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Profile: US Department of State
US Department of State was a participant or observer in the following events:
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The chief of the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs, writes in a memo that the oil resources of Saudi Arabia are a “stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” [Curtis, 1995, pp. 21; Muttitt, 2005]
US State Department spokesman Richard Browning says of Italy’s upcoming elections, “The United States is making it crystal clear that it will use force if necessary to prevent Italy from going communist in its upcoming elections.” The CIA will spend $20 million to ensure that the Christian Democrats win control of the country’s government. [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 5]
The National Security Agency (NSA) is founded. It is the successor to the State Department’s “Black Chamber” and other military code-breaking and eavesdropping operations dating back to the earliest days of telegraph and telephone communications. It will eventually become the largest of all US intelligence agencies, with over 30,000 employees at its Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters. It focuses on electronic surveillance, operating a large network of satellites and listening devices around the globe. More even than the CIA, the NSA is the most secretive of US intelligence organizations, [New York Times, 12/16/2005] The agency will remain little known by the general public until the release of the 1998 film Enemy of the State, which will portray the NSA as an evil “Big Brother” agency spying on Americans as a matter of course. [CNN, 3/31/2001] After it is disclosed during the 1970s that the NSA spied on political dissenters and civil rights protesters, the NSA will be restricted to operating strictly overseas, and will be prohibited from monitoring US citizens within US borders without special court orders. [New York Times, 12/16/2005]
The US State Department drafts a planning document titled, “Possible Courses of Action in British Guiana.” In it, its authors ask: “Can we topple [Dr. Cheddi] Jagan while maintaining at least a facade of democratic institutions,” and “Can the PPP be defeated in new elections without obvious interference?” The paper observes that “it is unproven that CIA knows how to manipulate an election in British Guiana without a backfire.” The document also notes: “Disclosure of US involvement would undermine our carefully nurtured position of anti-colonialism among the new nations of Asia and Africa and damage our position in Latin America. It could also strengthen Jagan over the long term if he became a ‘martyr of Yankee imperialism.’” [US Department of State, 3/15/1962]
Representative Otis Pike. [Source: Spartacus Educational]A House of Representatives committee, popularly known as the Pike Committee after its chairman, Otis Pike (D-NY), investigates questionable US intelligence activities. The committee operates in tandem with the Senate’s investigation of US intelligence activities, the Church Committee (see April, 1976). Pike, a decorated World War II veteran, runs a more aggressive—some say partisan—investigation than the more deliberate and politically balanced Church Committee, and receives even less cooperation from the White House than does the Church investigation. After a contentious year-long investigation marred by inflammatory accusations and charges from both sides, Pike refuses demands from the CIA to redact huge portions of the report, resulting in an accusation from CIA legal counsel Mitchell Rogovin that the report is an “unrelenting indictment couched in biased, pejorative and factually erroneous terms.” Rogovin also tells the committee’s staff director, Searle Field, “Pike will pay for this, you wait and see…. There will be a political retaliation…. We will destroy him for this.” (It is hard to know exactly what retaliation will be carried out against Pike, who will resign from Congress in 1978.)
Battle to Release Report - On January 23, 1976, the investigative committee voted along party lines to release the report unredacted, sparking a tremendous outcry among Republicans, who are joined by the White House and CIA Director William Colby in an effort to suppress the report altogether. On January 26, the committee’s ranking Republican, Robert McCory, makes a speech saying that the report, if released, would endanger national security. On January 29, the House votes 246 to 124 not to release the report until it “has been certified by the President as not containing information which would adversely affect the intelligence activities of the CIA.” A furious Pike retorts, “The House just voted not to release a document it had not read. Our committee voted to release a document it had read.” Pike threatens not to release the report at all because “a report on the CIA in which the CIA would do the final rewrite would be a lie.” The report will never be released, though large sections of it will be leaked within days to reporter Daniel Schorr of the Village Voice, and printed in that newspaper. Schorr himself will be suspended from his position with CBS News and investigated by the House Ethics Committee (Schorr will refuse to disclose his source, and the committee will eventually decide, on a 6-5 vote, not to bring contempt of Congress charges against him). [Spartacus Educational, 2/16/2006] The New York Times will follow suit and print large portions of the report as well. The committee was led by liberal Democrats such as Pike and Ron Dellums (D-CA), who said even before the committee first met, “I think this committee ought to come down hard and clear on the side of stopping any intelligence agency in this country from utilizing, corrupting, and prostituting the media, the church, and our educational system.” The entire investigation is marred by a lack of cooperation from the White House and the CIA. [Gerald K. Haines, 1/20/2003]
Final Draft Accuses White House, CIA of 'Stonewalling,' Deception - The final draft of the report says that the cooperation from both entities was “virtually nonexistent,” and accuses both of practicing “foot dragging, stonewalling, and deception” in their responses to committee requests for information. CIA archivist and historian Gerald Haines will later write that the committee was thoroughly deceived by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who officially cooperated with the committee but, according to Haines, actually “worked hard to undermine its investigations and to stonewall the release of documents to it.” [Spartacus Educational, 2/16/2006] The final report accuses White House officials of only releasing the information it wanted to provide and ignoring other requests entirely. One committee member says that trying to get information out of Colby and other CIA officials was like “pulling teeth.” For his part, Colby considers Pike a “jackass” and calls his staff “a ragtag, immature, and publicity-seeking group.” The committee is particularly unsuccessful in obtaining information about the CIA’s budget and expenditures, and in its final report, observes that oversight of the CIA budget is virtually nonexistent. Its report is harsh in its judgments of the CIA’s effectiveness in a number of foreign conflicts, including the 1973 Mideast war, the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, the 1974 coups in Cyprus and Portugal, the 1974 testing of a nuclear device by India, and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, all of which the CIA either got wrong or failed to predict. The CIA absolutely refused to provide any real information to either committee about its involvement in, among other foreign escapades, its attempt to influence the 1972 elections in Italy, covert actions in Angola, and covert aid to Iraqi Kurds from 1972 through 1975. The committee found that covert actions “were irregularly approved, sloppily implemented, and, at times, had been forced on a reluctant CIA by the President and his national security advisers.” Indeed, the Pike Committee’s final report lays more blame on the White House than the CIA for its illegal actions, with Pike noting that “the CIA does not go galloping off conducting operations by itself…. The major things which are done are not done unilaterally by the CIA without approval from higher up the line.… We did find evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence where the CIA said: ‘No, don’t do it.’ The State Department or the White House said, ‘We’re going to do it.’ The CIA was much more professional and had a far deeper reading on the down-the-road implications of some immediately popular act than the executive branch or administration officials.… The CIA never did anything the White House didn’t want. Sometimes they didn’t want to do what they did.” [Gerald K. Haines, 1/20/2003]
Entity Tags: William Colby, Village Voice, Otis G. Pike, Robert McCory, Pike Committee, US Department of State, New York Times, Mitchell Rogovin, Ron Dellums, House Ethics Committee, Gerald Haines, Church Committee, Searle Field, Daniel Schorr, Henry A. Kissinger, Central Intelligence Agency, CBS News
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
H. R. Haldeman’s “The Ends of Power.” [Source: Amazon (.com)]Former Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman, in his autobiography The Ends of Power, advances his own insider theory of the genesis of the Watergate burglaries (see July 26-27, 1970). Haldeman, currently serving a one-year prison sentence for perjuring himself during his testimony about the Watergate cover-up, became so angered while watching David Frost interview former President Nixon, and particularly Nixon’s attempts to pin the blame for Watergate on Haldeman and fellow aide John Ehrlichman (see April 15, 1977), that he decided to write the book to tell his version of events. Some of his assertions:
Nixon, Colson Behind 'Plumbers;' Watergate Burglary 'Deliberately Sabotaged' - He writes that he believes then-President Nixon ordered the operation that resulted in the burglaries and surveillance of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters because he and Charles Colson, the aide who supervised the so-called “Plumbers” (see Late June-July 1971), were both “infuriated with [DNC chairman Lawrence] O’Brien’s success in using the ITT case against them” (see February 22, 1972). Colson, whom Haldeman paints as Nixon’s “hit man” who was the guiding spirit behind the “Plumbers,” then recruited another White House aide, E. Howard Hunt, who brought in yet another aide, G. Gordon Liddy. Haldeman goes into a more interesting level of speculation: “I believe the Democratic high command knew the break-in was going to take place, and let it happen. They may even have planted the plainclothesman who arrested the burglars. I believe that the CIA monitored the Watergate burglars throughout. And that the overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that the break-in was deliberately sabotaged.” O’Brien calls Haldeman’s version of events “a crock.” As for Haldeman’s insinuations that the CIA might have been involved with the burglaries, former CIA director Richard Helms says, “The agency had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in.” Time magazine’s review of the book says that Haldeman is more believable when he moves from unverifiable speculation into provable fact. One such example is his delineation of the conspiracy to cover up the burglaries and the related actions and incidents. Haldeman writes that the cover-up was not a “conspiracy” in the legal sense, but was “organic,” growing “one step at a time” to limit political damage to the president.
Story of Kennedy Ordering Vietnamese Assassination Actually True - He suggests that the evidence Hunt falsified that tried to blame former president John F. Kennedy of having then-South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem assassination (see Mid-September 1971) may have pointed to the actual truth of that incident, hinting that Kennedy may have ordered the assassination after all.
US Headed Off Two Potentially Catastrophic Nuclear Incidents with USSR, China - He also writes of a previously unsuspected incident where Nixon and other US officials convinced the Soviets not to attack Chinese nuclear sites. And Haldeman tells of a September 1970 incident where the US managed to head off a second Cuban Missile Crisis. Both stories of US intervention with the Soviets are strongly denied by both of Nixon’s Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, and William Rogers.
Duality of Nixon's Nature - Haldeman says that while Nixon carried “greatness in him,” and showed strong “intelligence, analytical ability, judgment, shrewdness, courage, decisiveness and strength,” he was plagued by equally powerful flaws. Haldeman writes that Nixon had a “dirty, mean, base side” and “a terrible temper,” and describes him as “coldly calculating, devious, craftily manipulative… the weirdest man ever to live in the White House.” For himself, Haldeman claims to have always tried to give “active encouragement” to the “good” side of Nixon and treat the “bad” side with “benign neglect.” He often ignored Nixon’s “petty, vindictive” orders, such as giving mass lie detector tests to employees of the State Department as a means of finding security leaks. He writes that while he regrets not challenging Nixon more “frontally” to counter the president’s darker impulses, he notes that other Nixon aides who had done so quickly lost influence in the Oval Office. Colson, on the other hand, rose to a high level of influence by appealing to Nixon’s darker nature. Between the two, Haldeman writes, the criminal conspiracy of Watergate was created. (Colson disputes Haldeman’s depiction of his character as well as the events of the conspiracy.) Haldeman himself never intended to do anything illegal, denies any knowledge of the “Gemstone” conspiracy proposal (see January 29, 1972), and denies ordering his aide Gordon Strachan to destroy evidence (see June 18-19, 1972).
Reconstructing the 18 1/2 Minute Gap - Haldeman also reconstructs the conversation between himself and Nixon that was erased from the White House tapes (see June 23, 1972 and July 13-16, 1973). Time notes that Haldeman reconstructs the conversation seemingly to legally camouflage his own actions and knowledge, “possibly to preclude further legal charges against him…” According to Haldeman’s reconstruction, Nixon said, “I know one thing. I can’t stand an FBI interrogation of Colson… Colson can talk about the president, if he cracks. You know I was on Colson’s tail for months to nail Larry O’Brien on the [Howard] Hughes deal (see April 30 - May 1, 1973; O’Brien had worked for Hughes, and Nixon was sure O’Brien had been involved in illegalities). Colson told me he was going to get the information I wanted one way or the other. And that was O’Brien’s office they were bugging, wasn’t it? And who’s behind it? Colson’s boy Hunt. Christ. Colson called [deputy campaign chief Jeb Magruder] and got the whole operation started. Right from the g_ddamn White House… I just hope the FBI doesn’t check the office log and put it together with that Hunt and Liddy meeting in Colson’s office.” Time writes, “If the quotes are accurate, Nixon is not only divulging his own culpability in initiating the bugging but is also expressing a clear intent to keep the FBI from learning about it. Thus the seeds of an obstruction of justice have been planted even before the celebrated June 23 ‘smoking gun’ conversation, which ultimately triggered Nixon’s resignation from office.” Haldeman says he isn’t sure who erased the tape, but he believes it was Nixon himself. Nixon intended to erase all the damning evidence from the recordings, but since he was, Haldeman writes, “the least dexterous man I have ever known,” he quickly realized that “it would take him ten years” to erase everything.
'Smoking Gun' Allegations - Haldeman also makes what Time calls “spectacular… but unverified” allegations concerning the June 23, 1972 “smoking gun” conversations (see June 23, 1972). The focus of that day’s discussion was how the White House could persuade the CIA to head off the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate burglary. The tape proved that Nixon had indeed attempted to block the criminal investigation into Watergate, and feared that the money found on the burglars would be traced back to his own re-election campaign committee. Haldeman writes that he was confused when Nixon told him to tell the CIA, “Look, the problem is that this will open up the whole Bay of Pigs thing again.” When Haldeman asked Helms to intercede with the FBI, and passed along Nixon’s warning that “the Bay of Pigs may be blown,” Helms’s reaction, Haldeman writes, was electric. “Turmoil in the room, Helms gripping the arms of his chair, leaning forward and shouting, ‘The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.’” Haldeman writes, “I was absolutely shocked by Helms‘[s] violent reaction. Again I wondered, what was such dynamite in the Bay of Pigs story?” Haldeman comes to believe that the term “Bay of Pigs” was a reference to the CIA’s secret attempts to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The CIA had withheld this info from the Warren Commission, the body that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, and Haldeman implies that Nixon was using the “Bay of Pigs thing” as some sort of blackmail threat over the CIA. Haldeman also hints, very vaguely, that Nixon, when he was vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a chief instigator of the actual Bay of Pigs invasion. (Time notes that while Vice President Nixon probably knew about the plans, “he certainly had not been their author.”)
