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CIA Director George Tenet tells the Senate Intelligence Committee that one of the agency’s “highest concerns” is a terrorist attack on an American chemical facility (see Late September 2001). [Roberts, 2008, pp. 93]
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launch an investigation into allegations that Monsanto representatives paid bribes to Indonesian officials in an effort to advance its business interests there. The Justice Department and SEC were reportedly informed of the suspected bribery by Monsanto itself, which says it launched its own investigation after noticing irregularities in the accounting of its Jakarta-based subsidiary. [Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2004] The investigation lasts about three years. On January 6, 2005, the Justice Department and the SEC announce that Monsanto has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to the Justice Department, which has charged the company with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company is also ordered to pay $500,000 to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As part of the settlement, Monsanto will allow an “independent compliance expert” to audit and monitor the company and to ensure there are no further breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company says it accepts full responsibility and has taken action against those involved. “We accept full responsibility for the improper activities that occurred in connection with our Indonesian affiliates,” says Lori Fisher, one of the company’s spokespersons. “Such behavior is not condoned nor accepted at Monsanto, and the people involved are no longer employed by Monsanto.” [Associated Press, 1/6/2001; Reuters, 1/7/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005; Sunday Herald, 1/9/2005]
Pakistani police publicly name Saeed Sheikh and a Islamic militant group he belongs to, Jaish-e-Mohammed, as those responsible for reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder. [Observer, 2/24/2002] In the next several months, at least 12 Western news articles mention Saeed’s links to al-Qaeda [ABC News, 2/7/2002; Boston Globe, 2/7/2002; Associated Press, 2/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2002] , including his financing of 9/11 [New York Daily News, 2/7/2002; CNN, 2/8/2002; Associated Press, 2/9/2002; Guardian, 2/9/2002; Independent, 2/10/2002; Time, 2/10/2002; New York Post, 2/10/2002; Evening Standard, 2/12/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/13/2002; New York Post, 2/22/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/24/2002; USA Today, 3/8/2002] , and at least 16 articles mention his links to the ISI. [Cox News Service, 2/21/2002; Observer, 2/24/2002; Daily Telegraph, 2/24/2002; Newsweek, 2/25/2002; New York Times, 2/25/2002; USA Today, 2/25/2002; National Post, 2/26/2002; Boston Globe, 2/28/2002; Newsweek, 3/11/2002; Newsweek, 3/13/2002; Guardian, 4/5/2002; MSNBC, 4/5/2002] However, many other articles fail to mention either link. Only a few articles consider that Saeed could have been connected to both groups at the same time [London Times, 2/25/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; London Times, 4/21/2002] , and apparently, only one of these mentions he could be involved in the ISI, al-Qaeda, and financing 9/11. [London Times, 4/21/2002] By the time Saeed is convicted of Pearl’s murder in July 2002, Saeed’s possible connections to al-Qaeda and/or the ISI are virtually unreported in US newspapers, while many British newspapers are still making one or the other connection.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld publicly questions the relevance of the Geneva Conventions to modern day conflicts. “The reality is the set of facts that exist today with the al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not necessarily the set of facts that were considered when the Geneva Convention was fashioned.” [Human Rights Watch, 6/2004]
In a memo concurrent with the presidential declaration that the Geneva Convention does not apply to Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters (see February 7, 2002), Jay Bybee, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, sends a memo to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. Bybee concludes that President Bush has the legal authority to conclude that Taliban fighters have no rights to prisoner of war status as defined under the Geneva Conventions, because the Taliban lack an organized command structure, do not wear uniforms, and do not consider themselves bound by Geneva. It also concludes that there is no need for the US to convene Article 5 tribunals under Geneva to determine the status of the Taliban, as Bush’s presidential determination of their status eliminates any doubt under domestic law. [US Department of Justice, 2/7/2002 ; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ]
The White House declares that the United States will apply the Geneva Conventions to the conflict in Afghanistan, but will not grant prisoner-of-war status to captured Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. Though Afghanistan was party to the 1949 treaty, Taliban fighters are not protected by the Conventions, the directive states, because the Taliban is not recognized by the US as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. Likewise, al-Qaeda fighters are not eligible to be protected under the treaty’s provisions because they do not represent a state that is party to the Conventions either.
Administration Will Treat Detainees Humanely 'Consistent' with Geneva - In the memo, President Bush writes that even though al-Qaeda detainees do not qualify as prisoners of war under Geneva, “as a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” The presidential directive is apparently based on Alberto Gonzales’s January 25 memo (see January 25, 2002) and a memo from Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington (see January 25, 2002).
Bush Chooses Not to Suspend Geneva between US and Afghanistan - The directive also concludes that Bush, as commander in chief of the United States, has the authority to suspend the Geneva Conventions regarding the conflict in Afghanistan, should he feel necessary: Bush writes, “I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time.” Though not scheduled for declassification until 2012, the directive will be released by the White House in June 2004 to demonstrate that the president never authorized torture against detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [George W. Bush, 2/7/2002 ; CNN, 2/7/2002; Newsweek, 5/24/2004; Truthout (.org), 1/19/2005; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 191]
Overriding State Department Objections - Bush apparently ignores or overrides objections from the State Department, including Secretary of State Colin Powell (see January 25, 2002) and the department’s chief legal counsel, William Howard Taft IV (see January 25, 2002). Both Powell and Taft strenuously objected to the new policy. [Savage, 2007, pp. 147]
Ignoring Promises of Humane Treatment - The reality will be somewhat different. Gonzales laid out the arguments for and against complying with Geneva in an earlier memo (see January 18-25, 2002), and argued that if the administration dispensed with Geneva, no one could later be charged with war crimes. Yet, according to Colin Powell’s chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, sometime after the Bush memo is issued, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld decide to ignore the portions promising humane treatment for prisoners. “In going back and looking at the deliberations,” Wilkerson later recalls, “it was clear to me that what the president had decided was one thing and what was implemented was quite another thing.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 190-191]
Hassan Ali bin Attash. [Source: US Defense Department]Pakistani forces raid a safe house in Karachi, Pakistan, and arrest 17 suspected al-Qaeda operatives. All 17 will eventually be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba.
Abu Bara al-Taizi - One of them is Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said), who attended the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000) and was to be a hijacker for an Asian portion of the 9/11 attacks that never materialized. Al-Taizi will be handed to the US on February 27, and then transferred to Guantanamo a few months later.
Abdu Ali Sharqawi - The safe house is run by Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi, a Yemeni commonly known as Riyadh the Facilitator. He is arrested as well, but he will not be handed to the US and then sent to Guantanamo until September 2004. [US Department of Defense, 7/7/2008; US Department of Defense, 10/25/2008] Another Guantanamo prisoner, Hassan Ali bin Attash, will later say that he and al-Sharqawi were held in a Jordanian prison for over a year. That would explain most of the time between al-Sharqawi’s arrest and his transfer to Guantanamo. [US Department of Defense, 6/25/2008] The New York Times will later identify al-Sharqawi as one of the four most important al-Qaeda leaders captured in the first year after 9/11. [New York Times, 9/10/2002]
Al-Sharqawi's Al-Qaeda Activity - According to al-Sharqawi’s Guantanamo file, he joined al-Qaeda after fighting in Bosnia in 1995 and was closely linked to many al-Qaeda leaders. For a time, he even took part in weekly planning meetings with Osama bin Laden and others. In the summer of 2001, he began running the safe house in Karachi. His file says that he photo-identifies 11 of the 9/11 hijackers and provides varying amounts of information on each of them. He estimates that he helped over 100 al-Qaeda operatives leave Pakistan in the post-9/11 crackdown before his safe house was shut down. 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh passed through his safe house in January 2002, a few weeks before the safe house is raided. As of late 2008, al-Sharqawi, al-Taizi, and nine others captured in the raid remain imprisoned in Guantanamo, while six others have been transferred out. [US Department of Defense, 7/7/2008; US Department of Defense, 10/25/2008] Most of the above is based on Guantanamo files leaked to the public in 2011 by the non-profit whistleblower group WikiLeaks. There are many doubts about the reliability of the information in the files (see April 24, 2011).
Neighbor's Tip Led to Raid - The safe house was discovered because the Pakistani Army asked the public for leads on the movements of suspicious foreigners. Apparently one or more neighbors pointed out the safe house (see Late 2001).
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer meets with US Vice President Dick Cheney and tells him that Israel is concerned that Iran, which Israel believes will have nuclear weapons by 2005, represents a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. “The danger, as I see it, is from a Hezbollah-Iran-Palestinian triangle, with Iran leading this triangle and putting together a coalition of terror,” he tells Cheney. [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
Accused al-Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (see December 12, 2001) is charged with one count of credit card fraud. He has already been arrested on a material witness warrant pertaining to the investigation of the 9/11 attacks; since January, he has been in detention in New York City, where most of the investigations are centered. [Bradley Scout, 3/29/2002] According to the FBI, phone records link al-Marri with a phone number in the United Arab Emirates that was used by 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and one of his associates, Ramzi bin Al-Shibh. Al-Marri’s lawyer, Richard Jasper, says there is no evidence linking al-Marri to the phone calls by Atta and bin al-Shibh, al-Marri merely attempted three phone calls to the same number. “Attempted—I don’t know what that means, do you?” Jasper says. “It’s the thinnest of inferences, actually. If you read the affidavit carefully there’s no direct or indirect evidence he made the calls. How do we know there wasn’t some kind of mistaken call or some flaw in recovering the numbers?” Al-Marri has family members in the UAE. [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/21/2002]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says during a Pentagon press briefing that the US will “continue” to treat Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners humanely. “In short, we will continue to treat them consistent with the principles of fairness, freedom, and justice that our nation was founded on, the principles that they obviously abhor and which they sought to attack and destroy. Notwithstanding the isolated pockets of international hyperventilation, we do not treat detainees in any manner other than a manner that is humane.” [US Department of Defense, 2/8/2002]
Salon exposes details about the FBI’s anthrax investigation. The FBI appears to be casting a very wide net, for instance approaching all 40,000 members of the American Society of Microbiologists and putting out flyers all over New Jersey asking for information. Yet nearly all the evidence so far suggests that the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks was only given to about 20 laboratories in the US, and most likely only four US laboratories have the capability for “weaponizing” dry anthrax. Two of these labs are the US Army’s USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Maryland, or the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. There are probably less than 50 scientists in the US with the necessary skills. Meanwhile, the FBI has not yet subpoenaed employee records of the few labs that used the strain of anthrax used in the attacks. Numerous anthrax experts express puzzlement. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor and biological arms control expert, believes the FBI is dragging its heels for political reasons. She is convinced the FBI knows who mailed the anthrax letters, but is not arresting him, because he has been involved in secret biological weapons research that the US does not want revealed. “This guy knows too much, and knows things the US isn’t very anxious to publicize. Therefore, they don’t want to get too close.” It will later turn out that she is referring to anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill (see February-June 2002). [Salon, 2/8/2002]
In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 48 percent of the respondents believe that Iraq has “weapons that threaten US.” [USA Today, 2/11/2002]
The Salt Pit, a secret CIA prison near Kabul, Afghanistan. [Source: Space Imaging Middle East]President George Bush signs a secret order authorizing the CIA to set up a network of secret detention and interrogation centers outside the United States where high value prisoners can be interrogated “with unprecedented harshness.” [Newsweek, 5/24/2004] This takes place shortly after February 7, 2002, when Bush declared that al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners were not subject to the Geneva Convention (see February 7, 2002). The first secret CIA prison will begin operating in Thailand in March 2002 (see March 2002).
