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By Paul Thompson
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If you read just one thing at this website, please read this essay. Don’t mind the length and complexity. Saeed Sheikh’s story is not just mildly interesting. Understanding the history of this young man may not only explain many mysteries of 9/11, including solid evidence of foreign government involvement in the attacks, but may also reveal if nuclear war in the near future is likely. No kidding. Please read! Note that this was first written in September 2002 but has been thoroughly overhauled based on exposure to additional evidence. Also, click to find more details about Saeed Sheikh and his boss Mahmood Ahmed.
A young Saeed Sheikh.
The ISI: “The Invisible Government”
As the London Times has put it, Saeed Sheikh “is no ordinary terrorist but a man who has connections that reach high into Pakistan’s military and intelligence elite and into the innermost circles of Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization.” [London Times, 4/21/02] To understand why Saeed is so important in understanding 9/11, it is necessary to first understand the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI plays a much more significant role in the Pakistani government than do its counterparts in other countries. Time Magazine has noted, “Even by the shadowy standards of spy agencies, the ISI is notorious. It is commonly branded a state within the state, or Pakistan’s invisible government.” [Time, 5/6/02] The ISI grew into its present form during the war between the Soviet Union and mujaheddin guerrillas in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The CIA thought the Afghan war could be Russia’s own costly Vietnam War, and they funneled billions to the mujaheddin resistance to keep them a thorn in Russia’s side. The strategy worked: Soviet soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, and the Soviet Union collapsed two years later, partly due to the costs of the war. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01]
But the costs to keep the mujaheddin fighting were staggering, with estimates ranging between $6 billion and $40 billion. [New York Times, 8/24/98, Nation, 2/15/99] While a substantial portion of this amount came from the CIA and the Saudi Arabian government, who were both funneling the money through the ISI, much of the cost was deferred by Afghanistan’s opium trade. The Sydney Morning Herald notes, “Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan’s northern tribal belt and adjoining Afghanistan were a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA cooperation. It succeeded in turning some of the Soviet troops into addicts. Heroin sales in Europe and the US, carried out through an elaborate web of deception, transport networks, couriers and payoffs, offset the cost of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/27/01] Afghan opium production ballooned from 250 tons in 1982 at the start of the war to 2,000 tons in 1991 just after its end. The Minneapolis Star Tribune observed, “If their local allies were involved in narcotics trafficking”—the ISI and their allies in Afghanistan—“it didn’t trouble CIA.” [Star Tribune, 9/30/01]
Although the Afghan war has ended, the ISI has continued to profit from opium. In 1999, the United Nations Drug Control Programme estimated that the ISI was making around $2.5 billion annually from the sale of illegal drugs. [Times of India, 11/29/99] The drug trade helped unite the ISI and Osama bin Laden, who was said to have taken a 15% cut of the Afghan drug trade money in exchange for protecting smugglers and laundering their profits. [Star Tribune, 9/30/01]
By 1994, the Taliban, a group of Muslim radicals studying in Pakistan, began conquering Afghanistan. The Taliban had been recruited by the ISI and molded into a fanatical force that conquered Afghanistan’s capital by 1996. CNN reported, “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan’s military intelligence [the ISI]. Experts say that explains the Taliban’s swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/96] This support continued. For instance, in early 2001, a leading US expert on South Asia claimed that the Taliban were still “on the payroll of the ISI.” [Times of India, 3/7/01] The ISI didn’t create the Taliban simply for strategic reasons; they shared the Taliban’s extreme radical vision. As the Wall Street Journal remarked in November 2001, “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still supports it.” [Asia Times, 11/15/01]
Saeed Sheikh would eventually become deeply involved in the world of the ISI, as well as al-Qaeda. But initially he seemed an unlikely candidate for a career in espionage and terrorism. He was born in Britain with the name Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the son of a wealthy Pakistani clothing manufacturer. He grew up in London, a brilliant student attending the best private schools. He studied mathematics and statistics at the London School of Economics. While still at school, he started a successful shares and equities business and also was a chess champion, world class arm wrestler, and martial arts expert—a rare combination of physical and mental prowess. [Rediff, 2/6/02, South Asian Outlook, 3/02]
His life took a turn when he volunteered for charity work in Bosnia in late 1992. The Bosnian war was raging, and he saw atrocities committed by Serbians on Bosnian Muslims. He returned to Britain a committed Muslim radical. Because of his impressive abilities in economics and mathematics, as well as fluency in English and complete understanding of Western society, he was a very valuable asset to any terrorist group. [ABC News, 2/7/02]
In 1993 he emerged in Pakistan as a member of a militant group fighting for the liberation of Kashmir from India. Pakistan has been fighting India for years over control of Kashmir, and it appears Saeed was put on the ISI payroll around this time, to help the Pakistani cause in Kashmir. [ABC News, 2/7/02] In 1994, Saeed began training at a training camp in Afghanistan. He soon was teaching the classes. [Los Angeles Times, 2/9/02] He developed close ties with al-Qaeda while training there. By the end of the year he was known as Osama bin Laden’s “favored son” or “my special son.” [London Times, 8/21/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02]
Saeed in an Indian hospital shortly after being arrested in 1994. He was shot while being captured. [Indian Express]
Prison and Escape
Saeed Sheikh was arrested in India in 1994 while on a kidnapping mission designed to trade Western tourists for Kashmiri separatists. [ABC News, 2/7/02] The ISI paid his legal fees, but he was nonetheless sentenced to a long prison term in an Indian jail. [Washington Post, 5/3/02] While in prison, his natural abilities soon allowed him to become the leader of the jail’s large Muslim population. By his own admission, he “lived practically like a Mafia don.” [London Times, 8/21/02] It has been claimed that in 1999, British intelligence secretly offered Saeed an amnesty and the ability to “live in London a free man” if he would reveal his links to al-Qaeda. He apparently refused. [Daily Mail, 7/16/02, London Times, 7/16/02] Even more curiously, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggested in March 2002, “There are many in Musharraf’s government who believe that Saeed Sheikh’s power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that… Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02]
In December 1999, terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft and flew it to Kandahar, Afghanistan. After an eight-day standoff, the 155 hostages were released in exchange for Saeed and two other three Pakistani terrorists held by India. [BBC, 12/31/99] He must have been already highly valued by al-Qaeda, because the hijacking appears to have been largely funded and carried out by them. [CNN, 6/13/02, New York Times, 12/6/01] Saeed stayed at a Kandahar guesthouse for several days, conferring with Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama bin Laden. An ISI colonel then escorted him to a safe house in Pakistan. [Vanity Fair, 8/02]
The hijackers leave the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision. They were given 8 hours to leave the country. [BBC]
Saeed Keeps Busy
In his roughly two years of freedom before 9/11, Saeed was a very busy terrorist. According to Newsweek, once in Pakistan, Saeed “lived openly—and opulently—in a wealthy Lahore neighborhood. US sources say he did little to hide his connections to terrorist organizations, and even attended swanky parties attended by senior Pakistani government officials.” The US government inferred that he was a “protected asset” of the ISI. [Newsweek, 3/13/02] In fact, his house was given to him by the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] Even more remarkably, the media reported that Saeed was freely able to return to Britain [Press Trust of India, 1/3/00], just as if he had accepted Britain’s secret amnesty offer. He visited his parents in Britain in 2000 and again in early 2001. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, BBC, 7/16/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02] The British citizens kidnapped by Saeed in 1994 called the government’s decision not to try him a “disgrace” and “scandalous.” [Press Trust of India, 1/3/00]
It as been reported that Saeed helped train the hijackers. [Telegraph, 9/30/01] Presumably this happened in Afghanistan, where he trained others and where he traveled regularly. [New York Times, 2/25/02, National Post, 2/26/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, India Today, 2/25/02] He also reportedly helped devise a secure, encrypted Web-based communications system for al-Qaeda. “His future in the network seemed limitless; there was even talk of one day succeeding bin Laden.” [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02]
But at the same time, much of his time was spent working with the ISI. He worked with Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official in charge of handling two terrorist groups, Lieutenant-General Mohammad Aziz Khan, also a former deputy chief of the ISI in charge of relations with Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Brigadier Abdullah, a former ISI officer. He was well known to other senior ISI officers. [National Post, 2/26/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, India Today, 2/25/02] How much of his work with al-Qaeda was done on the orders of the ISI is not known.
