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John Yoo, an associate law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, makes a presentation at a Cato Institute seminar on executive power. Yoo, who will go on to become one of the Bush administration’s primary advocates of unchecked executive power (see March 1996), accuses the Clinton administration of upending the Constitution to give the executive branch unwarranted authority (see March 24 - Mid-June, 1999). “[T]he Clinton administration has undermined the balance of powers that exist in foreign affairs, and [they] have undermined principles of democratic accountability that executive branches have agreed upon well to the Nixon administration,” he says. Regarding the Clinton administration’s stretched interpretation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see June 2000), Yoo says that the Clinton “legal arguments are so outrageous, they’re so incredible, that they actually show, I think, a disrespect for the idea of law, by showing how utterly manipulatible it is.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 67]
On July 12, two days before his visa expires, an I-539 application (dated July 7, 2000) to extend 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s US stay is filed with the California Service Center (CSC) of the INS. [Nawaf Alhazmi, 7/27/2000] The I-539 form is not received by the CSC until July 27, 2000, and officially it is considered a late filing. [unknown: INS, 2002; INS email, 3/20/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 12, 25 ] The name of the form-preparer is redacted, but according to INS records, Alhazmi’s I-539 is submitted “in care of” Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant Alhazmi is living with (see May 10-Mid-December 2000), and “appears to have been filed [sic] out by Shaikh.” [unknown: INS, 2002; Immigration and Naturalization Service, 5/26/2002] Alhazmi had been issued a one-year, multiple-entry visa on April 3, 1999, but when he arrived in the United States with Khalid Almihdhar on January 15, 2000, the immigration inspector approved a six-month stay for both of them (see January 15, 2000). Alhazmi’s I-539 visa extension will be approved on June 18, 2001, 11 months later (see June 18, 2001). No other extensions of stay will be filed by, or on behalf of, Alhazmi. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 10, 12, 25 ]
An advisory jury of five panelists in Waco, Texas, rules that law enforcement agents did not start the gun battle that began the Waco standoff between law enforcement officials and the Branch Davidians (see April 19, 1993), and decides that the federal government owes nothing to the Davidians who survived the conflagration. The panel takes just over an hour to decide that the government has no liability in the BATF raid (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), standoff, FBI assault, and culminating fire. The presiding judge, Walter Smith, will issue a final verdict next month after an expert testifies as to the possibility that the FBI fired into the compound during the siege, actions the FBI and Justice Department have long denied (see June 12, 2000). The civil suit had asked for $675 million in damages for the government’s allegedly causing the “wrongful deaths” of the Davidians. Waco music shop owner Bill Buzze says he and his fellow residents are ready for the publicity and the notoriety surrounding the Davidians to come to an end. “We really want it all to just go away,” he says. “It’s gone on too long, cost too much money, and hurt too many people.” Buzze’s employee Inez Bederka is not sure that people will forget so quickly. “I think it will always be on Waco, the stigma,” she says. “People are still putting Waco down real hard these days. The outside world just won’t treat you fair after a thing like that.… [I]t’s a shame that something bad like that had to happen before people heard about Waco.” Buzze says that many people have an unwarranted fascination and even fear of Waco and the surrounding area. “The Chamber of Commerce has a tough job now,” Buzze says. “They have to reassure people that we’re not going to shoot them if they come down to visit.” Chamber of Commerce president Jack Stewart is quick to point out that the Branch Davidians did not live in Waco proper, but in Elk, a small township on the outskirts of Waco. [Waco Journal, 7/18/2000; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
According to a post-9/11 confession obtained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash persuades hijacker Khalid Almihdhar to return to Afghanistan to meet with KSM. At the meeting, Almihdhar complains about life in the US but says he is confident he will be able to obtain another visa, as he left the US before his first one expired. He also tells Mohammed about the problems he and Nawaf Alhazmi have had enrolling in language schools and says they believe they were monitored when they flew from Bangkok to the US in January 2000 (see January 15, 2000) (it is not clear who may have monitored them). Supposedly, KSM is angry that Almihdhar left the US without permission and wishes to exclude Almihdhar from the mission, but bin Laden himself intervenes and keeps Almihdhar involved. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237, 269; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/31/2006, pp. 20-21 ] Doubts have been raised about the reliability of KSM’s confession, as it was obtained using torture (see June 16, 2004). According to author Ron Suskind, at one point interrogators even threaten to hurt KSM’s children, a seven-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl, unless he provides more information. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 230]
Lizsa Lehman [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]While attending flight school in Venice, Florida (see July 6-December 19, 2000), Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi regularly visit a couple of local bars. Most nights, after flying classes, they drink beer at the Outlook. They are observed there as being well dressed and well spoken. Atta comes across as cold and unfriendly, and is disapproving of the presence of women servers behind the bar. Bartender Lizsa Lehman will later say that, after the 9/11 attacks, “I remember thinking that [Atta] was capable of everything they had said was done.” In contrast, Alshehhi is “friendly and jovial and… always eager to interact with bartenders and patrons.” Lehman later says, “I, to this day, have trouble seeing [Alshehhi] doing it [i.e., participating in 9/11].” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2006; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2006] Atta and several friends are also regulars at the 44th Aero Squadron bar. The group drinks Bud Light, talks quietly, and stays sober. The bar’s owner, Ken Schortzmann, says Atta has “a fanny pack with a big roll of cash in it,” and comments, “I never had any problems with them.… They… didn’t drink heavily or flirt with the waitresses, like some of the other flight students.” While he regularly goes to these bars during this period, Atta never visits any of the three mosques in Southwest Florida, and avoids contact with local Muslims. [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/28/2001] Interestingly, other witnesses later describe Atta as possibly doing drugs as well. The owner of a unit of apartments where Atta reportedly lived with some other Middle Eastern men in late 2000 (see (Mid-July 2000 - Early January 2001)) says these men smoked a strange tobacco, which smelled like marijuana. [Charlotte Sun, 9/14/2001] Atta may also be a heavy smoker, as he is reported to spend his time “chain smoking,” when later living in Coral Springs. [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
Steve Kona. [Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune]While attending Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, alleged 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move into a small, furnished two-bedroom house in Nokomis, about ten miles north of Venice, which they rent for $550 per month. Noting that Atta and Alshehhi also drive a ten-year-old car, Steve Kona, who owns the house, later says, “This house is nothing extravagant at all… It’s not like they were living in a $3,000-a-month rental home and driving a Mercedes.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/20/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001] Kona says, “Atta I never met.” But he talks to Alshehhi “two or three times because I’d go to mow the grass. He was very friendly.” The pair refuses Kona’s offer of free cable TV, don’t use the house’s air conditioning, even in the middle of summer, and leave the place in spotless condition. Although they rent the house for as long as six months, Jeff Duignan, who lives next door, later says, “I never saw them, and when you don’t see them you don’t worry about them.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2001; Miami Herald, 9/15/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2006] This apparent absence could be explained by the fact that, according to several witnesses, over about this same duration they live in an apartment in Venice (see (Mid-July 2000 - Early January 2001)). Atta and Alshehhi were evicted from their previous address, in Venice (see Early July 2000). When Rudi Dekkers, the owner of Huffman Aviation, testifies before Congress in 2002, he will claim, “After their eviction there was no mention of where they were staying.” [US Congress, 3/19/2002] No explanation is ever given as to why they have two separate residences at the same time. However, a private consumer database will later reveal that Atta had 12 addresses, including two places where he lived and ten safe houses, so the Nokomis address could possibly be one of these safe houses (see Mid-September 2001). Interestingly, another hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, also has a second residence he never stays at while he attends flight school in Venice (see (June 28-December 2000)).
The Sandpiper Apartments. [Source: Patrick Durand / Corbis] (click image to enlarge)While attending Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi share a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with four other Middle Eastern flight school students in unit 26 of the Sandpiper Apartments, near the Venice airport. The apartment they are in is rented by the flight school, and then sublet to its students at a profit. After 9/11, Paula Grapentine, who along with her husband manages the apartments, will remember Atta being her former next-door neighbor. She recalls him being “very unfriendly,” and that he “treated women like they were under him.” She also recalls “a lot of visitors” at the apartment. As a consequence of the students’ unruly behavior, the Grapentines will subsequently stop renting to Huffman Aviation. Vicky Kyser, who owns the apartment complex, says the students smoke a strange tobacco, which smells like marijuana. Postal carrier Neil Patton also later recalls Atta and Alshehhi living in the apartment, and says Atta may have gone by the name Youseff. Patton stops delivering mail to them at the apartment on January 18, 2001, which he says suggests they moved out seven to ten days earlier. After 9/11, the Charlotte Sun will obtain a written list of names of individuals the FBI is pursuing: Gamil, Rami, Mukadam, Ibrahim and Mogadem. Patton confirms all these having been used by the students at the apartment. [Charlotte Sun, 9/14/2001; Charlotte Sun, 9/14/2001] No mention is made of this residence in official accounts, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224-227] Over about the same period as they reportedly live in the Sandpiper Apartments, Atta and Alshehhi rent a house in nearby Nokomis, although their next-door neighbor there never sees them at the house (see (Mid-July - December 2000)).
Logo of the Joint Forces Intelligence Command. [Source: Joint Forces Intelligence Command]The Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) conducts a briefing, based on its analysis of the terrorist threat, in which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are identified as the buildings in the United States most likely to be attacked, and the possibility of one of the Twin Towers collapsing is mentioned. This is according to a counterterrorism and counterintelligence analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to the JFIC from April 1998 to June 2001. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] This individual, whose name is unstated, will later be referred to by the code name “Iron Man.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 5 ]
Unit Produces Reports on the Most Likely Terrorist Targets - The briefing was prepared by the JFIC’s Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5), which is responsible for reporting on “asymmetric threats,” especially terrorism. Between mid-1998 and mid-2001, DO5 carries out a wide range of original analysis. Based on this analysis, according to Iron Man, it creates numerous original reports that identify the probable and possible movements and locations of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also creates reports on the most likely targets for domestic and international terrorists, both within and outside the US.
WTC and the Pentagon Are Named as Likely Targets - The first of its reports are prepared in the summer of 2000 and are briefed to numerous US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) staffers. The first version of the briefing is titled “The WMD [weapon of mass destruction] Threat to the US” and is apparently produced in late July 2000. (The “information cut-off date” for the briefing is July 16, 2000.) The briefing slides emphasize “that New York City [is] the most difficult consequence management problem” and recommend using New York as “the model for planning/exercises,” according to Iron Man. The oral briefing is more specific, indicating that the Twin Towers are “the most likely buildings to be attacked in the US, followed closely by the Pentagon.” The person who delivers the briefing indicates that the “worst-case scenario” would involve one of the Twin Towers collapsing onto the other.
Possibility of a Plane Hitting the WTC Is Discussed - Iron Man will recall that the possibility of a plane striking the Twin Towers may have been discussed in the briefing. “[I]t was certainly discussed in the red cell analysis leading up to the briefing,” he will write. During that analysis, the acting deputy director of DO5 proposed that the Twin Towers might be struck by a jet aircraft. In the discussion that follows the oral briefing, the possibility of contacting WTC security, engineering, and architectural personnel is suggested. The idea is not explored further, though, “because of a command climate discouraging contact with the civilian community,” according to Iron Man. At the end of the briefing, JFCOM’s operations directorate instructs that the “national military terrorism exercise” for 2002 should be based on a “New York worse-case scenario.” The military is unable to use this scenario for its 2001 exercise because it is already financially committed to conducting an exercise involving a cruise ship that year.
Subsequent Briefing Names the WTC and the Pentagon as Likely Targets - The slides used in the July briefing will be revised for a briefing apparently delivered in late September this year, on “The Chemical and Biological Threat to the US.” This briefing will include a more detailed slide that lists likely targets in the US. The cities most likely to be attacked, according to the slide, are New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. The target at the top of those listed for New York is the Wall Street district and for Washington, the Pentagon. The oral briefing will, as in the July briefing, specify that the WTC and the Pentagon are the most likely terrorist targets, according to Iron Man. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] However, a September 2008 report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general will apparently contradict Iron Man’s allegations. “Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11,” it will state. [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 5 ]
Unit's Work Is Well Known - The JFIC was established in 1999, evolving from the Atlantic Intelligence Command. Its mission is to “provide general and direct intelligence support to the USJFCOM, the USJFCOM staff directorates, subordinate unified commands, joint task forces, service component commands, and subordinate joint forces commands tasked with executing the USJFCOM geographic or functional missions.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. i, 3 ] The JFIC created the Asymmetric Threat Division, DO5, in 1999, in order to ensure the quality of its analysis of international terrorist threats against the US. DO5 provides current intelligence briefings and produces the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM intelligence staff. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ; US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 3 ] DO5’s work is very well known within the JFIC, according to Iron Man. Furthermore, Iron Man will write, DO5 is “widely known in the intelligence community to be conducting all-source intelligence analysis” of al-Qaeda. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] However, the JFIC’s commanding officer will tell the Department of Defense’s inspector general that “the tracking of Osama bin Laden did not fall within JFIC’s mission.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 6 ]
Between July 20 and November 18, 2000, future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi receives 16 phone calls from someone living overseas named Ashraf Suboh. At the time, Alhazmi is living in San Diego, California, at the house of an FBI informant named Abdussattar Shaikh (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Alhazmi apparently does not make any important calls using the phone in the house, and these are the only important calls he receives. It is unknown if Suboh is someone’s real name or an alias. The name will be discovered in a raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Pakistan in May 2002. Suboh’s name and address will be discovered as part of a printout of an e-mail dated January 9, 2001. The 9/11 Commission will mention this in its 2004 final report, but it will not mention where Suboh’s address was or any other information about him. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 535] The May 2002 raid is likely the same one where other information about the 9/11 hijackers is found, including passport photographs and other passport pages of hijackers Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Abdulaziz Alomari (see May 16, 2002).