The US negotiates “status of force” agreements with several foreign governments allowing the US to set up CIA-run interrogation facilities and granting immunity to US personnel and private contractors. The facilities were authorized by a recent secret presidential directive (see After February 7, 2002). [Newsweek, 5/24/2004] The CIA-run centers are kept completely under wraps. Prisoners are secretly held in custody and hidden from International Human rights organizations. In these facilities, there will be several incidents of abuse, torture, and murder. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 ; Washington Post, 5/11/2004; New York Times, 5/13/2004] These secret detentions centers will be operated in several locations around the world including:
Afghanistan - Asadabad, Kabul, Jalalabad, Gardez, Khost, Bagram, Kabul (known as
“the Pit”). [First, 6/2004 ; Human Rights First, 6/17/2004]
Pakistan - Kohat (near the border of Afghanistan), Alizai. [First, 6/2004 ; Human Rights First, 6/17/2004]
Britain - Diego Garcia (British Possession in the Indian Ocean). [First, 6/2004 ; Human Rights First, 6/17/2004]
Jordan - Al Jafr Prison. [First, 6/2004 ; Human Rights First, 6/17/2004]
United States naval ships at sea - The USS Bataan and the USS Peleliu. [First, 6/2004 ; Human Rights First, 6/17/2004]
Thailand - Inside an unknown US military base, which is the first to become operational in March 2002 (see March 2002). [ABC News, 12/5/2005]
Ariel Sharon. [Source: US Department of Defense]Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush. According to the Ha’aretz Daily, the goal of the meeting is to “convince the United States that Iran constitutes a strategic threat to Israel.” [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaims, “Every test that has been done says the air quality was in acceptable limits.” [New York Daily News, 2/10/2002]
Katherine Smith is killed one day before her scheduled appearance in court on charges that she helped five Islamic men get illegal drivers licenses. According to witnesses, she veered into a utility pole when a fire erupted in her car. She was burned beyond recognition. The FBI will later determine that gasoline was poured on her clothing before she died in the fire and find that arson was the cause of death. [Associated Press, 2/15/2002] A suicide note is found, but prosecutors will say they are looking for murder suspects. Smith was being investigated by the FBI; the five Islamic men she allegedly helped will later plead guilty to charges of fraud. One of these men, Sakhera Hammad, was found with a pass in his wallet giving access to the the basement of the World Trade Center, dated September 5, 2001. [Go Memphis, 2/12/2002; Associated Press, 2/13/2002; Reuters, 2/15/2002; Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 2/21/2002] Hammad claims he was a plumber and worked on the WTC’s sprinkler system on September 5. His father, Peter Hansen, provides a letter that he says he obtained from his son’s employer, Sergei Denko, president of Denko Mechanical. Denko says Hammad had been working for his company in the basement garage area of the North Tower of the WTC. [New York Times, 2/18/2002] Shown a photocopy of the pass that gave Hammad access to the lower basement of the North Tower, New York Port Authority officials will say it looks authentic, but they cannot be certain without seeing the original. Authorities said Hammad told them that he is plumber, and he and his cousin were in the tower to work on the sprinkler system. New York authorities have no record of a plumber’s license for either cousin. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/17/2002] One of the five Islamic men, Khaled Odtllah, drove from New York City to Memphis on September 11. Tennessee is one of only four US states that doesn’t require a Social Security card to get a driver’s license. A prosecutor accuses each of the five men of attempting to acquire a “completely false and untraceable identity.” [Associated Press, 2/12/2002; Associated Press, 2/15/2002] One month later, the coroner who examines Smith’s body will be targeted by a bomb, which is defused. Then in June the coroner will be attacked, bound with barbed wire, and left with a bomb tied to his body, but he survives. [Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 3/14/2002]
Detainee Jamal Udeen is flown from Kandahar to the Guantanamo prison. [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Before being put on the plane, his interrogator tells him it is “just standard procedure.” Udeen later says: “I was assured it would take about two months to process me and then I could go free. I believed him.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Udeen will stay in detention at Guantanamo until March 9, 2004. [Mirror, 3/12/2004]
The Delta Group releases a final report on air quality data collected in Manhattan between October and December, 2001 (see October 2, 2001-Mid-December, 2001). Thomas Cahill, PhD, Delta Group member, is a noted expert on composition and transport of ultra-fine airborne particles. Dr. Cahill explains that World Trade Center aerosols contained high levels of sulfur, sulfur-based compounds, and very fine silicon that probably came from the thousands of tons of glass that had been in the WTC buildings. The presence of these fine particles decreased during the month of October. The largest spike in very fine particle levels measured 58 micrograms per cubic meter which Cahill says was “an extremely high peak.” The sampling also indicated that there were almost always high concentrations of coarse particles—those about 12 micrometers to 5 micrometers in diameter—present in the air near the WTC site. “These particles simply should not be there,” Cahill says. “It had rained, sometimes heavily, on six days in the prior three weeks. That rain should have settled these coarse particles.” He says their presence suggests the hot debris pile was continually generating the larger particles. The study also determined the chemical composition of the dust it sampled. Some of the metals found in the air occurred at the highest levels ever recorded in the United States. Metals present at high levels included iron, titanium (some associated with powdered concrete), vanadium and nickel (often associated with fuel-oil combustion), copper and zinc. Mercury, lead, and asbestos were present at low levels. [On Earth, 2002; Dateline (Univ of Calif, Davis), 2/15/2002; Chemical and Engineering News, 2/18/2002]
Thomas R. Frieden, MD, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, testifies before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and says: “The data from air quality tests thus far have been, in general, reassuring. None of the testing done to date has shown results that would indicate long term health impacts.” But his assessment is based on a flawed interpretation of the AHERA standard. He incorrectly (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) says in the testimony that “the clearance/reoccupancy standard for indoor air in schools after an asbestos abatement project… is 70 structures of asbestos per square millimeter.” [New York City, 2/11/2002]
Attorney General John Ashcroft says “I want to encourage…all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert.” The FBI warns of a threat from Yemeni or Saudi Arabian terrorists who may be planning an imminent attack. [CNN, 2/12/2002] It is later revealed that the threat hadn’t been corroborated by other US intelligence agencies. In addition, the threat actually indicated a more likely attack in Yemen. This announcement was made the same day that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay appeared before Congress. A week earlier, the White House had been ordered to refrain from destroying any documentation related to Enron. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ]
Secretary of State Colin Powell gives testimony before a Senate committee, following President Bush’s State of the Union address labeling Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the “axis of evil” (see January 29, 2002). Powell promises that there is no plan start a war with Iran or North Korea, but “with respect to Iraq it has long been, for several years now, a policy of the United States government that regime change would be in the best interests of the region, the best interests of the Iraqi people. And we are looking into a variety of options that would bring that about.” Afterwards, unnamed senior administration officials tell the New York Times, “There [is] a consensus within the [Bush] administration that [Saddam Hussein] must be overthrown and that plans to do so are being drawn up. But there is no agreement as to how precisely that should be done or how long the United States should be prepared to wait for action.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004]
Senior Bush administration officials say President Bush has decided to oust Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein from power. “This is not an argument about whether to get rid of Saddam Hussein,” one official says. “That debate is over. This is… how you do it.”
CIA, Pentagon Making Plans for Regime Change - Bush has ordered the CIA, the Pentagon, and other agencies to come up with a plan combining military, diplomatic, and covert actions to force Hussein from power. A military strike is not yet imminent, but Bush has decided that Hussein and his putative weapons of mass destruction are such a threat to US security that he must be removed from power, even if US allies do not help. The CIA has already presented Bush with a plan to destabilize Hussein’s regime, incorporating covert action campaigns, sabotage, information warfare, and stepped-up bombing runs throughout the northern and southern “no-fly” zones. Bush is reportedly enthusiastic about the plan, and the CIA has begun assigning officers to the task. Reporters Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott write: “The president’s decision has launched the United States on a course that will have major ramifications for the US military, the Middle East’s future political alignment, international oil flows, and Bush’s own war on terrorism.”
Some Allies Dubious - Allies such as Russia have already expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of such a series of actions, and military experts warn that any campaign in Iraq would be long, bloody, and difficult to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. Nevertheless, one foreign leader who recently met with Bush came away “with the feeling that a decision has been made to strike Iraq, and the ‘how’ and ‘when’ are still fluid,” according to a diplomat.
Cheney to Inform Middle Eastern Leaders of US Intentions - Vice President Cheney will soon depart for a visit to 11 Middle East nations; while the public explanation is that he wants to listen to those nations’ views on the US’s Iraq policy, in reality, Cheney will inform them that the US will overthrow the Hussein regime. One senior official says: “He’s not going to beg for support. He’s going to inform them that the president’s decision has been made and will be carried out, and if they want some input into how and when it’s carried out, now’s the time for them to speak up.” At least one Middle Eastern ally, Egypt, has reservations about such a plan. Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy said last week that Bush should keep the US focus on fighting international terrorism, where he has broad international backing. “If you mix two issues together, you will lose this focus,” he said.
Debate over Role of Chalabi, INC - There is still sharp debate within the administration over the role that Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress will play in the overthrow and subsequent realignment. Many neoconservatives, particularly in the offices of Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tout Chalabi as the next leader of Iraq, but others are not sanguine about Chalabi and his organization, with CIA officials warning that the INC is riven by internal debate and undoubtedly riddled with spies from Iraq and Iran. [Knight Ridder, 2/13/2002]
Entity Tags: Warren Strobel, Saddam Hussein, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ahmed Chalabi, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Iraqi National Congress, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nabil Fahmy, John Walcott, US Department of Defense
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) issues “a finished intelligence product” summarizing the February 5, 2002 SISMI report (see February 5, 2002). The report, entitled “Niamey Signed an Agreement to Sell 500 Tons of Uranium a Year to Baghdad,” states as irrefutable fact that Iraq intends to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, March 1, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002). It concludes, “Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program.” It does not comment on the credibility of the sourcing. The report is sent directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. Within hours, Cheney directs the CIA (see February 5, 2002) to investigate the claims. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 report on Iraqi WMD (see July 9, 2004), CIA and DIA analysts find the subsequent reports more informative and believable than the first, more sketchy reports (see February 5, 2002). The CIA’s Directorate of Operations tells one agency analyst that the report comes from a “very credible source.” Analysts with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) continue to find the reports unconvincing. [US Congress, 7/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 239] Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern will later describe Cheney’s receipt of this document as “odd.” “[I]n more than two years of briefing then-Vice President George H. W. Bush every other morning, not once did he ask a question about a DIA report or even indicate that he had read one,” McGovern will note. “That this particular report was given to Cheney almost certainly reflects the widespread practice of ‘cherry picking’ intelligence.” [AfterDowningStreet (.org), 7/25/2005]
Sections of the Norman Transcript article (February 12, 2002). [Source: Norman Transcript]A former high-ranking CIA officer named David Edger says that the CIA had tracked “some of the people responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center” in Germany, but failed to stop them. Between 1997 and 2001, Edger was CIA station chief in Berlin, Germany, and thus directed CIA surveillance and infiltration attempts against the Hamburg cell of 9/11 hijackers, and other cells in Germany (see May 1997). In August 2001, Edger retired and moved to Oklahoma to teach (see August 2001), and on this day he makes some intriguing comments to the Norman Transcript, a newspaper in Norman, Oklahoma. According to the Norman Transcript: “Up until his appointment with [the University of Oklahoma] six months ago, Edger’s work with the CIA focused on terrorist groups in Germany. One of the three cells he was tracking included some of the people responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He said although officers knew members of the cell and some of what they were doing, they had no idea that they would meet in London and go to different parts of the US, where they would learn to fly planes to crash into the World Trade Center. ‘In that case, we failed,’ Edger said.” [Norman Transcript (Oklahoma), 2/12/2002]
What Did the CIA Know? - While it is clear that the CIA was monitoring some members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell containing a few of the 9/11 hijackers (see December 1999 and Spring 2000), it is unclear just what it might have known of the hijackers in Hamburg before 9/11 (see January 31, 1999, March 1999, 2000, and September 2000-July 24, 2001). According to some reports, the CIA monitored 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta for six months in early 2000 (see January-May 2000).
Edger's Knowledge Remains a Mystery - Although Edger would seem to be in a prime position to know just what the CIA might have known about the hijackers and their Hamburg associates before 9/11, there are no signs he is interviewed by the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry or 9/11 Commission. He also will not make any similar comments to any newspaper except for the obscure Norman Transcript.
FBI translator Sibel Edmonds submits a confidential memo (see Between February 1, 2002 and February 11, 2002) alleging that co-translator Melek Can Dickerson shielded Turkish officials from an FBI investigation by failing to translate important wiretapped conversations. Edmonds’ supervisor, Stephanie Bryan, passes the memo onto supervisory special agent Tom Frields. But Frields says he will not look at the memo until after Dickerson and supervisor Mike Feghali have reviewed and commented on it. Shortly after submitting the memo, Edmonds is informed that she is being investigated by the bureau’s security department because she wrote the memo on a home computer, even though she had received explicit permission to do so (see Between February 1, 2002 and February 11, 2002). Before leaving the office, Dickerson allegedly comes over to her and says, “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] The following day, three FBI agents come to the home of Sibel and Matthew Edmonds and seize their computer. [Associated Press, 1/14/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
A safe house in Sana’a, Yemen, where Samir al-Hada was hiding. [Source: CNN]Samir al-Hada, an al-Qaeda operative who helped run a vital al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see Late 1998-Early 2002), dies while being pursued by Yemeni police. The Yemeni police were tipped off by Samir’s landlord that he was planning to flee the country when he failed to produce identity documents to renew his lease. The police stake out his hideout for a week but he escapes and, during the chase, a grenade explodes in his hand and kills him. He was the brother-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. [BBC, 2/13/2002; Guardian, 2/14/2002; CNN, 2/14/2002; Al Ahram, 2/21/2002] After the attack, the police search the house where al-Hada had been staying and seize weapons, documents, books, a mobile phone, and a piece of paper containing phone numbers. [CBS News, 2/13/2002; BBC, 2/15/2002] The al-Hada hub was used in planning the embassy bombings in 1998 (see August 4-25, 1998 and October 4, 2001), the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). It had been monitored by the NSA since the late 1990s (see Late August 1998 and Early 1999). Ahmed al-Hada is in Yemeni custody by 2006; it has not been stated when or how he was captured. [Wright, 2006, pp. 378] It appears that the communications hub is no longer functional after al-Hada’s death, as there are no more references to it operating, several of the al-Hada clan are rounded up, the hub is again discussed by the media (see February 2001 and After), and the clan’s patriarch, Ahmed al-Hada, is again named in the media. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/14/2002; CNN, 2/14/2002; Al Ahram, 2/21/2002]
Kenneth Adelman. [Source: PBS]Neoconservative Kenneth Adelman, who served as an assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975-1977 and was arms control director in the Reagan administration, writes an op-ed for the Washington Post titled “Cakewalk in Iraq.” Adelman is straightforward in his insistence that defeating the Iraqi military and beginning a transition to a democratic government in Iraq will be a “cakewalk.” He derides predictions that the US could lose “thousands of troops in the process,” writing, “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” He gives what he calls “simple, responsible reasons:” it was a cakewalk in 1991, Iraq is significantly weaker than during the Gulf War, and “now we’re playing for keeps.” Adelman details just how weak and insignificant the much-vaunted Iraqi ground forces are, and says that US forces are “much fiercer.” Between that quality and the sophisticated “gizmos”—unmanned Predator drones, “smart” bombs, and other technological wonders—Adelman says the Iraqi military should be routed with ease. He gives similar short shrift to the idea that the US needs to build a multinational coalition. In 1991, he writes, the US “engaged a grand international coalition because we lacked a domestic coalition. Virtually the entire Democratic leadership stood against that President Bush. The public, too, was divided.” The situation is different today. “This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as ‘coalition partners’ to convince the Washington establishment that we’re right. Americans of all parties now know we must wage a total war on terrorism.” Saddam Hussein, and not Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, is “the number one threat against American security and civilization. Unlike Osama bin Laden, he has billions of dollars in government funds, scores of government research labs working feverishly on weapons of mass destruction—and just as deep a hatred of America and civilized free societies.… Measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America’s war on terrorism.” [Washington Post, 2/13/2002]
Alan Foley, the head of the Director of Central Intelligence’s (DCI) Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) completes a “senior publish when ready” report, an intelligence assessment with limited distribution, which states, “[I]nformation on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report (see October 15, 2001) that lacks crucial details, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated.” The report discusses the details of a recent foreign intelligence report (see February 5, 2002) issued by the CIA Directorate of Operations and says that “some of the information in the report contradicts reporting (see November 20, 2001) from the US Embassy in Niamey, Niger. US diplomats say the French government-led consortium that operates Niger’s two uranium mines maintains complete control over uranium mining and yellowcake production.” The CIA sends a separate version of this assessment to Vice President Dick Cheney. Unlike the official version, the copy sent to Cheney names the foreign intelligence agency, which the New Yorker will later reveal is the Italian SISMI. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004; Wilson, 2007, pp. 376-377]
Vice President Dick Cheney asks his morning intelligence briefer, CIA briefer David Terry, about the Defense Intelligence Agency’s recent analysis (see February 12, 2002) of SISMI’s February 5 report (see February 5, 2002) suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. [Time, 7/21/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004] Cheney is reportedly dissatisfied with his briefer’s initial response, and asks the agency to take another look (see Shortly after February 12, 2002). [CIA Task Sheet, 2/13/2002; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Cheney’s questions quickly reach the desk of senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, who accepts the suggestion of another CIA officer to send her husband, Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate the claims (see February 13, 2002). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 108-110]
The CIA’s DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) sends a cable to an unnamed government office or official (the identity of which is redacted in the source document) requesting approval to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate Italian intelligence reports that Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from that country (see February 13, 2002). The cable also requests additional information from Italy regarding the matter. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Valerie Plame Wilson. [Source: PEP]In response to questions from Vice President Dick Cheney (see (February 13, 2002)), CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and officials from the CIA’s DO counterproliferation division (CPD) meet to discuss what the agency should do to determine the validity of recent Italian intelligence reports (see October 15, 2001 and February 5, 2002) alleging that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger. During the meeting, Plame Wilson suggests sending her husband, Joseph Wilson, an Africa expert and former US diplomat, to Niger to investigate the reports. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] The meeting is chronicled in an internal agency memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal in October 2003. [Wall Street Journal, 10/17/2003] Intelligence officials subsequently will not deny that Plame Wilson was involved in the decision to send Wilson to Niger, but will say she was not “responsible” for the decision. [Wall Street Journal, 10/17/2003]
CIA Alerted to Cheney's Concerns - In her 2007 book Fair Game, Plame Wilson recalls that shortly after Cheney’s initial questions, a young officer rushes into her CPD office and tells her “someone from the vice president’s office” just called the officer on her secure telephone line. The caller, apparently a member of Cheney’s staff, wants information about an intelligence report that the Italian government has passed to the US, alleging that in 1999 Iraq attempted to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Cheney is, according to the staffer, “interested and want[s] more information.” Plame Wilson will write, “If the report was true at all, I knew that it would be damning evidence indeed that Iraq was seeking to restart its nuclear program.”