Saeed’s 9/11 Role is First Revealed
By now, the al-Qaeda 9/11 plot was in motion. Someone in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), using an alias, periodically wired money to and from hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi between June 2000 and the day before 9/11. [MSNBC, 12/11/01] The identity of this person has been a highly disputed subject. On September 23, 2001, it was first reported that authorities were now (finally) looking for Saeed Sheikh, though it wasn’t explained why. [London Times, 9/23/01] The next day, it was reported that the 9/11 “paymaster” had been found, using the alias “Mustafa Ahmed.” [Newsweek, 9/24/01] On October 1, 2001, the Guardian reported, “The man at the center of the financial web is believed to be Sheikh Saeed, also known as Mustafa Mohamed Ahmad,” but it wasn’t immediately clear who this person was. [Guardian, 10/1/01] On October 6, CNN revealed that “US investigators now believe Sheik Syed, using the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, sent more than $100,000 from Pakistan to Mohamed Atta.” More importantly, CNN confirmed that this was in fact the same Saeed Sheikh who had been released from an Indian prison in 1999. [CNN, 10/6/01]
Enter Lt. Gen. Mahmood and the ISI
President Musharraf shakes hands with ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood. [AFP]
On October 7, 2001, Pakistani President Musharraf fired Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, the head of the ISI. The next day, some newspapers, mostly in India but also in Pakistan, shockingly said he was fired for his role in the 9/11 attacks. [Press Trust of India, 10/8/01] For instance, a Pakistani newspaper stated, “Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed has been replaced after the FBI investigators established credible links between him and Umar Sheikh, one of the three militants released in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999… Informed sources said there were enough indications with the US intelligence agencies that it was at Gen. Mahmood’s instruction that Sheikh had transferred 100,000 US dollars into the account of Mohammed Atta…” [Dawn, 10/9/01] Indian newspapers claimed that Indian intelligence had been instrumental in helping to establish the connection. [Times of India, 10/9/01, India Today, 10/15/01, Agence France-Presse, 10/10/01, Daily Excelsior, 10/18/01] Yet this explosive story was barely mentioned in the West. [Australian, 10/10/01, AFP, 10/10/01] In the US, surprisingly, the only mention was in a one short piece in the Wall Street Journal, mentioning that, “The US authorities… confirm[ed] the fact that $100,000 [was] wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the insistence of General Mahmood.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/10/01] Most other Western accounts simply explained Mahmood was fired for being too close to the Taliban. [London Times, 10/9/01, Guardian, 10/9/01]
If true, the story would strongly suggest that the ISI played a very large role in the 9/11 attacks. Why the silence on such an important story? One might credit skepticism that the story was merely Indian propaganda. But a larger pattern, detailed below, suggests there is something more to the media’s attitude: a strong reluctance to print any evidence suggesting Pakistan was behind the 9/11 attacks.
Mahmood’s sudden and complete disappearance also seems curious. He is reportedly living under “virtual house arrest” [Asia Times, 1/5/02], and has refused to speak to reporters since being fired. [AP, 2/21/02] Other former ISI Directors living in Pakistan seemingly even more supportive of the Taliban continue to be very vocal (such as Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, for instance [New Yorker, 12/3/01]), and numerous other ISI officers have supported the Taliban in seeming defiance of Musharraf’s wishes and not faced house arrest. [Guardian, 5/25/02]
Distractions Away From Saeed
Not only did Mahmood suddenly become persona non grata, but so did Saeed Sheikh, now that he was implicated in Mahmood’s story. He was again mentioned as the 9/11 paymaster the day before the Mahmood story broke [CNN, 10/8/01], and then suddenly, all mention of him ceased (with one exception [CNN, 10/28/01]). Since then, the FBI has put forth a variety of alternates for the identity of the person in the 9/11 paymaster role. The story is too complicated to greatly detail here, but the FBI and media have variously filled Saeed Sheikh’s shoes with an Egyptian named Shaykh Saiid [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/28/01, New York Times, 10/15/01, Los Angeles Times, 10/20/01], a Saudi named Sa’d Al-Sharif, said to be bin Laden’s brother-in-law [Newsweek, 11/11/01, AP, 12/18/01], a Kenyan named Sheik Sayyid el Masry [CNN, 10/16/01, Trial Transcript, 2/20/01, Trial Transcript, 2/21/01], a Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi or al-Hisawi (suggesting no alias was used) [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Wall Street Journal, 6/17/02], a Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif [AP, 6/4/02], an Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (for some of the money transfers) [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02], and so on. Most recently, the FBI said the most well-known candidate, Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif, doesn’t actually exist, but is probably a composite of Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hisawi, Shaikh Saiid al-Masri, and Saad al-Sharif. [AP, 12/26/02] Newsweek, in describing yet another name variation, Mustafa Ahmad Adin Al-Husawi, says the person “remains almost a total mystery,” and no one is sure of his name or even if he is one person. [Newsweek, 9/4/02] (Note that Saeed appears to be a master of disguise, as can be seen by the bewildering number of names he is referred to in the media: Sheik Syed, Ahmad Umar Sheikh, Umar Sheikh, Sheik Omar Saeed, Omar Saiid Sheikh, Sheikh Omar, etc… He opened bank accounts using many of his name variations, or even completely unrelated names. [The News, 2/13/02])
While the FBI and media have been putting forth a series of names sounding remarkably similar to Saeed Sheikh or the aliases he used, they have been ignoring or forgetting solid evidence that links Saeed Sheikh to the funding of 9/11. To do so would mean confronting Saeed’s ISI ties, and the possibility that he was acting on orders from Mahmood, or even President Musharraf.
