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Dr. Stephen Bryen, a neoconservative serving in the Defense Department who dodged espionage charges a decade before (see March 1978 and April 1979), helps Israel obtain secret US weapons information. Israel is in the final stages of building its “Arrow” anti-ballistic missile. It does not have “klystrons,” small microwave amplifiers needed for the missile’s target acquisition system to function. Klystrons are among the most secret of American weapons research products. Bryen is the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), which itself is contained within the Pentagon’s Office of International Security Policy, headed by fellow neoconservative Richard Perle. Bryen attempts to secure the authority to allow four klystrons to be exported to Israel via Varian Associates, a private defense manufacturing firm, without consulting with tech transfer officials from the Army, the Air Force, or other agencies. Navy tech transfer official Richard Levine refuses the request, and holds a meeting with officials from the above agencies. All the officials agree that the transfer should not be approved. Bryen responds by suggesting that he go back to the Israelis to ask why they needed the klystrons. After the Israelis provide what one Defense Department official later calls “a little bullsh_t answer,” Bryen tells the participants that he had received an acceptable response. Varien is granted a license, he says, and the klystrons will be sent to Israel. The license is withdrawn after Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Richard Armitage, objects to Bryen’s maneuvering. Two senior Defense Department officials later say that the attempt to provide Israel with classified weapons materials is “standard operating procedure” for Bryen, who has often ignored Defense and State Department refusals to provide sensitive information and materials to Israel. Later in the year, Bryen will leave the government and work as a consultant for a number of defense technology firms. [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004]
CIA contractor Billy Waugh trains various al-Qaeda operatives around the globe, possibly for more than a decade. In his 2004 autobiography he will write, “I worked right there with these al-Qaeda operatives and heard these arguments [about the badness of US policy] firsthand many times, especially during an assignment in Yemen.” This training must take place between 1989, when he is hired by the CIA, and 2001, when he begins his last assignment for the agency in Afghanistan. The reference to Yemen may indicate that Waugh worked there during the 1994 civil war, when the US supported the religiously-oriented North Yemen against the breakaway south (see May 21-July 7, 1994). The descriptions of the extremists’ arguments and attitudes contained in his autobiography indicate that Waugh, who conducted surveillance against Osama bin laden in Sudan in the early 1990s (see February 1991- July 1992), has intimate knowledge of the extremists. For example, he will write, “I have spoken to some of those terrorists [from al-Qaeda and related organizations], and they consider terror attacks against the general public their only outlet to hurt and destroy the infidels who have wrongfully ousted them from their homes so many years in the past.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 173, 303, 308]
As part of its ongoing battle against drug trafficking, the US routinely monitors the phone records of thousands of US citizens and others inside the country who make phone calls to Latin America. The NSA works with the Drug Enforcement Agency in collecting phone records that show patterns of calls between the US, Latin America, and other drug-producing regions. The program is significantly expanded after George W. Bush takes office in 2001. Government officials will say in 2007 that the phone conversations themselves are not monitored, but the NSA and DEA use phone numbers and e-mail addresses to analyze possible links between US citizens and foreign nationals. The program is approved by Justice Department officials in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, and does not require court approval to demand communications records. In 2004, one US telecommunications firm, who is not identified, will refuse to turn over its phone records to the government (see 2004). [New York Times, 12/16/2007] The Bush administration will repeatedly claim that the government did not begin monitoring US citizens until after the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, this NSA/DEA program proves otherwise.
Christoph von Bezold. [Source: History Channel]In 1997, it will be reported that the German parliament’s Control Commission, which oversees Germany’s intelligence services, is investigating media allegations that the BND German intelligence agency covertly and illegally armed the Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war. The BND allegedly infiltrated the European Union’s monitoring missions that were supposed to help arrange ceasefires and assist with humanitarian aid. The Germans used that cover to smuggle weapons and money to Bosnian Muslims. In one instance, Christoph von Bezold, head of the German EU monitors in Zagreb, Croatia, was allegedly actually a BND agent and on March 27, 1994, he shipped munitions across enemy lines to the Bosnian Muslim controlled pocket of Bihac, Bosnia, in boxes supposedly containing powdered milk. Apparently this was just one of many such shipments using EU monitors as cover. In addition, Germany appears to be Croatia’s largest arms supplier during the war, although this is in violation of German law prohibiting the shipments of arms to an active war zone and a violation of the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia as well. Most of the Croatia military hardware comes from East German supplies rendered obsolete in Germany after East and West Germany merged. Germany even smuggled former East German MiG-21 fighters to Croatia. [Daily Telegraph, 4/20/1997]
Edwin Angeles. [Source: Robin Moyer]Edwin Angeles helps found the new Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and becomes the group’s second in command and operations officer. But Angeles is actually a deep cover operative for the Philippine government and has already penetrated the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group that Abu Sayyaf splintered from. Angeles is the first to suggest that Abu Sayyaf take part in kidnappings, and plans the group’s first kidnapping for ransom in 1992. He will be directly involved in numerous violent acts committed by Abu Sayyaf until his cover is blown in early 1995 (see Late 1994-January 1995 and Early February 1995). [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001] Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza, who will later lead the Philippine investigation in the Bojinka plot, is his main handler. Mendoza will later recall, “I received orders to handle him… I had the impression he was also being handled by somebody higher.” [Vitug and Gloria, 2000] In 2002, one of Angeles’ wives will claim in a deathbed confession that Angeles told her he was a “deep-penetration agent” working for “some very powerful men in the DND (Department of National Defense),” the Philippine national defense-intelligence agency. [Insight, 6/22/2002] During this time, Abu Sayyaf is very active. Philippine intelligence will later estimate that from 1991 to 1995 the group launches 67 kidnappings and violent attacks, killing around 136 people and injuring hundreds more. [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ]
Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative undersecretary of policy for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, promotes the export of advanced AIM-9M air-to-air missiles to Israel. This is discovered by a lengthy investigation by the Bush administration into the export of classified weapons technology to China. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, aware that Israel has already been caught selling an earlier version of the AIM missile to China in violation of a written agreement between Israel and the US, intervenes to stop the missile sales. Wolfowitz retains his position at the Defense Department until he and most of his neoconservative colleagues are turned out of the federal government by the onset of the Clinton administration. [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004]
Michael Meiring, a suspected CIA operative connected to Philippine militant groups (see May 16, 2002), first comes to the Philippines and lives there for a year. According to a later report by the Manila Times, Meiring lives in the capital of Manila and is frequently seen with two agents of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Yet at the same time he is believed to have ties with the top leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which, together with the Abu Sayyaf, are the main Muslim militant groups in the southern Philippines. “Meiring’s connections with rebel leaders made the military wary about him. He was under surveillance by more than one intelligence unit on more than one occasion.” One close US friend later claims that in 1992 Meiring said he had found and sold a box full of US Federal Reserve notes worth more than $500 million. It is believed that he spends millions of dollars while in the Philippines. [Manila Times, 5/29/2002] (There appear to have been frequent scams in the Philippines involving millions and even billions of dollars of fraudulent US Federal Reserve notes.) [Time, 2/26/2001] Meiring, a former citizen of South Africa, fled to the US when he became the subject of an investigation toward the end of South Africa’s apartheid regime. He then became a US citizen. Meiring is connected to a group of treasure hunters led by James Rowe, an American. Rowe connects with a group of right-wing white supremacists linked to the US neo-Nazi party. In 1993, Meiring and Rowe travel to the Philippines together. [Manila Times, 5/30/2002] Meiring will come and go between the US and the Philippines for the next ten years, claiming to be a treasure hunter. In 2002 he will be severely injured by a bomb he is trying to make and will be whisked out of the Philippines by US officials (see May 16, 2002) and December 2, 2004). Philippine officials have observed other right-wing Americans with ties to Muslim militants starting in the early 1990s (see Early 1990s and After). [Manila Times, 5/29/2002]
CIA paramilitary contractor Billy Waugh fights in Bosnia. Details of his actions, the other members of his team, and the actual operations are unknown, but in his 2004 autobiography Waugh will say, “I saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, conducting operations I cannot discuss.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 307] This may occur during the Bosnian Civil War, at which time no US troops are officially involved in combat in Bosnia. [Nato Review, 9/2005] Alternatively, according to Time magazine, during the mid and late 1990s CIA paramilitaries hunt Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, so Waugh may be part of this operation. [Time, 2/3/2003] Waugh is a covert operations legend—his career began in Vietnam and will end in Afghanistan in 2002, by which time he is in his 70s. [Waugh and Keown, 2004]
A National Security Agency (NSA) linguist runs afoul of his superiors after he and other linguists submit a report concluding that Islamist terrorists are planning attacks on America. The analyst, who insists on remaining anonymous and is nicknamed “J” by press reports, is fluent in an unusual number of languages. His and his colleagues’ study of Arabic language messages, and the flow of money to terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, lead them to believe that Saudi extremists are plotting an attack. J will recall in January 2006: “You could see, this was the pure rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and his group, the exact same group, and we had an early indication.… All of us in the group had this view of a burgeoning threat, and suddenly we were all trotted off to the office of security. Then came the call to report for a battery of psychological tests.” J will issue further warnings of potential terrorist strikes, this time involving hijackers, passenger planes, and US buildings, in May 2001 (see May 2001). In 2006, other current and former NSA officials will claim that the NSA routinely uses unfavorable psychological evaluations to retaliate against whistleblowers and those employees who come into conflict with superiors (see January 25-26, 2006). [Cybercast News Service, 1/25/2006]
Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary and his bodyguard are killed in an ambush. According to a CIA memorandum, dated October 28, 1993, which will later be obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights, “FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary.” According to the Center, “Constant at the time was a paid CIA informant, earning $500 a month.” [Center for Constitutional Rights, 2/18/2004; Human Rights Watch, 2/27/2004]
Some begin to suspect that the Philippine military is collaborating with Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group operating in the southern Philippines which is said to have ties with al-Qaeda. In 1994, Philippine Catholic priest Father Loi Nacordo is kidnapped and held hostage by Abu Sayyaf for two months. He later comments, “There were many times when we passed close to military camps, and I would wonder: ‘Why isn’t the military going after us?’… Many times, we would walk very near the military camps—about 50 or 100 meters away, and we were never bothered by the army, even though my captors and I could actually see them. It would have been impossible for the army not to spot us, as we were moving in a large group—there were about 20 of us.” He will also say that he sometimes overheard Abu Sayyaf commanders talking about arms shipments from government sources and that weapons and ammunition boxes used by the group were marked as coming from the Philippine military. Nacordo will go public with these accusations in 2002, when the Philippine congress launches an investigation into allegations of continued collusion between the government and Abu Sayyaf. That same year, the BBC will report, “many Filipinos suspect that some high ranking military officers are colluding with the Abu Sayyaf, and taking a cut of the profits of the lucrative kidnapping trade.” [BBC, 1/31/2002] Also in 1994, a lieutenant colonel will voice similar doubts about Abu Sayyaf in the Philippine Army journal, asking, “How can a band of criminals with no military training to speak of withstand the full might of the armed forces, slip through the troop cordon and conduct kidnapping right under the very noses of government troops? Something is terribly wrong with our Armed Forces.” [Vitug and Gloria, 2000]
The CIA sets up a number of front companies with the intention of penetrating the nuclear proliferation ring founded by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan. One of the companies is Brewster Jennings & Associates (see Before May 22, 1994), which will be used as cover by Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA officer outed in 2003. The precise way in which the CIA attempts to penetrate the network is not known. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] Former CIA Director George Tenet will hint at the methods used in a 2007 book: “The small unit working this effort recognized that it would be impossible to penetrate proliferation networks using conventional intelligence gathering tactics. Security considerations do not permit me to describe the techniques we used. Patiently, we put ourselves in a position to come in contact with individuals and organizations that we believed were part of the overall proliferation problem.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 283]
An al-Qaeda affiliate group, al-Muqatila, allegedly kills two German intelligence agents. The agents, Silvan Becker and his wife Vera, are in Libya when they are killed. In 1998, the Libyan government will issue an arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden and several others for their murders (see April 15, 1998). Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write, “According to the German secret service, Becker was their Arabist and his untimely death gravely affected Germany’s ability to effectively the growing al-Qaeda infrastructure in Germany.” [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 189-190]
The company Brewster Jennings & Associates is established by this time at the latest, as it is registered with Dunn & Bradstreet on this day. [Boston Globe, 10/10/2003] It is one of a number of CIA front companies apparently attempting to penetrate the nuclear technology smuggling ring associated with Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan (see Mid-1990s). It is based in Boston and consists of little more than a name, a telephone number, and a post office box address. Brewster Jennings will later become famous when Valerie Plame Wilson, one of the operatives that used it as cover, is outed in the press as a CIA officer. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] Dunn & Bradstreet records say it is a “legal services office” with annual sales of $60,000, one employee, and a chief executive identified as “Victor Brewster, Partner.” However, later investigation suggests there is no such person as Victor Brewster. [Boston Globe, 10/10/2003]
Dallah Avco logo.
