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Complete 911 Timeline

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Derek, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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Page 4 of 7 (613 events)
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The US warns the Taliban that the US will punish them for any attacks ordered by bin Laden, who is living in Afghanistan under Taliban protection. On this day, Ahmed Ressam is arrested trying to enter the US to conduct a bombing there (see December 14, 1999). In response, that evening, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief Michael Sheehan calls Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. Sheehan later recalls saying bin Laden “is like a criminal who lives in your basement. It is no longer possible for you to act as if he’s not your responsibility. He is your responsibility.” The implied threat is that the US will punish the Taliban, possibly with military force, in response to further bin Laden attack. Muttawakil says he understands and urges the US to use restraint. [Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2000]

Entity Tags: Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, Taliban, Michael Sheehan, US Department of State

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Rita Katz.Rita Katz. [Source: Publicity photo /]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, hearing about Ahmed Ressam’s arrest earlier in the day (see December 14, 1999), hires a team of private terrorism analysts to complete a report on militant Islamic cells in North America. The Investigative Project on Terrorism, led by Steven Emerson, finishes the report just prior to the end of the year, hoping to help stop any millennium plots. [New Yorker, 5/29/2006] Investigator Rita Katz discovers that a man named Khalil Deek who has just been arrested in Jordan for a role in a millennium plot is a US citizen (see December 11, 1999). Using only public records, she begins looking into Deek’s activities in the US. She believes that she discovers a sleeper cell consisting of: [Katz, 2003, pp. 161-162]
bullet Khalil Deek. He is an al-Qaeda operative who has lived in Anaheim, California, for most of the 1990s. A former senior CIA official will later claim that Deek’s extremist connections were already “well established in the classified intelligence” by this time, and in fact, it will later be reported that Deek’s connections with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida had been investigated since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). Katz learns from intelligence reports that Deek has connections to a militant cell based in Montreal, Canada that includes Ressam. She suspects that Deek is coordinating al-Qaeda groups in North America. [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005; New Yorker, 1/22/2007] Deek regularly wires tens of thousands of dollars to overseas destinations. Business records show Deek was still in Anaheim as late as August 1998. The research team discovers Deek may have been visiting the US as late as September 1999. [US Congress, 1/25/2000; Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006]
bullet Hisham Diab. Katz learns that Diab is Deek’s next door neighbor in Anaheim and she suspects the two of them have been operating a sleeper cell there (in fact, Diab’s wife had already repeatedly tried to warn the FBI about her husband, to no avail (see March 1993-1996). [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005]
bullet She discovers that Deek and Diab have formed a charity front called Charity Without Borders (this group received a $75,000 state grant in 1997 to distribute fliers encouraging the recycling of used motor oil). [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005; Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006]
bullet Tawfiq Deek, Khalil Deek’s brother. Katz discovers that Tawfiq has presented himself as the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) spokesman in California. Katz calls the IAP the “Hamas front in America.” [Katz, 2003, pp. 167] Khalid Ashour, a Palestinian. He had lived in the same apartment building as the Deek brothers and Diab, and also worked with the IAP. But what most interests Katz is that he had been heavily involved in the Islamic Center of Tuscon in the early 1990s. The Islamic Center is important for the IAP but is also believed to be the focal point for al-Qaeda’s first base in the US (see 1994). Katz discovers that he had been arrested in 1991 trying to enter the US with a fake ID and border guards found handbooks of explosives and bombs in his car. In 1999, he had moved nearly half a million dollars out of the US despite holding a job that only paid $600 a week. [Katz, 2003, pp. 167-168]
bullet Although Katz does not discover it at the time, another associate of the Deeks and Diab in Anaheim named Adam Gadahn will later emerge as a prominent al-Qaeda spokesman in Afghanistan (see Spring 2004).
Katz, Emerson, and other members of the Investigative Project on Terrorism will brief members of the National Security Council about what they learned on December 25, 1999, but no action will be taken against the suspects they have uncovered (see December 25, 1999).

Entity Tags: Tawfiq Deek, National Security Council, Richard A. Clarke, Khalil Deek, Khalid Ashour, Adam Gadahn, Hisham Diab, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Steven Emerson, Rita Katz

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Millennium Bomb Plots, Khalil Deek

From left to right: Mokhtar Haouari, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, Abdel Ghani Meskini. The picture of Meskini is from an ATM camera.From left to right: Mokhtar Haouari, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, Abdel Ghani Meskini. The picture of Meskini is from an ATM camera. [Source: Public domain, public domain, and Seattle Times]In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), FBI investigators work frantically to uncover more millennium plots before the end of the year. US authorities also make a number of arrests.
bullet A telephone number found in Ressam’s pocket leads to Abdel Ghani Meskini, an Algerian living in New York City who had gone to Seattle to meet Ressam. Meskini is monitored and arrested in New York on December 30.
bullet One of Ressam’s credit cards leads to the arrest of Mokhtar Haouari, an Algerian living in Montreal, Canada. Meskini later cooperates with US investigators and is never charged, while Haouari will be sentenced to 24 years in prison. [Time, 2/7/2000; CNN, 1/16/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 298]
bullet Another Algerian associate of Ressam’s, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, escapes to Afghanistan, but will eventually be caught by the Algerian government and convicted in Algeria. [PBS Frontline, 10/25/2001]
bullet Investigators believe that Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an al-Qaeda operative whose cousin is a top al-Qaeda leader, went to Canada to give the go-ahead for Ressam’s attack. Slahi is arrested several times overseas, but never charged (see January-April 2000). [CNN, 3/6/2002]
bullet Khalid Deek, a US citizen, is arrested around this time for masterminding another al-Qaeda millennnium plot (see December 11, 1999). But counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later say Deek was a suspected mastermind of Ressam’s Los Angeles airport plot, too. [Orange County Register, 9/12/2005] Deek’s name and phone number is found in Ressam’s telephone book. Ressam knew Deek from bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan. Both of them, like most of Ressam’s group, have links to the GIA, an Algerian militant group associated with al-Qaeda. [Newsweek (International), 3/13/2000]
Others escape the US after hearing media reports of Ressam’s arrest. However, enough people are caught to stop additional millennium attacks. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says, “I think a lot of the FBI leadership for the first time realized that… there probably were al-Qaeda people in the United States. They realized that only after they looked at the results of the investigation of the millennium bombing plot.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] Yet Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger later claims that the FBI will still repeatedly assure the Clinton White House until Clinton leaves office that al-Qaeda lacks the ability to launch a domestic strike (see 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Sandy Berger, Khalil Deek, Mokhtar Haouari, Groupe Islamique Armé, Abdel Ghani Meskini, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard A. Clarke, Ahmed Ressam

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Khalil Deek, Millennium Bomb Plots, Algerian Militant Collusion

US intelligence learns about a likely al-Qaeda cell in California but fails to act on it. In early December 1999, US intelligence learned that a participant in an attempted al-Qaeda linked millennium plot in Jordan was a US citizen by the name of Khalil Deek. President Clinton was immediately notified because of the implication that al-Qaeda had a presence inside the US (see December 9, 1999). The FBI began interviewing Deek’s neighbors in Anaheim, California, but apparently learned little. However Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke tasked the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a private research team, to look into Deek’s US ties. On this day, the team goes to the White House and gives a report on their findings to Clarke and an assistant of his known only as Peter, and others on the National Security Council (NSC). Rita Katz has been leading the research effort and gives a presentation outlining the sleeper cell they believe they have discovered in Anaheim consisting of Deek, his brother Tawfiq Deek, Khalid Ashour, Hisham Diab, and a charity front known as Charity Without Borders (see December 14-25, 1999). According to a later account by Katz, Clarke, Peter, and the others are impressed at how much the team was able to learn looking only through public records. They express surprise that the FBI was not able to learn as much. The NSC gives the information to the FBI but apparently they do nothing with it. Katz will report in 2003 that Ashour is still living in California even though his request for asylum could have been easily denied. [Katz, 2003, pp. 156-174]

Entity Tags: Khalil Deek, Hisham Diab, Khalid Ashour, Tawfiq Deek, Rita Katz, National Security Council, Steven Emerson, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Richard A. Clarke

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Khalil Deek

During the investigation of the Millennium plots to attack targets in Jordan (see November 30, 1999), the local intelligence service gives the chief of the CIA station in Amman a box of evidence to examine. However, the station chief, apparently called “Hendrik V.,” ignores the box; he dumps it in a corner of his office and fails to inform his FBI colleagues of it. A few days later, FBI agent Ali Souofan is in Hendrik V.‘s office and asks what is in the box. Hendrik V. replies that it is just “junk” the Jordanians gave him. Soufan starts to go through the box and finds key evidence, such as a map of the proposed bomb sites. The evidence is then returned to the Jordanians, so they can start following the leads. Author Lawrence Wright will comment, “Soufan’s success embarrassed the CIA.” [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file; Soufan, 2011, pp. 139-140] Hendrik V. will later be promoted to run the Sunni Extremist Group at the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (see (Between Summer and Winter 2001)).

Entity Tags: Lawrence Wright, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Hendrik V., Ali Soufan

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Millennium Bomb Plots

Earlier in December, the CIA estimated that al-Qaeda would launch between five and 15 attacks against American targets around the world over the New Year’s weekend, and that several targets would likely be inside the US (see December 8, 1999). Since late 1999, there has been intelligence that targets in Washington and New York would be attacked at this time. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] There in fact are a number of planned attacks, including bomb attacks on the Boston and Los Angeles airports (see December 14, 1999 and December 15-31, 1999), a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999), and a naval ship in Yemen (see January 3, 2000). However, all of the attacks are foiled, thanks to alerts and luck. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Millennium Bomb Plots

In the wake of disrupting Ahmed Ressam’s millennium bomb plot at the end of 1999 and arresting his cohorts (see December 14, 1999) (see December 15-31, 1999), US intelligence remains concerned that al-Qaeda sleeper cells remain in the US (see March 10, 2000). However, Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger later claims that the FBI still repeatedly assures the Clinton White House that al-Qaeda lacks the ability to launch a domestic strike. [New York Times, 9/22/2002] He says, “Until the very end of our time in office, the view we received from the [FBI] was that al-Qaeda had limited capacity to operate in the US and any presence here was under surveillance.” No analysis is done before 9/11 to investigate just how big that presence might be. [Washington Post, 9/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Sandy Berger, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Millennium Bomb Plots, Presidential Level Warnings, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Warning Signs

Al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra apparently begins working as an informant for the CIA, Syrian intelligence, and Turkish intelligence. Sakra, a young Syrian whose parents were Turkish, attended the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan in 1997. He developed a bond with Abu Zubaida, the al-Qaeda leader who was logistics manager for the camp. Zubaida will later be captured and interrogated by the CIA and will reportedly confirm a link with Sakra. Zubaida tasked Sakra with building up an al-Qaeda network in Turkey. In 1999, the Syrian government began hunting him for his role in a revolt in a Lebanon refugee camp. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005] The Turkish newspaper Zaman will report shortly after his capture in 2005, “Sakra has been sought by the secret services since 2000.” The CIA interrogated him twice in 2000. “Following the interrogation, the CIA offered him employment. He also received a large sum of money by the CIA. However the CIA eventually lost contact with him. Following this development, in 2000 the CIA passed intelligence about Sakra through a classified notice to Turkey, calling for the Turkish (intelligence) to capture him. [They] caught Sakra in Turkey and interrogated him.” [Zaman, 8/14/2005] Sakra was then apparently let go again. He will then move Germany and assist some of the 9/11 hijackers (see September 2000-July 24, 2001), then reveal details about the 9/11 attacks to Syrian intelligence the day before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). He also will later claim to have trained some 9/11 hijackers in Turkey starting in late 1999 (see Late 1999-2000). In 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will write in his book “At the Center of the Storm” that “a source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him something big was about to go down.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 160] This is very likely a reference to Sakra, since no one else comes close to matching the description of telling a Middle Eastern government about the 9/11 attacks one day in advance, not to mention working as an informant for the CIA at the same time. Tenet’s revelation strongly supports the notion that Sakra in fact accepted the CIA’s offers in 2000 and had been working with the CIA and other intelligence agencies at least through 9/11.

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Luai Sakra, Abu Zubaida, George J. Tenet

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Luai Sakra, Al-Qaeda in Germany, Abu Zubaida, US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy

The CIA sends an officer from its Counterterrorist Center (CTC) to the NSA to review raw transcripts of intercepted communications between terrorists. However, the officer is only there for a “brief period” and is subsequently withdrawn and not replaced, damaging the CIA’s ability to exploit the information gleaned from the intercepts. The CIA only previously received summaries of intercepted calls, not the transcripts themselves, and had been arguing for years that it needed the actual transcripts to better understand the material (see February 1996-May 1998, December 1996, After December 1996, After December 1996, and Late August 1998). After the single officer leaves the NSA, which intercepts calls between the US-based 9/11 hijackers and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen around this time (see Early 2000-Summer 2001), the reason the CIA gives for not replacing him is “resource constraints.” In 2005, the CIA’s Office of Inspector General will regard this failure as so serious that it will recommend an accountability board be convened to review the performance of the CTC managers responsible, and will suggest that officers should have been detailed to the NSA “on a consistent, full-time basis.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. xxiii pdf file] The CIA and NSA are obtaining information about people in the US from phone companies to support “black ops” at this time (see After July 11, 1997).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Office of the Inspector General (CIA), Counterterrorist Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Abdelkader Belliraj, a dual Belgian and Moroccan citizen, begins working for the Belgian government as an informant in this year, if not earlier (see February 29, 2008). It appears that the Belgian government has good reason to believe he is a murderer. When he is arrested in Morocco in 2008 (see February 18, 2008), he will confess to a series of unsolved murders in Belgium and Luxembourg between 1986 and 1989. Belgian detectives suspected that three of the murders, that of a Saudi imam in Brussels, his Tunisian librarian, and a driver at the Saudi embassy in Brussels, were connected. The same gun was used in each murder, and all three victims witnessed extensive fraud by Saudi embassy personnel. Belliraj was interrogated but let go. Abu Nidal’s terrorist group took credit for some of these murders, raising the possibility that Belliraj was a hit man for Nidal. Beginning in 1992, Belliraj formed a criminal network that committed a series of hold-ups in Belgium through 2001. [Het Laatste News, 3/2/2008; Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008] In 2000, the same year Belliraj begins working for the Belgian internal security service, State Security, his close associate Abdellatif Bekhti is arrested shortly after robbing a warehouse owned by the Brinks security firm. $24 million is stolen in the robbery. It is believed Belliraj’s group gets $5 million of that, while the rest of the money goes to Mafia figures who also took part in the robbery. Bekhti is sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003. But several months later, Belliraj breaks him out of prison, as a car crashes the prison wall where Bekhti is being held. Bekhti will be arrested in 2008 in Morrocco with Belliraj and confess to his role in the robbery and other crimes. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008; BBC, 3/16/2008] Also in 2000, Belliraj’s group begins working with Hezbollah, and then links with al-Qaeda one year later (see 2001). He also allegedly has links to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not known why Belgian State Security worked with such a criminal or how much they knew about his exploits. One article notes: “Belliraj was well-known in Belgium. He was monitored and even interrogated but always released.” [Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Abu Nidal Organization, State Security (of Belgium), Abdelkader Belliraj, Abdellatif Bekhti

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Other Possible Moles or Informants

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will later recall, “I talked with the [Clinton] administration and pointed out the bin Laden issue to them. I was surprised by their reaction. They wrung their hands so helplessly and said: ‘the Taliban are not turning him over, what can one do?’ I remember I was surprised: if they are not turning him over, one has to think and do something.” [Interfax, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 9/22/2001] This exchange, if true, must take place in 2000 because Putin becomes acting president of Russia on the first day of 2000 and President Bush replaces Clinton in the US in January 2001. The Washington Post will report in December 2000 that “The United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden (see December 19, 2000),” but no such raid takes place.