Aftab Ansari. [Press Trust of India]
Saeed, Working With Underworld Figures, Gives Money to Mohamed Atta
During the five years Saeed spent in an Indian prison, he developed friendships with some very unsavory people. One such person was Aftab Ansari. Ansari is an Indian gangster who was released on bail near the end of 1999 and then skipped the country. [India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed additionally met a prisoner named Asif Raza Khan, also released in 1999. [Rediff, 11/17/01] Ansari moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and began expanding his Indian-based criminal network with Asif Raza Khan and others. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/02] By early 2001, they had organized a kidnapping network. They would kidnap rich Indian businessmen and use the money to fund other illegal activities. [India Today, 2/14/02, Times of India, 2/14/02] Mutual friend Saeed, drawing on his previous terrorist training expertise, provided training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. [Frontline, 2/2/02, India Today, 2/25/02] Ansari’s criminal underground network would also assist the ISI in conducting terrorist attacks inside India. [Press Trust of India, 5/13/02]
In late July 2001, a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer was kidnapped in Calcutta, India. In early August, his ransom was paid to Ansari’s group, and the victim was let go. Ansari gave about $100,000 of the approximately $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sent it to hijacker Mohamed Atta. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/02, Independent, 1/24/02] A series of recovered e-mails shows the money was sent just after August 11, 2001. [India Today, 2/14/02, Times of India, 2/14/02]
Note that this $100,000 is the same amount ISI Director Mahmood supposedly told Saeed to send to Atta. The timing of Mahmood’s order isn’t known, however. It may refer to this early August 2001 transaction, or it could refer to a separate approximately $100,000 sent to Atta from Dubai, UAE between June and September 2000. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Newsweek, 12/2/01] There were probably other transactions, since it is believed the hijackers spent between $500,000—$600,000 in the US. At least $325,000 came from the person using the alias “Mustafa Ahmed” and variants on that name. [New York Times, 7/10/02] The lack of banking regulations in the UAE and the secrecy of the Middle Eastern “hawala” money transfer system has apparently kept details of these other money transfers unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] But it stands to reason that Saeed wouldn’t have sent only one money transfer on orders of Mahmood and the rest on his own initiative. Presumably, Saeed used Ansari’s money because it would leave even less of a paper trail than money from a legitimate banking account.
The FBI has reported that many of the hijackers passed through Dubai and met with the 9/11 paymaster. They would be given Visa credit cards, travelers checks, and help in opening bank accounts. [Washington Post, 12/13/01, MSNBC, 12/11/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02, London Times, 12/1/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] This further suggests that the paymaster was Saeed, since he was making frequent trips to Dubai at this time. [Guardian, 2/9/02]
Pakistan’s Support of Terrorism
Maulana Masood Azhar.
Why would Pakistan’s secret service openly back someone like Saeed? Pakistan’s population is only a fraction of their arch-rival, India, and in a conventional war they likely would fare badly. Several wars have been fought between the two countries over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Because Pakistan’s army cannot compete with India’s in Kashmir, it has resorted to guerrilla attacks using radical Muslim terrorists to make up for their lack of numbers. The ISI directs the terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir, but tries to maintain a certain level of distance and plausible deniability. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
It is usually maintained that the terror groups fighting in Kashmir have nothing to do with other terrorist groups fighting other enemies of Islam around the world. However, this distinction does not exist in reality. For instance, terrorist leader Maulana Masood Azhar was freed with al-Qaeda help in the same 1999 airplane hijacking swap that freed Saeed. Azhar quickly returned to Pakistan in January 2000, but didn’t face arrest. Instead, a few days after being freed, he told a cheering Pakistani crowd of 10,000 supporters, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” [AP, 1/5/00] He then toured Pakistan for weeks under the protection of the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] Saeed had grown close to Azhar in Indian prison. In early 2000, Saeed and the ISI helped Azhar form a new terrorist group called Jaish-e-Mohammad, and soon Azhar was behind more terrorist acts, mostly in Kashmir. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, Washington Post, 2/8/03] Jaish-e-Mohammad worked with the ISI, Saeed and Ansari in their numerous attacks. For instance, shortly after the October 2001 Kashmir bombing, Indian intelligence claims that Pakistani President Musharraf was given a recording of a phone call between Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Maulana Masood Azhar and ISI Director Mahmood in which Azhar reported the bombing is a “success.” [UPI, 10/10/01, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] In early January 2002, the FBI was interested in questioning Azhar, and a Pakistani official stated that, “The Americans are aware Azhar met bin Laden often, and are convinced he can give important information about bin Laden’s present whereabouts and even the September 11 attacks.” [Gulf News, 1/5/02]
The ISI, mainly through these proxy terrorist groups, has deep ties to al-Qaeda. In 1993, the same Azhar helped al-Qaeda train and fund Somali warlord forces so they could kill US soldiers stationed in Somalia. These attacks forced the US to withdraw from that country. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/25/02] For years, the ISI has had Kashmiri terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad train in the same Afghanistan training camps used by bin Laden. [New York Times, 10/29/01, Time, 5/6/02] In fact, in August 1998 when Clinton launched missiles to kill bin Laden in one of his training camps, the missiles accidentally killed five ISI officers and some twenty of their trainees. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00]
Protecting bin Laden
The Pakistani government not only assisted al-Qaeda, they were instrumental in keeping bin Laden alive. It has been widely rumored that bin Laden suffers severe medical problems. On July 2, 2001, an Indian newspaper reported that “bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself.” [SARPA, 7/2/01] The highly respected intelligence newsletter, Jane’s Intelligence Digest, later reported the same story, and came close to confirming it: “None of [these details] will be unfamiliar to US intelligence operatives who have been compiling extensive reports on these alleged activities.” [Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01] CBS later reported bin Laden had emergency medical care in Pakistan the day before September 11. He was spirited into a military hospital in Rawalpindi for kidney dialysis treatment. Pakistani military forces guarded him. They also moved out all the regular staff in the urology department and sent in a secret team to replace them. [CBS News, 01/28/02] The Jane’s article added, “It is becoming clear that both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would have found it difficult to have continued functioning—including the latter group’s terrorist activities—without substantial aid and support from [Pakistan].” [Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01]
Without a doubt, bin Laden’s safe haven in Afghanistan would not have existed without the ISI. Two days before 9/11, the Taliban preemptively took out their main enemy is anticipation of a post-9/11 backlash. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/02] Two men posing as journalists assassinated Northern Alliance leader General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the one opposition leader with broad popular support in Afghanistan.[BBC, 9/10/01, BBC, 9/10/01] His assassins had ties to both al-Qaeda and the ISI. [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/01, Newsday, 9/15/01, Reuters, 10/4/01] The Taliban’s army had been massing for an attack against the Northern Alliance for weeks, but didn’t attack until hours after Massoud’s assassination. A large portion of this force was actually made of Pakistani soldiers. [Time, 8/4/02] When the US attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, the ISI secretly supported the Taliban with military advisors and weapon shipments, despite promising the US not to. [Telegraph, 10/10/01, Knight Ridder, 11/3/01, New York Times, 12/8/01, UPI, 11/1/01, Time, 5/6/02] A anonymous Western diplomat later stated, “We did not fully understand the significance of Pakistan’s role in propping up the Taliban until their guys withdrew and things went to hell fast for the Talibs.” [New York Times, 12/8/01] But why this would not be understood is a mystery. In June 2001, UPI reporters noted, “Despite Pakistan’s official denials, Taliban is entirely dependent on Pakistani aid. This was verified on the ground by UPI. Everything from bottled water to oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, and from telephone equipment to military supplies, comes from Pakistan.” [UPI, 6/14/01]
