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Context of '1995-1998: French Learn of Moussaoui’s Trips to Afghanistan Training Camps, Ties to Militants'

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Zacarias Moussaoui obtained a master’s degree in international business from South Bank University in London in the mid-1990s.Zacarias Moussaoui obtained a master’s degree in international business from South Bank University in London in the mid-1990s. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Three French consular officials in Algeria are assassinated. A French magistrate travels to London to investigate the case. The magistrate has information that a “Zacarias” living in London was a paymaster for the assassination. Zacarias Moussaoui, born in France and of North African ancestry, had moved to London in 1992 and become involved in radical Islam after being influenced by Abu Qatada (who has been called one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in Europe). The magistrate asks British authorities for permission to interview Moussaoui and search his apartment in Brixton. The British refuse to give permission, saying the French don’t have enough evidence on Moussaoui. But the French continue to develop more information on Moussaoui from this time on. [Independent, 12/11/2001; CNN, 12/11/2001; Los Angeles Times, 12/13/2001]

Entity Tags: France, Zacarias Moussaoui, United Kingdom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Zacarias Moussoui’s French national identification card.Zacarias Moussoui’s French national identification card. [Source: FBI]French agents believe Zacarias Moussaoui makes a trip to an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 1995. After this, he goes to Chechnya and joins Muslims radicals fighting Russian troops there. French intelligence learns of this, though when they learn it is not clear. He then attends the Khaldan al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan around April 1998. French intelligence will apparently learn of this second trip to Afghanistan in 1999 (see 1999). [MSNBC, 12/11/2001; Independent, 12/11/2001; CBS News, 5/8/2002] The French additionally come to believe that Moussaoui had been in contact with Farid Melouk, an Algerian suspected of belonging to the GIA, an Algerian militant group. Melouk is arrested in 1998 after a shootout with police in Brussels, Belgium, and later sentenced to nine years of prison. [Guardian, 9/18/2001]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Farid Melouk, France

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

French intelligence learns Zacarias Moussaoui went to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1998 (see 1995-1998). [Independent, 12/11/2001] The Associated Press will report that he was placed on the watch list for alleged links to the GIA, an Algerian militant group. [Associated Press, 5/19/2002] The French also warn the British about Moussaoui’s training camp connections. [Los Angeles Times, 12/13/2001] French investigators ask MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, to place Moussaoui under surveillance. In early December 2001, the Independent will report that “The request appears to have been ignored” and that the British “appear to have done nothing with the information.” [Independent, 12/11/2001] However, later in the same month, the Observer will report that MI5 did in fact place Moussaoui under surveillance, as MI5 was monitoring his telephone calls in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000).

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Groupe Islamique Armé, France, Zacarias Moussaoui, United Kingdom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Masooud Al-Benin.Masooud Al-Benin. [Source: Public domain]After the French put Zacarias Moussaoui on a watch list some time in 1999 (see 1999), they continue to discover more of his ties to militant groups. In late 1999, Moussaoui’s mother says a French intelligence officer contacts her and says her son’s name was in the address book of a man named Yannick who had died fighting for the Muslim cause in Bosnia. [Los Angeles Times, 12/13/2001] In April 2000, French investigators increase their interest in Moussaoui when they learn his best friend Masooud Al-Benin was killed while fighting in Chechnya. Investigators conclude al-Benin and Moussaoui traveled and fought together in Chechnya. Moussaoui’s mother is contacted by French authorities and asked about her son’s whereabouts and his connections to Al-Benin. [CNN, 12/11/2001] At some time in 2000, French intelligence follows Moussaoui to Pakistan. They believe he goes to see an al-Qaeda leader named Abu Jaffa. [CBS News, 5/8/2002] (Abu Jaffa, also known by the names Abu Jafar al-Jaziri and Omar Chaabani, is an Algerian in charge of al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. It appears he will be killed in Afghanistan in late 2001.) [Knight Ridder, 1/9/2002] By 2001, French intelligence will be said to have a “thick file on Moussaoui.” [CBS News, 5/8/2002] When Moussaoui is arrested in the US, the French will send this information to Washington at the FBI’s request (see August 22, 2001 and August 30, 2001).

