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Monica Lewinsky. [Source: Fox News]President Clinton meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss restarting the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process (see Early 1998). Clinton immediately chastizes Netanyahu for meeting with American religious conservatives before meeting with him (see January 19-23, 1998), in an attempt to bring Netanyahu back to his side of the political fence. But Clinton is about to turn his attention to something radically different, and all but forget about Netanyahu. As Netanyahu’s political ally, televangelist Jerry Falwell, will recall, “While Netanyahu was sitting there, he was in a very difficult spot. The pressure was really on him to give away the farm in Israel. But while he was sitting there, someone came in and whispered in Mr. Clinton’s ear and Mr. Clinton turned several colors. Someone was telling him that the cat was out of the bag on [Clinton’s paramour] Monica Lewinsky. The meeting was terminated. Mr. Clinton had to save himself. The demands [to relinquish Israeli territory] that would have been forthcoming of Israel which would have been terrible, were not made. Netanyahu flew back to Israel. He was very funny when he told me about it. He said Israel had been saved by Monica Lewinsky.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 157]
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel obtained a collection of Iranian documents containing correspondences between Iranian government officials and leaders of the Revolutionary Guards discussing efforts to secure nuclear warheads from former Soviet republics. According to the Jerusalem Post, “US congressional experts” determined the papers were authentic. But a senior Israeli source who is quoted in the paper says, “At this point, we can’t say for certain whether these are genuine. But they look awfully real.” The article does not provide information about when precisely the documents were found, though a US government consultant is quoted saying that Israel has “had them for years.” [Jerusalem Post, 4/9/1998]
The UN General Assembly adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). One hundred twenty member-states vote in favor of the Statute with 21 abstaining and only seven voting against. The countries which oppose its creation are the United States (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see May 6, 2002)), Israel (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see August 28, 2002)), China, Iraq, Qatar, Libya, and Yemen. [Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 7/17/1998; CNN, 7/8/2002; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] The Clinton administration’s vote against the ICC was made under pressure from the Pentagon which believes that US troops, military officers and officials will become subject to politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions. Additionally, the US says it does not want the court to supplant its own domestic and military court system. [Human Rights Watch, 4/14/1998; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] On April 11, 2002, the countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia, Niger, Romania and Slovakia will submit their ratifications to the UN bringing the total number of countries to ratify the Rome Statute to 66, well beyond the 60 needed to make it a binding treaty. The Statute is entered into force on July 1, 2002. [Amnesty International, 4/11/2002; Coalition for the International Court, 4/11/2002 ] The International Criminal Court (ICC) “is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.” [International Criminal Court, 3/27/2005] It has authority to try cases involving genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Significantly, Article 12 of the Rome Statute gives the court jurisdiction over the nationals of any state if the alleged crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a party to the Statute or that delegates jurisdiction for that case to the ICC—even in cases where the defendant’s state of nationality is not a party to the treaty. [Morris, 2001]
A 2005 US indictment will reveal that two employees for a pro-Israeli lobbying group had somehow obtained classified US information about al-Qaeda and was passing it on to Israeli officials. The two employees are Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman; both work for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) until 2004. On April 13, 1999, Rosen gives Rafi Barak, the former deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington, what he calls a codeword-protected “extremely sensitive piece of intelligence” about terrorist activities in Central Asia. On June 11, 1999, Weissman tells Barak about a classified FBI report on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which has been blamed on al-Qaeda and/or Iran (see June 25, 1996). In retrospect, FBI officials will determine that some, but not all, of this classified information comes from Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst on Iran known to be in favor of a tougher US policy regarding Iran (see 2000-2001). It is not known how or why US surveillance of Rosen and Weissman began. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005; Eastern District of Virginia, 8/4/2005 ; Jerusalem Post, 8/15/2005; Jerusalem Post, 8/17/2005]
Connection to Earlier Investigation? - However, there may be a connection to an earlier investigation. In 1997 and 1998, the FBI monitored Naor Gilon, an official at the Israeli embassy in Washington, as part of an investigation into whether a US intelligence official was illegally giving US spy plane film and other secret material to the Mossad. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]
Accusations Spark Further Investigation - The US will later accuse Rosen and Weissman of passing classified information given to them by Franklin to Gilon. In any case, the investigation will continue and grow. National Public Radio will later note that from 1999 to 2004, “Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman had regular discussions about the Middle East and about al-Qaeda with a variety of contacts,” sometimes illegally sharing highly classified information. Franklin will plead guilty to sharing classified information in 2005 (see October 5, 2005) while Rosen and Weissman are expected to be tried in 2007 or thereafter. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005]
A DEA government document later leaked to the press [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] suggests that a large Israeli spy ring starts penetrating the US from at least this time, if not earlier. This ring, which will later become popularly known as the “art student spy ring,” is later shown to have unusual connections to the events of 9/11. [Insight, 3/11/2002]
India’s largest Newsweekly reports that it appears a recent Mossad attempt to infiltrate al-Qaeda failed when undercover agents were stopped on their way to Bangladesh by Indian customs officials. These 11 men appeared to be from Afghanistan, but had Israeli passports. One expert states, “It is not unlikely for Mossad to recruit 11 Afghans in Iran and grant them Israeli citizenship to penetrate a network such as bin Laden’s. They would begin by infiltrating them into an Islamic radical group in an unlikely place like Bangladesh.” [Week, 2/6/2000]
USA Today reports that “Israeli crime groups… dominate distribution” of the drug Ecstasy. [USA Today, 4/19/2000] The DEA also states that most of the Ecstasy sold in the US is “controlled by organized crime figures in Western Europe, Russia, and Israel.” [United Press International, 10/25/2001] According to DEA documents, the Israeli “art student spy ring”
“has been linked to several ongoing DEA [Ecstasy] investigations in Florida, California, Texas, and New York now being closely coordinated by DEA headquarters.” [Insight, 3/11/2002]
David Boim. [Source: Public domain]The parents of a US teenager killed in a West Bank attack sue Mohammad Salah, Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Holy Land Foundation, Quranic Literacy Institute, and Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) for $600 million. Stanley and Joyce Boim claim these people and entities were a “a network of front organizations” in the US that funded the attack that killed their 17-year-old David Boim. Their son was gunned down in 1996 while waiting at a bus stop; the attack was blamed on Hamas. Suing suspected terrorists for damages is allowed under a 1992 law, but it had never been done before. The suit claims that the Hamas finance network paid for the vehicle, machine guns, and ammunition used to kill Boim. The case is based on the investigative work of FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Salah’s house and bank accounts were seized as part of the investigation. [Associated Press, 5/14/2000; Associated Press, 6/6/2002] The Holy Land Foundation is defended in the suit by Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Washington law firm said to have influence with the Bush family. For instance, one firm partner is James Langdon, one of the future President Bush’s close Texas friends. [Boston Herald, 12/11/2001] On December 9, 2004, it will be announced that the elder Boims have won the suit. All of the above-mentioned people and entities will be found guilty and ordered to pay the Boims a total of $156 million. There is little chance the Boims will ever see all of that large sum, especially since the organizations will be shut down and have their assets frozen in the years since the suit began. Joyce Boim will say, “I finally have justice for David. He’s up there, smiling down.” [Associated Press, 12/9/2004]
Entity Tags: Vulgar Betrayal, Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Islamic Association for Palestine, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Mohammad Salah, Quranic Literacy Institute, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, David Boim, Joyce Boim, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Stanley Boim
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Following visits to Israel by India’s foreign minister and home minister, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or Indian Peoples Party) leader Jaswant Singh announces that the government will be strengthening India’s ties with Israel. He accuses previous governments of appeasing Muslims and playing politics with the national interest. Formal arrangements are made for coordinating national security affairs of the two countries. In the previous three years under the BJP government, over half a billion US dollars worth of military equipment has been purchased by India from Israel, including unmanned surveillance aircraft, anti-tank ammunition, and communications systems. The Indian Army chief made an official visit to Tel Aviv in March 1998. [Asia Times, 7/11/2000] The BJP is a right-wing party that is predominately Hindu. There have been reports of links between the BJP and Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Hindu terrorists. [Newsweek, 11/29/2008]
According to later German reports, “a whole horde of Israeli counter-terror investigators, posing as students, [follow] the trails of Arab terrorists and their cells in the United States.… In the town of Hollywood, Florida, they [identify]… [9/11 hijackers Mohamed] Atta and Marwan Alshehhi as possible terrorists. Agents [live] in the vicinity of the apartment of the two seemingly normal flight school students, observing them around the clock.” Supposedly, around April, the Israeli agents are discovered and deported, terminating the investigation. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/1/2002]
Sometime this year, the FBI discovers a new and “massive” Israeli spying operation inside the US. In 2004, UPI will report that, according to a former senior US government official, the FBI learned of a spy operation in the East Coast of the US, including New York and New Jersey. The FBI begins intensive surveillance on certain Israeli diplomats and other suspects. As part of this surveillance, in 2003 the FBI will be videotaping Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, when they will discover Gilon is meeting with Larry Franklin, Defense Department analyst. In 2005, Franklin will plead guilty to passing classified secrets to Israeli officials (see October 5, 2005). It appears that the surveillance of some Israeli diplomatic officials in the US actually began by April 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), though details remain murky. [United Press International, 12/9/2004] It is not known if this discovered spy operation is connected to or the same as the Israeli art student and moving van spy rings, which appears to have been discovered in 2001 (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001), or something completely different. It is also not clear if the discovery came from an investigation of media leaks begun two days before 9/11 (see September 9, 2001), or if it predated that and the 9/11 attacks.
