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Shortly after the Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002), the Washington Post will report: “US intelligence officials said they intercepted communications in late September  signaling a strike on a Western tourist site. Bali was mentioned in the US intelligence report…” [Washington Post, 10/15/2002] In response to the Post story, the State Department will issue a statement saying they did share this information with the Australian government. The statement admits their warning discussed tourists as potential targets, but says the warning did no specify an attack on Bali on the weekend that it took place. No government urgently warns tourists to stay away from likely targets in Bali before the bombings. Australian Prime Minister John Howard will later admit that Australia received this warning, but he will claim his intelligence agency analyzed it and decided no upgrade in alert status or any special warning was warranted. [Age (Melbourne), 10/17/2002]
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, says, “Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there’s a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/2002]
Following the discovery of poison recipes during a series of raids on Islamist extremist fundraising networks (see September 26, 2002), British authorities hold a summit to discuss the problem of a potential terrorist attack by Islamist extremists. The meeting is attended by 200 officials from the security and intelligence services, senior civil servants, and key personnel in the transport industry, especially the London Underground. One of the possible scenarios outlined is an attack on the Underground using poison gas. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 239]
Ali al Timini. [Source: Fox News]Shortly after 9/11, the FBI begins to suspect that Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam to several of the 9/11 hijackers, may have had some connection to the 9/11 plot. They interview him repeatedly, but cannot find enough evidence to charge him, and he cannot be deported since he is a US citizen. Investigators discover he had been arrested more than once for soliciting prostitutes. They learn he is consorting with prostitutes in Virginia, and contemplate jailing him on an obscure law against transporting prostitutes across state lines. However, this plan collapses when he leaves the US unexpectedly in March 2002. [US News and World Report, 6/13/2004] But on October 10, 2002, he makes a surprise return to the US. His name is on a terrorist watch list and he is detained when his plane lands in New York City. Customs agents notify the FBI, but they are told that his name was taken off the watch list just the day before. He is released after only three hours. It has not been explained why he name was taken off the list. Throughout 2002, al-Awlaki is also the subject of an active Customs investigation into money laundering called Operation Greenquest, but he is not arrested for this either, or for the earlier contemplated prostitution charges. [WorldNetDaily, 8/16/2003] At the time, the FBI is fighting Greenquest, and Customs officials will later accuse the FBI of sabotaging Greenquest investigations (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). While in the US, al-Awlaki visits the Fairfax, Virginia, home of Ali al Timimi, the leader of a nearby Islamic center. According to a later court filing, al-Awlaki attempts to get al Timimi to discuss the recruitment of young Muslims for militant causes, but al Timimi does not show interest. Al Timimi will later be sentenced to life in prison in the US for inciting young Muslims to fight in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/27/2008] Al-Awlaki then leaves the US again. The FBI will later admit they were “very interested” in al-Awlaki and yet failed to stop him from leaving the country. One FBI source says, “We don’t know how he got out.” [US News and World Report, 6/13/2004] He will allegedly take part in other militant attacks (see September 15, 2006). By 2008, US intelligence will conclude that he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
Nayat Fadal Mohamed is the wife of Mohamed Needl Acaid. In November 2001, Acaid was imprisoned with al-Qaeda cell leader Barakat Yarkas and others, and was charged with being a member of al-Qaeda (see November 13, 2001). With Acaid in prison, Nayat took over the management of her husband’s farm in the town of Morata, not far from Madrid. The farm is set off from the nearest road and is surrounded by a six-foot tall privacy fence and several trees. In October 2002, Mustapha Maymouni rents the house. That same month, Spanish police realize he has rented the house because they are monitoring him very closely since he is the leader of a group of suspicious Islamist militants. Like Acaid, Maymouni was a known associate of Yarkas before the November 2001 arrests. In May 2003, Maymouni returns to his home country of Morocco and is arrested there later that month for involvement in a series of bombings in Casablanca (see Late May-June 19, 2003 and May 16, 2003). After Maymouni leaves, the Morata farm house is not immediately rented again, but Maymouni’s brother-in-law Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet has the keys to the house and uses it sometimes. He also takes over as the leader of the Maymouni’s militant group. Police will later claim that they stop monitoring the farm house after Maymouni is arrested in Morocco. On January 28, 2004, the farm house is rented again, this time to Jamal Ahmidan, a.k.a. “El Chino.” He is a member of Fakhet’s group. He signs the rental papers using a false identity. More and more members of the group begin showing up at the house. By late February 2004, the group has bought the explosives for their bomb plot and they bring the explosives to the house. They assemble the bombs there. [El Pais (Spain), 7/31/2005; EFE, 3/6/2007]
Map of Afghanistan, showing areas of control by various warlords and factions. [Source: ABC News]In May 2002, the commander of British forces in Afghanistan declared that the war in Afghanistan would be over within weeks (see May 8, 2002). The perception amongst many in the US is that the war is over. However, it appears that US leaders begin to believe the war is going to last longer and be more difficult than previously believed. On October 8, the US ambassador says, “The war is certainly not over. Military operations are continuing, especially in the eastern part of the country and they will continue until we win.” Most of the country is controlled by warlords who are now being supplied with weapons and money by the US government. [Daily Telegraph, 10/8/2002] On November 8, 2002, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers says of Afghanistan, “I think in a sense we’ve lost a little momentum there, to be frank. They’ve made lots of adaptations to our tactics, and we’ve got to continue to think and try to out-think them and to be faster at it.” [Washington Post, 11/8/2002] A few days after Myers’ remarks, Time magazine reports, “The fear of failure in Afghanistan has lately prompted some hard new thinking in both Washington and Kabul. General Myers’ candid remarks to the Brookings Institution suggests the Pentagon is trying to be more creative in its pursuit of stability in Afghanistan.” One strategy is to put more resources into reconstruction. [Time, 11/11/2002]
President Bush receives a one-page, highly classified “President’s Summary” of the US intelligence community’s new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002). The summary discusses the high-strength aluminum tubes that many administration and Pentagon officials believe are being used to help Iraq construct a nuclear weapon. Both the Energy Department (DOE) and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) believe the tubes are “intended for conventional weapons,” contradicting the view of other intelligence agencies, including the CIA and DIA. The public will not be told of Bush’s personal knowledge of the DOE and INR dissents until March 2006. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other senior officials will try to explain the administration’s stance on Iraq’s nuclear program by asserting that neither Bush, Vice President Cheney, nor Rice ever saw the dissents. For months, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell (see February 5, 2003), and others will cite the tubes as indisputable proof of an Iraqi nuclear program. US inspectors will discover, after the fall of the Iraqi regime, that the nuclear program had been dormant for over ten years, and the aluminum tubes used only for artillery shells.
Inquiry - The Bush administration will refuse to release the summary to Congressional investigators who wish to know the basis for the Bush administration’s assertions about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. A senior official calls it the “one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it.” It is likely that Bush never read the dissents in the report itself, as administration officials will confirm they do not believe Bush would have read the entire NIE, and it is likely that he never made it to the dissents, in a special text box positioned well away from the main text of the report. However, the one-page summary was written specifically for Bush, was handed to Bush by then-CIA director George Tenet, Bush read the summary in Tenet’s presence, and the two discussed the subject at length. Cheney was given virtually the same information as Bush concerning every aspect of the intelligence community’s findings on Iraq. Nevertheless, Bush and other officials (see July 11, 2003) will claim for months that they were unaware of the dissents. [National Journal, 3/2/2006]
High-ranking al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is captured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Al-Nashiri is believed to have played a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), attended a 9/11 planning summit in Malaysia in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000), was one of the masterminds of the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and planned the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg (see October 6, 2002). Said to be chief of al-Qaeda’s operations in the Persian Gulf region, he is taking flight lessons in the remote UAE region of Umm Al-Qaiwain when he is arrested by local authorities and then turned over to the CIA. An unknown number of other al-Qaeda suspects are arrested with him, but apparently they are considered less important and are not handed to the CIA as well. Most reports indicate he is arrested on November 8, 2002, about two weeks before the first media leaks about his arrest. [New York Times, 12/23/2002] However, US News and World Report will later claim that he was arrested even earlier, early in October 2002. “Al-Nashiri soon broke; he even let officials listen in as he called his associates.” This leads to intelligence on Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a top al-Qaeda operative, and the US assassinates him with a missile strike on November 3, 2002, after trailing him for about two weeks (see November 3, 2002). [US News and World Report, 6/2/2003] Al-Nashiri will remain in secret CIA prisons until 2006 and then will be transfered to the Guantanamo Bay prison (see September 2-3, 2006).
Saif al-Islam al-Masri, a member of al-Qaeda’s military ruling council, is among 15 Arabs captured in the Pankisi Gorge, a lawless area in the country of Georgia, near Chechnya. Georgian and US special forces work together in a raid that results in the captures. Al-Islam is transferred into US custody. The Pankisi Gorge has long been used as a support area by al-Qaeda and other groups to assist the rebels fighting in Chechnya, which is directly on the other side of the Caucasus mountain range. About 100 al-Qaeda operatives and many more Chechen rebels were said to have been living there unmolested for years, but raids around this time are said to clear out the safe haven. Al-Islam has long been a key member of al-Qaeda, although little known to the public. For instance, he fought against US troops in Somalia in 1993 (see Late 1992-October 1993). [Washington Post, 10/22/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005] What becomes of him after his capture is also mysterious. As of mid-2008, there have been no reports of what has happened to him since, not even reports by human rights groups alleging that he is being secretly held.
UNSCOM photo of an Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle. [Source: CIA]The National Intelligence Council, a board of senior analysts that prepares reports on crucial national security issues, completes a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. The purpose of an NIE is to provide policy-makers with an intelligence assessment that includes all available information on a specific issue so they can make sound policy decisions. The formal document is supposed to be the result of a collaborative effort of the entire intelligence community and is supposed to be untainted by political interests. The decision to produce the assessment on Iraq followed criticisms that the administration had already made a decision to invade Iraq without having thoroughly reviewed all available intelligence on Iraq. Congress wanted the NIE completed prior to voting on a bill authorizing the president to use force against Iraq (see September 5, 2002). NIEs such as this usually take months to prepare, however this document took a mere three weeks. The person in charge of preparing the document was weapons expert Robert Walpole. According to the Independent of London, Walpole has a track record of tailoring his work to support the biases of his superiors. “In 1998, he had come up with an estimate of the missile capabilities of various rogue states that managed to sound considerably more alarming than a previous CIA estimate issued three years earlier,” the newspaper later reports. “On that occasion, he was acting at the behest of a congressional commission anxious to make the case for a missile defense system; the commission chairman was none other than Donald Rumsfeld….” [Independent, 11/3/2003; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Summary of NIE Conclusions - The NIE says there are potentially links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but uses cautionary language and acknowledges that its sources—Iraqi defectors and captured al-Qaeda members—have provided conflicting reports. The sections dealing with weapons of mass destruction are also filled with caveats and nuanced statements. In the second paragraph of its “key judgment” section, the NIE states that US intelligence lacks “specific information” on Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And while the NIE says that Iraq probably has chemical and biological weapons, it also says that US intelligence analysts believe that Saddam Hussein would only launch an attack against the US if he felt a US invasion were inevitable. It also concludes that Saddam would only provide terrorists with chemical or biological agents for use against the United States as a last resort in order to “exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002; Washington Post, 6/22/2003; Agence France-Presse, 11/30/2003]
Reconstituted nuclear weapons programs - According to the NIE, “most” of the US’ six intelligence agencies believe there is “compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad’s nuclear weapons program.” The one agency that disagrees with this conclusion is the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which says in its dissenting opinion: “The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons programs, INR is unwilling to… project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening.” It is later learned that nuclear scientists in the Department of Energy’s in-house intelligence office were also opposed to the NIE’s conclusion and wanted to endorse the State’s alternative view. However, the person representing the DOE, Thomas Ryder, silenced them and inexplicably voted to support the position that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (see Late September 2002). The DOE’s vote was seen as critical, since the department’s assessment was supposed to represent the views of the government’s nuclear experts. [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002; Washington Post, 7/19/2003; Knight Ridder, 2/10/2004; Knight Ridder, 2/10/2004]
Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa - According to the NIE, Iraq is “vigorously trying” to obtain uranium and “reportedly” is working on a deal to purchase “up to 500 tons” of uranium from Niger. It reads: “A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement. Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” But the alternative view—endorsed by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)—says that it is doubtful Iraq is trying to procure uranium from Africa. ”(T)he claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR’s assessment, highly dubious,” it reads. [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002; Washington Post, 7/19/2003]
Iraqi attempts to obtain aluminum tubes - The NIE says that most “agencies believe that Saddam’s personal interest in and Iraq’s aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors—as well as Iraq’s attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools—provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad’s nuclear weapons program.” To support its analysis of the tubes, it includes a chart which compares the dimensions of the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq with those that would be needed for a “Zippe-type” centrifuge. The chart’s comparison of the tubes makes it appear that the tubes are similar. But the NIE neglects to say that the aluminum tubes are an exact match with those used in Iraq’s 81-millimeter rocket. The estimate also claims that the tubes are not suitable for rockets. The assertion ignores the fact that similar tubes are used in rockets from several countries, including the United States. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 84; New York Times, 10/3/2004] It does note however that the 900 mm tubes ordered by Iraq would have to have been cut in half to make two 400 mm rotors, and that the tubes would have needed other modifications as well in order to be used in centrifuge rotors. [The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (aka 'Robb-Silberman Commission'), 3/31/2005] The NIE’s conclusion about the tubes is challenged by two US intelligence agencies, the DOE’s in house intelligence agency, and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. In its dissenting opinion, the DOE says, “It is well established in open sources that bare aluminum is resistant to UF6 and anodization is unnecessary for corrosion resistance, either for the aluminum rotors or for the thousands of feet of aluminum piping in a centrifuge facility. Instead, anodization would likely introduce uncertainties into the design that would need to be resolved before a centrifuge could be operated.” The DOE’s dissenting opinion—written mainly by nuclear physicist William Domke at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and nuclear physicist Jeffrey Bedell at the Los Alamos National Laboratory—also notes that anodization is a standard practice in missile construction for environmental protection. The Energy Department’s centrifuge physicists suggested more than a year before that the tubes were meant to serve as casings for conventional rockets (see May 9, 2001), but CIA analysts held fast to their theory. [Washington Post, 7/19/2003; USA Today, 7/31/2003; Washington Post, 10/26/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59] Years later a DOE intelligence analyst will tell two journalists, “[The DOE’s nuclear scientists] are the most boring people. Their whole lives revolve around nuclear technology. They can talk about gas centrifuges until you want to jump out of a window. And maybe once every ten years or longer there comes along an important question about gas centrifuges. That’s when you should really listen to these guys. If they say an aluminum tube is not for a gas centrifuge, it’s like a fish talking about water.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 40] The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, similarly writes in its dissenting footnote: “In INR’s view Iraq’s efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the US Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets. The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapon program.” [Washington Post, 7/19/2003; USA Today, 7/31/2003]
