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At a conference of their ambassadors, the six Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom) decide to create an independent and neutral Albanian kingdom, with no ties to the Ottomans. Under a July 29 agreement, the Great Powers nominate the prince of Albania, run the government and budget of Albania for a renewable term of 10 years, and create an Albanian gendarmerie, under Swedish Army officers. The conference also decides Albania’s borders. In addition to demanding a commercial port on the Adriatic Sea, which the conference quickly accepts, Serbia wants its border to extend from Lake Ohri, along the Black Drin River to the White Drin River, which excludes Kosova and parts of Macedonia with an Albanian population. Montenegro wants its border to be on the Mat River, or at least the Drin River, giving it parts of northern Albania. Greece wants its border to begin at the city of Vlora and include Gjirokastra and Korca in southern Albania. The Albanian government in Vlora wants Albania to unite all Albanian populated areas, including Kosova, parts of Macedonia and Montenegro, and the Greek region of Cameria. Austria and Italy support the Albanian position, but lose to Russia, which supports Serbia. Instead of giving Shkodra to Montenegro, the conference leaves it in Albania, Montenegro keeps what it was given by the Berlin Congress in the summer of 1878, and Kosova is given to Serbia. Sir Edward Grey makes a five-part proposal to settle the border with Greece. A commission is empowered to go to the area and settle the border, and recommends that Korca and Sazan, an island near Vlora, be given to Albania. The occupation forces, especially the Greeks, hamper the commission. The Florence Protocol in December 1913 gives Cameria, which Greece calls Northern Epirus, to Greece. At the other end of Albania, a commission attempts to implement an agreement from March 22, and modified April 14. Serbia continues to occupy northern Albania, leading to an Albanian backlash there in September and October. Serbia says there is a need for its occupation forces in the region, but Austria-Hungary threatens military force if Serb forces do not leave within eight days. The commission leaves the issue there because of winter and then the start of World War I the next summer. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13-16]
Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Albania, Edward Grey, France, Germany, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Macedonia, Italy, Greece
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Italy and Austria-Hungary nominate German prince Wilhelm zu Wied to rule Albania. Soon after he arrives on March 7, 1914 and creates a government, revolts start in central Albania against minister Esad Pasha Toptani and interference by other countries. [Kola, 2003, pp. 16]
The outbreak of World War I leads to the formation of a new Albanian government backed by Serbia. After Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Serbia conquered Kosova and much of Albania from Austrian and German forces, as Albanian ruler Wilhelm zu Wied refused Austria-Hungary’s request that Albania join the war on the side of the Central Powers. Wied keeps Albania neutral, but leaves, without abdicating, in September when Austria-Hungary ends his remuneration. Therefore, the Serbs make former Albanian minister Esad Pasha Toptani the ruler of Albania. Following the revolt that spring, Esad lost his ministerial post for an alleged conspiracy and went to Italy and then the Serb capital at Nis. He makes a lone pact with Serb prime minister Nikola Pasic to create a pro-Serbia Albania. Their plan is to establish a customs union, joint military efforts, and joint diplomacy. Funds were given to Esad so influential Albanians could assemble to form an Albanian government, which would then give Serbia rights to create a rail link through Albania to the Adriatic. Allegedly Esad keeps the money for himself. [Kola, 2003, pp. 16-17]
A secret treaty is signed in London between the Entente—comprising Britain, France, and Russia—and Italy, giving Italy the port of Vlora, the nearby island of Sazan (Saseno), and whatever area Italy deems necessary to hold them. If Italy captures Trentin, Istria, Trieste, Dalmatia, and some islands in the Adriatic, France, Russia, and Britain’s plan to split Albania between Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia will go ahead. The border between Greece and Serbia would be west of Lake Ohri. Part of Albania would remain, but its foreign policy would be under Italy’s control. The four signatories are the same ambassadors who signed the treaty that created the Albanian state in 1913. The treaty will be made public by the Bolsheviks in 1917. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 89; Kola, 2003, pp. 17]
Italy decides to support Albania after all, since there is already an Albanian state under Austria-Hungary, France declares the southern city of Korca autonomous, and Greece demands that Korca be given to it. Giacinto Ferrero, commanding Italy’s forces in Albania, proclaims Italian support for an independent Albania in a document that will later become known as the Gjirokastra Proclamation. Just a few weeks later, Italian Foreign Minister Baron Sidney Sonnino will advocate this policy in the Italian parliament. On the contrary, Austria-Hungary wants to unite Kosova and Albania and give southern Albania to Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 17-18]
Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria are pushed out of Albania following an invasion by the Entente powers. Italy occupies most of Albania as well as Prizren, France takes Pristina, and the Serb army takes Kosova and moves north to liberate Serbia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 18]
Albania is divided up at the peace conference in Paris that follows the end of World War I. The area around Prizren is given to the new Yugoslavia (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes), southern Albanian areas are given to Greece, and Italy is made the defender of Albania’s territorial integrity. Albania is not represented at the Conference. [Kola, 2003, pp. 18]
Ahmet Muhtar Bey Zogolli proclaims himself Zog I, King of the Albanians, creating an Albanian monarchy. Yugoslavia sees Zog’s title as a claim on all areas populated by Albanians, though scholars believe Zog had given up on Kosova as far back as 1913. This marks Zog’s switch from the pro-Yugoslavia camp to the pro-Italy camp, in return for Italian economic aid. [Kola, 2003, pp. 20]
Vaso Cubrilovic, a historian at Belgrade University and member of Belgrade’s Serbian Cultural Club, and participant in the terrorist Black Hand group in 1914, writes a memorandum, “The Expulsion of the Arnauts” (an archaic word for Albanian in Turkish), building on the Nacertanje plan. He sees Yugoslavia’s Albanians as a strategic threat, dividing Slavic areas and controlling key river routes, “which, to a large degree, determines the fate of the central Balkans.” Cubrilovic’s proposal is justified because of the risk that “a world conflict or a social revolution” in the near future could cause Yugoslavia to lose its Albanian majority areas and because, despite earlier colonization programs, Montenegro is still overpopulated for its hardscrabble farmlands. He says that, given the current world situation, “the shifting of a few hundred thousand Albanians will not lead to the outbreak of a world war.” He foresees opposition from Italy and Albania, but says Italy is preoccupied in Africa, while Zog’s government could be bought off with money. France and the UK are also potential opponents, but he says they should be told expelling Albanians will benefit them. Cubrilovic contrasts prior “Western methods” with his preferred strategy, under which occupation “confers the right to the lives and property of the subject inhabitants.” Cubrilovic believes slow transfer of deeds impeded the prior program. Paulin Kola will later describe the memorandum as “a fuller platform for the colonization of Kosova.” Cubrilovic calls for a range of measures, from enforcing “the law to the letter so as to make staying intolerable,” such as punishments for owning wandering dogs and smuggling, and “any other measures that an experienced police force can contrive,” denying professional permits, rejecting deeds, desecrating graves, and burning villages and neighborhoods, without revealing state involvement. He says clerics and influential Kosovar Albanians should be bribed or coerced to support transfer. He proposes that the new program be implemented by the Army General Staff, a new Institute of Colonization, and a multi-ministry inspectorate. These methods would lead to the deportation and migration of Albanians to Turkey and other countries. Then Montenegrins, who Cubrilovic describes as “arrogant, irascible, and merciless people” who “will drive the remaining Albanians away with their behavior,” would be settled in Kosova. Ethnic conflict would be fanned, to “be bloodily suppressed with the most effective means” by Montenegrin settlers and Chetniks. Yugoslavia’s parliament considers the memorandum on March 7, 1937. Once Turkey agrees to accept deported Yugoslav Albanians, Albanians are limited to an untenable 0.16 hectares for each member of a family, unless their ownership is proven to the satisfaction of the authorities. Two hundred thousand to 300,000 people leave Yugoslavia during this period. Officially, 19,279 Albanians emigrate to Turkey and 4,322 emigrate to Albania between 1927 and 1939, and a few go to Arab countries, while 30,000 Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes emigrate each year. Cubrilovic remains influential in Yugoslavia through World War II. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 116-120; Kola, 2003, pp. 21, 100-104]
Entity Tags: France, Black Hand, Italy, Chetniks, Paulin Kola, Turkey, Belgrade University, Ahmet Zog I, Serbian Cultural Club, Yugoslavia, United Kingdom, Vaso Cubrilovic, Albania
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
The philosophy that becomes known as “neoconservativism” traces its roots to leftist ideologues in New York City who, before World War II, begin sorting themselves into two camps: those who support Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic “New Deal” policies, and more radical individuals who consider themselves followers of Soviet communism. Many of these radical leftists are Jews who, staunchly opposed to Nazi-style fascism, find themselves finding more and more fault with Stalinist Russia. In their eyes, Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union has betrayed the ideals of the original Russian Revolution, and has instead created a monstrous regime that is as bad towards Jews and other ethnic and cultural minorities as Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini. The betrayal they feel towards the Soviet Union, author J. Peter Scoblic will later write, cannot be overestimated. Seminal movement figures such as Irving Kristol (see 1965) lead a small cadre of academics and intellectuals far away from their former leftist-Communist ideology, instead embracing what Scoblic will call “an ardent nationalism” that they see as “the only feasible counterweight to the Soviet monster.” The USSR is as evil as Nazi Germany, they believe, and as committed to world domination as the Nazis. Therefore, the USSR cannot be negotiated with in any form or fashion, only opposed, and, hopefully, destroyed. During the 1950s, Scoblic will write, “these intellectuals adopted a strict good-versus-evil outlook—and a scorn for radical elements of the American Left—that was not unlike that of the ex-communists… who were defining modern conservatism.” But unlike their conservative counterparts, Kristol’s neoconservatives either espouse a more liberal social construct similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal, or care little one way or the other about the entire skein of issues surrounding economic and social policy. The neoconservatives will drive themselves even farther right during the social upheaval of the 1960s, and, according to Scoblic, will hold leftist leaders in contempt in part because they remind the neoconservatives of their Stalinist compatriots of thirty years ago, colleagues whom they have long since abandoned and held in scorn. The fact that some antiwar New Left figures will support Soviet, Chinese, and Vietnamese communism will further enrage the neoconservatives. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 83-85]
Addressing the House of Commons, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain says that the UK has “no direct interests” in Albania. Later, Albanian leader Enver Hoxha will say this statement “gave Mussolini a free hand to carry out his plans towards our country.” The next day, Italy will invade Albania (see April 7, 1939). [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 488; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
Italy occupies Albania, with 50,000 soldiers, 173 ships, and 600 bombers, facing some Albanian civilian volunteers and regular soldiers. The ruling family escapes to Greece and then the UK, though King Zog I does not abdicate. Early on the Italians face resistance from 15,000 Albanians along the coast at Durres, Vlora, Saranda, and Shengjin, as well as inland. Later, 3,000 guerillas seek refugee in the mountains and political resistance begins. Under Italian control, the Constituent Assembly soon proclaims the union of Albania with Italy and invites Italian King Emmanuel III to rule Albania. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 593-595; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
In accord with the Vienna pact, Germany takes Trepca for its mines, as well as the Lab, Vucitrn, and Dezevo (Novi Pazar) districts, creating a territory called the Kosovo Department. Security forces composed of, and led by, Albanians are formed—a gendarmerie of about 1,000 and about 1,000 irregulars, called the Vulnetara. Bulgaria annexes the Gnjilane, Kacanik, and Vitin districts. Italy takes much of Kosovo and the towns of Debar, Tetovo, Gostivar, and Struga, about 11,780 square kilometers and 820,000 people. In May this area is merged with Albania, occupied by Italy on April 7, 1939. Albanian forces are raised by the Italian army, Albanian is spoken in government and education for the first time, and the Albanian flag flies in Italian Kosovo. Albanians are able to freely travel through Albanian areas. Serbs and Montenegrins are imprisoned, deported for forced labor, or killed by occupation forces. Many are deported to Pristina and Mitrovica to labor in the mines of Trepca, or to Albania for construction. According to Serbs, Albanian attacks, generally against settlers, force about 10,000 Slavic families to leave Kosovo. Collaboration and resistance groups form throughout the occupied Balkans. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 121-122; Kola, 2003, pp. 22-23]
Abaz Kupi, a supporter of deposed former Albanian King Zog, begins to lead an armed struggle against the occupation of Albania. This is the first armed action since the initial resistance when the Italians invaded in 1939. [Kola, 2003, pp. 27-28]