Neoconservative David Wurmser, with the assistance of his American Enterprise Institute colleague Douglas Feith, drafts a set of war plans designed around a joint military offensive by the US and Israel. The offensive would, in his words, “fatally strike the centers of radicalism in the Middle East.” Wurmser and Feith’s plans are extensions of an op-ed written by Wurmser weeks before (see November 1, 2000). Wurmser advises: “Israel and the United States should… broaden the conflict to strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus [Syria], Baghdad [Iraq], Tripoli [Libya], Tehran [Iran], and Gaza [the Palestinians]. That would establish the recognition that fighting either the United States or Israel is suicidal.” Wurmser urges both the US and Israel to be watchful for a crisis, writing, “Crises can be opportunities.” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
The Bush White House holds its first National Security Council meeting. The focus is on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 261] This meeting sets the tone for how President Bush intends to handle foreign affairs. Counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke wants to focus on the threat from al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism, especially in light of the recent attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). But Bush isn’t interested in terrorism. [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to be 'Tilted Back Towards Israel' - Instead, Bush channels his neoconservative advisers, particularly incoming Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (see February 18, 1992 and April-May 1999), in taking a new approach to Middle East affairs, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Referring to President Clinton’s efforts to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Bush declares: “Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That’s why we’re in trouble. If the two sides don’t want peace, there’s no way we can force them. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of the situation.… We’re going to correct the imbalance of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We’re going to tilt it back towards Israel.” His view is that the Israeli government, currently headed by Ariel Sharon, should be left alone to deal as it sees fit with the Palestinians. “I’m not going to go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. I’m going to take him at face value. We’ll work on a relationship based on how things go.” Justifying his position, he recalls a recent trip he took to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition. “We flew over the Palestinian camps. Looked real bad down there.… I don’t see much we can do over there at this point.” Secretary of State Colin Powell, surprised by Bush’s intended policy towards the 50-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, objects. According to Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neil, Powell “stresse[s] that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army.” When Powell warns the president that the “consequences of that [policy] could be dire, especially for the Palestinians,” Bush shrugs. “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things,” he suggests. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 265-266; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] In this and subsequent meetings, Bush’s National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, “parrot[s]… the neocon line,” in author Craig Unger’s words, by discussing Iraq. “Iraq might be the key to reshaping the entire region,” she says, clearly alluding to regime change and overthrow in that nation (see March 8, 1992, Autumn 1992, July 8, 1996, Late Summer 1996, Late Summer 1996, 1997-1998, January 26, 1998, February 19, 1998, September 2000, Late December 2000 and Early January 2001, and Shortly after January 20, 2001). [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Possible WMD Sites in Iraq Spark Bush to Order Plans for Ground Assaults - The meeting then moves on to the subject of Iraq. Rice begins noting “that Iraq might be the key to reshaping the entire region.” She turns the meeting over to CIA Director George Tenet who summarizes current intelligence on Iraq. He mentions a factory that “might” be producing “either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.” The evidence he provides is a picture of the factory with some truck activity, a water tower, and railroad tracks going into a building. He admits that there is “no confirming intelligence” on just what is going on at these sites. Bush orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Hugh Shelton to begin preparing options for the use of US ground forces in Iraq’s northern and southern no-fly zones in support of a native-based insurgency against the Hussein regime. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 267; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] Author Ron Suskind later sums up the discussion: “Meeting adjourned. Ten days in, and it was about Iraq. Rumsfeld had said little, Cheney nothing at all, though both men clearly had long entertained the idea of overthrowing Saddam.” Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang later writes: “If this was a decision meeting, it was strange. It ended in a presidential order to prepare contingency plans for war in Iraq.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Regime Change Intended from the Outset - US Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, later recalls: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.… From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed.” O’Neill will say officials never questioned the logic behind this policy. No one ever asked, “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” Instead, the issue that needed to be resolved was how this could be accomplished. “It was all about finding a way to do it,” O’Neill will explain. “That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’” [CBS News, 1/10/2004; New York Times, 1/12/2004; Guardian, 1/12/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 234] Another official who attends the meeting will later say that the tone of the meeting implied a policy much more aggressive than that of the previous administration. “The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces,” the official will tell ABC News. “That went beyond the Clinton administration’s halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force.” [ABC News, 1/13/2004] Unger later writes, “These were the policies that even the Israeli right had not dared to implement.” One senior administration official says after the meeting, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Funding the Iraqi National Congress - The council does more than just discuss Iraq. It makes a decision to allow the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an Iraqi opposition group, to use $4 million to fund efforts inside Iraq to compile information relating to Baghdad’s war crimes, military operations, and other internal developments. The money had been authorized by Congress in late 2004. The US has not directly funded Iraqi opposition activities inside Iraq itself since 1996. [Guardian, 2/3/2005]
White House Downplays Significance - After Paul O’Neill first provides his account of this meeting in 2004, the White House will attempt to downplay its significance. “The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear,” Bush will tell reporters during a visit to Mexico In January 2004. “Like the previous administration, we were for regime change.… And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines.” [New York Times, 1/12/2004]
Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Hugh Shelton, Paul O’Neill, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Craig Unger, Iraqi National Congress
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
Israeli troops use unknown poison gases on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on at least eight different occasions. The gases cause their victims to vomit, go into seizures and spasms, then collapse and lose consciousness. The symptoms last from a few hours to several weeks. Doctors who treat the patients say it is unlike the tear gas which has been used by Israeli forces in the past and suggest it may be nerve gas or at least a highly concentrated concoction of different tear gases. [Longley, 2001 ; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/15/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/22/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/7/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/29/2001; Al-Ahram, 4/5/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 4/5/2001; Media Monitors, 1/8/2003]
The cover of the DEA report, as depicted on television. [Source: Fox News]The Office of National Drug Control Policy issues a National Security Alert describing “apparent attempts by Israeli nationals to learn about government personnel and office layouts.” This later becomes known through a leaked DEA document called “Suspicious Activities Involving Israeli Art Students at DEA Facilities.” A crackdown ensues and by June, around 120 Israelis are apprehended. More are apprehended later. [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001]
States the Israeli spy ring were known to have operated in, according to a June 2001 Drug Enforcement Administration report (this Fox news graphic was based on information from that report). [Source: Fox News]The DEA’s Office of Security Programs prepares a 60-page internal memo on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] The Memo is a compilation of dozens of field reports, and was meant only for the eyes of senior officials at the Justice Department (of which the DEA is adjunct), but it is leaked to the press around December 2001. The report connects the spies to efforts to foil investigations into Israeli organized crime activity involving the importation of the drug Ecstasy. The spies also appear to be snooping on top-secret military bases. For instance, on April 30, 2001, an Air Force alert was issued from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City concerning “possible intelligence collection being conducted by Israeli art students.” Tinker AFB houses AWACS surveillance craft and Stealth bombers. By the time of the report, the US has “apprehended or expelled close to 120 Israeli nationals” but many remain at large. [Le Monde (Paris), 3/5/2002; Salon, 5/7/2002] An additional 20 or so Israeli spies are apprehended between June and 9/11. [Fox News, 12/12/2001]
German intelligence warns the CIA, Britain’s intelligence agency, and Israel’s Mossad that Middle Eastern militants are planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack “American and Israeli symbols, which stand out.” A later article quotes unnamed German intelligence sources who state the information was coming from Echelon surveillance technology, and that British intelligence had access to the same warnings. However, there were other informational sources, including specific information and hints given to, but not reported by, Western and Near Eastern news media six months before 9/11. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Fox News, 5/17/2002] According to a separate account, in the summer of 2001, German officials are aware that al-Qaeda is planning a major attack, but they don’t know the details (see Summer 2001).
CIA official Richard Blee gives a briefing on the state of the terrorism threat to CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black. According to an account by Tenet in his 2007 book, Blee identifies more than 10 specific pieces of intelligence about impending attacks. Tenet claims that experienced analysts call this intelligence “both unprecedented and virtually 100 percent reliable.” Blee specifically mentions:
A key Afghanistan training camp commander was seen weeping with joy because he believed he could see his trainees in heaven, implying a successful suicide attack to come.
For the last three to five months, al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is believed to have been involved in an unprecedented effort to prepare terrorist operations.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the USS Cole bombing masterminds, has disappeared. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 149] Leaders of the Cole bombing are believed to be planning new attacks against the US. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 147]
Other important operatives around the world are disappearing or preparing for martyrdom. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 149]
Blee concludes by saying: “Based on a review of all source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 322; Tenet, 2007, pp. 149] This warning, including the concluding quote, is shared with “senior Bush administration officials” in early July. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]
Richard Reid, who will attempt to blow himself up on a flight to Miami five months later (see December 22, 2001), is sent on a spying mission to Israel. First, he obtains a new passport from the British consulate in Brussels to hide his travels to Pakistan shown in his old passport. Then Reid flies to Israel with El Al, testing the carrier’s security. He complains that screening has ruined his tape recorder and also notes how many times the cockpit door is opened, finding that the time just before passengers are told to fasten their seatbelts during descent is the best time to strike. In Tel Aviv, he cases buses, trains, churches, buildings, and shopping malls to determine the best targets to attack. Reid also examines tourist sites in Jerusalem, finding security lax at the Western Wall. After leaving Israel, he travels to Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan. Investigators will later discover these details of his travels from a diary found on a computer at an al-Qaeda safe house in Kabul after the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 228-229]
Ephraim Halevy was head of the Israeli Mossad from 1998 to 2002. [Source: Associated Press]At some point between these dates, Israel warns the US that an al-Qaeda attack is imminent. [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Reportedly, two high-ranking agents from the Mossad come to Washington and warn the FBI and CIA that from 50 to 200 terrorists have slipped into the US and are planning “a major assault on the United States.” They say indications point to a “large scale target,” and that Americans would be “very vulnerable.” They add there could be Iraqi connections to the al-Qaeda attack. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] The Los Angeles Times later retracts its story after a CIA spokesperson says, “There was no such warning. Allegations that there was are complete and utter nonsense.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] Other newspapers do not retract it.
Dan Burton. [Source: US House of Representatives]Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, releases edited transcripts of taped White House conversations between then-President Bill Clinton and Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Barak (see Late August, 2001). President Bush’s counsel Alberto Gonzales decided to break with decades of tradition in releasing private conversations between a former president and a head of state, and gave Burton the tapes as part of Burton’s investigation into Clinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich, a commodities trader who had fled the US ahead of tax evasion and fraud charges. Burton and other conservatives have charged that Clinton pardoned Rich at the behest of Rich’s wife Denise, a Clinton presidential library contributor, possibly in return for the contributions, or even sexual favors. However, the tapes indicate that one reason Clinton pardoned Rich was a request made by Barak. On December 11, 2000, Barak said to Clinton, “One last remark. There is an American Jewish businessman living in Switzerland and makes a lot of philanthropic contributions to Israeli institutions and activities and education.” Rich had “violated certain rules of the game in the United States,” Barak said, and wanted Clinton to consider pardoning him. Clinton replied, “I know about that case because I know his ex-wife. If your ex-wife wants to help you, that’s good.” Barak asked Clinton again on January 8, 2001, when Clinton called Rich’s case “bizarre” and said, “It’s best that we not say much about that.” In a third conversation, which took place just days before Clinton left office, Clinton said that such a pardon has “almost no precedent in American history,” and told Barak that he was pondering whether or not to allow Rich to return to the US if pardoned. [New York Times, 8/21/2001; Salon, 2/7/2002; Dean, 2004, pp. 85-86] Clinton, angered by the selective editing of the transcripts in an apparent effort to mischaracterize the Rich pardon, will request that all of the relevant portions of the transcripts be released; the White House will refuse and classify the rest of the transcripts (see Late August, 2001).
According to German newspapers, the Mossad gives the CIA a list of 19 terrorists living in the US and say that they appear to be planning to carry out an attack in the near future. It is unknown if these are the 19 9/11 hijackers or if the number is a coincidence. However, four names on the list are known, and these four will be 9/11 hijackers: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, and Mohamed Atta. [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/1/2002; BBC, 10/2/2002; Ha'aretz, 10/3/2002] The Mossad appears to have learned about this through its “art student spy ring.” Yet apparently, this warning and list are not treated as particularly urgent by the CIA and the information is not passed on to the FBI. It is unclear whether this warning influenced the decision to add Alhazmi and Almihdhar to a terrorism watch list on this same day, and if so, why only those two. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] Israel has denied that there were any Mossad agents in the US. [Ha'aretz, 10/3/2002]
The Bush administration attempts to repair its relation with Saudi Arabia after a dramatic letter from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. On August 27, 2001, Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, sent a message to President Bush threatening to end the Saudi alliance with the US because of what they see as US favoritism towards Israel (see August 27, 2001). Two days later, Bush sends a two-page letter to Abdullah: “Let me make one thing clear up front: nothing should ever break the relationship between us. There has been no change in the strategic equation. I firmly believe the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination and to live peacefully and securely in their own state, in their own homeland, just as the Israelis have the right to live peacefully and safely in their own state.” Journalist Bob Woodward will later note that this “was a much bigger step than President Clinton had taken. Even as Clinton had tried to fashion a Middle East peace agreement as his legacy, he had never directly supported a separate Palestinian state.” On September 6, Abdullah replies, “Mr. President, it was a great relief to me to find in your letter a clear commitment confirming the principle in which the peace process was established. I was particularly pleased with your commitment to the right of the Palestinians to self-determination as well as the right to peace without humiliation, within their independent state.” The Saudis appear appeased. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 77-79] Also on September 6, Bush holds a meeting with his top advisers and suggests a change of policy towards Palestine, including public support for a separate Palestinian state. However, days before Bush is to announce these new policies, the 9/11 attacks take place. None of the planned US policy changes materialize (see September 6, 2001).