'Nonplussed' at White House Contact - “I was momentarily nonplussed that someone from the vice president’s office had reached down into the junior working levels of the agency to discuss or find an answer to an intelligence report,” she will write. “In my experience, I had never known that to happen. There were strict protocols and procedures for funneling intelligence to policy makers or fielding their questions. Whole offices within the agency were set up and devoted to doing just that. A call to a random desk officer might get the policy maker a quick answer in the heat of the moment, but it was also a recipe for trouble. Handing a senior policy maker ‘raw’ intelligence that had not been properly vetted, placed into context, or appropriately caveated by intelligence professionals usually led to misinterpretation—at a minimum.” She adds that at the time, she is “not aware of the unprecedented number of visits the vice president had made to our headquarters to meet with analysts and look for any available evidence to support the Iraq WMD claims the administration was beginning to make.… I was still blissfully ignorant of any special visits or pressure from the administration vis-a-vis Iraq. I just wanted to get some answers.”
Decision to Ask Wilson Originates with Records Officer, Not Plame Wilson - Plame Wilson tables her concerns about the unusual contact, and begins pondering how best to find answers to Cheney’s questions. The “first and most obvious choice,” she will write, “would be to contact our [REDACTED] office in Niger and ask them to investigate these allegations using local sources available on the ground.” But the budget cuts of the mid-1990s had forced the closing of numerous CIA offices in Africa, including its station in Niamey, Niger. Plame Wilson will recall, “A midlevel reports officer who had joined the discussion in the hallway enthusiastically suggested, ‘What about talking to Joe about it?’” The reports officer is referring to Plame Wilson’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. “He knew of Joe’s history and role in the first Gulf War (see September 5, 1988 and After and September 20, 1990), his extensive experience in Africa, and also that in 1999 the CIA had sent Joe on a sensitive mission to Africa on uranium issues. Of course, none of us imagined the firestorm this sincere suggestion would ignite. At the moment, the only thought that flashed through my mind was that if Joe were out of the country for an extended period of time I would be left to wrestle two squirmy toddlers into bed each evening.… So I was far from keen on the idea, but we needed to respond to the vice president’s office with something other than a lame and obviously unacceptable, ‘We don’t know, sorry.’” Plame Wilson and the reports officer make the suggestion to send Wilson to Niger; her supervisor decides to meet with Wilson “and the appropriate agency and State [Department] officials.” At her supervisor’s behest, Plame Wilson sends an e-mail to her division chief (whom she will only identify as “Scott”), informing him of the decision and noting that “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former minister of mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed some light on this sort of activity.” Plame Wilson will write that her words are intended to “gently remind [her division chief] of Joe’s credentials to support why my boss thought he should come into headquarters in the first place.” She will note: “Months later, those words would be ripped out of that e-mail and cited as proof that I had recommended Joe for the trip (see February 13, 2002). But at the time, I simply hit the ‘send’ button and moved on to the other tasks that were demanding my attention.” That night, Plame Wilson broaches the subject of going to Niger with her husband; he agrees to meet with her superiors at the CPD. [US Congress, 7/7/2004; Wilson, 2007, pp. 108-110]
Cheney Later Denies Knowledge of Iraq-Niger Claims - During the investigation of the Plame Wilson leak (see September 26, 2003), Cheney will repeatedly deny any knowledge that the CIA was following up on his request for more information. This is a lie. Among other refutations, the Senate Intelligence Committee will report in 2004 that he was told on February 14 that CIA officers were working with clandestine sources to find out the truth behind the Niger allegations (see July 9, 2004). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 368]
Mike Feghali, the supervisor of the FBI’s translations center, writes in a memo to his superiors that “there was no basis” for Sibel Edmonds’s allegations (see Afternoon February 12, 2002) that FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson had shielded Turkish officials from FBI investigation by failing to provide field agents with accurate transcripts of wiretapped conversations. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
President Bush unveils a plan to reduce the “intensity” of greenhouse gases by 18 percent. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of emissions to economic output, meaning that global warming pollution would continue to grow, but at a slower pace. This target would be achieved through $4.6 billion in tax credits and incentives, spent over a five-year period, to encourage businesses and farmers to cut their emissions. For example, the plan would provide tax credits to businesses that use renewable energy sources. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006] Critics of the plan say a voluntary program based on tax credits and incentives represents a weak alternative to the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory reductions which would cut emissions well below their 1990 levels by 2010. “We’ve found that these voluntary programs just don’t work,” says Joseph Lieberman. [CNN, 2/14/2006] The New York Times notes, “The one thing the climate policy would not do is require anything of anybody.” [New York Times, 2/14/2006] The president also introduces a second plan aimed at curbing air pollution. The “Clear Skies Initiative” would require reductions of sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides by 67 percent, and mercury by 69 percent, by 2018. But the plan includes no reductions for carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Companies would be able to purchase credits from other businesses that have reduced their emissions below required levels. Unlike the plan supported by environmentalists and many Democrats, Bush’s program would delay these reductions until 2010 or later. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006]
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf meets with President Bush in Washington, DC. Bush lavishly praises Musharraf, saying: “President Musharraf is a leader with great courage and vision.… I am proud to call him my friend.” Since 9/11, Pakistan has received $600 million in emergency aid, $500 million for supporting US forces, a moratorium on paying back its debt to the US, and the US has canceled economic sanctions against it. Bush announces the US will now cancel $1 billion of Pakistan’s US debt, reschedule the remaining $1.8 billion, and give $100 million for education reform. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 148-149] The month before, Musharraf denounced terrorism in a public speech (see January 12, 2002). But by the start of February, it is already clear that the militant groups Musharraf banned just after the speech have resumed operations under new names with the encouragement of the Pakistani ISI. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 147] Furthermore, CIA communications intercepts indicate the Pakistani army deliberately left portions of the border with Afghanistan unguarded, allowing Osama bin Laden and thousands of other al-Qaeda operatives to flee into Pakistan (see December 10, 2001). The Pakistani army still has not moved into the regions where al-Qaeda is regrouping (see Late May 2002), and will not allow US troops to enter these regions either (see Early 2002 and After).
Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson. [Source: Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated Press]Officials in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) decide to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq sought to procure uranium from that country. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, a senior CPD officer (see April 2001 and After), relays the request to him explaining that “there’s this crazy report” asserting that Iraq made a deal with Niger on the sale of a large quantity of uranium. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Shortly afterwards, she sends an overseas cable requesting concurrence with the agency’s decision to send her husband to Niger (see February 13, 2002). She writes, “[B]oth State and [the Department of Defense] have requested additional clarification and indeed, the vice president’s office just asked for background information” (see (February 13, 2002)). [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
The CIA publishes a classified report that concludes, in part, “information on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report that lacks crucial details, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/3/2003 ; Central Intelligence Agency, 5/30/2003 ]
The US Senate refuses to pass an amendment to the Voting Rights Act (VRA—see August 6, 1965, 1970, 1975, April 22, 1980, and June 29, 1989) that would restore voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences throughout the nation. The amendment was strongly opposed by senators from former Confederate states, who voted 18-4 against the measure, and the amendment fails on a floor vote, 63-31. [US Senate, 2/14/2002 ; ProCon, 10/19/2010]
Faisal al-Salmi, a Saudi man who knew 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, is convicted of making false statements to the FBI. Al-Salmi, 34, trained at the same Arizona flight school as Hanjour where they both used the flight simulator (see Summer 2001). Al-Salmi denied knowing Hanjour but, according to investigators, they spoke several times and were seen together in the summer of 2001. He is not accused of being involved in the 9/11 plot. Al-Salmi will later receive a six-month sentence. [Associated Press, 10/13/2001; Time, 10/28/2001; Arizona Daily Wildcat, 2/14/2002; New York Times, 2/16/2002; CNN, 4/20/2002; Arizona Daily Star, 7/24/2004]
Just before British detainee Rhuhel Ahmed is to be flown to Guantanamo in February from his prison at Kandahar, he is visited by an official from the British Foreign Office. An MI5 officer, who is also present, tells Ahmed his friends are in Guantanamo already and have confessed to everything. If he confesses too, the officer says, he will go home. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] “All the time I was kneeling with a guy standing on the backs of my legs and another holding a gun to my head.” [Observer, 3/14/2004] Ahmed’s account is similar to that of another Briton, Tarek Dergoul, who claims to have been interrogated at gunpoint in early 2002 (see January 2002). The MI5 man alleges, according to Ahmed: “We’ve got your name, we’ve got your passport, we know you’ve been funded by an extremist group and we know you’ve been to this mosque in Birmingham. We’ve got photos of you.” But these statements are not true. [Observer, 3/14/2004] Ahmed decides to agree to everything they charge him with, including being paid by Al Muhajeroon and intending to fight holy jihad. “I was in a terrible state. I just said ‘OK’ to everything they said to me. I agreed with everything whether it was true or not. I just wanted to get out of there.” On the day Ahmed leaves for Guantanamo, which is five days later, the Foreign Office representative comes to see him again simply to tell him he is going to Guantanamo. Ahmed has his beard and head shaven before being put on the plane. He arrives in the middle of February. On arrival at Guantanamo, Ahmed, is kicked so hard, he cannot walk “for nearly one month.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
Bush signs an intelligence finding directing the CIA to conduct some of the operations that have been proposed in the Anabasis plan devised by veteran CIA agents Luis (full-name not disclosed) and John Maguire (see Late November 2001 or December 2001). The plan called for conducting covert operations within Iraq as part of a larger effort to overthrow Hussein’s government. [Washington Post, 4/17/2004; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 9 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward]
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, calls on the Bush administration to adopt an aggressive policy awards Iran. He says the US must make it clear that it “favors real popular government in Iran.” There are “only two meaningful options,” he writes, “confront clerical Iran and its proxies militarily or ring it with an oil embargo.” Gerecht clearly opposes any sort of dialog with Iran’s government. “If Washington wants to dissuade and punish the clerical regime, it will have to use force, the only currency the clerics truly respect…. Starting at the periphery of the Iranian world—Lebanon and possibly Afghanistan—probably makes the most tactical and strategic sense. Lebanon, in particular, offers the United States the option of hitting three targets—Hezbollah, the clerics, and the Assad regime—at once. However, if al-Qaeda’s liaison with Iran is active, then Washington should probably take the gloves off and hit the clerical regime with enormous force.” As a start, the US should tell Iran to halt its flights to Damascus, which “supply Hezbollah in Lebanon” with arms. Some of the arms are then routed to “Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” he says. They should also be warned that “any aircraft suspected of carrying military materiel will be forcibly diverted to Israel, shot down, or destroyed on the tarmac.” [Weekly Standard, 2/18/2002]
The US embassy in Niger disseminates a cable reporting that the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal “provides sufficient detail to warrant another hard look at Niger’s uranium sales. The names of GON [government of Niger] officials cited in the report track closely with those we know to be in those, or closely-related positions. However, the purported 4,000-ton annual production listed is fully 1,000 tons more than the mining companies claim to have produced in 2001.” The report says that US ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick met with the Nigerien foreign minister to ask for an unequivocal assurance that Niger is not selling uranium to so-called “rogue states.” The cable also notes that in September 2001 Nigerien Prime Minister Mamadou Tandja had informed the US embassy that there were buyers like Iraq who had expressed willingness to pay more for Niger’s uranium than France, but he assured them at that time that “of course Niger cannot sell to them.” However, the cable concludes that “we should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that some scheme could be, or has been, underway to supply Iraq with yellowcake from here.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Shortly after the cable is sent, Owens-Kirkpatrick reports to the State Department that “there was no possibility” that Iraq made any sort of uranium deal with Niger. She comes to this conclusion after reviewing the possibility of such a deal with the director general of Niger’s French-led uranium consortium. [US Congress, 7/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 229]
The New York Times is the first to report that the Office of Strategic Influence, a secret Pentagon office established shortly after the September 11 attacks (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), is “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.” The article reports that many inside the government are opposed to these plans. “[S]everal senior officials have questioned whether its mission is too broad and possibly even illegal,” the Times says. “[T]hey are disturbed that a single office might be authorized to use not only covert operations like computer network attacks, psychological activities, and deception, but also the instruments and staff of the military’s globe-spanning public affairs apparatus.” Critics are also concerned that “disinformation planted in foreign media organizations, like Reuters or Agence France-Presse, could end up being published or broadcast by American news organizations.” [New York Times, 2/19/2002] The Washington Post similarly reports that discussions on the use of disinformation “have sparked widespread concern inside the Defense Department among officials who feel that the new office, by seeking to manipulate information and even knowingly dispense false information, could backfire and discredit official Pentagon statements.” [Washington Post, 2/25/2002] News of the Defense Department’s initiative causes an immediate public outcry and the Pentagon denies that it is considering plans to disseminate disinformation. “The Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me tell the American people and the people of the world the truth,” Donald Rumsfeld insists. [Washington Post, 2/21/2002] Jim Wilkinson, deputy White House communications director and head of the Coalition Information Center (CIC) war room, likewise states, “The president is a plain-spoken, truthful man and he expects that same high standard from every public affairs spokesperson in the government.” [Washington Post, 2/25/2002] Some of the most strenuous objections center around the use of the Army’s Psychological Operations unit to carry out OSI programs. [Rich, 2006, pp. 32] Rumsfeld, facing mounting criticism, closes the office a few days later (see February 26, 2002).
General Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who is on a visit to US Central Command: “Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/2004] (In his memoirs, Graham quotes Franks as saying that “military and intelligence personnel are being re-deployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.”) [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 125; Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] Franks will deny making the comment. [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] The New Yorker magazine will also report on a redeployment of resources to Iraq at this time (see Early March 2002). [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In 2009, Graham will tell a Vanity Fair reporter: “In February of ‘02, I had a visit at Central Command, in Tampa, and the purpose was to get a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan. At the end of the briefing, the commanding officer, Tommy Franks, asked me to go into his office for a private meeting, and he told me that we were no longer fighting a war in Afghanistan and, among other things, that some of the key personnel, particularly some Special Operations units and some equipment, specifically the Predator unmanned drone, were being withdrawn in order to get ready for a war in Iraq. That was my first indication that war in Iraq was as serious a possibility as it was, and that it was in competition with Afghanistan for materiel. We didn’t have the resources to do both successfully and simultaneously.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
Anthony Gamboa, the general counsel for the General Accounting Office (GAO), reiterates the GAO’s modification of its original request for documents and records pertaining to Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (see January 29, 2001 and May 16, 2001). In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Gamboa writes: “The GAO long ago dropped its request for the minutes and notes of the vice president’s meetings with people outside the government, as well as requests for any materials those individuals have given to Mr. Cheney (see July 31, 2001). The GAO simply seeks the names of those he met in his capacity as head of the energy policy task force, when and where he met them, the subject matter of the meetings, and an explanation of the costs incurred.” Cheney responds during an appearance on the late-night talk show The Tonight Show. He explains his continued refusal to cooperate with the GAO: “What’s at stake here is whether a member of Congress [Henry Waxman (D-CA), whom Cheney has accused the GAO of working for] can demand that I give him notes of all my meetings and a list of everybody I met with. We don’t think that he has that authority.” [National Review, 2/20/2002] The GAO’s chief, Comptroller General David Walker, will later call Cheney’s statements “disinformation.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 100]
The CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) holds a meeting with former ambassador Joseph Wilson, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), and several individuals from the DO’s Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the merits of sending Wilson to Niger. Wilson is introduced by his wife Valerie Plame Wilson, who heads CPD’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI). [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 94-95]
Wife Does Not Participate in Meeting - In her 2007 book Fair Game, Plame Wilson will write that she brings her husband into the briefing room, introduces him to the “10 or so participants,” and “[a]fter a minute or so, I went back to my desk to attend to what seemed like a hundred other operational crises. When the meeting broke, Joe poked his head in my office to say that the group had asked him to consider going to Niger to discuss the report.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 111]
Wilson's Qualifications - Wilson will later describe himself as “the insider increasing [the CIA analysts’] store of information, supplying that perspective missing from their raw data. I had served as a junior diplomatic officer in Niger in the mid-1970s, a period that happened to coincide with the growth in the uranium business there. We had followed this issue closely from the American Embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, just as my staff and I had when I was ambassador to Gabon, another uranium-producing country, from 1992 to 1995. When I worked on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration two years later, among my areas of responsibility was the African uranium industry. Rarely did conversations with Africans from uranium-producing countries fail to touch on the subject. Niger, where I had traveled frequently over the years, was always of particular interest.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 8]
Details Shared with Wilson - In the meeting, Wilson learns of a report that purports to document a memorandum of sale from Niger to Iraq, and that the report had aroused the interest of Vice President Dick Cheney (see (February 13, 2002)). Cheney’s office has tasked the CIA to determine the truth or falsity of the report. The report is lacking in key details. Wilson’s knowledge of the region, particularly of the government and private interests involved in mining and distributing uranium, will be particularly helpful. Wilson later writes, “The Nigeriens were the same people I had dealt with during and after my time at the National Security Council, people I knew well.” The former minister of mines, the man responsible for oversight of the industry at the time of the alleged sales, is a friend of his.
Skepticism among Participants about Report - Wilson will later describe himself as “skeptical, as prudent consumers of intelligence always are about raw information.” He will note that much of this kind of intelligence is classified as “rumint,” or rumors passing as fact, and is usually “no more reliable than Bigfoot sightings. Rumint is a necessary and unfortunate reality in a world where many people will tell you what they think you want to hear, as opposed to simple facts.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 14-15] Notes taken by INR analyst Douglas Rohn, as well as e-mails from other participants, indicate that INR expresses skepticism that the alleged uranium contract could have taken place. Rohn, who served as deputy chief of mission in Niger during the ‘90s, writes that it would have been very difficult to conceal such a large shipment of yellowcake because “the French appear to have control of the uranium mining, milling and transport process, and would seem to have little interest in selling uranium to the Iraqis.” INR also says that the embassy in Niger has good contacts and is thus in a position to get to the truth on the matter, and therefore believes the proposed trip to Niger would be redundant. Others attending the meeting argue that the trip would probably not resolve the matter because the Nigeriens would be unlikely to admit to a uranium sales agreement with Iraq. An e-mail from a WINPAC analyst to CPD following the meeting notes, “[I]t appears that the results from this source will be suspect at best, and not believable under most scenarios.” CPD nonetheless concludes that sending Wilson would be worth a try. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 94-95]
Open and Public Visit - Wilson is willing, but points out that he is not a spy, but a former diplomat with no experience with clandestine work. He will be recognized in Niger. Therefore, there can be no expectation of any covert or clandestine actions on his part; everything he does will be open and above board. He also insists on obtaining the approval of both the State Department and the US Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, before entering the country. He expects no payment for his visit, but will accept reimbursement for expenses. The others in the meeting agree. The rest of the two-hour meeting is spent considering and plotting out various scenarios, based on who he might see and what he might learn during his visit. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 16-17] “I went through what I knew about… uranium,” Wilson later recalls. “I went through what I knew about the personalities.… People chimed in, and I answered them as best I could. It was a kind of free-for-all, and at the end they sort of asked, ‘Well, would you be able to clear your schedule and go out there if we wanted?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’” [Vanity Fair, 1/2004]
Senior administration officials say the White House intends to create a permanent office of global diplomacy in order to spread a positive image of the United States around the world and combat anti-Americanism, which the administration believes has been caused by the world’s failure to understand America. “A lot of the world does not like America, and it’s going to take years to change their hearts and minds,” an unnamed senior official tells the New York Times. The office will coordinate the public statements of the State, Defense, and the other departments to ensure that foreign governments, media organizations, and opinion-makers understand US policies. The Times reports that according to one official, “global diplomacy as envisioned in the new office will inject patriotism into the punishing 24-hour, seven-day news cycle.” Reports broadcast by the office would include information about both US foreign and domestic policies and would utilize the State Department’s huge communications network of American embassies and media offices. The earlier White House effort to create a more positive image of the United States was handled by the Coalition Information Center, a joint effort between the US and Britain that was led by the president’s senior advisor, Karen P. Hughes. [New York Times, 2/2/2002] The office will be formally created in July and given the name “The Office of Global Communications”
(see July 30, 2002).
The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office convenes a hearing on the environmental issues that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center. Hugh Kaufman, the EPA ombudsman’s chief investigator, remarks during the hearing that he believes the EPA, as well as state and city officials, have intentionally utilized inferior testing methods in order to avoid finding evidence that environmental conditions threaten public health. “I believe EPA did not do that because they knew it would come up not safe and so they are involved in providing knowingly false information to the public about safety,” Kaufman, says. “Not just EPA, the state and the city, too. We also had testimonies that all the agencies—local, state, and federal—have been consorting together every week to discuss these issues.” [CNN, 2/24/2002] Numerous experts testify at the hearing, criticizing the EPA’s response to the September 11 attacks, including David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH); Dr. Thomas Cahill, of the University of California at Davis; Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, an adjunct professor at Lehman and Hunter College, City University of New York; Alison Johnson, Chairman of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, among others. Government officials and employees were invited to participate—including officials from the EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Geological Survey, the governor’s office, state agencies, the mayor’s office and city agencies—but did not appear. “This is the first time this has happened in this type of hearing,” Hugh Kaufman, tells United Press International. [United Press International, 2/24/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/25/2002 ]
Entity Tags: Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, Thomas Cahill, Hugh Kaufman, US Geological Service, Jerrold Nadler, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alison Johnson, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Environmental Protection Agency
Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11
Joseph Wilson. [Source: public domain]The CIA sends Joseph C. Wilson, a retired US diplomat, to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from that country (see February 13, 2002). The CIA pays Wilson’s expenses for the trip, but does not pay him in any other respect. The identity of the party who requests the mission is later disputed. While Wilson will claim the trip was requested directly by Dick Cheney’s office, other sources will indicate that the CIA had decided (see February 19, 2002) that a delegation to Niger was needed in order to investigate questions raised by one of Dick Cheney’s aides (see (February 13, 2002)). [New York Times, 5/6/2003; Washington Post, 6/12/2003 ; Independent, 6/29/2003; New York Times, 7/6/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Reason behind Request - Former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman will later note that “Wilson was asked to go to Niger for one specific purpose. It was the CIA’s idea to get Cheney off their backs. Cheney would not get off their backs about the yellowcake documents. They couldn’t get Cheney to stop pressing the issue. He insisted that was the proof of reconstitution of [Iraq’s nuclear] program.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 214]
Normal Skepticism - Wilson goes into the situation with a healthy dose of skepticism. “My skepticism was the same as it would have been with any unverified intelligence report, because there is a lot of stuff that comes over the transom every day,” he will recall in 2006. Wilson knows nothing of the influence of the Pentagon neoconservatives (see July 8, 1996, January 26, 1998, July 1998, September 2000, Late December 2000 and Early January 2001, Shortly after January 20, 2001, and Shortly After September 11, 2001) or the growing rift in the intelligence community over the reports: “I was aware that the neocons had a growing role in government and that they were interested in Iraq,” he will recall. “But the administration had not articulated a policy at this stage.” He is not given a copy of the Niger documents before leaving for Africa, nor is he told of their history. “To the best of my knowledge, the documents were not in the possession of the [CIA] at the time I was briefed,” he will recall. “The discussion was whether or not this report could be accurate. During this discussion, everyone who knew something shared stuff about how the uranium business worked, and I laid out what I knew about the government in Niger, what information they could provide.” With this rather sketchy preparation, Wilson leaves for Niger. [Unger, 2007, pp. 240; Wilson, 2007, pp. 113] Wilson’s wife, senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, will later write, “He figured that if the vice president had asked a serious and legitimate question, it deserved a serious answer and he would try to help find it.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 111]
No Trouble Finding Information - Wilson, who knows the Nigerien government and many of its officials, has little trouble finding the information he needs in the following week. In 2006, he will recall: “Niger has a simplistic government structure. Both the minister of mines and the prime minister had gone through the mines. The French were managing partners of the international consortium [which handles Niger’s uranium]. The French mining company actually had its hands on the project. Nobody else in the consortium had operators on the ground.” Wilson also personally knows Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican who supposedly negotiated the uranium deal with Niger (see February 1999). Wilson will later observe: “Wissam al-Zahawie was a world-class opera singer, and he went to the Vatican as his last post so he could be near the great European opera houses in Rome. He was not in the Ba’athist inner circle. He was not in Saddam [Hussein]‘s tribe. The idea that he would be entrusted with the super-secret mission to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger is out of the question.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 240-241] Wilson meets with, among other officials, Niger’s former minister of mines, Mai Manga. As later reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee (see July 9, 2004), Manga tells Wilson “there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s,” and he “knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium.” Manga says a “French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas,” and, “it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls.” [CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]
Meeting with US Ambassador - Wilson arrives in Niger on February 26, two days after Marine General Carlton W. Fulford Jr.‘s meeting (see February 24, 2002) with Nigerien officials. Wilson first meets with US Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, a veteran Foreign Service official, whom Wilson will later describe as “crisp” and well-informed. Over tea in the US Embassy offices in Niamey, Niger’s capital, Owens-Kirkpatrick tells Wilson that she has already concluded that the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq are unfounded. “She had already debunked them in her reports to Washington,” Wilson will later recall. “She said, yeah, she knew a lot about this particular report. She thought she had debunked it—and, oh, by the way, a four-star Marine Corps general had been down there as well—Carlton Fulford. And he had left satisfied there was nothing to report.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 20-22]
Details of Alleged Uranium Production - Niger extracts uranium from two mines, both located in remote locations in the Sahara Desert. It takes well over a day to drive from the mines to Niamey. The mines are owned by a consortium of foreign companies and the Nigerien government, and managed by a French mining company, COGEMA. Because of a recent upswing in the production of Canadian uranium, Niger’s uranium is mined at a net loss, and its only customers are consortium members. Wilson will later write, “[T]he Nigerien government has sold no uranium outside the consortium for two decades.” If Iraq had bought 500 tons of uranium, as the story is told, that would have represented a 40 percent production increase. “There is no doubt,” Wilson will later write, “that such a significant shift from historic production schedules would have been absolutely impossible to hide from the other partners, and most certainly from the managing partner, COGEMA. Everyone involved would have known about it.” Any Nigerien government decision to produce such an amount of uranium would have involved numerous government officials and many well-documented meetings. Because the transaction would have been to a foreign country, Niger’s Foreign Ministry would also have been involved in the decision. To sell Iraq uranium during that time would have been a violation of international law and of UN sanctions against Iraq, a weighty decision that would have ultimately been made by the president of Niger in conjuction with the foreign minister and the minister of mines. Such a decision would have been published in the Nigerien equivalent of the Federal Register and would have dramatic tax and revenue implications. The unexpected huge infusion of cash from the sale would have had a strong impact on the Nigerien economy, and would have been much anticipated and talked about throughout the Nigerien business community. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 22-25]