Other Tidbits - Haldeman writes that Nixon’s taping system was created to ensure that anyone who misrepresented what Nixon and others said in the Oval Office could be proven wrong, and that Nixon had Kissinger particularly in mind. Nixon kept the tapes because at first he didn’t believe he could be forced to give them up, and later thought he could use them to discredit former White House counsel John Dean. He says Nixon was wrong in asserting that he ordered Haldeman to get rid of the tapes. Haldeman believes the notorious “deep background” source for Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward was actually Fred Fielding, Dean’s White House deputy. Interestingly, Haldeman apparently discovered the real identity of “Deep Throat” in 1972 to be senior FBI official W. Mark Felt (see October 19, 1972). It is unclear why Haldeman now writes that Fielding, not Felt, was the Post source.
Not a Reliable Source - Time notes that Haldeman’s book is far from being a reliable source of information, characterizing it as “badly flawed, frustratingly vague and curiously defensive,” and notes that “[m]any key sections were promptly denied; others are clearly erroneous.” Time concludes, “Despite the claim that his aim was finally to ‘tell the truth’ about the scandal, his book is too self-protective for that.” And it is clear that Haldeman, though he writes how the cover-up was “morally and legally the wrong thing to do—so it should have failed,” has little problem being part of such a criminal conspiracy. The biggest problem with Watergate was not that it was illegal, he writes, but that it was handled badly. He writes, “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind today that if I were back at the starting point, faced with the decision of whether to join up, even knowing what the ultimate outcome would be, I would unhesitatingly do it.” [Time, 2/27/1978; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]
Entity Tags: Fred F. Fielding, William P. Rogers, E. Howard Hunt, Democratic National Committee, David Frost, Charles Colson, W. Mark Felt, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, US Department of State, Lawrence O’Brien, Richard Helms, John Dean, Jeb S. Magruder, Howard Hughes, Henry A. Kissinger, Gordon Strachan, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, John F. Kennedy
Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate
The US State Department includes Iraq in its list of states that sponsor terrorism. [Phythian, 1997]
The US embassy in Delhi, India, sends a cable to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The cable states that Pakistan will be able to explode a bomb within “two or three years”—most likely by 1981. However, Pakistan’s progress will not be that fast and it will not actually manage to produce even a small amount of weapons-grade uranium until the spring of 1981 (see (March-April 1981)). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86] The cable will be intercepted by India’s Research and Analysis Wing and shared with Israeli intelligence (see 1979).
Israel secretly changes its policy towards Iran, and now seeks a level of rapprochement with that nation. Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon proposes that President Jimmy Carter, who is struggling to find a diplomatic means to get the 52 American hostages released, begin secretly selling US arms to Iran. Carter angrily refuses. But unbeknownst to Carter, Israel will begin selling its own arms to Iran shortly thereafter. Interestingly, some officials in the US State Department and the CIA know of the Israeli arms sales to Iran. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
A State Department report finds that Pakistan is “within 12 to 18 months” of exploding a nuclear device. The assessment is drafted by an official named P. D. Constable of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, and is sent to the National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 82]
F-14 spare parts shipped to Iran. [Source: Reuben Johnson / Weekly Standard]Israeli officials secretly ask Reagan administration officials for authorization to transfer arms of US origin to Iran. Officials in the Departments of Defense and State have known of Israeli arms sales to Iran that predate Reagan’s installation as president and the freeing of the American hostages, and since Reagan’s ascension to power, plans for US arms sales to Iran have been in the works (see January 28, 1981). Secretary of State Alexander Haig tells Israel that it is acceptable “in principle” for Israel to sell only F-4 fighter plane parts, and the US must approve specific arms-sales lists in advance. It shortly becomes evident, according to State Department documents leaked years later to the press, that Israel is not submitting lists for approval, and is selling US-made arms to Iran far in excess of spare parts for a specific model of fighter jet. (By the mid-1980s, officials will acknowledge that several billion dollars’ worth of ammunition and parts worth would flow from Israel to Iran each year.) Little oversight is exercised on the arms sales; one US ambassador to the region will say in 1992, “[I]t is probable that those who were to serve as their proxies—Israel and private international arms dealers—had agendas of their own, and the end result was that more arms were shipped than anyone in the administration wanted.” The Israeli arms transfers also violate the Arms Export Control Act, which requires written permission from the US for a nation to transfer US-made arms to a third party, and requires the president to immediately inform Congress when such transfers take place. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, the head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, hires fellow neoconservative academic Michael Ledeen as a “special adviser.” [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004] Ledeen will soon fall under suspicion of spying for Israel after moving to the Defense Department (see 1983).
State Department intern Richard Barlow. [Source: Richard Barlow]Richard Barlow, an intern at the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), finds that Pakistan has been attempting to build a nuclear bomb since the early 1970s, but his superiors do not follow up and he loses his job in a reorganization. Barlow, who has recently graduated from university after writing a thesis on counter-proliferation intelligence, is concerned about the burgeoning black markets in nuclear weapons technology. He will later comment, “Everywhere I looked I kept coming up against intelligence about Pakistan’s WMD program. I thought I was telling them what they needed to hear, but the White House seemed oblivious.” One reason the White House appears deaf is that Pakistan is now an important US ally, as it is a major supply point for the CIA-backed anti-Soviet Afghan mujaheddin. In addition, a group of “Republican hawks,” including Paul Wolfowitz, has convinced President Ronald Reagan that America needs a new strategy against potential nuclear threats, since long-term policies such as détente and containment are supposedly not working. When Reagan starts to build up US arms, the staff at ACDA is cut by a third and Barlow is one of the employees who loses his job. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
In conjunction with his huge peacetime military buildup (see Early 1981 and After), President Reagan strongly opposes any sort of arms control or limitation discussions with the Soviet Union.
Rostow to ACDA - As a member of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD—see 1976), Reagan had spoken out against the SALT II arms control treaty with the USSR (see June 18, 1979-Winter 1979), calling it “fatally flawed.” He has opposed every significant arms limitation agreement since 1963, no matter whether it was negotiated by Republican or Democratic administrations. To continue his opposition, Reagan appoints Eugene Rostow to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). Rostow, a fellow CPD member, is flatly opposed to any sort of arms control or disarmament agreement with the Soviet Union, and had led the CPD fight against the SALT II agreement. “Arms control thinking drives out sound thinking,” he told the Senate. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 118-120] During his confirmation hearings, Rostow tells Senate questioners that the US could certainly survive a nuclear war, and gives World War II-era Japan as an example—that nation “not only survived but flourished after a nuclear attack.” When asked if the world could survive a full nuclear attack of thousands of nuclear warheads instead of the two that Japan had weathered, Rostow says that even though the casualties might be between “ten million… and one hundred million… [t]he human race is very resilient.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 126] Rostow’s aide at the ACDA, Colin Gray, says that “victory is possible” in a nuclear war provided the US is prepared to fight. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 127]
Burt to State Department - Reagan names Richard Burt to head the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, the State Department’s primary liaison with the Defense Department. Burt, a former New York Times reporter, is one of the few journalists synpathetic to the CPD, and recently called the SALT agreement “a favor to the Russians.” Just before joining the Reagan administration, Burt called for reductions in nuclear arms controls: “Arms control has developed the same kind of mindless momentum associated with other large-scale government pursuits. Conceptual notions of limited durability, such as the doctrine of mutual assured destruction [MAD], have gained bureaucratic constituencies and have thus been prolonged beyond their usefulness. There are strong reasons for believing that arms control is unlikely to possess much utility in the coming decade.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 118-120; US Department of State, 2008]
Perle to Defense Department - Perhaps the most outspoken opponent of arms control is neoconservative Richard Perle, named as assistant defense secretary for international security affairs. Perle, until recently the national security adviser to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA—see Early 1970s), will quickly become, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “the administration’s chief arms control obstructionist, dubbed ‘the Prince of Darkness’ by his enemies.” Perle once said: “The sense that we and the Russians could compose our differences, reduce them to treaty constraints… and then rely on compliance to produce a safer world. I don’t agree with any of that.” Now Perle is poised to act on his beliefs. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 118-120]
Vice President Bush - Although seen as a pragmatist and not a hardline conservative (see January 1981 and After), Vice President George H. W. Bush is also optimistic about the chances of the US coming out on top after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. During the 1980 campaign, he told a reporter: “You have a survivability of command and control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition tham it inflicts on you. That’s the way you can have a winner.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 126-127]
Other Appointees - Perle’s immediate supervisor in Defense is Fred Ikle, who headed ACDA in 1973 and helped battle back part of the original SALT agreement. Ikle will be primarily responsible for the Pentagon’s “five-year plan” that envisions a “protracted nuclear war” as a viable option (see March 1982). Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger considers the standoff between the US and the Soviet Union akin to the situation between Britain and Nazi Germany in 1938, with himself and his ideological confreres as Britain’s Winston Churchill and any attempt at arms control as nothing but appeasement. Energy Secretary James B. Edwards says of a hypothetical nuclear war, “I want to come out of it number one, not number two.” Pentagon official Thomas Jones tells a reporter that the US could handily survive a nuclear exchange, and fully recover within two to four years, if the populace digs plenty of holes, cover them with wooden doors, and bury the structures under three feet of dirt. “If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it,” he says. Reagan’s second National Security Adviser, William Clark, will, according to Reagan official and future Secretary of State George Shultz, “categorically oppos[e] US-Soviet contacts” of any kind. Some of the administration’s more pragmatic members, such as Reagan’s first Secretary of State Alexander Haig, will have limited access to Reagan and be cut off from many policy-making processes by Reagan’s more hardline senior officials and staffers. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 118-120, 127; Air Force Magazine, 3/2008]
Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Fred C. Ikle, Committee on the Present Danger, Colin Gray, Caspar Weinberger, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Eugene V. Rostow, US Department of State, William Clark, Thomas Jones, Richard Burt, Richard Perle, Reagan administration, James B. Edwards, Ronald Reagan, J. Peter Scoblic, US Department of Defense, Henry (“Scoop”) Jackson, George Shultz
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
The US State Department writes a cable to Israel to allay Israeli fears about Pakistan’s nuclear program (see June 2, 1981). However, the communication contains information the US must know to be untrue. The cable says, “We believe that the Pakistanis have so far been unable to make their centrifuge machines work and that they have not yet produced any significant quantities of enriched uranium.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say this is a “blatant lie,” as the US knows the opposite is true. The cable concludes, “Even if the Pakistanis do manage to eventually overcome their problems in the enrichment area, it would likely take them a few years of successful operations to produce sufficient fissile material to fabricate a single device.” It also estimates that it will take Pakistan another decade before it has a suitable missile system to go with warheads. Levy and Scott-Clark will add, “Not only was the US misrepresenting the available intelligence, but it was also ignoring several articles published by Khan himself in Western nuclear gazettes in which he had explicitly laid out the hurdles his centrifuge construction program had overcome.” Moshe Ya’alon, later head of Israeli military intelligence, will say that the Israelis are stunned by this response. “The US was glib on Pakistan,” he will add. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 85-86]
Reagan officials reopen the stalled Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union, against the advice of President Reagan’s more hardline officials (see January 1981 and After). The talks center on the Soviets’ SS-20 missile, designed to strike European targets. In return, then-President Carter had agreed to deploy US intermediate-range nuclear missiles—Pershing II’s and Tomahawks—in West Germany and Italy by 1983. According to author J. Peter Scoblic, the missiles have little real military value, as American ICBMs, submarine-based nuclear missiles, and long-range bombers could destroy Soviet targets with near-impunity. They do, however, have some political significance, mostly in helping tie European security to US security. Carter had agreed to open talks with the Soviets to get rid of the SS-20s entirely.
Hardliners Sabotage Talks - The more pragmatic Reagan officials succeed in reopening the talks; Reagan hardliners, thwarted in stopping the talks, set about sabotaging them in any way available. When arguments in favor of delays and “further study” finally fail, they pressure Reagan to offer an agreement they know the Soviets will refuse: the so-called “zero option,” which originates with Defense Department official Richard Perle (see Early 1981 and After). Perle says that the Soviets should remove all of the SS-20s, and in return, the US will not deploy its Pershings and Tomahawks—in essence, having the Soviets concede something for essentially nothing. State Department officials suggest a fallback position in case the Soviets reject Perle’s offering; in his turn, Perle appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee and compares anyone who opposes his zero-sum offering to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1938.
'Walk in the Woods' - When the Soviets reject Perle’s option, Reagan hardliners argue that the government should accept no compromise. The head of the INF negotiation team, Paul Nitze—a Cold War figure who has come out against arms control (see January 1976) but is not fully trusted by the hardline ideologues because of his history as an arms negotiator—wants a compromise. In official negotiations, he sticks to the all-or-nothing position of Perle, but opens private, informal negotiations with his Soviet counterpart, Yuli Kvitsinsky. One afternoon in 1982, Nitze and Kvitsinsky go for what later becomes known as their “walk in the woods.” Sitting together on a log during an afternoon rainstorm, the two hammer out an agreement that greatly favors the US—mandating a 67 percent reduction in Soviet SS-20s and allowing the US to deploy an equal number of Tomahawks. Not only would the Soviets have to reduce their already-deployed contingent of missiles and the US be allowed to deploy missiles, because the Tomahawks carry more independent warheads than the SS-20s, the US would have a significant advantage in firepower. The deal also sets limits on SS-20 deployments in Asia, and forbids the Soviets from developing ground-launched cruise missiles. In return, the US would agree not to deploy its Pershing missiles.