Chemical and Biological Weapons - On the question of chemical and biological weapons, the NIE says: “We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives.” But the document also highlights the belief that it is unlikely that Iraq has any intention to use these against the US. “… Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW [Chemical/Biological Weapons] against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington with a stronger case for making war.” Iraq would probably only use such weapons against the United States if it “feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002]
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Citing defectors and exiles, the NIE states that Iraq possesses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which can be used to deploy biological and chemical weapons. But the document includes a dissenting opinion by the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center. The center, which controls most of the US military’s UAV fleet, says there is little evidence that Iraq’s drones are related to the country’s suspected biological weapons program. Current intelligence suggests that the drones are not capable of carrying much more than a camera and a video recorder. The Air Force believes that Iraq’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are for reconnaissance, like its counterparts in the US. The dissenting opinion reads: “… The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, US Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq’s new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.” [Associated Press, 8/24/2003; Washington Post, 9/26/2003; Knight Ridder, 2/10/2004] Bob Boyd, director of the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency, will tell reporters in August 2003 that his department thought the allegation in the NIE “was a little odd,” noting that Air Force assessments “all along” had said that reconnaissance, not weapons delivery, was the purpose of Iraq’s drones. “Everything we discovered strengthened our conviction that the UAVs were to be used for reconnaissance,” he will explain. “What we were thinking was: Why would you purposefully design a vehicle to be an inefficient delivery means? Wouldn’t it make more sense that they were purposefully designing it to be a decent reconnaissance UAV?” [Associated Press, 8/24/2003; Washington Post, 9/26/2003] The NIE also says that Iraq is attempting to obtain commercially available route-planning software that contains topographic data of the United States. According to the NIE, this data could facilitate targeting of US sites. But Air Force analysts were not convinced by the argument, noting that this sort of information could easily be retrieved from the Internet and other highly accessible sources. “We saw nothing sinister about the inclusion of the US maps in route-planning software,” Boyd will tell reporters. [Washington Post, 9/26/2003] Analysts at the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency are said to back the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center’s position. [Associated Press, 8/24/2003]
Appendices - Most of the caveats and dissents in the NIE are relegated to a variety of appendices at the end of the document. [Unger, 2007, pp. 266]
Aftermath - After the completion of the National Intelligence Estimate, the Bush administration will continue to make allegations concerning Iraq’s weapons capabilities and ties to militant Islamic groups, but will include none of the qualifications and nuances that are present in the classified NIE. After excerpts from the classified version of the NIE are published in the press in July of 2003 (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003), administration officials will claim that neither Bush, Rice, nor other top officials were informed about the alternative views expressed by the DOE, INR, and the Air Force intelligence agency. They will also assert that the dissenting views did not significantly undermine the overall conclusion of the NIE that Iraq was continuing its banned weapons program despite UN resolutions. [Washington Post, 7/19/2003; New York Times, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 7/27/2003] But this claim is later disputed in an article by the Washington Post, which reports: “One person who has worked with Rice describes as ‘inconceivable’ the claims that she was not more actively involved. Indeed, subsequent to the July 18 briefing, another senior administration official said Rice had been briefed immediately on the NIE—including the doubts about Iraq’s nuclear program—and had ‘skimmed’ the document. The official said that within a couple of weeks, Rice ‘read it all.’” [Washington Post, 7/27/2003] The official’s account, will in fact be confirmed by Rice herself, who reportedly tells Gwen Ifill at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Dallas on August 7, 2003: “I did read everything that the CIA produced for the president on weapons of mass destruction. I read the National Intelligence Estimate cover to cover a couple of times. I read the reports; I was briefed on the reports. This is—after 20 years, as somebody who has read a lot of intelligence reports—this is one of the strongest cases about weapons of mass destruction that I had ever read.” [Daily Howler, 8/11/2003]
Conclusions 'Overstated' - George Bush is also provided with a summary of the NIE’s dissenting views. According to the Robb-Silberman report, released in early 2005, the president’s summary of the NIE notes that “INR and DOE believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapon uses.” [The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (aka 'Robb-Silberman Commission'), 3/31/2005] Additionally, senior CIA analyst Stuart Cohen, the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council at this time, who helped write the document, will tell the Agence France-Presse, “Any reader would have had to read only as far as the second paragraph of the Key Judgments to know that as we said, ‘we lacked specific information on many key aspects of Iraq’s WMD program.’” The Key Judgments section is also where INR’s detailed dissent on the aluminum tubes allegation was located. [Agence France-Presse, 11/30/2003] A Senate Intelligence Committee investigation will determine in July 2004 that “most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59] And in 2006, one of the report’s authors, CIA senior analyst Paul Pillar, will admit the NIE had been written with the intent of “strengthen[ing] the case of going to war with the American public.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006]
NIE 'Distorted' Due to Political Pressures, Author Claims - In 2007, author Craig Unger will write, “At the time, to virtually everyone in Congress, the NIE was still sacrosanct. It was still the last word in American intelligence. Yet it had been distorted thanks to political pressures from the neocons and the White House. If one took it seriously, the Niger documents were real. Curveball had credibility. And the aluminum tubes were part of Saddam’s nuclear program. Only one conclusion could be drawn: Saddam Hussein post an extraordinarily grave threat.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 266]
The CIA delivers the classified version of its 90-page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) to Congress at 8 p.m. It is available for viewing by congresspersons under tight security—including armed guards—in the offices of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Only House and Senate intelligence committee members can read the material, if they come without staff members. [Washington Post, 6/22/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 281; Unger, 2007, pp. 265] Despite an upcoming vote on whether or not to authorize a military attack on Iraq (see October 11, 2002), no more than a half-dozen or so members actually come to review the NIE. Peter Zimmerman, the scientific adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the first to look at the document, is stunned to see how severely the dissenting opinions of the Energy Department and the State Department undercut the conclusions that were so boldly stated in the NIE’s “Key Judgments” section. He later recalls: “Boy, there’s nothing in there. If anybody takes the time to actually read this, they can’t believe there actually are major WMD programs.” One of the lawmakers who does read the document is Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) (see October 4, 2002). Like Zimmerman, he is disturbed by the document’s “many nuances and outright dissents.” But he is unable to say anything about them in public because the NIE is classified. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) says in a 2005 interview: “In fact, there were only six people in the Senate who did [read the NIE], and I was one of them. I’m sure Pat [Roberts (R-KS)] was another.” Roberts is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Rockefeller is the vice chairman. [Fox News, 11/14/2005; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 133-134, 137] Rockefeller will later explain that such a visit is difficult for busy congresspersons. Besides, he will say, “it’s extremely dense reading.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 264]
The National Estimate on Intelligence (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002 and October 4, 2002) suffers from what CIA case officer and Iraq WMD specialist Valerie Plame Wilson will call “intellectual sloppiness.” In her 2007 book Fair Game, Plame Wilson will write that it was intellectually dishonest for the NIE authors to relegate the deep dissensions and counterarguments over the WMD claims to “footnotes in tiny type at the bottom of the” report. The footnotes are not “adequate pushback when building a case for something as serious as war,” she will write. “The CIA failed to demonstrate convincingly to the administration that there was a serious and sustained debate over this issue.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 123]
In a congressional closed-door hearing, CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to discuss the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq that was released the day before (see October 1, 2002). When Tenet is asked whether the agency has any of its own spies on the ground in Iraq who can verify the NIE’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of illicit weapons, he replies that the agency does not. “I was stunned,” Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) later recalls. At some point during the hearing, Levin asks McLaughlin: “If [Hussein] didn’t feel threatened, did not feel threatened, is it likely that he would initiate an attack using a weapon of mass destruction?” McLaughlin responds that under those circumstances “the likelihood… would be low.” But the probability of Hussein using such weapons would increase, McLaughlin says, if the US initiates an attack. [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/7/2002; CBC News, 11/1/2002; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 138, 141] Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) asks McLaughlin whether he has read the British white paper (see September 24, 2002) on Iraq and whether he disagrees with any of its conclusions. McLaughlin says, “The one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We’ve looked at those reports and we don’t think they are very credible…” [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59] Graham and Levin ask the CIA to release a declassified version of the NIE so the public will be aware of the dissenting opinions in the document and so members of Congress can have something to refer to during their debates on the Iraq war resolution. [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/7/2002; CBC News, 11/1/2002; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 138, 141] The CIA will comply with the request and release a declassified version of the document two days later (see October 4, 2002).
The Associated Press reports that Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “was in Baghdad about two months ago, and US officials suspect his presence was known to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a defense official said…” This anonymous US official also calls al-Zarqawi among al-Qaeda’s top two dozen leaders. The article notes that “some US officials… contend the United States has no solid evidence of Iraq and al-Qaeda working together to conduct terrorist operations.” [Associated Press, 10/2/2002] But despite this caveat, just five days later, in a public speech President Bush mentions “one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks” (see October 7, 2002). This is a reference to al-Zarqawi, and is said to be based on communications intercepts. But the same day as the speech, Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that [al-Zarqawi] was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] After the US invades Iraq in March 2003, evidence of this Baghdad connection will start to be questioned. Reports that al-Zarqawi was there to have a leg amputated will later be debunked (see January 26, 2003). In June 2003, Newsweek will report, “Bush Administration officials also have acknowledged that their information about al-Zarqawi’s stay in Baghdad is sketchy at best.” [Newsweek, 6/25/2003] Whether al-Zarqawi stayed in Baghdad and if the Hussein government was aware of his movements remains unclear.
The Army’s senior SERE psychologist, Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Banks, warns interrogators at Guantanamo against using SERE techniques in their questioning of detainees. The SERE program, which trains US soldiers to resist torture, has had its tactics “reverse-engineered” to be used against suspected terrorists (see December 2001, January 2002 and After, and July 2002). In an e-mail, Banks writes: “[T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large number of potential negative side effects.… When individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder.… If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. This will increase the amount of information they tell the interrogator, but it does not mean the information is accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain.… Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low. The likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the level of resistance in a detainee is very high.” [Huffington Post, 4/21/2009]
Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. When asked by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) whether he has read the British white paper (see September 24, 2002) on Iraq and whether he disagrees with any of its conclusions he responds: “[T]he one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We’ve looked at those reports and we don’t think they are very credible…” [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Paul Pillar. [Source: PBS]Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin asks veteran CIA analyst Paul Pillar to prepare a declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. A public version of the document was requested by senators Bob Graham and Carl Levin (see October 2, 2002) who want the dissenting opinions expressed in the document to be aired in public. Pillar is told to use a white paper that had been commissioned by the White House in May as his starting point, and then update it with material from the NIE. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 138-139]
Abdulmukim Edris, standing with his head bowed in the back, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, sitting in the front in purple. [Source: Erik de Castro / Reuters / Corbis]Beginning on October 2, 2002, a series of bombings take place in and around Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. This region is a center of Islamist militancy in a majority Christian country. During the month of October, bombs explode outside a restaurant near a military camp (killing four, including a US Green Beret commando), at the entrance to a Catholic shrine, at a bus terminal (killing seven), and inside two department stores (killing seven). A total of 21 are killed and more than 200 are injured.
Arrest of Alleged Mastermind - On November 14, Abdulmukim Edris is arrested and is said to have been the bomb-maker behind all the blasts. Edris is an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group based in the region. Two days after his arrest, he is paraded in front of cameras and stands in handcuffs directly behind Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she calls him “the No. 1 bomber of the Abu Sayyaf.” He admits that he and his team were already casing targets to be bombed later in the month, including the US embassy in Manila. The head of the military says that Edris was trained by two Yemeni “VIPs from al-Qaeda” in the southern Philippines in the month before the 9/11 attacks. It is later reported that another arrested Abu Sayyaf militant, Khair Mundus, received around $90,000 from al-Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia to fund the bombings. [Associated Press, 11/14/2002; Associated Press, 5/14/2004]
Mastermind Appears to Be Mole - But in July 2003, Edris will escape from a high-security prison with two other militants (see July 14, 2003). One week after the escape, the Philippine Daily Inquirer will report that Edris has long-time links to the Philippine military and police. A police intelligence source says that he has been a government asset since 1994. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/23/2003] Edris will be killed about two weeks after this report. He allegedly is killed hours after he was arrested while trying to wrestle a gun from a soldier. Some will allege that he was deliberately killed in order to prevent him from revealing what he knew (see October 12, 2003).