According to a New York Times article several days later, on this day President Bush holds a National Security Council meeting with Secretary of State Powell, National Security Adviser Rice, and others, to consider how to change his Middle East policy. This potential change in US policy comes after the Saudis threatened to end their alliance with the US because of US policy towards Israel and Palestine (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001). It is reported that he is considering meeting with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat when Arafat is scheduled to come to New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly two weeks later. Bush has so far been firm in refusing to meet with Arafat. According to the New York Times, at this meeting, “Bush discussed the wisdom of changing tack, officials said. While no clear decision was made, there was an inclination to go ahead with a meeting with Arafat if events unfolded in a more favorable way in the next 10 days or so…” Additionally, it is reported that Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres will meet with Arafat in mid-September, in what it is hoped will be “the first of a series that could start a process of serious dialogue” between Palestine and Israel. [New York Times, 9/9/2001] Reporter Bob Woodward will add in 2006, “Bush agreed to come out publicly for a Palestinian state. A big rollout was planned for the week of September 10, 2001.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 77] But after the 9/11 attacks a few days later, Bush and Peres do not go forward with any meetings with Arafat and US policy does not change. The Nation will later comment, “In the aftermath of [9/11], few people recalled that for a brief moment in the late summer of 2001, the Bush Administration had considered meeting with Arafat and deepening its political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [Nation, 7/14/2005] The leak to the New York Times about this September 6 meeting will result in a wide FBI investigation of Israeli spying in the US (see September 9, 2001).
National Security Adviser Rice, upset with a media leak, orders an investigation that will uncover evidence of widespread Israeli spying in the US. The Saudis had recently threatened to end their close alliance with the US (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001), and on September 6, 2001, President Bush held a meeting attended by Rice and others to work on how to appease Saudi concerns (see September 6, 2001). Just three days after the meeting, there is a story by Jane Perlez in the New York Times accurately detailing what was discussed in the meeting. It will later be reported that Rice is furious about the leak to Perlez and immediately demands a clampdown on leakers. The determination to improve secrecy increases in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This leak investigation focuses on Israelis in the US. No one is ever prosecuted for the leak to Perlez, but the investigation will takes on a life of its own and continue for years. [New York Times, 9/9/2001; JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5/17/2005; Nation, 7/14/2005] It appears the FBI had been investigating Israeli spying in the US since at least 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), and there are reports of a discovery of a “massive” Israeli spy operation in the US in 2001 (see 2001) and/or the discovery of the Israeli art student spy ring (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001). It is unclear if there is any connection between these investigations and this media link investigation or not.
A group of second-year students at the Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) produces a 68-page plan for sending peacekeepers to Israel in the event that the Israelis and Palestinians agree to a peace plan and the creation of a Palestinian state. Though the cover of the report indicates that the report has been written for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Chris Garver, a Fort Leavenworth spokesman, says that it was only an academic exercise. An article about the report appears in the Washington Times on September 10, 2001. The report refers to Israel’s armed forces as a “500-pound gorilla in Israel” that is “well armed and trained” and is “known to disregard international law to accomplish mission.” Of the Mossad, the report says: “Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target US forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act.” It describes Palestinian youths as “loose cannons; under no control, sometimes violent.” The SAMS officers write that US goals for the first 30 days of such a mission would be to “create conditions for development of Palestinian State and security of Israel”; ensure “equal distribution of contract value or equivalent aid” that would help legitimize the peacekeeping force and stimulate economic growth; “promote US investment in Palestine”; “encourage reconciliation between entities based on acceptance of new national identities”; and “build lasting relationship based on new legal borders and not religious-territorial claims.” [Washington Times, 9/10/2001]
Ariel Merari. [Source: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]The FAA’s intelligence division conducts a conference call to examine the idea of “suicide attackers” during which a leading authority on the subject says a suicide attack on aviation is unlikely. At an unspecified time before 9/11, James Padgett—the manager of the global issues division of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security Intelligence at the time of the 9/11 attacks—arranges a conference call in which the analysts in his division get to talk to Ariel Merari, a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, about suicide terrorism. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ] Merari has spent years studying suicide attacks around the world and specializes in the profiles of suicide bombers. [Boston Globe, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 10/16/2001] He has authored or coauthored numerous books, articles, monographs, and chapters on political terrorism and other forms of political violence, and has served as a consultant to various branches of several governments. [Merari, 10/2000 ] Merari says, during the conference call, that throughout his research he has yet to find a single instance of a suicide attack on aviation. He says he thinks such an attack would be unlikely for psychological reasons relating to the extended time between the “point of no return” and the execution of the attack. He “certainly did not raise the possibility of multiple hijackers willing to kill themselves,” Padgett will later comment. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ]
Odigo’s logo. [Source: Odigo]Two employees of Odigo, Inc., an Israeli company, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City about two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” [Ha'aretz, 9/26/2001; Washington Post, 9/27/2001] Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company refuses to divulge what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001] However, a later newspaper report claims that the message declared “that some sort of attack was about to take place. The notes ended with an anti-Semitic slur. ‘The messages said something big was going to happen in a certain amount of time, and it did—almost to the minute,’ said Alex Diamandis, vice president of sales for the high-tech company… He said the employees did not know the person who sent the message, but they traced it to a computer address and have given that information to the FBI.” [Washington Post, 10/4/2001] Odigo gave the FBI the Internet address of the message’s sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/26/2001] Two months later, it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail, 11/20/2001]
Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai Technologies]An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11, and later leaked, will suggest that a man on Flight 11 is shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashes into the World Trade Center. The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, states “that a passenger located in seat 10B [Satam Al Suqami] shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B [Daniel Lewin] at 9:20 a.m.” (Note that since Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, the time must be a typographical error, probably meaning 8:20). A report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on September 17 will identify Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s most successful Special Operations unit. [United Press International, 3/6/2002] Sayeret Matkal is a deep penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. It is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Matkal will remain hidden until the gun story becomes known. [Guardian, 9/15/2001] FAA and American Airline officials will later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin is probably stabbed to death instead. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002] Officials assert that the leaked document was a “first draft,” and subsequently corrected, but decline to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” However, an FAA official present when the memo is drafted will dispute the FAA’s claim, asserting that “[t]he document was reviewed for accuracy by a number of people in the room, including myself and a couple of managers of the operations center.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/7/2002] This unnamed official is probably Bogdan Dzakovic, a leader of the FAA’s “red team” conducting covert security inspections. He will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “There are serious indications that the FAA deceived the public about what happened on 9/11. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was working in one of the FAA operations centers collecting information on details of what happened during the hijacking. We received information that a firearm was used on one of the hijacked aircraft.… That evening the administrator of FAA requested an executive summary covering the day’s activities, and this information about a gun was included in the summary. Days later, without any explanation or questioning of the summary’s author, the administrator publicly announced that no guns had been used in the hijacking. Several months passed when the press re-surfaced this issue. FAA’s initial response was that no so such executive summary existed. Later, when confronted with the document, FAA admitted the executive summary existed, but denied its accuracy. Sometime later I learned that another operations center also received a report that a firearm was used.… There were also reports of a possible explosive threatened on a flight.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/22/2003; Village Voice, 2/8/2005]
A homemaker living near Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey sees three men behaving strangely on a nearby roof and alerts the authorities. This homemaker, who has given only her first name Maria, is called by a neighbor shortly after the first plane has hit the WTC and is told about the impact. She has a view of the WTC from her apartment building so she gets her binoculars and watches the disaster. However, she also notices three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. Maria will later recall, “They seemed to be taking a movie.” They are taking video or photos of themselves with the WTC burning in the background. But what strikes Maria is their expressions: “They were like happy, you know… They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange.” She writes down the license plate number of the van and calls the police. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the men leave the area a few minutes after the first attack is over. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] An FBI lookout bulletin for the van will be issued later in the day (see 3:31 p.m. September 11, 2001) and the three men (plus two more discovered with them) will be detained (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). When the men detained, one of them will be found with pictures of the group standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] At least some of the pictures were taken while standing on top of the van. [New York Times, 10/8/2001] The lawyer for the five men will later note that one photograph developed by the FBI shows one of the men, Sivan Kurzberg, holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the burning WTC in the background. [New York Times, 11/21/2001] It will apparently be determined at least two of the men are Israeli spies, but what they were doing and why will remain in dispute. One of these Israelis will later say, “our purpose was to document the event.” [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, Scott DeCarlo, Maria, Omer Marmari, Paul Kurzberg, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Oded Ellner, Yaron Shmuel
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
According to an editorial written in the Black Agenda Report by executive editor Glen Ford written in 2008, Ford claims that he observes two presumably Israeli witnesses to the collapse of the second World Trade Center tower who exhibit suspicious behavior. They are already positioned at the river bank when he arrives at the scene on foot after having rushed past police, who had blocked all vehicular entrance to the park. They are thus the apparent owners of the only vehicle in the lot, having arrived prior to its closure, at an unknown time. The so-described athletic, military-aged duo is clicking away with two very expensive-looking cameras. They speak excitedly to each other in Hebrew—a language Mr. Ford instantly recognizes from his two decades as a Manhattanite—but clumsily claim to be “Polish” when asked where they are from. Informed by Ford that he is a reporter, they claim, “Yes, we are reporters, too!” They display two laminated New Jersey press cards that appear genuine except they are the wrong color, and cheerfully admit they are phony. “They are easy to make,” one says, laughing. When prompted, one states with pleasure that “yes, everything has changed” by the events just witnessed. [Ford, 10/8/2008]
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked what the 9/11 attacks means for relations between the US and Israel, replies, “It’s very good.” Then he edits himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” [New York Times, 9/12/2001] A week later, the Village Voice states, “From national networks to small-town newspapers, the view that America’s terrible taste of terrorism will finally do away with even modest calls for the restraint of Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian towns has become an instant, unshakable axiom.… Now, support for Israel in America is officially absolute, and Palestinians are cast once again as players in a global terrorist conspiracy.” [Village Voice, 9/19/2001]
The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks. Shortly after an FBI lookout bulletin was issued for a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department in New Jersey stop the van after matching the license plate number with the one given in the bulletin. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approach the van and demand the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, Sivan Kurzberg, does not obey after being asked several more times, so the police physically remove Kurzberg and four other men from the van and handcuff them. They have not been told the reasons for their arrest, but Kurzberg tells them, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” Again before the police have made any mention of the 9/11 attacks, another one of the arrested men says, “[W]e were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident.” In fact, it will later be determined they were on the roof of a building at Liberty State Park, watching and videotaping the first crash into the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/17/2001; CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] The FBI and additional police quickly arrive. They shut down the section of Route 3 in East Rutherford where the van was stopped and evacuate a nearby hotel as a security precaution. [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] One man is found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another has two foreign passports on him, and a box cutter is found in the van. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Another has pictures of the men standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] All five identify themselves as Israeli citizens and claim to be working for the New Jersey-based Urban Moving Systems company. In addition to the driver Sivan Kurzberg, the others are identified as Paul Kurzberg (Sivan’s brother), Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. The men are detained but not charged. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002] The next day it will be reported that “bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives.” An investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy will say in 2006, “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted…. It looked like they’re hooked in with this [referring to the 9/11 attacks]. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.…It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] The FBI will later conclude at least two of the five are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/2002] They are held on immigration violation charges, but will be released 71 days later (see November 20, 2001). [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Yaron Shmuel, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, World Trade Center, Paul Kurzberg, Scott DeCarlo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis Rivelli, Omer Marmari, Oded Ellner, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Five Israeli men working for the Urban Moving Systems company had been arrested on 9/11 over suspicions that they had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001), and now two more Israeli men working for the same company are arrested. The two men, Roy Barak and Motti Butbul, are driving one of their company’s moving vans in northern Pennsylvania when they are pulled over and arrested at around noon on September 12, 2001. Barak has overstayed his six-month visa and Butbul has no work permit. Both were in the Israeli military, Barak as an ex-paratrooper and Butful as a cook. Barak says he worked for Urban Moving Systems since the summer of 2000. The two are detained and sometimes kept in solitary confinement, but they later claim no ill treatment. Barak will later recall that US interrogators were most interested if he was connected to the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. “They asked if someone sent me to the United States. They asked me if I worked in a moving company so I could monitor people’s movements.” He is given polygraph tests and claims to have satisfied his questioners except on the issue of who sent him to the US. On November 9, 2001, both are deported back to Israel. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/18/2001]
According to a later account provided by CIA Director George Tenet, he bumps into Pentagon adviser Richard Perle in the White House who tells him, “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday, they bear responsibility.” Tenet, recalling his reaction to Perle’s statement, later says, “I’ve got the manifest with me that tells me al-Qaeda did this. Nothing in my head that says there is any Iraqi involvement in this in any way shape or form and I remember thinking to myself, as I’m about to go brief the president, ‘What the hell is he talking about?’” (Note: Tenet says in his book that this incident happened on September 12; however, after Perle insists that he was not in the country that day, Tenet concedes that it may have happened a little later). [Tenet, 2007; CBS News, 4/29/2007; CNN, 4/30/2007] On September 16, 2001, Perle will hint in a CNN interview that Iraq should be punished for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001).