A Curious Visit
The relationship between the US and the ISI is hard to fathom. On September 4, 2001, ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed arrived in Washington, D.C. On September 10, a Pakistani newspaper reported on the visit, saying that it had “triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council” as well as meetings with CIA Director George Tenet, unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon, and his “most important meeting” with Marc Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The article suggested that “of course, Osama bin Laden” was the focus of some discussions. Prophetically, the article added, “What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was here, the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days. That this is not the first visit by Mahmood in the last three months shows the urgency of the ongoing parleys.” [Karachi News, 9/10/01] In May 2001, both CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had visited South Asia. It’s not known if they met with Mahmood or anyone else in the ISI, but according to credible news reports, Tenet had “unusually long” consultations with President Musharraf. It is also worth noting that Armitage is known for his “large circle of friends in the Pakistani military and ISI” [SAPRA, 5/22/01] as well as his connections to the Iran-Contra affair.
Of course everyone knows that politics did turn very “topsy-turvy” one day after the Karachi News article on September 10. But what many don’t know is that on the morning of September 11, Lt. Gen. Mahmood was at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham (D) and Representative Porter Goss (R). The meeting was said to have lasted at least until the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Goss is a self-admitted 10-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine operations wing. [Washington Post, 5/18/02] Goss and Graham were later the heads of the joint House-Senate investigation into the September 11 attacks, and Goss in particular made headlines for saying there was no “smoking gun” indicating that the government had sufficient foreknowledge to prevent the September 11 attacks. [Washington Post, 7/11/02] Also present at the meeting were Senator John Kyl (R) and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi (note that all or virtually all of the people in this meeting also met Lt. Gen. Mahmood in Pakistan a few weeks earlier [Salon, 9/14/01]). Senator Graham later said of the meeting: “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan,” and the New York Times mentioned that bin Laden was specifically being discussed. [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/12/01, Salon, 9/14/01, New York Times, 6/3/02] The fact that these people were meeting at the time of the attacks is a strange coincidence at the very least, not to mention the topic of their conversation!
On September 12 and 13, Lt. Gen. Mahmood met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Senator Joseph Biden, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. An agreement on Pakistan’s collaboration in the new “war on terror” was negotiated between Mahmood and Armitage. [Miami Herald, 9/16/01] All these meetings coordinated Pakistan’s response to September 11. [New York Times, 9/13/01, Reuters, 9/13/01, Associated Press, 9/13/01] Isn’t it strange that the terms of Pakistan’s commitment to fight al-Qaeda were negotiated with the man who may have given orders to send $100,000 to the September 11 hijackers?
What would happen if Saeed told all that he knew?
This picture of Saeed was taken in November 2001. He parties with government officials while they pretend they don’t know his location. [AP]
Saeed Still Lives Openly in Pakistan
In the days right before September 11, a flurry of money transfers occurred between the 9/11 paymaster in the UAE—presumably Saeed—and the hijackers. Between September 6 and 10, $26,315 was wired from the hijackers back to the UAE—leftover money from the September 11 plot. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Guardian, 10/1/01] On September 11, in the hours before the attacks, the paymaster transferred $40,871 from his UAE bank accounts to his Visa card, and caught a plane flight from the UAE to Pakistan. There are records of him making six ATM withdrawals in Karachi on September 13, and then his trail goes cold. [MSNBC, 12/11/01] Saeed later claims to have met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan a few days after September 11 (but has said nothing about a 9/11 role). [Washington Post, 2/18/02, London Times, 2/25/02]
Saeed then continued to live openly in his ISI house in Lahore, Pakistan. He was “frequently seen” at local parties hosted by government leaders and “made no secret” of his whereabouts. In January 2002, he celebrated the birth of his baby at a party he hosted in the city. [USA Today, 2/25/02] It has been suggested that after September 11 he acted as a “go-between” for bin Laden and the ISI, which makes perfect sense given his involvement in both groups. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Furthermore, “It is believed he helped produce bin Laden’s latest taped interview” in early 2002. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02]
A terrorist lies dead near the entrance to the Indian parliament building. [R. V. Moorthy]
Meanwhile, the partnership between Saeed and the ISI on one hand and Ansari and his Indian criminal underground on the other, continued to prove profitable and productive. On October 1, 2001, a suicide truck-bomb attack on the provincial parliamentary assembly in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 36 people. On December 13, 2001, the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi was attacked by terrorists. Fourteen people, including the five attackers, were killed. On January 22, 2002, a crowd of mostly unarmed Indian police near the US Information Service building in Calcutta, India, were attacked by gunmen; four policemen were killed and 21 people injured. It appears that Saeed and Ansari were behind all of these attacks. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Ansari even called from Dubai to take credit for the Calcutta attack. [Telegraph, 1/24/02] Jaish-e-Mohammad, Maulana Masood Azhar’s group, is also involved in these attacks. [Vanity Fair, 8/02]
As previously mentioned, it was first reported that authorities were looking for Saeed on September 23, 2001. In fact, it appears British intelligence began asking for legal assistance in catching Saeed Sheikh sometime during August 2001. It isn’t clear if they were finally starting to punish him for his 1994 kidnapping of Britons, or if this was spurred by some new activity. [London Times, 4/21/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] Saeed’s role in 9/11 began to be reported in late September and early October, but an Indian magazine would note, “Curiously, there seems to have been little international pressure on Pakistan to hand him over.” [Frontline, 10/6/01]
The strange slowness in catching Saeed continued. In November 2001, a US grand jury finally secretly indicted Saeed Sheikh for his kidnapping of a US citizen seven years earlier. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] The US later claimed it began asking Pakistan for help in finding Saeed in late November 2001. [AP, 2/26/02, Newsweek, 3/13/02] However, it took until January 9, 2002 for Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, to officially ask the Pakistani government for help in arresting and extraditing Saeed. [AP, 2/24/02, CNN, 2/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/25/02] Saeed was still seen partying with Pakistani government officials well into January 2002. The Los Angeles Times later noted that Saeed “moved about Pakistan without apparent impediments from authorities” into February. [Los Angeles Times, 2/13/02] The London Times said, “It is inconceivable that the Pakistani authorities did not know where he was” before then. [London Times, 4/21/02] It took the events relating to Daniel Pearl for Pakistan to finally “discover” Saeed’s location.
Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Enter Daniel Pearl… and Robert Mueller
The ever-busy Saeed meanwhile was taking part in another kidnapping. The target was Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl had become fascinated in a number of stories involving the ISI. On December 24, 2001, he reported about ties between the ISI and a Pakistani organization that was working on giving bin Laden nuclear secrets before 9/11. A few days later, he reported that Jaish-e-Mohammad still had its office running and bank accounts working, even after President Musharraf claimed to have banned the group. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Guardian, 7/16/02] He began investigating links between shoe bomber Richard Reid and Pakistani militants connected to the ISI [Washington Post, 2/23/02], investigating Dawood Ibrahim, a powerful terrorist and gangster protected by the ISI [Newsweek, 2/4/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02], and may also have been investigating the US training and backing of the ISI. [Gulf News, 3/25/02] Former CIA agent Robert Baer later claimed he was working with Pearl on investigating 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [UPI, 9/30/02] It is later suggested that Mohammed masterminded Reid’s shoe bomb attempt and has connections to both Pakistani gangsters and the ISI, so some of these explanations could fit together. [UPI, 9/30/02, Asia Times, 10/30/02, CNN, 1/30/03] Kidnapper Saeed later said of Pearl, “because of his hyperactivity he caught our interest.” [The News, 2/15/02]
The attempt to lure Pearl into a position where he could be kidnapped began on January 11, 2002. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Wall Street Journal, 1/23/03] On January 22, FBI Director Robert Mueller visited India, and was told by Indian investigators that Saeed Sheikh sent ransom money to hijacker Mohamed Atta in the US. This story now broke into the press, even being reported some in the US and Britain. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/02, Independent, 2/24/02, AFP, 1/27/02, Telegraph, 1/27/02] On January 23, Saeed helped kidnap reporter Daniel Pearl. Also on January 23, Saeed’s criminal partner Aftab Ansari was placed under surveillance in Dubai, UAE. The next day, Mueller went to Pakistan and discussed Saeed at a previously scheduled meeting with President Musharraf. Apparently Saeed’s role in Pearl’s kidnapping was not yet known. [AP, 2/24/02] Mueller then flew to Dubai on his way back to the US to pressure the government there to arrest Ansari and deport him to India. Ansari was arrested on February 5 and deported four days later. [AP, 2/10/02, Frontline, 2/16/02, India Today, 2/25/02]
Aftab Ansari in handcuffs.
Pakistani President Musharraf must have decided that Saeed knew too much, and needed to die before he could be extradited to the US. Around January 31, 2002, Daniel Pearl was murdered by his kidnappers. Police investigators say “there were at least eight to 10 people present on the scene,” and at least 15 who participated in his kidnapping and murder. “Despite issuing a series of political demands shortly after Pearl’s abduction four weeks ago, it now seems clear that the kidnappers planned to kill Pearl all along.” [Washington Post, 2/23/02] Musharraf even brazenly stated, “Perhaps Daniel Pearl was over-intrusive. A mediaperson should be aware of the dangers of getting into dangerous areas. Unfortunately, he got over-involved.” [Hindu, 3/8/02] in “intelligence games.” [Washington Post, 5/3/02] At the same time he could eliminate the overly-nosy Pearl, Musharraf could punish Saeed for the deed to make sure he would keep quiet about the ISI’s connections to 9/11.
The timing of Mueller’s visits certainly is curious. After months of doing little to catch Saeed, suddenly Mueller is traveling all over Asia and both Saeed and Ansari are arrested within days? Did Mueller act with Musharraf to silence Saeed so the Indian reports of Saeed’s involvement in 9/11 could be quashed? As shown below, the US government has acted as if this was the case ever since.
The Net Closes
Daniel Pearl before he was killed.