An investigative commission headed by former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) finds no wrongdoing on the parts of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), or the Justice Department in their actions during the Waco standoff between law enforcement officials and the Branch Davidians (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993). Attorney General Janet Reno appointed the commission after documents surfaced in 1999 that indicated an FBI agent fired pyrotechnic gas canisters near the Branch Davidian compound during the raid, possibily contributing to the fire that destroyed the compound and killed many sect members (see August 25, 1999 and After). Danforth’s investigation also finds that, despite the documents, no government agency or individual contributed to any alleged cover-up, and emphatically clears Reno of any responsibility for the calamity. Danforth does find that a single FBI agent fired three flammable gas canisters into a concrete pit some 75 feet from the compound itself, as previously acknowledged. His report concludes that the FBI most likely mishandled that information, though the possibility exists of some sort of deliberate cover-up or falsification of evidence. Danforth’s report also notes that he had encountered “substantial resistance” to his probe from Justice Department officials, in some cases resulting in a “tug of war” over requested evidence that required intervention by Reno’s top deputy. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; Dallas Morning News, 7/28/2000] Asked whether she feels vindicated by the report, Reno says: “One doesn’t think in terms of exoneration when you look at something like that. That was a terrible tragedy. And what I have always said was we have got to look to the future to see what we can do, what we can learn about human behavior to avoid tragedies like that.” The final report sums up 10 months of investigation, interviews, and evidence assessment; the investigation cost $12 million. [Dallas Morning News, 7/28/2000]
The FDA endorses the use of Bayer’s Cipro drug to prevent inhalation anthrax. [Reuters, 7/28/2000] An official recommendation like this is highly unusual for the FDA. A 1997 Pentagon study of anthrax in rhesus monkeys showed that several other drugs were as effective as Cipro. The reason given for only recommending Cipro is the government wants a weapon against anthrax should it come up against a strain resistant to drugs in the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics. [New York Times, 10/21/2001] The pharmaceutical industry spent $177 million on lobbying in 1999 and 2000—more money than any other industry. The FDA has been accused of conflicts of interest with companies including Bayer. [New York Times, 11/4/2001]
Aquilino Pimentel. [Source: Publicity photo from Aquilino Pimentel website.]Senator Aquilino Pimentel, president of the Philippines Senate, accuses the Philippine government of collusion with the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf. He cites research that names two high police officers, Leandro Mendoza and Rodolfo Mendoza, as handlers for Abu Sayyaf informants. He also names Brig. Gen. Guillermo Ruiz, commanding general of the Filipino Marines in the early 1990s, as someone who colluded with the group, even splitting profits from illegal logging with them. Pimentel says, “My information is that the Abu Sayyaf partisans were given military intelligence services IDs, safe-houses, safe-conduct passes, firearms, cell phones and various sorts of financial support.” He accuses officials of manipulating the Abu Sayyaf “in the game of divide and rule as far as the Muslim insurgency is concerned.” He also accuses the CIA of helping to create the Abu Sayyaf, saying, “For what the Abu Sayyaf has become, the CIA must merit our people’s condemnation. The CIA has sired a monster that has caused a lot problems for the country…” He says Abu Sayyaf’s handlers “passed on military equipment and funds from the CIA and its support network…” He claims witnesses have come to him with evidence but are afraid of speaking out publicly. He concludes that “any Filipino who had a hand in the creation, training and equipping of the Abu Sayyaf should be held to account for high treason and other crimes.” [Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel website, 7/31/2000]
[Source: White House]Vulgar Betrayal, the most significant US government investigation into terrorist financing before 9/11, shuts down. FBI agent Robert Wright launched the investigation in 1996 (see 1996) and was removed from the investigation in late 1999 (see August 3, 1999). Apparently the investigation accomplished little after Wright’s departure. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004; Judicial Watch, 12/15/2004; Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005] A March 2000 affidavit named Yassin al-Qadi as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago, but no charges are brought against him. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Mark Flessner, an assistant US attorney assigned to Vulgar Betrayal in 1996, later will recall, “Vulgar Betrayal was a case where the FBI’s intelligence agents would not cooperate with the criminal agents trying to put these guys in jail. They refused to let us arrest them. They only wanted to watch them conduct their business.” He will also claim that Frances Townsend, a Justice Department official working a variety of posts, helps close down the investigation. He will say Townsend did not share information but “deliberately obstructed it. And I found that very disconcerting.” He will claim that she completely supports FBI intelligence agents and refuses to share their information with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. A federal grand jury was impaneled in 1996 to support Vulgar Betrayal, but without the information from FBI intelligence, Flessner did not have enough evidence to return indictments. “I couldn’t even get permission to do the basic things you do, such as collecting phone numbers from their targets’ incoming and outgoing calls, and addresses from their mail.” With the shut down of the investigation in 2000, Flessner will resign from the Justice Department in frustration. After 9/11, Townsend will be appointed President Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser and counterterrorism director for the National Security Council. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004]
After a successful test, the FAA makes an enhancement to the Global Positioning System (GPS) called Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) available to some aviation users. WAAS improves the accuracy of GPS data by correcting some known measuring errors. “The system demonstrated one to two meters horizontal accuracy and two to three meters vertical accuracy throughout the contiguous United States,” says the FAA. The system will be operated by Raytheon. [Federal Aviation Administration, 8/24/2000] The deployment of WAAS is only one of many technological advances that could lead to pilotless aircraft navigation, including takeoff and landing. Tests have shown that landing by autopilot is possible (see also August 25, 2001). [Spinoff, 1998; Federal Aviation Administration, 8/13/1999; Rockwell Collins, 10/5/1999] WAAS also has non-aviation uses. It will be used during the rescue effort at Ground Zero. “[A]t the World Trade Center, rescue teams used WAAS to survey the site during the recovery program,” according to Avionics Magazine. [Avionics Magazine, 2/1/2002] After 9/11 there will be some speculation that the hijackers used GPS to navigate to their targets (see (September 12-17, 2001)). Some press reports will claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta was at the WTC the day before the attacks to gather GPS data (see September 10, 2001).
A confidential Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) document obtained by Wired news says the US Army is prepared to deploy combat troops in US cities in response to disruptions ranging from civil disobedience to a nuclear attack. The 75-page operations manual, created by FEMA in preparation for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, stresses the importance of preparing for “nuclear, biological, chemical, and civil disturbance events, as well as potential weather-related disaster events.” The document, according to Wired, “says that the US First Army will, if necessary, execute Operation Garden Plot to quell any serious civil disturbances.” Operation Garden Plot was first developed in the late 1960s to deal with potential protests and urban riots (see Winter 1967-1968). According to Wired, the current terrorism plans for the convention include “flying giant C-5 Galaxy cargo planes loaded with military gear into Willow Grove Naval Air Station, about 25 miles outside the city, and assembling troops at three National Guard armories near the downtown protest areas.” The FEMA document states, “The potential occurrence of an event that would reflect negatively on Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the United States demands that every effort to preclude such an event be taken.” FEMA has a similar plan for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. [Wired News, 8/1/2000]
The US intelligence community has been monitoring al-Qaeda telephone communications to and from a communications hub in Yemen since the late 1990s (see Late August 1998). The CIA intercepts an al-Qaeda operative say in a monitored phone call that bin Laden is planning a “Hiroshima-type event” against the US. Failed millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam, who is arrested in late 1999 (see December 14, 1999), confirms at the time that al-Qaeda is preparing such an attack. [New York Times, 10/14/2001; PBS, 10/3/2002] This sets off an immediate but unsuccessful search for further evidence. Shortly after 9/11, the New York Times will report that “intelligence officials now acknowledge that they never imagined that Mr. bin Laden’s organization had the ability to kill thousands of people in coordinated attacks on the American homeland. Looking back through the prism of Sept. 11, officials now say that the intercepted message was a telling sign of a drastic shift in the ambitions and global reach of al-Qaeda during the last three years.” [New York Times, 10/14/2001] There apparently is another intercepted message talking about a “Hiroshima” event in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001).
Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican candidate for president, accepts his party’s nomination for president during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. During his speech, he declares his intent to move the United States away from observing “outdated” treaties such as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia (see May 26, 1972). “Now is the time,” he says, “not to defend outdated treaties, but to defend the American people.” Less than a year after taking office, Bush will unilaterally withdraw the US from the treaty (see December 13, 2001). [Savage, 2007, pp. 140]
Former CIA manager David Blee dies at the age of 83 at his home in Bethseda, Maryland. In recognition of the significance of his career (see 1971), the New York Times’s obituary calls him “a legendary American spymaster who played a critical role in dispelling the climate of paranoia that paralyzed the Central Intelligence Agency’s espionage operations against the Soviet Union in the 1960s.” [New York Times, 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times, 8/18/2000; Guardian, 8/22/2000]
Yazeed al-Salmi lives with future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi for about a month in the San Diego house of an FBI informant. Alhazmi has lived in the house with Khalid Almihdhar and FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh since May 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000), but Almihdhar left to go overseas in June and did not return to San Diego (see June 10, 2000). Apparently there are no other new roommates for the rest of the time Alhazmi lives at the house until December 2000 except for al-Salmi. Al-Salmi moves in with Alhazmi and Shaikh just three days after arriving in the US on a student visa. Hijacker associate and suspected Saudi spy Omar al-Bayoumi, who nominally reports to al-Salmi’s uncle, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi of the Saudi Civil Aviation ministry, helped al-Salmi find the accommodation (see September 1998-July 1999). Curiously, al-Salmi was a childhood friend of 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour in Saudi Arabia. [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 10/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 139 ] In early September, Alhazmi apparently helps al-Salmi cash some checks (see September 5, 2000). After al-Salmi moves out of the house, he moves into a nearby apartment with Modhar Abdullah and others. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518] After 9/11, there will be reports that both al-Salmi and Abdullah may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman. [Source: US Defense Department]Italian intelligence successfully wiretaps an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, starting in late 1999. [Boston Globe, 8/4/2002] In a wiretapped conversation from this day, Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO - roughly the equivalent to the FBI in the US) traveling on a diplomatic passport (see Spring-Summer 1998), talks about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky. The conversation takes place in a car on the way to a terrorist summit near Bologna (see August 12, 2000 and Shortly After), and the person Abdulrahman talks to is Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000). There are several significant aspects to the conversation:
Abdulrahman makes comments indicating he has foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He says that he is “studying airlines,” comments, “Our focus is only on the air,” and tells Es Sayed to remember the words “above the head.” He also says that next time they meet he hopes to bring Es Sayed “a window or piece of the airplane,” and that the security on Alitalia and at Rome airport is poor. The name of the operation is given as “Jihadia,” and Abdulrahman says, “the big blow will come from the other country: one of those blows no one can ever forget.” He adds: “[It is] moving from south to north, from east to west: whoever created this plan is crazy, but he’s also a genius. It will leave them speechless.” He also says: “We can fight any power using candles and airplanes: they will not be able to stop us with even their most powerful weapons. We must hit them. And keep your head up.… Remember, the danger in the airports.… If it happens the newspapers from all over the world will write about it.”
Es Sayed remarks, “I know brothers who went to America with the trick of the wedding publications.” The phrase “Big wedding” is sometimes used by al-Qaeda as code for a bombing or attack, including 9/11 (see November 30, 1999 and Late Summer 2001), so, taken together with Abdulrahman’s remarks, this indicates an unconventional attack in the US using aircraft;
The two discuss training camps in Yemen, which are “proceeding on a world scale.” They also mention youth in Italy, and presumably the youth are training;
Es Sayed says, “my dream is building an Islamic state,” and Abdulrahman replies that this is possible because the Yemeni government is weak and “sooner or later we will dominate it;”
Es Sayed asks after a person named Ayman, evidently al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri;
Abdulrahman twice mentions the name of Abdul Mejid, apparently a reference to Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, a radical leader in Yemen and associate of Osama bin Laden (see January-August 1998);
Es Sayed makes the cryptic comment, “One must be cautious, like in Iran; not a single photo.”
Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts will help Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Related conversations are overheard early the next year (see January 24, 2001 and February 2001). Neither Italy nor the FBI will fully understand their meaning until after 9/11, but apparently the Italians will understand enough to give the US an attack warning in March 2001 (see March 2001). After 9/11, this conversation and others like it will cause US intelligence to think there may be a link between the 9/11 plot and Yemen’s PSO. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/2002; Guardian, 5/30/2002; Washington Post, 5/31/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002; Vidino, 2006, pp. 224-5] Author Lorenzo Vidino will later comment: “The chilling conversation alarmed officials before 9/11, but it took on a completely different resonance after the attacks had taken place. [Abdulrahman], who had close connections to the highest ranks of al-Qaeda, likely knew about the plan in advance and had told Es Sayed about it.” [Vidino, 2006, pp. 226]
Marwan Alshehhi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]At Huffman Aviation flying school, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi pass various pilots’ tests. On August 14, 2000, according to the 9/11 Commission, they pass their private pilot airplane tests, with Atta scoring 97 out of 100 and Alshehhi scoring 83. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 12 ] However, Huffman’s owner Rudi Dekkers will later testify before Congress that Atta already had a private pilot’s license when he first arrived at the school, six weeks previously (see July 1-3, 2000). [US Congress, 3/19/2002] Despite having failed their Stage I exam for instruments rating at nearby Jones Aviation a month earlier (see Late September-Early October 2000), on November 6 Atta and Alshehhi pass their instrument rating airplane tests at Huffman, scoring 90 and 75 respectively. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15 ] On December 19 they pass their commercial pilot license tests, thus completing their training, with Atta scoring 93 and Alshehhi scoring 73. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 ] (According to a 2005 Federal Aviation Administration factsheet, the passing score for all the pilot tests Atta and Alshehhi take is 70. Presumably this is also the case in 2000. [Administration, 3/2005 ] ) Yet one fellow student who witnesses the pair at Huffman on an almost daily basis later states that, while he always accompanied Atta during his flying lessons, she never saw Alshehhi at the controls of the training aircraft. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/18/2001] Rudi Dekkers will state, “I have heard from the instructors that they were average students, the examiner told me the same.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/21/2001] The local FAA designated examiner Dave Whitman is responsible for testing Atta and Alshehhi. He issues them temporary 120-day licenses allowing them to fly small, twin-engine planes. He will later say he assumes the FAA made their licenses permanent, as he was not notified otherwise. He says, “I don’t even remember them, specifically. They were foreign students, and foreign students often tend to keep to themselves.” [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002]
The FBI and other US intelligence agencies have been monitoring an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, since the attacks on US embassies in East Africa, and have used it to map al-Qaeda’s global network (see Late August 1998 and Late 1998-Early 2002). In the run-up to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, the FBI notices that there is increased telephone activity to and from the Sana’a hub. One of the messages says that bin Laden is planning a “Hiroshima-type event” (see (August 2000)). [PBS, 10/3/2002]
According to PBS, an Egyptian informant warns US intelligence that al-Qaeda will attack an American warship. [PBS, 10/3/2002] The FBI also notices increased telephone activity by al-Qaeda in Yemen around the same time (see August-Early October 2000). The USS Cole is attacked in the autumn of this year (see October 12, 2000).