Another Dubious Mastermind - Another alleged mastermind of the Zamboanga bombings, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, is arrested on November 8, 2002, and then quickly deported, despite allegations that he helped fund the 1995 Bojinka plot and had major terrorist links. He is said to have links to Philippine intelligence and high-level government protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
The CIA releases a 25-page declassified version of its October 1 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) and posts it on the agency’s website for public viewing. [Washington Post, 6/22/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 281] The document, titled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs,” presents a very different assessment of the threat posed by Iraq than the original document. Printed on slick glossy magazine-style paper, and full of colorful maps, graphs, tables, and photos, the document contains few of the caveats and nuances that are in the classified version. Nor does it include the dissenting opinions of the Energy Department’s in-house intelligence agency, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center. [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/4/2002 ; Washington Post, 2/7/2003; Knight Ridder, 2/10/2004] Paul Pillar, the principal author of the paper, will later admit, “In retrospect, we shouldn’t have done that white paper at all.” Instead of intelligence analysis, the “paper was policy advocacy,” he admits. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 138-139]
In the beginning of October 2002, Knight Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay is intrigued to notice that the newly completed National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) shows some intelligence experts register disagreement that Iraq is intending to use aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon. Landay reaches a veteran of the US uranium enrichment program. Landay will later say, “He’d been given data on the tubes, and he said that this wasn’t conclusive evidence.” On October 4, Knight Ridder publishes a story noting that the NIE has “exposed a sharp dispute among US intelligence experts” over Iraq. One expert says he does not believe the tubes are intended for use in nuclear weapons because “their diameters were too small and the aluminum they were made from was too hard.” [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2002; New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
French and British officials deny that there is any link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The British specifically deny any meeting between Mohamed Atta and Iraqi agents in the Czech Republic. They state that Iraq has purposely distanced itself from al-Qaeda, not embraced it. [Financial Times, 10/4/2002; Guardian, 10/10/2002]
When Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) reads the CIA’s white paper on Iraq, a document written for public consumption that was supposed to have been an accurate summary of the agency’s recently released NIE (see October 1, 2002), he begins “to question whether the White House [is] telling the truth—or even [has] an interest in knowing the truth,” he later says. The document includes none of the dissenting opinions or caveats that were in the NIE, and therefore makes the CIA’s evidence against Saddam Hussein appear much stronger than it actually is. When Graham calls CIA Director George Tenet to ask what happened, Tenet becomes defensive and accuses the senator of questioning his professionalism and patriotism. Graham then sends the CIA a letter requesting that the agency declassify the dissenting opinions as well as the passages that contained more nuanced and cautionary language. He also requests that the agency declassify his October 2 exchange (see October 2, 2002) with Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin concerning the NIE. In that exchange, McLaughlin had conceded that the likelihood of Saddam Hussein launching an attack with weapons of mass destruction were “low.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 140-141]
Preparing for a major speech by President Bush on Iraq (see October 7, 2002), the National Security Council has sent the sixth draft of the speech to the CIA for vetting. It includes a line saying that Iraq “has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa—an essential ingredient in the enrichment process.” It is essentially the same language turned down by the CIA for an earlier speech (see September 11, 2002). In response, the CIA’s associate deputy director for intelligence [ADDI] sends a four-page memo to Bush administration officials, including Bush’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and the chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, expressing doubt over claims that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium from Niger. On page three of the memo, the ADDI advises removing the allegation from the draft of Bush’s upcoming speech in Cincinnati. “[R]emove the sentence because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue (see September 24, 2002). Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory.” [Washington Post, 7/23/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 261-262] Despite the warning, the White House refuses to make substantial changes. Draft seven of the speech, completed later in the day (see October 6, 2002), contains the passage, “[T]he regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Hadley will later claim in July 2003 that he did not brief his boss, Condoleezza Rice, on the memo. [Washington Post, 7/27/2003]
Reporter Jonathan Landay will recall being surprised about the superficial evidence in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), particularly the evidence regarding the aluminum tubes that were supposedly for nuclear weapons production. Landay says: “I got my copy [of the unclassified version—see October 4, 2002], and I opened it up and I came to the part that talked about the aluminum tubes. Now, it said that the majority of analysts believed that those tubes were for the nuclear weapons program. It turns out, though, that that majority of intelligence analysts had no background in nuclear weapons.… So, here was yet another building block in this chain of building blocks that we had collected over these months about what they were saying to the public, and what the intelligence was actually telling them. And, there were differences. Some of them were nuanced. Some of them were quite large. But, it became quite apparent that they were grabbing just about anything they could to make the case for going to war in Iraq.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
The CIA’s associate deputy director for intelligence (ADDI) receives draft seven of President Bush’s upcoming speech in Cincinnati and sees that the speechwriters have failed to remove the passage on Iraq’s alleged attempt to purchase uranium from Niger, as the CIA had advised the day before (see October 5, 2002). The revised passage reads in part, “the regime has been caught attempting to purchase a substantial amount of uranium oxide from sources in Africa.” The ADDI contacts Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and tells him that the “president should not be a fact witness on this issue” because the agency’s analysts consider the reporting “weak” and say it is based solely on one source. Tenet then personally calls White House officials, including Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, with the CIA’s concerns. The allegation is finally removed from the speech. Later in the day, to press its point even further, the CIA faxes another memo, summarizing its position on the Africa-uranium claim. The memo states: “[M]ore on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq’s nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British.” [Washington Post, 7/13/2003; Washington Post, 7/23/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 261-262] The memo’s recipients include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Hadley. [Washington Post, 7/23/2003] Bush will not use the reference in his speech—although he does repeat the “smoking gun/mushroom cloud” trope (see September 4, 2002)—but the administration’s neoconservatives, such as Hadley, are not through with the issue. They will continue trying to insert the language into other speeches (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). Larry Wilkerson, the chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, will later say: “That was their favorite technique. Stick that baby in there 47 times and on the 47th time it would stay. I’m serious. It was interesting to watch them do this. At every level of the decision-making process you had to have your axe out, ready to chop their fingers off. Sooner or later you would miss one and it would get in there.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 261-262]
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that Osama bin Laden is “probably” dead, but former Taliban leader Mullah Omar is alive. Karzai makes the comments in a CNN interview on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan. “I would come to believe that [bin Laden] probably is dead,” Karzai says. “But still, you never know. He might be alive. Five months ago, six months ago, I was thinking that he was alive. The more we don’t hear of him, and the more time passes, there is the likelihood that he probably is either dead or seriously wounded somewhere.” However, Mullah Omar is alive. “We know of that,” he says. “And we have come close to arresting him several times, but he’s been able to escape.” Karzai adds: “I believe he is most of the time inside Afghanistan. He could go, from time to time, toward our borders, but he stays around the Afghan area, sometimes close to the borders.” [CNN, 10/6/2002]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice invites White House communications aide Adam Levine into the White House Situation Room to look over hundreds of highly classified intelligence photos that supposedly constitute evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Levine is supposed to select a few choice photos to release with Bush’s speech in Cincinnati (see October 7, 2002) to strengthen the administration’s case. One of the pictures that catches Levine’s eye is a photo of a UAV. But when he looks closely, he sees that there is a Czech flag on it. One of Rice’s aides explains that the UAV was on display at a German air show. The administration believes it is like the ones Saddam has. Levine also sees a series of before-and-after shots of weapons sites visited by UN inspectors. But the photographs are from 1998. As Levine continues his search for the perfect photo, he realizes that none of them really constitute evidence of anything. “I remember having this sinking feeling,” he later recalls. “Oh my God, I hope this isn’t all we have. We’ve got to have better stuff than this.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 145]
In response to a letter from Senator Bob Graham of the Senate Intelligence Committee (see October 4, 2002), the CIA agrees to declassify three passages from the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) that said Saddam Hussein is unlikely to use chemical or biological weapons unless he is attacked. The CIA also agrees to release a portion of the October 2 exchange between Graham and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin, in which McLaughlin stated that the probability that Saddam would initiate and attack was low (see October 2, 2002). Finally, in response to Graham’s request for additional information on alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the CIA says its “understanding of the relationship… is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information… received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/7/2002; CBC News, 11/1/2002]
Fallujah II chemical plant. [Source: CIA]In a televised speech, President Bush presents the administration’s case that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a threat to the security of the nation and insists that regime change would improve lifes for Iraqis. “Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power, just as the lives of Afghanistan’s citizens improved after the Taliban.” The speech is widely criticized for including false and exaggerated statements.
Iraq has attempted to purchase equipment used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons - Bush claims that a shipment of 3,000 aluminum tubes to Iraq, which were intercepted in Jordan by US authorities in July of 2001 (see July 2001), had been destined for use in a uranium enrichment program. But by this time numerous experts and government scientists have already warned the administration against making this allegation. [US President, 10/14/2002] Three weeks before Bush’s speech, The Washington Post ran a story on the aluminum tubes. The article summarized a study by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), disputing the administration’s claim that the tubes were to be used for gas centrifuges. The report was authored by the institute’s president and founder, David Albright, a respected nuclear physicist, who had investigated Iraq’s nuclear weapons program after the First Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection team and who has spoken before Congress on numerous occasions. In his study, he concluded that Iraq’s attempts to import the tubes “are not evidence that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons” and “do not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or when such a plant could be operational.” [Washington Post, 9/19/2002; Guardian, 10/9/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; Albright, 10/9/2003] Soon after the speech, Albright tells The Guardian newspaper that there is still no evidence to substantiate that interpretation. As one unnamed specialist at the US Department of Energy explains to the newspaper, “I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around here.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002] The Washington Post article also reported that government experts on nuclear technology who disagreed with the White House view had told Albright that the administration expected them to remain silent. [Washington Post, 9/19/2002; Independent, 9/22/2002] Houston G. Wood III, a retired Oak Ridge physicist considered to be “among the most eminent living experts” on gas centrifuges reviewed the tube question in August 2001 (see 1950s) and concluded at that time that it was very unlikely that the tubes had been imported to be used for centrifuges in a uranium enrichment program. He later tells The Washington Post in mid-2003 that “it would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges,” adding that it stretched “the imagination to come up with a way.” He also says that other centrifuge experts whom he knew shared his assessment of the tubes. [Washington Post, 8/10/2003] In addition to the several outside experts who criticized the tubes allegation, analysts within the US intelligence community also doubted the claim. Less than a week before Bush’s speech, the Energy Department and the State Department’s intelligence branch, the INR, had appended a statement to a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq disputing the theory (see October 1, 2002). [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002 Sources: David Albright]
Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue in 1998 - Bush says that US intelligence has information that Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue after inspectors left in 1998. “Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites,” Bush charges. “That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] But Bush’s “high-ranking” source turns out to be Khidir Hamza, who is considered by many to be an unreliable source. Albright, who was president of the Institute for Science and International Security where Hamza worked as an analyst from 1997 to 1999, says that after Hamza defected, “he went off the edge [and] started saying irresponsible things.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] And General Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law who was in charge of the dictator’s former weapons program but who defected in 1995, told UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors, as well as US and British intelligence, that Khidir Hamza was “a professional liar.” Kamel explained, “He worked with us, but he was useless and always looking for promotions. He consulted with me but could not deliver anything…. He was even interrogated by a team before he left and was allowed to go.” [United Nations Special Commission, 4/16/1998; New Yorker, 5/12/2003]
Iraq is developing drones that could deploy chemical and biological weapons - The President claims that Iraq is developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which “could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.” He goes so far as to say, “We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] But this claim comes shortly after US intelligence agencies completed a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, in which Air Force intelligence had disputed the drone allegation (see October 1, 2002). Bush’s drone allegation is quickly derided by experts and other sources. The Guardian of London reports two days later that according to US military experts, “Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but… that with a maximum range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002] And the San Francisco Chronicle will cite experts who say that “slow-moving unmanned aerial vehicles would likely be shot down as soon as they crossed Iraq’s borders” because “Iraqi airspace is closely monitored by US and British planes and radar systems.” The report will also note, “It’s also unclear how the vehicles would reach the US mainland—the nearest point is Maine, almost 5, 500 miles away—without being intercepted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, will say he believes the drone allegation is unrealistic. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he says, “As a guesstimate, Iraq’s present holdings of delivery systems and chemical and biological weapons seem most likely to be so limited in technology and operational lethality that they do not constrain US freedom of action or do much to intimidate Iraq’s neighbors.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] These criticisms of Bush’s claim are validated after the US invasion of Iraq. Two US government scientists involved in the post-invasion hunt for weapons of mass destruction will tell the Associated Press in August 2003 that they inspected the drones and concluded that they were never a threat to the US. “We just looked at the UAVs and said, ‘There’s nothing here. There’s no room to put anything in here,’” one of the scientists will say. “The US scientists, weapons experts who spoke on condition of anonymity, reached their conclusions after studying the small aircraft and interviewing Iraqi missile experts, system designers and Gen. Ibrahim Hussein Ismail, the Iraqi head of the military facility where the UAVs were designed,” the Associated Press will explain in its report. [Associated Press, 8/24/2003]
Saddam Hussein could give terrorists weapons of mass destruction - Bush asserts, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” [US President, 10/14/2002] But not only have numerous experts and inside sources disputed this theory (see July 2002-March 19, 2003), US intelligence’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq—completed just one week before—concluded that this is an unlikely scenario (see October 1, 2002). “Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States,” the document clearly stated. “Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002]
Iraq rebuilding facilities associated with production of biological and chemical weapons - Bush claims that surveillance photos indicate that Iraq “is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.” [US President, 10/14/2002] On the following day, photos are published on the White House website showing that Iraq had repaired three sites damaged by US bombs—the Al Furat Manufacturing Facility, the Nassr Engineering Establishment Manufacturing Facility, and Fallujah II. [US President, 10/14/2002] But no evidence is provided by the White House demonstrating that these sites have resumed activities related to the production of weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi authorities will give reporters a tour of the facilities on October 10 (see October 10, 2002).
Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases - Bush alleges that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda operatives “in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.” [US President, 10/14/2002] The claim is based on a September 2002 CIA document which had warned that its sources were of “varying reliability” and that the claim had not yet been substantiated (see September 2002). The report’s main source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who offered the information to CIA interrogators while in custody, later recants the claim (see February 14, 2004). A Defense Intelligence Agency report in February 2002 (see February 2002) had also expressed doubt in the claim, going so far as to suggest that al-Libi was “intentionally misleading [his] debriefers.” [CNN, 9/26/2002; New York Times, 7/31/2004; Newsweek, 7/5/2005; New York Times, 11/6/2005] And earlier in the month, US intelligence services had concluded in their National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that this allegation could not be confirmed. [CNN, 9/26/2002; Newsday, 10/10/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; Washington Post, 6/22/2003]
A very senior al-Qaeda leader received medical treatment in Baghdad - Bush claims: “Some al-Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.” The allegation refers to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian who is the founder of al-Tawhid, an organization whose aim is to kill Jews and install an Islamic regime in Jordan. It was first leaked to the press by an anonymous US official several days before Bush’s speech (see October 2, 2002). The allegation is partly based on intercepted telephone calls in which al-Zarqawi was overheard calling friends or relatives (see December 2001-Mid-2002). But on the same day as Bush’s speech, Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] Al-Zarqawi will link with al-Qaeda, but only in 2004, after the start of the war in Iraq (see October 17, 2004).
Entity Tags: Al-Tawhid, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Anthony Cordesman, David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, George W. Bush, Hussein Kamel, Houston G. Wood III, Al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, International Atomic Energy Agency, US Department of State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, US Department of Energy, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Taliban, Ibrahim Hussein Ismail, Khidir Hamza
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
CIA Director George Tenet sends a letter to Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the letter, Tenet acknowledges declassifying some “material available to further the Senate’s forthcoming open debate on a joint resolution concerning Iraq” (see October 7, 2002). Tenet says that the declassified information supports the following contentions:
“Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.”
“We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade.”
“Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.”
“Since Operation Enduring Freedom (see October 7, 2001), we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.”
“We have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.”
