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Context of 'Mid-September 2001: Israel and US Plan Contingency to Steal Nuclear Weapons from Pakistan'

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In early 2000, Islamist militant leader Musab Abu al-Zarqawi starts a new training camp in Afghanistan, near the town of Herat. Osama bin Laden reportedly does not like him, but al-Zarqawi gets some help from al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel, who serves as a liaison between al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. His camp starts with only a dozen or so followers, but it rapidly grows and eventually numbers several thousand. His group consists mostly of Jordanians and Syrians, and is helped by links to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Atlantic Monthly, bin Laden repeatedly asks al-Zarqawi to come to him and take an oath of allegiance, but each time al-Zarqawi refuses. “Under no circumstances did [al-Zarqawi] want to become involved in the battle between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. He also did not believe that either bin Laden or the Taliban was serious enough about jihad.” But in October 2001, the US begins bombing Afghanistan, and al-Zarqawi’s camp is targeted. He is reportedly wounded in the chest when a ceiling falls on him. But in December 2001, he manages to escape to Iran with about 300 followers and is based there for several months while regrouping. [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, Al-Tawhid

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Daniel Lewin.Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai]Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur who is a passenger on Flight 11, has his throat slashed by hijacker Satam Al Suqami while the plane is being hijacked, thereby becoming the first person to be killed in the 9/11 attacks. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 202-203; CNN, 9/11/2013] Lewin was traveling to California to sign a deal he hoped would save his company, which is struggling as a result of the dot-com collapse. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/18/2001; Zuckoff, 2019, pp. 39] He is in seat 9B in the business class section of the plane, behind hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, and directly in front of Al Suqami. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Assault Will Be Described by Flight Attendants - Details of the events that lead to Lewin’s death will be revealed in phone calls made by two of the flight attendants on Flight 11 to people on the ground. Betty Ong will speak to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, and at 8:19 a.m., presumably referring to Lewin, tell them, “Somebody’s stabbed in business class” (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] She will subsequently report that Lewin might be dead, saying she has been “informed by other flight attendants that a passenger by the name of Daniel Lewin may have been fatally wounded.” She will say the passenger who was killed was “possibly” in seat 9B (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Meanwhile, Amy Sweeney will talk to personnel at the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston in a series of calls beginning at 8:25 a.m. and, presumably referring to the attack on Lewin, report that “a passenger in row 9… had their throat cut by a passenger in seat 10B,” which is Al Suqami’s seat (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001, 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10-11] She will say the injured passenger “is bleeding severely” and “is not going to make it.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]
Claim Will Be Made that Lewin Was Shot - Some evidence will indicate that Lewin was shot, rather than having his throat slashed, by Al Suqami (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001, 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 5:13 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; United Press International, 3/6/2002; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will later say a report of a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will conclude that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453]
Lewin Would Have Tried to Stop the Hijackers - Lewin is presumably attacked by Al Suqami at around 8:14 a.m. or shortly after, since this is when the hijacking of Flight 11 begins, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). It is unclear whether he has his throat slashed while attempting to stop the terrorists. The 9/11 Commission Report will tentatively suggest that he “may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not realizing that another was sitting behind him.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4-5] However, numerous friends and family members of Lewin who are interviewed by author Molly Knight Raskin for a book about the entrepreneur will say they are sure he died while trying to stop the hijackers. They will state that “there was no way Lewin could have sat idly by and watched terrorists hurt flight attendants and attempt to hijack the plane.” “I know he’d have fought like a lion,” Brad Rephen, who knew Lewin as a teenager, will say.
