January 30, 2008

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The Shea Memo: Mapping out the Israelis Next Door to Mohammed Atta

In the autumn of 2004, on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a retired international corporate lawyer named Gerald Shea drafted an extensive memo that detailed the operations of alleged Israeli spies suspected of surveilling the 9/11 hijackers in the year prior to the attacks. Written in the cold logic of a courtroom complaint, the 166-page memo gathers up most of the evidence available in the public record regarding possible 9/11-related Israeli espionage. Shea, who was educated at Yale and Columbia and worked for 20 years at one of New York’s top law firms, said his purpose in writing the memo was to spur a Congressional investigation “for the sake of U.S. national interest.” “I’m a lawyer first and foremost,” Shea wrote me in an e-mail. “I wanted to separate these difficult factual problems from the politics in the hope that people who have the power and obligation to do so will conduct a public inquiry to resolve the issue.”

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, confirmed that the commission received the memo in mid-September 2004. But Felzenberg noted it was three and a half weeks too late: the commission closed shop on August 21, 2004, its security clearances and investigative power limited by act of Congress. According to Shea, copies of the memo were also sent to the private offices of specific members of the 10-member 9/11 commission. These included: Thomas H. Kean, commission head and now chairman of THK Consulting; commission vice chair Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Richard Ben-Veniste, partner in the Washington law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; Washington, D.C., lawyers Fred Fielding, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Slade Gorton; and Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator, now president of the New School for Social Research. (None of the commissioners returned phone calls for comment on the Shea Memo.) Shea also forwarded his report to the offices of members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, including then-committee chair Jay Rockefeller, and Sens. Trent Lott, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Hagel, Richard Durbin, Carl Levin and Evan Bayh. Also included in the mailings, says Shea, were at least six members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, including Reps. Peter Hoekstra and Anna Eshoo. For good measure, Shea sent a copy to the office of his Boston senator, Ted Kennedy. He also peppered the news media, submitting copies to the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, PBS’ Frontline, ABC News’ investigative team at 20/20, and various smaller venues.

With the sole, and notable, exception of the tiny Philadelphia Times-Herald, which ran a brief overview of the memo, the document was ignored. Not a single member of the major media, not a single Commission member or U.S. lawmaker responded, “not even Richard Ben-Veniste, who was in my class at law school,” says Shea, referring to Columbia Law’s 1967 graduating class.

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