“Iraq’s increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al-Qaeda, suggest that Baghdad’s links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military action.” [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/7/2002; New York Times, 10/9/2002]
In 2007, former CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson will write that in the weeks and months preceding the invasion of Iraq, “Congress, just like the general public, was being bombarded with dreadful scenarios of what would happen if the perceived imminent threat from Iraq was not stopped in its tracks.” Plame Wilson will note that little strong evidence exists in CIA analyses to support Tenet’s contentions. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 121]
Knight Ridder publishes a story written by Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay, and John Walcott entitled, “Some in Bush Administration Have Misgivings about Iraq Policy.” They are among the very few mainstream journalists willing to report something besides administration talking points on Iraq (see After October 4, 2002 and September 6, 2002). The story states: “While President Bush marshals Congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals, and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration’s double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses—including distorting his links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network-have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq, and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East. They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House’s argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.” They also confirm rumors of pressure on CIA analysts from the White House to produce intelligence analyses that conform to their desires, quoting an official as saying, “Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books” (see 2002-Early 2003). Strobel and his fellows add: “A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews with Knight Ridder. No one who was interviewed disagreed.… [Vice President] Cheney, [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld, and others are ignoring intelligence reports and analysis they don’t like, the officials say. ‘There is group-think among the leadership,’ said one Pentagon official.” But Knight Ridder, a relatively small news corporation with no outlets in either New York City or Washington, has little impact on the national debate. The story is roundly ignored. [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002; Unger, 2007, pp. 263-264; Roberts, 2008, pp. 151] Within days, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Guardian of London all publish articles raising questions about the Bush administration’s allegations. [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, former FBI Director Louis Freeh says, “I am aware of nothing that to me demonstrates that the FBI and the intelligence community had the type of information or tactical intelligence which could have prevented September 11th. In terms of the FBI’s capability to identify, investigate and prevent the nineteen hijackers from carrying out their attacks, the facts so far on the public record do not support the conclusion that these tragic events could have been prevented by the FBI and intelligence community acting by themselves.” [US Congress, 10/8/2002]
A suspect in the 1995 Bojinka plot is arrested in the Philippines but is soon deported. Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari is believed to have played a key role in financing the Bojinka plot (see June 1994). After the Bojinka plot was foiled, he stayed in the Philppines and effectively took over a charity that is believed to have helped fund the plot (see 1995 and After). He is widely believed to be the successor to the local operations of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. The Philippine military arrested al-Ghafari after concluding he was a mastermind in an October 2, 2002 bombing that killed one US soldier and three civilians in the southern city of Zamboanga. [Manila Times, 10/9/2002; Manila Standard Today, 10/19/2002] Another mastermind of the bombing, Abu Sayyaf leader Abdulmukim Edris, will later be alleged to be a government mole (see October 2-November 12, 2002). One intelligence official says al-Ghafari had been “placed under surveillance after we established that he was in constant contact with members of Jemaah Islamiyah, mostly Indonesians, in the country, Abu Sayyaf bandits, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).” [Philippine Star, 10/9/2002] He is also accused of heading another group that funded two new al-Qaeda training camps in the Philippines. [Gulf News, 10/11/2002] Further, al-Ghafari’s brother belongs to the banned Palestinian militant group Hamas, and a foundation he controls was used as a gathering place for suspected Hamas sympathizers. The Manila Times will report that while some Philippine investigators had been interested in apprehending him for years, others in the government had protected him. For instance, Rex Piad, the Deputy Director-General of the national police, confirmed he helped al-Ghafari get two clearances that allowed him to stay in the country. Furthermore, Piad and retired generals Eduardo Cuadra and Percival Adiong “are directors of the Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), a foundation headed by al-Ghafari and a suspected conduit of funds for terrorist operations.” [Manila Times, 10/9/2002] In 1999, it was reported that bin Laden was funding Muslim militants through the IWWM and other charities, but these charities stayed open (see February 15, 1999). It is reported that al-Ghafari had long been in contact with Philippine intelligence agents, who tried to recruit him as a spy, supposedly unsuccessfully. He was going to meet with agents the night he was arrested. [Gulf News, 10/11/2002] On November 8, al-Ghafari is deported to Jordan. [Manila Standard Today, 11/9/2002] The Zamboanga bombing will be blamed on Abu Sayyaf, a group that has often been accused of colluding with the Philippine government. [Manila Standard Today, 4/26/2006]
Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Philippine National Police, Percival Adiong, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Jemaah Islamiyah, Eduardo Cuadra, Hamas, Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission, Abu Sayyaf, Abdulmukim Edris, Rex Piad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
One day after receiving the Niger documents (see Afternoon October 7, 2002), Elisabetta Burba meets with her editors and expresses her concern that the documents might be fakes. She and her husband, a historian, closely reviewed the documents and noted several apparent problems; for example, that the amount of uranium specified in the documents—500 tons—is very large, and that the letters do not include details on how the uranium would be delivered. She proposes that she travel to Niger to determine the document’s authenticity. [Associated Press, 7/20/2003; Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 147] But Burba is instructed by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Carolo Rossella, who is known for his ties to the Berlusconi government, to hand them over to the American embassy in Rome for verification. [Washington Post, 7/20/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003]
Vice President Cheney’s man in the State Department, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, takes steps to ensure that only the “right” intelligence analysts will be allowed to attend meetings on Iraq, after the embarrassment of having the CIA refuse to allow President Bush to accuse Iraq of attempting to buy uranium from Niger (see October 5, 2002 and October 6, 2002). Bolton bars Greg Thielmann, the director of the State Department’s INR (its in-house intelligence bureau), from attending any more meetings on any related subject. Thielmann had questioned the forged Niger documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, February 5, 2002, and February 12, 2002). “Bolton seemed to be troubled because INR was not telling them what he wanted to hear,” Thielmann will later recall. “I was intercepted at the door of his office and told, ‘The undersecretary doesn’t need you to attend this meeting anymore. The undersecretary wants to keep this in the family.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 263]
Senior Bush neoconservatives, angry at the US intelligence community’s refusal to allow the Iraq-Niger uranium deal allegations into President Bush’s Cincinnati speech (see October 5, 2002 and October 6, 2002), begin purging “troublesome” intelligence analysts. One such victim is Bruce Hardcastle (see Early 2002), the DIA’s intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and Counterterrorism. Hardcastle has challenged Bush officials, telling them “that the way they were handling evidence was wrong.” In retaliation, not only does Hardcastle lose his job, but his position is eliminated entirely. DIA analyst Patrick Lang will later recall: “They wanted just liaison officers who were junior. They didn’t want a senior intelligence officer who argued with them.” Lang will recall Hardcastle saying, “I couldn’t deal with these people.” Lang continues: “They are such ideologues that they know what the outcome should be.… They start with an almost psuedo-religious faith. They wanted the intelligence agencies to produce material to show a threat, particularly an imminent threat. Then they worked back to prove their case. It was the opposite of what the process should have been like, that the evidence should prove the case.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 262-263]
Italian freelance information peddler and former SISMI agent Rocco Martino, surprised at the tremendous media coverage his documents alleging an Iraq-Niger uranium deal are receiving (see September 24, 2002,March 2000, Late June 2002, and Summer 2004), approaches Elisabetta Burba, a journalist for a Milan news magazine, Panorama. Martino and Burba have worked together in the past; she considers him to be a reliable source. Panorama is edited by Carlo Rossella, a close political ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (see October 16, 2001). Berlusconi is a close ally of the Bush administration, and is actively working with the US to promote the war with Iraq. One of Panorama’s foreign contributors is American neoconservative Michael Ledeen (see December 9, 2001). These are all considerations which may have influenced Martino’s decision to contact Burba rather than a journalist with another news outlet. He tells her that he has some documents (see March 2000) that might interest her. [Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003; Financial Times, 8/2/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 259-261; Washington Post, 4/3/2007]
'Let's Make This War Start' - They meet at a restaurant in Rome. Martino tells Burba that he has documents proving that Iraq made a deal to purchase hundreds of tons of uranium from Niger. “Let’s make this war start,” he says. “This is a megagalactica situation.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 147]
The 'Italian Letter' - Perhaps the most interesting document is a letter from Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, giving his formal approval for a deal for Niger to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Iraq. Washington Post reporter Peter Eisner will later write, “This was the smoking gun in the package, claiming to show the formal approval of Niger’s president to supply Iraq with a commodity that would in all likelihood only be used for a nuclear weapons program: Iraq had no nuclear power plants.” The letter is written in all capital letters, like an old telex, is dated July 27, 2000, and bears what Eisner describes as “an odd shield on the top, a shining sun surrounded by a horned animal head, a star, and a bird.” It is marked “Confidential and Urgent.” The letter reads in part, “500 tons of pure uranium per year will be delivered in two phases.” It bears a seal reading “The Office of the President of the Republic of Niger.” Written over the seal is a barely legible signature, apparently from Tandja. [Washington Post, 4/3/2007]
Cash on Corroboration - Martino hands over copies of the documents, totaling some 22 pages, mostly in French, and offers to sell Burba the originals. Skeptical but interested, Burba agrees to pay Martino 10,000 euros—about $12,500—for the documents if they can be corroborated by independent authorities. When Burba informs Rossella of the deal later in the day, he proposes sending her to Africa to investigate the claim (see October 16, 2002 and After), and insists she give copies of Martino’s documents to the US embassy. “I think the Americans are very interested in this problem of unconventional weapons,” he tells her. [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Reuters, 7/19/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 259-261; Washington Post, 4/3/2007]
As a group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress are discussing the proposed bill to authorize the use of force against Iraq (see October 2, 2002), President Bush walks in and says: “Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.” When a senator attempts to ask him a question, Bush snaps back, “Look, I’m not going to debate it with you.” [Time, 9/6/2004; New York Times Magazine, 10/17/2004]
Italian Panorama journalist Elisabetta Burba goes to the US Embassy in Rome and gives US officials copies of the Niger uranium documents (see March 2000) that she had obtained two days before (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003; Associated Press, 7/20/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Up till now, the embassy had only received reports of the documents. [Unger, 2007, pp. 261] It is likely that the so-called “Italian Letter,” a letter purporting to be from the president of Niger to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein confirming the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, is not in the bundle of documents Burba brings to the embassy. [ERiposte, 3/6/2006] Burba meets with the embassy’s press spokesman, Ian Kelly. Over coffee, she tells him that she has documents purporting to show that Iraq has signed a deal to buy uranium from Niger, and she needs his help to confirm their authenticity and accuracy. Kelly brings three others into the discussion—a political officer, one of his own staffers, and perhaps a US military official, as Burba will later recall—and moves the entire group into his office. The subsequent discussion is brief; Burba hands over the documents. Kelly tells her the embassy will look into the matter. The CIA station chief, Jeff Castelli, refuses to meet with Burba. [Washington Post, 4/3/2007] Castelli is told about Burba’s visit, but is not interested. As the CIA’s head of European operations, Tyler Drumheller, will later recall, Castelli says, “This is bullsh_t we don’t have time to waste on.” Castelli receives a copy of the documents but quickly forgets about them. According to Drumheller, Castelli is “not the most organized guy in the world. And his view was, ‘This is the least important thing that’s coming across my desk now.’ He just made a mistake.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 148; CBS News, 4/23/2006] Several newspapers cite sources (mostly unnamed, so it’s possible they are all relying on the same sources) that appear to support Drumheller’s account. [New York Times, 3/23/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] For example, an unnamed senior CIA official will tell Knut Royce of Newsday in July of 2003 that the CIA “had serious questions about [the claims] from day one” (see July 21, 2003). The agency “had accounts (see October 15, 2001,
February 5, 2002,
and March 25, 2002) of them [the letters] and that was close enough. We didn’t take it that seriously to begin with.… We didn’t put a lot of stock in these reports from Niger. We didn’t rush around to get the actual documents.” [Newsday, 7/11/2003] The documents are faxed to the State Department on October 15 (see October 15, 2002), and its intelligence unit will quickly conclude that the papers are probably fakes. [Washington Post, 7/20/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 148; Unger, 2007, pp. 261]
Iraqi Minister Abdul Tawab Mullah Hawaish, who is in charge of Iraq’s weapons programs, invites reporters and members of the Bush administration to visit two of the alleged WMD sites, Furat and Nasser al-Azim. Bush had referred to the sites in his October 7 speech (see October 7, 2002). “The American administration are invited to inspect these sites,” Hawaish says, “As I am responsible for the Iraqi weapons programs, I confirm here that we have no weapons of mass destruction and we have no intention to produce them…. I am saying here and now that we do not have weapons of mass destruction and we do not have programs to develop them.” [BBC, 10/10/2002; Reuters, 10/10/2002] But the White House rejects the offer. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “This matter is not up to Iraq…. It is… up to the United Nations to decide.” [White House, 10/10/2002] Reporters, however, accept the offer and tour the Nasser State Establishment, a facility that Iraq claims produces goods for civilian use as well as components for conventional weapons. [Reuters, 10/10/2002]
The Australian Office of National Assessments (ONA) issues an internal classified report. It says that further terror attacks in Southeast Asia are “on the cards”, including US targets in Indonesia. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) also warns that Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia, is planning attacks on Singaporean interests, but Australian interests may be affected. It says that terrorist activity is likely to be focused on US economic interests, but could involve action against US allies such as Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald will later comment: “These warnings were never made public. Until the bombings, travel warnings continued to say that tourist services were operating normally, although there was a warning that further terrorist acts were possible.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/19/2003]
The German government arrests Abdelghani Mzoudi in Hamburg as part of its investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Mzoudi, a Moroccan, lived openly in Germany after 9/11. He was held for questioning in July but was later released. Prosecutors say he knew al-Qaeda’s “goals of launching terrorist attacks and supported it logistically.” [CNN, 10/10/2002] Mzoudi is the second person arrested in Germany on charges related to the 9/11 attacks, after Mounir El Motassadeq (see November 28, 2001). He will be charged in May 2003 (see May 9, 2003).