Lewin Is 'Pure Strength' - Their belief that Lewin would have tried to stop the hijackers is due in part to his physical strength. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218-219] He is “muscular and agile,” and “pure strength from head to toe,” according to Raskin. As a teenager, he regularly attended a gym and trained so hard “that his physical strength multiplied,” friends of his will say. By the age of 16, he was able to bench-press more than 300 pounds. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 30-31; Psychology Today, 9/2013] He won the title of “Mr. Teenage Israel” in a coveted bodybuilding competition. [Tablet, 9/11/2013] Rephen will find it difficult to believe a hijacker could have taken him down with just a knife. “I’m pretty sure that if [the hijackers] had knives, [Lewin] would have taken them,” he will say. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011]
Lewin Had Training in Counterterrorism - The ability of Lewin to take on the hijackers and his willingness to do so are presumably greater due to his military experience. He moved with his family from Denver, Colorado, to Israel when he was 14 and, when he was 18, joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He spent almost four years in the IDF, eventually rising to the rank of captain, and served in the Sayeret Matkal—the IDF’s most elite counterterrorism unit. [Chicago Tribune, 9/17/2001; Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 4] The Sayeret Matkal is “perhaps the most effective counterterrorism force in the world,” according to Vanity Fair, and, according to Raskin, its members have “almost unmatched counterterrorism skills.” [Vanity Fair, 12/2001; Raskin, 2013, pp. 38]
Lewin Committed Himself to Defeating Terrorism - Furthermore, Lewin knows conversational Arabic and, Raskin will note, this would have enabled him to pick up on any verbal cues of the planned hijacking, if the terrorists had given any. [Psychology Today, 9/2013] Ironically, while he was in the IDF, Lewin became committed to eliminating terrorism. “Danny had a very clear view that the way to address terrorism was not to sit idly by and let innocent people be killed, but to actively go out and cut the head off the stick,” one of his brothers will say. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 37-38]
Lewin Is a Highly Successful Businessman - Lewin is a particularly talented and successful person. After returning to the US from Israel in 1996, while he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) he co-invented a way for the Internet to handle Web congestion, thereby making it run faster. [Psychology Today, 9/2013; Zuckoff, 2019, pp. 38; Forbes, 3/25/2019] This led him to co-found the high-tech firm Akamai in 1998. The company, of which he is chief technology officer, now has around 1,500 employees. [Ha'aretz, 9/13/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/5/2008; Raskin, 2013, pp. 200] It has had great success. By the age of 30, Lewin’s net worth was $285.9 million and Lewin was, for a time, a paper billionaire. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 195; Psychology Today, 9/2013; CNN, 9/11/2013] In April 2001, Forbes magazine placed him at number 72 in its annual list of “100 Highest Rollers,” made up of the highest earners working in information technology. Three months later, Enterprise Systems magazine included him in the top 10 of its list of leaders in technology. [Forbes, 4/2/2001; Enterprise Systems, 7/2001; Raskin, 2013, pp. 195] Akamai was even employed recently by the White House to provide cybersecurity for its Internet infrastructure (see July 2001). [Clarke and Knake, 2010, pp. 112; Forbes, 3/25/2019]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Brad Rephen, Israel Defense Forces, Satam Al Suqami, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, Daniel Lewin, Sayeret Matkal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, a few days after 9/11 members of the elite Israeli counterterrorism unit Sayeret Matkal arrive in the US and begin training with US Special Forces in a secret location. The two groups are developing contingency plans to attack Pakistan’s military bases and remove its nuclear weapons if the Pakistani government or the nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] There may have been threats to enact this plan on September 13, 2001. The Japan Times later notes that this “threat to divest Pakistan of its ‘crown jewels’ was cleverly used by the US, first to force [Pakistani President] Musharraf to support its military campaign in Afghanistan, and then to warn would-be coup plotters against Musharraf.” [Japan Times, 11/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan, Sayeret Matkal

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

Map showing ranges of suspected Iraqi Scud missiles.Map showing ranges of suspected Iraqi Scud missiles. [Source: CIA]Jane’s Foreign Report reveals that Israeli forces have been operating within Iraq. Citing Israeli sources, it reports that the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit was dispatched into Iraqi sovereign territory “to find and identify places used by, or likely to be used by, Iraqi Scud missile launchers.” The newsletter explains, “Our information is that neither Israel nor the United States have a clue about what, if anything, Saddam Hussein is hiding,” and that “It was this ignorance that persuaded the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to assign the Sayeret Matkal to a job that is sensitive and dangerous.” [Ha'aretz, 9/29/2002; Jerusalem Post, 9/29/2002; USA Today, 11/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Sayeret Matkal, Ariel Sharon

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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