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Profile: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Acting on a tip-off from British authorities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police monitors two officials working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear purchasing ring as they enter Canada. The officials are Anwar Ali and Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They come to Canada on diplomatic visas to purchase parts to make inverters—equipment that Khan needs to be able to produce weapons-grade uranium in Pakistan. The parts were formerly purchased in Britain, but that country is more aware of Khan’s attempts now, so he is forced to send people to Canada. Unaware of the close surveillance, Ali and Bhatti make contact with a local purchasing network of three naturalized Canadian citizens, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad, and A. A. Khan, who has been an associate of Khan’s since 1977 (see 1977). Over the next few weeks, the Canadians watch as the three men use a shopping list given them by Ali and Bhatti to buy resistors, capacitors, condensers, and other equipment through two electrical supply shops in Montreal. The gear comes from the US, from companies including General Electric, Westinghouse, RCA, and Motorola. The two shipping agents for moving it to Pakistan include Khalid Jassim General Trading, a Khan front organization operating out of the United Arab Emirates (see Before September 1980). The trio make at least 10 shipments of parts and equipment to Pakistan, with a total value of over half a million Canadian dollars. However, they are arrested in late August (see August 29, 1980). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 103]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrests a trio of purchasing agents working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring. The three men, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad, and A. A. Khan, had been under surveillance since July (see July-August 29, 1980). Almenyawi and Ahmad admit purchasing equipment, but say they did not know what it was for. Released the next day, A. A. Khan goes to Montreal railway station, where he removes a suitcase from a locker, takes some documents out of it, and rips them up. The documents will later be found and reassembled. One of them is a paper by an American scientist on the use of centrifuges for enriching uranium. A. A. Khan will tell investigators he was taking the article to another scientist. After ripping the documents up, he goes to the airport, but is arrested. The trio’s two contacts, Pakistani officials Anwar Ali and Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, will not be arrested at all. Bhatti will become a senior official at A. Q. Khan’s research facility in Pakistan; Ali will become chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 2006. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 103, 106] The three men will later be put on trial, but A. A. Khan will be acquitted and Almenyawi and Ahmad will receive light sentences (see Late 1980 or After).
Canada’s ambassador to the US, Derek Burney, writes to the House Judiciary Committee saying that neither the Canadian Royal Mounted Police nor the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) have the PROMIS software developed by Inslaw or derivatives thereof. The statement is in response to an October letter from the committee, which is investigating the alleged theft from Inslaw of a version of the software and its subsequent passage to Canada. According to Burney, both the Mounties and the CSIS told him that not only do they not use Inslaw’s PROMIS or any software believed to be a derivative of it, but that they do not use any case management software at all. The committee will comment: “The ambassador’s conclusory statement did not provide an offer or an opportunity for further verification of the allegations received concerning the government of Canada. Without direct access to [the Mounties], CSIS, and other Canadian officials, the committee has been effectively thwarted in its attempt to support or reject the contention that Inslaw software was transferred to the Canadian government.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Essam Marzouk. [Source: FBI]US-al-Qaeda double agent Ali Mohamed is detained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Vancouver, British Columbia, after attempting to pick up a man named Essam Marzouk, who is carrying numerous false passports. The RCMP identifies Mohamed as a top al-Qaeda operative. Mohamed admits to it that he traveled to Vancouver to help Marzouk sneak into the US and admits working closely with Osama bin Laden. [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001; Globe and Mail, 11/22/2001; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001] After many hours of questioning, Mohamed tells the Canadian officials to call John Zent, his handler at the FBI. Zent confirms that Mohamed works for the FBI and asks them to release him. They do. [Lance, 2006, pp. 124] Mohamed is accompanied by fellow al-Qaeda operative Khaled Abu el-Dahab (see 1987-1998), who brings $3,000 sent by bin Laden to pay for Marzouk’s bail. Marzouk had run one of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan and was an active member of the al-Qaeda allied group Islamic Jihad at the time. However, Canadian intelligence apparently is unaware of his past. Marzouk will spend almost a year in detention. But then, again with the help of another visit to Canada by Mohamed, Marzouk will be released and allowed to live in Canada (see June 16, 1993-February 1998). He later will help train the bombers who carry out the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Globe and Mail, 11/22/2001; National Post, 11/26/2005] Jack Cloonan, an FBI agent who later investigates Mohamed, will say: “I don’t think you have to be an agent who has worked terrorism all your life to realize something is terribly amiss here. What was the follow up? It just sort of seems like [this incident] dies.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 125]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, receives conflicting information from the military and other government agencies regarding a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly considered hijacked and has been instructed to land at Whitehorse Airport. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-16, 35-36 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278]
Plane Redirected to Whitehorse - Korean Airlines Flight 85, a Boeing 747, was due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. The plane has not been hijacked, but its pilots have given indications that it is hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). Because Flight 85 has less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining, it is agreed that the plane should land at Whitehorse Airport (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Aircraft Hijacked or Low on Fuel? - Whitehorse RCMP is first alerted to Flight 85 at 1:25 p.m., when Winnipeg RCMP informs it that Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) is saying the flight is indicating a hijacking situation, and more information will be forthcoming. Ten minutes later, the DND contacts Whitehorse RCMP itself, saying a potentially hijacked Korean Airlines 747 is en route to Whitehorse Airport. At 1:55 p.m., Transport Canada similarly alerts Whitehorse RCMP to the potentially hijacked Korean Airlines 747 en route to Whitehorse. Then, at 2:13 p.m., Transport Canada Winnipeg advises Whitehorse RCMP that it has received a report from the Transport Canada Situation Center in Ottawa that Flight 85 has been hijacked and is near Whitehorse. However, while the DND and Transport Canada say Flight 85 is under hijack status, at 2:20 p.m. NORAD calls Whitehorse RCMP and says the flight is not hijacked, but instead a low fuel emergency. Nine minutes later, though, NORAD calls again and says Flight 85 might indeed be hijacked, as communications anomalies with the aircraft’s pilot remain suspicious. Due to the conflicting reports it is receiving, Whitehorse RCMP decides to err on the side of caution, and considers Flight 85 to be both hijacked and low on fuel until investigations prove otherwise.