[Source: Dallah Avco]A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission will say that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Saudi Government Spy - Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect al-Bayoumi is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002; Newsweek, 11/22/2002; San Diego Magazine, 9/2003] Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] Chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and his investigators will, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “find it obvious that the amiable al-Bayoumi was a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent,” and “someone who had been put on the ground in San Diego by his government to keep an eye on the activities of the relatively large Saudi community in Southern California.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 52]
'Ghost Employee' - Just prior to moving to the US, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job was approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see May 16, 2002). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he is a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001; Wall Street Journal, 8/11/2003] In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002] From early 1995 until 2002, al-Bayoumi is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report will note that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. [New York Times, 8/2/2003] The FBI investigates possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 10/29/2001] The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, will deny the accusation. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
Entity Tags: Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Al-Qaeda, 9/11 Commission, Dallah Avco, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hamid al-Rashid, Omar al-Bayoumi, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Abdullah, Saud al-Rashid
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Djamel Zitouni. [Source: Fides Journal]Djamel Zitouni takes over the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA). There are allegations that the Algerian government manipulated the GIA from its creation in 1991 (see 1991). After going through several leaders, it appears that the GIA’s new leader Zitouni is in fact an agent of the Algerian intelligence agency. For instance, in 2005 the Guardian will report that Algerian intelligence “managed to place Djamel Zitouni, one of the Islamists it controlled, at the head of the GIA.” [Guardian, 9/8/2005] And journalist Jonathan Randal will write in a 2005 book that according to Abdelkhader Tigha, a former Algerian security officer, “army intelligence controlled overall GIA leader Djamel Zitouni and used his men to massacre civilians to turn Algerian and French public opinion against the jihadis.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 170-171] Indeed, prior to Zitouni taking over, the GIA tried to limit civilian casualties in their many attacks (see December 1991-October 27, 1994). But Zitouni launches many attacks on civilian targets. He also attacks other Islamist militant groups, such as the rival Islamic Salvation Army (AIS). He also launches a series of attacks inside France. [Crotty, 2005, pp. 291-292] Zitouni also kills many of the genuine Islamists within the GIA. [New Zealand Listener, 2/14/2004] These controversial tactics cause the GIA to slowly lose popular support and the group also splits into many dissident factions. Some international militant leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Qatada continue to support the GIA. He will finally be killed by a rival faction on July 16, 1996. [Crotty, 2005, pp. 291-292]
News reports will later reveal that a Philippine government undercover operative working with the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf was deeply involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot. Edwin Angeles, an uncover operative so deeply imbedded in Abu Sayyaf that he was actually the group’s second in command, gave up his cover in February 1995 (see Early February 1995), weeks after the Bojinka plot was foiled (see January 6, 1995). In 1996, the New York Times will report that according to US investigators, “Angeles said he worked alongside [Ramzi] Yousef as he planned the details of the [Bojinka] plot.” [New York Times, 8/30/1996] The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, reports that after giving up his cover, Angeles reveals that Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, and Abu Sayyaf generally, had a “far greater role in the plot to assassinate the Pope and blow up the US airliners than foreign intelligence agencies had previously thought. He said he had met Yousef several times in the Manila flat…” Unlike the New York Times, which only reported that Angeles switched sides in February 1995, the Advertiser notes that “many people believe” Angeles “was a military-planted spy” all along. [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] This will be confirmed in later news reports, and in fact Angeles secretly had worked for Philippine intelligence since the formation of Abu Sayyaf in 1991 (see 1991-Early February 1995). It is not clear what Angeles may have told his government handlers while the Bojinka plot was in motion, if anything.
The National Security Agency (NSA) monitors telephone traffic passing through the Umm Haraz satellite ground station, which handles international traffic coming to and from Intelsat or Arabsat satellites. It identifies and monitors phones used by Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, providing some intelligence about their organization and their activities. [Intelligence and National Security, 2003, pp. 82-83 ]
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) takes effect. CALEA obliges telecommunications providers such as AT&T to give law enforcement agencies and US intelligence organizations the ability to wiretap any domestic or international telephone conversations carried over their networks. In more recent years, the law will be expanded to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies similar abilities to monitor Internet usage by US citizens. [Federal Communications Commission, 2/21/2007]
After the Yemen civil war in 1994, in which militants helped North Yemen defeat its southern counterpart, there is an effort to absorb extremists into the mainstream (see After July 1994). However, some foreign intelligence services complain that this allows radicals to operate freely in Yemen. Nabil ad-Din, a former officer in Egypt’s state security will later say that “there were always problems” with Yemeni security officials because “they shared the same values of the people they were supposed to be arresting.” US officials will say that although some senior officers in the local Political Security Organization (PSO) take antiterrorism seriously, the organization as a whole tends to see Islamists as useful allies against domestic opponents. In addition, an Italian intelligence report will later state that the PSO even provides “logistical and intelligence assistance” to Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who frequently visits Yemen (see Mid-1990s-Spring 1998). [Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002]
Edwin Angeles, a Philippine government operative so deeply embedded in the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf that he is actually the group’s second in command (see 1991-Early February 1995), surrenders to Philippine authorities. Angeles will later tell a reporter that he was not supposed to surrender yet and was surprised that his military handlers unmasked his cover. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001] One report suggests a slightly different account: “In early February, rumors began to circulate that Angeles… was, in fact, a deep-penetration agent planted by the Philippine military; Angeles heard the rumors and knew he would be killed,” so he turned himself in. In any case, the timing may have something to do with the Bojinka plot, which he was involved in and was foiled just the month before (see January 6, 1995 and Late 1994-January 1995). Angeles is debriefed for weeks and reveals many details about the Bojinka plot and Abu Sayyaf generally. It is not known what he may have told Philippine intelligence about the Bojinka plot while the plot was still in motion, if anything. [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] Angeles leads the military in a number of operations against Abu Sayyaf and helps capture several top leaders, removing any doubt for the group that he was an undercover agent. Angeles then becomes a Philippine intelligence agent but, soon he has a falling out over what he believes are unethical methods and goes public with his complaints later in the year. He is then charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and murder for his actions when he was an Abu Sayyaf leader. However, he will be acquitted after the judge announces Angeles proved the crimes were all done as part of his job as an undercover operative. Hated by both the Philippine government and Abu Sayyaf, Angeles will disappear into the jungle and try to start his own rebel group. However, he will be shot and killed in early 1999. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001]
John Yoo, the general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, writes a book-length article for the California Law Review. Yoo’s article argues that under the Constitution, the president has far greater powers during wartime than is generally recognized. Basically, Yoo writes, Congress can only do two things to restrain a wartime president: restrict spending and impeach the president. The federal courts have no power over the president whatsoever. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. xx]
Rolf Ekeus. [Source: United Nations]US intelligence services use United Nations arms controls teams to spy on the Iraqi military, without the knowledge of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) that oversees the teams. US intelligence infiltrates agents and espionage equipment into the UN inspection teams. Clinton administration officials have previously admitted inserting eavesdropping equipment into Iraq with the inspectors, but said that they did so in cooperation with UNSCOM to penetrate Iraqi concealment of its illegal weapons. However, US intelligence agents rig UNSCOM equipment and office space, without UNSCOM permission or knowledge, to intercept Iraqi military communications. Most of these communications have nothing to do with UNSCOM’s special weapons mandate. US government officials admit that they considered the risk that discovery of their infiltrations would discredit the UNSCOM teams, but they dismissed the risk as being quite low, and the intelligence gathered on the Iraqi military as critically needed.
US Installs Surveillance Equipment During Upgrade - The surveillance begins in March 1996, when UNSCOM upgrades a widespread video surveillance system to transmit signals from the camera to the inspectors’ offices in Baghdad, and terminates no later than December 1998, when the Iraqis ask all UNSCOM inspectors to leave the country. While the new system gives UNSCOM inspectors views of distant facilities in “near real time,” unknown to UNSCOM officials, the US signals and sensor technicians who install and maintain the system have covert transmission systems built into the UNSCOM transmitters that capture the Iraqi communications. The designer of the new system is a military intelligence operative and engineer; two of the technicians who install the system are CIA agents.
UNSCOM Says Surveillance Destroyed Its Ability to Function inside Iraq - UNSCOM officials now claim that the covert surveillance undertaken by the US has helped to destroy the agency’s ability to function inside Iraq, and have given credibility to Iraqi claims—previously dismissed—that the US was using UNSCOM to spy on their military facilities. (UNSCOM is aware of another, simultaneous surveillance operation called “Shake the Tree,” that used commercial scanners to intercept Iraqi radio transmissions; US officials now say that they chose to pursue the surreptitious eavesdropping because they wanted to preserve their “independence of access” to Iraqi military communications, according to a US official. “We did not want to rely on a multinational body that might or might not continue to operate as it was operating.” The US government decides not to inform either Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who is UNSCOM’s executive chairman, or his Australian successor, Richard Butler, about the second eavesdropping operation. However, the CIA does inform the American deputy to both men, Charles Duelfer, to ensure that UNSCOM staff members do not interfere with the operation.
'Played for Suckers' - Ekeus will later say that while he has difficulty believing the US could have built covert antennas into the video relay system without the Iraqis’ knowledge, if the US did so, “We have always stood against that.” Though Butler refuses to comment publicly on the issue, a source reports that privately he is angered by the operation. “If all this stuff turns out to be true, then Rolf Ekeus and I have been played for suckers, haven’t we?” he is reported as saying. “I’ve spent a lifetime of helping build and defend the nonproliferation regimes. Piggybacking in this manner [by US intelligence] can only serve the interests of those who reject meaningful efforts at arms control.” In May 1997, British officials in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ask their counterparts, the American National Security Agency (NSA), if such an operation exists, and the NSA does not respond. A US official will explain: “We don’t tell the British everything, even if they are our closest intelligence ally. They don’t tell us everything they’re doing either.” [Washington Post, 3/2/1999]
A Bosnian Muslim named Munib Zahiragic joins Bosnia’s Muslim secret police by mid-1995, while he is also working for the Sarajevo office of the US-based charity Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). By September 1996, he is stealing top secret documents and giving them to Enaam Arnaout, the US executive director of BIF and also linked to al-Qaeda. He gives Arnaout hundreds of documents about mujaheddin and al-Qaeda operatives. Arnaout then passes them on to al-Qaeda, allowing many to avoid capture. For instance, high-ranking al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is tipped off that investigators are onto him when he visits Bosnia in 1998 (see May 7, 1998). After Zahiragic leaves the secret police in June 2000, he works full time for BIF. In March 2002, Bosnian police will raid the BIF’s Sarajevo office, arrest Zahiragic, and discover weapons, booby traps, fake passports, and bomb making plans. A raid on another BIF office at the same time will uncover the stolen documents. Zahiragic is convicted of espionage in Bosnia a year later but he is only sentenced to two years in prison. [Associated Press, 6/30/2003; Schindler, 2007, pp. 288-289] Despite his arrest, Bosnian intelligence agencies remain completely penetrated by others. Highly classified Bosnian documents are sometimes found with Islamist militants in Bosnia and are even published in militant newsletters. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 312-313]
Hwang Jang-yop, a former aide to President Kim Il-sung, becomes the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect. During debriefings, he tells investigators that Pakistan and North Korea made a deal to trade No-dong missiles for uranium enrichment technology after a delegation from Khan Research Laboratories visited North Korea in the summer of 1996 (see 1996). He claims that the secret enrichment plant is based in a series of caves near the town of Kumch’ang-ni, 100 miles north of Pyongyang, and 30 miles northwest of North Korea’s nuclear reactor at Yongbyon-kun. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 281] However, inspectors will later visit the location and find no technology there (see 1999).
An unnamed high-ranking State Department official helps a nuclear smuggling ring connected to Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and Pakistan’s ISI to plant “moles” in US military and academic institutions that handle nuclear technology, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated shortly after 9/11. The moles, mostly Ph.D students, are planted by Turkish and Israeli elements in the network, which obtains nuclear technology for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and for re-sale by Khan. Edmonds will later say she thinks there are several transactions of nuclear material every month: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.” She will also say that the network appears to obtain information “from every nuclear agency in the United States.” The State Department official apparently arranges security clearance for some of the moles, enabling them to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities, including the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The high-ranking State Department official who is not named by Britain’s Sunday Times is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008; American Conservative, 11/1/2009]
Former US ambassador Joe Wilson and CIA officer Valerie Plame meet for the first time at a reception held at the Turkish ambassador’s residence. Wilson is a political adviser to the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces in Europe. Plame describes herself as an “energy executive living in Brussels.” Wilson and Plame will marry a year later and will become involved in the “Plame Affair,” when Plame’s affiliation with the CIA is disclosed in the media (see July 14, 2003). After her marriage, Plame will generally be referred to by the name Plame Wilson. Wilson, who is accompanied by General James Jamerson, is there to receive an award from the American-Turkish Council. The reason for Plame’s presence there is not known. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 239-242, 273] However, the American-Turkish Council will later be said to be involved in the smuggling of nuclear weapons material to Turkey and other countries (see Late 1990s-Early 2001 and Mid-Late 1990s), and Plame’s job at the CIA is in its non-proliferation section (see Late February 1999), so she may be there for operational reasons. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008; Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
In 2004, it will be reported, “A former very senior CIA counterintelligence official told UPI that in 1998-99, the CIA discovered an Israeli couple, who were subcontracted to a US phone company, were working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. ‘They did incredible damage—they got incredibly sensitive data, including key words identifying individuals or projects,’” this source said, adding he himself gave the case to the FBI. Additional details are not known. [United Press International, 12/9/2004] In 2005, a US criminal indictment will reveal that the FBI began monitoring some Israeli diplomatic officials in the US by April 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), but is it not known if there is any connection between that and this case.
CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson uses the front company Brewster Jennings & Associates as cover for work against the nuclear proliferation network run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan. Details of what exactly she does and whether other CIA officers use it as cover are not known. However, she is said to pose as an “oil consultant” and the company is also said to be involved in alternative energy in some way. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] According to former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, her specialty in the agency’s nonproliferation center is biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and “recruiting agents, sending them to areas where they could access information about proliferation matters, weapons of mass destruction.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2008] Plame Wilson makes a donation of $1,000 to Al Gore’s election campaign in 1999 giving the company’s name as her employer, and also lists it as her employer on her 1999 tax forms. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
Western intelligence agencies learn that Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean diplomat who facilitates nuclear co-operation between his government and Pakistan, is involved in negotiations between the Pakistan-based Tabani Corporation and a Russian company that makes mass spectrometers, lasers, and carbon fiber. They also learn he is discussing a purchase of maraging steel, which can be used in a nuclear program, but this steel is for his own government. The knowledge spurs MI6 and the CIA to increase their efforts to find out whether the North Koreans have established a cascade to weaponize uranium using technology obtained from Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 279-180]
The British intelligence service MI6 forms the opinion that Pakistani nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan is using his North Korean connections in an attempt to purchase items for resale. The items include rare metals, magnets, and other difficult-to-source products. The purpose is to establish an export stock of goods that Khan can sell on to other countries. MI6 informs US intelligence agencies of its belief and the reasons for it (see 1997 and February 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 279-280]
A Korean diplomat’s wife named Kim Sa-nae is shot dead outside a guest house associated with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan. Government officials claim it was a tragic accident and that she was simply caught in a crossfire resulting from a domestic dispute. However, the US discovers that the woman had been shot execution-style and was the wife of Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean who was the economic counsellor at its embassy in Pakistan. Kang is already on the US nuclear watch-list and, based on interviews conducted by the CIA, the US comes to believes that Pakistan’s ISI had her killed because she was preparing to pass on sensitive material about nuclear transfers between Pakistan and North Korea to Western contacts. This theory is supported by the fact that Kang represented the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (CSC), also known as the North Korean Mining Development Trading Corporation, which had shipped No-dong missiles to Pakistan in 1994 (see January 1994). In addition, defectors have said that the most important job of North Korean embassies around the world is to help efforts to seek nuclear technology and this was Kang’s primary role in Islamabad, where he frequently visited Khan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 276-277] Kang disappears from Pakistan around the time his wife’s body is flown home to North Korea (see Mid-June 1998).
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan takes five pieces of luggage, including two large crates that nobody is allowed to check, to North Korea. The crates contain P-1 and P-2 centrifuges for enriching uranium, drawings, technical data, and uranium hexafluoride, which is needed to start the uranium enrichment process. Khan takes the goods on a plane belonging to Shaheen Air International, which makes regular flights between North Korea and Pakistan to facilitate nuclear technology transfers (see (1998 and Possibly After)). The stated purpose of the flight is to carry the body of Kim Sa-nae, a North Korean diplomat’s wife who was recently murdered in Pakistan (see Early June 1998). The diplomat, Kang Thae Yun, is said to be involved in North Korea’s nuclear proliferation attempts and disappears around the time of this flight. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 278]
Yellowcake. [Source: CBC]Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan takes a trip to West Africa. Ostensibly, he is going to oversee the construction of the Hendrina Khan Hotel in Timbuktu, Mali, which he bought the year before and is named after his wife, but it is believed that is just a cover for nuclear-related business. He spends several days in Khartoum, Sudan, where he is spotted touring the al-Shifa factory, bombed by the US the year before in response to al-Qaeda bombings in Africa (see August 20, 1998). In 2006, intelligence sources in India and Israel will claim that Khan actually partly owns the factory. Khan then travels to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, Timbuktu in Mali, and Niamey, the capital of Niger. Niger has considerable uranium deposits and had been a major supplier of yellowcake uranium to Pakistan in the 1970s. Khan returns to Sudan, where he meets with the Sudanese president, and then returns to Pakistan. He is accompanied by his top nuclear aides and a number of Pakistani generals, and all expenses on the trip are paid for by the Pakistani government.
CIA Investigates Khan Trip - CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame Wilson learns about the trip, and the CIA is so concerned that it launches an investigation, especially to find out if Khan could be buying yellowcake from Niger. Plame Wilson’s husband Joseph Wilson, a former National Security Council official and US ambassador to the nearby country of Gabon who has close ties to important politicians in Niger, and who who has just set up a private consulting firm with a focus on advising clients who want to do business in Africa, is approached by officials from the CIA’s National Resources Division (NR) to visit Niger. The agency asks Wilson, who already has a business trip planned to West Africa, to find out what he can about Khan’s trip.
Illicit Uranium Sales Highly Unlikely - Wilson concludes that illicit uranium sales are very unlikely since the French government tightly controls Niger’s uranium mines and uranium sales. However, Khan’s trip does raise concern that he could be working with Osama bin Laden, because of his interest in the al-Shifa factory in Sudan, and because of intelligence that the hotel he owns in Timbuktu was paid for by bin Laden as part of a cooperative deal between them. The CIA writes and distributes a report on the trip. (In 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee will erroneously conclude that the CIA did not distribute the Wilson-Niger report—see July 9, 2004.) Wilson will keep this trip secret, even refusing to mention it in his 2004 memoir The Politics of Truth, presumably because he signed a confidentiality agreement with the CIA. In 2002, he will return to Niger to investigate if Saddam Hussein could be buying uranium in Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). That will lead to the eventual outing of his wife Plame Wilson’s status as a CIA agent. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 283-285, 516; Wilson, 2007, pp. 358-360]
A 2005 US indictment will reveal that two employees for a pro-Israeli lobbying group had somehow obtained classified US information about al-Qaeda and was passing it on to Israeli officials. The two employees are Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman; both work for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) until 2004. On April 13, 1999, Rosen gives Rafi Barak, the former deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington, what he calls a codeword-protected “extremely sensitive piece of intelligence” about terrorist activities in Central Asia. On June 11, 1999, Weissman tells Barak about a classified FBI report on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which has been blamed on al-Qaeda and/or Iran (see June 25, 1996). In retrospect, FBI officials will determine that some, but not all, of this classified information comes from Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst on Iran known to be in favor of a tougher US policy regarding Iran (see 2000-2001). It is not known how or why US surveillance of Rosen and Weissman began. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005; Eastern District of Virginia, 8/4/2005 ; Jerusalem Post, 8/15/2005; Jerusalem Post, 8/17/2005]
Connection to Earlier Investigation? - However, there may be a connection to an earlier investigation. In 1997 and 1998, the FBI monitored Naor Gilon, an official at the Israeli embassy in Washington, as part of an investigation into whether a US intelligence official was illegally giving US spy plane film and other secret material to the Mossad. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]
Accusations Spark Further Investigation - The US will later accuse Rosen and Weissman of passing classified information given to them by Franklin to Gilon. In any case, the investigation will continue and grow. National Public Radio will later note that from 1999 to 2004, “Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman had regular discussions about the Middle East and about al-Qaeda with a variety of contacts,” sometimes illegally sharing highly classified information. Franklin will plead guilty to sharing classified information in 2005 (see October 5, 2005) while Rosen and Weissman are expected to be tried in 2007 or thereafter. [National Public Radio, 8/4/2005]
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has spent much of his political career representing the US in West Africa, visits Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate what a Senate investigation (see July 9, 2004) will later call “uranium-related matters.” Wilson is chosen in part because his wife, covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson, suggested that since he was going to Niger on business in the near future, he “might be willing to use his contacts in the region” to obtain information. The CIA is interested in a meeting between Niger’s former prime minister, Ibrahim Mayaki, and a delegation from Iraq to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between the two nations. Wilson will later say that the subject of uranium never comes up in a meeting he has with Mayaki (see May 2, 2004). However, CIA analysts will interpret Wilson’s information to mean that Mayaki “interpreted ‘expanding commercial relations’ to mean that the [Iraqi] delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.” The CIA will believe that Wilson’s report bolsters its own suspicions that Iraq is attempting to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. An intelligence officer will later report that Mayaki indicated that the Iraqis had expressed an interest in buying uranium from Niger. [FactCheck (.org), 7/26/2004; FactCheck (.org), 7/22/2005]
NSA servers used to collect and sift data. [Source: FrancesFarmersRevenge.com]The National Security Agency (see 1952) begins building a massive data-mining system, code-named “Trailblazer,” that is intended to sift through reams of digital communications intercepts and find nuggets of information relevant to national security. The program’s task is huge—to sort through the 2 million bits of data the NSA collects every hour—and one made even more complex by the relatively new types of wireless, Internet, cell phone, and instant messaging communications now becoming ever more commonplace. Trailblazer is strongly embraced by General Michael Hayden, who became the NSA’s director in March 1999. Hayden recognizes from the outset that the NSA is years behind the technological curve, and casts Trailblazer as the future of the agency’s intelligence gathering and sorting. In November 1999, Hayden makes Trailblazer the centerpiece of his “100 Days of Change,” his plan to transform the agency into a leaner, more efficient organization, fast-tracking the program to vault it ahead of other initiatives. “It was going to structure us to handle the digital revolution,” a former intelligence official will recall. But from the outset the program has problems: a meeting between NSA and other government officials in December 1999 is unpromising, and, according to one government oversight official, the program “kicked off with not a real great definition of what it was trying to achieve.” Program managers fail to define standard data formats to allow for the proper sorting of information. After six years, $1.2 billion in expenditures, and endless man-hours of work, the utterly failed program will be recognized as the “biggest boondoggle… in the intelligence community” (see January 2006). [Baltimore Sun, 1/29/2006]
Khalil Deek, a US citizen accused of helping to plot an al-Qaeda linked millennium attack in Jordan, reportedly cooperates against al-Qaeda shortly after being deported to Jordan (see December 11, 1999). Journalist Jonathan Randal will later assert that “a highly placed American in [Jordan] did claim that early on Deek had sung,” meaning he revealed all that he knew. [Randal, 2005, pp. 6] The Los Angeles Times reports in March 2000 that Deek “reportedly has cooperated with US investigators in deciphering [al-Qaeda] computer disks.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/29/2000] The London Times will later report the same thing. [London Times, 11/4/2001] Deek will be mysteriously released from Jordanian prison in mid-2001, fueling speculation about his cooperation (see May 2001). In 2003, journalist Jason Burke will claim in a book that Deek “was, in fact, an agent for the Jordanian secret services.” Burke mentions this in passing and does not explain how he would know this. [Burke, 2004, pp. 317] In 2005, Randal will echo Burke’s claim in a book, saying, “If [Deek] indeed did sing, one possible explanation is that Deek may have been a Jordanian intelligence mole all along and had tipped his masters off to the impending millennium plot and perhaps much more about al-Qaeda. That would elucidate why he was jailed, but never charged or tried.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 6] If true, it would suggest that Jordan had great insight into al-Qaeda for many years. Deek has been considered an important al-Qaeda leader with knowledge about many other al-Qaeda operatives. For instance, one US official calls him a “concierge” or “travel agent” for al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 2/4/2000] He is also considered a close associate of high ranking al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. If Deek is a Jordanian mole, this might explain why it will later be reported that US intelligence has been investigating Zubaida and Deek since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). It also might explain why US intelligence was seemingly uninterested in intelligence that Deek was running militant training camps in California in the early 1990s (see Early 1990s), running an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in California for most of the 1990s (see March 1993-1996 and December 25, 1999), and why the US never officially charged Deek with any crimes (see Spring 2004). But it would be harder to explain why Deek’s associates have yet to be been arrested or deported from the US (see January 2002) or why Deek apparently moved to remote areas of Pakistan dominated by al-Qaeda after it was reported he helped decipher al-Qaeda’s computer codes (see Spring 2004).
A DEA government document later leaked to the press [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] suggests that a large Israeli spy ring starts penetrating the US from at least this time, if not earlier. This ring, which will later become popularly known as the “art student spy ring,” is later shown to have unusual connections to the events of 9/11. [Insight, 3/11/2002]
A nuclear proliferation network operating in the US penetrates the Pentagon and related institutions, according to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated as a part of an FBI investigation. The network, which is run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, but also includes Turkish and Israeli elements, is allegedly helped by a number of senior officials in the Pentagon. Edmonds will later say: “The [senior officials] provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information. The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points,’ which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.” One of the Pentagon figures that is a target of the FBI investigation is Larry Franklin, an analyst who will be jailed in 2006 for passing US defense information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat. According to Edmonds, Franklin is “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001.” [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008]
After getting to know San Diego resident Omar al-Bayoumi, future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi allegedly begins to suspect that he is a Saudi spy. Alhazmi, fellow hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and al-Bayoumi all live in the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego in early 2000 (see January 15-February 2, 2000 and January 15-February 2000). In discussing why the hijackers move from there, the 9/11 Commission will comment, “They may also have been reconsidering the wisdom of living so close to the video camera-wielding al-Bayoumi, who Alhazmi seemed to think was some sort of Saudi spy.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 219]
Alhazmi Warns Friend Al-Bayoumi Is a Spy - An FBI report from shortly after 9/11 obtained by the website Intelwire.com will similarly mention, “Alhazmi disclosed to _____ [that al-Bayoumi] was a spy for the Saudi government and directed ______ not to socialize too much with him.” (Several names mentioned are redacted, and al-Bayoumi’s name is inferred from other references to him.) [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/15/2002 ] It is unclear what the source for this information is, or when exactly Alhazmi may say this.
Alhazmi Also Tells FBI Informant Al-Bayoumi Is a Spy - From May until December 2000, Alhazmi lives at the house of Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant. In a 2004 interview by the 9/11 Commission, Shaikh will say that Alhazmi told him that al-Bayoumi was an agent for the Saudi government. Alhazmi also told him that he didn’t like al-Bayoumi, and he complained that al-Bayoumi constantly videotaped people at the local mosque, and made comments on the video camera’s microphone as he recorded them. Shaikh already knew al-Bayoumi from the local mosque (the Islamic Center of San Diego) and al-Bayoumi also visited Alhazmi at his house. Shaikh pointed out that he’d noticed this too, and he says he told Alhazmi, “I have heard that al-Bayoumi is an agent (of the Saudis).” Later, Shaikh warned someone he knew not to help al-Bayoumi after being requested to do so, because he feared al-Bayoumi was an intelligence agent. [9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004]
Others Concur Al-Bayoumi Was a Spy - Many US investigators will later conclude that al-Bayoumi is in fact a Saudi spy (see August 1-3, 2003 and September 7, 2004). Furthermore, some FBI officials will allegedly conclude that Alhazmi and Almihdhar also are connected to Saudi intelligence (see 2006 and After and August 6, 2003).
