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Profile: Operation Bojinka
Operation Bojinka was a participant or observer in the following events:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a 1998 FBI wanted poster. [Source: FBI]9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lives in the Philippines for a year, planning Operation Bojinka until the plot is exposed in January 1995 and he has to flee (see January 6, 1995). Police later say he lives a very expensive and non-religious lifestyle. He goes to karaoke bars and go-go clubs, dates go-go dancers, stays in four-star hotels, and takes scuba diving lessons. Once he rents a helicopter just to fly it past the window of a girlfriend’s office in an attempt to impress her. This appears to be a pattern; for instance, he has a big drinking party in 1998. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002] Officials believe his obvious access to large sums of money indicate that some larger network is backing him by this time. [Los Angeles Times, 6/6/2002] One of the participants in Bojinka is a Pakistani businessman with alleged ties to the ISI and the drug trade. This Pakistani is said to use counterfeit US currency to help fund the Bojinka plot (see September 18-November 14, 1994). It has been suggested that KSM, a Pakistani, is able “to operate as he please[s] in Pakistan” during the 1990s [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002] , and he is linked to the Pakistani ISI by 1993 (see Spring 1993). His hedonistic time in the Philippines resembles reports of hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in the Philippines in 1998-2000 (see December 1999). KSM returns to the Philippines occasionally, and he is even spotted there after 9/11 (see September 1998-January 1999).
A young Indonesian nicknamed Hambali forms a front company that ties al-Qaeda figures to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot. Hambali had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, repeatedly met with bin Laden there, and allied himself to bin Laden’s cause. In 1994, Hambali, living in a village north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, began frequently receiving visitors. According to his landlord, “Some looked Arab and others white.” There has been no explanation who these “white” visitors may have been. Hambali had been very poor prior to this time, but he is suddenly “flush with newfound cash” brought by the visitors. In June 1994, he founds a front company called Konsonjaya with Wali Khan Amin Shah, a key Bojinka plotter, and both their names are listed on the eight-person board of directors. Shah fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and bin Laden will even admit knowing him and praise him in an 1998 interview (see May 28, 1998). Philippine police phone taps show that frequent calls are made from the Konsonjaya offices in Malaysia to the Philippines offices of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law who is also believed to be part of the Bojinka plot (see 1994). [Time, 4/1/2002] A Malaysian official will later say that Hambali spends time in the Philippines with Shah and bomber Ramzi Yousef in 1994 as they plan the Bojinka plot. [Washington Post, 2/3/2002] Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, another Konsonjaya director, makes frequent trips from Malaysia to the Philippines while planning for the Bojinka plot is under way, and he is later believed to play a key role in financing the plot. In early 1995, after the Bojinka plot is broken up, one of the arrested Bojinka plotters will confess to Konsonjaya’s role in the plot (see February-Early May 1995) and a Philippine investigator’s flow chart of the Bojinka plotters and their connections will prominently include Konsonjaya (see Spring 1995). However, neither the Philippine nor US government appears interested in capturing Hambali, al-Ghafari, or the others involved in Konsonjaya before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] Hambali will continue to live openly in Malaysia, even throwing a party every year for hundreds of people (see April 1991-Late 2000). He will go on to plan other al-Qaeda attacks and will attend a key planning meeting for the 9/11 plot in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). [Time, 4/1/2002] Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
Damage inside the Philippine Airlines flight. [Source: CNN]Ramzi Yousef attempts a trial run of Operation Bojinka, planting a small bomb on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo, and disembarking on a stopover before the bomb is detonated. The bomb explodes, killing one man and injuring several others. It would have successfully caused the plane to crash if not for the heroic efforts of the pilot. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002] A man telephones the Associated Press and claims the attack was the work of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine militant group. One Bojinka plotter will later confess that the caller was Ramzi Yousef. Yousef made the call as part of a long term cooperation arrangement with the Abu Sayyaf. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Yousef had been working with the Abu Sayyaf for several years and members of the group are deeply involved in the Bojinka plot (see December 1991-May 1992 and Late 1994-January 1995).
