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Marwan Alshehhi. This picture is taken from his US visa. [Source: FBI]German intelligence is tapping the telephone of al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and on this date, Zammar gets a call from a “Marwan.” This is later found to be future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Marwan talks about mundane things, like his studies in Bonn, Germany, and promises to come to Hamburg in a few months. German investigators trace the telephone number and determine the call came from a mobile phone registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 8/13/2003; New York Times, 2/24/2004] Although the call is short and seemingly innocuous, according to Vanity Fair, some “parts of the conversation seemed redolent of some kind of conspiratorial code.” For instance, at one point, Alshehhi says, “I’ve heard your mother died.” Zammar replies: “Yes, she passed on. She left me alone.” Alshehhi then asks: “But your father didn’t travel with you? I’ve seen him here.” Zammar answers, “No, my father is here.” Regarding whether or not it actually is code, a senior German official will later say: “Our desk officer had a certain feeling about that call.… You can say it was his nose—not that there was any single statement, but he had a feeling that there could be more behind it.” The desk officer writes a report about the call. Then, about a month later, the BfV (German domestic intelligence) will contact the CIA and ask for more information about men from the UAE named Marwan, and for help in tracing the phone number (see March 1999). [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
The US apparently misses an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. In a 2008 book, Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit until mid-1999, will list a number of missed opportunities to get bin Laden (see May 1998-May 1999). He will briefly mention a “military attack opportunity” at the governor’s residence in the Afghan town of Herat during this month. This is separate from an opportunity to get bin Laden at a bird hunting camp in the same month, which he also lists (see February 11, 1999). But nothing more is known about this opportunity and the 9/11 Commission will not mention it. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 284]
President Bill Clinton rewrites a memo authorizing the CIA to use the Northern Alliance in an operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden. This memo follows another one signed by Clinton the previous year that allowed the agency to use a group of tribal fighters to kill bin Laden (see December 24, 1998). The draft February memo contains similar language to the earlier one, but applies to the Northern Alliance, not just the tribal assets. However, Clinton himself deletes the wording authorizing an operation to simply kill bin Laden. Clinton will later tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not recall why he gives the CIA permission to kill bin Laden through the tribal assets, but not through the Northern Alliance. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 360]
Following the issue of another directive governing a set of operations against Osama bin Laden, the CIA is said to become confused over whether it can mount an operation to assassinate him. In December, President Bill Clinton authorized the CIA to kill bin Laden using a group of tribal leaders in Afghanistan (see December 24, 1998), but a few weeks later he issued another memo governing relations between the CIA and the Northern Alliance that did not contain authorization to kill bin Laden (see February 1999). The CIA will later say that the reason it does not take advantage of the authorization to kill him using the tribal leaders is because it is confused by the second memo. The CIA’s inspector general will comment: “Given the law, executive order, and past problems with covert action programs, CIA managers refused to take advantage of the ambiguities that did exist.” The 9/11 Commission will also say that “the limits of the available authority were not tested.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 133; Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. xxi ]
A classified report discusses responses to an anthrax attack through the mail. The report, precipitated by a series of false anthrax mailings, is written by William Patrick, inventor of the US anthrax weaponization process, under a CIA contract. [New York Times, 12/3/2001] The report was commissioned by Steven Hatfill, a good friend of Patrick. [Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002] The report describes what the US military could do and what a terrorist might be able to achieve. [New York Times, 12/3/2001] The similarities between what the report predicts and the anthrax attacks that eventually happen after 9/11 are startling (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The BBC later suggests the “possibility that there was a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail which went madly out of control” and that the anthrax attacker knew of this study or took part in it. The CIA and William Patrick will deny the existence of this report, even though copies have been leaked to the media. [BBC, 3/14/2002; Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002]
A study by the US Institute of Peace finds that “the Iraq problem” has transformed from “a multilateral conflict between Iraq and the United Nations to a bilateral one between Iraq and the United States.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 122]
Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, sets off on a trip to several African countries as part of an effort to convince African heads of state to visit Iraq. Saddam Hussein hopes that these visits will help break the embargo on flights to Iraq and undermine the UN sanctions regime. Zahawie’s first stop is Niger, where he meets with the country’s President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara for one hour. Mainassara promises that he will visit Baghdad the following April. (He is assasinated before he has an opportunity to do this.) [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 7/13/2003; Independent, 8/10/2003; Time, 10/2/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In early 2002, the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI, will allege in a report (see February 5, 2002) sent to the US that the motive behind the visit is to discuss the future purchase of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake” (see October 15, 2001). [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] However, no one at this time suggests that the trip’s motives have anything to do with acquiring uranium. Zahawie’s trip is reported in the local newspaper as well as by a French news agency. The US and British governments are aware of the trip and show no concern about Niger, which is actively seeking economic assistance from the United States. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In 2003, al-Zawahie will tell British reporters: “My only mission was to meet the president of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq. 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.” [Independent, 8/10/2003]
Monitored al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar temporarily lives with future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and 9/11 hijacker associates Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. They live in a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). This is according to a September 2001 memo from the BfV (Germany’s domestic intelligence agency), so it may come from surveillance conducted before 9/11. It is not known why Zammar lives here at this time, since he has his own wife and family in Hamburg; nor is it known how many days he stays at the apartment. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Zammar is under surveillance by the BfV at this time (see March 1997-Early 2000), and he is likely under surveillance by the CIA as well (see Shortly After September 16, 1998 and Summer 1999).
Stu Zicherman (left) and Raven Metzner (right). [Source: Publicity photos]Production begins on Nosebleed, a major action-comedy movie based around a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center, which will star the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan. In the proposed movie, Chan will play a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. Chan’s character teams up with a waitress who works at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, to thwart the plot. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 10/3/2000; Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001] The script, originally written in 1999 and subsequently developed, includes one of the terrorists explaining why the WTC should be destroyed. The terrorist says: “It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]
'Die Hard 2' Director in Talks to Work on Film - In February 1999, film studio New Line Cinema pays $600,000 to take on Nosebleed, which it is estimated will cost $50 million to $60 million to make. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 5/24/2001] In May 2000, it is reported that Renny Harlin is in talks to direct the film. [Guardian, 5/26/2000] Harlin previously directed action movies such as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. [New York Times, 6/18/1997; Deseret News, 7/28/1999] Then, in spring 2001, Hollywood production company MGM takes over the film from New Line. [Variety, 5/24/2001; Hollywood (.com), 6/9/2001]
Executives Find Storyline Implausible - The screenplay for Nosebleed is being written by Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner. Zicherman and Metzner came up with the storyline for the film, which they then took to management company Blue Train Entertainment, where it was developed for Chan. [Variety, 2/7/1999] In August 2001, the two writers meet with MGM executives to discuss possible rewrites of the script. Zicherman will later recall: “[W]e actually talked about changing the plot. Incredibly, some of the executives thought a re-bombing of the World Trade Center was implausible.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001]
Movie Canceled after 9/11 - A scene for the movie is originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at 7:00 a.m. on September 11, but the filming is canceled because the script for that scene is late to arrive (see 7:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] MGM will cancel work on Nosebleed in response to the 9/11 attacks. Nosebleed is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following the attacks (see (January 1998-2001); June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Baltimore Sun, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/25/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Although news reports before 9/11 state that the terrorists’ intended target in Nosebleed is the WTC, some reports after 9/11 will say, apparently incorrectly, that either the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building is the target. [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/14/2001; New York Post, 9/15/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Wired, 7/18/2012]
In February 1999, Nabil al-Marabh moves to Tampa, Florida. He gets a Florida driver’s license and begins driving taxis in Tampa, just as he did previously in Boston. According to an apartment complex manager, from February 1999 to February 2000 he lives in an apartment with another Arab man with a different last name. Investigators later will wonder if al-Marabh was an advance man for the Florida-based 9/11 hijackers. Tampa is about 50 miles north of Venice, where several 9/11 hijacker pilots will attend flight schools beginning in July 2000 (see July 1-3, 2000). While immigration records indicate Mohamed Atta will first arrive in the US in June 2000, there is some evidence of him being in the US before then (see Late April-Mid-May 2000; April 2000), and he may arrive in Florida by September 1999 (see September 1999). [New York Times, 9/18/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] Most of the information on al-Marabh’s taxi license application is fraudulent, including where he lived and worked from 1994 to 1999. [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] In May 1999, a potential al-Qaeda sleeper agent named Ihab Ali Nawawi is arrested in Orlando, Florida, about 80 miles from Tampa. Nawawi had been working as a taxi driver and was in contact with top al-Qaeda leaders. While the similarity between him and al-Marabh is intriguing, there is no known reported connection in Florida between the two men (see May 18, 1999). In the early 1990s, both worked for the Pakistani branch of the Muslim World League, a charity with suspected terrorism ties (see 1989-1994). [St. Petersburg Times, 10/28/2001] Al-Marabh also apparently goes to Afghanistan some time in 1999 or early 2000. [Canadian Press, 10/11/2001]
In early February 1999, US intelligence gains good information that Osama bin Laden is bird hunting with members of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal family in an uninhabited region of Afghanistan (see February 11, 1999). A later book by Daniel Benjamin and Stephen Simon, both officials in the Clinton administration, will note, “At the moment the Tomahawks [US missiles] were being readied, the United States was in the final stages of negotiations to sell eighty Block 60 F-16s, America’s most sophisticated export fighter jets,” to the UAE government. “America’s relationship with the [UAE] was the best it had in the [Persian] Gulf, and the [Clinton] administration had devotedly cultivated Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s president and the leader of the country’s royal clans.” [Benjamin and Simon, 2002, pp. 281] The F-16 fighter deal is worth about $8 billion. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is particularly close to the UAE royal family, having negotiated arms deals and US military basing agreements with them for several years. He has a hand in negotiating the F-16 deal in 1998. In fact, just days before the US learned of bin Laden’s presence in the hunting camp, Clarke was in the UAE working on the fighter deal. [Coll, 2004, pp. 486; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128] Journalist Steve Coll will later say: “If the United States bombed the camp and killed a few princes, it could potentially put [business deals like that] in jeopardy—even if bin Laden were killed at the same time. Hardly anyone in the Persian Gulf saw bin Laden as a threat serious enough to warrant the deaths of their own royalty.” Clarke is one who votes not to strike the camp, and others within the US government will speculate that his UAE ties had a role in his decision. [Coll, 2004, pp. 447-450] Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, will later comment: “Why did President Clinton fail to attack? Because making money was more important than protecting Americans.” [Scheuer, 2008] The missile strike does not take place and the fighter deal is successfully completed. Some US officials, including Scheuer, will be very irate and vocally complain later this month (see Shortly After February 11, 1999).
The foreign affairs tutorial sessions for Governor George W. Bush continue in preparation for his presidential run (see December 1998 - Fall 1999). Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney is a frequent participant. When asked about Cheney, Bush says: “It’s not the first time he’s been down here [in Texas]. It won’t be the last time he’ll be down here. He’s a person whose judgment I rely on a lot.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 118]
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it will send representatives to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). Representing the KLA, will be Supreme Commander Hashim Thaci, also known as “The Snake,” and four other Kosovars, all militants. [BBC, 2/3/1999] On Febuary 4, the Yugoslav government (essentially Serbia) agrees to join the peace talks. [US Information Agency, 4/13/1999]
FBI Director Louis Freeh, speaking of the possibility of future violence from radical-right militia groups, says: “With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies.… Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle… and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God.” Some of these Christian Identity members will commit crimes to prepare for their anticipated Apocalypse, Freeh warns, and says that the US government, Jews, and non-whites are likely targets. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] Freeh’s statement anticipates the FBI’s “Project Megiddo” report, which will focus on the possibility of a wave of domestic terrorism coinciding with the “end of the millennium” (see October 20, 1999).