India’s largest Newsweekly reports that it appears a recent Mossad attempt to infiltrate al-Qaeda failed when undercover agents were stopped on their way to Bangladesh by Indian customs officials. These 11 men appeared to be from Afghanistan, but had Israeli passports. One expert states, “It is not unlikely for Mossad to recruit 11 Afghans in Iran and grant them Israeli citizenship to penetrate a network such as bin Laden’s. They would begin by infiltrating them into an Islamic radical group in an unlikely place like Bangladesh.” [Week, 2/6/2000]
Mike Frost. [Source: NineMSN]One of the few commercial media reports about Echelon, the NSA’s global surveillance network (see April 4, 2001), appears on CBS’s 60 Minutes. The report is disturbing in its portrayal of Echelon as a surveillance system capable of, in host Steve Kroft’s words, capturing “virtually every electronic conversation around the world.” Kroft continues, “[V]irtually every signal radiated across the electromagnetic spectrum is being collected and analyzed,” including land line and cell phone signals, ATM transactions, fax machines,public and private radio broadcasts, even baby monitors. Mike Frost, a former intelligence officer for the CSE, the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Agency which often works closely with the NSA, says, “The entire world, the whole planet” is being surveilled. “Echelon covers everything that’s radiated worldwide at any given instant.… Every square inch is covered.” Listening stations around the world transmit their data to the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, where, as Kroft says, “acres of supercomputers scan millions of transmissions word by word, looking for key phrases and, some say, specific voices that may be of major significance.” Frost adds, “Everything is looked at. The entire take is looked at. And the computer sorts out what it is told to sort out, be it, say, by key words such as ‘bomb’ or ‘terrorist’ or ‘blow up,’ to telephone numbers or—or a person’s name. And people are getting caught, and—and that’s great.” Echelon is so secret that even its successes are not publicly documented, though it is believed that, among other successes, it helped capture international terrorist “Carlos the Jackal,” and helped identify two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on PanAm Flight 103 [CBS News, 2/27/2000] which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people. [Washington Post, 12/22/1988] “I say, never over-exaggerate the capacity of a system such as Echelon,” Frost noted in a 1999 interview with the Australian press. “Never ever over-exaggerate the power that these organizations have to abuse a system such as Echelon. Don’t think it can’t happen in Australia. Don’t think it can’t happen in Canada, because it does.” [NineMSN, 5/23/1999]
Monitoring Legal Conversations - As successful as Echelon has been in capturing terrorists, international drug dealers, and various criminals, it has raised serious concerns for its capability of monitoring ordinary, innocent civilians. Frost says that such monitoring happens every day: “Not only possible, not only probable, but factual. While I was at CSE, a classic example: A lady had been to a school play the night before, and her son was in the school play and she thought he did a—a lousy job. Next morning, she was talking on the telephone to her friend, and she said to her friend something like this, ‘Oh, Danny really bombed last night,’ just like that. The computer spit that conversation out. The analyst that was looking at it was not too sure about what the conversation w—was referring to, so erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady and her phone number in the database as a possible terrorist.” Though the NSA has a long and checkered history of spying on American citizens, including extensive monitoring of antiwar and civil rights protesters during the 1970s, the agency refuses to provide any information about its activities—not to the public and not even to Congress. Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) has for years pressed for more information about the program, which he recently said “engages in the interception of literally millions of communications involving United States citizens.” Even the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss (R-FL) had trouble getting information when he requested it last year. At the time, Goss said, “[T]here was some information about procedures in how the NSA people would employ some safeguards, and I wanted to see all the correspondence on that to make sure that those safeguards were being completely honored. At that point, one of the counsels of the NSA said, ‘Well, we don’t think we need to share this information with the Oversight Committee.’ And we said, ‘Well, we’re sorry about that. We do have the oversight, and you will share the information with us,’ and they did.” Goss had to threaten to cut the NSA’s budget before the agency would share even limited information with him. When asked how he can be sure the NSA isn’t listening in on ordinary citizens’ communications, Goss merely says, “We do have methods for that, and I am relatively sure that those procedures are working very well.”
Princess Diana, Human Rights Organizations Monitored - Evidence presented in the broadcast also suggests the NSA was monitoring Princess Diana (see November 30, 1998), as well as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and other groups (see February 27, 2000). [CBS News, 2/27/2000]
British Ministers Monitored - Frost cites an instance where then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher monitored two of her own ministers (see 1983).
Americans Monitored - Former NSA contractor Margaret Newsham recalls hearing a monitored conversation featuring then-Senator Strom Thurmond (see April, 1988). Frost is not surprised. “Oh, of course it goes on,” he says. “Been going on for years. Of course it goes on.” Kroft asks, “You mean the National Security Agency spying on politicians in… in the United States?” Frost replies, “Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Sounds like the world of fiction. It’s not; not the world of fiction. That’s the way it works. I’ve been there. I was trained by you guys” (see 1980s). Goss seems less concerned. He says that it is “[c]ertainly possible that something like that could happen. The question is: What happened next?… It is certainly possible that somebody overheard me in a conversation. I have just been in Europe. I have been talking to people on a telephone and elsewhere. So it’s very possible somebody could have heard me. But the question is: What do they do about it? I mean, I cannot stop the dust in the ether; it’s there. But what I can make sure is that it’s not abused—the capability’s not abused, and that’s what we do.”
Used for Corporate Advantage - In 2001, the European Parliament released a report listing many of Echelon’s surveillance stations around the world and detailing their capabilities (see July 11, 2001). Kroft notes, “The report says Echelon is not just being used to track spies and terrorists. It claims the United States is using it for corporate and industrial espionage as well, gathering sensitive information on European corporations, then turning it over to American competitors so they can gain an economic advantage.”
Encryption Effective? - European governments and corporations are encrypting more and more of their phone, fax, and e-mail transmissions to keep Echelon from listening in. In response, the US government is pressuring the Europeans to give US law enforcement and intelligence agencies software keys so that they can unlock the code in matters of national security. Parliament member Glyn Ford is not opposed to the idea in principle: “[I]f we are not assured that that is n—not going to be abused, then I’m afraid we may well take the view, ‘Sorry, no.’ In [Britain], it’s traditional for people to leave a key under the doormat if they want the neighbors to come in and—and do something in their house. Well, we’re neighbors, and we’re not going to leave the electronic key under the doormat if you’re going to come in and steal the family silver.” The NSA, CSE, and even Echelon are necessary evils, Ford acknowledges, but, “My concern is no accountability and nothing—no safety net in place for the innocent people that fall through the cracks. That’s my concern.” [CBS News, 2/27/2000]
Entity Tags: Greenpeace, Wayne Madsen, Glyn Ford, Echelon, Communications Security Establishment, Central Intelligence Agency, Amnesty International, Strom Thurmond, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Steve Kroft, Princess Diana, Mike Frost, Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Newsham, National Security Agency, Robert “Bob” Barr, House Intelligence Committee, Porter J. Goss, Ilich RamÃrez Sanchez
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
USA Today reports that “Israeli crime groups… dominate distribution” of the drug Ecstasy. [USA Today, 4/19/2000] The DEA also states that most of the Ecstasy sold in the US is “controlled by organized crime figures in Western Europe, Russia, and Israel.” [United Press International, 10/25/2001] According to DEA documents, the Israeli “art student spy ring”
“has been linked to several ongoing DEA [Ecstasy] investigations in Florida, California, Texas, and New York now being closely coordinated by DEA headquarters.” [Insight, 3/11/2002]
Les, a doctor from the CIA’s counter-proliferation branch, meets Curveball and takes a blood sample. The blood is analyzed for the presence of antibodies which would indicate if he has ever been exposed to anthrax or any other biological weapons agent. Curveball claims that he was injured in an accident in the fall of 1998 at the Djerf al Nadaf industrial site that killed 12 bio-warfare technicians. His blood test results are inconclusive. The doctor, who does not speak to Curveball at all during the visit, notes that Curveball speaks excellent English even though the Germans, justifying their refusal to allow the CIA to interview him, have told the CIA that Curveball does not speak the language. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005]
A covert recording made by the FBI indicates that a Turkish agent is trying to sell nuclear information that he stole from an air force base in Alabama, according to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later say that he meets two Saudi Arabian businessmen in Detroit to sell the information. When she listens to the recording, she hears the agent saying, “We have a package and we’re going to sell it for $250,000.” The agent is connected to a ring fronted by Turkish and Israeli elements that arranges the illicit transfer of nuclear information and technology to Pakistan via Turkey (see Mid-Late 1990s and (1997-2002)). [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008]
A CIA report is released admitting that the CIA knowingly supported the Pinochet regime’s brutalities, and revealing that the head of Pinochet’s dreaded secret police (responsible for the assassination of an American in Washington DC) was a paid CIA asset. [Central Intelligence Agency, 9/19/2000; Associated Press, 9/19/2000]
A nonviolent demonstration is held calling on the US Army to close its infamous School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/19/2000; School of America's Watch, 7/12/2001] The school trained more than 60,000 Latin American military officers over the past 50 years [CNN, 4/3/2000] , many of whom were since implicated in egregious human rights abuses (see March 15, 1993). [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/19/2000; Associated Press, 11/20/2000; School of America's Watch, 7/12/2001] 1,700 of the protestors are thrown in jail, including an 88-year old nun. [Associated Press, 11/20/2000; New York Times, 6/24/2001]
According to later German reports, “a whole horde of Israeli counter-terror investigators, posing as students, [follow] the trails of Arab terrorists and their cells in the United States.… In the town of Hollywood, Florida, they [identify]… [9/11 hijackers Mohamed] Atta and Marwan Alshehhi as possible terrorists. Agents [live] in the vicinity of the apartment of the two seemingly normal flight school students, observing them around the clock.” Supposedly, around April, the Israeli agents are discovered and deported, terminating the investigation. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/1/2002]
Sometime this year, the FBI discovers a new and “massive” Israeli spying operation inside the US. In 2004, UPI will report that, according to a former senior US government official, the FBI learned of a spy operation in the East Coast of the US, including New York and New Jersey. The FBI begins intensive surveillance on certain Israeli diplomats and other suspects. As part of this surveillance, in 2003 the FBI will be videotaping Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, when they will discover Gilon is meeting with Larry Franklin, Defense Department analyst. In 2005, Franklin will plead guilty to passing classified secrets to Israeli officials (see October 5, 2005). It appears that the surveillance of some Israeli diplomatic officials in the US actually began by April 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), though details remain murky. [United Press International, 12/9/2004] It is not known if this discovered spy operation is connected to or the same as the Israeli art student and moving van spy rings, which appears to have been discovered in 2001 (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001), or something completely different. It is also not clear if the discovery came from an investigation of media leaks begun two days before 9/11 (see September 9, 2001), or if it predated that and the 9/11 attacks.
Satellite photo of the Djerf al Nadaf site. [Source: CBS News]US and German intelligence experts meet in Munich to discuss the information provided by the Iraqi defector code-named “Curveball” (see November 1999). Using satellite imagery, they examine photos of the Djerf al Nadaf site, where Curveball claimed to have been a senior project director for a secret mobile biological weapons laboratory. The photos match with Curveball’s description, except for one detail. According to former CIA official Tyler Drumheller, “If you look at the photos, all the way back to 1998, there was a wall that was built there. Like a cinderblock wall that was built there, that nothing could go through.” The wall stood exactly where Curveball claimed the trucks would go into the warehouse. But CIA analysts convinced of Curveball’s veracity has an explanation: “There was an idea that it could have been a fake wall,” Drumheller recalls. [CBS News, 11/4/2007]
The National Security Agency seeks the assistance of global telecommunications corporation AT&T to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site to eavesdrop on US citizens’ phone communications, according to court papers filed in June 2006 as part of a lawsuit against AT&T (see October 2001). The NSA is expressly forbidden from spying on US citizens within US borders unless authorized by the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISC) (see 1978). When the NSA program, which wiretaps phone and email communications often without court warrants, becomes public knowledge well over four years later (see December 15, 2005), President Bush, NSA Director Michael Hayden, and other White House and government officials will assert that the program was set up in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If the claims made in the lawsuit are accurate, these assertions are provably false. “The Bush administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,” lawyer Carl Mayer will claim in 2006. “This undermines that assertion.” Unbeknownst to most Americans, the NSA is operating a secret “data mining” operation that, by 2006, will have compiled phone records and contact information on millions of domestic phone and email communications. The NSA project is code-named “Project Groundbreaker,” and is ostensibly an above-board attempt announced in June 2000 to have AT&T and other firms help modernize its technological capabilities. The project originally seeks to have AT&T build a network operations center that duplicates AT&T’s facility in Bedminster, New Jersey; this plan will be altered when the NSA decides it will be better served by acquiring the monitoring technology itself. The agency is seeking bids for a project to “modernize and improve its information technology infrastructure,” including the privatization of its “non-mission related” systems support. [TechWeb, 6/13/2000; Bloomberg, 6/30/2006] Groundbreaker’s privatization project is expected to provide up to $5 billion in government contracts to various private firms such as AT&T, Computer Sciences Corporation, and OAO Corporation, [Computerworld, 12/4/2000; Government Executive, 9/1/2001] and up to 750 NSA employees will become private contractors. Hayden, who has aggressively instituted a corporate management protocol to enhance productivity and has brought in numerous senior managers and agency executives from private defense firms, is a strong proponent of privatizing and outsourcing much of the NSA’s technological operations, and in 2001 will say that he wants the agency to focus on its primary task of breaking codes and conducting surveillance. Hayden does not admit that Groundbreaker is part of a larger NSA domestic surveillance program, [Government Executive, 9/1/2001] and publicly, NSA officials say that the project is limited to administrative and logistics functions. [Computerworld, 12/4/2000] The covert data mining portion of the project is code-named “Pioneer.” A former, unnamed employee of the NSA, [Bloomberg, 6/30/2006] and a former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, will provide the key information about Groundbreaker (see Late 2002, July 7, 2009 and December 15-31, 2005). Klein will say in 2006 that he saw the NSA construct a clandestine area within its switching center in San Francisco, and saw NSA technicians shunt fiber optic cable carrying Internet traffic into that area, which contains a large data bank and secret data mining hardware (see April 6, 2006). Klein will say he knew that the NSA built other such facilities in other switching locations. He will go on to say that the NSA did not work with just AT&T traffic; when AT&T’s network connected with other networks, the agency acquired access to that traffic as well. [Democracy Now!, 5/12/2006] The information about AT&T and the NSA will become public knowledge after the 2006 filing of a lawsuit against AT&T and other telecommunications firms (see May 12, 2006 and June 26, 2006).