The Los Angeles Times reports that there is an escalating “war” between the Pentagon and the CIA over tying Iraq to al-Qaeda. [Los Angeles Times, 10/11/2002]
Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, the top legal adviser to the Army’s interrogation unit at Guantanamo, JTF-170, writes a legal analysis of the extreme interrogation techniques being used on detainees. Beaver notes that some of the more savage “counter-resistance” techniques being considered for use, such as waterboarding (the use of which has resulted in courts-martials for users in the past) might present legal problems. She acknowledges that US military personnel at Guantanamo are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which characterizes “cruelty,” “maltreatment,” “threats,” and “assaults” as felonies. However, she reasons, if interrogators can obtain “permission,” or perhaps “immunity,” from higher authorities “in advance,” they might not be legally culpable. In 2006, a senior Defense Department official calls Beaver’s legal arguments “inventive,” saying: “Normally, you grant immunity after the fact, to someone who has already committed a crime, in exchange for an order to get that person to testify. I don’t know whether we’ve ever faced the question of immunity in advance before.” The official praises Beaver “for trying to think outside the box. I would credit Diane as raising that as a way to think about it.” Beaver will later be promoted to the staff of the Pentagon’s Office of General Counsel, where she will specialize in detainee issues. But Naval General Counsel Alberto Mora is less impressed. When he reads Beaver’s legal analysis two months later (see December 17-18, 2002), he calls it “a wholly inadequate analysis of the law.” According to Mora, the Beaver memo held that “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment could be inflicted on the Guantanamo detainees with near impunity.” Such acts are blatantly illegal, Mora believes. Mora will note that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bases his decision to approve such harsh “counter-resistance” techniques (see December 2, 2002) in part on Beaver’s memo. He will write that Rumsfeld’s decision “was fatally grounded on these serious failures of legal analysis.” Neither Beaver nor Rumsfeld will draw any “bright line” prohibiting the combination of these techniques, or defining any limits for their use. As such, this vagueness of language “could produce effects reaching the level of torture,” which is prohibited without exception both in the US and under international law. [New Yorker, 2/27/2006]
Written under Difficult Circumstances - Beaver later tells a more complete story of her creation of the memo. She insists on a paper trail showing that the authorization of extreme interrogation techniques came from above, not from “the dirt on the ground,” as she describes herself. The Guantanamo commander, Major General Michael Dunlavey, only gives her four days to whip up a legal analysis, which she sees as a starting point for a legal review of the interrogation policies. She has few books and materials, and more experienced lawyers at the US Southern Command, the Judge Advocate General School, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the DIA refuse to help her write the analysis. She is forced to write her analysis based on her own knowledge of the law and what she could find on the Internet. She bases her analysis on the previous presidential decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions, later recalling, “It was not my job to second-guess the president.” Knowing little of international law, she ignores that body of law altogether. She fully expects her analysis to be dissected and portions of it overridden, but she is later astonished that her analysis will be used as a legal underpinning for the administration’s policies. She has no idea that her analysis is to be used to provide legal cover for much more senior White House officials (see June 22, 2004). She goes through each of the 18 approved interrogation techniques (see December 2, 2002), assessing them against the standards set by US law, including the Eighth Amendment, which proscribes “cruel and unusual punishment,” the federal torture statutes, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Beaver finds that each of the 18 techniques are acceptable “so long as the force used could plausibly have been thought necessary in a particular situation to achieve a legitimate government objective, and it was applied in a good faith effort and not maliciously or sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Law professor Phillippe Sands later observes: “That is to say, the techniques are legal if the motivation is pure. National security justifies anything.” The interrogators must be properly trained, Beaver notes, and any interrogations involving the more severe techniques must “undergo a legal, medical, behavioral science, and intelligence review prior to their commencement.” However, if all of the criteria are met, she “agree[s] that the proposed strategies do not violate applicable federal law.” Sands points out that her use of the word “agree” indicates that she “seems to be confirming a policy decision that she knows has already been made.”
'Awful' but Understandable - Sands later calls her reasoning “awful,” but understands that she was forced to write the memo, and reasonably expected to have more senior legal officials review and rewrite her work. “She could not have anticipated that there would be no other piece of written legal advice bearing on the Guantanamo interrogations. She could not have anticipated that she would be made the scapegoat.” Beaver will recall passing Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington in a Pentagon hallway shortly after she submitted the memo. Addington smiled at her and said, “Great minds think alike.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2008]
Entity Tags: Michael E. Dunlavey, Donald Rumsfeld, Diane E. Beaver, Defense Intelligence Agency, David S. Addington, Alberto Mora, Geneva Conventions, Judge Advocate General School, US Department of Defense, US Department of the Army, Phillippe Sands, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Southern Command
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Ralph Boyce, the US ambassador to Indonesia, warns Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her top advisers that a group linked to al-Qaeda is planning an attack in Indonesia. The warning does not specify when and where an attack might occur, but it is the latest of several warnings based on the interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq and Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (see June 5, 2002 and August 21, 2002). Boyce gives Megawati until October 24 to take action. He says that if Indonesia does not take action by then, the US is going to order all but the most essential US diplomats out of the country as a public warning that Indonesia is a safe haven for terrorists. An unnamed US official will later tell the New York Times: “We told them: ‘Wrap it up. Block it. Demonstrate that you are serious about eliminating the threat against us.’” Boyce publicly warns that the US is considering withdrawing non-essential personnel just hours before two bombs explode in Bali on October 12 (see October 12, 2002). As part of an effort to convince Megawati of the threat, the US allows Indonesian intelligence and police officials to interview al-Faruq, who is in US custody and being held in a secret location. Their interrogation of al-Faruq is still taking place when the Bali bombings occur. [Australian Financial Review, 10/14/2002; New York Times, 10/16/2002]
The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)‘s John Yoo sends a classified memo to Attorney General John Ashcroft. The contents of the memo remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later learn that the memo’s subject is the legality of certain communications intelligence activities. [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ]
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, meet with White House officials to discuss the status of the UN inspections of alleged Iraqi WMD stockpiles (see October 8 and 11, 2002). The White House opposes further inspections, while the UN and IAEA feel further inspections could be valuable even in light of Iraqi duplicity. Blix will later recall that he and ElBaradei were surprised that they met first with Vice President Cheney before meeting with President Bush. Blix assumes that the meeting with Cheney is “sort of a courtesy call.” Instead, Cheney lays out the US position in stark terms. As Blix will later recall: “Much of it was a fairly neutral discussion, but at one point [Cheney] suddenly said that you must realize that we will not hesitate to discredit you in favor of disarmament. It was a little cryptic. That was how I remembered it, and I think that’s also how Mohamed [ElBaradei] remembered it. I was a little perplexed, because it was a total threat, after all, to talk about the discrediting of us. Later, when I reflected on it, I think what he wanted to say was that if you guys don’t come to the right conclusion, then we will take care of the disarmament.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
Two days after General Rick Baccus has been relieved from duty as the guard commander at Guantanamo (see October 9, 2002), and almost one and a half months since the writing of the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) August memo on torture (see August 1, 2002), military intelligence at Guantanamo begin suggesting new rules of interrogation. Lieutenant Colonel Jerald Phifer, Director J2, sends a memo, to Major General Michael E. Dunlavey, Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) 170, requesting approval for more severe interrogation techniques. [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ; New Yorker, 2/27/2008] In 2009, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will write (see April 21, 2009) that Dunlavey’s request is sparked by recent reports on the use of SERE training techniques for interrogation purposes (see January 2002 and After and April 16, 2002). [Huffington Post, 4/21/2009]
Three Categories of Techniques - The memo states, “The current guidelines for interrogation procedures at GTMO [Guantanamo] limit the ability of interrogators to counter advanced resistance.” Phifer proposes three categories of techniques. The mildest, which includes yelling and weak forms of deception, are included in category one. Category two techniques are more severe and require approval by an “interrogator group director.” They include the use of stress positions for up to four hours; use of falsified documents; isolation for up to 30 days; sensory deprivation and hooding; 20-hour interrogations; removal of comfort and religious items; replacing hot food with cold military rations; removal of clothing; forced grooming, including the shaving of beards; and playing on detainees’ phobias to induce stress, such as a fear of dogs. The harshest techniques, listed in category three, are to be reserved for a “very small percentage of the most uncooperative detainees” and only used with permission from the commander of the prison. These methods include using non-injurious physical contact like poking or grabbing; threatening a detainee with death or severe pain or threatening that a family member would be subjected to such harm; exposing him to cold weather or water; using a wet towel to “induce the misperception of suffocation.” [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ; New Yorker, 2/27/2008]
Desire to Extract More Information from Detainee - The request is prompted in part by military intelligence’s belief that Guantanamo detainee Mohamed al-Khatani has more information than the FBI has managed to extract from him. “Al-Khatani is a person in… whom we have considerable interest,” Dell’Orto will explain during a 2004 press briefing at the White House. “He has resisted our techniques. And so it is concluded at Guantanamo that it may be time to inquire as to whether there may be more flexibility in the type of techniques we use on him.” [Washington File, 6/23/2004]
JAG Officer Concludes Tactics are Legal - The same day, a staff judge advocate, Lieutenant Colonel Diane E. Beaver, reviews Phifer’s proposed techniques for legality and, while making qualifications and recommending further review, concludes in a memo to Dunlavey that they are legal. Also the same day, Dunlavey sends the list of techniques to his superior, General James T. Hill, commander of the Southern Command, requesting approval for their use. Dunlavey writes: “Although [the techniques currently employed] have resulted in significant exploitable intelligence the same methods have become less effective over time. I believe the methods and techniques delineated in the accompanying J-2 memorandum will enhance our efforts to extract additional information.” [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ] Beaver concludes that since President Bush had decided that all the detainees “are not protected by the Geneva Conventions” (see January 18-25, 2002, February 7, 2002), all of the desired techniques are allowable because “no international body of law directly applies.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 178]
Laskar Jihad, Indonesia’s largest violent Islamist militant group, supposedly disbands itself just hours before the Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002). However, the announcement is not made public until several days after the bombings, so it is unclear if the disbanding took place before or after. The group was formed in 2000 and had as many as 15,000 members. It sent thousands of militants to the Maluku islands to fight Christians, but fighting there has largely died down by this time (see January 1999-July 2001). Several days after the Bali bombings, the group’s legal adviser says the disbanding of the group “has nothing to do with the [Bali] bombs,” adding: “There was no pressure on us from military. The clerics in Indonesia and in the Middle East have disagreed with Jafar Umar Thalib’s teachings and have asked him to disband the group.” Thalib is the leader of the group. [Guardian, 10/15/2002] Several days after the Bali bombings, a Muslim fighter in the Malukus who used to fight with Laskar Jihad, tells CNN: “the group was ordered to disband by rogue military generals to hide the generals’ involvement with the group.… These generals backed Laskar Jihad and they acted on their own, outside of the institution. They are afraid of being found out now that there are so many foreign investigators in Bali.” Curiously, General Djaja Suparman, the general who founded a militia that later morphed into Laskar Jihad, was in Bali with some other high-ranking military leaders in the days just before the Bali bombings. The military confirms he and others were there, but says they were only there to have a vacation. [Asia Times, 11/7/2002] While Laskar Jihad activity is greatly reduced in the Malukus after this time, the group remains active in remote regions of Indonesia. For instance, in March 2005, the Australian television program SBS Dateline will report that Laskar Jihad is active fighting separatists in West Papua, the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea. [SBS Dateline, 3/16/2005]
At a Republican fundraiser, President Bush erroneously labels captured Islamic militant Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002) as “one of the top three leaders” of al-Qaeda. Senior government officials have long been aware that many intelligence officials believe Zubaida to be little more than a low-level “gofer” for al-Qaeda (see Shortly After March 28, 2002 and April 9, 2002 and After). Bush says, apparently boasting of the deaths of some captured suspects: “I would say we’ve hauled in—arrested, or however you want to put it—a couple of thousand of al-Qaeda. Some of them are former leaders. Abu Zubaida was one of the top three leaders in the organization. Like number weren’t as lucky, they met a different kind of fate. But they’re no longer a problem. We’re slowly but surely rounding them up. The other day we got this guy, [Ramzi b]in al-Shibh. He popped his head up. He’s not a problem (see September 11, 2002). Slowly but surely. And I’m not giving up. There’s not a calendar on my desk that says, okay, on this day, you quit. That’s just not the way I think.” [White House, 10/14/2002]
The US embassy in Rome faxes the Niger documents to the State Department’s Bureau of Nonproliferation, which then passes a copy of the documents to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the State Department’s intelligence bureau. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 58] Simon Dodge, an INR nuclear analyst, receives a copy, and after a brief review of the documents immediately suspects that they are bogus. One particularly strange document that is included in the Niger papers describes a secret meeting that allegedly took place on June 14, 2002 at the home of the Iraqi ambassador in Rome. According to the document, the meeting was attended by military officials from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Pakistan. The purpose of the meeting was to form a coalition of Islamic nations against the West. They would seek “Global Support,” which would include backing from the “Islamic patriots accused of belonging to criminal organizations.” Dodge finds the scenario depicted in the document “completely implausible.” He notices that the document bears the same official seal that is stamped on the Niger documents. He concludes that the documents are probably all fakes, and he sends an email to other analysts in the intelligence community explaining this conclusion. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 58; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 162; CBS News, 4/23/2006] According to one unnamed CIA official, “Everybody knew at every step of the way that they were false—until they got to the Pentagon, where they were believed.” [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Copies also go to nuclear experts at the DIA, the Department of Energy, and the NSA. Wayne White, the deputy director of the INR and the INR’s principal Iraq analyst, reviews the documents himself. Within 15 minutes he too begins doubting their authenticity (see Mid-October 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 261]
Wayne White, the deputy director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, receives a copy of the Niger documents. Within about fifteen minutes, White, who once served in Niger, suspects that the documents may not be authentic. In particular, he believes that the uranium deal would have been completely impractical. [Boston Globe, 11/5/2005; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 162]
Munir Alibabic. [Source: Dani]By 2002, the Muslim Bosnian government is controlled by the Social Democrats, now that Alija Izetbegovic has retired and his SDA party is out of power. To deal with the issues of corruption and terrorism, in July 2002 the new government brings Munir Alibabic out of retirement to run Bosnia’s intelligence agency. Alibabic had been fired in 1994 as head of the secret police in Sarajevo for opposing government corruption and the support of the mujaheddin, and he is widely respected for his integrity. He vows to stop the cover-up of Bosnian Muslim ties to terrorism, stating, “A crime is a crime, regardless which side commits it.” He works aggressively with other intelligence agencies to uncover the al-Qaeda network in Bosnia. He soon completes a report detailing ties between the SDA party and organized crime. The report names Elfatih Hassanein, Hasan Cengic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Bakir Alispahic, and Alija Delimustafic as key co-consiprators. The first three were central figures in the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a bin Laden-linked charity front active in the early 1990s (see Mid-1991-1996). But in October 2002 elections, the SDA returns to power. Paddy Ashdown, a British politician serving as the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, publicly supported the SDA over secularists and reformers in the election and shortly after they win he fires Alibabic. Author John Schindler will later write that “By the end of 2002, it was evident that the post-9/11 drive to run al-Qaeda out of Bosnia and force its local supporters to heel had run out of steam.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 289-291] The Telegraph will later report that Ashdown fired Alibabic on the advice of the British intelligence agency MI6, but it isn’t clear why. [Daily Telegraph, 9/27/2004]
An unnamed intelligence analyst visits Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, and discusses the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal with him. The analyst says that it would have been very difficult to transport the large quantities of uranium specified in the documents across the barely paved roads of Niger to a port city without being noticed. According to Wilkerson, by the time they finish talking about the documents, they are “laughing their _sses off.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 163]
The Washington Post reports that a former Indonesian military official has confessed to assembling the main bomb that blew up a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, several days earlier (see October 12, 2002). According to an unnamed Indonesian security official, former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dedy Masrukhin says he regrets the loss of life, but will not disclose who ordered him to make the bomb. He was discharged from the military in September 2001 for involvement in a drug case. He received explosives training in the US while he was still in the military. However, less than 24 hours later, an Indonesian military spokesman acknowledges Masrukhin was intensively interrogated but denies that he confessed. [Jakarta Post, 10/16/2002; Washington Post, 10/16/2002] Several days later, the Jakarta Post, an English language newspaper in Indonesia, reports that their sources say “the police received orders to release [Masrukhin] although suspicions of his link to the Bali blasts remain strong.” [Jakarta Post, 10/21/2002] Interestingly, the London Times reports that the explosives used in the bombings were bought from the Indonesian military (see September-October 2002). [London Times, 10/20/2002]
President Bush signs the congressional resolution (see October 2, 2002 and October 11, 2002) authorizing him to use military force against Iraq. He continues to maintain that he wants to avoid war if at all possible (see (March 2002)). “I have not ordered the use of force,” he says. “I hope the use of force will not become necessary,” he says shortly before signing the document. “Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action.” He says he has “carefully weighed the human cost of every option before us” and that he will only send troops “as a last resort.” [US President, 10/21/2002; Unger, 2007, pp. 267]
A CIA officer who served with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, before 9/11 is interviewed by CIA Director George Tenet about a failure to pass on information to the FBI about one of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar. Although information about Almihdhar’s US visa was not passed to the FBI, the officer, Michael Anne Casey, drafted a cable falsely stating that it had been passed (see Around 7:00 p.m. January 5, 2000). According to Tenet’s testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (see October 17, 2002), Casey “believes she never would have written this cable unless she believes this had happened.” Tenet will be impressed with Casey, calling her a “terrific officer” at an open hearing of the inquiry. [New York Times, 10/17/2002] However, it was Casey herself who blocked the cable, on the orders of her boss, Tom Wilshire (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000). In addition, the day after she sent the cable falsely stating the information had been passed, she again insisted that the information not be provided to the FBI (see January 6, 2000). Casey will later repeat the same lie to the Justice Department’s inspector general (see February 2004).