Conflicting Arrival Times - Whitehorse RCMP also receives two significantly different reports of when Flight 85 is due to arrive at Whitehorse Airport. At 1:45 p.m., NORAD informs it that the aircraft is 400 miles away and due to arrive in one hour. But 10 minutes later, Transport Canada says the flight is estimated to be arriving in just 12 minutes, meaning around 2:07 p.m. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-16, 35-36 ] Flight 85 will eventually land without incident at Whitehorse Airport at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
A Korean Airlines 747 at Whitehorse Airport. [Source: Government of Yukon]A Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly considered hijacked and is low on fuel lands without incident at Whitehorse Airport, in Canada’s Yukon Territory. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Plane Still Transmitting Hijack Signal - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 with 215 people on board, and was on its way from Seoul, South Korea, to New York. Although it has not been hijacked, for reasons that are unclear, its pilots have given indications that the plane has been hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 85 was due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop, but has been diverted to Whitehorse (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The aircraft is still transmitting a beacon code indicating it is hijacked, 90 minutes after its pilots switched the transponder to that code. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257, 277-278] Fighter jets that launched to follow Flight 85 (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) have escorted the plane all the way from Alaska to Whitehorse. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Schools and Government Buildings Evacuated - Because hijacking is a criminal activity, the Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has taken charge of the local response to Flight 85. The RCMP removed children from schools and evacuated buildings that are considered probable targets for terrorist attacks, including the Yukon government’s main administration building and Whitehorse City Hall. All non-essential members of staff have been evacuated from the Whitehorse Airport terminal building; a security perimeter has been established around the airport; and part of the Alaska Highway has been closed. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-15 ] Police suggested that downtown businesses and residents evacuate, but most have not done so.
Co-Pilot Escorted off Plane at Gunpoint - Flight 85 now lands at Whitehorse Airport safely and without incident, and is directed to a secluded area on the tarmac. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Heavily armed members of the RCMP surround it. [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001; United Press International, 9/12/2001] A single RCMP officer then walks up the plane’s steps and asks to speak with a member of the flight crew. The co-pilot subsequently emerges and is escorted off the plane at gunpoint. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001] One witness to the incident will later recount, “He had everyone drawing down on him and he had to take some clothes off, wave his shirt in the air and all that.” [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001] The rest of the crew and the passengers will be escorted off the plane later on, around 5:10 p.m. The passengers will be instructed to leave all their personal items, including their carry-on luggage, on the aircraft. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17 ; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] The fighters that escorted Flight 85 to Whitehorse will circle above the airport while the plane is being inspected. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001] The RCMP will finally confirm that Flight 85 had not been hijacked early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 18 ]
Reasons for Landing at Whitehouse Unclear - Although it was reportedly because of the plane’s lack of fuel that it was decided to land Flight 85 at Whitehorse Airport, a report published by the government of Yukon in November 2001 will state: “The question of why this potentially dangerous aircraft was directed to Whitehorse rather than another airport remains unanswered by senior national agencies, the [FAA], NORAD, and Transport Canada.… [Q]uestions about the decision-making process to re-direct [Flight 85] to Whitehorse have not been answered in any significant detail.” The report will add, “It is expected that greater detail on this will not be forthcoming from these agencies in the short-term.” [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 5 ; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, finally confirms that a suspicious passenger jet that landed at Whitehorse Airport the previous afternoon was never hijacked. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 18 ; Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002]
Plane Showed Five Indicators of a Hijacking - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 that was heading from Seoul, South Korea, to New York on September 11, but was diverted to Whitehorse (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Although the plane was not hijacked, its pilots had been giving indications that it was hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] According to a report published by the government of Yukon, “There were five separate and ongoing indicators of a hijacking situation,” although the report will not specify what those indicators were. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17 ]
Pilots and Crew Questioned - Flight 85 landed at Whitehorse Airport without incident at 2:54 p.m. the previous afternoon (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Investigators then interviewed its pilots and crew. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278-279] One of the pilots cited miscommunication as the reason for the false hijack reports. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17, 36 ]
Spokeswoman Announced No Hijacking - Several hours after Flight 85 landed, airport spokeswoman Brenda Wale had announced: “It’s not a hijacking situation. There was a communications problem aboard the plane so they were unable to communicate and respond properly to the tower anywhere they went. It raised alarm bells.” [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001] At 5:10 p.m. that afternoon, following a discussion between the RCMP and other responding agencies, Whitehorse Airport and part of the Alaska Highway that had been closed earlier on were reopened.