CIA map showing alleged Iraqi WMD sites. [Source: CIA] (click image to enlarge)CIA director George Tenet testifies to Congress that Iraq possesses no weapons of mass destruction and poses no threat to the United State. He says, “We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since [Operation] Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs, although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely.… We assess that since the suspension of [UN] inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had the capability to reinitiate both its [chemical and biological weapons] programs… without an inspection monitoring program, however, it is more difficult to determine if Iraq has done so.” He continues, “Moreover, the automated video monitoring systems installed by the UN at known and suspect WMD facilities in Iraq are still not operating. Having lost this on-the-ground access, it is more difficult for the UN or the US to accurately assess the current state of Iraq’s WMD programs.” Rumsfeld also discusses al-Qaeda, calling it "the most immediate and serious threat" to US interests (see February 7, 2001). [Scoop, 6/27/2003]
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says in an interview, "Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time." [Scoop, 6/27/2003]
Secretary of State Colin Powell travels to Cairo and meets with his counterpart Amre Moussa. Following up on his statements from the day before (see February 23, 2001), Powell says sanctions against the Iraqi government: “[F]rankly they have worked. [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq….” Powell adds, “[H]e threatens not the United States.” [US Department of State, 2/24/2003; Mirror, 9/22/2003; Associated Press, 9/25/2003] Some nineteen months later, when Powell is asked to explain why his assessment of Iraq had so drastically changed over such a short span of time, Powell will say, “… I did not say he (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) didn’t have weapons of mass destruction…. He was a threat then. The extent of his holdings were yet to be determined. It was early in the administration and the fact of the matter is it was long before 9/11 (the date of the 2001 attacks on the United States)…. A lot changed between February 2001 (and the invasion), but I don’t find anything inconsistent between what I said then and what I’ve said all along.” [US Department of State, 9/25/2003; Associated Press, 9/25/2003; Washington Post, 9/26/2003]
A map showing the location of the collision, and of the Hainan Island airfield where the crippled EP-3 landed. [Source: Military.com]A US EP-3 Aries II spy plane collides with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea. The fighter crashes, killing the pilot; the EP-3 makes an emergency landing at a Chinese air base on China’s Hainan Island, a landing described as illegal by Chinese officials. 24 American crewmen—including three women and eight code-breakers—are taken into custody by the Chinese. The incident is the Bush administration’s first real foreign-policy crisis. [CNN, 4/2001; BBC, 4/5/2001] The precise location of the US plane is in dispute, with US officials saying that the plane was in international airspace when the collision occurred, and Chinese officials saying that the aircraft was over Chinese airspace. [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Some military experts say that the crash is likely the fault of the Chinese pilot, who may have been engaging in what they call a pattern of “deliberate confrontation over the South China Sea, sending its fighter jets to harass American surveillance planes in international airspace.” [Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001] Navy Admiral Dennis Blair, commander of the US Pacific Command, supports the experts’ opinion on the Chinese pilots’ behavior towards US aircraft, telling the press, “I must tell you though that the intercepts by Chinese fighters over the past couple months have become more aggressive to the point we felt they were endangering the safety of Chinese and American aircraft. And we launched a protest at the working level. This is not a big deal, but we went to the Chinese and said, ‘Your aircraft are not intercepting in a professional manner. There is a safety issue here.’ So, this was a pattern of what we considered to be increasingly unsafe behavior.” Aviation expert Jim Eckes concurs: “Aviation protocol demands that the quicker plane take steps to avoid the larger, slower aircraft, which in this case was the EP-3 belonging to the US.” [CNN, 4/2/2001] Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) says that the Chinese pilot who died in the collision, Wang Wei, was known to have challenged US surveillance planes before, but this time Wei—who apparently died when he ejected from his aircraft and was pulled into the EP-3’s propellers—“exceeded his grasp.” The Chinese have a different story: “the immediate cause of the collision was the violation of flight rules by the US plane which made a sudden and big movement to veer towards the Chinese plane,” according to a Defense Ministry spokesman. “The US plane’s nose and left wing rammed the tail of one of the Chinese planes causing it to lose control and plunge into the sea.” Analysts from Jane’s Defense say that two Chinese F8 fighter planes “hemmed in” the larger, slower EP-3 in an attempt to make it change course, and thereby caused the collision; one source reports that one of the Chinese fighters was actually flying directly underneath the EP-3. [BBC, 4/5/2001] The aggressive and dangerous behavior of the Chinese pilots is later confirmed by the account of the collision by the pilot of the EP-3, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, who says, “He was harassing us.…The third time he hit us, is that an accident? I don’t know. Do I think he meant to hit us? No. I don’t think he meant to have his plane cut in two and go under the ocean. But his actions were definitely threatening my crew in a very serious manner and we all saw what happened.” [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Almost immediately after the EP-3 lands, Chinese troops board the plane, ignoring a Pentagon warning to stay off the plane; on April 2, US ambassador to China Joseph Prueher confirms this, saying, “There is little doubt they have been over the airplane.” The EP-3 is filled with highly classified surveillance equipment. The US initially blames China for the crash; the Chinese say the opposite. President Bush’s demands that the plane and crew be returned immediately are ignored [CNN, 4/2001; Reuters, 4/4/2001] on April 2, Prueher says, “To date, we have been granted no access to either the crew or the aircraft,” and calls the lack of access “inexplicable and unacceptable.” [CNN, 4/2/2001] On April 11, the Chinese will return the US crew to American custody, but will retain the plane until July 2001 (see April 11, 2001).
Peter Jouvenal. [Source: Dominc Medley]British cameraman Peter Jouvenal is reporting on Afghanistan at this time and using a young Afghan known only as “Ahmed” to run errands. Ahmed also has a job running errands for Osama bin Laden at the same time. Jouvenal will later recount that Ahmed was helping bin Laden by “meeting people in Pakistan and taking them across the border, taking messages around for Osama, buying his food, taking messages to the Internet and logging on and receiving, printing, sending.” Ahmed buys bin Laden’s meals most every day. But Jouvenal says that “somewhere on the line Ahmed tied up with the CIA” and decided that working for bin Laden was too dangerous. Ahmed asks Jouvenal for help to get a visa for himself and his family to defect to the US, which Ahmed eventually gets. He also tells Jouvenal that al-Qaeda is planning to hijack an airplane in the US in an attempt to get Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman released from prison. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287-289] There are some similarities between Ahmed’s case and the case of “Max” who leaves Afghanistan around the same time and warns of a hijacking, but there are differences as well (see March-April 2001). It is not known if they are the same person. Regardless, Ahmed’s case contradicts CIA assertions that they never had any asserts close to bin Laden. It is not known why the CIA did not use Ahmed to track bin Laden’s location or poison his food. One month later the White House will be warned of the hijacking plot, but it is unknown if this came from Ahmed or other sources (see May 23, 2001).
A day after Chinese president Jiang Zemin demands that the US apologize for the crash of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet that cost the life of the Chinese pilot (see March 31, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell expresses US “regret” over the death of pilot Wang Wei. The Pentagon claims that the crew of the American EP-3 managed to destroy much of the most sensitive surveillance equipment on the plane before it crash-landed on China’s Hainan Island, but, notes GlobalSecurity’s John Pike, “This airplane is basically just stuffed with electronics. Short of blowing up the airplane, there’s unavoidably a limit as to what they could destroy.” Chinese authorities say they will continue to detain the 24 crew members while they investigate the incident, and demand that the US halt all of its surveillance flights near Chinese territory. “We cannot understand why the United States often sent its planes to make surveillance flights in areas so close to China,” Jiang says. “And this time, in violation of international law and practice, the US plane bumped into our plane, invaded the Chinese territorial airspace and landed at our airport.” The next day, China’s Foreign Ministry says that Powell’s expression of regret is not enough; it again demands a full US apology and says that its officials will only meet with US officials to discuss the incident when Washington takes what it calls a “cooperative approach.” Bush reiterates Powell’s expression of regret over the death of Wei, and says though he does not want the incident to jeopardize Sino-American relations, the crew of the spy plane should be returned immediately. [CNN, 4/2001; Reuters, 4/4/2001]
The EP-3 on an airstrip on Hainan Island. [Source: CNN]Chinese and US authorities continue to mediate the dispute over the crash of a US spy plane in Chinese territory (see March 31, 2001 and April 4-5, 2001). John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the two sides are working on a written agreement on what happened, which would be approved by the leaders of both countries. Bush officials have been careful to call the detained US crew members “detainees”, but Senator Henry Hyde (R-IL) denounces the detention of the crew, calling them “hostages.” [CNN, 4/2001] Secretary of State Colin Powell is careful not to call the crew “hostages,” instead calling them “detainees[dq] who are being held [dq]incommunicado under circumstances which I don’t find acceptable.” [CNN, 4/4/2001] The pilot of the spy plane, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, later describes the interrogation tactics of the Chinese, which include verbal abuse and sleep deprivation. [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Hyde is joined by outraged neoconservatives such as Robert Tracinski, who writes on April 9, “Meanwhile, [the Chinese] are ‘holding’ the airplane’s crew; ‘holding’ is the term we use to avoid calling our airmen ‘prisoners’ or ‘hostages.’” Tracinski echoes the sentiments of other neoconservatives when he accuses the US of pandering to the Chinese over the incident, and ignoring the plight of jailed Chinese dissidents. [Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001] On April 7, some details of the written agreement are revealed, with the US expressing further regrets over the death of the pilot of the Chinese fighter jet involved in the collision, but without the formal apology demanded by China. [CNN, 4/2001; Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001]
Negotiations and disputes over the collision and subsequent crash of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet over Chinese waters continue (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, and April 6-7, 2001). US officials warn long-term relations are at risk because of the dispute; Vice President Dick Cheney insists the US will not apologize over the incident. President Bush sends an unsigned letter to the wife of the slain Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, that expresses his “regret” over his death. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the letter is “very personal” and “not part of the political exchange.” Powell says that evening on national television, “[W]e have expressed regrets and we have expressed our sorrow, and we are sorry that the life was lost.” [CNN, 4/2001; Associated Press, 4/8/2001]
The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, April 6-7, 2001, and April 8, 2001), is resolved. Chinese officials approve the letter from US officials expressing regret over the incident, and early that morning, the crew members are released into American custody. [CNN, 4/2001] The plane, filled with secret US surveillance equipment, remains in Chinese custody; it will eventually be disassembled on Hainan Island by US crews and returned to American custody in July, 2001. [US Pacific Command, 7/2001] Defense expert Paul Beaver says China’s acquisition of even part of the surveillance equipment—whatever was not destroyed by the crew before the plane was boarded by Chinese troops—is an incalculable loss to the United States. China may cut the US lead in electronic warfare by at least a decade. “The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy’s electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US,” Beaver writes. He writes that the loss of the EP-3 is perhaps the most serious loss to the US intelligence community since the downing of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1961, and warns that China could even sell the technology it acquires to nations such as Russia or Pakistan. [BBC, 4/3/2001] It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew. Bandar, a close friend of the Bush family and a senior Saudi official, is an unusual choice for the negotiations, but Bandar has a special relationship with the Chinese due to Saudi Arabia’s various deals to purchase arms and missiles, and the increasing reliance of China on Saudi oil. Bandar, never a modest man, considers it a personal favor from the Chinese to have them release the 24 American hostages. Bandar also oversees the wording of the American “apology” to the Chinese for the incident, where the US apologizes for entering Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, but does not apologize for the E-3’s legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nominally in charge of the US negotiations, only finds out about Bandar’s efforts through the NSA’s monitoring of Bandar’s phone calls to the Chinese; when he calls Bandar to congratulate him on his success, Bandar snaps to the Secretary of State, “How the hell do you know?” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 28-29] Media pundit Eric Alterman characterizes the response of the US media as “extremely indulgent” towards Bush, with the notable exception of neoconservatives, who complain about “the national humilation [Bush] has brought upon the United States” and Bush’s “weakness…and fear.” Alterman says that while the incident itself is a foreign policy disaster, the manipulation of a compliant US media is brilliant. He notes that Bush was able to apologize twice to the Chinese without actually being reported in America as apologizing. Neither was the tremendous intelligence loss of the EP-3 focused upon as the potential disaster that many military and intelligence officials perceived it to be. He quotes Washington Post correspondent John Harris as writing, “The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about these uproars.…Take the recent emergency landing of a US surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two ‘very sorrys’ to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush’s shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as ‘Slick Willie’ contortions.” [Alterman, 2003, pp. 194-197]
A National Security (NSA) linguist who only allows himself to be identified to the media as “J” warns his superiors at the agency that terrorists may be planning to hijack passenger planes to ram into buildings, and that security measures need to be implemented to prevent this. Instead, J is ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. (J was given similar treatment in another instance eight years before; see September 11, 1993). J will later claim that NSA officials dismissed his warnings, and instead labeled him as “obsessed” with the idea of a “kamikaze” threat because of time he had spent in Japan. In 2006, J will say that any time his analysis countered conventional wisdom, he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations. He will eventually develop an irregular heartbeat due to the stress of anticipating further retaliatory, potentially career-damaging psychological evaluations. “I believe it was retaliation, but how do you prove that?” he will ask. J will spend his last decade at NSA with no promotion or raise, and will say that another linguist left the agency during that time out of disgust with what was happening. “Who was going to listen to us? Who could do anything anyway?” he asks in 2006. In 2006, other current and former NSA officials will claim that the NSA routinely uses unfavorable psychological evaluations to retaliate against whistleblowers and those employees who come into conflict with superiors (see January 25-26, 2006). [Cybercast News Service, 1/26/2006] It is not clear whether J’s warnings are related to the 33 other warnings picked up by NSA analysts during this same time period (see May-July 2001.)
A Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile. [Source: US Air Force]An armed version of the Predator drone successfully passes a test showing it is ready for use in Afghanistan. The Predator had been used successfully in 2000 to spot bin Laden (see September 7-October 2000), but it was not used in early 2001 while an armed version was prepared (see January 10-25, 2001). A Hellfire missile was successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. [CBS News, 6/25/2003] In early June 2001, a duplicate of the brick house where bin Laden is believed to be living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is built in Nevada, and destroyed by a Predator missile. The test shows that the missile fired from miles away would have killed anyone in the building, and one participant calls this the long sought after “holy grail” that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] But National Security Adviser Rice reportedly wants to use the Predator only after an overall strategy for confronting al-Qaeda is worked out, and no such plan is close to being ready. [Associated Press, 6/22/2003] She and her deputy Steve Hadley decide to delay reconnaissance flights until all the arrangements for using the armed version can be worked out. In July 2001, Hadley directs the military to have armed Predators ready to deploy no later than September 1. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The main hold up seems to be bureaucratic. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke repeatedly advocates using the Predator, armed or unarmed. However, infighting between the CIA and the Air Force over who would pay for it and take responsibility delays its use. Clarke later says, “Every time we were ready to use it, the CIA would change its mind.” [New Yorker, 7/28/2003] The issue comes to a head in early September 2001, but even then, a decision to use the Predator is delayed (see September 4, 2001). [New Yorker, 7/28/2003] The armed Predator will finally be used in Afghanistan just days after 9/11. [Associated Press, 6/25/2003]
An unnamed high-ranking State Department official is said to receive a $15,000 bribe around this time in connection with assistance he provides to a nuclear smuggling ring run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan (see (1997-2002) and Summer-Autumn 2001), according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and will say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] According to an intercepted phone call, the package is to be dropped off at an agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who is working for the network. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The high-ranking State Department official who is not named by the Sunday Times is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Marc Grossman at an American-Turkish Council meeting in 2005. [Source: Canal+]An unnamed high-ranking State Department official tips off members of a nuclear smuggling ring about a CIA operation to penetrate it, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and will say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. The ring is headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, and includes Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, as well as Turkish and Israeli representatives. The official is said to tell a member of the ring that a company the ring wants to do business with, Brewster Jennings & Associates, is a CIA front company. Brewster Jennings & Associates is a front for Valerie Plame Wilson, who will later be outed as a CIA officer in 2003, and possibly other operatives. A group of Turkish agents come to the US on the pretext of researching alternative energy sources and are introduced to Brewster Jennings through a lobby group, the American Turkish Council (ATC). The Turks apparently believe Brewster Jennings are energy consultants and plan to hire them. According to Edmonds, the State Department official finds out about this and contacts a foreign target under FBI surveillance, telling him, “[Y]ou need to stay away from Brewster Jennings because they are a cover for the government.” The FBI target then warns several people about Brewster Jennings, including a person at the ATC and an ISI agent, and Plame Wilson is moved to another operation.
Comments and Denial - The Sunday Times will comment: “If the ISI was made aware of the CIA front company, then this would almost certainly have damaged the investigation into the activities of Khan. Plame [Wilson]‘s cover would also have been compromised, although Edmonds never heard her name mentioned on the intercepts.” The unnamed State Department official will deny the allegations, calling them “false and malicious.” Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi will comment: “It’s pretty clear Plame [Wilson] was targeting the Turks. If indeed that [State Department] official was working with the Turks to violate US law on nuclear exports, it would have been in his interest to alert them to the fact that this woman’s company was affiliated to the CIA. I don’t know if that’s treason legally but many people would consider it to be.” [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
Official Said to be Marc Grossman - The high-ranking State Department official who is not named in the Sunday Times is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Entity Tags: Sibel Edmonds, Valerie Plame Wilson, Philip Giraldi, US Department of State, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Larisa Alexandrovna, Brewster Jennings & Associates, American-Turkish Council, Marc Grossman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
National Security Adviser Rice, upset with a media leak, orders an investigation that will uncover evidence of widespread Israeli spying in the US. The Saudis had recently threatened to end their close alliance with the US (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001), and on September 6, 2001, President Bush held a meeting attended by Rice and others to work on how to appease Saudi concerns (see September 6, 2001). Just three days after the meeting, there is a story by Jane Perlez in the New York Times accurately detailing what was discussed in the meeting. It will later be reported that Rice is furious about the leak to Perlez and immediately demands a clampdown on leakers. The determination to improve secrecy increases in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This leak investigation focuses on Israelis in the US. No one is ever prosecuted for the leak to Perlez, but the investigation will takes on a life of its own and continue for years. [New York Times, 9/9/2001; JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5/17/2005; Nation, 7/14/2005] It appears the FBI had been investigating Israeli spying in the US since at least 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), and there are reports of a discovery of a “massive” Israeli spy operation in the US in 2001 (see 2001) and/or the discovery of the Israeli art student spy ring (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001). It is unclear if there is any connection between these investigations and this media link investigation or not.
It has been widely reported that the CIA never had any assets near bin Laden before 9/11. For instance, Lawrence Wright will write in his highly regarded 2006 book, The Looming Tower, “The fact is that the CIA had no one inside al-Qaeda or the Taliban security that surrounded bin Laden.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 265] But author Ronald Kessler will write in a 2004 book, “Often, the CIA used operatives from Arab intelligence services like those of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries to infiltrate bin Laden’s organization.” A longtime CIA officer says, “Egyptians, Jordanians, [and] Palestinians penetrated the bin Laden organization for us. It’s B.S. that we didn’t.” Kessler further explains that such operations remain one of the CIA’s best-kept secrets and often occur even with intelligence agencies the CIA is sometimes otherwise at odds with. Kessler says, “In return for help, the CIA provided them with money, equipment, and intelligence on their adversaries. Over the years, the Jordanians, for example, relied on the CIA to alert them to plots against the king. Over time, the Jordanians became so good at the intelligence game that they were better at detecting plots than the CIA.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 143] Jack Cloonan, an FBI expert on al-Qaeda, will later say, “There were agents run into the camps. But most of them were not very well placed,” and lacked access to the inner circles. [United Press International, 11/27/2006] One example of such an asset may be Khalil Deek, who worked closely with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see 1998-December 11, 1999) and was reportedly a mole for Jordanian intelligence (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). In the months before 9/11, Jordan will warn the US that al-Qaeda is planning a major attack inside the US using aircraft (see Late Summer 2001), and Egypt will warn the CIA that al-Qaeda has 20 operatives on a mission in the US, some of them training to fly (see Late July 2001).
According to an editorial written in the Black Agenda Report by executive editor Glen Ford written in 2008, Ford claims that he observes two presumably Israeli witnesses to the collapse of the second World Trade Center tower who exhibit suspicious behavior. They are already positioned at the river bank when he arrives at the scene on foot after having rushed past police, who had blocked all vehicular entrance to the park. They are thus the apparent owners of the only vehicle in the lot, having arrived prior to its closure, at an unknown time. The so-described athletic, military-aged duo is clicking away with two very expensive-looking cameras. They speak excitedly to each other in Hebrew—a language Mr. Ford instantly recognizes from his two decades as a Manhattanite—but clumsily claim to be “Polish” when asked where they are from. Informed by Ford that he is a reporter, they claim, “Yes, we are reporters, too!” They display two laminated New Jersey press cards that appear genuine except they are the wrong color, and cheerfully admit they are phony. “They are easy to make,” one says, laughing. When prompted, one states with pleasure that “yes, everything has changed” by the events just witnessed. [Ford, 10/8/2008]
The FBI dramatically escalates its warrantless wiretaps of US citizens, most without the proper paperwork or oversight. The public will not learn of the FBI wiretapping program until October 2005, when classified documents will be made available to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an advocacy group that will sue the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act. According to those documents, which are heavily redacted, the FBI conducts clandestine surveillance on some US residents for 18 months and even longer. The FBI will also internally investigate at least 287 violations of its use of secret surveillance against US citizens. One target will be kept under surveillance for over five years, including a 15-month stretch where the FBI fails to notify Justice Department lawyers after the subject moves from New York to Detroit. According to an FBI investigation, that delay is a violation of department guidelines and will prevent the department “from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a US person.” Other cases involve agents obtaining e-mails after warrants expire, seizing bank records without authorization, and conducting improper “unconsented physical search(es).” EPIC’s general counsel, David Sobel, will say in October 2005 that the classified documents indicate possible misconduct by the FBI in counterintelligence investigations, and highlight the need for greater congressional oversight of clandestine surveillance within the United States. “We’re seeing what might be the tip of the iceberg at the FBI and across the intelligence community,” Sobel will say. “It indicates that the existing mechanisms do not appear adequate to prevent abuses or to ensure the public that abuses that are identified are treated seriously and remedied.” The FBI will counter by insisting that all of the infractions are minor, mostly what it calls administrative errors, and that any information obtained improperly is quarantined and eventually destroyed. One senior FBI official will say, “Every investigator wants to make sure that their investigation is handled appropriately, because they’re not going to be allowed to keep information that they didn’t have the proper authority to obtain. But that is a relatively uncommon occurrence. The vast majority of the potential [violations] reported have to do with administrative timelines and time frames for renewing orders.” Catherine Lotrionte, the counsel for the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which is tasked with overseeing the FBI’s domestic surveillance operations, will refuse to disclose any details of any of the FBI violations, saying most of its work is classified and covered by executive privilege. The surveillance operations are conducted under the aegis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978), whose threshold for such surveillance is lower than for criminal warrants. In 2004 alone, over 1,700 new cases will be opened by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. [Washington Post, 10/24/2005] Though Bush officials eventually admit to beginning surveillance of US citizens after the 9/11 attacks, that assertion is disputed by evidence suggesting that the domestic surveillance program began well before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001).
An unnamed high-ranking official at the State Department arranges the release of four foreign operatives that have been taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or somehow aided the 9/11 attacks, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. Edmonds will say that the target of an FBI investigation into a nuclear smuggling ring calls the official, indicates names of people who have been taken into custody since 9/11, and says, “We need to get them out of the US because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans.” The official says he will “take care of it,” and the four suspects on the list are released from interrogation and extradited. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The names of the four suspects are not known, but one of the lead 9/11 hijackers, Marwan Alshehhi, and the sister of another, Mohamed Atta, will later be associated with the target of an FBI investigation connected to nuclear sciences, so this could possibly be a reference to this person (see July 1999). The high-ranking State Department official who is not named in the Sunday Times article is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Five Israeli men working for the Urban Moving Systems company had been arrested on 9/11 over suspicions that they had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001), and now two more Israeli men working for the same company are arrested. The two men, Roy Barak and Motti Butbul, are driving one of their company’s moving vans in northern Pennsylvania when they are pulled over and arrested at around noon on September 12, 2001. Barak has overstayed his six-month visa and Butbul has no work permit. Both were in the Israeli military, Barak as an ex-paratrooper and Butful as a cook. Barak says he worked for Urban Moving Systems since the summer of 2000. The two are detained and sometimes kept in solitary confinement, but they later claim no ill treatment. Barak will later recall that US interrogators were most interested if he was connected to the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. “They asked if someone sent me to the United States. They asked me if I worked in a moving company so I could monitor people’s movements.” He is given polygraph tests and claims to have satisfied his questioners except on the issue of who sent him to the US. On November 9, 2001, both are deported back to Israel. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/18/2001]
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly puts pressure on Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service, to provide the US with intelligence in an effort to please the Bush administration and make Italy a top US ally. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005] Berlusconi was a member of the Italian neofascist organization “Propaganda Due” (P-2—see 1981). The organization was banned in 1981 and charged with an array of crimes. The organization also had murky ties with some American neoconservatives (see October 1980). [Unger, 2007, pp. 234]
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz create a secretive, ad hoc intelligence bureau within the Pentagon that they mockingly dub
“The Cabal.” This small but influential group of neoconservatives is tasked with driving US foreign policy and intelligence reporting towards the goal of promoting the invasion of Iraq. To this end, the group—which later is folded into the slightly more official Office of Special Plans (OSP) (see 2002-2003)—gathers and interprets raw intelligence data for itself, refusing the participation of the experts in the CIA and DIA, and reporting, massaging, manipulating, and sometimes falsifying that information to suit their ends. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003] In October 2005, Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, will say of the Cabal and the OSP (see October 2005), “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.” [Financial Times, 10/20/2005]
Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Paul Wolfowitz, Office of Special Plans, “The Cabal”, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Colin Powell, Douglas Feith, Lawrence Wilkerson, Defense Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Robert Grenier, head of the CIA station in Islamabad, Pakistan, has a secret meeting with Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, considered to be the second-most powerful figure in the Taliban. They meet in a five-star hotel in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Grenier suggests that if the Taliban want to avoid the wrath of the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, there are several things they can do:
Turn bin Laden over to the US for prosecution.
As CIA Director George Tenet will later put it, “administer justice themselves, in a way that clearly [takes] him off the table.”
Stand aside and let the US find bin Laden on their own.