The FBI’s Chicago office opens a full field investigation into the Illinois based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), after one of its agents stumbled across links between BIF and radical militants while attending a conference. The CIA and FBI already have extensive evidence linking BIF to al-Qaeda from a variety of sources but how much of that is shared with the Chicago office after they start their investigation is unclear (see 1998). Chicago FBI agents begin looking through BIF’s trash and learn much, since BIF officials throw out their phone records and detailed reports without shredding them. They also cultivate a source who gives them some useful information about BIF, but apparently no smoking guns. But they run into many difficulties:
In the summer of 1999, the FBI sends a request to the Saudi government asking for information about Adel Batterjee, the founder of BIF, but they get no reply before 9/11.
In April 2000, they apply for a FISA warrant so they can conduct electronic surveillance, but it is not approved until after 9/11. It has not been explained why there was such a long delay.
They discover the bank account numbers of the BIF’s overseas offices and ask for help from other US intelligence agencies to trace the money, but they never hear back about this before 9/11.
They submit a request to an allied European country for information about European intelligence reports linking BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout to the kidnapping and murders of Americans in Kashmir in 1995. But they never even receive an acknowledgment that the request was received (see July 4, 1995).
A European intelligence agency invites the Chicago agents to a meeting to share information about BIF, but the agents are not allowed to go as their superiors say they cannot afford to send them. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 96-98 ]
BIF will not be shut down until shortly after 9/11 (see December 14, 2001).
Apparently, this surveillance photo of a C-130 transport plane from the United Arab Emirates plays a key role in the decision not to strike at bin Laden. [Source: CBC]Intelligence reports foresee the presence of Osama bin Laden at a desert hunting camp in Afghanistan for about a week. Information on his presence appears reliable, so preparations are made to target his location with cruise missiles. However, intelligence also puts an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and members of the royal family from that country in the same location. Bin Laden is hunting with the Emirati royals, as he does with leaders from the UAE and Saudi Arabia on other occasions (see 1995-2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] According to Michael Scheuer, the chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, the hunting party has “huge fancy tents, with tractor trailers with generators on them to run the air-conditioning.” Surveillance after the camp is established shows the “pattern of bin Laden’s visits—he would come for evening prayers or he would come for dinner and stay for evening prayers.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 192] Local informants confirm exactly where bin Laden will be in the camp on February 11, and a strike is prepared. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] But policy makers are concerned that a strike might kill a prince or other senior officials, and that this would damage relations with the UAE and other Persian gulf countries. Therefore, the strike is called off. Bin Laden will leave the camp on February 12. A top UAE official at the time denies that high-level officials are there, but evidence subsequently confirms their presence. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Vanity Fair, 11/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 192] Scheuer will claim in 2004 that “the truth has not been fully told” about this incident. He will claim that the strike is cancelled because senior officials at the CIA, White House, and other agencies, decide to accept assurances from an unnamed Islamic country that it can acquire bin Laden from the Taliban. “US officials accepted these assurances despite the well-documented record of that country withholding help—indeed, it was a record of deceit and obstruction—regarding all issues pertaining to bin Laden” in previous years. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] This may be a reference to Saudi Arabia. In mid-1998, the CIA called off a plan to capture bin Laden in favor of an ultimately unfulfilled Saudi promise to bribe the Taliban to hand bin Laden over (see May 1998). Many in US intelligence will be resentful over this missed opportunity and blame a conflict of interest with the Emirati royals (see Shortly After February 11, 1999).
The failure to strike at bin Laden in February 1999, despite having unusually good intelligence about his location (see February 11, 1999), causes strong resentment in the US intelligence community. It is believed that the US held its fire because of the presence of royalty from the United Arab Emirates(UAE), but some felt those royals were legitimate targets as well since they were associating with bin Laden there. Further, intelligence at the time suggests the planes carrying these royals to Afghanistan were also bringing weapons to the Taliban in defiance of United Nations bans. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, is particularly upset. He reportedly sends a series of e-mails to others in the CIA that are, in the opinion of one person who read them, “angry, unusual, and widely circulated.” His anger at this decision not to strike at bin Laden will apparently contribute to him losing his position leading the bin Laden unit a few months later (see June 1999). Some resentment is directed at counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who voted against the missile strike. Clarke was known to be close to the UAE’s royal family. He’d negotiated many arms deals and other arrangements with them, including an $8 billion deal in May 1998 to buy F-16 fighters from the US (see Early February 1999). [Coll, 2004, pp. 447-450] In March 1999, Clarke calls Emirati royals and asks them to stop visiting bin Laden. However, he apparently did not have permission from the CIA to make this call. Within one week, the camp where the Emiratis and bin Laden met is abandoned. CIA officers are irate, feeling that this ruined a chance to strike at bin Laden if he made a return visit to the location. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 138]
Bill Harlow. [Source: 15-seconds (.com)]Circle William, a Tom Clancy-style military thriller by CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, is released, and centers on a terrorist plot involving a kamikaze air attack with a commercial airliner. In the book, a US submarine off the coast of Libya intercepts a cryptic phone conversation that suggests Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi is planing to attack the Israeli Knesset with a nerve gas-laden plane. The Pentagon quickly surmises that the plot probably requires “a terrorist willing to sacrifice himself and make the delivery using a commercial airliner.” When the CIA uncovers that Libya is keeping an unused Airbus 300 in a hangar at Tripoli airport, it infers that the plan is to first fly the plane west along the coast toward Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, then to drop below radar coverage somewhere along the route. “We [figure] they would plan [to] remain at low altitude until they could get [to] the Cairo air traffic control region. Then they would pop up, mix in with the heavy traffic along that corridor, and try [to] sneak in to somewhere in Israel.” [Harlow, 1999, pp. 116, 166] Harlow joined the CIA in 1997 after a long Navy career, mainly as a public affairs officer. He will later co-author George Tenet’s memoirs, At the Center of the Storm. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 19]
Myron Fuller is an FBI official in charge of several hundred FBI employees in the Asian region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, and his primary job is to fight terrorism. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, Fuller’s team “had unraveled a great deal about the threat from Islamic militants by the spring of 1999, but that no one in Washington seems to be listening.” For instance, Fuller learned information from the CIA that revealed who was behind the killing of four US businessmen in Pakistan in 1997. According to Fuller, this information revealed “much more” than just the names of the killers, including “a country that supported the act. It was possibly the trail to the planning of September 11th.” But Fuller discovered the CIA had asked that this information should not be revealed to any field agents. Few details about Fuller’s account are known, so what link there may have been to 9/11 is not known. [Hersh, 2004, pp. 95]
Randy Glass is a con artist turned government informant participating in a sting called Operation Diamondback. [Palm Beach Post, 9/29/2001] He discusses an illegal weapons deal with an Egyptian-American named Mohamed el Amir. In wiretapped conversations, Mohamed discusses the need to get false papers to disguise a shipment of illegal weapons. His brother, Dr. Magdy el Amir, has been a wealthy neurologist in Jersey City for the past twenty years. Two other weapons dealers later convicted in a sting operation involving Glass also lived in Jersey City, and both el Amirs admit knowing one of them, Diaa Mohsen. Mohsen has been paid at least once by Dr. el Amir. In 1998, Congressman Ben Gilman was given a foreign intelligence report suggesting that Dr. el Amir owns an HMO that is secretly funded by Osama bin Laden, and that money is being skimmed from the HMO to fund al-Qaeda activities. The state of New Jersey later buys the HMO and determines that $15 million were unaccounted for and much of that has been diverted into hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts. However, investigators working with Glass are never given the report about Dr. el Amir. Neither el Amir has been charged with any crime. Mohamed now lives in Egypt and Magdy continues to practice medicine in New Jersey. Glass’s sting, which began in late 1998, will uncover many interesting leads before ending in June 2001. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Remarkably, Dr. Magdy el Amir’s lawyer is none other than Michael Chertoff, a prominent criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey, who will later join the Bush administration’s Justice Department as assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division and then become homeland defense secretary. [New York Times, 12/18/1998; Bergen Record, 6/19/2000] After 9/11, Chertoff will play a leading role in investigating and prosecuting terrorist crimes, including terrorism financing through money laundering. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001] It seems that the only subsequent media reference to Chertoff’s involvement in the el Amir case will appear in an opinion column by Sidney Blumenthal, a strong critic of the Bush administration. [Salon, 12/22/2005]
Witney Schneidman. [Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars]In 1999, State Department official Witney Schneidman is collecting information on the many civil wars and conflicts raging in Africa. He notices that the name of Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, keeps popping up in many conflicts. Sometimes Bout is even supplying both sides of a civil war. In early summer 1999, an NSA official gives Schneidman a “drop dead” briefing about Bout, based mostly on communications intercepts the NSA has on him. Photos show dozens of airplanes parked in an airport in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, all of them owned by Bout. Schneidman begins mobilizing other officials. By early 2000, he and National Security Council adviser Lee Wolosky create a team to apprehend Bout. While Bout remains little known to the general public, for many US officials he becomes the most wanted criminal in the world, aside from Osama bin Laden and his top aides. National Security Council official Gayle Smith will later comment, “You want to talk about transnational threats? We had [al-Qaeda’s bombing in] East Africa, global warming, and Victor Bout.” No other arms dealer has an operation anywhere near the size of Bout’s, and his links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a special concern (see 1998). But Bout is not doing any business in the US and is breaking no US laws, so the team cannot gather enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for him. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke considers targeting Bout for rendition, which is a very rare practice before 9/11. But when the Bush administration takes power in early 2001, Bout is deemed a less important priority, and ultimately no effective action is taken against him prior to 9/11 (see Early 2001-September 11, 2001). [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 1-7]
US President Bill Clinton apologizes to Guatemalans for decades of US policy in support of a murderous military that “engaged in violent and widespread repression,” costing the lives of over 200,000 civilians. That policy “was wrong,” the president declares, “and the United States must not repeat that mistake.” [CNN, 3/10/1999; Washington Post, 3/11/1999; BBC, 3/11/1999; Doyle and Osorio, 2000]
Radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri sends money to bin Laden’s Darunta camp, which is part of al-Qaeda’s network of training camps in Afghanistan. Abu Hamza, who is under investigation by Scotland Yard at this time for his involvement in a kidnapping and murder scheme in Yemen, apparently diverts the money from a fund at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, which he runs. The US will later say it has e-mail traffic that proves the transfer. Abu Hamza trained at the camp in the mid-1990s. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 74-5]
German intelligence gives the CIA the first name of 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and his telephone number of a phone registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Germans learned the information from the surveillance of al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). They tell the CIA that Alshehhi, who is living in Bonn, Germany, at the time, may be connected to al-Qaeda. He is described as a UAE student who has spent some time studying in Germany. The conversation is short, but a known alias of Mamoun Darkazanli is mentioned. The CIA is very interested in Darkazanli and will try to recruit him as an informant later in the year (see Late 1998 and December 1999). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 8/13/2003; New York Times, 2/24/2004; McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]
No Response from CIA - The Germans consider this information “particularly valuable” and ask the CIA to track Alshehhi, but the CIA never responds until after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA decides at the time that this “Marwan” is probably an associate of bin Laden but never track him down. It is not clear why the CIA fails to act, or if they learn his last name before 9/11. [New York Times, 2/24/2004] The Germans monitor other calls between Alshehhi and Zammar, but it isn’t clear if the CIA is also told of these or not (see September 21, 1999).
Could the Number Be Traced? - CIA Director George Tenet will later dismiss the importance of this information in a statement to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. He will say that all the CIA had to go on was a first name and an impossible to trace unlisted number. But author Terry McDermott will later comment, “At least a portion of that statement is preposterous. The UAE mobile telephone business was, until 2004, a state monopoly. The UAE number could have been traced in five minutes, according to senior security officials there. The United States never asked.” McDermott will add, “Further, the CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated these recordings. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]
Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Montana Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see November 18, 1998) to over 22 years in prison, and orders almost $40,000 in restitution, on charges stemming from the Freemen’s expansive bad-check scheme that spread throughout the country (see 1993-1994). Freemen leader Rodney Skurdal receives a 15-year sentence. Another group leader, Daniel Petersen, is sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay $39,845 in restitution. Former Canadian police officer Dale Jacobi receives 13 years. Richard Clark receives 12 years. William Stanton (see October 17, 1994) receives a three-year sentence. Two of the convicted Freemen’s wives, Agnes Stanton and Cherlyn Petersen, are sentenced to time served and released. Coughenour says of the Freemen’s crimes, “What we are talking about is a calculated and organized program to undermine the banking system of this country and to encourage other, more ignorant people to violate the law.” He says that the Freemen’s sentences should send “a loud and clear message to those who pass this hatred and ugliness around.… Be forewarned, your personal liberty is at stake.” Schweitzer and five other Freemen, continuing to refuse to accept the sovereignty of the court, refuse to attend the sentencing and watch the proceedings from a holding cell. [Seattle Times, 3/17/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
9/11 Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi receives a new passport in Saudi Arabia. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 9 ] According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” [Bamford, 2008] Presumably, this indicator is placed there because Alhazmi is on the Saudi government watch list at this point due to his radical ties (see Late 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Alhazmi and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).
