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Context of 'April-October 2001: US Records 9/11 Plotters Talking about the September 11 Attacks'

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Jay Connell.Jay Connell. [Source: Global Justice Academy]Telephone conversations between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and three other men apparently talking in code about the 9/11 plot are recorded by the United States. One of the men in the calls, besides Mohammed, is Mohammed’s nephew, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi). However, further details of the calls, including the identities of the other two men in them, will be unreported. Some of the recordings are apparently made by the US before September 11 but only listened to and analyzed after 9/11. The time at which the US government determines the calls relate to the 9/11 plot is unclear. Journalist and author Terry McDermott will later comment that he discovered during research for a book about Mohammed that American satellites “randomly scooped up” calls between Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an alleged deputy in the 9/11 plot. However, the NSA “didn’t listen to them or translate them until after 9/11,” he will say, and only then “went through this stuff and found out what it was.”
Recordings' Existence Will Be Kept Secret until 2016 - The existence of the recordings will only come to light during the death penalty trial at Guantanamo Bay of Mohammed, Ali, bin al-Shibh, and two other men alleged to be complicit in the 9/11 plot. The men’s defense lawyers will be provided with the original audio of the calls and transcripts of their translation on September 30, 2016. However, in August 2018, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, the original trial judge, will issue a secret order that prevents the lawyers from learning how the recordings were collected or asking about this.
Recordings May Indicate US Knowledge about Al-Qaeda before 9/11 - Jay Connell, Ali’s lawyer, will comment on the possible importance of the recordings, saying: “To me, the most significant part of this is what it shows about the US investigation [of al-Qaeda] prior to 9/11. What they could have known, and the sources and methods, are important to know the scope of the government’s knowledge prior to 9/11.” (Rosenberg 3/25/2019; Stone 3/26/2019) Lorie Van Auken, whose husband dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, will question why the existence of the recordings was initially kept secret. “Why did it take until 2016 to mention the existence of these tapes? What was the National Security Agency doing with the tapes all this time?” she will ask. (van Auken 3/26/2019)

9/11 facilitators Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a hurry. At a hearing held in Guantanamo Bay in 2007 to determine Ali’s combat status, his departure from the UAE just before 9/11 will be included in the facts supporting his designation as an enemy combatant. However, he will deny having foreknowledge of 9/11 and say he had to leave the UAE as his work permit was canceled. (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 pdf file) Al-Hawsawi leaves Dubai on the morning of 9/11 for Karachi. Shortly before, he had learned that the operation for which the hijackers had traveled to the US would take place on September 11, and had been advised by fellow operatives Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed that he should return to Pakistan. (US department of Defense 3/21/2007 pdf file) Before leaving, al-Hawsawi transferred $40,000 the hijackers had returned to him to his Visa card (see September 5-10, 2001). He makes six ATM withdrawals on the card in Pakistan two days later and then disappears. (MSNBC 12/11/2001)

Twenty-five al-Qaeda operatives are captured in Karachi, Pakistan, including two key 9/11 figures. The captured include Tawfiq bin Attash, better known by his nickname Khallad. He is considered one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000) and attended a Malaysia summit where the 9/11 plot was discussed (see January 5-8, 2000). Also captured is Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, one of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s nephews. He made travel arrangements for and wired money to many of the 9/11 hijackers. One investigator will later say, “He was turning up everywhere we looked—like a chameleon.” (Risen 5/1/2003; Serrano 5/21/2006) Both Aziz Ali and bin Attash will be sent to secret CIA prisons and remain there until 2006, when they will be transfered to the Guantanamo Bay prison (see September 2-3, 2006). Bin Attash will be extensively tortured while in US custody in Afghanistan (see April 29 - Mid-May, 2003). The identities and fates of the others captured with them are unknown.


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