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Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair meet at the White House to discuss Iraq. Also present at the meeting are Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning; his aid Matthew Rycoft; his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell; US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Dan Fried; and Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card. [Sands, 2005; Independent, 2/2/2006; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006; New York Times, 3/27/2006]
Bush Says US Going to War with or without UN Resolution - Blair presses Bush to seek a second UN resolution that would provide specific legal backing for the use of force against Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting, Bush says that “the diplomatic strategy [has] to be arranged around the military planning” and that the “US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten.’” But if such efforts fail, Bush is recorded saying, “military action would follow anyway.” Bush also tells Blair that he hopes to commence military action on March 10. Blair does not demur and offers Britain’s total support for the war, saying that he is “solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.” Notwithstanding, he insists that “a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs.” According to Bush, the question that needs to be addressed is what should they cite as evidence that Iraq is in breach of its obligations under UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). The minutes of the meeting will indicate that there is concern that inspections have failed to provide sufficient evidence of a material breach.
Suggested Provocation of Iraq - “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors,” the minutes report. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” [Sands, 2005; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006; MSNBC, 2/2/2006; Guardian, 2/3/2006; New York Times, 3/27/2006] The Times of London later notes that this proposal “would have made sense only if the spy plane was ordered to fly at an altitude within range of Iraqi missiles.” In this case, the plane would be far below the 90,000 foot altitude it is capable of operating at. [London Times, 2/2/2006; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006]
Bush Suggests Use of Defector - In addition to the U2 idea, Bush says it is “possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated.” At one point during the two-hour meeting, Bush says he thinks “it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.” [Sands, 2005; New York Times, 3/27/2006] Author Phillippe Sands will later ask, “Why would the US president and the British prime minister spend any time concocting ways of proposing a material breach if they knew they could prove Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?” [Rich, 2006, pp. 190]
Katharine Gun. [Source: BBC]Katharine Gun, a 29-year old translator for British intelligence’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), leaks the National Security Agency memo documenting the NSA’s electronic and physical surveillance of numerous UN delegates to the Security Council (see January 31, 2003). Gun will be arrested on March 8 and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act (see March 9, 2003). Gun leaks the memo, [BBC, 9/15/2004] written by the NSA’s Frank Koza and sent to several US allies via its ECHELON global surveillance system, to Britain’s Observer, which spends weeks verifying the document’s veracity before running the story on March 2. Former NSA intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, now of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says the leak illustrates the deep unhappiness among several US allies’ intelligence agencies over US and British attempts to allege ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. “My feeling is that this was an authorized leak,” Madsen says. “I’ve been hearing for months of people in the US and British intelligence community who are deeply concerned about their governments ‘cooking’ intelligence to link Iraq to al-Qaeda.’ While surveillance of delegates and other officials at the UN is a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, [Observer, 3/9/2003] intelligence experts acknowledge that the US and other nations routinely conduct at least some sort of surveillance on UN members. “One would have to have the innocence of an unborn child to believe that espionage doesn’t go on every day at the United Nations,” says one such expert, Loch Johnson. “From a purist point of view, it’s unfortunate in a way, because after all, we’re the host nation for the United Nations. But the reality is, Europeans and everyone else engages in espionage in New York City, much of it focused on the United Nations.” Experts say what is unprecedented is the leak itself, especially in its timeliness and detail. [Baltimore Sun, 3/4/2003]
Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the so-called “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times, writes in January 2004, “I can only admire the more timely, courageous action of Katherine Gun…who risked her career and freedom to expose an illegal plan to win official and public support for an illegal war, before that war had started. Her revelation of a classified document urging British intelligence to help the US bug the phones of all the members of the UN security council to manipulate their votes on the war may have been critical in denying the invasion a false cloak of legitimacy.…She did what she could, in time for it to make a difference, as indeed others should have done, and still can. I have no doubt that there are thousands of pages of documents in safes in London and Washington right now—the Pentagon Papers of Iraq—whose unauthorized revelation would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should continue sending our children to die in Iraq.…Exposing governmental lies carries a heavy personal risk, even in our democracies. But that risk can be worthwhile when a war’s-worth of lives is at stake.” [Guardian, 1/27/2004]
Entity Tags: United Nations, Observer, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Wayne Madsen, Loch Johnson, United Nations Security Council, Government Communications Headquarters, Daniel Ellsberg, Katherine Gun, Al-Qaeda, Echelon, National Security Agency, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Frank Koza
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
The British join the US (see Mid-February 2003-March 2003) in a campaign to pressure UN Security Council members to commit to voting in favor of a second UN resolution. “[E]normous pressure was brought to bear,” British cabinet member Claire Short will later tell the BBC, who cites as an example the efforts of Valerie Amos. According to Short, Amos “went round Africa with people from our intelligence services trying to press them” to support a second resolution. “I had to make sure that we didn’t promise a misuse of aid in a way that would be illegal,” she added. [BBC, 2/26/2004 Sources: Claire Short, Valerie Anne Amos]
The US and British conduct a spy operation targeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other top UN officials. But news of this will not surface until February 2004. “[T]he UK… was… spying on Kofi Annan’s office and getting reports from him about what was going on,” former British cabinet member Claire Short will tell BBC Radio 4’s Today. When asked to elaborate, she says, “Well I know—I’ve seen transcripts of Kofi Annan’s conversations.” [BBC, 2/26/2004; Independent, 2/26/2004; New York Times, 2/27/2004; Guardian, 2/28/2004 Sources: Claire Short] And in an interview with The Guardian one day later, Hans Blix will say that he believes he too was bugged. [Guardian, 2/28/2004 Sources: Hans Blix] Under international treaties, it is illegal for member states to spy on UN offices. [New York Times, 2/27/2004; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/28/2004]
The British government releases a dossier titled “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation.” The government says the dossier is based on high-level intelligence and diplomatic sources and was produced with the approval of Prime Minister Tony Blair; it also wins praise from US Secretary of State Colin Powell (see February 7, 2003). Unfortunately, the dossier is almost wholly plagiarized from a September 2002 article by university student Ibrahim al-Marashi. [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 2/23/2003] Al-Marashi was doing postgraduate work at Oxford University when he wrote it. [International Policy Fellowships, 10/1/2006] The article is entitled “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis,” and was published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal (MERIA). [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 2/23/2003] The British dossier plagiarizes two other articles as well, both from Jane’s Intelligence Review (see February 8, 2003), some of which were published as far back as 1997. MERIA is based in Israel, which even moderate Arabs say makes it a suspect source, and all the more reason why the origin of the information should have been cited. [Guardian, 2/7/2003] MERIA, an Internet-based magazine with about 10,000 subscribers, is edited by Jerusalem Post columnist Barry Rubin. [Jerusalem Post, 2/8/2003] Rubin will responds dryly: “We are pleased that the high quality of MERIA Journal’s articles has made them so valuable to our readers.… As noted on the masthead of each issue and all our publications, however, we do appreciate being given credit.” [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 2/23/2003] Al-Marashi, currently working at California’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies, describes himself as an opponent of Saddam Hussein’s regime: “As an Iraqi, I support regime change in Iraq,” he says. [Reuters, 2/8/2003; Associated Press, 2/7/2007]
Article Used Information from 1991 - He examined Iraq’s secret police and other, similar forces in detail, using captured Iraqi documents from the 1991 Gulf War and updating that information to be more timely. [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 9/2002] The dossier contains entire sections from al-Marashi’s article quoted almost verbatim, including typographical errors contained in the original. When asked about the plagiarism, al-Marashi says he was not approached by the British government for permission to use his work. “It was a shock to me,” he says. Chris Aaron, editor of Jane’s Intelligence Review, says he had not been asked for permission to use material from his article in the dossier. The dossier uses the three articles to detail methods used by the Iraqi government to block and misdirect UN weapons inspectors’ attempts to locate weapons stockpiles in Iraq. The dossier claims that while the UN only has 108 weapons inspectors inside Iraq, the Iraqi government has 20,000 intelligence officers “engaged in disrupting their inspections and concealing weapons of mass destruction.” The dossier claims that every hotel room and telephone used by the weapons inspectors is bugged, and that WMD-related documents are being concealed in Iraqi hospitals, mosques, and homes. Powell will cite the dossier as part of his presentation to the UN detailing evidence of Iraqi weapons programs (see February 5, 2003). [Associated Press, 2/6/2003; BBC, 2/7/2003] When the media exposes the origins of the dossier, Blair officials will concede that they should have been more honest about the source material (see February 6, 2003).
British 'Inflated' Some Numbers, Used More Extreme Language - Al-Marashi, who learns of the plagiarism from a colleague, Glen Rangwala (see February 5, 2003), says the dossier is accurate despite “a few minor cosmetic changes.” He adds: “The only inaccuracies in the [British] document were that they maybe inflated some of the numbers of these intelligence agencies. The primary documents I used for this article are a collection of two sets of documents, one taken from Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq—around four million documents—as well as 300,000 documents left by Iraqi security services in Kuwait.” [BBC, 2/7/2003] Al-Marashi and Rangwala both note that the dossier uses more extreme language. “Being an academic paper, I tried to soften the language” al-Marashi says. “For example, in one of my documents, I said that [the Iraqi intelligence agency known as the Mukhabarat] support[s] organizations in what Iraq considers hostile regimes, whereas the [British] document refers to it as ‘supporting terrorist organizations in hostile regimes.’” [Guardian, 2/7/2003; New York Times, 2/8/2003]
Third Attempt to Pass Off Old Information as New Evidence - This is the third time in recent months that Downing Street has tried to pass off old, suspect information as damning evidence against Iraq. In September, it released a 50-page dossier, “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government,” that used years-old information from the Foreign Office and British intelligence to make its case (see September 24, 2002); UN inspectors and British journalists visited some of the “facilities of concern” and found nothing (see September 24, 2002). In December, Downing Street released a 23-page report, “Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses,” that was heavily criticized by human rights groups, members of Parliament, and others for reusing old information. When that dossier was released, the Foreign Office put forward an Iraqi exile who had been jailed by Hussein for 11 years. The exile displayed handcuffs he said had been placed on him while in captivity. Afterwards, the exile admitted that the handcuffs were actually British in origin. [Guardian, 2/7/2003]
Dossier Product of Heated Debate - The Observer writes of the current “dodgy dossier” that discussions between Blair’s head of strategic communications, Alastair Campbell, foreign policy adviser David Manning, senior intelligence officials, and the new head of British homeland security, David Omand, resulted in a decision to “repeat a wheeze from last autumn: publishing a dossier of ‘intelligence-based evidence,’” this time focusing on Iraq’s history of deceiving weapons inspectors. The dossier had to be released before chief UN inspector Hans Blix could make his scheduled report in mid-February. The previous dossier, about Iraq’s dismal human rights record, had led to what The Observer calls “several stand-up rows between Omand and Campbell, with the former accusing the latter of sprinkling too much ‘magic dust’ over the facts to spice it up for public consumption.” That dossier left “the more sensationalist elements” in the forward, but for this dossier, “there was no time for such niceties. Led by Campbell, a team from the Coalition Information Center—the group set up by Campbell and his American counterpart during the war on the Taliban—began collecting published information that touched on useful themes.” Al-Marashi’s work became the central piece for the cut-and-pasted dossier, which The Observer says was compiled so sloppily that, in using the al-Marashi report and one of the Jane’s articles, two different organizations were confused with one another. [Observer, 2/9/2003]
Entity Tags: Hans Blix, UK Security Service (MI5), David Omand, Glen Rangwala, Ibrahim al-Marashi, Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Jerusalem Post, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Mukhabarat, David Manning, Colin Powell, Blair administration, Christopher Aaron, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Coalition Information Center, Alastair Campbell, Saddam Hussein, Barry Rubin, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, British Foreign Office, Tony Blair
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, realizes that a just-released dossier on Iraqi WMDs released by the British government is almost wholly plagiarized from the work of his colleague, graduate student Ibrahim al-Marashi. Rangwala alerts al-Marashi to the dossier in an e-mail after being sent a copy of the online version by researchers in Sweden. A Cambridge undergraduate student forwards a copy of Rangwala’s e-mail to journalists. “I found it quite startling when I realized that I’d read most of it before,” Rangwala later tells the press. “Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services, it indicates that [Britain] really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal policies. It just draws upon publicly available data.” [Guardian, 2/7/2003; Observer, 2/9/2003] In his e-mail, posted on the discussion board of the organization Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, Rangwala cites numerous identical passages in the dossier and in al-Marashi’s article. [Glen Rangwala, 2/5/2003] Rangwala notes that in the article al-Marashi acknowledged using 12-year old data, but “the British government, when it transplants that information into its own dossier, does not make that acknowledgment.” Al-Marashi says that when he learned his material had formed the basis for the dossier: “[I was] flattered at first, then surprised that they didn’t cite me… It was a case of cut and paste. They even left in my mistakes.” [Jerusalem Post, 2/8/2003] Al-Marashi also comments, “I’ll be more skeptical of any British intelligence I read in future.” [London Times, 2/7/2003]
The British media learns that a dossier entitled “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation” that was released by the British government to bolster its case for Iraqi WMD is plagiarized from publicly available magazine articles (see February 3, 2003). Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office initially stands by the report, which becomes colloquially known as the “Dodgy Dossier” (a term apparently coined in an editorial by The Observer—see February 8, 2003), saying the dossier had been “put together by a range of government officials.” It also says, “We consider the text as published accurate.” However, Blair officials will eventually admit that the government should have credited the article. [Associated Press, 2/6/2003; BBC, 2/7/2003] A Channel 4 news report notes: “None of the sources are acknowledged, leading the reader to believe that the information is a result of direct investigative work, rather than simply copied from pre-existing internet sources.… Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarized texts without acknowledgment, passing them off as the work of its intelligence services, there are two further serious problems. Firstly, it indicates that [Britain] at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal politics—they just draw upon publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on ‘intelligence data’ must be treated with even more skepticism. Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq’s security organizations may not be anything of the sort. [Ibrahim Al-]Marashi—the real and unwitting author of much of the document—has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq’s intelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug 90-Jan 91—this is the subject of his thesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with UNMOVIC is 12 years old.” [Channel 4 News (London), 2/6/2003]
The so-called “Dodgy Dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government and quickly proven to be plagiarized from out-of-date articles from publicly available sources (see February 3, 2003), has already been shown to have been compiled from a graduate thesis and several magazine articles. Now the anti-war group Voices in the Wilderness says it has identified a passage from the dossier as being lifted directly from a 1999 book, Saddam Secrets, written by Tim Trevan. [Guardian, 2/7/2003] Trevan is a former UN weapons inspector who wrote on February 4 that a war with Iraq is necessary: “When you have an advanced state of cancer, surgery becomes a better option than slow lingering death. For me, horrible though war is, it is the equivalent of surgery.” [Guardian, 2/4/2003]
Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, criticizes the use of a plagiarized dossier as a source for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on Iraq’s supposed WMD programs and efforts at concealment (see February 5, 2003). Powell explicitly mentioned the dossier, complied by the British government, as one of the sources for his speech, “I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed… which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities.” But the dossier is almost wholly plagiarized from publicly available, out-of-date sources (see February 3, 2003). [Guardian, 2/7/2003] “It’s embarrassing for the prime minister [Tony Blair] and for poor old Colin Powell,” says Heyman, adding: “[The dossier] was clearly prepared by someone in Downing Street and it’s obviously part of the prime minister’s propaganda campaign. The intelligence services were not involved—I’ve had two people phoning me today to say, ‘Look, we had nothing to with it.’” [Washington Post, 2/8/2003]
Iraqi officials escort foreign journalists to missile assembly and test sites at Al-Amiriyah and other locations to counter US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion before the UN that Iraq is concealing weapons of mass destruction at those sites (see February 5, 2003). The officials tell the journalists that the sites have been open to UN inspections. Iraq also challenges the authenticity of a dossier recently released by the British government that purports to document how Iraq is deceiving UN weapons inspectors (see February 3, 2003). The dossier originally claimed to have been based on high-level intelligence sources, but has now been shown to be almost wholly plagiarized from publicly available articles and reports, including one written by a graduate student. [Associated Press, 2/7/2003]
The so-called “Dodgy Dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government (see February 3, 2003), is discovered to be, in the words of The Guardian, a “journalistic cut-and-paste job” compiled largely from public sources, written by four junior officials in Alastair Campbell’s communications office, and published with “only cursory approval from intelligence or even Foreign Office sources.” [Guardian, 2/7/2003; London Times, 2/8/2003] A “well-placed source” tells The Guardian that the dossier is the work of Downing Street and the Coalition Information Center, the organization set up after 9/11 to push the US-British case for the war on terrorism. The source calls a key section of the dossier riddled with “silly errors.” The report was apparently not vetted by British intelligence. [Guardian, 2/7/2003] A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that neither he nor nor Alastair Campbell, one of his advisers, had actually seen the report before it was released, instead saying that it had been “seen by the relevant people.” Campbell’s aides told communications staffers that they wanted a report that drew together evidence “proving” Iraq was obstructing UN officials in finding Iraqi WMD; they did not want a more even-handed report acknowledging that UN weapons inspectors were nowhere near to finding a so-called “smoking gun” proving Iraq possesses such weapons. Former defense minister Peter Kilfoyle says: “It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top spin. I am afraid this is typical of the way in which the whole question of a potential war on Iraq is being treated.” [London Times, 2/8/2003] Responding to criticisms of the report as being propaganda, a Downing Street source says, “What we are absolutely determined is that this will not stop us sharing information with the public as and when we think we can.” [Observer, 2/9/2003]
Jane’s Information Group, the firm that publishes the Jane’s series of journals about global military affairs, says three of its articles were used without credit in a recent dossier released by the British government on Iraq (see February 3, 2003). The articles are from July 1997, August 1997, and November 2002, according to the publishing firm. Jane’s Intelligence Review editor Chris Aaron says, “That open sources should be used to compile such a report is not in itself surprising,” noting that the dossier’s introduction acknowledged the use of some previously published material. “However, the direct copying of entire paragraphs casts some doubt on the processes used to create dossiers of this type.… [W]hen an agency produces a report for classified consumption it will usually identify the nature of the sources used. The fact that the [British] dossier does not identify the source for each bit of evidence in the report could be taken as misleading, or taken to be an effort to disguise the classified material included in the dossier. The real mistake seems to have been to copy sections wholesale, thus making it obvious which parts of the report come from open sources and which are based on information from the intelligence community.” A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the central argument of the dossier—that Iraq is systematically blocking the efforts of UN weapons inspectors to locate and document Iraq’s WMD programs and stockpiles—remains unchallenged. He calls the work “a pull-together of a variety of sources,” and says government officials should have specified which sections came from public material and which were from intelligence sources. [Jane's Intelligence Review, 2/2003; Associated Press, 2/8/2003] The articles from Jane’s Intelligence Review are “Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus Save Saddam?”, published in November 2002 and written by international security expert Ken Gause, and a two-part article, “Inside Iraq’s Security Network,” published in July and August 1997 and written by Sean Boyne. [Channel 4 News (London), 2/6/2003]
The London Times pens a scathing editorial regarding the so-called “dodgy dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government, which was quickly proven to be plagiarized from out-of-date articles from publicly available sources (see February 3, 2003). The editorial sarcastically envisions the scene in Downing Street in the weeks before the dossier’s release, with frantic staffers saying: “What do you mean, there’s no smoking gun? Haven’t MI6 [British intelligence] got anything? No photographs? No defectors? TB [Tony Blair] is expecting a dossier next week. We promised. He said the Americans liked the last one—quoted everywhere, robust stuff, saved the CIA from having to go public with any sources. So they want another one—Colin Powell’s thinking of a spot of show and tell at the UN (see February 5, 2003), and wants to point to independent work by the Brits. So, we better get something—and quick.… Well, one of you had better put something together. Get on the Internet. Just type in ricin and Iraq and see what you find on Google. 20 pages, at least. By tomorrow.” The editorial notes that while “[g]overnmental plagiarism is nothing new… plagiarizing intelligence is more difficult. There isn’t much of it around. And the best is all secret—not easy for a media studies undergraduate to prise out of GCHQ overnight. But what TB wants, TB gets. A Downing Street unit is there to provide it. And as any student knows, extracts from American social anthropology dissertations add the required note of pedantic obfuscation to any jejune essay, with a provenance that is virtually undetectable. What better way to triple the value of intelligence assets with a thesis from California? It was regrettable that the author had so obvious an Arab name: far less convincing as a footnote than a reference to the trajectory of a military satellite. But perhaps the report could simply say it was a mix of private and public. Isn’t that the normal pattern nowadays?” [London Times, 2/8/2003] The Observer writes a similarly harsh editorial, noting that such “[d]eception can only corrode public trust,” and apparently coins the term “dodgy dossier.” The Observer editorial calls the dossier “an Internet cut-and-paste exercise largely lifted from a Californian post-graduate thesis focused on evidence from the invasion of Kuwait 13 years ago” and “sprinkl[ed with] unfounded exaggerations… inserted to strengthen the claims made in the thesis.” The editorial says: “Plagiarism is not the main issue. The central issue is that of public trust. At best, this episode demonstrates incompetence and the failure to oversee the most important claims which the government puts into the public domain. At worst, a deliberate attempt to hoodwink and mislead the public will undermine trust in anything the government says about the Iraqi threat at this vital time.… It is not only the government which has access to the Internet. Every claim made will be scrutinized more closely, and by more people, than ever before. Nothing will corrode trust more than to be caught out trying to insult the intelligence of the British public.” [Observer, 2/9/2003]
A Labour Party lawmaker storms out of the House of Commons after saying the Blair administration lied about a recent dossier it released that purported to show Iraq’s deceiving UN weapons inspectors about its presumed cache of WMD (see February 3, 2003). Tam Dalyell, the longest-serving member in the Commons and a member of Tony Blair’s Labour Party, thunders, “To plagiarize an out of date Ph.D. thesis and to present it as an official report of the latest British intelligence information, surely it reveals a lack of awareness of the disastrous consequences of such a deception.” Dalyell calls for an emergency debate on the issue. “This is not a trivial leak. It is a document on which is the basis of whether or not this country goes to war and whether or not young servicemen and servicewomen are to put their own lives at risk and indeed thousands, tens of thousands of innocent civilians.” [Associated Press, 2/10/2003]
A BBC poll finds that 90 percent in Britain oppose British participation in a war against Iraq without a UN resolution and 45 percent oppose an invasion of Iraq under any conditions. [BBC, 2/12/2002]
In his 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine, journalist Ron Suskind will claim that Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, was monitored as he attempted to fly to the US. According to Suskind, NSA surveillance discovers that Khan is coming to the US soon and has been in contact with suspect US citizens, including Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an Islamist radical living in Virginia. E-mails between Khan, Ali, and others discuss plans for various violent activities, including a desire to “blow up synagogues on the East Coast.” FBI agent Dan Coleman, an expert on al-Qaeda, reads the intercepts and advocates either a very intensive surveillance of Khan when he is in the US, or not letting him in at all. Officials, including Joe Billy, head of the FBI’s New York office, worry about being held responsible if Khan is allowed into the country and then manages to commit some violent act. With Khan scheduled to come to the US in one day, “top bosses in Washington” quickly decide to put him on a no-fly list. Khan does fly to the US, and is stopped and sent back to Britain. As a result, he realizes the US is onto him and presumably takes greater precautions. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 200-203]
Confusion - However, when Suskind’s book is published in June 2006, a number of articles will dispute Suskind’s claim. For instance, Newsweek will report that “several US and [British] law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials” anonymously claim that Suskind is mistaken, and is confusing Sidique Khan with another British suspect named Mohammed Ajmal Khan. [Newsweek, 6/21/2006] The Telegraph reaches the same conclusion, and points out that Ajmal Khan pleaded guilty in a British trial in March on charges of providing weapons and funds to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba. During that trial, it was revealed that he made several trips to the US and met with a group of suspected militants in Virginia, including one named Ahmed Omar Abu Ali.
Stands by Story - However, Suskind will resolutely stand by his story, saying, “In my investigation and in my book and in my conversations with people in the US government, there was no mistake or doubt that we are talking about Mohammad Sidique Khan, not Mohammed Ajmal Khan.” He says he was aware of the difference between the two and suggests British officials may have been trying to push Ajmal Khan instead to cover up their failures to stop the 7/7 bombings. The two officials mentioned by name in Suskind’s account, Coleman and Billy, apparently say nothing to the press to confirm or deny the story. [Daily Telegraph, 6/22/2006]
Visit to Israel - Curiously, it will be reported shortly after the 7/7 bombings that Khan visits Israel around this time, February 19-20, 2003, and the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv will claim he is suspected of helping two Pakistani-Britons plot a suicide bombing that kills three Israelis several months later (see February 19-20, 2003). [Guardian, 7/19/2005]
Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), travels to Israel, staying there for only 24 hours. Israeli officials will confirm the visit in 2006. This is seven weeks before two British citizens, Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif, attack a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, with suicide bombs, killing three (see April 30, 2003). It is strongly suspected that Khan comes to Israel to help facilitate the bombing in some way, especially since Khan was seen in the company of Sharif and Hanif as far back as 2001 and was Sharif’s friend (see Summer 2001). However, Khan’s precise role, if any, in the cafe bombing is unknown, and apparently his connection to the two bombers will not be discovered by authorities until after the 7/7 bombings. [BBC, 7/9/2006]
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the US and Britain are pressuring inspectors “to discontinue their operations in Iraq… or to pressure them into coming up with assessments that would justify the use of force.” [Associated Press, 2/20/2003]
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook is personally given an intelligence briefing by John Scarlett, head of the British joint intelligence committee. Cook later says in his diary that Scarlett’s summary was “shorn of the political slant with which No. 10 encumbers any intelligence assessment.” After the meeting with Scarlett, Cook concludes that “Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]
The United States, Britain and Spain submit a draft to the UN Security Council for a second resolution declaring Iraq in “further material breach” of previous UN resolutions. The draft claims that the declaration Iraq submitted to the UN Security Council on December 7, 2002 (see December 7, 2002) contained “false statements and omissions” and that Iraq “has failed to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of” UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Meanwhile France, Russia and Germany field an alternative plan aimed at achieving peaceful disarmament with more rigorous inspections over a period of five months. China expresses support for the alternative plan despite efforts by Secretary of State Colin Powell to convince its government to support the more aggressive proposal. [Fox News, 2/24/2003; United Nations, 2/24/2003] At this point, it seems that only Bulgaria will support the American-British-Spanish resolution. Eleven of the fifteen council members have indicated that they favor allowing the inspectors to continue their work. Fox News suggests that the US may be able to convince some countries—like Angola, Guinea and Cameroon—to support the resolution since “there is the possibility that supporting the resolution may reap financial benefits from the United States.” [Fox News, 2/24/2003]
Asif Hanif (left) and Omar Sharif (right) holding AK-47 rifles and a Koran. Apparently this is from a video filmed on February 8, 2003, in the Gaza Strip. [Source: Public domain]In March 2003, the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 arrests eight members of the Islamist militant group Al-Muhajiroun in the city of Derby. Two other Britons, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, are also identified as members of the group, but they are not arrested. MI5 is also aware that Sharif is connected to the Finsbury Park mosque where radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches. [Daily Mail, 5/5/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005] When police raided Abu Hamza’s mosque in January, they even found a letter from Sharif to Abu Hamza inquiring about the proper conduct of jihad. The letter contained Sharif’s address in Derby. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 90-91] MI5 does not monitor either Hanif or Sharif, and instead simply keeps their names on file, believing them to be harmless. Later that same month, Italian undercover journalist Claudio Franco, posing as a Muslim convert, visits the London office of Al-Muhajiroun and meets Hanif. Hanif, unaware that he is being formally interviewed, tells Franco that he is sorry the poison ricin was allegedly seized in a raid elsewhere in London (see January 7, 2003) before it could be used in an attack. The next month, Hanif and Sharif travel to Israel and are killed on a suicide bombing mission which kills three others (see April 30, 2003). After the bombing, Al-Muhajiroun’s official leader, Anjem Choudary, calls the two bombers martyrs. The group’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, admits he knew both men. But the group is not banned. [Daily Mail, 5/5/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005] Other members of the group will attempt to build a large fertilizer bomb in early 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004), but the group will still not be banned, then or later. (It will disband on its own in late 2004 (see October 2004).) Investigators also fail to discover that Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), knew both men, was friends with Sharif and attended the same small mosque as he did (see Summer 2001), and traveled to Israel weeks before they did in a probable attempt to help with the bombing (see February 19-20, 2003).
Of the 35,000 Iraqis detained at one point or another by US forces, only about 1,300 are ever charged with a crime and only half of those are found guilty. The British Liberal Democrat party, which obtained the numbers from US Central Command, argues that the detentions are only serving to fuel the insurgency by creating discontent among the civilian population. [Guardian, 11/15/2005]
Mohammed Quayyum Khan. [Source: BBC]In March 2003, the British intelligence agency MI5 begins monitoring Mohammed Quayyum Khan (a.k.a. “Q”), a part-time taxi driver living in Luton, England, and born in Pakistan. He is said to be an associate of the radical London imams Omar Bakri Mohammed and Abu Hamza al-Masri. It is not known how MI5 first gains an interest in Quayyum, but apparently during a trip to Pakistan in 2003, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, tracks him overtly to warn him that they are aware of his activities. During a later court trial, an al-Qaeda operative turned informant named Mohammed Junaid Babar will allege that Quayyum:
Takes his orders from al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. He is said to be one of about three or four operatives working directly under this leader.