Hardliners Block Agreement - Perle and his hardline allies in the Reagan administration succeed in blocking acceptance of the Nitze-Kvitsinsky agreement. As author J. Peter Scoblic later writes, “Perle’s ideological obstructionism—concisely conveyed in his disparagement of Nitze as ‘an inverterate problem-solver’—reached fantastic heights.” Perle first tried to block Reagan from even learning the details of the agreement, and lied to Reagan, asserting falsely that the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed the agreement. Perle, in conjunction with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, eventually convinces Reagan to stick to the “zero option.” Perle argues against pressure from key US allies such as Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, telling Reagan, “We can’t just do something; we’ve got to stand there—and stand firm.” In 1983, Perle tells Weinberger that it would be better for the US to deploy no missiles at all than to accept the agreement. Scoblic will write: “In other words, he argued that foregoing deployment in return for nothing was better than foregoing deployment in exchange for something. The position made no sense, but the Reagan team held firm to it, once again preventing the adoption of a viable arms control deal.” When the US deploys Pershing missiles in Europe in November 1983, the Soviets walk out of the talks. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 120-123]
Entity Tags: Richard Perle, Margaret Thatcher, Joint Chiefs of Staff, J. Peter Scoblic, Caspar Weinberger, Paul Nitze, Ronald Reagan, Reagan administration, Senate Armed Services Committee, US Department of State, Yuli Kvitsinsky
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
A US State Department report concludes that Iraq continues to support groups on the State Department’s terrorist list. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 52]
Robert Gallucci, a director of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the State Department, drafts a comprehensive report showing that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is continuing. The report begins with an overview of Pakistan’s nuclear fuel cycle and a confirmation that Pakistan has built a plant to “concentrate uranium ore,” while another to produce uranium hexafluoride is “already in operation.” The report also details work done at the facility in Kahuta headed by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan and the technology being assembled there based on designs stolen in the Netherlands. In addition, Gallucci warns of the procurement network’s increasing confidence and its use of “false end-use statements.”
'Unambiguous Evidence' - The report, which is marked “secret” and not distributed to security contractors or abroad, finds, “There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program,” and, “Pakistan’s near-term goal evidently is to have a nuclear test capability enabling it to explode a nuclear device if [Pakistani dictator Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] decides it’s appropriate for diplomatic and domestic political gains.”
'Nuclear Explosives' - Another section, entitled “Nuclear Explosives,” says that Pakistan is working on an “electronic triggering circuit for nuclear device detonation… as well as experiments on conventional as well as shaped charges.” The Pakistanis have “already undertaken a substantial amount of the necessary design and high explosives testing of the explosive device and we believe that Pakistan is now capable of producing a workable package of this kind.” Gallucci even has drawings given to suppliers by agents for Khan that have been “unambiguously identified as those of a nuclear device.”
Chinese Connection - The report also mentions the Pakistan-China connection, as notes in Chinese and an operations manual from China have been found in circumstances linked to Khan’s operations. US scientists who analysed them concluded they concerned equipment remarkably similar to a device used in a 1964 nuclear test by China, and Gallucci finds, “China has provided assistance to Pakistan’s program to develop a nuclear weapons capability.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 93-94, 478]
Paula Hawkins. [Source: Public domain]In 1984, Senator Paula Hawkins (R-FL) meets with Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan. During the meeting, she mentions that she is concerned about a Pakistani bank that is laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Her staff later clarifies to Zia that she was referring to BCCI (which technically is not a Pakistani bank, but almost all of its top officials are Pakistani). As a result, Abdur Sakhia, the top BCCI official in the US, meets with Hawkins in the US a short time later and assures her that BCCI is not laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Then officials from the Justice Department, State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) meet with Hawkins’s staffers and assure them that BCCI is not the subject of any investigation. Weeks later, the State Department formally notifies the Pakistani government that BCCI is not under investigation. As a result, Hawkins drops her brief interest in BCCI. However, by this time the State Department, Justice Department, and DEA have all been briefed by the CIA about BCCI’s many criminal activities. Apparently, this information is deliberately kept from the senator. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 324-325]
Abu Ndal circa 1982. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]The BBC will later suggest that US intelligence actually becomes aware of specific Abu Nidal accounts held in the criminal BCCI bank in 1984. This is because the FBI busts an illegal arms deal in New York City that involved Nidal’s BCCI accounts in London and a Nidal front company in Poland called SAS Trade at this time. [Herald Sun (Melbourne), 8/2/1991] In the 1980s, Nidal is considered the world’s most wanted terrorist. In December 1985, for instance, his network launches simultaneous attacks in Rome and Vienna, killing or wounding dozens. In 1986, the CIA tells the State Department in detail about the criminal BCCI bank’s links with Nidal and his terrorist network. They reveal that Nidal has multiple accounts at BCCI branches in Europe. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 328] In July 1987, Ghassan Qassem, manager of one of BCCI’s London branches, is contacted by the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. They tell him that they know SAS Trade has many millions of dollars worth of accounts in his branch and that the company is an Abu Nidal front. Qassem agrees to be an informant. [Observer, 1/18/2004] Nidal first opened a BCCI account in London in 1980, depositing $50 million using an alias. In addition to being a terrorist, Nidal is an illegal arms dealer and BCCI helps him buy and sell weapons, oftentimes involving British companies. [Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Qassem will later claim that he saw Nidal in Britain on three separate occasions and went shopping with him. In 1983, Nidal was interviewed by police, who took him straight to the airport and put him on a plane to leave the country. [Guardian, 7/30/1991; Observer, 1/18/2004] Qassem recognizes Nidal as a terrorist from a photograph in a magazine in 1987 and tells this to his BCCI superior, but he is told to keep quiet. The CIA and British intelligence use their knowledge of Nidal’s BCCI accounts to force SAS Trade to shut down in 1986, but usually they merely monitor terrorist activity. For instance, Nidal’s group teaches urban terrorist tactics to Peru’s Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in 1988. Shining Path pays Nidal $4 million for this work through his BCCI account and then attempts to bomb the US embassy in Lima later that year. Intelligence agencies also merely watch as Middle Eastern governments give tens of millions to Nidal through his BCCI accounts (see 1987-1990). In December 1989, Qassem tells his BCCI superiors that he is working with British intelligence. He is quickly fired. [Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Nidal learns of the surveillance and empties the accounts before they can be frozen. [Guardian, 7/30/1991; Observer, 1/18/2004]
Richard Murphy. [Source: Richard W Murphy.org]Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy writes a potentially explosive classified memo about arming Iraq. Murphy, along with his boss George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, are strong proponents of supporting Iraq in its war with Iran (National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and two of his staffers, Howard Teicher and Oliver North, support arming Iran; the argument is causing deep divides within the administration). Murphy’s memo is so sensitive that its recipients are ordered to destroy it and to keep records of its destruction. Murphy suggests that the US can arm Iraq with “dual use” items—nominally civilian items that also have military use, such as heavy trucks, armored ambulances, and communications gear. Murphy also advocates helping Iraq build a new oil pipeline that will pump oil to the Jordanian port of Aqaba, on the Israeli border, which will allow Iraq to circumvent the Iranian blockade of Iraq’s Persian Gulf ports. Murphy also mentions the State Department’s desire to fund a number of projects in Iraq through the US Export-Import bank (EXIM), chaired by Reagan appointee William Draper. Murphy writes, in part: “Liberalizing export controls on Iraq: we are considering revising present policy to permit virtually all sales of non-munitions list dual use equipment to Iraq…. Egyptian tank sales: in the context of recommending ways to improve our relations with Iraq, Egypt has suggested that we provide it additional M-60 tanks beyond those we are now providing under FMS [Foreign Military Sales]. Egypt would use the additional M-60s to replace used Soviet T-63s, which it would sell to Iraq…. EXIM financing: [Under-Secretary of State Lawrence] Eagleburger has written EXIM director Draper to urge EXIM financing of US exports to and projects in Iraq…. Such major EXIM financing could boost Iraq’s credit rating, leading to increased commercial financing for Iraq. However, EXIM does not favor involvement in Iraq.” Murphy warns that Congress might begin sniffing around the State Department’s secret policy of arming Iraq. He advocates fobbing off Congress with background briefings that emphasize “our efforts to deter escalation and bring about a cessation of hostilities.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Entity Tags: Oliver North, Export-Import Bank, Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, Lawrence Eagleburger, US Department of Defense, Robert C. McFarlane, William Draper, Howard Teicher, US Department of State, Richard W. Murphy
Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s
Secretary of State George Shultz announces that the State Department has designated Iran as a state sponsor of international terrorism. [PBS, 2000] As of mid-2008, Iran is still designated as a terrorism sponsor.
President Reagan’s new tone of reconciliation with the Soviet Union (see December 1983 and After) wins a positive response from Soviet Premier Konstantin Chernenko, a pragmatist who has just replaced the far more ideologically hardline Yuri Andropov. Chernonko writes that he sees an “opportunity to put our relations on a more positive track.” The National Security Council and State Department both begin moving to renew serious dialogue with the Soviets. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 139]
Bechtel executive H.C. Clark notes in an interoffice memo that “the State Department has exerted strong pressure on Ex-Im [the US Export-Import Bank] to make additional credits available [in Iraq], including for this [Aqaba ] pipeline.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]
Frank Ricciardone, a US State Department desk officer, urges the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with short-term loans “for foreign relations purposes.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]
During a State Department press conference, reporters raise the issue of US relations with Iraq and the latter’s use of chemical weapons. A reporter asks, “Has there been any export of these chemicals [referring to agents used for the production of chemical weapons] from the US to Iran or Iraq at all in the past, in the recent past?” The spokesperson responds, “No, we do not have reason to believe that exports from the United States have been used by either Iran or Iraq in this connection.” Later in the press briefing, a reporter asks, “In light of your finding that Iraq has used nerve gas and/or other forms of chemical warfare, does this have any effect on US recent initiatives to expand commercial relationships with Iraq across a broad range, and also a willingness to open diplomatic relations?” The spokesperson answers, “No. I’m not aware of any change in our position. We’re interested in being involved in a closer dialogue with Iraq.” [US Department of State, 3/31/1984 ]
Representatives from Bell Helicopter meet with Department of State officials in the Baghdad interests section to discuss a possible deal with Iraq involving the sale of 20-25 helicopters to Iraq’s Ministry of Defense. A State Department document summarizing the meeting says that the “Bell reps are fully aware that any helicopters they sell the Iraqis can not be in any way configured for military use.” [US Department of State, 3/1984 ; Washington Post, 12/15/1986]
A Department of State memo from the special adviser to the secretary on nonproliferation policy and nuclear energy affairs titled “US Dual-Use Exports to Iraq: Specific Actions,” states that the government is reviewing its policy for “the sale of certain categories of dual-use items to Iraqi nuclear entities” and the review’s “preliminary results favor expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities.” [Department of State, 5/9/1984 ]
Richard Blee in 1976. [Source: Phi Kappa Psi]Richard Blee, a CIA officer who will later go on to head the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit before 9/11 (see June 1999), serves in the Central African Republic. The State Department’s September 1984, January 1985, May 1985, and September 1986 publications “Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts” will list Blee as the consular officer at the US embassy in Bangui. [US Department of State, 9/1984, pp. 12; US Department of State, 1/1985, pp. 12; US Department of State, 5/1985, pp. 12; US Department of State, 9/1986, pp. 12] However, given his CIA affiliation he is presumably attached to the CIA station there.
