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Context of '(2000): Al-Qaeda Operatives Possibly Show Interest in Florida Flight Schools'

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According to a New York Times report, al-Qaeda documents found in Kabul in 2001 will include a list of Florida flight schools taken out of an aviation magazine (see November 2001). The list includes Walkawitz Aviation of Titusville and Phoenix East Aviation of Daytona Beach. The Times reports: “Greg Nardi, the manager of Walkawitz Aviation, said that several Arab students had approached the school in the last year and that the FBI had visited the school on more than five occasions since the Sept. 11 attacks, taking away the records of a number of these Arabs.… He recalled one conversation with an Arab visitor a year ago that seemed particularly strange. The Arab man, with a thick accent, asked him whether it was possible to jump safely out of a jet using a parachute. He also asked how far the parachute would carry him. ‘At the time you just pass it off,’ Mr. Nardi said of the questions. His staff told the prospective student that it would be difficult to open the door of a pressurized jet and that the plane would have to be reconfigured for such an endeavor.” [New York Times, 11/17/2001]

Entity Tags: Walkawitz Aviation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Phoenix East Aviation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. [Source: BBC]In April 2001, the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) holds its annual public meeting in Pakistan. Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan attends the meeting as an honored guest. Accompanying Khan at the podium is Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another Pakistani nuclear scientist who had met with Osama bin Laden the year before (see 2000). He will meet with bin Laden again shortly before 9/11 and advise him on how to build a “dirty bomb” (see Mid-August 2001). [Asia Times, 6/4/2004] French journalist Bernard Henri-Levy, the author of a book about Pakistani militant Saeed Sheikh, will later claim in the Wall Street Journal that Khan was a secret member of LeT. [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2004] The US will ban LeT after 9/11 because of its involvement in a string of attacks against India (see December 20, 2001). LeT is considered linked to al-Qaeda, and bin Laden addressed the annual LeT meeting by phone in some past years. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder and leader of LeT, has publicly declared that Pakistan should share its nuclear technology with other Islamic nations, a position also advocated by Khan. In 2002, he will claim that people loyal to his organization “control two nuclear missiles.” [Asia Times, 6/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: Public domain]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists meet with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri at a campfire in a compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The more prominent scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, worked with A. Q. Khan for two decades before having a falling out with him in the early 1990s (however, he was seen with Khan earlier in 2001 (see April 2001)). A highly regarded scientist, he also became an advocate of the Taliban and published a pamphlet predicting that “by 2002 millions may die through mass destruction weapons… terrorist attack, and suicide.” He was forced to retire in 1999 after publicly advocating sharing nuclear technology with other Islamic countries. The other scientist, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, also retired in 1999 after a long career. In 2000, the two men set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan (see 2000). Bin Laden allegedly tells the scientists that he has made great headway in advancing the apocalypse predicted by Mahmood. He claims that he has acquired highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and wants their help to turn it into a bomb. The scientists reply that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they are not weapons designers. They are also asked with other Pakistani weapons experts could be approached for help. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 310-311] They spend two or three days at the compound and discuss how the material could be used to create a so-called dirty bomb, in which radioactive material is blown up using conventional explosives to spread radiation. But the discussion apparently ends inconclusively when bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others depart abruptly for the mountains. Before leaving, bin Laden says that something great is going to happen soon and Muslims around the world will join them in holy war. [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 264-265] Both US intelligence and Pakistani ISI learn about this meeting prior to the 9/11 attacks, but neither group will take any effective action as a result (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

In October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Pakistan and tells Pakistani officials that, shortly before 9/11, the CIA learned two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists had met with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in mid-August 2001 (see Early October-December 2001). In the meeting, the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, discussed helping al-Qaeda make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 268-269] In a 2007 book, former CIA Director George Tenet will confirm that the CIA learned of this prior to 9/11. He will write, “A Western intelligence service came to us in the fall of 2001 [with details of the meeting]… [The] CIA pressed the Pakistanis to confront Mahmood and Majeed with this new information. We put [evidence that a charity named Ummah Tameer-e-Nau run by Mahmood and Majeed tried to sell Libya a nuclear weapon] on the table. We also passed new information that had been collected by other intelligence services. To no avail. Then 9/11 struck, and there was no slowing down in this pursuit.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264] But no evidence will come forward that President Bush or other top US officials were warned of this, or that there were any general warnings inside the US government about this. Pakistan is not successfully pressured about it before 9/11 (in fact, the Pakistani ISI already knew about it and failed to warn the US (see Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001)), and after 9/11 the only action Pakistan will take is to twice arrest and then quickly release the two scientists. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment in a 2007 book that “This information, added to the missing canisters of highly enriched uranium [in Pakistan], might have been sufficient to redirect” top Bush officials to take sterner action against al-Qaeda before 9/11. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 311]