NATO launches a bombing campaign on Serbia in an attempt to force Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo. Kosovo is part of Serbia, but 90% ethnically Albanian and agitating for autonomy or independence. The air campaign begins just days after the collapse of peace talks (see March 19, 1999). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] US General Wesley Clark leads the bombing campaign. [BBC, 12/25/2003]
President Clinton orders the US Air Force to participate in a NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo. The campaign lasts for 79 days, and constitutes the first time since the War Powers Resolution became law in 1974 that any president has deployed US forces into overseas combat for over 60 days without Congressional authorization. Clinton’s legal advisers argue that Clinton has all the authority he needs to continue the air war because on May 22 Congress passes an emergency spending bill to fund the Kosovo war, just days before the 60-day clock runs out. The War Powers Resolution explicitly forbids appropriations to count as authorization, so Clinton’s legal ground is shaky. In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will note the unusual role reversal in Washington—Democrats, who had insisted that Republican presidents obey the War Powers Resolution, now stand by Clinton (or at least offer no overt criticism), and Republicans, who had argued that Congress had no right to challenge a president’s authority to conduct a war as he sees fit, now challenge Clinton’s authority under the selfsame War Powers Resolution they have previously criticized. The Congressional debate ends inconclusively when the air campaign ends. [Savage, 2007, pp. 65-66]
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), drafts a briefing that he then gives at various venues, on the threat of terrorists using aircraft to crash into buildings. According to a memo of his 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission, Stuart briefs “over time in 1999, 2000, and 2001 the logical progression that linked hijackings to the use of explosives in vehicles [a probable reference to the 1998 African embassy bombings] and then, logically, to the use of aircraft.” Stuart gives his briefing at annual intelligence conferences at both the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) and NORAD itself. At CONR, the receiving official is Colonel Tom Glenn; at NORAD it is Navy Captain Michael Kuhn. According to the 9/11 Commission memo, the hijacking scenarios that Stuart conceives are “primarily personal views; there was no substantive intelligence. He based his analysis on the boldness of past terrorist actions.” Stuart also discusses his analyses with his counterparts at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—a Major Clegg—and its Western Air Defense Sector (WADS)—a Lieutenant Colonel Schauer. In all cases, he briefs that a hijacking would originate overseas, inbound to the US. He never imagines it could originate inside the US. Stuart believes that security vulnerabilities overseas make it far more likely that hijackings will come from outside the US. He never imagines multiple hijackings in any scenario, although he envisions terrorists taking over planes and piloting them at the last possible moment as they crash. Stuart will be at NEADS on 9/11, and will participate in its response to that day’s attacks. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, December 23, 1997, and June 4, 1998) is charged with 160 counts of murder at the state level in Oklahoma. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty. Nichols is serving a life sentence as a conspirator in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. The 160 counts of murder represent the civilians, as opposed to federal agents, killed in the blast. Oklahoma District Attorney Robert Macy says of Nichols’s previous convictions: “I’m not satisfied with the outcome of the Nichols trial. I feel like he needs to be tried before an Oklahoma jury.” Nichols escaped murder convictions in the previous trial. Along with the 160 counts of murder, Nichols faces one count of first-degree manslaughter for the death of a fetus, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of aiding and counseling in the placing of a substance or bomb near a public building. Macy says he intends to try Nichols’s convicted co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) at a later date. [New York Times, 5/30/1999; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Mullah Mohammed Khaksar. [Source: Amir Shah / Associated Press]High-level Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Khaksar secretly meets with CIA officials to explore cooperating with them, but the CIA is not interested. Khaksar had been the Taliban’s intelligence minister, but he recently switched posts to deputy interior minister. He is friends with top Taliban leader Mullah Omar, has thousands of policemen under his command, and has solid links to intelligence sources within the Taliban. He secretly meets with US diplomats Gregory Marchese and Peter McIllwain in Peshawar, Pakistan. Marchese will later confirm the meeting took place. Khaksar says he fears the Taliban has been hijacked by the Pakistani ISI and al-Qaeda. He believes Mullar Omar has fallen under the influence of bin Laden and wants to oust him. Khaksar later claims he told them that he was worried about al-Qaeda because “one day they would do something in the world, but everything would be on the head of Afghanistan.” The diplomats pass his offer to Washington (though it is unknown if it was relayed to high-level officials or not). Khaksar soon receives a letter back rejecting his offer. The letter is later shown to the Associated Press, and states, in part, “We don’t want to make mistakes like we made in the holy war [in the 1980s]. We gave much help and it later went against us.” [Associated Press, 6/9/2002; Guardian, 6/11/2002] Khaksar later says he did provide the CIA with information on two or three other occasions before 9/11, but it is not known if this takes place before or after this meeting. Starting in 1997, he also keeps a regular secret dialogue with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. The Northern Alliance’s foreign minister will note after 9/11 that Khaksar was in “constant contact” with Massoud until 9/11, giving him a steady stream of valuable information. [Knight Ridder, 11/29/2001; Washington Post, 11/30/2001] After 9/11, the US will show no interest in Khaksar’s intelligence about the Taliban (see Between September 12 and Late November 2001 and February 25, 2002).
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issues a report on the safety of the US’s chemical industry from terror attacks. The report finds that security of American chemical plants ranges from “fair” to “very poor.” Security for chemical shipments is “poor to non-existent.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 92-93]
The Illinois State Bar Association hears an appeal by Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), who was denied a law license the year before (see May 1998 - January 1999). Hale brings WCOTC member Benjamin Smith (see July 2-4, 1999) to testify on his behalf; Smith says Hale has kept him from committing acts of violence. Smith tells the Character and Fitness Committee: “He’s given me spiritual guidance.… When I first met him, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life, what direction I was going to go.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Nabil al-Marabh will claim in a 2002 statement that in May 1999, the FBI approaches him in Boston, looking for Raed Hijazi. Al-Marabh will say he lied and said he did not know Hijazi, even though he knew him well. Hijazi apparently has not been involved in any violent crime yet, but will participate in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999) and will help plan the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). [Washington Post, 9/4/2002] In August 1999 FBI agents again visit al-Marabh’s Boston apartment to ask him about another man. Al-Marabh’s wife will later recall that the first name of this man is Ahmed. [New York Times, 10/14/2001] He is from Jordan and had lived in their apartment for two months. [New York Times, 9/21/2001] Around the same time, the Boston FBI is looking for another associate of al-Marabh’s, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi (see 1997 and 1999). They work at the same taxi company and fought together in Afghanistan.
Advisers and colleagues of George H. W. Bush are working alongside a stable of neoconservatives (see April-May 1999) to give Bush’s son, George W., a basic grounding in foreign policies and principles. Though much of the neoconservatives’ teachings conflict with the ideas and interpretations of the elder Bush’s more ‘realist’ advisers, they are not overly concerned about the neoconservatives’ influence on the younger Bush. “The idea that [Paul] Wolfowitz and the neocons represented a great ideological shift from [Brent] Scowcroft’s group of realists was not yet clear,” a knowledgeable State Department source will later note. “Then Wolfowitz and [Condoleezza] Rice [a colleague of Bush adviser Brent Scowcroft with as-yet unsuspected neoconservative leanings] started going down to Austin to tutor Bush in foreign policy (see August 1998). Bush’s grandiose vision emerged out of those tutorials, with Rice tutoring him in global history and Wolfowitz laying out his scheme to remake the world (see February 18, 1992). The whole view of those people was that the next president was not going to be a passive actor, but was to reshape the world to US interests. That was the message that Rice and Wolfowitz were giving to Bush. Rice was the one giving [Bush] the idea that were entering some sort of 1947-like transitional period in which the United States could shape the world.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 165-168]
George W. Bush deliberately keeps his father’s closest foreign advisers, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, out of his foreign affairs tutorials (see April-May 1999). This is not just because Bush blames Baker for his father’s failure to win re-election in 1992, but because Scowcroft and Baker are considered the “Wise Men” of the elder Bush’s brain trust, who wield enormous influence both in the US and abroad. “George W. did it [snubbed Scowcroft and Baker] to show his defiance,” a friend of the Bush family will recall. “That did not reflect disrespect for his dad. It was more to have his own identity, to have his own record. He almost had to go out of his way to avoid anyone connected to his father. He constantly faced this challenge of carving out an identity of his own.… When he was gearing up to run [for president] and the money was flowing in and people were making these showboat trips down to Austin [Texas, the home of Governor Bush], he told me, ‘You’re not going to see any Jim Bakers around me when I’m in office.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 168]
Photo of the cover of the Desert Crossing after-action briefing. [Source: National Security Archives]The US Central Command, or CENTCOM (see October 1, 1986), conducts a series of war games called “Desert Crossing” centered on the scenario of Saddam Hussein being ousted as Iraq’s dictator. CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni will later say of the scenario, “I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development.” The game concludes that unless measures are taken, “fragmentation and chaos” will ensue after his overthrow. The after-action report finds that regime change may cause instability throughout the Middle East by giving impetus to “rival forces bidding for power” which, in turn, could cause societal “fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines” and antagonize “aggressive neighbors.” Securing borders and civil order may not be enough to restabilize Iraq, the report speculates, if the new government is perceived as either weak, subservient to outside governments, or out of touch with other Middle Eastern governments. The report finds that an exit strategy would be complicated by differing ideas for how a post-Saddam Iraq should be. Any US-supported transitional government will find it difficult to restrain various factions from pursuing their own tribal and sectarian vendettas against one another, the report finds. The game is quickly forgotten; years later, when the Bush administration will begin planning for its invasion of Iraq, the retired Zinni will recommend that his successors “dust off Desert Crossing,” and they will respond: “What’s that? Never heard of it.” [John Prados, 11/4/2006; Roberts, 2008, pp. 125, 233]
As the presidential campaign of Texas Governor George W. Bush takes shape, many in the media assume that a Bush presidency would be much like the father’s: moderate and centrist with a pronounced but not extreme rightward tilt. Bush will be “on the 47-yard line in one direction,” says former Clinton counsel Lanny Davis, while Democratic contender Al Gore is “on the 47-yard line in the other.” But while the media continues to pursue that story, the hardliners and neoconservatives surrounding Bush (see December 1998 - Fall 1999) are working quietly to push their favored candidate much farther to the right, especially in foreign affairs, than anyone suspects. Two of the Bush campaign’s most prominent advisers, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, are making regular and secret visits to the governor’s mansion. “They were brought in and out under very tight security,” a source in the governor’s office will later recall. “They snuck in and snuck out. They didn’t hold press conferences. [Bush political adviser Karl] Rove didn’t want people to know what they were doing or what they were saying.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 165-168]
Bush is Willing to be Educated - Perle, like many other neoconservatives, is pleased that the younger Bush may well not be a repeat of the moderate policy stances of the father. “The first time I met [George W. Bush]… two things became clear,” Perle will recall in 2004. “One, he didn’t know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn’t know very much.” [Slate, 5/7/2004] Perle will continue: “Most people are reluctant to say when they don’t know something—a word or a term they haven’t heard before. Not him.” A State Department source will put it more bluntly: “His ignorance of the world cannot be overstated.”