A Florida jury unanimously finds in favor of Jane Akre, a plaintiff suing Fox Television for wrongful termination. Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, had begun filming a news story for the Tampa, Florida, Fox affiliate on the harmful effects of BGH, or bovine growth hormone. Akre and Wilson were fired when they refused orders from Fox officials to add false information favorable to Monsanto, the manufacturers of BGH, to their story (see December 1996 - December 1997). (The jury rules that Wilson was not harmed by Fox’s actions.) The jury rules that Akre warrants protection under Florida’s whistleblower law, and awards her a $425,000 settlement. Instead of paying the judgment, Fox Television appeals the decision (see February 14, 2003). [St. Louis Journalism Review, 12/1/2007]
In order to enter a professional flight training program, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi are required to apply for student visas. They are currently in the US on tourist visas, attending Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida (see July 6-December 19, 2000). On August 29, 2000, according to the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers, Huffman’s student coordinator Nicole Antini sends I-20M forms demonstrating Atta and Alshehhi’s enrollment at the school to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She also sends copies of their passports. Their forms state, “The student is expected to report to the school not later than Sept. 1, 2000, and complete studies not later than Sept. 1, 2001.” [Charlotte Sun, 3/13/2002; US Congress, 3/19/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission claims that the forms are filled out later, on September 15. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13 ] Interestingly, considering these contradictory dates, Antini later tells the FBI that on “one occasion, Atta was very upset with the date of his visa and wanted it changed,” though he did not say what upset him about the date or why he wanted it changed. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 38 ] Huffman only receives notification that the INS has approved the visa applications 18 months later, well after 9/11 (see March 11, 2002). Atta and Alshehhi will be cleared to stay in the US until October 1, 2001. [Charlotte Sun, 3/13/2002]
The Boston Globe will later report that in late August 2000, Nabl al-Marabh moves from Boston to Detroit, leaving his estranged wife behind. “Before he left, however, he told cabdriver friends that the FBI had approached him and was asking him questions about bin Laden’s operation, and that he was considering cooperating. The friends said that al-Marabh did not say why the FBI had approached him about bin Laden but that it may have been prompted by the Customs Service investigation that found that he had wired money to [al-Qaeda operative Raed] Hijazi. By this time, Hijazi was in jail in Jordan.” [Boston Globe, 10/15/2001] In a 2003 interview, al-Marabh will claim that in the early 1990s, while working as a taxi driver in Boston, he had a run-in with a fellow taxi driver “who he thinks falsely accused him of planning to bomb a car. He said he spoke freely with the FBI agents, who concluded that the allegations were false. From then on, he said, the FBI tried to recruit him to become an informant, and he refused.” He will also claim that in the early 1990s he had a roommate who both worked for the FBI and fought in Afghanistan (see 1989-1994). [Knight Ridder, 5/23/2003] But it is possible that al-Marabh accepts the FBI offer, because while in a Canadian prison in July 2001, he will boast to fellow prisoners that he remains in contact with the FBI (see June 27, 2001-July 11, 2001). Around this time, September 2000, it appears that the Jordanian government tells the US that Hijazi, al-Marabh, and 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi are connected through telephone numbers (see September 2000). Hijazi had already worked as an FBI informant while he was roommates with al-Marabh in Boston (see Early 1997-Late 1998). In the spring of 2001, al-Marabh will be investigated for links to three 9/11 hijackers (see Spring 2001), but he will nonetheless go on to have an important role in the 9/11 plot.
In 2003, New Jersey state police officials say 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta lived in the Wayne Inn, in Wayne, New Jersey, for an unspecified 12-month period prior to 9/11. He lives with one other hijacker who is presumably his usual partner hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. (Alshehhi is seen eating in nearby restaurants with Atta.) [Bergen Record, 6/20/2003] In 2004, an unnamed whistleblower involved in the Able Danger program will claim that prior to 9/11, Able Danger discovered that Atta and Alshehhi were renting a room at the Wayne Inn, and occasionally meeting with Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar at the inn or near it (see (Before September 2000)). From March 2001 onwards, other hijackers, including Alhazmi and Almihdhar, live in Paterson, New Jersey, only one mile away from Wayne (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi rent mailboxes in Wayne at some unknown point before 9/11. Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent cars from a Wayne car dealership between June and August 2001. There is also evidence Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi shop in Wayne. [CNN, 9/26/2001; New York Times, 9/27/2001] The 9/11 Commission does not mention any hijacker connection to Wayne. This long-term stay in Wayne is surprising because Atta and Alshehhi have generally been placed in Florida most of the time from July 2000 until shortly before 9/11. However, this discrepancy may be explained by one account which states Atta had “two places he lived and 10 safe houses” in the US (see Mid-September 2001).
Writing in 2004, veteran British intelligence officer Colonel John Hughes-Wilson will note that, at the same time as hijacker pilots Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi are learning to fly at Huffmann Aviation in Venice, Florida (see July 6-December 19, 2000), “A CIA front company called Air Caribe was also operating out of the very same hangar at Venice airport.” He will go on to comment that “this highly curious coincidence must inevitably raise some suspicions of just how much the CIA really did know before 9/11. Was the CIA trying to infiltrate and ‘double’ the US-based al-Qaeda cell, in the hope of using it against Osama bin Laden’s organization in the future?” [Hughes-Wilson, 2004, pp. 391] The Air Caribe story is originally broken by investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker, who will publish a book about Atta’s time in Florida in 2004 (see March 2004).
Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion activist and domestic terrorist wanted for four separate bombings (see July 27, 1996 and After, January 16, 1997, February 21, 1997, and January 29, 1998) currently hiding out in the mountainous wilds of western North Carolina, crafts a fifth bomb from a stash of dynamite. He surveills the National Guard Armory in Murphy, North Carolina, where the FBI task force seeking him is centered (see August 13-21, 1998). He places two booby traps on the path leading to the armory, and places the bomb itself against the building. However, Rudolph decides not to detonate any of the devices. Later, he will write: “The agents didn’t die that day. Perhaps after watching them for so many months, their individual humanity shown through the hated uniform. It was not that I had lost my resolve to fight in the defense of the unborn, but rather an individual decision about these individual agents. I had worn the uniform of their legions, served in their ranks [Rudolph briefly served in the military]. I had no hatred for them as individuals. Even though they served a morally bankrupt government, underneath their FBI rags they were essentially fellow countrymen.” Rudolph detonates the booby traps, and retrieves the bomb and buries it. The FBI soon finds the bomb—a 25-pound device filled with screws to act as shrapnel—buried across the street from the armory. [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Sam’s Star Mart gas station. [Source: Daniel Hopsicker]9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi works at a gas station while living in San Diego where other suspected Islamist militants work. This is the only apparent instance of any of the hijackers having a job while in the US. He and 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar frequently socialize at the gas station, but only Alhazmi works there for pay on and off for about a month at some point after Almihdhar has gone overseas in June 2000. [Washington Post, 12/29/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ]
Gas Station's Owner Was Investigated - The Texaco gas station, Sam’s Star Mart, is owned by Osama “Sam” Mustafa. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] Mustafa was first investigated by the FBI in 1991 after he told a police officer that the US needed another Pan Am 103 attack and that he could be the one to carry out the attack. He also said all Americans should be killed because of the 1991 Iraq War. In 1994, he was investigated for being a member of the Palestinian organizations PFLP and PLO and for threatening to kill an Israeli intelligence officer living in San Diego. The investigation was closed, but reopened again in 1997 when he was tied to a possible plot in North Carolina. Apparently, it was closed again before 9/11. He also associates with Osama Basnan and others who have contacts with the hijackers. Witnesses later claim he cheered when he was first told of the 9/11 attacks. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ]
Gas Station's Manager Was Also Investigated - The gas station is managed by Ed Salamah (who apparently is also known as Iyad Kreiwesh). [Washington Post, 12/29/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] In January 2000, the brother of an unnamed, known al-Qaeda operative was under surveillance and was seen chatting with Salamah. The Los Angeles FBI office was investigating this operative, and it called Salamah about the person. Salamah refused to come to Los Angeles for an interview, and refused to give his home address to be interviewed there. Faced with a reluctant witness, the FBI dropped the matter. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ; Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
Other Gas Station Employees May Know of 9/11 Plot - Mohdar Abdullah, a friend of Alhazmi and Almihdhar, also works at the gas station around this time. He may have learned of the 9/11 plot as early as the spring of 2000 (see Early 2000). Additionally, according to one witness, Abdullah, Osama Awadallah, Omar Bakarbashat, and other gas station employees will appear to show foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks one day before they take place (see Late August-September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 219-220, 249-50, 532]
FBI Informant Stays Silent - The hijackers are living with an FBI informant named Abdussattar Shaikh who is aware of their contact with at least Mustafa, and Shaikh has given reports about Mustafa to the FBI in the past. However, Shaikh fails to tell the FBI about their contacts with him. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later strongly imply that Salamah and Mustafa assisted the hijackers with the 9/11 plot, but the FBI will appear uninterested in them and will maintain that the hijackers received no assistance from anyone. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ] Shaikh will also later admit that he knew Alhazmi was working illegally at the gas station, but he didn’t tell his FBI handler about this (see Autumn 2000).
Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant who is also the landlord to two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, California, learns that one of the hijackers is working illegally, but does not tell his FBI handler about it. Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi lives in Shaikh’s house from May to December 2000 (see May 10-Mid-December 2000), and fellow hijacker Khalid Almihdhar lives there until June (see June 10, 2000). In the autumn of 2000, Alhazmi begins working at a local Texaco gas station (see Autumn 2000). In a 2004 interview with the 9/11 Commission, Shaikh will say that he becomes aware that a local man named Mohdar Abdullah helped Alhazmi get a job at the gas station. Shaikh will say he is disturbed about this because he knows Alhazmi doesn’t have a work permit. He is concerned that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will hear about this, and that it will reflect negatively upon himself. He warns Alhazmi that he could be deported. But Alhazmi says he is not worried because Abdullah has been working at the gas station for some time with other illegal workers. Shaikh never tells his FBI handler Steven Butler about this, and apparently even asks Alhazmi not to discuss his employment at the gas station with him. [9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004] It will later turn out that both the manager and the owner of the gas station have already been investigated by the FBI about Islamist militant links (see Autumn 2000), and some of the other employees at the gas station, including Abdullah, may have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see Early 2000 and Late August-September 10, 2001).
A close associate of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego helps Alhazmi contact a flight school in Florida. An unnamed FBI team leader of the 9/11 investigation will later be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission. This FBI agent will say that Mohdar Abdullah knew that both Alhazmi and Almihdhar were interested in learning to fly. At one point, Abdullah calls an unnamed flight school in Florida for Alhazmi. Alhazmi presumably needs help because his English isn’t very good. Abdullah is about to use the phone inside the Texaco gas station where he and Alhazmi work (see Autumn 2000), but Alhazmi asks him to call from outside, so he uses a pay phone next to the station. This FBI agent will also say that he doubts Abdullah was a witting part of the 9/11 plot, but he believes that if anyone in San Diego had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, it would be Abdullah. Abdullah helped the two hijackers with many tasks in San Diego, and he may have known in early 2000 that they were planning to crash a plane into a building (see Early 2000). [9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003] It will not be mentioned when this incident takes place, but the autumn of 2000 is likely, since this is when Alhazmi and Abdullah both work at the gas station (see Autumn 2000). Hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah are attending flying school in Florida at the time (see July 6-December 19, 2000 and (June 28-December 2000)).
The French intelligence agency, DGSE, publishes nine intelligence reports between these dates on the subject of al-Qaeda threats against the US. Over three hundred pages of classified DGSE reports on al-Qaeda from July 2000 to October 2001 will be leaked to a French reporter in 2007. One of the nine reports on attacks against the US, dated January 5, 2001, will be detailed in a 2007 French newspaper article (see January 5, 2001), but the contents of the other eight remain unknown. DGSE officials will later claim that such reports would have certainly been passed on to the CIA. None of the contents of any of these French reports will be mentioned in the 2004 9/11 Commission report. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007]
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert.
[Source: Special Forces Command]Members of a US Army intelligence unit tasked with assembling information about al-Qaeda have prepared a chart that includes the names and photographs of four future hijackers, who they have identified as members of an al-Qaeda cell based in Brooklyn, New York. The four hijackers in the cell are Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Nawaf Alhazmi. The members of the intelligence unit, called Able Danger, present their chart at the headquarters of the US military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Florida, with the recommendation that the FBI should be called in to take out the al-Qaeda cell. Lawyers working for SOCOM argue that anyone with a green card has to be granted the same legal protections as any US citizen, so the information about the al-Qaeda cell cannot be shared with the FBI. The legal team directs them to put yellow stickers over the photographs of Mohamed Atta and the other cell members, to symbolize that they are off limits. [Norristown Times Herald, 6/19/2005; Government Security News, 8/2005; New York Times, 8/9/2005; St. Petersburg Times, 8/10/2005; New York Times, 8/17/2005; Government Security News, 9/2005] Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer later says that an unnamed two-star general above him is “very adamant” about not looking further at Atta. “I was directed several times [to ignore Atta], to the point where he had to remind me he was a general and I was not… [and] I would essentially be fired.” [Fox News, 8/19/2005] Military leaders at the meeting take the side of the lawyers and prohibit any sharing of information about the al-Qaeda cell. Shaffer believes that the decision to side with the lawyers is made by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert (who had previously expressed distress when Able Danger data was destroyed without his prior notification (see May-June 2000)). He also believes that Gen. Peter Schoomaker, head of SOCOM, is not aware of the decision. [Government Security News, 9/2005]
Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Special Operations Command, Marwan Alshehhi, Al-Qaeda, Nawaf Alhazmi, Peter J. Schoomaker, Khalid Almihdhar, Anthony Shaffer, Able Danger, Geoffrey Lambert
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Courtroom drawing of L’Houssaine Kherchtou. [Source: C. Cornell/ CNN]Al-Qaeda defector L’Houssaine Kherchtou (see Summer 2000) tells the FBI that between 1992 and 1995 he trained in Nairobi, Kenya, to be a pilot for al-Qaeda. His training ended when he began to drift away from al-Qaeda in 1995. Kherchtou, who began working with MI6 before the African embassy bombings (see Mid-Summer 1998), is a key prosecution witness at the bombing trial in early 2001, where he repeats the information in public. He will later go into the witness protection program. [Washington File, 2/22/2001; American Prospect, 6/19/2005]
People involved in the 2000 PNAC report (from top left): Vice
President Cheney, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld,
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis
Libby, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Undersecretary of Defense Dov
Zakheim, and author Eliot Cohen.