In early 1995, the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot that would have killed thousands, is foiled in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995). It is quickly learned that Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, helped fund the plot while living in the Philippines as regional director of the Saudi-based charity, the Islamic International Relief Organization (IIRO). Wali Khan Amin Shah, a known bin Laden associate and Bojinka plotter, also was an employee of the IIRO in the Philippines. Yet the Philippine branch of the IIRO will remain open until 2000, apparently because of political pressure from Saudi Arabia. Even then, the IIRO is allowed to continue funding projects in the Philippines through a branch office in a neighboring country. One Philippine senior intelligence official will later complain, “We could not touch the IIRO.” [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ] Counterterrorism expert Zachary Abuza will note that the IIRO is a “very well connected charity, whose supporters include the Saudi royal family and the top echelon of Filipino society.” One board member of “the IIRO Philippine office was, not coincidentally, the Saudi Ambassador.” [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 8/1/2003] In 1996, a secret CIA report will conclude that the IIRO is funding radical militant groups in many countries, including the Philippines, but the US will not move against it either (see January 1996). Another Philippines-based Islamic charity, the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), is also connected to the Bojinka plot. The IRIC’s director is Ahmad al-Hamwi (better known by his alias Omar Abu Omar), who is the brother of Khalifa’s Philippine wife. Investigators determine that most of the funding for the Bojinka plot went through a bank account controlled by al-Hamwi. As a result, the IRIC is shut down in 1995 and al-Hamwi leaves the country. However, its operations and staff is taken over by another Islamic charity headed by Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari. Al-Ghafari is also a close associate of Khalifa and is believed to have been involved in the Bojinka plot as well (see June 1994). Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002). [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ; Australian, 4/8/2006] Al-Hamwi will be granted asylum in Australia in 1996 and will continue to live there even after media reports expose his presence there and his ties to Islamic militancy (see July 6, 1995-June 26, 1996). [Australian, 4/8/2006] US will finally officially declare the IIRO’s Philippine branch a terrorism funder in late 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
Two businessmen inform Philippine police that they heard explosions and saw Middle Eastern men engaged in what appeared to be military-type training on a remote beach two hours from Manila. Police quickly investigate and discover a partially burned Bible and pamphlets preaching a radical version of Islam. As a result, police go on red alert and several days later will foil the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). An investigation conducted the following month will conclude that there were 20 people taking part in military-styled training on the beach from the last week of December until January 2. Fifteen of them were foreign nationals, from Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan. [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33] Ramzi Yousef is likely elsewhere at the time, but a beach house at this training location was rented by him. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 86] Despite the suggestion that large numbers of people are involved in the Bojinka plot, the US will apparently lose interest in the case after detaining just three of the plotters. Later in 1995, the Philippine government will arrest several dozen suspected foreign terrorists and then let them go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33]
The Josefa apartment, where the fire that foiled the Bojinka plot took place. [Source: CBC]It has widely been reported that the Bojinka plot was stopped by pure accident, days before plots to kill the Pope and thousands of airline passengers were to go forward (see January 6, 1995). Philippine policewoman Aida Fariscal is said to have made the first arrest by responding to a routine report of a fire in the Manila apartment where some of the plotters were staying. She chases Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad down the street and arrests him when he trips on a tree stump. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001] However, shortly after 9/11, the Philippine press will report that while the initial arrest may have been coincidental, Philippine intelligence was already monitoring Ramzi Yousef and the apartment where the fire took place. Rolando San Juan was reportedly an undercover agent monitoring Yousef and his apartment mate Murad. He was passing what he learned to his brother Erick San Juan, a special intelligence officer. One article concludes, “The role of the San Juan brothers is not known publicly and it is time the Philippine and US governments give them due credit for the unmasking of the activities of Murad and Yousef leading to their capture.” [Filipino Reporter, 10/11/2001] In 2002, the Los Angeles Times will discount the widely reported accidental fire story and say, “The truth about that night and the fire, officials say now, is a bit more complicated.… Government officials now say police, worried about the pope’s imminent arrival, started the fire that set off the alarm at the Josefa. When it sounded, the occupants ran out, the cops walked in and looked around. They then left and hunted down a search warrant.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] It will also be later revealed that an undercover operative named Edwin Angeles actually worked with Yousef on the Bojinka plot while reporting to the Philippine government (see Late 1994-January 1995)), and other key Bojinka plotters such as Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and Tariq Javid Rana were under intensive surveillance before the fire as well (see December 1, 1994 and December 1994-April 1995). It is not known what US intelligence may have been told about this surveillance, if anything. Despite all this surveillance, all the Bojinka plotters except Murad manage to escape, although many, such as Yousef, are arrested later (see February 7, 1995).
One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995. [Source: Peter Lance]Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 78; Lance, 2006, pp. 138] Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. [Insight, 5/27/2002] Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. [Agence France-Presse, 12/8/2001; Insight, 5/27/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [Lance, 2003, pp. 260-61] A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).