Entity Tags: Vladimir Putin, Clinton administration, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

A 1998 presidential directive gave the National Security Council authority to designate important upcoming events as National Special Security Events (NSSEs) (see May 22, 1998). The US Secret Service is in charge of planning and implementing security for NSSEs, and the FBI and FEMA also have major security roles. [CSO Magazine, 9/2004; Scripps Howard News Service, 1/11/2005] Louis Freeh, director of the FBI for much of the 1990s until June 2001, will later tell the 9/11 Commission that in the years 2000 and 2001, the subject of “planes as weapons” was always one of the considerations in the planning of security for “a series of these, as we call them, special events,” and “resources were actually designated to deal with that particular threat.” He confirms that “the use of airplanes, either packed with explosives or otherwise, in suicide missions” was “part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] According to the Secret Service, “there is a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination” for NSSEs, sometimes taking months or even years. Various training initiatives are conducted, including “simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises.” [United States Secret Service, 2002; US Congress, 7/9/2002] Presumably the use of airplanes in suicide missions is incorporated into some of these simulated attacks.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Treasury Department official Richard Newcomb has been to Saudi Arabia with other US officials in an attempt to pressure the Saudis to crack down on financing al-Qaeda, but no action has resulted (see June 1999). He had threatened to freeze the assets of certain individuals and groups funding al-Qaeda if not action is taken, and now he starts to act on that threat. As head of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, he submits names for sanctions. But imposing sanctions requires approval from an interagency committee, and the permission to go ahead is never given. CIA and FBI officials are “lukewarm to the idea, worried that sanctions would chill what little cooperation they had with their Saudi counterparts.” But the State Department puts up the most opposition. One official will later recall, “The State Department always thought we had much bigger fish to fry.” [US News and World Report, 12/15/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of the Treasury, Richard Newcomb, Saudi Arabia

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger will later say that in early 2000 the National Security Council (NSC), the US military, and the CIA develops a “new technique for detecting Bin Laden.” Berger calls it “very promising as a way of determining where he would be if we had one strand of human intelligence.” The Los Angeles Times will comment, “But whether the new technique was some sort of high-tech homing device or silent surveillance craft is a question left to future generations.” The next two and a half pages of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report discussing this technique are completely censored. [Los Angeles Times, 7/27/2003] Despite Berger’s implication that the US does not have human intelligence on bin Laden’s movements at this time, other accounts indicate that it does (see March-April 2001 and April 2001).

Entity Tags: National Security Council, Osama bin Laden, Sandy Berger, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Remote Surveillance

The US and Germany miss an opportunity to uncover the 9/11 plot through the arrest of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an al-Qaeda operative tied to millennium attacks and the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Slahi lived in Duisburg, Germany for most of the 1990s and apparently US and German intelligence began monitoring him there around the start of 1999 due to his communications with his cousin, al-Qaeda leader Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid. In 1999 he had repeated contact with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell and helped some of the 9/11 hijackers travel to Afghanistan. US investigators will later allege he also advised one militant to “travel to the United States to take part in the planned [9/11] attacks” (see 1999). In November 1999, Slahi moves to Canada and is seen with associates of Ahmed Ressam, who is planning to bomb the Los Angeles airport. US officials will later believe that Slahi went to Canada to activate Ressam’s cell. [Los Angeles Times, 4/24/2006] After Ressam is arrested in mid-December 1999 (see December 14, 1999), Slahi is monitored closely. He is arrested in Senegal after flying there in mid-January 2000. Transfered to his home country of Mauritania, he is interrogated by FBI officials. [New York Times, 1/29/2000; Agence France-Presse, 2/20/2000; Los Angeles Times, 4/24/2006] In early February 2000, Newsweek will report, “The key link in the chain connecting bin Laden to Ahmed Ressam—and an alleged New Year’s bomb plot in the United States—may be Mohamedou Ould Slahi.” [Newsweek, 2/7/2000] However, despite these suspicions, he is released later in February. He moves back to Germany, and is arrested and held there in April 2000 for three weeks, and then released again. He quickly returns to Mauritania. He will be arrested again shortly after 9/11. [Agence France-Presse, 2/20/2000; US Department of Defense, 4/20/2006, pp. 184-216] Despite all this interest in Slahi, his connections to the 9/11 plot and some of the 9/11 hijackers in Hamburg are apparently not made until after 9/11. He will later be sent to Guantanamo where he is reportedly subjected to harsh interrogation (see September 27, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, Ahmed Ressam, Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Millennium Bomb Plots, Al-Qaeda in Germany

On January 6, 2000, the CIA station in Malaysia begins passing details from the Malaysian government’s surveillance of the al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to the CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC) (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Cofer Black, head of the CTC, orders that he be continually informed about the meeting. CIA Director George Tenet is frequently informed as well. They are given continual updates until the meeting ends on January 8. [Stern, 8/13/2003] National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and other top officials are briefed, but apparently President Clinton is not. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 225-26] However, it appears that the CIA deliberately and repeatedly fails to tell the FBI that one attendee, future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, has an active visa to visit the US (see Mid-July 2004, January 6, 2000, and January 5-6, 2000). No evidence will be presented suggesting anyone else outside the CIA is told this crucial fact either. The Malaysia summit ends on January 8. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237] Officially, the CIA will later claim to have lost future hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar as they left the meeting (see January 8, 2000). However, Almihdhar will later report back to al-Qaeda that he thought he was followed to the US (see Mid-July 2000). It will not be reported whether any of the other attendees are monitored after leaving the meeting.

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Nawaf Alhazmi, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Khalid Almihdhar, Counterterrorist Center, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Cofer Black, Louis J. Freeh

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Following a request by the CIA, the NSA puts hijacker 9/11 Khalid Almihdhar on its watch list. This means that the NSA should pass details of any new monitored communications involving him to the CIA. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004, pp. 6 pdf file] The CIA is looking for Almihdhar and knows he has a US visa (see January 13, 2000), but fails to add him to the State Department’s watch list until 19 months later (see August 23, 2001). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later state: “In mid-January 2000, NSA queried its databases for information concerning Khaled [redacted]. These queries remained active until May 2000, but did not uncover any information.” In fact, the NSA intercepts eight of Almihdhar’s calls from San Diego to Yemen during this time and even gives some details about some of the calls to the FBI (see Spring-Summer 2000). However, they do not tell the CIA everything about them, despite the watch list requirement to provide the information. It is not clear why the NSA failed to share this with the CIA. It is also not known if or when Almihdhar was removed from the NSA watch list before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, is involved in a reorganization at the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) and is merged into a larger group within the CTC. Precise details of the reorganization are not known. When FBI agent Charles Frahm is detailed to the CIA in July 2000 to replace an FBI agent who had previously been deputy manager of Alec Station (see Mid-January 2000), due to the reorganization Frahm is made deputy chief of the larger unit. Presumably therefore, Alec Station chief Richard Blee is now the head of the larger unit. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 229, 231-232, 320 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission Report will refer to Blee as “head of the section that included the bin Laden unit,” and “a group chief with authority over the bin Laden unit,” indicating that his position is indeed upgraded. (Note: this first quote from the 9/11 Commission Report refers to an event in mid-1999. Presumably, there is an error in the timing here by the Commission, as at this time Blee was head of the bin Laden unit (see June 1999), not the larger group. His position appears not to be upgraded until around the spring of 2000.) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 142, 204] Journalist Ken Silverstein will say that at one point Blee holds the number four position at the CTC, chief of operations, which may be at this time. [Harper's, 1/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Charles Frahm, Central Intelligence Agency, Alec Station, Richard Blee, Counterterrorist Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

While the 9/11 hijackers are in the US, the NSA intercepts several calls between them and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by Ahmed al-Hada, who is hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father-in-law (see August 4-25, 1998).
Summary of Calls -
bullet The first calls are made by Almihdhar and are intercepted during the spring and summer of 2000 (see Spring-Summer 2000).
bullet More calls are made by hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001).
bullet The final call from the US is intercepted just a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)).
The NSA intercepted the hijackers’ calls outside the US before this (see Early 1999 and December 29, 1999) and continues to do so in 2000 (see Summer 2000) after Almihdhar returns to Yemen (see June 10, 2000 and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000)).
Calls' Content - Some of the calls may only contain non-operational information, as they are reportedly between Almihdhar and his wife. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222; Suskind, 2006, pp. 94; Wright, 2006, pp. 343] However, the calls are also used to relay messages to the 9/11 hijackers. [Embassy of Yemen (Washington), 2/13/2002; MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005]
Agencies' Roles - The CIA is the lead agency monitoring the communications hub. It has planted bugs inside it and is wiretapping all calls (see Late August 1998). Intercepts of calls to and from the hub are a major plank of the US intelligence community’s effort to fight al-Qaeda. Also involved is the FBI, which is using phone records to plot these calls on a map (see Late 1998-Early 2002). Some of the calls intercepted by US intelligence come from Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone in Afghanistan (see August 4-25, 1998 and Late August 1998). After 9/11, counterterrorism officials will say that the number was one of the hottest targets being monitored by the NSA and was an “intelligence bonanza.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; Wright, 2006, pp. 343]
Importance of Failure - Also after 9/11, counterterrorism officials will agree that the failure to follow leads to the US from this number was a huge missed opportunity to stop the 9/11 plot. For instance, FBI agent Kenneth Maxwell will say: “Two al-Qaeda guys living in California—are you kidding me? We would have been on them like white on snow: physical surveillance, electronic surveillance, a special unit devoted entirely to them.” [MSNBC, 7/21/2004; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file]
Discussed after 9/11 - The failure to roll up the plot based on these communications intercepts will be discussed following 9/11 (see Summer 2002-Summer 2004 and March 15, 2004 and After).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, National Security Agency, Hoda al-Hada, Ahmed al-Hada, Kenneth Maxwell

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Future 9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah is briefly detained and questioned at the Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000), and some reports will suggest this is because he is already on a US watch list. It is not known when he may have been put on a watch list or why. The only information about this will come from conflicting accounts as to why Jarrah is stopped and questioned by immigration officials for several hours in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 30.
Did the US Tell the UAE to Stop Jarrah? - According to one version, UAE officials claim Jarrah is stopped based on a tip-off from the US. A UAE source will tell author Jane Corbin: “It was at the request of the Americans and it was specifically because of Jarrah’s links with Islamic extremists, his contacts with terrorist organizations. That was the extent of what we were told.” [Corbin, 2003] In 2002, CNN will also report that Jarrah is stopped because he is on a US watch list. It claims this is sourced not only from UAE sources, but from other governments in the Middle East and Europe. However, US officials will claim no such tip-off was ever given. [CNN, 8/1/2002]
Passport and Religious Material Version - Other versions of the story will claim that Jarrah first raises suspicion because of an overlay of the Koran in his passport and because he is carrying religious tapes and books. This is what the 9/11 Commission will claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496] Other accounts, such as one in Vanity Fair in late 2004, will support this version. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
UAE Has Existing Program to Track Militants for the CIA - There may be a middle version of sorts, that Jarrah may be stopped because the CIA wants people with a profile just like his to be stopped. According to CNN: “The questioning of Jarrah in Dubai fits the pattern of a CIA operation described to CNN by UAE and European sources. Those sources say that in 1999, the CIA began an operation to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives, as they transited there. One of those sources provided [a] drawing showing the airport layout and describes how people wanted for questioning were intercepted, most often at a transit desk. As was the case with Ziad Jarrah, CNN sources say UAE officials were, often, told in advance by American officials who was coming in and whom they wanted questioned.” [CNN, 8/1/2002] It will also be reported that in the summer of 1999, the CIA asked immigration officials all over the region to question anyone who may have been returning from training camps in Afghanistan, and Jarrah fits that profile (see Summer 1999). [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, United Arab Emirates, 9/11 Commission, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Ziad Jarrah, Hijacker Visas and Immigration, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Ziad Jarrah, in an undated family photo taken in Lebanon.Ziad Jarrah, in an undated family photo taken in Lebanon. [Source: Getty Images]The UAE wants to arrest future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, but US officials say they will track him instead, according to United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials. It is unknown if the US officials actually do so. On January 30, 2000, Jarrah is stopped and questioned as he is transiting through the airport in Dubai, UAE. Officials at the airport have agreed to help the CIA by monitoring or questioning suspicious militants passing through there (see 1999).
Conflicting Accounts - There will be some controversy about what happens next. According to a January 2002 FBI memo, “UAE authorities stopped Jarrah, apparently, because he had the Koran superimposed on part of his passport and he was carrying other religious materials.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/24/2004] But according to UAE officials, Jarrah is stopped because he is on a US watch list (see January 30, 2000).
Jarrah's Admissions - Regardless of why he is stopped, Jarrah is questioned and he all but admits he has just been to training camps in Afghanistan. A UAE official will later say, “When we questioned him, he said he spent two months and five days in Pakistan, some part of it in Afghanistan.” Furthermore, Jarrah says that he is going to the US to preach Islam and learn to fly airplanes.
UAE Officials Want to Arrest Him, but US Says No - While Jarrah is being held at the airport, UAE officials contact US officials and ask what they should do with him. (Note that there is some controversy about this as well, but FBI and German documents indicate the US is contacted while Jarrah is still being held (see January 30, 2000).) A UAE official will later say: “What happened was we called the Americans. We said: ‘We have this guy. What should we do with him?‘… [T]heir answer was, ‘Let him go, we’ll track him.’ We were going to make him stay. They told us to let him go. We weren’t feeling very happy in letting him go.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/24/2004; McDermott, 2005, pp. 186-187, 294-295] According to another account, UAE officials have a discussion with officials at the US embassy in Dubai on what to do with Jarrah. After some discussion, they conclude they do not actually have any charge to arrest him with, so it is decided to let him go. [Chicago Tribune, 9/28/2005]
UAE Officials Track Him to Hamburg; They Notify US Intelligence - After several hours of questioning, Jarrah is let go. He is allowed to board a flight for Amsterdam, Netherlands, but the flight does not leave until the next day, giving officials more time to prepare to track him if they want to. UAE officials are aware that after Jarrah arrives in Amsterdam, he changes planes for Hamburg, Germany. A UAE official will later say, “Where he went from there, we don’t know.” In fact, Jarrah lives in Hamburg and is part of the al-Qaeda cell there with fellow 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others. According to the FBI memo, this information about Jarrah’s detention and questioning “was reported to the US government.” UAE officials are cautious about mentioning which part of the US government is informed, but the implication is that it is the CIA. [Associated Press, 12/14/2001; Chicago Tribune, 2/24/2004; McDermott, 2005, pp. 186-187] However, it is unknown if US intelligence does track Jarrah.

