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Context of 'March 1997-Early 2000: German Intelligence Investigates Hamburg Al-Qaeda Cell Member Zammar; CIA Is Involved'

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Mohammed Haydar Zammar.Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Source: Knut Mueller]Turkish intelligence informs Germany’s domestic intelligence service that Mohammed Haydar Zammar is a radical militant who has been traveling to trouble spots around the world. Zammar has already made more than 40 journeys to places like Bosnia and Chechnya, and in 1996 he pledges his allegiance to al-Qaeda during a trip to Afghanistan (see 1991-1996). Turkey explains that Zammar is running a dubious travel agency in Hamburg, organizing flights for radical militants to Afghanistan. As a result, by early 1997, German intelligence will launch Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), an investigation of Islamic militants in the Hamburg area. The Germans will use a full range of intelligence techniques, including wiretaps and informants. [Stern, 8/13/2003; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Operation Zartheit will run for at least three years and connect Zammar to many of the 9/11 plotters (see March 1997-Early 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

German intelligence unsuccessfully attempts to turn Mohammed Haydar Zammar into an informant. In 1996, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, learned that Zammar had extensive Islamist militant ties (see 1996). In 1997, the BfV starts an investigation into Islamist militants in Hamburg that is centered on Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). Apparently, as part of this investigation, two BfV officials meet with him twice and attempt to get him to become an informant. However, Zammar strongly rejects the proposal. He says he will not serve the West, but will only serve Allah and jihad. However, he is careful to note that he is only interested in jihad outside of Germany, because under German law at this time it is not illegal to be a member of a violent militant group as long as all the violence takes place outside of Germany. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005] German intelligence will continue monitoring Zammar and many of his associates in Hamburg (see for instance March 1997-Early 2000, October 2, 1998, and July 2001).

Entity Tags: Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11.Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11. [Source: UE-TV]An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany refuses to disclose additional details). The investigation is called Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), and it was started by a tip about Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Turkish intelligence (see 1996). [New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Zammar Linked to Hamburg 9/11 Cell and Bin Laden - It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003] Zammar will later claim that he recruited 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] The investigation into Zammar allegedly stops in early 2000, after investigators conclude they don’t have enough evidence to convict him of any crime. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]
CIA Involved with Zammar Operation - Vanity Fair will later claim that “A lone CIA agent, the Germans disclose, attempted to work alongside them” in Operation Zartheit, but German “requests for greater information and cooperation from the CIA, they claim, came to naught.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Thomas Volz, Mohamed Atta, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Ansaldo Energia, Osama bin Laden, Barakat Yarkas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar probably recruits future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed and other key members of the Hamburg cell into al-Qaeda this year. According to Time magazine, “US investigators believe [Zammar] may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda around 1998.” Zammar was frequently seen by neighbors with Atta starting in 1997 (see 1997). [Time, 7/1/2002]
Zammar Being Monitored by US and German Intelligence - German intelligence began heavily monitoring Zammar in early 1997 and this continues until at least early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). The CIA also appears to be monitoring Zammar by this time. Author Terry McDermott will later comment: “[T]he CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated [a wiretap done in March 1999 (see March 1999)]. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mohamed Atta, Terry McDermott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The arrest of al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) points US and German investigators to Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the future 9/11 hijackers. Salim is arrested on September 16, 1998, in Munich, Germany (see September 16, 1998). He is believed to be al-Qaeda’s financial chief, and is one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988). After Salim’s arrest, both German and US intelligence investigate his contacts in Germany and discover a link to Zammar. Zammar is already being investigated and monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service (see March 1997-Early 2000). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 12/12/2005] Presumably, the link between Zammar and Salim should increase the urgency of the German investigation. It is unknown when US intelligence begins monitoring Zammar, but the US will discover important links between Zammar and al-Qaeda in the summer of 1999 (see Summer 1999). US and German investigators also discover a link between Salim and Mamoun Darkazanli, a Hamburg associate of Zammar’s, and they monitor him as well (see Late 1998).