Arranges for Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, to travel to Pakistan and attend militant training camp in 2003.
Provides funds and equipment for militants fighting US troops in Afghanistan.
Is the leader of the 2004 British fertilizer bomb plot. Five of Quayyum’s associates will be sentenced to life in prison for roles in this plot.
In early February 2004, MI5 first discovers the existence of the fertilizer bomb plot while it monitors the various plotters meeting with Quayyum (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). For instance, Omar Khyam, one of those who will later be sentenced to life in prison, is secretly videotaped meeting with Quayyum. Khyam will later admit that just before he left for militant training in Pakistan, Quayyum gave him money and said: “It’s better for both of us if we don’t meet each other. Because the security services may be monitoring me.” Yet when all the other members of the plot are arrested in late March 2004, Quayyum stays free. The Guardian will later report, “Despite the number of serious allegations leveled against him [in court], police and MI5 say they have never found sufficient evidence to arrest or charge him.” Quayyum is never questioned about his links to the fertilizer bomb plotters. After the 7/7 suicide bombings in 2005, he is not questioned about his verified links with the suicide bombers either (such as the monitored calls between him and the head suicide bomber (see Shortly Before July 2003)). He continues to live in Luton and is seen by a Guardian journalist working as a chef in a small cafe there. “He is thought to have since disappeared.” [Guardian, 5/1/2007; Guardian, 5/1/2007] Author Loretta Napoleoni will later comment that the lack of action against Quayyum is especially strange given the British government’s power to detain suspects for years without charge. She will say, “The press has proffered the hypothesis—neither confirmed nor denied by the special services—that Quayyum was a ‘Deep Throat’” mole or informant. [Antiwar (.com, 5/8/2007]
Leader of House of Commons Robin Cook meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and has the “most revealing” discussion about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons arsenal. During the exchange Blair essentially acknowledges that Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction that could be used against his enemies like the US or Britain. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003] Cook says to Blair: “It’s clear from the private briefing I have had that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in a sense of weapons that could strike at strategic cities. But he probably does have several thousand battlefield chemical munitions. Do you never worry that he might use them against British troops?” Blair responds, “Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]
After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that the Niger documents (see March 2000) are not authentic (see March 7, 2003), the US and British governments stand behind their claim that Iraq had sought uranium from an African country. The two countries maintain that they have additional evidence—from multiple sources—but do not elaborate. Pressed by journalists and inspectors to reveal their evidence, the two governments refuse. The IAEA tells Reuters that when it asked the US and Britain whether or not they have additional evidence that Iraq had tried to procure uranium, the answer was “no.” [Reuters, 3/26/2003]
'Information Blackout' - Additionally, an informed UN official tells the Washington Post that the US and Britain were repeatedly asked for more information. Neither government, the official explains, “ever indicated that they had any information on any other country.” [Washington Post, 3/22/2003] An unnamed Western diplomat tells the Independent: “Despite requests, the British Government has provided no such evidence. Senior officials at the agency think it is involved in an information black-out.” [Independent, 7/17/2003]
British Stick With Story Even after US Backs Away - The British will hold to their story even after top US officials admit (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003) that Bush should not have included the claim in his State of the Union speech.(see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003) [New York Times, 7/8/2003; Independent, 7/20/2003]
Additional Evidence Initially Believed to be French Intel Reports - The London Times will later suggest that Britain’s additional evidence consisted of reports provided by the French in 1999 alleging that Iraqi diplomat Wissam al-Zahawie’s visit to Niger (see February 1999) was aimed at securing a deal to purchase uranium. [Sunday Times (London), 11/6/2005] As one British foreign official explains to the Independent: “Niger has two main exports—uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens.” But Al-Zahawie disputes this. “My only mission was to meet the president of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq,” he tells the Independent. “The invitation and the situation in Iraq resulting from the genocidal UN sanctions were all we talked about. I had no other instructions, and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium…. I have been cleared by everyone else, including the US and the United Nations. I am surprised to hear there are still question marks over me in Britain. I am willing to cooperate with anyone who wants to see me and find out more.” [Independent, 8/10/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003]
Actual Evidence Provided by Italian Reports Based on Forged Documents - Later reporting will reveal that the main source for Britain’s Africa-uranium allegation was in fact an Italian intelligence report (see Mid-October 2001) that traced back to the forged Niger documents. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005] “I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction,” an unnamed Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency later tells the Daily Mail. [Agence France-Presse, 7/15/2003]
The United Nations launches an investigation into the electronic and physical surveillance of a number of its Security Council delegates by the National Security Agency (see January 31, 2003). The NSA operation, revealed the week before, was apparently leaked to Britain’s Observer by Katharine Gun, who works at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and has been arrested on suspicion of breaking Britain’s Official Secrets Act (see February 2003). The NSA also solicited the assistance of an intelligence agency of an unnamed “friendly foreign government”; it is believed to be Britain. The leak is touted as “more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers” by celebrated whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The leak of the NSA surveillance program has caused deep embarrassment for the Bush administration, which is working to recruit supporters for a second UN resolution authorizing military force against Iraq (see February 24, 2003). The authorization for the NSA operation is believed to have come from National Security Adviser Rice, but US intelligence experts say that such a decision would have had to involve Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, and NSA Director Michael Hayden. President Bush, by necessity, would have been informed of the proposed operation at one of his daily intelligence briefings. While such surveillance of foreign diplomats at the UN is legal under the US’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), it violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. According to international law expert Dr. John Quigley, the Vienna Convention stipulates: “The receiving state shall permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes…. The official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable.” [Observer, 3/9/2003]
Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council, United Nations, National Security Agency, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Michael Hayden, John Quigley, Condoleezza Rice, Katherine Gun, Donald Rumsfeld, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, George W. Bush, Government Communications Headquarters, George J. Tenet, Daniel Ellsberg
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
A suspicious substance is discovered in a train station locker at the Gare de Lyon in central Paris. Agents find two vials of powder, a bottle of liquid, and two other vials with liquid. The Interior Ministry says the contents of the vials are “traces of ricin in a mixture which has proven to be a very toxic poison.” [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy calls for greater public vigilance and says there could be a connection with a network of Islamic extremists who were detained around the capital in December. Officials have in the past linked ricin production to al-Qaeda and Iraq. On January 5, British police claimed to find traces of ricin in a raid on a London flat during which five men of North African origin with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested (see January 5, 2003). [BBC, 4/11/2003]
Terrorism Scare - The discovery sparks widespread terrorism concerns just two days before the invasion of Iraq. French authorities double the number of soldiers in the streets to 800 and order increased surveillance in train stations and ports. Flights are temporarily banned over nuclear power plants, chemical, petrochemical and other sensitive facilities. [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Ricin, which is derived from castor beans, is relatively easy to make and stockpile. If added to food or drinks, or injected into a victim, it causes severe and rapid bleeding to the stomach and intestines. If the poison gets into the bloodstream, it can attack the liver, kidneys and spleen, often leading to death. It may be inhaled, ingested or injected. There is no treatment or antidote. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
Alleged al-Qaeda link - US officials said in August that the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam tested ricin along with other chemical and biological agents in northern Iraq, territory controlled by Kurds, not Saddam Hussein. The group is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. UN weapons inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 after a first round of inspections, listed ricin among the poisons they believed Saddam produced and later failed to account for. [Newsday, 4/12/2003]
False alarm - The ministry soon downgrades the assessment, saying the traces of suspected ricin are too minute to be lethal. In fact, the substance later proves to be entirely harmless. Further Defense Ministry laboratory tests show the vials contain a mixture of ground barley and wheat germ. “Preliminary tests pointed towards ricin but they were not confirmed by more complete analysis,” an official says. [BBC, 4/11/2003] They said the grain was mistakenly identified as ricin because it consists of protein whose structure is similar to that of ricin. [New York Times, 4/12/2003] However, French officials are still not entirely satisfied that the substances found are not in some way related to a planned terrorist attack. A senior Interior Ministry says the substances may be “the product of an experiment” or the remains of an effort to produce a toxic weapon. Antiterrorism police agents will continue to investigate the incident, the officials says. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith issues a statement that the use of force against Iraq would be legal, citing three UN resolutions. But a month earlier, Goldsmith warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that an invasion could be illegal without a second UN resolution, and that resolution never passed. [Associated Press, 2/28/2004; BBC, 2/29/2004; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/29/2004; Independent, 2/29/2004] It is later revealed that his change in opinion was a result of pressure from top British officials after senior British military officers had warned Downing Street that they would not participate in the war unless they were certain that neither they nor their men could eventually be tried for war crimes. [Observer, 2/29/2004]
Robin Cook. [Source: BBC]House of Commons leader and former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook resigns from British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet, in protest over the imminent invasion of Iraq. Cook announces his decision as the cabinet holds an emergency meeting at Downing Street. Cook says after his resignation is announced: “It is with regret I have today resigned from the cabinet. I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support.” Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett says she respects Cook’s decision to resign, and that everyone in the cabinet, including Blair himself, has anxieties about the upcoming invasion. However, Beckett says, “[N]one of the rest of us feel that they are enough to make us judge that the government is doing the wrong thing.” [BBC, 3/17/2003]
Resignation Speech - Cook retains his seat in the House of Commons. In his resignation speech to the House, Cook says in part, “I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.” France, Russia, and Germany, who are battling to give UN inspectors more time to operate inside Iraq, cannot be blamed for stirring up what Cook calls “the degree of international hostility” towards the invasion. “The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner—not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the [UN] Security Council. To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.” Unlike the US, Britain cannot “afford to go it alone” in the international community. “Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules,” he says. “Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.”
Containment Worked - For himself, Cook says: “For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment [of Saddam Hussein and Iraq]. Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program and halted Saddam’s medium and long-range missiles programs. Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion.”
If Iraq Is a Danger, Why Would an Invasion Be So Easy? - It would be a mistake to assume that an invasion will be an easy and relatively bloodless affair: “Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam’s forces are so weak, so demoralized and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days. We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.”
No Weapons of Mass Destruction - “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term,” Cook says, “namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam’s ambition to complete his weapons program is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?”
Comparing Iraq to Israel - Some have said Iraq has had 12 years to comply with UN resolutions demanding disarmament, Cook notes, but goes on to say that Israel has had over 30 years to comply with UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Palestinian territories, and has not yet done so. “We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply,” he says. “Britain’s positive role in the Middle East does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest. Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq. That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.”
Different Outcome under President Gore - Cook says, “What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and [2000 US presidential candidate] Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.”
Conclusion - “The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people,” Cook says. “On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.” Cook is troubled that the House of Commons has never voted on whether or not to commit troops to Iraq, and he calls on Parliament to “stop the commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support.” [BBC, 3/18/2003]
Britain’s House of Commons votes overwhelmingly to approve a resolution authorizing the British government to take part in the US-led invasion of Iraq. The resolution affirms its endorsement of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002), affirms its belief that Iraq possesses “weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles” which “pose a threat to international peace and security,” accuses Iraq of not cooperating with UN weapons inspections, and is in violation of 1441 and other Security Council resolutions. [Public Whip, 3/18/2003]
Numerous US and British, current and former, intelligence, military, and other government officials who have inside knowledge say that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical or biological weapons or that he is currently developing them. [CBS News, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 8/10/2003]
President Bush calls British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his central ally in the US’s “coalition of the willing.” After speaking to Blair, Bush goes to the White House Situation Room, where a videoconference with his field commanders in the Persian Gulf is set up. Bush asks if they are ready to commence hostilities against Iraq; each one answers in the affirmative. Bush then says: “For the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people, I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless our troops” (see March 19, 2003). He later goes for a walk outside his office. He will recall: “I prayed as I walked around the circle. I prayed that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty, that there be minimal loss of life.… I was praying for strength to do God’s will.… I’m surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 294-295]
British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith warns Prime Minister Tony Blair in a memo that any measures taken in Iraq by the occupying powers not related to the issue of security would be unlawful without an additional security council resolution. “My view is that a further security council resolution is needed to authorize imposing reform and restructuring of Iraq and its government,” Lord Goldsmith writes. “The government has concluded that the removal of the current Iraqi regime from power is necessary to secure disarmament, but the longer the occupation of Iraq continues, and the more the tasks undertaken by an interim administration depart from the main objective, the more difficult it will be to justify the lawfulness of the occupation.” He says that attempts to implement “wide-ranging reforms of governmental and administrative structures,” change the status of public officials or judges except in exceptional cases, or “the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorized by international law.” Goldsmith also expressed this opinion orally during a cabinet meeting. [Guardian, 5/22/2003] The basis for Goldsmith’s position is likely the Hague regulations of 1907 (see October 18, 1907), which requires that an occupying power respect the laws of the country it occupies. [New York Times, 1/10/2004; FPIF Policy Report, 7/2004]
Items seized in a raid on Abu Hamza’s Finsbury Park mosque in January 2003. [Source: Daily Telegraph]After learning some information about the Islamist militant connections of leading London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, British Home Secretary David Blunkett initiates a campaign against him. Blunkett introduces legislation to have Abu Hamza stripped of his British citizenship, which he acquired unlawfully (see April 29, 1986), and then either deported or interned. However, the British intelligence service MI5 fails to provide Blunkett with all the information it has about Abu Hamza, who has been an informer for MI5 and Special Branch since 1997 (see Early 1997 and Before May 27, 2004). Even after the relevant legislation is passed in April 2003, the process is drawn out by Abu Hamza, who appeals, delays the appeal process by not filing a defense, and then argues the government should pay his legal fees. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 284-5] A hearing will be held on the case in April 2004 (see April 26, 2004).
Bombing damage at Mike’s Place. [Source: Associated Press]On April 30, two British citizens, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, attempt to bomb Mike’s Place, a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, located very close to the US embassy.