Off-the-Books Production Virtually Impossible - It is conceivable that such an enormous operation could have been conducted entirely “off the books,” Wilson will write, but virtually impossible to pull off. True, a military junta was in power at the time of the alleged sale, one that felt no responsibility or accountability to the Nigerien people. But even a secret transaction would have been impossible to conceal. Such a transaction would have involved thousands of barrels of clandestinely shipped uranium, extensive and complex adjustments to shipping schedules, and other ramifications. “It simply could not have happened without a great many people knowing about it, and secrets widely known do not remain hidden for long. And again, COGEMA, as the managing partner, would have had to know and be complicit.” Add to that Niger’s dependence on US foreign economic aid and its unwillingness to threaten the loss of that aid by secretly shipping uranium to a country that the US considers a dangerous rogue nation. All told, Wilson concludes, the possibility of such a clandestine operation is remote in the extreme. [Wilson, 2004; Wilson, 2004]
1999 Meeting with Iraqi Official - While speaking with a US Embassy official, Wilson learns about a 1999 meeting between the embassy official and an Iraqi representative in Algiers, perhaps in concert with a similar meeting between Iraqi officials and Niger’s prime minister (see June 1999). [Wilson, 2004, pp. 27-28]
Confirmation that Allegations are Unrealistic - After spending several days talking with current government officials, former government officials, and people associated with the country’s uranium business, Wilson concludes the rumors are completely false. He will later call the allegations “bogus and unrealistic.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2003 ; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Independent, 6/29/2003; New York Times, 7/6/2003; CBS News, 7/11/2003; Vanity Fair, 1/2004; Wilson, 2004, pp. 20-28, 424; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 282; Wilson, 2007, pp. 113]
Entity Tags: Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Wissam al-Zahawie, Carlton W. Fulford, COGEMA, Mai Manga, Valerie Plame Wilson, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, Melvin A. Goodman, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph C. Wilson
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Sibel Edmonds takes her complaints and allegations to supervisory special agent Tom Frields, who encourages her to let the matter rest. When she indicates that she will do no such thing, Frields warns her that if she has disclosed any classified information to anyone she could be arrested. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
In the wake of the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl and suspected ISI ties to the kidnapping plot, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is said to begin a “quiet and massive overhaul” of the ISI. However, one senior military source who once served in the ISI warns, “The biggest problem we have here are the rogue elements in the intelligence agencies, especially those who at some time became involved with the CIA.” The ISI is so used to operating independently that even honest agents may be difficult to control. Many may willfully disobey orders. “Among the more dangerous, sources say, are those who acted as Pakistan’s official liaison between the Pakistan Army and militant groups, such as the Kashmiri-oriented Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, both of which are on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations. The ISI was also a crucial link between Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/22/2002] By early 2003, the Financial Times will note that Musharraf’s attempts at reforms have largely been abandoned. An expert on the region comments, “It is no longer a question of whether Pakistan is going backwards or forwards. It’s a question of how rapidly it’s going backwards.” [Financial Times, 2/8/2003]
David Walker, comptroller of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and a Ronald Reagan appointee, files a lawsuit to compel Vice President Dick Cheney and his office to reveal the names of the private businessmen and organizational officials that his energy task force (see January 29, 2001) met with to craft the Bush administration’s energy policies (see May 8, 2001). This is the first time since its creation in 1920 that the GAO has been forced to file suit to compel another government agency to follow the law and cooperate with its requests. [Dean, 2004, pp. 78-79] In a statement, Walker writes: “This is the first time that GAO has filed suit against a federal official in connection with a records access issue. We take this step reluctantly. Nevertheless, given GAO’s responsibility to Congress and the American people, we have no other choice. Our repeated attempts to reach a reasonable accommodation on this matter have not been successful. Now that the matter has been submitted to the judicial branch, we are hopeful that the litigation will be resolved expeditiously. [General Accounting Office, 2/22/2002 ]
'Fundamental Questions' about Governmental 'Checks and Balances' - Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will write in 2004: “This was, to say the least, a high-stakes lawsuit. It raised fundamental questions about the very nature of our system of checks and balances. If the GAO could not get the information it requested, then there was a black hole in the federal firmament—a no-man’s land where a president and vice president could go free from Congressional oversight.” By random selection, the case lands in the court of Judge John Bates, a career Justice Department lawyer who once worked for the Whitewater investigative team led by Kenneth Starr, and had just recently been appointed to the bench by President Bush. The choice of Bates will prove critical to the verdict of the case. [Dean, 2004, pp. 78-79]
Schlafly: Secrecy a 'Mistake' - Conservative commentator and activist Phyllis Schlafly will write in 2002: “[T]he public wants to know how our energy policy was developed. When information is kept secret, the natural inference is that there must be something the administration is very eager to hide. While private businesses and households can be selective about what they tell the world, the American people are not willing to accord the same privacy to public officials paid by the taxpayers. Regardless of the legal veil woven over the energy policy meetings, Cheney’s secrecy is a political mistake.” [Eagle Forum, 3/6/2002]
Entity Tags: Kenneth Starr, Phyllis Schlafly, US Department of Justice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John Dean, Government Accountability Office, Bush administration (43), David Walker, George W. Bush, Energy Task Force, John Bates
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Civil Liberties
Anthrax under magnification. [Source: T. W. Geisbert / USAMRIID]Scientist Bruce Ivins submits a sample of the anthrax he has been using to FBI investigators. Ivins works at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, and is helping with the anthrax investigation even though the FBI has reason to believe the anthrax could have come from USAMRIID (see Mid-October 2001 and Winter 2001). Ivins is using a variety of the Ames anthrax strain known as RMR-1029. A subpoena dated February 22, 2002 is issued to Ivins and other scientists, telling them to submit samples of their anthrax. Ivins submits his sample on February 27, apparently before he receives the subpoena. He is the only scientist to submit a sample before getting the subpoena. He had been discussing with investigators what kind of protocol to use for the samples, so he is familiar with the desire for the samples and how to submit them, but he does not completely the protocol with his sample. The FBI will soon destroy the sample he submits because it has not been prepared using the protocol, which is necessary for it to be used as valid evidence in trial. In April 2002, Ivins will submit a second anthrax sample. Around 2004, scientists will discover some unique genetic markers to the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks and will start comparing that anthrax to other anthrax. No match will be found between Ivins’s April 2002 sample and the anthrax used in the attacks. However, Paul Keim, a biologist at Northern Arizona University and an expert at distinguishing various strains of anthrax, keeps duplicates of all the anthrax samples sent to the FBI. In early 2007, it will be discovered that he still has a copy of Ivins’s February 2002 sample. A match will be discovered between that RMR-1029 sample and the sample from the attacks (see Early 2007). However, at least 100 scientists had access to this sample (see Late 2005-2006). [US Department of Justice, 8/18/2008; New York Times, 8/20/2008]
Mullah Mohammed Khaksar. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Time magazine reports the CIA is still not interested in talking to Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, easily the highest ranking Taliban defector. Khaksar was the Taliban’s deputy interior minister, which put him in charge of vital security matters. He was secretly giving the Northern Alliance intelligence on the Taliban since 1997, and he had sporadic and mostly unsuccessful efforts trying to give information to the US while he still worked for the Taliban (see April 1999 and Between September 12 and Late November 2001). In late November 2001, he defected to the Northern Alliance and was given an amnesty due to his secret collaboration with them. He continues to live in his house in Kabul after the defeat of the Taliban, but is unable to get in contact with US intelligence. In February 2002, Time magazine informs US officials that Khaksar wants to talk, but two weeks later the magazine will report that he still has not been properly interviewed. [Time, 2/25/2002] The US may be reluctant to speak to him because much of what he has to say seems to be about al-Qaeda’s links with the Pakistani ISI, and the US is now closely working with Pakistan. Time magazine reports, “The little that Khaksar has divulged to an American general and his intelligence aide—is tantalizing.… He says that the ISI agents are still mixed up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” and that the three groups have formed a new political group to get the US out of Afghanistan. He also says that “the ISI recently assassinated an Afghan in the Paktika province who knew the full extent of ISI’s collaboration with al-Qaeda.” [Time, 2/19/2002] He will similarly comment to journalist Kathy Gannon that bin Laden’s foreign fighters in Afghanistan “were all protected by the Taliban leadership, but their money and instructions came direction from Pakistan’s ISI.” [Gannon, 2005, pp. 161] Khaksar will continue to live in Afghanistan until early 2006, when he is apparently assassinated by the Taliban. [Washington Post, 1/15/2006]
A memorandum sent by the Justice Department to Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes states that the military commissions intended to try enemy combatants are “entirely creatures of the president’s authority as commander in chief… and are part and parcel of the conduct of a military campaign.” [Office of Assistant Attorney General, 2/26/2002 ] This raises questions regarding the independence of the commissions. The US government will try the detainees itself, which is why Human Rights Watch later concludes, “Under the rules, the president, through his designees, serves as prosecutor, judge, jury, and, potentially, executioner.” [Human Rights Watch, 1/9/2004] Amnesty International will similarly criticize the fact that “the commissions will lack independence.” [Amnesty International, 10/27/2004] Trial by a court that is not in complete independence from a government acting as a prosecutor is a violation of the defendants’ human rights. Article 14(1) ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] states: “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law.” Article 14(5) ICCPR furthermore grants “[e]verybody convicted of a crime… the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.” But in the plans of the US government such a right is not foreseen. According to Human Rights Watch, “There is no appeal to an independent civilian court, violating a fundamental precept of international law as well as settled practice in the US military justice system.” [Human Rights Watch, 1/9/2004] The Justice Department memorandum advises that “incriminating statements may be admitted in proceedings before military commissions even if the interrogating officers do not abide by the requirements of Miranda.” The “Miranda warnings” are normally a prerequisite for allowing incriminating declarations by a defendant to the proceedings of a criminal trial.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces the closure of the Office of Strategic Influence (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), after news of the Pentagon propaganda initiative causes a public stir (see February 19, 2002). “The office has clearly been so damaged that it is pretty clear to me that it could not function effectively,” he tells reporters. “So it is being closed down.” Asked if he instructed Rumsfeld to close the office, President Bush says: “I didn’t even need to tell him this. He knows how I feel about this.” [New York Times, 2/27/2002] Nine months later, Rumsfeld says that after the OSI was closed, “I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.” [US Department of Defense, 11/18/2002] Much of its operations are apparently shifted to another unit called the Information Operations Task Force. Some operations are farmed out to the Rendon Group, a private public relations firm with extensive experience marketing wars and foreign policy for Republican administrations (see May 1991 and Late May 2001). [Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 189]
Detainees being held at Guantanamo launch a hunger strike. Some reports say the direct cause is a guard who deliberately kicked a copy of the Koran. [Guardian, 12/3/2003; Mirror, 3/12/2004] Others say the reason is the fact that detainees are forbidden to wear head coverings, which Islamic tradition requires for prayer. Muhammad Ansar recalls: “At the camp, we were not allowed to say prayers. We couldn’t cover our heads.” [New York Times, 6/21/2004] In this version, the conflict begins when guards at Guantanamo reportedly order “an inmate to remove a turban he… fashioned from a sheet in violation of a camp rule to prevent detainees from concealing contraband.” Allegedly, the guards are not aware the man is praying when they forcefully remove his turban. A handful of prisoners respond the next day by starting a hunger strike. Two days later, on February 28, 194 prisoners join the strike by refusing their lunch, equaling about 70 percent of the prison population. In response to the strikes, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, the Commander of Military Police at Guantanamo, repeals the contested rule, but announces turbans will be checked periodically. Prisoner Ansar later says that, as a result of the strike, “Prayers were allowed….” [New York Times, 6/21/2004] Nevertheless, 75 detainees still refuse lunch and dinner on Friday, and 85 refuse breakfast on Saturday. [CNN, 3/2/2002] Strikers are relocated to a single cellblock where they can be more effectively monitored. [Reuters, 3/7/2002] According to a March 2 CNN report, six hunger striking prisoners are forced to take intravenous liquids after they are found to have become seriously dehydrated. [CNN, 3/2/2002] Reuters reports that by March 7, 18 men are in need of being fed intravenously and that force has been used to provide fluids to “at least two” of them. [Reuters, 3/7/2002] At this point, less than 50 are still participating. However, most of the strikers have been taking some food some of the time. Only three have refused to eat all of the time. [Reuters, 3/7/2002] The strike thus slowly fades out. Lehnert later admits that the removed turban was not the only cause for the hunger strike, and that detainees were also motivated by frustration about their indefinite detention and uncertainty regarding their possible charges. [CNN, 3/2/2002] He stresses, however, that the detainees were mostly interested in media coverage. Lt. Col. Bill Cline claims that it is “their way of getting attention.” [Reuters, 3/7/2002]
Following the February 23 hearing (see February 21, 2002) on the environmental contamination that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center, EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin recommends that the EPA take immediate steps to protect the environment and health of children and young adults attending schools in and around Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]
Eric Schaeffer, 47, head of the EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement, sends his letter of resignation to EPA administrator Christine Whitman. In the letter he says that he and his colleagues have been “fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules that [EPA employees] are trying to enforce.” He complains that the administration is crippling the EPA’s enforcement divisions with budget cuts and that the White House is working with energy-industry lobbyists to weaken the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act which requires older coal power plants to install pollution controls when upgrading plant equipment (see August 27, 2003). [Schaeffer, 2/27/2002; Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/1/2002; Washington Monthly, 7/2002; New York Times, 1/5/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004]
In February 2002, the Belgian government secretly indicts Victor Bout, the world’s biggest illegal arms dealer, on charges of money laundering and illegal weapons trafficking. For the first time, he can be legally arrested and Interpol issues a secret arrest warrant for him anywhere in the world. Later that month, solid intelligence indicates Bout is going to be on a flight from Moldova to Greece. An encrypted message is sent by British intelligence field agents once the plane takes off, alerting their superiors in London that they are preparing to arrest Bout in Athens. But shortly after the message is sent, Bout’s plane veers away from its flight plan and disappears off radar screens into mountainous terrain. It reappears on radar about ninety minutes later and lands in Athens. British special forces raid the plane, but find it empty except for the pilot and a few passengers. One European intelligence official familiar with the operation will later say, “There were only two intelligence services that could have decrypted the British transmission in so short a time. The Russians and the Americans. And we know for sure it was not the Russians.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 202-203] It has been alleged that the US began secretly working with Bout shortly after 9/11, despite his previous connections to the Taliban (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).