Bomb making materials found in Yousef’s Manila apartment. [Source: CNN]After a late night raid of the Manila, Philippines, apartment central to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), investigators find what the Los Angeles Times calls “an intelligence gold mine.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Very quickly, a team of US intelligence agents joins Philippine investigators to sort through the evidence, which fills three police vans. Investigators are able to match fingerprints in the apartment with fingerprints on record for Ramzi Yousef, already believed to be the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). There are priests’ robes, pipe bombs, a dozen passports, chemicals, maps of the Pope’s planned route through Manila, and more. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] “The most damning information was gleaned from Yousef’s notebook computer, and four accompanying diskettes.” The data is encrypted and in Arabic, but technicians are quickly able to decipher and translate it. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Computer data includes “the names of dozens of associates, and photos of some; a record of five-star hotels; and dealings with a trading corporation in London, a meat market owner in Malaysia, and an Islamic center in Tucson, Ariz.… They describe how money moved through an Abu Dhabi banking firm.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Photographs of all five operatives who would place bombs on airplanes are recovered from a deleted computer file. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Wali Khan Amin Shah is identified from one of these five photos, plus a list of cell phone numbers found on the hard drive. He is traced to another Manila apartment and arrested on January 11. Under interrogation, Shah, who soon escapes from custody in unexplained circumstances (see January 13, 1995), confesses that most of the funds for the Bojinka plot were channeled to Yousef through a bank account belonging to Ahmad al-Hamwi, a Syrian working at the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), a charity front run by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] But despite these leads, Ramzi Yousef is the only other person successfully arrests based on all this data (and Yousef’s arrest will largely be due to an informant responding to an existing tip off program (see February 7, 1995)). The Philippine government will arrest other Bojinka plotters later in the year, including another one of the five operatives assigned to place bombs on the planes, but they will all be released (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). Al-Hamwi is never arrested, while Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time of the Bojinka raid but is soon let go (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The IRIC will be closed down, but its operations are immediately taken over by another close associate of Khalifa (see 1995 and After).
Abdul Hakim Murad.
[Source: Justice Department]Philippine and US investigators learn that Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different attacks when they were foiled in early January. In addition to the planned assassination of the Pope, and the first phase of Operation Bojinka previously discovered, they also planned to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. It is often mistakenly believed that there is one Bojinka plan to blow up some planes and crash others into buildings, but in fact these different forms of attack are to take place in two separate phases. [Lance, 2003, pp. 259] Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this second phase through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad’s latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Yousef ] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at the CIA headquarters. He will use no bomb or explosives. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.”
[Insight, 5/27/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 277-78]
Ramzi Yousef apprehended. [Source: Public domain]Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan, in a safe house owned by Osama bin Laden (see February 1992-February 7, 1995). At the time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef’s capture. [Lance, 2003, pp. 328] Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka, but Parker got cold feet and instead turned in Yousef (see February 3-7, 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 284-85] Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will later report that at this time the CIA “fought with the FBI over arresting Yousef in Pakistan—the CIA reportedly wanted to continue tracking him—and President Clinton was forced to intervene.” [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] Yousef is rendered to the US the next day and makes a partial confession while flying there (see February 8, 1995).
On day after Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he makes a partial confession while being flown to the US. Due to the speed of events, only two US officials, FBI agent Chuck Stern and Secret Service agent Brian Parr, sit with Yousef during the flight. Both officials had been part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) operation to catch him, and they have many questions for him.
Confession - Yousef, under the mistaken impression that anything he says to them is not admissible in court if no notes or recordings are taken, talks to them for six hours. He confesses to bombing the WTC (see February 26, 1993). He says he tried to shear the support columns holding up one tower so it could fall into the other and kill up to 250,000 people. When asked who funded him, he says he had been given money by friends and family, but refuses to elaborate. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 107-109] In fact, the agents secretly take notes and they will be used as evidence in Yousef’s trial.
Comment on WTC - As Yousef is flying over New York City on his way to a prison cell, an FBI agent asks him, “You see the Trade Centers down there, they’re still standing, aren’t they?” Yousef responds, “They wouldn’t be if I had enough money and enough explosives.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 135]
Some Information Forthcoming, Other Information Withheld - Yousef also soon admits to ties with Wali Khan Amin Shah, who fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, who is being held by the US at the time (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). But although Yousef talks freely, he makes no direct mention of bin Laden, or the planned second wave of Operation Bojinka that closely parallels the later 9/11 plot (see Spring 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 297-98] He also fails to mention his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who is still at large and was a co-mastermind in most of Yousef’s plots. When talking about his preparations to assassinate President Clinton in Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994), Yousef makes a vague mention of an “intermediary” who is actually KSM, but refuses to discuss him any further. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxiv-xxv] However, Yousef’s arrest will soon lead investigators to KSM in other ways (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996).
