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Context of 'June 21, 2001: Senior Al-Qaeda Officials Say Important Surprises Coming Soon'

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William Bergman.William Bergman. [Source: Publicity photo]An unexplained significant increase in the amount of US currency in circulation causes one economist to later consider whether some individuals might have had foreknowledge of the impending September 11 attacks. Between June and August 2001, the currency component of the “M1 aggregate”—which includes currency in circulation and demand deposits—reported by the US Federal Reserve, increases by the greatest amount over the June-August period since 1947, the first year for which this data is reported. [Sanders Research Associates, 9/16/2005; Devine and Miles, 1/20/2006 pdf file] Economist William Bergman, who works at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1990 to 2004, will later point out: “The August increase alone was the third largest single monthly increase since 1947, trailing only December 1999 (with pre-Y2K concern as well as terrorism threats) and January 1991 (the onset of US military action in Iraq, and an important enforcement month in the BCCI money laundering scandal).… The above-average growth in currency in July and August 2001 totaled over $5 billion.” Bergman will suggest the spike in currency growth might indicate some people possessing foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks: “[A]nyone mindful that their financial assets might be seized or otherwise at risk after the attacks converted their bank accounts to a more liquid asset before the attacks.” He will explain: “Under money laundering and other laws, including those applied in a time of war or a declared national emergency, assets in the banking system can be frozen and seized. The implied incentives help explain a related phenomenon called ‘wartime hoarding.’ Historically, in wartime, currency in circulation outside of banks has tended to rise relative to other forms of money like bank deposits.… Was ‘wartime hoarding’ at work right before 9/11? The conversion of bank accounts into currency could have been responsible for the surge in currency in July and August 2001.” A less sinister alternative explanation for the currency surge might possibly be the currently deteriorating banking conditions in Argentina. [Sanders Research Associates, 1/4/2006] There is also a high level of fear within the US government and intelligence community around this time, about the threat in general of an imminent terrorist attack (see Summer 2001, June-July 2001, June 28, 2001, and June 28, 2001). As the Government Accountability Project will in 2006 write: “The [Federal Reserve’s] failure to date to publicly address the growth in currency in mid-2001 is conspicuous. If a benign explanation exists, or if for whatever reasons the currency growth is irrelevant, the Fed should say so publicly, and explain why this is the case. A failure to do so raises… troubling questions.” [Devine and Miles, 1/20/2006 pdf file] Also around this time, on August 2, 2001, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors issues—without explanation—a letter to Federal Reserve banks, which emphasizes the importance of monitoring suspicious activity reports (see August 2, 2001). [Spillenkothen, 8/2/2001]

Entity Tags: US Federal Reserve, William Bergman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Scenes in the al-Qaeda recruitment video show operatives training at the al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan.Scenes in the al-Qaeda recruitment video show operatives training at the al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan. [Source: CBC]An al-Qaeda recruitment video created months earlier is made public. The video had been circling amongst radical militants, but appears on the news worldwide after a Kuwaiti newspaper gets a copy. The video celebrates the bombing of the USS Cole. Bin Laden appears on the video, and while he does not take credit for the bombing, others in the video do. Bin Laden says that Muslims have to leave countries that are ruled by “allies of Jews and Christians,” and join his cause to be “prepared” for holy war. In an address to Palestinians, he calls for “blood, blood and destruction, destruction.” He says, “We give you the good news that the forces of Islam are coming…” He also issues a call to arms: “Your brothers in Palestine are waiting for you; it’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts the most.” He also tells his supporters to “slay the United States and Israel.” A similar video appeared shortly before the bombing of the USS Cole. [Associated Press, 6/20/2001; Associated Press, 6/20/2001; Newsweek, 7/22/2001; Washington Post, 9/11/2001] Intrest in the videotape will grow in the Muslim world in the months before the 9/11 attacks (see September 9, 2001).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Baker Atyani, reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, sits with Ayman al-Zawahiri and bin Laden.Baker Atyani, reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, sits with Ayman al-Zawahiri and bin Laden. [Source: CNN] (click image to enlarge)Baker Atyani, a reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden does not say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders promise that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” [Associated Press, 6/24/2001; Associated Press, 6/25/2001] Atyani says, “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” [Reuters, 6/23/2001] He adds, “I told my channel that his followers were telling me that the coffin business will increase in the states, the United States.” [CNN, 8/23/2006] After 9/11, Aytani will conclude, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 236] He is also shown a several-months-old videotape in which bin Laden declares, “It’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most.” The video is soon made public (see June 21, 2001). [CNN, 6/21/2001] Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001, to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 236-39]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, James Bamford, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, Baker Atyani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke warns National Security Adviser Rice and Assistant National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that six separate intelligence reports show al-Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack. These include a warning by al-Qaeda leaders that the next weeks “will witness important surprises” (see June 21, 2001) and a new recruitment video making further threats (see June 19, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that “Clarke [argues] that this [is] all too sophisticated to be merely a psychological operation to keep the United States on edge…” It is unclear how Rice and Hadley respond, but the CIA agrees with Clarke’s assessment. [Newsweek, 7/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

