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Profile: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court implements new rules requiring any FBI employee who sees FISA-obtained materials or other FISA-derived intelligence to sign a certification acknowledging that the court’s approval is needed before the information is disseminated to criminal investigators. This comes after the FISA Court was informed that approximately 100 FISA applications submitted by the FBI had misrepresented how criminal and intelligence agents were working together in the Catcher’s Mitt program (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001 and Summer-October 2000). The new rules also require that the CIA and NSA place a caveat on all FISA-derived intelligence sent to the bureau. In an effort to speed up inter-agency reporting, the NSA will reportedly go a step further, placing caveats on all information it sends to the FBI. The caveats warn that the information being sent might be FISA-derived and that an intelligence agent wishing to pass it to a criminal agent must first obtain assurance from the NSA that the intelligence is not FISA-derived. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 37-38 ]
In October 2000, Congress authorizes a new unit within the Treasury Department called the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. Its task is to blend the expertise of the Treasury Department, CIA, FBI, and NSA in tracking and disrupting the finances of US-designated terrorist groups. Similar efforts had been tried twice before and fizzled out (see October 21, 1995; Late 1998). However, the unit is still getting organized at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Spurred by the attacks, the unit gets up and running on September 14, 2001. A Treasury spokesperson cites the logistical difficulties of bringing together representatives from different agencies in explaining the delay. [Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001]
Author Lawrence Wright will later write about the FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000): “The FBI was convinced that the [Cole] bombers had been tipped off about the arrival of the Cole, and they wanted to expand the investigation to include a member of the president’s own family and a colonel in [the Yemeni equivalent of the FBI]. There was scant interest on the part of the Yemen authorities in pursuing such leads.” Wright will also point out: “Yemen was a particularly difficult place to start a terrorist investigation, as it was filled with active al-Qaeda cells and with sympathizers at very high levels of government. On television, Yemeni politicians called for jihad against America. Just getting permission from the Yemeni government to go to the crime scene—the wounded warship in the Aden harbor—required lengthy negotiations with hostile officials.” Cooperation from the Yemen government is erratic at best. For instance, the Yemenis eventually show the FBI a videotape taken by a harborside security camera, but it appears the moment of the explosion has been edited out. [Wright, 2006, pp. 325; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Later, when the FBI is finally allowed to interview Fahad al-Quso, who the FBI believes is one of the main Cole plotters, a Yemeni colonel enters the room and kisses Quso on both cheeks. This is a recognized signal to everyone that al-Quso is protected. [Wright, 2006, pp. 330] Between Yemeni obstructions, infighting between US officials (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and security concerns hindering movement, there will never be the same kind of investigation and trial as there was with the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and February-July 2001).
Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
Fahad al-Quso, a Yemeni and known associate of Osama bin Laden, turns himself in to the Yemeni government after some of his relatives are questioned in the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] He admits that he and one of the two Cole suicide bombers went to Bangkok, Thailand, and gave several thousand dollars to a man known as Khallad, who is identified as one of the masterminds of the Cole bombing. He says the money is to buy a new artificial leg for the one-legged Khallad. The transcript of the interrogation is given to the FBI a month later. FBI agent Ali Soufan sees the transcript and remembers a source he recruited in Afghanistan who spoke of a one-legged man named Khallad who is close to bin Laden. Khallad is his nickname; his real name is Tawfiq bin Attash. A mug shot of bin Attash is sent to this source, who makes a positive identification. Soufan wonders why money was being sent away from the Cole plotters and away from Yemen prior to a major planned attack and speculates that it may mean another al-Qaeda operation is being planned elsewhere. Soufan asks the CIA for information about Khallad and this other attack, which turns out to be 9/11, but the CIA withholds the information (see Late November 2000). Al-Quso will later reveal more to the FBI, leading to more missed opportunities (see Early December 2000). [Wright, 2006, pp. 328-329]
Imran Mandhai. [Source: crimelibrary (.com)]The FBI in Florida investigates a group of Muslims it suspects of being terrorists, including an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta named Adnan Shukrijumah (see April-May 2001 and May 2, 2001). The investigation starts with the November 2000 Florida arrest of Turkish immigrant Hakki Aksoy, who is found to be in possession of instructions for making a car bomb. An FBI informer named Howard Gilbert enters the Darul Aloom mosque in Pembroke Pines (a town just north of Miami) to check out one of Aksoy’s associates, Imran Mandhai. Gilbert starts plotting with Mandhai and a friend of Mandai’s named Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan. [New Times Broward-Palm Beach, 8/1/2002; Miami New Times, 8/8/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003] Gilbert is replaced by another FBI informant known as “Mohamed the bomb maker,” who agrees to wear a wire and testify in court. Mohamed and Mandhai drive around South Florida selecting local bomb targets including a National Guard armory, electrical substations, Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli consulate in Miami, plus Mount Rushmore in the Midwest. Mandhai and Jokhan are unable to buy weapons themselves, but Gilbert, the first informant, had given Mandhai a copy of a bomb-making manual, and Mohamed, the second informant, shows Mandhai the range of guns and explosives he can provide. [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit: appeal, 7/2/2004 ] The FBI interviews Mandhai and Jokhan in late spring 2001 and they acknowledge they are training for jihad. However, the FBI’s surveillance of them stops shortly after this. The FBI takes no action against them for a year, and then indicts them in May 2002. At the trial they are both found guilty; Mandhai receives twelve years and Jokhan five. It is unclear why the FBI acts in this way, although it is possibly related to a forced curtailment of electronic surveillance that is taking place at this time. In the summer of 2000, the bureau was ordered to shutdown certain wiretaps after an FBI official was found to have been misrepresenting petitions for taps on terror suspects (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001). Coincidentally, after Gilbert and Mandhai develop a series of courses for potential recruits entitled “Skills Necessary for Jihad” in the spring of 2001, Mandhai prints them at the same Kinko’s copy shop in Hollywood that is used by Mohamed Atta and Hamza Alghamdi to buy their tickets for 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001). [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; Salon, 12/3/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003]
The FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Aden, Yemen, connects the bombers to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, the country’s capital, which has been monitored by the US for at least two years (see Late August 1998 and Mid-August 1998-October 2000). It was also used in the East African embassy bombings (see August 4-25, 1998) and will be used by the 9/11 hijackers (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). It is not known when this connection is made. No apparent action is taken against Ahmed al-Hada, the operative who runs the communications hub, before 9/11. However, this may be due to the importance of intelligence generated from his phone (see Late 1998-Early 2002). In early 2001, al-Hada will be publicly identified as an al-Qaeda operative at the embassy bombings trial, when his phone number is disclosed openly in court and reported in the media (see February 2001 and After). Yet he still is not publicly indicted for either the embassy bombings or the Cole bombing, even though a number of other fugitives are publicly indicted. In 2002, US officials will describe al-Hada as a “prominent al-Qaeda member who is believed to have been involved in the Cole bombing,” and say his phone was used by the bombers to relay messages and “put everything together” before the attack. [MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005]
Rahim al-Nashiri [Source: AP]After several weeks of investigation, US authorities learn that al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was involved in the plot to attack the USS Cole. Investigators find a second safe house used by the bombing team, and learn it was registered to al-Nashiri under a name variant. Al-Nashiri’s name is dimly familiar to FBI agent Ali Soufan, who remembers that a source said al-Nashiri was planning a seaborne attack against a US vessel in Aden (see After August 7, 1998). The FBI then finds that al-Nashiri rented a car in Aden before the bombing. Author Lawrence Wright will comment, “It was another strong link between al-Qaeda and the Cole attack.” [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] In addition, one of the bombers detained by Yemeni authorities, Jamal al-Badawi, identifies al-Nashiri as a person who gave instructions for the attack. Al-Badawi also says he thought al-Nashiri was working for bin Laden, but al-Nashiri did not tell al-Badawi this directly. [CNN, 12/13/2000] Although al-Nashiri was the operational manager, he was actually in Afghanistan for a meeting with Osama bin Laden when the opportunity to attack arose and was not physically present at the bombing. Investigators are aware that he is the cousin of one of the bombers of the US embassy in Nairobi, which he facilitated, and a captured embassy bomber identified a photo of him for the FBI two years earlier (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and August 22-25 1998). Al-Nashiri has been known to various intelligence agencies since 1998, at least, and was monitored at the Malaysia summit of top al-Qaeda leaders at the start of the year (see January 5-8, 2000). [CNN, 12/11/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3; Wright, 2006, pp. 318] US investigators also identify another leading suspect in the case, Khallad bin Attash, at around the same time (see January 4, 2001).
A local boy in Aden, Yemen, goes to the police and tells them he met the people who bombed the USS Cole before the attack, and the ensuing investigation reveals the vehicle and a safe house used by the bombers. The boy says that he was fishing when the bombers placed the boat in the water and that he was paid to watch the truck and the boat trailer, but the men never returned. The Yemeni police initially arrest him and his father, but the FBI obtains permission to talk to him and he takes them to the launch site. He says the bombers invited him and his family to ride in the boat before the attack, indicating the bombers were trying to find out how much weight the boat would carry. The truck and trailer are still at the launch site and the registration records lead investigators to a safe house that was used by the bombers. The FBI team finds that the bathroom sink in the house is full of body hair, as the bombers apparently shaved entirely before death. The FBI collects a razor and hair samples for future DNA identification. [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
Former federal prosecutor William “Bill” Johnston is indicted for obstructing the investigation of special counsel John Danforth, who led a government probe into the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993, September 7-8, 1999, and July 21, 2000). Johnston, a former US attorney in Waco, is accused of concealing information about the FBI’s use of pyrotechnic CS gas rounds during the final assault on the Davidian compound (see August 25, 1999 and After). Danforth, a former Republican senator, says he preferred to release the investigation report without prosecuting anyone, but says the charges against Johnston are too severe to ignore. “I couldn’t just shrug it off,” Danforth says. Johnston is accused of hiding his notes about the use of incendiary tear gas rounds from the Justice Department and Congress. He is also accused of later lying about the notes to Danforth’s investigators and to the grand jury. Johnston has admitted to hiding his notes, but also helped bring the information about the incendiary gas rounds to the public. “My actions were foolish, regrettable, and wrong, but they were not criminal,” Johnston says. “I can’t confess to concealing the pyrotechnics when I was the government employee most responsible for disclosing them. And I can’t take full blame when there is so much blame to be spread around.” Danforth’s report found no evidence of a widespread government conspiracy to cover up the use of the pyrotechnic gas rounds, but asserted that members of the Justice Department’s prosecution team had failed to give information about the rounds to Davidian defense lawyers during a criminal trial in 1994 (see January-February 1994). The report also criticized two FBI evidence technicians, Richard Crum and James Cadigan, who checked the crime scene for failing to keep notes and giving evasive statements on their findings. Johnston says he hid his notes to protect himself from “enemies” in the Justice Department. “Certain people leaked a memo to the news media making it appear—falsely—that I attended a 1993 meeting at which the term ‘pyrotechnic’ was used,” Johnston says. “In any event, when I uncovered the notes, only days after the memo was leaked, I panicked, because I had just been ordered to place all my trial material in the hands of the people behind the smear campaign. I should have turned those notes over anyway and suffered the consequences, but I didn’t.” Danforth says that two other prosecutors on the trial, Ray Jahns and LeRoy Jahns, knew about the pyrotechnic gas rounds but did not disclose their knowledge. However, Danforth says there is not enough “tangible” evidence against the two to file charges. “There is a difference between what I believe and conclude and what I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” he says. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/9/2000] Johnston will accept a plea-bargain deal that gives him two years’ probation and 200 hours of community service in return for an admission of guilt. He will tell the court: “Whatever my reason [for withholding his notes], it was wrong. It will never be right to withhold something in fear or panic or whatever reason.” [Associated Press, 6/7/2001] In August 1999, Johnston wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno that he believes unnamed Justice Department officials were concealing evidence from her (see August 30, 1999).
Historian and presidential biographer Richard Reeves fundamentally misrepresents history in a New York Times editorial asking Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) to end the Florida election standoff by conceding to George W. Bush (R-TX). Reeves notes correctly that the 1960 presidential election between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy was extraordinarily close. Reeves asserts that Nixon and Kennedy discussed the situation after the votes were initially tallied and Nixon decided not to challenge the results. “If Nixon had decided to pursue a challenge, he might have had a good case,” Reeves writes. “Republicans were producing claims of fraud, waving sworn depositions from election officials in Illinois and Texas. It was great stuff: there were 6,138 votes cast by the 4,895 voters registered in Fannin County, Texas; in the 38th precinct of Chicago’s sixth ward, 43 voters seemed to have cast 121 votes in the hour after the polls opened. But whatever else he was, Nixon was a patriot. He understood what recounts and lawsuits and depositions carried out over months—even years—would do to the nation. He was also a realist, and he knew that investigations might well turn up examples of his own party’s tradition of recording votes for folks dead or alive in southern Illinois and a few other venues.” Reeves goes on to note that Kennedy’s slight popular vote lead translated into a strong Electoral College lead, and that Nixon’s patron, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “was angry about the alleged fraud but finally told Nixon that he could not back him in a challenge to the results.” As Nixon reportedly explained to a reporter afterwards, “The country can’t afford the agony of a constitutional crisis, and I damn well will not be a party to creating one just to become president or anything else.” Reeves uses the example of Nixon’s patriotism and restraint in arguing that Gore should emulate Nixon and gracefully concede the election. [New York Times, 11/10/2000] However, Reeves fundamentally misrepresents Nixon’s actions and historical events. Nixon was, as Reeves writes, convinced that Kennedy fraudulently won the election. And rumors of election fraud had circulated even before Election Day, such as in Chicago, where Democratic majorities were considered suspect. When the votes were tallied and Kennedy declared the winner, angry Republicans demanded an investigation. Nixon later said in both interviews and his own memoirs that he refused to dispute the election. Publicly, Nixon conceded the election to Kennedy, but privately, he encouraged his aides and fellow Republicans to overturn the results. In the weeks after the election, many newspapers pursued the story, fueled by Republicans who made a bevy of allegations and charges of election fraud and rampant cheating. Slate’s David Greenberg later writes: “[T]he Republican Party made a veritable crusade of undoing the results. Even if they ultimately failed, party leaders figured, they could taint Kennedy’s victory, claim he had no mandate for his agenda, galvanize the rank and file, and have a winning issue for upcoming elections.” Three days after the election, Senator Thruston Morton (R-KY), the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), launched bids for recounts and investigations in 11 states, including Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. Days later, close Nixon aides sent agents to conduct what they called “field checks” in eight of those states. Another aide tried to create a “Nixon Recount Committee” in Chicago. Recounts were indeed obtained. Grand juries were empaneled and a special prosecutor was appointed. The FBI launched investigations into voter fraud and election theft. The recounts and investigations proved nothing of significance, and one by one, they lapsed. The last recount, in Illinois, lasted for over a month after the election; on December 9, 1960, when recount tallies gave Nixon a mere 943 extra votes, Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court to summarily grant Illinois’s 27 electoral votes to Nixon, which was dismissed. Republicans then took their case to the Illinois Board of Elections, which, even though it had a majority of Republicans comprising it, rejected the petition. Even after December 19, when the Electoral College formally certified Kennedy as the winner, recounts and legal challenges were still in the works. [Slate, 10/16/2000; Salon, 11/10/2000] Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan, considered a liberal like Reeves, echoes Reeves’s portrayal of Nixon in a column that is published the same day as Reeves’s. Nyhan calls Nixon’s supposed concession that president’s “most magnaminous act” and recommends that Gore step aside. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Nyhan, David Greenberg, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., US Electoral College, Thruston Morton, Richard M. Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, New York Times, Republican National Committee, John F. Kennedy, Illinois Board of Elections, Republican Party, Richard Reeves
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
Based on information obtained during the investigation of the USS Cole bombing (see Late October-Late November 2000), the FBI asks the CIA for information about al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash and a possible al-Qaeda meeting in Southeast Asia in early 2000, but the CIA withholds the information. The request is sent by FBI Director Louis Freeh on behalf of agent Ali Soufan, who is working on the Cole investigation. Soufan began to suspect such a meeting may have taken place when he learned that two of the operatives involved in the bombing had taken money out of Yemen to give to bin Attash in Thailand before the attack (see January 13, 2000), making him think the money may have been intended for a bigger plot. The CIA is highly aware of the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), which was considered so important that CIA Director George Tenet and other CIA leaders were repeatedly briefed about it (see January 6-9, 2000). The CIA has photos of bin Attash and al-Quso attending the meeting (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After), which took place only a few days before al-Quso’s meeting with bin Attash in Thailand. Yet the CIA does not respond to Soufan’s clearly stated request. Author Lawrence Wright will later comment, “The fact that the CIA withheld information about the mastermind of the Cole bombing and the meeting in Malaysia, when directly asked by the FBI, amount[s] to obstruction of justice in the death of seventeen American sailors [who were killed in the Cole bombing].” Although he was not told one of the 9/11 hijackers had a US visa, Freeh was briefed on the Malaysia summit when it took place (see January 6, 2000), but apparently he does not tell Soufan what he knows, and Soufan remains unaware that any kind of al-Qaeda meeting in Southeast Asia even occurred. [Wright, 2006, pp. 328-9; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
Khallad bin Attash. [Source: FBI]After talks that last some time, Yemeni authorities agree to provide the FBI team investigating the USS Cole bombing with passport photos of suspects in the attack, including al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash. The photos are provided to lead investigators John O’Neill and Ali Soufan, and Soufan immediately sends bin Attash’s photo to the CIA and to an FBI colleague in Islamabad, Pakistan. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 192; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] The FBI colleague is Michael Dorris. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 117] The CIA agent is known only as “Chris.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 537] Chris shows the photo to a source, and the source, known only as “Omar,” confirms that the man in the photo is bin Attash. Author Lawrence Wright will comment, “This suggested strongly that al-Qaeda was behind the Cole attack.” However, this does not motivate the US to retaliate against al-Qaeda (see Shortly After October 12, 2000). Around this time, the FBI also learns that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, another al-Qaeda operative involved in the embassy bombings, had a hand in the Cole attack as well (see November-December 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 192; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
A series of hoax anthrax letters are sent to Fox News commentators Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Hannity will later say he began receiving the letters in the winter of 2000 and then a second batch in August 2001. Most of them were sent from a postmark in Indianapolis, Indiana, but “one or two were from Trenton,” New Jersey, where the deadly anthrax letters will be sent from shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The FBI will later allow the New York Post to see copies of these letters, which have block handwriting sloping down to the right and other features remarkably similar to the later letters containing real anthrax. Hannity will later say: “When I saw the Tom Daschle envelope and the Tom Brokaw envelope, I immediately was stunned. It was the exact same handwriting that I had recognized.… When I saw it I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the same guy.’” [New York Post, 11/1/2001; NewsMax, 11/1/2001] The letters have yet to be made public.
