scale and nature of the 9/11 attacks was something that we had not really seen or experienced before. It does not surprise me that our agencies could not coherently work together to identify the true scope of the attacks and come up with a plan for prevention.