Rice a 'Fellow Traveler' with Neoconservatives - One of Bush’s most diligent tutors is Condoleezza Rice, a former Bush administration official. Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who had mentored Rice, wrongly expects her to tutor Bush in his own “realist” world view, but Rice is far more aligned with the neoconservatives than Scowcroft realizes (see April-May 1999). “She was certainly a fellow traveler,” the State Department source will say. “She came at it more with a high-level academic approach while the other guys were operational. [Her role] was a surprise to Scowcroft. She had been a protege and the idea that she was going along with them was very frustrating to him.” The absence of retired General Colin Powell, one of the elder Bush’s most trusted and influential moderates, is no accident (see April-May 1999). “That’s a critical fact,” the State Department source will observe. “The very peculiar personal relationship between Rice and Bush solidified during those tutorials, and Wolfowitz established himself as the intellectual face of the neocons and the whole PNAC crew” (see June 3, 1997).
Wolfowitz: Redrawing the Map of the Middle East - Wolfowitz teaches Bush that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only incidental to the larger issues engulfing the Middle East (see March 8, 1992). The State Department source will recall: “Wolfowitz had gotten to Bush, and this is where Bush thought he would be seen as a great genius. Wolfowitz convinced him that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to leap over this constant conflict and to remake the context in which the conflict was taking place; that democracies don’t fight each other. [He convinced Bush] that the fundamental problem was the absence of democracy in the Middle East, and therefore we needed to promote democracy in the Middle East, and out of that there would be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The US must, Wolfowitz says, exert its moral and military might to eliminate the brutal dictators in the region and replace them with Western-style democratic leaders. Wolfowitz believes “[t]he road to peace in Jerusalem,” as author Craig Unger will write, “run[s] through Baghdad, Damascus, even Tehran.” It is unclear if Bush grasps the full implications of the theories of Wolfowitz and Rice. Certainly the idea of this “reverse domino theory,” as Unger will call it, is far different from anything previously espoused in US foreign affairs—a permanent “neo-war,” Unger will write, “colossal wars that would sweep through the entire Middle East and affect the world.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 165-168]
The US State Department temporarily suspends cooperation between the Bosnian army and the US private mercenary company MPRI. No official reason is given, but media reports indicate that the Bosnian Muslims being trained by MPRI were caught sending weapons to Muslim rebels in the regions of Kosovo and Sandzak in Serbia. Supposedly, millions of dollars of weapons were smuggled to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo. [BBC, 4/5/1999; Progressive, 8/1/1999; Center for Public Integrity, 10/28/2002]
Sarbarz Mohammed / Sam Malkandi. [Source: Public domain via Seattle Post-Intelligencer]Al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash unsuccessfully applies for a US visa in Sana’a, Yemen. His application, which is made under the alias Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf, is denied because he fails to submit sufficient documentation in support of it. Three actual hijackers obtain US visas in Saudi Arabia on the same day and shortly after (see April 3-7, 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 492]
Already Known to US Intelligence - Bin Attash is already known to the US intelligence community at this point (see Summer 1999), at least partly because he briefed Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the 1998 African embassy bombers who was captured after the attack, and helped him make a martyrdom video in Pakistan. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/9/1998 ] The US will begin to associate this alias with terrorist activity no later than early 2000, when bin Attash uses it to take a flight with Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who are under US and allied surveillance at that point (see January 8, 2000). However, the alias will not be watchlisted by the US until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001). Apparently, when the US learns the alias is associated with terrorism there is no check of visa application records, and this application and the fact it was made by an al-Qaeda leader will not be discovered until after 9/11 (see After January 8, 2000, After December 16, 2000, and After August 23, 2001).
US Contact - On the application, bin Attash gives his reason for going to the US as getting a new prosthesis for his missing leg, and he says Bothell, Washington State, is his final destination. Bin Attash’s contact in Bothell is a man named Sarbarz Mohammed. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 155-6, 492] Mohammed contacts a clinic in the area and speaks to bin Attash once on the phone, but bin Attash says the new leg would cost too much and hangs up. Mohammed, who will later change his name to Sam Malkandi, will deny knowing bin Attash was a terrorist and say that he thought he was just helping a friend of a friend. However, he will later admit lying on his green card application and be arrested in 2005. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/17/2005]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar’s US visas. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar obtain US visas through the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are already “al-Qaeda veterans” and battle-hardened killers. Almihdhar’s visa is issued on April 7, and he can thereafter leave and return to the US multiple times until April 6, 2000. [Stern, 8/13/2003] Nawaf Alhazmi gets the same kind of visa; details about Salem are unknown. All three men have indicators in their passports marking them as Islamist radicals (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, and April 6, 1999). These indicators are used to track them by the Saudi authorities, but are apparently not noticed by US officials. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 ] The CIA claims the hijackers then travel to Afghanistan to participate in “special training” with at least one other suicide bomber on a different mission. The training is led by Khallad bin Attash, who applies for a US visa on April 3 from Yemen, but fails to get one (see April 3, 1999). The CIA will learn about Almihdhar’s visa in January 2000 (see January 2-5, 2000). The Jeddah Consulate records the fact that Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi obtain US visas a couple of days before Almihdhar, but apparently these records are never searched before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ]
A 2005 US indictment will reveal that two employees for a pro-Israeli lobbying group had somehow obtained classified US information about al-Qaeda and was passing it on to Israeli officials. The two employees are Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman; both work for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) until 2004. On April 13, 1999, Rosen gives Rafi Barak, the former deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington, what he calls a codeword-protected “extremely sensitive piece of intelligence” about terrorist activities in Central Asia. On June 11, 1999, Weissman tells Barak about a classified FBI report on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which has been blamed on al-Qaeda and/or Iran (see June 25, 1996). In retrospect, FBI officials will determine that some, but not all, of this classified information comes from Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst on Iran known to be in favor of a tougher US policy regarding Iran (see 2000-2001). It is not known how or why US surveillance of Rosen and Weissman began. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005; Eastern District of Virginia, 8/4/2005 ; Jerusalem Post, 8/15/2005; Jerusalem Post, 8/17/2005]
Connection to Earlier Investigation? - However, there may be a connection to an earlier investigation. In 1997 and 1998, the FBI monitored Naor Gilon, an official at the Israeli embassy in Washington, as part of an investigation into whether a US intelligence official was illegally giving US spy plane film and other secret material to the Mossad. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]
Accusations Spark Further Investigation - The US will later accuse Rosen and Weissman of passing classified information given to them by Franklin to Gilon. In any case, the investigation will continue and grow. National Public Radio will later note that from 1999 to 2004, “Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman had regular discussions about the Middle East and about al-Qaeda with a variety of contacts,” sometimes illegally sharing highly classified information. Franklin will plead guilty to sharing classified information in 2005 (see October 5, 2005) while Rosen and Weissman are expected to be tried in 2007 or thereafter. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005]
Anti-abortion advocate Michael Bray (see September 1994), serving four years for conspiracy in firebombing 10 abortion clinics in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, tells a CBS reporter, “I consider blowing up a place where babies are killed a justifiable act.” Bray is a Lutheran minister. [Feminist Women's Health Center News, 2010]
A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)When Hani Hanjour attended flight schools between 1996 and 1998 he was found to be a “weak student” who “was wasting our resources” (see October 1996-December 1997), and when he tried using a flight simulator, “He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” (see 1998) Yet, on this day, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA’s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/25/2002; Government Executive, 6/13/2002; Associated Press, 6/13/2002] At the next flight school Hanjour will attend in early 2001, the staff will be so appalled at his lack of skills that they will repeatedly contact the FAA and ask them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license (see January-February 2001). After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and question and polygraph the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that, since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, the issue of how he was able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] After gaining the license, Hanjour apparently returns to the Middle East. He will arrive back in the US in December 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000) and December 8, 2000).
Michael E. Tigar, the lead defense attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998), says evidence given to the defense near the end of the federal trial provided enough information about another suspect to warrant a new trial (see March 31 - April 12, 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 16-19, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 17-21, 1995, (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 7:00 p.m. April 18, 1995, April 18, 1995, and Early Morning, April 19, 1995). “Government counsel argued that Mr. Nichols mixed the bomb and that he was with [fellow conspirator Timothy] McVeigh for long periods on April 17 and 18,” Tigar states (see April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and Early Afternoon, April 18, 1995). “The withheld evidence contradicts this key government theory.” Tigar called a number of witnesses who said they saw McVeigh with an unknown suspect known as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) and/or other people during key periods in the days and weeks leading up to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Tigar will demand those documents for his new trial request. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over the first trial, will deny Nichols’s request. [New York Times, 9/14/1999] In December 2000, a federal appeals court will also deny the request. [New York Times, 12/19/2000]
Frank Sesno. [Source: Communications Institute]Radio news host Amy Goodman interviews CNN vice president Frank Sesno, and asks about CNN’s practice of putting retired generals on CNN without balancing its coverage with peace activists. Sesno tells Goodman that he believes it is perfectly appropriate to have retired military officers as paid analysts to comment on foreign affairs and military issues, “as long as we identify them as what they are, as long as we believe in our editorial judgment that their judgment is straight and honest—and we judge that—and it’s not a series of talking points, yes, I think it’s appropriate.” He adds, “I think it would become inappropriate if they were our only source of information or our only source of analysis or our only source of whatever the opinion is that we’re assessing, if there were no opposing viewpoints, if you will.” Goodman asks, “If you support the practice of putting ex-military men, generals, on the payroll to share their opinion during a time of war, would you also support putting peace activists on the payroll to give a different opinion in times of war, to be sitting there with the military generals, talking about why they feel that war is not appropriate?” Senso replies: “We bring the generals in because of their expertise in a particular area. We call them analysts. We don’t bring them in as advocates. In fact, we actually talk to them about that. They are not there as advocates.” So “why not put peace activists on the payroll?” Goodman asks. Sesno retorts, “We do,” and Goodman asks, “Who?” Sesno backs off: “On payroll? No, we don’t put peace activists—we don’t—we do not choose to put a lot of people on the payroll. And we will put people on the payroll whom we choose and whom we feel is necessary to put on the payroll.” Sesno cannot recall the last peace activist that he interviewed. Given all of this, Goodman asks how, aside from “screaming in the streets and getting a picture taken,” does an antiwar voice get heard on CNN? Sesno retorts: “Well, that’s up to you. But, you know, there are a lot of ways people have of registering their opinions: through op-eds, through phone-in shows, through protest, if that’s what people are doing.” [Democracy Now!, 4/22/2008]
Former President George H. W. Bush, a former director of the CIA, speaks at the dedication ceremony of the new intelligence center bearing his name. In the course of his speech, Bush says: “We need more human intelligence. That means we need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country.… I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/26/1999] These remarks will later be unearthed in conjunction with the White House’s leaking of the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see June 23, 2003, July 7, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and Before July 14, 2003), and the publication of her name and status by conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003).
Speaking in front of a small public rally in Washington in favor of an independent Kosovo, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) says that the “United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles.… Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values.” [Washington Post, 4/28/1999]
US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduces the so-called “Liberty Amendment” as, his office says in a press release, “what should be 28th Amendment to the US Constitution; HJ116, the Liberty Amendment.” The Liberty Amendment would repeal the 16th Amendment, which gives the federal government the right to levy income, estate, and gift taxes, and would severely limit the power of the federal government in areas not strictly defined by the Constitution, giving vast new powers to the states instead. The Liberty Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1952; in 1957, Representative Elmer Hoffman (R-IL) reintroduced it with the new prohibitions on federal taxations. The Anti-Defamation League will write, “In this form, the amendment garnered considerable support among extreme right-wing conservatives as well as the budding libertarian movement.” Right-wing libertarian Willis Stone became the chairman of the Liberty Amendment Committee in the late 1950s, and for years attempted to raise support for the amendment. In recent years, Paul has become the champion of the amendment. After introducing the amendment, Paul tells reporters: “Over the years this amendment has enjoyed widespread support and has been introduced several times in the past by various members of Congress, but finally this measure has a chance of success given the conservative Congress and mood of the country in favor of a more limited, constitutional government which respects individual liberty.… The income tax is the most regressive tax imaginable, allowing government to take first claim on our lives. The income tax assumes government owns us, as individuals, and has a sovereign claim to the fruits of our labor. This is immoral. But government has been compelled to levy this economically damaging tax because government has grown so big. By reducing the size of the federal government to those functions strictly enumerated in the Constitution, there will no longer be a need for the income tax.… Once again, Americans are being treated to hearings on the abuses of the IRS. For as abusive as the IRS is, it is in fact simply the predictable result of the underlying income tax. By eliminating the income tax, we will go a long way toward eliminating these abuses.” Paul has regularly introduced the amendment in the House since 1981. [Ron Paul, 4/28/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2011] The Liberty Amendment is part of the anti-tax movement stemming at least as far back as 1951 (see 1951-1967).