Hanif’s bomb goes off, but a security guard prevented him from entering the cafe, so just three people are killed and 65 are injured. Only Sharif’s detonator goes off, so he flees the scene, being chased by several people. He manages to run away, but his dead body is found in the ocean nearby two weeks later. A British inquest will later suggest he drowned, although why he did remains unknown. The two men are Britain’s second known Islamist suicide bombers (see December 25, 2000). They had lived in Britain most of their lives and only arrived in Israel a couple of weeks earlier, after a short stay in Syria. Hamas takes credit for the bombing and later shows a video of their last testaments in which Hanif states: “It is an honor to kill all these people. It is an honor.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/6/2006] The two are believed to have been members of the radical British militant group Al-Muhajiroun. The group’s leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, says Sharif had recently attended a course at his school, studying Islamic law. A reporter claims to have interviewed Hanif by chance at Al-Muhajiroun’s London office a month before the bombing. They also attended the Finsbury Park mosque, where radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches. [Observer, 5/4/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005; BBC, 7/9/2006] The pair apparently were featured in a recruitment video for Abu Hamza in March 2000. In 2002, a pair of activists working against Abu Hamza, Neil Doyle and Glen Jenvey, tricked Abu Hamza into sending them some recruitment videos, and one showed two masked men holding assault rifles claiming to be fighting in Bosnia. Only in 2004, after Hamas released the video of Sharif and Hanif’s last testaments, did it become clear they were the masked men in the 2000 video as well. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 9/19/2004] Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), traveled to Israel seven weeks before the bombing, and it is suspected he assisted the bombing in some way, because he had known the two men since at least 2001 (see Summer 2001 and February 19-20, 2003).
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s now-infamous claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction “within 45 minutes” is based on information gathered from a single, anonymous Iraqi defector of dubious reliability, British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram admits. According to Ingram, the defector was supplied by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. The INC defector told American intelligence agents that if Saddam Hussein gave the order, WMDs, presumably contained in missiles, could be on their way to their targets in 45 minutes. The Americans shared that intelligence with their British counterparts, but British intelligence officials considered the story to be unreliable and uncorroborated. According to The Independent, “[h]ow it came to be included as the most dramatic element in the government’s ‘intelligence dossier’ last September, making the case for war (see September 24, 2002), is now the subject of a furious row in Whitehall and abroad.” The 45-minute claim was not part of the original draft of the September 2002 dossier (see September 28, 2002), and government officials deny that the claim was added at the behest of politicians who wanted the dossier “sexed up.” Faced with thunderous denunciations from his own Labour Party and his Conservative opponents for apparently deceiving the nation about Iraqi WMD, Blair says that he has further intelligence, gleaned from former Iraqi scientists, that proves Iraq had an arsenal of WMD. He will present that intelligence in due course, he says. An intelligence source says: “The ‘45-minute’ remark was part of the American intelligence input into the dossier. It was being treated cautiously by the British, but it was alighted on by the politicos and blown out of proportion.” [Independent, 6/1/2003] Further verification of the hearsay nature of the claim comes in August, when a previously unreleased document shows that the claim came from an anonymous Iraqi source (see August 16, 2003).
A female senior official from Washington comes to Guantanamo to interrogate British national Shafiq Rasul and shows him a videotape recording of a meeting in January 2000 in Afghanistan between Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, the operational leader of the 9/11 attacks. The video allegedly also shows Rasul being present. Rasul recalls saying: “Are you blind? That doesn’t look anything like me.” His questioners are adamant. “[L]oads of people had told them that this guy in a beard standing behind bin Laden was me. I told them that in 2000 I didn’t leave the country, that I was working at the Wednesbury branch of Currys, who would have my employment records. They told me I could have falsified those records—that I could have had someone working with me at Currys who could have altered the data the company held, and traveled on a false passport.” Then Rasul decides to confess. “I’d got to the point where I just couldn’t take any more. ‘Do what you have to do,’ I told them.” He recalls: “My heart is beating, beating, I’m saying it’s not me, it’s not me, but I’m thinking ‘I’m going to be screwed. I’m on an island in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing I can do.’” [Guardian, 10/3/2004] His two friends, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, are also forced to make confessions. But the British intelligence service MI5, later demonstrates that the Tipton Three were all in Britain at that time, [Observer, 3/14/2004] and Rasul was indeed working in a Currys store in the West Midlands at the time of the alleged meeting attended by bin Laden and Mohamed Atta. [Guardian, 8/4/2004]
A senior British source tells the Independent of London that British intelligence has kept records of its communications with Tony Blair’s staff, demonstrating that they were under pressure to produce reports that supported Blair’s claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “A smoking gun may well exist over WMDs, but it may not be to the Government’s liking,” one senior British official will say to the Independent a few months after the invasion. “Minuted details will show exactly what went on. Because of the frequency and, at times, unusual nature of the demands from Downing Street, people have made sure records were kept. There is a certain amount of self-preservation in this, of course.” [Independent, 6/8/2003]
Andrew Wilkie, an analyst for the Australian Office of National Assessments, says in testimony before British Parliament that the British and Australian governments had backed US allegations despite reports from their respective intelligence agencies that Iraq was not a serious threat. In fact, Wilkie goes so far as to say that the two governments deliberately distorted and doctored evidence to support US claims, which he describes as “ridiculous,” “preposterous” and “fundamentally flawed.” According to him, there was an “over-reliance” on “garbage grade human intelligence” by individuals he says were “desperate to encourage intervention.” [Mirror, 6/20/2003]
Omar Khyam in Pakistan in 2003. [Source: Public domain]In early 2003, the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 begins investigating a man named Mohammed Quayyum Khan (a.k.a. “Q”), who is a taxi driver living in Luton, England. MI5 believes he is an important al-Qaeda operative. Mohammad Sidique Khan is the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, and at some point before he goes to a training camp in Pakistan in July 2003 (see July-September 2003), MI5 traces his cell phone number from a phone call or calls between him and Quayyum. It will later be revealed in court that Quayyum arranged for Sidique Khan to attend the training camp, so it seems probable the monitored communication relates to these arrangements. MI5 discovers the prepaid phone belongs to a “Siddique Khan,” but they find no reference to him in their own records or on the Police National Computer, so they do not pursue the lead any further. In early 2004, MI5 will repeatedly monitor Khan meeting with Omar Khyam (see February 2-March 23, 2004), the head bomber in a plot to bomb a target in Britain with a large fertilizer bomb (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). They allegedly do not know Khan’s name, but they learn in June 2004 that the car he has been driving Khyam around in is registered to the name “Siddeque Khan.” But, as the London Times will later note, “For reasons that remain unexplained, no one at MI5 made the connection to the Siddique Khan whose mobile phone number had already cropped up.” Strangely, despite his links such as this to both the fertilizer bomb plot and the 7/7 bombers, Quayyum will never be arrested or even questioned by officials, and continues to live openly in Britain (see March 2003 and After). [London Times, 5/1/2007; BBC, 5/25/2007]
Anthony Garcia (left) and Omar Khyam (right) facing the camera, in Pakistan in 2003. Both will be sentenced to life in prison for the fertilizer bomb plot. [Source: Corbis]In the summer of 2003, a group of young Pakistani-Briton men rent a room in a hostel in Lahore, Pakistan. The group is very noisy at night, talking and playing music, which draws complaints from neighbors. One neighbor will later tell the Times of London that it was obvious they were violent militants: “We knew what they were doing and we were afraid at those boys being here, but we couldn’t do anything about it.” The neighbors finally call the police after hearing a series of late night explosions coming from their room. The group tells police that a propane gas cylinder had exploded. But the police do not believe it and begin a surveillance operation.
Investigation - Investigators learn the group recently traveled to Malakand, a very mountainous region of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. It is known that al-Qaeda maintains training camps there. Members of the group are also seen making regular visits to an office complex in Lahore where Al-Muhajiroun and other militant groups rent space. Most of the group members are linked to Al-Muhajiroun back in Britain. One member of the group is Omar Khyam, who is a key figure in a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain that will be foiled by British intelligence in March 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Another member is Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). Yet another member is Mohammed Junaid Babar, an al-Qaeda operative living in Britain who is important enough to attend a key al-Qaeda summit in 2004 (see March 2004).
Return Home - Khan returns to Britain in August 2003 and Khyam returns one month later (Khyam is already under surveillance in Britain). It is unknown when Babar returns exactly, but in early April 2004 he flies from Britain to the US, is arrested, and begins telling all he knows about his associates in return for a reduced sentence (see April 10, 2004). He only knows Khyam by his alias “Ausman” and Khan by his alias “Ibrahim,” and it is unknown just how much he reveals about their training together in Pakistan.
Warnings - But the Pakistani ISI will later claim that they twice gave warnings to British intelligence about the monitored group in Lahore. Apparently the ISI decided the group was not a threat in Pakistan but was planning a bombing in Britain. A high-ranking ISI official will later claim: “There is no question that 7/7 could have and should have been stopped. British agencies did not follow some of the information we gave to them.” [London Times, 5/1/2007]
Surveillance - If the ISI does not in fact warn British intelligence, then it is likely the British have at least some awareness of this group in Lahore attending training camps through another source. British intelligence has been closely monitoring Mohammed Quayyum Khan, who is believed to be a key al-Qaeda operative living in Britain and sending funds and militant recruits to Pakistan (see March 2003 and After). Quayyum remains in phone contact with Khayam in Pakistan. He also is monitored as he talks on the phone with Salahuddin Amin, a member of the fertilizer bomb plot who lives in Pakistan. [BBC, 5/25/2007]
Chelsea FC owner Ken Bates agrees to sell the club to Russian oil and aluminum mogul Roman Abramovich for £140m. £80m of the money will be spent paying down debts Chelsea has recently accrued. £59.3m will be used to buy shares in the parent company, Chelsea Village, which are valued at a mere 35p each. Bates bought the club for £1 in 1982. The deal is the biggest in British football history. A statement issued for Abramovich pledges that he will invest in the team. [BBC, 7/2/2003]
An unnamed Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tells the Daily Mail that the agency believes that Britain’s Africa-uranium claim is based on the same alleged transaction referred to in the forged Niger documents (see March 2000). “I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction,” the source says. [Agence France-Presse, 7/15/2003]
Numerous US and British, current and former, intelligence, military, and other government officials who have inside knowledge continue to refute claims made by the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein’s regime had or was developing nuclear weapons. [CBS News, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 8/10/2003]
The US Department of Commerce prepares a memo for the president concerning the US-UK Energy Dialog, a bilateral initiative that was established during the April 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to “enhance coordination and cooperation on energy issues” (see April 6-7, 2002). The memo states: “Current forecasts for the oil sector put global demand by 2030 at about 120 million barrels per day (mbd), which is roughly 45 mbd higher than today. While recognizing that the increasing role of Russia and other non-OPEC producers, a large proportion of the world’s additional demand will likely be met by the Middle East (mainly Middle East Gulf) producers. They hold over half of current proven reserves, exploration and production costs are the lowest in the world, and production in many mature fields in the OECD area is likely to fall. To meet future world energy demand, the current installed capacity in the Gulf (currently 23 mbd) may need to rise to as much as 52 mbd by 2030.” [Muttitt, 2005]
A previously unrevealed document shows that British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s claim that Iraq could strike a target with weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to deploy was based on hearsay information. The claim had already been shown to be the product of an unreliable Iraqi defector from Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (see Late May 2003), but an internal Foreign Service document released by the Hutton inquiry undercuts the original claim even further. British and US officials had stated that the 45-minute claim came from an Iraqi officer high in Saddam Hussein’s command structure; the document shows, however, that it came from an informant who passed it on to British intelligence agency MI6. The Guardian writes, “[T]he foundation for the government’s claim was… a single anonymous uncorroborated source quoting another single anonymous uncorroborated source.” Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell says: “This is classic hearsay. It provides an even thinner justification to go to war. If this is true, neither the prime minister nor the government have been entirely forthcoming.” [Guardian, 8/16/2003]
France, Germany, and Britain succeed in persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and permit intrusive inspections by United Nations monitors. The US refuses to join this effort, and continues to attempt to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council for violating its safeguard agreements. Unable to affect the negotiations between Iran and the Europeans, Bush officials are reduced to mocking the negotiations, with the State Department’s John Bolton asking, “How many IAEA meetings does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” Bolton is later asked what he thinks about the Europeans’ “carrot-and-stick” methodology of negotiating with the Iranians, and he replies, “I don’t do carrots.” Author J. Peter Scoblic later writes: “The problem was that the administration didn’t really do sticks, either. Although the Bush administration repeatedly made it clear that ‘all options were on the table,’ it never explicitly threatened military action or established red lines beyond which it would force Iran to pay some explicit price. Absent coercion or diplomacy, the Bush administration’s strategy was essentially one of hope—hope that the Iranian regime would collapse, yielding morally pure victory. Unfortunately, just as with North Korea (see May 4, 2003), dramatic change was unlikely; not only was the regime relatively stable, but Iranian reformers appeared committed to the nuclear program as well.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]
Philip Carroll, the chief adviser to the new Iraqi government’s oil ministry, and Gary Vogler, another adviser, resign and are replaced by Rob McKee, a former vice president of ConocoPhillips, and Terry Adams of BP Oil. [Muttitt, 2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 75]
Iraqi oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum tells the Financial Times that Iraq is preparing plans for the privatization of the country’s oil sector. He says he supports the “full privatization of downstream installations, such as refineries, but [says] he would back production-sharing contracts upstream,” the newspaper reports. He adds that US, possibly European, oil companies will be given priority. But he also says the decision will not be made until Iraq has an elected government. “The new elected government at the end of the transitional period will decide this issue,” he tells the Times. “The Iraqi oil sector needs privatization, but it’s a cultural issue,” he explains. “People lived for the last 30 to 40 years with this idea of nationalism.” Al-Ulum—a US-trained petroleum engineer who lived in London from 1992 until the overthrow of Hussein—was part of a working group organized by the State Department’s Future of Iraq Project before the invasion (see December 20-21, 2002). [Financial Times, 9/5/2003]
Cesc Fabregas, who will go on to captain Arsenal for a number of years, joins the club from Barcelona’s youth team. He is 16 years old. [Arsenal, 2010] Fabregas is one of several Spanish players who leave their native country to join English football clubs at a young age; the moves are because English employment law allows 16-year-olds to sign contracts, whereas in Spain players can only sign when they are older (see October 10, 2007 and February 23, 2011).
