Who shut down the Asymmetric Threat Division at JFIC before 9-11?

Cross posted at the Missing Man

Reviewing the two recent articles over at Truth Out about the shut down on an intelligence program within Joint Forces Intelligence Command and withholding information to Congress about 9/11.

Thinking a bit out loud here and feeling my way around it all. I'm trying to figure out where the pressure was coming from.

Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission PDF
Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence
September 23, 2008

(U) JFIC's Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5)


(U) In 1999, the [Joint Forces Intelligence Command]created the Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5) to take a non-traditional approach to analysis. The Director of Operations recruited JFIC personnel from the command based upon their counterintelligence and counterterrorism expertise. The DO5 provided current intelligence briefings and produced the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM Intelligence staff. The DO5 also provided support to the Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS). The JTF-CS assisted civil authorities with disaster assistance. The DO5 supported the JTF-CS exercises by establishing fictional terrorist organizations that would mimic real world terrorist groups.


Anyway, what I am trying to understand is this: why were commanding officers so opposed to the Asymmetric Threat Division's intelligence analysis regarding al Qaeda? Just what the heck was going on over there - was it a Navy thing or was there more to it than that?


Pieced together from various sources, a very rough list of 'principals' from the 2000-2001 time period. Keep in mind there's some overlap with people coming and going, promotions, etc. Some of the titles might be wrong (my error) and there's a bunch of unknowns. At least it's a starting point.

Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr. served as Commander In Chief U.S. Joint Forces Command from September 1997 until his retirement September 2000. His replacement was General Kernan.

Lieutenant General Thomas N. Burnette, Jr. served as Deputy Commander In Chief U.S. Joint Forces Command from July 1999 until his retirement September 2000. His replacement was Vice Admiral Mayer.

  • General William F. Kernan, US Army - Commander in Chief, US Joint Forces Command

  • Vice Admiral Martin J. Mayer, USN - Deputy Commander in Chief, US JFCOM

  • Major General Jack R. Holbein Jr., USAF - Chief of Staff, US JFCOM

  • Colonel Daniel P. Bolger, US Army - Director, Strategy and Analysis, US JFCOM

  • [unknown] - Director of Operations, US JFCOM

  • [unknown] - Deputy Director of Operations, US JFCOM

  • Vice Admiral Robert B. Murrett, USN - Director for Intelligence, US JFCOM

  • [unknown] - Deputy Director for Intelligence, US JFCOM

  • [unknown] - Director for Intelligence Operations, US JFCOM

  • [unknown] - Deputy Director for Intelligence Operations, US JFCOM

  • Captain Janice M. Dundas, USN - Commander in Chief, Joint Forces Intelligence Command

  • [unknown] - Deputy Commander in Chief,  JFIC

  • [unknown] - Director of Operations, JFIC

  • [unknown] - Deputy Director of Operations, JFIC

  • Major Oliver Wright III, US Army - Division Head, Asymmetric Threat Division, JFIC

  • John Rodriguez, NCIS - Deputy Division Head, Asymmetric Threat Division, JFIC

  • Captain Stephen F. Santez Jr., USN - [title unknown], Asymmetric Threat Division, JFIC

  • Captain Kirk von Ackermann, USAF - Deputy, Asymmetric Threat Division, JFIC

  • [unknown] - Operations Officer, Asymmetric Threat Division, JFIC

  • [unknown] - Counterintelligence Security Officer, US JFCOM

  • Major General Bruce M. Lawlor, US Army - Commander, Joint Task Force - Civil Support 

  • [unknown] - Deputy Commander, JTF-CS

  • [unknown] - Chief of Staff, JTF-CS

Just from a history standpoint, 2000 - 2001 is a fascinating period for the US military and in particular, Joint Forces Command: it's all about transformation. Commander in Chief (CINC), General William F. Kernan, created a new directorate tasking a team, Mayer, Holbein and Bolger, to manage transformation strategy for JFCOM.

The CINC's charter to this team was simple: infuse joint forces with new ideas, and change the way JFCOM will fight. [...]


Rigorous simulation and gaming must be pursued in response to new or emerging technologies and concepts. [1]

Infuse joint forces with new ideas and rigorous simulations....only, not so much.