Osmani and his team relays the offers back to top Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but Omar rejects them. On October 2, Grenier has a second meeting with Osmani in a Baluchistan villa. He makes the new proposal that Osmani should overthrow Omar and then use his new power to get rid of bin Laden. This too is rejected. There are no contemporary media accounts of these meetings, but Tenet will describe them in his 2007 book. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 182-183] Curiously, Osmani will be captured by US forces in 2002 and then let go (see Late July 2002). He will be killed in late 2006 (see December 19, 2006).
Vice President Dick Cheney is asked on NBC’s Meet the Press if the US has evidence that Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists. Cheney responds: “There is—in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al-Qaeda and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein’s bottled up, at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] When asked if the US has any evidence linking Hussein or any Iraqis to the attacks, Cheney replies, “No.” [NBC, 9/16/2001]
Former AT&T employee Mark Klein. [Source: PBS]The National Security Agency, as part of its huge, covert, and possibly illegal wiretapping program directed at US citizens (see Spring 2001 and After September 11, 2001), begins collecting telephone records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by telecommunications firms such as AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth (see February 5, 2006). The media will not report on this database until May 2006 (see May 11, 2006). The program collects information on US citizens not suspected of any crime or any terrorist connections. Although informed sources say the NSA is not listening to or recording actual conversations, the agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity. “It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” says one anonymous source. The NSA intends “to create a database of every call ever made.” As a result, the NSA has detailed records of the phone activities of tens of millions of US citizens, from local calls to family and friends to international calls. The three telecommunications companies are working with the NSA in part under the Communications Assistance Act for Law Enforcement (CALEA) (see January 1, 1995 and June 13, 2006) and in part under contract to the agency.
Surveillance Much More Extensive Than Acknowledged - The wiretapping program, which features electronic surveillance of US citizens without court warrants or judicial oversight, is far more extensive than anything the White House or the NSA has ever publicly acknowledged. President Bush will repeatedly insist that the NSA focuses exclusively on monitoring international calls where one of the call participants is a known terrorist suspect or has a connection to terrorist groups (see December 17, 2005 and May 11, 2006), and he and other officials always insist that domestic calls are not monitored. This will be proven false. The NSA has become expert at “data mining,” sifting through reams of information in search of patterns. The warrantless wiretapping database is one source of information for the NSA’s data mining. As long as the NSA does not collect “personal identifiers”—names, Social Security numbers, street addresses, and the like—such data mining is legal. But the actual efficacy of the wiretapping program in learning about terrorists and possibly preventing terrorist attacks is unclear at best. And many wonder if the NSA is not repeating its activities from the 1950s and 1960s, when it conducted “Operation Shamrock” (see 1945-1975), a 20-year program of warrantless wiretaps of international phone calls at the behest of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Operation Shamrock, among other things, led to the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978). [USA Today, 5/11/2006] In May 2006, former NSA director Bobby Ray Inman will say, “[T]his activity is not authorized” (see May 12, 2006). [Democracy Now!, 5/12/2006]
Secret Data Mining Center - In May 2006, retired AT&T technician Mark Klein, a 22-year veteran of the firm, will file a court affidavit saying that he saw the firm construct a secret data-mining center in its San Francisco switching center that would let the NSA monitor domestic and international communications (see January 2003). And former AT&T workers say that, as early as 2002, AT&T has maintained a secret area in its Bridgeton, Missouri, facility that is likely being used for NSA surveillance (see Late 2002-Early 2003).
Domestic Surveillance Possibly Began Before 9/11 - Though Bush officials admit to beginning surveillance of US citizens only after the 9/11 attacks, some evidence indicates that the domestic surveillance program began some time before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001).
Entity Tags: Terrorist Surveillance Program, Verizon Communications, Mark Klein, George W. Bush, AT&T, BellSouth, Central Intelligence Agency, Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Qwest, National Security Agency
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The FBI hires Hadia Roberts, the daughter of a former Pakistani general who is thought to have worked as a spy in the US, despite objections by the FBI agent that vets her. John Cole, manager of the FBI national counter-intelligence program for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, says he is alerted to her by the personnel security officer, who thinks the woman might not be suitable as an Urdu translator.
Alarming Information - Cole examines the file and “it stuck out a mile: she was the daughter of a retired Pakistani general who had been their military attaché in Washington.” Cole is aware that “[e]very single military attaché they’ve ever assigned has been a known intelligence officer.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2005; Antiwar (.com), 10/8/2005; Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] In addition, several hits appear for her father’s name when it is run through the FBI’s computer and at one time he had been the subject of an FBI investigation, which is “an alarming piece of information that was somehow overlooked in the preliminary background check.” Further, the former attaché spends six months in the US a year, and Cole will later comment, “He’s got a lot of friends that are still there in military intelligence, and he more than likely talks to them frequently, living there as he does six months out of the year.” What is more, the results of Roberts’ polygraph examination are inconclusive, so Cole recommends she not be hired.
Hired Anyway - However, a week later she is given a job, top secret security clearance, and access to sensitive compartmentalized information. Colleagues say that Roberts frequently boasts her father is a retired general and say she is such an Islamic “zealot” that she tries to convert her colleagues to Islam. [Sperry, 2005, pp. 155-8] A few weeks later, an FBI field office finds that classified information has been provided to Pakistanis, but it is not known who leaked it, although an investigation will determine that it must have been either the technical agent or one of the Urdu translators. Roberts will still be translating Urdu for the FBI in July 2005, when this incident is first mentioned in the press. [Sperry, 2005, pp. 155-8; Vanity Fair, 9/2005; Antiwar (.com), 10/8/2005] Around this time the FBI is investigating a nuclear technology smuggling ring headed by Pakistani intelligence and allegedly assisted by top US officials (see Mid-Late 1990s, (1997-2002), and 2000-2001).
Nancy Pelosi. [Source: US Congress]House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) writes to NSA Director Michael Hayden questioning the nature and extent of the apparently illegal warrantless wiretapping of US citizens by the agency. Pelosi and other members of the House Intelligence Committee were briefed on October 1, 2001, by Hayden, whose agency began conducting surveillance against US citizens after the 9/11 attacks (see After September 11, 2001). Pelosi will release the letter on January 6, 2006, three weeks after the New York Times revealed that the NSA had been conducting electronic surveillance of US citizens without warrants since at least 2002 (see December 15, 2005.) Pelosi’s office will also release Hayden’s response, but almost the entire letter from Hayden is redacted.
Letter to Hayden - Pelosi writes in part, “[Y]ou indicated [in the briefing] that you had been operating since the September 11 attacks with an expansive view of your authorities with respect to the conduct of electronic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related statutes, orders, regulations, and guidelines.… For several reasons, including what I consider to be an overly broad interpretation of President Bush’s directive of October 5 on sharing with Congress ‘classified or sensitive law enforcement information’ it has not been possible to get answers to my questions. Without those answers, the concerns I have about what you said on the First can not be resolved, and I wanted to bring them to your attention directly. You indicated that you were treating as a matter of first impression, [redacted ] being of foreign intelligence interest. As a result, you were forwarding the intercepts, and any information [redacted ] without first receiving a request for that identifying information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Although I may be persuaded by the strength of your analysis [redacted ] I believe you have a much more difficult case to make [redacted ] Therefore, I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting. Until I understand better the legal analysis regarding the sufficiency of the authority which underlies your decision on the appropriate way to proceed on this matter, I will continue to be concerned.” The only portion of Hayden’s October 18 reply regarding Pelosi’s concerns that has not been redacted reads, “In my briefing, I was attempting to emphasize that I used my authorities to adjust NSA’s collection and reporting.” In January 2006, an NSA official will say that Pelosi’s concerns were adequately addressed in Hayden’s reply, and in a private briefing shortly thereafter. [Washington Post, 1/4/2006; Nancy Pelosi, 1/6/2006]
Pelosi Unaware of Pre-9/11 Surveillance - Though Bush officials eventually admit to beginning surveillance of US citizens only after the 9/11 attacks, that assertion is disputed by evidence suggesting that the domestic surveillance program began well before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001). Pelosi is apparently unaware of any of this.
Vice President Dick Cheney summons the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to the White House for a classified briefing on the secret NSA warrantless wiretapping program (see Early 2002). Cheney makes it clear to the lawmakers that he is merely informing them about the program, and not seeking their approval. [Washington Post, 12/18/2005] Officials later say that under any of the previous presidents, such a meeting of this import would involve the president. But the four lawmakers are hustled away from the Oval Office. Instead, “[w]e met in the vice president’s office,” Bob Graham (D-FL), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, later recalls. President Bush has already told Graham that “the vice president should be your point of contact in the White House.” Cheney, according to the president, “has the portfolio for intelligence activities.” [Washington Post, 6/24/2007] The leaders are briefed by Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet, and NSA Director Michael Hayden. The Congressional leaders will later mostly refuse to comment publicly about what they do and do not learn about the program, even after it is revealed to the public (see December 15, 2005). In 2003, when Senator John D. Rockefeller ascends to the Democratic leadership of the Senate committee, and is himself briefed on the program, he will write to Cheney expressing his concerns over it (see July 17, 2003). [New York Times, 12/15/2005]
'No Discussion about Expanding' NSA Wiretapping - In December 2005, after the program is revealed to the public, one of the Congressmen present at the briefings, Graham, the then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will discuss his knowledge of the program. In contradiction to the characterizations of Bush and other White House officials, Graham will say that he recalls “no discussion about expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of US citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States,” and knew nothing of Bush’s intention to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the FISA court). “I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy,” Graham will recall, using new methodologies to intercept overseas calls that passed through US switches. He thought that NSA eavesdropping would continue to be limited to “calls that initiated outside the United States, had a destination outside the United States but that transferred through a US-based communications system.” Instead, Graham will say, it now seems that Bush decided to go “beyond foreign communications to using this as a pretext for listening to US citizens’ communications. There was no discussion of anything like that in the meeting with Cheney.” A senior intelligence official, who refuses to reveal his identity but says he is speaking with the permission of the White House, will accuse Graham of “misremembering the briefings,” which he will call “very, very comprehensive.” The official will refuse to discuss the briefings in any but the most general terms, but will say they were intended “to make sure the Hill knows this program in its entirety, in order to never, ever be faced with the circumstance that someone says, ‘I was briefed on this but I had no idea that—’ and you can fill in the rest.” Graham will characterize the official’s description as saying: “[W]e held a briefing to say that nothing is different.… Why would we have a meeting in the vice president’s office to talk about a change and then tell the members of Congress there is no change?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who was also present at the meeting as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, will say the briefing described “President Bush’s decision to provide authority to the National Security Agency to conduct unspecified activities.” She will note that she “expressed my strong concerns” but did not go into detail. [Washington Post, 12/18/2005]
Lawmakers Unaware of Pre-9/11 Surveillance - Though Bush officials eventually admit to beginning surveillance of US citizens only after the 9/11 attacks, that assertion is disputed by evidence suggesting that the domestic surveillance program began well before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001). In the briefing, Cheney informs the lawmakers of none of this.
From left to right: Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. Three of the five accused Israelis briefly appear on Israeli television in November 2001 after being released and deported. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television] (click image to enlarge)Around this time intense political pressure is put on US officials holding five Israeli men arrested for suspicious behavior at the time of the 9/11 attacks (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and two unidentified “prominent New York congressmen” lobby heavily for their release. According to a source at ABC News, well-known criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz also becomes involved as a negotiator to help get the men released. (Dershowitz will later refuse to comment on the matter.) [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] ABC News will later report that was “high-level negotiations between Israeli and US government officials” over the five men, resulting in a settlement. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the political pressure will succeed because the men will be released a few weeks later (see November 20, 2001]).
