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Context of 'July 20, 2001: Call between KSM, Bin Al-Shibh about Moussaoui Intercepted'

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Around this time, the NSA intercepts telephone conversations between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, but apparently it does not share the information with any other agencies. The FBI has had a $2 million reward for KSM since 1998 (see January 8, 1998), while Atta is in charge of hijacker operations inside the US. [Knight Ridder, 6/6/2002; Independent, 6/6/2002] The monitored calls between the two of them continue until September 10, one day before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). The NSA either fails to translate these messages in a timely fashion or fails to understand the significance of what was translated. [Knight Ridder, 6/6/2002] However, it will later be revealed that an FBI squad built an antenna in the Indian Ocean some time before 9/11 with the specific purpose of listening in on KSM’s phone calls, so they may have learned about these calls to Atta on their own (see Before September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, National Security Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An unknown intelligence agency intercepts a telephone call between alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/18/2004] In the call, KSM and bin al-Shibh discuss the state of the 9/11 plot, in particular the fact that Ziad Jarrah, one of the proposed pilots, may drop out. They speak in a code, substituting unexceptional words for what they really mean. [9/11 Commission, 3/18/2004] KSM instructs bin al-Shibh to send the “skirts,” meaning money forwarded to bin al-Shibh by an associate of KSM, to “Sally,” meaning Moussaoui. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 246] The reason for this is that “Teresa,” meaning Jarrah, is “late,” i.e. he is wavering and may drop out of the plot, due to possible conflicts with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta about Jarrah’s isolation from the conspiracy. It therefore appears that KSM is thinking of Moussaoui as a replacement for Jarrah. According to a 9/11 Commission memo, KSM says something like, “if there is a divorce, it will cost a lot of money.” Bin al-Shibh then tries to reassure him, saying it will be okay. The conversation also mentions “Danish leather,” an apparent reference to failed “20th hijacker” Mohamed al-Khatani (see August 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/18/2004] The agency which intercepts this call is never identified to the public, although the NSA is reportedly intercepting such calls to and from KSM at this time (see Summer 2001). The 9/11 Commission will mention the call in a staff statement and its final report, but will not mention that it was intercepted, merely citing detainee interrogations as the source of information about it. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 16-17; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 246, 530]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ziad Jarrah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Mohamed al-Khatani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Customs agent Jose Melendez-Perez.
Customs agent Jose Melendez-Perez. [Source: US Senate]A Saudi named Mohamed al-Khatani is stopped at the Orlando, Florida, airport and denied entry to the US. Jose Melendez-Perez, the customs official who stops him, later says he was suspicious of al-Khatani because he had arrived with no return ticket, no hotel reservations, spoke little English, behaved menacingly, and offered conflicting information on the purpose of his travel. At one point, al-Khatani said that someone was waiting for him elsewhere at the airport. After 9/11, surveillance cameras show that Mohamed Atta was at the Orlando airport that day. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste says: “It is extremely possible and perhaps probable that [al-Khatani] was to be the 20th hijacker.” Al-Khatani boards a return flight to Saudi Arabia. He is later captured in Afghanistan and sent to a US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (see December 2001). Melendez-Perez says that before 9/11, customs officials were discouraged by their superiors from hassling Saudi travelers, who were seen as big spenders. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2004; Time, 6/12/2005] Al-Khatani will later confess to being sent to the US by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see July 2002), and in June 2001 US intelligence was warned that KSM was sending operatives to the US to meet up with those already there (see June 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: Richard Ben-Veniste, Mohamed Atta, Jose Melendez-Perez, Mohamed al-Khatani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh makes three phone calls on this day, and one is to 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi in the US. Bin al-Shibh makes the three calls from the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, as he is about to take a flight to Spain on his way to Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). Nothing more is known about the call to Alghamdi. However, the call may be an opportunity to discover the 9/11 plot, because at least some of bin al-Shibh’s phone calls are monitored around this time. Details are murky, but a call between bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is monitored in late July 2001, although it is not clear if it is monitored by US or German intelligence, or both (see July 20, 2001).
Second Call to Jordanian - At the airport, bin al-Shibh also calls an unnamed Jordanian who is said to be a close friend of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah from a time both of them were studying in Griefswald, Germany, in the mid-1990s. This person lived in the same Hamburg apartment as hijacker Mohamed Atta, was said to have become an Islamist radical, and shared bank accounts and cell phone numbers with some of the hijackers living in Hamburg. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] This almost certainly is Bashir Musleh, because Musleh is a Jordanian who is a close friend of Jarrah’s from when they both studied in Griefswald. Author Terry McDermott identifies him as one of the Hamburg group. [McDermott, 2005, pp. xi, 53]
Third Call to Cell Member Meziche - The third and final call is to Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. The call to Meziche’s house lasts 34 seconds. Meziche appears to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, but German investigators will never be able to develop enough evidence to charge him with a crime. He will be killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Saeed Alghamdi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Bashir Musleh, Naamen Meziche