Two men, Moshe Elmakias and Ron Katar, are arrested in rural Pennsylvania after being found with a detailed video of the Sears Tower in Chicago. In addition, a woman named Ayelet Reisler is found with them, carrying conflicting identification information. They are arrested for illegal dumping, using a van with the name Moving Systems Incorporated. The video contains extensive zoom in shots of the Sears Tower; it is not known when the video was filmed. [Mercury (Philadelphia), 10/17/2001]
Neoconservative writers Robert Kagan and William Kristol predict “a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States,” of which the Afghanistan conflict is merely “an opening battle.” The “unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden” are the first steps in a larger conflict that must “spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity,” requiring US forces to invade “multiple” countries. “It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. And it is going to put enormous and perhaps unbearable strain on parts of an international coalition that today basks in contented consensus.” Kagan and Kristol say that both the 9/11 attacks and the recent anthrax mailings are likely the work of Iraq, and thus President Bush “ha[s] no choice” but to destroy the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The continued security of Israel is of paramount importance, they write; the US must join with Israel in battling Islamist terrorism in the region by any means necessary. There is virtually no difference between the Taliban and the Palestinian Authority, they write; both must be shut down. Putative US allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia might object, and may even declare war against Israel. If so, they must be given the same treatment as the Taliban, the Palestinians, and Iraq: overthrow and domination. “With or without a new Arab-Israeli war, it is possible that the demise of some ‘moderate’ Arab regimes may be just around the corner.” [Weekly Standard, 10/29/2001]
From left to right: Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. Three of the five accused Israelis briefly appear on Israeli television in November 2001 after being released and deported. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television] (click image to enlarge)Around this time intense political pressure is put on US officials holding five Israeli men arrested for suspicious behavior at the time of the 9/11 attacks (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and two unidentified “prominent New York congressmen” lobby heavily for their release. According to a source at ABC News, well-known criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz also becomes involved as a negotiator to help get the men released. (Dershowitz will later refuse to comment on the matter.) [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] ABC News will later report that was “high-level negotiations between Israeli and US government officials” over the five men, resulting in a settlement. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the political pressure will succeed because the men will be released a few weeks later (see November 20, 2001]).
Oded Ellner, one of the five Israelis arrested on 9/11. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television]The five Israelis arrested on 9/11 for videotaping the WTC attack and then cheering about it (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001) are released and deported to Israel. Some of the men’s names had appeared in a US national intelligence database, and the FBI has concluded that at least two of the men were working for the Mossad, according to ABC News. However, the FBI says that none of the Israelis had any advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and they were released as part of a deal between the US and the Israeli government. After their release, they claim to have been tortured. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002]
The Forward, a popular Jewish weekly in the US, will later report that at the end of 2001, the Israeli government admits to having conducted a large-scale spying operation in the US before 9/11, using art students and moving vans as cover stories. The Forward quotes an anonymous former US official said to have been regularly briefed about the US investigation into Israeli spying: “The assessment was that Urban Moving Systems was a front for the Mossad and operatives employed by it. The conclusion of the FBI was that they were spying on local Arabs but that they could [be deported] because they did not know anything about 9/11.” He further claims that US officials confront the Israeli government at this time and Israel privately admits the operation while continuing to publicly deny it. Israel privately apologizes for violating a secret gentlemen’s agreement between the two countries under which espionage on each other’s soil is coordinated in advance. The Forward notes, “Most experts and former officials interviewed for this article said that such so-called unilateral or uncoordinated Israeli monitoring of radical Muslims in America would not be surprising.” [Forward, 3/15/2002] In 2007, Mark Perelman, the author of the 2002 Forward story that made these claims, will say he still stands by his story and his sources in the Mossad don’t deny it. CounterPunch also will claim to independently confirm Israel’s admission through two former CIA officers. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
Senior State Department official and former CIA analyst Flynt Leverett proposes a new, pragmatic approach to the war on terror. He believes that Middle Eastern terrorism is more tactical than religious: for example, since Syria wants to reclaim the Golan Heights and lacks the military ability to wrest that territory from Israel, it relies on “asymmetrical methods,” including terror attacks, to work for its aims. If one accepts this viewpoint, Leverett argues, one accepts that nations like Syria are not locked in fanatical mindsets, and can be negotiated with. Leverett, with the support of senior State Department official Richard Haass, advises his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, to draw up a “road map” to peace for the problem nations of the region—if a nation expels its terrorist groups and stops trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, the US will remove that nation from its list of terror sponsors and open a new era of cooperation with that nation. Powell takes the idea to a “Deputies Meeting” at the White House. The meeting includes Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy director of the CIA, a representative from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The neoconservatives—Hadley, Wolfowitz, Cheney’s representative—hate the idea, calling it a reward for bad behavior. Sponsors of terrorism should stop because it is the moral thing to do, they say, and until that happens, the US will not encourage their actions. After leaving the meeting, Hadley writes up a memo that comes to be known as “Hadley’s Rules.” They are simple: if a nation such as Iran or Syria offers assistance on a specific item or issue, the US will take it, but will give nothing and promise nothing in return, and the US will not attempt to build on that offer. Leverett believes Hadley’s memo is preposterous, sacrificing a chance at real progress for striking poses of moral purity. Shortly thereafter, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice offers him a position as senior director of Mideast affairs at the National Security Council; Leverett takes the job with the understanding that the Bush administration must begin real negotiations with Israel and Palestine. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Colin Powell, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice, Richard Armitage, Flynt Leverett, Office of the Vice President, US Department of State, National Security Council, Richard Haass, Paul Wolfowitz
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
Two stills from Carl Cameron’s Fox News report on potential Israeli spying in the US. [Source: Fox News]Fox News reports: “Investigators within the DEA, INS, and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying… is considered career suicide.… A highly placed investigator says there are ‘tie-ins’ between the spy ring and 9/11. However, when asked for details, he flatly refuses to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’” The report also reveals that Amdocs, an Israeli company, is recording virtually every phone call in the US and could be passing information on to the Israeli government (similar claims were first raised in 2000 [Insight, 5/29/2000] ). Fox News suggests that the position of this company might impede the 9/11 investigation. [Fox News, 12/12/2001]
Some of the weapons found aboard the ‘Karine A.’ [Source: Associated Press / BBC]Israeli commandos seize a freighter, the “Karine A” (or “Karin A”), in the Red Sea 300 miles off the coast of Israel, in an operation dubbed “Operation Noah’s Ark.” Eli Marum, an Israeli Navy operations chief, says the operation took less than eight minutes and did not require a single shot being fired. “The crew was fully surprised,” he says. “They did not anticipate that we would strike so far out into the Red Sea.” Israeli officials claim the freighter contains a large store of Iranian-supplied weapons—including Katyusha rockets capable of destroying tanks, mortars, grenades, Kalashnikov assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, high explosives, and two speedboats—for use by Palestinian fighters against Israeli targets. The Palestinian Authority is forbidden by treaty to own such weaponry. Israel also claims that the captain of the freighter, Omar Akawi, has direct ties to the Palestinian Authority and to its leader, Yasser Arafat. (According to Israeli sources, Akawi claims he is a member of Arafat’s organization Fatah.) Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer tells European Union (EU) authorities that the freighter “was purchased by the Palestinian Authority after September 11” and that “the whole operation was managed and funded by the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with Iran and other sources.” [BBC, 1/10/2002; Guardian, 1/21/2002; Jewish Virtual Library, 2009] “What Iran is trying to do is create another base, besides its base in Lebanon” to threaten Israel, says Major General Giora Eiland, the Israeli Army’s chief of planning. [New York Times, 1/12/2002]
Arafat's Denials - Initially, Arafat denies any connection whatsoever with the shipment, accusing Israel of fomenting a propaganda attack to thwart US-led efforts to implement a cease-fire agreement, and says Israel “fabricated” the whole affair. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the Palestinian cabinet, calls the operation “an Israeli trap.” Later, Arafat continues to insist that he had no involvement in the affair, but admits that he cannot control “everyone” in the Palestinian Authority. American and Israeli intelligence officials note that the weaponry on board the “Karine A” is similar to that of a “wish list” allegedly drawn up by senior Palestinian officials under Arafat’s direction. [New York Times, 1/12/2002; Jewish Virtual Library, 2009]
Propaganda by Israel? - Some, such as Guardian reporter Brian Whitaker, believe that Israel is using the incident to persuade the EU to stop funding the Palestinian Authority. And, Whitaker notes, Israeli lawmakers and pundits such as former President Benjamin Netanyahu are using the incident to argue that the idea of Palestinian statehood be permanently scrapped. Whatever the truth of the matter, the attempts suffer setbacks when documents show that an Iraqi, Ali Mohamed Abbas, purchased the ship, and other records disprove the Israelis’ claims about the ship’s cargo, which Israel says it picked up in Yemen. It seems clear that the freighter was indeed carrying weapons, but little of Israel’s other claims—they were Iranian in origin and intended for Palestinian use against Israel—are borne out by ascertainable facts.
Hezbollah Connection? - American intelligence sources later speculate that the weapons may have been intended for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite militant organization with close ties to Iran, and not the Palestinians. Israel is initially resistant to the idea, but Israeli defense sources later tell Israeli reporters that it was “certainly possible that some of the arms were earmarked for Hizbullah,” though it is certain that most “were clearly bound for the Palestinian Authority.” Whitaker echoes skeptics’ disbelief about the Hezbollah claim, noting that there are easier and more secure methods of delivering arms to Lebanon than a risky sea voyage past Israeli patrol boats. [Guardian, 1/21/2002] Israel names reputed senior Hezbollah security officer Imad Mughniyeh as a key figure in the incident. Mughniyeh has not been heard from for years by Western intelligence, but is wanted by the FBI for his participation in kidnapping Americans in Beirut during the 1980s and the hijacking of a TWA passenger plane. The BBC reports, “Correspondents say the Israeli government has been going to great lengths to convince Washington that the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is linked to Tehran and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, and hence to what it sees as international terrorism.” [BBC, 1/10/2002]
Iranian Connection Unlikely - And the Iranian connection is similarly hard to swallow. Though Israel insists that the arms prove a new and disturbing connection between Iran and Palestinian militants, Whitaker writes, “most non-Israeli observers of Iran ridicule the idea totally, for a variety of historical, political and religious reasons. It also conflicts with the foreign policies adopted by [Iranian] President [Mohamed] Khatami.” He goes on to add: “The trouble with Iran, though—as one Iranian exile remarked last week—is that it has two governments and 10,000 leaders. If you are going to pin blame, you have to determine which one is responsible.” Whitaker is referring to Iran’s religious and secular leaders, who are often at odds with one another, and to the propensity of Iranian leaders from both sides to conduct independent operations without “official” government sanction. [Guardian, 1/21/2002] The New York Times notes: “Iran’s government has dismissed the Israeli accusations. But Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have discretionary funds and access to weapons, and they often run operations independent of the elected government of… Khatami.” [New York Times, 1/12/2002] The “Karine A” incident helps prompt Bush officials to include Iran as a member of the so-called “axis of evil,” disrupting backchannel negotiations between Iranian and US officials (see January 29, 2002).
