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Context of 'October 2001-February 2002: KSM’s Attempt to Duplicate 9/11 Plot on West Coast of US Fizzles'

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Zaini Zakaria, a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al-Qaeda operative who has been assigned to a 9/11-style operation, is instructed to take flight training by al-Qaeda commander Mohammed Atef and travels to Malaysia to obtain a pilot’s license. He meets fellow JI operative Faiz abu Baker Bafana in Kuala Lumpur and visits the Royal Selangor Flying Club at a nearby Malaysian Air Force base. Zaini had earlier traveled to Afghanistan with JI leader Hambali, Bafana, and another operative called Zamzulri in 1999 to receive military training, and had met Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Karachi, Pakistan. Zaini obtains a pilot’s license and makes inquiries in Australia about learning to fly jets, but eventually drops out of the plot in 2001. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 17; London Times, 2/10/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006] The school may have been recommended by Yazid Sufaat. An important al-Qaeda summit was held at Sufaat’s Kuala Lumpur condominium in January 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). Sufaat will later claim that some of the summit attendees (including two future 9/11 hijackers) asked him about flying schools in Malaysia, and he recommended the one in the region where the Royal Selangor Flying Club is. [Time (Asia), 2/5/2002] Zacarias Moussaoui will later visit the same flying school while staying with Sufaat (see Early September 2000). The CIA stopped the surveillance of Sufaat’s condominium some point in 2000 (see Between February and September 2000); it is not known if this happened before or after Zakaria was in Malaysia.

Entity Tags: Zaini Zakaria, Yazid Sufaat, Zamzulri, Royal Selangor Flying Club, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hambali, Faiz abu Baker Bafana, Jemaah Islamiyah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Library Tower in Los Angeles. It is later renamed the US Bank Tower.The Library Tower in Los Angeles. It is later renamed the US Bank Tower. [Source: Kim D. Johnson / Associated Press]9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) attempts to organize a follow up attack to the 9/11 attacks. Beginning in October 2001, KSM and Hambali, a top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia, recruit four operatives for the new plot, all of them Malaysian:
bullet Mohamad Farik Amin (a.k.a. Zubair).
bullet Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie).
bullet Zaini Zakaria.
bullet Masran bin Arshad.
The plan is for these operatives to blow up the doors to airplane cockpits using shoe bombs, take over flying the aircraft, and then crash them into US buildings—essentially the same technique as was used in the 9/11 attacks, except with the addition of the shoe bomb and the use of East Asians instead of Middle Easterners. Apparently several buildings are initially targeted. KSM will later name them as the Library Tower in Los Angeles (later renamed the US Bank tower), the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York, and a tall building in Washington State. But the plot soon focuses on just the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast of the US, due to a lack of pilots. The members of the plot go to Afghanistan and swear an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, and then continue to train with Hambali in Asia. However, the plot does not go far because Zakaria, the only trained pilot of the group (see (Spring 2000)), drops out in late 2001, saying he has small children to consider. In February 2002, bin Arshad, the leader of the four operatives, is arrested and other other members decide the plot has been canceled. Zakaria turns himself in to Malaysian authorities in 2002, and apparently remains in detention in Malaysia without being charged. Amin and Bin Lep will be arrested in 2003 with Hambali and taken into US custody (see August 12, 2003). Amin, Bin Lep, and Hambali will all be transferred to Guantanamo prison as high-value detainees in 2006 (see September 2-3, 2006). It is unknown who arrests bin Arshad or what becomes of him. [Time, 10/5/2003; Time, 10/6/2003; White House, 2/9/2006; Associated Press, 2/10/2006; US Department of Defense, 3/10/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mohamad Farik Amin, Masran bin Arshad, Hambali, Zaini Zakaria, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie).Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie). [Source: Defense Department]Hambali (a.k.a. Riduan Isamuddin) is arrested in Thailand in a joint US-Thai operation. He has been considered the operational leader of al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. He was involved in the Bojinka plot in 1995, attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), and was said to be involved in the 2002 bombing of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia (see October 12, 2002), the 2003 bombing of a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia (see August 5, 2003), and other similar acts. He is taken into US custody and is said to quickly and fully cooperate with his captors. [Chicago Tribune, 12/7/2003] According to the Washington Post, at some point he will be transferred to the US naval base at the British island colony of Diego Garcia, where the CIA is believed to have a secret interrogation center. [Washington Post, 12/17/2004; Washington Post, 1/2/2005, pp. A01] Two of Hambali’s associates - Mohamad Farik Amin (a.k.a. Zubair), and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie) - are arrested with him. Both are Malaysians and are said to be al-Qaeda operatives. Supposedly they were members of a four person suicide squad working for Hambali and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to hijack an airplane (see October 2001-February 2002). [Time, 10/6/2003] The US will later classify both of them, and Hambali, as about a dozen of the top al-Qaeda operatives in US custody (see September 2-3, 2006).