The British High Court rules that the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands have no grounds for bringing a claim against the British government and no realistic prospect of succeeding, even though a ruling in 2000 (see November 3, 2000) had determined that Britain’s mass eviction of the islanders in the early 1970s (see July 27, 1971-May 26, 1973) had been illegal. In his 750-page ruling, Justice Ouseley complains that the plaintiffs did not provide reliable evidence that individual Chagossians had been “treated shamefully by successive UK governments.” He did however acknowledge that the mass eviction was not just and that compensation received so far by the Chagossians was inadequate. “Many were given nothing for years but a callous separation from their homes, belongings and way of life and a terrible journey to privation and hardship,” he says. During the trial, the attorney general and British Indian Ocean Territory Commissioner claimed that the islanders had not opposed being removed from their homes and shipped to a foreign land with little or no assistance. They also denied allegations that the mass eviction had been implemented dishonestly or in bad faith. [BBC, 10/9/2003; British Royal Courts of Justice, 10/9/2003]
A study of about 14,000 workers in England who have been exposed to formaldehyde fails to demonstrate a link between formaldehyde and leukemia. [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
The bombed Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey. [Source: Murad Sezer / Associated Press]On November 15, 2003, two Jewish synagogues are struck by suicide truck bombs in Istanbul, Turkey. Five days later, the British HSBC Bank and British Consulate in Istanbul are hit by more truck bombs. Fifty-eight people are killed in the attacks, including the British consul general, and over 750 are wounded. Turkish investigators believe the attacks were orchestrated by local al-Qaeda operatives after getting approval from Osama bin Laden. [BBC, 11/20/2003; BBC, 2/16/2007] In 2007, seven people will be sentenced to life in a Turkish prison for their role in the attacks. One of them is Luai Sakra, who confessed to being one of the two masterminds of the attacks (see March 21, 2006-February 16, 2007). Forty-one people receive shorter sentences, and 26 people are acquitted. [BBC, 2/16/2007] Evidence will later emerge suggesting that Sakra was an informant for the CIA, Turkey, and Syria at least in 2000 and 2001 (see 2000 and September 10, 2001).
Shehzad Tanweer. [Source: Metropolitan Police]Shehzad Tanweer, one of the suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), visits Pakistan. He visited Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, but he may have just been visiting family on those trips. However, investigators will later believe that on his 2003 trip, he meets Osama Nazir, a leader of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Investigators will later suggest that Nazir could have given Tanweer advice about bomb-making. Tanweer also meets with Sher Ali, alleged to be a Jaish-e-Mohammed recruiting agent with links to Nazir and al-Qaeda leader Amjad Farooqi. Tanweer will travel to Pakistan in late 2004 and meet with Nazir again (see November 18, 2004-February 8, 2005). Nazir will be arrested soon thereafter in Pakistan on charges of participation in several attacks there in 2002. Shortly after the 7/7 bombings, Nazir will confirm from prison that he met Tanweer in 2003 and 2004. [Guardian, 7/18/2005; Daily Telegraph, 7/19/2005; Time, 7/24/2005]
Britain’s Department of Health advises doctors treating depressed children to prescribe only Prozac. Other antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor, Celexa, and Lexapro should be avoided, it warns, because of a potential link between these drugs and suicidal and hostile behavior. [BBC, 12/10/2003; New York Times, 12/16/2003] The FDA takes no action in the US, and continues to sit on a study by one of its own scientists (see September 2003) that links the drugs to suicidal thoughts in children. [Washington Post, 9/24/2004]
Germaine Lindsay. [Source: Public domain]Shortly after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), Newsweek will report that the name of one of the suicide bombers, Germaine Lindsay, “turned up in US government antiterror databases.” Lindsay’s name apparently comes up tangentially during the British investigation, known as Operation Crevice, of the 2004 fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). A British intelligence agency monitored two other 7/7 suicide bombers repeatedly interacting with the fertilizer bomb plotters, but allegedly never learned their exact names (see February 2-March 23, 2004). They gave US intelligence a database of suspects who interacted with the fertilizer bomb plotters, and presumably Lindsay was in this database (see Between April 10, 2004 and July 7, 2005). [Newsweek, 7/20/2005] The US then puts Lindsay on a terror watch list, which presumably is shared with British intelligence, but the British fail to monitor him. [Associated Press, 7/19/2005] Lindsay was apparently monitored by the FBI when he was visiting family in the US in late 2001, and may have already been put on a watch list at that time (see December 2001).
The BBC current affairs program Panorama runs a documentary entitled “Father and Son” about Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his son Jason, a football players’ agent. The documentary alleges that Jason has exploited his father’s position to set up transfer deals and make financial gain from them. Jason will not be found guilty of any wrongdoing, but Sir Alex will refuse to speak to the BBC for a number of years. [Guardian, 11/30/2010]
Al-Tajdeed Radio, a station run by London-based Saudi Islamist Mohammed al-Massari, broadcasts in Iraq and Saudi Arabia calls for attacks on British troops. The station carries songs calling for jihad against the coalition forces and addresses by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of an Iraqi group of militants reported to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. In addition, al-Massari also posts videos of attacks on British troops on his website. For example, in August 2006 the Council of Holy Warriors posts a declaration praising a bombing in Iraq that results in 55 people killed and wounded. MP Patrick Mercer calls the broadcasts “desperately demoralizing” for British troops in Iraq. Al-Massari says that the broadcasts were not in Britain, but abroad, so they are legal. No action is taken against al-Massari over the radio station and website, even after Britain passes a new Terrorism Act in 2006 making glorifying or encouraging political violence a crime (see March 30, 2006). [BBC, 8/18/2005; New York Times, 8/21/2006]
Mohamed ElBaradei, the president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask a second time for the US’s participation in European-led negotiations with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program (see Fall 2003). Powell refuses. The IAEA and the Europeans—France, Germany, and Britain—believe that the US’s participation in the negotiations is essential to convince Iran to make real concessions. Iran wants assurances that the US will not attack it. Moreover, Iran knows that the Europeans will wait for US approval for any incentives they offer, such as membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). During the negotiations, an Iranian diplomat tells British negotiator John Sawers not to keep pressing the Iranian delegation to give up its nuclear weapons development program: “Look, John, that’s what we are saving up for the Americans. We can’t spend all our possible concessions in negotiating with you. We’ll have nothing left.” As the Europeans continue to jockey with the balky Iranians, the US continues to stand apart—“leaving the driving to the EU,” as State Department neoconservative John Bolton will later comment. Only in 2005 will the Bush administration begin giving its grudging support to the negotiations, but it will continue to refuse to actually participate in them. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]
After 15 months of brutal torture in Morocco (see July 21, 2002 -- January 2004), British terror suspect Binyam Mohamed (see May-September, 2001) is flown to Afghanistan by the CIA.
Shock at Brutal Treatment - Even the hardened CIA agents in Afghanistan are shocked by the treatment meted out by the Moroccans, who, among other treatments, had repeatedly slashed and lacerated Mohamed’s genitals with scalpels and knives. Mohamed will later recall: “When I got to Kabul a female agent started taking close-up pictures of my genitals. She was shocked. When they removed my diaper she could see blood was still oozing from the cuts on my penis. For the first two weeks they had me on antibiotics and they took pictures of my genitals every day. They told me, ‘This is not for us. It’s for Washington.’ They wanted to be sure it was healing.”
'The Dark Prison' - But the initial shock gives way to a new session of brutality at the hands of his American captors. Mohamed will later call his Afghani detention facility “the dark prison,” and recall it as one of the lowest points of his life. In Morocco, Mohamed confessed to anything he was asked—being part of a plot to build a radioactive “dirty bomb,” being a confidant of 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, having met Osama bin Laden dozens of times—in order to, he says, avoid further torture. Now the Americans want him to be a prosecution witness against high-ranking al-Qaeda already in US custody. But Mohammed knows nothing of these people or their crimes, he will later say. The tortures with scalpels are not repeated, but Mohamed will recall seemingly endless ordeals of being shackled by the wrists to his door frame, often in complete darkness, and in one memorable instance, being subjected to a rap CD being played in his cell at ear-shatteringly loud volumes for an entire month without stop. “It’s a miracle my brain is still intact,” he will later say. In September, he is transferred to Guantanamo (see September 2004 and After). [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009]
A surveillance photo of Momin Khawaja (in grey sweater) and unidentified man on February 20, 2004. [Source: Public domain via the Globe and Mail]According to a joint Canadian and British report sent to Pakistani authorities in September 2005, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Momin Khawaja, and Haroon Rashid Aswat meet in London in February 2004. Babar and Khawaja are both members of a British fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004), but Khawaja is living in Canada and making occasional trips to Britain to meet the other plotters there, and Babar is based in Pakistan and also occasionally coming to Britain. By this time, the British intelligence agency MI5 has learned of the plot and is intensely monitoring all the major plotters, including Khawaja. US intelligence has apparently been monitoring Babar since late 2001 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004), and Newsweek will state he is definitely being monitored by February 2004 (see March 2004). [Daily Times (Lahore), 9/7/2005; Globe and Mail, 7/4/2008] Newsweek will later confirm, “Aswat is believed to have had connections to some of the suspects in the fertilizer plot,” and his name is given to the US as part of a list of people suspected of involvement in the plot. [Newsweek, 7/20/2005; Newsweek, 7/25/2005] He is the most interesting figure in this meeting. The US has wanted him since at least 2002 for his role in attempting to set up a militant training camp in Oregon (see November 1999-Early 2000). It will later be widely reported that he is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005) and may even simultaneously be an informant for British intelligence. Babar, Khawaja, and other major figures in the fertilizer plot will be arrested at the end of March 2004 (see March 29, 2004 and After and April 10, 2004), but Aswat curiously is not arrested, even though British intelligence had compiled a large dossier on him and considered him a “major terrorist threat” by 2003 (see Early 2003).
A surveillance photo of Shehzad Tanweer (second to the left), Mohammad Sidique Khan (far right), and Omar Khyam (center), taken in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant on February 28, 2004. [Source: Metropolitan Police]By the beginning of February 2003, the British intelligence agency MI5 has learned about an al-Qaeda linked fertilizer bomb plot meant for an unknown target or targets in Britain, and has begun closely monitoring all of the main suspects. The head bomber in the plot, Omar Khyam, is seen on several occasions with two of the 7/7 London suicide bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer:
On February 2, Khyam is seen in a car with Khan and Tanweer. Khyam is dropped off at his residence in the town of Crawley. The other two are still monitored as Khan drives away. They are covertly photographed when they stop at a gas station in Toddington. Khan is also photographed at a Burger King. They arrive at West Yorkshire and the car is parked outside Khan’s family house. His precise address is written down. A check reveals the car is registered to Khan’s wife. In June 2004, MI5 will check the car’s registration again and find out it has been re-registered in the name of “Siddeque Khan.” [BBC, 4/30/2007]
On February 21, Khan is not seen directly, but his same car that was trailed on February 2 is seen parked outside a house in Crawley where a key four-and-a-half hour meeting is held preparing the fertilizer bomb plot. Khan and Tanweer probably attend the meeting, but there are technical problems with the surveillance so the meeting is not recorded.
At some point also on February 21, Khan and Khyam are recorded while Khyam is driving his car. Khan asks Khyam, “Are you really a terrorist?” Khyam replies, “They are working with us.” Khan then asks, “You are serious, you are basically…?” And Khyam replies, “I am not a terrorist, they are working through us.” Finally, Khan tells Khyam: “Who are? There is no one higher than you.” Later in the conversation, Khan says he is debating whether or not to say goodbye to his baby before going to Pakistan again. Khyam tells him: “I do not even live in Crawley any more. I moved out because in the next month they are going to be raiding big time all over the UK.” This is curious, because the next month there will be police raids, which result in the arrest of the group of bomb plotters based in the town of Crawley, including Khyam (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). [Independent, 4/30/2007; Daily Telegraph, 5/1/2007; London Times, 5/1/2007] Khan and Khyam discuss attending training camps in Pakistan. Khan asks, “How long to the training camp?” Khyam replies, “You’ll be going to the tribal areas, stay with families, you’ll be with Arab brothers, Chechen brothers, you’ll be told our operation later.” [Channel 4 News (London), 5/1/2007]
On February 28, 2004, Khyam, Khan, and Tanweer are monitored as Khan drives them around builders’ merchants as part of a fraud scheme the three of them are working on together. At one point, Khan says, “I’m going to tap HSBC [the British bank], if not I’ll just go with a balaclava and a shotgun.” Khan then drives them to another secret meeting, this one held at a shop in Wellingborough. The meeting is attended by the three of them and about seven others; it is unknown if it is recorded. As the three drive back from the meeting, Khan appears to be trying to lose a tail since he doubles back and takes other evasive maneuvers.
On March 21, Khan and Khyam are seen driving together. This time they are in a different car loaned to Khan by an auto shop, since the one used earlier was wrecked in a crash.
On March 23, 2004, Khyam, Khan, and Tanweer meet again. They drive to an Islamic bookshop and spend the afternoon there. They also go to the the apartment of another key suspect in the fertilizer bomb plot. Returning to Khyam’s residence, they discuss passports and raising funds from banks using fraudulent methods. Khan again discusses going to Pakistan with Tanweer. Khyam by this time has plans to flee Britain in early April. Although they do not say so explicitly, an informant named Mohammed Junaid Babar will later reveal that Khyam was planning to attend training camps in Pakistan with Khan and others. Several times, Khyam, Khan, and Tanweer are seen talking outside, which would suggest discussions about particularly sensitive matters. But only the inside of Khyam’s house is bugged and these outside talks are not recorded. Khan and Tanweer leave shortly before midnight.
Khyam’s phone is also being monitored, and Khan is in regular phone contact with him. But is it unknown how many calls are made or what is said. British intelligence will claim that that no overt references about bombings are made. [Independent, 4/30/2007; Daily Telegraph, 5/1/2007; London Times, 5/1/2007] But the Sunday Times will claim this is untrue, and that Khan was recorded discussing the building of a bomb and then his desire to leave Britain because there would be a lot of police activity after the bomb went off. He also is involved in “late-stage discussions” of the fertilizer bomb plot (see May 13-14, 2006). [Sunday Times (London), 5/14/2006] Furthermore, he is heard to pledge to carry out violence against non-Muslims. A tracking device is also placed on Khan’s car, although what becomes of this is unclear. [Associated Press, 4/30/2007] Photographs are sometimes taken of Khan and/or Tanweer. For instance, at some point Khan is photographed coming out of an Internet cafe. But despite all this evidence, investigators apparently conclude that Khan and Tanweer are “concerned with the fraudulent raising of funds rather than acts of terrorism.” They are not properly monitored (see March 29, 2004 and After). Khan and Tanweer apparently attend militant training camps in Pakistan later that year before blowing themselves up in 2005. Khyam is arrested on March 30, and is later sentenced to life in prison (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). [Independent, 4/30/2007; Daily Telegraph, 5/1/2007; London Times, 5/1/2007] In early 2005, investigators will finally look into details about the car Khan drove and the loaner car given to him by the auto shop, and they will learn his full name and address (if they don’t know it already). But apparently this will not result in any more surveillance of him (see January 27-February 3, 2005).