To capture Saeed, it appears the police simply rounded up all of his family members and likely threatened to kill or harm them unless Saeed gave himself up. [AP, 2/9/02, Karachi News, 2/13/02] On February 5, Saeed turned himself in, not to the police, but to his ISI boss Ijaz Shah. [Boston Globe, 2/7/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] For the next week, Saeed and the ISI worked “out a deal for how little he would say about the ISI’s support for terrorist groups in Kashmir and Pakistan in exchange for not being extradited to the United States. Neither the Pakistani police nor the US Embassy nor the FBI who were in Islamabad investigating the kidnapping were informed that Saeed was being held by the ISI during this period.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] During this time, President Musharraf was traveling in the US. Reporter Seymour Hersh claims Musharraf knew Saeed was being held by the ISI, but publicly claimed ignorance. [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03]
“The deal done, a brazen Saeed Sheikh gave himself up to police, telling them of Pearl’s capture but misleading them on every possible fact—including his ISI linkage.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] When asked by the FBI about his connection to the ISI, Saeed replied, “I will not discuss this subject… I do not want my family to be killed.” He cryptically added, “I know people in the government and they know me and my work.” [Newsweek, 3/13/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] He did admit to his ties to Ansari, just as Ansari later admitted his ties to Saeed and the ISI, but both refused to discuss 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/18/02, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2/11/02, Press Trust of India, 5/13/02]
Saeed’s surrender was made public on February 13. [Newsweek, 3/11/02] He then confessed to the murder of Daniel Pearl. Yet, as Newsweek put it, he remained, “confident, even cocky.” He told his interrogators that he was “sure” he wouldn’t be extradited to the US and said he wouldn’t serve more than “three or four years” in a Pakistan prison. [Newsweek, 3/13/02] Several others were also arrested for their part in Pearl’s murder. Like Saeed, most had ties to both the ISI and al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 2/23/02, London Times, 2/25/02] One even boasted of having once flown bin Laden’s personal airplane. [PakNews, 2/11/02]
Saeed in handcuffs in Karachi on March 2, 2002. [AP]
But Saeed and the others were tricked. Musharraf had no intention to extradite Saeed to the US. The US Ambassador to Pakistan even reported that Musharraf privately said, “I’d rather hang him myself” than extradite him. [Washington Post, 3/28/02] He was simply too risky to keep him alive; his connections to both the ISI and the September 11 hijackers were too obvious. As the Washington Post put it, “The [ISI] is a house of horrors waiting to break open. Saeed has tales to tell.” [Washington Post, 3/28/02] So the prosecution sought the death sentence for Saeed, not a light sentence. Saeed withdrew his confession. On April 5, in an article titled, “A Certain Outcome for Pearl Trial: Death Sentences Expected, Despite Lack of Evidence,” NBC reported, “Some in Pakistan’s government also are very concerned about what Saeed might say in court. His organization and other militant groups here have ties to Pakistan’s secret intelligence agency [the ISI]. There are concerns he could try to implicate that government agency in the Pearl case, or other questionable dealings that could be at the very least embarrassing, or worse.” [MSNBC, 4/5/02]
On March 3, US Secretary of State Colin Powell ruled out any links between “elements of the ISI” and the murderers of reporter Daniel Pearl. [Dawn, 3/3/02] The Guardian was a rare voice in calling Powell on this obvious lie. They called Powell’s comment “shocking,” given the overwhelming evidence that the main suspect, Saeed Sheikh, worked for the ISI: “If he was extradited to Washington and decided to talk, the entire story would unravel. His family are fearful. They think he might be tried by a summary court and executed to prevent the identity of his confederates being revealed.” [Guardian, 4/5/02] A week before Powell’s comment, even Powell’s colleague Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “acknowledged reports that Omar Sheikh may have been an asset” for the ISI. [London Times, 2/25/02]
Given all of the above, one might think that the story of Daniel Pearl’s murderer’s ties to both the ISI and the 9/11 hijackers would be the subject of front page headlines. But, outside of India and Pakistan, the media generally reacted like Colin Powell. Most media accounts failed to mention Saeed’s ties to the ISI, al-Qaeda or 9/11. But even stranger were the accounts that reported on one of Saeed’s roles but not the others, as if Saeed’s different roles were done by completely different people. In the next several months, at least 12 US or British articles mentioned Saeed’s links to al-Qaeda [ABC News, 2/7/02, Boston Globe, 2/7/02, AP, 2/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 3/15/02], including his financing of 9/11 [New York Daily News, 2/7/02, CNN, 2/8/02, AP, 2/9/02, Guardian, 2/9/02, Independent, 2/10/02, Time, 2/10/02, New York Post, 2/10/02, Evening Standard, 2/12/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/13/02, New York Post, 2/22/02, Sunday Herald, 2/24/02, USA Today, 3/8/02], and at least 16 articles mentioned his links to the ISI. [Cox News, 2/21/02, Observer, 2/24/02, Telegraph, 2/24/02, Newsweek, 2/25/02, New York Times, 2/25/02, USA Today, 2/25/02, National Post, 2/26/02, Boston Globe, 2/28/02, Newsweek, 3/11/02, Newsweek, 3/13/02, Guardian, 4/5/02, MSNBC, 4/5/02] But only three articles considered that Saeed could have been connected to both groups at the same time [London Times, 2/25/02, London Times, 4/21/02, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02], and only one of these mentioned he could be involved in the ISI, al-Qaeda and financing 9/11 all at the same time. [London Times, 4/21/02]
2,000 paramilitary troops surround the courthouse in Hyderabad where Saeed’s verdict is read. [MSNBC, 7/15/02]
Efforts to eliminate Saeed and forget the past moved forward. In late February, Time reported that the second highest Taliban official in US custody, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar, had been waiting for months to be interviewed by the CIA. Even two weeks after Time informed US officials that he wanted to talk, no one had bothered to give him a proper interview. Time noted that “he claims to have information about al-Qaeda links to the ISI.” [Time, 2/25/02] In March, the editor of an important Pakistani newspaper had to flee the country after being threatened by the ISI. His paper had reported on connections between Saeed, the ISI, and the recent attacks on the Indian parliament in Delhi and Kashmir. [The News, 2/18/02, Washington Post, 3/10/02, London Times, 4/21/02, Guardian, 7/16/02]
Saeed’s trial began in April. It was decided by a secret “anti-terrorism” court known for its handpicked judges, [MSNBC, 4/5/02] and took place in a bunker underneath a prison. Furthermore, no reporters were allowed to attend. “Fear lay heavily over the court,” reported one paper. [Independent, 7/16/02] The venue had to change three times because of bomb threats and security concerns. [BBC, 5/7/02, BBC, 7/16/02] The trial judge also changed three times. The trial, by law, had to finish within seven days, yet it took over three months. [BBC, 7/16/02] “Forensic scientists initially refused to attend the exhumation of the court” for fear they would be murdered. Saeed himself threatened the judge: “I will see whether who wants to kill me will kill me first, or get himself killed.” [Independent, 7/16/02] The key witness was supposedly a taxi driver, but turned out to be a head constable policeman. Immediately after the trial, the government announced new suspects and new evidence that contradicted the Saeed verdict. [Guardian, 7/18/02] One of the new suspects was said by Pakistani police and intelligence officials to be the true mastermind of Pearl’s murder (Saeed’s role was luring in Pearl). But the “arrests were made when the trial was already in its final stage and the official confirmation of these crucial arrests would have completely derailed the prosecution’s case,” a senior police official said. [Washington Post, 7/15/02] When the verdict came down on July 15, Saeed, as the supposed “mastermind,” of course was sentenced to death, and three others were given life in prison. [AP, 7/15/02] Saeed has appealed the decision but a second trial has yet to begin. [AP, 8/18/02]
Saeed: “The Americans should have realized by now that whatever happened on 11 September, they deserved that.” [BBC, 7/5/02]
The American and British governments approved the verdicts. [BBC, 7/15/02] Said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, “The Bush administration welcomes Pakistan’s verdict in this matter… Daniel Pearl was brutally executed, and Pakistan’s… court system has now ruled. This is a further example of Pakistan showing leadership in the war against terror.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/15/02] In fact, “the government’s case rest[ed] heavily on technical FBI evidence.” [AP, 7/1/02] On May 16, Pearl’s body was found and identified, but the FBI didn’t officially release the DNA results because official confirmation of the body would have meant a new trial. [Independent, 7/16/02] Pakistani officials admit they waited to release the results until after the verdict. [Guardian, 7/18/02] So it seems the US was complicit in gaining a quick conviction in a kangaroo court.
