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Context of 'July 10, 2001: CIA Officials Black and Blee Show Director Tenet Compelling Evidence of an Imminent Al-Qaeda Attack'

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Chechen rebel leader Ibn KhattabChechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab [Source: Associated Press]Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab are, as a CIA officer puts it, “intricately tied together” in a number of ways. Their relationship apparently begins in the mid-1980s, when Ibn Khattab goes to fight in Afghanistan and reportedly meets bin Laden there. It ends in March 2002 with Khattab’s death (see March 19, 2002). [BBC, 4/26/2002; Independent, 5/1/2002; Washington Post, 4/26/2003; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 pdf file]
bullet They share fundraising and recruiting networks. For example, a Florida cell of radical Sunnis that is monitored by the FBI starting in 1993 is involved with both organizations (see (October 1993-November 2001)). Radical London imam Abu Qatada raises money for jihad in Chechnya (see 1995-February 2001 and February 2001) and is a key figure in al-Qaeda-related terrorism who is in communication with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida. [BBC, 3/23/2004; Nasiri, 2006, pp. 273] The Finsbury Park mosque of fellow London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is used as a conduit for funds for both jihad in Chechnya and bin Laden’s Darunta camp in Afghanistan (see March 1999 and March 2000-February 2001);
bullet Bin Laden sends hundreds of fighters to help the Chechen cause, and this is publicly revealed no later than August 2000 (see May 2000);
bullet The two leaders debate strategy; [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006] and
bullet Ibn Khattab establishes camps for trainees sent to him by bin Laden, and the US is aware of this no later than October 1998 (see October 16, 1998).
Despite bin Laden’s contribution to the Chechen effort, he does not have control of operations there. [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006] Zacarias Moussaoui will later be linked to Khattab (see August 22, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ibn Khattab, Osama bin Laden, Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bard O’Neill.Bard O’Neill. [Source: Offoffoff.com]Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, tells a class at a military college that “something big” is going to happen, likely in the US, and he will be blamed for it. This is according to Bard O’Neill, a Middle East expert and professor of national security strategy at the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in southwest Washington, DC. O’Neill will tell the 9/11 Commission that, sometime this month, Black talks to a class in the sensitive compartmented information facility at the National War College. Black says that “something big [is] coming and that it very likely could be in the US.” He says he will get blamed for the incident, and that he has “his resignation already signed in his drawer and ready to pull out when it happened.” [9/11 Commission, 9/3/2003 pdf file] Black will later tell the Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that during the spring and summer of this year, he “became convinced that al-Qaeda was going to strike hard,” and that, while “the Arabian peninsula and Israel were the most likely targets,” by late summer, he “was growing more concerned about a potential attack on the United States.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Bard E. O’Neill, Cofer Black

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Cofer Black, director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, tells a visiting group from an Arab country that an attack on an unprecedented scale is going to happen, but the details of when and where it will occur are unknown. [Kiriakou and Ruby, 2010, pp. 99-100; Real News Network, 4/23/2015; Truthdig, 8/12/2017] The CIA occasionally holds visits for members of the intelligence services of friendly foreign countries at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The visitors are usually given a tour of the CIA’s operations center, and allowed to meet the CIA director and other senior officials, if possible. The visit is a chance for them to get acquainted with the CIA, exchange gifts, and take some photos. “We wanted to make them feel welcome and important” because these intelligence services “could be additional eyes and ears in places where our own access was limited,” CIA officer John Kiriakou will later write. Today, Kiriakou is hosting one such group, which comes from an unnamed small Middle Eastern state. The group, which includes some relatively low-level military officers, is made up of people Kiriakou has been training. Kiriakou asked Black if he would stop by to meet the group and, to his surprise, Black agreed to do so.
Black Gives a Detailed Briefing on Al-Qaeda - “This is a really big deal,” Kiriakou explains to the visitors. Black, he says, is “the head of counterterrorism for the entire world, which makes him a crucial guy in our shop.” After he arrives, Black shakes the hands of all the visitors and, once everyone is seated in a conference room, he welcomes them to the CIA and says how much the agency values their friendship. In light of the Counterterrorist Center director’s busy schedule, Kiriakou is expecting Black to stay for only a short time, perhaps taking a few questions before leaving. But he stays for about 30 minutes, and delivers a detailed and comprehensive briefing on what he considers the most important topic: al-Qaeda.