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, United Arab Emirates, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Ziad Jarrah, Remote Surveillance, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

A US satellite photo of the Darunta camp.A US satellite photo of the Darunta camp. [Source: US military]By the start of 2000, US intelligence has had a particular focus on Darunta Camp, one of al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. This simple camp near Jalalabad draws attention because of intelligence gathered during the last year indicating that al-Qaeda is experimenting with poisons and chemical weapons. The CIA has inserted a special device in the vicinity that can take high quality photographs of the camp from over ten miles away. Sometime in late January, the CIA learns that bin Laden has arrived in the camp. They pass this information on to Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, who are fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Massoud dispatches a small team on mules to get near the camp and fire rockets at bin Laden. However, when Massoud tells the CIA about this, the CIA’s lawyers are alarmed. They don’t want the CIA legally complicit if the operation kills innocent civilians and they order Massoud to withdraw his team. But due to poor communications the team goes ahead anyway and apparently shells the camp. However, bin Laden is not hurt and the incident passes without notice. Some US intelligence officials are upset at the legal policy that led to the order for Massoud’s team to withdraw. A new policy is drawn up allowing the CIA to assist Massoud on an operation if the primary purpose of the operation is to kill bin Laden or one of his top assistants. Otherwise, the US officially remains neutral in the war between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. [Coll, 2004, pp. 487-490]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban, Northern Alliance, Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

The CIA and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials apparently fail to warn German intelligence about future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah. On January 30, 2000, Jarrah was questioned at Dubai airport in the UAE, and the CIA was involved in a decision to not arrest him (see January 30-31, 2000). But even though Jarrah’s flight from Dubai was tracked to Hamburg, Germany, apparently neither US nor UAE officials warn German intelligence about Jarrah. During Jarrah’s brief detention he confessed that he had just come from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he had a large number of jihadist propaganda videos in his luggage, leading UAE officials to strongly suspect he had just been to a militant training camp in Afghanistan. He also revealed that he has plans to learn how to fly airplanes in the US. An unnamed top German intelligence official will later say: “If we had been given the information that Jarrah had been to Afghanistan and was planning to go to flight school, we might have asked the Americans whether they thought this was normal.… If they had asked us, ‘Who is this guy who is learning to fly?’ then perhaps there might have been a different outcome.” He will suggest German intelligence might have started monitoring Jarrah, and thus discovered the 9/11 plot. However, this official will complain: “But it was one-way traffic [with the CIA]. You gave information, and you got no response.” The CIA will later deny that it has any knowledge of Jarrah before 9/11. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Note that a UAE official claims that the CIA said it would secretly track Jarrah from Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000). If this is true, it could explain why neither the UAE nor CIA told Germany about Jarrah.

Entity Tags: German intelligence community, United Arab Emirates, Ziad Jarrah, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Al-Qaeda in Germany

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) devoted largely to the possibility of an airline hijacking by al-Qaeda. The meeting is said to come during a period of low threat, after the millennium alerts had ended (see December 15-31, 1999). Clarke later will recall that the possibility of a suicide hijacking would have been only one of many speculative possibilities considered. The apparent suicide hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 990 off the coast of Massachusetts in late 1999 appears to have been a concern of the CSG around this time (see October 31, 1999). Also, one month earlier, a militant group connected to al-Qaeda successfully hijacked an airplane in India, won their demands, and escaped (see December 24-31, 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The condominium complex where the Malaysia summit was held. The condominium complex where the Malaysia summit was held. [Source: Fox News] (click image to enlarge)After the al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000), the CIA has Malaysian intelligence stop monitoring the condominium where the summit was held. The condominium is owned by al-Qaeda operative Yazid Sufaat, who plays a key role in al-Qaeda search for biological weapons (see December 19, 2001). According to a later Newsweek account, after the summit, “Malaysian intelligence continued to watch the condo at the CIA’s request, but after a while the agency lost interest.” It is unclear when the surveillance stops exactly, but it stops some time before al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui visits Malaysia in September 2000. Moussaoui stays in Sufaat’s condominium, but the CIA misses a chance to learn about this (see September-October 2000). The Malaysians will later say they were surprised by the CIA’s lack of interest. “We couldn’t fathom it, really,” Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s Legal Affairs minister, will tell Newsweek. “There was no show of concern.” [Newsweek, 6/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Malaysian Secret Service, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Rais Yatim, Yazid Sufaat

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The front cover of the matchbox announcing a reward for bin Laden.The front cover of the matchbox announcing a reward for bin Laden. [Source: Saeed Khan / Getty Images]The US begins circulating matchboxes in Pakistan with a picture of bin Laden and an announcement of a large reward for information leading to his capture. The reward promises confidentiality but also only lists the reward money as $500,000 instead of the $5 million announced by Washington. Additionally, 100 rupee notes, worth about $2, are being circulated with a message stamped on them announcing the reward. There is no matchbox campaign for other known al-Qaeda leaders. [Associated Press, 2/16/2000] The reward program is notable for its late start and low profile, especially when compared to a similar matchbox reward program for Ramzi Yousef starting in 1993 (see April 2, 1993). That program was announced about a month after Yousef was determined to be a major suspect, and it eventually helped with his capture (see February 3-7, 1995). The bin Laden campaign will come to an end by early 2004 (see January 2004).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

The New York Times reports that “In recent months, American officials have circulated within the government a list of more than 30 groups that they are examining for links to terrorism, at least two of which are based in the United States.” The only groups specifically mentioned as being on the list are: [New York Times, 2/19/2000]
bullet The Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA), a charity said to be tied to the government of Sudan, which the US officially lists as a terrorism sponsor. The State Department’s USAID program gave the IARA two grants in 1998 worth $4.2 million for work in Mali, then later cancelled the grants (see November 1996-Late December 1999).
bullet The Holy Land Foundation, based in Richardson, Texas.
bullet The Global Relief Foundation, also based in Richardson, Texas.
bullet Human Concern International, a Canadian-based group shut down by Canada in 1997.
The US government is said to be stepping up investigations into such charities, and talking to countries in the Persian Gulf about their support of specific charities. “But officials said Washington had been reluctant to interfere in a domain safeguarded by constitutional guarantees of free association and separation of church and state. In addition, officials said, they lacked evidence that could be used in public court proceedings.” [New York Times, 2/19/2000] Later in 2000, the State Department will ask its USAID program not to give aid to Holy Land any more. It will cite the payments the charity gives to the families of suicide bombers. [New York Times, 8/25/2000] But aside from this one minor step, the US will take no actions against any of the four named charities until after 9/11. Three of the charities will be shut down shortly after 9/11 (see December 4, 2001; October 12, 2001), while in 2004 the IARA will be shut down for providing “direct financial support” to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 8/25/2000]

Entity Tags: Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Human Concern International, Global Relief Foundation, US Department of Justice, Islamic African Relief Agency

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing

Sources who know Osama bin Laden later claim that his stepmother, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, has a second meeting with her stepson in Afghanistan (her first visit took place in the spring of 1998 (see Spring 1998)). The trip is approved by the Saudi royal family. The Saudis pass the message to him that “‘they wouldn’t crack down on his followers in Saudi Arabia’ as long as he set his sights on targets outside the desert kingdom.” In late 1999, the Saudi government had told the CIA about the upcoming trip, and suggested placing a homing beacon on her luggage. This does not happen—Saudis later claim they weren’t taken seriously, and Americans claim they never received specific information on her travel plans. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001; Washington Post, 12/19/2001]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, Saudi Binladin Group

Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Hunt for Bin Laden, Bin Laden Family

Around this time, special CIA paramilitary teams begin “working with tribes and warlords in southern Afghanistan” and help “create a significant new network in the region of the Taliban’s greatest strength.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2001] Journalist Bob Woodward will later report that from 2000 through March 2001, the CIA also deploys paramilitary teams at least five times into Afghanistan to work with the Northern Alliance in the north part of the country. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 77-78]

Entity Tags: Northern Alliance, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

Around eight calls made by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar from San Diego to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by his father-in-law Ahmed al-Hada are intercepted by the NSA. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 16-17, 157 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; Wright, 2006, pp. 343; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file] At least one of the calls is made from a phone registered to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi in their San Diego apartment. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 251 pdf file] Other calls are made from a mobile phone registered to Alhazmi. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 296] Calls may also be made from the communications hub to the US. [MSNBC, 7/21/2004]
Dates of Calls - One of the calls takes place days after they move into their San Diego apartment in February (see January 15-February 2000). [MSNBC, 7/21/2004] Another is on March 20, 2000 and lasts 16 minutes. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 57 pdf file; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 251 pdf file]
Intercepted by NSA - Although NSA analysts pick up Almihdhar’s first name, “Khalid,” they do not connect it to his second name, even though the NSA has been intercepting communications to and from the hub involving him throughout 1999 (see Early 1999 and December 29, 1999) and he is on the NSA watch list at this point (see Mid-January 2000). [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 16, 157 pdf file; US News and World Report, 3/15/2004] Some, or perhaps all, of these calls are between Almihdhar and his wife, who lives at the communications hub and reportedly gives birth to a daughter in early 2000 while Almihdhar is in the US. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222; Suskind, 2006, pp. 94; Wright, 2006, pp. 343; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file] However, the NSA analysts suspect that Khalid is part of an “operational cadre.” [US News and World Report, 3/15/2004]
Dissemination and Content - According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the NSA disseminates some of this information to the FBI, CIA, and other agencies, but not all of it, as it apparently does not meet reporting thresholds. It is unclear why it does not meet such thresholds, although some sources will suggest Almihdhar was just talking to his wife. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file; US News and World Report, 3/15/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222; Suskind, 2006, pp. 94] Another source suggests operational information was passed on during the calls (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). However, two FBI agents who worked on al-Qaeda cases relating to Yemen, Dan Coleman and Ali Soufan, will later claim that they and other senior counterterrorism officials only learn about these calls after 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; Suskind, 2006, pp. 94; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file]
Significance - Author Lawrence Wright will comment: “You know, this is the key. The NSA is all over this phone. And everybody, you know, that has any connection with it is drawing links from that phone. Now imagine eight lines from Yemen to San Diego. How obvious would it be that al-Qaeda is in America[?]” [Federal News Service, 10/5/2006]
Other Calls - The NSA also intercepts various other communications between the hijackers and the communications hub (see Early 2000-Summer 2001).

Entity Tags: Ahmed al-Hada, Al-Qaeda, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, National Security Agency, Osama bin Laden, Lawrence Wright, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The Clinton administration begins a push to fight terrorism financing by introducing a tough anti-money laundering bill. The bill faces tough opposition, mostly from Republicans and lobbyists who enjoy the anonymity of offshore banking, which would be affected by the legislation. Despite passing the House Banking Committee by a vote of 31 to 1 in July 2000, Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) refuses to let the bill come up for a vote in his Senate Banking Committee. [Time, 10/15/2001] Other efforts begun at this time to fight terrorism financing are later stymied by the new Bush administration in February 2001.

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Bush administration (43), Phil Gramm

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Terrorism Financing

The FBI obtains a wiretap warrant to seize al-Qaeda-related e-mails under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but experimental software malfunctions and an angry FBI agent is said to destroy all the e-mails collected. The Carnivore software, which was installed in Denver, collects e-mails not only from the target, but also from other people. The FBI technician is reportedly so upset when he discovers e-mails from people whose communications the FBI has no authorization to collect that he apparently deletes everything the FBI has gathered, including the e-mails from the target. However, the article that first reports this deletion also says the opposite: “A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night that the e-mails were not destroyed.” In either case, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) at FBI headquarters, which deals with FISA warrants, is then informed and expresses its surprise it was not told the software was experimental before the warrant was issued. An FBI official will comment: “To state that [an OIPR official] is unhappy with [the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section] and the [Usama bin Laden] Unit would be an understatement of incredible proportions.” As the target’s e-mails have been destroyed in the FBI system, the FBI then wants a physical search warrant under FISA to go and collect the e-mails from the carrier. However, the OIPR insists on an explanation for the error before this can happen, and also demands an explanation for the problem, so the special FISA court can be notified. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2000; Associated Press, 5/28/2002] It is not known who was being monitored, though there are potential al-Qaeda Denver connections: in 1994, a bin Laden front began routing communications through Denver (see 1994), and a passport was stolen there in 1995 from a man who was later confused with one of the 9/11 hijackers (see 1995).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, International Terrorism Operations Section, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), Al-Qaeda, Carnivore, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Remote Surveillance

Maj. Brock Gaston.Maj. Brock Gaston. [Source: State Department]CIA official Gary Berntsen and a US Army Special Forces major known as Brock (an apparent reference to Maj. Brock Gaston) lead a six-person team with the mission to enter Afghanistan and capture one of bin Laden’s top aides. The exact target is not specified; the team is expected to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. The team passes through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, then meets up with Northern Alliance forces in the part of Afghanistan still under their control. But from the very beginning they encounter resistance from a CIA superior officer who is based in a nearby country and is in charge of CIA relations with the Northern Alliance. Known publicly only by his first name Lawrence, he apparently had a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and has a personal dispute with Gaston. The team stays at Ahmad Shad Massoud’s Northern Alliance headquarters high in the Afghan mountains for about two weeks. However, they never have a chance to cross into Taliban territory for their mission because Lawrence is sending back a stream of negative messages to CIA headquarters about the risks of their mission. A debate ensues back at headquarters. Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center, and his assistant Hank Crumpton support continuing the mission. But CIA Director George Tenet and his assistant Jim Pavitt cancel the mission on March 25. Upon returning to the US, Berntsen, Gaston, Black, and Crumpton formally call for Lawrence’s dismissal, but to no effect. Berntsen will later comment that Black and Crumpton “had shown a willingness to plan and execute risky missions. But neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bill Clinton had the will to wage a real fight against terrorists who were killing US citizens.” [CNN, 12/15/2001; Berntsen and Pezzullo, 2005, pp. 43-64]

Entity Tags: James Pavitt, Brock Gaston, Cofer Black, Gary Berntsen, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George J. Tenet, Hank Crumpton, Lawrence

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

After being prompted by CIA colleagues in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to provide information about what happened to future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar and al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash after they flew from Malaysia to Thailand on January 8, 2000 (see January 8, 2000 and (February 25, 2000)), the CIA station in Bangkok, Thailand, sends out a cable saying that Alhazmi arrived in the US from Thailand with an apparently unnamed companion on January 15 (see January 15, 2000). This information was received from Thai intelligence, which watchlisted Almihdhar and Alhazmi after being asked to do so by the CIA (see January 13, 2000 and January 15, 2000). [New York Times, 10/17/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181, 502]
Companion - The companion to whom the cable refers is presumably Almihdhar. According to later testimony of a senior FBI official, the CIA learns the companion is Almihdhar at this time: “In March 2000, the CIA received information concerning the entry of Almihdhar and Alhazmi into the United States.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002] The CIA disputes this, however. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file] If the companion the cable refers to is Almihdhar, then it is unclear why he would not be named, as the NSA has been intercepting his calls for at least a year (see Early 1999), he was under CIA surveillance earlier in January (see January 5-8, 2000), he is known to have a US visa (see January 2-5, 2000), he is associated with Alhazmi (see January 8-9, 2000), and this cable is prompted by another cable specifically asking where Almihdhar is (see February 11, 2000).
Missed Opportunity - Later, CIA officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black, will admit that this was one of the missed opportunities to watchlist the hijackers. Black will say: “I think that month we watchlisted about 150 people. [The watchlisting] should have been done. It wasn’t.” Almihdhar and Alhazmi will not be added to the US watchlist until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001). [New York Times, 10/17/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file]
Unclear Who Reads Cable - Although Tenet will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that nobody at CIA headquarters reads this cable at this time (see October 17, 2002), the CIA’s inspector general will conclude that “numerous” officers access this cable and others about Almihdhar. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria District, 3/28/2006 pdf file] These officers are not named, but Tom Wilshire, the CIA’s deputy unit chief in charge of monitoring the two men at this time, will access it in May 2001 at the same time as he accesses other cables about Almihdhar from early 2000 (see May 15, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that the cables are “reexamined” at this time, suggesting that Wilshire may have read them before. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 267, 537] Wilshire certainly did access at least two of the cables in January 2000, indicating he may read the cable about the arrival of Alhazmi and the unnamed companion in the US in March 2000. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 240, 282 pdf file]
FBI Not Informed - The knowledge that Alhazmi has entered the US will be disseminated throughout the CIA, but not to the FBI or other US intelligence agencies (see March 6, 2000 and After). When asked about the failure by the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Wilshire will be unable to explain it, saying: “It’s very difficult to understand what happened with that cable when it came in. I do not know exactly why it was missed. It would appear that it was missed completely.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Nawaf Alhazmi, CIA Bangkok Station, 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Alec Station, Tom Wilshire, Khalid Almihdhar, Malaysian Secret Service