George Schulz, secretary of state in the Reagan administration, says, “We have full faith in [Pakistan’s] assurance that they will not make the bomb.” However, the US, including the State Department, is already aware that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see 1983 and August 1985-October 1990). [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Secretary of State George Shultz offers prominent neoconservative and State Department official Elliott Abrams (see Early 1970s) the position of assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (ARA), overseeing the department’s South and Central American issues and initiatives, as well as those for the Caribbean. Abrams accepts and, according to State Department notes of the meeting, promises to “manage the emergence of EA [Abrams] as King of LA [Latin America].” Abrams begins his duties in July 1985, and quickly becomes one of the State Department’s most vocal supporters of Nicaragua’s Contra movement, often appearing before Congress as an emissary of the Reagan administration to ask for funds for the insurgent group. [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993]
National Security Council officials, led by NSC Director Robert McFarlane, Deputy Director John Poindexter, and senior NSC official Oliver North, develop a two-part strategy to topple the regime of Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. The plan is dubbed “Operation Flower,” with its two components called “Operation Tulip” and “Operation Rose,” respectively. Operation Tulip would be a covert CIA strategy using Libyan exiles to move into Tripoli and overthrow al-Qadhafi in a coup d’etat. Operation Rose proposes a joint US-Egyptian military campaign against the Libyan government. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger considers the entire idea “ludicrous,” as do his deputy Richard Armitage and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, CIA Director William Casey orders his deputy, Robert Gates, to study the idea. When the CIA produces Gates’s report favoring the idea, the Pentagon develops a military plan deliberately designed to scuttle the idea. The proposed US-Egyptian deployment, the Pentagon strategy says, would require six divisions and 90,000 US troops. Gates says the strategy looks “a lot like the [World War II] invasion of Normandy.” He registers his opposition to such a huge operation, warning that many American citizens as well as US allies would oppose any such overt military campaign. State Department officials concur with Gates’s analysis, and the US ambassador to Egypt, Nick Veliotes, says he believes Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would want nothing to do with the idea, in part because Mubarak has little confidence in the US military’s willingness to fight for an extended period of time, and so it would leave Egyptian forces to fight alone. Although Poindexter and other NSC officials continue to push the plan, even proposing it to an unimpressed Mubarak, no one else in the Reagan administration supports it, and it is never implemented. [Wills, 2003, pp. 172-175; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]
Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Poindexter, Hosni Mubarak, Caspar Weinberger, National Security Council, Reagan administration, Nick Veliotes, US Department of Defense, Oliver North, Robert M. Gates, Robert C. McFarlane, William Casey, US Department of State
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
Al Mohamed, pictured in a US army video. [Source: US Army]The CIA claims to have put Ali Mohamed on a terrorist watch list to prevent him from coming to the US (see 1984). Somehow, Mohamed gets a US visa anyway. After learning that he has been given a visa, the CIA supposedly issues a warning to other Federal agencies that a suspicious character might be traveling to the US. Mohamed is able to move to the US nonetheless. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001] The State Department will not explain how he is able to move to the US despite such warnings. [New York Times, 12/1/1998] In 1995, after Mohamed’s name publicly surfaces at the trial of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the Boston Globe will report that Mohamed had been admitted to the US under a special visa program controlled by the CIA’s clandestine service. This will contradict the CIA’s later claims of disassociating themselves from Mohamed and attempting to stop him from entering the US. [Boston Globe, 2/3/1995; New York Times, 10/30/1998] Mohamed befriends an American woman he meets on the airplane flight to the US. They get married less than two months later, and he moves to her residence in Santa Clara, California. The marriage will help him to become a US citizen in 1989. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001]
The first meeting of the State Department’s Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office (NHAO) is held. Two aides to Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams (see April 19, 1985 and After and September 4, 1985) attend the meeting. During the meeting, National Security Council (NSC) officer Oliver North offers the services of former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez to assist in distributing the $27 million in humanitarian aid recently approved for the Contras (see August 1985). Rodriguez is helping North channel illegal funds to the Contras (see Mid-September 1985). The agreement is to channel the funds to the Contras through El Salvador’s Ilopango Air Base, Rodriguez’s center of operations. By early 1986, the legal NHAO fund distribution will merge with the illegal North fund distribution (see December 6, 1985 and April 4, 1986). [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993] Some of the $27 million is never used for humanitarian purposes, but instead used to buy weapons, both for the Contras and for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 12/28/2007]
Richard Barlow, a CIA analyst of Pakistan’s nuclear program (see 1985-1988), realizes that officials in the State Department are refusing to share information with the CIA, the Commerce Department, and US Customs about the Pakistani program. In particular, the State Department is aware of the identities of key Pakistani agents who are illicitly purchasing nuclear weapons technology in the US, but it does not pass their names on to the CIA and the other two agencies. By withholding this information, the State Department is able to neutralize the other agencies’ counter-proliferation attempts. State Department officials also approve questionable export licenses for Pakistan (see 1986). [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
CIA analyst Richard Barlow finds that a small group of senior US officials have been directly aiding the Pakistan nuclear weapons program by approving export licenses for US equipment to be shipped to Pakistan. The State Department is also withholding intelligence about the program from other US agencies to help Pakistan (see 1986). Barlow will later say, “They were issuing scores of approvals for the Pakistan embassy in Washington to export hi-tech equipment that was critical for their nuclear bomb program and that the US Commerce Department had refused to license.” Barlow complains to his boss, CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Richard Kerr, who summons senior State Department officials to a meeting at CIA headquarters. Barlow will recall: “Kerr tried to do it as nicely as he could. He said he understood the State Department had to keep Pakistan on side—the State Department guaranteed it would stop working against us.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007]
CIA and State Department officials begin learning, to their dismay, about the illegal merging of legitimate Congressional funding of the Nicaraguan Contras with the illegal funding operation driven by National Security Council (NSC) official Oliver North (see October 1985). A senior CIA official in Central America cables Washington reporting the emergency landing of one of North’s Caribou transport planes on a road in El Salvador, and the potential embarrassment of reports from United Press International (UPI) about the plane. The official reports that North’s liaison in El Salvador, former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez (see Mid-September 1985), is “‘coordinating’ all of this with Ollie North (one supposes on open phone). [I] had to say, honestly, that [I] knew nothing of this Caribou and indeed had not heard anything from [CIA official Alan Fiers—see Late 1985 and After ] on the subject for two weeks. Rodrigues [sic] has just called [an embassy official] to advise that UPI is on the downed Caribou and wants a story. Charge’s position is that he has no knowledge re this A/C [aircraft]. God knows what Felix Rodrigues [sic] is saying.” William Walker, the deputy for Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams (see September 4, 1985), discusses the matter with the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin Corr, expressing the same concerns. Walker says that “Ollie and Max,” referring to North and Rodriguez (by his pseudonym, “Max Gomez”), “are to have nothing to do w/humanitarian assistance deliveries, etc.” Walker tells Corr to “impress on Fiers that we cannot proceed in this ‘fouled up manner.’ This is the 3d recent screw up & Washington being surprised by unknown & uncoordinated activities.” It is unclear as to what other “screw ups” Corr is referring. Walker will later testify, falsely, that he had never heard of Felix Rodriguez until August 1986. [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993]
CIA manager Richard Kerr. [Source: CIA]Officials designated to the Nuclear Export Violations Working Group (NEVWG), a top-secret panel aiming to prevent nuclear weapons technology being exported from the US, become suspicious of the State Department, and try not to share information with it. The panel, formed in mid-1986, brings together experts from the policy, law-enforcement, and intelligence communities. The group is suspicious of the State Department because it has a reputation for tipping off Pakistan about surveillance of Pakistani buyers of nuclear weapons technology in the US by sending diplomatic protests to the Pakistani government. A senior Customs Service official will say, “The State Department constituted a security problem for us.” One analyst will say of an operation to catch Pakistani agents in the US (see Before July 1987), “We were sure they’d manage to screw it up.” At one point CIA manager Richard Kerr summons senior State Department officials to a meeting for a “pointed discussion” about the steady flow of protests to Pakistan. Kerr will later say that the State Department is “extremely active” in the matter, but “What they were doing it for was to persuade the Pakistanis to stop.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
CIA Director William Casey introduces a plan to break the stalled arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that has been moribund for over a month (see Late May, 1986). Like his boss President Ronald Reagan, Casey has a powerful Cold War mentality and a love of covert operations; like Reagan, Casey believes that building relations with Iran is a way to counter Soviet expansionism. Casey’s plan appears on the agenda of a meeting of the Contingency Pre-Planning Group (CPPG), an inter-agency committee consisting of mid-level representatives of the National Security Council, the Departments of State and Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CIA. The meeting focuses on Iraq’s failures in its long, dismal war against Iran. Casey believes that if Iraq escalates its air attacks on Iran, Iran will need more and more arms from the US, and that will force it to conclude the stalled arms-for-hostages deal on favorable terms. And Casey, ever the espionage aficionado, is playing the two opposing factions—one pro-Iran, one pro-Iraq—within the administration (see January 14, 1984) against one another, according to two CIA aides who work closely with him. Those aides, who speak to reporters in 1992 after leaving the agency, will say he even keeps some White House officials ignorant of the “double nature of his plan.” In furthering his own murky strategies, Casey is also enlisting the support of State and Defense Department officials who fear an imminent Iranian victory. Casey believes that the war will continue as a stalemate for several years, but he deliberately slants his intelligence assessments to paint a graver picture of Iraq’s imminent defeat (Iraq’s fortunes in the war are grim enough to require little embellishment).
CPPG Unable To Find Solutions for Iraq - The CPPG is tasked with shoring up the US’s commercial and financial relationships with Iraq, a chore for which the group cannot find an immediate solution. The CPPG has also considered using Jordan as a conduit for arms to Iraq, similar to the way Israel has served as a conduit for US arms to Iran (see 1981), but the group rejects that idea because, according to a memo from the meeting, “any such transfer has to be notified to the Congress and thus made public.”
Iraq's Antiquated War Strategies - The group finally discusses a matter that plays into Casey’s plan, Iraq’s failure to fight the war in a modern fashion. Iraq uses its powerful air force extremely poorly, at times seemingly afraid to commit planes on missions that might put a single aircraft at risk. Former ambassador Richard Murphy will say of Iraq, “The Iraqis were fighting the way Germans might have in the First World War. They were good at holding a defense line, which is useful in holding back the human waves of Iranians. But when it came to their air force they were inept. On bombing missions, in particular, the Iraqis were so afraid to lose planes that they often didn’t undertake missions, and when they did they did only things that were safe.” Reagan has already issued secret authorizations for Saudi Arabia to transfer US-origin bombs to Iraq, to induce it to use its air force more effectively (see February 1986), to little avail. Now the CPPG says that Vice President George Bush might help out; Bush is making a trip to the Middle East as Reagan’s “peace envoy” (see July 23, 1986). The CPPG decides that Bush might suggest to Jordan’s King Hussein and Egypt’s President Mubarak that the two “sustain their efforts to convey our shared views to Saddam regarding Iraq’s use of its air resources.” The CPPG is not sanguine about the likelihood of Bush’s success, considering the distrust Saddam Hussein maintains for the US. The CPPG recommends that the White House send “a senior US emissary” to confer directly with Hussein; the CPPG is apparently unaware that Casey has already spoken privately with Bush and asked him to meet in secret with Hussein (see July 23, 1986). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Entity Tags: Reagan administration, Hosni Mubarak, George Herbert Walker Bush, Contingency Pre-Planning Group, Central Intelligence Agency, Hussein bin Talal, National Security Council, US Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Department of State, William Casey, Richard W. Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s, Iran-Contra Affair
Vice-President George H. W. Bush returns from his trip to the Middle East, where he has passed along a message to Iraq to step up its air war against Iran (see July 23, 1986). The covert machinations nearly become public knowledge when US embassy officials in Saudi Arabia, learning of the Saudi transfer of US arms to Iraq earlier in the year (see February 1986), question the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar. Bandar, fully aware of the arms transfer, tells the officials that the transfer was “accidental” and the amount of arms transferred was negligible. The State Department is also curious about the transfer, warns that the arms transfer violates the Arms Export Control Act, and says it must inform Congress of the transfer. Such a notification would endanger the entire process, and possibly short-circuit another arms deal in the works, a $3.5 billion transfer of five AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia, of which Congress has already been informed. But after the White House notifies the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar (R-IN), and mollifies Lugar by telling him the arms sales to Iraq were “inadvertent,” “unauthorized,” and involved only a “small quantity of unsophisticated weapons,” Lugar agrees to keep silent about the matter. Another senator later approaches Lugar about rumors that Saudi Arabia is sending US arms to Iraq, and recalls that “Dick Lugar told me there was nothing to it, and so I took his word.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Ronald Reagan speaks to the nation. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]President Reagan addresses the nation on the Iran-Contra issue (see October 5, 1986 and November 3, 1986). “I know you’ve been reading, seeing, and hearing a lot of stories the past several days attributed to Danish sailors (see Early November, 1986), unnamed observers at Italian ports and Spanish harbors, and especially unnamed government officials of my administration,” he says. “Well, now you’re going to hear the facts from a White House source, and you know my name.” But despite his direct introduction, Reagan presents the same half-truths, denials, and outright lies that his officials have been providing to Congress and the press (see Mid-October, 1986 and November 10, 1986 and After).
'Honorable' Involvement - He admits to an 18-month “secret diplomatic initiative” with Iran, for several “honorable” reasons: to renew relations with that nation, to bring an end to the Iran-Iraq war, to eliminate Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, and to effect the release of the US hostages being imprisoned by Hezbollah. He calls the press reports “rumors,” and says, “[L]et’s get to the facts.”
Falsehoods Presented as Facts - The US has not swapped weapons to Iran for hostages, Reagan asserts. However, evidence suggests otherwise (see January 28, 1981, 1983, 1985, May 1985, June 11, 1985, July 3, 1985, July 8, 1985, August 6, 1985, September 15, 1985, December 6, 1985, December 12, 1985, Mid-1980s, January 7, 1986, January 17, 1986, Late May, 1986, September 19, 1986, and Early October-November, 1986). Reagan also claims the US has not “trafficked with terrorists,” although Iran is listed as a sponsor of terrorism by the State Department. It “has not swapped boatloads or planeloads of American weapons for the return of American hostages. And we will not.” Reports of Danish and Spanish vessels carrying secret arms shipments, of Italian ports employed to facilitate arms transfers, and of the US sending spare parts and weapons for Iranian combat aircraft, all are “quite exciting, but… not one of them is true.” Reagan does admit to his authorization of “the transfer of small amounts of defensive weapons and spare parts for defensive systems to Iran,” merely as a gesture of goodwill. “These modest deliveries, taken together, could easily fit into a single cargo plane,” he says. (In reality, the US has already sent over 1,000 missiles to Iran over the course of a number of shipments.) He says the US made it clear to Iran that for any dialogue to continue, it must immediately cease its support of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, and to facilitate the release of US hostages held by that group in Lebanon. Evidence exists, Reagan says, of the Iranians ramping down their support of terrorism. And some hostages have already been freed, a true statement, though he fails to mention that others have been taken.
Admission of May Meeting - Reagan admits that former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane met with Iranian officials (see Late May, 1986). According to Reagan, McFarlane went to Iraq “to open a dialog, making stark and clear our basic objectives and disagreements.” He presents no further information about the meeting, except that the talks were “civil” and “American personnel were not mistreated.”
Exposure Risks Undermining Efforts to Facilitate Peace - The public disclosure of these “honorable” negotiations has put the entire US efforts to broker peace between Iran and Iraq in jeopardy, he says. In negotiations such as these, there is “a basic requirement for discretion and for a sensitivity to the situation in the nation we were attempting to engage.”
Reagan Says Congress Not Lied to - Reagan says that there is no truth to the stories that his officials ever lied to members of Congress about the Iranian negotiations (see Mid-October, 1986). The members of Congress who needed to know about the negotiations were informed, as were the “appropriate Cabinet officers” and others “with a strict need to know.” Since the story has now broken, “the relevant committees of Congress are being, and will be, fully informed.” [Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, 11/13/1986; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 65-66]
Former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams testifies to the House Intelligence Committee about his knowledge of the Iran-Contra affair (see Mid-October, 1986). Like CIA official Alan Fiers (see November 25, 1986), Abrams testifies that neither he nor his superiors at the State Department knew anything of the illegal diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras (see December 6, 1985 and April 4, 1986); like Fiers, Abrams is lying (see Late 1985 and After). Several days later, Abrams testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) accuses Abrams of lying during the first session, and Abrams replies, “You’ve heard my testimony.” Eagleton retorts, “I’ve heard it, and I want to puke.” [Time, 7/22/1991; Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993] Abrams will later admit to lying to both the House and Senate (see October 7, 1991).
The CIA sets a trap to catch operatives connected to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program who are buying components in the US, but “two high-ranking US officials extremely close to the White House” tip off Pakistan and only a minor player is caught. Initially, a Pakistani businessman contacts a Pennsylvania company called Carpenter Steel and asks to buy a specific type of metal used only in constructing centrifuges to enrich uranium. The Department of Energy learns of the contact and informs Richard Barlow, a CIA analyst focused on Pakistan’s nuclear program. Barlow realizes that both the businessman, Arshad Pervez, and his handler, Inam ul-Haq, a retired brigadier in the Pakistani army, are well-known Pakistan government operatives. Barlow and US Customs set up a sting at a bugged hotel room, but Pervez arrives without ul-Haq, the main target. Barlow then finds that the officials have tipped off Pakistan, even though the information about the operation was closely held (see Mid-1986 and After). Barlow finds cables implicating the two high-ranking officials in the tip-off: Robert Peck, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of Near East Affairs, and another official at the under secretary level. A trail of paperwork definitively proves sabotage within the State Department and the tip-off is found “buried within the lawyerly language of a demarche to Islamabad, subtly phrased so as to protect those who had sent it.” Barlow will later comment: “The CIA went mad. These were criminal offenses.” However, the State Department argues an inquiry would disclose state secrets and the investigation is abandoned, just before President Ronald Reagan again certifies that “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.” There will later be a stormy congressional hearing about the affair (see July 1987 or Shortly After). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 169; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Ul-Haq will later be arrested in Germany and extradited to the US, but he will only serve a very short sentence. His nuclear transactions in the US will also be linked to the criminal BCCI bank (see July 11, 1991).