Entity Tags: Fatah al-Islam, Omar Akawi, Giora Eiland, Hezbollah, Eli Marum, Bush administration (43), Brian Whitaker, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Yasser Arafat, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Imad Mughniyeh, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ali Mohamed Abbas
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
Three weeks after the “Karine A” is seized, allegedly filled with Iranian weapons destined to be used against Israel (see January 3, 2002 and After), President Bush names Iran as one of the world’s “axis of evil” nations (see January 29, 2002). State Department official Hillary Mann, who has been facilitating secret backchannel discussions with Iranian officials for over a year (see September 11, 2001 and Fall 2001), later confirms that the “Karine A” incident helped prompt Iran’s inclusion in Bush’s speech. The speech prompts the Iranians to skip the monthly meeting with Mann in Geneva. When they resume their meeting in March, the Iranians, according to Mann, are disturbed by Bush’s characterization. “They said they had put their necks out to talk to us and they were taking big risks with their careers and their families and their lives,” she will recall. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
Uzi Arad. [Source: Jerusalem Post]Israeli officials tell Bush officials shortly after the president’s “axis of evil” speech (see January 29, 2002) that of the three countries on the list—Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—Iraq is a distant third as far as posing any threat to its neighbors. But Bush officials have a plan. According to former Mossad director of intelligence Uzi Arad, who served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy advisor, those officials respond, “Let’s do first things first. Once we do Iraq, we’ll have a military presence in Iraq, which would enable us to handle the Iranians from closer quarters, would give us more leverage.” (Netanyahu, in the years following his term as Israel’s prime minister, will become an outspoken advocate for military strikes against Iran—see November 17, 2006). [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer meets with US Vice President Dick Cheney and tells him that Israel is concerned that Iran, which Israel believes will have nuclear weapons by 2005, represents a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. “The danger, as I see it, is from a Hezbollah-Iran-Palestinian triangle, with Iran leading this triangle and putting together a coalition of terror,” he tells Cheney. [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
Ariel Sharon. [Source: US Department of Defense]Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush. According to the Ha’aretz Daily, the goal of the meeting is to “convince the United States that Iran constitutes a strategic threat to Israel.” [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
During a British cabinet meeting, Home Secretary David Blunkett initiates a discussion about Iraq. During the discussion, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook mentions that most of the Arab world considers Ariel Sharon, rather than Saddam Hussein, to be the largest threat to peace in the Middle East. Describing the subsequent reaction to his comments, Cook later writes in his diary: “Somewhat to my surprise this line provides a round of ‘hear, hearing’ from colleagues, which is the nearest I heard to mutiny in the cabinet.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Independent, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004] During the meeting, Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, says “We are in danger of being seen as close to President Bush, but without any influence over President Bush.” [Independent, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]
Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, flies to Texas to meet with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford. Abdullah has been working to convince Arab leaders to accept a proposed peace treaty between Israel and Palestine (see April 2002), but has had no support from the White House. The course of the meeting is later paraphrased by National Security Council staffer Flynt Leverett, the head of the NSC’s Mideast affairs division. As Leverett will recall, the usually deferential Abdullah tells Bush that he has a direct question and wants a direct answer. Abdullah asks Bush: “Are you going to do anything about the Palestinian issue? If you tell me no, if it’s too difficult, if you’re not going to give it that kind of priority, just tell me. I will understand and I will never say anything critical of you or your leadership in public, but I’m going to need to make my own judgments and my own decisions about Saudi interests.” Bush attempts to stall, telling Abdullah he understands his concerns and that he will see what he can do. Abdullah refuses to be mollified. Standing up, he says: “That’s it. This meeting is over.” Bush retreats to another room with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss Abdullah’s position. Bush returns shortly thereafter and gives Abdullah his word that he will deal seriously with the Palestinian issue. “Okay,” Abdullah says. “The president of the United States has given me his word.” After the meeting, Powell calls Abdullah’s threat “the near-death experience”; Bush, rolling his eyes, says, “We sure don’t want to go through anything like that again.” As Powell later recalls, “It was a very serious moment and no one wanted to see if the Saudis were bluffing.” It is unclear whether Bush is expressing relief or making a sarcastic comment. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
A newspaper reports that the DEA study on Israeli “art students” determined the “students” all had “recently served in the Israeli military, the majority in intelligence, electronic signal intercept, or explosive ordnance units.” [Palm Beach Post, 3/11/2002]
Flynt Leverett, the newly named head of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council (see December 2001-January 2002), has worked hard for the last months to persuade Bush administration officials to consider a proposal by Saudi Arabia for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The proposal, originated by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, calls for “full normalization” of relations between Israel and Arab nations in exchange for Israel’s “full withdrawal” from the occupied territories. Abdullah promised that he can persuade all the Arab nations of the region to sign off on the accords. But even with concessions insisted upon by the Israelis, the Bush administration refused to consider the deal. Even after Abdullah persuaded every nation of the Arab League to sign his proposal, the White House refused to listen. In April, Secretary of State Colin Powell, accompanied by Leverett, travels to the Middle East to negotiate an end to an Israeli siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound. Powell believes he has authorization from the White House to explore what are called “political horizons,” diplomatic shorthand for peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Powell and Leverett use the Saudi proposal as a springboard for discussions. On their final day in the Middle East, Leverett, with a group of senior American officials, is trying to hammer out Powell’s final speech when a telephone call from the White House short-circuits the procedure. On the other end, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tells Leverett: “Tell Powell he is not authorized to talk about a political horizon. Those are formal instructions.” Leverett responds by telling Hadley it is a bad idea to abruptly stop negotiations. As he later recalls the conversation, Leverett tells Hadley, “It’s bad policy and it’s also humiliating for Powell, who has been talking to heads of state about this very issue for the last 10 days.” Hadley retorts: “It doesn’t matter. There’s too much resistance from [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and the VP [Dick Cheney]. Those are the instructions.” Powell is furious at the instructions. “What is it they’re afraid of?” he demands. “Who the hell are they afraid of?” Leverett responds, “I don’t know sir.” Powell will later recall, “I had major problems with the White House on what I wanted to say.” [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
Douglas Feith (right) and Ariel Sharon (left), time unknown. [Source: Canal+]Karen Kwiatkowski escorts about half a dozen Israelis, including some generals, from the first floor reception area of the Pentagon to Douglas Feith’s office. “We just followed them, because they knew exactly where they were going and moving fast,” she later explains. The Israelis are not required to sign in as is required under special regulations put into effect after the 9/11 attacks. Kwiatkowski speculates that Feith’s office may have waived this requirement for the Israelis so that there would be no record of the meeting. [Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003]
A Fox News report on the Oak Harbor truck incident. [Source: Fox News]A moving truck is pulled over for speeding in the middle of the night in Oak Harbor, Washington, near the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The base is the home of the advanced electronic warfare Prowler jets. A bomb-sniffing dog detects explosives on one of the men and inside the truck. High-tech equipment is then used to confirm the presence of TNT on the gearshift and RDX plastic explosive on the steering wheel. Both men turn out to be Israeli (one with an altered passport) and in the country illegally. [Fox News, 5/13/2002] However, the FBI later clears the two men, saying both the dog and the tests just detected false positives from “residue left by a cigarette lighter.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/14/2002; Jerusalem Post, 5/14/2002] The “art student spy ring” frequently uses moving vans as cover, and has been caught spying on the most top secret military bases. [Salon, 5/7/2002] In a possibly related story, the Seattle FBI office that handled this case will be broken into a few weeks later, and even a room containing evidence will be penetrated. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/29/2002]
Salon reports on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” All the “students” claim to have come from either Bezalel Academy or the University of Jerusalem. An examination of the Bezalel database shows that not a single “art student” appears to have attended school there. There is no such thing as the University of Jerusalem. In fact, the article points out that the sheer sloppiness and brazenness of the spy operation appears to be a great mystery, especially since the Mossad is renowned as one of the best spy agencies in the world. One government source suggests a theory to Salon that the “art students” were actually a smoke screen. They were meant to be caught and connected to DEA surveillance so that a smaller number of spies also posing as art students could complete other missions. One such mission could have been the monitoring of al-Qaeda operatives. [Salon, 5/7/2002] Shortly afterwards, a major Israeli newspaper publishes a story about the spy ring, but does not come to any conclusions. [Ha'aretz, 5/14/2002]
The King of Jordan, Abdullah II, visits Washington to discuss the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Abdullah’s visit comes on the heels of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s earlier visit, where he threatened to break off discussions with the US if President Bush refused to deal seriously with the matter (see Spring 2002). Though the Saudi leader seemingly shook up Bush with his unusually direct insistence on American action, Bush appears surprised that the Jordanian king is also concerned with the issue. Bush listens politely to Abdullah’s appeal, and says that the king’s idea of a “road map to peace” sounds reasonable. National Security Council official Flynt Leverett, the head of the NSC’s Mideast affairs division, promises Abdullah that such a “road map” will be drawn up by the end of 2002. No such proposal is ever completed; neoconservatives in the Defense Department (Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith), the Vice President’s Office (John Hannah and Lewis “Scooter” Libby), and the NSC (Elliott Abrams) continue to oppose the idea, calling it nothing but a reward to the Palestinians for “bad behavior” (see December 2001-January 2002). Only if Palestine rejects terrorism and implements democracy will the US enter into negotiations, they insist, regardless of what promises Bush has made. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
Entity Tags: Office of the Vice President, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein, Douglas Feith, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense, Flynt Leverett, National Security Council, John Hannah
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
In a speech to the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who recently served as the president’s special envoy to the Middle East, argues that there are more pressing issues than Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Specifically, he points to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instability in Afghanistan, the continuing existence of the al-Qaeda network, and the theocracy in Iran. He adds that the proposed war with Iraq would be expensive and would put considerable strain on the military’s resources, which already are “stretched too tight all over the world.” Furthermore, notes the general, invading Iraq would further antagonize America’s allies in the Middle East. “We need to quit making enemies that we don’t need to make enemies out of,” he says. He also notes, “It’s pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way.” [Tampa Tribune, 8/24/2002]
German authorities seize a boat in the port of Hamburg containing a shipment of rubber parts—allegedly bound for Iran—that could be used to make tracks for tanks and US-made M-113 armored personnel carriers. The seized boat, the Zim Anvers, is owned by the Zim-American Israeli Shipping Company. An Israeli company, PAD, headed by Avihai Weinstein, 34, had been issued a German export license for the shipment. The license specifies Thailand as its final destination, but according to German customs, the shipment is really destined for Iran. According to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, it was to be transferred in Hamburg to an Iranian cargo ship headed to the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Weinstein claims he had no knowledge of the shipment’s actual destination. Raphael Eitan, an adviser on terrorism for several Israeli governments between 1978 and 1985, tells public radio the next day that it would have been impossible for Weinstein “not to know what the final destination of the shipment was. In this type of affair, there is no innocent contract. He knew the shipment was headed to Iran,” he says. Tehran denies any involvement with the boat. [Agence France-Presse, 3/29/2002]