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he cannot remember anyone making the claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the claim over six months before the US-British invasion of Iraq (see September 24, 2002). The claim was later revealed to have come from a single, anonymous, unverified source (see August 16, 2003 and December 7, 2003). Some British newspapers ran banner headlines saying that the claim meant British troops in Cyprus could be attacked with Iraqi WMD within 45 minutes. Rumsfeld tells reporters at a Pentagon briefing, “I don’t remember the statement being made, to be perfectly honest.” [Department of Defense, 2/10/2004; BBC, 2/11/2004] General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who accompanies Rumsfeld in the press conference, adds, “I don’t remember the statement, either.” [Department of Defense, 2/10/2004]
Katharine Gun, who leaked an NSA memo to the British press in February 2003 that revealed the existence of an elaborate US plan to “bug” UN delegates (see January 31, 2003), is arrested and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act for giving a copy of the memo to the press. Gun was a translator for British intelligence, who worked at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) before losing her job over the leak in June. Gun does not dispute leaking the memo, instead calling it “justified.” Any leaks she made exposed “serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the US Government,” she says, and were made to prevent “wide-scale death and casualties among ordinary Iraqi people and UK forces.” [BBC, 11/13/2003] Gun has had the support of a wide array of antiwar and civil rights activists, led in the US by actor Sean Penn and activist Jesse Jackson, who signed a statement shortly before her court appearance praising her as a whistleblower. [Observer, 1/18/2004] The British government decides to drop the charges against her. No official explanation for this is forthcoming, though it may have been precipitated by the defense’s intent to argue that Gun leaked to the media in order to save lives from being lost in a war, an argument that would cause political damage to the government. Liberty spokeswoman Shami Chakrabarti says the decision to charge Gun may itself have been politically motivated, perhaps to cow future whistleblowers, and observes, “One wonders whether disclosure in this criminal trial might have been a little too embarrassing.” Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, says the reason for dropping the charges might be to keep the Attorney General’s legal advice for war with Iraq a secret. Prosecutor Mark Ellison merely tells the court, “There is no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. It would not be appropriate to go into the reasons for this decision.” The only thing needed for a successful prosecution under the Official Secrets Act is for the prosecution to show that Gun is covered by the act, which she is, and that she revealed information covered by the Act, which she has admitted. Gun’s lawyer, James Webb, calls the prosecution’s excuse “rather lame.” [BBC, 11/13/2003; Evening Standard, 2/25/2004] Gun says that leaking the NSA memo was “necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed.… I have only ever followed my conscience.” [ZNet, 12/28/2005] A month before the court proceedings, the New York Times’s Bob Herbert writes in defense of Gun, “We are not talking about a big-time criminal here. We are not talking about someone who would undermine the democratic principles that George W. Bush and Tony Blair babble about so incessantly, and self-righteously, even as they are trampling on them. Ms. Gun is someone who believes deeply in those principles and was willing to take a courageous step in support of her beliefs. She hoped that her actions would help save lives. She thought at the time that if the Security Council did not vote in favor of an invasion, the United States and Britain might not launch the war.” [New York Times, 1/19/2004] And just days before the court proceedings begin, liberal columnist Molly Ivins wrote, “…Gun may be sentenced to prison for doing precisely what we all hope every government employee will try to do: Prevent the government from committing an illegal and immoral act. Some dare call it patriotism.” [AlterNet, 2/18/2004]
Entity Tags: Katherine Gun, Jesse Jackson, Government Communications Headquarters, George W. Bush, Bob Herbert, James Webb, Tony Blair, United Nations, Sean Penn, Molly Ivins, National Security Agency, Walter Menzies Campbell, New York Times, Mark Ellison, Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
Mike Stinson of ConocoPhillips and Bob Morgan of BP replace Rob McKee and Terry Adams as advisers to Iraq’s oil ministry. The British government pays them £147,700 for their work. [Muttitt, 2005]
At Guantanamo, shortly before their release, Jamal Udeen, Tarek Dergoul, and the Tipton Three are asked to sign a document confessing to having links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Iqbal remembers: “It was along the lines that I was a member of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, however I have since changed. In other words I had changed my mind since I was detained at Guantanamo Bay. It went on to say that if I was suspected of anything at any time by the United States, I could be picked up and returned to Guantanamo Bay.” He is told that signing the document is a precondition for going back to Britain. “I didn’t really believe him,” Iqbal later says, and so he refused to sign. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Jamal Udeen also has a confession statement presented to him by a British official. “This was given to me first by the Americans and then by a British diplomat who asked if I agreed to sign it. I just said ‘No.’ I would rather have stayed in Guantanamo than sign that paper.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004]
Many of the Madrid train bombers have their phones tapped for months before the March 2004 train bombing (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Some of them have been monitored for years (one, Moutaz Almallah, was under surveillance for nine years (see November 1995). While snippets from some phone calls will be made public after the bombings (see February 28-29, 2004), the content of the vast majority of these calls remain unknown. One example hints at what some of these calls might contain. Rosa Ahmidan, the wife of bomber Jamal Ahmidan, begins fully cooperating with the authorities after being interviewed for the first time on March 25, 2004 (see March 27-30, 2004). She will later say that in April she gets a phone bill from one land line used by her husband. The bill is for around 1,000 euros. It shows Jamal Ahmidan made many calls to Afghanistan, London, and the Netherlands. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/25/2008]
Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the Britain-based Al-Muhajiroun militant group, is interviewed. He says, “I believe Britain is harboring most of the Islamic opposition leaders of the Muslim world.… Because the British elites are very clever, they are not stupid like the Americans. Remember these people used to rule half of the world.… The British are not like the French and the Germans, they don’t slap you in the face, they stab you in the back. They want to buy some of these Islamic groups.” Asked if there ever has been “a secret deal between some Islamists and British security whereby radical Muslims would be left alone as long as they did not threaten British national security,” Bakri replies: “I believe all the people referred to as ‘moderate’ Muslims have at one time or another struck deals with the British government. But the British have been unable to corrupt radical groups” like Bakri’s group. He then defines moderate Muslims as “The Muslim Brotherhood in [Britain], UK Islamic Mission, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Iranian opposition groups, [and] the so-called [Iranian] Ahlul Bait groups.” Bakri also says, “I think everything I say and do is monitored.” He admits to being questioned by British intelligence “on at least 16 occasions,” but denies helping them. He says that the authorities have attempted to penetrate his organization, “as the British are desperate to buy intelligence.” Speaking about British intelligence agencies, he says: “their understanding of Islam is poor. But I believe the really clever people are the elites in this country, as they know how to divide Muslims.” [Spotlight on Terror, 3/23/2004] Bakri’s comments will take on new meaning when it is later revealed that he was an active informant for British intelligence (see Spring 2005-Early 2007).
In the evening of March 11, 2004, a group claims responsibility for the Madrid train bombings that took place that morning. The London-based Arabic Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper claims to have been sent a letter from a group called the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades. Abu Hafs is an common alias for al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2001 (see November 15, 2001). The newspaper received similar letters claiming responsibility for previous incidents. However, some of the group’s claims have been patently false. For instance, the group took credit for the August 14, 2003 blackout in the northeastern US that was caused by technical failure. The Guardian comments, “The authenticity of such letters is difficult to establish, and might anyway be an attempt to spread fear and confusion.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/18/2003; Guardian, 3/12/2004] The group will soon stop making claims for attacks and slowly fade away. It is unknown if it ever had any real link to al-Qaeda. But in the crucial first hours after the Madrid bombings, the letter begins to shift public opinion to the possibility that al-Qaeda might be responsible.
In a statement, British former Guantanamo prisoner Tarek Dergoul “condemns the US and [British] governments for allowing these gross breaches of human rights and demands the release of all the other detainees.” His treatment included “botched medical treatment, interrogation at gunpoint, beatings and inhumane conditions.” The statement adds: “Tarek finds it very difficult to talk about these things and his family believe his mental health has been severely affected by the trauma he has suffered.” When confronted with the allegations of Dergoul and Jamal Udeen, a Pentagon spokeswoman describes these as “simply lies.” The same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell says in a television interview that he believes the US treats the detainees at Guantanamo “in a very, very humanitarian way.” And he adds, “Because we are Americans, we don’t abuse people in our care.” [Guardian, 3/13/2004]
Shehzad Tanweer (left) and Mohammad Sidique Khan (right) monitored at the Toddington Services gas station on February 2, 2004. [Source: Metropolitan Police]On March 29, 2004, 18 men suspected of involvement in an al-Qaeda linked fertilizer bomb plot are arrested in raids across Britain. Five of them, including head bomber Omar Khyam, will later be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for roles in the plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Dozens more have been monitored in recent months as part of Operation Crevice, the effort by the British intelligence agency MI5 to foil the plot. Of those not arrested, 15 are classified as “essential targets” deserving heavy surveillance. An additional 40 are classified as “desirables,” with a lower level of surveillance. Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, future suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings, are both placed in the “desirables” group. Khan and Tanweer had been monitored repeatedly meeting and talking on the phone with head bomber Khyam. Khan was overheard saying incriminating things, like how he might hold up a British bank with a shotgun (see February 2-March 23, 2004). Incredibly, he was even recorded discussing how to build a bomb, his desire to leave Britain after the bomb went off, plans to wage jihad (holy war), and plans to attend al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan (see May 13-14, 2006). But within weeks of the arrests of Khyam and the others, MI5 is distracted by another big surveillance operation focusing on Dhiren Barot, who is considered an important al-Qaeda leader living in Britain. As a result, the remaining Operation Crevice suspects are given lower priority and in fact Khan and Tanweer allegedly are not monitored at all. Additionally, even though MI5 knows the exact address where Khan lives, local police forces (which are not distracted by the Barot case) are not told that there are potential terrorism suspects who should be monitored. [London Times, 5/1/2007] Investigators will gather information about Khan’s car registration briefly in early 2005 and will learn his full name if they do not know it already, but it seems this will not lead to any more surveillance (see January 27-February 3, 2005). Apparently, Khan is also linked to Barot in some way, yet he is not arrested at the same time Barot and others are in August 2004, and he and the other 7/7 bombers still are not monitored after that (see August 3, 2004). As of 2007, only one of the 15 “essential targets” will be jailed for terrorism-related activity. [Associated Press, 4/30/2007]
Future 7/7 London bomber Shehzad Tanweer is questioned by police over a murder in Leeds, but no charges are brought against him. The victim, a mixed-race 16-year-old named Tyrone Clarke, was apparently involved in gang warfare. He was cornered by a group of up to 20 Asian youths, who beat him with baseball bats and metal poles, as well as stabbing him three times. Tanweer was seen with the attackers that evening, but there is no proof he was involved in the actual murder. Four of the youths are later identified and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 273]
By about 6:00 p.m. on April 3, 2004, a group of seven suspects in the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) are trapped in an apartment in the town of Leganes near Madrid and are engaged in a shootout with the police force surrounding them (see 2:00-9:00 p.m., April 3, 2004). This group of Islamist militants is said to be inspired by radical imam Abu Qatada, who has been held in the Belmarsh high security prison in Britain since 2002 (see October 23, 2002). Spanish police will later claim that these suspects call Qatada three times during the shootout, seeking religious authorization to commit suicide since they have been cornered by police. UPI will comment, “Madrid police could not explain how the terrorists could telephone somebody supposedly in a British prison.” They also call people in Indonesia and Tunisia who are said to be linked to suspected terrorists. They receive the permission from Qatada. Then they purify themselves with holy water from Mecca and dress in white funeral shrouds made from the apartment’s curtains. [United Press International, 5/14/2004] The seven suspects allegedly blow themselves up when police start to raid their apartment shortly after 9:00 p.m. (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004).
After one of Britain’s longest criminal trials and 74 hours of deliberation, the jury acquits Mouloud Sihali, David Khalef, Sidali Feddag, and Mustapha Taleb of conspiracy to carry out a chemical attack. The jury decides that the prosecution has failed to prove any existence of an al-Qaeda plot or any ability to produce weapons of mass destruction (see January 7, 2003). On April 12, the jury acquits Kamal Bourgass of the most serious charge—conspiracy to carry out the attack—but finds him guilty of “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance by the use of poisons or explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury.” The judge sentences him to 17 years in prison. [Independent, 4/17/2005] He has previously been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a policeman, as well as receiving jail terms for the attempted murder of other policemen during a fight when he was arrested. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 248] The government admits that no ricin was found in the invesigation, only 20 castor beans, some cherry stones, apple pips, and botched “nicotine poison” in a Nivea jar (see January 5, 2003). Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald drops the charges against four other alleged conspirators the day before their trial starts. Khalid Alwerfeli, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, and Kamal Merzoug are formally declared innocent. Mohammed Meguerba has yet to stand trial in Algeria and remains in custody. [Independent, 4/17/2005] Five of the acquitted make fresh asylum applications. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been in talks with Algeria about returning the men, but lawyers point to Meguerba’s alleged torture at the hands of the Algerian security forces as evidence that it will be impossible to deport any of the ricin defendants despite them being cleared (see September 18, 2002-January 3, 2003). [London Times, 5/9/2005] The cost of this trial and another related one exceeds £20 million. At one point, 800 police officers worked on the investigation, which included more than 100 arrests and operations in 16 countries. [Guardian, 4/14/2005]
Entity Tags: Mouloud Sihali, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, Sidali Feddag, Mohammed Meguerba, Mustapha Taleb, Khalid Alwerfeli, Kamal Bourgass, David Khalef, Michel Massih, Ken Macdonald, Kamal Merzoug
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Mohammed Junaid Babar. [Source: CBS News]On April 10, 20004 a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Junaid Babar is arrested by federal agents in Long Island City, New York. Babar has just flown to the US from Britain four days earlier, after a group of his associates were arrested for planning a fertilizer bomb plot (see March 2003 and After). Babar begins cooperating with the authorities almost immediately. He confesses to:
Participating in the bomb plot.
Meeting senior al-Qaeda leaders in the Pakistani tribal region.
Buying supplies, including night-vision goggles, for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Passing funds to al-Qaeda from supporters in Britain.
Setting up a militant training camp in Pakistan.
Arranging lodging and transportation for recruits attending his camp.
Babar’s arrest is not immediately made public. On June 3, he secretly pleads guilty to charges of supporting a terrorist organization. His arrest is made public on June 11. He faces up to 70 years in prison, but will have his sentenced greatly reduced in return for fully cooperating and testifying against others. Babar grew up in the US, but went to Pakistan shortly after 9/11 to fight with al-Qaeda. He was interviewed on television there several weeks after 9/11 proudly proclaiming his desire to kill Americans, and as a result was put on a US watch list and monitored. He spent the next years traveling between Pakistan and Britain, and was even monitored heading to a secret al-Qaeda summit in Pakistan in March 2004 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004 and March 2004). [CNN, 6/11/2004; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]
In early April 2004, an al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Junaid Babar is arrested in the US and tells the FBI all he knows about his militant associates and activities in return for a lighter sentence (see March 2004). Babar knows the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, Mohammad Sidique Khan. In fact, he and Khan attended an al-Qaeda training camp together in the summer of 2003 (see July-September 2003). However, Babar only knows Khan by his alias “Ibrahim,” as operatives usually use an alias for security purposes. There are conflicting accounts as to what the British intelligence agency MI5 tells the FBI about Khan and what the FBI tells MI5 about him, and why knowledge of him does not stop the 7/7 bombings.