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Key Warnings, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Hijacker Visas and Immigration

After the CIA learns that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar has a US visa (see January 2-5, 2000) and 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and a companion have arrived in Los Angeles (see March 5, 2000), operational documents reporting this are accessed by numerous CIA officers, most of whom are in the Counterterrorism Division. [Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005 pdf file] In addition, the day after the cable reporting Alhazmi’s arrival in Los Angeles is received, “another overseas CIA station note[s], in a cable to the bin Laden unit at CIA headquarters, that it had ‘read with interest’ the March cable, ‘particularly the information that a member of this group traveled to the US…’” [US Congress, 9/20/2002] However, it is unclear what is done with this information as CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black will later incorrectly testify that nobody read the cable stating Alhazmi had entered the US (see October 17, 2002), so the use to which the information is put is never investigated. In addition, the CIA fails to inform the FBI that Alhazmi has entered the US. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 182]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Hijacker Visas and Immigration

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger chairs a Cabinet-level meeting to review the wave of attempted terror attacks around the millennium. There are counterterrorism reports that disruption efforts “have not put too much of a dent” into bin Laden’s overseas network, and that it is feared “sleeper cells” of al-Qaeda operatives have taken root in the US. It is recommended that the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service should begin “high tempo, ongoing operations to arrest, detain, and deport potential sleeper cells in the United States.” Some ideas, like expanding the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the US, are adopted. Others, like a centralized translation unit for domestic intercepts, are not. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] In July 2004, it is revealed that the Justice Department is investigating Berger for taking classified documents relating to this review effort out of a secure reading room in 2003. Most of the documents are returned, but a few apparently are lost. [Associated Press, 7/20/2004; Washington Post, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right.Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right. [Source: Al-Arian family via Associated Press]Sami al-Arian poses for a picture with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, while Bush is campaigning for president in Florida. Bush chit-chats with al-Arian’s family and gives his son Abdullah the nickname “Big Dude.” Al-Arian is a former Florida professor and Muslim political activist who has been under investigation for suspected ties to US-designated terrorist groups. [Washington Post, 2/22/2003] Al-Arian will later tell friends that he used the occasion to press Bush about overturning the Justice Department’s use of “secret evidence” to deport accused terrorists, which is an issue for many Muslim Americans during the presidential campaign. Newsweek will later comment, “In those pre-9-11 days, Bush was eagerly courting the growing Muslim vote—and more than willing to listen to seemingly sincere activists like al-Arian.” [Newsweek, 3/3/2003] At the time, al-Arian is vigorously campaigning for Bush at mosques and Islamic cultural centers in the pivotal state of Florida. In a reference to Bush’s tight margin for victory in Florida which wins Bush the presidential election, al-Arian will later say, “We certainly delivered him many more than 537 votes.” [Newsweek, 7/16/2001] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Astonishingly enough, the fact that dangerous militant Islamists like al-Arian were campaigning for Bush went almost entirely unnoticed.” Bush’s speechwriter David Frum will later write, “Not only were the al-Arians not avoided by the Bush White House—they were actively courted.… The al-Arian case was not a solitary lapse… That outreach campaign opened relationships between the Bush campaign and some very disturbing persons in the Muslim-American community.… [We] Republicans are very lucky—we face political opponents too crippled by political correctness to make an issue of these kinds of security lapses.” [Salon, 3/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Sami Al-Arian, Laura Bush, David Frum, Abdullah al-Arian, George W. Bush, Craig Unger

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Intelligence Newsletter reports that a number of Osama bin Laden-owed businesses in Sudan are still operating and still controlled by bin Laden. The report specifically mentions Wadi al-Aqiq, El-Hijra Construction and Development, Taba Investment Company, and the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank. Bin Laden’s control of all these businesses were revealed in detail to US intelligence by al-Qaeda informant Jamal al-Fadl several years earlier (see December 1996-January 1997). The report notes that both Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid and his cousin-in-law Mohamedou Ould Slahi, both known al-Qaeda leaders, were reportedly employed in recent years by the El-Hijra company. The report further notes that money for bin Laden “pours into accounts at branch offices of Al Taqwa [Bank] in Malta,” Switzerland, and the Bahamas. Businesses and charities supporting bin Laden “are thriving around the world without any real curb on their operations” because “some US and European agencies hunting him seem to lack zeal” in stopping him. “To be sure, if journalists can track down bin Laden’s friends without too much trouble it can be imagined that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long found the same connections. Recent anti-terrorism history has shown that when the authorities really want to crack down on an organization they cut off its financial and logistic roots. So why are bin Laden’s backers prospering when the world’s most powerful anti-terrorist organizations are chasing him?” [Intelligence Newsletter, 3/16/2000]

Entity Tags: Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank, Jamal al-Fadl, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Wadi al-Aqiq, El-Hijra Construction and Development, Osama bin Laden, Taba Investment Company

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Terrorism Financing, Al Taqwa Bank

In April 2000, FBI agent Ken Williams begins investigating an Arizona flight student named Zacaria Soubra with suspicious radical militant ties. Soubra will be the main focus of Williams’s July 2001 memo about suspect Middle Easterners training in Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001). But Williams’ investigation into Soubra is greatly slowed because of internal politics and personal disputes. When he returns to this case in December 2000, he and all the other agents on the international terrorism squad are diverted to work on a high-profile arson case. James Hauswirth, another Arizona FBI agent, will later say, “[Williams] fought it. Why take your best terrorism investigator and put him on an arson case? He didn’t have a choice.” The arson case is solved in June 2001 and Williams returns to the issue of Islamic militant flight school students. His memo comes out much later than it otherwise might have. Hauswirth will write a letter to FBI Director Mueller in late 2001, complaining, “[Terrorism] has always been the lowest priority in the division; it still is the lowest priority in the division.” Others insiders later concur that the Arizona FBI placed a low priority on terrorism cases before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/2002; New York Times, 6/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ken Williams, James Hauswirth, Zacaria Soubra

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Phoenix Memo, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

United Nations police raid a house in Pristina, Kosovo, rented by the Saudi Joint Relief Committee (SJRC). The house was rented by Wael Hamza Julaidan, one of the founders of al-Qaeda, and is discovered to be an al-Qaeda safe house. Shortly after the raid, the BBC reports that the US sent UN police a secret document asking them to monitor those connected to the house. It states that Julaidan is an associate of Osama bin Laden, and helped him “move money and men to and from the Balkans.” The SJRC is an umbrella body for several other Saudi charities and is partly financed by the Saudi government. [BBC, 4/3/2000] In a 1999 interview broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network, bin Laden referred to the origins of al-Qaeda and said, “We were all in one boat, as is known to you, including our brother, Wael Julaidan.” [Kohlmann, 2004] However, despite this openly shown interest in Julaidan, the US will not freeze his assets until late 2002 (see September 6, 2002). Julaidan has just been made director general of the Rabita Trust, a charity with many prominent Pakistanis on its board of directors, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see Mid-September-October 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: Saudi Joint Relief Committee, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Wael Hamza Julaidan, Rabita Trust

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Terrorism Financing

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke warns of the danger posed by Osama bin Laden and of the risk of a terrorist attack within the United States, and argues for an aggressive anti-terrorism strategy. His views are reported by the Washington Post, which calls him “one of the least known but most controversial members of [President] Clinton’s national security team,” who has “played a key role both in defining the new post-Cold War security threats to the United States and coming up with a response.” The Post says the central idea behind Clarke’s thinking is that “a new breed of global terrorist—embodied by bin Laden—has developed the ruthlessness and resources to carry its war to American soil.” These terrorists, Clarke says, “will come after our weakness, our Achilles heel, which is largely here in the United States.” Clarke “compares the current threat of global terrorism with the situation faced by Western democracies in the period leading up to World War II, when appeasement carried the day.” He is critical of those who are skeptical about the danger of a chemical or biological terrorist attack, saying: “The notion that this is an analytical problem and one can quantify the threat is naive.… We don’t know how many bio labs there are out there, how many tons of chemical agents. Frankly, it will only take one.” Clarke wants aggressive action to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans. He says: “We should have a very low barrier in terms of acting when there is a threat of weapons of mass destruction being used against American citizens. We should not have a barrier of evidence that can be used in a court of law.” Referring to bin Laden, he adds: “It’s not enough to be in a cat-and-mouse game, warning about his plots. If we keep that up, we will someday fail. We need to seriously think about doing more. Our goal should be to so erode his network of organizations that they no longer pose a serious threat.” [Washington Post, 4/2/2000]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The Washington Post writes, “With little fanfare, [President Clinton] has begun to articulate a new national security doctrine in which terrorists and other ‘enemies of the nation-state’ are coming to occupy the position once filled by a monolithic communist superpower.” In his January 2000 State of the Union address, President Clinton predicts that terrorists and organized criminals will pose “the major security threat” to the US in coming decades. However, some claim that a “preoccupation with bin Laden has caused errors in judgment.” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger counters that the threat of large-scale terrorist attacks on US soil is “a reality, not a perception.… We would be irresponsible if we did not take this seriously.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke predicts that the US’s new enemies “will come after our weakness, our Achilles heel, which is largely here in the United States” (see April 2, 2000). [Washington Post, 4/2/2000]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard A. Clarke, Osama bin Laden, Sandy Berger

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

TIPOFF is a US no-fly list of individuals who should be detained if they attempt to leave or enter the US. There are about 60,000 names on this list by 9/11 (see December 11, 1999). Apparently there had been no prohibition of travel inside the US, but on this day an FAA security directive puts six names on a newly created domestic no-fly list. All six are said to be associates of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, including his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). On August 28, 2001, six more names will be added to this list. Apparently all 12 names are associated with al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later note the discrepancy of the 60,000-name list with the 12-name list and comment, “seems to me, particularly with what was going on at the time, that some effort would have been made to make—to produce a larger list than [only 12 names].” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] The FAA’s chief of security in 2001, Cathal Flynn, will later say that he was “unaware of the TIPOFF list” until after the September 11 attacks. 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton will say that this admission is “stunning, just unbeleivable,” and an “example of absolute incompetence” at the FAA. Other FAA officials will say they are aware of the larger list, but do not make much use of it. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 115] On the day of 9/11, two of the 9/11 hijackers will be on the 60,000-name TIPOFF list but not the 12-name domestic list, so airport security does not know to stop them from boarding the planes they hijack that day (see August 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: TIPOFF, Slade Gorton, Cathal Flynn, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Bob Kerrey, Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, US Air Security, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

The State Department issues its annual report describing the US attempt to combat terrorism. For the first time, it focuses on South Asia. The New York Times notes, “The report reserves its harshest criticism for Afghanistan” and “is also severely critical of Pakistan.” However, neither country is placed on the official list of countries sponsoring terrorism, which has remained unchanged since 1993. [New York Times, 4/30/2000]

Entity Tags: US Department of State

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

A Justice Department report into the handling of the Wen Ho Lee investigation attacks the “wall” procedures. The “wall” regulates the passage of some information from FBI intelligence investigations to criminal FBI agents and prosecutors, to ensure such information can legitimately be used in court (see Early 1980s). After the procedures were formalized (see July 19, 1995), they were criticized in a 1999 Justice Department report (see July 1999). The Wen Ho Lee report finds that additional requirements imposed by the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) at the Justice Department (see (Late 1995-1997)) that hamper consultations between agents on intelligence investigations and attorneys at the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are actually in contravention of the procedures specified in the original 1995 memo. The report states, “It is clear from interviews… that, in any investigation where [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)] is employed or even remotely hoped for (and FISA coverage is always hoped for), the Criminal Division is considered radioactive by both the FBI and the OIPR.” It also says that the FBI’s deputy director has told agents that contacting prosecutors without the OIPR’s permission is a “career stopper.” Another report, published in July 2001, finds that some improvements have been made in this area, but recommends further steps. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 33-36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The front of the Manchester manual, deceptively covered with flowers.The front of the Manchester manual, deceptively covered with flowers. [Source: FBI]Al-Qaeda leader Anas al-Liby is arrested in Manchester, England, and then let go. According to Ali Soufan, an FBI agent from 1997 to 2005, the I-49 squad, a mix of FBI agents and US attorneys, uncovers evidence that al-Liby is living in Manchester. FBI agent John O’Neill assembles a team, including Soufan, to go there. Soufan will later say that they are met by local police, and he tells them: “Anas al-Liby is a senior al-Qaeda operative. He’s a computer expert and was part of the team that did surveillance on the embassy in Nairobi [that resulted in the 1998 bombing there (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998)]. This is potentially a big win for us.” Al-Liby is caught in his residence and taken to a local police station. However, he denies any involvement in terrorism. According to Soufan, al-Liby is smart and careful, and no incriminating documents or computer files can be quickly found in his residence. O’Neill wants him held until his possessions can be searched more thoroughly, but he is immediately released. Al-Liby evades a team sent to follow him, and skips the country. Not long afterwards, Soufan, who speaks Arabic, discovers a terrorist training manual written in Arabic in al-Liby’s possessions (see May 2000). In a book he writes that is published in 2011, Soufan curiously will not mention the timing of this arrest, even though timing is given to most other events discussed in the book. But the arrest is placed between events that occur in late 1999 and early 2000. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 113-114] In April 2001, the New York Times will first report on the manual, and will mention that it was discovered in a raid in Manchester in May 2000. [New York Times, 4/5/2001] Shortly after 9/11, it will be revealed that the raid was of al-Liby’s residence. [Associated Press, 9/21/2001; Observer, 9/22/2001] In 2002, it will be reported that al-Liby was not at home during the raid, and then escaped the country. Furthermore, al-Liby has been living openly in Britain since 1995, apparently as part of a political deal after he had taken part in a plot with the British intelligence agency MI6 to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi in 1996 (see Late 1995-May 2000 and 1996). [Observer, 11/10/2002] The embarrassing fact that al-Liby is actually arrested and then released will not be revealed until September 2011, in Soufan’s book. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 113-114] The US will later post a $25 million reward for al-Liby, and his death or arrest will never be confirmed. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, John O’Neill, Anas al-Liby, I-49, United Kingdom, Ali Soufan

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

The CIA and FBI send a joint investigative team to Sudan to investigate whether that country is a sponsor of terrorism. Sudan again offers to hand over its voluminous files on al-Qaeda (see March 8, 1996-April 1996, April 5, 1997, and February 5, 1998), and the offer is again rejected. [Observer, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 1/2002] The US will finally agree to see the files shortly before 9/11 (see July-August 2001).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Sudan, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

Drawings made by FBI sketch artists of Niaz Khan’s al-Qaeda contact in the US (left), and one of the people he trained with in Pakistan (right). Drawings made by FBI sketch artists of Niaz Khan’s al-Qaeda contact in the US (left), and one of the people he trained with in Pakistan (right). [Source: NBC News]British intelligence fails to take advantage of an informant who may help penetrate al-Qaeda in the US, and even possibly the 9/11 plot. Niaz Khan, a British citizen originally from Pakistan, was recruited into an al-Qaeda plot to hijack an airplane in the US and possibly fly it into a building. It is unknown if this was the 9/11 plot or something else, because Khan became scared and never met his al-Qaeda contact in the US, and instead turned himself in to the FBI in April 2000. Khan said he trained in Pakistan for the hijacking. FBI agents checked out Khan’s story and gave him two lie detector tests, and after three weeks, they concluded he was telling the truth. But FBI headquarters was not interested and told the agents to get rid of him (see April 2000). Khan told the FBI he was ready to become an informant. His idea was to create a story to explain his failure to meet with his contact and then work undercover with Islamic radicals. Since the FBI wanted to get rid of him, it made arrangements with MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, so MI5 could handle him as an informant. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Khan is a British citizen and he had been recruited into the hijacking plot after he joined a radical Islamist mosque in London, so the hope is he will be able to identify and inform on the people who brought him into the plot. [MSNBC, 6/3/2004] Khan is put on a plane and flown with an FBI agent to London, where he is met by two MI5 agents. But according to an FBI agent who handles Khan, in 2004, Khan will explain that he only has a short meeting with MI5. “And then they let me go. I got on to the tube [subway] back home here to Manor Park. Even after 9/11 happened, I never saw anyone. I got no phone calls, no letters, nothing.” The FBI agent will later say: “I just assumed that when Niaz was turned over the British authorities would have conducted a full investigation. What I would have done is re-inserted him into the community and worked him.… We know that didn’t happen. It’s a real shame.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Niaz Khan