[Source: Public domain]The neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century writes a “blueprint” for the “creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’” (see June 3, 1997). The document, titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the George W. Bush team even before the 2000 presidential election. It was written for future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor and Bush’s brother Jeb Bush, and Cheney’s future chief of staff Lewis Libby. [Project for the New American Century, 9/2000, pp. iv and 51 ]
Plans to Overthrow Iraqi Government - The report calls itself a “blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.” The plan shows that the Bush team intends to take military control of Persian Gulf oil whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power and should retain control of the region even if there is no threat. It says: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The report calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool” (see February 7, 2003). [Project for the New American Century, 9/2000 ; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/7/2002]
Greater Need for US Role in Persian Gulf - PNAC states further: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
'US Space Forces,' Control of Internet, Subversion of Allies - PNAC calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the Internet, and the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran, and other countries.
Bioweapons Targeting Specific Genotypes 'Useful' - It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”
'A New Pearl Harbor' - However, PNAC complains that thes changes are likely to take a long time, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/2003]
Bush Will Claim a 'Humble' Foreign Policy Stance - One month later during a presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush will assert that he wants a “humble” foreign policy in the Middle East and says he is against toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq because it smacks of “nation building” (see October 11, 2000). Around the same time, Cheney will similarly defend Bush’s position of maintaining President Clinton’s policy not to attack Iraq, asserting that the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/2002] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Only a few people who had read the papers put forth by the Project for a New American Century might have guessed a far more radical policy had been developed.” [Salon, 3/15/2004] A British member of Parliament will later say of the PNAC report, “This is a blueprint for US world domination—a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world.” [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/7/2002] Both PNAC and its strategy plan for Bush are almost virtually ignored by the media until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).
Entity Tags: Robert Kagan, Robert Martinage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Killebrew, Peter Rodman, Project for the New American Century, Roger Barnett, Paula J. Dobriansky, Saddam Hussein, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Steve Forbes, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, William J. Bennett, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Vin Weber, Stephen A. Cambone, Steve Rosen, Thomas Donnelly, Norman Podhoretz, Phil Meilinger, Midge Decter, Donald Kagan, Donald Rumsfeld, Dov S. Zakheim, Devon Gaffney Cross, Aaron Friedberg, Abram Shulsky, Michael Vickers, Dan Quayle, Eliot A. Cohen, Dan Goure, Alvin Bernstein, Barry Watts, David Epstein, Elliott Abrams, Frank Gaffney, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, James Lasswell, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Mark P. Lagon, Mackubin Owens, Francis Fukuyama, Henry S. Rowen, Gary Schmitt, Fred C. Ikle, Frederick Kagan, David Fautua, Hasam Amin, George Weigel
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline, Neoconservative Influence
A CIA report is released admitting that the CIA knowingly supported the Pinochet regime’s brutalities, and revealing that the head of Pinochet’s dreaded secret police (responsible for the assassination of an American in Washington DC) was a paid CIA asset. [Central Intelligence Agency, 9/19/2000; Associated Press, 9/19/2000]
Hamza Alghamdi. [Source: FBI]Raed Hijazi, Nabil al-Marabh’s former Boston roommate, is tried and convicted in Jordan for his role in planned millennium bombings in that country. (Hijazi is tried in absentia since he has yet to be arrested, but will later be retried in person and reconvicted.) In the wake of the trial, Jordanian officials send information to US investigators that shows Nabil al-Marabh and future 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi are associates of Hijazi. The Washington Post will report, “An FBI document circulated among law enforcement agencies [just after 9/11] noted that Hijazi, who is in a Jordanian jail, had shared a telephone number with [9/11] hijacker, Hamza Alghamdi.” Apparently this document is created when Jordan sends the US this information in late 2000. [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] The Boston Globe will later report that an FBI investigation found that “al-Marabh had, in the report’s language, a ‘telephone connection’ with one of the suspected hijackers, according to a federal source involved in the investigation. However, the source was uncertain whether the connection involved telephone conversations between al-Marabh and the unidentified suspect, or whether it involved their sharing a telephone number.” This is a probable reference to the same FBI report mentioning the Alghamdi-Hijazi phone link, especially since the same Globe article mentions that around the this time al-Marabh tells his coworkers that the FBI has been asking him about his links to bin Laden (see Late August 2000). [Boston Globe, 10/15/2001] It appears that Alghamdi is not put on any kind of watch list and will not be stopped when he will arrive in the US by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001) nor again on May 23, 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). The 9/11 Commission Final Report will fail to mention any investigation into Alghamdi and will give no hint that his name was known to US authorities before 9/11.
Theresa LePore, displaying signs of stress over the controversy that will ensue concerning her ‘butterfly ballot.’ [Source: BBC]Theresa LePore, the supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, decides to use an unusual design for the upcoming election ballots. Because of a recent amendment to the Florida Constitution that makes it far easier for third-party and independent candidates to appear on the ballot for president, LePore has 10 presidential and vice-presidential candidates to fit on the ballot. She consulted with elections board employee Tony Enos; the two decided that a one-page ballot would have to use a typeface so small that many voters with vision problems would be unable to read the names. Instead, LePore chooses a two-page, or “facing page,” ballot design. She wants all 10 presidential candidates on the same page, so she goes with a design that has groups of candidates on either page and punchable holes in the center, in a vertical row: the voter will punch out the hole designated for his or her candidate. The design lists Republican candidates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney first on the left-hand page, with the punch hole designated for them also first; Reform Party candidates Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster are first on the right-hand page, with their designated punch hole second; Democratic candidates Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman are second on the left-hand page, with their designated punch hole third. To many voters, the second punch hole designated for Buchanan and Foster will appear to be the hole designated for Gore and Lieberman (see November 9, 2000). [Tapper, 3/2001]
On three occasions, military lawyers force members of Able Danger to cancel scheduled meetings with the FBI at the last minute. Able Danger officials want to share information about the Brooklyn al-Qaeda cell they believe they’ve discovered which includes Mohamed Atta and other hijackers (see January-February 2000). The exact timing of these meetings remains unclear, but they appear to happen around the time military lawyers tell Able Danger they are not allowed to pursue Mohamed Atta and other figures (see September 2000) . [Government Security News, 9/2005] In 2005, it will be reported that Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer contacted FBI agent Xanthig Magnum in attempts to set up these meetings. Magnum is willing to testify about her communications with Shaffer, but apparently she has not yet been able to do so. [Fox News, 8/28/2005] Shaffer will later elaborate that the meetings were set up around early summer. Col. Worthington, then head of Able Danger, is one of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) officials scheduled to meet with FBI Counterterrorism agents. Shaffer ater claims the meetings were cancelled because “SOCOM lawyers would not permit the sharing of the US person information regarding terrorists located domestically due to ‘fear of potential blowback’ should the FBI do something with the information and something should go wrong. The lawyers were worried about another ‘Waco’ situation (see April 19, 1993). The critical counterterrorism information is never passed from SOCOM to the FBI before 9-11; this information did include the original data regarding Atta and the terrorist cells in New York and the DC area.” [US Congress, 2/15/2006 ] Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), who in 2005 helps bring to light the existence of the program, says, “Obviously, if we had taken out that cell, 9/11 would not have occurred and, certainly, taking out those three principal players in that cell would have severely crippled, if not totally stopped, the operation that killed 3,000 people in America.” [Government Security News, 8/2005]
Osama Basnan and Ramzi bin al-Shibh are somehow linked this month, possibly through a female relative or friend of Basnan’s. Basnan is a suspected Saudi spy who helped future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego, and bin al-Shibh is a hijacker associate in Hamburg, Germany, linked to Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers there. In November 2003, an unnamed FBI agent who focuses on investigating Basnan after 9/11 will be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission. This agent will be paraphrased saying that “one interesting fact is that Osama Basnan’s”—then there is a redacted gap of two or more words—“was in phone and e-mail contact with Ramzi bin al-Shibh in September 2000.” This agent states that “they apparently met over the Internet, as bin al-Shibh was looking for an American wife.” The agent also notes that “bin al-Shibh has confirmed this fact in interrogations.” [9/11 Commission, 11/17/2003 ]
Over the 12 months preceding September 11, the Army’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic (DTHC) at the Pentagon works to develop its mass casualty (MASCAL) plan. This work will significantly and fortuitously help the clinic when it has to implement the plan in response to the Pentagon attack on 9/11. Major Lorie Brown, the chief nurse at the DTHC, is the chairperson for the DiLorenzo Action Response Team (DART). As she will later recall, over this 12-month period, the DART team works “on developing that [MASCAL] plan, really creating a whole new plan. We sat down and met on numerous occasions with the Air Force clinic [also based in the Pentagon], civilian EMS [Emergency Medical Services], Pentagon and [Department of Defense] hierarchy, DPS [the Defense Protective Service], and with the other civilian medical agencies.” They work through various issues, such as “what would happen in the event of a MASCAL, what each of our roles would be.” The DART team, Brown says, participates “in several large tabletop exercises with these external bodies, to include FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the others I just mentioned. We even did our own internal exercise where we made up the scenario of a plane crashing into the building.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 7] This “internal exercise” is likely a reference to an exercise held by the DTHC in May 2001 (see May 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B17 ] Another exercise Brown participates in over this period is the Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise in October 2000 (see October 24-26, 2000), which also includes a scenario of a plane hitting the Pentagon. [MDW News Service, 11/3/2000] Brown will later credit this work developing the MASCAL plan as being of great benefit when the Pentagon is hit on 9/11, and the plan is initiated (see Soon after 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). She will say: “[O]ur planning truly made such a huge difference on that day. Our commander had the foresight to focus on MASCAL prep and gave us the time and budget to really revamp our old MASCAL plan. I can’t say enough about how critical this was to our success.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 7]
At the trial of al-Qaeda operatives accused of participating in the 1998 US African embassy bombings, it is disclosed that an unnamed al-Qaeda operative had requested information about air traffic control procedures. This information is provided to the FBI by a co-operating witness, L’Houssaine Kherchtou (see Summer 2000), and is mentioned by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who says that Kherchtou “observed an Egyptian person who was not a pilot debriefing a friend of his, Ihab Ali [Nawawi], about how air traffic control works and what people say over the air traffic control system, and it was his belief that there might have been a plan to send a pilot to Saudi Arabia or someone familiar with that to monitor the air traffic communications so they could possibly attack an airplane.” Nawawi is a Florida-based al-Qaeda operative and pilot who is arrested in 1999 (see May 18, 1999). The identity of the Egyptian is not disclosed, although both Kherchtou and Nawawi are associates of former Egyptian army officer Ali Mohamed, who used Kherchtou’s apartment to plot the Nairobi embassy bombing (see Late 1993-Late 1994 and January 1998). [United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 8, 2/21/2001] Mohamed also conducted surveillance of airports in the early 1980s with a view to hijacking an airliner, and subsequently worked as a security adviser to Egyptair, where he had access to the latest anti-hijacking measures. [Lance, 2006, pp. 11-12] Jack Cloonan, one of the FBI agents who debriefed Kherchtou, will later receive the Phoenix Memo (see July 27, 2001 or Shortly After), which states that an inordinate amount of bin Laden-related individuals are learning to fly in the US (see July 10, 2001). [American Prospect, 6/19/2005] However, he will not apparently make the connection between the memo’s premise and the information from Kherchtou.