The mainstream media slipped further into amnesia regarding Saeed’s connections. The conviction story made headlines, and there was room for lengthy background information and even special background articles on Saeed. However no story in the US mentioned his al-Qaeda or ISI connections, much less his 9/11 connections. [AP, 7/15/02, AP, 7/15/02, CBS, 7/15/02, CNN, 7/15/02, Los Angeles Times, 7/15/02, MSNBC, 7/15/02, New York Times, 7/15/02, Reuters, 7/15/02, USA Today, 7/15/02, Wall Street Journal, 7/15/02, Washington Post, 7/15/02] By comparison, in Britain, articles connected Saeed to the ISI [Guardian, 7/16/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, Daily Mail, 7/16/02], al-Qaeda [Independent, 7/16/02], the 9/11 attacks [Scotsman, 7/16/02], or some combination of the three [London Times, 7/16/02, Daily Mail, 7/16/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02] (with one exception: [BBC, 7/16/02, BBC, 7/16/02]). Many British newspapers also strongly questioned the justice of the verdict, [Guardian, 7/18/02, Independent, 7/16/02, [Independent, 7/21/02, BBC, 7/16/02] while only the Washington Post did in the US. [Washington Post, 7/15/02, Washington Post, 7/16/02] As the Wall Street Journal delicately put it, “The prosecution overcame some significant weaknesses in the case to obtain the conviction.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/15/02]
A month after the verdict, a remarkable story in Vanity Fair explored all of Saeed’s connections, but the article seemed to make no impact at all. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] In the months since, Saeed’s connections seem to have been forgotten even in the British media. Most recently, it has been suggested that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the Daniel Pearl murder as well, and may even have cut Pearl’s throat himself. [Time, 1/26/03, CNN, 1/30/03] This not only shows al-Qaeda working to benefit the ISI in silencing Pearl, but also helps confirm the theory that Mohammed has been supported by the ISI. Since Mohammed has been “linked to almost every attack against the United States since the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993” [Los Angeles Times, 6/16/02], that in turn raises the possibility that the ISI has also been involved in all of those attacks, at the very least by not helping to arrest Mohammed.
The ISI Muzzled? No
Musharraf has been hailed for his firing on ISI Director Mahmood, and generally has been presented as a pro-Western figure trying to root of pro-terrorist factions of the ISI. But The Observer has called this “The Myth of the Good General Musharraf.” [Observer, 3/31/02] On January 12, 2002, in the face of US pressure, Musharraf made a forceful speech condemning Islamic extremism, and arrested about 2,000 extremists around the same time. Yet, by the end of the month, at least 800 had been quietly released. [Washington Post, 3/28/02] Since then, “almost all” of those arrested have been released. Even the most prominent terrorist leaders, such as Saeed’s friend Maulana Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, have been released. Remarkably, the US has not protested despite Azhar’s role in killing US soldiers in Somalia and other terrorist acts. Old terrorist organizations are running strongly again, often under new names. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/16/02, Washington Post, 2/8/03] Reforms have been abandoned. As one US regional expert put it, “It is no longer a question of whether Pakistan is going backwards or forwards. It’s a question of how rapidly it’s going backwards.” [Financial Times, 2/8/03]
So many other countries—Argentina, Britain, Cayman Islands, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Russia, even a Taliban cabinet minister—warned the US about an impending attack (see the They Tried to Warn Us essay). How it is possible that Pakistan, in the best position to know, gave no warning? If Musharraf is in control of the ISI, then how could he not have known of the 9/11 attack, and if he isn’t in control and didn’t know, then what good is he as a leader?
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup.
The US government and media has had an astonishing ability to turn a blind eye when it comes to Pakistan. For instance, in late September 2001, Pakistani officials went to Afghanistan and secretly advised the Taliban to not turn over bin Laden, but stand up and fight the US. [Knight Ridder, 11/3/01, AP, 2/21/02, Time, 5/6/02] In November 2001, it was reported that the US was mainly relying on the ISI for its intelligence information on the war against the Taliban, even as the ISI was secretly supplying the Taliban with supplies and military advisors. [Knight Ridder, 11/3/01] That same month, the US allowed Pakistan to airlift thousands of its soldiers, who had been fighting alongside the Taliban, out of the besieged Afghan town of Kunduz. In so doing, a large number of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders were “accidentally” airlifted out as well. One US official commented that the US was supposed to be able to interview the Taliban leaders when they arrived in Pakistan, but were not. [New Yorker, 1/21/02] This suggests the presence of the Taliban, at least, was hardly an accident. It has been recently suggested that even members of bin Laden’s immediate family were airlifted out. [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03]
A UPI editorial stated, “Al-Qaeda terrorists have long since scattered deep inside Pakistan and in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir where they enjoy the protection of the [ISI]… The unspeakable is that Pakistan is the new Afghanistan, a privileged sanctuary for hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters and Taliban operatives. Some estimates go as high as 5,000… The Pakistani—al-Qaeda connection is visible to all but the geopolitically challenged.” [UPI, 8/28/02] Prominent Taliban leaders wanted by the US have been living openly in Pakistani cities and yet the US does nothing about them. [Guardian, 12/24/01, Time, 5/6/02] It is now widely reported that Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and most other prominent al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be living in Pakistan, some of them living in the open and in luxury, with the protection of the ISI. It is frequently pointed out that Pakistan’s efforts to find them are mostly a charade. [Los Angeles Times, 4/6/02, Christian Science Monitor, 7/2/02, Los Angeles Times, 6/16/02, Time 7/29/02, Washington Post, 8/4/02, New York Times, 9/15/02, AP, 11/12/02, Los Angeles Times, 11/17/02] But still, the situation doesn’t change. As an example of Bush’s seemingly inexplicable response to terrorism in Pakistan, Azhar’s group Jaish-e-Mohammed had its assets frozen shortly after 9/11, but the group simply changed its name and over a year later the US has not frozen the assets of this “new” group. [Financial Times, 2/8/03, Washington Post, 2/8/03]
Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Since 1997, Pakistan has been secretly supplying North Korea with nuclear technology, in return for long-range missile technology. Seymour Hersh has suggested that it is likely Pakistan is giving nuclear technology to other countries as well. [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] Even at the end of the Clinton administration this link between Pakistan and North Korea was known, but neither Clinton nor Bush stopped it. [San Jose Mercury News, 10/24/02] As the Guardian put it, “If George Bush’s war on terror were remotely rational, or even roughly reasoned, then its next target might be Pakistan, not Iraq. It should be said that the US is not justified in pre-emptively and unilaterally attacking either country—or any other sovereign state for that matter. But on the basis of Mr. Bush’s own axis of evil criteria at least, Pakistan sits squarely in the theoretical firing line.” [Guardian, 10/8/02]
There is no evidence that the US has questioned Saeed about 9/11. Indian newspapers have pointed out that if the US were to pressure its close ally Pakistan so Saeed could to be interrogated in his Pakistani prison, they could not only learn more about the financing of the 9/11 attacks, but also gain valuable information about the structure of al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan. [Indian Express, 7/19/02] Needless to say, there’s no evidence Lt. Gen. Mahmood has been questioned, either.