Black Says, 'Something Terrible Is Going to Happen' - Black begins by telling the visitors about the growing terrorist threat. He then warns them that some kind of major catastrophic event is imminent, saying: “We know something terrible is going to happen. We don’t know when and we don’t know where.” He adds that, despite the lack of knowledge of its details, “We do know it’s going to be against US interests and it’s going to be big, perhaps bigger than anything we’ve seen before.” The visitors are silent upon hearing this alarming information.
'Chatter' Indicates an Attack Is Imminent - “The mood in the al-Qaeda training camps is one of jubilation,” Black continues. “We’ve never seen them as excited and as happy as they are now,” he adds. He says “chatter” has been picked up that appears to be filled with code words and phrases that CIA analysts consider frightening, such as, “There’s going to be a great wedding,” “There’s going to be a great soccer game,” and, “The salesman is coming with great quantities of honey.” These are all coded references to a terrorist attack, he asserts. “We’re sure it’s going to happen, we just don’t know where,” he says of the predicted attack. Black then asks the visitors for their cooperation in tackling the threat. “If you have any sources inside al-Qaeda, please work them now because whatever it is, we have to do everything we can to stop it,” he says. By the end of the briefing, the visitors are clearly unsettled. They are so shocked at the power of what they have been told that when Black asks if they have any questions, no one can think of any. Finally, the senior member of the group stands up and says he will pass on Black’s information to his country’s intelligence service, and it would do everything in its power to assist the US.
Black Will Say He Was 'Very Serious' in the Briefing - Later on, when he thanks Black for giving his time, Kiriakou will ask the Counterterrorist Center director, “Did you just make that up or embellish the state of play for their benefit, or were you serious in that briefing?” Black will say he was “very serious.” He will tell Kiriakou he has been to the White House and talked with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about the threat, and White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke is also making a noise about the issue, but no one is paying much attention to them. [Kiriakou and Ruby, 2010, pp. 99-101] Black is one of only a few people in the CIA who have been trying to alert the Bush administration to the growing threat posed by al-Qaeda. [WBUR, 10/13/2020] All through the summer, he is telling anyone who will listen that something terrible is going to happen and a massive attack is imminent (see April 2001, July 10, 2001, and August 15, 2001). “But,” journalist and author Jane Mayer will comment, “one of the things that mystified Black’s colleagues was how he could have been as alarmed as he was about al-Qaeda yet fail to piece together the many fragments of the September 11 puzzle that reached the [CIA] prior to the attacks.” [Mayer, 2008, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Cofer Black, John Kiriakou, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The CIA receives several pieces of intelligence over a 24-hour period, all of which predict an imminent attack. They include:
bullet Ibn Khattab, a Chechen radical connected to Osama bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002), promises his troops “very big news” (see (July 9, 2001));
bullet Islamic extremists are traveling to Afghanistan in greater numbers;
bullet There have been significant departures of extremist families from Yemen;
bullet There are indications of threats against US interests in Lebanon, Morocco, and Mauritania.
This information will be promptly communicated to CIA Director George Tenet (see July 10, 2001) and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (see July 10, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 151]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Richard Blee, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, goes to his boss, Cofer Black, director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, with evidence suggesting al-Qaeda will attack the United States in the near future, and the two men then go and present the information to CIA Director George Tenet. Blee has been tracking “a cascade of threats,” according to writer and documentary filmmaker Chris Whipple, and “[t]he intelligence, while not specific about targets, left no doubt that major attacks were imminent.” “You saw 50 different signs of impending attack,” Blee will later recall. These are the kinds of indications that would lead a person to say, “Oh, f_ck, it’s coming,” he will say. He therefore bursts into Black’s office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to report what is known. “Okay, the roof’s fallen in,” he announces. “Whatcha got?” Black asks and Blee shows him information about the alarming terrorist threat. Black finds this “absolutely compelling.” The information, derived from multiple sources, is “sort of the last straw,” he will say.