An unnamed UN official tells the Washington Post that Iraq’s level of cooperation is improving. “[F]or example,” the Iraqis have been “frantically digging in an area where it claims biological weapons were destroyed,” the UN official explains. [Washington Post, 3/1/2003]
A Gallup poll conducted in Muslim nations shows 18 percent believe that Arabs were responsible for 9/11 and 61 percent do not. In Pakistan, 86 percent say Arabs were not responsible. [Guardian, 2/28/2002] Even Pakistani President Musharraf has said bin Laden was not the mastermind, though he says that he probably supported it. [Reuters, 8/4/2002]
When asked in a press conference if the success of the “war on terrorism” has been overstated, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) replies: “I don’t think the success has been overstated. But the continued success I think is still somewhat in doubt.… I will say that at this point, given the information we’ve been provided, I don’t think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date. I think it has been successful. I’ve said that on many, many occasions. But I think the jury’s still out about future success, as I’ve said.” He adds that it would be necessary for the US to find Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders for the “war on terrorism” to be considered a success. But despite the mild tone of these comments, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) responds by saying: “How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field. He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united.” Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) calls Daschle’s remarks “thoughtless and ill-timed.” And Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) uses language analogous to a charge of treason, saying that that Daschle’s “divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country.” [Salon, 3/1/2002] Secretary of State Colin Powell defends Daschle and other Democrats, saying: “They’re raising questions. And I think that’s what a loyal opposition does.”
The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the Republican response, saying that the US “would be a weaker country if Sen. Lott succeed[s] in choking off debate.” But Lott refuses to apologize, and says that “any sign that we are losing that unity, or crack in that support, will be, I think, used against us overseas.” [New York Times, 3/1/2002; Salon, 3/5/2002]
The house in Faisalabad where Abu Zubaida will be arrested. [Source: PBS]At some time around February 2002, intelligence leads to the location of Abu Zubaida. He will be captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in late March 2002 (see March 28, 2002). However, accounts on what intelligence leads to Zubaida’s location differ greatly:
Call to Yemen? - According to the Associated Press, “Pakistani intelligence officials have said quietly that a mobile phone call Abu Zubaida made to al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen led to his arrest.” [Associated Press, 4/20/2002] This could be a reference to the “Yemen hub,” an important al-Qaeda communication node in Yemen that has long been monitored by US intelligence. The hub is used until the middle of February 2002, when it is raided and shut down (see February 13, 2002).
Bribes Play Key Role? - According to books by Jane Mayer and Ron Suskind, Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan’s tribal region notice a caravan of vehicles carrying tall women wearing burqas who turn out to be male Islamist militants in disguise. According to Suskind’s version, the militants are arrested, but refuse to talk. According to Mayer’s version, the caravan is allowed to proceed. However, both authors agree that a bribe to the driver of one of the cars reveals that their destination is Faisalabad, Pakistan. Suskind adds that the driver gives up the name of a contact in Faisalabad, and that contact is found and reveals that Zubaida has arrived in town. US intelligence begins intensively monitoring Faisalabad. Afterwards, Mayer claims that the CIA buys the ISI’s help. A CIA source involved in the situation will later tell Mayer, “We paid $10 million for Abu Zubaida.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 84; Mayer, 2008] In 2006, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will write in a memoir, “Those who habitually accuse us of not doing enough in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the Government of Pakistan.” [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 190]
CIA Tracks Zubaida's Calls? - According to a 2008 New York Times article, in February 2002, the CIA learns that Zubaida is in Lahore or Faisalabad, Pakistani cities about 80 miles apart and with a combined population of over 10 million. The Times does not say how the CIA learns this. The CIA knows Zubaida’s cell phone number, although it is not explained how this was discovered either. (However, it had been reported elsewhere that Zubaida’s number had been monitored since at least 1998 (see October 1998 and After) and was still being monitored after 9/11 (see September 16, 2001 and After) and October 8, 2001).) Specialists use an electronic scanner that can track any operating cell phone and give its approximate location. However, Zubaida only turns his phone on briefly to collect messages, so his location cannot be pinpointed. A talented CIA official named Deuce Martinez gets involved. He posts a large, blank piece of paper on a wall, and writes Zubaida’s phone number in the middle of it. Then he and others add linked phone numbers, using the monitoring capabilities of the NSA and Pakistani intelligence. A map of Zubaida’s contacts grows. Eventually, Martinez and others are able to narrow Zubaida’s location down to 14 addresses in Lahore and Faisalabad, and these places are put under surveillance. Rather than wait any longer for more intelligence, all 14 locations are raided at once in a joint Pakistani-CIA operation on March 28, 2002, and Zubaida is found in one of the Faisalabad addresses. [New York Times, 6/22/2008]
Key Call to Bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri? - Suskind’s book will also give the story of the CIA narrowing down the locations by monitoring local phone calls. He says that teams of CIA and FBI arrive in Faisalabad on March 17 for more intensive monitoring. Then, the key break comes near the end of the month, when two calls from a certain house in Faisalabad are made to phone numbers in Afghanistan that might be linked to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. By this account, US intelligence already has a good idea which of the 14 locations Zubaida is in, because of those calls. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 87-89]
Explanations May Not Conflict - Note that these explanations do not necessarily conflict. For instance, bribes could have provided the lead that Zubaida was in Faisalabad, and then further CIA monitoring could have narrowed down his location there. Bribes also could have helped insure that Pakistani intelligence did not tip off Zubaida prior to the raid. The calls to Yemen and/or Afghanistan may have played a role along with other intelligence.
In mid-March 2002, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin informs senior members of the president’s national security team that the CIA is cutting back operations in Afghanistan. Presumably the CIA there are to be used in Iraq instead. [Washington Post, 10/22/2004] Newsweek will later report that around this time, “The most knowledgeable CIA case officers, the ones with tribal contacts, were rotated out.” The CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, a fluent Arabic speaker and intellectual, is replaced by a highly unpopular chief who admits to only having read one book on Afghanistan. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] More CIA personnel will move from Afghanistan to Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 (see Late 2002-Early 2003).
CIA official Michael Scheuer will later say, “Clearly, by 2002 in the springtime, it was almost taken for granted that we were going to go to war with Iraq, in addition to having missed Osama bin Laden. It was a nightmare, and I know [CIA Director] Tenet was briefed repeatedly by the head of the bin Laden department that any invasion of Iraq would break the back of our counterterrorism program.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006] Scheuer was head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit in the late 1990s and also leads a review of CIA intelligence on possible Iraq-al-Qaeda ties before the 2003 Iraq war (see (Before March 18, 2003)).
Martin Mubanga, who holds dual British and Zambian citizenship, and his sister Constance Mubanga are arrested in Zambia “on false charges of motor vehicle theft,” according to his lawyers. After a detention of several weeks, Zambian authorities send Constance to Britain, but turn Martin over to the US government, “without due process and in violation of the laws of Zambia…” Martin is subsequently flown to Guantanamo. [Petition for writ of habeas corpus for Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna and Martin Mubanga. Jamil el-Banna, et al. v. George Bush, et al., 7/8/2004 ] He arrives there on April 20, 2002. [Independent, 8/8/2004]
Saad bin Laden. [Source: NBC]In the spring on 2002, as the Taliban is collapsing in Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda operatives flee into neighboring Iran. About 20 to 25 operatives composing much of al-Qaeda’s management council are said to wind up in the custody of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Prior to this point, the Iranian government has been turning over most al-Qaeda captives to other countries, but after President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech criticizing Iran (see January 29, 2002), Iran decides to keep this group. [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] Iran does not officially admit to holding them, and their status is unclear, but they all seem to be living in a village near the Caspian Sea. One senior US intelligence official says, “They are under virtual house arrest,” and not able to do much. Those said to be in Iranian custody include:
Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda’s top military commanders.
Suliman abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda spokesman.
Saad and Hamza bin Laden, two of Osama bin Laden’s young sons.
Abu Dahak, who served as al-Qaeda’s liaison to the rebels in Chechnya.
Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a financial expert.