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

Ellen Glasser.Ellen Glasser. [Source: City of Jacksonville, Florida]Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger, meets with an FBI agent to discuss a plan he has devised to kill Osama bin Laden, for which he will need military assistance, but the agent is skeptical and only promises to refer Hill’s proposal to FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231] Hill came up with his plan, to go to Afghanistan and kill bin Laden, after the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. However, the man Hill intends to be the mission’s commander wants the assurance of US government support for the operation (see After August 7, 1998). Hill talked to Leo Morris, an agent at the Jacksonville, Florida, FBI office, about his plan, and Morris said he would get back to him after consulting his superiors in Washington. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204]
Fighters Now Available to Perform Mission - The plan has progressed while Hill has been waiting for the FBI to get in touch. Hill’s friend Said Nader Zori, who will be participating in the mission, has been to Pakistan and assembled a group of former mujahedeen fighters who are willing to assist. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230] Nader Zori is himself a former mujahedeen fighter who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s and subsequently emigrated to the US. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 168, 201] Finally, Hill receives a phone call from Ellen Glasser—like Morris an agent at the FBI’s Jacksonville office—who says she is interested in Hill’s plan, and requests a meeting with Hill and Nader Zori. Hill agrees to see her, and in the late spring of 2000 they all meet at his house. Glasser is accompanied by her husband, Donald Glasser, who also works for the FBI at the Jacksonville office.
Hill Describes How His Group Will Kill Bin Laden - During the meeting, Hill outlines his plan to Glasser. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, he tells her: “Their contacts in Afghanistan reported that bin Laden traveled frequently between meetings with Mullah Omar and other high-ranking Taliban officials in the southern city of Kandahar, and Kabul, the capital, near Farmihedda, where bin Laden kept his headquarters. He traveled with only light security: a convoy of three vehicles, bin Laden in the middle with eight armed guards—four in the front and four in the rear. The mountainous terrain provided several ambush sites. Their armed force would attack the convoy, kill the guards, and kill bin Laden.”
FBI Wants Bin Laden Captured, Not Killed - Glasser seems startled and says, “Oh, we don’t do things like that.” Hill replies: “I know you don’t. That’s why we’ll do it.” Glasser says the FBI’s idea was that bin Laden would be captured and brought to the US. Hill is astonished. “How would we do that?” he asks. “What would we do with the bodyguards? How would we get him out alive?” Glasser ponders this and then asks how Hill’s group would prove it had killed bin Laden. Hill says it would pack his head and hands in an iced cooler, and bin Laden’s identity could be verified once his remains reached the US. Hill says this is why he needs US military assistance: It would be impossible to get bin Laden’s remains out of Afghanistan over land, so it would be necessary for a C-130 transport plane with a skyhook to fly over his group’s position, hook the cooler, and then reel it up into the plane’s cargo bay.
Agent Will Refer Proposal to FBI Headquarters - Glasser seems skeptical about the plan. She also explains, “Money’s tight.” However, Hill says that as long as he knows that, if his plan succeeds, he will get the $15 million reward that has been offered for capturing bin Laden, his group will finance the operation, except for the use of the C-130. Glasser then asks: “How do we know you’re telling the truth? How do we know you have the contacts in Afghanistan?” Hill says he could bring some of his group’s members to the US if Glasser will arrange for tourist visas. Whatever it takes, he will do it. Glasser still looks unconvinced. She tells Hill, “This would all have to be approved,” and says she will refer his proposal to the Counterterrorism Center at FBI headquarters. Before Glasser and her husband leave, Hill points out to them that nuclear weapons have allegedly disappeared from the former Soviet arsenal in Uzbekistan, and he adds that evidence indicates bin Laden is becoming more powerful and sophisticated over time. “Someone has got to take him out,” he says. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-232] Glasser will get in touch with Hill about a year later and tell him that his request for government assistance has been rejected (see (Between Spring and Summer 2001)). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245]

Entity Tags: Daniel J. Hill, Ellen Glasser, Donald Glasser, Osama bin Laden, Said Nader Zori

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf publicly supports the Taliban. He refers to the Taliban when he says in a press conference: “I just want to say that there is a difference of understanding on who is a terrorist. The perceptions are different in the United States and in Pakistan, in the West and what we understand is terrorism.” The Taliban are closely linked to the Pashtun ethnic group, and he further refers to them as he says: “Afghanistan’s majority ethic Pashtuns have to be on our side. This is our national interest.… The Taliban cannot be alienated by Pakistan. We have a national security interest there.” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment that this statement “outraged many Afghans, including all the anti-Taliban factions.” Rashid will add: “Such remarks were to make Musharraf a hated figure for most Afghans, something he could not live down even after 9/11.… Musharraf became known as ‘double-talk Musharraf,’ speaking with one breath about how he would turn Pakistan into a moderate Islamic state, and then just as vehemently with another supporting jihad and militancy.” That same month, Maj. Gen. Ghulam Ahmad Khan, an officer close to Musharraf, says publicly: “We are trying to stop the US from undermining the Taliban regime. They cannot do it without Pakistan’s help, because they have no assets there, but we will not allow it to happen.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 50-51, 414]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Ghulam Ahmad Khan, Ahmed Rashid, Pervez Musharraf

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Pakistan and the ISI

Cover of the report of the National Commission on Terrorism.Cover of the report of the National Commission on Terrorism. [Source: Diane Publishing Co.]The National Commission on Terrorism releases its report warning the US against the growing threat of terrorism. The bipartisan commission, headed by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, was created by Congress in 1999. Bremer, a career diplomat, has long been involved in counterterrorism policy-making, and served as the ambassador at large for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. The report starts with a quote from Thomas C. Schelling’s foreword to Roberta Wohlstetter’s book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, explaining why governments are often ill-prepared for surprise attacks. It says the US faces a more lethal and unpredictable enemy: “Today’s terrorists seek to inflict mass casualties, and they are attempting to do so both overseas and on American soil. They are less dependent on state sponsorship and are, instead, forming loose, transnational affiliations based on religious or ideological affinity and a common hatred of the United States.” The report warns that while the number of terrorist incidents has gone down, the number of casualties per attack has increased. Moreover, religiously motivated groups, such as Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, present a new challenge for intelligence agencies. They are less hierarchical, have a variety of sources of funding and support, and are therefore “more difficult to predict, track, and penetrate.” In response, the US must pursue an aggressive policy to gather intelligence on terrorist groups, sanction countries sponsoring terrorists, and prepare for a catastrophic terrorist attack on the homeland, possibly one involving weapons of mass destruction. The report also calls for monitoring the immigration status of foreign students. [National Commisson on Terrorism, 6/2000; New York Times, 6/4/2000; NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 6/6/2000; New York Times, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: L. Paul Bremer, National Commission on Terrorism

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Warning Signs

CIA Director George Tenet makes a secret trip to Pakistan to complain about funds being moved through Islamic charities to al-Qaeda. This is part of an effort coordinated by the National Security Council to cut off the vast sums of money that intelligence officials believe flow to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network through Islamic charities and wealthy donors from across the Middle East. The US campaign prompts the Pakistani government in early 2001 to make some efforts to ban raising funds explicitly designated for holy war. Former US officials will later claim the trip is part of a larger effort to disrupt bin Laden’s financial network following the 1998 US embassy bombings. [Wall Street Journal, 10/1/2001]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Al-Qaeda, Pakistan, National Security Council

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Pakistan and the ISI, Terrorism Financing

The Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), which helps obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), discovers errors in several al-Qaeda related FISA applications under a counterterrorist program called “Catcher’s Mitt.” The OIPR verbally notifies the FISA Court of the errors, which are mostly in affidavits submitted by supervisory special agents at field offices. Then, in September and October 2000, the OIPR submits two pleadings to the court regarding approximately 75-100 applications with errors starting in July 1997. Many of the errors concern misleading statements about the nature of collaboration between criminal and intelligence agents. Most of these applications stated that the FBI New York field office, where the I-49 squad focusing on al-Qaeda was based (see January 1996 and Late 1998-Early 2002), had separate teams of agents handling criminal and intelligence investigations. But in actual fact the I-49 agents intermingled with criminal agents working on intelligence cases and intelligence agents working on criminal cases. Therefore, contrary to what the FISA Court has been told, agents working on a criminal investigation have had unrestricted access to information from a parallel intelligence investigation—a violation of the so-called “wall,” the set of bureaucratic procedures designed to separate criminal and intelligence investigations (see July 19, 1995). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002; Newsweek, 3/29/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 36-37 pdf file] The information about al-Qaeda in these cases is also shared with assistant US attorneys without FISA permission being sought or granted first. Other errors include the FBI director wrongly asserting that the target of a FISA application was not under criminal investigation, omissions of material facts about a prior relationship between the FBI and a target, and an interview of a target by an assistant US attorney. [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, 5/17/2002] This leads the FISA Court to impose new requirements regarding the “wall” (see October 2000). Similar problems will be found in FISA applications for surveillance of Hamas operatives (see March 2001).

Entity Tags: Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, US Department of Justice, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, I-49, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FBI New York Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Catcher’s Mitt

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Remote Surveillance

FISA court judge Royce Lamberth was angry with the FBI over misleading statements made in FISA wiretap applications.FISA court judge Royce Lamberth was angry with the FBI over misleading statements made in FISA wiretap applications. [Source: Public domain]While monitoring foreign terrorists in the US, the FBI listens to calls made by suspects as a part of an operation called Catcher’s Mitt, which is curtailed at this time due to misleading statements by FBI agents. It is never revealed who the targets of the FBI’s surveillance are under this operation, but below are some of the terrorism suspects under investigation in the US at the time:
bullet Imran Mandhai, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan and Adnan El Shukrijumah in Florida. They are plotting a series of attacks there, but Mandhai and Jokhan are brought in for questioning by the FBI and surveillance of them stops in late spring (see November 2000-Spring 2002 and May 2, 2001);
bullet Another Florida cell connected to Blind Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The FBI has been investigating it since 1993 (see (October 1993-November 2001));
bullet Al-Qaeda operatives in Denver (see March 2000);
bullet A Boston-based al-Qaeda cell involving Nabil al-Marabh and Raed Hijazi. Cell members provide funding to terrorists, fight abroad, and are involved in document forging (see January 2001, Spring 2001, and Early September 2001);
bullet Fourteen of the hijackers’ associates the FBI investigates before 9/11. The FBI is still investigating four of these people while the hijackers associate with them; [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 169 pdf file]
bullet Hamas operatives such as Mohammed Salah in Chicago. Salah invests money in the US and sends it to the occupied territories to fund attacks (see June 9, 1998).
When problems are found with the applications for the wiretap warrants, an investigation is launched (see Summer-October 2000), and new requirements for warrant applications are put in place (see October 2000). From this time well into 2001, the FBI is forced to shut down wiretaps of al-Qaeda-related suspects connected to the 1998 US embassy bombings and Hamas (see March 2001 and April 2001). One source familiar with the case says that about 10 to 20 al-Qaeda related wiretaps have to be shut down and it becomes more difficult to get permission for new FISA wiretaps. Newsweek notes, “The effect [is] to stymie terror surveillance at exactly the moment it was needed most: requests from both Phoenix [with the Ken Williams memo (see July 10, 2001)] and Minneapolis [with Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest] for wiretaps [will be] turned down [by FBI superiors],” (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Robert Wright is an FBI agent who led the Vulgar Betrayal investigation looking into allegations that Saudi businessman Yassin al-Qadi helped finance the embassy bombings, and other matters. In late 2002, he will claim to discover evidence that some of the FBI intelligence agents who stalled and obstructed his investigation were the same FBI agents who misrepresented the FISA petitions. [Judicial Watch, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Royce Lamberth, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan, Catcher’s Mitt, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Zacarias Moussaoui, Raed Hijazi, Mohammad Salah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Adnan Shukrijumah, Central Intelligence Agency, Nabil al-Marabh, Ken Williams, Imran Mandhai, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Phoenix Memo, Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Nabil Al-Marabh, Zacarias Moussaoui, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

After 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar returns to the Middle East (see June 10, 2000 and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000)), the NSA continues to intercept his telephone calls to and from an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, where his wife and children live. US intelligence understands that this is one of the most important al-Qaeda hot spots, and has been closely monitoring it since at least late 1998 (see August 4-25, 1998 and Late 1998-Early 2002). It also intercepts calls between hijacker Salem Alhazmi and the hub, as well as conversations between his brother, hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, in the US and the hub (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001). [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222; Wright, 2006, pp. 343] The NSA had previously intercepted calls made by the hijackers to and from the communications hub, both when they were in the US and outside it (see Early 2000-Summer 2001).

Entity Tags: Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Jack Roche.Jack Roche. [Source: Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images]Jack Roche, an Australian Caucasian Muslim, tries to inform on al-Qaeda for Australia or the US, but is ignored. In April, Roche returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Malaysia, where he took an explosives training course and met with bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. In Pakistan, Mohammed discussed attacking US jets in Australia and gave Roche money to start an al-Qaeda cell in Australia. Roche also met Hambali in Malaysia and was given more money there. Early this month, he tries to call the US embassy in Australia, but they ignore him. He then tries to contact The Australian intelligence agency several times, but they too ignore him. In September 2000, his housemate also tries to contact Australian intelligence about what he has learned from Roche but his call is ignored as well. Australian Prime Minister John Howard later acknowledges that authorities made a “very serious mistake” in ignoring Roche, though he also downplays the importance of Roche’s information. Roche is later sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up an Israeli embassy. [BBC, 6/1/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/7/2004]

Entity Tags: John Howard, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Atef, Hambali, Jack Roche, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Warning Signs, Hambali, Other Possible Moles or Informants, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia


Terry Turchie.
Terry Turchie. [Source: FBI]Freeh’s FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Terry Turchie, testifying before a classified meeting of a House of Representatives committee, says, “FBI investigation and analysis indicates that the threat of terrorism in the United States is low.” Summarizing the terrorist threat, he fails to mention al-Qaeda or Islamic militants of any kind, and instead considers the “serious terrorist threat” to be coming from “animal-rights and environmental extremists” and “right-wing groups.” In December 2000, the FBI will tell Congress that the threat of terrorists targeting US aviation is low (see December 2000). In contradiction to this, Louis Freeh, FBI Director from 1993 to early 2001, will testify after 9/11 that “Before the end of 1999, the FBI and the intelligence community clearly understood the foreign-based al-Qaeda threat regarding targets within the United States. Congress and the Executive were fully briefed as to this threat analysis…” [US Congress, 7/26/2000; US Congress, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Terry Turchie, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Frances Townsend.
Frances Townsend. [Source: White House]Vulgar Betrayal, the most significant US government investigation into terrorist financing before 9/11, shuts down. FBI agent Robert Wright launched the investigation in 1996 (see 1996) and was removed from the investigation in late 1999 (see August 3, 1999). Apparently the investigation accomplished little after Wright’s departure. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004; Judicial Watch, 12/15/2004; Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005] A March 2000 affidavit named Yassin al-Qadi as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago, but no charges are brought against him. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Mark Flessner, an assistant US attorney assigned to Vulgar Betrayal in 1996, later will recall, “Vulgar Betrayal was a case where the FBI’s intelligence agents would not cooperate with the criminal agents trying to put these guys in jail. They refused to let us arrest them. They only wanted to watch them conduct their business.” He will also claim that Frances Townsend, a Justice Department official working a variety of posts, helps close down the investigation. He will say Townsend did not share information but “deliberately obstructed it. And I found that very disconcerting.” He will claim that she completely supports FBI intelligence agents and refuses to share their information with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. A federal grand jury was impaneled in 1996 to support Vulgar Betrayal, but without the information from FBI intelligence, Flessner did not have enough evidence to return indictments. “I couldn’t even get permission to do the basic things you do, such as collecting phone numbers from their targets’ incoming and outgoing calls, and addresses from their mail.” With the shut down of the investigation in 2000, Flessner will resign from the Justice Department in frustration. After 9/11, Townsend will be appointed President Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser and counterterrorism director for the National Security Council. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Mark Flessner, Frances Townsend, Vulgar Betrayal, Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Terrorism Unit, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing

The FBI and other US intelligence agencies have been monitoring an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, since the attacks on US embassies in East Africa, and have used it to map al-Qaeda’s global network (see Late August 1998 and Late 1998-Early 2002). In the run-up to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, the FBI notices that there is increased telephone activity to and from the Sana’a hub. One of the messages says that bin Laden is planning a “Hiroshima-type event” (see (August 2000)). [PBS, 10/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Yemen Hub, Remote Surveillance

An internal FBI memo warns that the agency lacks a coherent strategy to prevent terrorist attacks. The memo is sent from Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism program, to interim FBI Director Tom Pickard. The memo reads, “While the FBI has traditionally relied on an approach that focused generally on the identification, penetration and neutralization of terrorist organizations, the [FBI] has not developed a ‘grand strategy’ in which resources and programs are systematically directed toward progressively reducing and neutralizing and ultimately eliminating the terrorist threat to US interests.” After 9/11, a former top FBI official will claim, “The counterterrorism guys never arrested anyone, never stopped anything.” Senior FBI officials will later acknowledge “that [the FBI’s] counterterrorism program was deeply troubled and largely ineffective.” The New York Times will also later claim that the FBI’s “internal affairs unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility, became a much-feared inquisitor, sometimes damaging careers over minor offenses like using a bureau car for personal matters.” [New York Times, 6/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Dale Watson, Thomas Pickard, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

George W. Bush, campaigning for president, writes in an article, “There is more to be done preparing here at home. I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil.” [National Guard Magazine, 9/2000] This repeats verbatim comments made in a speech a year before at the start of the presidential campaign [Citadel, 9/23/1999] , and in both cases the context is about weapons of mass destruction. However, after 9/11, now President Bush will say of bin Laden: “I knew he was a menace and I knew he was a problem. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice, and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn’t feel that sense of urgency.” [Washington Post, 5/17/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

It is reported that the US Secret Service is using an “air surveillance system” called Tigerwall. This serves to “ensure enhanced physical security at a high-value asset location by providing early warning of airborne threats.” Tigerwall “provides the Secret Service with a geographic display of aircraft activity and provides security personnel long-range camera systems to classify and identify aircraft. Sensor data from several sources are fused to provide a unified sensor display.” [US Department of Defense, 2000; US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 pdf file] Among its responsibilities, the Secret Service protects America’s highest elected officials, including the president and vice president, and also provides security for the White House complex. [US Congress, 5/1/2003] Its largest field office with over 200 employees is in New York, in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] Whether the Secret Service, in New York or Washington, will make use of Tigerwall on 9/11 is unknown. Furthermore, in New York the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visited. Presumably it keeps this is in Building 7, where its field office is. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] As well as Tigerwall, the Secret Service appears to have other air surveillance capabilities. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will describe that on 9/11, the Secret Service had “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] Barbara Riggs, a future deputy director of the Secret Service who is in its Washington, DC headquarters on 9/11, will describe the Secret Service “monitoring radar” during the attacks. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] Furthermore, since 1974 the Secret Service operations center has possessed a special communications line from the control tower of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This hotline allows air traffic controllers monitoring local radar to inform agents at the White House of any planes that are off course or appear to be on a “threatening vector.” [Time, 9/26/1994]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

CIA officer Ben Bonk briefs Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush on the threat posed by Islamic extremist groups, telling him that Americans will die in a terrorist attack during the next four years, and to highlight the danger, he shows Bush a mock briefcase bomb he sneaked into the meeting. Bush was recently selected as the Republican Party’s candidate for the 2000 presidential election, and it is traditional for the CIA to provide a wide-ranging intelligence briefing to the Republican and Democratic nominees during a presidential campaign, to prepare them for the responsibilities of the White House. John McLaughlin, acting deputy director of the CIA, has come to Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, to conduct the briefing, along with three other agency officials, including Bonk, deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Three of Bush’s senior advisers—Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Josh Bolten—also attend the briefing.
CIA Officer Says Americans Will Die in a Terrorist Attack - During the final hour of the four-hour session, Bonk briefs Bush on terrorism. He tells Bush: “I can say one thing for sure without any qualification: Sometime in the next four years, Americans will die as a result of a terrorist incident.” [CBS News, 9/1/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 198; Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 1-3] According to a book by CIA officer John Helgerson, Bonk specifically says that America’s next president will face “a terrorist attack on US soil.” There is then a “discussion of what certain scenarios could look like.” [Helgerson, 2013]
CIA Officer Says Islamic Extremists Are the Biggest Danger - Bonk tells Bush that numerous terrorist organizations are on the move, but the most dangerous are the Islamic extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. He says nothing these groups have so far achieved compares to “what lay in store for America and its allies if the terrorists succeeded in their quest for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear weapons, collectively known as CBRN,” according to journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald. Furthermore, Bonk says, “Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, [is] the group most likely to succeed.” It has “the deepest pockets and the most far-flung operational networks.” If al-Qaeda or another terrorist group got its hands on CBRN weapons, Bonk says, that group “would show no hesitation in using the weapons immediately to murder as many Americans as possible.”
Bush Is Shown a Mock Briefcase Bomb - Furthermore, Bonk says that terrorists “could easily slip compact bombs into a crowd without raising suspicion.” To highlight the danger, he has sneaked a mock briefcase bomb into the meeting. Although the device contains no poison gas, it is otherwise a real weapon, built by the CIA based on a design seized from the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which killed 12 commuters in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995. Bonk let Bush’s Secret Service agents in on what he was doing, so they would allow him to take the mock bomb into the meeting, but Bush knows nothing about it. Bonk had the briefcase on the floor by his chair during the first three hours of the briefing and activated the mock bomb when his time to speak came. He now picks up the briefcase and carries it toward Bush. He pops it open and tilts it forward, so Bush can see the red digits of its electronic timer counting down. “Don’t worry,” Bonk says. “This is harmless. But it is exactly the kind of chemical device that people can bring into a room and kill everybody. And this one would be going off in two minutes.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 198; Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 2-3] Bush is apparently unimpressed with the mock bomb. According to Helgerson, “Such show-and-tell devices usually intrigued individuals and groups being briefed, but [Bush] gestured to the effect of ‘Get that out of here’ and wanted to settle down to serious discussion.” [Helgerson, 2013, pp. 152]

Entity Tags: John E. McLaughlin, George W. Bush, Joshua Bolten, Ben Bonk, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex.The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex. [Source: CBC]An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque inside his Tarnak Farms complex. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-21] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan

Olympics officials later reveal, “A fully loaded, fueled airliner crashing into the opening ceremony before a worldwide television audience at the Sydney Olympics is one of the greatest security fears for the Games.” During the Olympics, Australia has six planes in the sky at all times ready to intercept any wayward aircraft. In fact, “IOC officials [say] the scenario of a plane crash during the opening ceremony was uppermost in their security planning at every Olympics since terrorists struck in Munich in 1972.” bin Laden is considered the number-one threat. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/20/2001] These security measures are similar to those used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and other events, including Clinton’s second inauguration. Similar planning is already underway before 9/11 for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court implements new rules requiring any FBI employee who sees FISA-obtained materials or other FISA-derived intelligence to sign a certification acknowledging that the court’s approval is needed before the information is disseminated to criminal investigators. This comes after the FISA Court was informed that approximately 100 FISA applications submitted by the FBI had misrepresented how criminal and intelligence agents were working together in the Catcher’s Mitt program (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001 and Summer-October 2000). The new rules also require that the CIA and NSA place a caveat on all FISA-derived intelligence sent to the bureau. In an effort to speed up inter-agency reporting, the NSA will reportedly go a step further, placing caveats on all information it sends to the FBI. The caveats warn that the information being sent might be FISA-derived and that an intelligence agent wishing to pass it to a criminal agent must first obtain assurance from the NSA that the intelligence is not FISA-derived. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 37-38 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Catcher’s Mitt, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Remote Surveillance, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

In October 2000, Congress authorizes a new unit within the Treasury Department called the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. Its task is to blend the expertise of the Treasury Department, CIA, FBI, and NSA in tracking and disrupting the finances of US-designated terrorist groups. Similar efforts had been tried twice before and fizzled out (see October 21, 1995; Late 1998). However, the unit is still getting organized at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Spurred by the attacks, the unit gets up and running on September 14, 2001. A Treasury spokesperson cites the logistical difficulties of bringing together representatives from different agencies in explaining the delay. [Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of the Treasury

Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Parlindungan Siregar.Parlindungan Siregar. [Source: El Pais]Parlindungan Siregar, an Indonesian, has been studying in Spain since 1987, and has begun working with Barakat Yarkas, head of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid. In October 2000, he returns to Indonesia, but remains in constant phone contact with Yarkas. Spanish intelligence has been monitoring Yarkas’s phone calls for years (see 1995 and After). Linking with Indonesian militants, Siregar begins organizing an al-Qaeda training camp near the town of Poso, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. [Conboy, 2003, pp. 224-225] Soon thereafter, Madrid cell member Yusuf Galan is monitored as he receives e-mails from Siregar assessing the situation in Indonesia. For instance, one e-mail says, “You can do many things here. With only five million pesetas ($50,000 dollars), we can buy an island of 200 hectares that would be very useful. But our main need now is the weapons. Remember that everything we do should approach toward jihad.” [El Pais, 7/15/2007] In May 2001, Yarkas travels to Indonesia to assess the new camp, called Camp Mujahidin. By the time he arrives, there already are some recruits being trained, including an Australian citizen. Impressed, Yarkas returns to Spain and makes arrangements for al-Qaeda to properly fund the camp. Galan brings the money to Siregar at the camp in July 2001. However, the Spanish government does not share any of what it learned with the Indonesian government until November 2001, when the allegations are made public as part of some Spanish indictments (see November 13, 2001). But the camp is shut down shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and by November, Siregar and other operatives cannot be found. [Conboy, 2003, pp. 224-225] Siregar will later be linked to the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002). In 2007, it will be reported that he is one of the most wanted al-Qaeda figures world-wide and on many wanted lists. [El Pais, 7/15/2007]

Entity Tags: Parlindungan Siregar, Barakat Yarkas, Al-Qaeda, Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, Yusuf Galan

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Al-Qaeda in Spain, 2002 Bali Bombings, Remote Surveillance, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

Said Berraj.Said Berraj. [Source: Spanish Interior Ministry]Five suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Said Berraj, Amer el-Azizi, Mohamed Haddad, Lahcen Ikassrien, and Salahedin Benyaich, are arrested in Turkey. They are arrested two weeks after arriving in Turkey, apparently for failing to produce identification papers. They are later released, but the reason for releasing them is unknown. Turkey is a transit center and logistics base for al-Qaeda (see November 1996-September 1998 and Mid-1996) and el-Azizi is said to operate there, as well as in Iran and, possibly, Iraq. Berraj, Haddad, and el-Azizi will later be involved in an attack in Madrid, Spain, that kills nearly 200 people (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) and Benyaich will later be jailed in Morocco on terrorism charges following a bombing in Casablanca (see May 16, 2003). El-Azizi will also apparently be involved in setting up a meeting where details of the 9/11 plot are finalized (see Before July 8, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/2004; New York Times, 4/29/2004; New York Times, 4/30/2004; El Mundo (Madrid), 9/14/2004] Ikassrien will be arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and sent to the Guantanamo prison. He will be released back to Spain in 2005, charged for al-Qaeda links, an acquitted. [Associated Press, 10/11/2006]
Possible Informants - Berraj is an informant for Spanish intelligence, regularly meeting with intelligence agents in 2003. It is unknown when he begins informing (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Haddad will not be arrested in Morocco after the 2004 train bombings despite strong evidence he was directly involved, leading to suspicions that he has been a government informant (see Shortly After March 18, 2004). El-Azizi also will be suspected of being a government informant because he is tipped off by Spanish intelligence about a police raid (see Shortly After November 21, 2001). He is also arrested in Turkey for passport forgery at one point, and then let go, although it is not clear when. [Wall Street Journal, 3/19/2004] Turkish intelligence is aware of extremists’ use of Turkey as a base (see 1996), but it is unclear whether this is related to the arrest of the three men. El-Azizi will repeatedly evade arrest in Spain after 9/11, apparently with the help of Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001).

Entity Tags: Lahcen Ikassrien, Said Berraj, Salahedin Benyaich, Mohamed Haddad, Amer el-Azizi

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Other Possible Moles or Informants, Al-Qaeda in Spain, 2004 Madrid Train Bombings

October 12, 2000: USS Cole Bombed by Al-Qaeda

Damage to the USS Cole.Damage to the USS Cole. [Source: Department of Defense]The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. [ABC News, 10/13/2000; Coll, 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 191] The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). [Guardian, 10/14/2000] The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 184] The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” [Guardian, 10/13/2001] The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 190]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khallad bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Islamic Army of Aden, USS Cole, Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim al-Thawar, Khalid Almihdhar, Fahad al-Quso, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hassan al-Khamri, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Hunt for Bin Laden, Pipeline Politics, 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Yemeni Militant Collusion, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh

Hours after the USS Cole is bombed (see October 12, 2000), presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush is asked about the bombing. He replies, “Today, we lost sailors because of what looks like to be a terrorist attack. Terror is the enemy. Uncertainty is what the world is going to be about, and the next president must be able to address uncertainty. And that’s why I want our nation to develop an antiballistic missile system that will have the capacity to bring certainty into this uncertain world.” Author Craig Unger comments, “Bush’s proposal of an antiballistic missile system suggests that he failed to understand that al-Qaeda’s terrorism was fundamentally different from conventional warfare.” [Unger, 2004, pp. 107, 479] Bush will make similar comments on other occasions, causing the 9/11 Commission to later note, “Public references by candidate and then President Bush about terrorism before 9/11 tended to reflect [his] priorities, focusing on state-sponsored terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction] as a reason to mount a missile defense.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 509]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, 9/11 Commission, Craig Unger

Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Hours after the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), President Clinton says regarding the bombing: “If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a despicable and cowardly act. We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable.” [ABC News, 10/12/2000] But the US will not quickly retaliate against al-Qaeda, as it did with missile strikes after the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa (see August 20, 1998), despite convincing evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the Cole bombing (see Shortly After October 12, 2000, November 2000 or After, and November 7, 2000).