"Trouble" and "Should Be Checked Out" - According to the Independent, Babar tells the FBI some time before the 7/7 bombings that “Ibrahim” is “trouble” and “should be checked out.” He knows that “Ibrahim” has learned how to use weapons and explosives in a training camp and had plans to return to Pakistan to attend another training camp. [Independent, 4/30/2007]
Khan in Database - According to Newsweek, at some point before the 7/7 bombings, British officials send US intelligence agencies a database on about 2,000 people identified as contacts to a group of men arrested in March 2004 as part of a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain. The main plotters were arrested just days before Babar was, and he knows all of them. US officials later tell Newsweek that this database contains “sketchy” information about Khan and another 7/7 bombing suspect. [Newsweek, 6/21/2006]
Not Recognized in Photos - The London Times reports that a batch of surveillance photos are sent to the US to be viewed by Babar. But MI5 judges the quality of the two pictures they have of Khan (a black and white closed-circuit television image and a covertly taken color photo) too poor to be included. However, Scotland Yard does send pictures of Khan, and Babar fails to recognize him. [London Times, 5/1/2007]
Recognized in Photos - However, an Associated Press story claims that Babar does recognize Khan “from a blurred surveillance photograph” and also warns that Khan has sought meetings with al-Qaeda leaders. [Associated Press, 4/30/2007]
Photos Kept from Inquiry - It emerges that an official investigation into the 7/7 bombings by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was only shown one surveillance photo of Khan. However, MI5 in fact had at least six photos of him. [Daily Mail, 5/2/2007]
Photo Identification Still Unresolved - In 2008, Babar will mention in court that he did tell the FBI about “Ibrahim” roughly a year before the July 2005 7/7 bombings. He told the FBI in detail how “Ibrahim” attended a training camp in Pakistan, and even appeared in a video promoting jihad in Britain with his face covered. However, Babar does not mention identifying him (or failing to identify him) in a photograph before the 7/7 bombings. [London Times, 4/19/2008] Khan and Babar were also monitored meeting with each other in England in 2003 (see 2003).
Radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, head of the British-based extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, says in an interview with a Portuguese magazine that attacks on London are “inevitable,” “because several (attacks) are being prepared by several groups.” He says that one “very well organized” group in London calling itself al-Qaeda Europe “has a great appeal for young Muslims,” adding, “I know that they are ready to launch a big operation.” He does not explicitly endorse an attack within Britain. But asked if a British Muslim is allowed to carry out a “terrorist attempt” in a foreign country, Bakri replies, “That is another story.” He explains: “We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity.” [Reuters, 4/19/2004] Presumably, British intelligence takes his warnings seriously, because a group of Al-Muhajiroun supporters were arrested earlier in the month while attempting to build a large fertilizer bomb for an attack in Britain (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004).
Abu Hamza al-Masri. [Source: Toby Melville / Reuters]In proceedings to revoke the British citizenship of leading London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri (see April 2003), the British government submits evidence linking him to five established terrorist organizations at a tribunal hearing. Abu Hamza, who has informed for the British intelligence services MI5 and Special Branch (see Early 1997), is said to be linked to:
The Islamic Army of Aden, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen;
The Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA);
Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and then merged into al-Qaeda;
A Kashmiri group later involved in the London bombings; and
Given the nature of the allegations, authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will comment, “If the intelligence agencies already had a dossier like this, why was the cleric not in [court], instead of arguing about whether he could hang onto his British passport.” The hearing is adjourned until January 2005 so that Abu Hamza can ask the government to fund his defense. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 285] He will be arrested one month later because of a US extradition request (see May 27, 2004).
Top: training camp surveillance photo of Hussain Osman, one of the ‘copycat’ bombers. Bottom: training camp attendee practicing with a stick for a rifle. [Source: Metropolitan Police, Telegraph]On May 2, 2004, an off-duty British policeman named Paul Burke accidentally discovers a militant training camp in the Lake District region of Britain while jogging through the countryside. He sees a man shouting orders to a group of about 20 men as they line up and put backpacks on. The man leading the group is an Islamic preacher named Mohammed Hamid. A surveillance team is brought in and the training is observed and videotaped. Burke sees a similar group of men training at the same spot on May 29, and a surveillance team monitors several more days of weekend training. Muktar Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, Ramzi Mohammed, and Hussain Osman—the four men who will later go on to stage the failed 21/7 London bombings (see July 21, 2005), the attempt to copycat the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005)—are among the trainees who are monitored. They are seen conducting military type maneuvers, including training with mock rifles. MI5 records another weekend of training at the same spot in August. Muktar Ibrahim, the lead 21/7 bomber, is again monitored there. Atilla Ahmet, an imam who took over from Abu Hamza al-Masri as leader of the Finsbury Park mosque after Abu Hamza was jailed for incitement to murder, also sometimes attends the training camp. All four of the 21/7 bombers attend the Finsbury Park mosque, and two of them are photographed there—Ramzi Mohammed in January 2004 and Ibrahim in August 2004. All four are also photographed with Ahmet at some point. Hamid and Ahmet hold meetings together every Friday at Hamid’s house where they encourage new recruits to attend weekend training camps in the New Forest, the Lake District, or Scotland, and paintballing sessions in Berkshire and Kent. Head trainer Hamid and head 21/7 bomber Ibrahim are close to each other and jointly operate a stall selling Islamic literature in Oxford Street in London. In October 2004, both of them are arrested following a disturbance at their stall. Ibrahim is caught after trying to run from police. Hamid resists arrest and reportedly tells police, “I’ve got a bomb and I’m going to blow you all up.” At the police station, Hamid only identifies himself as “Osama bin London,” but a fingerprint check reveals his real name and an extensive criminal record for theft and burglary. However, Ibrahim and Hamid are merely charged and then released. Ibrahim will be stopped in December at a London airport while attempting to fly to Pakistan, and he will be recognized from the training camp surveillance photos, but he will be allowed to take his flight anyway (see December 2004). He will fail to turn up for his court hearing because he is in Pakistan, where he will study bomb making at a training camp. Authorities will not come in contact with him again until after the 21/7 bombings. Hamid will remain free after the 7/7 and 21/7 bombings and will brazenly continue leading the occasional weekend training camps. A bug will finally be placed in his house in September 2005. An undercover agent will pose as a new recruit and attend the training camp in 2006. Hamid will finally be arrested later that year. Hamid, Ahmet, and a number of their associates will be convicted of criminal activity relating to the training camp in 2008. The Telegraph will later comment, “Mohammed Hamid groomed the would-be [21/7] suicide bombers under the noses of watching police [and] security services.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/17/2007; Daily Telegraph, 2/27/2008; Daily Telegraph, 2/27/2008; Guardian, 3/8/2008]
US officials become discouraged about anti-terrorist co-operation with their British counterparts against leading London-based cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write, “They were sick of handing over information to British agencies about Abu Hamza, only to see him being allowed to continue preaching hatred in front of the cameras.” A senior Justice Department official will say: “We just did not understand what was going on in London. We wondered to ourselves whether he was an MI5 informer, or was there some secret the British were not trusting us with? He seemed untouchable.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 294] The official’s speculation is correct, as Abu Hamza is indeed an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). In the end, the US will give up on waiting for the British to arrest Abu Hamza, and issue a warrant of their own (see May 27, 2004).
The British intelligence service MI5 develops information showing that London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri has significant connections with radical militants, but fails to show this to Home Secretary David Blunkett. Blunkett apparently learns this information after Abu Hamza, who has been an MI5 informer (see Early 1997), is arrested in 2004 (see May 27, 2004). When Blunkett takes office in 2001, as he will later recall, there is an assumption that Abu Hamza “was a bigmouth and was worth tracking but wasn’t at the centre of events.” The security services have a “detailed trail” of networks, personal history, and high-level contacts showing that Abu Hamza is “a real threat and a danger,” but they do not tell Blunkett. He will reportedly be angry when he learns MI5 failed to inform him of the material. What material is provided to Blunkett and what is kept from him is unknown; MI5’s explanation for withholding the information is also unknown. Blunkett will later indicate that action should have been taken against Abu Hamza earlier: “It is clear now—and I think that those close to this would acknowledge it—that there were opportunities for having taken action. By putting the jigsaw together, it is possible for us to realize that this man was a danger becuase he was at the heart of organizing, glorifying, and persuading.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 284, 291]
Some British politicians are unhappy over the arrest of leading Islamist radical Abu Hamza al-Masri (see May 27, 2004), for various reasons. The US is clearly aware that Abu Hamza is a very significant Islamist militant, and, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory: “[T]he question that hung uncomfortably in the air in Whitehall that afternoon was why [the British] government and its agencies had not appreciated the danger he posed, and done something about it. The unpalatable answer was that Britain had missed, or had chosen not to take, at least a dozen opportunities to act against Abu Hamza.” The arrest of Abu Hamza, who informed for two of Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), causes “considerable unease” in the cabinet; some ministers think Britain should be grateful to the FBI for “doing Britain’s dirty work,” whereas others think “Britain came out of the affair looking like America’s poodle.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 284]
The Sun announces Abu Hamza’s arrest in typically dramatic fashion. [Source: The Sun]Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is finally arrested by British police, who also seize documents, books and numerous audio and video tapes, at his home in London. The arrest is not due to any criminal proceedings in Britain, but because of a warrant for his extradition to the US, where he is wanted for direct personal involvement in terrorist recruitment, fundraising, and kidnapping. Abu Hamza decides to fight the extradition, but is denied bail. Abu Hamza had been at the center of Islamist radicalism in Britain for some time and had previously been arrested and released for his part in a kidnapping (see December 28-29, 1998). He informed for the security services beginning in 1997 (see Early 1997). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 146, 289-290]
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues a “code of practice” arguing that Iraq will need to work with foreign oil companies to increase the daily production level of the oil industry. “It has been estimated that a minimum of US$ 4 billion would be needed to restore production to its 1990 levels of 3.5 million barrels per day (mbd), and perhaps US$ 25 billion to achieve 5 mbd,” the statement says. “… Given Iraq’s needs, it is not realistic to cut government spending in other areas, and Iraq would need to engage with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to provide appropriate levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to do this.” [Muttitt, 2005]
An Iranian man appears in Turkey with a laptop computer and the phone number of a German intelligence officer. He calls the number, and 24 hours later, CIA analysts are poring over thousands of documents containing information and sketches. The CIA concludes that Iran is trying to retrofit its longest-range missile, the Shahab III, to carry a nuclear payload. The retrofit project is designated Project 1-11, the documents say, and analysts believe that the laptop information confirms their belief that Iran has a viable and active nuclear weapons program. Though the information on the laptop is from 2003 and earlier, it leads to the issuance of a National Intelligence Estimate (see August 2, 2005) that declares “with high confidence” Iran is working on a nuclear bomb, and will give ammunition to the Bush administration’s attempts to pressure Russia, China, and the US’s European allies to sanction Iran if it does not give up its uranium enrichment program. [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]
Origin of Laptop - The laptop was stolen by the Iranian citizen from an Iranian engineer, who some intelligence sources say may now be dead. The laptop contains designs by a firm called Kimeya Madon for a small facility to produce uranium gas, a substance that could be enriched for fuel or nuclear weapons. The laptop also contains drawings relating to the retrofitting of the Shahab III. The laptop’s information, so extensive that some say it may have been designed by an entire team of engineers, will be given unsubstantiated confirmation from an imprisoned Pakistani arms dealer, who will say that Iran took delivery of several advanced centrifuges that would greatly increase its nuclear knowledge. Although the documents are not verified, US intelligence considers them authentic.
Possible Forgeries - However, analysts admit it is possible that the documents are forgeries, perhaps from internal opponents of the Iranian government, or perhaps from the government itself in an attempt to convince Western intelligence agencies that its nuclear weapons program is still in an embryonic stage. The US denies that the documents were provided through the auspices of any Iranian dissident groups such as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. [New York Times, 11/13/2005; Washington Post, 2/8/2006] The identity of the Iranian “walk-in” may be revealed four years later (see February 2007). By November 2004, administration officials begin to admit that they cannot confirm the reliability of the laptop’s documents (see November 2004 and November 17-18, 2004).