One of the Bojinka documents found. This Word document apparently lists flight times. [Source: CBC]In the wake of uncovering the Operation Bojinka plot, Philippine authorities find a letter on a computer disc written by the plotters of the failed 1993 WTC bombing. This letter apparently was never sent, but its contents will be revealed in 1998 congressional testimony. [US Congress, 2/24/1998] The Manila police chief also reports discovering a statement from bin Laden around this time that, although they failed to blow up the WTC in 1993, “on the second attempt they would be successful.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/13/2001]
FBI agents, having held Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad for about a month, write a memo containing what they have learned from interrogating him. The memo contains many interesting revelations, including that Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, “wanted to return to the United States in the future to bomb the World Trade Center a second time.” However, this memo does not contain a word about the second wave of Operation Bojinka—to fly about 12 hijacked airplanes into prominent US buildings—even though Murad had recently fully confessed this plot to Philippines investigators, who claim they turned over tapes, transcripts, and reports with Murad’s confessions of the plot to the US when they handed over Murad. It has not been explained why this plot is not mentioned in the FBI’s summary of Murad’s interrogation. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280-82] If the US does not learn of the second wave plot from Murad’s interrogation, it appears the US get the same information from a different source at about the same time (see Spring 1995). After 9/11, a Philippine investigator will refer to this third plot when he says of the 9/11 attacks, “It’s Bojinka. We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn’t they pay attention?” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] In an interview after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will claim that the 9/11 attacks were a refinement and resurrection of this plot. [Australian, 9/9/2002]
A 1998 CNN map of likely flights to be hijacked in one version of Operation Bojinka. [Source: CNN]A search of the Lexis-Nexus database indicates that the first media mention of the Bojinka plot to crash an airplane into CIA headquarters occurs on this day. An article in the Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, will first mention the Bojinka plots to assassinate the Pope and then blow up about a dozen airplanes over the Pacific. Then the article states, “Then the ultimate assault on the so-called ‘infidels’: a plane flown by a suicide bomber was to nose-dive and crash into the American headquarters of the CIA, creating carnage.” [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] While this first mention may be obscure from a United States point of view, the Bojinka planes as weapons plot will be mentioned in other media outlets in the years to come. In fact, in 2002 CNN correspondent David Ensor will comment about CNN coverage, “[E]veryone, all your viewers who wanted to, could have known that at one point Ramzi Yousef and some others were allegedly plotting to fly an airliner into the CIA headquarters in the United States, that, in fact, the idea of using an airliner as a weapon, that idea at least, had already been aired.…. We talked about it. We’ve done stories about it for years, frankly.” [CNN, 6/5/2002]
A Syrian suspected of involvement in the al-Qaeda Bojinka plot is granted asylum in Australia even though the Australian government is aware of some of his apparent terrorism ties. Ahmad al-Hamwi, a.k.a. Omar Abu Omar, was head of the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC) from 1993 to 1995, a charity front closely tied to the failed Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In 1995, Philippine investigators determined that most of the funding for the plot went through a bank account controlled by al-Hamwi. [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ] At the same time, he was roommates with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and married the sister of one of Khalifa’s Philippine wives. He worked closely with Khalifa in the IRIC until Khalifa was forced to leave the country in late 1994 (see December 1, 1994). [Australian, 4/8/2006] Shortly after the Bojinka plot is foiled by Philippines authorities in early 1995, the IRIC is shut down and al-Hamwi is brought in for questioning. However, he is let go and travels to Australia in July 1995 then immediately applies for asylum there. The Australian asylum review board is aware of the following things:
He was interrogated by Philippines intelligence and questioned about his ties to WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and the Bojinka plot to kill the Pope.
He tells the review board that he was interrogated by a senior officer with direct ties to the Philippine president
He came into Australia using a fake Dutch passport and has two fake Syrian passports.
He has ties to Khalifa, who had been convicted of funding a bombing in Jordan.
He is a longtime member of the militant group the Muslim Brotherhood.