Tenet Is Shown Evidence of a Possible Imminent Attack - Black therefore promptly arranges to see Tenet. He calls Tenet’s secretary and tells her, “I have to see the director, I’m coming up with Rich.” The secretary says Tenet is unavailable. “I’m sorry, he’s in with the head of some foreign intelligence service,” she tells Black. But he retorts, “Kick the guy out, we’re coming up now.” Black and Blee then go to Tenet’s office to brief the CIA director. [Politico Magazine, 11/12/2015; CBS, 5/21/2016; Whipple, 2020, pp. 185-186] They show him communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence that reveal the increasing likelihood of al-Qaeda attacking the US in the near future. “It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case,” according to journalist and author Bob Woodward. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 49; Washington Post, 10/1/2006]
Information Makes Tenet's 'Hair Stand on End' - Tenet realizes the importance of the information he is shown. Black will recall him “[c]hewing on his cigar, going back and forth, jumping up and down, his eyes flashing.” [Whipple, 2020, pp. 186] “The briefing… literally made my hair stand on end,” Tenet will comment. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 151] Black, Blee, and Tenet agree that a meeting at the White House to discuss the information is urgently needed. [Politico Magazine, 11/12/2015]
Tenet Tells Rice He Needs to See Her Immediately - Tenet therefore calls the White House and talks to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I can recall no other time in my seven years as [CIA director] that I sought such an urgent meeting at the White House,” he will remark. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 151] “I have to come see you, we’re comin’ right now,” he tells Rice. [CBS, 5/21/2016; Whipple, 2020, pp. 186] Rice immediately makes time to see him, Tenet will recall. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 151] However, White House logs will show that the CIA director already has a meeting with Rice scheduled for today. The meeting that is supposedly arranged now is therefore “not an emergency meeting,” according to Philip Zelikow, who will be the executive director of the 9/11 Commission. [Newsweek, 4/29/2007] Furthermore, Rice will give a different account of what Tenet tells her when he calls the White House. He only says, “I’m worried about the chatter,” she will write. Then, after she asks him what he wants to do, he suggests that he come to the White House immediately and she agrees. [Rice, 2011, pp. 67] Black, Blee, and Tenet will subsequently make the 15-minute drive to the White House, and present Rice and other officials there with the information Blee has compiled (see July 10, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 151-153; Politico Magazine, 11/12/2015]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Cofer Black, Richard Blee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Cofer Black.
Cofer Black. [Source: US State Department]Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, says in a speech to the Department of Defense’s annual Convention of Counterterrorism, “We are going to be struck soon, many Americans are going to die, and it could be in the US.” Black later complains that top leaders are unwilling to act at this time unless they are given “such things as the attack is coming within the next few days and here is what they are going to hit.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Cofer Black

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An article in Time magazine briefly mentions a key meeting between the CIA and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, where top CIA officials warned Rice of an impending attack (see July 10, 2001). The meeting will be left out of the 9/11 Commission report, although CIA Director George Tenet will tell the Commission about it (see January 28, 2004). Time writes: “In mid-July, Tenet sat down for a special meeting with Rice and aides. ‘George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack,’ says an official; another, who was present at the meeting, says Tenet broke out a huge wall chart… with dozens of threats. Tenet couldn’t rule out a domestic attack but thought it more likely that al-Qaeda would strike overseas.” [Time, 8/4/2002] According to a transcript of Tenet’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission, he told Rice there could be an al-Qaeda attack in weeks or perhaps months, that there would be multiple, simultaneous attacks causing major human casualties, and that the focus would be US targets, facilities, or interests. As Time reports, Tenet says the intelligence focuses on an overseas attack, but a domestic attack could not be ruled out. [Washington Post, 10/3/2006] News of the meeting will emerge in 2006 (see September 29, 2006), but the 9/11 Commission members will deny they were told about it. After the transcript is shared with reporters, they will reverse their denials (see September 30-October 3, 2006). Rice will also deny the meeting took place, only to reverse her position as well (see October 1-2, 2006).

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Former CIA Director George Tenet privately testifies before the 9/11 Commission. He provides a detailed account of an urgent al-Qaeda warning he gave to the White House on July 10, 2001 (see July 10, 2001). According to three former senior intelligence officials, Tenet displays the slides from the PowerPoint presentation he gave the White House and even offers to testify about it in public. According to the three former officials, the hearing is attended by commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, the commission’s executive director Philip Zelikow, and some staff members. When Tenet testifies before the 9/11 Commission in public later in the year, he will not mention this meeting. The 9/11 Commission will neglect to include Tenet’s warning to the White House in its July 2004 final report. [McClatchy Newspapers, 10/2/2006] Portions of a transcript of Tenet’s private testimony will be leaked to reporters in 2006. According to the transcript, Tenet’s testimony included a detailed summary of the briefing he had with CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black on July 10 (see July 10, 2001). The transcript also reveals that he told the commission that Black’s briefing had prompted him to request an urgent meeting with Rice about it. This closely matches the account in Woodward’s 2006 book that