Two unnamed top aides to Ayman al-Zawahiri. [MSNBC, 6/24/205]
Thirwat Salah Shehata, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, who is probably one of the al-Zawahiri aides mentioned above. [MSNBC, 5/2005]
Mustafa Hamza, head of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian militant group, and an al-Qaeda leader as well (see June 26, 1995). In late 2004, he will be extradited from Iran to stand trial in Egypt. [Reuters, 1/9/2005]
At first, these operatives appear to be capable of communicating with operatives outside of Iran. Saad bin Laden is said to play a major role planning the attack of a synagogue in Tunisia in April 2002 (see April 11, 2002). But the Saudi government will suspect that some of the operatives in Iran are involved in a 2003 attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (see May 12, 2003), and they will successfully press Iran to tighten the house arrest of the operatives in Iran. Iran will propose an exchange of these prisoners around the time of the Riyadh bombing, but the US will reject the offer (see Mid-May 2003). Since that time, these leaders apparently remain in a state of limbo. CIA Director Porter Goss will say in 2005, “I think [the] understanding that there is a group of leadership of al-Qaeda under some type of detention—I don’t know exactly what type, necessarily—in Iran is probably accurate.” [MSNBC, 6/24/205] Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later ask, “The question is, what does house arrest mean in the Iranian context?” He suggests that Iran could release the group or loosen their restrictions depending on how relations evolve between the US and Iran. “They’re a guarantee against bad behavior.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2006, it will be reported that Saad bin Laden has been freed. [Reuters, 8/2/2006] Also in 2006, al-Yazid will emerge as a leader of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and may never have been in Iran. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2007, the still teenaged Hamza bin Laden will reportedly appear in Afghanistan. [Associated Press, 9/11/2007] In 2008, it will be reported that the US still knows little about the al-Qaeda figures detained in Iran, but US officials say they believe Iran has largely kept them under control since 2003, limiting their ability to travel and communicate. One US official will say, “It’s been a status quo that leaves these people, some of whom are quite important, essentially on ice.” [ABC News, 5/29/2008]
Entity Tags: Thirwat Salah Shehata, Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, Mustafa Hamza, Porter J. Goss, Hamza bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Suliman abu Ghaith, Abu Dahak
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Complete 911 Timeline
Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, flies to Texas to meet with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford. Abdullah has been working to convince Arab leaders to accept a proposed peace treaty between Israel and Palestine (see April 2002), but has had no support from the White House. The course of the meeting is later paraphrased by National Security Council staffer Flynt Leverett, the head of the NSC’s Mideast affairs division. As Leverett will recall, the usually deferential Abdullah tells Bush that he has a direct question and wants a direct answer. Abdullah asks Bush: “Are you going to do anything about the Palestinian issue? If you tell me no, if it’s too difficult, if you’re not going to give it that kind of priority, just tell me. I will understand and I will never say anything critical of you or your leadership in public, but I’m going to need to make my own judgments and my own decisions about Saudi interests.” Bush attempts to stall, telling Abdullah he understands his concerns and that he will see what he can do. Abdullah refuses to be mollified. Standing up, he says: “That’s it. This meeting is over.” Bush retreats to another room with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss Abdullah’s position. Bush returns shortly thereafter and gives Abdullah his word that he will deal seriously with the Palestinian issue. “Okay,” Abdullah says. “The president of the United States has given me his word.” After the meeting, Powell calls Abdullah’s threat “the near-death experience”; Bush, rolling his eyes, says, “We sure don’t want to go through anything like that again.” As Powell later recalls, “It was a very serious moment and no one wanted to see if the Saudis were bluffing.” It is unclear whether Bush is expressing relief or making a sarcastic comment. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
CIA official Michael Scheuer will later comment: “By the spring of 2002 the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) realized that the administration had decided to go to war with Iraq. There was no announcement to that effect, of course, but the intent was evident as the flow of officers sent to beef up the post-9/11 war against al-Qaeda ended and experienced Arabic-speaking officers were reassigned from CTC to Middle East posts (see Spring 2002) and to the task forces at CIA headquarters charged with preparing for the Iraq war.” [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 122] He will also say: “It was almost taken for granted that we were going to go to war with Iraq. It was a nightmare, and I know [CIA Director George] Tenet was briefed repeatedly by the head of the bin Laden department that any invasion of Iraq would break the back of our counterterrorism program.” [PBS Frontline, 3/24/2008]
Informants spot al-Qaeda number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a medical clinic in Gardez, Afghanistan. Green Berets are located just five minutes away, but they are ordered to stand down so Navy SEAL Team Six can raid the clinic and capture or kill al-Zawahiri. But the SEAL team is apparently located much farther away and too much time elapses while they are preparing for the raid, allowing al-Zawahiri to escape. In 2004, the Washington Post will mention this as one of a series of incidents in which Green Berets units were passed over and opportunities to get important wanted men were lost. [Washington Post, 1/5/2004]
In March 2002, the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) office in Sarajevo, Bosnia, is raided by US and Bosnian agents and a “treasure trove” of documents are found. One document found is the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989). Enaam Arnaout is living in the US as head of BIF, but the Sarajevo investigators discover letters between him and bin Laden, including a handwritten note by bin Laden authorizing Arnaout to sign documents on his behalf. Arnaout prepares to flee the US, but is arrested. On November 19, 2002, the US declares BIF a terrorist financier and its Chicago office is closed down. In February 2003, Arnaout pleas guilty to working with al-Qaeda, but US prosecutors agree to drop the charges against him in return for information. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 46-47]
Army Lt. Col. Bill Cline, deputy commander of Camp X-Ray, shows some understanding for the plight of the Guantanamo prisoners in March 2002. “Consider yourself being locked up 24 hours a day; getting out once in a while very, very little getting out; not knowing what’s going to happen, probably not even knowing why you’re here,” he says. “I think it would frighten anybody.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]
The conservative National Review publishes an op-ed article by Sam Dealy titled “A Very, Very Bad Bunch,” commenting on the Iranian opposition group known as People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) and “its surprising American friends.” Dealy’s piece is an attack on Congresspersons who support the MEK despite the exile group’s past history of anti-Americanism (see 1970s and November 4, 1979-January 20, 1981). “How has a terrorist group managed to win the support of mainstream US politicians?” he asks. “Simple: Its political representatives in the US have worked hard to repackage the group as a legitimate dissident organization fighting for democracy in Iran—by whitewashing its record and duping our leaders.” Dealy emphasizes that the group’s initial ideological underpinning had been influenced by the likes of Marx, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara, whose ideas the MEK attempted to apply to Shiite society. [National Review, 3/25/2002]
ABC News will later report that the first CIA secret prison is established in Thailand at this time to house Abu Zubaida, the first important al-Qaeda target who is captured at this time (see March 28, 2002). President Bush had recently authorized the creation of CIA prisons (see After February 7, 2002). After being captured in Pakistan and treated for gunshot wounds, Zubaida is flown to Thailand around the middle of April 2002 and housed in a small warehouse inside a US military base. He is waterboarded and interrogated (Mid-May 2002 and After). Later other secret prisons will open in other countries, such as Poland and Romania. [ABC News, 12/5/2005] This prison in Thailand apparently will close some time in 2003. [Washington Post, 11/2/2005] Some reports place the secret prison at the Voice of America relay station near the north-eastern Thai city of Udon Thani close to the border of Laos, but this is unconfirmed. [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/5/2005]
Vice President Dick Cheney’s office refuses to disclose information about trips taken by its employees that are paid for by private financiers. The rationale is that since the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is not strictly part of the executive branch (see 2003), it need not disclose the information under the laws applying to that branch of the federal government. From this time forward, Cheney’s office repeatedly responds to inquiries by the Office of Government Ethics with letters stating “that it is not obligated to file such disclosure forms for travel funded by non-federal sources,” Kate Sheppard and Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity will write in 2005. “The letters were signed by then-Counsel to the Vice President David Addington…. Addington writes that the Office of the Vice President is not classified as an agency of the executive branch and is therefore not required to issue reports on travel, lodging and related expenses funded by non-federal sources.” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton will say that Cheney and his staff believe “the vice president is a constitutional office that is not subject to the laws that others in the executive branch are.” [Center for Public Integrity, 11/16/2005]
Vice President Dick Cheney drops by a Senate Republican policy lunch and instructs everyone that what he is about to say should not be repeated to anyone. He then explains that the question is no longer if the US will attack Iraq, but when. Time magazine reports this in May 2002. [Time, 5/5/2002]
Fifth Group Special Forces—an elite group whose members speak Arabic, Pashtun, and Dari—is pulled from its mission in Afghanistan and sent to Iraq where the group is assigned the task of locating Saddam Hussein. Members of Fifth Group, who spent six months developing a network of local sources and alliances and who believe they were close to finding Osama bin Laden, are upset with the orders. “We were going nuts on the ground about that decision,” one of them will later recall. [Guardian, 3/26/2004] They are replaced by the Seventh Group Special Forces, who are Spanish speakers experienced mostly in Latin America. They have no local rapport or knowledge. [Guardian, 3/26/2004; Newsweek, 8/28/2007] They are also replaced by the Third Group Special Forces, which is trained to operate in sub-Saharan Africa. They speak French and various African languages. [MSNBC, 7/29/2003] CIA official Gary Schroen will later comment, “Well, you could see changes being made in the US military staffing in Afghanistan, that the Green Beret units, the Fifth Special Forces group, for the most of it, were being pulled out to refit and get ready for Iraq. And it was clear that the kind of guys that I think a lot of us believed were essential US military personnel with special operations capabilities were being pulled away.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006]
An al-Qaeda operations leader gives American al-Qaeda member Jose Padilla (see September-October 2000) an assignment: target high-rise buildings in the US that use natural gas. Padilla and al-Qaeda leaders consider buildings in Florida, Washington, DC, and New York City as potential targets. Though al-Qaeda leaders consider Padilla an incompetent (see Mid-April 2002), they give him $15,000 to begin putting together a plan. [Associated Press, 6/2004] Instead, Padilla will be captured by FBI agents as he comes into Chicago (see May 8, 2002).
Andrew Warren, a CIA officer later accused of date rape (see September 2007 and February 17, 2008), publishes a novel about Islamist terrorism, entitled The People of the Veil. The novel is set in Algeria during a radical uprising; the hero, Nick Philips, is an official at the US embassy who does battle with the local militant leader. [New York Beacon, 4/10/2002; Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2002] There is also a love interest in the form of an Algerian woman named Miriam, who falls in love with Philips because he “respected her and treated her as an equal,” and “never pressured her and understood her culture.” [Newsweek, 1/31/2009] Warren discusses the reason for writing the book in media interviews: “I want to give a better portrayal of the Mideast’s culture, people, and Islam. For example, so many people think terrorists are crazy. They are not. They are fanatical, but they are very calculating and intelligent. And the rest of the people there, the 99.99 percent, are very warm and caring.” [Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2002] He adds: “I wanted to teach people about the true meaning of Islam as well as explain how an Islamic terrorist views America and its influence on the Middle East. People shouldn’t assign guilt to every Muslim because of the recent attacks. Having worked and lived among Muslims in the Middle East for many years, I received an outpouring of condolences from my friends and former colleagues there after 9/11.” [New York Beacon, 4/10/2002] When publicizing the book, Warren portrays himself as an official of the State Department, not the CIA. [New York Beacon, 4/10/2002; Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2002] Ironically, it is while serving as the CIA’s chief of station in Algeria that Warren will be accused of date-raping two Algerians. [Newsweek, 1/31/2009] It appears that Warren does not serve in Algeria with the CIA before the publication of the book, only in Iraq and Kuwait (see (1997)).
Newly appointed US Attorney Todd Graves of Missouri (see October 11, 2001), already a co-chair of the Child Exploitation Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and his office are subjected to a periodic Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS) evaluation by the Justice Department, and do very well. The EARS report finds that Graves is well regarded and respected by community leaders, agency personnel, and a majority of the federal judges in the district. The report finds that “the perception of the USAO [US Attorney’s Office] staff as to his performance is positive, even in this early stage of his tenure.” Graves is not slated for another review for four years, but by that point he will have been fired (see March 10, 2006). [US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008]
During a meeting at the White House attended by Condoleezza Rice and a group of Republican and Democratic senators, President Bush, who is not scheduled to be at the meeting, shows up. At some point, the discussion drifts to Iraq and the president says, “F__k Saddam. We’re taking him out.” The same Time magazine article that reports this also comments, “From the moment he took office, Bush has made noises about finishing the job his father started. Sept. 11 may have diverted his attention, but Iraq has never been far from his mind.” [Time, 5/5/2002]
World Trade Center Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, had contained two independently supplied and operated fuel systems for emergency power. The fuel had been in several storage tanks low down in the building. In March and April, two 11,700-gallon tanks that had been located under the building’s first floor loading dock and operated by Silverstein Properties are removed from the collapse site. They show no evidence of fuel leakage. FEMA says that approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel are subsequently recovered from them, which is about 85 percent of their total capacity. In early May, two 6,000-gallon tanks that had been owned by Salomon Smith Barney and were also located below the loading dock are recovered. These were always kept full for emergencies and would have been full on 9/11. Yet now they are damaged and appear to be empty. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Some fuel contamination was found in the gravel below the tanks and sand below the slab on which the tanks were mounted, but no contamination was found in the organic marine silt/clay layer underneath.” Shyam Sunder, lead investigator of NIST’s WTC investigation, will state that this “suggests that this fuel… could have been consumed in the building.” This finding “allows for the possibility, though not conclusively, that the fuel may have contributed to a fire on Floor 5” of WTC 7. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-15; Associated Press, 6/6/2002; Newsday, 6/6/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 4/5/2005 ; New York City Council, 9/8/2006 ] Some people have speculated that the diesel fuel stored in WTC 7 may have played a role in its collapse (see March 2, 2002). However, FEMA says, “Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” WTC 7 housed another 6,000-gallon tank between its second and third floors, which was meant to fuel generators that would supply backup power to the mayor’s 23rd-floor emergency command center (see June 8, 1999). Currently, no data are available on the condition of this tank. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16 and 5-31]
A sign on top of the Al Haramains Islamic Foundation’s four-story office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in June 2004. [Source: Rafiqur Rahman / Reuters / Corbis]The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation was founded in 1988 as a branch of the Muslim World League charity, and just like the Muslim World League it is closely linked to the Saudi government. It develops branches in about 50 countries, including a US branch based in Oregon. It has an annual budget of $40 million to $60 million, paid by the Saudi government, and about 3,000 employees. It gives considerable aid to religious causes such as building mosques. But by the early 1990s evidence began to grow that it was funding Islamist militants in Somalia and Bosnia, and a 1996 CIA report detailed its Bosnian militant ties (see January 1996). In 1998, several links were discovered between the charity and the African embassy bombings that year (see Autumn 1997 and 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).
In March 2002, the US and Saudi governments jointly announce the closing of Al Haramain’s branches in Somalia and Bosnia, but Al Haramain defiantly keeps its Bosnian branch open and it is shut down again after police raids in December 2003. [Washington Post, 8/19/2004; Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41] In December 2002, it is reported that the Somali branch is still open as well. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/18/2002]
In late 2002, Al Haramain is linked to the October 2002 Bali bombing and al-Qaeda operations in Southeast Asia in general (see September-October 2002).
In May 2003, Al Haramain announces the closing of its branches in Albania, Croatia, and Ethiopia, soon followed by branches in Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Indonesia. But this is because of pressure due to suspected militant links, and at least the Indonesian branch secretly changes locations and stays open. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41]
In late 2003, Al Haramain Director-General Aqeel al-Aqeel indiscreetly mentions that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah recently donated money to his charity. Al-Aqeel, Deputy General Mansour al-Kadi, and two other senior officials are fired from the charity by the Saudi minister of religious affairs in January 2004. Interestingly, the Saudi minister is also the chairman of Al-Haramain’s board. In 1997, US intelligence found al-Kadi’s business card in the possession of Wadih el-Hage, Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [Netherlands Interior Ministry, 1/6/2005 ; Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41]
In February 2004, the US Treasury Department freezes the organization’s US financial assets pending an investigation.
In June 2004, The charity is disbanded by the Saudi Arabian government and folded into an “umbrella” private Saudi charitable organization, the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.
In September 2004, the US designates Al-Haramain a terrorist organization, citing ties to al-Qaeda. [US Treasury Department, 9/9/2004; Washington Post, 3/2/2006] The United Nations also bans the organization, saying it has ties to the Taliban. [United Nations, 7/27/2007]
Entity Tags: United Nations, US Department of the Treasury, Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad, Muslim World League, Al-Qaeda, Aqeel al-Aqeel, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (Oregon branch), Taliban, Mansour al-Kadi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
In June 2001, Ahmed Alhaznawi visited the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was treated for a skin lesion. He was accompanied by Ziad Jarrah. In October 2001, after a series of mysterious anthrax attacks in the US became front-page news (see October 5-November 21, 2001), the treating doctor told the FBI he recognized the two hijackers and thought the wound was consistent with cutaneous anthrax exposure. However, the FBI discounted the possibility that the anthrax attacks originated with the hijackers or al-Qaeda. In March 2002, the New York Times reports that FBI spokesman John Collingwood “said the possibility of a connection between the hijackers and the anthrax attacks had been deeply explored. ‘This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago… Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been.’” [New York Times, 3/23/2002] The FBI is criticized by the neoconservative Weekly Standard for focusing its investigation on a possible domestic perpetrator rather that Iraq or al-Qaeda: “Based on the publicly available evidence, there appears to be no convincing rationale for the FBI’s nearly exclusive concentration on American suspects. And the possibility is far from foreclosed that the anthrax bioterrorist was just who he said he was: a Muslim, impliedly from overseas.” [Weekly Standard, 4/29/2002] In March 2002 it is also reported that US forces in Afghanistan have discovered installations that could have been used by al-Qaeda to produce biological weapons. “US forces recently discovered a site near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar that appeared to be an al-Qaeda biological weapons lab under construction. At the lab, ‘there was evidence of the attempt, by bin Laden, to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction, anthrax, or a variety of others,’ Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the US Central Command, said… in an interview.” [CBS News, 3/23/2002] However, little new evidence will subsequently come out suggesting al-Qaeda was behind the October 2001 anthrax attacks.