It is reported that the US Secret Service is using an “air surveillance system” called Tigerwall. This serves to “ensure enhanced physical security at a high-value asset location by providing early warning of airborne threats.” Tigerwall “provides the Secret Service with a geographic display of aircraft activity and provides security personnel long-range camera systems to classify and identify aircraft. Sensor data from several sources are fused to provide a unified sensor display.” [US Department of Defense, 2000; US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 ] Among its responsibilities, the Secret Service protects America’s highest elected officials, including the president and vice president, and also provides security for the White House complex. [US Congress, 5/1/2003] Its largest field office with over 200 employees is in New York, in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] Whether the Secret Service, in New York or Washington, will make use of Tigerwall on 9/11 is unknown. Furthermore, in New York the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visited. Presumably it keeps this is in Building 7, where its field office is. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] As well as Tigerwall, the Secret Service appears to have other air surveillance capabilities. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will describe that on 9/11, the Secret Service had “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] Barbara Riggs, a future deputy director of the Secret Service who is in its Washington, DC headquarters on 9/11, will describe the Secret Service “monitoring radar” during the attacks. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] Furthermore, since 1974 the Secret Service operations center has possessed a special communications line from the control tower of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This hotline allows air traffic controllers monitoring local radar to inform agents at the White House of any planes that are off course or appear to be on a “threatening vector.” [Time, 9/26/1994]
Jose Padilla, an American Muslim who has recently become interested in becoming an al-Qaeda fighter, attends an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He goes under the name Abdullah al-Espani. [Associated Press, 6/2004]
Two consular officers at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Shayna Steinger and David El Hinn, argue over the eligibility of Saudi citizens for US visas. The consulate had instituted a policy of aggressively interviewing young Saudi males in the wake of the 1998 East African embassy bombings due to terrorism concerns (see (Late August-September 1998)). When El Hinn arrives in Jeddah in August 2000, the consulate is still interviewing a significant percentage of Saudi visa applicants and all first-time students. El Hinn will say that officers are suspicious of Saudi citizens who are from locations where they know extremists live and who have only a vague notion of where they are headed in the United States. In addition, officers at the consulate think that, because of trouble in the Saudi economy, Saudis perhaps should not be getting visas almost automatically. Therefore, El Hinn denies a significant percentage of Saudi visa applicants as well as third-country applicants. Steinger, who works full-time on visas and deals with most of the Saudi applicants, takes a different approach and issues visas to almost all the Saudis who apply for one. Despite the obvious terrorism concerns that had previously been known to US officials in Jeddah, Steinger will say that she is “never really afraid of Saudis” and never makes the connection between the known presence of al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia and the possibility that the Saudis applying for visas are terrorists. Steinger believes that El Hinn is denying Saudis visas for what she will call “the wrong reasons,” and the two clash over this. El Hinn is even rebuked by the consul general in Riyadh for his high refusal rate. Nevertheless, El Hinn does not change his practices. Steinger issues 12 visas to the future 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000). [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/23/2003; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 125-126 ]
CIA officer Ben Bonk briefs Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush on the threat posed by Islamic extremist groups, telling him that Americans will die in a terrorist attack during the next four years, and to highlight the danger, he shows Bush a mock briefcase bomb he sneaked into the meeting. Bush was recently selected as the Republican Party’s candidate for the 2000 presidential election, and it is traditional for the CIA to provide a wide-ranging intelligence briefing to the Republican and Democratic nominees during a presidential campaign, to prepare them for the responsibilities of the White House. John McLaughlin, acting deputy director of the CIA, has come to Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, to conduct the briefing, along with three other agency officials, including Bonk, deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Three of Bush’s senior advisers—Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Josh Bolten—also attend the briefing.
CIA Officer Says Americans Will Die in a Terrorist Attack - During the final hour of the four-hour session, Bonk briefs Bush on terrorism. He tells Bush: “I can say one thing for sure without any qualification: Sometime in the next four years, Americans will die as a result of a terrorist incident.” [CBS News, 9/1/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 198; Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 1-3] According to a book by CIA officer John Helgerson, Bonk specifically says that America’s next president will face “a terrorist attack on US soil.” There is then a “discussion of what certain scenarios could look like.” [Helgerson, 2013]
CIA Officer Says Islamic Extremists Are the Biggest Danger - Bonk tells Bush that numerous terrorist organizations are on the move, but the most dangerous are the Islamic extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. He says nothing these groups have so far achieved compares to “what lay in store for America and its allies if the terrorists succeeded in their quest for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear weapons, collectively known as CBRN,” according to journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald. Furthermore, Bonk says, “Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, [is] the group most likely to succeed.” It has “the deepest pockets and the most far-flung operational networks.” If al-Qaeda or another terrorist group got its hands on CBRN weapons, Bonk says, that group “would show no hesitation in using the weapons immediately to murder as many Americans as possible.”
Bush Is Shown a Mock Briefcase Bomb - Furthermore, Bonk says that terrorists “could easily slip compact bombs into a crowd without raising suspicion.” To highlight the danger, he has sneaked a mock briefcase bomb into the meeting. Although the device contains no poison gas, it is otherwise a real weapon, built by the CIA based on a design seized from the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which killed 12 commuters in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995. Bonk let Bush’s Secret Service agents in on what he was doing, so they would allow him to take the mock bomb into the meeting, but Bush knows nothing about it. Bonk had the briefcase on the floor by his chair during the first three hours of the briefing and activated the mock bomb when his time to speak came. He now picks up the briefcase and carries it toward Bush. He pops it open and tilts it forward, so Bush can see the red digits of its electronic timer counting down. “Don’t worry,” Bonk says. “This is harmless. But it is exactly the kind of chemical device that people can bring into a room and kill everybody. And this one would be going off in two minutes.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 198; Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 2-3] Bush is apparently unimpressed with the mock bomb. According to Helgerson, “Such show-and-tell devices usually intrigued individuals and groups being briefed, but [Bush] gestured to the effect of ‘Get that out of here’ and wanted to settle down to serious discussion.” [Helgerson, 2013, pp. 152]
9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is helped by his landlord, FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh, with whom he has been living for some time (see Mid-May-December 2000 and May 10-Mid-December 2000), to open an account with the Lemon Grove, California, branch of the Bank of America. Alhazmi deposits $3,000 to open the account. The origin of the $3,000 is unclear, as the last known cash injection Alhazmi received was five months earlier and totaled only $5,000 (see April 16-18, 2000). [Associated Press, 9/21/2001; CBS News, 9/27/2001] Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar had previously opened and closed a bank account in San Diego (see February 4, 2000).
Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi obtains a visa from the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ] The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] However, Alghamdi will later get another visa using a different passport, also from Steinger (see June 12, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that one or possibly both of his passports may have fraudulent features, presumably related to travel stamps, although it is not certain of this. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 525, 564; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ]
Yazeed al-Salmi. [Source: Channel 10 News]A total of $1,900 is deposited in 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s Bank of America account from a set of traveler’s checks worth $4,000 that were issued in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2000 to a man named Yazeed al-Salmi. The same day, Alhazmi withdraws $1,900. US investigators will therefore later hypothesize that Alhazmi is just helping al-Salmi cash the checks, since al-Salmi does not open a US bank account of his own until September 11, 2000. Al-Salmi arrived in San Diego on a student visa on August 7, 2000 and moved in with Alhazmi and FBI counterterrorism informant Abdussattar Shaikh three days later, staying for about one month (see August 10-September 2000 and Mid-May-December 2000). After 9/11, the FBI will detain al-Salmi as a material witness and question him because of his contacts with Alhazmi, and he will testify before a grand jury before being deported to Saudi Arabia. However, al-Salmi does not mention the traveler’s checks in the interrogation and the FBI will not find out about them until after he is deported. Also, another associate of the hijackers, Mohdar Abdullah, will later claim that al-Salmi tells him he previously knew hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour as a child in Saudi Arabia (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). When the FBI interviews al-Salmi again, in Saudi Arabia in 2004, he will claim he no longer remembers the $1,900 transaction, and the FBI will fail to ask him about his alleged childhood ties to Hanjour. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 139 ; Time, 8/22/2004] There are later indications that al-Salmi and some of his associates have some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex. [Source: CBC]An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque inside his Tarnak Farms complex. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-21] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/2002]
Hani Hanjour’s September 10 US visa application, which was rejected. The fact he requested permission to stay in the US for three years is highlighted on the right. [Source: National Review] (click image to enlarge)Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour applies for a US tourist/business visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hanjour, who has already spent a good deal of time in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992, Spring 1996, October 1996-December 1997, and 1998), uses a passport issued on July 24, 2000. His application is incomplete, as he says he is a student, but fails to give his school’s name and address. After his application is screened, he is referred to a consular officer for an interview. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 ] This consular officer is Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Hanjour’s application is denied as he says he wants to stay in the US for three years, raising concerns he might become an immigrant. Hanjour also says he wants to attend flight school in the US, changing his status to “student” from “tourist” after arrival. However, this is another reason Steinger denies the visa application, “because he has been in the States long enough to decide what he wanted.” Hanjour will return to the consulate two weeks later and successfully obtain a visa from Steinger using a different application (see September 25, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 ] Steinger will later give a series of conflicting explanations about why she reversed her decision and issued the visa (see August 1, 2002, January 20, 2003, and December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).
In Geneva, at the Conference on Disarmament, US Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. says that US interest in weaponizing space will not spark an arms race and therefore efforts to establish the proposed Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty would be “unwise,” “unrealistic,” and a waste of time. “The United States agrees that it is appropriate to keep this topic [PAROS] under review,” he says. “On the other hand, we have repeatedly pointed out that there is no arms race in outer space—nor any prospect of an arms race in outer space, for as far down the road as anyone can see.” The US and Israel are the only countries that oppose efforts to outlaw the weaponization of space. Members of the conference express concern that US intentions in space reflect its desire to achieve world hegemony. Grey adamantly denies that the US is motivated by such goals. “We reject allegations that actions or plans of the United States attest to a desire for hegemony, or any intent to carry out nuclear blackmail, or any supposed quest for absolute freedom to use force or threaten to use force in international relations.” He further asserts that this view has “no basis in reality,” because a limited National Missile Defense (NMD) would does “not give anyone ‘hegemony.’” He claims also that hegemony “is unattainable in any case” since the world is so diverse and complex. [US Department of State, 9/15/2000; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2001]
A videotape message featuring bin Laden calling for more attacks on the US is aired on Al Jazeera. The video ends with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri saying, “Enough of words, it is time to take action against this iniquitous and faithless force [the United States], which has spread troops through Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.” [CNN, 10/20/2000; Washington Times, 8/26/2002] Further, bin Laden is wearing a distinctive, curved Yemeni dagger. Lawrence Wright will later mention in the book The Looming Tower that this was a “teasing clue” similar to other clues he had left before other attacks. [Wright, 2006, pp. 318] DIA analyst Kie Fallis later recalls, “Every time he put out one of these videotapes, it was a signal that action was coming.” He claims that after hearing of the video, he “knew then it would be within a month or two.” But nonetheless, his suggestion to put out a general attack warning will go unheeded (see May 2000-Late September 2000). An al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole follows less than a month later (see October 12, 2000). [Washington Times, 8/26/2002]
Ayman al-Zawahiri (left), Ahmed Refai Taha (center), and Osama bin Laden (right) on Al Jazeera. [Source: Al Jazeera]Al Jazeera broadcasts a video featuring Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and
Ahmed Refai Taha, head of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group formerly led by the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. In the video, filmed in Afghanistan several months earlier, bin Laden promises “to do all we can” to liberate Abdul-Rahman from his imprisonment in the US. Al-Zawahiri says that he is “talking business” about helping to free Abdul-Rahman. “I’m talking jihad.” Additionally, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, one of the Blind Sheikh’s sons, is heard on the tape saying, “O brothers, everywhere, avenge your leaders, avenge your sheik. Let’s go to the grounds of jihad. Let us spill blood. Let’s go spill blood.” [New York Times, 9/8/2004] In July 2001, the FBI will overhear an Arabic translator tell the Blind Sheikh that the October 2000 bombing of the USS ‘Cole’ was done for him “so he could be released.” The translator is also overheard saying that if he is not released, the bombers are prepared to “execute another operation.” [New York Times, 6/6/2002]
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour again applies for a US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An application two weeks earlier had been rejected (see September 10, 2000), but he is successful this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 ] The application is dealt with by consular officer Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000) and who rejected Hanjour’s previous application. [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Hanjour apparently applies for a student visa, not a tourist visa, as he had done previously, saying he wishes to attend a language school in California. Steinger will later recall that Hanjour, or someone acting on his behalf, submits an I-20 INS school enrollment form, the documentation required for the visa. She will say: “It came to me, you know, at the end of the day to look at it. I saw he had an I-20 and it [his visa] was issued.” This apparently allows Hanjour to overcome his previous rejection, as the two applications are treated as one case. The INS had approved a change of status for Hanjour to attend the same school in 1996, but Steinger does not know of this. She will later say that, if she had known, she might have denied the visa. Although a photocopy of a student visa in Hanjour’s passport will later be made public, Steinger now enters the visa in the State Department’s records as a business/tourist visa. (Note: the visa in Hanjour’s passport may be changed upon his entry to the US (see December 8, 2000).) [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 13-14, 38] Steinger will later give conflicting accounts of her issuance of this visa. She will first falsely claim to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she issued the visa under the Visa Express program and that Hanjour was not even present during the first application on September 10 (see August 1, 2002), but will later change her story for the State Department’s inspector general (see January 20, 2003) and the 9/11 Commission (see December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).
A classified State Department cable observes that “while Pakistani support for the Taliban has been long-standing, the magnitude of recent support is unprecedented.” The US has “seen reports that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. We also understand that large numbers of Pakistani nationals have recently moved into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, apparently with the tacit acquiescence of the Pakistani government.” Direct Pakistani involvement in Taliban military operations has increased. In response, the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is ordered to confront Pakistani officials on the issue and make clear that the US will not accept a Taliban military victory in Afghanistan. [US Department of State, 9/26/2000 ]
A Tunisian militant based in Italy named Sekseka Habib Waddani confesses to Italian police that he has helped run an elaborate arms smuggling ring, but it is unclear whether Italy or the US does anything to stop him. Waddani will be placed on the US Treasury Department’s list of most-wanted militants on August 29, 2002, but this “prompts questions about when the United States learned of Waddani, and whether any action was taken by Italian or US officials after Waddani’s claim that large amounts of weapons were being sold to Islamic terrorists.” When the CIA is asked in 2002 whether it did anything about Waddani, the agency will decline to comment.
Walk In - Waddani just walks in to a police station in Milan in 2000 and discloses the information, which he learned because he was involved when the weapons transited Italy and Switzerland. He approaches the police because he is being blackmailed and needs protection. The weapons smuggling scheme Waddani reports to the Italians initially involved smuggling the arms from Russia to Italy by sea, then to Croatia and on to Bosnia during the war there from 1992 to 1995. Weapons were also supplied to Albanian fighters in Kosovo in 1998. The deals were brokered by Italian and Muslim lawyers in Switzerland, who found buyers there. However, this system is abandoned as too difficult and the weapons—pistols, machine guns, missiles, and grenades—are then shipped through Uzbekistan to Pakistan for use at terrorist training camps in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Companies Involved - Several European companies are involved in moving the arms, including one that handled transactions in Switzerland and is owned by a Pakistani named Haji Agka and two Swiss-based Tunisians, Ahmed and Shoyab Sharifi, and a front named the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center of Lucerne. The two Tunisians are friends of Ahmad Huber, who reportedly facilitates “periodic and regular” weapons shipments and is accused of moving money for Osama bin Laden through the suspect Al Taqwa bank (see November 7, 2001). Huber denies the charges and, although the Italians passed the information on to Switzerland, says neither he nor any of his associates were ever even questioned about it. Waddani will be indicted in October 2001 in Italy, for trafficking in arms, explosives, chemical weapons, identity papers, receiving stolen goods, and illegal immigration. The Treasury Department will also say he is a member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). [MSNBC, 9/16/2002]
Presidential candidate George W. Bush unveils an environmental plan that would require power plants to reduce emissions of four main pollutants. If elected, Bush says he will propose legislation requiring “electric utilities to reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality.” Specifically, he promises to “work with Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, consumer and environmental groups, and industry to develop legislation that will establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide.” [GeorgeWBush.Com, 9/29/2000] Bush will break that promise within two months of taking office (see March 1, 2001, March 8, 2001, and March 13, 2001).