The Communist Party of Albania (CPA) is created at a conference of the main Albanian communist organizations, the Korca Group, Shkodra Group, and Youth Group. There are 15 Albanian communists and two members of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia at the meeting. A few months earlier, communist operative Dusan Mugosa arrived in Albania seeking help in liberating Miladin Popovic, a Montenegrin who leads the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) for Kosova, from an internment camp set up by Italian forces in central Albania. Korca Group member Enver Hoxha led the successful rescue attempt and Popovic was asked to remain in Albania and the CPY agreed, also stationing Mugosa there. The CPA is formed on November 8 and a leaderless Provisional Central Committee is elected. The CPA pledges “to fight for the national independence of the Albanian people and for a people’s democratic government in an Albania free from fascism,” by armed struggle, united with “all the honest Albanians who want to fight fascism,” and promoting “love and close militant collaboration” with neighboring nationalities. The role of the CPY in creating the CPA will become an issue of contention. CPY sources and anti-communists will claim the CPA is created and run by Popovic. Hoxha will later say there is no interparty communication until 1942 and that Popovic will deny credit for the CPA in 1943 when Blazo Jovanovic, representing the Central Committee of the CPY, claims the CPY created it. On the other hand, CPA Political Bureau member Liri Gega will later say Popovic led the CPA, and member Pandi Kristo will say the two Yugoslavs created the CPA. Gega and Kristo will be in the pro-CPY faction after the war and lose their positions when Albania breaks with Yugoslavia. Koco Tashko, leader of the Korca Group, will later say he turned leadership of his organization over to Mugosa and Popovic. The CPA will later be re-named the Party of Labor of Albania. [Kola, 2003, pp. 25-27]
Entity Tags: Youth Group, Enver Hoxha, Dusan Mugosa, Blazo Jovanovic, Koco Tashko, Korca Group, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Liri Gega, Shkodra Group, Provincial Committee of the CPY for Kosova, Party of Labor of Albania, Pandi Kristo, Miladin Popovic
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
The Communist Party of Albania (CPA) organizes a conference in Peza, near Tirana, including nationalists, local leaders, Abaz Kupi representing former King Zog, the Communist Youth Organization, and female youth delegates. The conference elects a non-sectarian (Provisional) General National Liberation Council, and local councils to carry out government functions in liberated areas and organize guerrilla activities are planned. Nationalist guerrillas agree to fly the CPA’s red and black flag with a red star, as well as the Albanian double-headed eagle flag. Two months later, Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito will write to the CPA for the first time, saying the National Liberation Front should be re-formed with “different urban groups and tendencies” to broaden it. According to a Yugoslav source, in 1944 CPA leader Enver Hoxha will refer to the letter as “an historic event,” but in his 1982 memoir, The Titoites, he says the letter was too late to matter. [Kola, 2003, pp. 27-28]
The Balli Kombetar (National Front) party is created under Mit’hat Frasheri and advocates a united Albania, including the Kosovars. A British representative to Albania during WWII, Julian Amery, will say the Ballists are “for ideological reasons, inclined towards the Western democracies, but their enthusiasm for the allied cause was severely constrained both by hatred of communism and by fears that an allied victory might once again deprive them of Kosovo as well as their southern provinces.” The Balli Kombetar includes former government members, and the Communist Party of Albania will later accuse it of being a cover for the parliamentarians who had agreed to offer Albania to Italy’s Emmanuel III after it was invaded, among other charges. [Kola, 2003, pp. 29-31]
In an article, “The National Question in Yugoslavia in the Light of the National Liberation Struggle,” published in the newspaper Proleter, communist partisan leader Josip Broz Tito writes: “The question of Macedonia, the question of Kosovo and Metohija, the question of Montenegro, the question of Croatia, the question of Bosnia-Herzegovina will easily be solved to the general satisfaction of all only if resolved by the people themselves, and this right each people will win gun in hand, in the present national liberation struggle.… The words ‘National Liberation Struggle’ would be a mere phrase, or even a deception, if they did not, in addition to the all-Yugoslav meaning, have a national significance for each people separately.” This contrasts with Tito’s developing view that Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity should be preserved after the war, instead of allowing self-determination for each nationality. [Kola, 2003, pp. 47-48]
Following an initial meeting on July 23 in Zall i Herrit, representatives of the National Liberation Council meet with the Balli Kombetar leadership at Mukje, Kruja district, on August 1 and 2. CPA Political Bureau member Ymer Dishnica leads a 12-member delegation, including non-communists Abaz Kupi and Myslim Peza. The Ballist delegation includes their chair, Mit-hat Frasheri. According to Enver Hoxha, the NLC delegation is told that unity must be based on the Balli Kombetar fighting the occupation and not continuing to fight the NLC’s forces or the CPA, then there could be “a broad conference to lay on the table and discuss many problems concerning unity.” Hoxha’s goal is to persuade the Balli Kombetar to fight the Italians and join the NLC, at the same time preventing it from being a rival military and political force. The result of the meeting is a plan to create a Committee for the Salvation of Albania, with each side having six representatives, by August 8. The Committee is to lead the guerrilla war until an independent, democratic, and “ethnic Albania” (including Albanian areas left out of the 1913 borders) is established. The Committee plans to dissolve when a provisional government is established. An election with universal suffrage is planned, to establish a constitutional assembly to determine Albania’s post-liberation government. During this time, Mussolini’s government loses power in Italy, so the delegates also call for a declaration of independence. Each side signs, with final approval pending from their organizations, and a proclamation signed by the Committee and the Ballists, and not mentioning the NLC or fascism, is released. The NLC rejects the agreement. Hoxha later says “Our comrades [at Mukje] did not know how to defend the line of the National Liberation Front, but fell right into the lap of the ‘Balli Kombetar‘… what they talked about there was ‘independent Albania’ and ‘ethnic Albania,’ and the war of today was forgotten.” He sees the proclamation of independence as a Ballist grab for credit and a way to “blot out April 12, 1939, because three quarters of the Ballists had recognized the Accord of the Crown [giving it to Italy], while we had never recognized it.” Yugoslav sources claim Hoxha tries to prevent open armed struggle with the Balli Kombetar. Miladin Popovic reportedly says: “[T]his union [with the Ballists] cannot be accepted. We are being strengthened with each passing day.… Then, this ethnic Albania! Impossible!” Dishnica claims that he acts at Mukje on directives from the CPA leadership. Subsequently, Abaz Kupi abandons the NLC and creates the Legaliteti, arguing that Zog is Albania’s legitimate leader. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 172-189; Kola, 2003, pp. 41-44]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Albanian National Liberation Council, Ahmet Zog I, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Committee for the Salvation of Albania, Legaliteti, Myslim Peza, Italy, Party of Labor of Albania, Mit’hat Frasheri, Miladin Popovic, Ymer Dishnica
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Italy surrenders to the Allies, but the Italian commander in Albania tells his forces to surrender to the German military. About 15,000 surrender to the Albanians, and about 1,500 are organized into the “Antonio Gramsci” Battalion of the 1st Storm Brigade of the Albanian National Liberation Army. Meanwhile, about 70,000 German soldiers invade Albania. According to the official PLA history, the Germans say they are liberating Albania from Italy and that they will protect Albanian independence in exchange for Albania joining their anti-communist war. [PLA, 1971, pp. 173-174]
Yugoslav historian Vaso Cubrilovic writes another memorandum, The Problem of Minorities in the New Yugoslavia, and says that, to establish peace, Yugoslavia must be “ethnically pure,” because the issue of minorities creates conflicts with neighboring countries. Cubrilovic calls for the removal of Yugoslav Germans, Hungarians, Albanians, Italians, and Romanians, who “deserved to lose their civil rights in this country.” He says the military should be used to remove national minorities “from those territories which we desire to populate with our own national element in a planned and merciless way,” including denial of rights, taking of property, and internment, especially targeting intellectuals and the rich. Subsequently, Cubrilovic is given a post in the Yugoslav government. The Yugoslav government sponsored previous studies. In 1939 well-known Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric, at the time a diplomat, and Ivan Vukotic proposed that Albania be divided with Italy, so Yugoslav Albanians would not have a national state to focus on. In 1941, lawyer Stevan Moljevic released Homogeneous Serbia, calling for another round of deportations of Yugoslav Albanians to Turkey or Albania. Subsequently, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Yugoslav Albanians will be encouraged to identify as Turkish, through the establishment of Turkish language schools and media. The Albanian population will also be intimidated by the security forces. An agreement will be concluded with Turkey in 1953 under which Turkey will accept deported Yugoslav Albanians. [Kola, 2003, pp. 103-105]
Albania is allowed to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the post-war settlements between the Allies and Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, but is not a full participant, instead being classed with Austria. The Albanian government argues that it was a full member of the Allied effort, fielding 70,000 Albanian Partisans, including 6,000 women, against around 100,000 Italians and 70,000 Germans. It says Italy and Germany suffered 53,639 casualties and prisoners and lost 100 armored vehicles, 1,334 artillery pieces, 1,934 trucks, and 2,855 machine guns destroyed or taken in Albania. Out of its population of one million, Albania says 28,000 were killed, 12,600 wounded, 10,000 were political prisoners, and 35,000 were made to do forced labor. Albania says 850 out of 2,500 of its communities were destroyed by the war.
Disputed by Greece - To oppose Albania’s demands, Greece argues that Albania is at war with it. Greece also claims Gjirokastra and Korca, south of the Shkumbin River, and there is some fighting along the border. By 11 votes to seven, with two abstentions, the conference votes to discuss Greece’s territorial claims. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III blames Albania for the invasion of Greece, and Greece points to a declaration of war by the Albanian occupation government after Daut Hoxha was found murdered at the border in summer 1940.
Hoxha's Address - Enver Hoxha addresses the conference. He points to hundreds of Albanians conscripted by Italy who deserted or joined the Greeks, who then treated them as POWs. Many were later sent to Crete and joined British forces who landed there. Others joined the Albanian Partisans or were captured by Italy, court-martialed for “high treason,” and imprisoned in the Shijak concentration camp. There are other cases of attacks on Italian forces by Albanian soldiers. Hoxha also mentions attacks on Albania by Greeks, such as the over 50 homes in Konispol burned by German soldiers guided by a captain under Greek collaborationist General Napoleon Zervas on September 8, 1943. His forces also joined German forces in their winter 1943-44 Albanian offensive. They invaded and burned again in June 1944. Hoxha refutes Greek claims that Albania is treading on the rights of the Greek minority, which Albania numbers at 35,000. There are 79 schools using Greek, one secondary school, autonomous Greek local government, and Greeks in the government and military. Between 1913 and 1923, Hoxha claims there were 60,000 Albanians in Greece, 35,000 of whom were classified as Turks and deported to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Greeks. In June 1944 and March 1945 Zervas’ forces attacked Greek Albanians, and at least 20,000 fled to Albania. Hoxha will later say that what Albania terms the “monarcho-fascist” Greek government commits 683 military provocations against Albania from its founding to October 15, 1948. Hoxha claims the Greek prime minister tells a Yugoslav official at the Peace Conference that he is open to dividing Albania with Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia refuses. Hoxha tells the conference, “We solemnly declare that within our present borders there is not one square inch of foreign soil, and we will never permit anyone to encroach upon them, for to us they are sacred.” Italy is accused of harboring Albanian and Italian war criminals, including “fascists” who assassinated an Albanian sergeant at the Allied Mediterranean High Command in Bari in March. The Italian politicians are accused of threatening Albania during recent elections. In conclusion, Hoxha asks that the Peace Conference further limit Italy’s post-war military, claims Italy committed 3,544,232,626 gold francs worth of damage in Albania, and Albania wants to be classified as an “associated power.”
US, British Opposition - These requests are opposed by the UK and US. Albania afterward considers its share of the reparations to be too low. The UK and US will later oppose Albanian participation in the Moscow conference on peace with Germany, held in March-April 1947. An American delegate will say: “We are of the opinion that, first, Albania is not a neighbor of Germany, and second, it did not take part in the war against Germany. Only some individual Albanians, perhaps, took part in this war, but apart from this there were also Albanians who fought side by side with the Germans.” [PLA, 1971, pp. 258; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 539-542, 593-614; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 90-91, 99]
Entity Tags: Turkey, Greece, Germany, Enver Hoxha, Daut Hoxha, Albanian Partisans, Albania, Italy, Napoleon Zervas, Victor Emmanuel III, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, United States of America, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
US State Department spokesman Richard Browning says of Italy’s upcoming elections, “The United States is making it crystal clear that it will use force if necessary to prevent Italy from going communist in its upcoming elections.” The CIA will spend $20 million to ensure that the Christian Democrats win control of the country’s government. [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 5]
Representative Otis Pike. [Source: Spartacus Educational]A House of Representatives committee, popularly known as the Pike Committee after its chairman, Otis Pike (D-NY), investigates questionable US intelligence activities. The committee operates in tandem with the Senate’s investigation of US intelligence activities, the Church Committee (see April, 1976). Pike, a decorated World War II veteran, runs a more aggressive—some say partisan—investigation than the more deliberate and politically balanced Church Committee, and receives even less cooperation from the White House than does the Church investigation. After a contentious year-long investigation marred by inflammatory accusations and charges from both sides, Pike refuses demands from the CIA to redact huge portions of the report, resulting in an accusation from CIA legal counsel Mitchell Rogovin that the report is an “unrelenting indictment couched in biased, pejorative and factually erroneous terms.” Rogovin also tells the committee’s staff director, Searle Field, “Pike will pay for this, you wait and see…. There will be a political retaliation…. We will destroy him for this.” (It is hard to know exactly what retaliation will be carried out against Pike, who will resign from Congress in 1978.)