Gideon Ezra, Israel’s deputy interior minister, says, “The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians. The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here.” He says that a US invasion of Iraq would “undoubtedly deal a psychological blow” to the Palestinians. [Christian Science Monitor, 8/30/2002]
Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, suggests that the imposition of a pro-American regime in Baghdad would ease Israel’s discomfort with Syria, which it views as a threat. Steinitz says, “After Iraq is taken by US troops and we see a new regime installed as in Afghanistan, and Iraqi bases become American bases, it will be very easy to pressure Syria to stop supporting terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, to allow the Lebanese army to dismantle Hezbollah, and maybe to put an end to the Syrian occupation in Lebanon. If this happens we will really see a new Middle East.” [Christian Science Monitor, 8/30/2002]
An article in the Boston Globe suggests that neoconservatives in the Bush administration see war in Iraq as “merely a first step” in transforming the entire Middle East. Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Hannah, I. Lewis Libby, and John Bolton are said to be some of the top officials pushing this view. “Iraq, [they] argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After an ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil.” Vice President Dick Cheney also mentioned this motive in a speech in August, saying, “When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace” (see August 26, 2002). The article also says: “A powerful corollary of the strategy is that a pro-US Iraq would make the region safer for Israel and, indeed, its staunchest proponents are ardent supporters of the Israeli right-wing. Administration officials, meanwhile, have increasingly argued that the onset of an Iraq allied to the US would give the administration more sway in bringing about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Cheney and others have offered few details on precisely how.” One US official says, “Maybe we do stir the pot and see what comes up.” Former CIA analyst and Iraq expert Judith Yaphe is critical, saying: “There are some people who religiously believe that Iraq is the beginning of this great new adventure of remapping the Middle East and all these countries. I think that’s a simplistic view.” Jessica T. Mathews, president of Carnegie Endownment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, is also critical. “The argument we would be starting a democratic wave in Iraq is pure blowing smoke,” Mathews says. “You have 22 Arab governments and not one has made any progress toward democracy, not one. It’s one of the great issues before us, but the very last place you’d suspect to turn the tide is Iraq. You don’t go from an authoritarian dictatorship to a democracy overnight, not even quickly.” But one anonymous senior US official says: “There are people invested in this philosophy all throughout the administration. Some of the strongest voices are in [the State Department].” [Boston Globe, 9/10/2002]
In remarks made at a foreign policy conference at the University of Virginia, Philip Zelikow says that Iraq is more of a threat to Israel than to the US and that protecting Israel would be a major motive for a US-Iraq war. Zelikow’s speech goes unreported at the time but will come to light in a 2004 article. Zelikow says: “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990—it’s the threat against Israel.… And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.” Zelikow is at the time a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and will later serve as the executive director to the 9/11 Commission. [Asia Times Online, 3/31/2004] John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt will later use Zelikow’s statement in their controversial paper “The Israel Lobby” as evidence that the Iraq War was launched in part to advance Israel’s security. [London Review of Books, 3/23/2006; London Review of Books, 4/25/2006; London Review of Books, 4/25/2006]
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri reads the full text of a statement by Saddam Hussein before the UN secretariat-general. The statement condemns the Bush administration’s attempts to provoke a war with Iraq and accuses the administration of working hand in hand with the hardline Zionists in the Israeli government [Arabic News, 9/21/2002] “I hereby declare before you that Iraq is totally clear of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons,” the letter says. “Our country is ready to receive any scientific experts, accompanied by politicians you choose to represent any one of your countries, to tell us which places and scientific and industrial installations they would wish to see.” [New York Times, 9/20/2002] Hussein also states that in pursuing its aggressive policy towards Iraq, the US is “acting on behalf of Zionism which has been killing the heroic people of Palestine, destroying their property, murdering their children,” adding that Washington intends to “control Middle East oil.” The passage draws the applause of several UN diplomats. [Independent, 9/20/2002]
Map showing ranges of suspected Iraqi Scud missiles. [Source: CIA]Jane’s Foreign Report reveals that Israeli forces have been operating within Iraq. Citing Israeli sources, it reports that the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit was dispatched into Iraqi sovereign territory “to find and identify places used by, or likely to be used by, Iraqi Scud missile launchers.” The newsletter explains, “Our information is that neither Israel nor the United States have a clue about what, if anything, Saddam Hussein is hiding,” and that “It was this ignorance that persuaded the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to assign the Sayeret Matkal to a job that is sensitive and dangerous.” [Ha'aretz, 9/29/2002; Jerusalem Post, 9/29/2002; USA Today, 11/3/2002]
In an interview with the London Times, Ariel Sharon says that Iran must be toppled after the US invades Iraq. Sharon calls Iraq “a very, very dangerous country led by an insane regime” and describes Iran as the “center of world terror” and a direct threat to Israel (see also February 9, 2002). [London Times, 11/2/2002]
Michael Ledeen joins with Morris Amitay, vice-president of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; ex-CIA head James Woolsey; former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney; former senator Paul Simon; and oil consultant Rob Sobhani to set up a group called the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI). [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/1/2003] CDI says it “fully agrees with President Bush’s inclusion of Iran in the ‘axis of evil’ and supports congressional initiatives to bring about needed change in Iran.” [Coalition for Democracy, 1/16/2004] The group has strong ties to Reza Pahlavi, the son of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the US-backed leader of Iran who was removed from power by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. [International Herald Tribune, 6/6/2003]
After several CIA reports downplay intelligence provided to Washington by Israeli intelligence officials, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives working in the Pentagon begin meeting personally with Israeli officials to hear their intelligence. The CIA’s reports had found that conclusions made by Israeli intelligence were often skewed by its biases against the Arab world. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
National Security Council official Flynt Leverett, the head of Mideast affairs and the prime proponent of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in that organization (see December 2001-January 2002 and April 2002), confronts his boss, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, over the Bush administration’s continued lack of progress on such negotiations, and over its repeated broken promises to Arab heads of state (see Spring 2002 and Summer 2002). Leverett has fielded a furious phone call from Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Marwan Muasher, who has just been told by Rice that all negotiations over the so-called “road map to peace” are at an end. “Do you have any idea how this has pulled the rug out from under us, from under me?” Muasher demanded. “I’m the one that has to go into Arab League meetings and get beat up and say, ‘No, there’s going to be a plan out by the end of the year.’ How can we ever trust you again?” Leverett demands an explanation from Rice. She tells him that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called for early elections, and he asked President Bush to put all negotiations on hold until after the elections. Leverett, unable to swallow his indignation any longer, retorts: “You told the whole world you were going to put this out before Christmas. Because one Israeli politician told you it’s going to make things politically difficult for him, you don’t put it out? Do you realize how hard that makes things for all our Arab partners?” Rice remains impassive. “If we put the road map out,” she says, “it will interfere with Israeli elections.” Leverett replies, “You are interfering with Israeli elections, just in another way.” Rice concludes the discussion, “Flynt, the decision has already been made.” Leverett, disgusted with the lack of sincerity towards the negotiations and with the impending Iraq invasion, will quit the NSC in March 2003. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
The UN General Assembly approves the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Torture after 10 years of negotiations. The protocol is adopted with 127 votes in favor, 4 against, and 42 abstentions. The four states that oppose the treaty are the US, Nigeria, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. [Truthout (.org), 6/9/2004] One of the states voting in favor, Israel, later notifies the UN that its vote was cast by mistake because of a “human technical error.” [Ha'aretz, 6/3/2004] The purpose of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Torture is to strengthen the means of enforcing the Convention’s provisions. Under the new protocol, a system of regular visits to prison facilities will be established. A 10-member subcommittee, funded by the UN, will serve as the executive arm of the existing committee on torture. [Ha'aretz, 6/3/2004]
The United States exports arms to 25 countries this year. Of these, 18 are involved in ongoing conflicts, including Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Israel. Sales to these countries total almost $1 billion, with most it—$845.6 million—going to Israel. More than half of the top 25 recipients are currently designated “undemocratic” by the US State Department’s Human Rights Report. Those countries—including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan—account for more than $2.7 billion in US sales. When countries with a poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are also added to the list, 20 of the top 25 US arms recipients, or 80 percent, are either undemocratic regimes or governments with a poor human rights record. [Berrigan and Hartung, 6/2005; Boston Globe, 11/13/2006]
Entity Tags: Angola, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Philippines, Ethiopia, United States, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Colombia
Timeline Tags: US Military, US International Relations
Ephraim Halevy, head of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002, is interviewed by 60 Minutes. He denies allegations that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks, saying, “Needless to say, this is not just a big lie. I think this is really also a travesty of any vestige of truth.” He also suggests that some Arab governments may have been subtly promoting this allegation to hurt Israel. But at the same time, he hints that the Mossad has had great secret successes. He claims, “Not one big success of the Mossad has ever been made public.” Equally cryptically, when asked what moment he is most proud of, he replies, “This is something I can’t talk about unfortunately. I am sorry about that.” [CBS News, 2/5/2003]
The governments of Israel and the United States are in almost-perfect accord on most issues, according to a Washington Post analysis. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has talked repeatedly of the “special closeness” he has to the Bush administration, and of the “deep understanding” that President Bush and his officials have for Israel’s security and foreign policy needs. He has thanked Bush for providing what he calls “the required leeway in our ongoing war on terrorism” and lauded the Bush administration’s efforts to promote a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Thomas Neumann, who heads the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), agrees. “This is the best administration for Israel since Harry Truman,” says Neumann, equating Bush with the first American president to recognize the independent state of Israel. A senior official in the first Bush administration says that Sharon used the 9/11 attacks to cement the bond between his government and the Bush administration. One senior administration official says: “Sharon played the president like a violin: ‘I’m fighting your war, terrorism is terrorism,’ and so on. Sharon did a masterful job.”
Accord with Likud - But the US is not just in accord with Israel; it is in accord with Likud, the hardline conservative political party currently in charge of the Israeli government. The Post writes: “For the first time, a US administration and a Likud government in Israel are pursuing nearly identical policies. Earlier US administrations, from Jimmy Carter’s through Bill Clinton’s, held Likud and Sharon at arm’s length, distancing the United States from Likud’s traditionally tough approach to the Palestinians. But today, as Neumann noted, Israel and the United States share a common view on terrorism, peace with the Palestinians, war with Iraq and more. Neumann and others said this change was made possible by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath.” Bush supporters, particularly evangelical Christians, are “delight[ed]” with the administration’s overt support of Likud policies.
Abandoning Peace Talks between Israel and Palestinians - The downside, the Post notes, is that diplomacy with Israel’s Arab neighbors has come to a virtual standstill, and the Middle East “peace process” praised by Sharon is considered by many past and current US officials as a failure. Clinton administration National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says: “Every president since at least Nixon has seen the Arab-Israeli conflict as the central strategic issue in the Middle East. But this administration sees Iraq as the central challenge, and… has disengaged from any serious effort to confront the Arab-Israeli problem.” Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, the administration’s special envoy to the region, calls the peace process “quiescent,” and adds, “I’ve kind of gone dormant.”