During a symposium hosted by the US-Iraq Business Forum, Assistant Secretary of State Peter Burleigh encourages US companies to do business in Iraq. The business forum reportedly has strong ties to Baghdad. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 84-85]
Jim Wright. [Source: Wally McNamee / Corbis]A group of Nicaraguan Contra leaders walks unexpectedly into the office of Speaker of the House Jim Wright (D-TX) and demands a meeting. They want to discuss prisoners being held by the Sandinista government. Wright is perplexed, but agrees to see them.
'Reagan-Wright' Peace Plan - Wright has engineered a peace program between the US and Nicaragua known as “Reagan-Wright,” a program very unpopular with right-wing Republicans both in the White House and in Congress. White House officials such as President Reagan’s national security affairs assistant Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams have attempted to derail the program by trying to persuade other Central American leaders to come out against Nicaragua and thereby undermine the peace talks. But the program has progressed, largely because of Wright’s tireless efforts and the cooperation of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez (who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts). Wright had informed the leaders of the different factions in Nicaragua, Contras and Sandinistas alike, that his door was always open to them.
Enemy in House - Wright does not realize that he has an implacable enemy in powerful House member Dick Cheney (R-WY). Cheney is offended by what he sees as Wright’s encroachment on powers that should be reserved for the executive branch alone, and has devised a campaign to further undermine Wright.
Meeting between Wright and Contras - When the Contra leaders meet with Wright, the speaker has already informed the CIA that its agents who were fomenting civil unrest and provoking the Sandinistas were violating the law. He tells the Contras that they can no longer expect CIA agitators to work on their behalf. When news of the meeting gets back to Cheney and Abrams, they are, in Wright’s recollection, “furious.”
Washington Times Claims Wright Leaked Classified Information - The State Department steers the angry Contra delegation to the offices of the right-wing Washington Times, where they tell the editorial staff what Wright had told them—that the CIA is illegally provoking unrest in Nicaragua. A week later, Wright is floored when a Times reporter confronts him with accusations that he has leaked classified CIA information to foreign nationals.
Security Breach Allegation - Wright’s defense—he had told the Contras nothing they didn’t already know—does not placate Cheney, who immediately calls for a thorough investigation of Wright’s “security breach.” Speaking as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Cheney says Wright has raised serious “institutional questions that go to the integrity of the House, to the integrity of the oversight process in the area of intelligence, and to the operation of the Intelligence Committee.”
Set-Up - An investigative reporter from Newsday, Roy Gutman, learns from State Department sources that Wright had been set up by Cheney and Abrams. State Department officials sent the Contras to the Washington Times with specific instructions to leak the CIA content of their discussion with Wright to the editors. But Gutman’s discovery has little impact on the situation.
Ethics Complaint - Cheney, with House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-IL), files a complaint with the House Ethics Committee and demands an investigation by the Intelligence Committee, claiming Wright has compromised US intelligence operations in Central America. Throughout the process, neither Michel nor Cheney give Wright any warning of the complaints before they are filed.
Pressure from Cheney - Looking back, Wright will be more disturbed by Michel’s actions than by Cheney’s. He considered Michel a friend, and was amazed that Michel went along with Cheney in blindsiding him. Michel will later apologize to Wright, and say that Cheney had pressured him so much that he went along with Cheney in filing the ethics complaint without telling Wright. One aspect that Michel does not explain is why, as House minority leader, he would put the stamp of approval of the House leadership on the complaint, raising it to a much higher level than a complaint from a rank-and-file representative like Cheney. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 60-62]
Entity Tags: Washington Times, Roy Gutman, US Department of State, Robert Michel, Elliott Abrams, House Ethics Committee, House Intelligence Committee, Contras, Colin Powell, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Ronald Reagan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency, James C. (‘Jim’) Wright, Jr.
Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair
In a memo regarding the issue of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy writes, “The US-Iraqi relationship
is… important to our long term political and economic objectives. We believe that economic sanctions will be useless or counterproductive to influence the Iraqis.” [Washington Post, 12/30/2002]
Erwin Griswold. [Source: US Department of Justice]Former Solicitor General Erwin Griswold, who represented the United States before the Supreme Court in the landmark Pentagon Papers case in 1971 (see March 1971 and June 30, 1971), now writes that he saw nothing in those documents that threatened national security. In 1971, without ever actually reading the documents, Griswold argued that their publication constituted a “grave and immediate danger to the security of the United States.” Griswold writes in a Washington Post op-ed that he relied on the judgment of “three high officials, one each from the Defense Department, the State Department and the National Security Agency” to explain to him why the documents posed such a threat. (In 2006, then-White House counsel John Dean will write that Griswold “did not insist on knowing what was actually contained in the Pentagon Papers, and he never found out, even as he insisted on the importance of their continued secrecy.”) In 1971, Griswold told the Court: “I haven’t the slightest doubt myself that the material which has already been published and the publication of the other materials affects American lives and is a thoroughly serious matter. I think to say that it can only be enjoined if there will be a war tomorrow morning, when there is a war now going on, is much too narrow.” Griswold now writes: “I have never seen any trace of a threat to the national security from the publication [of the documents]. Indeed, I have never seen it even suggested that there was such an actual threat.… It quickly becomes apparent to any person who has considerable experience with classified material that there is massive overclassification and that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but rather with governmental embarrassment of one sort or another.” [Washington Post, 2/15/1989; FindLaw, 6/16/2006; Siegel, 2008, pp. 200]
State Department officials warn Secretary of State James Baker that Iraq is building chemical and biological weapons, and they detail a compendium of horrendous human rights violations carried out by the regime of Saddam Hussein against his own citizens (see August 25, 1988). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Deputy Secretary of State Designate Lawrence Eagleburger is called to testify in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Yugoslav situation. He tells the senators that Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milosevic’s actions are “very harmful,” creating “the worst [conditions] with regard to the national question since the end of the war,” and says that ethnic Albanians are the victims and the US should speak out. He also says Yugoslavia is “used to reacting adversely to any outside intereference.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 184]
Secretary of State James Baker receives a memo from the State Department informing him that Iraq is aggressively developing chemical and biological weapons, as well as new missiles. In spite of this disturbing intelligence, the memo also instructs Baker to express the administration’s “interest in broadening US-Iraqi ties” to Iraqi Undersecretary Kizam Hamdoon. [US Department of State, 3/24/1989]
Richard Blee, a CIA officer who will later go on to head the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit before 9/11 (see June 1999), serves in Niger. The State Department’s May 1989, September 1989, January 1990, September 1990, and January 1991 publications “Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts” will list him as the political officer at the US embassy in Niamey. [US Department of State, 5/1989, pp. 35; US Department of State, 9/1989, pp. 35; US Department of State, 1/1990, pp. 35; US Department of State, 9/1990, pp. 32; US Department of State, 1/1991, pp. 62] However, given his CIA affiliation, Blee is presumably attached to the CIA station there.
James A. Baker. [Source: Library of Congress]By this date, all international banks have cut off loans to Iraq. Notwithstanding, President Bush, ignoring warnings from his own departments about the alarming buildup of the Iraqi military and Iraq’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction (see June 1989 and September 1989), signs the secret National Security Directive 26 establishing closer ties to the Baghdad regime and providing $1 billion in agricultural loan guarantees to that government. These funds allow Iraq to continue its development of weapons of mass destruction. Four days later, Secretary of State James Baker meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and promises that the US will not curb restrictions on high-technology exports to Iraq. Baker is ignoring the CIA’s warnings that Iraq is using some of this technology to develop a nuclear weapon. The State Department’s minutes of the Baker-Aziz meeting reads in part, “[T]he Secretary admitted that the US does have concerns about proliferation, but they are worldwide concerns.” [US President, 10/2/1989; Los Angeles Times, 2/23/1992; New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Wall Street Journal, 7/10/2002]
The US State Department refuses to tighten export licenses for Iraq, even though officials know that Iraq is diverting dual-use technology and equipment for its nuclear-weapons program (see September 1989). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Staff at the US embassies in India and Pakistan underestimate the seriousness of a crisis between the two countries (see January-May 1990), because they have been given manipulated intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear capability. As they think Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons, they assume the crisis will not escalate into war. The US has been aware that Pakistan does have a nuclear weapons program and a nuclear weapon for some time (see 1987-1989 and May 1990), but has been suppressing this knowledge so that it could continue to support anti-Soviet mujaheddin and sell fighters to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). An example of the way the seriousness of the crisis is not appreciated is that US ambassador to India William Clark learns that the Pakistani air force is practicing dropping nuclear bombs, but is wrongly told that this is not important because the intelligence suggests Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. The CIA, State Department, Pentagon, and White House are actually aware that this is a serious warning sign (see May 1990), but the intelligence has been altered to indicate Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. For example, a report to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney by Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow was completely rewritten and Barlow’s conclusions were reversed to say Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons (see Mid-1989). Barlow was later fired from his job due to his opposition to an arms deal (see August 4, 1989). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 209-210]
In repeated statements, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein says that overproduction of oil by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is “economic warfare” against Iraq. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] Iraq is not merely issuing blustery allegations with no basis in fact. Iraq is virtually bankrupt and deeply in debt to both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which funded Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as other nations such as the US and Japan. Hussein has spent billions rebuilding his military and distributing massive amounts of consumer goods to the populace in an attempt to persuade them that Iraq won the war against Iran and is now able to spend its “war dividends.” In 1999, Kuwait defied the quotas laid down by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and increased its oil production by 40%. The subsequent sharp drop in oil prices drove Iraq’s economy towards catastrophe. The situation is further aggravated by Iraqi suspicions that Kuwait is deliberately “slant-drilling” oil from Iraq’s Rumaylah oil field (see July 15-17, 1990). Hussein needs a massive infusion of revenue to maintain his large standing army and the fiction of economic growth, and he looks to Kuwait as the source of that revenue. Land issues also play a part: Iraq wants to swap some territory along the border for control of two Kuwaiti-held islands across from its port at Umm Qasr, but Kuwait is unwilling to make the trade. US diplomat Joseph Wilson, the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, describes the Iraqi outlook on Kuwait as a nation “small, rich, and despised.” All in all, the US diplomatic entourage in Baghdad is alarmed at Iraq’s preparations for war. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 93-94; NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: FBI]Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 42] Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and Pakistani ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new fighters for the Afghan war. The CIA gave him visas to come to the US starting in 1986 (see December 15, 1986-1989) . However, he never hid his prime goals to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996] FBI agent Tommy Corrigan will later say that prior to Abdul-Rahman’s arrival, “terrorism for all intents and purposes didn’t exist in the United States. But [his] arrival in 1990 really stoke the flames of terrorism in this country. This was a major-league ballplayer in what at the time was a minor-league ballpark. He was… looked up to worldwide. A mentor to bin Laden, he was involved with the MAK over in Pakistan.” The charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) is also known as Al-Kifah, and it has a branch in Brooklyn known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. The head of that branch, Mustafa Shalabi, picks up Abdul-Rahman at the airport when he first arrives and finds an apartment for him. Abdul-Rahman soon begins preaching at Al Farouq mosque, which is in the same building as the Al-Kifah office, plus two other locals mosques, Abu Bakr and Al Salaam. [Lance, 2006, pp. 53] He quickly turns Al-Kifah into his “de facto headquarters.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996] He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a militant Islamic network in the US. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] He is believed to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman’s US living expenses. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996; ABC News, 8/16/2002] For the next two years, Abdul-Rahman will continue to exit and reenter the US without being stopped or deported, even though he is still on the watch list (see Late October 1990-October 1992).
Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Osama bin Laden, Meir Kahane, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, US Department of State, Abu Bakr Mosque, Al Farouq Mosque, Al Salaam Mosque, Anwar Sadat, World Trade Center
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
John Kelly. [Source: WGBH-FM]Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly testifies before an open session of the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Middle East expert Lee Hamilton (D-IN). Hamilton asks Kelly if the US has a mutual defense pact with Kuwait, a question to which Hamilton already knows the answer. Kelly answers, “We don’t have any defense treaty with the Gulf States. That’s clear. We support the independence and security of all friendly states in the region. Since the Truman administration, we’ve maintained naval forces in the area because its stability is in our interest. We call for a peaceful solution to all disputes, and we think that the sovereignty of every state in the Gulf must be respected.” Kelly’s words are transmitted to Iraq within minutes of his speaking them. US diplomat Joseph Wilson, stationed in Baghdad, later writes, “Despite the qualifiers that Kelly put into place about America’s preference for peaceful solutions to disputes, the only thing the Iraqi regime heard was that we had no legal obligation or even any mechanism to react to an invasion. That had far more effect than anything [US Ambassador to Iraq] April Glaspie may or may not have said in her meeting with Saddam Hussein (see July 25, 1990). It substantiated that she was in no position to threaten Saddam, nor that if Kuwait was invaded would we bring the B52s over and bomb Iraq back into the Stone Age. There was no legal or political basis before the invasion to make that threat, and Glaspie was never going to so grossly exceed her instructions. She could not in fact have gone any further in her response to Saddam than she had actually gone.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 104-105]
The New York Times prints a long article based on a highly classified memo written about US diplomat Joseph Wilson’s meeting with Saddam Hussein two days before (see August 6, 1990). Neither Wilson nor anyone else at the US Embassy in Baghdad leaked the memo, Wilson will aver; he believes the memo was leaked by a senior government official in Washington. The Iraqis are understandably furious at the public revelation of the events of the Hussein-Wilson meeting. When the Iraqis demand to see the US response to Hussein’s proposals as advanced in the meeting, Wilson is instructed by a senior State Department official to tell the Iraqis to “turn on CNN” for the American reply. CNN is broadcasting footage of American C-5 transport planes filled with military equipment bound for Saudi Arabia; the US is beginning its deployment of troops to the region in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 7, 1990). [Wilson, 2004, pp. 124-125]
US diplomat Joseph Wilson meets with Iraq’s Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and asks what Iraq intends to do with the thousands of US citizens in Iraq and Kuwait if the US Embassy decides that most of its personnel should leave. Wilson wants to ensure that no more Americans will be captured and used as hostages (see August 4, 1990, August 8, 1990, and August 17-23, 1990). Wilson is particularly concerned about the 2,000 or so Americans in Kuwait. Aziz says that Iraq will honor its obligations under the Geneva and Vienna Conventions, which specify that innocent civilians must be allowed to leave a war zone and not be held against their will. Wilson informs his State Department superiors in Washington of Aziz’s promises and recommends that every American be moved out of Kuwait as soon as possible—if not out of the region entirely, then at least to Baghdad. Wilson has little confidence in Aziz’s assurances, calling the minister a “lying son of a b_tch” in his communique. Wilson later learns that the decision goes all the way to President Bush, who decides to follow Wilson’s recommendation and order all but the ambassador, Nat Howell, and a skeleton staff to abandon the Kuwait embassy. The US wants to keep the Kuwait embassy open to show that it does not accept Iraq’s claim that Kuwait is no longer a sovereign state and therefore does not warrant its own diplomatic representation from other countries. By August 24, around 120 Americans, many of them diplomats and staffers from the Kuwait embassy, and their families, arrive at the US Embassy in Baghdad. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 135-137]
In July 1990, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, was mysteriously able to enter the US and remain there despite being a well known public figure and being on a watch list for three years (see July 1990).
