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Context of '1994: Bin Laden Front Establishes Secure Communications through Denver Using US Army Lines'

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The London-based Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC) establishes a secure system for communications between Saudi Arabia and London for Osama bin Laden. The system is set up by Denver resident Lujain al-Imam, wife of London-based Islamic activist Mohammad al-Massari, at his request. The calls are routed from Saudi Arabia to Britain through Denver, Colorado, using toll-free lines established for US servicemen during the Gulf War, in order to stop the Saudi government from intercepting the messages. After the system is set up, bin Laden calls al-Massari to thank him. It is not known how long the phone system is used. However, in late 2001 al-Imam will say that some of the people involved in setting up the system are still in the Denver area, but she will not name them. [Scripps Howard News Service, 11/12/2001]
Who Else Is in Denver? - The ARC is widely considered bin Laden’s publicity office. ARC head Khalid al-Fawwaz will be indicted for his involvement in the US embassy bombings in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and August 21, 2001). Denver-based radical publisher Homaidan al-Turki begins to be investigated over suspicions he is involved in terrorism in 1995, although it is unclear whether this is related to the Saudi Arabia-Britain phone lines. [Associated Press, 8/31/2006] Another likely suspect for this communications hub would be Ziyad Khaleel. He lives in Denver in the early 1990s until about 1994, and is vice president of the Denver Islamic Society. In 1998, he will work with al-Fawwaz to buy a satellite phone for bin Laden (see November 1996-Late August 1998). [Denver Post, 1/27/1991; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/22/2003] It seems likely Khaleel is in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki at this time, since al-Awlaki works as an imam for the Denver Islamic Society from 1994 to 1996. In 1999, al-Awlaki will be investigated by the FBI for his links to Khaleel (see June 1999-March 2000). He will go on to be the imam for a couple of the future 9/11 hijackers in San Diego, California, and then will become a prominent radical in Yemen. [New York Times, 5/8/2010]

Entity Tags: Mohammed al-Massari, Lujain al-Imam, Advice and Reformation Committee, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden, Homaidan al-Turki, Ziyad Khaleel

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdulaziz Alomari studied in Denver.Abdulaziz Alomari studied in Denver. [Source: BBC]A passport belonging to a man with the same first and last name as one of the 9/11 hijackers, Abdulaziz Alomari, is stolen and this will cause some confusion in the weeks following 9/11. Alomari, who studies at the University of Colorado from 1993 to 2000, informs the police of the theft, which occurs when a thief breaks into his apartment. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] Although the validity of the stolen passport is not specified, a visa application submitted by another of the Saudi hijackers in 1997 will indicate that his passport was good for five lunar years, so the stolen passport may have been valid for the same period. [US Department of State, 11/2/1997] When the FBI releases lists of the 9/11 hijackers on September 14 and 27, 2001, it will give two birthdates for the hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001] One of them, May 28, 1879, will be used by the hijacker, for example on his US visa application. [US Department of State, 6/18/2001] The other, December 24, 1972, belongs to the former Denver student, who will be a telecommunications engineer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 9/11 and will comment: “I couldn’t believe it when the FBI put me on their list. They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive. I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing to do with this.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] It will be unclear how and why the birth date of Alomari the telecommunications engineer appears on the list of hijackers. However, after finding Alomari’s name on a passenger manifest, the FBI will check various databases to find more information about him. [US District Court for Portland, Maine, 9/12/2001] Alomari the telecommunications engineer is stopped three times by police in Denver for minor offences before 9/11 and gives them the 1972 birth date, so the FBI may obtain it by searching Denver police records. [New Yorker, 5/27/2002] Radical Sunni Muslims connected to Osama bin Laden had a presence in Denver from the mid-1990s (see 1994 and March 2000).