The Able Danger data collection program—which lost the support of the US Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) unit last April (see April 2000)—is reconstituted and moved to a private intelligence research center run by Raytheon in Garland, Texas. While the program worked only with unclassified data under LIWA, the new Able Danger, referred to by some as “Able Danger II,” has permission to mine classified information as well. [US Congress, 9/21/2005; US Congress, 9/21/2005] SOCOM apparently believes that this new arrangement will allow Able Danger to do its work free of some of the political interference that had hobbled the earlier effort. Other data mining teams at LIWA work on non-al-Qaeda related projects while Able Danger continue to focus on al-Qaeda. [National Journal, 12/3/2005] Most accounts have the first version of Able Danger in early 2000 being the version that identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers. However, according to Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), a Raytheon employee named Bob Johnson will later claim that Atta is independently identified by this second version of Able Danger as well (see November 11, 2005).
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer will later claim that Captain Scott Phillpott, leader of the Able Danger program, briefs General Peter Schoomaker, head of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), that Able Danger has uncovered information of increased al-Qaeda “activity” in Aden harbor, Yemen. Shaffer, plus two other officials familiar with Able Danger later tell the New York Post that this warning was gleaned through a search of bin Laden’s business ties. Shaffer later recalls, “Yemen was elevated by Able Danger to be one of the top three hot spots for al-Qaeda in the entire world.” This warning, plus another possibly connected warning from Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Kie Fallis (see May 2000-Late September 2000), go unheeded and no official warning is issued. The USS Cole is attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists in Aden harbor in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). Shaffer later claims that Phillpott tells the 9/11 Commission about this warning in 2004 to show that Able Danger could have had a significant impact, but the Commission’s findings fail to mention the warning, or in fact anything else about Able Danger (see July 12, 2004). [New York Post, 9/17/2005; Jerry Doyle Show, 9/20/2005] Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) will similarly tell Fox News: “[T]wo weeks before the attack on the Cole, in fact, two days before the attack on the Cole, [Able Danger] saw an increase of activity that led them to say to the senior leadership in the Pentagon at that time, in the Clinton administration, there’s something going to happen in Yemen and we better be on high alert, but it was discounted. That story has yet to be told to the American people.” [Fox News, 10/8/2005]
Jones Aviation [Source: Jones Aviation] (click image to enlarge)Having attended Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida since early July, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move to Jones Aviation in Sarasota, about 20 miles north of Venice, to continue their training. However, their instructor finds them rude and aggressive, and claims they sometimes fight with him to take over the controls of the training plane. The instructor later says that when he talks to Atta, “he could not look you in the eye. His attention span was very short.… [T]hey didn’t live up to our standards.” Atta and Alshehhi each complete about 20 hours of flying time in single-engine planes, but early in October fail their Stage I exam for instruments rating. Gary Jones, the vice president of the school, later states, “We told them we wouldn’t teach them anymore. We told them, one, they couldn’t speak English and, two, they had bad attitudes. They wouldn’t listen to what the instructors had to instruct.” The two then return to Huffman Aviation to continue their training. [Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224]
In a January 2002 letter to Swiss authorities, a senior Treasury Department official will claim that the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland had set up a highly secretive line of credit for al-Qaeda, and that it is still in use in October 2000. (Apparently its status is unknown after this time.) It states that Al Taqwa “appeared to be providing a clandestine line of credit for a close associate of bin Laden.… This bin Laden lieutenant had a line of credit with a Middle East financial institution that drew on an identical account number at Bank Al Taqwa. Unlike other accounts—even accounts of private banking customers—this account was blocked by the computer system and special privileges were required to access it.” The letter calls the circumstances surrounding the account “highly unusual” and suggests that they were created “to conceal the association of the bin Laden organization with Bank Al Taqwa.” Another document reveals that the account was originally set up for Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, an al-Qaeda leader who was arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998). It is believed that other al-Qaeda figures continued to access the account after Salim’s arrest. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] The US will declare Al Taqwa Bank a terrorist financier in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001).
Bin Laden has personally approves an al-Qaeda plan to hijack a US airplane. A French intelligence report in January 2001 will describe an al-Qaeda plot to hijack aircraft, possibly one flying from Frankfurt to the US (see January 5, 2001). The report notes that, “In October 2000 bin Laden attended a meeting in Afghanistan at which the decision to mount this action was upheld.” [Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007] At the meeting, bin Laden also decides that his next action against the US will involve a hijacking. However, there is still disagreement among al-Qaeda leaders over how the plot would work. [Agence France-Presse, 4/16/2007] The French report also claims that in early 2000, bin Laden met with Chechen rebels, the Taliban, and other al-Qaeda leaders to begin planning this hijacking (see Early 2000). The Chechens are likely connected to Chechen leader Ibn Khattab, who has a long history of collaboration with bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002) and is said to be planning an attack against the US with him around this time (see Before April 13, 2001). The French will apparently pass all this information to the CIA in early 2001 (see January 5, 2001).
Raed Hijazi. [Source: Associated Press]Raed Hijazi participated in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan at the start of the millennium (see November 30, 1999) and helped plan the USS Cole bombing in early October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). Hijazi knew Nabil al-Marabh in Boston, where they were roommates and drove taxis for the same company. In May 1999, the FBI had already approached al-Marabh looking for Hijazi, but al-Marabh will later claim he lied and said he did not know him. [Washington Post, 9/4/2002] Hijazi is arrested in Syria this month and imprisoned in Jordan, where he has just been convicted for his failed bomb attempt there. He quickly begins to cooperate with investigators, identifies himself as an al-Qaeda operative, and also identifies al-Marabh as an al-Qaeda operative still living in the US. Customs agents soon discover that al-Marabh had on at least one occasion wired money to Hijazi that was used to fund the failed millennium plot. These agents will eventually learn that al-Marabh repeatedly sent money overseas to Hijazi. Ahmed Ressam, arrested in late 1999 for attempting to bomb the Los Angeles airport, helps confirm the connection between al-Marabh and Hijazi. Ressam will start cooperating with US investigators in early 2001, but it is not clear if he gave this information before 9/11 or just after it. [New York Times, 9/18/2001; New York Times, 10/14/2001; New York Times, 10/14/2001; Toronto Sun, 11/16/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] Yet, the New York Times will note, “For months after the CIA learned of his ties to the bin Laden network, Mr. Marabh moved about unfettered—traveling around the [US], moving large amounts of money, getting duplicate driver’s licenses, and forging immigration documents.” [New York Times, 10/14/2001]
Faiz abu Baker Bafana, an operative of al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, receives an Arab visitor and they discuss attacks on US interests in Singapore. Bafana knows the Arab as “Bandar,” but this is not his real name and it appears that “Bandar” is an alias for 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. Almihdhar again stays in Yazid Sufaat’s apartment and travels to Afghanistan after the meeting. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006] The apartment is also used by Zacarias Moussaoui at around the same time (see September-October 2000), and Almihdhar and several other al-Qaeda commanders had used it for a summit at the start of the year (see January 5-8, 2000). Malaysian intelligence had been monitoring the apartment and passing the results on to the US, but the CIA did not ask for the surveillance to continue and it ended, apparently before this visit. Malaysian Legal Affairs minister Rais Yatim will express puzzlement over the CIA’s lack of interest in the apartment: “We couldn’t fathom it, really. There was no show of concern.” [Newsweek, 6/2/2002] Almihdhar will return to Malaysia to continue the planning for the Singapore attack in the middle of 2001 (see June 2001).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il invites Clinton administration officials to Pyongyang, offering to sign a treaty banning the production of long-range missiles and the export of all missiles (see October 21, 1994). Secretary of State Madeleine Albright represents the US. Clinton administration officials at the negotiations between Albright and Kim acknowledge that the North Korean is, in reporter Fred Kaplan’s words, “clearly one of the world’s battier leaders,” yet they will recall his negotiations as quite sound. Clinton’s chief negotiator Robert Einhorn will later recall, “He struck me as a very serious, rational guy who knew his issues pretty well.” Albright’s policy coordinator, Wendy Sherman, will agree. “There were 14 unresolved issues, and he sat with the secretary, answering all her questions.” Einhorn will add: “When Albright presented him with the questions, at first he looked a little puzzled, as if he hadn’t known about them. Albright offered to give him time to look them over, but he said, ‘No, no, I can do this.’ He went down the list, one by one, and gave specific explanations. For example, on the question of missile exports, ‘Yes, I mean no exports of missiles of any range.’ And ‘Yes, I mean to ban the export of missile technology, not just the missiles.’ On issues where it was clear he didn’t want to be drawn out yet, he skipped over them. He understood where he wanted to be clear and where he wasn’t going to be.” The negotiations bear no fruit; Clinton chooses to spend the final weeks of his presidency working towards a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, but, as Kaplan will write, “the stage was set for diplomatic progress—and, in the meantime, the [nuclear] fuel rods remained under lock and key.” [Washington Monthly, 5/2004] Those negotiations will be abandoned by the Bush administration (see Mid-January 2001 and March 7, 2001).
Able Danger member Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer meets with the DIA deputy director and offers him a computer disc with information about al-Qaeda (including 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta), but the DIA official declines to accept the disc. [Sacramento Bee, 11/24/2005]
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court implements new rules requiring any FBI employee who sees FISA-obtained materials or other FISA-derived intelligence to sign a certification acknowledging that the court’s approval is needed before the information is disseminated to criminal investigators. This comes after the FISA Court was informed that approximately 100 FISA applications submitted by the FBI had misrepresented how criminal and intelligence agents were working together in the Catcher’s Mitt program (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001 and Summer-October 2000). The new rules also require that the CIA and NSA place a caveat on all FISA-derived intelligence sent to the bureau. In an effort to speed up inter-agency reporting, the NSA will reportedly go a step further, placing caveats on all information it sends to the FBI. The caveats warn that the information being sent might be FISA-derived and that an intelligence agent wishing to pass it to a criminal agent must first obtain assurance from the NSA that the intelligence is not FISA-derived. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 37-38 ]
9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and another man, apparently hijacker Mohamed Atta, stop in Jacksonville, Florida. They land at an airfield in a small plane, and Alshehhi purchases about 11 liters of fuel with a credit card belonging to Huffman Aviation, a flight school he studies at around this time. Alshehhi leaves the airport in a courtesy car and then comes back in “an hour or two.” When this story is first reported in late 2004, the FBI will not say why Atta and Alshehhi landed here or where they went, although another of the hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, will stay in Jacksonville twice in 2001 (see January 22-26, 2001 and February 25-March 4, 2001). In 2004, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will say that the hijackers’ time in Jacksonville never came up during the 9/11 Commission hearings, adding: “I want to know… why didn’t the September 11 Commission know about this. [The Commission] was given carte blanche authority to get any piece of intelligence to put together this jigsaw puzzle.” [First Coast News, 11/10/2004]
Mohammed Belfas, mentor of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and a former roommate of his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Belfas’ companion Agus Budiman travel to the US. Belfas, who led an Islamic study group that Atta attended in Hamburg (see 1999) and also worked in a computer warehouse with Atta, bin al-Shibh, and Marwan Alshehhi, obtains an ID card in the same fraudulent way as the 9/11 hijackers later will. After 9/11, investigators will suspect the trip was related to the attacks, as Belfas and Budiman meet a bin Laden associate in the US (see October-November 2000). Belfas and Budiman stay with Budiman’s brother, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and Budiman takes a job as a night driver for a restaurant delivery service. Belfas often accompanies him to work and offers to help drive the delivery car if Budiman helps him get a US driver’s license, which he does not need to drive the delivery route, but merely claims to want as a souvenir. On November 4 they go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and Belfas gets a Virginia ID card, after Budiman affirms he lives in Arlington. Two days later Belfas uses the ID card to get a Virginia driver’s license. He returns to Germany soon after and has an alleged chance meeting on a train with bin al-Shibh, whom he tells about the trip and the driver’s license. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 57-8] Several of the 9/11 hijackers will fraudulently obtain Virginia IDs in 2001 (see August 1-2, 2001). Bin al-Shibh will also explain his and Atta’s travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda to another chance meeting on a train. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 165]
Yemeni national Abdul Rahman Muhammad Nasir Qasim al-Yaf’i is imprisoned in Egypt after arriving there to accompany his aunt and brother for medical treatment. He is detained for 13 hours at the airport after he admits going to Afghanistan 10 years ago, and his passport is confiscated.
Detained in Egypt - He later returns to the airport for his passport, but is handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken away by the police. He is placed in a tiny cell and told the authorities just want “some general information.” During the interrogation, he is called names and made to stand up and sit down over and over again. He is asked about what he did in Afghanistan, as well as about al-Qaeda-linked attacks over the last four years. The interrogators choke him, insulting his parents, wife, and religion. He is interrogated like this three times a day for four days. Interrogators ask him to work with them, and offer to put his aunt and brother in the “finest hospitals in Cairo.” He refuses, and they tell him he will now be turned over to the US.
Rendered to Jordan - He is returned to the airport, where he boards a waiting plane. According to al-Yaf’i, the plane is “full of military, you could feel the presence of military even if it was a civilian plane.” He is flown to Amman, Jordan, and handed over to the Jordanian authorities, who again torture him. He is handcuffed, blindfolded, and told to write down everything that happened in Egypt. After he finishes, the interrogators keep asking him “do you love Osama bin Laden?” They also beat him and force him to stand in his cell for more than 24 hours without sleep. The next evening, the soles of his feet are beaten with a stick until it breaks. The interrogators continually urge him to confess, although it is unclear what he is supposed to confess to. They also say, “We’re going to kill you and bury you here,” and threaten him with rape multiple times. This continues for four months, during which time his family and tribe have no idea where he is.