The US-led NATO alliance begins bombing Serbia in March, pressuring it to withdraw from Kosovo, which is part of Serbia but ethnically dominated by Albanians (see March 24, 1999). During the war, the US publicly denies working with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the dominant political group in Kosovo. However, it will later be revealed that the CIA works closely with the KLA, starting at least from late April 1999. At that time, the CIA and US Special Forces troops begin working with the KLA to defeat the Serbians. The KLA passes on useful information about Serbian positions, allowing NATO forces to bomb them. But since the KLA has a reputation for drug running, civilian atrocities, and links to al-Qaeda, the US military generally uses the Albanian army as an intermediary. KLA representatives meet daily with Albanian military officers in Albania, but CIA and US Army officers are usually present as well. In addition, there is a secret NATO operations center in the town of Kukes, Albania, near the border with Kosovo. Most of the KLA liaison work takes place there. US officials begin considering using the KLA as a light-infantry force if NATO needs to invade Kosovo with ground troops. But the war ends in June 1999 before that becomes necessary (see June 9, 1999). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] The same month that the CIA begins working closely with the KLA, a European intelligence report indicates the KLA is being funded by al-Qaeda and drugs from Afghanistan (see April 1999).
Huffman Aviation. [Source: FBI]Huffman Aviation, the Venice, Florida flight school later attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1-3, 2000) is sold to Naples-based flight school Ambassador Airways, which is owned by Wally Hilliard and Rudi Dekkers. Although Hilliard finances the purchase, Dekkers becomes the sole stockholder. Dekkers is a Dutch national with a highly questionable past. The St. Petersburg Times will later comment, he “seems to have benefited from the same type of casual scrutiny of visa applicants that let the 9/11 hijackers live and train here [in the US].” Even before 9/11, he has “a long history of troubled businesses, run-ins with the Federal Aviation Administration and numerous lawsuits… It is the kind of checkered history, experts say, that should have raised questions both before and after the 9/11 attacks about Dekkers’ fitness to run a school that trained pilots.” Having previously run a computer company in the Netherlands that went bankrupt, he’d moved to Naples, Florida in 1992. After running a computer chip exporting company, he’d started Ambassador Airways. Yet he’d been so late on some of his bills there that at one point the Naples airport refused to sell him aviation fuel, even if he paid cash. At some point in 1999 the FAA revoked his pilot’s license for 45 days—a severe penalty—for several violations, including “operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner.” In spite of Dekkers’ dubious history and the fact that his Ambassador Airways is struggling, Wally Hilliard, a prominent retired businessman, loans him $1.7 million to buy Huffman Aviation. Dekkers says he plans spending $60,000 per year promoting the school, advertising extensively in Germany and other European countries. [Venice Gondolier Sun, 5/29/1999; Venice Gondolier Sun, 1/25/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Huffman Aviation is just up the road from Florida Flight Training Center, where Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, will begin flying lessons in summer 2000 (see (June 28-December 2000)). [Associated Press, 9/9/2002] Dekkers will close Ambassador Airways in December 2001, due to financial difficulties, and sell Huffman Aviation in January 2003. [Naples Daily News, 1/25/2003; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/28/2003]
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), writes in the Alliance’s monthly Bulletin: “People who are living comfortably now will resist doing anything to jeopardize their situations. Cowards will remain cowards. But a growing minority of serious, moral people will admit finally, at least to themselves, that we have tolerated the Jews for far too long and that revolution is the correct course for patriots.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
US intelligence obtains detailed reporting on where bin Laden is located for five consecutive nights. CIA Director Tenet decides against acting three times, because of concerns about collateral damage and worries about the veracity of the single source of information. Frustration mounts. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, writes to a colleague in the field, “having a chance to get [bin Laden] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry…” [Coll, 2004, pp. 450; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 140] An unnamed senior military officer later complains, “This was in our strike zone. It was a fat pitch, a home run.” However, that month, the US mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, due to outdated intelligence. It is speculated Tenet was wary of making another mistake. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] There is one more opportunity to strike bin Laden in July 1999, but after that there is apparently no intelligence good enough to justify considering a strike. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) blames the recent high school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on the “liberal elite.” In a speech to a woman’s organization, Gingrich says, “I want to say to the elite in this country—the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite—I accuse you in Littleton and I accuse you in Kosovo of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid for taking responsibility for the things you have done.” The Columbine shooting took place in part because Democrats have taken prayer and God out of the classroom, Gingrich says. [CNN, 5/12/1999]
Ihab Ali Nawawi. [Source: FBI]Ihab Ali Nawawi is arrested in Orlando, Florida. He is considered an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa. Nawawi’s family moved from Egypt to the US in the late 1970’s and he graduated from an Orlando high school. He fought in Afghanistan in the 1980’s and helped bin Laden move to Sudan in 1991. Nawawi received a commercial pilot’s license from Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1993. He crashed an airplane owned by bin Laden in 1995 on a runway in Khartoum, Sudan (see Early 1993). He lived in Sudan until 1996 when he moved back to Orlando. Nawawi’s role in al-Qaeda is revealed days after the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa when Ali Mohamed’s residence in California is raided. A letter from Nawawi is discovered asking Mohamed to give his “best regards to your friend Osama”(see August 24, 1998). Nawawi’s connection to the embassy bombings were possibly discovered months earlier, because there were a series of phone calls in 1997 between an Orlando telephone owned by Nawawi’s sister and an al-Qaeda safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. Many telephone numbers connected to that house were being monitored by US intelligence at the time. Given his obvious al-Qaeda ties, it is not clear why agents waited until May 1999 before arresting Nawawi. He is questioned in front of a grand jury, but prosecutors say he is lying and he refuses to talk anymore. FBI agents will visit the Airman Flight School in September 1999 to enquire about his attendance there (see September 1999). He will remain jailed and in September 2000 is finally charged for contempt and perjury. In October 2001, the St. Petersburg Times will report, “There are signs that Ali’s resolve might now be weakening. Court records indicate that Ali’s lawyers seemed to reach an understanding with the government in March . Since that time, all documents in the case have been filed under seal.” [St. Petersburg Times, 10/28/2001] In May 2002, three full years after his arrest, the New York Times will report that “Nawawi remains in federal custody even now, although he has not been charged with conspiring in the embassy bombing.” [New York Times, 5/18/2002] As of the end of 2005, there appears to be no further news on what has happened to Nawawi, and no sign of any trial. When Nawawi is arrested, he is working as a taxi driver. At this time Al-Qaeda operative Nabil al-Marabh is working as a taxi driver about 80 miles away in Tampa, Florida, and while the similarity is intriguing, there is no known reported connection between the two men (see February 1999-February 2000). [St. Petersburg Times, 10/28/2001]
Ali Mohamed’s booking photo. [Source: Peter Lance]It is reported that after eight months of secret negotiations between US prosecutors and Ali Mohamed, talks have broken down. Prosecutors had been attempting to get Mohamed to cooperate and tell all that he knows about al-Qaeda in return for a lighter sentence. [New York Times, 5/18/1999] Mohamed will later plead guilty to five counts of conspiracy (see October 20, 2000), but will never be publicly sentenced. There will be speculation that he eventually does agree to some secret deal (see July 2001-December 2001).
The Food and Drug Administration approves Vioxx as a treatment for acute pain, dysmenorrhea, and osteoarthritis in adults, making the drug the second Cox-2 inhibitor available by prescription in the United States. [US Food and Drug Administration, 2005]
It has been widely assumed in media reports that US intelligence did not connect al-Qaeda leader Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) before 9/11. However, the 9/11 Commission will mention in a footnote, “Hambali also was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company run by close associate of Wali Khan [Amin Shah]. FBI report, Manila air investigation, May 23, 1999.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489] The Christian Science Monitor will later note, “Konsonjaya was not just supplying money. It also coordinating the Bojinka plotters” (see June 1994). [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] In the spring of 1995, Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza gave the US a chart he made of the Bojinka plotters, and Konsonjaya was centrally featured in it (see Spring 1995). He later said, “It was sort of their nerve center.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] Shortly after Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment was broken into, documents found there connected Konsonjaya with the “Ladin International” company in Sudan, an obvious bin Laden front. An FBI memo at the time noted the connection. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303] Hambali’s photograph was also found on Yousef’s computer. [New Straits Times, 2/2/2002] In 1996, the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters, and in 1998, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was nearly caught in Brazil while using Konsonjaya as his business cover (see June 1998). So it’s not clear why it took the FBI four years to learn about Hambali, but that still means they were aware of who he was prior to the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia attended by Hambali and two 9/11 hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). But apparently the connection will not be made.
In early 1999, al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash is sent to Yemen to help al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri obtain explosives to bomb a ship, and also to get a US visa so he can travel to the US to take part in an operation there. Three 9/11 hijackers get a US visa around this time (see April 3-7, 1999), but bin Attash has more trouble, apparently because he is Yemeni and the others are Saudi. While there, bin Attash is arrested by Yemeni authorities. Bin Laden finds out about the arrest and is concerned that bin Attash might reveal the ship bombing and US operations while under interrogation. Bin Laden contacts a Yemeni official and makes a deal, offering not to attack Yemen if the Yemeni government does not confront him and releases bin Attash in the summer of 1999. Both sides agree to the deal and bin Attash returns to Afghanistan without revealing either plot. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 155-156] There is other evidence Yemeni officials will help al-Nashiri, as his ship attack plot eventually targets the USS Cole while stationed in Yemen (see April 2000 and After October 12, 2000).
The CIA decides to increase its links with Ahmed Shah Massoud, an Afghan commander fighting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. The decision is pushed through by Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, and Richard Blee, head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. According to author Steve Coll, Black and Blee see Massoud “as his admirers in Europe [do], as an epochal figure, extraordinarily skillful and determined,” and believe that Massoud is the key to capturing bin Laden. However, the CIA’s Near East Division is skeptical of the potential for this liaison, partly because they remember problems they had with Massoud during the Soviet-Afghan War. Near East officers also think Massoud can only be of limited usefulness against bin Laden because of the geographical distance between Massoud’s forces in the north of Afghanistan and bin Laden’s base in the country’s south. [Coll, 2004, pp. 460-1] The CIA will soon send more personnel into Afghanistan to meet Massoud and discuss co-operation (see October 1999). However, a plan to make the increase substantial will be rejected in late 2000 and Massoud will still not be receiving much aid by 9/11 (see December 20, 2000).
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), acquires the largest white power music distributor in the US and renames it Resistance Records (see Late 1993). Some older Alliance members question the wisdom of spending large amount of funds on a white power music label that markets “skinhead” heavy metal and other musical products; Pierce reassures them that the purchase will not only prove to be a valuable way to reach younger potential members, but will generate funds for the organization, saying, “As Resistance Records regains strength, that acquisition should add an increasing number of younger members, in the 18-25 age range, to our ranks.” Pierce is right on both counts. Also, the acquisition brings Pierce closer to the German neo-Nazi party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP). [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Around this time, US intelligence notes that a man in Hamburg, Germany, named Mohammed Haydar Zammar is in direct contact with one of bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators. Zammar is an al-Qaeda recruiter with links to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and the rest of the Hamburg terror cell. The US had noted Zammar’s terror links on “numerous occasions” before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] However, apparently the US does not share their information on Zammar with German intelligence. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. In 1998, they got information from Italy confirming he is an Islamic militant (see October 2, 1998). However, his behavior is so suspicious that they have already started monitoring him closely (see 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Stern, 8/13/2003] Ironically, also in 1999, German intelligence gives its information on Zammar to the CIA (see 1999).