In sworn testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, CIA Director George Tenet repeatedly claims that a March 2000 cable sent to CIA headquarters reporting that hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi had entered the US was not read by anybody. He says, “I know that nobody read that cable,” “Nobody read that cable in the March timeframe,” and “[N]obody read that information only cable.” [New York Times, 10/17/2002] Former Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black will also claim that the cable was not read. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ] However, a later investigation by the CIA Office of Inspector General will find that numerous CIA officers had actually read the cable shortly after it was sent (see March 6, 2000 and After). Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission will later assert that, “No-one outside the Counterterrorist Center was told any of this” (about Alhazmi’s arrival in the US) and neglect to mention that Tenet had previously misstated the CIA’s knowledge of the hijackers. Neither will the 9/11 Commission investigate the cause of the CIA’s apparent inaction. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181]
NSA Director Michael Hayden.
[Source: NSA]NSA Director Michael Hayden testifies before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that the “NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington… or even that it was planning an attack on US soil.” Before 9/11, the “NSA had no knowledge… that any of the attackers were in the United States.” Supposedly, a post-9/11 NSA review found no intercepts of calls involving any of the 19 hijackers. [Reuters, 10/17/2002; US Congress, 10/17/2002; USA Today, 10/18/2002] Yet, in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), the NSA intercepted communications between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and hijacker Mohamed Atta, when he was in charge of operations in the US. [Independent, 6/6/2002; Independent, 9/15/2002] What was said between the two has not been revealed. The NSA also intercepted multiple phone calls from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida to the US in the days before 9/11 (see Early September 2001). But who was called or what was said has not been revealed. [ABC News, 2/18/2002] In addition, Hayden testified three times in secret on June 18, June 19, and July 18, but little is known about what he said, as not much information is disclosed in the media and many sections of the Inquiry’s final report about the NSA are heavily redacted. The main revelations at the time of the summer hearings are that the NSA intercepted two messages apparently pertaining to the forthcoming attack one day before 9/11, and this sparks a controversial leak inquiry by the FBI (see August 2, 2002). [CNN, 6/18/2002; CBS News, 6/19/2002; CNN, 6/20/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
When a reporter asks White House spokesman Ari Fleischer whether the countries that helped North Korea with its nuclear weapons program risk being punished, Fleischer indicates they will not, provided they have changed their behavior. North Korea’s nuclear program was and is substantially assisted by Pakistan, now a US ally. Fleischer says: “Well, yes, since September 11th, many things that people may have done years before September 11th or some time before September 11th, have changed. September 11th changed the world and it changed many nations’ behaviors along with it. And don’t read that to be any type of acknowledgment of what may or may not be true. But September 11th did change the world.” Fleischer says that this does not mean the US will forgive and forget, but authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will give his remarks as an example of Bush administration officials no longer talking about nuclear proliferation. They will comment: “There was absolutely no mention of [CIA Director] George Tenet’s top-secret working group which had Pakistan’s relationship with North Korea and Libya in its sights (as well as all the other nuclear misdeeds committed by Pakistan). History had begun all over again, according to the administration, much as it had done in  when the Soviets rolled into Kabul.” [White House, 10/18/2002; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 316]
The CIA releases a more complete review of the Iraq-Niger documents (see Afternoon October 7, 2002 and October 9, 2002) in a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB). The briefing notes the new intelligence on the documents, but adds what Washington Post reporter Peter Eisner will call “important caveats,” including the fact that there is no corroboration for the claims made in the documents, and that Iraq has “no known facilities for processing or enriching” uranium. The SEIB is classified and is distributed only to senior policymakers, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. [Washington Post, 4/3/2007]
While in Prague to attend to a Trilateral Commission meeting, Richard Perle is told “in person… that the BIS now doubts that any such meeting between Atta and al-Ani in fact took place.” And an unnamed source with ties to the BIS tells UPI: “Quite simply, we think the source for this story may have invented the meeting that he reported. We can find no corroborative evidence for the meeting and the source has real credibility problems.” [United Press International, 10/20/2002]
Two articles by reporter James Risen on the “Prague Connection” are published in the New York Times. One article reveals that early in 2002 (see Early 2002, probably May or later), Czech President Vaclav Havel had informed Washington that there was no evidence to substantiate claims that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta had met with Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Prague in April 2001 (see April 8, 2001). The article also reveals that analysts in the Czech intelligence service had been furious with the Prime Minister for stovepiping unsubstantiated reports straight to Washington, before they had had the opportunity to investigate further. [New York Times, 10/21/2002] Risen’s other article explains how rivalry within the BIS and problematic relations with Britain’s MI6 had resulted in reporters receiving misinformation from sources with grievances and conflicting agendas. [New York Times, 10/21/2002] His two articles seemingly put to rest the “Prague Connection” theory, though a November 2003 article in Slate by Edward Jay Epstein will note that many questions remain unanswered. [New York Times, 11/19/2003]
German investigators believe they know of nine people who are still living and who played roles in assisting the 9/11 plot, the Chicago Tribune reports. An unnamed senior German intelligence official says he believes these nine cover everyone linked to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell who helped plan, finance, or carry out the plot. However, he says “there may be people still in Hamburg who had a certain knowledge” of the plot. The nine are:
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni. He is considered the head of the 9/11 plot in Germany while the hijackers were living in the US. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and put in the secret CIA prison system (see September 11, 2002).
Mounir El Motassadeq, a Moroccan. He knew the others in the Hamburg cell and trained in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000). He has been arrested and charged with a role in the 9/11 plot. He will later be convicted (see January 8, 2007).
Abdelghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan. Mzoudi lived with Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he is alleged to have attended a training camp in Afghanistan in 2000 (see Summer 2000). He has been arrested in Germany and charged with a role in the 9/11 attacks. He will later be acquitted after the US fails to cooperate with German prosecutors (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).
Barakat Yarkas, a Spaniard. He is alleged to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Spain. Germans believe he helped arrange a meeting between Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain two months before 9/11 (see July 8-19, 2001). He is imprisoned in Spain on various terrorism charges. He will later be convicted to 12 years in prison, but not for any role in 9/11 (see September 26, 2005).
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Moroccan. He was investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years prior to 9/11. He was captured in Morocco after 9/11 and renditioned to a prison in Syria (see December 2001).
Said Bahaji, a German. He is said to be a computer expert who taught Atta and others how to use computers to communicate. He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see September 3-5, 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see September 21, 2001), but he remains free.
Zakariya Essabar, a Moroccan. He lived with Atta, Bahaji, and others. He trained in Afghanistan and attempted to get a US visa (see January-October 2000). He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see Late August 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see October 19, 2001), but he remains free overseas.
Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian. He had been investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years before 9/11 (see 1993), and he knew Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and other members of the Hamburg cell (see October 9, 1999). He remains free in Germany (see November 11, 2010).
Abdul-Matin Tatari, a Syrian. He runs a textile company called Tatex Trading that investigators suspect helped get money and visas for al-Qaeda operatives (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). He was questioned on September 10, 2002, but he remains free in Germany. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2002]
More than Just Nine - But a few months later, the Chicago Tribune will report that investigators believe there are many more members of the Hamburg cell than was previously reported (see February 25, 2003). For instance, one likely participant who will only become publicly known many years later is Naamen Meziche. He was friends with Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he will be killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010).
Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Barakat Yarkas, Abdul-Matin Tatari, Abdelghani Mzoudi, Mamoun Darkazanli, Zakariya Essabar, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Naamen Meziche, Mounir El Motassadeq, German intelligence community, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar
Peter Jennings reports on ABC News’ World News Tonight, “The FBI tells ABC News it is very confident that it has found the person responsible” for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Reporter Brian Ross explains, “That’s right, Peter, Steven Hatfill. And while there’s no direct evidence, authorities say they are building what they describe as a growing case of circumstantial evidence.” [Salon, 8/10/2008] In 2008, Hatfill will be exonerated and given a large cash settlement after a federal judge states there “is not a scintilla of evidence” linking him to the anthrax attacks (see June 27, 2008).
As part of the orchestrated media blitz to make the case for war with Iraq (see October 10, 2001, November 6-8, 2001, Late 2001 and After, and Early 2002 and Beyond), former Nixon speechwriter William Safire writes in the New York Times, “It is absurd to claim… that Iraq is not an active collaborator with, harborer of, and source of sophisticated training and unconventional weaponry for bin Laden’s world terror network.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 228]
London imam Abu Qatada is arrested at a house in South London by Scotland Yard and MI5 officials. Intelligence agencies in eight countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, have claimed that Qatada has extensive al-Qaeda links, and he is believed to be a member of al-Qaeda’s fatwa (religious) committee (see June 1996-1997). Using anti-terrorist laws passed in December 2001, he is held at the Belmarsh high security prison without charge. He “disappeared” hours before the new laws went into effect (see Early December 2001). Several days before his arrest, Qatada came out of hiding to release a new document justifying the 9/11 attacks. He posted a ten-page document on the Internet entitled “The Legal Vision for the September 11 Events.” In it, he outlined the “moral” case for the attacks and praised Osama bin Laden for challenging the US. [London Times, 10/25/2002] Another radical London imam, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohamed, tells the press that Abu Qatada was arrested after family members visited his house and one of them used a cell phone that was apparently traced by the authorities. [New York Times, 10/26/2002] Qatada worked as an MI5 informant beginning in 1996 (see June 1996-February 1997).
The CIA sets up two field stations in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to prepare for the coming invasion. [Unger, 2007, pp. 267]
The New York Times publishes an article by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker exposing the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see September 2002). The office had already been described in a Knight Ridder Newspapers article published on August 16, 2002. But Knight Ridder is not as well read, and the New York Times publishes its article on the front page. [Knight Ridder, 8/16/2002; New York Times, 10/24/2002] The article states that Defense Secretary Donald “Rumsfeld and his senior advisers have assigned a small intelligence unit to search for information on Iraq’s hostile intentions or links to terrorists that the nation’s spy agencies may have overlooked.” It notes that “the view among even some senior intelligence analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency is that Mr. Hussein is contained and is unlikely to unleash weapons of mass destruction unless he is attacked.” [New York Times, 10/24/2002] But there is little follow-up reporting by major media outlets. In 2004, the New York Review of Books will discuss this article and comment: “As such reports show, [the Office of Special Plans] was widely known before the war. With many analysts prepared to discuss the competing claims over the intelligence on Iraq, the press was in a good position to educate the public on the administration’s justifications for war. Yet for the most part, it never did so.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Concurrent with the New York Times’s revelation of the existence of the Office of Special Plans (OSP—see October 24, 2002), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces the existence of a similar operation, the Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group (CTEG—see Shortly After September 11, 2001). CTEG has been absorbed into the OSP by this point. The Washington Post will call CTEG “a small team of defense officials outside regular intelligence channels to focus on unearthing details about Iraqi ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks.” The unveiling of CTEG coincides with Rumsfeld’s move to take over the financing and management of an outside project, the “Information Collection Project,” sponsored by the Iraqi National Congress and one of CTEG’s primary sources of information. Before now, the State Department had financed and overseen the INC project, and had grown increasingly reluctant to maintain what Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang later calls an “off the reservation” intelligence operation (see September 15, 2001). Rumsfeld tells reporters, “Any suggestion that [CTEG is] an intelligence-gathering activity or an intelligence unit of some sort, I think would be a misunderstanding of it.” Rumsfeld’s assertion is contradicted by former CIA case officer, enthusiastic neoconservative, and CTEG consultant Reuel Marc Gerecht, who describes the intelligence-gathering mission of CTEG: “The Pentagon is setting up the capability to assess information on Iraq in areas that in the past might have been the realm of the agency (CIA). They don’t think the product they receive from the agency is always what it should be.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Shortly after the October 11, 2002, request by Guantanamo commander Major General Michael Dunlavey for approval of new, harsh interrogation techniques, and after Guantanamo legal counsel Diane Beaver submitted her analysis justifying the use of those techniques (see October 11, 2002), General James T. “Tom” Hill forwards everything to General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hill includes a letter that contains the sentence, “Our respective staffs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Joint Task Force 170 [the Army unit in charge of interrogating Guantanamo detainees] have been trying to identify counter-resistant techniques that we can lawfully employ.” In the letter, Hill is clearly ambivalent about the use of severe interrogation methods. He wants the opinion of senior Pentagon lawyers, and requests that “Department of Justice lawyers review the third category [the most severe] of techniques.” But none of this happens. The Joint Chiefs should have subjected the request to a detailed legal review, including scrutiny by Myers’s own counsel, Jane Dalton, but instead, Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes short-circuits the approval process. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora recalls Dalton telling him: “Jim pulled this away. We never had a chance to complete the assessment.” Myers later recalls being troubled that the normal procedures had been circumvented. Looking at the “Haynes Memo,” Myers will point out, “You don’t see my initials on this.” He notes that he “discussed it,” but never signed off on it. “This was not the way this should have come about.” Myers will come to believe that there was “intrigue” going on “that I wasn’t aware of, and Jane wasn’t aware of, that was probably occurring between [William J.] Haynes, White House general counsel [Alberto Gonzales], and Justice.” Instead of going through the proper channels, the memo goes straight to Haynes, who merely signs off with a note that says, “Good to go.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2008]
Entity Tags: Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Department of Justice, Diane E. Beaver, Alberto R. Gonzales, Alberto Mora, James T. Hill, Jane Dalton, Richard B. Myers, Michael E. Dunlavey, William J. Haynes
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Six of Indonesia’s main newspapers, including the Jakarta Post, Jawa Pos, and Bali Pos, suggest that several high-ranking Indonesian government figures could be suspects in the Bali bombings that took place earlier in the month (see October 12, 2002). These newspapers note that Gen. Djaja Suparman and former Jakarta police chief Nugroho Jayusman had flown to Bali just before the bombings. Army chief of staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu was also reportedly in Bali at the time of the bombings. [Jakarta Post, 1/3/2003; Pacific Media Watch, 3/31/2003] Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, head of the Indonesian military, admits to the movements, but claims that Suparman was on vacation, while Riyacudu was in Bali for “health reasons.” An Indonesian human-rights activist says, “General Suparman is one of the generals who was behind the extremist jihad groups. He set up militias composed of gangsters and religious fanatics to counter student demonstrations in 1998. One of these militias, Pram Swarkasa, became the embryo of Laskar Jihad.” Laskar Jihad collaborated with the Indonesian military to kill thousands of Christians in the Indonesian province of Maluku in previous years (see January 1999-July 2001); al-Qaeda and its Southeast Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah provided assistance (see Late 2000-Mid-2001). [Asia Times, 11/7/2002] Wimar Witoelar, spokesman for the previous Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, also says around this time, “The plot is probably hatched by hardline military rogues. This is certainly an excuse for a military takeover unless it is pre-empted.” Suparman threatens to sue for libel, as does Sutarto, who is accused by the Washington Post around the same time for tacitly approving the killing of a group of US citizens in Indonesia less than two months before the Bali bombings (see Mid-September 2002). But the lawsuits apparently never occur, and an Indonesian press council apparently never rules if the newspapers were irresponsible for making the allegations. None of the government figures are ever charged or officially named as suspects in the bombings. [Jakarta Post, 11/9/2002; Pacific Media Watch, 3/31/2003; Reporters without Borders, 6/3/2004]
A Washington Post front page article about the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001) states, “Bush administration officials have acknowledged that the anthrax attacks were an important motivator in the US decision to confront Iraq, and several senior administration officials say today that they still strongly suspect a foreign source—perhaps Iraq—even though no one has publicly said so.” The rest of the article focuses on the theory that the attacks were so sophisticated that a state such as Iraq was likely responsible (see October 28, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/28/2002] The Bush administration initially suggested there could be a link between the anthrax attacks and Iraq (see October 14, 2001 and October 17, 2001), but in November 2001 the FBI began focusing on the theory that a loner American was the sole culprit (see November 10, 2001).