Battle to Release Report - On January 23, 1976, the investigative committee voted along party lines to release the report unredacted, sparking a tremendous outcry among Republicans, who are joined by the White House and CIA Director William Colby in an effort to suppress the report altogether. On January 26, the committee’s ranking Republican, Robert McCory, makes a speech saying that the report, if released, would endanger national security. On January 29, the House votes 246 to 124 not to release the report until it “has been certified by the President as not containing information which would adversely affect the intelligence activities of the CIA.” A furious Pike retorts, “The House just voted not to release a document it had not read. Our committee voted to release a document it had read.” Pike threatens not to release the report at all because “a report on the CIA in which the CIA would do the final rewrite would be a lie.” The report will never be released, though large sections of it will be leaked within days to reporter Daniel Schorr of the Village Voice, and printed in that newspaper. Schorr himself will be suspended from his position with CBS News and investigated by the House Ethics Committee (Schorr will refuse to disclose his source, and the committee will eventually decide, on a 6-5 vote, not to bring contempt of Congress charges against him). [Spartacus Educational, 2/16/2006] The New York Times will follow suit and print large portions of the report as well. The committee was led by liberal Democrats such as Pike and Ron Dellums (D-CA), who said even before the committee first met, “I think this committee ought to come down hard and clear on the side of stopping any intelligence agency in this country from utilizing, corrupting, and prostituting the media, the church, and our educational system.” The entire investigation is marred by a lack of cooperation from the White House and the CIA. [Gerald K. Haines, 1/20/2003]
Final Draft Accuses White House, CIA of 'Stonewalling,' Deception - The final draft of the report says that the cooperation from both entities was “virtually nonexistent,” and accuses both of practicing “foot dragging, stonewalling, and deception” in their responses to committee requests for information. CIA archivist and historian Gerald Haines will later write that the committee was thoroughly deceived by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who officially cooperated with the committee but, according to Haines, actually “worked hard to undermine its investigations and to stonewall the release of documents to it.” [Spartacus Educational, 2/16/2006] The final report accuses White House officials of only releasing the information it wanted to provide and ignoring other requests entirely. One committee member says that trying to get information out of Colby and other CIA officials was like “pulling teeth.” For his part, Colby considers Pike a “jackass” and calls his staff “a ragtag, immature, and publicity-seeking group.” The committee is particularly unsuccessful in obtaining information about the CIA’s budget and expenditures, and in its final report, observes that oversight of the CIA budget is virtually nonexistent. Its report is harsh in its judgments of the CIA’s effectiveness in a number of foreign conflicts, including the 1973 Mideast war, the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, the 1974 coups in Cyprus and Portugal, the 1974 testing of a nuclear device by India, and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, all of which the CIA either got wrong or failed to predict. The CIA absolutely refused to provide any real information to either committee about its involvement in, among other foreign escapades, its attempt to influence the 1972 elections in Italy, covert actions in Angola, and covert aid to Iraqi Kurds from 1972 through 1975. The committee found that covert actions “were irregularly approved, sloppily implemented, and, at times, had been forced on a reluctant CIA by the President and his national security advisers.” Indeed, the Pike Committee’s final report lays more blame on the White House than the CIA for its illegal actions, with Pike noting that “the CIA does not go galloping off conducting operations by itself…. The major things which are done are not done unilaterally by the CIA without approval from higher up the line.… We did find evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence where the CIA said: ‘No, don’t do it.’ The State Department or the White House said, ‘We’re going to do it.’ The CIA was much more professional and had a far deeper reading on the down-the-road implications of some immediately popular act than the executive branch or administration officials.… The CIA never did anything the White House didn’t want. Sometimes they didn’t want to do what they did.” [Gerald K. Haines, 1/20/2003]
Entity Tags: William Colby, Village Voice, Otis G. Pike, Robert McCory, Pike Committee, US Department of State, New York Times, Mitchell Rogovin, Ron Dellums, House Ethics Committee, Gerald Haines, Church Committee, Searle Field, Daniel Schorr, Henry A. Kissinger, Central Intelligence Agency, CBS News
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Senator Frank Church. [Source: Wally McNamee / Corbis]A Senate committee tasked to investigate the activities of US intelligence organizations finds a plethora of abuses and criminal behaviors, and recommends strict legal restraints and firm Congressional oversight. The “Church Committee,” chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID), a former Army intelligence officer with a strong understanding of the necessity for intelligence-gathering, notes in its final report that the CIA in particular had been overly cooperative with the Nixon administration in spying on US citizens for political purposes (see December 21, 1974); US intelligence agencies had also gone beyond the law in assassination attempts on foreign government officials in, among other places, Africa, Latin America, and Vietnam. Church himself accused the CIA of providing the White House with what, in essence, is a “private army,” outside of Congressional oversight and control, and called the CIA a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.” The committee will reveal the existence of hitherto-unsuspected operations such as HT Lingual, which had CIA agents secretly opening and reading US citizens’ international mail, and other operations which included secret, unauthorized wiretaps, dossier compilations, and even medical experiments. For himself, Church, the former intelligence officer, concluded that the CIA should conduct covert operations only “in a national emergency or in cases where intervention is clearly in tune with our traditional principles,” and restrain the CIA from intervening in the affairs of third-world nations without oversight or consequence. CIA director William Colby is somewhat of an unlikely ally to Church; although he does not fully cooperate with either the Church or Pike commissions, he feels that the CIA’s image is badly in need of rehabilitation. Indeed, Colby later writes, “I believed that Congress was within its constitutional rights to undertake a long-overdue and thoroughgoing review of the agency and the intelligence community. I did not share the view that intelligence was solely a function of the Executive Branch and must be protected from Congressional prying. Quite the contrary.” Conservatives later blame the Church Commission for “betray[ing] CIA agents and operations,” in the words of American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr, referencing the 1975 assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch in Greece. The chief counsel of the Church Committee accuses CIA defenders and other conservatives of “danc[ing] on the grave of Richard Welch in the most cynical way.” It is documented fact that the Church Commission exposed no agents and no operations, and compromised no sources; even Colby’s successor, George H.W. Bush, later admits that Welch’s death had nothing to do with the Church Committee. (In 1980, Church will lose re-election to the Senate in part because of accusations of his committee’s responsibility for Welch’s death by his Republican opponent, Jim McClure.) [American Prospect, 11/5/2001; History Matters Archive, 3/27/2002; Assassination Archives and Research Center, 11/23/2002]
Final Report Excoriates CIA - The Committee’s final report concludes, “Domestic intelligence activity has threatened and undermined the Constitutional rights of Americans to free speech, association and privacy. It has done so primarily because the Constitutional system for checking abuse of power has not been applied.” The report is particularly critical of the CIA’s successful, and clandestine, manipulation of the US media. It observes: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.” The report identifies over 50 US journalists directly employed by the CIA, along with many others who were affiliated and paid by the CIA, and reveals the CIA’s policy to have “their” journalists and authors publish CIA-approved information, and disinformation, overseas in order to get that material disseminated in the United States. The report quotes the CIA’s Chief of the Covert Action Staff as writing, “Get books published or distributed abroad without revealing any US influence, by covertly subsidizing foreign publicans or booksellers.…Get books published for operational reasons, regardless of commercial viability.…The advantage of our direct contact with the author is that we can acquaint him in great detail with our intentions; that we can provide him with whatever material we want him to include and that we can check the manuscript at every stage…. [The agency] must make sure the actual manuscript will correspond with our operational and propagandistic intention.” The report finds that over 1,000 books were either published, subsidized, or sponsored by the CIA by the end of 1967; all of these books were published in the US either in their original form or excerpted in US magazines and newspapers. “In examining the CIA’s past and present use of the US media,” the report observes, “the Committee finds two reasons for concern. The first is the potential, inherent in covert media operations, for manipulating or incidentally misleading the American public. The second is the damage to the credibility and independence of a free press which may be caused by covert relationships with the US journalists and media organizations.”
CIA Withheld Info on Kennedy Assassination, Castro Plots, King Surveillance - The committee also finds that the CIA withheld critical information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy from the Warren Commission, information about government assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba (see, e.g., November 20, 1975, Early 1961-June 1965, March 1960-August 1960, and Early 1963); and that the FBI had conducted a counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Mafia boss Sam Giancana was slated to testify before the committee about his organization’s ties to the CIA, but before he could testify, he was murdered in his home—including having six bullet wounds in a circle around his mouth. Another committee witness, union leader Jimmy Hoffa, disappeared before he could testify. Hoffa’s body has never been found. Mafia hitman Johnny Roselli was murdered before he could testify before the committee: in September 1976, the Washington Post will print excerpts from Roselli’s last interview, with journalist Jack Anderson, before his death; Anderson will write, “When [Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey] Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive US crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald.” (Anderson’s contention has not been proven.) The murders of Giancana and Roselli, and the disappearance and apparent murder of Hoffa, will lead to an inconclusive investigation by the House of the assassinations of Kennedy and King. [Spartacus Educational, 12/18/2002]
Leads to FISA - The findings of the Church Committee will inspire the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (see 1978), and the standing committees on intelligence in the House and Senate. [Assassination Archives and Research Center, 11/23/2002]
Simultaneous Investigation in House - The Church Committee operates alongside another investigative body in the House of Representatives, the Pike Committee (see January 29, 1976).
Church Committee Smeared After 9/11 - After the 9/11 attacks, conservative critics will once again bash the Church Committee; former Secretary of State James Baker will say within hours of the attacks that the Church report had caused the US to “unilaterally disarm in terms of our intelligence capabilities,” a sentiment echoed by the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal, who will observe that the opening of the Church hearings was “the moment that our nation moved from an intelligence to anti-intelligence footing.” Perhaps the harshest criticism will come from conservative novelist and military historian Tom Clancy, who will say, “The CIA was gutted by people on the political left who don’t like intelligence operations. And as a result of that, as an indirect result of that, we’ve lost 5,000 citizens last week.” [Gerald K. Haines, 1/20/2003]
Entity Tags: Washington Post, Tom Clancy, William Colby, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Richard M. Nixon, HT Lingual, George Herbert Walker Bush, Jack Anderson, Frank Church, Church Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sam Giancana, Jack Ruby, James R. Hoffa, Pike Committee, Martin Luther King, Jr., James A. Baker, Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy, Jim McClure, Johnny Roselli, Warren Commission
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Iraq imports 4,514 kilograms of natural uranium from Italy. The uranium is used in the Experimental Research Laboratory for Fuel Fabrication (ERLFF) for research and development related to the construction of a nuclear reactor. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later finds that 191 kilograms of uranium is unaccounted for. In 1997, it will note, “This amount is less than the declared accumulation of ‘material unaccounted for’ and measured discards over the period 1982 to 1990 and may be considered to be consistent with the nature of the facility operation.” The remainder is verified and controlled by the IAEA, at the “Location C” storage facility near the Tuwaitha nuclear research facility in central Iraq. [International Atomic Energy Agency, 1997]
Billy Carter. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]An Italian-American disinformation campaign has a profound effect on the US presidential election of 1980. With the assistance of Italian intelligence (SISMI) and the shadowy right-wing organization called “Propaganda Due,” or P-2 (see 1981), American neoconservative Michael Ledeen organizes a smear campaign against Billy Carter, the brother of US President Jimmy Carter. (Billy Carter is a self-proclaimed alcoholic whose escapades have provoked much hilarity among the US press and an equal amount of embarrassment in the White House.) In the weeks before the election, Ledeen publishes articles in the British and American press accusing Billy Carter of having untoward and perhaps illegal financial dealings with Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. Billy Carter is forced to admit that he did accept a $200,000 loan from al-Qadhafi’s regime. The ensuing scandal becomes known as “Billygate.” It is not known for sure what impact the scandal will eventually have on the race between President Carter and his Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan; what is known is that “Billygate” erupted in 1979, was investigated, and had died down. Then, less than a month before the November 1980 election, Ledeen and Arnaud de Borchgrave write an article for the US’s New Republic and Britain’s Now magazine that falsely alleges Billy Carter took an additional $50,000 from al-Qadhafi, and worse, met secretly with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The articles reignite the scandal in time to affect the election. In 1985, a Wall Street Journal investigation will find that “Billygate” is an orchestrated attempt by Ledeen and SISMI to throw the election to Reagan. Ledeen, who used SISMI sources to unearth financial information on Billy Carter, was himself paid $120,000 by SISMI for “Billygate” and other projects. Ledeen has a code name, Z-3, and is paid through a Bermuda bank account. Ledeen will later admit that his consulting firm, ISI, may have accepted SISMI money, and will claim he can’t remember if he has a coded identity. P-2 operative Francesco Pazienza will be convicted in absentia on multiple charges stemming from the “Billygate” disinformation campaign, including extortion and fraud. Ledeen will not be charged in the Italian court that convicts Pazienza, but prosecutors will cite his participation in their arguments against Pazienza. Ledeen will deny any involvement with either Pazienza or P-2, and deny any connection to any disinformation schemes. In fact, Ledeen will say he doesn’t even believe P-2 exists. After Reagan takes office, Ledeen will be made a special assistant to chief of staff Alexander Haig, and later will become a staff member of Reagan’s National Security Council, where he will play a key role in setting up the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. [Unger, 2007, pp. 233-234, 388]
Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Billy Carter, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Carter administration, Francesco Pazienza, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Michael Ledeen, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Wall Street Journal, Yasser Arafat, SISMI, Propaganda Due
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Elections Before 2000
Licio Gelli. [Source: Reformation (.org)]“Propaganda Due,” or P-2, an informal, parallel Secret Service in Italy led by neofascist and Freemason Licio Gelli, is banned by the Italian Parliament, though the organization continues to function. (Gelli is expelled from the Masons the same year as P-2 is banned.) It had a penchant for secret rituals and exotic covert ops against what it considered Communist-based threats. P-2 members swear to have their throats slit and tongues cut out rather than break their oaths of secrecy and loyalty. Author Craig Unger characterizes the organization as “subversive, authoritarian, and right-wing.” It was sometimes called the “P-2 Masonic Lodge” because of its ties to the Freemasons. It served as a covert intelligence agency for militant anticommunists. It was also linked to Operation Gladio, a secret paramilitary wing of NATO that supported far-right military coups in Greece and Turkey during the Cold War. P-2 is banned by the Italian Parliament after an investigation found that it had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was linked to assassinations, kidnappings, and illicit arms deals around the world. The critical event was the murder of Freemason and bank president Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging from a bridge in London; the investigation found that P-2 may have been involved in Calvi’s murder. American neoconservative Michael Ledeen, who has long if murky connections with both US and Italian intelligence agencies, was a part of two major international disinformation operations in conjunction with P-2 and SISMI, the Italian military intelligence agency (see October 1980 and Mid-1981 through Late 1981). [BBC, 10/16/1998; Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, 12/14/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 232-233]
Alcom Engineering, an Italian company that is supplying metal components to the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, receives a threatening letter, warning it to stop doing so. Alcom then stops trading with the Khan network. This is apparently part of a campaign by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to hamper Khan’s network in Europe (see Early 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 87]
Iraq imports 1,767 kilograms of enriched uranium from Italy, and 6,005 kilograms of depleted uranium from Italy as well. As with its earlier uranium import from Italy (see 1979), this uranium is verified and accounted for by International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspectors, and is kept at “Location C,” a storage complex near the Tuwaitha nuclear research facility in central Iraq. [International Atomic Energy Agency, 1997]
Star French playmaker Michel Platini signs for Juventus. Platini will go on to make 147 appearances for the Italian football giants, and will lead them to victory in the European Cup in 1985 (see May 29, 1985). [Independent, 4/5/2005]
The Italian subsidiary of Bell Textron, the manufacture of Bell helicopters, informs the US embassy in Rome that it has declined a request from Iraq to militarize recently purchased Hughes helicopters. [Battle, 2/25/2003]