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The first details of the interrogation of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) are leaked to the press and appear in the Washington Post. At least some of the information appears to come from a report on KSM’s interrogation drafted four days ago. According to the Post article, KSM claims that Zacarias Moussaoui, an al-Qaeda operative arrested in the US in August 2001 (see August 16, 2001), was not part of the 9/11 plot and was scheduled for a follow-up attack. He also says that Moussaoui was helped by Jemaah Islamiyah leader Hambali and Yazid Sufaat, one of Hambali’s associates. KSM reportedly says Sufaat attempted to develop biological weapons for al-Qaeda, but failed because he could not obtain a strain of anthrax that could be dispersed as a weapon. This information appears to be based on a CIA report of KSM’s interrogation drafted on March 24, which discussed KSM’s knowledge of Moussaoui’s stay in Malaysia, where he met both Hambali and Sufaat (see March 24, 2003). The Post notes that if KSM’s claim about Moussaoui were true, this could complicate the prosecution of Moussaoui. For example, it quotes former prosecutor Andrew McBride saying that “on the death penalty, it is quite helpful to Moussaoui.” [Washington Post, 3/28/2003] During the Moussaoui trial, the statement about Moussaoui’s non-involvement in the 9/11 operation will be submitted to the jury as a part of a substitution for testimony by KSM. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/31/2006 pdf file] Moussaoui will escape the death penalty by one vote (see May 3, 2006). During this month, KSM is in CIA custody and is waterboarded 183 times over five days (see After March 7, 2003 and April 18, 2009). The claim about Moussaoui is not the full truth, as a communications intercept between KSM and his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh in July 2001 showed that KSM was considering Moussaoui for the 9/11 plot (see July 20, 2001).

Entity Tags: Andrew McBride, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The CIA drafts a report containing statements reportedly made by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation at a black site. According to the report, KSM claims that Zacarias Moussaoui was not handled by al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks, but for a second wave of attacks. KSM will reportedly repeat this claim in a later interrogation (see September 11, 2003). The claim appears not to be entirely true, as in an intercepted conversation from July 2001 KSM and his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh discussed possibly using Moussaoui for 9/11 (see July 20, 2001). In addition, the report says KSM claims he did not hear about Moussaoui’s arrest, which occurred on August 16, 2001 (see August 16, 2001), until after the 9/11 attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 247, 531]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

The CIA drafts a report containing statements reportedly made by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation at a black site. According to the report, KSM claims that Zacarias Moussaoui was not handled by al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks, but for a second wave of attacks. KSM also made this claim in an earlier interrogation (see July 2, 2003). The claim appears to be not entirely true, as in an intercepted conversation from July 2001, KSM and his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh discussed possibly using Moussaoui for 9/11 (see July 20, 2001). The report apparently contains a mention of this call. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 246, 247, 530, 531]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

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