In late October 1990, he travels to London, so he is out of the US when one of his followers assassinates the Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990 (see November 5, 1990). He returns to the US in mid-November under the name “Omar Ahmed Rahman” and again has no trouble getting back in despite still being on the watch list. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
The State Department revokes his US visa on November 17 after the FBI informs it that he is in the US. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
In December 1990, Abdul-Rahman leaves the US again to attend an Islamic conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returns nine days later and again has no trouble reentering, despite not even having a US visa at this point. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
On December 16, 1990, the New York Times publishes an article titled, “Islamic Leader on US Terrorist List Is in Brooklyn,” which makes his presence in the US publicly known. The Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) is said to be investigating why he has not been deported already. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
Yet in April 1991, the INS approves his application for permanent residence.
He then leaves the US again in June 1991 to go on the religious hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returns on July 31, 1991. INS officials identify him coming in, but let him in anyway. [New York Times, 4/24/1993; Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
In June 1992, his application for political asylum will be turned down and his permanent residence visa revoked. But INS hearings on his asylum bid are repeatedly delayed and still have not taken place when the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993). [Lance, 2003, pp. 105-106]
Abdul-Rahman then goes to Canada around October 1992 and returns to the US yet again. The US and Canada claim to have no documentation on his travel there, but numerous witnesses in Canada see him pray and lecture there. Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) says, “Here they spent all this time trying to get him out. He goes to Canada and gives them the perfect reason to exclude him and they don’t.”
After the WTC bombing, the US could detain him pending his deportation hearing but chooses not to, saying it would be too costly to pay for his medical bills. [New York Times, 4/24/1993]
Abdul-Rahman will be involved in the follow up “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993) before finally being arrested later in 1993. It will later be alleged that he was protected by the CIA. In 1995, the New York Times will comment that the link between Abdul-Rahman and the CIA “is a tie that remains muddy.” [New York Times, 10/2/1995]
One of the many air strikes launched against Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. [Source: US Air Force]The US launches a massive air assault against Iraq in retaliation for that country’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The air assault begins the day after a UN deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait expires (see November 29, 1990). F-117 Stealth bombers hit Baghdad with an array of high-tech bombs and missiles; many of the explosions are televised live, or on briefly delayed feeds, on CNN, which launches virtually 24-hour coverage of the air strikes. In the first 48 hours of the war, 2,107 combat missions drop more than 5,000 tons of bombs on Baghdad alone, nearly twice the amount that incinerated Dresden in World War II.
'Thunder and Lightning of Desert Storm' - US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), announces the beginning of hostilities by transmitting the following: “Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation’s resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997]
Initial Attacks Obliterate Iraqi Navy, Much of Air Force, Many Ground Installations - The attack begins with an assault of over 100 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) launched from US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and attack helicopter strikes on Iraqi radar installations near the Iraq-Saudi Arabian border. The assaults destroy much of Iraq’s air defense and command-and-control capabilities. The missile assault is quickly followed by fighter, bomber, and assault helicopter strikes which continue pounding at Iraqi government buildings, power stations, dams, military sites, radio and television stations, and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The strikes essentially obliterate the Iraqi Navy, and drastically cripple the Iraqi Air Force. (Between 115 and 140 aircraft and crews of the Iraqi Air Force flees to Iran over the course of the war, a move that surprises US commanders, who expected the aircraft and their crews to attempt to flee to Jordan, not Iran. The Iranians will never give Iraq back its aircraft, and will not release Iraqi air crews for years to come.) A US Navy review later calls the combined Navy-Marine air campaign, conducted in concert with US Air Force strikes, “successful beyond the most optimistic expectations.” The Navy later reports that “allied air forces dropped over 88,500 tons of ordnance on the battlefield.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997; NationMaster, 12/23/2007] Iraqi anti-aircraft counterattacks are surprisingly effective, downing around 75 US and British aircraft in the first hours of attacks. The US media does not widely report these downings, nor does it give much attention to the dozens of pilots and air crew captured as POWs. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
'The Mother of All Battles' - Five hours after the first attacks, Baghdad state radio broadcasts a voice identified as Saddam Hussein. Hussein tells his people that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
US Embassy Helped Locate Targets for Air Strikes - Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the last American to leave Baghdad (see January 12, 1991), and his staff provided critical assistance to the US battle planners in choosing their initial targets. Over the months, Wilson and his staff developed a “hostage tracking system,” monitoring and recording the movements of the American hostages as they were transferred from site to site to be used as human shields in the event of a US strike (see August 4, 1990 and August 8, 1990). Wilson and his staff were able to identify some 55 sites that were being used around the country, presumably some of the most critical military and infrastructure sites in Iraq. Wilson gave that information to the Pentagon. He will later write, “I was gratified when several months later, on the first night of Desert Storm, long after the hostages had been released, many of those sites were ones hit by American bombs.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 141]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, United Nations, US Department of the Marines, US Department of the Air Force, US Department of the Army, CNN, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf, Joseph C. Wilson, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
After the junta ruling Algeria suspends elections and declares martial law (see January 11, 1992), the US decides to tacitly support the junta’s actions. Islamist groups were poised to take power. Secretary of State James Baker will later explain, “We pursued a policy of excluding the radical fundamentalists in Algeria even as we recognized that this was somewhat at odds with our support of democracy.” A State Department report will later comment that the US supported the Algerian junta with “something of a wink and a nod.” Algeria will become embroiled in a civil war and the Algerian government’s crackdown on opponents will become increasingly brutal, but the US will continue to support the junta. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 315-316]
Valerie Plame, a young CIA case officer working in the Europe Division at the agency’s Directorate of Operations following a tour in Greece (see Fall 1985 and Fall 1989), decides on a risky career move—becoming a NOC, or Nonofficial Covered Officer. As reporter Laura Rozen will later explain: “Becoming a NOC would require Plame to erase all visible connections to the US government, while, with the help of the agency’s Office of Central Cover, developing and inhabiting a plausible new private sector career and professional identity that would serve as useful cover for her to meet and develop potential sources of intelligence value to the agency without revealing herself as an agent of the US government. It also meant giving up the protection of diplomatic status should her covert activities be discovered.” “A NOC has no overt affiliation with the US government,” Plame will later write. “If he was caught, the United States would deny any connection.” The CIA accepts her as a NOC candidate, and in order to distance herself from her former association with her former “cover” career as a junior State Department officer in Athens, Plame begins pursuing double graduate degrees in international affairs and European studies. She studies at both the London School of Economics and at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, where the entire curriculum is taught in French. By 1996 she is ensconced in an apartment in Brussels, where she begins a “career” as an energy executive and secret NOC. She has a far wider range of potential contacts within the corporate world as an apparent private citizen, and her new assignment introduces her to the world of weapons proliferation, WMD, counternarcotics, economic intelligence, technological developments, and counterterrorism. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 332-333]
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is quoted in an Egyptian newspaper saying Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman had worked with the CIA. Under pressure from the US State Department, the newspaper’s editor retracts the story a few days later. [Boston Globe, 2/3/1995; Lance, 2006, pp. 127]
In a July 1993 intelligence report, the CIA notes that Osama bin Laden has been paying to train members of the Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Sudan, where he lives. The CIA privately concludes he is an important terrorist financier (see 1993). In August 1993, the State Department sees links between bin Laden and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see August 1993), who leads Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and was recently arrested in the US (see July 3, 1993). A State Department report comments that bin Laden seems “committed to financing ‘Jihads’ against ‘anti-Islamic’ regimes worldwide.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109, 479] In August 1993, the State Department also puts bin Laden on its no-fly watch list (see August 12, 1993 and Shortly Thereafter). However, US intelligence will be slow to realize he is more directly involved than just giving money. Some intelligence reports into 1997 will continue to refer to him only as a militant financier. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109, 479]
On August 12, 1993, the US officially designates Sudan to be a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Countries given this designation are subject to a variety of US economic sanctions. As of 2008, Sudan has yet to be removed from the US lists of terrorism sponsors. Osama bin Laden is living in Sudan at the time, and shortly after this designation is issued the State Department places bin Laden on its TIPOFF watch list. This is designed to prevent him from entering the US. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109; US Department of State, 7/17/2007] However, Britain apparently does not follow suit, because bin Laden will continue to make trips to Britain through 1996 (see Early 1990s-Late 1996).
A combined inquiry by the inspectors general of the Defense Department, CIA, and State Department finds that numerous charges made against Richard Barlow (see 1981-1982 and August 4, 1989), a former analyst of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program for all three agencies, are without merit. However, the report is re-written before it is published. Lead inspector Sherman Funk finds that the accusation that Barlow is a traitor is “an error not supported by a scintilla of evidence,” adding, “The truth about Barlow’s termination is, simply put, that it was unfair and unwarranted.” Funk calls the whole affair “Kafka-like” and says Barlow was fired for “refusing to accede to policies which he knew to be wrong.” Despite this, the report is rewritten before it is published. The new version exonerates the Pentagon and says that Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons, although the US is well aware it does (see July 1987 or Shortly After). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Funk will comment: “Yesterday, I received a copy of the Barlow report I had co-signed. Reviewing it I was startled and dismayed to realize that the summary of conclusions had not been revised to reflect the changes we had made.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 233, 507]
Fabricated Evidence - Commenting on an earlier version of the Pentagon inspector general’s report, one of Barlow’s former bosses, Gerald Oplinger, said that it contained evidence fabricated by the inspector general’s office. The report alleges that Oplinger deliberately inflated his annual evaluation of Barlow in order to avoid “an unpleasant personnel situation.” However, in a sworn affidavit Oplinger says this charge is “devoid of merit,” and also denies ever having spoken to anyone from the inspector general’s office, even though an interview with him is listed as one of the sources for the report.
'Many' Colleagues Support Barlow - Journalist Seymour Hersh previously interviewed “many” of Barlow’s former CIA and State Department colleagues and they confirmed Barlow’s essential allegation—that the full story of the Pakistani purchases was deliberately withheld from Congress, for fear of provoking a cut-off in military and economic aid that would adversely affect the Soviet-Afghan War. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
The Indian government grows concerned about a new Pakistani policy of funding and supporting Islamist militias in Pakistan so these militants can fight the Indian army in the disputed region of Kashmir. Since these groups are not officially part of the Pakistani government, Pakistan has some plausible deniability about the violence they are involved in. An Indian joint intelligence committee determines that the Pakistani government is spending around $7 million a month to fund these proxy fighters. They present a file of evidence to the US, warning that Muslim fundamentalists are being infiltrated into Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir and that Gen. Pervez Musharraf (who will later take power in a coup) is behind the new policy (see 1993-1994). They ask the US to consider where these fighters will go after Kashmir. Naresh Chandra, Indian ambassador to the US at the time, will later recall: “The US was not interested. I was shouting and no one in the State Department or elsewhere could have cared less.” Pakistan continues its tacit support for these groups through 9/11. The US will decline to list Pakistan as an official sponsor of terrorism despite growing evidence over the years that the Pakistani government is supporting these militants attacking India. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 241]
Afghanistan has been mired in civil war ever since the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. The Taliban arise organically in early 1994, but are soon co-opted by the Pakistani ISI (see Spring-Autumn 1994). By mid-October 1994, the Taliban takes over the town of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Before the end of the month, John Monjo, the US ambassador to Pakistan, makes a tour of areas controlled by the Taliban with Pakistan’s Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar, who is said to have been been a force behind the Taliban’s creation. The State Department issues a press release calling the victory of the “students” a “positive development likely to bring stability back to the area.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 261-262]
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).
Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was arrested in the US in mid-December 1994 (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), and as he is held the evidence tying him to terrorism continues to grow:
One week after his arrest, the State Department tells the immigration judge handling Khalifa’s case that he had “engaged in serious terrorist offenses” and that his release “would endanger US national security.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
In early January, police in the Philippines uncover the Bojinka plot, involving associates of Khalifa. A Philippine investigator makes a chart connecting the Bojinka figures and places Khalifa in the middle of it (see Spring 1995). The plot, if successful, would have killed thousands while also assassinating the Pope (see January 6, 1995). Meanwhile, The FBI translates literature in Khalifa’s luggage advocating training in assassination, explosives, and weapons, including discussions of the “wisdom of bombing churches and murdering Catholic priests.” [New York Times, 5/2/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 233-35]
Phone numbers to Khalifa’s Philippine charity fronts are found on bomber Ramzi Yousef’s laptop seized in early January 1995 as the Bojinka plot is exposed. Khalifa’s business card is found in the apartment Yousef was staying in as well. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159, 203]
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah is arrested in early January 1995. He is found with multiple phone numbers for Khalifa. [Stephen Handelman, 7/31/1996; Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
When Yousef is arrested in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995), he will be asked about Khalifa’s business card found in his apartment. According to an FBI report issued at the time, Yousef claims that he did not personally know Khalifa, but had been given the card by fellow Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah as a contact in case he needed help. He also says that he is aware that Khalifa is a relative of Osama bin Laden. [Lance, 2006, pp. 203]
In February and March, Philippine interrogation of one Bojinka plotter uncovers a planned second wave of attacks that would involve flying airplanes into US buildings, including the World Trade Center, CIA headquarters, and the Pentagon (see February-Early May 1995). This will eventually evolve into the 9/11 attacks. US investigators are notified about this sometime in the spring of 1995 (see Spring 1995).