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt supply Iraq with US howitzers, helicopters, bombs, and other weapons with the secret approval of the Reagan administration. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Phythian, 1997, pp. 35] Italy also funnels arms to Iraq at the insistence of President Reagan who personally made the request to Prime Minister Guilio Andreotti. [Friedman, 1993, pp. 51-54; Phythian, 1997, pp. 36]
Christopher Drogoul of the Atlanta branch of the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro begins embezzling funds to Iraq. The funds consist of government backed loans meant for agricultural purposes as well as unreported loans that have been made in secret. While roughly half the funds will be used by Saddam Hussein’s government to purchase agricultural goods, the remainder will be used to “supply Iraqi missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs with industrial goods such as computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods.” Additionally, the money spent on agriculture will allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to divert a significant portion of its own funds to the task of weapons development. [US Congress, 4/28/1992; Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1993] Between 1985 and 1989 roughly $5 billion makes its way to Iraq from the US. Internal government memos reveal that both the Federal Reserve and Department of Agriculture suspect that Iraq is using these funds inappropriately. Iraq eventually defaults on the government-backed loans, leaving US taxpayers with $2 billion dollars in unpaid debts. [Mother Jones, 1/1993; Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1993]
Thirty-nine people die at the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool, played at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. [Independent, 4/5/2005] The deaths occur as a group of Liverpool supporters break through a thin line of police at the aging stadium and advance towards the Juventus section. As the Italians try to escape, a retaining wall in one of their sectors collapses and many fans are crushed or trampled to death. [BBC, 5/29/2000] The game is won by Juventus, after playmaker Michel Platini scores from a wrongly awarded penalty. Platini will later say that when he discovered the number of Juventus fans who had lost their lives, “Something inside me died,” but add that despite the deaths, the game, which gave Juventus its first European Cup triumph, “was not meaningless.” He will also say that the referee’s mistake in awarding the penalty was understandable: “If I’d been the referee I’d have given it too. [Juventus striker Zbigniew] Boniek was 60 meters away and he was going too quickly.” [Independent, 4/5/2005]
Christopher Drogoul, the manager of the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro’s branch in Atlanta, is charged with making unauthorized, clandestine and illegal loans to Iraq. The loans were used by Iraq to develop its weapons programs (see 1985-1989). [Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1993]
The United Nations passes Resolution 678. The resolution gives Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw entirely from Kuwait (see July 25, 1990) and restore its national sovereignty. The US uses UN authority to build a “coalition” of nations to support its upcoming “Desert Storm” operation designed to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait (see January 16, 1991 and After). 34 countries contribute personnel: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. West Germany and Japan do not contribute forces, but they do contribute $6.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to the cause. While some countries join out of a sincere belief that Iraq must not be allowed to dominate the region and control Middle Eastern oil reserves (see August 7, 1990), others are more reluctant, believing that the affair is an internal matter best resolved by other Arab countries, and some fear increased US influence in Kuwait and the region. Some of these nations are persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab nations as well as by US offers of economic aid and/or debt forgiveness. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] As with all such UN resolutions, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rejects this resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
Zahir Shah. [Source: Associated Press]An assailant posing as a Portuguese journalist stabs Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, in his home in exile in Rome. Shah survives. The New York Times will later report that US investigators concluded the assailant had ties to al-Qaeda. [United Press International, 11/6/1991; New York Times, 10/14/2001] The assailant, a Portuguese convert to Islam named Paulo Jose de Almeida Santos, will later claim he was one of the first members of al-Qaeda. He claims that he discusses the plan to kill Zahir Shah in detail with bin Laden, as there is civil war in Afghanistan at the time and there is a possibility that Shah could return there and lead a secular government hostile to bin Laden’s interests. But he will say he didn’t get specific permission from bin Laden for the attack. “[T]here wasn’t a well-defined hierarchy, we were rather disorganized; you could give a try to whatever entered into your head.” He also says that bin Laden “was the guy who gave money to keep the organization going… but he didn’t give many orders.” Santos is immediately caught and serves eight years in an Italian prison for the attack. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 116-119]
Ali Mohamed returns to fight in Afghanistan, even though the Soviets have been defeated and the country is now involved in civil war. He trains rebel commanders in military tactics. This is just one of many such trips, as he later will confess spending several months out of each year training operatives overseas for most of the 1990’s. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001] US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later say of Mohamed’s visits to Afghanistan, “Mohamed did not [make a loyalty pledge] to al-Qaeda but he trained most of al-Qaeda’s top leadership—including bin Laden and [Ayman] al-Zawahiri—and most of al-Qaeda’s top trainers. Mohamed taught surveillance, counter-surveillance, assassinations, kidnapping, codes, ciphers and other intelligence techniques.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] FBI agent Jack Cloonan will later say that in addition to bin Laden, others who attend Mohamed’s course are Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, al-Qaeda’s first military commander, and Mohammed Atef, its second military commander. [Lance, 2006, pp. 104-105] During this 1992 trip he teaches intelligence tradecraft, later admitting, “I taught my trainees how to create cell structures that could be used for operations.” Also around this time, he is detained by Italian authorities at the Rome airport when airport security discovers his luggage has false compartments. He is let go after convincing the Italians that he is fighting terrorists. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001] Mohamed will regularly return to Afghanistan in years to come, as part of at least 58 trips overseas leaving from the US. [Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001] Nabil Sharef, a university professor and former Egyptian intelligence officer, will say, “For five years he was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It’s impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn’t caught on to him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001]
Friday prayers outside the Islamic Cultural Institute, on October 19, 2001. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, has numerous ties to terrorist activities during this period and after 9/11, and the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe.” It is initially headed by Anwar Shaaban (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995 and December 14, 1995), an opponent of the current Egyptian regime and a supporter of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group, which is run by the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see Late 1993-1994).
It recruits fighters for militant Islamic causes and sends them to Afghanistan for training. One of the recruits, L’Houssaine Kherchtou, who will testify for the prosecution at the trial of men accused of bombing US embassies in Africa in 1998, will say that he knew Shaaban well, adding: “He was my guide. I went there every weekend to be with him.” After studying with Shaaban for some time, Shaaban arranges for Kherchtou and a group of other men to receive military training in Afghanistan. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]
There is heavy telephone traffic between the Institute and the New York mosque run by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and Italian police say it is a logistical base for the WTC bombing (see Late 1993-1994).
The Algerian militant group Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) gains influence in the mosque after Shaaban dies in the Bosnian Civil War (see After 1995).
It creates a “cottage industry in supplying false passports and other bogus documents” according to European intelligence officials, and serves as a gateway to Europe for operatives from Afghanistan. [Boston Globe, 8/4/2002]
In late 1993, the FBI discovers that WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef used a mosque in Milan, Italy, known as the Islamic Cultural Institute, as a logistical base (see Late 1993-1994). The Italian government begins investigating the mosque and soon discovers that it is the main European headquarters for Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a radical Egyptian militant group, and is also the logistical base for mujaheddin traveling to fight in Bosnia. The mosque is run by Anwar Shaaban, who has a close working relationship with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and who also stays in regular contact with al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Shaaban runs a training camp thirty miles outside of Milan where fighters heading to Bosnia can practice using weapons and explosives. The mosque also helps smuggle men, money, and weapons to Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 163-164] On June 25, 1995, Italian police raid the mosque and over 70 other locations in northern Italy. Seventeen people are indicted and eleven of them are arrested, but that is only a fraction of the hundreds investigated. Inside the mosque, police find forgery tools, letters to wanted radicals around the world, and hundreds of false documents. Plots to bomb targets in other countries and a US target elsewhere in Italy are averted. Shaaban escapes arrest, as he had already left the country, but he is killed in Croatia a short time later (see December 14, 1995). [United Press International, 6/26/1995; Vidino, 2006, pp. 216-218] But the Islamic Cultural Institute will soon reopen and continue to be a focal point for radical militants in Europe. It will be linked the 9/11 attacks and other violent plots (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
Anwar Shaaban. [Source: Evan Kohlmann]The Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy is dominated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, the Egyptian militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The imam of the mosque, Anwar Shaaban, is a leader of that group and also a leader of the mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia. The Islamic Cultural Institute serves as a transit and logistical base for mujaheddin coming or going to Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). After the 1993 WTC bombing, US investigators will discover heavy phone traffic between the Milan mosque and the Jersey City mosque run by Abdul-Rahman. Furthermore, they learn that bomber mastermind Ramzi Yousef used the Milan mosque as a logistical base as well. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] Yousef also prayed at the Milan mosque prior to the WTC bombing. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 171] Shaaban is a close friend of Talaat Fouad Qassem, another leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and one of the highest ranking leaders of the mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia. Qassem is directing the flow of volunteers to Bosnia while living in political asylum in Denmark (see 1990). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 25] In April 1994, seven Arab men living in Denmark, including Qassem, are arrested. US prosecutors will later claim that fingerprints on documents and videotapes seized from the men match fingerprints on bomb manuals that Ahmad Ajaj was carrying when he entered the US with Yousef (see September 1, 1992). A raid on one apartment in Denmark uncovers bomb formulas, bomb making chemical, sketches of attack targets, some videotapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons, and a pamphlet claiming responsibility for the WTC bombing and promising more attacks. Also, phone records and documents found in Abdul-Rahman’s Jersey City apartment show the men in Denmark were communicating regularly with Abdul-Rahman. [New York Times, 4/15/1995] But no one in either Milan or Denmark will be charged with a role in the WTC bombing. Danish police will later say that none of the seized documents indicated that the Arab men personally took part in the bombing. The men all are released and ironically, two of them are granted political asylum in Denmark because they are members of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which the Danish consider to be a persecuted group. [Associated Press, 6/28/1995] In 1995, an Italian magistrate will issue arrest warrants for Shaaban and 60 other extremists (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995), but Shaaban will flee to Bosnia, where he will die of bullet wounds in unexplained circumstances (see December 14, 1995). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] The US government will later call the Islamic Cultural Institute al-Qaeda’s main logistical base in Europe and some evidence will link figures connected to it to the 9/11 plot (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
Islamist radicals based at the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, obtain the CIA’s Redbook, two Arabic copies of which will be found at the institute in a 1995 raid. Several seals, rubber stamps, blank and counterfeit documents, and other tools used to forge documents are also found in the raid. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 63 ] The Redbook is a manual produced by the CIA for immigration officials; it helps the officials identify terrorists using telltale signs in their passports (see 1992). The institute is a key support center for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and al-Qaeda-linked radicals fighting in Bosnia (see 1993 and After and Late 1993-1994). It is unclear how the Redbook comes to be at the institute.
Shortly after 9/11, an Italian newspaper will report, “Six or seven years ago, probably in 1995, secret services from various European countries investigated the possibility that al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s organization, was using a Milan stockbroker firm to operate on Europe’s money markets.” Italian intelligence first brings up the possibility, which is then investigated by other European intelligence agencies as well. However, it is also reported, “We neither know the name of the Milan stockbroker, nor whether the initial suspicions have ever been confirmed.” [BBC, 9/17/2001] It will also be reported shortly after 9/11 that “Italian stock authorities [are] investigating abnormal movements in share prices on the Milan stock exchange prior to the terrorist attacks” (see September 17, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/2001]
Ahmed Idris Nasreddin. [Source: NBC News]A 1995 Italian intelligence report alleges the Switzerland-based Al Taqwa Bank is funding radical groups in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, and is a major backer of Hamas, but Swiss authorities are slow to investigate. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] The Italians are interested in Al Taqwa because of its connection to a radical Italian mosque, the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, which Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin helped create and finance in the early 1990s. The mosque is close to Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Lugano, a town on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is also connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and extremists fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-1994) and European investigators increasingly suspect that the Milan mosque is an important general recruiting and supply center for al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] Reportedly, the Italians tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” Italian intelligence also finds links between Al Taqwa and the Milan mosque through Nasreddin. Additionally, two other top officials in the mosque are Al Taqwa shareholders. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] Italian officials get the impression that Swiss officials are loathe to look into Al Taqwa. In 1997, the Italians convince a Swiss prosecutor to start questioning Al Taqwa officials. But reportedly, an Al Taqwa lawyer is able to make phone calls to influential people and have the investigation stopped. [Salon, 3/15/2002]
The CIA begins a program to track Islamist militants in Europe. The program is operated by local stations in Europe and CIA manager Michael Scheuer, who will go on to found the agency’s bin Laden unit in early 1996 (see February 1996). The program is primarily focused on militants who oppose the Egyptian government. It traces the support network that supplies money and recruits to them and that organizes their propaganda. US Ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker will later say that the operation involves intercepting telephone calls and opening mail. Suspects are identified in Egypt and in European cities such as Milan (see 1993 and After), Oslo, and London (see (Late 1995)). [Grey, 2007, pp. 125] The intelligence gathered as a part of this operation will be used for the CIA’s nascent rendition program (see Summer 1995).
A suicide bombing destroys the police station in the town of Rijeka, Croatia, wounding 29 people. The Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya takes credit for the bombing, saying it is revenge for the abduction of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader Talaat Fouad Qassem in Croatia the month before (see September 13, 1995). The Croatians will later determine that the mastermind, Hassan al-Sharif Mahmud Saad, and the suicide bomber were both tied to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. They also were tied to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, which in turn has ties to many militant attacks, some committed Ramzi Yousef (see 1995-1997). CIA soon discovers that the suicide bomber also worked for the Third World Refugee Center charity front (see January 1996). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 153-155] In 1999, the FBI’s Bojinka investigation will notice that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was believed to be in neighboring Bosnia at the time and that the timing device of the bomb (a modified Casio watch) closely resembled those used by KSM and his nephew Yousef in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Presumably, this would have increased the importance of catching KSM. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489]
Anwar Shaaban, an Islamist militant in charge of logistics for mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia, is killed in Croatia. Shaaban had been based at the Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, but managed to avoid arrest when it was raided (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). On December 14, 1995, the same day a peace accord is signed ending the Bosnian war, Shaaban is killed by Croatian troops in what mujaheddin claim is an ambush. Shaaban’s diary is found, and it cites regular meetings between al-Qaeda leaders and leaders of the Bosnian Muslim government, including General Staff Chief Rasim Delic and Interior Minister Bakir Alispahic. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 216-217] Shaaban, a leader of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group, had been in regular contact with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 163-164]
The Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) gains more influence in the Islamic Cultural Institute, a militant mosque in Milan, Italy, following the death of its former head, Anwar Shaaban. Under the leadership of Shaaban, who died in the Bosnian war, the mosque had been built up into a key European logistics center for militant Islamists. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] The mosque is described as “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe” (see 1993 and After), but the GIA is said to be infiltrated by government informers at this point and is losing strength in Algeria due to the penetration (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996).