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, 2000 USS Cole Bombing

Following the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000), the CIA discusses possible policy changes in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Disappointed by US inaction, Alec Station chief Richard Blee decides “we’ve got to change the rules,” because he thinks al-Qaeda is getting stronger and stronger. This entails enhanced support for the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, which is the only credible opposition fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Although some CIA officers still think Alec Station’s staff is “over the top,” both the CIA’s Near East division and Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black agree with Blee, and they decide what is needed is aid to enable Massoud to pressure the Taliban, creating the conditions for CIA operations against bin Laden. The list of assistance includes cash to bribe commanders, trucks, helicopters, light arms, ammunition, uniforms, food, and possibly mortars and artillery. The plan will cost between $50 and $150 million, and will include a permanent CIA base in Afghan territory controlled by the Northern Alliance. CIA officers will then be able to accompany Massoud’s men on missions. It takes some time to arrive at these conclusions, which will be formalized into a plan (see December 29, 2000). However, the plan will not be accepted by the outgoing Clinton administration or the incoming Bush administration (see December 20, 2000). [Coll, 2004, pp. 539-541; Washington Post, 2/23/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard Blee, Counterterrorist Center, Cofer Black, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ahmed Shah Massoud, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

In the months after the USS Cole is bombed in autumn 2000 (see October 12, 2000), the NSA intercepts about half a dozen communications between hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father in law, Ahmed al-Hada. [MSNBC, 7/21/2004; Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; US President, 12/26/2005 pdf file] The hub and people associated with it are thought to have played a support role in the Cole bombing (see also October 14-Late November, 2000 and October 4, 2001). [CNN, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It was also involved in the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya (see August 4-25, 1998). The NSA has been monitoring the number for at least two years (see Late August 1998) and the FBI has used it to map al-Qaeda’s global organisation (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The NSA had previously intercepted calls between hijacker Khalid Almihdhar in the US and the hub (see Spring-Summer 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001) and also intercepts a call between Alhazmi and the hub a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)).

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, National Security Agency, Ahmed al-Hada

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Remote Surveillance, Yemen Hub

Following the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), the Clinton administration discusses what standard of evidence it needs to launch a counter-strike against al-Qaeda, which it suspects of the bombing. Following the bombing of the US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the administration fired a number of cruise missiles at suspected al-Qaeda targets (see August 20, 1998). However, the administration decides it must have evidence that bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s leadership has authority, direction, and control of the attack before initiating a response. CIA Director George Tenet will comment: “This is a high threshold to cross.” Tenet will also say that this threshold was not set by the CIA, but by “policy makers.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 128] Although the bombing is tied to three known leading al-Qaeda operatives, Khallad bin Attash (see November 11, 2000), Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000), and Ahmed al-Hada (see November 2000 or After), early on in the investigation, no counterstrike is initiated (see Shortly After October 12, 2000 and Late October 2000). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will express his frustration with the inaction: “[I]n Washington neither CIA nor FBI would state the obvious: al-Qaeda did it. We knew there was a large al-Qaeda cell in Yemen There was also a large cell of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, but that group had now announced its complete merger into al-Qaeda, so what difference did it make which group did the attack? [Counterterrorism staff] had worked around the clock piecing together the evidence and had made a very credible case against al-Qaeda. CIA would agree only months later.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 223] The authors of the 2002 book The Cell will later write: “The links to bin Laden were everywhere. Each of the suspects being held in Yemen had admitted training in the Afghan camps run by bin Laden… neither the FBI nor the CIA was ever able to tell the president that they had direct proof that the Cole was a bin Laden-ordered job, though now, in retrospect, it seems terribly obvious. In any case, even if there had been compelling proof that bin Laden was behind the Cole bombing, there was little chance that the Clinton administration would have launched an attack on any Islamic country while he was trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians to the peace table.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 238]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Richard A. Clarke, Clinton administration

Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Michael Sheehan.Michael Sheehan. [Source: Center on Law and Security]In the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), Clinton administration officials hold a high level meeting to discuss what the US response should be. The meeting attendees include: Counterterrorism “Tsar” Richard Clarke, Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg, and State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan.
bullet Clarke suggests that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. There is no hard evidence of this yet but he argues that the attack matches their profile and capabilities. He presents a detailed plan, which he’d been working on before the bombing, to level all the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as well as key Taliban buildings in such towns as Kandahar and Kabul.
bullet Reno argues there’s no clear evidence yet who was behind the bombing. If there is such evidence, any US actions should not be for retaliation but only for self-protection against future attacks.
bullet Tenet says that he suspects al-Qaeda is behind the bombing but also wants to wait until an investigation determines that before acting.
bullet Cohen is against any counterattack. Clarke will later recall Cohen saying at the meeting that the Cole bombing “was not sufficient provocation.” Sheehan will later say that the “entire Pentagon” was generally against a counterattack.
bullet Albright is against a counterattack for diplomatic reasons. The Clinton administration is involved in trying to create a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians and bombing Afghanistan could ruin such talks.
Many also argue that if Afghanistan is attacked and bin Laden is not killed, he could emerge a greater hero in the Muslim world, just as he did after a 1998 US missile strike (see Late 1998). Clarke argues that the continual creation of new trained militants in Afghanistan needs to stop, and if bin Laden is killed, that would merely be a “bonus.” At the end of the meeting, the highest-ranking officials cast votes, and seven vote against Clarke’s counterstrike plan, while only Clarke votes in favor of it. After the meeting, Sheehan will meet with Clarke and express frustration with the outcome, saying, “What’s it going to take to get them to hit al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al-Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon?” [Miniter, 2003, pp. 222-227]

Entity Tags: William S. Cohen, Richard A. Clarke, Osama bin Laden, Madeleine Albright, Al-Qaeda, Michael Sheehan, George J. Tenet, Jim Steinberg, Janet Reno, Taliban

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, 2000 USS Cole Bombing

Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole.Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]

Entity Tags: USS Cole, John O’Neill, Khalid Almihdhar, Barry Mawn, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Barbara Bodine

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Shortly after the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), the US supposedly obtains intelligence that prompts President Clinton to consider another missile strike on bin Laden. The US presidential election is in early November. Author Lawrence Wright will later write, “Clinton maintains that, despite the awkward political timing, his administration came close to launching another missile attack… but at the last minute the CIA recommended calling it off because [bin Laden’s] presence at the site was not completely certain.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 244] Additionally, the tie between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda had not yet been confirmed. The first strong evidence of such a tie will come in late November 2000 when details of an al-Qaeda operative’s confession are given to the FBI (see Late October-Late November 2000). The 9/11 Commission will make no mention of any planned strikes around this time in their final report while discussing the missed opportunities to strike at bin Laden. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237] However, the Washington Post will detail the opportunity, saying the target was a “stone compound, built around a central courtyard full of al-Qaeda operatives.” But the strike is canceled when CIA Director George Tenet calls National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and says about the quality of intelligence, “We just don’t have it.” [Washington Post, 12/19/2001] Ironically, it appears bin Laden was actually hoping to be attacked, anticipating that it would boost his reputation in the Muslim world. In the summer of 2001, the NSA will monitor two al-Qaeda operatives discussing how disappointed they are that the US did not retaliate after the Cole bombing (see June 30-July 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Osama bin Laden, Clinton administration, George J. Tenet

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, 2000 USS Cole Bombing

Imran Mandhai.Imran Mandhai. [Source: crimelibrary (.com)]The FBI in Florida investigates a group of Muslims it suspects of being terrorists, including an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta named Adnan Shukrijumah (see April-May 2001 and May 2, 2001). The investigation starts with the November 2000 Florida arrest of Turkish immigrant Hakki Aksoy, who is found to be in possession of instructions for making a car bomb. An FBI informer named Howard Gilbert enters the Darul Aloom mosque in Pembroke Pines (a town just north of Miami) to check out one of Aksoy’s associates, Imran Mandhai. Gilbert starts plotting with Mandhai and a friend of Mandai’s named Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan. [New Times Broward-Palm Beach, 8/1/2002; Miami New Times, 8/8/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003] Gilbert is replaced by another FBI informant known as “Mohamed the bomb maker,” who agrees to wear a wire and testify in court. Mohamed and Mandhai drive around South Florida selecting local bomb targets including a National Guard armory, electrical substations, Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli consulate in Miami, plus Mount Rushmore in the Midwest. Mandhai and Jokhan are unable to buy weapons themselves, but Gilbert, the first informant, had given Mandhai a copy of a bomb-making manual, and Mohamed, the second informant, shows Mandhai the range of guns and explosives he can provide. [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit: appeal, 7/2/2004 pdf file] The FBI interviews Mandhai and Jokhan in late spring 2001 and they acknowledge they are training for jihad. However, the FBI’s surveillance of them stops shortly after this. The FBI takes no action against them for a year, and then indicts them in May 2002. At the trial they are both found guilty; Mandhai receives twelve years and Jokhan five. It is unclear why the FBI acts in this way, although it is possibly related to a forced curtailment of electronic surveillance that is taking place at this time. In the summer of 2000, the bureau was ordered to shutdown certain wiretaps after an FBI official was found to have been misrepresenting petitions for taps on terror suspects (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001). Coincidentally, after Gilbert and Mandhai develop a series of courses for potential recruits entitled “Skills Necessary for Jihad” in the spring of 2001, Mandhai prints them at the same Kinko’s copy shop in Hollywood that is used by Mohamed Atta and Hamza Alghamdi to buy their tickets for 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001). [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; Salon, 12/3/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Imran Mandhai, Hakki Aksoy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan, Howard Gilbert

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Mohamed Atta, Other Possible Moles or Informants

Kabir Mohabbat.Kabir Mohabbat. [Source: ZDF]In 1999, Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman, had initiated conversations about bin Laden between the US government and the Taliban. According to Mohabbat, the Taliban were ready to hand bin Laden over to a third country, or the International Court of Justice, in exchange for having the US-led sanctions against Afghanistan lifted. (Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament, later confirms that he helps Mohabbat make contact with the US government in 1999.) The initial talks lead to a secret meeting this month between Taliban ministers and US officials in a Frankfurt hotel. Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil reportedly says in the meeting, “You can have him whenever the Americans are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him.” However, after this face-to-face meeting, further discussions are never held because, Brok believes, a “political decision” has been made by US officials not to continue the negotiations. He does not clarify when he believes such a decision was made. [Reuters, 6/5/2004 Sources: Elmar Brok]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Ahmed, Kabir Mohabbat, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger meets with Defense Secretary William Cohen to discuss a new approach to targeting Osama bin Laden. Berger says: “We’ve been hit many times, and we’ll be hit again. Yet we have no option beyond cruise missiles.” He once again brings up the idea of a “boots on the ground” option—a Delta Force special operation to get bin Laden. A plan is drawn up but the order to execute it is never given. Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton oppose the plan. By December 21, the CIA reports that it strongly suspects that al-Qaeda was behind the bombing, but fails to definitively make that conclusion. That makes such an attack politically difficult. Says a former senior Clinton aide, “If we had done anything, say, two weeks before the election, we’d be accused of helping [presidential candidate] Al Gore.” [Time, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

Entity Tags: William S. Cohen, Sandy Berger, Henry Hugh Shelton, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, 2000 USS Cole Bombing

The US puts out an international arrest warrant for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The warrant seeks KSM in connection with the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Knight Ridder, 3/13/2003] It is not clear why the US waited so long to issue this warrant, considering that the US connected him to a major terrorist act back in 1993 (see March 20, 1993), learned he was a major figure in the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996), secretly indicted him in January 1996, and placed a $2 million reward on his head in January 1998 (see January 8, 1998).

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The US intelligence community considers creating a strategic analysis about terrorism, but none is done before 9/11. The last National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism was released in 1997 (see 1997). The 9/11 Commission will later say that assessments such as NIEs can “provoke widespread thought and debate [and ] have a major impact on their recipients, often in a wider circle of decision makers.” By late 2000, CIA Director George Tenet recognizes the lack of any recent strategic analysis about al-Qaeda or Islamic militancy in general. He appoints a senior manager, who briefs him in March 2001 about “creating a strategic assessment capability.” The CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) establishes a new strategic assessments branch in July 2001 and about ten analysts are slated to work for it. But it takes time to hire the new staff and the first head of this branch reports for work just one day before 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 342-343] Not only is there no NIE or any other sweeping strategic assessment on al-Qaeda between 1997 and 9/11, but one still will not be completed five years after 9/11. Apparently the US military opposes such an assessment for fear it would reduce the military’s role in counterterrorism efforts (see September 12, 2006).

Entity Tags: Counterterrorist Center, US intelligence, George J. Tenet, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

The FBI and FAA jointly publish the yearly National Intelligence Estimate report mandated by Congress. It reads, “FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups operating within the US but do not suggest evidence of plans to target domestic civil aviation. Terrorist activity within the US has focused primarily on fundraising, recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on US soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on US interests overseas.” This differs from assessments in previous years that suggested there were groups targeting domestic aviation. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that assessment is “relatively low… notwithstanding historical intelligence information to the contrary.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11 Commission

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, future National Security Adviser Rice, and other incoming national security officials on al-Qaeda and covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt recalls conveying that bin Laden is one of the gravest threats to the country. Bush asks whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt says he answers that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat. The CIA recommends the most important action to combat al-Qaeda is to arm the Predator drone and use it over Afghanistan. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Reuters, 3/24/2004] However, while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001).

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Al-Qaeda, James Pavitt, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan

After the attack on the USS Cole, the military not only draws up plans to directly target bin Laden (see November 7, 2000), but also comes up with a larger plan looking at alternatives to assassination. Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepared a plan to incorporate military, economic, diplomatic, and political activities to pressure the Taliban to expel bin Laden. A “Phased Campaign Concept” calls for wider-ranging military strikes against the Taliban and other targets, but doesn’t include contingency plans for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept is briefed to Deputy National Security Adviser Donald Kerrick and other officials in December 2000, but it is never acted on. The military makes no similar plans after Bush’s inauguration, and the CIA’s invasion plans are mostly relied upon when the US invades Afghanistan in October 2001. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 4/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Donald Kerrick, Central Intelligence Agency, Gregory Newbold, Taliban

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

At some point in December 2000 or early 2001, Donald Rumsfeld tells President Elect George W. Bush that the US’ capacity to deter potential aggressors has lessened because the US has not reacted strongly to attacks in the recent past. He tells Bush that, should any attack occur, he will ask him to retaliate forcefully. According to Rumsfeld’s account of this conversation in a January 2002 interview with the Washington Post, Bush promises to do so. Rumsfeld will recall: “I remember talking to him on that subject and expressed my concern that over a period of time in the United States the deterrent had been weakened because we had on a number of occasions seemed to the rest of the world to have been attacked or hit or somebody killed and the immediate reaction was a reflexive pull-back.… I remember talking to the president about that and he agreed strongly with it.… [H]aving been involved as Middle East envoy, and having seen terrorism and how it worked… I left no doubt in his mind but that at that moment where something happened that I would be coming to him to lean forward, not back, and that I wanted him to know that, and he said, just unambiguously, that that is what he would be doing. We had a very clear common understanding.” [Washington Post, 1/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

James Gilmore.
James Gilmore. [Source: Publicity photo]A federal panel chaired by former Governor James Gilmore (R-VA) warns President-elect Bush that the US in vulnerable to terrorist attack and urges him to bolster US preparedness within one year. Gilmore states, “The United States has no coherent, functional national strategy for combating terrorism. The terrorist threat is real, and it is serious.” The panel urges the US counterterrorism effort should be consolidated into one new agency. It further argues the US has no clear counterterrorism program and argues for dozens of special changes at all levels of government. Gilmore says, “We are impelled by the stark realization that a terrorist attack on some level inside our borders is inevitable and the United States must be ready.” The panel also calls for improvement in human intelligence instead of a reliance on technology. [Washington Post, 12/15/2000] The 9/11 Commission will later make many of the same recommendations. However, the Commission will barely mention the Gilmore panel in their report, except to note that Congress appointed the panel and failed to follow through on implementing the recommendations. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 107, 479]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, James Gilmore

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Clinton and Bush meeting in the White House on December 19, 2000.Clinton and Bush meeting in the White House on December 19, 2000. [Source: NBC]President Clinton and President-Elect Bush meet for their "exit interview," in a two-hour meeting. [CNN, 12/19/2000] Clinton gives Bush his list of his top five priorities. At the top of the list is dealing with Osama bin Laden. Clinton also discusses the tensions between Pakistan and India, who are threatening each other with nuclear strikes; the crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine; he discusses North Korea; and he discusses Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Bush shakes Clinton’s hand after Clinton wraps up his presentation, and says, "Thanks for your advice, Mr. President, but I think you’ve got your priorities wrong. I’m putting Saddam at the top of the list." [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 16-17] Just one day before, CIA Director George Tenet had warned Clinton that al-Qaeda could attack US interests in the next several weeks (see December 18, 2000). In 2003, Clinton will speak about the interview, saying that he recognized Bush felt the biggest security issues facing the US was Iraq and a national missile defense: "I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden." [Reuters, 10/16/2003]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Presidential Level Warnings, Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links, Warning Signs

The Washington Post reports, “The United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose.” Russia and the US are discussing “what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper.” [Washington Post, 12/19/2000] It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia.