Entity Tags: Abdulaziz Alomari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden.An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden. [Source: Inmarsat]During this period, Osama bin Laden uses a satellite phone to direct al-Qaeda’s operations. The phone—a Compact M satellite phone, about the size of a laptop computer—was purchased by a student in Virginia named Ziyad Khaleel for $7,500 using the credit card of a British man named Saad al-Fagih. After purchasing the phone, Khaleel sent it to Khalid al-Fawwaz, al-Qaeda’s unofficial press secretary in London (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). Al-Fawwaz then shipped it to bin Laden in Afghanistan. [CNN, 4/16/2001] It appears US intelligence actually tracks the purchase as it occurs (see November 1996-Late December 1999), probably because an older model satellite phone bin Laden has is already being monitored (see Early 1990s). Bin Laden’s phone (873682505331) is believed to be used by other top al-Qaeda leaders as well, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Atef. Al-Fawwaz also buys satellite phones for other top al-Qaeda leaders around the same time. Though the calls made on these phones are encrypted, the NSA is able to intercept and decrypt them. As one US official will put it in early 2001, “codes were broken.” [United Press International, 2/13/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The Los Angeles Times will report that the monitoring of these phones “produced tens of thousands of pages of transcripts over two years.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] Bin Laden’s satellite phone replaces an older model he used in Sudan that apparently was also monitored by the NSA (see Early 1990s). Billing records for his new phone are eventually released to the media in early 2002. Newsweek will note, “A country-by-country analysis of the bills provided US authorities with a virtual road map to important al-Qaeda cells around the world.” [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] The countries called are:
bullet Britain (238 or 260). Twenty-seven different phone numbers are called in Britain. Accounts differ on the exact number of calls. Khalid al-Fawwaz, who helps publish statements by bin Laden, receives 143 of the calls, including the very first one bin Laden makes with this phone. Apparently most of the remaining calls are made to pay phones near him or to his associates. He also frequently calls Ibrahim Eidarous, who works with al-Fawwaz and lives near him. [CNN, 4/16/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111]
bullet Yemen (221). Dozens of calls go to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, which is run by the father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar (see Late August 1998). [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Bamford, 2008, pp. 8]
bullet Sudan (131). Bin Laden lived in Sudan until 1996 (see May 18, 1996), and some important al-Qaeda operatives remained there after he left (see February 5, 1998). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Iran (106). Newsweek will later report: “US officials had little explanation for the calls to Iran. A Bush administration official said that US intelligence has believed for years that hard-line anti-American factions inside Iran helped bin Laden’s organization operate an ‘underground railroad’ smuggling Islamic militants to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Azerbaijan (67). An important al-Qaeda operative appears to be based in Baku, Azerbaijan. [Washington Post, 5/2/2001] This is most likely Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who is very close to al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and is said to be the head of the al-Qaeda cell there. He kidnapped by the CIA in Baku in late August 1998 (see Late August 1998).
bullet Kenya (at least 56). In the embassy bombings trial, prosecutors introduce evidence showing 16 calls are made on this phone to some of the embassy bombers in Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), apparently all before a raid in August 1997 (see August 21, 1997). The defense introduces evidence showing at least 40 more calls are made after that time (see Late 1996-August 1998). [CNN, 4/16/2001]
bullet Pakistan (59).
bullet Saudi Arabia (57).
bullet A ship in the Indian Ocean (13).
bullet The US (6).
bullet Italy (6).
bullet Malaysia (4).
bullet Senegal (2). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Egypt (unknown). Newsweek reports that calls are made to Egypt but doesn’t say how many. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002]
bullet Iraq (0). Press reports note that the records indicate zero calls were made to Iraq. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] 1,100 total calls are made on this phone. Adding up the above numbers means that the destination of over 100 calls is still unaccounted for. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The use of this phone stops two months after the August 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. However, it appears bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders continue to use other satellite phones occasionally after this time. Shortly after 9/11, James Bamford, an expert authority on the agency, says “About a year or so ago the NSA lost all track of him.… He may still use [satellite phones] occasionally to talk about something mundane, but he discovered that the transmitters can be used for honing.” [CNN, 9/21/2001] According to a different account, bin Laden will attempt to use a different phone communication method, but US intelligence will soon discover it and continue monitoring his calls (see Late 1998 and After).

Entity Tags: Ziyad Khaleel, Saad al-Fagih, Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim Eidarous, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Mohammed Atef, Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ahmad Salama Mabruk

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press] (click image to enlarge)Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35, local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. The attacks are blamed on al-Qaeda. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. [PBS Frontline, 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38, 5/2/2001] The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195] The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers allegedly told US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. [United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14, 3/7/2001] A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last minute delay (see August 7, 1998). [Associated Press, 9/25/1998] August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia, and some speculate that is the reason for the date of the bombings. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 46] In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Miller will write, “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195, 206] After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

Entity Tags: Hamden Khalif Allah Awad, Mohamed al-Owhali, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Azzam, Al-Qaeda, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Anwar al-Awlaki.Anwar al-Awlaki. [Source: Public domain]The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry into Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam who will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He serves as the “spiritual leader” to several of the hijackers (see March 2001 and After), and by 2008 US intelligence will determine he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
bullet The investigation is opened when it is learned he had probably been visited by a “procurement agent” for bin Laden, Ziyad Khaleel. Khaleel had helped buy a satellite phone for bin Laden; when he is arrested in December 1999 he reportedly tells the FBI crucial details about al-Qaeda operations in the US (see December 29, 1999).
bullet In early 2000 the FBI is aware when al-Awlaki is visited by an unnamed close associate of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file; Washington Post, 2/27/2008]
bullet He also serves as vice president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), the US branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a Yemeni imam who the US will officially designate a terrorist in 2004. CSSW also has ties to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, considered one of the centers of al-Qaeda activity in Europe. The FBI begins investigating CSSW in 1999 after a Yemeni politician visits the US to solicit donations for the charity, and then visits Mahmoud Es Sayed, a known al-Qaeda figure at the Islamic Cultural Institute, on the same trip. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 243; Washington Post, 2/27/2008]
bullet The FBI learns that al-Awlaki knows individuals from the suspect Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for Hamas. Sources allege that al-Awlaki has even more extremist connections.
But none of these links are considered strong enough for criminal charges, and the investigation is closed. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 517] Al-Awlaki is beginning to associate with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar shortly before the investigation ends. For instance, on February 4, one month before the FBI investigation is closed, al-Awlaki talks on the telephone four times with hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi. The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that these calls are related to Alhazmi and Almihdhar, since al-Bayoumi is helping them that day, and that Alhazmi or Almihdhar may even have been using al-Bayoumi’s phone at the time (see February 4, 2000). Al-Bayoumi had also been the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in 1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).