In the summer of 1999, the CIA asks border-control agencies in the Middle East to question anyone who may be returning from a training camp in Afghanistan, according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article. This is said to occur about six months before future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped and questioned at the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, either because he is on a US watch list or because he shows signs of having come from Afghanistan, or both (see January 30, 2000 and December 14, 2001-September 28, 2005). [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Also in 1999, the CIA specifically works out an arrangement with immigration officials at the Dubai airport to monitor or question suspected militants passing through (see 1999).
A businessman reportedly approaches Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki and insists that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. Mayaki reportedly interprets “expanding commercial relations” to mean that Iraq is interested in discussing uranium sales. According to Mayaki, he does meet the delegation but avoids discussion of trade issues because of UN sanctions on the country. They reportedly never discuss what the businessman had meant when he said Iraq was interested in “expanding commercial relations.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] A US embassy official later tells former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who himself will visit Niger to determine the facts behind American concerns that Iraq is attempting to secure Nigerien uranium (see Fall 1999), that Mayaki is extremely wary of dealing with Iraq, and keeps the conversations on very general levels. The Iraqi may have wanted to discuss uranium, the embassy official later recalls, but nothing is ever said on the subject. Wilson later learns from the official that Mayaki speaks to the Iraqi information minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, disparagingly called “Baghdad Bob” by the Americans. At the time, Wilson is not aware of the Iraqi’s identity, so he does not include the name in his report to the CIA. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 27-28] Alan Foley, the director of the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center (see February 5, 2003), will later tell a reporter that an item in Wilson’s report (see March 4-5, 2002) leads him to believe that there may be some truth to the Iraq-Niger allegations. Writing about Foley’s assertion in 2004, Wilson says he believes that Foley is referring to the 1999 conversation between the embassy official and al-Sahhaf. Wilson will ask, “Could it be that we went to war over a conversation in which the word ‘uranium’ was not spoken at all?” The Nigerien official later tells Wilson that he wondered if al-Sahhaf might have intended to ask about a possible uranium deal in subsequent conversations. “Was that the smoking gun that could supposedly have become a mushroom cloud?” Wilson will ask. “And so is it possible that, because of that non-conversation, [thousands of] Americans have been killed, and [billions] of national treasure spent?” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 424]
Three separate instances of arson committed against synagogues are registered in Sacramento, California. Authorities believe the arsons may have been carried out by members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), in part because of WCOTC leaflets found in one of the synagogue’s parking lots during a Holocaust Memorial Day service in April 1999. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
Richard Newcomb. [Source: Scott Ferrell/ Getty Images]The US has been pressuring the Saudi government to do more to stop Saudi financing for al-Qaeda and other militant groups, but so far little has been accomplished (see August 20, 1998-1999). Vice President Al Gore contacts the Saudis and arranges for some US officials to have a meeting with their top security and banking officials. William Wechsler from the National Security Council (NSC), Richard Newcomb from the Treasury Department, and others on an NSC al-Qaeda financing task force meet about six senior Saudi officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. One US official will later recall, “We laid everything out—what we knew, what we thought. We told them we’d just had two of our embassies blown up and that we needed to deal with them in a different way.” But the Saudis have virtually no oversight over their charities and do not seem interested in changing that. Newcomb threatens to freeze the assets of certain groups and individuals if the Saudis do not crack down. The Saudis promise action, but nothing happens. A second visit by a US delegation in January 2000 is ineffective as well. [US News and World Report, 12/15/2003]
[Source: Publicity photo]CIA Director George Tenet removes Michael Scheuer as head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer had headed the unit since its inception in 1996 (see February 1996), and was known as a strong advocate for more government action against bin Laden. The full name of the new head of the unit has not been released and little is known about his performance. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Deputy Director of Operations Jack Downing tells Scheuer he is being fired because he is “mentally burned out” and because of a recent disagreement with the FBI over whether the deputy chief of Alex Station, who was detailed to the CIA from the FBI, could release information to the FBI without Scheuer’s approval. Downing tells Scheuer he was in the right, but that the criticism of his subordinate “should not have been put on paper”, and the FBI’s management is angry with him. Downing says he will get a medal and a monetary award, but should tell his subordinates he has resigned. Scheuer refuses to lie to his officers, signs a memo saying he will not accept a monetary award, and tells Downing “where he should store the medal.” [Scheuer, 2005, pp. 263-4; Wright, 2006, pp. 313] According to author Steve Coll, Scheuer’s CIA colleagues “could not be sure exactly [why Scheuer left] but among at least a few of them a believe settled in that [he] had been exiled, in effect, for becoming too passionate about the bin Laden threat…” In particular, he was angry about two recent missed opportunities (see 1997-May 29, 1998 and February 11, 1999) to assassinate bin Laden. [Coll, 2004, pp. 449-450] Scheuer will write in 2004 that, “On moving to a new position, I forwarded a long memorandum to the Agency’s senior-most officers—some are still serving—describing an array of fixable problems that were plaguing America’s attack on bin Laden, ones that the bin Laden unit had encountered but failed to remedy between and among [US intelligence agencies]… The problems outlined in the memorandum stood in the way of attacking bin Laden to the most effective extent possible; many remain today.” Problems include poor cooperation between agencies and a lack of experienced staff working on the bin Laden issue. Scheuer never receives a response to his memo. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004]
Richard Blee. The only known public photo of Blee is this one taken from a school yearbook, when he was nine years old. [Source: Public domain]Following the firing of Michael Scheuer, the founding head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit (see June 1999), a new chief of the station is appointed. The chief, Richard Blee, worked in Algeria as a case officer during the civil war there in the early 1990s (see January 11, 1992) and prior to his appointment as station chief was an executive assistant to CIA management. [Coll, 2004, pp. 456] He also served on an Iraqi task force attempting to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s regime in the mid-1990s. [Harper's, 1/28/2007] According to author Steve Coll: “Since he came directly from [CIA Director George] Tenet’s leadership group, his arrival was seen as a signal of renewed high-level interest in the bin Laden case. The new chief’s connections presumably would help attract resources to the cause and smooth decision-making.” In addition, “He [knows] the bin Laden issue, he [knows] the Third World and he [does] not mind high-risk travel.”
Criticism of Management Style - However, Blee’s management style will attract some criticism. Coll will say that he is “intense and sometimes emotional and combative” and that he is seen by some colleagues as “typical of the unyielding zealots” at Alec Station. [Coll, 2004, pp. 456, 540] Author James Bamford will comment, “But the most serious problem was [Blee]‘s lack of management, his myopic obsession with bin Laden, and his focus on the fun and adventure part of the job.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 218-9] Journalist Ken Silverstein will say: “[S]ources have told me that [Blee] has frequently been divisive and ineffective in previous positions.… His reputation and relationship with the military, especially the special-ops community, is very bad, based on substantive issues that arose during his time [in Afghanistan and Pakistan] post-9/11.… Another former official called [Blee] a ‘smart guy‘…, but described him as a terrible manager.” [Harper's, 1/28/2007]
In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and in a briefing to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffers one month later, the chief of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center describes reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning attacks in the US. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]
Anwar al-Awlaki. [Source: Public domain]The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry into Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam who will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He serves as the “spiritual leader” to several of the hijackers (see March 2001 and After), and by 2008 US intelligence will determine he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
The investigation is opened when it is learned he had probably been visited by a “procurement agent” for bin Laden, Ziyad Khaleel. Khaleel had helped buy a satellite phone for bin Laden; when he is arrested in December 1999 he reportedly tells the FBI crucial details about al-Qaeda operations in the US (see December 29, 1999).
In early 2000 the FBI is aware when al-Awlaki is visited by an unnamed close associate of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ; Washington Post, 2/27/2008]
He also serves as vice president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), the US branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a Yemeni imam who the US will officially designate a terrorist in 2004. CSSW also has ties to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, considered one of the centers of al-Qaeda activity in Europe. The FBI begins investigating CSSW in 1999 after a Yemeni politician visits the US to solicit donations for the charity, and then visits Mahmoud Es Sayed, a known al-Qaeda figure at the Islamic Cultural Institute, on the same trip. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 243; Washington Post, 2/27/2008]
The FBI learns that al-Awlaki knows individuals from the suspect Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for Hamas. Sources allege that al-Awlaki has even more extremist connections.
But none of these links are considered strong enough for criminal charges, and the investigation is closed. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 517] Al-Awlaki is beginning to associate with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar shortly before the investigation ends. For instance, on February 4, one month before the FBI investigation is closed, al-Awlaki talks on the telephone four times with hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi. The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that these calls are related to Alhazmi and Almihdhar, since al-Bayoumi is helping them that day, and that Alhazmi or Almihdhar may even have been using al-Bayoumi’s phone at the time (see February 4, 2000). Al-Bayoumi had also been the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in 1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).
Entity Tags: Omar al-Bayoumi, Ziyad Khaleel, Nawaf Alhazmi, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Es Sayed, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Islamic Cultural Institute, Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Anwar al-Awlaki, Khalid Almihdhar, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charitable Society for Social Welfare
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The NSA intercepts more calls (see Early 1999) involving Khalid Almihdhar, who is at an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, with his family (see Late August 1998). The identity of the person he is talking to and the content of the intercepts is so sensitive that the whole passage regarding these communications is redacted in the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s report. After the redacted passage, the Inquiry comments, “At about the same time, the name [of al-Qaeda leader] Khallad [bin Attash] came to the attention of the NSA for the first time,” so the calls may involve bin Attash in some way. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 155-6 ] Almihdhar is staying at the communications hub at this time and will stay there later as well (see (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000) and Late October 2000-July 4, 2001).
Employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the World Trade Center, and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) take part in training exercises that simulate major fires on upper floors of the WTC. [Newsday, 11/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/3/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ]
On June 6, 1999, members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) and the FDNY participate in an exercise that simulates a five-alarm, full-floor fire on the 92nd floor of the WTC’s South Tower. The exercise, held early on a Sunday morning, makes use of smoke machines, lighting, and mannequins, to create a realistic environment for participants. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ]
In September 2000, the Port Authority and the FDNY conduct a similar exercise on the empty 93rd floor of one of the Twin Towers (the particular tower is unstated). Like the June 1999 exercise, it is held on a Sunday morning, simulates a five-alarm fire, and uses smoke machines to make it more realistic. Alan Reiss, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will later recall: “It was a major full-floor high-rise fire. It was a full-scale fire simulation.” Five FDNY engine companies take part. The exercise is videotaped and elevators are unavailable while it is taking place. [Newsday, 11/12/2001]
At some point in the summer of 2001, the Port Authority and 30 FDNY companies train for a five-alarm fire on the 90th floor of the South Tower. Fire safety directors working for OCS Security, which holds the fire safety contract for the WTC, also take part in the exercise. [9/11 Commission, 11/3/2003]
The PAPD holds “annual tabletop drills involving both police and the civilian management at the World Trade Center,” to exercise the emergency response plans for the WTC, according to Reiss. These drills are developed by PAPD specialists, Reiss will say, and other agencies besides the Port Authority—such as the FDNY—can participate. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] However, despite being recommended in 1993 to train for the event of a plane hitting the WTC (see (March 29, 1993)), the Port Authority conducts no exercises simulating that scenario in the subsequent eight years before 9/11. [Newsday, 11/12/2001] Whether the Port Authority held exercises simulating large fires on the upper floors of the WTC before 1999 is unclear.