Entity Tags: United States, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Russia

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Pipeline Politics

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda over a period of three to five years until it is ineffectual. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The main component is a dramatic increase in covert aid to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to first tie down the terrorists and then “eliminate the sanctuary” for bin Laden. Financial support for terrorist activities will be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda will be given aid to defeat them, and the US will plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan will cost several hundred million dollars. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision until the new administration is in place. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush administration] a war when they took office on January 20. That wasn’t going to happen.” However, the plan is rejected by the Bush administration and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). According to one senior Bush administration official, the proposal amounts to “everything we’ve done since 9/11.” [Time, 8/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Clinton administration, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

German police foil an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the central square in Strasbourg, France. The plot is foiled when German police arrest two Iraqis, a Frenchman, and an Algerian in Frankfurt on December 25 and 26. The men are discovered with a map of Strasbourg and a video showing the market. The plot was to bomb the busy square in front of the city’s main cathedral on New Year’s Eve, just days after the arrests. A French prosecutor will later say the bombing “was avoided by a hair.” The four men will be convicted in Germany in 2003 to prison terms of ten to 12 years for their roles in the plot. France will later sentence ten Islamic militants to prison terms of one to ten years. One of those convicted to a ten year sentence in France is Mohamed Bensakria, who is considered to be a key figure in al-Qaeda’s European network. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001; Associated Press, 12/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Bensakria, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Al-Qaeda in Germany

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger asks CIA Director how he would go after al-Qaeda if he were unconstrained by resources and policies. He assigns Cofer Black and the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center to develops a plan for the incoming Bush administration. It is dubbed the “Blue Sky Memo.” The CIA presents it to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on December 29, 2000. It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken on it in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; and the new Bush administration does not appear interested in it either. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Tenet, 2007, pp. 130-131] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepares a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky Memo. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, National Security Council, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Clinton administration, Cofer Black, George J. Tenet, Counterterrorist Center, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

Gen. Anthony ZinniGen. Anthony Zinni [Source: US Marine Corps.]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton prepares a paper with 13 options for using force against bin Laden. Several of the options describe Special Forces raids to capture or kill bin Laden. But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later say that when military operations on al-Qaeda were discussed, “the overwhelming message to the White House from the uniformed military leadership was, ‘We don’t want to do this.’” Shelton’s chief of operations will later describe the paper as a tool to “educate” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clarke, and others about the “extraordinary complexity” of going ahead with any of the options. The military repeatedly complains that the CIA’s intelligence about bin Laden isn’t good enough while the CIA complains that the military’s intelligence requirements are too demanding. One CIA document notes that there is “lots of desire” for a military strike against bin Laden amongst lower-level US military officials, but “reluctance at the political level.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003; Coll, 2004, pp. 533] One reason for such reluctance is the close ties between the US military and Pakistan. Author Steve Coll will later note, “The Pentagon, especially General Anthony Zinni at Centcom, who remained close to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf personally, emphasized the benefits of engagement with Pakistan’s generals.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 490]

Entity Tags: Anthony Zinni, Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Steve Coll, Henry Hugh Shelton, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

In 2008, Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant heading an Islamist militant group in Morocco, will be arrested in Morocco (see February 18, 2008 and February 29, 2008). Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa will claim that in 2001 Belliraj and several of his followers travel to Afghanistan to meet al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri gives Belliraj specific instructions to carry out. Belliraj’s followers then train in al-Qaeda camps alongside militants belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, another al-Qaeda linked Moroccan militant group. That group will later carry out a series of attacks in Casablanca in 2003 (see May 16, 2003) and play a role in the Madrid train bombings in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). It is not known if Belliraj meets al-Zawahiri before or after the 9/11 attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Het Laatste News, 3/4/2008] Belliraj’s group maintains al-Qaeda links after this. For instance, in 2005 Belliraj visits training camps run by the Algerian militant group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. One year later, that group will change its name to be Al-Qaeda in the Magreb. [Maghreb Arabe Presse, 3/2/2008]

Entity Tags: Chakib Benmoussa, Abdelkader Belliraj, Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Other Possible Moles or Informants, Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Donald Kerrick.Donald Kerrick. [Source: White House]Clinton and Bush staff overlap for several months while new Bush appointees are appointed and confirmed. Clinton holdovers seem more concerned about al-Qaeda than the new Bush staffers. For instance, according to a colleague, Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, had become “totally preoccupied” with fears of a domestic terror attack. [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Brian Sheridan, Clinton’s outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, is astonished when his offers during the transition to bring the new military leadership up to speed on terrorism are brushed aside. “I offered to brief anyone, any time on any topic. Never took it up.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004] Army Lieutenant General Donald Kerrick, Deputy National Security Adviser and manager of Clinton’s NSC (National Security Council) staff, still remains at the NSC nearly four months after Bush takes office. He later notes that while Clinton’s advisers met “nearly weekly” on terrorism by the end of his term, he does not detect the same kind of focus with the new Bush advisers: “That’s not being derogatory. It’s just a fact. I didn’t detect any activity but what [Clinton holdover Richard] Clarke and the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] were doing.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Kerrick submits a memo to the new people at the NSC, warning, “We are going to be struck again.” He says, “They never responded. It was not high on their priority list. I was never invited to one meeting. They never asked me to do anything. They were not focusing. They didn’t see terrorism as the big megaissue that the Clinton administration saw it as.” Kerrick adds, “They were gambling nothing would happen.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004] Bush’s first Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Henry Shelton, later says terrorism was relegated “to the back burner” until 9/11. [Washington Post, 10/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugh Shelton, National Security Council, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Clinton administration, Donald Kerrick, Brian Sheridan, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

The heads of the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have become frustrated by the lack of CIA disinformation operations to create dissent among the Taliban, and at the very end of the Clinton administration, they begin to develop a Taliban disinformation project of their own, which is to go into effect in 2001. When they are briefed, the Defense Department’s new leaders kill the project. According to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and Deputy [Defense] Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were against the Joint Staff having the lead on this.” They consider this a distraction from their core military missions. As far as Rumsfeld is concerned, “This terrorism thing was out there, but it didn’t happen today, so maybe it belongs lower on the list… so it gets defused over a long period of time.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, US Department of Defense, Hugh Shelton, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton administration

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Elie Assaad. Elie Assaad. [Source: ABC News]Elie Assaad is working as an undercover operative for the FBI, and he is sent to infiltrate the Al Hijrah mosque in Miramar, outside of Miami, Florida. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, who lives nearby at the time, frequents the mosque with Adnan Shukrijumah (see 2000-2001). Several years after 9/11, the US will call Shukrijumah an important al-Qaeda operative and will put out a $5 million reward for him. Assaad will later claim, “There was something wrong with these guys.” The small mosque is run by Adnan’s father, Gulshair Shukrijumah, who previously worked as a translator for Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” who was convicted of a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Assaad is posing as a personal representative of Osama bin Laden under the name “Mohammed.” He will later claim that Adnan invites him to meet him at his home, but the FBI tells him to stay away, because Atta and his associates are suspicious and secretive. Instead, Assaad’s FBI handlers assign him to go after easier targets: two “wannabe terrorists” whose cases are easy to solve (see November 2000-Spring 2002). Both targets are eventually convicted and sent to prison. After 9/11, Assaad will continue to work as an undercover operative for the FBI, and his work will be praised in 2006 by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. But others will criticize the cases he is involved in as entrapment against mostly harmless targets. ABC News will report on Assaad’s story after he retires from government work in 2009. In response, the FBI will issue a statement, saying, “The claims made in the news report and the factual conclusions contained in the story are not supported by the evidence.” The FBI will not specify which claims or conclusions it is referring to, and much of the story is a critique of post-9/11 FBI undercover stings in general. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, working as an ABC News consultant, will call the case “yet another example of the way the system broke down prior to 9/11. If the system had worked, we might have been able to identify these people before the attacks.” [ABC News, 9/10/2009] It appears that the FBI is interested in Adnan Shukrijumah in two different cases around this time, but is unable to get close to him (see (Spring 2001)). In one case, an involved informant is known as “Mohamed,” which may well be Assaad using his alias “Mohammed.” A story on that case will suggest that Shukrijumah had a strong suspicion that “Mohamed” was a government informant (see April-May 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Elie Assaad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah, Gulshair Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Mohamed Atta, Hijacker Contact w Government in US, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Lee Wolosky.Lee Wolosky. [Source: Center for American Progress]By the end of the Clinton administration, an effort by some US officials to arrest international arms dealer Victor Bout is gathering steam (see Early Spring 1999-2000). National Security Council (NSC) adviser Lee Wolosky has been gathering evidence of Bout’s airplanes being used to smuggle weapons and possibly drugs for the Taliban. Shortly after the Bush administration takes office, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Wolosky, and other NSC deputies hold a briefing about Bout’s activities for Condoleezza Rice, the new national security adviser. Rice appears interested, and authorizes the NSC team to continue to pursue an attempt to get an arrest warrant for Bout strong enough to secure a conviction. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 186-187] However, Rice focuses on diplomatic solutions and does not allow any actual covert action against Bout. The FBI also does not have an open investigation into Bout and does not appear particularly interested in him. “Look but don’t touch,” is how one White House official will later describe Rice’s approach. [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193] In late spring 2001, Wolosky briefs Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about Bout and global organized crime. He receives a go-ahead to present a full briefing to President Bush on the topic, but no specific date is set. Wolosky is still trying to arrange a date when the 9/11 attacks occur. The Bush administration’s interest in Bout was already fading before 9/11, and after 9/11 the remaining interest in him is lost, despite Bout’s ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Wolosky soon quits. “We knew we were being phased out,” he will later say. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bout moves to Russia not long after 9/11, but Rice decides that Russia should not be pressured about arms trafficking in general and Bout in particular. One source who talks to Rice claims that she reasons the US has “bigger fish to fry.” [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Victor Bout, George W. Bush, Stephen J. Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, Lee Wolosky, Richard A. Clarke, National Security Council, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Victor Bout

After the Bush administration takes office in January 2001, it is slow to develop new approaches to Pakistan and Afghanistan. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice orders a new policy review for al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but sets no deadline for it to be completed. State Department officials will later say that Secretary of State Colin Powell shows little interest in the policy review. It takes four months for the Bush administration to even nominate a new assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf exchange formal letters with each other shortly after Bush takes office, but the letters have little impact. In January, US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam prepares two cables to brief the new Bush administration about Pakistan, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. There is no response from Washington and no request for further information, even though Milam is the point person for meetings with the Taliban. The US embassy is not consulted at all about the new policy review, indicating just how low a priority the review is. A senior US diplomat will later say: “Al-Qaeda was not on the radar screen in Washington. Nobody thought there was any urgency to the policy review. Papers were circulated, dates were made to meet, and were broken—it was the usual bureaucratic approach.” The first significant meeting related to the review takes place in April, but little is accomplished (see April 30, 2001). The first cabinet-level meeting relating to the policy review takes place on September 4, just one week before the 9/11 attacks. US policy towards Pakistan is discussed, but no firm decisions are reached (see September 4, 2001). After 9/11, Rice will say: “America’s al-Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and our overall foreign policy.… Al-Qaeda was both a client of and patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided al-Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection, and we had to sever that.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 56-60]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Taliban, William Milam

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Page 4 of 7 (613 events)
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Categories

Key Events

Key Day of 9/11 Events (101)Key Hijacker Events (145)Key Warnings (95)

Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1312)Dick Cheney (55)Donald Rumsfeld (33)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (145)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (242)George Bush (130)Passenger Phone Calls (67)Pentagon (127)Richard Clarke (32)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (23)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (89)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (206)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (74)Other 9/11 Hijackers (172)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (79)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (73)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (33)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (42)Hijacker Visas and Immigration (135)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (51)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (120)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (172)Able Danger (60)Sibel Edmonds (61)Phoenix Memo (27)Randy Glass/ Diamondback (8)Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal (67)Remote Surveillance (241)Yemen Hub (75)

Before 9/11

Soviet-Afghan War (105)Warning Signs (452)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (75)Military Exercises (83)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (56)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (225)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (252)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (35)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (39)Presidential Level Warnings (31)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (657)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (22)9/11 Denials (29)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (67)9/11 Related Lawsuits (24)Media (47)Other Post-9/11 Events (77)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (257)Role of Philip Zelikow (87)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (41)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (146)WTC Investigation (112)Other 9/11 Investigations (135)

Possible Al-Qaeda-Linked Moles or Informants

Abu Hamza Al-Masri (102)Abu Qatada (36)Ali Mohamed (78)Haroon Rashid Aswat (17)Khalil Deek (20)Luai Sakra (12)Mamoun Darkazanli (36)Nabil Al-Marabh (41)Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun (25)Reda Hassaine (23)Other Possible Moles or Informants (169)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Abu Zubaida (99)Anwar Al-Awlaki (17)Ayman Al-Zawahiri (81)Hambali (39)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (139)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (44)Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (47)Osama Bin Laden (228)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (105)Ramzi Yousef (67)Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (57)Victor Bout (23)Wadih El-Hage (45)Zacarias Moussaoui (159)

Al-Qaeda by Region

"Lackawanna Six" (13)Al-Qaeda in Balkans (168)Al-Qaeda in Germany (189)Al-Qaeda in Italy (55)Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia (149)Al-Qaeda in Spain (121)Islamist Militancy in Chechnya (50)

Specific Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks or Plots

1993 WTC Bombing (73)1993 Somalia Fighting (13)1995 Bojinka Plot (78)1998 US Embassy Bombings (121)Millennium Bomb Plots (43)2000 USS Cole Bombing (114)2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing (23)2002 Bali Bombings (36)2004 Madrid Train Bombings (82)2005 7/7 London Bombings (87)

Miscellaneous Al-Qaeda Issues

Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks (89)Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements (102)Key Captures and Deaths (124)

Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy

US Dominance (112)Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links (255)Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism (83)Israel (61)Pakistan and the ISI (470)Saudi Arabia (249)Terrorism Financing (312)Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism (322)US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy (69)Algerian Militant Collusion (41)Indonesian Militant Collusion (20)Philippine Militant Collusion (74)Yemeni Militant Collusion (47)Other Government-Militant Collusion (23)

Pakistan / ISI: Specific Cases

Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy (37)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (73)Saeed Sheikh (59)Mahmood Ahmed (30)Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region (179)2008 Kabul Indian Embassy Bombing (10)Hunt for Bin Laden in Pakistan (154)

Terrorism Financing: Specific Cases

Al Taqwa Bank (29)Al-Kifah/MAK (54)BCCI (37)BIF (28)BMI and Ptech (21)Bin Laden Family (62)Drugs (71)

'War on Terrorism' Outside Iraq

Afghanistan (299)Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan (49)Destruction of CIA Tapes (92)Escape From Afghanistan (61)High Value Detainees (179)Terror Alerts (50)Counterterrorism Action After 9/11 (353)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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