A cold case is any criminal investigation by a law enforcement agency that has not been solved, and has been closed from further regular investigation. First, before anything else, and certainly before becoming a ‘cold case,’ a case must be ‘investigated.’ By investigated I mean a real investigation involving real investigative techniques and an investigative process performed by real investigators. If after real investigations by real investigators the case remains unsolved, then the case can be justifiably put aside as a cold case.
On the other hand, by this very same definition, a criminal ‘hot case’ that has not gone through a proper investigation by real investigators remains a ‘hot case.’ Whether that hot case is shoved into a cold case file or not does not make it technically a ‘cold case.’ The never-investigated mass murder on September 11, 2001, a case never assigned to real and independent investigators, with many witnesses never interviewed, with many suspects never pursued, with many questions left unanswered, and with many leads never followed, remains a ‘hot case.’ The self-serving classifications and redactions, the many cover ups, and the burial of the case and related files in government-created massive igloos, do not make 9/11 a cold case.
Let’s take a few minutes and by comparison examine a smaller scale murder investigation involving a murdered wealthy middle-aged man in an office building that was set on fire. While the forensic teams go over the body and through the charred building and debris to search for clues and evidence, the trained detectives begin interviewing witnesses, checking out the victim’s history, following any leads and forming their list of suspects.
In creating their list of suspects, the investigators look at all persons with direct or indirect motive(s): A young trophy wife with a multi-million dollar life insurance policy; a business adversary with much to gain from the elimination of the murder victim; former business partners and associates with grudges; a man who had actually threatened the murder victim; another who had shared his intense desire to see the victim dead; the owner of the handsomely insured burned down office building who had been unsuccessfully trying to sell the building and liquidate his assets . . . so on and so forth.
Whether through accounts of eyewitnesses or relatives, coworkers and friends, whether through documented evidence such as letters or e-mails, the investigators fill the list with possible suspects with motive(s) to see the victim dead, and maybe some with the established intent to kill him. Once the investigators create their list of suspects, and once the forensic and other evidence and witness statements have been gathered and analyzed, then they set about winnowing down the list. Using exhaustive interrogation techniques, investigative channels, and forensic evidence, the investigators begin eliminating unlikely suspects from the initial list one-by-one.
Sometimes the list is simultaneously narrowed down and expanded. While some initial suspects can be eliminated, others related to the initial suspects may be added as accessories to the crime. For example, the murder victim’s business adversary hired a professional hit organization that turned around and contracted the killing to three of its contract hit men. Or the victim’s wife’s lover plotted with her and engaged two hit men to execute the plot.
In the end, the investigators turn over their final suspect-accessory list and all the evidence that they believe will stand up in court to a prosecutor who then decides (on the evidence) whether to bring charges against one or more suspects, and then argues the case in court. The suspect(s), motive, means and opportunity, all supported by evidence and witnesses, are presented in court for the jury to judge the case and decide guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Of course, we then have those cases that never make it to court. The lack of sufficient evidence, witnesses, or even a lack of possible suspects, moves the case from the investigation phase directly into the cold case file cabinet.
Then, we have cases that never make it even to the real investigation phase. Period. Without going through the usual investigative process- evidence-gathering, witness interviews, seeking motives and means, looking for intent, establishing a list of suspects . . . Without turning over any suspect with ‘all’ associated evidence and witnesses to any prosecutor . . . These case are evasively declared closed or a cold case.
The investigation of the 9/11 mass murder was first assigned to a highly influenced and dependent Congress. We are not talking seasoned detectives and investigative agents here. Then, it was given to a group of sleazy pocketed politicians called a commission. Again, we are not talking about experienced detectives and savvy and independent prosecutors. No; just a handful of masterful and deceitful politicians and their puppet administrative staff.
There never was a thorough initial list of suspects. A few hours after the mass murder a bearded man in some dark cave in Afghanistan was announced as the mastermind and less than a couple dozen dead hit men were declared the executioners of that mass murder. As for motive and intent, there was a round or two of circular discussions in the media, but absent any real investigation and thus any need for real prosecution, establishing motive and intent were deemed irrelevant and unnecessary. Same for any accessory suspects; a few hundred were rounded up around the globe and were taken into black holes, black sites, and black prisons. Some were later released, some were tortured and killed, and some still remain in those holes. We don’t know, and it looks like we’ll never know.
In a real-life mass murder investigation by real investigators, a document like this, explicitly stating the desire for a mass murder like this would immediately make its way into the evidence bag, and signatories such as these people with a real motive and unlimited means would be automatically added to the top of the investigators’ initial list of suspects. They would remain there until further investigated, eliminated, or possibly prosecuted. Of course this was not a real investigation, and with no real investigators, and there never was a real list of suspects.
In a real-life investigation, any suspect accessory like this would be investigated, interrogated, and accordingly cleared or apprehended. And other highly suspicious persons or possible witnesses like this would be questioned and examined very thoroughly, rather than being directly assisted in fleeing the country.
In a real-life investigation, key witnesses and investigative experts like these would be held with the highest regard, and their knowledge, first-hand information, and documented evidence would be considered of great value. They certainly wouldn’t be censored, classified and officially gagged.
In a real-life investigation, if the highest-level criminal investigative body declares the capriciously designated perpetrator only a ‘suspect’ with no real hard evidence ever linking him to the crime in question, the case would be categorized as ‘never-solved and so very much open.
And the list goes on and on. When we get down to it, I mean really get down to it, what do we really have in the investigation of the biggest mass murder in the history of our nation? I’ll tell you what we have. We have a still ‘Hot Case’ that has been shoved inside a massive establishment-built igloo; so far, successfully.
In addition to publishing Boiling Frogs, where this article originally appeared, Sibel Edmonds is the founder and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers. She has appeared on national radio and TV as a commentator on matters related to whistleblowers, national security, and excessive secrecy & classification, and has been featured on CBS 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The American Conservative, and others. Her book, ‘Shooting the Messenger,’ co-authored with Professor William Weaver is forthcoming from Kansas University Press.