The FBI and FAA jointly publish the yearly National Intelligence Estimate report mandated by Congress. It reads, “FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups operating within the US but do not suggest evidence of plans to target domestic civil aviation. Terrorist activity within the US has focused primarily on fundraising, recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on US soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on US interests overseas.” This differs from assessments in previous years that suggested there were groups targeting domestic aviation. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that assessment is “relatively low… notwithstanding historical intelligence information to the contrary.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002]
Fahad al-Quso. [Source: FBI]In late October 2000, al-Qaeda operative Fahad al-Quso was interrogated by authorities in Yemen, and FBI agent Ali Soufan was able to use that information to discover the identity of one of the USS Cole bombing masterminds, Khallad bin Attash (see Late October-Late November 2000). In early December, while most FBI investigators are having to leave Yemen, Soufan is given the chance to interrogate al-Quso directly. Soufan gets al-Quso to admit that he had met with bin Attash and one of the Cole suicide bombers in Bangkok, Thailand, in January 2000 (see January 13, 2000). Al-Quso admits he gave bin Attash $36,000 and not the $5,000 for medical expenses that al-Quso had claimed when talking to the Yemenis the month before. Al-Quso says they stayed in the Washington Hotel in Bangkok, so Soufan checks telephone records to verify his account. Soufan finds records of phone calls between the hotel and al-Quso’s house in Yemen. They also find calls to both places from a pay phone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The phone happens to be directly outside the condominium where an al-Qaeda summit was taking place a few days before al-Quso went to Bangkok (see January 5-8, 2000). Soufan asks the CIA for information about bin Attash, but the CIA wrongly claims it knows nothing, and doesn’t even tell Soufan of the Malaysia summit that it had closely monitored (see Late November 2000). [New York Times, 4/11/2004; Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331] Meanwhile, FBI head investigator John O’Neill correctly believes that al-Quso is still holding back important information (at the very least, al-Quso is still hiding his participation in the Malaysia summit). However, O’Neill had been kicked out of Yemen by his superiors a week or two before (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and without his influential presence the Yemeni government will not allow any more interrogations. After 9/11, al-Quso will finally admit to meeting with Alhazmi and Almihdhar. One investigator calls the missed opportunity of exposing the 9/11 plot through al-Quso’s connections “mind-boggling.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] In April 2003, al-Quso will escape from a Yemeni prison (see April 11, 2003-March 2004). [Associated Press, 4/11/2003]
After the FBI and CIA obtain a passport photo of al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see November 22-December 16, 2000), they are unable to connect him to one of his aliases, Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf, even though he had submitted an application for a US visa using this alias the year before (see April 3, 1999). Presumably, a search of visa applications would have turned up a photograph similar to the one the US now has of him, allowing the US to connect bin Attash to the alias. However, no such search is made, even though the CIA knows the alias is connected to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see January 8, 2000), who obtained US visas at the same time bin Attash’s application was denied (see April 3-7, 1999). No such search is made even after the CIA connects bin Attash to Alhazmi and Almihdhar under bin Attash’s real name as well in early 2001 (see January 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 192-3, 538; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 248, 267-278 ] The US misses other opportunities to learn more about this alias (see After January 8, 2000 and After August 23, 2001).
Khallad bin Attash (left) and Khalid Almihdhar (right) were apparently confused by the CIA. [Source: FBI]Because the CIA thinks 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar and al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash are in the same place at the same time—in Bangkok, Thailand, for a meeting with Fahad al-Quso, an operative involved in the attack of the USS Cole, in January 2000 (see January 5-6, 2000)—and possibly because of the similarity between Almihdhar’s first name Khalid and bin Attash’s nickname Khallad, some officers apparently theorize that bin Attash and Almihdhar may be the same person. However, the FBI is not informed of this. In order to confirm or refute this theory, the CIA station in Islamabad, Pakistan, asks for surveillance photos of an al-Qaeda summit that Almihdhar attended, intending to show the photos to a source who knows bin Attash and has previously identified him in another photo (see November 22-December 16, 2000 and Early January 2001). However, there is no record of this theory being communicated to the FBI, even though the CIA knows bin Attash was involved in the Cole bombing and the FBI is investigating him (see Late October-Late November 2000). Some CIA cables drafted at this time contain information about bin Attash and information not related to bin Attash; CIA officers are instructed to share the information not related to bin Attash with the FBI, but are not instructed to share the information about bin Attash and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will later say that if the CIA had told the FBI more about bin Attash around this time, the FBI would have asked for more information about Almihdhar and had a better chance of locating him before 9/11. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 269-270, 278 ]
Records indicate future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah flies from Miami, Florida, to Beirut on December 26, 2000, but then also flies from Tampa, Florida, to Dusseldorf, Germany, on December 28, 2000. The first trip has stops in Munich, Germany, and Istanbul, Turkey. The second flight has stops in Fort Myers, Florida, and Frankfurt, Germany. This is according to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks. The document contains an analyst note pointing out that records show Jarrah left the US these two times, but doesn’t attempt to explain the discrepancy except to comment that one or the other flight may be right. Jarrah apparently returns to the US on January 5, 2001, after visiting family in Lebanon. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] Additionally, around this time, there are claims that Jarrah is both training in Afghanistan and visiting family in Lebanon. One uncle of his will later ask, “How could he be in two places at one time?” (See Late November 2000-January 30, 2001). Jarrah also seems to leave the US twice in a short time period on one other occasion (see July 25, 2001).
Sometime this year, the FBI discovers a new and “massive” Israeli spying operation inside the US. In 2004, UPI will report that, according to a former senior US government official, the FBI learned of a spy operation in the East Coast of the US, including New York and New Jersey. The FBI begins intensive surveillance on certain Israeli diplomats and other suspects. As part of this surveillance, in 2003 the FBI will be videotaping Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, when they will discover Gilon is meeting with Larry Franklin, Defense Department analyst. In 2005, Franklin will plead guilty to passing classified secrets to Israeli officials (see October 5, 2005). It appears that the surveillance of some Israeli diplomatic officials in the US actually began by April 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), though details remain murky. [United Press International, 12/9/2004] It is not known if this discovered spy operation is connected to or the same as the Israeli art student and moving van spy rings, which appears to have been discovered in 2001 (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001), or something completely different. It is also not clear if the discovery came from an investigation of media leaks begun two days before 9/11 (see September 9, 2001), or if it predated that and the 9/11 attacks.
French experts give an in-depth report on bin Laden’s financial network to a senior FBI official, according to a source close to French intelligence. A month later, the FBI official admits to his French colleagues that the document still hasn’t been translated into English. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] It is not known what the FBI does with the report after that, if anything.
Elie Assaad. [Source: ABC News]Elie Assaad is working as an undercover operative for the FBI, and he is sent to infiltrate the Al Hijrah mosque in Miramar, outside of Miami, Florida. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, who lives nearby at the time, frequents the mosque with Adnan Shukrijumah (see 2000-2001). Several years after 9/11, the US will call Shukrijumah an important al-Qaeda operative and will put out a $5 million reward for him. Assaad will later claim, “There was something wrong with these guys.” The small mosque is run by Adnan’s father, Gulshair Shukrijumah, who previously worked as a translator for Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” who was convicted of a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Assaad is posing as a personal representative of Osama bin Laden under the name “Mohammed.” He will later claim that Adnan invites him to meet him at his home, but the FBI tells him to stay away, because Atta and his associates are suspicious and secretive. Instead, Assaad’s FBI handlers assign him to go after easier targets: two “wannabe terrorists” whose cases are easy to solve (see November 2000-Spring 2002). Both targets are eventually convicted and sent to prison. After 9/11, Assaad will continue to work as an undercover operative for the FBI, and his work will be praised in 2006 by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. But others will criticize the cases he is involved in as entrapment against mostly harmless targets. ABC News will report on Assaad’s story after he retires from government work in 2009. In response, the FBI will issue a statement, saying, “The claims made in the news report and the factual conclusions contained in the story are not supported by the evidence.” The FBI will not specify which claims or conclusions it is referring to, and much of the story is a critique of post-9/11 FBI undercover stings in general. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, working as an ABC News consultant, will call the case “yet another example of the way the system broke down prior to 9/11. If the system had worked, we might have been able to identify these people before the attacks.” [ABC News, 9/10/2009] It appears that the FBI is interested in Adnan Shukrijumah in two different cases around this time, but is unable to get close to him (see (Spring 2001)). In one case, an involved informant is known as “Mohamed,” which may well be Assaad using his alias “Mohammed.” A story on that case will suggest that Shukrijumah had a strong suspicion that “Mohamed” was a government informant (see April-May 2001).
Future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Waleed Alshehri are seen flying small aircraft at an airport in Oklahoma, and Zacarias Moussaoui is there at the same time. This is according to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks. The document notes that “several employees” at Million Air, located at Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, Oklahoma, see Atta, Alshehhi, and Alshehri on the same Beechcraft Duchess aircraft at the same time. Furthermore, Moussaoui is seen there in the same timeframe, although the FBI report will not mention if Moussaoui is ever seen with the other three. The employees cannot give exact dates when these people are seen, but all the visits are in the six months leading up to 9/11 and two visits are said to take place after August 4, 2001. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
Other Local Connections - Moussaoui takes flying lessons in Norman, Oklahoma, which is about 30 miles away from Bethany, from February to June 2001. Apparently he stays there most of the time until early August (see February 23-June 2001). Atta and Alshehhi visited the flight school in Norman in July 2000 (see July 2-3, 2000). A motel owner will later claim that around August 1, 2001, he saw Moussaoui, Atta, and Alshehhi together at his motel. The location of the motel is not specified, except that it is about 28 miles from Norman and off Highway 40, which runs about five miles south of Bethany (see August 1, 2001). [LA Weekly, 8/2/2002]
Why No Mention in Moussaoui Trial? - Several years after 9/11, US officials will charge Moussaoui with a role in the 9/11 attacks. Strangely, these sightings in Oklahoma will never be mentioned in the trial, even though almost no evidence is put forward in the trial physically linking Moussaoui to any of the 9/11 hijackers in the US (see May 3, 2006).
[Source: FBI]Bassam Kanj is killed in a battle in Lebanon. Kanj lived on and off in Boston for nearly 15 years, and was a friend of al-Qaeda operatives Nabil al-Marabh, Raed Hijazi, and Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi. All four of them fought together in Afghanistan in the late 1980s (see Late 1980s), then worked at the same Boston taxi company in the 1990s (see June 1995-Early 1999). In late 1998, Kanj left Boston for Lebanon where he apparently recruited a couple hundred people to take part in a rebellion to overthrow the Lebanese government. He is killed during a five day battle, along with 21 others. Two days after the battle, a Lebanese newspaper identifies him as an al-Qaeda operative who had received financial support from bin Laden. This leads to a renewed focus on him in the US. In February 2001, the Boston Globe will report, “The FBI is continuing to look at Kanj’s and Hijazi’s activities in the Boston area in hopes of learning more about their contacts inside bin Laden’s far-flung organization.” Michael Rolince, chief of international terrorism operations for the FBI, will tell the Globe that both men had a “higher station” than most in al-Qaeda, and will add, “We are still trying to sort out who played what role.” [Boston Globe, 2/5/2001] Presumably, this leads the FBI to take another look at Nabil al-Marabh, who had been roommates with both Hijazi and Kanj and is already wanted for a variety of al-Qaeda contacts. An individual matching al-Marabh’s description is even mentioned in a prominent New York Times story about al-Qaeda in January 2001. The article states, “In early 1997, Hijazi moved to Boston, where he had a friend from his years in Afghanistan.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Yet apparently there is no concerted effort to find al-Marabh, who will even be set free after being arrested trying to illegally enter the US (see June 27, 2001-July 11, 2001). The Boston FBI began investigating Elzahabi for militant ties in 1999, but lost track of him when he went to fight in Chechnya (see 1997 and 1999). But apparently he is not detected reentering the US shortly before 9/11 (see Mid-August 2001).
Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application.
[Source: 9/11 Commission]In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. [New York Times, 5/4/2002; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [Associated Press, 5/10/2002] The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. [Associated Press, 6/13/2002] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS News, 5/10/2002] Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).
[Source: FBI]FBI agent Robert Wright is continuing to protest and fight the cancellation of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation (see August 2000). In January 2001, he claims that his supervisor tells him, “I think it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie.” FBI agent John Vincent backs up the allegation. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] In March 2001, Wright meets with the Chicago special agent-in-charge, who appears to be Kathleen McChesney, given that Wright calls this person “she” and McChesney held that position since January 1999. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/2001; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He tells her that “the international terrorism unit of the FBI is a complete joke.” Within three weeks, the FBI opens another disciplinary investigation on Wright, charging that he had supplied classified information to an assistant US attorney. Wright is later cleared of the charges. In 2002, Wright will claim, “This was a pathetic attempt… before the Sept. 11th attacks, to further silence me from going public about the FBI’s negligence and incompetence.” [CNN, 6/19/2003; New York Post, 7/14/2004] A lawyer speaking for Wright after 9/11 will blame Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff for refusing to take Wright’s concerns seriously before 9/11. Chertoff will later be promoted to head the Department of Homeland Security. [Fox News, 5/30/2002]
Dave Frasca, who will later play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), is promoted to chief of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit at the bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section. Frasca had previously worked counterterrorism issues for the FBI’s Miami office (see 1998). The Radical Fundamentalist Unit deals with Sunni Muslim terrorist suspects not directly linked to Osama bin Laden. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 123 ]
Nawaf Alhazmi (left) and Khallad bin Attash (right) are said to have been confused by an informer.