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that Saddam Hussein’s interpreter, known only by the alias A.S., claims Mohamed Atta was an agent of Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret services. A.S. is sponsored by the Iraqi exile group the Iraqi National Congress (INC). He claims that it was Atta who planned the 9/11 attacks, not with bin Laden or the other 18 hijackers but with two officials of the Iraqi secret services: Farouk Hijazi, a former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, and Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, a member of the Iraqi diplomatic corps in Prague, Czech Republic. [La Repubblica (Rome), 11/3/2001]
The Forward, a popular Jewish weekly in the US, will later report that at the end of 2001, the Israeli government admits to having conducted a large-scale spying operation in the US before 9/11, using art students and moving vans as cover stories. The Forward quotes an anonymous former US official said to have been regularly briefed about the US investigation into Israeli spying: “The assessment was that Urban Moving Systems was a front for the Mossad and operatives employed by it. The conclusion of the FBI was that they were spying on local Arabs but that they could [be deported] because they did not know anything about 9/11.” He further claims that US officials confront the Israeli government at this time and Israel privately admits the operation while continuing to publicly deny it. Israel privately apologizes for violating a secret gentlemen’s agreement between the two countries under which espionage on each other’s soil is coordinated in advance. The Forward notes, “Most experts and former officials interviewed for this article said that such so-called unilateral or uncoordinated Israeli monitoring of radical Muslims in America would not be surprising.” [Forward, 3/15/2002] In 2007, Mark Perelman, the author of the 2002 Forward story that made these claims, will say he still stands by his story and his sources in the Mossad don’t deny it. CounterPunch also will claim to independently confirm Israel’s admission through two former CIA officers. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
According to a later report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pentagon officials conceal potentially life-saving intelligence gleaned from Iranian agents. The report will find that in 2001, the officials, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, fail to pass along information gained from Iranian agents to US intelligence agencies, including reports that Iran has sent “hit squads” to Afghanistan to kill Americans. The findings will be based on information from highly unreliable sources: Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghorbanifar and former Pentagon official Michael Ledeen, both of whom have often provided false or questionable information gathered from questionable sources (see April 3, 2005). In a series of meetings authorized by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley (see December 9, 2001, December 12, 2001, June 2002, July 2002, and June 2003), two Pentagon officials, including one who reported to then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith (see September 2002), meet with Ghorbanifar, Ledeen, and other Iranians. Hadley does not fully brief CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage about the meetings. The head of the DIA is briefed on the meeting but is not authorized to keep a written summary of it or to discuss it on the orders of then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. For his part, Ledeen will say he twice briefed the US ambassador to Italy about the meetings. “Any time the CIA wanted to find out what was going on all they had to do was ask,” he will say. Though the report will admit that the sources of the intelligence are unreliable, it will still criticize the Pentagon for failing to allow what it calls “potentially useful and actionable intelligence” to be shared with intelligence agencies. [Associated Press, 6/5/2008; Senate Intelligence Committee, 6/5/2008 ]
The San Francisco Examiner publishes an article speculating that the US may be planning a coup in Venezuela. The article also notes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has reduced inflation from 40 percent to 12 percent, generated economic growth of 4 percent, and increased primary school enrollment by 1 million students. [San Francisco Examiner, 12/28/2001; Foreign Policy in Focus, 4/17/2002]
In Los Angeles, local CIA and FBI stations increase efforts to obtain intelligence from the local Iranian exile community. According to officials, Iranian businessmen and expatriates who travel frequently between the States and Iran are viewed as potential sources of intelligence on Iran’s internal opposition and the country’s nuclear program. Iranian-Americans interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in 2005 will acknowledge having supplied the CIA and FBI with information. [Los Angeles Times, 3/20/2005]
Sometime in early 2002, President Bush signs a secret executive order authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap phone conversations and read e-mails to and from US citizens. The order extends an operation set into motion at least as early as October 2001 to begin wiretapping US citizens’ phones in a response to the 9/11 attacks. When the program is revealed by the US media in late 2005 (see December 15, 2005), Bush and his officials will say the program is completely legal, though it ignores the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires the government to obtain court-issued warrants to mount surveillance against US citizens. They will insist that only those suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda are monitored, and only when those individuals make or receive international communications. [New York Times, 12/15/2005; Washington Post, 12/22/2005; Newsweek, 12/22/2008] Bush’s order authorizes the NSA to monitor international telephone conversations and international e-mails of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of US citizens without court warrants, in an effort to track what officials call “dirty numbers” linked to al-Qaeda. When the program is finally revealed by the New York Times over three years later (see December 15, 2005), officials will say that the NSA still seeks warrants to monitor domestic communications. But there is little evidence of this (see, for example, Spring 2001). The presidential order is a radical shift in US surveillance and intelligence-gathering policies, and a major realignment for the NSA, which is mandated to only conduct surveillance abroad. Some officials believe that the NSA’s domestic eavesdropping crosses constitutional limits on legal searches. “This is really a sea change,” a former senior official who specializes in national security law will say in December 2005. “It’s almost a mainstay of this country that the NSA only does foreign searches.” [New York Times, 12/15/2005] Some sources indicate that NSA domestic surveillance activities, such as data-mining, the use of information concerning US persons intercepted in foreign call monitoring, and possibly direct surveillance of US persons, took place prior to 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001).
Andreas von Buelow.
[Source: Public domain]Andreas von Bülow, former German Minister for Research and Technology and a long-time member of German parliament, suggests in an interview that the CIA could have been behind the 9/11 attacks. He states: “Whoever wants to understand the CIA’s methods, has to deal with its main task of covert operations: Below the level of war, and outside international law, foreign states are to be influenced by inciting insurrections or terrorist attacks, usually combined with drugs and weapons trade, and money laundering.… Since, however, it must not under any circumstances come out that there is an intelligence agency behind it, all traces are erased, with tremendous deployment of resources. I have the impression that this kind of intelligence agency spends 90 percent of its time this way: creating false leads. So that if anyone suspects the collaboration of the agencies, he is accused of paranoia. The truth often comes out only years later.” [Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), 1/13/2002] In an example of covering tracks, Ephraim Halevy, head of Israel’s Mossad from 1998 until 2002, claims, “Not one big success of the Mossad has ever been made public” (see February 5, 2003). [CBS News, 2/5/2003]
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]
The CIA sends a one-and-a-half-page cable to the White House, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, with news that a CIA source sent to Niger has failed to find any evidence to back claims that Iraq sought uranium from that country (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). The cable contains an initial report of the source’s findings in Niger. [Knight Ridder, 6/12/2003; ABC News, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Washington Post, 6/13/2003; BBC, 7/8/2003; BBC, 7/8/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004] The agency rates the quality of the information in the report as “good,” with a rating of 3 out of 5. [CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]
Caveats and Denials - The report does not name the CIA source or indicate that the person is a former ambassador. Instead it describes the source as “a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record” and notes that the Nigeriens with whom he spoke “knew their remarks could reach the US government and may have intended to influence as well as inform.” A later Senate report on the US’s pre-war intelligence on Iraq will state: “The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was prime minister (1997-1999) or foreign minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it.” Mayaki, according to the report, also acknowledged a June 1999 visit (see June 1999) by a businessman who arranged a meeting between Mayaki and an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report says that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss purchasing uranium. The meeting did take place, but according to the report, “Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq.” The intelligence report also says that Niger’s former Minister for Energy and Mines, Mai Manga, told Wilson that there have been no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. Mai Manga is also reported to have described how the 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 transportation overseas. Manga said he believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special clandestine shipment of uranium to a country like Iraq. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
White House: Report Left Out Details, Considered Unimportant - Bush administration officials will say in June 2003 that the report left out important details, such as the trip’s conclusions. And consequently, the Washington Post will report in June 2003, “It was not considered unusual or very important and not passed on to Condoleezza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, or other senior White House officials.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2003 ; Washington Post, 6/13/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003]
CIA Source Doubts White House Claims - But the CIA source who made the journey, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, will find this explanation hard to believe. “Though I did not file a written report [he provided an oral briefing (see March 4-5, 2002)], there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission,” he will later explain. “The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.” [New York Times, 7/6/2003]
Senior CIA Case Officer Backs Up Source - In 2007, Wilson’s wife, senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, will write of the report (see March 4-5, 2002) that if standard protocol has been followed, the report is distributed to “all the government departments that have intelligence components, such as the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Pentagon, and the overseas military commands. All of us had every reason to believe that their finished report would indeed be sent to the vice president’s office as part of the established protocol.” According to Plame Wilson, who read the report when it was completed (see (March 6, 2002)), much of the report focuses on “Niger’s strict, private, and government controls on mining consortia to ensure that no yellowcake went missing between the uranium mines and the marketplace.” She will write in 2007 that her husband’s report “corroborated and reinforced what was already known.” Both she and her husband assume that the allegations are sufficiently disproven and will not be heard of again. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 112-114]
Little New Information - According to intelligence analysts later interviewed by Congressional investigators, the intelligence community does not believe the trip has contributed any significant information to what is already known about the issue, aside from the details of the 1999 Iraqi delegation. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ibrahim Mayaki, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice, Mai Manga, Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph C. Wilson
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
A newspaper reports that the DEA study on Israeli “art students” determined the “students” all had “recently served in the Israeli military, the majority in intelligence, electronic signal intercept, or explosive ordnance units.” [Palm Beach Post, 3/11/2002]
The CIA files a Senior Executive Security Briefs stating: “[D]issident military factions, including some disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers, are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possibly as early as this month…. To provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month or ongoing strikes at the state-owned oil company PSVSa.” The brief also notes, “The level of detail in the reported plans [censored] targets Chavez and 10 other senior officials for arrest—lends credence to the information, but military and civilian contacts note that neither group appears ready to lead a successful coup and may bungle the attempt by moving too quickly.” But is also says that “repeated warnings that the US will not support any extraconstitutional moves to oust Chavez probably have given pause to the plotters.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/6/2002; Newsday, 11/24/2004; Associated Press, 12/3/2004] Senior Executive Security Briefs are one level below the highest-level Presidential Daily Briefs and are distributed to roughly 200 top-level US officials. [Newsday, 11/24/2004]
The CIA states in its daily Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, “Disgruntled officers are planning a coup, although the military and the opposition as a whole appear to prefer that Chavez be removed by constitutional means.” The document adds, “An attempted coup would risk considerable violence and a severe crackdown by Chavez on any domestic opposition.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/8/2002]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez alleges that “a plane with US registration numbers was at an army airstrip on Venezuela’s Orchila Island, one of five places he was held in captivity during his brief removal from power,” reports the BBC. [BBC, 4/16/2002]
An unnamed US senior administration official says, “The United States did not know that there was going to be an attempt of this kind to overthrow—or to get [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez out of power.” [Newsday, 11/24/2004]
An official investigation by the Venezuelan government reveals that two high-ranking
US officers joined the Venezuelan military commanders who backed the coup
at Fort Tiuna, the largest military base in Caracas, where President Hugo
Chavez was forcibly taken after being captured by soldiers supporting the
overthrow of his government. [Agence France-Presse, 4/20/2002; Guardian, 5/13/2002]
Salon reports on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” All the “students” claim to have come from either Bezalel Academy or the University of Jerusalem. An examination of the Bezalel database shows that not a single “art student” appears to have attended school there. There is no such thing as the University of Jerusalem. In fact, the article points out that the sheer sloppiness and brazenness of the spy operation appears to be a great mystery, especially since the Mossad is renowned as one of the best spy agencies in the world. One government source suggests a theory to Salon that the “art students” were actually a smoke screen. They were meant to be caught and connected to DEA surveillance so that a smaller number of spies also posing as art students could complete other missions. One such mission could have been the monitoring of al-Qaeda operatives. [Salon, 5/7/2002] Shortly afterwards, a major Israeli newspaper publishes a story about the spy ring, but does not come to any conclusions. [Ha'aretz, 5/14/2002]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims he has proof of US military involvement in the events that took place in April, claiming “he has radar images showing a foreign military vessel, a plane and a helicopter violating the country’s waters and air space during the failed coup,” reports the BBC. [BBC, 5/14/2002; Foreign Policy in Focus, 6/2002]
US citizen Michael Meiring is suspected of being a CIA operative after injuring himself in an explosion in his own hotel room. Meiring claimed a grenade was thrown into his room, but a Philippine government investigation determined the center of the blast came from an assembled bomb kept in a metal box owned by Meiring. Hotel employees said Meiring told them for weeks not to touch the box while cleaning the room. Additionally, an ID card with his picture on it found in his room lists him as an officer in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim rebel militant group. [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004] One hour after the bombing in his room, a bomb explodes in a marketplace in the same region, injuring four people. [Agence France-Presse, 5/16/2002] In the two months prior to this explosion in his room, there were several other other explosions in the same region, killing 37 people and injuring 170 more. [Minda News, 5/30/2003] In 2003, a group of Philippine soldiers will mutiny, in part because they believe these bombings were done with the secret approval of the Philippine government, and not done by rebel groups as the government claims (see July 27-28, 2003). A number of Philippine officials speculate Meiring may have been a CIA agent. Those who knew him said that he referred to himself as a CIA agent, but said it stood for “Christ In Action.” He had frequently visited the Philippines for at least ten years. [Minda News, 5/30/2003] He claimed to be a treasure hunter, and had a company called Parousia International Trading (in Christian theology, Parousia is a term for the second coming of Christ). He also had ties to right wing extremists in the US (see 1992-1993). He was said to be very well connected in the Philippines, being visited in his hotel room prior to the explosion by congressmen, a governor, and military officials. He was also connected to militants in the MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, and other groups. He was said to have met with top leaders of these militant groups starting in 1992 (see 1992-1993). One source who knew him said that earlier in the year he had predicted a series of bombings and that his predictions “always came true.” [Minda News, 5/31/2003] Meiring was already a major suspect in the production and distribution of counterfeit US Treasury bills. Over the last few years, billions of dollars worth of fake US Treasury bills were confiscated in the region. [Time, 2/26/2001; BusinessWorld, 5/27/2002] Four days after the explosion, FBI agents take him out of the hospital where he was recovering from severe burns and amputations. According to the Philippine Immigration Deputy Commissioner, agents of the US National Security Council then take him to the capital of Manila. The Financial Times will later report that he returns to the US and is handed over to the CIA. [Manila Times, 5/30/2002; Financial Times, 7/12/2002; Guardian, 8/15/2003] The Guardian will later comment, “Local officials have demanded that Meiring return to face charges, to little effect. BusinessWorld, a leading Philippine newspaper, has published articles openly accusing Meiring of being a CIA agent involved in covert operations ‘to justify the [recent] stationing of American troops and bases in Mindanao.’ The Meiring affair has never been reported in the US press.” [Guardian, 8/15/2003] In 2004, a Houston TV station will trace Meiring back to the US, where he still lives, despite the Philippine government wanting him to be extradited to face a variety of charges related to the explosion (see December 2, 2004).
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations completes its investigation into Major Douglas Dickerson’s relationship with the American-Turkish Council. The inquiry had been launched in response to allegations by FBI translator Sibel Edmonds that Dickerson’s wife was using her position as an FBI translator to shield certain targets working for the ATC from surveillance (see December 2, 2001 and Afternoon February 12, 2002). On September 10, 2002, Colonel James N. Worth, the Air Force’s director of inquiries, writes in a letter to Edmonds’ attorneys: “We have determined the allegations contained in your letter of August 7, 2002, involving Major Douglas Dickerson do not show improprieties and therefore do not warrant a formal inquiry” by the Air Force’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). After conducting “a complete and thorough review,” he continued, the Office of Special Investigations could find “no evidence of any deviation from the scope of his duties. Absent new and relevant information we have closed this matter.” [Village Voice, 7/13/2004; United Press International, 1/24/2005] Edmonds, who was never interviewed as part of the investigation, will continue to press for an investigation. In a September 19 letter to Joseph E. Schmitz, the Air Force’s Inspector General, Edmonds’ attorney will request that the OIG reopen the case and thoroughly investigate her charges. [Colapinto, 9/19/2004]
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