The British government issues an Order in Council, reneging on an earlier decision (see November 3, 2000) to the former residents of the Chagos Islands that they would be permitted to return some of the islands in the Chagos Archipelago. The royal decree prohibits any of the islanders from returning to any of the islands. The Chagossians had been forcibly removed from their homes in the early 1970s (see July 27, 1971-May 26, 1973) so the US could build a base on Diego Garcia. The government claims that according to a feasibility study, which did not consult the former residents, the costs of resettlement would be prohibitively high, with an initial cost of about £5 million and annual costs of between £3 and £5 million. The study also claims that the islands are “sinking.” British Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell tells John Pilger: “The tax-payer is being asked to pick up the financial tab. You have to make choices about how you spend money.” [ZNet, 10/22/2004; Church Times, 1/7/2005]
As the 9/11 Commission report is being finalized, the consultant charged with drafting it, Ernest May, comes to favor an account of the Bush administration’s treatment of terrorism before 9/11 given by former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. Clarke has said that the administration did not pay enough attention to the problem of terrorism, whereas his former superior, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, had argued the administration did what it could, but the attacks were unstoppable. May comes to this conclusion after reviewing the documentation obtained by the commission, despite the fact that he is close to the commission’s executive director Philip Zelikow, who had worked with Rice in the past (see 1995 and January 3, 2001) and is trying to downplay Clarke’s role. The language of the draft report reflects May’s views, but others working on the report, including an unnamed prominent Democrat on the staff, say the language is “inflammatory,” and get it taken out of the report. According to May, the report is then written in such a way as to avoid “even implicit endorsement of Clarke’s public charge.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 390-391]
Former British official Carne Ross tells the Butler inquiry, which is investigating the British government’s use of intelligence during the lead-up to war with Iraq, that during his tenure as Britain’s key negotiator at the UN “at no time did HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] assess that Iraq’s WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed).… With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material” being stockpiled or produced by Iraq. “There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbors or the UK or the US,” he adds. Ross also says in his testimony that British officials warned their US counterparts that toppling the Iraq government would result in chaos. “At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that ‘regime change’ was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.” The Foreign Office will warn Ross that if he goes public with his testimony he will be charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act. [Independent, 12/15/2006; Independent, 12/15/2006; Guardian, 12/16/2006]
During the annual G-8 economic summit, held in Sea Island, Georgia [2004 G8 Summit, 2004] , President Bush rejects the notion that he approved the use of torture. “The authorization I gave,” the president says, “was that all we did should be in accordance with American law and consistent with our international treaty obligations. That’s the message I gave our people.” He adds, “What I authorized was that we stay within the framework of American law.” And to emphasize his point, he says: “Listen, I’ll say it one more time.… The instructions that were given were to comply with the law. That should reassure you. We are a nation of laws. We follow the law. We have laws on our books. You could go look at those laws and that should reassure you.” [US President, 6/21/2004] During the summit, the foreign ministers of the participating countries are suddenly called to Washington to meet with Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. As Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham will later recall: “Colin suddenly phoned us all up and said, ‘We’re going to the White House this morning.’ Now, this is curious, because normally the heads of government don’t give a damn about foreign ministers. We all popped in a bus and went over and were cordially received by Colin and President Bush. The president sat down to explain that, you know, this terrible news had come out about Abu Ghraib and how disgusting it was. The thrust of his presentation was that this was a terrible aberration; it was un-American conduct. This was not American. [German Foreign Minister] Joschka Fischer was one of the people that said, ‘Mr. President, if the atmosphere at the top is such that it encourages or allows people to believe that they can behave this way, this is going to be a consequence.’ The president’s reaction was: ‘This is un-American. Americans don’t do this. People will realize Americans don’t do this.’ The problem for the United States, and indeed for the free world, is that because of this—Guantanamo, and the ‘torture memos’ from the White House (see November 6-10, 2001 and August 1, 2002), which we were unaware of at that time—people around the world don’t believe that anymore. They say, ‘No, Americans are capable of doing such things and have done them, all the while hypocritically criticizing the human-rights records of others.’” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
Kamal Bourgass [Source: BBC]After an 11-week trial at the Old Bailey, Kamal Bourgass is sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 22 years, for murdering DC Stephen Oake during a raid on a flat in Crumpsall Lane, Manchester, as part of the investigation into the alleged ricin plot in north London (see January 5, 2003). The sentence is kept secret due to the impending trial of Bourgass and others for the alleged plot, where Bourgass will only be found guilty on a secondary charge (see April 8-12, 2004). [Independent, 4/17/2005]
Mohammed al-Massari. [Source: David Burges]When asked whether British troops can properly be targeted in Iraq under British law, London-based Islamist Mohammed al-Massari replies, “British soldiers are reasonable targets for Iraqis and those joining the camp of the Iraqis.” Al-Massari, who runs the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights, adds that Prime Minister Tony Blair is a legitimate target: “[The Prime Minister] is not a non-combatant. He is Tony Blair, the commander of the army.” Although it is an offence carrying a 10-year jail term to incite terrorism abroad, no action is apparently taken against al-Massari for these statements. [BBC, 7/3/2004] Al-Massari helped set up a communications link for Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s (see 1994) and ran a radio station and website that glorified Islamic extremist violence (see (2004 and After)).
British detainee Moazzam Begg, being held in Guantanamo, manages to send a handwritten four-page letter uncensored by US authorities. Begg’s lawyers in Britain describe this as an “oddity.” His solicitor Stafford Smith says the letter must have been released either “by mistake or because someone in the US has a conscience.” In the letter, Begg describes having been subjected to “pernicious threats of torture, actual vindictive torture, and death threats, amongst other coercively employed interrogation techniques.” This happened “particularly, though unexclusively in Afghanistan.” Interviews, Begg writes, “were conducted in an environment of generated fear, resonant with terrifying screams of fellow detainees facing similar methods. In this atmosphere of severe antipathy towards detainees was the compounded use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts. This culminated, in my opinion, with the deaths of two fellow detainees (see November 30-December 3, 2002)
(see December 10, 2002) at the hands of US military personnel, to which I myself was partially witness.” [Guardian, 10/1/2004]
Dhiren Barot. [Source: London Metropolitan Police]Dhiren Barot, a Londoner of Indian descent who converted to Islam and fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is arrested along with about a dozen other al-Qaeda suspects by British authorities (see August 3, 2004). Barot, who uses a number of pseudonyms, including Abu Eissa al-Hindi, will be charged with several crimes surrounding his plans to launch attacks against British and US targets. Barot’s plans were discovered in a computer owned by al-Qaeda operative Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested in July 2004 and was helping US intelligence until his outing by US and Pakistani officials on August 2, 2004 (see August 2, 2004). Though Barot is not believed to be a high-level al-Qaeda operative, he has connections to some of al-Qaeda’s most notorious leaders, including bin Laden and 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who, according to the 9/11 Commission, dispatched him to “case” targets in New York City in 2001. Under the alias Issa al-Britani, he is known to have been sent to Malaysia in late 1999 or very early 2000 by KSM to meet with Hambali, the head of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah. According to the commission report, Barot may have given Hambali the names of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. Barot may have traveled to Malaysia with Khallad bin Attash. Bin Attash is believed to be one of the planners behind the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Barot’s trip to Malaysia came just days before the well-documented January 2000 al-Qaeda summit where early plans for the 9/11 bombings were hatched (see January 5-8, 2000), though US officials do not believe that Barot was present at that meeting. British authorities believe that Barot was part of an al-Qaeda plan to launch a mass terror attack using chemical and/or radioactive weapons. Barot and other suspects arrested were, according to Western officials, in contact with al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, who themselves were communicating with bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders as recently as July 2004. [MSNBC, 8/20/2004] Barot’s plans seem to have focused more actively on British targets, including London’s subway system. In November 2006, Barot will be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes, and eventually sentenced to thirty years in prison by a British court. [BBC, 11/7/2006; BBC, 5/16/2007]
Entity Tags: Khallad bin Attash, USS Cole, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hambali, Dhiren Barot, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Khalid Almihdhar, Jemaah Islamiyah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Mohammad Sidique Khan. [Source: London Times]British agents are forced to arrest about a dozen low-level suspected al-Qaeda operatives as a result of the August 1, 2004, outing of Muhammed Naeem Noor Khan by the US (see August 2, 2004). One important figure, Dhiren Barot, is among the arrested (see August 3, 2004). But the British are forced to move before they are ready, and many higher-level al-Qaeda operatives in Britain, including three of the alleged 2005 London bombers (see July 7, 2005)—Mohammed Sidique Khan, Hasib Mir Hussain, and Magdy El Nashar—escape the hastily formed dragnet (see August 3, 2004). [ABC News, 7/14/2005] Sidique Khan will be able to later complete the planning and execution of the July 7, 2005, London bombings (see July 7, 2005). Sidique Khan is connected to at least one of the suspects arrested by British authorities, but because of the unexpected outing of Noor Khan, he and other al-Qaeda bombers slip through the British nets. [ABC News, 7/14/2005; Israel National News (Arutz Shiva), 7/19/2005] Sidique Khan and other London bombing suspects had started working on a London bomb plot in 2003. Noor Khan’s computer shows that there were plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway system, as well as on financial buildings in both New York and Washington. Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry, will later say, “There’s absolutely no doubt [Sidique Khan] was part of an al-Qaeda operation aimed at not only the United States but [Britain].… It is very likely this group was activated… after the other group was arrested.” [ABC News, 7/14/2005]
Hassan Butt. [Source: BBC]An article in the New Statesman examines the “covenant of security”—an apparent long-standing tacit agreement between radical Islamist militants and the British government to leave each other alone. Mohammed Sifaoui is a French-Algerian journalist who managed to infiltrate al-Qaeda cells in both France and Britain. He says that, for many years, militants have used Britain as a safe haven and in return have refrained from attacking inside Britain, but have used this haven to plot attacks on other countries. Sifaoui comments: “The question becomes a moral one. Should the British authorities accept that there are terrorists in their country who kill others abroad? I think that today the British authorities must face their conscience.” Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical London imam and head of the British militant group Al-Muhajiroun, tells the New Statesman that he agrees with Sifaoui’s premise that Britain is a safe haven. He tells a story about the companions of the prophet Mohammed who were given protection and hospitality when traveling to Abyssinia. This resulted in a notion in the Koran of a covenant, whereby a Muslim is not allowed to attack the inhabitants of a country where they find safe refuge. Bakri concludes that it is unlikely British-based Muslims will carry out operations in Britain itself. But Hassan Butt, a former spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun, suggests that there are British militants who are prepared to break their covenant with the British. He warns that “any attack will have to be massive. After one operation everything will close down on us in Britain.” [New Statesman, 8/9/2004] Ironically, several months before this article is published, a group of Al-Muhajiroun supporters were arrested before they could explode a large fertilizer bomb in Britain (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). In early 2005, Bakri will say that the covenant of security with Britain has been broken and will imply that attacks inside Britain are now permissible (see January 17, 2005).
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office sends advisers to Iraq to work with the country’s oil ministry on “fiscal and regulatory” issues. [Muttitt, 2005] Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, describing the ministry’s role, will tell Parliament in July 2005, “We discuss with the Iraqi ministries their priorities on a regular basis.” [UK Parliament, 7/12/2005] But the office will never publish a formal policy statement and will refuse to comply with Freedom of Information requests for related documents. One of the exemptions the office will use to refuse a request is that its advice to the Iraqis is “voluminous.” [Muttitt, 2005]
Britain’s prominent Chatham House think tank warns of a further deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, predicting that the “legacy of the revelations of prisoner abuse will not fade easily and it will not be enough for US and British forces simply to say that they are dealing with this issue internally.” The think tank says that if Iraqis are not afforded a means to seek redress, “the impulse to settle accounts through violence will remain.” [Chatham House, 9/2004 ]
British terror suspect Binyam Mohamed (see May-September, 2001) is flown from Afghanistan (see January-September 2004) to Guantanamo. In Morocco, Mohamed confessed to a wide array of crimes to avoid torture (see July 21, 2002 -- January 2004); as he recalls, after being charged with crimes (see November 4, 2005), his captors now want him to alter his story. He will later say: “They said they were worried I would tell the court that I had only confessed through torture. They said now they needed me to say it freely. We called them the clean team, they wanted to say they had got this stuff from a clean interrogation.” He will recall one instance where he refuses to give his fingerprints; in return, he is beaten by the so-called “Emergency Reaction Force,” a much-feared assault team: “They nearly broke my back. The guy on top was twisting me one way, the guys on my legs the other. They marched me out of the cell to the fingerprint room, still cuffed. I clenched my fists behind me so they couldn’t take prints, so they tried to take them by force. The guy at my head sticks his fingers up my nose and wrenches my head back, jerking it around by the nostrils. Then he put his fingers in my eyes. It felt as if he was trying to gouge them out. Another guy was punching my ribs and another was squeezing my testicles. Finally I couldn’t take it any more. I let them take the prints.” [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009] In October 2008, all charges against Mohamed will be dropped (see October-December 2008). In late February 2009, Mohamed will be released (see February 22-24, 2009).
On September 13, after two months of legal argument in court, the British trial begins against Kamal Bourgass and his alleged co-conspirators Mouloud Sihali, David Khalef, Sidali Feddag and Mustapha Taleb. The trial reveals the true extent of the capabilities of the so-called “ricin ring.” The same day of the raid, January 5, 2003, chemical weapons experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire had discovered in more accurate tests that the initial positive result for ricin was false: there was no ricin in the flat (see January 5, 2003). This finding was not released publicly for two years. [Independent, 4/17/2005] The trial also reveals that the results of the Porton Down test were not released to police and ministers until March 20, 2003, the day after the war in Iraq begins (see January 7, 2003). [BBC, 9/15/2005] George Smith, a scientist and senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, serves as an expert for some defendants in the trial and confirms that the discovery that the initial ricin finding was a “false positive” was made “well before the outbreak of the war in Iraq.” The alleged ricin plot was used by authorities, including Colin Powell, as evidence against Saddam Hussein’s regime in the build-up to war with Iraq. [Washington Post, 4/14/2005] The “poison recipes” discovered in the raid are found to have come from a website in Palo Alto, California, and are the invention of right-wing survivalist Kurt Saxon. His website sells books and CDs with bomb and poison manufacturing instructions. Journalist Duncan Campbell of the Guardian, called as an expert witness, further demonstrates that the instructions could have come from the Mujahedeen Poisons Handbook, which was written by veterans of the Afghan war and had been on the Internet since 1998. In fact, these recipes were useless in the production of weapons of mass destruction. [Guardian, 4/15/2005] The hysteria over the capabilities of ricin is also laid to rest during the trial. It is made clear that ricin is not a weapon of mass destruction and has only ever been used for one-on-one killings and attempted assassinations. Ricin was used by the Bulgarian secret service to kill dissident Georgi Markov on the streets of London in 1978. Professor Alistair Hay, a prominent authority on toxins, says Bourgass’s attempts to manufacture chemical weapons were “incredibly amateurish and unlikely to succeed.” He dismisses the allegations of suspected Algerian al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Meguerba that ricin would be smeared on door handles. To reliably kill, ricin has to be directly injected; swallowing ricin could kill, but is a thousand times less effective, while touching ricin is even less likely to kill. Hay’s testimony leads to the prosecution dropping Meguerba’s claims. They then suggest that Bourgass planned to smear ricin on toothbrushes, and put them back on a shop’s shelves. Professor Hay tells The Independent that this was a highly ineffective method. “The claims made before the trial about this major ricin plot were very, very questionable,” he says. [Independent, 4/17/2005]
Entity Tags: Duncan Campbell, Sidali Feddag, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Alistair Hay, David Khalef, Mouloud Sihali, Mustapha Taleb, Maxwell Hutchkinson, Globalsecurity.org, Kamal Bourgass, Mohammed Meguerba, Kurt Saxon, George Smith
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
The extremist British-based Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun quietly disbands. The group, led by radical imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, boasts that it has 700 members in Britain. The group issues a statement vaguely claiming there is a “new reality” in the Muslim world which means its existence is no longer necessary. The group’s website is also closed down. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 10/17/2004] Many of the suspects in a British fertilizer bomb plot that was foiled earlier in the year had links to Al-Muhajiroun (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Two new groups soon emerge, the Saviour Sect and Al-Ghuraaba. These groups are led by Bakri. In July 2005, shortly before the 7/7 London bombings, a Sunday Times reporter will go undercover and pose as a new recruit to the Saviour Sect for two months. The Times will conclude, “the Saviour Sect and Al-Ghuraaba [are] Al-Muhajiroun in all but name.” [Sunday Times (London), 8/7/2005]
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