A group of militants thought to be linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami organisation are captured in Pakistan. One man arrested is Gul Rahman, who will later freeze to death at a CIA-controlled prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). Another is Ghairat Baheer, a doctor and Hekmatyar’s son-in-law. Hekmatyar was a CIA ally during the Soviet-Afghan war (see (1986)), but is now linked to al-Qaeda. According to Baheer, Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He is staying with Baheer, an old friend, when US agents and Pakistani security forces storm the house and take both men, two guards, and a cook into custody. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]
Two detainees, Gul Rahman and Ghairat Baheer, are transferred from Pakistan to the CIA-controlled Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan. Baheer will say that he was separated from Rahman about a week after they were captured (see October 29, 2002) and they were both moved to the prison, so presumably they are transferred there together. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] Rahman will later die at the prison (see November 20, 2002).
In 2002, microbiologist Perry Mikesell came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker. Mikesell is an anthrax specialist who worked with Bruce Ivins and others at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, he had worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor in Ohio working on classified government bioweapons programs. According to family members, he begins drinking heavily after the FBI starts suspecting him, consuming up to a fifth of hard liquor a day. One relative will later say, “It was a shock that all of a sudden he’s a raging alcoholic.” He dies in late October 2002. The relative will say, “He drank himself to death.” His connection to the anthrax investigation will not be revealed until 2008, and it still is completely unknown why the FBI was focusing on him. Two weeks before his suicide (see July 29, 2008), Ivins will liken the pressure he is facing from the FBI to the pressure that had been put on Mikesell. He will reportedly tell a colleague, “Perry [Mikesell] drank himself to death.” [New York Times, 8/9/2008]
Jamil al-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi have been helping the British intelligence agency MI5 communicate with al-Qaeda linked imam Abu Qatada. Al-Rawi had a formal informant relationship but was fired (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002), while al-Banna has been only helping a little on a casual basis (see Summer-Early November 2002). They are planning to travel together to Gambia for business purposes. On October 31, the day before they are to leave, al-Banna is visited by MI5 agents and British police. According to an MI5 memo later given to his lawyers, they attempt to formally recruit him as an informant. They tell him that he could “start a new life with a new identity” and acquire British citizenship (he is a long-time British resident). He turns down the offer. The agents tell him that he can travel to Gambia without a problem and return to Britain when they are done. MI5 records confirm that they are given permission to travel. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] Al-Banna and al-Rawi leave for their trip the next day (see November 1-7, 2002).
US intelligence concludes that Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is planning to use ricin in attacks on civilians in Europe. Several months earlier, the US had determined the location of his main training camp and chemical weapons lab, located in a part of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish rebels, and decided against attacking it with cruise missiles (see June 2002). [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] By this time, al-Zarqawi is known to have masterminded the assassination of a senior American diplomat in Jordan the month before. Al-Zarqawi had his group had fled the camp several months before, but new intelligence indicates that he has reoccupied it. At the time, he is using a satellite telephone, and intercepts of his communications show that he is frequently calling from within the camp. [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] In light of the new intelligence, the US military draws up a second attack plan on the camp, but the White House again decides against it. Former National Security Council member Roger Cressey will later claim, “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists.” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004]
James Risen’s State of War. [Source: Simon and Schuster]According to a senior former CIA official interviewed by journalist James Risen, frustrated CIA staffers go to President Bush and inform him that the President’s Daily Briefs delivered by George Tenet had left out reports raising questions about the agency’s intelligence on Iraq’s alleged arsenal of WMD. Risen says in his book State of War that this suggests “that the President’s Daily Brief [never] reflected the level of skepticism about the quality of the intelligence that was widespread within the CIA.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
A CIA report this month concludes the Saudi government “has made little independent effort to uncover terrorist financiers, investigate individual donors, and tighten the regulation of Islamic charities,” largely because of “domestic political considerations.” However, the report cautions, “A key factor for continued successful counterterrorism initiatives with the Saudis, whose society is by tradition private, closed, and conservative, will be to ensure that their cooperation with the United States is handled discreetly and kept as much as possible out of the public eye.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
The CIA informs Congress that North Korea’s uranium enrichment program is progressing: “The North is constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year when fully operational.” Although it is clear that North Korea has acquired some centrifuges needed for such a facility (see Mid-June 1998), it is unclear whether it is actually under construction at this time and where the site might be. North Korea has the other parts of the process necessary to build a uranium bomb: half a dozen mines for yellowcake, a uranium processing facility with the capacity to process 300 kg of ore a day in Kusong, 30 miles west of the Korean nuclear power plant at Yongbyon-kun, and a uranium concentration facility in Namch’on, 30 miles north of the demilitarized zone. A uranium enrichment site with a cascade of at least 1,000 centrifuges would be the last element in the process. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 281, 517-518]
British authorities arrest Rabah Kadre, the leader of a Europe-wide extremist network, over fears he may soon be involved in an attack inside Britain. Kadre first fell under surveillance in Britain in 1998 (see 1998), and was arrested and released in 2001 (see February 2001). He subsequently left Britain and, according to intelligence reports, fought in Chechnya. However, he was then located by a French intelligence service in Bratislava, Slovakia, and tracked to London. British authorities debate whether to monitor him or arrest him now, in order to avoid the possibility he could activate a cell, which would then carry out an attack. The decision to arrest him is taken because, according to a security official, he is “too much of a risk.” The arrest is coordinated with French authorities, who detain another four men in Paris, finding a recipe for making cyanide and a chemical warfare protection suit. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 240]
The deputy commander of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility raises concerns that the SERE techniques being used against suspected terrorists (see December 2001) were “developed to better prepare US military personnel to resist interrogations and not as a means of obtaining reliable information.” Concurrently with this officer’s questions, Air Force officials cite “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques.” Legal officials from other military branches agree, citing “maltreatment” that would “arguably violate federal law.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ]
An 11-member team of CIA agents arrives in Milan in preparation for the abduction of Islamist extremist Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar). The team will remain in Milan until mid-February 2003, leaving shortly after Nasr’s successful kidnap (see Noon February 17, 2003). According to Luciano Pironi, an Italian who helps the CIA with the abduction, the team makes over a dozen unsuccessful attempts before actually taking Nasr; during the false starts they are called off due to unexpected pedestrians or police cars near the planned kidnap site. As the CIA officers’ stay in Milan drags on, discipline on the abduction team breaks down. Two agents use their cell phones to call home; these calls will later be discovered by Italian prosecutors. At least two others take rooms at two of Milan’s more upmarket hotels, the Sheraton Diana Majestic and the Principe di Savoia, for what GQ magazine will call “romantic encounters,” paid for by the agency. One team member, apparently a freelance contractor, uses his real name when checking in to hotels. In addition, the team does not use the walkie-talkies they have been given, because, according to a senior CIA official, they make them “look too much like spies.” Instead, they use their cell phones, which Italian prosecutors will later trace easily. This aspect of the operation will be severely criticised; former CIA officer Milt Bearden will say, “This was amateur hour with a bunch of Keystone Kops.” A senior CIA official who approved the plan will say, “They were told to stop using their phones and stop calling home, but they did it anyway.” He will add that the responsibility for the errors should be laid at the door of the chief of the CIA’s Rome station, Jeff Castelli, who is in charge and whose “brainchild” the operation reportedly was (see Before February 17, 2003). According to the official, Castelli is good, but does not pay attention to details, and fails to inform CIA headquarters about the sloppiness with the cell phones. [GQ, 3/2007 ]
CIA officer Matthew Zirbel, who is in charge of the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan, asks for guidance on how he should manage the prison. However, the requests are largely ignored, apparently by his immediate boss, the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, known only as Paul P. Zirbel is a junior officer and has never run a prison before, which is presumably one of the reasons he makes the requests. Zirbel’s use of the water dousing method will later cause the death of a detainee (see November 20, 2002) and the CIA’s inspector general will find that the lack of guidance was a contributory factor leading up to the death. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]
The CIA starts a course for individuals who will be involved in its detainee interrogation program. The pilot program runs for two weeks, focuses on so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and is designed to train, qualify, and certify individuals as CIA interrogators. The curriculum is designed by several CIA Counterterrorist Center officers, including an instructor on Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) techniques. The first week is for classroom training, whereas the second week is what the agency’s inspector general will call “hands-on” training in the use of the enhanced techniques. Once an interrogator becomes certified, he is deemed to be qualified to conduct an interrogation using the enhanced techniques. All course graduates are required to sign an acknowledgement that they have read, understood, and will comply with interrogation guidelines issued by the CIA’s director. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 25, 31-33 ]
Anwar al-Awlaki, the imam for three of the 9/11 hijackers in the US, lives openly in Britain.
Growing Suspicions about Al-Awlaki in US - After 9/11, US investigators increasingly suspect that al-Awlaki’s links with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour in the US were more than just a coincidence. In October 2002, al-Awlaki is briefly detained while visiting the US but is not arrested, even though there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest (see October 2002). The FBI as a whole does not believe he was involved in the 9/11 plot. However, some disagree. One detective tells the 9/11 Commission in 2003 or 2004 that al-Awlaki “was at the center of the 9/11 story.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry releases its final report in 2003, and it states that al-Awlaki “was a central figure in a support network that aided [Alhazmi and Almihdhar]” (see August 1-3, 2003).
No Attempt to Arrest Him Living Openly in Britain - Al-Awlaki does not visit the US again, after his near arrest. But he lives openly in Britain, a close US ally. He teaches Islam to students in London and adopts an increasingly religious fundamentalist stance. His lectures grow in popularity, especially through sales of CDs of recorded speeches. He travels widely through Britain giving lectures. But despite growing evidence against him in the US, there is no known attempt to have him arrested in Britain. At some point in 2004, he moves to Yemen to preach and study there. [New York Times, 5/8/2010]
The CIA flies detained al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri from the United Arab Emirates, where he was captured (see Early October 2002), to an agency black site in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010]
The International Herald Tribune publishes an op-ed piece written by Youssef M. Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In it, Ibrahim warns: “Al-Qaeda, according to the CIA and the Pentagon, is reconstituting itself. In fact every Middle East and Muslim affairs expert is saying that Al-Qaeda’s ranks will be fattened by new recruits right now and will have more of them when the United States attacks Iraq.” [International Herald Tribune, 11/1/2002]
Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, and Abdullah El-Janoudi are scheduled to fly from London to Gambia on November 1, 2002. They are going to help al-Rawi’s brother start a peanut factory there. Al-Rawi had worked as an informant for the British intelligence agency MI5, helping them communicate with imam Abu Qatada, but he was fired several months earlier (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer 2002). Al-Banna had also been informally helping MI5 with Abu Qatada, but the day before their trip he had turned down an offer to formally work as an MI5 informant (see Summer-Early November 2002 and October 31, 2002). El-Janoudi is a friend and a British citizen, while the other two men are long-time British residents. At Gatwick Airport in London, the three men are detained by security agents. For four days, they are questioned by police about their luggage and their ties to Abu Qatada. In particular, they are interested in a device al-Rawi has. But on closer inspection, it turns out to be a modified store-bought battery charger. Their houses are also searched for evidence. Finally they are cleared and let go. While they are being held, MI5 contacts the CIA and warns that the three men are about to go to Gambia. MI5 calls al-Rawi an “Iraqi extremist” linked to Abu Qatada and says the battery charger is a timing device for a bomb, even though MI5 already knows this is not true. They fail to mention that al-Rawi and al-Banna have been working as MI5 informants. By the time the three men can get another flight to Gambia, seven days have passed. The Washington Post will later note that this “has led to [later] speculation by the men’s attorneys and families that the delay gave the CIA time to position operatives in Gambia.” [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] The CIA, believing the false information sent by MI5, will detain the three men as soon as they arrive in Gambia on November 8 (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002).