An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden. [Source: Inmarsat]During this period, Osama bin Laden uses a satellite phone to direct al-Qaeda’s operations. The phone—a Compact M satellite phone, about the size of a laptop computer—was purchased by a student in Virginia named Ziyad Khaleel for $7,500 using the credit card of a British man named Saad al-Fagih. After purchasing the phone, Khaleel sent it to Khalid al-Fawwaz, al-Qaeda’s unofficial press secretary in London (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). Al-Fawwaz then shipped it to bin Laden in Afghanistan. [CNN, 4/16/2001] It appears US intelligence actually tracks the purchase as it occurs (see November 1996-Late December 1999), probably because an older model satellite phone bin Laden has is already being monitored (see Early 1990s). Bin Laden’s phone (873682505331) is believed to be used by other top al-Qaeda leaders as well, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Atef. Al-Fawwaz also buys satellite phones for other top al-Qaeda leaders around the same time. Though the calls made on these phones are encrypted, the NSA is able to intercept and decrypt them. As one US official will put it in early 2001, “codes were broken.” [United Press International, 2/13/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The Los Angeles Times will report that the monitoring of these phones “produced tens of thousands of pages of transcripts over two years.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] Bin Laden’s satellite phone replaces an older model he used in Sudan that apparently was also monitored by the NSA (see Early 1990s). Billing records for his new phone are eventually released to the media in early 2002. Newsweek will note, “A country-by-country analysis of the bills provided US authorities with a virtual road map to important al-Qaeda cells around the world.” [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] The countries called are:
Britain (238 or 260). Twenty-seven different phone numbers are called in Britain. Accounts differ on the exact number of calls. Khalid al-Fawwaz, who helps publish statements by bin Laden, receives 143 of the calls, including the very first one bin Laden makes with this phone. Apparently most of the remaining calls are made to pay phones near him or to his associates. He also frequently calls Ibrahim Eidarous, who works with al-Fawwaz and lives near him. [CNN, 4/16/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111]
Yemen (221). Dozens of calls go to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, which is run by the father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar (see Late August 1998). [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Bamford, 2008, pp. 8]
Sudan (131). Bin Laden lived in Sudan until 1996 (see May 18, 1996), and some important al-Qaeda operatives remained there after he left (see February 5, 1998). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
Iran (106). Newsweek will later report: “US officials had little explanation for the calls to Iran. A Bush administration official said that US intelligence has believed for years that hard-line anti-American factions inside Iran helped bin Laden’s organization operate an ‘underground railroad’ smuggling Islamic militants to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
Azerbaijan (67). An important al-Qaeda operative appears to be based in Baku, Azerbaijan. [Washington Post, 5/2/2001] This is most likely Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who is very close to al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and is said to be the head of the al-Qaeda cell there. He kidnapped by the CIA in Baku in late August 1998 (see Late August 1998).
Kenya (at least 56). In the embassy bombings trial, prosecutors introduce evidence showing 16 calls are made on this phone to some of the embassy bombers in Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), apparently all before a raid in August 1997 (see August 21, 1997). The defense introduces evidence showing at least 40 more calls are made after that time (see Late 1996-August 1998). [CNN, 4/16/2001]
Saudi Arabia (57).
A ship in the Indian Ocean (13).
The US (6).
Senegal (2). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
Egypt (unknown). Newsweek reports that calls are made to Egypt but doesn’t say how many. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002]
Iraq (0). Press reports note that the records indicate zero calls were made to Iraq. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] 1,100 total calls are made on this phone. Adding up the above numbers means that the destination of over 100 calls is still unaccounted for. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The use of this phone stops two months after the August 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. However, it appears bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders continue to use other satellite phones occasionally after this time. Shortly after 9/11, James Bamford, an expert authority on the agency, says “About a year or so ago the NSA lost all track of him.… He may still use [satellite phones] occasionally to talk about something mundane, but he discovered that the transmitters can be used for honing.” [CNN, 9/21/2001] According to a different account, bin Laden will attempt to use a different phone communication method, but US intelligence will soon discover it and continue monitoring his calls (see Late 1998 and After).
The Al Taqwa Bank had offices in this building in Lugano, Italy, on the border with Switzerland. [Source: Keystone]Newsweek will later claim that US investigators “on bin Laden’s trail” had known about the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland and its support for al-Qaeda “for years. But the group’s mazelike structure made it hard to track, and the Feds considered it a low priority.” A senior Treasury official later will tell Congress that US investigators learned in 1997 that Hamas had transferred $60 million into accounts at the Al Taqwa Bank. Also in 1997, US investigators learn the names of many Al Taqwa shareholders. Many of them turn out to be rich and powerful Arabs, including members of the bin Laden family and members of the Kuwaiti royal family (see 1997-December 1999). Newsweek later will claim that, “The US took a harder look at Al Taqwa after the [1998 US] embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Sources say US intelligence tracked telephone contacts between Al Taqwa and members of bin Laden’s inner circle. Al-Qaeda operatives would call Al Taqwa representatives in the Bahamas as they moved around the world. Still, the network’s complex structure made it difficult to prove how money changed hands, and the investigation stalled. Under US pressure, the Bahamian government revoked Al Taqwa’s license [in the spring of 2001]. Treasury officials say the network continued to do business anyway.” [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] The US will declare Al Taqwa a terrorist financier two months after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001).
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi. [Source: Zuma Press/ Newscom]In December 1999, the FBI apparently discovers a list of shareholders in the Al Taqwa Bank that reflects holdings in the bank at that time. The list is later confirmed as authentic by both US and Al Taqwa officials. It contains over 700 names. Youssef Nada, the president of Al Taqwa, will claim that the FBI knew the essential contents of the list in 1997, the same year they learned of other ties between the bank and officially designated terrorist groups (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Salon, 3/15/2002] Names on the list include:
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi, the grand mufti of the United Arab Emirates, and five members of his family. Qaradawi is said to be a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood and has made statements supporting suicide bombings against Israel (see 1986-October 1999).
Huta and Iman bin Laden, sisters of Osama bin Laden. Salon notes that the presence of their names on the list “undermin[es] the bin Laden family’s claim that it separated itself from [Osama’s] terrorist pursuits after he was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1994.”
Other bin Laden family members. For instance, Ghalib Mohammad Binladin, a brother of Osama, sues Al Taqwa in 1999 for failing to pay him a claim (the suit is thrown out of court.) [Newsweek, 11/7/2001]
Unnamed members of Hamas, which the US declared a terrorist group in 1995.
Members of Kuwait’s royal family.
Hassan el-Banna, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. (A man with this name founded the Muslim Brotherhood but died in 1949; this may be one of his descendants.) Other names on the list are said to be connected to organizations linked to al-Qaeda. Swiss officials later will admit that they were aware of reports connecting Al Taqwa to terrorist groups, but will claim they never had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. However, no effective action is taken against the bank or anyone on the list. [Salon, 3/15/2002] The Al Taqwa Bank is said to have amassed $229 million in capital by 1997. In 1995, one of the bank’s directors said that oil-rich Saudi families “are very active” in using the bank. The bank will be shut down after 9/11, when US officials will charge it with funding al-Qaeda and other US-designated terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). [Boston Herald, 11/8/2001]
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), a member of the Egyptian terrorist organization Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya who previously informed for the CIA in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After), arrives in Italy and settles in Rome. He obtains asylum in Italy and serves as an imam near the Italian capital for a few years. He will later move to Milan at the same time a key al-Qaeda operative moves there (see Summer 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005; Vidino, 2006, pp. 242]
Mohamed Daki. [Source: Cageprisoners]Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections. [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2004; New York Times, 3/22/2004]
Following an investigation of extremists linked to the Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy, arrests are made, but most of the suspects are eventually released. The mosque was a logistics base for radical Muslims fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995 and Late 1993-1994) and has been under investigation for some time. However, according to the Chicago Tribune: “[T]he criminal case appears to [founder] on the vagaries of the Italian justice system. Because of limitations on jailing people charged with crimes committed outside Italy, most of the suspects [will be] released and [vanish].” [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] People connected to the mosque will go on to be connected to numerous plots, such as the failed millennium attacks and 9/11 (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1995-1997). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.
The six-nation “Contact Group,” comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, meets in London to discuss a resolution to the Kosovo conflict. At the conclusion of the conference, they issue an ultimatum to the Yugoslavian government and Kosovar Albanians, requiring them to attend peace talks in Rambouillet, France beginning on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). [Press Association (London), 1/29/1999; BBC, 1/30/1999] However, It appears only the KLA is invited to speak on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, not Ibrahim Rugova—the only democratically elected leader of Kosovo—or any other member of the Kosovo Democratic League. “Western diplomats have described Rugova as increasingly irrelevant, while the key players in Kosovo are now the rebels of the KLA,” the BBC reports. [BBC, 1/31/1999]
Around this time, US intelligence notes that a man in Hamburg, Germany, named Mohammed Haydar Zammar is in direct contact with one of bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators. Zammar is an al-Qaeda recruiter with links to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and the rest of the Hamburg terror cell. The US had noted Zammar’s terror links on “numerous occasions” before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] However, apparently the US does not share their information on Zammar with German intelligence. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. In 1998, they got information from Italy confirming he is an Islamic militant (see October 2, 1998). However, his behavior is so suspicious that they have already started monitoring him closely (see 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Stern, 8/13/2003] Ironically, also in 1999, German intelligence gives its information on Zammar to the CIA (see 1999).
Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent, will later tell reporters that he provides French officials with documents suggesting that Iraq intends to expand its “trade” with Niger. He does not say from where he obtains these documents. The French assume the trade being discussed concerns uranium, Niger’s main export. At French intelligence’s request, according to Martino, he continues supplying them with documents. [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004] However Martino’s account is disputed by French intelligence official Alain Chouet who insists that France’s first contact with Martino takes place in June 2002 (see Late June 2002). [La Repubblica (Rome), 12/1/2005]
Abderazek Mahdjoub. [Source: Associated Press]Abderazek Mahdjoub, an Algerian living in Hamburg, Germany, attends the Al-Quds mosque, and has ties to some of the 9/11 hijackers. According to a senior German intelligence official, Mahdjoub is under observation by German domestic intelligence since at least this year. However, he is also connected to the al-Qaeda cell in Milan and in fact is believed to be the head of that cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000)
(see January 24, 2001). But apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Mahdjoub is not made. He is also tied to Mohamed Daki, another alleged member of the Milan cell periodically living in Hamburg before 9/11 (see December 1997-November 1998). He apparently will continue to be a major organizer after 9/11, and the Italian and German governments will fail to share information about him. He is suspected of leading European recruitment of those who want to fight the US in Iraq. In late 2003, he will finally be arrested trying to cross the border into Iraq. He is put in German custody. [New York Times, 11/29/2003; New York Times, 3/22/2004]
British authorities repeatedly reject requests submitted by Italian judge Stefano D’Ambruoso, who wants to interview leading London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. The requests are made because D’Ambruoso is surprised by how many times Abu Hamza’s name crops up in connection with terror inquiries in Italy. However, the Metropolitan Police, for which Abu Hamza works as an informer (see Early 1997), declines the requests, saying that it cannot force Abu Hamza to talk to D’Ambruoso. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 107-108] The Metropolitan Police had previously hampered an interview of Abu Hamza by French authorities (see 1997). The exact timing of the requests is not known, but links between terror cells based in Milan and London are discovered in 2000-2001 (see Early 2000-2001, Between 2000 and April 2001, and June 29, 2001), so they presumably begin to be submitted at this time. Britain has a “covenant of security” with Abu Hamza and other leading radicals which allows them to encourage militant operations outside Britain (see August 22, 1998).
Antonio Nucera, deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome and one of Italy’s foremost experts on WMD, telephones Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent. Nucera tells Martino of a SISMI intelligence asset working in the Niger Embassy in Rome who is in need of money and who can provide him with documents to sell. [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004; Il Giornale (Rome), 9/21/2004; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; Il Giornale (Rome), 11/6/2005] According to Martino, “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.” [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004] Martino, who left the agency in 1999, has a long history of peddling information to other intelligence services in Europe, including France’s DGSE. He is weathering financial difficulties, and Nucera’s proposal may be a lucrative one. Nucera tells Martino about a longtime Italian “asset” in the Nigerien embassy in Rome, a woman of around 60 with a low-level position there. The woman will later be dubbed “La Signora” by the Italian press, and be identified as Laura Montini, the Nigerien ambassador’s assistant. Nucera suggests that Martino can possibly use her as SISMI had, paying her to pass on documents stolen or copied from the Nigerien embassy (see January 2, 2001) and March 2007). [London Times, 8/1/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 207]
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spends three weeks in Italy in early 2000. This is according to the BKA (German intelligence). It is unknown what he does there or who he meets. It also will not be made public when the BKA learns this. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 209, 299]
In 2000 through early 2001, Italian intelligence monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy (see Early 2000-2001 and 2000-April 2001), hears operative Sami Ben Khemais citing instructions from London imam Abu Qatada. His comments include the statement: “Abu Qatada can convert anyone because he knows all religions, sects and philosophies. Abu Qatada has ordered all Muslims to spend their money on the cause of Allah, no matter how much money they have, thousands, millions, it’s not important. He says that money for God’s cause should be given to the mujaheddin, and not to the mosques.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/16/2004] Abu Qatada had been working as an informant for British intelligence but it is unknown when the relationship ends (see June 1996-February 1997). Abu Qatada’s apartment is raided in February 2001, but it is unknown if that is before or after these comments are recorded (see February 2001). Ben Khemais is arrested in Italy in April 2001 (see 2000-April 2001).