first widely publicized the July meeting (see September 29, 2006). [Washington Post, 10/3/2006] Shortly after Woodward’s book is published, the 9/11 Commission staff will deny knowing that the July meeting took place. Zelikow and Ben-Veniste, who attended Tenet’s testimony, will say they are unable to find any reference to it in their files. But after the transcript is leaked, Ben-Veniste will suddenly remember details of the testimony (see September 30-October 3, 2006) and will say that Tenet did not indicate that he left his meeting with Rice with the impression he had been ignored, as Tenet has alleged. [New York Times, 10/2/2006] Woodward’s book will describe why Black, who also privately testified before the 9/11 Commission, felt the commission did not mention the July meeting in their final report: “Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork about the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn’t want to know about. It was what happened in investigations. There were questions they wanted to ask, and questions they didn’t want to ask.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 78]

Entity Tags: Richard Ben-Veniste, Philip Zelikow, White House, Cofer Black, Central Intelligence Agency, Condoleezza Rice, 9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Original cover to Woodward’s ‘State of Denial.’Original cover to Woodward’s ‘State of Denial.’ [Source: Barnes and Noble]Journalist Bob Woodward’s new book State of Denial is released. While the book focuses mainly on politics regarding the Iraq war, it also describes an urgent warning that then-CIA Director George Tenet gave to Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser at the time, and other White House officials on July 10, 2001 (see July 10, 2001). [New York Times, 9/29/2006; New York Daily News, 9/29/2006; Washington Post, 10/1/2006] This warning had been mentioned in passing in a 2002 Time magazine article, but it had escaped widespread attention until Woodward’s book. [Time, 8/4/2002] The meeting is particularly controversial because neither the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry nor the 9/11 Commission mentioned in it in their final reports. The 9/11 Commission had learned about it from Tenet in early 2004 (see January 28, 2004). Rice and a number of 9/11 Commissioners deny knowing about the July meeting for several days, until documentation surfaces in the media detailing the meeting and Tenet’s testimony to the commission (see October 1-2, 2006 and September 30-October 3, 2006). Details about the July meeting and surrounding controversies are reported on by the mainstream media for about a week, but there are no articles on it in any prominent newspaper after October 3, 2006. On October 5, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) formally asks Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for hearings about the revelations in Woodward’s book, including controversies surrounding the July meeting. Kerry says in a letter to Lugar, “It is necessary to understand the mistakes of the past in order to ensure they are not repeated, and having testimony from the parties under oath will help to sharpen recollections and clarify the exact nature of this important meeting.” However, no hearings take place. [Kerry, 10/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Bob Woodward, Condoleezza Rice, Bob Kerry, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In late September 2006, a new book by Bob Woodward reveals that CIA Director Tenet and CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black gave National Security Adviser Rice their most urgent warning about a likely upcoming al-Qaeda attack (see July 10, 2001 and September 29, 2006). Tenet detailed this meeting to the 9/11 Commission in early 2004 (see January 28, 2004), but it was not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s final report later that year. According to the Washington Post, “Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork on the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn’t want to know about.” [Washington Post, 10/1/2006] The 9/11 Commissioners initially vigorously deny that they were not told about the meeting. For instance, 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick says she checked with commission staff who told her they were never told about a meeting on that date. She says, “We didn’t know about the meeting itself. I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it.” [Washington Post, 9/30/2006] Commissioner Tim Roemer says, “None of this was shared with us in hours of private interviews, including interviews under oath, nor do we have any paper on this. I’m deeply disturbed by this. I’m furious.” Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste says the meeting “was never mentioned to us.” Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, says the commissioners and their staff had heard nothing in their private interviews with Tenet and Black to suggest that they made such a dire presentation to Rice. “If we had heard something that drew our attention to this meeting, it would have been a huge thing.” [New York Times, 10/2/2006] However, on October 3, 2006, a transcript of Tenet’s private testimony to the 9/11 Commission is leaked to reporters and clearly shows that Tenet did warn Rice of an imminent al-Qaeda threat on July 10, 2001. Ben-Veniste, who attended the meeting along with Zelikow and other staff members, now confirms the meeting did take place and claims to recall details of it, even though he, Zelikow, and other 9/11 Commissioners had denied the existence of the meeting as recently as the day before. In the transcript, Tenet says “the system was blinking red” at the time. This statement becomes a chapter title in the 9/11 Commission’s final report but the report, which normally has detailed footnotes, does not make it clear when Tenet said it. [Washington Post, 10/3/2006] Zelikow had close ties to Rice before joining the 9/11 Commission, having co-written a book with her (see March 21, 2004), and became one of her key aides after the commission disbanded (see February 28, 2005). Zelikow does not respond to requests for comments after Tenet’s transcript surfaces. [McClatchy Newspapers, 10/2/2006; Washington Post, 10/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Ben-Veniste, Tim Roemer, Jamie Gorelick, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, Cofer Black

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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