Qaed Senyan al-Harethi. [Source: Yemen Observer]A CIA-operated Predator drone fires a missile that destroys a truck of suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack is Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a top al-Qaeda operative, but five others are also killed, including American citizen Kamal Derwish. [Washington Post, 11/4/2002; Associated Press, 12/3/2002] Al-Harethi is said to have been involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Bush administration officials say Derwish was the ringleader of a sleeper cell in Lackawanna, New York (see September 13, 2002). [Washington Post, 11/9/2002; Newsweek, 11/11/2002] A former high-level intelligence officer complains that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants “to take guys out for political effect.” Al-Harethi was being tracked for weeks through his cell phone. [New Yorker, 12/16/2002] The attack happens one day before mid-term elections in the US. Newsweek will note that timing of the strike “was, at the very least, fortuitous” for the Bush administration. [Newsweek, 11/11/2002] New Yorker magazine will later report, “The Yemeni government had planned to delay an announcement of the attack until it could issue a joint statement with Washington. When American officials released the story unilaterally, in time for Election Day, the Yemenis were angry and dismayed.” [New Yorker, 12/16/2002] Initial reports suggest the truck was destroyed by a car bomb. But on November 5, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will brag about the strike on CNN, thus ruining the cover story and revealing that the truck was destroyed by a US missile (see November 5, 2002). [Newsweek, 11/11/2002] US intelligence appears to have learned of al-Harethi’s whereabouts after interrogating Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, captured the month before (see Early October 2002).
Qaed Salim Sinan Al-Harethi (right) with Osama bin Laden on May 26, 1998, in Khost, Afghanistan. [Source: CNN via Getty Images]Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz confirms that the assassination of Qaed Senyan al-Harethi in Yemen two days earlier (see November 3, 2002) was done with a US Predator drone that struck the truck carrying al-Harethi and five others. Initial reported suggested that the truck was destroyed by a car bomb, but this cover story is blown when Wolfowitz brags about the success of the operation on CNN, revealing US involvement. Newsweek reports that “The CIA, which ran the operation, was furious with the Defense Department for blowing its cover story.” US procedures required that the Yemeni government had to give approval of the strike in advance, and the revelation of such approval is highly embarrassing to the Yemeni government. [Washington Post, 11/6/2002; Newsweek, 11/11/2002] There are widespread protests in Yemen and the US Embassy has to be closed for a period of time following Wolfowitz’s revelation. [Salon, 8/13/2004] A knowledgeable source tells Newsweek that Yemen’s President Ali Abdallah Saleh is “highly pissed” about the leak. CIA officials worry the leak will discourage other countries from allowing Predator strikes within their borders. A former senior CIA official says, “The Pentagon view seems to be, this is good, it shows we can reach out and touch ‘em. The CIA view is, you dumb bastards, this means no other country will cooperate with us!” [Newsweek, 11/11/2002] Yayha Almutawakel, deputy secretary general of the ruling party in Yemen, says,
“This is why it is so difficult to make deals with the United States. This is why we are reluctant to work closely with them. They don’t consider the internal consequences in Yemen. In security matters you don’t want to alert the enemy.” [Salon, 8/13/2004] Wolfowitz’s leak also starts a debate about the morality and legality of the strike, especially since a US citizen was killed (see November 5- December, 2002).
Kamal Derwish. [Source: PBS]The revelation that the US killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi in Yemen with a Predator missile strike (see November 3, 2002 and November 5, 2002) sparks a debate about the morality and legality of remote attacks outside of war zones. The Bush administration had previously criticized Israel’s policy of “targeted killings” of Palestinian militants. Newsweek comments, “A State Department spokesman bobbed and weaved and tried to draw distinctions. But, privately, administration officials say the difference is really one of scale and frequency.” [Newsweek, 11/11/2002] Many international lawyers and some foreign governments question the legality of the assassination. [Guardian, 11/6/2002] For decades, the US government has been prohibited from conducting assassinations. The Bush administration says it still adheres to that policy but makes an exception for “enemy combatants” such as al-Qaeda leaders. In December 2002, it will be revealed that President Bush approved a secret “high-value target list” of about two dozen terrorist leaders, giving the CIA basic executive and legal authority to either kill or capture those in the list. The CIA is also empowered to capture or kill terrorists not mentioned in the list (see September 17, 2001). [New York Times, 12/15/2002] Additional controversy is generated when it is discovered that US citizen Kamal Derwish was one of those killed in the strike. Derwish is alleged to have been connected to an al-Qaeda cell in Buffalo, New York. US officials say the CIA has the legal authority to target and kill US citizens it believes are working for al-Qaeda (see July 22, 2002). [Associated Press, 12/3/2002] The New Yorker reveals that there were two planned Predator strikes in Yemen called off at the last minute that turned out to be aimed at innocent people instead of al-Harethi. One recently retired Special Forces operative who served on high-level planning staffs at the Pentagon warns that the civilians running the military are no longer trying to “avoid the gray area.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is reportedly behind the effort to use the CIA and special forces for more remote killings (see July 22, 2002). One former high-level intelligence officer complains, “They want to turn these guys into assassins. They want to go on rumors—not facts—and go for political effect, and that’s what the Special Forces Command is really afraid of.” [New Yorker, 12/16/2002] Noting that in its battle against al-Qaeda, the US has effectively deemed the entire planet a combat zone, Scott Silliman, director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security says, “Could you put a Hellfire missile into a car in Washington, DC?…The answer is yes, you could.” But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says, “No constitutional questions are raised here.” [Chicago Tribune, 11/24/2002; Associated Press, 12/3/2002]
Heightened security on the London Underground. [Source: BBC]Three men are arrested in London and charged under the Terrorism Act 2000 for the possession of articles for the preparation, instigation, and commission of terrorism acts. The Sunday Times breaks the story and claims that MI5 and police have foiled a major plot to release cyanide gas on the London Underground (the Tube), which is used by three million commuters each day. The men, all of North African origin, are also alleged to have links with al-Qaeda. They are Rabah Chekat-Bais, 21, Rabah Kadris, in his mid-30s, and Karim Kadouri, 33, all unemployed and of no fixed address. Kadris is the librarian at Finsbury Park Mosque, which is perceived by many officials to be a hotbed of radicalism. [BBC, 11/17/2002] Magnus Ranstorp, an expert in international terrorism at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland says “cyanide has surfaced a number of times surrounding al-Qaeda’s chemical program.” Video obtained by CNN in August shows tests of a chemical agent, presumed to be cyanide, on dogs at a camp in Afghanistan. Documentation recovered in Afghanistan also reveals al-Qaeda’s interest in chemical weapons. The Ministry of Defense simulated biological attacks on the underground in the early 1960s, during the Cold War. Scientists mixed harmless spores of the anthrax analogue Bacillus globigii with talcum powder and released them on the Northern Line. They found that the spores dispersed to every one of the several dozen stations on that line. The Defense scientists projected disastrous consequences in the event of a genuine attack. A London Underground spokeswoman, addressing the alleged cyanide threat, refused to comment on the counter measures currently in place but says, “we are always speaking to police and reviewing what we can do,” adding, “all our staff are well trained to look out for the unusual.” Governments around the world warn their citizens of possible terrorist attacks, and Prime Minister Tony Blair urges the public to be vigilant. [New Scientist, 11/18/2002] In fact, no such plot has been discovered. The government moves quickly to play down connections between the arrest of the three men and a threat to the Tube. It is disclosed to the press that the men had been in contact with British residents in London and that the charges related to false passports and credit cards, but not explosives or chemicals. A police source says there was “no bomb-making paraphernalia” in their possession. Three other men arrested at the same time are released later in the week. [Guardian, 11/18/2002] Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, commenting on the Times story, says the arrests had “excited the press.” He adds “as the Prime Minister reminds us, we get an awful lot of intelligence which we have to make judgments about. In this case it does not appear there is any evidence whatsoever there was going to be a gas attack or use of bombs regarding the three people who have been arrested.” A Home Office spokesman says, “The Prime Minister has made it clear that there are threat reports every day and these are assessed. If the government or police thought it was necessary to give the public a specific warning about any venue, including the Underground, it would do it without hesitation.” [BBC, 11/17/2002] Security sources indicate that separate intelligence from abroad points to Islamist extremists planning such an attack. Sources say that there is “a clear intention” to attack the underground and other targets in Britain and Western Europe. Whitehall sources say the arrests of the three men reflect a determination among the security services to disrupt suspect terrorists and networks “at an early stage.” [Guardian, 11/18/2002] The three arrested men make a 15-minute appearance in court on November 18. The court hears that the three have never been questioned by police about the alleged plot. According to lawyers for the three men, the details of the alleged plot had not been disclosed to them and had only emerged in the press over the last few days. The three suspects are remanded in custody for four weeks by district judge Timothy Workman and appear again on December 16. Two of the suspects subsequently plead guilty, under ordinary criminal laws, to passport offenses. [Independent, 11/18/2002]
A can of pepper spray apparently possessed by one of the hijackers. This can was introduced as evidence in Zacarias Moussaoui’s 2006 trial. [Source: FBI]It is revealed that while the government did not ban box cutters, the airlines’ own rules did. It had been widely reported the hijackers used box cutters because they were legal. It now appears pepper spray was also banned and, like box cutters, should have been confiscated. There is evidence the hijackers used pepper spray as well. It has been reported that nine of the hijackers were given special security screenings on 9/11, and six of those had their bags checked for weapons. [Associated Press, 11/11/2002]
A typical atropine auto-injector as provided for the US military. [Source: King Pharmaceutical]White House officials report that Iraq has ordered a million doses of atropine, a drug used as an antidote to sarin and VX nerve agents. Iraq has also ordered a million auto-injectors, designed to inject the material into a person’s leg. Both orders were made with suppliers in Turkey, who are being pressured to abort the sales. White House officials say that the quantities ordered by Iraq are far larger than any amount they might need for normal hospital use. “If the Iraqis were going to use nerve agents, they would want to take steps to protect their own soldiers, if not their population,” an official says. “This is something that US intelligence is mindful of and very concerned about.” Iraq claims to have destroyed its stockpiles of sarin and VX, but US intelligence officials doubt this. US soldiers carry atropine and auto-injectors in first-aid kits in case of chemical attacks. One official notes that Iraq has also ordered another antidote for chemical weapons, obidoxime chloride. Officials admit that atropine is commonly used in hospitals and clinics to resuscitate patients who have suffered heart attacks: “Atropine and auto-injectors are common products,” an official says. Auto-injectors commonly inject five times as much atropine as is usually used for heart attack victims. [New York Times, 11/12/2002]
The release of an audio message by a man thought to be Osama bin Laden (see November 12, 2002) sparks several publications to run stories about the authentication of the voice on the tape. These articles make several points about voice analysis of apparent bin Laden recordings:
Machine analysis: Some aspects of voice identification are done my machine. Voice authentication software measures the acoustic qualities of a person’s voice, such as pitch, loudness, basic resonances, frequency, and amplitude. [New Scientist, 11/13/2002; Slate, 11/15/2002] This produces spectrographic information and can also be used to look for specific features of a voice, such as a nasal quality. In addition, every person creates the same sounds using a slightly different set of basic pitches, so the set of frequencies in bin Laden’s vowels, like those in “ea” from “fear,” will be marginally different from anyone else’s. By examining this frequency detail for every vowel and comparing them to previous examples, a machine analysis can tell if they are the same and were all said by him. [Slate, 11/15/2002] However, “People hardly ever pronounce the same word the same way twice, even in the same utterance,” says Robert Berkovitz, a speech analyst with Sensimetrics Corp. [CBS News, 11/13/2002]
Human analysis: Some aspects of voice identification are done by humans, who are, according to Slate, “very good at doing the kind of thing most people do subconsciously—telling if someone comes from a particular region by recognizing basic vowel and consonant qualities.” For example, a human analyst can tell whether the “Ye” sound in “Yemen” is of the right length and stress for bin Laden’s dialect. [Slate, 11/15/2002] Experts listen to previous recordings of bin Laden, and compare them syllable by syllable. [New Scientist, 11/13/2002; Slate, 11/15/2002] Experts can also verify whether words on a tape generally match those uttered by someone of bin Laden’s age and educational background. [Slate, 11/15/2002]
Quality of tape: According to Slate, the November tape is “allegedly very noisy and possibly went down a phone line at some point.” [Slate, 11/15/2002] However, the New Scientist reports, “Voice analysis experts say the quality of the recording appears good enough to determine if the recording is genuine.” It also quotes Steve Cain of Forensic Tape Analysis, a company that received snippets of the tape from US media, who says, “It seems like it is at least clear enough and there’s enough amplitude of that unknown speaker’s voice that if you had a known sample of bin Laden it would be possible.” [New Scientist, 11/13/2002]
Splicing: Analysis can determine whether a tape is spliced together. Potential red flags include hitches in timing and rhythm, removal of background noise, and different pitch to accommodate for differences in background noise. [Slate, 11/15/2002]
It makes no difference to voice analysis what language a recording is in. [CBS News, 11/13/2002]
Uncertainty: The New Scientist quotes Tomi Kinnunnen, an expert in computer analysis of speech at the University of Joensuu, Finland, as saying: “There is always the possibility of error.… But if you have a clean sample with little noise, you can quite reliably say [who it is].” [New Scientist, 11/13/2002] However, according to Slate, human and machine analyses can be “formidable,” but “neither type of analysis can say with 100 percent certainty that the speaker on the tape is bin Laden or anyone else.” [Slate, 11/15/2002] CBS finds that intelligence analysts are convinced the tape is from bin Laden, but “they will never be sure,” because “Computer voice analysis lacks the accuracy of fingerprint or DNA identification and can be hamstrung by a skilled impersonator or low-quality recording.” “You can say with some probability, but you can never be sure,” says Kenneth Stevens, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology expert on speech analysis and synthesis. “Where there’s a combination of strong motivation and relatively weak science, there’s an opportunity for deception,” adds Berkovitz. “You can’t put the voice in a slot and have it come out saying, ‘This is Joe Smith.’” [CBS News, 11/13/2002]
One analyst, Matsumi Suzuki of Japan Acoustic Lab, Tokyo, says that, although the recording seems genuine, the speaker sounds ill. [New Scientist, 11/13/2002]
The CIA transfers detained al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri from the agency black site in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit to another CIA prison in Thailand. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010]
Shortly after his arrest in the United Arab Emirates in early October 2002 (see Early October 2002), al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is taken to an unknown location and tortured. He is waterboarded, which is a technique simulating drowning that is widely regarded as torture. He is only one of about three high-ranking detainees waterboarded, according to media reports (see May 2002-2003). [Associated Press, 12/11/2007] Much will later be written about the torture and interrogation of other top al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida, but next to nothing is publicly known about what happens to al-Nashiri in the months after his arrest. However, in late 2007 it will be reported that at least some of his interrogations were videotaped by the CIA (see Spring-Late 2002) and his waterboarding was videotaped. [Washington Post, 12/18/2007] But these videotapes will later be destroyed in controversial circumstances (see November 2005). The waterboarding likely takes place in Thailand, because the videotape of al-Nashiri’s torture will be destroyed there in 2005 (see November 2005). [Newsweek, 6/28/2008]
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