Oddly enough, Kernan was worried about procuring laser-guided missiles to replenish what was lost during Kosovo, essentially bringing missiles to a knife fight. Meanwhile, a new subordinate organization - the Joint Task Force-Civil Support - was tasked to "serve as the U.S. Joint Forces Command lead for WMD events in the United States"[2]. To prepare, JTF-CS was conducting quarterly training exercises (simulations) based on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives incidents. The Navy - who held the purse strings - wasn't so hot about sponsoring Joint Forces Command. [3]

From Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold's source materials, IRON MAN on page 2 of his Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General [4] writes:

[The Asymmetric Threat Division] DO5 began preparing a wide range of original analysis on asymmetric warfare, especially terrorism, from mid-1998 until mid-2001. This analysis included: [...]


(U) Reports on the most likely targets for domestic and international terrorists both within the US and abroad, as well as adjunct targets during a traditional war. The most sensitive of these reports were those identifying targets within the US, developing scenarios, analysis of commonalities for use in planning responses and recommendations for preventative action. This US tasking was given by JTF-CS.

JTF-CS was clearly asking DO5 to help prepare realistic scenarios for its training exercises which meshes with what Megan von Ackermann has written [5] about her husband, that Captain Kirk von Ackermann was involved with designing 'readiness exercises'. In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Major General Bruce M. Lawlor, the first Commander of Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS) provided some details about JTF-CS. [6]

In addition to planning for real world events, JTF-CS conducts quarterly training exercises that focus on planning and deployment for specific types of CBRNE incidents. To date we have conducted such exercises in each of the 5 areas with which we are concerned: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive events. We have learned to create a base plan for the most dangerous event and prepare branches and sequels for other possible incidents. By doing so, we have reduced our response planning time considerably.

Planning for real world events...against real adversaries, like Al Qaeda. Lawlor casually mentions in his statement that one such exercise was quietly conducted live during the Presidential inauguration of George W. Bush.


The work of the Asymmetric Threat Division - and Captain Kirk von Ackermann - starts coming into focus and becomes much more tangible. These guys aren't sitting around playing video games, they're playing for real. The intelligence is real. The enemy is real. The targets - real. The scenarios - real. The maps - real. The threat - real.

So, why were they getting shut down orders? Who didn't want them trained and ready to fight the bad guys?

Again, from Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold's source materials, IRON MAN states on page 5 of his Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General [7]:

[U] [redacted] the last JFIC commanding officer under which I served adamantly opposed JFIC conducting any original analysis of al-Qa'ida, and directed work be stopped in late 2000 - early 2001, and enforced that order upon my departure.

Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission, Appendix C - a March 25, 2002 letter attached to the FOIA response signed by Major John A. Robinson, USAF, [8] clearly identifies Captain Janice M. Dundas, US Navy, as Commander of the JFIC. Back in March 2000, Dundas signed Captain Kirk von Ackermann's letter of appreciation.


In the section marked, JFIC Response to Congress [9], page 14, the Inspector General states:

(U) The JFIC's Commanding Officer established a command atmosphere which highlighted intelligence oversight and mission focus. The DO5 Operations Officer stated that the JFIC was very cautious over the support that was provided to the JTF-CS based on intelligence oversight guidelines. The Deputy Director of Intelligence stated that JFIC Commanding Officer would repeatedly ask for written certification to justify any tasking to any department or division. He further stated that DO5 had no theater specific mission. The subsequent Deputy Director of Intelligence directed him to stop tracking Usama Bin Laden. The Commanding Officer stated that the tracking of Usama Bin Laden did not fall in JFIC's mission. The Commanding Officer also stated that a couple of folks doing analysis of Afghanistan terrorist training camps was perceived as excess capability when it's not your AOR [Area of Operations] and that the issues were not in JFIC's swim lane.

Someone needs to ask Dundas what she was afraid of - whose toesies were getting stepped on. Was it coming from above her? Did she personally object to Major General Bruce M. Lawlor, Commander of JTF-CS? Petty, yes, but not unheard of.