Entity Tags: Omar al-Bayoumi, Ziyad Khaleel, Nawaf Alhazmi, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Es Sayed, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Islamic Cultural Institute, Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Anwar al-Awlaki, Khalid Almihdhar, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charitable Society for Social Welfare

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI obtains a wiretap warrant to seize al-Qaeda-related e-mails under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but experimental software malfunctions and an angry FBI agent is said to destroy all the e-mails collected. The Carnivore software, which was installed in Denver, collects e-mails not only from the target, but also from other people. The FBI technician is reportedly so upset when he discovers e-mails from people whose communications the FBI has no authorization to collect that he apparently deletes everything the FBI has gathered, including the e-mails from the target. However, the article that first reports this deletion also says the opposite: “A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night that the e-mails were not destroyed.” In either case, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) at FBI headquarters, which deals with FISA warrants, is then informed and expresses its surprise it was not told the software was experimental before the warrant was issued. An FBI official will comment: “To state that [an OIPR official] is unhappy with [the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section] and the [Usama bin Laden] Unit would be an understatement of incredible proportions.” As the target’s e-mails have been destroyed in the FBI system, the FBI then wants a physical search warrant under FISA to go and collect the e-mails from the carrier. However, the OIPR insists on an explanation for the error before this can happen, and also demands an explanation for the problem, so the special FISA court can be notified. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2000; Associated Press, 5/28/2002] It is not known who was being monitored, though there are potential al-Qaeda Denver connections: in 1994, a bin Laden front began routing communications through Denver (see 1994), and a passport was stolen there in 1995 from a man who was later confused with one of the 9/11 hijackers (see 1995).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, International Terrorism Operations Section, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), Al-Qaeda, Carnivore, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Ediarous.Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Ediarous. [Source: Orlando Sentinel/ Bureau of Prisons]Walid Arkeh, a Jordanian serving time in a Florida prison, is interviewed by FBI agents after warning the government of an impending al-Qaeda attack. He had been in a British jail from September 2000 to July 2001, and while there had befriended three inmates, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary, and Ibrahim Eidarous. US prosecutors charge, “The three men ran a London storefront that served as a cover for al-Qaeda operations and acted as a conduit for communications between bin Laden and his network.” [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/2002] Al-Fawwaz was bin Laden’s press agent in London, and bin Laden had called him over 200 times before al-Fawwaz was arrested in 1998. [Financial Times, 11/29/2001; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] The other two had worked in the same office as al-Fawwaz (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). All three had been indicted as co-conspirators with bin Laden in the August 1998 US embassy bombings. Arkeh tells the FBI that he had learned from these three that “something big [is] going to happen in New York City,” and that they call the 1993 attack on the WTC “unfinished business.” Tampa FBI agents determine that he had associated with these al-Qaeda agents, but nonetheless they do not believe him. According to Arkeh, one agent responds to his “something big” warning by saying: “Is that all you have? That’s old news.” The agents fail to learn more from him. On September 9, concerned that time is running out, a fellow prisoner will try to arrange a meeting, but nothing will happen before 9/11. The Tampa FBI agents will have a second interview with him hours after the 9/11 attacks, but even long after 9/11 they will claim that he cannot be believed. On January 6, 2002, the Tampa FBI will issue a statement: “The information [was] vetted to FBI New York, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Division and the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. All agreed the information provided by this individual was vague and unsubstantiated… Mr. Arkeh did not provide information that had any bearing on the FBI preventing September 11.” [Orlando Sentinel, 1/6/2002; Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/2002] However, a different group of FBI agents will interview him in May 2002 and find his information credible (see May 21-22, 2002).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, World Trade Center, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Walid Arkeh, Ibrahim Eidarous, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adel Abdel Bary

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohammed al-Massari.Mohammed al-Massari. [Source: David Burges]When asked whether British troops can properly be targeted in Iraq under British law, London-based Islamist Mohammed al-Massari replies, “British soldiers are reasonable targets for Iraqis and those joining the camp of the Iraqis.” Al-Massari, who runs the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights, adds that Prime Minister Tony Blair is a legitimate target: “[The Prime Minister] is not a non-combatant. He is Tony Blair, the commander of the army.” Although it is an offence carrying a 10-year jail term to incite terrorism abroad, no action is apparently taken against al-Massari for these statements. [BBC, 7/3/2004] Al-Massari helped set up a communications link for Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s (see 1994) and ran a radio station and website that glorified Islamic extremist violence (see (2004 and After)).

Entity Tags: Tony Blair, Mohammed al-Massari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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