'Likudniks Really in Charge Now' - Bush has appointed neoconservative Elliott Abrams, a vociferous critic of any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the head of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council, signaling his administration’s near-total alignment with Israel in the process. Abrams’s hardline views are supported by, among others, Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, Abrams’s mentor, who in 1996 recommended to Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he abandon the Oslo peace accords and refuse to accede to Palestinian demands of “land for peace” (see September 13, 1993). A senior administration official says wryly, “The Likudniks are really in charge now,” using a Yiddish term for supporters of Sharon’s political party. “It’s a strong lineup,” says Neumann. Fellow neoconservative Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute says of Abrams: “Elliott’s appointment is a signal that the hard-liners in the administration are playing a more central role in shaping policy.… [T]he hard-liners are a very unique group. The hawks in the administration are in fact people who are the biggest advocates of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.” The Post explains that in Abrams’s and Wurmser’s view, promoting democracy in the Middle East is the best way to assure Israel’s security. Like other neoconservatives, they see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a “democratic Palestine” as necessary for peace in the region. Others who disagree with the neoconservatives call them a “cabal.” The Post writes, “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2003]
Entity Tags: Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, Anthony Zinni, Thomas Neumann, Sandy Berger, Likud, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Meyrav Wurmser, National Security Council
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tells a visiting delegation of American congressmen, joined by US Undersecretary of State John Bolton, that Iran, Libya and Syria should be stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq. “These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve,” Sharon says. He says Israel considers Iran a security threat, and that the US should have plans for dealing with Iran. Sharon also says that Israel is not involved in the war with Iraq “but the American action is of vital importance.” [Ha'aretz, 2/18/2003]
Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), travels to Israel, staying there for only 24 hours. Israeli officials will confirm the visit in 2006. This is seven weeks before two British citizens, Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif, attack a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, with suicide bombs, killing three (see April 30, 2003). It is strongly suspected that Khan comes to Israel to help facilitate the bombing in some way, especially since Khan was seen in the company of Sharif and Hanif as far back as 2001 and was Sharif’s friend (see Summer 2001). However, Khan’s precise role, if any, in the cafe bombing is unknown, and apparently his connection to the two bombers will not be discovered by authorities until after the 7/7 bombings. [BBC, 7/9/2006]
Bombing damage at Mike’s Place. [Source: Associated Press]On April 30, two British citizens, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, attempt to bomb Mike’s Place, a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, located very close to the US embassy.
Hanif’s bomb goes off, but a security guard prevented him from entering the cafe, so just three people are killed and 65 are injured. Only Sharif’s detonator goes off, so he flees the scene, being chased by several people. He manages to run away, but his dead body is found in the ocean nearby two weeks later. A British inquest will later suggest he drowned, although why he did remains unknown. The two men are Britain’s second known Islamist suicide bombers (see December 25, 2000). They had lived in Britain most of their lives and only arrived in Israel a couple of weeks earlier, after a short stay in Syria. Hamas takes credit for the bombing and later shows a video of their last testaments in which Hanif states: “It is an honor to kill all these people. It is an honor.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/6/2006] The two are believed to have been members of the radical British militant group Al-Muhajiroun. The group’s leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, says Sharif had recently attended a course at his school, studying Islamic law. A reporter claims to have interviewed Hanif by chance at Al-Muhajiroun’s London office a month before the bombing. They also attended the Finsbury Park mosque, where radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches. [Observer, 5/4/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005; BBC, 7/9/2006] The pair apparently were featured in a recruitment video for Abu Hamza in March 2000. In 2002, a pair of activists working against Abu Hamza, Neil Doyle and Glen Jenvey, tricked Abu Hamza into sending them some recruitment videos, and one showed two masked men holding assault rifles claiming to be fighting in Bosnia. Only in 2004, after Hamas released the video of Sharif and Hanif’s last testaments, did it become clear they were the masked men in the 2000 video as well. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 9/19/2004] Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), traveled to Israel seven weeks before the bombing, and it is suspected he assisted the bombing in some way, because he had known the two men since at least 2001 (see Summer 2001 and February 19-20, 2003).
Humayun Khan (no relation to nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan) of Pakistan e-mails Israeli electronics expert Asher Karni, who is living in South Africa, with a request to purchase 200 dual purpose US-manufactured triggered spark gaps. Such devices are typically used in high-tech medical machines to break up kidney stones, but they can also be used to detonate a nuclear weapon. Khan asks Karni not to reveal that the end destination is Pakistan. Karni responds a few days later, informing Khan that he cannot fulfill the order because the US government would require an expert license for the deal. “I know it is difficult, but that’s how we came to know each other,” Khan replies. “Please help to negotiate this from any other source.” Nine hours later, Karni responds in another email: “Will do.” Karni places the order, indicating that the destination is Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. According to US special agent John McKenna, the emails are intercepted by an informant in South Africa who promptly forwards them to the US Commerce Department. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; PBS, 7/27/2005]
Three key intelligence advisers are forced to resign, or fired, by neoconservative Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council (NSC)‘s presidential adviser on the Middle East (see December 2002 and December 2002). Flynt Leverett was the senior director for Middle East affairs on the NSC; Hillary Mann was a foreign service officer on detail to the NSC as its director for Iran and Persian Gulf affairs; and Ben Miller was a CIA staffer and an NSC expert on Iran. All three are forced out because they disagree with Abrams’s views towards Israel. Miller also questioned Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi’s fitness to become the new leader of Iraq. Leverett will later say: “There was a decision made… basically to renege on the commitments we had made to various European and Arab partners of the United States [in favor of Israel]. I personally disagreed with that decision.” According to Yossef Bodansky, the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terror and Unconventional Warfare, Abrams “led Miller to an open window and told him to jump.” Bodansky will also confirm that Mann and Leverett are ordered to leave the NSC by Abrams. [Unger, 2007, pp. 291]
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon makes a formal state visit to India, to recognize and expand the strong military and security ties that are developing between the two states. Concern in respect to Israeli military tactics including targeted assassinations and the use of overwhelming force against civilians are voiced in some quarters. Concern is also voiced about damage to India’s standing in the Arab world. [FrontPage Magazine, 9/13/2003] There are reports that an agreement to conduct joint military excercises involving Indian and Israeli elite special forces has been reached, although neither government confirms this. [Jewish Telegraph Agency, 9/26/2003]
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern says: “The war on Iraq was just as much prompted by the strategic objectives of the state of Israel as it was the strategic objectives of the United States of America. Indeed, the people running this war are people who have worked for the government of Israel in the past, people who have prepared position papers for former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others. These are people who are well attuned to Israel’s objectives. The authors of the Project for the New American Century [PNAC—see September 2000] have set out for the United States to become the dominant power in the world. And, Israel, for its own part, is hell bent on remaining the dominant power in the Middle East.” [Sojourners, 11/2003]
Several Middle Eastern countries respond positively to Libya’s pledge to end its weapons of mass destruction programs, including Iran. “Iran welcomes any step taken by any country to dismantle weapons of mass destruction,” says Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. “But it is the time for the world to push for Israel’s disarmament, as the main threat to the region,” he adds. Israel reportedly has more than 200 nuclear weapons. [Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 5/1998; BBC, 7/5/2000; BBC, 8/23/2000; BBC, 10/21/2003]
US intelligence and military sources tell the Guardian that urban warfare experts from the Israeli Defense Forces have been sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina to help train US special forces in counterinsurgency. It is also claimed that Israel has sent military “consultants” to Iraq. US operations in Iraq, such as sealing off rebel strongholds with razor wire and demolishing buildings from where attacks have been launched on US forces, are seen as similar to tactics used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. Sources also allege that Israel has aided US military forces in Iraq in the creation of “an assassination program” targeting suspected insurgent leaders behind the Syrian border. [Guardian, 12/9/2003]
David Kay tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Iraq Survey Group has failed to find any evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong,” he says in his opening remarks, before revealing that the inspection teams found no weapons of mass destruction. “I believe that the effort that has been directed to this point has been sufficiently intense that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there,” he says. [CNN, 1/28/2003; Guardian, 1/29/2003; US Congress, 1/28/2004 ]
Hussein Deceived Own Generals - Kay says that apparently even Iraq’s own military commanders believed, falsely, that their military possessed chemical or biological weapons that were ready to be deployed. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asks Kay: “I believe at one point you noted that even [Saddam Hussein’s] own military officers believed that they had [WMD]. In other words, they would think—” Kay interjects, ”—that someone else had them.” Sessions asks for an explanation, and Kay says: “Well, in interviewing the Republican Guard generals and Special Republican Guard generals and asking about their capabilities and having them, the assurance was they didn’t personally have them and hadn’t seen them, but the units on their right or left had them. And as you worked the way around the circle of those defending Baghdad, which is the immediate area of concern, you have got this very strange phenomena of, ‘No, I didn’t have them, I haven’t seen them, but look to my right and left.’ That was an intentional ambiguity.” [CNN, 1/28/2003; Guardian, 1/29/2003; US Congress, 1/28/2004 ; Wilson, 2007, pp. 154-155]
Trying to Have It Both Ways - In 2007, current CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see April 2001 and After) will write, “In retrospect, it appears that Saddam Hussein wanted it both ways: to convince certain audiences that Iraq had WMD, while simultaneously working to convince others that it had abandoned all its illegal programs.” In May 2006, Foreign Affairs magazine will note that Iraq’s former Defense Minister, Ali Hassan Majeed (also known as “Chemical Ali”), knew Iraq possessed no WMDs before the US invasion, but also knew that many of his colleagues “never stopped believing that the weapons still existed. Even at the highest echelon of the regime, when it came to WMD there was always some element of doubt about the truth.” The Foreign Affairs article notes that during a meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council some time before the invasion, Hussein was asked if Iraq indeed possessed such weapons. He said Iraq did not, but refused to countenance any attempt to persuade others outside of the council of the truth. The reason for this deception, Hussein said, was that if Israel believed Iraq had such weapons, it would be less likely to attack Iraq. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 154-155] Kay has just resigned as the head of the Iraq Survey Group (see January 23, 2004).
The truck stopped in Kings Bay, Georgia. [Source: Kings Bay Periscope]On May 9, two Israelis are arrested after a high-speed chase in Tennessee. They are found with false documents. [WCYB 5 (Bristol, Va), 5/9/2004] On May 27, two others are arrested after trying to enter an Atlanta military base. Explosives are possibly discovered in their van. [Kings Bay Periscope, 5/27/2004]
Following an attack on an oil company’s office in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, in which six Westerners were killed (see May 1, 2004), Saudi officials say Israel played a role in the attacks. Crown Prince Abdullah, who will become king in 2005 (see August 1, 2005), says he is 95 percent sure “that Zionism is behind everything.” Foreign Minister Prince Saud says it is “well known” that Saudi dissidents based in London “have contacts and are financed by parties that are linked to Israel.” Although such allegations have been made before, this is the first time a figure as senior as Crown Prince Abdullah has repeated them. The suspected mastermind behind the attacks, Mustafa al-Ansari, was a member of the London-based Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR) in the mid-1990s. However, prominent Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Massari, who founded the CDLR, dismisses the accusations of Israeli support. Newsweek notes that, “No evidence of such links has ever been made public,” and another prominent dissident, Saad al-Fagih, comments, “This is like saying George Bush is sponsoring bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 5/4/2004; Newsweek, 5/4/2004]
Rabinder Singh, a senior officer in India’s Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW) defects to the US while under investigation for illegally passing classified documents to the CIA. It is suspected that high level colleagues in the RAW and CIA helped him to escape. [Times of India, 6/9/2004] The Indian government believes that the defection is only the tip of the iceberg of infiltration of its intelligence agencies by the CIA and the Mossad. [Jane's International Security News, 7/1/2004]
Brig. Gen. Muhammad Baqer Zolqadr, Iran’s deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, says in a statement that Iran would launch an immediate retaliation if Israel were to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities “If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons,” he says. [United Press International, 8/22/2004]
In a report to Congress, the Pentagon discloses its intention to sell 5,000 smart bombs to Israel. Included in the $319 million deal—to be financed by US aid money—are 500 one-ton bunker busters capable of penetrating two-meter-thick cement walls, 2,500 regular one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs, and 500 quarter-ton bombs. According to the Pentagon, Israel needs these weapons to maintain its qualitative advantage and to promote US strategic and tactical interests. The sale is likely to go through despite Israel having used a one-ton bomb to assassinate a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehadeh. Fifteen Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed in the internationally condemned attack. [Ha'aretz, 9/21/2004] It is widely speculated that the weapons would be used by Israel in the event that it strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities; Israel and the US have alleged Iran is involved in the development of nuclear weapons. [International Herald Tribune, 9/22/2004; Ha'aretz, 9/26/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/30/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 9/24/2005]
The Los Angeles Times reports that US officials claim, “Despite its fervent denials, Israel secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation in the United States that has long attempted to recruit US officials as spies and to procure classified documents….” In turn, US agents have long monitored Israeli diplomats and agents in the US. An intelligence official who had recently left government says, “There is a huge, aggressive, ongoing set of Israeli activities directed against the United States.… Anybody who worked in counterintelligence in a professional capacity will tell you the Israelis are among the most aggressive and active countries targeting the United States.… The denials are laughable.” The Times adds, “Current and former officials involved with Israel at the White House, CIA, State Department, and in Congress had similar appraisals, although not all were as harsh in their assessments.” Officials note that Israel is considered a very close ally and is frequently given highly classified information. But it is also noted that US and Israeli intelligence agencies do not completely trust each other. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]
Omer Marmari. [Source: Public domain via Israeli TV]Four of the five Israelis arrested on 9/11 (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001), Paul and Sivan Kurzberg, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel, file a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the US Justice Department. They claim they were arrested illegally, then held without charge and interrogated and tortured for months. Their lawyer claims the case will serve as a venue to debunk theories that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. [Ha'aretz, 9/16/2004; Jerusalem Post, 9/16/2004] Forward, a publication geared towards the Jewish population in the US, reported in 2002 that the FBI concluded at least two of the five were Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. [Forward, 3/15/2002] As of early 2011, there have been no further media reports about this lawsuit.