Entity Tags: Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, George J. Tenet, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Central Intelligence Agency, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Ummah Tameer-e-Nau’s headquarters in Kabul.Ummah Tameer-e-Nau’s headquarters in Kabul. [Source: CBC]In early October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Pakistan and discusses the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He offers US technical assistance to improve the security of Pakistan’s nukes, but Pakistan rejects the offer. Powell also says that the CIA learned of a secret meeting held in mid-August 2001 between two Pakistani nuclear scientists and al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Mid-August 2001). As a result of US pressure, Pakistan arrests the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, on October 23. The Pakistani ISI secretly detains them for four weeks, but concludes that they are harmless and releases them. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264-268; Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 269-271] In mid-November, after the Taliban is routed from Kabul (see November 13, 2001), the CIA takes over the headquarters there of Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), a charity founded by the two scientists. In addition to charity material, they find numerous documents and pieces of equipment to help build WMD, including plans for conducting an anthrax attack. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 322] As a result, on December 1, CIA Director George Tenet, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center’s WMD branch, and a CIA analyst named Kevin make an emergency trip to Pakistan to discuss the issue. Accompanied by Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Tenet meets with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and urges him to take stronger action against the two scientists and their UTN charity. Musharraf reluctantly agrees, and the two men are rearrested. According to a 2007 book by Tenet, after being tested by a team of US polygraph experts and questioned by US officials, “Mahmood confirmed all we had heard about the August 2001 meeting with Osama bin Laden, and even provided a hand-drawn rough bomb design that he had shared with al-Qaeda leaders.” During the meeting, an unnamed senior al-Qaeda leader showed Mahmood a cannister that may have contained some kind of nuclear material. This leader shared ideas about building a simple firing system for a nuclear “dirty bomb” using commercially available supplies. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264-268; Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 269-271] However, on December 13, the two scientists are quietly released again. The US does not officially freeze UTN’s assets until December 20, and Pakistan apparently follows suit a short time later (see December 20, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 12/24/2001; Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 271]

Entity Tags: Wendy Chamberlin, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pervez Musharraf, Al-Qaeda, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Colin Powell, George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Al-Qaeda documents found in Kabul by CNN reportersAl-Qaeda documents found in Kabul by CNN reporters [Source: CNN]As US forces invade Afghanistan, they and the journalists following them, uncover a quantity of al-Qaeda documents in training camps and houses used by the organization. The documents reveal a chilling array of terrorist plots. Some documents are apparently related to the planning of the 9/11 attacks. [Observer, 11/18/2001] A New York Times reporter finds two houses in Kabul’s diplomatic district containing, among other papers, a map showing the locations of power plants in Europe, Africa and Asia; training notebooks in military tactics and bomb-making; a list of Florida flight schools and a form that comes with “Microsoft Flight Simulator 98”; a document entitled “Before and After Precautions For Using Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Warfare”; and a notebook on how to make nitroglycerine, dynamite, and fertilizer bombs, with a note next to one of the formulas saying “the type used in Oklahoma.” [New York Times, 11/17/2001] CNN reporters are led by Afghan police to a house in an upscale district of Kabul, which is apparently the same as the one visited by the New York Times reporter. In it they find a quantity of documents revealing al-Qaeda’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons (see Mid-August 2001) and conventional explosives. According to David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert who is asked by CNN to analyze the documents, “These are people who are thinking through problems in how to cause destruction, for a well-thought-through political strategy.” [CNN, 12/4/2001; CNN, 1/24/2002; CNN, 1/25/2002; Albright, 11/6/2002] However, an extensive review of the documents later concludes that al-Qaeda’s main activity was to support the Taliban. “Reporters for The New York Times collected over 5,000 pages of documents from abandoned safe houses and training camps destroyed by bombs.… The documents show that the training camps, which the Bush administration has described as factories churning out terrorists, were instead focused largely on creating an army to support the Taliban, which was waging a long ground war against the Northern Alliance.… They show no specific plans for terror operations abroad, and while hinting at an ambition to use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, they contain no evidence that the groups possess them.” [New York Times, 3/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