Entity Tags: United States, Thailand, Hambali, Mohamad Farik Amin, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

During a speech defending his campaign against al-Qaeda, President Bush describes a previously obscure al-Qaeda plot to crash an airplane into the Library Tower (since renamed the US Bank tower) in Los Angeles in 2002 (see October 2001-February 2002). It is the tallest building on the West Coast of the US. The plot was first briefly mentioned in a Bush speech in October 2005 (see October 6, 2005), but Bush and his aides now provide new details. The plot was allegedly masterminded by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, but was foiled when the four Asians recruited for the plot were arrested in Asia. Bush’s speech on the plot comes on the same day as a Senate hearing into the NSA’s illegal domestic wiretapping program. The Washington Post comments, “several US intelligence officials played down the relative importance of the alleged plot and attributed the timing of Bush’s speech to politics. The officials… said there is deep disagreement within the intelligence community over the seriousness of the Library Tower scheme and whether it was ever much more than talk.” One intelligence official “attributed the [speech on the plot] to the administration’s desire to justify its efforts in the face of criticism of the domestic surveillance program, which has no connection to the incident.” [Washington Post, 2/10/2006] The New York Times will similarly comment, “Bush’s speech came as Republicans are intent on establishing their record on national security as the pre-eminent issue in the 2006 midterm elections, and when the president is facing questions from members of both parties about a secret eavesdropping program that he describes as pivotal to fighting terrorism.” [New York Times, 2/10/2006]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Mohamad Farik Amin.Mohamad Farik Amin. [Source: FBI]The US temporarily closes a network of secret CIA prisons around the world and transfers the most valuable prisoners to the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, for eventual military tribunals. The prison network will be reopened a short time later (see Autumn 2006-Late April 2007). There were reportedly fewer than 100 suspects in the CIA prisons; most of them are apparently sent back to their home countries while fourteen are sent to Guantanamo. All fourteen have some connection to al-Qaeda. Seven of them reportedly had some connection to the 9/11 attacks. Here are their names, nationalities, and the allegations against them.
bullet Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (Pakistani, raised in Kuwait). He is the suspected mastermind of 9/11 attacks and many other al-Qaeda attacks. A CIA biography of KSM calls him “one of history’s most infamous terrorists.”
bullet Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi (Saudi). He allegedly helped finance the 9/11 attacks.
bullet Hambali (Indonesian). He attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and is accused of involvement in many other plots, including the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002).
bullet Khallad bin Attash (a.k.a. Tawfiq bin Attash) (Yemeni). He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and had a role in other plots such as the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000).
bullet Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (Pakistani, raised in Kuwait). He allegedly helped finance the 9/11 attacks and arranged transportation for some hijackers. His uncle is KSM.
bullet Ramzi bin al-Shibh (Yemeni). A member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell with Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers. The CIA calls him the “primary communications intermediary” between the hijackers and KSM. He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000).
bullet Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (Saudi). He is said to have been one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000).
The remaining seven suspects are alleged to have been involved in other al-Qaeda plots:
bullet Abu Zubaida (Palestinian, raised in Saudi Arabia). He is said to be a facilitator who helped make travel arrangements for al-Qaeda operatives. He is also alleged to have organized a series of planned millennium attacks.
bullet Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (Tanzanian). He was indicted for a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He is also said to be an expert document forger.
bullet Majid Khan (Pakistani). He lived in the US since 1996 and is said to have worked with KSM on some US bomb plots (see March 5, 2003).
bullet Abu Faraj al-Libbi (a.k.a. Mustafa al-‘Uzayti) (Libyan). He allegedly became al-Qaeda’s top operations officer after KSM was captured.
bullet Mohamad Farik Amin (a.k.a. Zubair) (Malaysian). He is a key Hambali associate and was allegedly tapped for a suicide mission targeting Los Angeles.
bullet Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie) (Malaysian). He is a key Hambali associate. He is accused of providing funds for the 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia (see August 5, 2003). He was allegedly tapped for a suicide mission targeting Los Angeles.
bullet Gouled Hassan Dourad (Somali). He allegedly scouted a US military base in Djibouti for a planned terrorist attack.
The fourteen are expected to go on trial in 2007. [Knight Ridder, 9/6/2006; Central Intelligence Agency, 9/6/2006; USA Today, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Majid Khan, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Mohamad Farik Amin, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Hambali, Gouled Hassan Dourad, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Khallad bin Attash, Abu Zubaida, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A photo of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed allegedly taken during his capture in 2003 (there are controversies about the capture).A photo of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed allegedly taken during his capture in 2003 (there are controversies about the capture). [Source: FBI]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) attends his combat status review tribunal at Guantanamo Bay (see March 9-April 28, 2007), where he admits participating in the 9/11 attacks and numerous other plots, and offers a defense of his actions. He claims responsibility or co-responsibility for a list of 31 plots, including:
bullet The 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993);
bullet The 9/11 operation: “I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z”;
bullet The murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 31, 2002): “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl”;
bullet The late 2001 shoe bombing operation (see December 22, 2001);
bullet The 2002 Bali nightclub bombings (see October 12, 2002);
bullet A series of ship-bombing operations (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001 and June 2001);
bullet Failed plots to assassinate several former US presidents;
bullet Planned attacks on bridges in New York;
bullet Various other failed attacks in the US, UK, Israel, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, India, South Korea, and Turkey;
bullet The planned destruction of an El-Al flight in Bangkok;
bullet The Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), and assassination plans for President Clinton (see September 18-November 14, 1994) and the Pope (see September 1998-January 1999); and
bullet Planned attacks on the Library Tower in California, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York, and the “Plaza Bank” in Washington State (see October 2001-February 2002). [US Department of Defense, 3/10/2007 pdf file] However, the Plaza Bank was not founded until 2006, three years after KSM was captured. The bank’s president comments: “We’re confused as to how we got on that list. We’ve had a little bit of fun with it over here.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/15/2007]
On the other hand, KSM denies receiving funds from Kuwait or ever heading al-Qaeda’s military committee; he says this was a reporting error by Yosri Fouda, who interviewed him in 2002 (see April, June, or August 2002). In addition, he claims he was tortured, his children were abused in detention, and that he lied to his interrogators (see June 16, 2004). He also complains that the tribunal system is unfair and that many people who are not “enemy combatants” are being held in Guantanamo Bay. For example, a team sent by a Sunni government to assassinate bin Laden was captured by the Taliban, then by the US, and is being held in Guantanamo Bay. He says that his membership of al-Qaeda is related to the Bojinka operation, but that even after he became involved with al-Qaeda he continued to work with another organization, which he calls the “Mujaheddin,” was based in Pakistan, and for which he says he killed Daniel Pearl. [US Department of Defense, 3/10/2007 pdf file] (Note: KSM’s cousin Ramzi Yousef was involved with the militant Pakistani organization Sipah-e-Sahaba.) [Reeve, 1999, pp. 50, 54, 67] Mohammed says he was waterboarded by his interrogators. He is asked: “Were any statements you made as the result of any of the treatment that you received during that time frame from 2003 to 2006? Did you make those statements because of the treatment you receive from these people?” He responds, “CIA peoples. Yes. At the beginning, when they transferred me.” [ABC News, 4/11/2008] He goes on to compare radical Islamists fighting to free the Middle East from US influence to George Washington, hero of the American War of Independence, and says the US is oppressing Muslims in the same way the British are alleged by some to have oppressed Americans. Regarding the fatalities on 9/11, he says: “I’m not happy that three thousand been killed in America. I feel sorry even. I don’t like to kill children and the kids.” Although Islam prohibits killing, KSM argues that there is an exception because “you are killing people in Iraq.… Same language you use, I use.… The language of war is victims.” [US Department of Defense, 3/10/2007 pdf file] The hearing is watched from an adjoining room on closed circuit television by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL). [US Congress, 3/10/2007] KSM’s confession arouses a great deal of interest in the media, which is skeptical of it (see March 15-23, 2007 and Shortly After).

Entity Tags: Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Carl Levin

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Milt Bearden, a retired 30-year CIA veteran who served as senior manager for clandestine operations, writes: “The [Bush] administration’s claims of having ‘saved thousands of Americans’ can be dismissed out of hand because credible evidence has never been offered—not even an authoritative leak of any major terrorist operation interdicted based on information gathered from these interrogations in the past seven years. All the public gets is repeated references to Jose Padilla (see June 10, 2002), the Lackawanna Six (see April-August 2001), the Liberty Seven (see June 23, 2006), and the Library Tower operation in Los Angeles (see October 2001-February 2002). If those slapstick episodes are the true character of the threat, then maybe we’ll be okay after all. When challenged on the lack of a game-changing example of a derailed operation, administration officials usually say that the need to protect sources and methods prevents revealing just how enhanced interrogation techniques have saved so many thousands of Americans. But it is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.” Bearden suggests that the CIA might have been permanently “broken” by its use of torture, and that some US officials will likely face the threat of being arrested overseas on torture charges for years to come. [Washington Independent, 7/1/2008]

Entity Tags: Milt Bearden, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

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