A portion of a US wanted poster for bin Laden, highlighting the African embassy bombings and a $5 million reward. [Source: US State Department]The FBI puts bin Laden on its “10 Most Wanted List.” This is almost a year and a half after bin Laden’s “declaration of war” against the US on February 22, 1998 (see February 22, 1998), and about six months after the CIA’s “declaration of war against al-Qaeda” in December 1998 (see December 4, 1998). It is also three years after an internal State Department document connected bin Laden to financing and planning numerous terrorist attacks. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003]
A training exercise based around a simulated terrorist attack is held at New York’s new emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The exercise, which lasts 24 hours, is intended to test New York’s response to a biological attack. Many city, state, and federal agency officials, including officials from the Department of Defense, participate. The exercise takes place as the new emergency command center is being unveiled, with a small group of reporters being escorted through it today (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999; New York Daily News, 6/8/1999; New York Times, 6/8/1999]
Giuliani’s emergency command center. [Source: CNN]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/2001] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [CNN, 6/7/1999; London Times, 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 233] The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” [Time, 12/22/2001] Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 346-347] Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times, 12/20/2001]
On June 9, 1999, NATO has been bombing Serbia for 78 days (see March 24, 1999). Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic capitulates, agreeing to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo. Kosovo technically remains part of Serbia (which is still called Yugoslavia) but it is essentially taken over by NATO. Within months, nearly 50,000 NATO peacekeeping troops occupy Kosovo, and the United Nations takes over its administration. [Washington Post, 9/19/1999]
Nearly 100 hard-line militia and white separatists gather for advanced paramilitary training at the North Carolina property of former Special Forces member John Roberts, head of the Militia of East Tennessee. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
The Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (SBSTTA) rejects proposals during a meeting in Montreal to recommend a permanent moratorium on genetic use restriction technologies (GURT). GURTs are those which use genetic engineering to restrict the growth of plants in order to protect the intellectual property rights of the seed developer. The most well-known restriction technology is “terminator” technology (see 1994 and after). Another is “traitor” technology, so named because the traits of seeds and plants produced with this technology can be genetically controlled, e.g., a certain proprietary chemical may be required in order for certain genes to be expressed. The proposal to ban GURTs was made after a report by a blue-ribbon scientific panel was presented before the SBSTTA. The report had concluded that restriction technologies are a threat to agricultural biodiversity and national food security. The delegates at the meeting reportedly agreed that the study was broadly based and well done. After listening to the report, the government of Norway proposed that the SBSTTA recommend a moratorium on field trials and commercialization of the technology. India, Portugal, Kenya, Peru, and several other countries backed the proposal. The US opposed it, as did Canada—though only the US delegation attempted to defend the technology. One of the concerns expressed by supporters of the proposal was that terminator technology could be used to strong arm poorer countries into adopting or accepting certain trade policies. Countries like the US, it was suggested, could withhold seed or the chemicals needed to sustain the growth of chemically dependent plants as a sort of ransom. With the US and Canada opposed to Norway’s proposal, an alternative resolution was drafted by Britain (and then amended by Suriname). Though different than Norway’s, Britain’s proposal would have also recommended a ban on commercialization and field trials. But this was not considered agreeable either. Finally, a “contact group” was formed, which went into private discussion. The compromise that resulted from the closed-door meeting looked nothing like either of the original proposals. Under the provisions of the compromise resolution, governments would have the option of imposing a ban on field trials and commercialization. It failed to affirm the conclusions of the Blue Panel report, making no mention of GURT posing a direct threat to biodiversity or national sovereignty over genetic resources. “I don’t know what happened in that room,” Silvia Ribeiro of Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) says, “There were two reasonably strong resolutions when they went in and one very weak proposal when they came out. I think the South has been tricked.” The new proposal was then weakened even further by the efforts of Australia. Even an industry representative took a stab at weakening the proposal. “In the feeding frenzy, a representative from the seed industry became so excited that he took the floor, presumed the prerogative of a government, and proposed additional resolution text to restrict farmers’ rights to save, exchange, and sell farm-saved seed,” according to RAFI. The following day, during a plenary discussion, RAFI called attention to a little noticed provision that had been slipped into the draft by Australia as an amendment. RAFI noted that it would restrict countries’ rights to impose a moratorium on GURT by linking any moratorium to potential trade sanctions. “Shortly before the debate ended, the US delegation made an ugly and aggressive intervention that put the question to rest: The US bluntly threatened trade sanctions on countries that impose a moratorium and made clear that it was willing to use the WTO to force terminator down the world’s throat,” according to RAFI. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 6/25/1999; Convention on Biodiversity, 6/27/1999, pp. 23-26 ; Convention on Biodiversity, 6/27/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 6/28/1999; Economic Times of India, 7/8/1999]
Entity Tags: Suriname, Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, Portugal, United States, United Kingdom, Peru, Kenya, Australia, Canada, Norway, India
Timeline Tags: Seeds
CIA Director George Tenet tells a closed session of Congress, “We have seen numerous reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning terrorist attacks against US officials and facilities in a variety of locations, including in the US.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 454] However, six months later and after a well-publicized attempted al-Qaeda attack on the Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999), he will not mention in an open session that bin Laden has the capability to stage attacks inside the US (see February 2, 2000).
Hua Di. [Source: Stanford University]A report commissioned in mid-1999 by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) looks into possible Chinese front companies in the US seeking technology for the Chinese military. Dr. Eileen Preisser and Michael Maloof are commissioned to make the report. Dr. Preisser, who runs the Information Dominance Center at the US Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) and will later become closely tied to Able Danger, uses LIWA’s data mining capabilities to search unclassified information. According to Maloof, their results show Chinese front companies in the US posing as US corporations that acquire technology from US defense contractors. When the study is completed in November 1999, the General Counsel’s office in the Office of the Defense Secretary orders the study destroyed. Weldon complains about this to Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, and apparently delays the destruction of the report. Weldon also writes a letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh requesting an espionage investigation into these Chinese links, but Freeh never responds to this. [Washington Times, 10/9/2005] As part of this report, LIWA analysts had produced a chart of Chinese strategic and business connections in the US. But this data mining effort runs into controversy when the chart apparently shows connections between future National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and other prominent US figures, and business deals benefiting the Chinese military. [New York Post, 8/27/2005; Washington Times, 9/22/2005] The China chart was put together by private contractor James D. Smith, who will come forward in August 2005 to corroborate revelations about the Able Danger unit and its findings (see August 22-September 1, 2005). The New York Post later says there is “no suggestion that Rice or any of the others had done anything wrong.” [New York Post, 8/27/2005] However, articles first appear one month later and through 2001 in the conservative publications WorldNetDaily and NewsMax, which connect Perry and Rice to Hua Di, a Chinese missile scientist and possible spy, and question the nature of their relationship with him. [WorldNetDaily, 12/21/1999; WorldNetDaily, 4/5/2000; NewsMax, 1/24/2001] Di defected to the US in 1989 and worked most of the 1990s at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control, which was co-directed by Perry. Di later returned to China and is subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison for writing influential articles said to reveal vital Chinese state secrets. [Stanford Report, 2/7/2001] However, other accounts claim that he was in fact passing on disinformation through these articles, successfully misleading the US military for a couple of years about the abilities of certain Chinese missile programs. [WorldNetDaily, 12/21/1999] Additionally, Hua Di teamed in 1994 with Stanford professor Dr. John Lewis and William Perry to buy an advanced AT&T fiber-optic communications system for “civilian” use inside China that instead is used by the Chinese army. The General Accounting Office later criticized the sale. In 1997, Stanford University investigated Dr. Lewis for his role in it, but Condoleezza Rice, serving as a Stanford provost at the time, apparently stopped the investigation. [WorldNetDaily, 4/5/2000; NewsMax, 1/24/2001] Able Danger and LIWA’s data mining efforts will be severely proscribed in April 2000 as part of the fallout from this China controversy (see April 2000), and the destruction of their collected data will follow shortly thereafter (see May-June 2000).
Entity Tags: F. Michael Maloof, William Perry, James D. Smith, Eric Shinseki, Hua Di, Eileen Preisser, Condoleezza Rice, Land Information Warfare Activity, Curt Weldon, Louis J. Freeh, China
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Following the replacement of Michael Scheuer by Richard Blee as chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit (see June 1999 and June 1999), the relationship between Alec Station and its FBI counterpart headed by John O’Neill does not improve. The relationship between Scheuer and O’Neill was extremely stormy, but Blee’s arrival does nothing to calm matters. As O’Neill is the FBI manager most knowledgeable about al-Qaeda, the combative nature of the relationship may hamper interagency counterterrorism efforts. Author James Bamford will write, “The epicenter of the clash between the two cultures [of the FBI and CIA] was the relationship between [Blee] and John P. O’Neill, the flashy, outspoken chief of the FBI’s National Security Division in New York.” An associate of O’Neill’s will say of Alec Station staff, “They despised the FBI and they despised John O’Neill.” A CIA officer will add, “The working relationships were very difficult at times.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 217-8]
The FBI begins an investigation of an unnamed person for ties to important al-Qaeda figures and several organizations linked to al-Qaeda. The FBI is concerned that this person is in contact with several experts in nuclear sciences. After 9/11, the FBI determines that hijacker Marwan Alshehhi had contact with this person on the East Coast of the US. This person also may have ties to Mohamed Atta’s sister. Most additional details about this person, including his/her name, when and how often Alshehhi had contact, and if the investigation was ever closed, remain classified. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General issues a report into the FBI’s use of intelligence information in an investigation into campaign finance, and this report is critical of the “wall”. The “wall” regulates the passage of some information from FBI intelligence investigations to criminal FBI agents and prosecutors, to ensure such information can legitimately be used in court (see Early 1980s). After the procedures were formalized (see July 19, 1995), the FBI drastically reduced its consultations with Justice Department attorneys about intelligence investigations, because any consultation with such attorneys could result in an intelligence warrant not being granted, as it may lead authorities reviewing a warrant application to conclude that the warrant was really being sought for a criminal investigation, not an intelligence investigation. The result is that the FBI does not ask for input from prosecutors until it is ready to close an intelligence investigation and “go criminal.” The campaign finance report finds that FBI failed to disclose some information from intelligence investigations not only to Congress and the Attorney General, but also to its own Director, Louis Freeh. The “wall” procedures are found to be vague and ineffective, as well as misunderstood and often misapplied. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 32-33 ] The “wall” procedures are also criticized by other reports (see May 2000).