On April 1, Philippine authorities arrest six men and announce they are connected to Khalifa and Bojinka plotters such as Ramzi Yousef (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). The Philippine Interior Secretary calls Khalifa a key figure in Islamic extremist efforts. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
The Associated Press reports that Khalifa is believed to be “a key figure in efforts to recruit new members of the Abu Sayyaf group.” On April 4, the Abu Sayyaf raid a Christian town called Ipil and kill over fifty people in what is the group’s largest and most brutal terrorist attack (see April 4, 1995). This increases the importance of Khalifa’s ties with them. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
Khalifa is accused by Yemen, Egypt, and Algeria of financing subversion in those countries. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
Despite all this evidence, Khalifa will soon be deported to Jordan for retrial there (see May 3, 1995-August 31, 1995), even though the key witness against him has already recanted. He will be found innocent and set free (see July 19, 1995).
Apparent footage of one of the mysterious Tuzla flights, from a BBC documentary on the subject. [Source: BBC]UN observers and others report that frequent flights entering Bosnia are supplying weapons to the Bosnian Muslims in violation of the UN arms embargo. The flights clearly have the support of the US. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 177- 198] A UN official who witnesses the flights is physically threatened by three American officers and warned to keep silent. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] Journalists are also pressured and threatened by the US embassy, which is later said to have been acting on instructions from the State Department. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] A subsequent investigation conducted with the support of the Netherlands government will conclude that the operation was conducted by a third party, probably Turkey, with “the assent of parts of the US government.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 195-198] Tim Ripley, who covers the military conflicts in Yugoslavia for Jane’s Intelligence Review, blames the Tuzla flights and similar operations on “‘covert warriors’ of the NSC [National Security Council] and State Department.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 93] Prof. Cees Wiebes, who conducts the Netherlands investigation, agrees saying that “the State Department and National Security Council (NSC) were involved, but not the CIA or the DIA.” According to a confidential source, “the operation was… paid for from a Pentagon Special Operations budget, with the complete assent of the White House. Probably the most important members of Congress were informed in the deepest of secrecy, and they were therefore ‘in the loop’ concerning the events.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 193] Ripley says that US NATO officers were not involved, but points out that NATO Commander Admiral Leighton Smith was careful to only deny “uniformed” US military involvement. Ripley suggests that American “freelance operatives” were brought in by “senior members of the Clinton Administration.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 62-63] According to Ripley, “Senior US military commanders and CIA officials were just staggered by the ‘duplicity’ and ‘deceit’ at the heart of the Clinton Administration’s policies.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 91]
President Clinton signs a classified presidential order “directing the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury, the National Security Council, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies to increase and integrate their efforts against international money laundering by terrorists and criminals.” The New York Times will later call this the first serious effort by the US government to track bin Laden’s businesses. However, according to the Times, “They failed.” William Wechsler, a National Security Council staff member during the Clinton administration, will say that the government agencies given the task suffered from “a lack of institutional knowledge, a lack of expertise… We could have been doing much more earlier. It didn’t happen.” [New York Times, 9/20/2001]
International Islamic Relief Organization logo.
[Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]The CIA creates a report for the State Department detailing support for terrorism from prominent Islamic charities. The report, completed just as the Bosnian war is winding down, focuses on charity fronts that have helped the mujaheddin in Bosnia. It concludes that of more than 50 Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in existence, “available information indicates that approximately one-third… support terrorist groups or employ individuals who are suspected of having terrorist connections.” The report notes that most of the offices of NGOs active in Bosnia are located in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. There are coordination councils there organizing the work of the charity fronts. The report notes that some charities may be “backed by powerful interest groups,” including governments. “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.” The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “Disclosure of the report may raise new questions about whether enough was done to cut off support for terrorism before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001… and about possible involvement in terrorism by Saudi Arabian officials.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] The below list of organizations paraphrases or quotes the report, except for informational asides in parentheses.
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). “The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League, a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.” The IIRO has funded Hamas, Algerian radicals, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. the Islamic Group, an Egyptian radical militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman), Ramzi Yousef, and six militant training camps in Afghanistan. “The former head of the IIRO office in the Philippines, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the Pope and US airlines; his brother-in-law is Osama bin Laden.”
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. It has connections to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and helps support the mujaheddin battalion in Zenica. Their offices have been connected to smuggling, drug running, and prostitution.
Human Concern International, headquartered in Canada. Its Swedish branch is said to be smuggling weapons to Bosnia. It is claimed “the entire Peshawar office is made up of [Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya] members.” The head of its Pakistan office (Ahmed Said Khadr) was arrested recently for a role in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan (see November 19, 1995). (It will later be discovered that Khadr is a founder and major leader of al-Qaeda (see Summer 2001 and January 1996-September 10, 2001).)
Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Headquartered in Sudan, it has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. “The regional director of the organization, Elfatih Hassanein, is the most influential [charity] official in Bosnia. He is a major arms supplier to the government, according to clandestine and press reporting, and was forced to relocate his office from Zagreb in 1994 after his weapons smuggling operations were exposed. According to a foreign government service, Hassanein supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” One TWRA employee alleged to also be a member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a suicide car bombing in Rijeka, Croatia (see October 20, 1995).
The Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA). Based in Sudan, it has offices in 30 countries. It is said to be controlled by Sudan’s ruling party and gives weapons to the Bosnian military in concert with the TWRA. (The US government will give the IARA $4 million in aid in 1998 (see February 19, 2000).)
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (the report refers to it by an alternate name, Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya (LBI)). It supports mujaheddin in Bosnia. It mentions “one Zagreb employee, identified as Syrian-born US citizen Abu Mahmud,” as involved in a kidnapping in Pakistan (see July 4, 1995). [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] (This is a known alias (Abu Mahmoud al Suri) for Enaam Arnaout, the head of BIF’s US office.) [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 37 ] This person “matches the description… of a man who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir in July 1995, and who left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the United States.”
Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), a.k.a. Al-Kifah. This group has ties to Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and possibly Hezbollah. Both the former director of its Zagreb office [Kamer Eddine Kherbane] and his deputy [Hassan Hakim] were senior members of Algerian extremist groups. Its main office in Peshawar, Pakistan, funds at least nine training camps in Afghanistan. “The press has reported that some employees of MAK’s New York branch were involved in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993].” (Indeed, the New York branch, known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, is closely linked to the WTC bombing and the CIA used it as a conduit to send money to Afghanistan (see January 24, 1994).
Muwafaq Foundation. Registered in Britain but based in Sudan, it has many offices in Bosnia. It has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and “helps fund the Egyptian Mujahedin Battalion in Bosnia” and “at least one training camp in Afghanistan” (see 1991-1995).
Qatar Charitable Society, based in Qatar. It has possible ties to Hamas and Algerian militants. A staff member in Qatar is known to be a Hamas operative who has been monitored discussing militant operations. (An al-Qaeda defector will later reveal that in 1993 he was told this was one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993)).
Red Crescent (Iran branch). Linked to the Iranian government, it is “Often used by the Iranian [intelligence agency] as cover for intelligence officers, agents, and arms shipments.”
Saudi High Commission. “The official Saudi government organization for collecting and disbursing humanitarian aid.” Some members possibly have ties to Hamas and Algerian militants (see 1996 and After).
Other organizations mentioned are the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) (a.k.a. the International Humanitarian Relief Organization), Kuwait Joint Relief Committee (KJRC), the Islamic World Committee, and Human Appeal International. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
After 9/11, former National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will say that the NSC repeatedly questioned the CIA with inquiries about charity fronts.
“We knew there was a big problem between [charities] and militants. The CIA report “suggests they were on the job, and, frankly, they were on the job.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] However, very little action is taken on the information before 9/11. None of the groups mentioned will be shut down or have their assets seized.
Entity Tags: Muwafaq Foundation, Muslim World League, National Security Council, Saudi High Commission, Red Crescent (Iran branch), Qatar Charitable Society, US Department of State, Third World Relief Agency, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Islamic World Committee, Islamic African Relief Agency, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Ahmed Said Khadr, Benevolence International Foundation, Central Intelligence Agency, Daniel Benjamin, Elfatih Hassanein, International Islamic Relief Organization, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Human Appeal International, Foundation for Human Rights, Hamas, Saudi Arabia
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
China ships centrifuge parts to Pakistan to aid that country’s nuclear weapons program. The parts are 5,000 ring magnets, shipped by the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation to Karachi. They are for use in the suspension bearings of centrifuge rotors. The US learns of this shipment, and one of the officials who works on the case is Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Reportedly, CIA Director John Deutch also learns of the deal and tells a meeting at the White House that Chinese officials have approved it. Oehler, who has been arguing for sanctions on China because of its support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program for some time, thinks that the administration will now have to apply sanctions. However, the Clinton administration does not act on the intelligence. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later ask “officials in the State Department familiar with the deal” why no action was taken. One of the officials will say: “China did not respond well to sanctions. We tried: they achieved nothing. So, we did—well, nothing.” News of the deal is soon leaked to the US press. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259, 512]
The US State Department releases a report saying the Chinese government is not supplying equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The report was drafted in response to a leak to the press saying that the US administration knew the Chinese government had signed off on the sale of Chinese magnets for Pakistani centrifuges (see Early 1996). However, the report says there is “no evidence that the Chinese government had wilfully aided or abetted Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program through the magnet transfer.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “It flew in the face of the truth—in the same way that Bush officials had claimed F-16s could not be used to deploy a nuclear bomb” (see August-September 1989). Levy and Scott-Clark will add that Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, is “furious” with the report and the lack of sanctions imposed on the Chinese. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259]
State Department analysts warn the Clinton administration in a top secret assessment that bin Laden’s move from Sudan to Afghanistan will offer him an “ideal haven.” The warning comes exactly one month after he made the move (see May 18, 1996). Analysts say that “his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of ‘Arab mujaheddin’ receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to US interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum,” in Sudan. Further, bin Laden’s public statements suggest an “emboldened” man capable of “increased terrorism.” Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, will later comment, “The thinking was that he was in Afghanistan, and he was dangerous, but because he was there, we had a better chance to kill him. But at the end of the day, we settled for the worst possibility - he was there and we didn’t do anything.” [New York Times, 8/17/2005]
The State Department issues a fact sheet on bin Laden, calling him “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today.” The text ties bin Laden to funding specific attacks, such as the attempt to kill dozens of US soldiers in Yemen in 1992 (see December 29, 1992). The fact sheet is also mentions the term “al-Qaeda,” leading to the first media reports using that term the next day (see August 14, 1996). The fact sheet also contains details about bin Laden’s finances, such as the allegation that he co-founded the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan in 1990 with a group of wealthy Sudanese and capitalized it with $50 million of his fortune. [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; New York Times, 8/14/1996] Much of this information appears to come from al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl. The CIA had just finished debriefing him weeks before (see June 1996-April 1997).