[Source: FBI]A CIA officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, known only as “Chris” shows a source known as “Omar,” who provides information on al-Qaeda, photographs of future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi taken at the al-Qaeda Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 537; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 268-271 ] Omar has previously identified a photo of al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see November 22-December 16, 2000) and Chris has been told that bin Attash and Almihdhar might be the same person (see Mid-Late December 2000). Omar says that the photo of Alhazmi, who the CIA apparently does not recognize at this time, actually shows bin Attash. As Omar cannot identify Almihdhar, but says he can identify bin Attash, this indicates Almihdhar and bin Attash are not the same person. The identification causes the CIA to believe that bin Attash attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. Although this belief is based on a mistaken identification, it is actually correct, as bin Attash was present at the summit—the CIA has photos of bin Attash there, but fails to show them to Omar. This identification is important because bin Attash is a known bin Laden operative connected to the USS Cole attack and East African embassy bombings. The CIA also knows that Almihdhar and Alhazmi were at the summit, so this could connect them to the Cole attack. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 268-271 ] An FBI official named Michael Dorris is also at the meeting. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 272 ; Soufan, 2011] However, Dorris does not learn of the identification of bin Attash by “Omar.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 270-274 ]
After an informer later referred to as “Omar” tells the CIA that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash was at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 4, 2001), the CIA fails to communicate this information to the FBI, even though it is important for the FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing and connects future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi to the Cole bombers. Omar is a joint FBI/CIA source, but the FBI assistant legal attaché responsible for him, Michael Dorris, will later say he does not know of this identification, and documentation he drafts at this time indicates he is unaware of it. It is unclear why Dorris is unaware of the identification, although he does not speak Omar’s language and may have been out of the room making photocopies when Omar identified bin Attash in a photo of the Malaysia summit for his CIA counterpart. That officer, known only as “Chris,” will later say he has no independent recollection of any particular meeting with Omar.
Comparison with Previous Meeting - However, when Omar previously identified a photo of bin Attash provided by Yemeni authorities on December 16, 2000 (see November 22-December 16, 2000), Chris had him repeat the identification specifically for the benefit of Dorris, and the cable he drafted about the meeting said this clearly. In addition, Dorris will later say that he recalls the specific circumstances of the previous debriefing and would be able to recount them, including the identification of bin Attash in the photograph provided by the Yemenis.
Three Cables Drafted - Chris drafts three cables about the January 4 meeting; one internal cable provides little detail about it, but says bin Attash was identified in one of the photos, a cable to the general US intelligence community fails to mention the identification of bin Attash, as does a third cable, which is sent to the CIA.
CIA Later Makes False Claims - However, according to statements made by CIA officials after 9/11, at this time the CIA thinks that the FBI knows that bin Attash has been identified in the photos. For example, Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center Cofer Black will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, “[O]ur records establish that the special agents from the FBI’s New York Field Office who were investigating the USS Cole attack reviewed the information about the Kuala Lumpur photo in late January 2001.” However, there is no documentary record of information about the second identification placing bin Attash in Kuala Lumpur with the two hijackers being passed to the FBI at this time. In addition, in July 2001 CIA manager Tom Wilshire will suggest passing this information to the FBI (see July 13, 2001), possibly meaning he thinks it is not passed at this time. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 264-278 ] The CIA will not notify the FBI that Omar identified bin Attash in the photo until August 30, 2001, less than two weeks before 9/11 (see August 30, 2001).
Entity Tags: Michael Dorris, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khallad bin Attash, Khalid Almihdhar, Central Intelligence Agency, Cofer Black, “Chris”, “Omar”, CIA Islamabad Station, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Former anti-abortion activist Jerry Reiter, the author of the recent book Live From the Gates of Hell: An Insider’s Look at the Anti-Abortion Underground, gives an interview to the St. Petersburg Times about his book and his days with the controversial anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986). Reiter was media coordinator for the group, but after becoming disillusioned with its violent tactics, became an FBI informant, giving the FBI information on OR and other anti-abortion groups. Reiter now says that some respected conservative Christians have tacitly condoned the violence practiced by OR and other anti-abortion groups during the 1990s. “One of the things that surprised me about the Christian Coalition was that even though it publicly denounced the illegal tactics of groups like Operation Rescue,” Reiter wrote, “when the big national anti-abortion protest came to Buffalo in 1992, Operation Rescue National housed its secret command and communication offices in the basement suite of offices that the Christian Coalition of New York had as its state headquarters.” He says that after entering “the secret command post of Operation Rescue, I was given books on dozens of not-so-peaceful activities, including a book by Reverend Michael Bray advocating the bombing of abortion clinics” (see September 1994). Reiter says that many anti-abortion activists “use the Bible to justify all kinds of evil.” He is still against abortion, but does not advocate legal restrictions on the practice. “I want to see abortions reduced,” he says. “Sex education, birth control, and availability of health care options is the way to go. Those people who oppose abortion are often those who oppose sex education, birth control, and other health care options.” Explaining why he became an FBI informant, Reiter says of his OR colleagues, “I realized that these people were very serious about doing harm to people.” He recalls speaking with Paul Hill, who in 1994 murdered an abortion provider and his bodyguard (see July 29, 1994). Weeks before Hill killed the two men, he told Reiter: “What you’re gonna see next now, brother, is an IRA-type reign of terror [referring to the Irish Republican Army]. There’s too much pressure on all of us, too many people watching us to do anything major under direct orders from the national level, so what you’re gonna see is individuals or small groups of people takin’ action in their own hands to do what the leaders want to see done, but since there won’t be any direct orders given, no one can prove conspiracy.” Reiter says his information did not prevent Hill’s murders, but was able to prevent another spate of possibly lethal violence during a 1994 event in Florida. “If I hadn’t done something at the time, it’s likely they would have been successful and hundreds could have been killed.… I had the most unique background. I was able to see the most radical, most dangerous people in the country as they were formulating their plans.” Reiter concludes: “The mainstream anti-abortion movement has shrunk dramatically and now you just see more hard-core people. It’s not a calm situation. The days of the little old ladies with the rosaries have been replaced with this radical, vitriolic group.… The people around Paul Hill, once he is executed (see September 3, 2003), they are planning to rise up and take action. They are planning to give us unprecedented violence.” [St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/2001]
Atta’s immigration record for his arrival on January 10, 2001, after alteration in early May. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The Miami Herald will report: “INS documents, matched against an FBI alert given to German police, show two men named Mohamed Atta [arrive] in Miami on January 10, each offering different destination addresses to INS agents, one in Nokomis, near Venice, the other at a Coral Springs condo. He (they?) is admitted, despite having overstayed his previous visa by a month. The double entry could be a paperwork error, or confusion over a visa extension. It could be Atta arrived in Miami, flew to another country like the Bahamas, and returned the same day. Or it could be that two men somehow cleared immigration with the same name using the same passport number.” [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001] Officials will later call this a bureaucratic snafu, and insist that only one Atta entered the US on this date. [Associated Press, 10/28/2001] In addition, while Atta arrives on a tourist visa, he tells immigration inspectors that he is taking flying lessons in the US, which requires an M-1 student visa. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001] The fact that he had overstayed his visa by over a month on a previous visit also does not cause a problem. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001] The INS will later defend its decision, but “immigration experts outside the agency dispute the INS position vigorously.” For instance, Stephen Yale-Loehr, co-author of a 20-volume treatise on immigration law, will assert: “They just don’t want to tell you they blew it. They should just admit they made a mistake.” [Washington Post, 10/28/2001]
A CIA officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, asks Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, to “touch base” with FBI agents investigating the bombing of the USS Cole who are preparing to come to Islamabad to interview a joint FBI/CIA source about the identification of one of the Cole bombers, but the suggested briefing is either never given or lacks a crucial detail. Alec Station is aware that the source, referred to later as “Omar,” has identified al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash as being present at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 4, 2001) and that the FBI agents are going to Islamabad specifically to document another identification of bin Attash by Omar (see November 22-December 16, 2000). The cable from the officer in Islamabad, known only as “Chris,” even notes that Omar is “currently of very high interest to our [FBI] colleagues,” but Alec Station fails to notify the Cole investigators that bin Attash attended the summit in Malaysia. This is important because it connects bin Attash to future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, who also attended the summit (see January 5-8, 2000). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 275-8 ] Chris will meet the FBI agents in Pakistan, but will also fail to mention the identification of bin Attash at the Malaysia summit to them (see February 1, 2001).
A. Q. Khan receiving a medal. [Source: Associated Press]The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/2001] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. One specific CIA investigation hampered by this new policy is an investigation in Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and his Khan Laboratories. Khan is considered the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability. But since the funding for this nuclear program gets traced back to Saudi Arabia, restrictions are placed on the inquiry. [Palast, 2002, pp. 99-100] Also in early 2001, FBI agent Robert Wright, attempting to pursue an investigation into Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, is told by FBI superiors, “it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie”(see January-March 2001). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. However, as he puts it, “Where Clinton said, ‘Go slow,’ Bush policymakers said, ‘No go.’ The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102]
Verizon gives the NSA access from within its facilities. [Source: ReallyNews.com]AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth all cooperate with the NSA in monitoring US citizens’ phone and Internet communications (see October 2001). Qwest, however, refuses to cooperate (see February 27, 2001). Qwest officials are unsure that it is legal to hand over customer information to the government without court warrants. The firm’s refusal to participate in the program leaves a gaping hole in the NSA’s database, with the NSA only getting partial coverage of US citizens in the West and Northwest. Until recently, AT&T and other phone companies have routinely insisted on court warrants before turning over call data to government agencies, protocols growing out of the historical concerns of the Bell Telephone system for customer service and privacy. Gene Kimmelman of the Consumers Union will say in 2006 that such insistence on court warrants was a bedrock principle of the Bell systems. “No court order, no customer information—period.” he says. “That’s how it was for decades.” The Bell system was also concerned with following the law, specifically the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits telephone companies from giving out such information without court orders. President Bush and other government officials will later say that his 2002 executive order allowing the NSA to wiretap American phones without warrants (see Early 2002) gives the telephone companies legal cover, but many legal experts and civil liberties groups disagree. After 9/11, the NSA approaches the four companies with offers to pay for US citizens’ call histories and for updates, which would allow the agency to track citizens’ phone habits. Three of the four agree to the NSA proposal, but again Qwest does not. An AT&T spokesman will say in May 2006, “We do not comment on matters of national security, except to say that we only assist law enforcement and government agencies charged with protecting national security in strict accordance with the law.” BellSouth will say that the company “does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority.” Verizon will add that the company acts “in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy.” Neither AT&T nor Qwest will comment at all. [USA Today, 5/11/2006] The NSA asks Qwest to install monitoring equipment on its “Class 5” switching facilities, which monitor the most localized calls as well as some international traffic. The NSA claims it will only single out foreigners on Qwest’s network. In 2006, a government official will say that the CEO of Qwest, Joe Nacchio, misunderstood what the agency was asking. [New York Times, 12/16/2007]
Qwest Refuses to Cooperate - In 2006, sources will recall that at the time of the NSA requests, Nacchio is so disturbed by the idea of the NSA wiretapping phones without warrants, and is so unsure of what information would be collected and how it might be used, that he decides the company will not cooperate. The NSA tells Qwest and the other companies that not only would it compile and maintain data on US citizens’ phone habits, but it may well share that information with other US government agencies, including the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the FBI. Indeed, the NSA shares what it calls “product” with other intelligence agencies, and perhaps with other governmental agencies. After Nacchio decides not to comply with the NSA’s request, the agency begins pressuring the firm, accusing it of threatening national security and implying that Qwest might not be eligible for future governmental contracts. When Qwest asks the NSA to take its proposal to the FISA Court (FISC), the agency refuses, making Qwest that much more dubious about the NSA operation, especially when NSA lawyers say they won’t take the proposal to FISC because that court “might not agree with them.” The NSA also refuses to ask for authorization from the attorney general’s office. Nacchio will leave Qwest under fire for allegedly misleading shareholders about the company’s financial prospects, but his successor, Richard Notebaert, continues to refuse to cooperate with the NSA. [USA Today, 5/11/2006; USA Today, 5/11/2006] Interestingly, by 2004 the Federal Communications Commission will list Qwest and Verizon as essentially the same company. [Federal Communications Commission, 12/10/2004]
Other Firms Deny Participation - In May 2006, after USA Today reports on the telecom firms’ participation in the surveillance (see May 11, 2006), both Verizon and BellSouth will deny providing the NSA with data on their customers, though they have previously acknowledged their cooperation (see February 5, 2006). A BellSouth spokesman will say, somewhat ingenuously, “We’re not aware of any database that NSA has, so we’re not aware of our customer information being there at all.” And Verizon conspicuously fails to mention possible data from MCI, the long-distance provider it has recently bought. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will say of the various companies’ participations, “The thing that concerns me is some [companies] said yes and some said no” when asked to participate. “If the government really thought this was legal and necessary, why let some say yes and some say no? It’s either legal and necessary, or it’s not.” [USA Today, 5/16/2006]
Entity Tags: Patrick J. Leahy, Qwest, Richard Notebaert, Verizon Communications, National Security Agency, USA Today, George W. Bush, Joe Nacchio, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, BellSouth, Central Intelligence Agency, AT&T, Consumers Union, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Gene Kimmelman, Federal Communications Commission
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
At least six people with no connections to one another later claim they recognize 9/11 hijackers Satam Al Suqami and Salem Alhazmi living in San Antonio, Texas, until this month. The management of an apartment building says the two men abandoned their leases at about this time, and some apartment residents recognize them. However, all the witnesses say that Suqami was going by Alhazmi’s name, and vice versa. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News (San Antonio), 10/1/2001] One pilot shop employee recognizes Alhazmi as a frequent visitor to the store and interested in a 757 or 767 handbook, though he also says Alhazmi used Suqami’s name. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News (San Antonio), 10/3/2001] The apartment-leasing agent also recalls a Ziad Jarrah who once lived there in June 2001 and looked the same as the hijacker. [San Antonio Express-News, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 9/22/2001] Local FBI confirm that a Salem Alhazmi attended the nearby Alpha Tango Flight School and lived in that apartment building, but they say he is a different Salem Alhazmi who is still alive and living in Saudi Arabia. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News (San Antonio), 10/4/2001] However, that “Salem Alhazmi” says he has never been to the US and has proven to the authorities that he did not leave Saudi Arabia in the two years prior to 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/20/2001] The FBI does not explain Satam Al Suqami’s presence. Neither hijacker is supposed to have arrived in the US before April 2001.
A trial is held in New York City for four defendants charged with involvement in the 1998 US African embassy bombings. All are ultimately convicted. Testimony reveals that two bin Laden operatives had received pilot training in Texas and Oklahoma and another had been asked to take lessons. One bin Laden aide becomes a government witness and gives the FBI detailed information about a pilot training scheme. This new information does not lead to any new FBI investigations into the matter. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001]
In September 1999, FBI agent Robert Wright hired David Schippers as his lawyer to represent him in his troubles with the FBI (see August 3, 1999). Schippers was the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial. Schippers later will claim that at this time he begins contacting congresspeople that he knows from the impeachment trial with concerns about terrorism. He later recalls, “I was talking primarily about the infiltration of Hamas [inside the US]—how they’re moving the money. I have evidence on that. I have all kinds of material.” In an obvious reference to the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, he also will assert that he knew US intelligence had “established the sources of the money flow of bin Laden” as early as 1996, but by 1999 had faced high-level obstructions into investigating these matters. But he will claim, “I couldn’t get anybody to talk to me.” [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260] Schippers later claims he will continue to warn politicians about terrorism funding in the US, while also warning them about a potential al-Qaeda attack on lower Manhattan based on information he will receive in May 2001 (see May 2001; July-Late August 2001).
The CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, reduces the FBI’s access to NSA material tracking al-Qaeda members. The FBI had previously used such intercepts to map al-Qaeda’s global network (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The NSA intercepts at least one call from the 9/11 hijackers in the US to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen after this (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001 and (August 2001)), but does not tell the FBI. Authors Joe and Susan Trento will comment that by doing this and withholding the hijackers’ identities from the FBI, “the CIA effectively ended any chance in the months leading up to 9/11 of discovering that [Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi] were actually al-Qaeda agents destined to play major roles in the 9/11 attacks.” The CIA repeatedly fails to tell the FBI what it knows about Alhazmi and Almihdhar (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000, January 5, 2001 and After, and June 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 194] There is a long history of the NSA not wanting other US government agencies to have access to NSA material about al-Qaeda (see December 1996, Late August 1998, Between 1996 and August 1998, and Before September 11, 2001).
Two FBI agents investigating the bombing of the USS Cole interview a source, referred to later as “Omar,” who previously identified a photo of one of the bombers as al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see November 22-December 16, 2000). However, a CIA officer present at the interview, known only as “Chris,” fails to add a crucial detail. The interview, which apparently takes place in Pakistan, is held to document the previous identification by Omar of bin Attash, who led the attack on the Cole, based on a photograph provided by Yemeni authorities. Chris is also aware that Omar has identified bin Attash in a surveillance photo taken of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 4, 2001). The identification of bin Attash in the photo taken at the summit is important because it connects bin Attash to future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, who were also at the summit, and because it casts light on bin Attash’s interaction with the other Cole bombers. The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will later say it believes “that had the FBI known about the identification of [bin Attash] in the Kuala Lumpur photographs, they would likely have sought information about the other participants in the meeting, including Almihdhar and Alhazmi, which could have increased the FBI’s chances of locating them before the September 11 attacks.” Chris had previously failed to notify the FBI of the identification of bin Attash in the Malaysia summit photo (see January 5, 2001 and After), as had the CIA’s bin Laden unit (see Shortly Before February 1, 2001). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 275-8 ] Omar is usually handled by Cole case agents Ali Soufan and Steve Bongardt. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 120] Presumably, one of them is the lead FBI agent at this interview, although it is not clear which.
According to his later testimony, Mustafa Abu Jdai, a 28-year-old Jordanian of Palestinian descent living in Tyler, Texas, answers a job offer posted in a Dallas mosque. He then meets with three Arabic-speaking men who offer to pay him to take flying lessons in Texas, Florida, or Oklahoma. He declines the offer. On September 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 attacks, Jdai will call the FBI to relate his story. From FBI pictures, he recognizes hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. However, the FBI takes him into custody for overstaying his visa. The FBI says he invented his story and failed a polygraph. Although he is married to an American woman, he will be detained for several months and deported. [Time, 10/28/2001; Washington Post, 11/4/2001; Watch, 8/2002, pp. 16 ]
Royce Lamberth’s letter to John Ashcroft, obtained by the 9/11 Timeline by Freedom of Information Act request. [Source: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]The Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) discovers that an application for a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is misleading. The application is for surveillance of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the supporting affidavit was signed by FBI agent Michael Resnick. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is already investigating dozens of similar errors in FISA warrants for surveillance of al-Qaeda targets in the US (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001). The application is misleading because its does not accurately describe the “wall” procedures being followed by several FBI field offices. Wall procedures regulate the passage of information from FBI intelligence agents to FBI criminal agents and local US attorneys’ offices. The misleading description is also found in another 14 warrant applications for surveillance of Hamas. The impact of the misleading statements in the Hamas investigations has not been disclosed, but in the al-Qaeda cases the wall was breached because criminal agents had unrestricted access to intelligence information (see Summer-October 2000). Royce Lamberth, Presiding Judge on the FISA Court, writes to Attorney General John Ashcroft saying it will no longer accept any applications where the supporting affidavit is signed by Resnick and asking for an immediate inquiry. [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, 3/9/2001 ; New York Times, 9/19/2001; New York Times, 5/27/2002; Washington Post, 8/23/2002; Arab News, 3/3/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 39 ] The Justice Department’s investigation into the misleading applications finds that “none of [them]… were the result of professional misconduct or poor judgement,” but that “a majority of the errors were the result of systemic flaws.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 40 ] Following the discovery of the errors in the FISA applications, surveillance of al-Qaeda and Hamas targets in the US is curtailed (see April 2001). Resnick remains with the bureau and will become head of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in North Carolina and then chief of the Terrorist Identities Group at the FBI’s National Counter Terrorism Center. [US Congress, 3/30/2006; WCNC, 6/20/2006]
A crop duster at South Florida Crop Care. [Source: Colin Braley / Reuters]In March and August 2001, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta visits a small airport in South Florida and asks detailed questions about how to start and fly a crop-duster plane. People there easily recall him because he was so persistent. After explaining his abilities, Atta is told he is not skilled enough to fly a crop-duster. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] Employees at South Florida Crop Care in Belle Glade, Florida, later tell the FBI that Atta was among the men who in groups of two or three visited the crop dusting firm nearly every weekend for six or eight weeks before the attacks. Employee James Lester says, “I recognized him because he stayed on my feet all the time. I just about had to push him away from me.” [Associated Press, 9/15/2001] Yet, according to US investigators, Atta and the other hijackers gave up on the crop-duster idea back around May 2000.
The Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. [Source: Fox News]After living together in Phoenix since December 2000, 9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move to Falls Church, Virginia, where imam Anwar al-Awlaki preaches. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004] They live only a few blocks from where two nephews of Osama bin Laden with ties to terrorism go to work (see February-September 11, 1996 and June 1, 2004). They continue to live there off and on until around August. They begin attending the Dar al Hijrah mosque. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] When they and hijacker Khalid Almihdhar lived in San Diego in early 2000, they attended a mosque there led by al-Awlaki. This imam moved to Falls Church in January 2001, and now the hijackers attend his sermons at the Dar al Hijrah mosque. Some later suspect that al-Awlaki is part of the 9/11 plot because of their similar moves, and other reasons:
The FBI says al-Awlaki had closed door meetings with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in 2000 while all three of them were living in San Diego (see February-August 2000). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
Police later find the phone number of al-Awlaki’s mosque when they search “would-be twentieth hijacker” Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s apartment in Germany. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
The FBI was investigating al-Awlaki for ties to Islamic militant groups in early 2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
A neighbor of al-Awlaki later claims that, in the first week of August 2001, al-Awlaki knocked on his door and told him he is leaving for Kuwait: “He came over before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country when it happened” (see Early August 2001). [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
US officials will allow al-Awlaki to leave the US twice in 2002, but by 2008 they will conclude that he is linked to al-Qaeda attacks (see Early September 2006-December 2007 and February 27, 2008).
Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Hani Hanjour, Germany, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Anwar al-Awlaki, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Jayna Davis, appearing on a Fox News broadcast. [Source: Libertarian Republican (.com)]Former investigative reporter Jayna Davis, who once worked for KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, tells Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly she has amassed evidence that she says proves Osama bin Laden was behind the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Former Army soldier Timothy McVeigh is awaiting execution for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Davis says that she attempted to give her evidence, comprised of court records, 24 witness statements, and reports from law enforcement, intelligence, and terror experts, to the FBI, which she says refused to accept the material. Davis says the FBI is involved in an elaborate conspiracy to conceal the existence of a Middle Eastern terror cell that carried out the bombing; law enforcement authorities have long dismissed the idea (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After) that the bombing was carried out by anyone other than McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). According to Davis’s version of events, a Middle Eastern terror cell was operating only blocks away from the Murrah Federal Building, the site of the bombing, and an Iraqi national who formerly served in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard was in contact with McVeigh on the day of the bombing. It was the Iraqi, not McVeigh, she says, who drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb to the federal building; he fled in a brown Chevrolet pickup truck. Davis says in the minutes after the bombing, an all-points bulletin was issued for the Iraqi, but it was inexplicably withdrawn shortly thereafter. Davis says the conspiracy consists of McVeigh, Nichols, and at least seven Middle Eastern men, with bin Laden masterminding the operation. “The evidence we have gathered definitely implicates McVeigh and Nichols,” she says. “I want to make that very clear. They were in it up to their eyeballs.” Of the FBI’s refusal to consider her evidence, she tells O’Reilly: “I was flabbergasted. I am unable to imagine any reason they would not accept it.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/21/2001]
Mary Schneider, a veteran Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) employee in Orlando, Florida, writes to Attorney General John Ashcroft to warn that a ring of corrupt INS officers is taking bribes from illegal Moroccan and Egyptian immigrants. She is concerned some of these illegal aliens let into the country could have ties to terrorist organizations, and calls for an investigation. Schneider started complaining to her supervisors in 1998 and claims she was retaliated against by management. In May 1999, she wrote to the FBI’s anti-terrorism joint task force in New York to warn of the possible terrorist ties of some of the illegal immigrants allowed into the country by her office. She says some of them could be linked to Ihab Ali Nawawi, an Orlando taxi driver arrested in 1999 for his ties to Osama bin Laden (see May 18, 1999). It is not known what actions, if any, were taken as a result of her warnings. [New Times Broward-Palm Beach, 11/8/2001]
French authorities arrest anti-abortion advocate James Kopp, who is wanted for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian (see October 23, 1998). The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been hunting for Kopp since the murder, and tracked him through a Brooklyn couple, Dennis Malvasi and his wife Loretta Marra, who are arrested for conspiring to aid and abet Slepian’s murder. (Malvasi has been convicted of bombing an abortion clinic; Marra and Kopp have been arrested together at a number of anti-abortion protests.) Shortly after Slepian’s murder, the FBI found Kopp’s sniper rifle buried behind Slepian’s home; investigators also found Kopp’s automobile in a suburb of Slepian’s home town of Amherst. Currently Kopp is being held in Rennes, where he is refusing to answer questions; French authorities have not yet decided whether to extradite him, as French law precludes extradition of anyone who may face the death penalty. In March, the FBI learned that Kopp was living in Ireland under a series of false identities and surviving by doing menial labor. In mid-March, Kopp fled Ireland on a ferry that took him to Brittany, a rural French province. It is there that he is arrested, in the medieval Breton town of Dinan. Kopp is also wanted for three non-fatal shooting ambushes of doctors in Canada and in Rochester, New York. [Guardian, 4/1/2001; National Abortion Federation, 2010]
Help from Irish Anti-Abortion Groups - Irish pro-life groups deny helping Kopp, but an FBI spokesman says, “He did not leave the US without assistance, and he did not remain a fugitive without assistance.” Later evidence will show that Kopp was assisted by American and Irish anti-abortion advocates in Ireland, many of whom are affiliated with the right-wing breakaway Catholic sect headed by excommunicated Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In 2001, The Nation will observe, “In the last half-decade US antiabortion campaigners have moved on Ireland in a big way, introducing a militancy previously unknown there.” [Nation, 4/23/2001; National Abortion Federation, 2010]
Pro-Choice Spokesman: Kopp Part of a Larger Conspiracy - National Abortion Federation head Vicki Saporta says in a statement: “The arrest of James Kopp could potentially be the greatest advance in the effort to end violence against abortion providers in this country and in Canada. Law enforcement officials are now uncovering what we have been asserting for years: the existence of an organized network of anti-choice extremists who assist terrorists in carrying out acts of violence against abortion providers.… The Army of God (see 1982) has in large part been responsible for the reign of terror against abortion providers in the last decade. This is the best opportunity we’ve had to finally identify, expose, and prosecute those individuals who are part of this extreme network.… We have been collecting statistics on violence against abortion providers for more than 20 years, and we know that there are individuals who provide money, safe houses, and other support to those who have committed acts of terrorism against abortion providers. These terrorists do not work alone, and we now have an important opportunity to reduce the violence and harassment that abortion providers in this country face on a daily basis.… Now is the time to uncover the ring of extremists who are part of the Army of God and reduce the violence against abortion providers once and for all.” [National Abortion Federation, 3/30/2001]
Confession and Conviction - Kopp will be extradited over a year later (see June 5, 2002 and After). He will confess to the murder shortly afterward (see November 21, 2002) and will be pronounced guilty in 2003 (see March 17-18, 2003).
FBI translators Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar will later claim to know of an important warning given to the FBI at this time. In their accounts, a reliable informant on the FBI’s payroll for at least ten years tells two FBI agents that sources in Afghanistan have heard of an al-Qaeda plot to attack the US and Europe in a suicide mission involving airplanes. Al-Qaeda agents, already in place inside the US, are being trained as pilots. By some accounts, the names of prominent US cities are mentioned. A report on the matter is filed with squad supervisor Thomas Frields, but it’s unclear if this warning reaches FBI headquarters or beyond. The two translators will later privately testify to the 9/11 Commission. [WorldNetDaily, 3/24/2004; Salon, 3/26/2004; WorldNetDaily, 4/6/2004; Village Voice, 4/14/2004] Sarshar’s notes of the interview indicate that the informant claimed his information came from Iran, Afghanistan, and Hamburg, Germany (the location of the primary 9/11 al-Qaeda cell). However, anonymous FBI officials will claim the warning was very vague and doubtful. [Chicago Tribune, 7/21/2004] In reference to this warning and apparently others, Edmonds will say, “President Bush said they had no specific information about September 11, and that’s accurate. However, there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand, and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should’ve alerted the people to the threat we were facing.” [Salon, 3/26/2004] She will add, “There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers.” [Independent, 4/2/2004]
Ali Soufan in Afghanistan after 9/11. [Source: FBI]Ali Soufan, a lead investigator into the bombing of the USS Cole, again requests information from the CIA about leads turned up by the investigation. He made a similar request in late 2000, but got no reply (see Late November 2000). After learning that some of the bombers made calls between one of their houses in Yemen, the Washington Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where some of them stayed, and a payphone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see (January 5-8, 2000) and Early December 2000), Soufan sends an official teletype with the request for information and also a photo of al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash. The CIA is well aware that there was an al-Qaeda summit at a condominium near the payphone in Kuala Lumpur (see January 5-8, 2000), and in fact considered it so important that CIA Director George Tenet and other CIA leaders were repeatedly briefed about it (see January 6-9, 2000). [New York Times, 4/11/2004; Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] The CIA even has photos from the Malaysia summit of al-Quso standing next to hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and other photos of bin Attash standing next to Almihdhar. [Newsweek, 9/20/2001 ] However, the CIA does not share any of what they know with Soufan, and Soufan continues to remain unaware the Malaysia summit even took place. Author Lawrence Wright will later comment, “If the CIA had responded to Soufan by supplying him with the intelligence he requested, the FBI would have learned of the Malaysia summit and of the connection to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. The bureau would have learned—as the [CIA] already knew—that the al-Qaeda operatives were in America and had been there for more than a year. Because there was a preexisting indictment for bin Laden in New York, and Almihdhar and Alhazmi were his associates, the bureau already had the authority to follow the suspects, wiretap their apartment, intercept their communications, clone their computer, investigate their contacts—all the essential steps that might have prevented 9/11.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331]
While monitoring a plot to blow up Mount Rushmore and carry out other attacks (see November 2000-Spring 2002), the Florida FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see May 2, 2001). Imran Mandhai is a leader of the Mount Rushmore plot, and he attends the same mosque in the greater Miami area that Shukrijamah does. Mandhai tries to recruit him for the plot. However, Shukrijumah declines and never says anything incriminating within earshot of undercover surveillance teams or an FBI informer using the alias Mohamed who has gotten close to Mandhai. The FBI investigates Shukrijumah anyway, but only finds that he lied on his green card application regarding a prior arrest. The Florida FBI is apparently unaware of his connection to the 9/11 hijackers. An investigator on the case will tell USA Today, “Shukrijumah sensed what Mandhai did not: that ‘Mohamed’ was an FBI informant.” After 9/11 the FBI will give Mandhai a lie detector test and ask him if he knew any of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. He says he did not, but his answer is judged to be false, and he confesses he was thinking of Shukrijumah. The FBI is also investigating Shukrijumah over another plot at this time (see (Spring 2001)). Shukrijumah apparently disappears from the Miami area around the time Mandhai and Jokhan are first interviewed by the FBI. He then travels around North America (see July-September 2001). [Miami Herald, 3/31/2003; US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; USA Today, 6/15/2003; ABC News, 9/10/2009] The FBI will later find that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and offer a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [Rewards for Justice, 3/2003] The FBI informant named “Mohamed” is likely Elie Assaad, who will later claim he associates some with Shukrijumah and Atta at a Florida mosque around this time (see Early 2001).