US, Italian, and Belgian authorities learn more about extremist networks in Europe by monitoring operatives connected to a cell of radicals centered on the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, some members of which appear to have foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and March 2001). A man named Tarek Maaroufi, who is under surveillance in Belgium, arrives in Milan and calls another extremist known as Sami Ben Khemais, whose phone is being monitored by Italian authorities and who collects Maaroufi from the airport. Around the same time US intelligence notifies the Italians that Ben Khemais is to be joining three bin Laden-related individuals in Italy and that there are vague plans to attack US targets there. The warning signs of an attack mount, and the US embassy in Rome is even closed for a day. Ben Khemais travels to Spain, where he is monitored by the local authorities and links up with other Islamic extremists, but is arrested along with four others when he returns to Italy. Maaroufi is also arrested. According to the Italians, they had plotted an attack in Strasbourg around Christmas 2000, together with a German cell that is also arrested (see December 25-26, 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]
Italian information peddler Rocco Martino agrees to pay Laura Montini, an employee at the Niger embassy in Rome, the sum of £350 per month in exchange for any documents that might shed light on rumours that “rogue states” are trying to acquire uranium from Niger (see Between 1999 and 2000). Martino wants to sell the documents to the French who are investigating the rumours. France is concerned about the security of a French consortium that controls Niger’s only two uranium mines. Martino has reportedly been on French intelligence’s payroll since 1999 (see June or July 1999). Martino learned of Montini through his friend Antonio Nucera, deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome (see Early 2000). Up until this point, Montini, age 60, has been working as an informant for Italian intelligence. She goes by the name “La Signora.” [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; Marshall, 11/10/2005; Sunday Times (London), 4/9/2006; Vanity Fair, 7/2006, pp. 150] One of the first documents she gives to Martino is one relating to Wissam al-Zahawie’s 1999 visit to Niger (see February 1999). Martino reportedly passes the document on to the French. [Sunday Times (London), 4/9/2006] Over the next several months, La Signora reportedly provides Martino with numerous documents—a “codebook,” a dossier including a mixture of fake and genuine documents, and then finally, a purported agreement between Niger and Iraq on the sale of 500 tons of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake.” [Marshall, 11/10/2005]
Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri sends a close associate, Mahmoud Es Sayed, to Italy. His task is to revitalize an Egyptian Islamist network in Milan and northern Italy, by setting up new cells and establishing contacts with other extremist networks operating in the area. He applies for asylum and, during the proceedings on his application, states that he is connected to Islamic Jihad. However, he is granted asylum anyway. He maintains close ties with one radical mosque in Milan, the Islamic Cultural Institute, and immediately becomes the undisputed leader of the city’s other extremist mosque, the Via Quaranta mosque. The Italian authorities, who are investigating radical Islamist networks at this time, learn of his arrival and importance within a few months. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 52, 221-2] There is evidence to indicate that Es Sayed has foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and September 4, 2001).
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. [Source: ABC]Italian resident Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who previously informed for the CIA on extremists in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After and May 1997-2000), moves from Rome to Milan to live with a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000 and Summer 2000). Al-Zawahiri’s associate, Mahmoud Es Sayed, and Nasr arrive in Milan at the same time, and it appears their movements are coordinated. Nasr actually lives in Es Sayed’s apartment and the pair make use of two radical mosques in Milan, the Via Quaranta mosque, which is their headquarters, and the Islamic Cultural Institute (ICI), which is associated with a cell of radical Islamists that works with al-Qaeda and appears to have foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and March 2001). The ICI has a reputation as the most radical Islamic center in Italy, was a key supply point for Muslims fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995), and was connected to the first World Trade Center bombing (see Late 1993-1994). Nasr serves as deputy imam at the ICI and preaches anti-US sermons. Italian law enforcement authorities monitor him with bugs in his apartment and through a tap on his phone, finding out that after 9/11 he recruits Muslims to go and fight in Afghanistan. He does not seem to be directly involved in serious illegal activity, but the information the Italians gain helps them monitor other radicals. His relationship with the CIA during his time in Italy is unclear, but in one monitored call after 9/11 he appears to be dissuading another radical from attacking Jews and in another he tells an associate not to carry out a car bombing. [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005; Vidino, 2006, pp. 242] The CIA will kidnap Nasr in 2003 (see Noon February 17, 2003).
Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman. [Source: US Defense Department]Italian intelligence successfully wiretaps an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, starting in late 1999. [Boston Globe, 8/4/2002] In a wiretapped conversation from this day, Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO - roughly the equivalent to the FBI in the US) traveling on a diplomatic passport (see Spring-Summer 1998), talks about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky. The conversation takes place in a car on the way to a terrorist summit near Bologna (see August 12, 2000 and Shortly After), and the person Abdulrahman talks to is Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000). There are several significant aspects to the conversation:
Abdulrahman makes comments indicating he has foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He says that he is “studying airlines,” comments, “Our focus is only on the air,” and tells Es Sayed to remember the words “above the head.” He also says that next time they meet he hopes to bring Es Sayed “a window or piece of the airplane,” and that the security on Alitalia and at Rome airport is poor. The name of the operation is given as “Jihadia,” and Abdulrahman says, “the big blow will come from the other country: one of those blows no one can ever forget.” He adds: “[It is] moving from south to north, from east to west: whoever created this plan is crazy, but he’s also a genius. It will leave them speechless.” He also says: “We can fight any power using candles and airplanes: they will not be able to stop us with even their most powerful weapons. We must hit them. And keep your head up.… Remember, the danger in the airports.… If it happens the newspapers from all over the world will write about it.”
Es Sayed remarks, “I know brothers who went to America with the trick of the wedding publications.” The phrase “Big wedding” is sometimes used by al-Qaeda as code for a bombing or attack, including 9/11 (see November 30, 1999 and Late Summer 2001), so, taken together with Abdulrahman’s remarks, this indicates an unconventional attack in the US using aircraft;
The two discuss training camps in Yemen, which are “proceeding on a world scale.” They also mention youth in Italy, and presumably the youth are training;
Es Sayed says, “my dream is building an Islamic state,” and Abdulrahman replies that this is possible because the Yemeni government is weak and “sooner or later we will dominate it;”
Es Sayed asks after a person named Ayman, evidently al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri;
Abdulrahman twice mentions the name of Abdul Mejid, apparently a reference to Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, a radical leader in Yemen and associate of Osama bin Laden (see January-August 1998);
Es Sayed makes the cryptic comment, “One must be cautious, like in Iran; not a single photo.”
Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts will help Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Related conversations are overheard early the next year (see January 24, 2001 and February 2001). Neither Italy nor the FBI will fully understand their meaning until after 9/11, but apparently the Italians will understand enough to give the US an attack warning in March 2001 (see March 2001). After 9/11, this conversation and others like it will cause US intelligence to think there may be a link between the 9/11 plot and Yemen’s PSO. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/2002; Guardian, 5/30/2002; Washington Post, 5/31/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002; Vidino, 2006, pp. 224-5] Author Lorenzo Vidino will later comment: “The chilling conversation alarmed officials before 9/11, but it took on a completely different resonance after the attacks had taken place. [Abdulrahman], who had close connections to the highest ranks of al-Qaeda, likely knew about the plan in advance and had told Es Sayed about it.” [Vidino, 2006, pp. 226]
Italian counterterrorist authorities monitor a summit of leading Islamist militants near Bologna. Attendees at the meeting, which is arranged through an extremist mosque in Milan called the Islamic Cultural Institute, include:
Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000). He had recently been sent by al-Zawahiri to revise the militant network in northern Italy (see Summer 2000).
Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, a section chief with Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO—roughly equivalent to the FBI). Es Sayed and Abdulrahman are overheard discussing an attack using aircraft on their way to the summit, indicating they have foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000). The two of them will be recorded a few months later discussing trying to get some of their associates into the US (see February 2001). In 2002, Abdulrahman will be arrested and sent to the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba (see September 2002).
Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali, an Islamic Jihad leader and another close associate of al-Zawahiri’s. Ali was convicted of murder in Egypt but fled to Germany and was granted political asylum there in 1999. Future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah called him once in 1999 and will call him again in August 2001 (see November 7, 1999 and August 4, 2001).
Mohammed Fazazi, the spiritual leader of the Moroccan group Salafia Jihadia, which will be responsible for a 2003 attack in Casablanca (see May 16, 2003). Fazazi is also the imam at Hamburg’s Al-Quds mosque, which is attended by the core cell of future 9/11 hijacker pilots, including Jarrah (see Early 1996 and (April 1, 1999)). Fazazi’s presence indicates a further connection between the cell in Milan, which is under heavy surveillance by Italian authorities (see 2000), and the cell in Hamburg, but this link will not be exploited to prevent 9/11. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 230]
A Tunisian militant based in Italy named Sekseka Habib Waddani confesses to Italian police that he has helped run an elaborate arms smuggling ring, but it is unclear whether Italy or the US does anything to stop him. Waddani will be placed on the US Treasury Department’s list of most-wanted militants on August 29, 2002, but this “prompts questions about when the United States learned of Waddani, and whether any action was taken by Italian or US officials after Waddani’s claim that large amounts of weapons were being sold to Islamic terrorists.” When the CIA is asked in 2002 whether it did anything about Waddani, the agency will decline to comment.
Walk In - Waddani just walks in to a police station in Milan in 2000 and discloses the information, which he learned because he was involved when the weapons transited Italy and Switzerland. He approaches the police because he is being blackmailed and needs protection. The weapons smuggling scheme Waddani reports to the Italians initially involved smuggling the arms from Russia to Italy by sea, then to Croatia and on to Bosnia during the war there from 1992 to 1995. Weapons were also supplied to Albanian fighters in Kosovo in 1998. The deals were brokered by Italian and Muslim lawyers in Switzerland, who found buyers there. However, this system is abandoned as too difficult and the weapons—pistols, machine guns, missiles, and grenades—are then shipped through Uzbekistan to Pakistan for use at terrorist training camps in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Companies Involved - Several European companies are involved in moving the arms, including one that handled transactions in Switzerland and is owned by a Pakistani named Haji Agka and two Swiss-based Tunisians, Ahmed and Shoyab Sharifi, and a front named the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center of Lucerne. The two Tunisians are friends of Ahmad Huber, who reportedly facilitates “periodic and regular” weapons shipments and is accused of moving money for Osama bin Laden through the suspect Al Taqwa bank (see November 7, 2001). Huber denies the charges and, although the Italians passed the information on to Switzerland, says neither he nor any of his associates were ever even questioned about it. Waddani will be indicted in October 2001 in Italy, for trafficking in arms, explosives, chemical weapons, identity papers, receiving stolen goods, and illegal immigration. The Treasury Department will also say he is a member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). [MSNBC, 9/16/2002]
A set of documents is forged implicating Iraq in an attempt to purchase 500 tons of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake,” from Niger. [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Reuters, 7/19/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005] It is possible that official stamps and letterhead stolen from the Niger embassy in Rome (see January 2, 2001) are used to fabricate the documents, though a subsequent police investigation suggests that the break-in may have been staged to provide a cover story for the origins of the documents. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 88] Material gleaned from real Italian intelligence (SISMI) documents dating back to the 1980s concerning Iraq’s yellowcake purchases from Niger during that period are also incorporated into the set of forged documents. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/2005] But it is unclear who exactly is responsible for the forgeries. In August 2004, the Financial Times will report that according to Rocco Martino, the Italian information peddler who later tries to sell the documents, the documents are fabricated by SISMI, which passes them on to Martino through embassy employee Laura Montini, a paid SISMI asset. [Financial Times, 8/2/2004] In October 2005, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica will suggest the forgery is done by Montini and fellow embassy employee Zakaria Yaou Maiga under the guidance of Martino and Antonio Nucera, the deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005] In 2006, an official investigation will add support to this account, concluding that Montini and Maiga, motivated by money, were indeed the forgers of the documents. [Sunday Times (London), 4/9/2006] SISMI director Nicolo Pollari will later acknowledge that Martino had worked as a SISMI agent in the past, but deny any SISMI involvement in the Iraq-Niger affair. “[Nucera] offered [Martino] the use of an intelligence asset [Montini]—no big deal, you understand—one who was still on the books but inactive—to give a hand to Martino,” Pollari will explain. Author Craig Unger will observe that the issue is, if Pollari is to be believed, just one friend helping another friend by loaning him an intelligence asset to help disseminate forged documents. Martino has a different explanation: “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents, but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.” The information is quite contradictory. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica will call Martino “a failed carabiniere and dishonest spy,” and a “double-dealer” who “plays every side of the fence.” But Unger will later note that assets like him are valuable precisely because they lack credibility. “If there were a deep-cover unit of SISMI, it would make sense to hire someone like Rocco,” says former DIA analyst Patrick Lang. “His flakiness gives SISMI plausible deniability. That’s standard tradecraft for the agencies.” Until Martino stops talking to journalists in 2005, he will insist he believed the documents were authentic (see Summer 2004). “I sell information, I admit,” he will tell a London reporter. “But I only sell good information.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 236]
Mohammed Ben Heni Lased. [Source: Public domain]Italian and US authorities monitor an Italian cell of extremists linked to al-Qaeda (see Early 2000-2001) while its members discuss the use of a chemical weapon, but the cell does not appear to be able to make the weapon work. In phone conversations overheard by Italian intelligence operatives, Islamist extremists Sami Ben Khemais, Mohammed Ben Heni Lased, and others discuss the best way to transport chemicals—disguised as cans of tomatoes—and how to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker and a tape player. Ben Khemais also refers to a drug, for which a Libyan chemistry professor has a formula, but, although making the drug is supposedly easy, Ben Khemais cannot do it. He also suggests asking the Russian mafia for a chemical weapon, and refers to one man as “the sheik,” possibly meaning Osama bin Laden. However, despite his plans, no attacks are actually carried out. The Chicago Tribune will later comment, “Most of the talk is inconclusive, and, at times, Ben Khemais and his associates sound more like al-Qaeda wannabes than the calculating criminals as anti-terrorist investigators describe them.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]
An official of the Embassy of Niger in Rome returns to the embassy to find that it has been burglarized some time over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The embassy offices are located in a large apartment and office building near the Piazza Mazzinni. Little of value seems to be missing: a wristwatch, some perfume, bureaucratic documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. The documents and materials stolen from the embassy will be used to create forged documents alleging a secret plan for Iraq to buy uranium from Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, March 1, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002). [Vanity Fair, 7/2006, pp. 150; Unger, 2007, pp. 189-190] It appears that the people involved in the break-in also searched through and took some of the embassy’s documents and files. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005] The first comprehensive report on the burglary will come from a 2005 series of reports in Italy’s La Repubblica news daily. The series is based on interviews with SISMI director Nicolo Pollari, former SISMI agent and document peddler Rocco Martino (see March 2000, Late June 2002, Afternoon October 7, 2002, and Summer 2004), and others. Martino will deny participating in the burglary himself, and will claim he only became involved after SISMI had its agent in the embassy, Laura Montini, deliver to him documents secured from the embassy. “I was told that a woman in the Niger embassy in Rome had a gift for me” (see Early 2000), he will later recall. “I met her and she gave me documents.” [London Times, 8/1/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 207] Italian police will later suspect that the break-in was staged to provide an explanation for how a collection of mostly forged documents (which play an important role in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq) came into being. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 88]
Mahmoud Es Sayed (aka Abu Saleh), a member of an Italian al-Qaeda cell being monitored by the authorities there, calls an associate, Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, in Yemen to discuss travel to the US. Abdulrahman is a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (see August 12, 2000), but Italian authorities overhear Es Sayed telling Abdulrahman’s younger brother, “I heard you were going to America.” The brother replies: “I’m sorry to say we’re not able to get in. It is our most important wish and our big target.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002] Italian authorities had previously overheard conversations between Es Sayed and Albdulrahman in which they discussed a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft (see August 12, 2000). The US will soon be warned of this (see March 2001).