CIA Director Tenet writes an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Rice: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” A highly classified analysis at this time adds, “Most of the al-Qaeda network is anticipating an attack. Al-Qaeda’s overt publicity has also raised expectations among its rank and file, and its donors.” [Washington Post, 5/17/2002] The same day, Tenet is briefed by another CIA official that bin Laden “will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests” (see June 28, 2001). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Apparently, these warnings are partly based on a warning given by al-Qaeda leaders to a reporter a few days earlier (see June 21, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke also later asserts that Tenet tells him around this time, “It’s my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 235]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Khalid Almihdhar.Khalid Almihdhar. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]It is unclear if Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, briefs CIA leaders on information that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in the US. Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst detailed to the station, discovers that Almihdhar is in the US on August 21, immediately informs the FBI (see August 21-22, 2001), and places Almihdhar, hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, and two more associates on the TIPOFF watch list the next day (see August 23, 2001). The CIA also forwards information about al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash to the FBI on August 30 (see August 30, 2001).
No Information on Briefings - There is no indication that Richard Blee, the CIA manager responsible for Alec Station, or anyone at Alec Station informs the CIA’s leadership, the White House, or Richard Clarke’s Counterterrorism Security Group (see August 23, 2001) of Almihdhar’s presence in the US and the clear implications of this presence. For example, no such briefing will be mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report, although the report will mention that CIA Director George Tenet is briefed about Zacarias Moussaoui around the same time, and it does discuss the circulation of the information about Almihdhar at the FBI in detail. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 268-277] The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will not mention any such briefing, although it will discuss how the FBI handles the information. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 151-4 pdf file] No such briefing will be mentioned in a 2007 book by Tenet, although the book will mention a briefing Tenet receives about Moussaoui. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 158-160, 200] The Justice Department inspector general’s report will discuss the FBI’s handling of the information in detail. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 297-313 pdf file] However, the full CIA inspector general’s report about 9/11 will not be made public, and its executive summary will not mention any such briefing. [Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. 15-16 pdf file]
Alec Station Aware of Threat and Almihdhar - Alec Station, the CIA, and the US intelligence community in general are highly aware that preparations for a large al-Qaeda attack are in the final stages (see Shortly After July 5, 2001, June 28, 2001, and June 28, 2001). Blee is, in fact, the lead briefer within the government about the threats, and has briefed not only his superiors at the CIA, but also National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (see May 30, 2001 and June 28, 2001). He has also recently expressed the belief that the attack will be in the US (see Late July 2001) and has apparently received a series of e-mails in which his former deputy told him Almihdhar may well be involved in the forthcoming attack (see July 5, 2001, July 13, 2001, and July 23, 2001). The information that Almihdhar is in the US therefore confirms Blee’s belief that the attack will be in the US, but it appears Alec Station fails to pass this information on.

Entity Tags: Richard Blee, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Khalid Almihdhar, Alec Station, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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