Resurrection Day by Glenn Meade. [Source: Coronet Books]Glenn Meade, an Irish thriller writer, writes a novel based around an al-Qaeda attack on Washington, DC. In the novel, called Resurrection Day, a terrorist gang parks a van containing a tank of poisonous gas in a lock-up garage, wired to explode by remote control. The US president is given five days to comply with a list of demands, before the van is to be blown up. In his research for the book—which is completed just days before 9/11, at the end of August 2001—Meade is helped by numerous US counterterrorism experts. One of these is John O’Neill, the FBI’s counterterrorism chief and top expert on Osama bin Laden. (O’Neill will die in the 9/11 attacks, after leaving the FBI to become the head of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001).) Meade later says the feeling he got from O’Neill was that the threat posed by Islamic extremists “is a bigger danger than a lot of people in the FBI are prepared to admit; some are sticking their heads in the sand.” The Irish Independent later highlights the similarities between Resurrection Day and the 9/11 attacks, saying, “In Meade’s book it is Washington, not New York, that takes the brunt of the attack. The weapon is nerve gas, not hijacked airliners. But the terrorist network is al-Qaeda. Its head is Osama bin Laden (renamed for the sake of post-September 11 sensitivities) and his operatives, like Mohamed Atta, favor the porous borders of New England as the best way to slip undetected into the US.” Another person who helps Meade in his research for the book is a former member of the US Secret Service. In the days after 9/11, this person will ring Meade and tell him, “What kept running through my mind was ‘I’ve spent the past six weeks helping this author with this book that has such a similar scenario.’” [Irish Independent, 7/6/2002; Glenn Meade, 2003; Irish Independent, 1/26/2003]
[Source: Public domain]The US gains information that former ISI head Hamid Gul contacts Taliban leaders at this time and advises them that the US is not planning to attack Afghanistan to get bin Laden. He assures them that he will provide them three or four hours warning of any future US missile launch, as he did “last time.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later suggests Gul gave al-Qaeda warning about the missile strike in August 1998 (see August 20, 1998). [New Yorker, 7/28/2003]
Bruce Hoffman. [Source: RAND Corporation]In a keynote address at a National Defense University conference, Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert with the RAND Corporation, predicts that terrorists will turn to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, among other innovative tactics, to commit attacks. He says: “[A]s we harden embassies and other likely terrorist targets… [terrorists] will need to turn to alternative weapons.… And here is an obvious class of weapon choices: ultralights, UAVs, all types of distance and stand-off weapons, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades fired from a distance, remote control mortars, and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Rather than saying that these are tactics or weapons that terrorists will use, I believe terrorists are experimenting with these types of weapons today and perfecting them for use.” [Hoffman, 2001 ; homelandsecurity.org, 2001]
Judge Walter Smith, presiding over the $675 million wrongful-death civil suit filed by a number of Branch Davidians (see April 1995) against the federal government and a number of its employees and officials, removes some of the defendants and plaintiffs from the proceedings. However, he rules that the case can go to trial. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000]
About a dozen Afghan leaders visit the US. They are militia commanders, mostly Taliban, and some with ties to al-Qaeda. A few are opponents of the Taliban. Their exact names and titles remain classified. For five weeks, they visit numerous locales in the US, including Mt. Rushmore. All their expenses are paid by the US government and the University of Nebraska. Thomas Gouttierre, an academic heading an Afghanistan program at the University of Nebraska, hosts their visit. Gouttierre is working as a consultant to Unocal at the time, and some Taliban visits to the US are paid for by Unocal, such as a visit two years earlier (see December 4, 1997). However, it is unknown if Unocal plays a role in this particular trip. Gouttierre had previously been paid by the CIA to create Afghan textbooks promoting violence and jihad (see 1984-1994). It is unknown if any of these visitors meet with US officials during their trip. [Chicago Tribune, 10/21/2001]
In early July 1999, it is reported that a high-powered US delegation from the National Security Council, State Department, and other agencies is visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain to investigate reports that $50 million has been given to Osama bin Laden. Apparently the money mostly comes from rich Saudis and is sent through the Dubai Islamic Bank in a single bank transfer. Journalist Jonathan Randal meets an unnamed US diplomat in Dubai several months later and the diplomat confirms that the transfer took place. Randal asks him why the money is sent in such an easily traceable procedure instead of dividing the sum up into a series of smaller transfers, or even using the nearly untraceable hawala system instead of a formal bank at all. The diplomat merely replies that this was the same question the Maktoum family that rules the UAE asked the US delegation. [Randal, 2005, pp. 211-212] On July 8, 1999, the New York Times reports on this bank transfer, asserting, “The Central Intelligence Agency has obtained evidence that Mr. bin Laden has been allowed to funnel money through the Dubai Islamic Bank in Dubai, which the United Arab Emirates Government effectively controls.” The Times adds, “United States intelligence officials said they had evidence that Mr. bin Laden had a relationship with the bank, which they believed had been arranged with the approval of the officials who control the bank.” [New York Times, 7/8/1999]
Indiana newspapers announce that the Illinois State Bar Association has denied an appeal by Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), to practice law (see April 1999). Apparently the news triggers a murderous shooting spree by one of Hale’s disciples, Benjamin Smith (see July 2-4, 1999). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] Hales releases a statement that reads in part: “I have been denied my most precious rights of speech and religion. If the courthouse is closed to ‘NON APPROVED RELIGIONS,’ America can only be headed for violence.” Asked if he thinks Smith’s shooting spree was connected to the Illinois State Bar’s decision, Hale replies: “I do. I very much do.” [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999] Hale subsequently files an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, an appeal which will be denied; in response to that denial, Hale will state that he could “no longer in good faith and in good conscience urge, recommend, or instruct my adherents and supporters in general to obey the laws of this land… whatever blood is spilled with be [sic] on the hands of those who so severely wronged us today.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Benjamin ‘August’ Smith. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Benjamin “August” Smith, a troubled 21-year-old man who devoutly believes in the racist teachings of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), goes on a three-day killing spree targeted at Jews and non-whites. Smith gave himself the nickname of “August” because he believes his given name sounds Jewish, and as a reference to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Smith was expelled from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for several run-ins with police, and is in trouble at his current school, the University of Indiana, for distributing WCOTC literature and penning racist screeds for the student newspaper (see August 27, 1998). His girlfriend has broken up with him due to his physical and emotional abuse towards her. The event that apparently triggers Smith’s killing spree is Illinois’s denial of a law license to Matthew Hale, the leader of the WCOTC and a man Smith considers to be his mentor (see July 2, 1999).
July 2: One Killed, Six Injured - Smith, driving a light blue Ford Taurus and carrying a .380 semiautomatic and a .22 pistol, begins the killing spree on July 2 in a Chicago suburb when he sees a group of Orthodox Jews walking home from Sabbath services; he opens fire on them, injuring six. A short time later, Smith sees Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American and the former basketball coach of Northwestern University, walking with two of his children in his front yard in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. Smith shoots and kills Byrdsong from his car. He then fires on an Asian couple in the Northwood suburb, but misses them both.
July 3: Three Injured - On July 3, while police are piecing together the events of the Chicago shootings, Smith drives to Springfield, Illinois, where he shoots at two African-Americans, wounding one and missing the other. He then drives to Decatur where he shoots and wounds Stephen Anderson, an African-American minister. He then drives to Champaign-Urbana, where he critically wounds an Asian student.
July 4: One Killed, Shooter Commits Suicide - On July 4, Smith shoots and kills Won-Joon Yoon, a University of Indiana doctoral student standing outside his Birmingham, Indiana church. Smith abandons his Taurus in Ina, Illinois, hijacks a van from a gas station, and flees. Police, alerted to the hijacking, locate him traveling towards Salem, Illinois. The police chase Smith down the highway until he shoots himself below the chin in a suicide attempt; the badly wounded Smith crashes the van and shoots himself twice more before being taken to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead on arrival. A search of the Taurus reveals that Smith carefully planned his shooting spree, though he chose his victims apparently at random. A journal left in the car contains anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi writings; the journal opens, “Anyone who knows the history of this plague upon humanity who calls themselves Jews will know why I have acted.” The car also contains a bulletproof vest and receipts showing Smith has cashed in two retirement accounts. The police subsequently find and search a storage locker Smith had rented; it houses Nazi armbands and flags, a computer, printers, and floppy disks. [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003]
Reactions - A former Indiana roommate, Tyrese Alexander, says of Smith after the shootings: “There was never really a, ‘I don’t like you, I hate you because you’re black.’ He seemed to harbor intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face.… He seemed mad at the world. But I had no idea it would end like this.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; CNN, 7/6/1999] Hale mourns his death, saying that Smith was “a pleasant person who believes in his people, who believes in his people, the white people, I can’t say anything bad about him,” and declares he feels nothing for the victims. Some believe that Hale may have known more of Smith’s plans than he admits. Of Smith’s victims, Hale says, “As far as we’re concerned, the loss is one white man.” [CNN, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
'Martyr' for Radical Rightists - Many radical rightists will quickly declare Smith a “martyr” for the cause and an “exemplary student” of the movement. The spree will help bolster the WCOTC membership, which will expand into 17 states and a large Internet presence. [CNN, 7/6/1999; Albion Monitor, 7/26/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003] The WCOTC will eventually change its name to the “Creativity Movement” (see November 2002). Hale will be sentenced to prison in 2005 for soliciting the murder of a federal judge (see April 6, 2005). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Nawaz Sharif [Source: Publicity photo]In early May 1999, the Pakistani army, at the instigation of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, seizes a strategic height called Kargil in the Indian province of Kashmir. This creates a grave crisis between Pakistan in India. By early July, the CIA picks up intelligence that Pakistan is preparing to launch nuclear missiles against India if necessary. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to the US on July 4 to meet with President Clinton about this. Clinton is livid and yells at Sharif for breaking promises, not only about Kashmir but also about failing to help with bin Laden. According to notes taken at the meeting, Clinton says he had “asked repeatedly for Pakistani help to bring Osama bin Laden to justice… [Sharif] promised often to do so but had done nothing. Instead, the ISI worked with bin Laden and the Taliban to foment terrorists.” Clinton threatens to release a statement calling worldwide attention to Pakistan’s support for terrorists. He adds, “You’ve put me in the middle today, set the US up to fail, and I won’t let it happen. Pakistani is messing with nuclear war.” Sharif backs down and immediately withdraws his troops from Kargil, ending the crisis. But as a result, Sharif becomes deeply unpopular in Pakistan. A few months later he will be ousted in a coup by Musharraf (see October 12, 1999), the general who started the crisis in the first place. [Coll, 2004, pp. 476-478]
In 2008, the website Intelwire.com will obtain a declassified FBI document from this date. The content is heavily redacted, including the title, but the full title appears to be, “Summary of information obtained from the United Arab Emirates with regard to Manila Air fugitive Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.” The document appears to detail a briefing by United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials from the General Department of State Security to FBI officials visiting the UAE. It mentions that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) “who was reported to be in _____ during mid-1998, is still currently living in Sharjah, UAE, with his family.” The report also mentions that “in July 1998, authorities from ______ based on information probably obtained from Qatar, located KSM living and working in ____. After questioning him about his activities with the [Muslim Brotherhood], he was deported to Bahrain.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/8/1999 ] The 9/11 Commission will later mention this document a single time, and reveal that one of the redacted sections discusses KSM’s links to the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 488] Sharjah is a major hub of al-Qaeda activity at this time (see Mid-1996-October 2001), and one of the 9/11 hijackers, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, is from the emirate of Sharjah (see 1980s and 1990s). 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will be based in Sharjah in the months before the 9/11 attacks, and some of the 9/11 hijackers will pass through there and visit him (see Early-Late June, 2001). It is not known what action US intelligence takes in response to this briefing.
The FBI is told that three arrested Islamist militants working for Osama bin Laden are about to be released from prison in the UK. But the FBI works quickly and prevents their release. Khalid al-Fawwaz, Ibrahim Eidarous, and Adel Abdel Bary had been arrested in London on September 23, 1998, not long after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Al-Fawwaz is an al-Qaeda operative while Eidarous and Bary are Islamic Jihad operatives, but all three of them ran the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), a bin Laden front in London (see September 23, 1998-July 12, 1999). The three of them had been arrested for a role in the embassy bombings, but in July 1999, a British judge says there is not enough evidence to keep them imprisoned. FBI agents Ali Soufan, Dan Coleman, Jack Cloonan, and US attorneys Patrick Fitzgerald and Ken Karas work quickly and put together a request to have the three men extradited to the US to stand trial there. (The US already had requested al-Fawwaz’s extradition shortly after his arrest in September (see September 23, 1998-July 12, 1999).) As a result, the three men are rearrested on July 12, 1999, apparently without ever being released, and a long battle to extradite them begins. [New York Times, 7/13/1999; Soufan, 2011, pp. 97-104]
Shireen Shawky holding a guided missile system (left), and Mohammed Malik (right). [Source: Getty Images]US government informant Randy Glass records a conversation at a dinner attended by himself, illegal arms dealers Diaa Mohsen and Mohammed Malik, a former Egyptian judge named Shireen Shawky, and Pakistani ISI agent Rajaa Gulum Abbas, held at a restaurant within view of the World Trade Center. FBI agents pretending to be restaurant customers sit at nearby tables. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002; WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002] Abbas says he wants to buy a whole shipload of weapons stolen from the US military to give to Osama bin Laden. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002] Abbas points to the WTC and says, “Those towers are coming down.” This ISI agent later makes two other references to an attack on the WTC. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002; WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002; Palm Beach Post, 10/17/2002] Abbas also says, “Americans [are] the enemy,” and, “We would have no problem with blowing up this entire restaurant because it is full of Americans.” [NBC, 3/18/2003] The meeting is secretly recorded and parts will be shown on television in 2003. [MSNBC, 3/18/2003]
Based on the recent lawsuit by the National Organization for Women (see April 20, 1998), District Judge David Coar issues a nationwide injunction against the anti-abortion advocates who lost the case. Coar’s injunction forbids the defendants from hindering the right of women to obtain reproductive health services at clinics and the right of the clinics to provide those services. One of the defendants, Joseph Scheidler, will appeal the ruling on several grounds, including the First Amendment right of free speech. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
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