Israelis and US intelligence assets begin entering Iran, using third country passports, to create a network of front companies. The companies are intended to be used for funneling money, weapons, and additional operatives into the country. “It’s a covert infrastructure for material support,” a US administration official tells United Press International in January 2005. Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center who is also interviewed by UPI, says he is aware of these covert actions in Iran but doubts that they will be effective. He notes that the US did something similar in 1980 before the failed hostage rescue attempt. “People forget that the Iranians quickly rolled up that entire network after the rescue attempt failed,” he says. [United Press International, 1/26/2005]
Two months after leaving office, former Attorney General John Ashcroft opens a lobbying firm on Washington’s prestigious K Street, where he markets his contacts in the Justice and Homeland Security departments to, among others, ChoicePoint, a company that brokers credit data and other personal information on American citizens to government and private entities. The Ashcroft Group quickly earns over $269,000 from four clients, and, the Chicago Tribune will write, “appears to be developing a practice centered on firms that want to capitalize on a government demand for homeland security technology that boomed under sometimes controversial policies he promoted while in office.” Another Ashcroft client is the Oracle Corporation, one of the world’s largest software developers, who, according to the Tribune, will use Ashcroft’s clout with the Justice Department to win approval of a multibillion-dollar acquisition. A third client, LTU Technologies, makes software that analyzes large collections of video and other visual images. Ashcroft’s firm will soon sign a contract with Israel Aircraft Industries to help secure Bush administration approval for the firm to sell weapons to South Korea. The Tribune will write, “While Ashcroft’s lobbying is within government rules for former officials, it is nonetheless a departure from the practice of attorneys general for at least the last 30 years.” Ashcroft is the first former attorney general to open his own lobbying firm. Charles Tiefer, a former deputy general counsel to the House of Representatives, will note, “The attorney general is very much supposed to embody the pure rule of law like the Department of Justice’s statue of ‘Blind Justice’ and he’s not expected afterwards to cloak with the mantle of his former office a bunch of greedy interests.” Author and media critic Frank Rich will later write: “Thus did the government official who recklessly expanded the market for domestic surveillance while in office find a nominally legal way to make a profit on his nominally legal policies as soon as he was out the door. It was the perfect Enron-esque coda to his wartime career.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 208; Inter Press Service, 2/14/2006]
Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Chicago Tribune, Charles Tiefer, Bush administration (43), ChoicePoint, Israel Aircraft Industries, Oracle Corporation, The Ashcroft Group, LTU Technologies, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of Justice, Frank Rich
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
During a private meeting of Ariel Sharon’s inner cabinet at the prime minister’s private ranch in the Negev desert, Sharon gives “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. [Sunday Times (London), 3/13/2005]
The Sunday Times reports that Israel has drawn up plans for a combined air and ground attack on Iranian nuclear installations if Tehran does not give up its nuclear program. The plans have been discussed with US officials who, according to the Times, “are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.” In preparation for the possible military strike, Israel has conducted military exercises using a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant. “Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and air strikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities,” the Sunday Times says. [Sunday Times (London), 3/13/2005] Ariel Sharon gave “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities a month earlier (see February 2005).
The Ukrainian government admits illegal arms dealers sold 12 Kh55 (X-55) cruise missiles to Iran and six to China in 2001 (see 2001). The missiles, with a range of 1550 miles, would give Iran the capability to strike Israel. The missiles, designed to carry nuclear warheads, were manufactured in 1987 with a reported service life of eight years. Former Russian Air Force commander Viktor Strelnikov and specialists who examined the missiles said that they were marked with the inscription “training.” Iran does not operate long-range bombers and experts say Iran would probably have to adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. [BBC, 3/18/2005; Daily Star (Beirut), 3/18/2005; Financial Times, 3/18/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/28/2005]
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismisses Israeli concerns that Russian sales of nuclear components to Iran represent a threat to Israel’s security. According to the terms of Russia’s agreement with Iran, Putin explains, Iran must return all of its spent nuclear fuel to Russia so it cannot be used for military purposes. [Associated Press, 4/28/2005]
South of Tehran, over 200 men and women attend a ceremony to volunteer themselves as suicide bombers against Israelis and against American forces in Iraq. It marks the third such ceremony organized by the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement in the past year. The group is calling for martyrdom attacks against Israel, the assassination of British author Salman Rushdie, and “attacks against occupiers of holy places” in Iraq. The Iranian government has distanced itself from the organization. [Israeli Insider, 5/12/2005]
The FBI and Justice Department quietly open an investigation into whether Representative Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, improperly colluded with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to win reappointment as the committee’s ranking member. The investigation is not revealed to the public until October 2006 (see October 20, 2006). The investigation centers on allegations that Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Harman’s behalf. The case is an outgrowth of a probe that has already led to the felony conviction of former DIA official Larry Franklin, who pled guilty to giving classified information to two AIPAC lobbyists (see October 5, 2005), and the lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who still face charges of passing that information on to Israel (see April 13, 1999-2004). The investigation has now expanded to determine if Harman’s campaign to persuade Pelosi to reappoint her to the committee may have involved AIPAC, and whether Harman promised to return the favor by using her influence to persuade the Justice Department to ease up on the AIPAC lobbyists. Reporter Timothy Burger will write: “If that happened, it might be construed as an illegal quid pro quo, depending on the context of the situation. But the sources caution that there has been no decision to charge anyone and that it is unclear whether Harman and AIPAC acted on the idea.” Both Harman and Pelosi are outspoken supporters of Israel, and have praised AIPAC for its efforts to further cement ties between Israel and the US. However, Congressional sources will say that Pelosi is furious at attempts by major donors to lobby on behalf of Harman. The LA Weekly reported in May that Harman “had some major contributors call Pelosi to impress upon her the importance of keeping Jane in place. According to these members, this tactic, too, hasn’t endeared Harman to Pelosi.” Another powerful figure has lobbied for Harman: entertainment industry billionaire Haim Saban, who made his fortune through the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers children’s entertainment franchise. It is unclear whether Saban had any contact with AIPAC, and if his efforts to lobby on Harman’s behalf were part of a larger, more orchestrated plan. [Time, 10/20/2006] When the story becomes public in October 2006, Harman will deny any improper or illegal conduct (see October 20, 2006). The investigation will eventually be dropped, supposedly for “lack of evidence.” In April 2009, evidence will surface that the NSA wiretapped Harman discussing a quid pro quo with a suspected Israeli agent, and that the investigation was not dropped because of lack of evidence, but because of the intervention of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (see October 2005, Late 2005, and April 19, 2009). [Congressional Quarterly, 4/19/2009]
Entity Tags: Nancy Pelosi, Haim Saban, Federal Bureau of Investigation, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Alberto R. Gonzales, House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, Steve Rosen, Timothy Burger, US Department of Justice, Keith Weissman, National Security Agency, Larry Franklin
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Former director of Israeli intelligence Uzi Arad says that many Israelis were keenly disappointed in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq and not Iran. Arad says: “If you look at President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ (see January 29, 2002), all of us said North Korea and Iran are more urgent. Iraq was already semi-controlled because there were [UN-imposed economic] sanctions. It was outlawed. Sometimes the answer [from the Bush neoconservatives] was ‘Let’s do first things first. Once we do Iraq, we’ll have a military presence in Iraq, which would enable us to handle the Iranians from closer quarters, would give us more leverage.’” Arad’s words are almost verbatim echoes from three years before (see Late January 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 307-308]
Iran announces it has successfully tested a new solid-fuel missile motor for use in its Shahab-3 missiles. A Shahab-3 missile using solid-fuel has a range of 2,000 km (1,280 miles) compared to the standard Shahab 3 with a range of only 1,500 km (930 miles), putting US regional military bases and Israel within reach. The Shahab-3 can be configured as a two-stage missile equipped with a warhead. Solid fuel engines make ballistic missiles more accurate and improve deployment time. [Federation of American Scientists, 4/6/2005; New York Times, 6/1/2005; Ha'aretz, 6/1/2005]
Several hours after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), the Associated Press reports: “British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday’s explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said.… [Israeli Finance Minister and former Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to attend an economic conference in a hotel over the subway stop where one of the blasts occurred, and the warning prompted him to stay in his hotel room instead, government officials said.… Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy to say they had received warnings of possible attacks, the official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the economic conference.” [Associated Press, 7/7/2005] Israeli Army radio also reports that “Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred,” and “The Israeli Embassy in London was notified in advance, resulting in Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remaining in his hotel room rather than make his way to the hotel adjacent to the site of the first explosion.” [IsraelNationalNews, 7/7/2005]
Israel Denies Reports - Several hours after that, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom officially denies reports that Scotland Yard passed any advanced warning to Israel about the bombings, and British authorities deny they had any advanced warning at all. The Associated Press withdraws its earlier report and replaces it with one containing denials from Shalom and others about any warning. It states that Netanyahu was warned to stay in his hotel room, but the warning came shortly after the first bombing. [Stratfor, 7/7/2005; Associated Press, 7/7/2005]
Stratfor: Other Way Round - Later that same day, Stratfor, a respected private intelligence agency, notes the denials, but reports “Contrary to original claims that Israel was warned ‘minutes before’ the first attack, unconfirmed rumors in intelligence circles indicate that the Israeli government actually warned London of the attacks ‘a couple of days’ previous. Israel has apparently given other warnings about possible attacks that turned out to be aborted operations. The British government did not want to disrupt the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, or call off visits by foreign dignitaries to London, hoping this would be another false alarm. The British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond.” [Stratfor, 7/7/2005]
Denial from Netanyahu - The next day, Netanyahu will call the report of his advanced warning “entirely false.” He says: “When the first bomb went off, we were departing our hotel. While we were on our way out, the security people said there was an explosion near the area I was scheduled to speak. They asked us to go back and stay put in our hotel.” [WorldNetDaily, 7/8/2005]
Call from Sharon - An Israeli newspaper also reports that “Shortly after the first explosion in London yesterday morning, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to give a speech in the British capital, to inquire about his well-being and that of his entourage.” [Ha'aretz, 7/8/2005]
Warning Too Late - On July 11, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag will report that the Mossad office in London received advance notice about 7/7 bombings, but only about six minutes before the first bombing. As a result, it was impossible to take any action to prevent the bombings. One Mossad source says, “They reached us too late for us to do something about it.” [Israel Insider, 7/11/2005]
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