The Italian government gives the US information about possible attacks based on apartment wiretaps in the Italian city of Milan. [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Presumably, the information includes a discussion between two al-Qaeda agents talking about a “very, very secret” plan to forge documents “for the brothers who are going to the United States” (see January 24, 2001). The warning may also mention a wiretap the previous August involving one of the same people, who discussed a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft (see August 12, 2000) and another of his monitored conversations in which he discusses travel by al-Qaeda operatives to the US (see February 2001).
Following the arrest of extremists based around Milan, Italy, in April 2001 (see 2000-April 2001 and Early 2000-2001), local authorities begin to investigate associates of the arrested men. They find that when the group wants to send people to training camps in Afghanistan, this is arranged through two people based at the Islamic Cultural Institute, a well-known radical mosque in Milan. The two men who take care of the arrangements are Abdelhalim Remadna, an Algerian secretary of the mosque’s imam, and a Moroccan named Yassin Chekkouri, both of whom live inside the mosque and almost never leave. After several months of investigation, the authorities find them to be key players in a sophisticated network that is recruiting hundreds of European Muslims for al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. They also find that Remadna communicates frequently with a man named Abu Jaffa (a.k.a. Abu Jafar al-Jaziri), who runs a guesthouse for Algerian militants in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and that the two of them coordinate the trainees’ movements. The group does not use the usual route for trainees through Pakistan, as it is aware Pakistani stamps in a passport indicate an affiliation with al-Qaeda. Instead, volunteers travel through Turkey and Iran. Members of Remadna’s network say that Iran provides “complete cooperation” with this. Remadna provides the volunteers with addresses of hotels and safe houses, where members of the network meet them and help them cross from Iran into Afghanistan. By analyzing phone traffic, the authorities find that militants from at least six European countries rely on Remadna to reach the Afghan camps. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 219-221]
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later claims that Egyptian intelligence discovers a “communiqué from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate President Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Genoa, Italy” on this day. The communiqué specifically mentions this would be done via “an airplane stuffed with explosives.” The US and Italy are sent urgent warnings of this. [New York Times, 9/26/2001] Mubarak will claim that Egyptian intelligence officials informed American intelligence officers between March and May 2001 that an Egyptian agent had penetrated al-Qaeda. Presumably, this explains how Egypt is able to give the US these warnings. [New York Times, 6/4/2002]
Anti-aircraft stationed around the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. [Source: BBC]The G8 summit is held in Genoa, Italy. Acting on previous warnings that al-Qaeda would attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders, Italian authorities surround the summit with anti-aircraft guns. They keep fighter jets in the air and close off local airspace to all planes. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001] The warnings are taken so seriously that Bush stays overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, and other world leaders stay on a luxury ship. [CNN, 7/18/2001] No attack occurs. US officials state that the warnings were “unsubstantiated,” but after 9/11, they will claim success in preventing an attack. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001] According to author Philip Shenon, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is involved in discussions about the precautions, and this is the only time she focuses on al-Qaeda threats in the summer of 2001. Shenon will add: “There is no record to show that Rice made any special effort to discuss terrorist threats with Bush. The record suggested, instead, that it was not a matter of special interest to either of them that summer.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 154]
Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali. [Source: Marco Stepniak / Bild]Future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah telephones Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali, an imam and an Islamic Jihad leader wanted for murder in Egypt. No details about the call are known except that it lasts 13 minutes. Jarrah also called Ali in November 1999 (see November 7, 1999). Ali was convicted of murder in Egypt in 1996, but he fled to Muenster, Germany, and received political asylum there in October 1999. Also in October 1999, Ali was on a published list of the Egyptian government’s most wanted terrorists (see October 2, 1999), and he is said to be a close associate of al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Jarrah’s two phone calls to Ali will be mentioned in a classified 2002 FBI report about the 9/11 hijackers, but it is unclear how or when the FBI learns about the calls. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/11/2002; Vidino, 2006, pp. 230; Bild, 3/10/2011]
Ali Attended a Monitored Terror Summit in Italy - On August 12, 2000, Ali attended a terrorist summit in Bologna, Italy, that lasted for several days and was monitored by the Italian government (see August 12, 2000 and Shortly After). Also attending the summit were Mahmoud Es Sayed, another close associate of al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000) and Yemeni government official Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman. On their way to the summit, Es Sayed and Abdulrahman were overheard discussing an attack using aircraft, indicating they have some level of foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see August 12, 2000). Also attending the summit was Mohammed Fazazi, the imam of the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, that Jarrah and other members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell regularly attend (see Early 1996 and (April 1, 1999)). Fazazi will be convicted of a role in a bombing in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2003 (see May 16, 2003). The summit was organized by the Islamic Cultural Institute, which is the epicenter of an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, that was heavily monitored by the Italian government at the time (see 2000). [Vidino, 2006, pp. 230] It is not known if the Italian government warned the German government of Ali’s presence at this summit, or if Ali was monitored by anyone in Germany after it.
Asylum Status Later Stripped - Beginning in 2007, the German government will attempt to strip Ali of his asylum status because of his link to Islamic Jihad. He will lose that status in 2011, but is not subsequently deported from Germany. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 3/9/2011; Bild, 3/10/2011]
Ben Soltane Adel, a Tunisian detained in Milan, Italy, for belonging to an extremist cell (see January 24, 2001), receives a letter from a fellow militant. The envelope contains an empty chewing gum wrapper. The wrapper is from Brooklyn Gum, a popular Italian brand that features a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, so presumably it is a hint to Adel about the 9/11 targets. Prison guards notice the wrapper when they open the envelope and think it odd. However, they do not realize the full significance of it until five days later. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 226] Some Islamist militants in Milan appear to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks around this time (see September 7, 2001) and September 4, 2001). In January 2001, Adel was monitored talking about using forged documents to help the “brothers who are going to the United States” with Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of the people in Italy who seems to know about the 9/11 plot (see January 24, 2001 and August 12, 2000).
Release and Imprisoned Again - In early 2004, Adel will be released after serving a three and a half year sentence in Italy, and then deported to Tunisia. In June 2007, it will be reported that he is on a UN al-Qaeda and Taliban blacklist, and he is imprisoned in Tunisia. [Isle of Man Customs Division, 6/11/2007]
An Italian network of extremists that has been closely monitored by local authorities (see After April 2001) goes silent following 9/11, after which only one message is intercepted. The message, which says, “Congratulations for the USA,” is from an unknown militant to Abdelhalim Remadna, a leading radical based in Milan. Remadna is arrested on November 12 as he attempts to flee Italy. One of his associates, Yassin Chekkouri, is arrested on the same day. Remadna will be sentenced to eight years in prison, whereas Chekkouri will receive four. Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of their associates who apparently had some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and September 4, 2001), escapes Italy some time in October, but is apparently killed at the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 227-30]
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly puts pressure on Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service, to provide the US with intelligence in an effort to please the Bush administration and make Italy a top US ally. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005] Berlusconi was a member of the Italian neofascist organization “Propaganda Due” (P-2—see 1981). The organization was banned in 1981 and charged with an array of crimes. The organization also had murky ties with some American neoconservatives (see October 1980). [Unger, 2007, pp. 234]
Antonio Martino. [Source: US Navy]Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino says: “I think that there are terrorist states and organizations behind speculation on the international markets. Those who organized the attacks on New York are clear-minded in their folly. Because everybody knows that money is power.” He adds: “Those who acted certainly tried to cover the tracks of the operation. But if the intelligence services of all countries work together, the financiers who work for the terrorists will not escape the hunt.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/17/2001] The same day, the BBC reports, “Italian stock authorities [are] investigating abnormal movements in share prices on the Milan stock exchange prior to the terrorist attacks.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/2001] Further, it is reported that around 1995 several intelligence services investigated Osama bin Laden investing in European stock markets through an unnamed broker in Milan (see 1995).
Mohamed Daki. [Source: ANSA]Three weeks after 9/11, German investigators question Mohamed Daki, a Moroccan. Daki came to Germany on a student visa, but he never enrolled in college, instead associating with radical Islamists at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. Daki admits that he knows members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell and that hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh was registered as his roommate in 1997 and 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998), but in retrospect, it appears he lies about some other things. The Germans let him go and do not investigate him any further. The New York Times will later report that “officials now concede they also lost track of him. And, apparently, his name was not added to any international list of suspicious persons.”
Involved in Militant Activity in Italy - In the spring of 2002, Daki will move to Milan, Italy, another center of al-Qaeda activity. Italian investigators believe Daki eventually joins an al-Qaeda-related operation to recruit fighters in Europe to fight against US forces in Iraq. In March 2003, Italian intelligence will monitor a call to Daki from Abderazek Mahdjoub in Syria. Mahdjoub also has ties to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, and had been under investigation in Germany since 2000, if not earlier (see 2000). Investigators believe he headed the al-Qaeda cell in Milan while living in Hamburg. Mahdjoub will tell Daki that he and others have been detected: “Listen to me attentively. Wait for my call. Move yourself to France and await orders.” In April, Daki and some of his associates will be arrested in Italy. Italian officials will say that only after these arrests do they find out the intelligence Germany had on them, including their links to the 9/11 plotters. One Hamburg police investigator will later comment, “Looking back, I would say that we should have asked more pointed questions [about Daki] than we did.” [New York Times, 3/22/2004]
Convicted in Italy - In 2005, Daki will be acquitted on charges of sending fighters to oppose US-led forces in Iraq, when the Italian judge argues that it is not illegal to send “guerrillas” to fight there. But in 2007, this decision will be overturned and Daki will be sentenced to four years in prison. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2007]
Italy’s military intelligence service (SISMI) provides Jeff Castelli, the CIA station chief in Rome, with papers documenting an alleged uranium deal between Iraq and Niger. Castelli, who is not permitted to duplicate the papers, writes a summary of them and sends the report to Langley. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005; La Repubblica (Rome), 11/11/2005]
The allegations - The report includes four allegations:
The report states that Iraq first communicated its interest in purchasing uranium from Niger at least as early as 1999. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] As blogger ERiposte will conclude through his analysis at TheLeftCoaster.Org [ERiposte, 10/31/2005] , none of the documents that are later provided to the US as the basis for this allegation include actual proof of uranium negotiations in 1999. Two of the source documents for this allegation do mention a 1999 visit by Wissam Al-Zahawi to Niger; however, no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that there were any discussions about uranium during that visit (see February 1999). The first document (possibly authentic) is a letter, dated February 1, 1999, from the Niger embassy in Rome to Adamou Chekou, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Niger, announcing Zahawie’s trip. It does not mention uranium. (Note that the SISMI report does not mention Al-Zahawi’s trip, it only states that uranium negotiations between the two countries began by at least 1999.) The second document is a letter dated July 30, 1999 from the Niger Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his ambassador in Rome requesting that he contact Zahawie, concerning an agreement signed June 28, 2000 to sell uranium to Iraq. The letter is an obvious forgery because it refers to an event that it describes as taking place 11 months later. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003]
The SISMI report states that in “late 2000,” the State Court of Niger approved an agreement with Iraq whereby Niger would sell Iraq a large quantity of uranium. This allegation appears to be based on a forged document titled “Annex 1,” which was possibly an annex to the alleged uranium agreement. It is evident that this document was forged because it says that the state court “met in the chamber of the council in the palace… on Wednesday, July 7, 2000.” But July 7, 2000 was, in fact, a Friday, not a Wednesday. One of SISMI’s reports to the US, possibly this one, actually reproduces this error. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003; ERiposte, 10/31/2005]
According to the report, Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja approved the agreement and communicated this decision to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The source for this is apparently a forged letter from the president of Niger to Saddam Hussein, in which the president refers to his authority under the country’s obsolete 1966 constitution. At the time the letter was presumed to have been written, the constitution in effect would have been that of December 26, 1992, which was subsequently revised by national referendum on May 12, 1996 and again by referendum on July 18, 1999. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003; US Department of State, 9/2005]
The report also alleges that in October 2000, Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had agreed to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003] This is seemingly based on a forged letter that accompanied the alleged uranium sales agreement. The letter, dated October 10, 2000, is stamped as being received in Rome on September 28, 2000—nearly two weeks before the letter was presumably written. Furthermore, there is a problem with the signature. Unlike what is reported in the SISMI papers provided to the CIA, the actual letter is signed by Allele Elhadj Habibou, who left office in 1989. This indicates that someone must have corrected this information, replacing the name of Allele Elhadj Habibou with that of Nassirou Sabo (the minister in October 2000), before the letter was included in this report. [ERiposte, 10/31/2005]
Distribution within US Intelligence Community - After receiving the report from its Rome station, the CIA distributes it to other US intelligence agencies. According to a later Senate investigation, the “CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Department of Energy (DOE) analysts considered the reporting to be ‘possible’ while the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarded the report as ‘highly suspect,’ primarily because INR analysts did not believe that Niger would be likely to engage in such a transaction and did not believe Niger would be able to transfer uranium to Iraq because a French consortium maintained control of the Nigerien uranium industry.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Sources later interviewed by New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh portray US intelligence analysts’ assessment of the report in slightly harsher terms, saying that they “dismissed [it] as amateurish and unsubstantiated.” [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] “I can fully believe that SISMI would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a CIA consultant later tells Hersh, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” [New Yorker, 5/17/2004, pp. 227] Langley asks for further clarification from Rome and receives a response three days later (see October 18, 2001). [La Repubblica (Rome), 11/11/2005]
Repeated Dissemination - The documents and reports based on the documents are sent to the CIA at least three separate times. They are also sent to the White House, the US embassy in Rome, British and French intelligence, and Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba of the news magazine Panorama. Each recipient in turn shares the documents, or their contents, with others, creating what author Craig Unger later calls “an echo chamber that gives the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 237]