Future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi frequently eat at a Subway restaurant in Coral Springs, Florida, with two unnamed men. According to an account the owner of the restaurant gives the FBI after 9/11, Atta regularly eats there about once a week, and he is often joined by some combination of the other three men, often all four together. According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, the owner later identifies Atta, Alshehhi, and one of the other two men from photographs, but the name of that other man is redacted. In the FBI document, the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers are not redacted, but most other names, including some known hijacker associates, are redacted. (One logical possibility for this third man would be Adnan Shukrijumah, a known al-Qaeda operative who is living in Miramar at the time, about 22 miles away, and is seen with Atta and Alshehhi in the area around this time (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001)). Additionally, the fourth man cannot be identified by the FBI at all. The owner will describe this person as a “male, late 30s, with black eyes, weighing approximately 170 pounds, with long facial features, and wearing a robe.” This fourth man usually pays the bill, and he seems to be giving the other three instructions. The four men often talk a long time at the restaurant even after finishing their meals. Atta and Alshehhi move to Coral Springs in April 2001 and stay there just one month (see April 11, 2001). However, they remain in the area for several more months. For instance, they next live in Hollywood, Florida, which is 30 miles away. They will be seen in Hollywood as late as September 7, 2001 (see September 7, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, for about a month, with the help of Eyad Alrababah, a man whom they met at a local mosque. The mosque is run by Anwar al-Awlaki, an associate of Alhazmi’s from San Diego who was investigated by the FBI over terrorism suspicions (see March 2001 and After). Alhazmi and Hanjour had previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001) and will later move to Paterson, New Jersey (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Alrababah will later say that he just happened to meet them after a service in the mosque, when they mentioned they were looking for an apartment and he had a friend who had one to rent. However, given al-Awlaki’s previous association with Alhazmi, some FBI agents will later doubt this and suspect that al-Awlaki told Alrababah to help the hijackers. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “We share that suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of al-Awlaki’s prior relationship with Alhazmi.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 230]
Adnan Shukrijumah. [Source: FBI]The FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001), in connection with a South Florida-based Islamic militant group that is plotting to recruit operatives and finance attacks and assassinations in the Middle East (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The group includes Jose Padilla associates Adham Amin Hassoun and Mohammed Hesham Youssef, and is connected to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the suspect charity Benevolence International Foundation (see 1988-1989). Shukrijumah keeps his distance from the core plotters and despite FBI wiretaps on the group’s phones, the FBI is unable to establish a firm connection between him and the plans. Shukrijumah is also being investigated over a plot to attack various businesses in Florida and blow up Mount Rushmore around this time (see April-May 2001). The FBI later determines that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and will issue a $5 million reward for his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006]
Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism program, sends a memo to FBI Director Louis Freeh warning that Islamic radicals are planning a “terrorist operation.” The memo states that “Sunni extremists with links to Ibn al Kahhatb, an extremist leader in Chechnya, and to Osama bin Laden [have been involved in] serious operational planning… since late 2000, with an intended culmination in late spring 2001.” Watson says the planning was sparked by the renewal of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000. “[A]ll the players are heavily intertwined,” the memo notes. Additionally, the memo says that “[m]ultiple sources also suggest that [bin Laden’s] organization is planning a terrorist attack against US interests.” The memo is also sent to other FBI officials, such as International Terrorism Operations Section (ITOS) chief Michael Rolince, who will later be involved in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui (see Late August 2001 and (August 30-September 10, 2001)) [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/2001 ] Based on this report, ITOS sends an e-mail (see April 13, 2001) to all field offices, asking agents to help identify information pertaining to the “current operational activities relating to Sunni extremism.” The e-mail does not mention Ibn Khattab. [Associated Press, 3/21/2006] These plans may be for the 9/11 attacks—at least some of the alleged hijackers are linked to bin Laden (see January 5-8, 2000), and Zacarias Moussaoui is linked to Ibn Khattab (see Late 1999-Late 2000). Some of the hijackers fought in Chechnya and therefore might also be linked to Ibn Khattab (see 1996-December 2000). Officials at FBI headquarters will later refuse a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings saying they believe Ibn Khattab is not closely connected to Osama bin Laden and is not hostile to the US (see August 22, 2001 and August 23-27, 2001).
Shortly after discovering that Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab may be planning an attack against the US (see Before April 13, 2001), the FBI sends a message to all its field offices summarizing intelligence reporting to date on the Sunni extremist threat (see February 6, 2001). (Bin Laden is the most wanted Sunni extremist by this time.) The offices are told to task all resources, including human sources and electronic databases, for any information pertaining to “current operational activities relating to Sunni extremism.” No specific domestic threat is mentioned, but the FBI’s mission is to protect domestic security while the CIA is in charge of overseas threats. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 1 ] There is no mention about what is done, if anything, in response to this message. This also appears to be the last time before 9/11 that FBI field offices are tasked to work on any Muslim extremist threat in the US. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264]
This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 8] According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. [Associated Press, 9/21/2001]
May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” [Observer, 10/14/2001] CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” [US Congress, 6/18/2002] and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack [CBS News, 10/9/2002] are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).
Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohand Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Saeed Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour, Salem Alhazmi, George J. Tenet, Hamza Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ahmed Alnami
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, was hired to represent FBI agent Robert Wright in September 1999 (see August 3, 1999). After 9/11, Schippers will claim that he began privately informing congresspeople about Wright’s investigation into terrorism financing in the US in early 2001, but found little interest (see February-March 2001). Schippers appears to have had different sources than Wright who began telling him about attack warnings. Supposedly, the first warning was based on a secret February 1995 report which stated that bin Laden was planning three attacks on the US: the bombing of a federal building in the heartland of the US, shooting down or blowing up an airplane, and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. Schippers believes the first warning was a prediction of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the second was a prediction of the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 (see July 17, 1996-September 1996). In some versions of this warning, the Manhattan attack was meant to be caused by a “dirty bomb” - explosives mixed with radioactive materials - but other accounts described the use of planes as weapons instead. He says one of his sources for this early warning was Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Schippers will claim that his sources continued to uncover further information. The Manhattan warning “had started out just a general threat, but they narrowed it and narrowed it, more and more with time,” until the “same people who came out with the first warning” tell him in May 2001 that “an attack on lower Manhattan is imminent.” Schippers speaks to several FBI agents directly, and hears that “there are [other agents] all over the country who are frustrated and just waiting to come out.” They are frustrated by “a bureaucratic elite in Washington short-stopping information,” which gives “terrorism a free reign in the United States.” Schippers later claims that some FBI agents later told him that before 9/11, “they had [Mohamed] Atta in their sights.” They also had attempted to “check out” the names and activities of “very strange characters training at flight schools.” He will claim that “FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota” tell him “there [is] going to be an attack on lower Manhattan.” Schippers will later claim that he will attempt to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft and other politicians about this warning in coming months, but that they will show little interest (see July-Late August 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260]
US intelligence obtains information that al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and carry out an operation using high explosives. The report does not say exactly where, when, or how an attack might occur. Two months later, the information is shared with the FBI, the INS, the US Customs Service, and the State Department, and it will be shared with President Bush in August. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Washington Post, 9/19/2002] This information could come from captured al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam, who warns around this month that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida has been seeking Canadian passports as part of a plot to attack the US, possibly by planting explosives in several US cities (see May 30, 2001 and May 2001). [Calgary Herald, 4/3/2002]
According to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, “Four months before 9/11”, FBI monitoring overhears Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the US would invade Iraq and divide the country.… They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil.” National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, later a critic of the Iraq War, is initially in favor of the plan, but will later drop his support when it becomes clear Turkish demands for control of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq will not be granted. [The American Conservative, 11/1/2009]
Tom Wilshire, a former deputy chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, is detailed to the FBI to help with its counterterrorism work. Wilshire was involved in the failure to watchlist 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar during the al-Qaeda Malaysia summit (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000), and will also be involved in the failed search for them in the summer of 2001 (see May 15, 2001, Late May, 2001, and July 13, 2001), as well as the failure to obtain a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 24, 2001). He acts as the CIA’s chief intelligence representative to Michael Rolince, head of the Bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section. His primary role is apparently to help the FBI exploit information for intelligence purposes. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 282-348 ]
An investigative report commissioned by Charles Key (R-OK), a former Oklahoma legislator with ties to regional militia organizations, will conclude that the government’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was riddled with omissions and errors. Key informs WorldNetDaily (WND), a conservative news Web site, of the upcoming report’s conclusions. Key helped convene a grand jury investigation in 1998 to look into questions surrounding the bombing; when the jury found no evidence of a larger conspiracy, as Key had hoped it would (see December 30, 1998), he denounced the jury’s findings and created the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, an independent body that conducted the investigation and wrote the report. Key says he hopes the report will help Americans finally “get to the truth” behind the bombing conspiracy. “The purpose of our report is to document the truth,” Key tells WND. “We, as so many others do, believe that facts regarding other perpetrators, prior knowledge, and the number of explosive devices used to damage the Murrah Building has been concealed.” Key says the committee found “substantial evidence” proving that federal law enforcement officials and court officials knew of the attack well beforehand, but either ignored those warnings or deliberately allowed the attack to go forward. One of those warnings came from a government informant, Carole Howe, whose credibility was questioned by her handlers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995). Other warnings came from two informants affiliated with organizations in foreign countries, Key says. Four government agencies, including the BATF and the US Marshals, received a notification “to be on the alert for possible attacks against individuals, federal institutions, or the public at large.” Key also says that Federal Judge Wayne Alley, who originally handled the case against convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), told a reporter that the day of the bombing he had been warned to be on the alert for a possible bombing. Key also says he has statements from five witnesses who claim that no BATF agents were in the building at the time of the attack (this is false; a BATF agent documented his experiences in trying to escape from the building; see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). Other witnesses have told Key that they saw bomb squad vehicles in downtown Oklahoma City before the bomb went off. Key says “over 70 witnesses” saw McVeigh “and one or more John Does” in the days before, and on the day of, the bombing. After the bombing, Key says, around 40 witnesses identified the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) as a man of Middle Eastern descent (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Federal authorities ignored those witnesses, Key claims. Key also says that several witnesses in the building told of a “second bomb” going off before (not after) McVeigh’s truck bomb exploded. (Claims that a second bomb went off after the truck bomb detonated have been disputed—see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:22 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some of the witnesses say that the first, smaller detonation drove them to hide under their desks just before the larger bomb detonated, thus giving them the chance to save themselves. Key says the committee obtained seismological evidence from what he calls an expert source that, he says, “supports the fact that there were multiple explosions” that morning. But, as was the case with other witnesses, the expert “was not allowed to testify at the federal trials,” the report says. And, Key says, witnesses claim to have actually seen a number of bombs in the building that morning, reports that caused rescue personnel to evacuate the building while people were still trapped inside (see 10:00 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995 and 10:28 a.m. April 19, 1995). The report questions the size of McVeigh’s bomb, which was estimated at a number of different sizes but was eventually concluded by government experts to be somewhere around 4,800 pounds; the report says that estimate is incorrect. The damage suffered by the Murrah Building could not have been caused by a bomb of that size, according to “experts” quoted by the report. Key also says that the government deliberately prevented evidence of others’ involvement in the bombing to be used in McVeigh’s and Nichols’s trials, and says that indictments against the two named those persons (this is false—see August 10, 1995). Key says allegations by Jayna Davis that Osama bin Laden masterminded the bomb conspiracy (see March 20, 2001) support the report’s contentions. The report contains other allegations, including possible involvement by federal law enforcement and court officials, FBI officials refusing to allow Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel to investigate the building, FBI officials refusing to run fingerprint checks of over 1,000 prints obtained in the investigation, what the report calls “blatant bias” exhibited towards “anyone asking questions or probing into facts,” and of breaking “[v]irtually all of the rules governing grand juries.” Key’s committee concludes that the Clinton administration “had prior knowledge of the bombing,” and that “McVeigh and Nichols did not act alone.” Key tells WND: “The final report represents years of extensive investigation and countless interviews. It contains information never reported before in any forum.” [WorldNetDaily, 5/4/2001]
A walk-in to an FBI office claims that there is a radical fundamentalist plot to launch attacks on Boston, New York, and London. The 9/11 Commission will later claim that the walk-in’s report was discredited, but it is unknown if this happened before or after 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255, 533] A declassified copy of the FBI warning obtained by the Intelwire website in 2008 will shed further light on the warning. Although parts of the warning are redacted, it appears the walk-in claims that three high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoners held in prison in Britain, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary, and Ibrahim Eidarous, would launch the attack if they are extradited to the US. The warning claims that the attack has been planned for several years and operatives are already in the US to carry it out. The plan may involve a boat loaded with explosives or an attack on a large building. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/7/2001 ] In August 2001, a different source will also claim to have learned of an attack on New York, possibly the World Trade Center, from the same three prisoners (see August 21, 2001).
New York Times reporter James Sterngold goes to Kingman, Arizona, to interview people there about a former resident, convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), who now awaits execution (see June 11-13, 1997). While many in the small desert town continue to voice their suspicion of, and opposition to, the federal government as McVeigh did, they do not endorse McVeigh’s actions. McVeigh’s friend Walter “Mac” McCarty, an elderly ex-Marine who always carries a gun on his hip, recalls McVeigh attending some of his courses on handgun usage and safety (see February - July 1994). McCarty says he is angry at McVeigh for blowing up the Murrah Federal Building and killing 168 people (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He calls the bombing senseless, but has an equal amount of anger and criticism for the FBI’s actions after the bombing, when he says agents from that bureau descended on the town and harassed its citizens. Kingman is not a haven for anti-government extremists, McCarty says. “There never was at any time a really organized militia or group like that around Kingman, and I would know,” he says. There are some people around here who think that way, I can tell you that. But it’s not organized like they say.” McCarty’s statement does not completely coincide with Kingman history. Arizona has had a number of active militias in the recent past, according to Kingman Police Chief Larry J. Butler, and some terrorist attacks, the largest being the derailment of an Amtrak train six months after McVeigh detonated his bomb (see October 9, 1995). Butler says during the mid-1990s, he would occasionally hear of hunters coming across makeshift survivalist camps in the desert. Butler remembers some “zealots” who would argue with his officers, claiming the government had no right to force them to register their cars or get drivers’ licenses, but he says those confrontations had dwindled away to almost nothing. Butler says: “To the extent there were any, Tim McVeigh killed the feelings for militias around here. I can tell you, there’s no sympathy for them.” Steve Johnson of the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department, agrees, saying: “I can’t say that they are here and I can’t say that they aren’t here. We just don’t see them.” Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center say that since McVeigh’s bombing, the number of militia groups in Arizona has dropped sharply. [New York Times, 5/10/2001]
The Justice Department reveals that it failed to turn over nearly 4,000 pages of documentary evidence to the defense in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 2, 1997). Attorney General John Ashcroft postpones McVeigh’s execution (see January 16, 2001) for 30 days to allow defense attorneys to review the newly released documents. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; New York Times, 5/11/2001; Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Apparently many of the documents relate to the FBI’s investigation into the never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), which the agency now terms a “dead-end” investigation. Sources say many of the documents are “302 forms,” the forms that document the raw interviews conducted by agents with witnesses. [Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] The documents were found by bureau archivists in Oklahoma City as they canvassed the agency’s 56 field offices in a final search of records related to the bombing in anticipation of McVeigh’s execution (see June 11-13, 1997). Lawyers for both McVeigh and his convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) were legally entitled to review the records as they prepared for the two trials. Justice Department spokesperson Mindy Tucker issues the following statement: “On Tuesday, May 8, the Department of Justice notified Timothy McVeigh’s attorney of a number of FBI documents that should have been provided to them during the discovery phase of the trial. While the department is confident the documents do not in any way create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh’s guilt and do not contradict his repeated confessions of guilt, the department is concerned that McVeigh’s attorneys were not able to review them at the appropriate time.” The FBI blames its obsolete computer system for the error. Prosecutors say the documents were not material to either case. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones says, “I said all along they weren’t giving us everything.” [New York Times, 5/11/2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Law professor James S. Liebman, who helped conduct an extensive study of death penalty appeals across the country, says the failure to produce the documents is “something I’ve just never heard of.… I can tell you, it’s extremely rare if it’s ever happened before.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2001]
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is located in World Trade Center Building 7, organizes a bio-terrorism drill where militant extremists attack the city with bubonic plague and Manhattan is quarantined. The “tabletop exercise” is called RED Ex—meaning “Recognition, Evaluation, and Decision-Making Exercise”
—and involves about seventy different entities, agencies, and locales from the New York area. Federal legislation adopted in 1997 requires federal, state, and local authorities to conduct regular exercises as part of the Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP). The US Defense Department chose New York City as the venue for RED Ex due to its size, prominence, and level of emergency preparedness. Various high-level officials take part, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Director Richard Sheirer, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Agencies and organizations that participate include New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The exercise is supposedly so intense that, according to one participant, “five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001; New York City Government, 9/5/2001, pp. 74 ; New York Sun, 12/20/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] According to OEM Director Richard Sheirer, “Operation RED Ex provided a proving ground and a great readiness training exercise for the many challenges the city routinely faces, such as weather events, heat emergencies, building collapses, fires, and public safety and health issues.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001] In his prepared testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Bernard Kerik later states: “The City, through its OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies; and those plans were tested frequently.” The types of emergencies they prepared for, he states, included “building collapses” and “plane crashes.”