A. Q. Khan (left) and Pervez Musharraf (right).A. Q. Khan (left) and Pervez Musharraf (right). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After CIA Director George Tenet visits Pakistan and pressures the Pakistani government to take stronger action against the charity front Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN) (see Early October-December 2001), the CIA learns more about the organization. The CIA was previously aware that the two prominent nuclear scientists who co-founded UTN, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and advised them on how to make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). However, the CIA discovers that other nuclear scientists are also connected to UTN, including Mirza Yusef Beg, a former member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and Humayun Niaz, also formerly with the PAEC. At least two senior Pakistani military officers are also connected to UTN. All these men are brought in and questioned by US officials. But the CIA is unable to question two others connected to UTN, Muhammad Ali Mukhtar, a nuclear physicist who worked for the PAEC as a weapons expert, and Suleiman Asad, who worked at A. Q. Khan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in its weapons design division. The CIA reasons that these two scientists would be the type of nuclear bomb makers bin Laden was most interested in. However, the Pakistani government claims that the two are in Burma working on a top secret project and cannot be brought back to Pakistan for questioning. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 320-321] Shortly after 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called one of the leaders of Burma and asked if the two scientists could be given asylum there. [New York Times, 12/9/2001] The CIA is also interested in talking to Hamid Gul, a former ISI director and UTN’s honorary patron, but Pakistan will not allow him to be questioned either, even though he had met with Mahmood in Afghanistan around the time Mahmood met with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. As a result, the CIA is unable to learn just how much UTN could have assisted al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 320-321]

Entity Tags: Suleiman Asad, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, Pervez Musharraf, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Mullah Omar, Humayun Niaz, Hamid Gul, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Central Intelligence Agency, Muhammad Ali Mukhtar, Osama bin Laden, Kahuta Research Laboratories, Mirza Yusef Beg

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl writes stories about the ISI that will lead to his kidnapping and murder (see January 31, 2002).
bullet On December 24, 2001, he reports about ties between the ISI and a Pakistani organization, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, that was working on giving bin Laden nuclear secrets before 9/11 (see 2000 and Mid-August 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 12/24/2001]
bullet A few days later, he reports that the ISI-supported militant organization Jaish-e-Mohammed still has its office running and bank accounts working, even though President Pervez Musharraf claims to have banned the group. The Jaish-i-Mohammed is connected to the Al Rashid Trust, one of the first entities whose assets were frozen by the US after 9/11 and through which funding may have passed on its way to the hijackers in the US (see Early August 2001 and September 24, 2001). “If [Pearl] hadn’t been on the ISI’s radarscope before, he was now.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2001; Guardian, 7/16/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002]
bullet He begins investigating links between shoe bomber Richard Reid and Pakistani militants, and comes across connections to the ISI and a mysterious religious group called Al-Fuqra. [Washington Post, 2/23/2002]
bullet He also may be looking into the US training and backing of the ISI. [Gulf News, 3/25/2002]
bullet He is writing another story on Dawood Ibrahim, a powerful Islamic militant and gangster protected by the ISI, and other Pakistani organized crime figures. [Newsweek, 2/4/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002]
bullet Former CIA agent Robert Baer later claims to be working with Pearl on an investigation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] It is later suggested that Mohammed masterminds both Reid’s shoe bomb attempt and the Pearl kidnapping, and has connections to Pakistani gangsters and the ISI, so some of these explanations could fit together. [Asia Times, 10/30/2002; CNN, 1/30/2003; United Press International, 4/9/2004] Kidnapper Saeed will later say of Pearl, “Because of his hyperactivity he caught our interest.” [News (Islamabad), 2/15/2002] Pearl is kidnapped on January 23, 2002, and his murder is confirmed on February 22, 2002. [CNN, 2/22/2002]

Entity Tags: Dawood Ibrahim, Al-Fuqra, Daniel Pearl, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Osama bin Laden, Pervez Musharraf, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Robert Baer, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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