Entity Tags: Masooud Al-Benin, Zacarias Moussaoui, Abu Jaffa, France

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Richard Reid.Richard Reid. [Source: Plymouth County Jail]MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, has Zacarias Moussaoui under surveillance. The French government had asked MI5 to monitor him in 1999 (see 1999), but it has not been confirmed if this is in response to that request. It is not clear when the surveillance begins, but the Observer reports that it lasts for “months” and ends when Moussaoui leaves Britain on December 9, 2000, to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. The extent of Moussaoui’s surveillance is not publicly known; the only reported detail is that some phone calls between Moussaoui and Richard Reid are intercepted. Reid will later be convicted for attempting to blow up a passenger airliner with a bomb in his shoe (see December 22, 2001). MI5 records the conversations between them made inside Britain. Opposition politicians in Britain will later criticize MI5 for not realizing Reid’s al-Qaeda ties between 9/11 and Reid’s shoe bomb plot over two months later. [Observer, 12/30/2001; Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2001] Moussaoui appears to be in contact with other al-Qaeda figures during this time. For instance, he travels to Yazid Sufaat’s house in Malaysia in September 2000 and again in October 2000 (see September-October 2000), and Ramzi bin al-Shibh stays in London for a week in early December 2000 and meets with Moussaoui (see October 2000-February 2001). [Independent, 12/11/2001] However, it is not known if such contacts are monitored as well.

Entity Tags: Yazid Sufaat, United Kingdom, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Richard C. Reid, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On August 21, the FBI’s legal attache in London hand-delivers a request for information about Zacarias Moussaoui to British officials. On August 24, the CIA tells the British that Moussaoui is a possible “suicide hijacker” who is involved in “suspicious 747 flight training.” The CIA asks for information on him on August 28. The FBI raises the matter with the British again on September 3 and again on September 5. Although the British do not respond to these requests until just after 9/11, French intelligence, which has been sharing information about Moussaoui with the British (see 1999), sends the FBI some information about Moussaoui’s activities and history in England (see August 22, 2001). Then, on September 13, 2001, the British supposedly learn new information that Moussaoui attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (see 1995-1998). The 9/11 Commission will conclude, “Had this information been available in late August 2001, the Moussaoui case would almost certainly have received intense and much higher-level attention.” A British official will complain, “We passed on all the relevant information [about Moussaoui] as soon as we obtained it.” [Guardian, 4/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 274-75] However, the British had Moussaoui under surveillance in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000), and appear to have failed to pass on any information about this surveillance or what it uncovered.

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, United Kingdom, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who assisted the FBI with the Moussaoui case.Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who assisted the FBI with the Moussaoui case. [Source: Michel Lipchitz / Associated Press]After arresting Zacarias Moussaoui, the FBI’s Minneapolis field office asks French authorities if they have any information on him. The French then provide the US with intelligence indicating that Moussaoui is associated with a radical militant who died fighting for the Chechen rebels in 2000 (see Late 1999-Late 2000). The French interviewed one of this militant’s associates who said he had been recruited by Moussaoui to fight in Chechnya and described Moussaoui as “the dangerous one.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 140-1 pdf file] French authorities attempt to gather additional information by talking to Moussaoui’s mother. Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France’s lead investigating magistrate in charge of counterterrorism affairs, also provides information. “Let’s just say that Zacarias Moussaoui was well-known by the French security service…,” Bruguiere later recalls in a 2004 interview with CBC. “When the names come from abroad, we usually have a file, and it was the same with him. He was a well-known personality. He lived in France and then left here to go to England.” Bruguiere will also say that the French provided US authorities with information on Moussaoui’s activities in both France and England (see 1999 and August 21, 2001-September 13, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/16/2004] Upon reviewing this information, Mike Maltbie of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters will inform Minneapolis that it is not enough for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, because, even though the French sent information about Moussaoui, Maltbie objects that the Moussaoui the French are talking about may not be the same one Minneapolis has in custody. The result of this is that FBI staff are sent on what Minneapolis agent Harry Samit will later call a “wild goose chase”—they are asked to spend days poring through French phone books to make sure they have the right Moussaoui. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/27/2001 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/28/2001 pdf file; Newsday, 3/21/2006; Los Angeles Times, 3/21/2006] For a search warrant to be granted there must be probable cause to believe Moussaoui is an agent of a foreign power. Maltbie claims that the Chechen rebels, who have never been treated as a foreign power before for a FISA warrant, cannot be treated as such, because they are not a “recognized” foreign power, only dissidents engaged in a civil war, and are not hostile to the US. In fact, the FBI has already received information indicating a close relationships between Chechen rebels and bin Laden (see, e.g., 1986-March 19, 2002 , August 24, 2001, and (October 1993-November 2001)) and that the two groups are working together on a strike against US interests (see Before April 13, 2001). Maltbie says that even if the Chechen rebels are a foreign power, then it will take some time to develop this information to the point where a FISA application can be submitted. Previous to this, Maltbie had only once advised a field office it was not going to get a FISA warrant. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 141-4 pdf file] The French provide more information on Moussaoui a few days later (see August 30, 2001).