Freed through Tribal Pressure - In March 2001, al-Yaf’i is flown to Yemen and handed over to the local authorities there. Upon his return, he is held for two months at the Political Security prison, but is not beaten. When he asks why he is being held, the reply is “American pressure.” Over half a year after initially being taken prisoner, he is released. He will later ascribe this to intervention by elders in his tribe. [International, 4/5/2006]
John Prescott Ellis. [Source: Bush-Clinton Fraud (.com)]Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988), chooses an unlikely reporter to anchor Fox’s election night coverage: John Prescott Ellis, a freelance Republican political adviser and the first cousin of George W. Bush (R-TX), the Republican presidential candidate. (Ellis is the son of George Herbert Walker Bush’s sister, Nancy Ellis.) Ellis was originally hired to cover the party primaries. A later study of voting patterns by the University of California will determine that in areas where voters have access to Fox News, the network’s relentless pro-Bush coverage shifts some 200,000 votes from Democrat Al Gore (D-TN) to Bush, but Ailes wants to make sure his network’s coverage is favorable to Bush, and has always had Ellis in mind for the election night anchor position, for which he specifically gives Ellis a 30-day contract. Ellis is very close to Bush’s brother Jeb Bush (R-FL), the sitting governor of Florida (“Jeb” is an acronym for his full name, John Ellis Bush). Ellis recused himself from campaign coverage in a June 1999 Boston Globe column, defending George W. Bush from allegations of cocaine use, calling the Clinton-Gore administration “morally berserk,” and telling his readers, “There is no way for you to know if I am telling you the truth about George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, because in his case, my loyalty goes to him and not to you.” Instead of this posing an ethical dilemma or being seen as a conflict of interest at Fox, Ellis is Ailes’s first and only choice to anchor the network’s election coverage. (Ailes will later tell a February 2001 House committee hearing, “We at Fox News do not discriminate against people because of their family connections”—see February 14, 2001.) [Washington Post, 11/14/2000; Salon, 11/15/2000; Observer, 11/19/2000; Associated Press, 12/11/2000; Buffalo Beat, 12/14/2000; Nation, 11/6/2006; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] Ellis will pre-emptively call the election for Bush, sparking the Florida recount controversy and helping propel his cousin into the White House (see November 7-8, 2000). In a response to testimony in the same February 2001 House committee hearing, Joan Konner, a journalism professor who will lead a CNN-commissioned independent study of the problems in that network’s election night coverage, will call Ellis’s hiring a substantial breach of journalistic ethics and standards. “If John Ellis had, indeed, made comments stating that his loyalties to the Bush family superceded any commitment he has to his profession or his employer, then I would judge that to be not only a perceived conflict-of-interest but a real conflict-of-interest for a journalist,” she will write in a letter to Representative John Dingell (D-MI). “While that does not disqualify an individual from any position as a journalist, it would, in my judgement, disqualify that person for any decision-making role involving reporting on his relatives during an election. Often friends and relatives are hired by journalism organizations because of their connections to the newsmakers. Their access to sources makes them valuable to the organization. However, the news organization should take every precaution against placing such an individual in an assignment that could result in bias in reporting.” [House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2/14/2001]
Entity Tags: John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Fox News, Boston Globe, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush, John Dingell, Roger Ailes, Nancy Ellis, Joan Konner, John Prescott Ellis
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
Agus Budiman. [Source: Der Spiegel]Mohammed bin Nasser Belfas and Agus Budiman, two Muslims living in Hamburg, Germany, travel to the US where they stay for two months. During this period, they meet with Abdurahman Alamoudi, a prominent Muslim activist whom the US has linked to Osama bin Laden. [Newsweek, 10/1/2003] In 1994, the FBI learned that bin Laden sent Alamoudi money, which he then passed on to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh” (see Shortly After March 1994). [MSNBC, 10/23/2003] Belfas will later say the purpose behind their meetings with Alamoudi was to request some favors. For instance, at Belfas’s request, Alamoudi writes a letter of recommendation for him. But after 9/11, investigators will suspect that the two were part of the Hamburg cell and that their trip to the US was related to the 9/11 attacks, for both Belfas and Budiman have connections to Mohamed Atta and other members of the cell. [Newsweek, 10/1/2003] In 1998, Belfas shared an apartment with Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh, led a prayer group attended by Atta and others (see 1999), and worked in a computer warehouse packing boxes with Atta, bin al-Shibh, and Marwan Alshehhi. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Anne Greaves. [Source: History Channel]While they attend Huffman Aviation flying school in Venice, Florida, future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi use the same training airplane as Anne Greaves, a 56-year-old Briton. Greaves will later say she sees Atta and Alshehhi on an almost daily basis over roughly six weeks.
Mohamed Atta Seen as Saudi Prince - Greaves will say that she finds it odd to find two Arabs in the quiet, retirement town of Venice, so she asks her flight instructor about them one day, and is told Atta is Saudi royalty and Alshehhi is his bodyguard. She will recall: “I remember thinking at the time I found this very strange because normally royalty learn at military establishments for security reasons alone. And also royalty I remember remarking usually had manners and I felt these these two certainly didn’t have any manners.” Asked if others at Huffman Aviation also thought Atta was some kind of prince, Greaves will comment, “It was my impression that was generally believed because it was my instructor who told me this at the time so I had the impression that that was generally believed, yes.” Whereas Alshehhi dresses casually, Greaves sees Atta “always very formally dressed… always neatly pressed trousers of a wool type. A shirt and a waistcoat to match the trousers.” This is in spite of the “extremely hot” weather. [Associated Press, 9/24/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/18/2001] Yet Rudi Dekkers, the school’s owner, will later claim the two only said they were cousins from Germany. [USA Today, 9/13/2001] (Atta and Alshehhi are in fact unrelated.) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 160-162]
Atta Given Preference - Greaves will recall, “I was really a little bit jealous in that they were always given preference with one of the Warriors which was a much newer, much neater aircraft.” She will also comment that for Atta “to have progressed as rapidly as he seemed to have done at Huffman he must have had flying skills before he came to Huffman Aviation.” (This fits with claims made by Rudi Dekkers, that Atta already had a private pilot’s license when he first arrived at the school (see July 6-December 19, 2000).)
Alshehhi Never Practices Flying - However, though the pair always flies together, she says: “I never saw Alshehhi take the controls of the aircraft. It was always Mohamed Atta.” [Associated Press, 9/24/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/18/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002]
Excited about the Cole Bombing? - The only time Greaves sees Atta and Alshehhi show any enthusiasm is around the “middle end of October” or “possibly early in November,” when they have been busy on the Internet in the school’s computer room. She sees them “hugging each other with joy and almost dancing in the room.” Several reports will later speculate that this celebrating is in response to the al-Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), though Greaves will be unsure. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/18/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001; PBS, 1/17/2002]
Greaves Suspects They Are Drug Smugglers - Greaves will later say: “I couldn’t help but be suspicious as to why [Atta] was there [at Huffman]. There was no love of flying in him.” She says Atta never shows any emotion and appears hypnotized. Although she never considers terrorism, she thinks there is “an ulterior motive, maybe drug smuggling.” After the 9/11 attacks, due to her suspicion of the pair, Greaves will contact the FBI with her concerns before the names of the suspected hijackers are made public. [BBC, 9/24/2001; Associated Press, 9/24/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/25/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001; Guardian, 7/5/2002]
The book Study of Revenge. [Source: Public domain]Laurie Mylroie, a researcher who held faculty positions at Harvard and the US Naval War College, publishes the book Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America. She argues that the Iraqi government was behind the 1993 WTC bombing. The book is published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a prominent neoconservative think tank, and her book has strong support from many important neoconservatives.
Lauded by Neoconservatives - Richard Perle calls the book “splendid and wholly convincing,” while Paul Wolfowitz calls it a “provocative and disturbing book.” Former CIA Director James Woolsey says, “Anyone who wishes to continue to deal with Saddam [Hussein] by ignoring his role in international terrorism…and by giving only office furniture to the Iraqi resistance now has the staggering task of trying to refute this superb work.” In her acknowledgements, she thanks John Bolton, I. Lewis Libby, and Wolfowitz for their support and help in writing the book. All of them will go on to take prominent positions in the Bush administration.
Mylroie's Theories Discredited - But war correspondent and terrorism expert Peter Bergen will later comment, “Mylroie became enamored of her theory that Saddam was the mastermind of a vast anti-US terrorist conspiracy in the face of virtually all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the ‘93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade…” Bergen will continue, “[B]y the mid-‘90s, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the FBI, the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, the CIA, the NSC, and the State Department had all found no evidence implicating the Iraqi government in the first Trade Center attack.” Bergen will comment that normally a book like this would not have mattered, except that the neoconservatives “believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.” [Washington Monthly, 12/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 216]
No Credible Evidence of Iraqi Involvement in WTC Bombing - The book will be used as a lodestar of neoconservative thought when terrorists launch the 9/11 attacks, when neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration will pin the blame for the attacks on Iraq (see September 13, 2001). [Unger, 2007, pp. 216] In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will conclude, “We have found no credible evidence to support theories of Iraqi government involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559]
Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Peter Bergen, Richard Perle, Saddam Hussein, Laurie Mylroie, John R. Bolton, American Enterprise Institute, 9/11 Commission, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, James Woolsey
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence
According to US visa application forms later published in the National Review, 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri are both issued with new passports on this day. [US Department of State, 10/24/2000; US Department of State, 10/24/2000] The Alshehris, who are brothers, have a family member in the Saudi passport office, and he provides them with the documents. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 525] However, the 9/11 Commission will be unable to determine whether the family member issues the passports legitimately or illegitimately. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 33 ] Apparently, the Alshehris are quite well-connected; several of their brothers work for the Saudi armed forces (a large airbase is a major employer in the region where they grew up), and their uncle is a major in the kingdom’s army and a director of logistics. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2002] Three weeks later they will use the passports to obtain tourist visas to the US (see October 24, 2000).
During the first presidential debate between George W. Bush (R-TX) and Al Gore (D-TN), Bush accuses Gore of advocating a policy of aggressive foreign interventionism, a policy Gore does not support, but which Bush does (see December 2, 1999 and Spring 2000). “The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops,” Bush says. “He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders” (see March 19, 2003). (Apparently, Bush is conflating the idea of foreign interventionism with the concept of nation building, two somewhat different concepts.) [Unger, 2007, pp. 175-176] Bush will reiterate the claim in the next presidential debate (see October 11, 2000).