[9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Considering Richard Sheirer’s comments, RED Ex appears to be one example where the city tests for building collapses. Details about training for airplanes crashing into New York City remain unknown. The second part of this exercise, called Tripod, is scheduled to take place in New York on September 12, 2001, but is cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks.
New York Times reporter David Stout observes that the FBI’s admitted failure to turn over documents to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, June 2, 1997, and May 10-11, 2001) will fuel conspiracy theories that will last for years. Attorney General John Ashcroft admitted as much when he ordered a delay in McVeigh’s scheduled execution to review the incident, saying, “If any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice.” Stout writes: “But for some people the cloud has been there all along, and always will be. They will never accept the government’s assertion that the withholding of the documents was simple human, bureaucratic error. And so the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City seems likely to join the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as events whose truth—in the eyes of some Americans—is forever untold.” Charles Key, a former Oklahoma state legislator who has recently released a statement packed with assertions of a larger conspiracy and government malfeasance surrounding the bombing (see May 4, 2001), has been particularly vocal in his scorn over the document incident, and his contention that it is just part of a larger conspiracy by the government to cover up the truth behind the bombing. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones seems to agree with Key; in his recent book (see August 14-27, 1997) Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma Bombing Conspiracy, Jones asserts: “The real story of the bombing, as the McVeigh defense pursued it, is complex, shadowy, and sinister. McVeigh, like the government, had its own reasons to keep it so. It stretches, web-like, from America’s heartland to the nation’s capital, the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East, and much of it remains a mystery.” Others go even farther in their beliefs. Charles Baldridge of Terre Haute, Indiana, where McVeigh is incarcerated awaiting execution, says, “I won’t say that McVeigh didn’t do it, but he wasn’t the brains, he wasn’t the one who orchestrated it.” Asked who orchestrated the bombing, Baldridge replies, “The government.” Many people believe that if the government did not actually plan and execute the bombing, it allowed it to happen, in order to use it as an excuse for passing anti-terrorism laws and curbing basic freedoms. Many of the same conspiracy theories that sprouted in the aftermath of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) are now appearing in the public discourse about the Oklahoma City bombing, Stout notes. [New York Times, 5/13/2001]
Tom Wilshire, a former deputy chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit currently detailed to the FBI, accesses a number of cables about travel by 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in 2000 (see March 5, 2000), but fails to draw the FBI’s attention to this or ask the INS whether they are still in the US. The cables report on Khalid Almihdhar’s travel to Malaysia in January 2000, his US visa, al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, and Alhazmi’s travel from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bangkok, Thailand, with another person, and then to Los Angeles. Wilshire had previously blocked a notification to the FBI that Almihdhar had a US visa (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000). He writes to another CIA analyst about the travel (see May 15, 2001), but does not alert the FBI to the fact Alhazmi came to the US. Neither does he check with the INS to see whether Alhazmi and Almihdhar are in the country. When one of his colleagues finds these cables in late August, she will immediately check with the INS and become alarmed when she is told they are in the US (see August 21-22, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 266-8, 537; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 283 ] The 9/11 Commission will explain his failure to alert the FBI by saying he was focused on a possible terrorist attack in Malaysia: “Despite the US links evident in this traffic, [Wilshire] made no effort to determine whether any of these individuals was in the United States. He did not raise the possibility with his FBI counterpart. He was focused on Malaysia.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 268]
Tom Wilshire, a former deputy chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit on attachment to the FBI, sends a request to CIA headquarters for the surveillance photos of the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). Three days later, Wilshire explains the reason for his interest in an e-mail to a CIA analyst: “I’m interested because Khalid Almihdhar’s two companions also were couriers of a sort, who traveled between [the Far East] and Los Angeles at the same time ([H]azmi and [S]alah).” Hazmi refers to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salah Said is the alias al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash traveled under during the summit. Apparently, Wilshire receives the photos. Toward the end of May, a CIA analyst contacts a specialist working at FBI headquarters about the photographs. The CIA wants the FBI analyst to review the photographs and determine if a person who had carried money to Southeast Asia for bin Attash in January 2000 could be identified. The CIA fails to tell the FBI analyst anything about Almihdhar or Alhazmi. Around the same time, the CIA analyst receives an e-mail mentioning Alhazmi’s travel to the US. These two analysts travel to New York the next month and again the CIA analyst fails to divulge what he knows. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 283 ]
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) demands a new trial, saying that the recent cache of documents “unearthed” by the FBI relating to the bombing investigation (see May 10-11, 2001) supported his defense. Many of the documents concern the FBI’s investigation into a suspect known as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), which the agency now terms a “dead-end” investigation. [New York Times, 5/27/2001; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] Lawyers for both Nichols and convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) will receive the documents. [New York Times, 5/27/2001]
CIA manager Tom Wilshire recommends that an officer be assigned to review information about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, to see if there are any connections between it and the attack against the USS Cole. The task is assigned to Margaret Gillespie, an agent on loan from the FBI. Author Lawrence Wright will comment: “[B]ut [Wilshire] did not reveal that some of the participants might be in the United States. More important, he conveyed none of the urgency reflected in [an e-mail he sent his superiors around this time]; he told [Gillespie] that she should examine the material in her free time. She didn’t get around to it until the end of July.” Perhaps partially due to the request’s lack of urgency, it seemingly takes Gillespie three months to work out what Wilshire already knows: that some of the 9/11 hijackers have entered the US. One reason is that a database search conducted by Gillespie is incomplete (see (Late May-Early June)). However, Gillespie will alert one of Wilshire’s associates at the FBI to the men’s presence in the US in late August (see August 21-22, 2001). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 297-8 ; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
Although three surveillance photographs of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit are passed to the FBI at this time (see Late May, 2001 and June 11, 2001), another key photograph the CIA has of the meeting is withheld by CIA officers Clark Shannon and Tom Wilshire. The key photograph shows al-Qaeda logistics manager Khallad bin Attash, who commanded the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Author Lawrence Wright will later comment: “Thanks to [FBI agent Ali] Soufan’s interrogation of [USS Cole bomber Fahad al-Quso], the Cole investigators had an active file on Khallad and were preparing to indict him. Knowledge of that fourth photo would likely have prompted [FBI manager John] O’Neill to demand that the CIA turn over all information relating to Khallad and his associates. By withholding the picture of Khallad attending the meeting with the future hijackers [Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi], the CIA may in effect have allowed the September 11th plot to proceed.” [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] The CIA also has video and even more photos of the meeting (see January 5, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After), but these are not shared either, and it is unclear how aware Wilshire and Shannon are of this additional material.
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh admits that the bureau made a “serious error” in failing to produce nearly 4,000 pages of documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing before the convictions of conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). McVeigh’s lawyers are seeking a delay in McVeigh’s execution to give them a chance to review the newly-released documents (see May 10-11, 2001); the execution, scheduled for today, has already been postponed until June 11. Nichols’s lawyers have asked for a new trial based on the documents’ release (see May 15, 2001). In a hearing before a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee, Freeh gives details of how the breakdown occurred, and says he has ordered immediate corrective steps. “The FBI committed a serious error by not ensuring that every piece of information was properly accounted for and, when appropriate, provided to the prosecutors so that they could fulfill their discovery obligations,” Freeh tells the House committee members. “It was our unquestionable obligation to identify every document regardless of where it was generated and regardless of where in our many, many offices it resided.” However, Freeh says, none of the documents would have had a bearing on the trials of either McVeigh or Nichols: “Several lawyers and agents from the Justice Department and the FBI conducted a page-by-page review of the material. Nothing in the documents raises any doubt about the guilt of McVeigh and Nichols.” Representative David R. Obey (D-WI) says, “I find it incredibly frustrating that year after year the agency which is supposed to be the quintessential example of excellence in law enforcement winds up being an example of Mr. Foul-up.” [New York Times, 5/17/2001] Lawyers for both Nichols and McVeigh will receive the documents. [New York Times, 5/27/2001]
Margaret Gillespie, an FBI agent detailed to the CIA who has been asked to research the connection between al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit and the bombing of the USS Cole, checks a CIA database and finds some NSA information about 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and their travel to an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that was monitored by the US. The database she uses is Intelink, which only has information the CIA makes available to other intelligence agencies. However, she does not also examine the CIA’s Hercules database. It is unclear why she does not do so and whether, as an FBI agent, she has access to it. If she did access it, she would have a complete picture of the CIA’s knowledge of Almihdhar and Alhazmi and would know Almihdhar had a US visa and Alhazmi had traveled to the US (see January 2-5, 2000 and March 5, 2000). As Gillespie is only working this line of inquiry in her free time, she does not put together the information contained in the Hercules system until late August (see August 21-22, 2001). [Wright, 2006, pp. 340, 425]
Tom Wilshire, a CIA officer on loan to the FBI, obtains three photographs from the surveillance of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000), and passes them to Dina Corsi, an agent with the FBI’s bin Laden unit. Corsi learned of the photographs’ existence following a discussion with CIA officer Clark Shannon. Although Wilshire does not have a “substantive conversation” with Corsi about the photos, he does identify hijacker Khalid Almihdhar in one of them, and says Almihdhar traveled from Sana’a, Yemen, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in early January 2000. However, Wilshire omits to mention that Almihdhar has a US visa, his associate hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi has traveled to the US, or another associate, Khallad bin Attash, has been identified in the photos. He also does not say why the photos were taken. Author Lawrence Wright will later say the photos are passed because Wilshire wants to know what the FBI knows. The CIA says it thinks the photos may show Fahad al-Quso, an al-Qaeda operative involved in the USS Cole bombing. Corsi understands that the photos are “not formally passed” to the FBI, but are only for limited use at a forthcoming meeting. Therefore, only limited information about them is provided at the meeting, causing a disagreement (see June 11, 2001). However, Wilshire will later say that Corsi could give the photos to the FBI, but the FBI could not then give them to a foreign government (note: the photos had been provided to a foreign government five months previously, so this restriction is meaningless). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 286-7, 293-4 ; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Other pictures of the summit are available to the CIA, and there is even video footage (see February 2000 and Mid-May 2001), but these are not shared with the FBI or widely discussed.
One of the documents turned over to the lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) is a report about a purported eyewitness to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) whose statements were attacked during McVeigh’s trial. Eyewitness Morris John Kuper Jr. called the FBI two days after the bombing to say that an hour before the bombing, he saw a man resembling McVeigh walking in the company of another man near the Murrah Federal Building. He told agents that he saw both men get into an old, light-colored car similar to the Mercury Marquis McVeigh was arrested in later that morning (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). In court, Kuper described the other man as being similar to a sketch of the suspected, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Kuper also testified that he told agents they should check security cameras at two nearby buildings to see if they caught anything, but, Kuper told the court, “they took my name and phone number and never contacted me again.” FBI documents show that he contacted the FBI via email in October 1995, not on April 21 as he claimed; US Attorney Patrick Ryan challenged Kuper’s credibility in court over the discrepancy in dates. The newly discovered document details Kuper’s conversation with agents on April 21. Ryan says now that he never knew the document existed: “I certainly would never intentionally tell the jury someone had not come forward for six months if I knew they had come forward a couple of days after the bombing.” Ryan says that he still believes Kuper and other defense witnesses who claimed to have seen others accompanying McVeigh before the bombing were “fairly unreliable. The problem with any of these witnesses, even if some were right, you didn’t know which were the right ones and which were the wrong ones.” At the time, fellow prosecutor Beth Wilkinson compared the “John Doe No. 2” accounts to “Elvis sightings.” McVeigh has also said that “John Doe No. 2” does not exist. [New York Times, 5/27/2001]
There is some evidence CIA and FBI representatives meet on this day to compare notes about the investigation into the USS Cole bombing and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, but an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) will not be able to confirm the meeting takes place, as all the participants say they are unable to recall whether they attended the meeting or not. If the meeting actually occurs, it is probably attended by CIA officer Clark Shannon, FBI agent Dina Corsi, an FBI agent known as “Kathy”, and FBI agent Margaret Gillespie. The topics of discussion may include the state of the Cole investigation and the identification of Khallad bin Attash in photographs of al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. Despite the poor memories of the potential attendees, the OIG will later find an email from Shannon to Gillespie saying that they met on this date, and Kathy will say that Shannon’s name sounds familiar. However, the OIG will conclude, “We were unable to determine with certainty whether a meeting… took place on May 29.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 285, 296 ]
Two Yemeni men are detained after guards see them taking photos at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City. They are questioned by INS agents and let go. A few days later, their confiscated film is developed, showing photos of security checkpoints, police posts, and surveillance cameras of federal buildings, including the FBI’s counterterrorism office. The two men are later interviewed by the FBI and determined not to be a threat. However, they had taken the pictures on behalf of a third person said to be living in Indiana. By the time the FBI looks for him, he has fled the country and his documentation is found to be based on a false alias. In 2004, the identity of the third man reportedly still will be unknown. The famous briefing given to President George W. Bush on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001), will mention the incident, warning that the FBI is investigating “suspicious activity in this country consistent with the preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” When Bush’s August 6 briefing will be released in 2004, a White House fact sheet will fail to mention the still missing third man. [New York Post, 7/1/2001; New York Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 5/16/2004] In 2004, it will be reported that Dhiren Barot (a.k.a. Issa al-Hindi or Issa al-Britani), an alleged al-Qaeda operative in British custody, was sent to the US in early 2001 by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to case potential targets in New York City. He headed a three-man team that surveyed the New York Stock Exchange and other buildings. While there are obvious similarities between the two Yemeni man with an unknown boss and Barot with two helpers, it is not known if the two cases are related. [New York Times, 8/7/2004]
Ahmed Ressam as pictured in his Canadian passport. [Source: FBI]Ahmed Ressam is convicted in the spring of 2001 for attempting to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport (see December 14, 1999). Facing the likelihood of life in prison, he starts cooperating with authorities in an attempt to reduce his sentence. On this day, he details his experiences in al-Qaeda training camps and his many dealings with top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida. According to FBI notes from Ressam’s interrogation, Zubaida asked Ressam to send him six original Canadian passports to help Zubaida “get people to America” (see May 2001 and May 2001). Zubaida “wanted an operation in the US” and talked about the need to get explosives into the US for this operation, but Ressam makes it clear this was a separate plot from the one he was involved with. Notes from this day further explain that Ressam doesn’t know if any explosives made it into the US because once an operation is initiated, operators are not supposed to talk about it to anyone. [Calgary Herald, 4/3/2002; Newsweek, 4/28/2005] Zubaida told this to Ressam in 1999, but also indicated that he is willing to wait a year or more to make sure the plot comes to fruition successfully. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 146]
Similarity to 9/11 Attacks - There’s no concrete evidence that Ressam knows any detail of the 9/11 attacks. [Newsweek, 4/28/2005] However, Fox News will later report that roughly around this time Ressam testifies “that attack plans, including hijackings and attacks on New York City targets, [are] ongoing.” [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Questioned shortly after 9/11, Ressam will point out that given what he’s already told his US interrogators, the 9/11 attacks should not be surprising. He notes that he’d described how Zubaida talked “generally of big operations in [the] US with big impact, needing great preparation, great perseverance, and willingness to die.” Ressam had told of “plans to get people hired at airports, of blowing up airports, and airplanes.” [Newsweek, 4/28/2005]
Sharing the Warning - The CIA learns of this warning in June. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 146] Ressam will repeat some of this in a public trial in July (see July 8, 2001). Apparently, the FBI also waits until July to share the information from this debriefing with most other intelligence agencies, the INS, Customs Service, and the State Department. Ressam’s warnings will first be mentioned to Bush in his now famous August 6, 2001 briefing (see August 6, 2001), but as Newsweek will note, “The information from Ressam that was contained in [Bush’s] PDB [is] watered down and seem[s] far more bland than what the Algerian terrorist was actually telling the FBI.” Zubaida’s second plot will be boiled down to one sentence in the PDB: “Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaida was planning his own US attack.” [Newsweek, 4/28/2005]
The FBI shares information on terrorist threats with state and local law enforcement entities through National Law Enforcement Threat System (NLETS) reports. However, at this time, the heightened state of alert for an attack in the US is not reflected at all in these NLETS reports. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry notes, “In a May 2001 NLETS report, for example, the FBI assessed the risk of terrorism as ‘low,’ and, in a July 2, 2001 NLETS report, stated that the FBI had no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States, although the possibility of such an attack could not be discounted.” Further reports focus only on the potential of attacks against US interests overseas. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] On July 5 and 6, 2001, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke specifically warns FBI officials that al-Qaeda is planning “something spectacular,” and says, “They may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to do.” Yet apparently the FBI doesn’t pass any of Clarke’s warnings or sense of urgent emergency to the state and local emergency responders (see July 5, 2001)
(see July 6, 2001).