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Michael Maltbie, Harry Samit, France, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, FBI Headquarters, FBI Minnesota field office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The information sent by the French included a photocopy of this page of Moussaoui’s French passport.The information sent by the French included a photocopy of this page of Moussaoui’s French passport. [Source: FBI]French authorities provide the FBI’s representative in Paris with additional information about Zacarias Moussaoui, and he forwards this information to the FBI’s Minneapolis field office and headquarters (see August 22, 2001 and Late 1999-Late 2000). The French say that according to an acquaintance of the suspected militant, Moussaoui is a radical Islamic fundamentalist who is potentially very dangerous. They warn that Moussaoui, who was radicalized at London’s Finsbury Park mosque, is devoted to Wahabbism, the Saudi Arabian sect of Islam that is adhered to by bin Laden (see 1994), and has traveled to Kuwait, Turkey, and Afghanistan (see 1995-1998). According to the French, the acquaintance also revealed that Moussaoui is a “strategist” and described him as “a cold stubborn man, capable of nurturing a plan over several months, or even years and of committing himself to this task in all elements of his life.” The French also tell the FBI that they would be willing to have Moussaoui deported back to France. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 169-170 pdf file; Associated Press, 3/20/2006] Describing the French report to the FBI, a French justice official later says that France “gave the FBI ‘everything we had’” on Moussaoui, “enough to make you want to check this guy out every way you can. Anyone paying attention would have seen he was not only operational in the militant Islamist world but had some autonomy and authority as well.” [Time, 5/27/2002] And the French interior minister will similarly state, “We did not hold back any information.” [ABC News, 9/5/2002] “Even a neophyte working in some remote corner of Florida, would have understood the threat based on what was sent,” one senior French investigator later explains. [Time, 8/12/2002] The FBI decides (see (August 30-September 10, 2001)) to deport Moussaoui back to France. At a meeting in Paris several days later (see September 5-6, 2001), French authorities will again warn their US counterparts about Moussaoui and his connections.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Zacarias Moussaoui

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

French and US intelligence officials hold meetings in Paris on combating terrorism. The French newspaper Le Monde claims that the French try again to warn their US counterparts about Zacarias Moussaoui, “but the American delegation… paid no attention… basically concluding that they were going to take no one’s advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable.” The US participants also say Moussaoui’s case is in the hands of the immigration authorities and is not a matter for the FBI. [Independent, 12/11/2001; Village Voice, 5/28/2002] The FBI arranges to deport Moussaoui to France on September 17, so the French can search his belongings and tell the FBI the results. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the deportation never happens. [US Congress, 10/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Central Intelligence Agency, France, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Zacarias Moussaoui claims that one of his associates, Atif Ahmed, was an informer for British intelligence and had foreknowledge of 9/11. In court Moussaoui says Ahmed “is a British agent who has taken a very important part of this,” adding, “My aim in pleading guilty was to expose the information I have.” Ahmed, the only associate named by Moussaoui during his initial questioning (see August 17, 2001), was arrested and released in November 2001 (see Mid-November 2001). Although Moussaoui was monitored by British authorities (see 1999, Mid-2000-December 9, 2000, and August 21, 2001-September 13, 2001), the security services say that Ahmed was not one of their agents. Moussaoui attempts to get British lawyer Sadiq Khan to investigate Ahmed, but the results of his inquiries, if any, are not known. [CounterPunch, 7/16/2002; Daily Telegraph, 7/26/2002; Financial Times, 9/19/2002; CounterPunch, 9/25/2002] Ahmed’s name will be mentioned at Moussaoui’s trial in 2006, but both the prosecutor and FBI agent Harry Samit will indicate he was not deeply involved in 9/11. [United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant, 3/6/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006] It is unclear why Moussaoui thinks Ahmed is an informer. Moussaoui does not say whether he suspected Ahmed was an informer before he gave his name to the FBI, or whether he surmised this because the British did little with the information, and then let him go soon after arresting him.

Entity Tags: Harry Samit, Atif Ahmed, Zacarias Moussaoui

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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