Vice Admiral Martin J. Mayer, also Navy, was the Deputy Commander in Chief. Prior to serving as DCINC, Mayer was Director for Strategy Requirements and Integration at JFCOM and part of Kernan's 'team' to manage transformation strategy for JFCOM.

IRON MAN notes in his Formal Complaint that "...senior JFCOM staff including the DCINC and J3" were present at the first Asymmetric Threat Division briefing titled, "The WMD Threat to the US."[10] After the briefing, it had been noted that the national military terrorism exercise committment for FY01 involved a cruise ship.

A few months later, Mayer was nominated for appointment to Vice Admiral and Deputy Commander of US Joint Forces on September 15, 2000. Within a month, on October 12, 2000, the USS Cole was the victim of a suicide bombing in Yemen. 17 sailors died that day. By December, CNN was reporting that Al Qaeda was responsible. [11]

In the Afterword to the book Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11, Major General (retired) Larry Arnold 1st Air Force and the Continental US North American Air Defense Command Region wrote:

Just two weeks before September 11, 2001, I had met with Vice Admiral Martin Mayer, the deputy commander in chief of Joint Forces Command located in Norfolk, Virginia. He had informed me that he intended to kill all funding for a plan my command had been working on for two years, that would defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. While I convinced Admiral Mayer to continue his funding support, he told me in front of my chief of staff, Colonel Alan Scott; Navy Captain David Stewart, the lead on the project; and my executive officer, Lt. Col. Kelley Duckett, that our concern about Osama bin Laden as a possible threat to America was unfounded and that, to repeat, ‘If everyone would just turn off CNN, there wouldn’t be a threat from Osama bin Laden.’ [12]

Mayer's myopic thinking was far from unique. His Commander in Chief, General Kernan, was interviewed for an article shortly after the Cole bombing [13]:

The way the United States deploys its ships and troops overseas, as well as how they are based at home, will be forever changed because of the attack on the destroyer Cole, according to the man responsible for providing forces to America's combat commanders. [...]


The Cole, a $1 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was attacked Oct. 12 while it refueled in the southern Arabian port of Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors from the Norfolk-based ship died and 42 others were injured.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted somebody would come floating up there on a commercially made skiff that had an embedded shape charge in it, come right up against the side of a ship and blow a 40-by-40-foot hole in it," [Kernan] said. "It's incredible they were able to achieve it."

It's not that big of a jump in the imagination from commercial skiff to commercial jet. Within a year, hijackers on a suicide mission would hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.


It's like the commanders just couldn't face up to a very real war. They couldn't - or wouldn't - see the elephant in the room - asymmetric threats from groups like Al Qaeda.

It's all so.....disappointing.


New Documents Claim Intelligence on Bin Laden, al-Qaeda Targets Withheld From Congress' 9/11 Probe
By Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold, Truthout, June 13, 2011

Attachment - Unclassified FOIA Response PDF - includes:
FOIA response
April 8, 2011
Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General
re: JFIC and Congressional Inquiry
May 8, 2006

Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden
By Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout, May 23, 2011

Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission PDF
Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence
United States Department of Defense
September 23, 2008
Declassified March 5, 2010
From the Federation of American Scientists

[1] A Study of Joint Transformation at United States Joint Forces Command
By Colonel Lorraine E. Tyacke, United States Army, April 9, 2002

[2] Management of National Guard, Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams
Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense
Audit Report No. D-2001-043
See: Coordination With Other Organizations
January 31, 2001

[3] Tyacke, page 8

[4] Attachment - Unclassified FOIA Response PDF - includes:
FOIA response
April 8, 2011
Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General
re: JFIC and Congressional Inquiry
May 8, 2006

[5] Getting to Iraq part two: Counter Terrorism
By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, March 24, 2006

[6] Statement of Major General Bruce M. Lawlor PDF
US Army, Commander, Joint Task Force-Civil Support,
US Joint Forces Command
Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Status
Update of JTF-CS
May 1, 2001

[7] Unclassified FOIA Response, page 5

[8] Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission
Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence
United States Department of Defense
September 23, 2008
Declassified March 5, 2010

[9] Ibid, page 14

[10]Unclassified FOIA Response, page 3

[11] USS Cole plot began after embassy attacks, investigator says
David Ensor, Chris Plante and Peter Bergen, CNN, December 20, 2000

[12] Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11, By Lynn Spencer, Free Press, June 3, 2008
Afterword, page 285-291, by Major General (retired) Larry Arnold 1st Air Force and the Continental US North American Air Defense Command Region at Tyndall Air Force base near Panama City, FL.