According to National Security Adviser Rice, in the summer of 2001, “The FBI tasked all 56 of its US field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.” [9/11 Commission, 4/8/2004] But the 9/11 Commission later will conclude, “An NSC [National Security Council] staff document at the time describes such a tasking as having occurred in late June but does not indicate whether it was generated by the NSC or the FBI.… [H]owever, the FBI could not find any record of having received such a directive.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264] According to Newsday, 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer “told Rice that the Commission had ‘to date… found nobody, nobody at the FBI, who knows anything about a tasking of field offices.’ Even Thomas Pickard, at the time acting FBI director, told the panel that he ‘did not tell the field offices to do this,’ Roemer said.” [Newsday, 4/10/2004] The last time the FBI field offices were tasked about the Muslim extremist threat was in April 2001 (see April 13, 2001). Pickard claims that he did individually warn some field offices about the heightened threat in July, but the 9/11 Commission will conclude, “We found little evidence that any such concerns had reached FBI personnel beyond the New York Field Office.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264, 536]
A police officer with the Mountain View Police Department in California uncovers a pattern of suspicious electronic probing of the computer systems of public utilities and government offices in the San Francisco Bay area. He notifies the FBI’s computer intrusion squad. The investigation reveals that the intruders are operating from the Middle East and South Asia. They are targeting the computer systems used to control the physical infrastructure of water systems and power plants throughout the US, suggesting a plan for a cyber attack. For many experts who have long warned against cyber terrorism or warfare, the “Mountain View case” as it is called, should be seen as a wake-up call for the government as well as the private sector (see 1996-2008). In a later interview, Richard Clarke, the national presidential adviser on cyberspace security from 2001 to 2003, will say: “The bottom line on the Mountain View case is the ease with which people can do virtual reconnaissance from overseas on our physical infrastructure and our cyber infrastructure.… We were lucky… that there were good people watching.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2002] Despite fears that al-Qaeda may be behind the intrusions (see 2002), the identity of the hackers will not be established. In 2003, Ron Dick, who was the head of the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) at the time, will say that the “case is still pending.… We never were… able to tie it back to any terrorist organizations.” [PBS Frontline, 3/18/2003]
A confidential informant tells an FBI field office agent that he has been invited to a commando-training course at a training camp operated by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The information is passed up to FBI headquarters, which rejects the idea of infiltrating the camp. An “asset validation” of the informant, a routine but critical exercise to determine whether information from the source was reliable, is also not done. The FBI later has no comment on the story. [US News and World Report, 6/10/2002] Around this time, John Walker Lindh, a Caucasian US citizen who recently converted to Islam, goes to one of the training camps for the first time and learns details of the 9/11 in a matter of weeks (see May-June 2001). Also around this time, seven men from Lackawanna, New York, go to a training camp in Afghanistan and hear clues about the 9/11 attacks before they drop out after only a few weeks (see (June 2001)).
Hani Hanjour. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]While most evidence places future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour on the East Coast in the summer of 2001, Hanjour may undergo some flight training in Phoenix, Arizona, as well. Hanjour trained at the Sawyer School of Aviation previously (see 1998), and there is some evidence he returns there. One school document records Hanjour’s name for use of a flight simulator on June 23, 2001, though his name does not appear on payment records. Faisal al-Salmi, Rayed Abdullah, and Lotfi Raissi also use the flight simulator this day. Al-Salmi will later be convicted of lying about his associations with Hanjour (see February 15, 2002). Abdullah had moved with Hanjour from Florida in 1997, and is known for giving extremist speeches at a Phoenix mosque (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Raissi will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot, then cleared (see September 21, 2001). There are also indications that Hanjour signs up to use a flight simulator in August with three other Muslim men, including al-Salmi. One Sawyer employee is fairly certain she sees Hanjour during the summer. Another witness sees Hanjour with al-Salmi elsewhere in Phoenix. The 9/11 Commission will note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” [New York Times, 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529] On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time (see July 10-September 11, 2001).
The CIA provides senior US policy makers with a classified warning of a potential attack against US interests that is thought to be tied to Fourth of July celebrations in the US. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/23/2001] The head of counterterrorism at the FBI, Dale Watson, will later recall that he and Cofer Black, the head of counterterrorism at the CIA, expected an attack to occur around the Fourth of July. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 265]
Dick Wolf. [Source: Deadline]Writers at NBC work on a five-hour big-budget drama miniseries called Terror, which will be about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Terror will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. [Entertainment Weekly, 9/7/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001]
Story Includes Attack Killing over 1,000 in New York - The storyline the writers come up with begins at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. There, a man who is a devotee of bin Laden tells a group of children that he is going to America on a mission for Allah, which the whole world will know about soon. Using a United Arab Emirates passport, he then enters the US across the Canadian border in a rental car. After arriving in New York, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Clues then lead to a bioterrorist release of anthrax being discovered. The story culminates in the threat of a release of smallpox.
Filming to Begin in September - Terror is intended to be broadcast in May 2002 as a two-hour movie on a Sunday followed by one-hour episodes over the next three nights. According to Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, the miniseries will have a large budget. “[T]his is expensive,” he will later say. [Variety, 3/19/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001] NBC is scheduled to begin filming in late September this year, according to some accounts. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] Wolf will say that filming is set to begin on September 24. [USA Today, 12/5/2002] But according to CNN, it is scheduled to begin the week after 9/11. [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Show's Creator Suggested Terrorism Storyline - The proposed show came about after Wolf was contacted earlier this year by Steve White, NBC’s executive vice president for movies, miniseries, and special projects, and asked if he had any ideas for a five-hour miniseries. Wolf suggested “terrorism in New York City,” which was a story he had “long wanted to do,” according to Los Angeles magazine. “[T]he only story I could think of that justified five hours is terrorism,” Wolf will comment. White agreed to the idea. When Wolf then told Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, that he wanted to do a miniseries about terrorism, Baer said the miniseries “should be [about] bioterrorism.”
Writers Spend Two Days in New York Working on Story - In June 2001, Wolf gets together with a number of his colleagues, including Baer and several writers, in New York, to develop the storyline for Terror. Wolf has already come up with a 40-page outline for the miniseries. Now, the group spends two days working on it. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] By August, according to Baer, “we were really deeply involved in the story.” Baer will recall that those working on the miniseries “would joke that we hoped the real thing didn’t pre-empt our work. Obviously, we had no idea of what was to come.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
NBC Does Extensive Research for Show - NBC spends nine months conducting meticulous research for Terror, according to Wolf. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer talks to experts at the Rand Corporation think tank, hires a consultant from Stanford University, and reads books on biological warfare. [Los Angeles, 4/2002] Those involved with the miniseries also talk with experts at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] And, according to Wolf, they talk to “top law enforcement people on the state, federal, and local levels” about bioterrorism. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer will comment that as a result of their extensive research, “We knew a lot of things most people didn’t know, because we spoke with so many experts all over the country.” At one point, the team working on the miniseries is talked to by the FBI, “because our accumulation of so much information raised a red flag.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
Miniseries Canceled in Response to 9/11 - Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. [Variety, 9/17/2001] It is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Baer and others involved with the show are actually in New York, only a couple of miles away from the World Trade Center, on the morning of September 11, doing planning work for the miniseries (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Entity Tags: University of Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dick Wolf, University of Michigan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RAND Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, NBC, Neal Baer, Stanford University
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Sahim Alwan. [Source: PBS]The FBI’s Buffalo, New York, field office receives an anonymous, handwritten letter from someone in the Yemeni community of Lackawanna, near Buffalo. The letter says that a group has traveled to “meet bin Laden and stay in his camp for training.” The person who wrote it adds, “I can not give you my name because I fear for my life.” It says that “two terrorists” have been recruiting in Lackawanna, and that eight men have gone to train in Afghanistan, and four more are planning to go later. It gives the names of the men. In fact, all eight of the men named are currently in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. This group will later be dubbed the “Lackawanna Six,” for the six of them that eventually return to the US (see September 13, 2002). The letter is assigned to FBI agent Edward Needham, the only Buffalo agent at this time working on counterterrorism. He runs the names through criminal databases and finds that many of them have criminal records for drug dealing and cigarette smuggling. He is skeptical that drug dealers would fight for al-Qaeda, but he sends the letter up the chain of command and formally opens an investigation on June 15. Three of them—Faysal Galab, Shafel Mosed, and Yaseinn Taher—are stopped on June 27 when they arrive in New York on a flight back from Pakistan, because Needham put their names on an FBI watch list. But they are merely questioned for two hours and released. He keeps occasional tabs on the men as they return from Afghanistan over the next months, but does not learn they actually were in an al-Qaeda training camp until after 9/11. [PBS Frontline, 10/16/2003; Temple-Raston, 2007, pp. 124-125, 129]
The environmental activism group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) releases a new handbook on its Web site, giving details about how to carry out a variety of attacks—“direct actions”—against corporations, universities, and government firms who in group members’ opinions are damaging the environment. One section discusses “the politics and practicalities of arson,” and observes: “Guarantee destruction of the target through careful planning and execution.… Take no shortcuts.… Never be satisfied with possible destruction or probable destruction. The objective of every action should be assured destruction. The risks are too high for anything else.” The techniques outlined in the handbook have been used several times recently, including in the firebombing of a University of Washington horticulture project and an Oregon tree farm (see May 21, 2001). The FBI says that after intensive investigation, it has determined that ELF has a cohesive and identifiable hierarchy of leadership; ELF has always insisted that it is a “leaderless resistance” movement that operates chiefly through independent cells of activists. “There is a certain core, or central organization, that knows what is going on throughout the country,” says Phil Donegan, a senior FBI agent in Portland, Oregon. “That’s part of the criminal case that we’re building.” Donegan says ELF’s activities warrant its designation as a domestic terrorism group. [Los Angeles Times, 6/9/2001]
An unnamed high-ranking State Department official is said to receive a $15,000 bribe around this time in connection with assistance he provides to a nuclear smuggling ring run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan (see (1997-2002) and Summer-Autumn 2001), according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and will say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] According to an intercepted phone call, the package is to be dropped off at an agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who is working for the network. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The high-ranking State Department official who is not named by the Sunday Times is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Marc Grossman at an American-Turkish Council meeting in 2005. [Source: Canal+]An unnamed high-ranking State Department official tips off members of a nuclear smuggling ring about a CIA operation to penetrate it, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and will say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. The ring is headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, and includes Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, as well as Turkish and Israeli representatives. The official is said to tell a member of the ring that a company the ring wants to do business with, Brewster Jennings & Associates, is a CIA front company. Brewster Jennings & Associates is a front for Valerie Plame Wilson, who will later be outed as a CIA officer in 2003, and possibly other operatives. A group of Turkish agents come to the US on the pretext of researching alternative energy sources and are introduced to Brewster Jennings through a lobby group, the American Turkish Council (ATC). The Turks apparently believe Brewster Jennings are energy consultants and plan to hire them. According to Edmonds, the State Department official finds out about this and contacts a foreign target under FBI surveillance, telling him, “[Y]ou need to stay away from Brewster Jennings because they are a cover for the government.” The FBI target then warns several people about Brewster Jennings, including a person at the ATC and an ISI agent, and Plame Wilson is moved to another operation.
Comments and Denial - The Sunday Times will comment: “If the ISI was made aware of the CIA front company, then this would almost certainly have damaged the investigation into the activities of Khan. Plame [Wilson]‘s cover would also have been compromised, although Edmonds never heard her name mentioned on the intercepts.” The unnamed State Department official will deny the allegations, calling them “false and malicious.” Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi will comment: “It’s pretty clear Plame [Wilson] was targeting the Turks. If indeed that [State Department] official was working with the Turks to violate US law on nuclear exports, it would have been in his interest to alert them to the fact that this woman’s company was affiliated to the CIA. I don’t know if that’s treason legally but many people would consider it to be.” [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
Official Said to be Marc Grossman - The high-ranking State Department official who is not named in the Sunday Times is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Entity Tags: Sibel Edmonds, Valerie Plame Wilson, Philip Giraldi, US Department of State, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Larisa Alexandrovna, Brewster Jennings & Associates, American-Turkish Council, Marc Grossman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
The New York Times will later report that, according to senior government officials, “A top secret report warned top officials of the FBI in the months before Sept. 11 that the bureau faced significant terrorist threats from Middle Eastern groups like al-Qaeda but lacked enough resources to meet the threat.” The internal assessment finds that virtually every major FBI field office is undermanned for evaluating and dealing with the threat from groups like al-Qaeda. The report gives detailed recommendations and proposes spending increases to address the problem. [New York Times, 6/1/2002] The report is the result of “MAXCAP 05,” short for maximum feasible capability, an evaluation effort launched by Dale Watson, the head of the new counterterrorism division created in 1999 (see December 1999), to identify the FBI’s weaknesses in counterterrorism and remedy them by 2005. It is presented to Robert Mueller upon his appointment as FBI director in early September. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 78-79; Zegart, 2007, pp. 142] The report will not be made public. [New York Times, 6/27/2007] However, in August 2001, acting FBI Director Tom Pickard meets Attorney General John Ashcroft to ask for supplemental funding for counterterrorism, but his request is turned down. On September 10, 2001, Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in FBI counterterrorism funding for the next year’s budget (see September 10, 2001).