Entity Tags: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Central Intelligence Agency, Craig Unger, Defense Intelligence Agency, Mamadou Tandja, SISMI, Elisabetta Burba, Nassirou Sabo, Wissam al-Zahawie, Saddam Hussein, Jeff Castelli, US Department of Energy
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Following a number of meetings in Rome and London between SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence, and the British MI6 [Bamford, 2004, pp. 303-304] , SISMI provides the British with an intelligence report on Iraq’s alleged efforts to obtain uranium from Niger. The report—delivered by freelance SISMI agent Rocco Martino to the Vauxhall Cross headquarters of Britain’s MI6 in south London—is reportedly based on the collection of mostly forged documents put together in Italy (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001). MI6 will include this information in a report it sends to Washington saying only that it was obtained from a “reliable source.” Washington treats the report as an independent confirmation of the Italian report (see October 15, 2001). [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/2005; Independent, 11/6/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 228-229]
Nicolo Pollari, the newly appointed head of Italy’s intelligence agency SISMI, visits his counterparts at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pressured Pollari to give the US any information he has that would be useful for the US case for war with Iraq. As such, Pollari gives the CIA a dossier concerning the supposed uranium deal between Iraq and Niger, not the first time the CIA has received these documents (see October 15, 2001 and October 18, 2001). The actual forged documents are not in Pollari’s dossier. Although CIA analysts will call the report “very limited and lacking necessary detail,” the fact that Pollari himself delivers the dossier adds credibility to the information; as a result, the State Department will direct the US embassy in Niger to look into the allegations. [Unger, 2007, pp. 229]
Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy’s military intelligence service (SISMI—see (After October 18, 2001) and September 9, 2002), responds to the CIA’s request for clarification on the alleged uranium deal between Iraq and Niger (see October 15, 2001). Pollari’s page and a half letter explains that “the information comes form a creditable source, La Signora [Laura Montini],” who has in the past “given SISMI the cryptographic codes and memorandum ledgers from the Niger Embassy.” [La Repubblica (Rome), 11/11/2005] Some time around this same date, according to La Repubblica, Pollari discusses the issue with Italy’s Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino (no relation to Rocco Martino, the document peddler—see March 2000, Late June 2002, Afternoon October 7, 2002, and Summer 2004). Martino tells Pollari to expect a visit from “an old friend of Italy,” Martino’s longtime friend and colleague Michael Ledeen (see (After October 18, 2001) and April 3, 2005). Ledeen will later deny that any such meeting with Pollari ever happened. Pollari will deny any involvement with the Iraq-Niger affair. [Unger, 2007, pp. 235-236]
Nicolo Pollari. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italian intelligence (SISMI), is reportedly disappointed with his attempts to communicate with US intelligence. (It is not clear from the reporting what exactly Pollari is dissappointed about. It has been interpreted to have meant that Pollari is disappointed about US intelligence’s refusal to take SISMI’s October 15 report seriously) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had reportedly asked Pollari to establish closer relations with Washington (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). According to La Repubblica, the prime minister’s diplomatic advisor, Gianni Castellaneta, advises Pollari to look in “other directions.” The Italian minister of defense, Antonio Martino, invites Pollari to meet with American neoconservative Michael Ledeen, which he does in December (see December 9, 2001). [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005]
A London Times article by Daniel McGrory claims that not only did Mohamed Atta meet with an Iraqi agent in Prague, but that “a special FBI team” is studying “a report from Prague that anthrax spores were given to Atta” during the meeting. Furthermore, “Saddam’s agents were spotted at various times this year with Atta in Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic,” and that Atta met with the agent in Prague at least four times. Additionally, an Iraqi intelligence agent in Rome was seen with Atta in Prague and Hamburg and then disappeared shortly before the 9/11 attacks. The article also alleges numerous meetings between Iraqi agents and Osama bin Laden, as well as a meeting between al-Qaeda second-in command Ayman Zawahiri and Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yasin Ramadan. Furthermore, al-Qaeda operatives were supposedly given advanced weapons training in Iraq supervised by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday Hussein. The article mentions no sources at all for these stunning allegations, except to refer to some other recent articles in a couple of cases. However, the article does mention former CIA Director James Woolsey, and it seems probable that Woolsey is a force behind the article, since he is in London at the time attempting to find evidence supporting the Prague meeting and Iraqi involvement in the anthrax attacks (see Mid-September-October 2001). [London Times, 10/27/2001] This article represents the height of the propaganda effort attempting to link al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government together. Many of the allegations in the article are never mentioned in any other newspaper article, and all of them will eventually be debunked.
Italian police raid Youssef Nada’s villa in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]The US and other countries announce the closure of the Al Taqwa Bank and the Al Barakaat financial network. President Bush says, “Al Taqwa and Al Barakaat raise funds for al-Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds.” US officials claim that both entities skimmed a part of the fees charged on each financial transaction it conducted and paid it to al-Qaeda. This would provide al-Qaeda with tens of millions of dollars annually. Additionally, Al Taqwa would provide investment advice and transfer cash for al-Qaeda. Al Taqwa is based in Switzerland while Al Barakaat is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Over 100 nations are said to be cooperating with efforts to block the funds of these two groups. [New York Times, 11/8/2001] Swiss authorities raid Al Taqwa-related businesses and the homes of bank leaders Youssef Nada, Ali Himmat, and Ahmad Huber, but no arrests are made. In January 2002, Nada will announce that the Al Taqwa Bank is shutting down, due to bad publicity after the raids. He will maintain that he and his organization are completely innocent. [Newsweek, 11/7/2001; Reuters, 1/10/2002] Days after 9/11, Huber called the 9/11 attacks “counterterror against American-Israeli terror,” the World Trade Center a “the Twin Towers of the godless,” and the Pentagon “a symbol of Satan,” yet he will claim to have no ties to the attackers. [Playboy, 2/1/2002; Newsweek, 3/18/2002] In searching Nada’s house, Swiss authorities discover a document entitled “The Project,” which is a strategic plan for the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982). By late 2002, both the US and UN will declare Al Taqwa Bank, Nada, and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, another founder and director of the bank, supporters of terrorism. All of their accounts will be declared frozen worldwide. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] However, while Al Taqwa itself will be shut down, later reports will indicate that other financial entities operated by the directors will continue to operate freely (see June-October 2005).
Greg Thielmann, director for strategic proliferation and military affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), reviews Iraq’s alleged WMD programs for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thielmann’s review concludes that Italian reports of a possible uranium deal between Iraq and Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002) are completely false. Thielmann will later recall: “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus. This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down” (see March 1, 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 229]
Manucher Ghorbanifar. [Source: Ted Thai / Getty Images]The Bush administration sends two defense officials, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, to meet with Iranians in Rome in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism. The offer had been backchanneled by the Iranians to the White House through Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader and a central person in the Iran-Contra affair, who contacted another Iran-Contra figure, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen passed the information on to his friends in the Defense Department who then relayed the offer to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Hadley, who expressed no reservations about the proposed meeting, informed CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. According to officials interviewed by the New York Times, the United States Embassy in Rome was not notified of the planned meeting as required by standard interagency procedures. Neither the US embassy nor the CIA station chief in Rome learns of the three-day meeting until after it happens (see December 12, 2001). When they do catch wind of the meeting, they notify CIA and State Department headquarters in Washington which complain to the administration about how the meetings were arranged. [Newsday, 8/9/2003; Washington Post, 8/9/2003; New York Times, 12/7/2003] In addition to Ghorbanifar, Ledeen, Franklin, and Rhode, the meeting is attended by Nicolo Pollari, head of SISMI, and Antonio Martino, Italy’s minister of defense. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004]
Destabilizing the Iraqi Government - According to the Boston Globe, either at this meeting, a similar one in June (see June 2002), or both, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar discuss ways to destabilize the Iranian government, possibly using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a US-designated terrorist group, as a US proxy. [Boston Globe, 8/31/2004] The meetings are suspected of being an attempt by what investigative reporters Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Gastris will later call “a rogue faction at the Pentagon… trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a ‘regime-change’ agenda.” The fact that MEK members attend the meetings adds weight to the claim. [Unger, 2007, pp. 234-235]
Italian Intelligence on Iraq-Niger Allegations - Additionally, according to an unnamed SISMI source, Pollari speaks with Ledeen about intelligence his agency has collected (see October 15, 2001) suggesting that Iraq made a deal with Niger to purchase several tons of uranium. SISMI already sent a report to Washington on the matter in mid-October (see October 15, 2001). Reportedly, Pollari has also approached CIA Station Chief Jeff Castelli about the report, but Castelli has since indicated he is not interested in the information. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005]
Entity Tags: Manucher Ghorbanifar, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Paul Gastris, Stephen J. Hadley, Michael Ledeen, Larry Franklin, Nicolo Pollari, Harold Rhode, Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, George J. Tenet, Antonio Martino
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
The newly-installed US ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler, learns during the course of a private dinner with Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen and Italian defense minister Antonio Martino about the secret backchannel meeting they attended three days before (see December 9, 2001) with US defense officials, former Iran-Contra figures, and Iranian government officials. After the dinner, Sembler immediately contacts Jeff Castelli, the CIA station chief in Rome, to find out if he knows about the meeting. But the station chief says he was also unaware of the meeting. “Soon both Sembler and the Rome station chief were sending anxious queries back to the State Department and CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., respectively, raising alarms on both sides of the Potomac” since all US government contact with foreign government intelligence agencies is supposed to be overseen by the CIA. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] Old State Department hands are horrified to learn of Ledeen’s involvement with the Iraq-Niger fabrications. Bad enough that Elliott Abrams was brought into the administration (see November 2002-December 2002), they say, but with Ledeen and his associate [Iranian arms dealer Manucher] Ghorbanifar making an appearance, it seems to these State Department veterans that the days of Reagan-era “cowboy diplomacy” are back in full swing. “One of the truly remarkable elements of the neocon story is their addiction to Ghorbanifar,” a State Department official will say in 2007. “It is part of their ‘we are smarter, you are stupid’ attitude.” Author Craig Unger will note, “The key players in Iran-Contra were back in business.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 234-235]
Tunnels under the US embassy in Rome. [Source: BBC]Four Moroccans are arrested in Rome in possession of several pounds of a cyanide compound. In addition, police find a map marked with the location of a water main in central Rome. When news of the arrest is leaked to the Italian media on the following day, there are widespread fears of a plot to poison Rome’s water supply. The press speculates that the men may be linked to al-Qaeda. The US embassy in Rome may also have been a target, says an embassy spokesman. In the following days, five more men, also from Morocco, are arrested. However, within days the cyanide compound is identified as potassium ferro-cyanide, which has many agricultural and industrial uses. An official says it could not have been used to poison the water supply. Following the initial arrest, Italian authorities inspect public utility tunnels in central Rome and find a hole in one of them near the US embassy. Police say that they suspect the plotters had planned a bomb attack against the embassy. The potassium ferro-cyanide, although harmless in itself, may have been used to produce a toxic gas if heated, investigators say. According to a police expert, “A toxic cloud would have formed and spread through the tunnels under the center of Rome.” The nine suspects are held without bail pending trial, but will be later acquitted (see April 28, 2004). [BBC News, 2/20/2002; BBC News, 2/21/2002; BBC News, 2/24/2002; New York Times, 2/25/2002; Time, 2/25/2002; New York Times, 2/26/2002; New York Times, 2/27/2002]
A terror alert is issued for American interests in four Italian cities. Richard Boucher, spokesman for the State Department, says that “There is not too much more detail I can give you other than saying that we have credible reports that extremists are planning additional terrorist attacks against US interests and that a possible threat exists to US citizens in the cities of Venice, Florence, Milan and Verona on Easter Sunday, March 31st.” [US Department of State, 3/27/2002] No attacks materialize and no further information is given on the nature of the threat. [News Hounds, 10/9/2004]
In part due to pressure from Vice President Cheney, the CIA sends a cable to France’s intelligence agency, the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), communicating concerns about intelligence suggesting that Iraq is attempting to purchase uranium from Niger. (Another cable had been sent the year before (see Summer 2001).) Specifically, the CIA says it is concerned about an alleged agreement between Iraq and Niger on the sale of 500 tons of uranium that was signed by Nigerian officials. (In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, DGSE official Alain Chouet will note that the details of this agreement matched those of the forged documents.) [Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 241] Niger is a former French colony, and the French keep a tight rein on Niger’s uranium production. Hence, the CIA turns to French intelligence to vet the claim of Nigerien uranium going to Iraq. “The French were managing partners of the international consortium in Niger,” former US ambassador Joseph Wilson will later say. “The French did the actual mining and shipping of [uranium].” [Unger, 2007, pp. 208-209] The CIA asks for an immediate answer about the authenticity of the information. [La Repubblica (Rome), 12/1/2005] In response, the DGSE sends its head of security intelligence, Chouet, to look into the uranium deal. The initial information Chouet receives from the CIA is vague, he will later recall, except for one striking detail: Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, made an unusual trip to four African countries in 1999, including Niger. CIA analysts fear the trip may have been a prelude to the uranium deal. But Chouet soon learns that the al-Zawahie trip (see February 1999) had not been secret, as the CIA avers, but had been well covered by, among other news outlets, the local Nigerien press. In addition, French, British, and US intelligence had received routine reports on al-Zawahie’s visits. Chouet, head of a 700-person intelligence unit specializing in weapons proliferation and terrorism, sends an undercover team of five or six men to Niger to check on the security of Niger’s uranium. The investigation produces no evidence that al-Zawahie had even discussed uranium with the Nigeriens. [La Repubblica (Rome), 12/1/2005; Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 208-209] Chouet will later recall, “[O]nce back, they told me a very simple thing: ‘the American information on uranium is all bullsh_t.’” [La Repubblica (Rome), 12/1/2005] The French summarize the results of their investigation in a series of formal cables they send to CIA offices in Langley and Paris. Chouet will later tell the Times that they communicated their doubts about the claims in no uncertain terms. “We told the Americans, ‘Bullshi_t. It doesn’t make any sense.’” [La Repubblica (Rome), 12/1/2005; Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2005] Choeut’s formal reports to the CIA use less coarse language, but he later describes them as candid. “We had the feeling we had been heard,” he will recall. [Unger, 2007, pp. 241] The DGSE considers the issue closed. [Unger, 2007, pp. 208-209]
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