[13] Cole Alters Military's Perception of Security; Joint Forces Chief Assesses Challenges at Overseas Posts, By Jack Dorsey, The Virginian-Pilot (archive $) January 28, 2001

Additional Reading

Military Support of Civil Authorities—
A New Focus for a New Millennium
Major General Bruce M. Lawlor
, Commander, 
Joint Task Force–Civil Support
October 2000 (Updated September 2001)

Report of the Joint Inquiry into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 PDF - By the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (declassified version)
S. REPT. NO. 107- 351 and H. REPT. NO. 107-792
December 20, 2002

9-11 Commission Report
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
July 22, 2004

9/11 Commission - Appendix C - Hearings - witnesses, etc


Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr. served as Commander In Chief U.S. Joint Forces Command from September 1997 until his retirement September 2000

Vice Admiral Robert B. Murrett, USN served as the director for Intelligence, US Joint Forces Command, from August 10, 2000 through January 25, 2002

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I just wanted to point out a couple of interesting areas for research. (Staying within a narrow 2000-2001 timeframe)

1. Personnel

a. I pretty much could only find names of senior staff for the most part because they retired and their resumes/biographies go up on line. So this is one area that definitely needs more work.

2. Threat summaries

a. I couldn't find any information about the use and distribution of Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary 'in support of the USJFCOM Intelligence staff.' How was it used, who else saw it, was it distributed outside of USJFCOM, if so, how far did it go? How frequent were summaries issued, how long were they, how current? I am curious if American Federation of Scientists has pursued an FOIA for anything at all on this product.

b. threat summaries with low levels of classification are created and issued as part of the contract bidding process on weapons systems. It occurred to me that unfortunately such a process can be abused to favor an outcome for a particular system. Which got me to wondering if anyone was trying to pitch a system similar to what the DO5 was using to the Department of Defense. I'm not saying it happened, just that it's something to look into. Especially given what happened with Thin Thread over at Homeland Security.

Page 16 of the FOIA documents released by POGO states that Trailblazer began in March 2001. DO5 gets more or less shut down from its work in the summer of 2001.

The TRAILBLAZER [redacted] an initiative that began in March 2001 at a cost of approximately [redacted] focused on a set of efforts to demonstrate essential capabilities and establish an intial Operational Capability by June 2002 that would lead the transformation of NSA into an area of effective and efficient digital network exploitation. The immediate objective of the TRAILBLAZER [redacted].

Did this play any role in what happened at DO5? Was DO5 using any of the technology or products involved with either Thin Thread or Trailblazer?


tidbits available here.

Great job digging through it, Susie. Thank you.

Would you like it reposted to Daily Kos by ePluribus Media, for some extra eyes and potential feedback?

I was kind of hoping some of our researchers could dig around a little. I'm stumped that I can't find anything about the 'Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary' - what it was/is and how it was/is used. They didn't classify the phrasing but it's not in public usage as far as I can tell. But they also didn't classify 'DO5' or 'Asymmetric Threat Division' in the FOIA response.

I think there might be something else here too but I can't put my finger on it.

More eyes would be good.

There is some interesting background information on some of the names listed under principals. For instance, Major General Bruce M. Lawlor - Commander, Joint Task Force - Civil Support, in college he was recruited by the CIA for Phoenix in Vietnam but later had some sort of falling out with the CIA. It's a bit unclear and I doubt it has relevance to 2000-2001 at JFCOM beyond maybe what kind of background commanders were looking for. For instance - were commanders looking for participants with war experience? Lawlor was in Vietnam. Von Ackermann served in Kosovo. Significant or just a coincidence?

Anyway, I'm curious if anyone else has any thoughts and/or ideas.