On June 3, 2001, a British newspaper reveals that Hamid Aich, who is on the FBI’s international wanted list, is living in Dublin where he is applying for asylum. [Mirror, 2/18/2001; News of the World, 6/3/2001] Irish intelligence has been monitoring Aich’s movements since 1997, when authorities tied him to the mass murder of 77 tourists in Luxor, Egypt (see November 18, 1997). [Mirror, 10/17/2001; Daily Telegraph, 11/8/2001] He has since been linked to a number of militant groups (see, e.g., December 14, 1999). It is believed that between 1999 and 2001, Aich assisted 22 Islamic terrorist organizations, and even funded non-Islamic groups, for instance giving $200,000 to the ETA, a separatist group in the Basque region of Spain. Aich was also the director of Mercy International’s Ireland branch. (This charity has several known al-Qaeda connections by this time (see 1988-Spring 1995 and Late 1996-August 20, 1998).) Despite these connections, he will continue to live openly in Dublin after the newspaper discloses his location. [Mirror, 9/17/2001] Irish authorities only publicly say, “Aich’s case is at a very delicate stage.” [News of the World, 6/3/2001] Then, on July 24, he leaves Ireland using a false passport. The FBI, which took no action against him while he was living in Dublin, is reportedly “furious” with Irish police for allowing him to escape. He has not been heard of since, and he has not been included in any known lists of wanted al-Qaeda leaders. It is believed that Aich eventually ends up in Afghanistan. After 9/11, Aich will be described as “one of the FBI’s chief targets” and “one of bin Laden’s most trusted men” who ranks seventh in al-Qaeda’s hierarchy. [Mirror, 9/17/2001]
FBI agent Robert Wright gives the FBI a mission statement he wrote that outlines his complaints against his agency. It reads, in part, “Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are removed from the FBI, I will not feel safe. The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected terrorists residing within the United States. Unfortunately, more terrorist attacks against American interests, coupled with the loss of American lives, will have to occur before those in power give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.” Wright asks the FBI for permission to make his complaints public. Larry Klayman, chairman of the public-interest group Judicial Watch, claims that regulations require the FBI to give or deny clearance within 30 days, which would have made FBI failures an issue before 9/11. But the FBI delays making a decision and will only allow Wright to publicly reveal his mission statement in May 2002. [Cybercast News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] One month later, Wright and his lawyer David Schippers have a meeting with a reporter from the CBS news program 60 Minutes to express the concerns in his statement. He claims that he says it is only a matter of time before there will be an attack on US soil. However, he is prohibited by his superior from speaking to 60 Minutes or any other media outlet. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] Schippers will later claim that this month he also attempts to contact a number of important politicians with his concerns based on information from Wright and other FBI agents that he knows, but he was rebuffed (see July-Late August 2001).
Margaret Gillespie. [Source: Doug Dreyer / Associated Press]The FBI and the CIA hold a meeting to discuss the investigation into the USS Cole bombing and a possible connection between it and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000). However, the CIA and FBI headquarters refuse to share all they know, and agents investigating the Cole bombing become angry over this.
Attendees - The meeting, which lasts between two and four hours, is attended by CIA officer Clark Shannon, FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, an FBI agent loaned to the CIA named Margaret Gillespie, FBI agent Steve Bongardt, FBI agent Russell Fincher, and Assistant US Attorney David Kelley.
Purpose - Although there is no agenda for the meeting and Corsi will later say it is a brainstorming session, author Lawrence Wright will say that one of the reasons for the meeting is that CIA officer Tom Wilshire, an associate of Shannon’s, “want[ed] to know… what the FBI knew” about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. [ABC News, 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 289-294 ; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] FBI agent Ali Soufan will also say that he later learned that Wilshire “was fishing to see if the FBI knew anything about the men in the photos.” [Soufan, 2011, pp. 243]
Photos Shown - Initially, Bongardt and Fincher brief Shannon on progress in the Cole investigation. Corsi then shows the two Cole investigators three photographs taken at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000), showing future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and another man, and Shannon asks if the agents recognize Fahad al-Quso, who is thought to have attended the Malaysia summit and has been interviewed by the FBI. However, one of the photos shows Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and a tree, and the CIA has already recognized Almihdhar and Alhazmi, so it is unclear how the Cole investigators are supposed to recognize al-Quso in the photo. Corsi received the photographs from Wilshire, but Wilshire did not provide her with all the relevant information about them (see Late May, 2001).
Questions Asked - Bongardt and Fincher ask who is in the pictures, why were taken, and whether there are other photos of the meeting. Shannon refuses to say, but Corsi eventually admits one of the men is named Khalid Almihdhar. As a name alone is not sufficient reason to start an investigation, Bongardt asks for a date of birth or other details that will allow him to know which Khalid Almihdhar in the world is being discussed, but Shannon refuses to provide them. Shannon admits that Almihdhar was traveling on a Saudi passport and then leaves the meeting. Lawrence Wright will say that providing a date of birth is “standard procedure—the first thing most investigators would do.” Realizing that the photos pertain to the Cole investigation, Bongardt and Fincher become angry at the lack of information being provided and the meeting descends into a “shouting match.” [ABC News, 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 289-294 ; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
What Shannon Knew - Shannon will later admit that at this time he knew Almihdhar had a US visa, that Alhazmi had traveled to the US in 2000, that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had been recognized in one of the photos, and that Alhazmi was known to be an experienced operative. However, he does not tell any of this to any FBI agents, as he apparently thinks he does not have the authority. He does not let them keep copies of the photos either and will give conflicting accounts of the meeting after 9/11 (see Between September 12, 2001 and October 17, 2002). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 289-292 ]
Corsi Withholds Information - Corsi has NSA information saying Almihdhar and Alhazmi attended the Malaysia meeting, but apparently believes that the Cole agents cannot be told more because of restrictions on sharing intelligence with criminal agents (see July 19, 1995). However, one of the Cole agents present is an intelligence agent, so the information can be communicated to him immediately without Corsi obtaining permission from the NSA and/or Justice Department. In addition, the NSA sent the information to the FBI’s New York field office, where the Cole investigators are based, in 1999 (see December 1999-January 2000). Furthermore, when she asks the NSA’s permission to share the information 10 weeks later, the NSA approves the request on the same day (see August 27-28, 2001). She does not share the information at this time, but promises Bongardt and Fincher to try to do so later. The Cole agents will not receive more information for months. [US Congress, 9/20/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 269, 537]
Almihdhar Gets New Visa - Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new, multiple reentry US visa (see May 2001 and June 13, 2001). [US News and World Report, 12/12/2001; US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Entity Tags: Dina Corsi, Khalid Almihdhar, David Kelley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clark Shannon, Margaret Gillespie, Ali Soufan, Steve Bongardt, Central Intelligence Agency, Russell Fincher, Khallad bin Attash, Nawaf Alhazmi, Lawrence Wright
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Lawyers for FBI laboratory employees send an urgent letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft alleging that a key prosecution witness in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) may have lied during McVeigh’s trial. The accusations center around Steven Burmeister, now the FBI laboratory’s chief of scientific analysis, who testified that the FBI crime lab found residues of explosives on the clothing that McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested after the bomb exploded (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). The letter reads in part, “Material evidence presented by the government in the OKBOMB prosecution through the testimony of Mr. Burmeister appears to be false, misleading, and potentially fabricated,” referring to testimony Burmeister had given in an unrelated civil case, which contradicted his testimony in the McVeigh case; Burmeister had talked about the restrictions on his work area and the requirement that laboratory employees wear protective clothing. The letter is sent to Ashcroft by fax and by courier with the notation “urgent matter for the immediate attention of the attorney general.” The letter will sit in Ashcroft’s clerical office for nearly two months before being turned over to the FBI. Justice Department spokesperson Barbara Comstock will say that neither Ashcroft nor other top department officials ever saw the letter, and it was never reviewed to determine if it should be given to McVeigh’s lawyers. Prosecutors used Burmeister’s testimony to determine the exact composition of the bomb McVeigh used to bring down the Murrah Federal Building and kill 168 people. The judge in the trial, Richard P. Matsch, refused to allow McVeigh’s lawyers to hear criticisms of the crime lab’s evidence handling (see January 27, 1997 and May 20, 1997). The accusations against Burmeister were never given to McVeigh’s lawyers, even as a judge was weighing the option to delay McVeigh’s execution because the government failed to turn over other evidence (see May 10-11, 2001, May 16, 2001, and June 1-7, 2001). The letter is later turned over to the lawyers of convicted bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997, June 4, 1998, and May 15, 2001), who will face 160 counts of murder in an upcoming trial by the State of Oklahoma (see September 5, 2001). [New York Times, 5/1/2003]
Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999. [Source: Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [CNN, 6/15/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/2001; Washington Post, 8/2/2002] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri militants, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or militants associated with bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/2001] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “but remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America’s enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” [MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Malik’s case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Malik’s court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen’s court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” [Washington Post, 8/2/2002] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [CNN, 6/15/2001; Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Associated Press, 12/1/2001] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutsche Bank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Jersey Journal, 6/20/2001] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [CNN, 6/15/2001; Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Palm Beach Post, 1/12/2002] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups did not make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI did not make the case a counterterrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Federal agents frequently couldn’t get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002] Glass says, “Wouldn’t you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]‘s phone and Malik’s phone?” [WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass’s own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002]
Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Malik, Kevin Ingram, World Trade Center, Diaa Mohsen, US Customs Service, Walter Kapij, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Randy Glass, Operation Diamondback
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
Following a meeting at which FBI agents investigating the attack on the USS Cole were shown pictures of operatives who attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, including 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, but were not given all the relevant information (see June 11, 2001), deputy head of the investigation Steve Bongardt continues to ask for the material, but FBI headquarters fails to provide it. Bongardt apparently has “heated telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges” with FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi over the passage of the information. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 291, 294 ] Bongardt will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, “I’ve had several conversations with the analyst [Corsi] after that, because we would talk on other matters, and almost every time I would ask her, ‘What’s the story with the Almihdhar information, when is it going to get passed, do we have anything yet, when is it going to get passed,’ and each time I was told that the information had not been passed yet. And the sense I got from here, based on our conversations, was that she was trying as hard as she could to get the information passed or at least the ability to tell us about the information.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002] But in fact Corsi does not appear to take any steps towards having the information passed to the Cole investigators for two and a half months after the meeting. Part of the relevant information is from a wiretap on Almihdhar’s phone (see Shortly Before December 29, 1999) and, due to measures related to the “wall,” the NSA general counsel has to approve its passage to criminal agents. Corsi finally asks the NSA to approve passage of the information on August 27; the NSA immediately agrees, but Corsi continues to withhold the information from Bongardt (see August 27-28, 2001). The other part of the information consists of photos of the two hijackers in Malaysia with other extremists (see January 5-8, 2000). Corsi will later say she “probably” has follow up conversations about passing the photographs with the two CIA officers, Tom Wilshire and Clark Shannon, who gave them to her (see Late May, 2001), but these alleged conversations do not result in the photos being passed to Bongardt, even though Wilshire will later say that, as far as he was concerned at this point, they could be distributed through the FBI. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 294 ] After Corsi is told that Almihdhar is in the US (see August 21-22, 2001), this information is made available to intelligence investigators at the FBI (see August 28, 2001), but not to the team investigating the Cole bombing (see August 28, 2001).
A guard on the US embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. [Source: CNN]In early June, new threats are received in Yemen and create a security crisis for the FBI team investigating the bombing of the USS Cole, as Yemeni authorities say they have arrested eight men who are part of a plot to blow up the US embassy in Sana’a, where the team is staying. Although the FBI is apparently on the verge of being granted access to a group of people who may have further information about the bombing, FBI manager John O’Neill and director Louis Freeh agree that the team should be pulled out and they all fly home. The investigation moved at a reduced pace after staff were relocated from Aden, where the attack occurred, to Sana’a, the country’s capital. O’Neill will send agents back to Yemen on his last day with the FBI in late August (see August 22, 2001). [Time, 7/10/2001; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ]
Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami apparently attempts to purchase a gun at a US gun show. According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, an unnamed person later tells the FBI that he is at a gun show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a customer. But while waiting for his daughter to come out of the bathroom, a man resembling Alnami approaches him and asks how to purchase a gun without paperwork or having to wait. The person tells Alnami that it is not possible, but Alnami asserts that he understands that it is. Apparently, this is the extent of their interaction, and it is not known if this person is in fact Alnami, or if he manages to later successfully buy a gun. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] There will later be some disputed claims that a gun is used by the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A courtroom artist’s depiction of Mahmoud Jaballah. [Source: CBC]On June 27, 2001, Nabil al-Marabh is arrested while trying to enter the US from Canada in the back of a tractor-trailer, carrying a forged Canadian passport and a bogus social insurance card. [St. Catherines Standard, 10/2/2001] The New York Times will note that, “American officials had plenty of reason to believe that he was up to no good. Nine months earlier, he had been identified to American intelligence agents as one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in the United States. American customs agents knew about money he had transferred to an associate of Osama bin Laden in the Middle East. And the Boston police had issued a warrant for his arrest after he violated probation for stabbing a friend with a knife. But [US officials] simply let him go.” [New York Times, 10/14/2001] The US turns him back to the Canadians. He is held for two weeks, then released on bail despite evidence linking him to militants (see Shortly Before July 11, 2001). During his two-week detention in a Canadian prison, al-Marabh boasts to other prisoners that he remains in contact with the FBI. When one prisoner asks him why, his reply is “because I’m special.” After 9/11, these prisoners will be puzzled that the FBI has not tried to interview them on what they know about al-Marabh. Al-Marabh will fail to show up for a Canadian deportation hearing in August and for a court date in September. It appears he quickly sneaks back into the US instead. [St. Catherines Standard, 10/2/2001] Al-Marabh’s Boston landlord will later be asked if he thought al-Marabh could have been a terrorist. The landlord will reply, “He was too stupid, number one, to be a terrorist. Because terrorists today are very intelligent people. But he might be used by some smarter or intelligent sources, who use people like that.” [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] In July, just after he is released on bail in Canada, the Boston police will go to his former Boston address with a warrant for his March arrest, but he will not be there. [New York Times, 10/14/2001] Also at some point in July, Canadian authorities inform US Customs about some dubious financial transactions involving al-Marabh, and apparently the information is used in a Customs money-laundering probe (see Spring 2001). [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] One prominent former Canadian intelligence official will say that whether a more detailed look at al-Marabh at this time could have stopped the 9/11 attacks is an “intriguing question.… It becomes ever more intriguing as evidence seeps in.” [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/2001]
Ali Soufan, an FBI agent working on the investigation into the USS Cole bombing, submits a third request to the CIA for information about travel by al-Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia (see Late November 2000 and April 2001). Whereas in previous requests to the CIA he had only asked for information about a possible meeting somewhere in Southeast Asia, he has now developed a much clearer understanding of the relationship between al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash and the Cole conspirators, and correctly suspects some operatives met in Malaysia in January 2000. He asks the CIA about this and about a trip by bin Attash to Bangkok to meet another two members of the Cole bombing team (see January 13, 2000). The CIA actually monitored the meeting Soufan suspects took place in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and considered it so important that the CIA director and other top officials were repeatedly briefed about it (see January 6-9, 2000), but the CIA does not respond to his inquiry. FBI managers are also aware of some of this information, including the existence of an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia at the time Soufan suspects one took place, but they apparently do not tell Soufan either (see January 6, 2000). [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Author Lawrence Wright will later say: “The FBI’s investigating the death of 17 American sailors and they’re asking the CIA for information that would solve the crime. And the CIA is refusing, essentially obstructing justice.” [Federal News Service, 10/5/2006]
In the summer of 2001, the team officially concludes that the Sudan government no longer has any terrorist ties. However, the US does not take Sudan off its official list of terrorist states (and as of 2007 Sudan has yet to be taken off the list). A few weeks before 9/11, the US team finally agrees to examine Sudan’s files on al-Qaeda. The US has repeatedly been offered the files and turned them down (see March 8, 1996-April 1996, April 5, 1997, and May 2000), but by now the bulk of the files are six years old and date back to when bin Laden lived in Sudan. It is not entirely certain if the files are handed over before 9/11, but one account specifies that the files are handed over in July 2001. Vanity Fair will later note that in any case, “Events suggest that by then it was too late.” [Observer, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 1/2002; Miniter, 2003, pp. 148]
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