Police Confirms No Hijacking of Flight 85 - Because hijacking is a criminal activity, the Whitehorse RCMP has been in charge of the local response to Flight 85. Very early this morning, it brings a bomb-sniffing dog onto the plane to search it. The aircraft’s cargo is also searched. No threats are found. Finally, two hours later, the RCMP confirms that a hijacking situation did not exist on Flight 85. The aircraft is security cleared and approved to depart from Whitehouse once FAA and Transport Canada airspace restrictions have been lifted and scheduling requirements have been made. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 4, 14-18 ] Flight 85 will leave Whitehorse on September 13, and fly on to New York. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Mohammed Asghar [Source: CBC]A member of a document-forging and smuggling ring is arrested in Canada in late October 2002. The suspect, Michael Hamdani, tells authorities about a cell of 19 terrorists seeking false passports from a Pakistani smuggling ring in order to gain entry to the US, with five successfully infiltrating the country via Canada on Christmas Eve. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] He tells the FBI that he had been offered a large sum of money to assist with the smuggling of the five men into the US. He admits that he was part of the smuggling and counterfeit document ring; officials also believe that Hamdani has links to terrorist groups. [Washington Post, 1/3/2003] As a result, on December 27, 2002, the FBI issues an all-points bulletin that launches a massive effort by law enforcement officials who fear terrorist attacks over the holiday period. The bulletin is approved by President Bush, who says publicly, “We need to know why they have been smuggled into the country and what they’re doing in the country.” The FBI posts pictures of five of the men on its website, warning that the provided names and ages could be fictitious. They also raid six locations in Brooklyn and Queens. These pictures lead to numerous calls and sightings of the men from around the country. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] During the course of the investigation, an unsubstantiated report surfaces; the FBI learns from a Middle East source that terrorists are planning eight diversionary explosions in New York harbor on New Year’s Eve, to be followed by one large-scale genuine attack. The target is identified as the US Secret Service office in Manhattan. The New York Police Department alerts the US Coast Guard, which closes the harbor to pleasure craft and scrambles a 100-person Maritime Safety and Security Team. This team patrols the harbor with boats mounted with heavy machine guns and carrying tactical officers armed with automatic weapons. No other evidence ever emerges to support the FBI’s source. [Time, 1/5/2003] The man pictured as Mustafa Khan Owasi in one of the FBI photos is found a few days later in Pakistan. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] He says he had once tried to get a false visa in order to travel to Britain, but had been caught in the United Arab Emirates and returned to his home in Lahore, Pakistan. His real name is Mohammed Asghar and he works as a jeweler. He says he suspects the forgers that he provided his information to in order to receive the false visa may have used his identity to create papers for someone else. Investigators begin to doubt the veracity of Hamdani’s claims. [CBC News, 1/2/2003] US experts also find that the polygraph exam of Hamdani administered by Canadian authorities was seriously flawed. The assumption that this polygraph exam was accurate was one of the main motives in issuing the alert. Officials also fail to find any link between Hamdani and al-Qaeda, or any other radical militant organization. No links are discovered between the identities in the passports and extremist groups. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] The FBI realizes that the infiltration story had been fabricated by Hamdani and retracts the terror alert on New Year’s Day. [Time, 1/5/2003] The retraction of the terror alert leads to criticism of the FBI. Michael Greenberger, a former Justice Department official who heads the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, says, “There is going to be a sort of ‘crying wolf’ scenario… When they put these out, there should be a more thorough explanation to the American public about what they’re doing.” The FBI defends its handling of the situation, saying that it reacted appropriately to the possibility of a real threat and noting that some of Hamdani’s information on the smuggling ring was accurate and led to ten (non-terrorism related) arrests. [Washington Post, 1/8/2003] Hamdani was already facing fraud charges in Canada after the raid that led to his arrest discovered fake passports, Pakistani driving licenses, immigration documents, and counterfeit traveler’s checks. He also had outstanding fraud warrants from the FBI in New York and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The FBI believes that Hamdani fabricated the story to avoid extradition to Canada. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] One investigator says, “You wouldn’t trust him as far as you could throw him.” [Time, 1/5/2003]
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