Who Did It? We Can’t Tell You
There has been widespread speculation that the September 11 attacks must have had the backing of a state intelligence agency. Said one CIA official, bin Laden “sits in a cave in Afghanistan and he’s running this operation? It’s so huge. He couldn’t have done it alone.” [New Yorker, 10/1/01] In December 2002, Senator Bob Graham, co-head of the Congressional 9/11 inquiry and privy to documents censored from the general public, said he was “surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the [9/11] terrorists in the United States.… To me that is an extremely significant issue and most of that information is classified, I think overly-classified. I believe the American people should know the extent of the challenge that we face in terms of foreign government involvement. I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing—although that was part of it—by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down… It will become public at some point when it’s turned over to the archives, but that’s 20 or 30 years from now.” [PBS Newshour, 12/11/02]
Funnily enough, not only was Graham meeting with Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed when the 9/11 attacks began, his office has also acknowledged Graham was given a warning before 9/11 by a US government informant that an ISI agent named R. G. Abbas, in New York City to illegally trade heroin for Stinger missiles, pointed to the World Trade Center and said, “Those towers are coming down.” This agent made other references to an attack on the World Trade Center. The informant passed these warnings on, but he claims, “The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government.” Transcripts of a resulting trial that convicted several US-based associates of Abbas were censored to eliminate all references to Pakistan. [Cox News, 8/2/02, Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] An NBC reporter was able to easily telephone Abbas in Pakistan, but apparently the FBI isn’t interested in questioning or extraditing him. [MSNBC, 8/2/02]
Saeed Sheikh, hooded, remains a great danger to Musharraf until he can be killed.
One doesn’t have to wait 20 or 30 years to deduce that the ISI assisted al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. The question is, why is the US government seemingly ignoring the evidence and actively discouraging the media from pursuing these ideas? Shortly after 9/11, Bush said, “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/13/01] What about Pakistan’s support of terrorism, if not 9/11, then the other terrorist attacks on India since? Is the US afraid of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons? If so, what’s to prevent the ISI from planning similar future attacks with impunity, against any country?
Perhaps the US has plans to deal with Pakistan eventually. In January 2003, Musharraf warned of an “impending danger” that Pakistan will become a target of war for “Western forces” after the Iraq crisis. “We will have to work on our own to stave off the danger. Nobody will come to our rescue, not even the Islamic world. We will have to depend on our muscle.” [Press Trust of India, 1/19/03, Financial Times, 2/8/03] Pointing to “a number of recent background briefings and leaks” from the US government, “Pakistani officials fear the Bush administration is planning to change its tune dramatically once the war against Iraq is out of the way.” [Financial Times, 2/8/03] If so, could this lead to nuclear war?
Does the US ignore Pakistani complicity in 9/11 because it might be a thread that could unravel in other disturbing directions? For instance, there have been reports of secret deals between rich Saudis, the ISI, and bin Laden. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] Saudi Arabia has supported the Taliban by paying the ISI. [UPI, 6/14/01] Before 9/11 the Asia Times reported that Crown Prince Abdullah, the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is secretly a supporter of bin Laden. Furthermore, he made a secret visit in the summer of 2001 to Afghanistan with Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed to confer with the Taliban on how best to prevent bin Laden from being harmed by the US. [Asia Times, 8/22/01] Another secret meeting between Mahmood and Crown Prince Abdullah may have taken place shortly after 9/11. [Intelligence Online, 10/4/01] While such reports are very fragmentary and speculative, it is interesting to note that Senator Graham said “foreign governments”—plural, not singular—were behind 9/11. Newsweek has reported a possible connection between the Saudi government and some of the hijackers [Newsweek, 11/22/02], and has since reported that “The possibility of a Saudi link to 9-11 is growing.” [Newsweek, 12/9/02]
Could the thread unravel in other directions as well? For instance, what about the suggestion that Saeed was a CIA agent? A long time regional expert with extensive CIA ties stated publicly in March 2001 that “the CIA still has close links with the ISI,” and repeated the claim to CNN in February 2002. [Times of India, 3/7/01, CNN, 2/27/02] An anonymous former senior ISI official has stated, “The biggest problem we have [in Pakistan] are the rogue elements in the intelligence agencies, especially those who at some time became involved with the CIA.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/22/02] At the very least, the ISI may know very embarrassing facts about the US. For instance, they may know a thing or two about CIA involvement in drug smuggling and/or support of bin Laden in the 1980s. [Star Tribune, 9/30/01, Atlantic Monthly, 5/96, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01, UPI, 6/14/01] Unfortunately, Daniel Pearl was killed before he could investigate the connections between the US and the ISI, and no journalist seems willing to explore such dangerous subjects since his death.
What would the American public think of the motives for war in Iraq if they knew a country with much deeper ties to al-Qaeda that was also proliferating weapons of mass destruction was being so ignored?