Based on a review of the Lexis-Nexus database, the term al-Qaeda is first mentioned in the mainstream media on this day. A United Press International article draws from a State Department fact sheet released today (see August 14, 1996) and states, “Earlier, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Usama Bin Ladin drew on his family’s wealth ‘plus donations received from sympathetic merchant families in the Gulf region’ to organize the Islamic Salvation Foundation, or al-Qaida. The group established recruitment centers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan that enlisted and sheltered thousands of Arab recruits to fight the Soviets. ‘This network remains active,’ the State Department said.” (The spelling is the same as in the original.) [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; United Press International, 8/14/1996] The term was first used in an overseas article by the French wire service Agence France-Presse, in May 1993 (see May 30, 1993). The CIA has been aware of the term since at least the start of 1996 (see Shortly Before February 1996) and possibly by 1991, if not earlier (see February 1991- July 1992). However, the term will remain little used and little understood by the media for the next several years. For instance, the New York Times will first mention it two years later in quoting the courtroom testimony of one of the plotters of the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). It is referred to as “al-Qaeda, an international terrorist group, led by Mr. bin Laden.” [New York Times, 8/28/1998]
Taliban forces conquering Afghanistan. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]The Taliban conquer Kabul [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] , establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban’s military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan’s ISI. [New York Times, 12/8/2001] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. According to some reports, “preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul .… Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America’s, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/11/1996] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
An unnamed high-ranking State Department official helps a nuclear smuggling ring connected to Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and Pakistan’s ISI to plant “moles” in US military and academic institutions that handle nuclear technology, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated shortly after 9/11. The moles, mostly Ph.D students, are planted by Turkish and Israeli elements in the network, which obtains nuclear technology for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and for re-sale by Khan. Edmonds will later say she thinks there are several transactions of nuclear material every month: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.” She will also say that the network appears to obtain information “from every nuclear agency in the United States.” The State Department official apparently arranges security clearance for some of the moles, enabling them to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities, including the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The high-ranking State Department official who is not named by Britain’s 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; American Conservative, 11/1/2009]
Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]
The outside and inside of El-Hage’s house in Nairobi. These pictures were apparently taken during the 1997 raid and were used as evidence in El-Hage’s trial. [Source: FBI]Dan Coleman, an FBI agent working with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, has been examining transcripts from wiretapped phones connected to bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan (see Early 1990s). One frequently called number belongs to Wadih El-Hage, a US citizen who is later revealed to be bin Laden’s personal secretary. El-Hage often makes obvious and clumsy attempts to speak in code. The CIA comes to believe that El-Hage might be recruited as an agent. On this day, Coleman, two CIA agents, and a Kenyan police officer enter El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya, with a search warrant. The investigators interview El-Hage (who returned that day from visiting bin Laden in Afghanistan) and confiscate his computer. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 242-244] A large amount of incriminating evidence is discovered in El-Hage’s documents and computer files (see Shortly After August 21, 1997 and Shortly After August 21, 1997). El-Hage moves to the US, where he is interviewed by a grand jury, then let go (see September 24, 1997). He will be arrested shortly after al-Qaeda bombs the US embassy in Nairobi (see September 15, 1998). He will be sentenced to life in prison for his role in that attack. State Department officials will later strongly assert that while staffers at the US embassy in Kenya were told about the raid at the time, they were not told about any potential connection to al-Qaeda. However, US intelligence officials strongly assert that the embassy staff was frequently briefed about the bin Laden connection. [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
The State Department announces its first list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Surprisingly, neither bin Laden nor al-Qaeda are included. The State Department did listed bin Laden as a terrorist financier in its 1996 survey of terrorism. Al-Qaeda will not be officially recognized as a terrorist organization until 1999 (see October 8, 1999). The US had officially declared some organizations terrorist organizations prior to this first FTO list. For instance, the US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in early 1995 (see January 1995). [New York Times, 12/30/2001; Coll, 2004]
The State Department officially designates the Abu Sayyaf a foreign terrorist organization. The Abu Sayyaf is a militant group in the Philippines with reported connections to bin Laden. Thirty groups are newly listed, including other groups associated with bin Laden, such as the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in Algeria. [New York Times, 10/7/1997] However, al-Qaeda will not be so listed until 1999 (see October 8, 1999). Al-Qaeda is still relatively unknown; the name was first mentioned in the media in 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed. [Source: PBS]An Egyptian named Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed walks into the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and tells CIA officers that he knows of a group planning to blow up the embassy. He reveals that he is part of the group and has already taken surveillance photos of the embassy for the attack. The details he mentions, such as the use of several vehicles and stun grenades, accurately depicts how the attack will actually occur nine months later. He works for an al-Qaeda front company in Kenya. The CIA sends the State Department two intelligence reports on Ahmed’s warning, but cautions that he may have fabricated his story. Ahmed is released and deported. He apparently is involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the same day the Nairobi embassy is bombed. Ahmed will contact the British embassy the day after the bombings and offer to help. He is overheard saying that, “I told them everything I knew” and that he had been cooperating with Western officials “since last year.” He will reveal important information that leads to the arrest of some of the bombers (see August 8-15, 1998). [New York Times, 10/23/1998; New York Times, 1/9/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 205] The State Department is in charge of embassy security, and the department steps up security at the Nairobi embassy for several weeks, but then security measures return to normal. Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, will plead for improved embassy security, but her requests will go unheeded (see December 1997-Spring 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
[Source: PBS]By December 1997, Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, is aware that her embassy could be in danger. She has been told of an August 1997 warning that proved there was an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi (see Late 1994), a precise (and ultimately accurate) November 1997 warning detailing a plot to attack the embassy (see November 1997), and other recent warnings, including information indicating that she is an assassination target. She sends two cables to State Department headquarters in Washington, claiming that the embassy’s location makes it “extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack,” and asks for security improvements to be made. The State Department turns down her requests and begins to see Bushnell as a nuisance. In early 1998, General Anthony Zinni, the commander of US forces in the region, visits the Nairobi embassy and decides it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He offers to send a security team to inspect the situation, but his offer is turned down. The State Department sends its own team instead and in March 1998 determines that about $500,000 worth of easily implemented improvements should make the embassy secure. But the money is not quickly allocated. Bushnell then sends “an emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright begging for the Secretary’s personal help.” She says she has been fighting for months for a more secure embassy as threats increase, and that the State Department’s refusal to grant her requests for funding is “endangering the lives of embassy personnel.” Albright takes no action. The embassy will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center’s special unit focusing on bin Laden from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996), later will claim that before 9/11 members of the bin Laden family in the US are nearly completely off limits to US law enforcement. Author Douglas Farah, a former longtime Washington Post reporter, later will write that “All the bin Ladens living in the United States were granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996.… In 1998, when the FBI’s New York office actually sought to investigate some of the bin Laden family’s activities in this country because of suspicions of ties to terrorism, the State Department forced them to shut down the entire operation. Because the bin Laden’s were ‘diplomats’ and as such enjoyed diplomatic immunity, making such investigations illegal.” Scheuer will comment about the 1998 investigation, “My counterparts at the FBI questioned one of the bin Ladens. But then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we weren’t allowed to talk to them.” Scheuer believes that these unusual diplomatic privileges may help explain how the bin Ladens will be able to depart so quickly just after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001; September 14-19, 2001). Farah later says he interviewed Scheuer about this and claims to have found a second source to verify the information. [Farah, 12/5/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The issue of diplomatic passports for the bin Laden family has generally not been reported in the US media, although a 2005 New Yorker article will mention in passing that in 1996, “the State Department stymied a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI to question one of bin Laden’s cousins in America, because he had a diplomatic passport, which protects the holder from US law enforcement.” [New Yorker, 2/8/2005] This is a probable reference to the 1996 investigation of Abdullah Awad bin Laden (although he is bin Laden’s nephew, not cousin (see February-September 11, 1996)). It is unclear what connection there may be, if any, between that investigation and this 1998 investigation.
An FBI investigation finds that Turkish nationals are involved in efforts to bribe members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Targets of the FBI’s investigation include individuals at Chicago’s Turkish Consulate and the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA). Wiretaps obtained by investigators also contain what appears to be references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. In 1999 some FBI investigators call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue the investigation. But after the Bush administration comes to office, higher-ups in the Department of State pressure the bureau to shift the attention of its investigation away from elected politicians and instead focus on appointed officials. [Anti-War (.com), 8/15/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
America’s neoconservatives are initially leery of potential presidential candidate George W. Bush, currently the governor of Texas, mostly because they do not want a repeat of his father’s presidency. What they do not yet know is that the younger Bush has no intention of reprising his father. He is determined to establish an image and an identity of his own, separate from his father. Author Craig Unger will write in 2007, “Given his lack of knowledge when it comes to foreign policy (see Fall 1997), his limited experience as a hands-on executive, and the extraordinary bureaucratic skills of the neoconservatives, George W. Bush was an exceedingly easy mark (see December 1998 - Fall 1999).” A State Department official later says: “This guy was tabula rasa. He was an empty vessel. He was so ripe for the plucking.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 158]
A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files. [Source: Richard Miniter]Gutbi al-Mahdi, head of Sudan’s intelligence agency, sends a letter to David Williams, an FBI station chief. It reads, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the FBI. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else.” Apparently the FBI is very eager to accept the offer and gain access to Sudan’s files on bin Laden and his associates. The US had been offered the files before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996; April 5, 1997), but the US position was that Sudan’s offers were not serious since Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi was ideologically close to bin Laden. But al-Turabi has lost power to moderates by this time, and in fact he is placed under arrest in 1998. There is a political battle between US agencies over the Sudanese offer, and in the end the State Department forbids any contact with al-Mahdi. On June 24, 1998, Williams is obliged to reply, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” Al-Madhi later will complain, “If they had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the [US embassy] bombings.” Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan until 1997, will say, “The US failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications - at the least for what happened at the US Embassies in 1998. In any case, the US lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.” One of the plotters in the bombings is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who is living in Sudan but making trips to Kenya to participate in the bombing preparations. Sudan has files on him and continues to monitor him. Sudan also has files on Saif al-Adel, another embassy bomber who has yet to be captured. Sudan also has files on Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, both of whom have contact with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see September 16, 1998; Late 1998; 1993). Salim even attends the same small Hamburg mosque as 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Vanity Fair magazine will suggest that if al-Madhi’s offer had been properly followed up, both the embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks could have been foiled. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002] It is later revealed that the US was wiretapping bin Laden in Sudan on their own (see Early 1990s).
Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Saif al-Adel, Tim Carney, US Department of State, Gutbi Al-Mahdi, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, David Williams, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sudan, Osama bin Laden, Hassan al-Turabi, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
The State Department warns Saudi officials that bin Laden might target civilian aircraft. Three State Department officials meet Saudi officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and pass along a warning based on an interview bin Laden had just given to ABC News
[. In the interview, bin Laden threatened to strike in the next “few weeks” against “military passenger aircraft” and mentioned surface-to-air missiles. The State Department warns the Saudis that bin Laden does “not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians” and there is “no specific information that indicates bin Laden is targeting civilian aircraft.” However, they add, “We could not rule out that a terrorist might take the course of least resistance and turn to a civilian [aircraft] target.” NBC News will note that the 9/11 Commission “made no mention of the memo in any of its reports… It is unknown why the [Commission] did not address the warning.” [New York Times, 12/9/2005; MSNBC, 12/9/2005] ]
On May 26, 1998, Osama bin Laden said at a press conference that there would be “good news” in coming weeks (see May 26, 1998). On June 12, the State Department issues a public warning, stating, “We take those threats seriously and the United States is increasing security at many US government facilities in the Middle East and Asia.” Notably, the State Department does not mention increasing security in Africa. Two US embassies will be bombed there in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). There are no other public warnings given before the embassy bombings. [Bergen, 2001, pp. 110]
Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. This picture is from a poor photocopy of his passport found in Sudanese intelligence files. [Source: Public domain via Richard Miniter]On August 4, 1998, Sudanese immigration suspects two men, Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman, arriving in Sudan, apparently due to something in their Pakistani passports. They attempt to rent an apartment overlooking the US embassy. Three days later, US embassies are bombed in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Within hours, Sudanese officials arrest Abbass and Suliman. The two of them had just come from Kenya, and one of them quickly admits to staying in the same hotel in Kenya as some of the embassy bombers. Sudanese intelligence believes they are al-Qaeda operatives involved in the bombings. [Observer, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 1/2002; Randal, 2005, pp. 132-135] The US embassy in Sudan has been shut down for several years. But around August 14, a Sudanese intelligence official contacts an intermediary and former White House employee named Janet McElligott and gives her a vague message that Sudan is holding important suspects and the FBI should send a team immediately to see if they want to take custody of them. [Randal, 2005, pp. 132-135] The FBI wants the two men, but on August 17, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright forbids their extradition. The US has decided to bomb a factory in Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings instead of cooperating with Sudan. But FBI agent John O’Neill is not yet aware of Albright’s decision, and word of the Sudanese offer reaches him on August 19. He wants immediate approval to arrest the two suspects and flies to Washington that evening to discuss the issue with counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. But Clarke tells O’Neill to speak to Attorney General Janet Reno. Later that night, O’Neill talks to Reno and she tells him that the decision to retaliate against Sudan instead has already been made. Mere hours later, the US attack a factory in Sudan with cruise missiles (see August 20, 1998). Within days, it becomes apparent that the factory had no link to al-Qaeda (see September 23, 1998), and no link between the bombings and the Sudanese government will emerge (although Sudan harbored bin Laden until 1996). [Randal, 2005, pp. 132-138] The Sudanese will continue to hold the two men in hopes to make a deal with the US. But the US is not interested, so after two weeks they are send to Pakistan and set free there (see August 20-September 2, 1998).
Sayyid Nazir Abbass. This picture is from a poor photocopy of his passport found in Sudanese intelligence files. [Source: Public domain via Richard Miniter]On August 7, 1998, hours after the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the Sudanese government arrested two suspicious Pakistani men. The men, Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman, appear to have been involved in the embassy bombings. The Sudanese offered to hand the men over to the FBI (see August 4-19, 1998), but the US chose to bomb a factory in Sudan on August 20 instead, in retaliation for Sudan’s previous support for bin Laden (see August 20, 1998). It quickly emerges that the factory had no link to al-Qaeda and the Sudanese government had no link to the embassy bombings (see September 23, 1998). But despite the factory bombing, the Sudanese continue to hold the two men in hopes to make a deal with the US over them. [Randal, 2005, pp. 138-143] The Sudanese also remind the FBI of the extensive files on al-Qaeda they say they are still willing to share (see March 8, 1996-April 1996, April 5, 1997, and February 5, 1998). The FBI wants to set up a meeting to pursue the offers, but the State Department vetoes the idea. [Observer, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 1/2002] Journalist Jonathan Randal will later note: “Quite apart from its antipathy to the [Sudanese] regime, [the US] was bogged down trying to sell the botched [factory] attack to querulous Americans. To have taken up the Sudanese offer after the attack risked prompting more embarrassing explaining about why it had not been accepted before.” Meanwhile, the Sudanese are interrogating the two men and learn more about their al-Qaeda connections. For instance, they had listed the manager of a business owned by bin Laden as a reference on their visa applications. Finally, on September 2, 1998, Sudan sends the two men back to Pakistan. They are turned over to the Pakistani ISI, but what happens next is unclear. An NBC Dateline reporter will later attempt to track them down in Pakistan, only to receive a threatening anonymous call to leave or face dire consequences. The reporter gives up the search. One rumor is the ISI immediately allows them to disappear into Afghanistan. Another rumor is that the Pakistani government later trades them to bin Laden to buy off radicals who could threaten the government. [Randal, 2005, pp. 138-143]
State Department official Michael Malinowski. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Two days after the US missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan (see August 20, 1998), top Taliban leader Mullah Omar unexpectedly telephones the State Department in Washington. He talks to Michael Malinowski, office director for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs. Although Mullah Omar does not threaten the US, he suggests that the missile strikes could spark more terrorist attacks. He says the Taliban is open to the idea of establishing a secure communication channel with US officials, possibly through the US embassy in Pakistan (there is no embassy in Afghanistan). The State Department comments, “Omar’s contact with a US official is rather remarkable, given his reclusive nature and his past avoidance of contact with all things American.” [US Department of State, 8/23/1998 ; US Department of State, 1/14/2002] The US then sends the Taliban some evidence of bin Laden’s militant activities (see August 23, 1998), but it appears the secure communications channel never materializes.
After being asked by Taliban leader Mullah Omar (see August 22, 1998), the US sends the Taliban a cable about bin Laden’s activities. The cable states, “We have detailed and solid evidence that Osama bin Laden has been engaged and is still engaged in planning, organizing, and funding acts of international terror.” However, the sections on the various plots in which bin Laden is supposed to have been involved are brief and do not include supporting evidence. For example, the Yemen bombing in 1992 (see December 29, 1992) is described in a single sentence: “Bin Laden and his network conspired to kill US servicemen in Yemen who were on their way to participate in the humanitarian mission ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in Somalia in 1992.” [US Department of State, 8/23/1998 ] Afghanistan’s supreme court will later acquit bin Laden of his involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings (see (October 25-November 20, 1998)) because of the US’s refusal to provide the court with the requested evidence.
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