But incredibly, in June 1996 he is granted him asylum on the grounds that he could be persecuted in Syria due to his ties to the Brotherhood. [Refugee Review Tribunal, 6/26/1996; Australian, 4/8/2006] In 2006, it will be reported that he is still living openly in Australia. Further, Philippines intelligence alleges that he came to the Philippines after having been banned from Turkey for his suspected involvement in a 1986 bombing there. It is not clear how the Australian government missed information like this, or if they just ignored it. [Australian, 4/8/2006] In the wake of these 2006 reports, the Australian government will claim to be investigating his status. Yet there have been no reports that he has been arrested or had his residency revoked since then. [Australian, 4/10/2006; Age (Melbourne), 4/10/2006]
Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/1996] In the nearly 6,000-page transcript of the three-month Bojinka trial, there is not a single mention of the “second wave” of Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see January 20, 1995 and February-Early May 1995). However, not only does the FBI not call Mendoza to testify, but his name is not even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11,” author Peter Lance will later note. [Lance, 2003, pp. 350-51] Murad was extensively tortured during his imprisonment in the Philippines (see After January 6, 1995), and some observers such as law professor Alan Dershowitz will assert that Murad’s case proves the reliability of torture, claiming that Murad’s torture prevented a major disaster. However, others disagree. Law professor Stephanie Athey, in her examination of the case, will write in 2007 that Murad’s torture actually produced little useful information. A computer found in Murad’s apartment held key details of the plot (see January 7-11, 1995 and Spring 1995). CIA agent Michael Scheuer will later say that the information collected from Murad’s apartment, not the information gleaned from Murad’s torture, provided actual useful intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Al Gore, issues its final report, which highlights the risk of terrorist attacks in the US. The report references Operation Bojinka, the failed plot to bomb twelve American airliners out of the sky over the Pacific Ocean, and calls for increased aviation security. The commission reports that [it] “believes that terrorist attacks on civil aviation are directed at the United States, and that there should be an ongoing federal commitment to reducing the threats that they pose.” [Gore Commission, 2/12/1997] However, the report has little practical effect: “Federal bureaucracy and airline lobbying [slow] and [weaken] a set of safety improvements recommended by a presidential commission—including one that a top airline industry official now says might have prevented the September 11 terror attacks.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/6/2001]
Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995)
(see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]
During his interview with John Miller, bin Laden is positioned in front of East Africa on a map, and US embassies will be bombed in East Africa several months later. Bin Laden has considered it his religious duty to give warning before attacks and thus has left clues like this. [Source: CNN]In an interview with ABC News reporter John Miller, Osama bin Laden indicates he may attack a US military passenger aircraft using antiaircraft missiles. Bin Laden says: “We are sure of our victory. Our battle with the Americans is larger than our battle with the Russians.… We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States, and will be separate states, and will retreat from our land and collect the bodies of its sons back to America.” In the subsequent media coverage, Miller will repeatedly refer to bin Laden as “the world’s most dangerous terrorist,” and “the most dangerous man in the world.” [ABC News, 5/28/1998; ABC News, 6/12/1998; Esquire, 2/1999; US Congress, 7/24/2003] The book The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright will later note, “Looming behind his head was a large map of Africa, an unremarked clue.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 264] Bin Laden admits to knowing Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the Bojinka plotters (see June 1996), but denies having met Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef or knowing about the plot itself. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] A Virginia man named Tarik Hamdi (see March 20, 2002) helped set up Miller’s interview. He goes with Miller to Afghanistan and gives bin Laden a new battery for his satellite phone (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, will later claim that this battery was somehow bugged to help the US monitor bin Laden. [Newsweek, 8/10/2005] In 2005, Miller will become the FBI’s assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs. [All Headline News, 8/24/2005]
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lived in the Philippines for much of 1994 and took part in the failed Bojinka plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II and crash a dozen airplanes (see January 6, 1995). In the years after this, he makes repeated visits to the Philippines, as well as neighboring Malaysia. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] KSM returns to the Philippines in September 1998 and stays to organize the assassination of Pope John Paul II, who is due to visit the country in January 1999. KSM is seen at a nightclub in Manila in early 1999. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxv] But the Pope’s visit is canceled; it isn’t known if the cancellation is due to security concerns or not. That same year, the FBI alerts Philippine intelligence that KSM has returned to that country to visit an old girlfriend. However, he disappears before agents arrive to arrest him. Further details on how he was traced there or how he got away have not been made public. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; London Times, 11/10/2002] KSM will continue to return to the Philippines occasionally. There are even “credible reports” that he is seen there in the summer of 2002. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002]
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