Entity Tags: Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mamoun Darkazanli, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Al-Qaeda, US intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Three Yemeni men are arrested in Turin, Italy. They are connected to planned attacks on US facilities in Europe. They are members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group led by al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Italian police search their apartments and discover beards, wigs, weapons, and contact details for Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. This information is quickly passed to the German domestic intelligence service. Prior to this point, Germany has been investigating Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000), but apparently they are uncertain if his claims of training in Afghanistan and meeting bin Laden are idle boasts. But after these arrests in Italy, German intelligence will realize Zammar has connections to real terrorists. The surveillance operation on him, and others in the Hamburg cell, will increase in intensity. [Stern, 8/13/2003; Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Germany, Italy, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Islamic Jihad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Marienstrasse building.The Marienstrasse building. [Source: Associated Press]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda operatives Said Bahaji and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and others in the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and some of them stay there until February 2001. Investigators will later believe this move marks the formation of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2002; New York Times, 9/10/2002] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including, at times, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. Alshehhi moves out after the first month; it is unclear why. [New York Times, 9/15/2001] During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address.
Surveillance of Bahaji - From the very beginning, the apartment is under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Bahaji. [Washington Post, 10/23/2001] The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji is directly monitored for at least part of 1998, but German officials will not disclose when the probe began or ends. This investigation is dropped for lack of evidence (see (Late 1998)). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Surveillance of El Motassadeq - German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who will later be convicted for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently it does not find any indication of suspicious activity (see August 29, 1998). [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002]
Surveillance of Zammar - Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, does not live at the apartment, but he is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 259-60; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] He even lives in the apartment for a time in February 1999 (see February 1999). Zammar is the focus of an investigation that began in 1997 and continues until early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Interest in monitoring him increases in late 1998 (see October 2, 1998).
Surveillance of Atta - The CIA also allegedly starts monitoring Atta in early 2000 while he is living at the apartment, and does not tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). Atta leaves Germany to live in the US in June 2000 (see June 3, 2000).
No Direct German Surveillance of the Apartment? - Yet, even though people like Zammar who frequently phone and visit the apartment are monitored, German officials will later claim that the apartment itself is never bugged. An unnamed senior German security official will later say that some surveillance of associated people gives “the impression that the people living there were fanatical believers. At the BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency], we had to decide whether to ask permission to place a wiretap on the line at 54 Marienstrasse itself. We discussed this every day.” But he will claim that they ultimately decide they will not be able to get legal permission for a wiretap because there is no evidence that the apartment’s occupants are breaking any laws. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This claim that the apartment was not directly monitored seems contradicted by reports that Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation when he was living in the Marienstrasse apartment in late 1998 (see (Late 1998)).
What Would More Surveillance Have Uncovered? - It will later be clear that investigators could have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, one visitor will recall Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999 and comes to the apartment. However, although there is a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998, the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him (see 1999). [Newsweek, 9/4/2002; New York Times, 11/4/2002] 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Remarkably, shortly after 9/11, the German government will claim it knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and nothing directed it towards the Marienstrasse apartment. [Daily Telegraph, 11/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Said Bahaji, Marwan Alshehhi, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Zakariya Essabar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to author Terry McDermott, by late 1998, German intelligence knows all the key names of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell led by 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. This is mostly due to the on-going surveillance of Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see March 1997-Early 2000, Late 1998 and December 1999). It is not clear if the group is seen as an al-Qaeda cell, or just a bunch of radical Islamists. One unnamed senior German intelligence official will say in November 2001, “We only knew them as radical Muslims. This is not a crime.” This person will add, “They might have had contact with followers of Osama bin Laden. This also is not a crime.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 279] It is unknown if Germany shares this intelligence with the US.

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Monitored al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar temporarily lives with future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and 9/11 hijacker associates Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. They live in a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). This is according to a September 2001 memo from the BfV (Germany’s domestic intelligence agency), so it may come from surveillance conducted before 9/11. It is not known why Zammar lives here at this time, since he has his own wife and family in Hamburg; nor is it known how many days he stays at the apartment. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Zammar is under surveillance by the BfV at this time (see March 1997-Early 2000), and he is likely under surveillance by the CIA as well (see Shortly After September 16, 1998 and Summer 1999).

Entity Tags: Said Bahaji, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell.Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell. [Source: German Bavarian Police]German intelligence monitors a phone call in which the names of key members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell are mentioned. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s full name and telephone number are even mentioned. German domestic intelligence (BfV) has been monitoring al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s telephone (see March 1997-Early 2000). On this day, Zammar is not home, but his parents speak to each other on the phone and are trying to figure out where he is. One of them suggests that Zammar is at a meeting with “Mohamed, Ramzi, and Said,” and can be reached at the phone number of the Marienstrasse apartment where all three of them live. This refers to cell members Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Said Bahaji. “Mounir”—cell member Mounir El Motassadeq—is mentioned as well. However, apparently German intelligence fails to grasp the importance of these names, even though Bahaji and El Motassadeq are also under investigation at this time (see August 29, 1998). The Marienstrasse apartment is the center of the cell’s activity (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; New York Times, 1/18/2003; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003] Atta’s first and last name are mentioned in the phone call between Zammar’s parents. Agents check the Marienstrasse phone number, which they find is registered to Bahaji. They also confirm the street address, but it is not known what they make of the information. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003]

Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mounir El Motassadeq, Said Bahaji, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

German intelligence gives the CIA the first name of 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and his telephone number of a phone registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Germans learned the information from the surveillance of al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). They tell the CIA that Alshehhi, who is living in Bonn, Germany, at the time, may be connected to al-Qaeda. He is described as a UAE student who has spent some time studying in Germany. The conversation is short, but a known alias of Mamoun Darkazanli is mentioned. The CIA is very interested in Darkazanli and will try to recruit him as an informant later in the year (see Late 1998 and December 1999). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 8/13/2003; New York Times, 2/24/2004; McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]
No Response from CIA - The Germans consider this information “particularly valuable” and ask the CIA to track Alshehhi, but the CIA never responds until after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA decides at the time that this “Marwan” is probably an associate of bin Laden but never track him down. It is not clear why the CIA fails to act, or if they learn his last name before 9/11. [New York Times, 2/24/2004] The Germans monitor other calls between Alshehhi and Zammar, but it isn’t clear if the CIA is also told of these or not (see September 21, 1999).
Could the Number Be Traced? - CIA Director George Tenet will later dismiss the importance of this information in a statement to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. He will say that all the CIA had to go on was a first name and an impossible to trace unlisted number. But author Terry McDermott will later comment, “At least a portion of that statement is preposterous. The UAE mobile telephone business was, until 2004, a state monopoly. The UAE number could have been traced in five minutes, according to senior security officials there. The United States never asked.” McDermott will add, “Further, the CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated these recordings. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Terry McDermott, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Germany, Mamoun Darkazanli, Marwan Alshehhi, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mamoun Darkazanli.
Mamoun Darkazanli. [Source: Interpol]The CIA begins “persistent” efforts to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli as an informant. Darkazanli knows 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and the other members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. US and German intelligence had previously opened investigations into Darkazanli in September 1998. Agents occasionally followed him, but Darkazanli obviously noticed the tail on him at least once. More costly and time-consuming electronic surveillance is not done however, and by the end of 1999, the investigation has produced little of value. German law does not allow foreign governments to have informants in Germany. So this month, Thomas Volz appears at the headquarters of the Hamburg state domestic intelligence agency, the LfV, responsible for tracking terrorists and domestic extremists. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/2002; Stern, 8/13/2003] Volz’s business card identifies him as “consul of the United States of America” at the US consulate general in Hamburg, but he actually is an undercover CIA agent. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 12/12/2005] Volz tells them the CIA believes Darkazanli has knowledge of an unspecified terrorist plot and encourages that he be “turned” against his al-Qaeda comrades. A source later recalls he says, “Darkazanli knows a lot.” Efforts to recruit him will continue in the spring next year. The CIA has not admitted this interest in Darkazanli. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/2002; Stern, 8/13/2003]

Entity Tags: Thomas Volz, Mamoun Darkazanli, Central Intelligence Agency, Ansaldo Energia, Mohamed Atta, Landesamt fûr Varfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar appears to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Ibrahim Diab, a Lebanese national, has recently been recruited into the cell. Diab makes plans to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and Zammar pays for his travel expenses to the camp. Zammar is generally considered to be the main recruiter for the cell. Diab will later claim that Zammar warns him in August 2001 to leave for the camps as soon as possible because something big is about to happen. [Los Angeles Times, 1/30/2003] In 2002, the Los Angeles Times will report: “Zammar’s bluster matched his size. In almost any discussion, his was the loudest voice and most radical view.… In part because of Zammar’s outspokenness, authorities tend to discount his role in the Sept. 11 plot. They concluded no one would entrust information to a braggart like him.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Diab’s confession, made public in 2003, would seem to discredit the idea that Zammar was not trusted with knowledge of the 9/11 plot. And since Zammar is monitored for years before 9/11 (see March 1997-Early 2000), it also raises questions about what German intelligence might have learned from monitoring him. Diab will fly out of Germany on September 10, 2001, just one day before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). He will attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, but be arrested in Pakistan in late October and quickly deported back to Germany. He will confess his activities to German intelligence shortly thereafter, and then be released without charge (see October 29, 2001). [Chicago Tribune, 2/23/2003]

Entity Tags: German intelligence community, Ibrahim Diab, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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