FBI agents John Vincent (left), and Robert Wright (right) appear on ABC News. [Source: ABC News]In early March 2002, New York Times reporter Judith Miller hears that FBI agent Robert Wright is complaining about the FBI’s mishandling of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Miller submits a list of written questions to Wright about his allegations. She also submits a similar list to FBI agent John Vincent, who also worked on Vulgar Betrayal and shares many of Wright’s views. Wright and Vincent quickly reply, but the FBI does not allow Miller to read their answers. Meanwhile, Miller contacts some other FBI officials to hear their side of the issue. She is allowed to speak to them. Because Miller is unable to hear from Wright or Vincent, she decides not to write the story. In December 2002, the Justice Department will hear an appeal from Wright and rule that no classified information was contained in the answers to Miller’s questions. But as of the end of 2005, all of Wright and Vincent’s answers still have not been released by the FBI. [Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005]
William Patrick. [Source: Public domain]William Patrick is interviewed by the FBI in relation to the anthrax attacks. He is the inventor of the US anthrax weaponization process. He retired from decades of government employment in 1986, but continues with private consulting work. Patrick is surprised that the FBI did not interview him earlier. He is also a former superior to Steven Hatfill, who is emerging as the FBI’s prime suspect around this time (see February 1999). [BBC, 3/14/2002] Additionally, Hatfill is considered Patrick’s main protege. One bioterrorism expert says their close relationship is “like father and son.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] After passing a lie detector test, the FBI invites Patrick to join the inner circle of technical advisers to the anthrax investigation. [Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002] Later in 2002, the FBI searches Patrick’s house with bloodhounds, but apparently fail to gain any leads. [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] It is later noted that “many of the experts the FBI has turned to for help are also, almost by definition, potential suspects. That has put FBI agents in the uncomfortable position of having to subject their scientist-consultants to polygraph tests, and then, afterward, ask those same experts to help analyze evidence.” [Hartford Courant, 9/7/2002]
Retired Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft leads a presidential panel which proposes that control of the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency be transferred from the Department of Defense to the head of the CIA, the director of central intelligence (DCI). The plan is favored by the Congressional 9/11 joint inquiry but opposed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. For years experts have argued that the US intelligence community’s 13 disparate agencies—“85 percent of whose assets reside in the Defense Department”—should be consolidated under the head of the CIA. [US News and World Report, 8/12/2002; Washington Post, 8/19/2004]
Intelligence Community Still Focused on Cold War Needs, Scowcroft Finds - Scowcroft, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a close friend and confidant of former President George H. W. Bush, actually revises a report he began before the 9/11 attacks. The report concludes that the US intelligence apparatus had been designed to meet the needs of the Cold War era and should now be overhauled. The 9/11 attacks are evidence of this, Scowcroft believes. The attacks came from rogue Islamist terrorists, not a superpower like China or the old USSR.
Opposition from Rumsfeld, Cheney - But, as Ron Suskind will write in his 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine, Rumsfeld is “strongly opposed” to Scowcroft’s idea, presumably because, by transferring control of the NSA from the Pentagon to the CIA, it would take power away from him. Scowcroft approaches Cheney with the dilemma. Scowcroft is well aware of Cheney and Rumsfeld’s long political partnership, and gives Cheney an easy out. If his proposals are overly “disruptive,” Scowcroft says, “I’ll just fold my tent and go away. I don’t want to… but I’ll be guided by you.” Cheney now has a choice. Knowing this is a battle Scowcroft will not win, he can either call Scowcroft off now and defuse a potential political conflict within the administration, or, in author Craig Unger’s words, he can “send Scowcroft off on a fool’s errand, pitting Bush 41’s close friend, as Suskind noted, against Bush 43’s cabinet secretary [Rumsfeld], who just happened to be Bush 41’s lifelong nemesis (see September 21, 1974 and After). Cheney chose the latter.” Cheney tells Scowcroft to “go ahead, submit the report to the president.” He knows President Bush will listen to Cheney and Rumsfeld’s advice and ignore the report. Unger later notes, “Scowcroft had once been Cheney’s mentor, his patron. Now the vice president was just humoring him.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 225-226]
Entity Tags: National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Ron Suskind, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Issuetsdeah, Central Intelligence Agency, Brent Scowcroft, Craig Unger, Donald Rumsfeld, George Herbert Walker Bush
Timeline Tags: US Military
While former ambassador Joseph Wilson is still in Africa learning about the supposed Iraq-Niger uranium deal (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), Douglas Rohn, an analyst for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), writes an intelligence assessment, titled “Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely,” that disputes recent Italian intelligence reports (see October 15, 2001 and February 5, 2002) suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. The assessment reiterates INR’s view that France controls the uranium industry and “would take action to block a sale of the kind alleged in a CIA report of questionable credibility from a foreign government service.” It adds that though “some officials may have conspired for individual gain to arrange a uranium sale,” Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja’s government would have been unlikely to risk relations with the US and other key aid donors. And it cites the logistical difficulties of a secret transaction requiring “25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton trailers” that would have had to travel 1,000 miles and cross one international border before reaching the sea. “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus,” Greg Thielmann, a high-ranking INR official, will later explain to Time magazine. “This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down.” The assessment, drafted in response to interest from the vice president’s office (see (February 13, 2002)), is sent to the White House Situation Room and Secretary of State Colin Powell. [Time, 7/21/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 96-97; Unger, 2007, pp. 241]
CIA officer John Kiriakou, who will later make a crucial intervention in the US debate on the ethics of waterboarding (see December 10, 2007), serves as the agency’s Counterterrorism Center chief in Pakistan. The date he is posted to this position is unknown, but he is involved in the capture of militant training camp facilitator Abu Zubaida in March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), and is transferred to Iraqi issues at headquarters in the summer of 2002 (see Summer 2002). [Mother Jones, 12/21/2007]
The US intelligence community begins monitoring Lawrence Wright, a journalist and author who writes on counterterrorism. In addition to his articles for the New Yorker, in 2006 Wright publishes The Looming Tower, an account of the run-up to 9/11 which discloses the names of mid-level officials who performed badly. [Wright, 2006; New Yorker, 1/21/2008] Apparently, the surveillance begins when Wright calls a relative of al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The relative, an architect in Cairo, had asked Wright if he knew whether all of al-Zawahiri’s children were dead after Wright published a profile of al-Zawahiri in the New Yorker. A source with the FBI (wrongly) told Wright that they were and that the information was not secret, so Wright passes the news on to the architect over the telephone. An intelligence community source will tell Wright that he later reads a transcript of this call. Wright will later say that he is surprised by this, because he thinks his part of the call should be anonimized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as he is a US citizen. Before the publication of his book in 2006, Wright is visited at his home by FBI officials on the local Joint Terrorism Task Force. The officials ask him about calls he makes to a solicitor in Britain who is representing Islamist radicals Wright interviews for his book. During the visit, the FBI agents express the belief that it is Wright’s daughter who made the calls. It is unclear to Wright why they think this, as none of the home phones is in her name. Wright is troubled by this and around late 2007 will ask Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell about it. McConnell will say that the call to the architect “shoud be” monitored and that Wright’s identity would have been deleted originally, as it could only be made available to the intelligence community after a legitimate request for it. “So here’s what I think—I’m guessing,” McConnell will say. “You called a bad guy, the system listened, tried to sort it out, and they did an intel report because it had foreign intelligence value. That’s our mission.” McConnell adds that the FBI would have to have had probable cause and a warrant to tap his phone and that he does not know how Wright’s daughter’s name could have come up. [New Yorker, 1/21/2008]
A New York Times article theorizes that diesel fuel tanks were responsible for the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC. It collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11, even though it was farther away from the Twin Towers than many other buildings that remained standing (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It was the first time a steel-reinforced high-rise in the US had ever collapsed in a fire. One of the fuel tanks had been installed in 1999 (see June 8, 1999) as part of a new “Command Center” for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. [New York Times, 3/2/2002; Dow Jones Business News, 9/10/2002] However, in interviews, several Fire Department officers who were on the scene say they were not aware of any combustible liquid pool fires in WTC 7. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] And, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on 9/11, “No diesel smells [were] reported from the exterior, stairwells, or lobby areas” of WTC 7. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-22 ] Curiously, given all the Wall Street scandals later in the year, Building 7 housed the SEC files related to numerous Wall Street investigations, as well as other federal investigative files. All the files for approximately 3,000 to 4,000 SEC cases were destroyed. Some were backed up in other places, but many were not, especially those classified as confidential. [New York Law Journal, 9/17/2001] Lost files include documents that could show the relationship between Citigroup and the WorldCom bankruptcy. [Street, 8/9/2002] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates over 10,000 cases will be affected. [New York Law Journal, 9/14/2001] The Secret Service had its largest field office, with more than 200 employees, in WTC 7 and also lost investigative files. Says one agent: “All the evidence that we stored at 7 World Trade, in all our cases, went down with the building.” [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] The IRS and Department of Defense were also tenants, along with the CIA, which, it has been revealed, had a secret office in Building 7. [CNN, 11/4/2001; New York Times, 11/4/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-2; New York Magazine, 3/20/2006] A few days later, the head of the WTC collapse investigation says he “would possibly consider examining” the collapse of Building 7, but by this time all the rubble has already been removed and destroyed. [US Congress, 3/6/2002]
US troops investigate two dead bodies on March 17, 2002, as Operation Anaconda comes to a close. [Source: Joe Raedle/ Reuters]The US launches Operation Anaconda, a major offensive in Shah-i-Kot valley, near the town of Gardez, Afghanistan. About 2,000 US and allied soldiers attack a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold in the valley. The goal is to surround and cut off the Taliban and al-Qaeda from being able to retreat into Pakistan. Officially, the operation is hailed as an easy victory. For instance, Gen. Tommy Franks calls the operation “an unqualified and absolute success.” [Radio Free Europe, 3/20/2002] A Pentagon spokesperson calls the operation “a great success,” and says that of the hundreds or even thousands of enemy fighters trapped in the valley,“less than 100 escaped.” [New York Times, 3/14/2002] Up to 800 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters are reported killed. [New York Times, 3/14/2002]
Unexpected Resistance - However, other accounts paint a different picture. The operation runs into unexpected resistance from the start, and eight US soldiers and a small number of allied Afghan fighters are killed in the first few days. The London Times later notes, “what was to have been a two-day operation stretched to 12.” Australian special forces troops who took part later say the operation was botched. “They blamed much of the problem on inadequate US air power, poor intelligence, and faulty technology.” [Radio Free Europe, 3/20/2002; London Times, 6/18/2002]
Militants Able to Escape - It appears that, as in Tora Bora, Afghan warlord armies supervised by a small number of US special forces, were given the key task of cutting off escape routes. At least one of the warlords involved had tricked the US military earlier in the war. “Although [Afghan] commanders insisted from the start of the campaign that the slopes were surrounded, [one Afghan commander] admitted that there had been at least one escape route” left open. The Guardian notes that “US troops spent weeks planning the attack on Shah-i-Kot, training and arming Afghan soldiers to prevent a repeat of the battle at Tora Bora,” but nonetheless, “nearly all the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters appeared to have fled the area.” [Washington Post, 3/4/2002; Guardian, 3/15/2002] Most flee across the border into Pakistan (see December 2001-Spring 2002). The New York Times even reported that “some participants… said the Taliban had more or less come and gone as they pleased, visiting villagers in nearby towns.” [New York Times, 3/14/2002] One captured Taliban soldier who fought in the battle later claims that bin Laden made a brief personal appearance to rally his troops. [Newsweek, 8/11/2002] Only about 20 prisoners are captured and fewer than 20 bodies are found. [New York Times, 3/14/2002; New York Times, 3/18/2002] After retreating, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will change strategies and no longer attempt to congregate in Afghanistan in large numbers.
A few days after the State Department determines that the reported secret uranium deal between Iraq and Niger is “unlikely” (see March 1, 2002), former ambassador Joseph Wilson returns from his fact-finding trip to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Wilson tells CIA officials that he found no evidence to show that any such deal ever took place. [Unger, 2007, pp. 241] Wilson’s wife, senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, will later write that the debriefing actually begins shortly after Wilson’s arrival in the US, with “two clean-cut CIA officers, one of whom was the reports officer who had suggested sending Joe to Niger in the first place” (see February 13, 2002), arriving at the Wilson home, “clearly eager to debrief Joe so they could immediately write up an intelligence report on his trip.” Plame Wilson deliberately absents herself from the debriefing taking place in her living room, though she joins her husband and the two CIA officers for a late dinner of takeout Chinese food, where they discuss general subjects. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 29; Wilson, 2007, pp. 112] Based on Wilson’s information, the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO)‘s case officer writes a draft intelligence report and sends it to the DO reports officer, who adds additional relevant information from his notes. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] The report will be distributed by March 8, 2002 (see March 8, 2002). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 370]
The CIA notes in its daily Senior Executive Intelligence Brief that “[o]pposition to President Chavez is mounting.” A heavily redacted copy of the document is later obtained by freelance investigative reporter Jeremy Bigwood. The lead sentence in one of the document’s paragraphs states, “A successful coup would be difficult to mount.” The remaining text of the paragraph—which appears to be an additional four lines in length—is whited out. [Central Intelligence Agency, 3/5/2002]
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joan Larsen and Gregory Jacob, an attorney-adviser to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), send a classified memo to lawyers in the Justice Department’s civil division. The memo will remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will learn that it regards the availability of habeas corpus protections to detainees captured in the US’s “war on terror.” [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] The memo asserts that detainees have no habeas corpus protections, and therefore cannot challenge their detentions in US courts, despite multiple Supreme Court rulings to the contrary. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009]
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