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), files suit against the US government alleging that the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is not a government product and therefore the government cannot legally distribute it. The USNA report was produced by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The report provided a detailed overview of the consequences of climate change and mechanisms for adaptation. According to CEI, the report used flawed computer models and presented historical climate data without including the data’s error margins. The suit will ultimately be settled when the Bush administration takes office. The Bush White House will agree that the USNA should not be treated as a product of the US government or serve as the basis for any federal policies, positions, or rules. After the settlement, references to this report will repeatedly be removed by Bush officials from future government reports. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 ]
During the vice presidential debates, both Joseph Lieberman and Dick Cheney advocate a tough stance toward Saddam Hussein. Lieberman says he and Gore would continue to support Iraqi opposition groups “until the Iraqi people rise up and do what the people of Serbia have done in the last few days: get rid of a despot.” Cheney says it might be necessary “to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power.” [CATO Daily Dispatch, 10/6/2000]
Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman debate in Danville, Kentucky. [Source: On The Issues (.org)]During the single vice-presidential debate of the campaign, between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joseph Lieberman, Cheney makes a number of assertions about his business experience that Lieberman does not challenge. No specific question is asked about Cheney’s tenure as CEO of Halliburton, but one is asked by the moderator, PBS newscaster Jim Lehrer, about “partisanship.” In the words of authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein: “Cheney used his answer to burnish a myth that largely exists to this day. In it, he stars as the triumphant CEO, a self-reliant insider-turned-outsider who competently and ethically grew his company while increasing shareholder value. While politically useful, it happens to be a lie.” In the debate, Cheney says: “I’ve been out of Washington for the last eight years and spent the last five years running a company [sic] global concern. And been out in the private sector building a business, hiring people, creating jobs. I have a different perspective on Washington than I had when I was there in the past.” Dubose and Bernstein will note that Lieberman, a pro-corporate politician himself, fails to challenge Cheney’s self-assessment. Lieberman does make one wry observation: when Cheney challenges the common wisdom that most Americans are financially better off now than at the beginning of President Clinton’s tenure, Lieberman retorts: “I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, ‘Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?’ Most people would say yes. I’m pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers that you’re better off than you were eight years ago, too.” Cheney replies, “I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.” Dubose and Bernstein call Cheney’s retort “a whopper of a falsehood—and one more that Lieberman failed to dispute.” Cheney has become a multi-millionaire during his tenure at Halliburton, and will continue to receive compensation from the firm years after he becomes vice president. During Cheney’s five-year term as Halliburton CEO, the company had suffered due to what Fortune magazine will call his “poor leadership.” However, the large profits Halliburton made under Cheney came largely from government contracts. [Commission on Presidential Debates, 10/5/2000; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 104-106]
Hamza Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Future 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi flies from Iran to Kuwait on October 8, travels to Qatar the next day, and enters Saudi Arabia on October 13. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 32-33 ] According to the 9/11 Commission, he is accompanied on the flight from Iran to Kuwait by fellow hijacker Mohand Alshehri. The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section of its final report suggesting co-operation on travel between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda—Iran may have helped al-Qaeda by allowing operatives to transit Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan without stamping their passports (see After October 12, 2000). According to a detainee who may have been tortured, Alghamdi was in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000 (see Summer 2000); according to militant leader Luai Sakra, he was in Turkey at around this time (see Late 1999-2000), so it is unclear where Alghamdi and Alshehri are coming from. In any case, there are no direct links between this flight and actions by Iranian operatives, although the commission will note in this context that a senior Hezbollah operative visited Saudi Arabia around this time, and planned to help people in Saudi Arabia travel to Iran. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240] The 9/11 Commission’s statement that the hijackers took this flight will be based on intelligence reports from the NSA, mostly drafted shortly after 9/11. Another source for the paragraph that mentions this flight will be “operative’s claimed identification of photos of two Sept. 11 hijackers,” dated August 2002, although it will not be clear if this applies to this trip by Alghamdi and Alshehri. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3]
A satellite photo of the port of Yemen. [Source: National Geographic]Special Operations Command official Christopher Chope will later claim that in early October 2000, “one of the intelligence analysts assigned to the Able Danger effort began to get what he calls gut feel that things were going awry in Yemen; he didn’t have any hard intelligence. He asked then Commander Scott Philpott if that could be briefed at a high level briefing.” The briefing takes place on this day during a VIP visit to Garland, Texas, where the Able Danger program is based in late 2000 (see Late September 2000). [US Congress, 2/15/2006] Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) will later describe the warning in more serious terms than Chope, saying, “They saw information that led them to unequivocally understand that something was going to happen in the port at Yemen involving an American entity. Two days before the attack, they were jumping up and down because they knew something was going to happen… at the port of Aden.” [Hearst Newspapers, 11/10/2005] Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer will also later describe the warning in serious terms, claiming that the Able Danger team he was on determined that Yemen was one of the three most dangerous locations for al-Qaeda activity in the world (see Late September 2000). According to Shaffer, General Pete Schoomaker, commander of Special Operations Command, attends the briefing. Shaffer says that “Philpott requested they do something with it, they take action on it,” but apparently the warning does not reach the military commanders in Yemen before the USS Cole is bombed in Yemen two days later. Weldon will later say that the commander of the Cole told him in an interview that he “had three options on that day. He could have refueled the ship at sea. He had two other harbors. If he would have had any indication that there was a problem with Aden in Yemen, he would not have gone there. He was never given that information.” [US Congress, 2/15/2006]
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush describes a Middle East foreign policy he would implement that is very different from the policy described in the papers that his advisers have drawn up. On this day, Bush takes part in the second presidential debate with Democratic candidate Al Gore. The topic is foreign policy. Questioned when it would be appropriate to use American military force, especially with regard to the Middle East, Bush responds, “Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that’s why we’ve got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom… If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll view us that way, but if we’re a humble nation, they’ll respect us.” Bush dismisses toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq because it smacks of what he calls “nation-building.” He criticizes the Clinton administration for not maintaining the multilateral anti-Iraq coalition Bush Sr. had built in the Gulf War. Author Craig Unger will later comment, “To the tens of millions of voters who had their eyes trained on their televisions, Bush had put forth a moderate foreign policy with regard to the Middle East that was not substantively different from the policy proposed by Al Gore, or, for that matter, from Bill Clinton’s. Only a few people who had read the papers put forth by the Project for a New American Century might have guessed a far more radical policy had been developed.” [Salon, 3/15/2004] Just one month before, the Project for a New American Century released a position paper that went completely unnoticed by the media at the time (see September 2000). Many future Bush administration officials, including Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz are involved with the paper. It articulates a bold new policy to establish a more forceful US military presence in the Middle East. Regarding Iraq, it states, “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” [Salon, 3/15/2004] From Bush’s first cabinet meeting in January 2001, the focus will be on getting rid of Hussein. Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill will later recall, “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go… From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed” (see January 30, 2001). Cheney similarly misstates his true foreign policy intentions. In an NBC interview during the 2000 presidential campaign, Cheney defends Bush’s position of maintaining Clinton’s policy not to attack Iraq, asserting that the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/2002]
George W. Bush and Al Gore debate at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. [Source: Wake Forest University]In the second presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Bush once again accuses Gore of advocating nation-building, as he did in the first debate (see October 3, 2000—as in the first debate, Bush is conflating the idea of foreign interventionism with the concept of nation building, two somewhat different concepts.) Bush, not Gore, has repeatedly advocated using the US military to overthrow Saddam Hussein and forcibly install Western-style democracy in Iraq (see December 2, 1999 and Spring 2000). “Yes, we do have an obligation in the world,” Bush says, “but we can’t be all things to all people.… [Somalia] started off as a humanitarian mission then changed into a nation-building mission, and that’s where the mission went wrong.… And so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building.” Author Craig Unger will observe that Bush’s debate performance solidifies his campaign’s efforts to portray him as a moderate on foreign policy. [Atlantic Monthly, 1/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 176]
Hours after the USS Cole is bombed (see October 12, 2000), presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush is asked about the bombing. He replies, “Today, we lost sailors because of what looks like to be a terrorist attack. Terror is the enemy. Uncertainty is what the world is going to be about, and the next president must be able to address uncertainty. And that’s why I want our nation to develop an antiballistic missile system that will have the capacity to bring certainty into this uncertain world.” Author Craig Unger comments, “Bush’s proposal of an antiballistic missile system suggests that he failed to understand that al-Qaeda’s terrorism was fundamentally different from conventional warfare.” [Unger, 2004, pp. 107, 479] Bush will make similar comments on other occasions, causing the 9/11 Commission to later note, “Public references by candidate and then President Bush about terrorism before 9/11 tended to reflect [his] priorities, focusing on state-sponsored terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction] as a reason to mount a missile defense.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 509]
The NSA issues a top-secret intelligence report warning that terrorists are planning an attack in the Middle East, but the warning is not distributed until several hours after the USS Cole is bombed in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). The warning says that terrorists are involved in the “operational planning” for an attack on US or Israeli targets in the Middle East. It says that members of a group have been tracked to planning activities in Dubai and Beirut, but the names of the operatives and the group remain classified. According to one official, the warning specifies an attack in Yemen, but other officials say it covers the Middle East in general. Typically, the NSA requires one to two days to gather and distribute such highly classified reports. The warning is not reported on the US intelligence community’s worldwide computer network called Intellink. NSA reports often are sent out to a smaller network due to their high classification. [Washington Times, 10/25/2000]
Damage to the USS Cole, shown in dry dock. [Source: US Navy]9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in Yemen when the USS Cole is attacked in Aden harbor there (see October 12, 2000), and is reported to have had a role in the bombing. Almihdhar leaves shortly after the attack, together with al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 209] Bin Attash is quickly identified as one of the masterminds of the operation (see Late October-Late November 2000). Almihdhar will subsequently be accused of participating in the operation by the prime ministers of Yemen and Britain (see Early October 2001 and October 4, 2001). The Yemeni militant group Islamic Army of Aden takes credit for the bombing, and a friend of Almihdhar in San Diego will later say that Almihdhar told him he was a member of that group (see Early 2000). The Cole attack was a repeat of a failed attempt to bomb the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000), of which Almihdhar had foreknowledge (see Late 1999). Almihdhar, who trained with the Cole bombers (see Late 1999) and attended an apparent planning session for the operation (see January 5-8, 2000), may also be involved in a later ship-bombing operation in Singapore (see June 2001). Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a close associate of the hijackers, also leaves Yemen around this time and is also suspected of involvement in the bombing (see October 10-21, 2000).
Hours after the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), President Clinton says regarding the bombing: “If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a despicable and cowardly act. We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable.” [ABC News, 10/12/2000] But the US will not quickly retaliate against al-Qaeda, as it did with missile strikes after the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa (see August 20, 1998), despite convincing evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the Cole bombing (see Shortly After October 12, 2000, November 2000 or After, and November 7, 2000).
Merck informs the FDA about three fatal heart attacks (deaths 18, 19, and 20) that occurred toward the end of VIGOR, the clinical trial for its drug Vioxx that ended last March (see March 2000). These three deaths were initially left out because they had taken place after a February 10 “cut-off” that had been set at the company’s insistence (see Early February 2000) [National Public Radio, 6/8/2006]
In the months after the USS Cole is bombed in autumn 2000 (see October 12, 2000), the NSA intercepts about half a dozen communications between hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father in law, Ahmed al-Hada. [MSNBC, 7/21/2004; Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; US President, 12/26/2005 ] The hub and people associated with it are thought to have played a support role in the Cole bombing (see also October 14-Late November, 2000 and October 4, 2001). [CNN, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It was also involved in the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya (see August 4-25, 1998). The NSA has been monitoring the number for at least two years (see Late August 1998) and the FBI has used it to map al-Qaeda’s global organisation (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The NSA had previously intercepted calls between hijacker Khalid Almihdhar in the US and the hub (see Spring-Summer 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001) and also intercepts a call between Alhazmi and the hub a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)).
Following the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000), the CIA discusses possible policy changes in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Disappointed by US inaction, Alec Station chief Richard Blee decides “we’ve got to change the rules,” because he thinks al-Qaeda is getting stronger and stronger. This entails enhanced support for the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, which is the only credible opposition fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Although some CIA officers still think Alec Station’s staff is “over the top,” both the CIA’s Near East division and Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black agree with Blee, and they decide what is needed is aid to enable Massoud to pressure the Taliban, creating the conditions for CIA operations against bin Laden. The list of assistance includes cash to bribe commanders, trucks, helicopters, light arms, ammunition, uniforms, food, and possibly mortars and artillery. The plan will cost between $50 and $150 million, and will include a permanent CIA base in Afghan territory controlled by the Northern Alliance. CIA officers will then be able to accompany Massoud’s men on missions. It takes some time to arrive at these conclusions, which will be formalized into a plan (see December 29, 2000). However, the plan will not be accepted by the outgoing Clinton administration or the incoming Bush administration (see December 20, 2000). [Coll, 2004, pp. 539-541; Washington Post, 2/23/2004]
Michael Sheehan. [Source: Center on Law and Security]In the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), Clinton administration officials hold a high level meeting to discuss what the US response should be. The meeting attendees include: Counterterrorism “Tsar” Richard Clarke, Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg, and State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan.
Clarke suggests that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. There is no hard evidence of this yet but he argues that the attack matches their profile and capabilities. He presents a detailed plan, which he’d been working on before the bombing, to level all the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as well as key Taliban buildings in such towns as Kandahar and Kabul.
Reno argues there’s no clear evidence yet who was behind the bombing. If there is such evidence, any US actions should not be for retaliation but only for self-protection against future attacks.
Tenet says that he suspects al-Qaeda is behind the bombing but also wants to wait until an investigation determines that before acting.
Cohen is against any counterattack. Clarke will later recall Cohen saying at the meeting that the Cole bombing “was not sufficient provocation.” Sheehan will later say that the “entire Pentagon” was generally against a counterattack.
Albright is against a counterattack for diplomatic reasons. The Clinton administration is involved in trying to create a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians and bombing Afghanistan could ruin such talks.
Many also argue that if Afghanistan is attacked and bin Laden is not killed, he could emerge a greater hero in the Muslim world, just as he did after a 1998 US missile strike (see Late 1998). Clarke argues that the continual creation of new trained militants in Afghanistan needs to stop, and if bin Laden is killed, that would merely be a “bonus.” At the end of the meeting, the highest-ranking officials cast votes, and seven vote against Clarke’s counterstrike plan, while only Clarke votes in favor of it. After the meeting, Sheehan will meet with Clarke and express frustration with the outcome, saying, “What’s it going to take to get them to hit al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al-Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon?” [Miniter, 2003, pp. 222-227]
Author Lawrence Wright will later write about the FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000): “The FBI was convinced that the [Cole] bombers had been tipped off about the arrival of the Cole, and they wanted to expand the investigation to include a member of the president’s own family and a colonel in [the Yemeni equivalent of the FBI]. There was scant interest on the part of the Yemen authorities in pursuing such leads.” Wright will also point out: “Yemen was a particularly difficult place to start a terrorist investigation, as it was filled with active al-Qaeda cells and with sympathizers at very high levels of government. On television, Yemeni politicians called for jihad against America. Just getting permission from the Yemeni government to go to the crime scene—the wounded warship in the Aden harbor—required lengthy negotiations with hostile officials.” Cooperation from the Yemen government is erratic at best. For instance, the Yemenis eventually show the FBI a videotape taken by a harborside security camera, but it appears the moment of the explosion has been edited out. [Wright, 2006, pp. 325; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Later, when the FBI is finally allowed to interview Fahad al-Quso, who the FBI believes is one of the main Cole plotters, a Yemeni colonel enters the room and kisses Quso on both cheeks. This is a recognized signal to everyone that al-Quso is protected. [Wright, 2006, pp. 330] Between Yemeni obstructions, infighting between US officials (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and security concerns hindering movement, there will never be the same kind of investigation and trial as there was with the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and February-July 2001).
Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. [Washington Post, 1/17/2001] The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [New York Daily News, 12/2/1999; Evening Standard, 9/11/2002]
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. [USA Today, 4/18/2004; CNN, 4/19/2004] NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi obtains a US visa in Saudi Arabia. His application is incomplete, as he lists his occupation as student but fails to give his school’s address. It is also possible, but not certain, that he presents a passport containing fraudulent travel stamps associated with al-Qaeda. However, this is not recognized. He is not interviewed. The place in which the visa is issued is uncertain. The 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph will say that the visa was issued in Riyadh, but then say that the consular officer that issued the visa “told us that because of the workload in Jeddah, he rarely had time to thumb through passports.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14 ] A stipulation about the hijackers submitted as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will say that the visa was issued in Jeddah. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 32 ] A General Accountability Office review of the hijackers’ visas will say that the visa was issued in Riyadh. [United States General Accounting Office, 10/21/2002, pp. 46 ] At least 11 other visas issued to the hijackers were issued by a single consular official in Jeddah (see July 1, 2000).
9/11 hijacker Mohand Alshehri obtains a US visa from the American embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His application is incomplete, as he claims to be a student, but gives his school’s address as “Riyadh K.S.A.” (which presumably stands for “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”). He also gives his address as “Any hotel,” and changes his desired length of stay from “1 years,” which is crossed out on the application, to “6 months.” He says he will be supporting himself in the US, and is not interviewed. The consular officer that issues the visa will say, “We only interviewed Saudis if there was a previous denial of a visa application or if there was something wrong with the application.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 178-9 ] The same consular officer will later issue a visa to another of the hijackers (see November 20, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 16, 38 ]
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